March 2nd, 2015 - by: Marc Chernoff

10 Damaging Lies and Excuses Your Mind Loves to Tell You

10 Damaging Lies and Excuses Your Mind Loves to Tell You

It is ultimately only our own thoughts that hurt us.

The mind is a wonderful thing.  It’s also a total liar and an excuse machine that frequently tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us.  In the end, this prevents many positive changes from taking place in our lives.

I’ve had to learn to watch these lies and excuses very carefully in order to make the positive changes I’ve made in my life: a healthier diet, regular exercise, meditation, more sleep, daily writing, better planning, less procrastination, more focus, etc.

If I hadn’t learned about these lies and excuses, and how to suppress them, I would never have succeeded in making these positive changes.  In fact, until I knew better, I had failed countless times when I was young because my mind’s deceptive tendencies used to get the best of me.

So why does the mind lie to us and make irrational excuses?

Because the mind wants comfort – that’s why.  It’s afraid of discomfort, pressure and change.  The mind is absorbed in its comfort zone, and anytime we try to stretch that zone too far, for too long, the mind tries desperately to get back to ground zero at any cost… including sacrificing our long-term health, happiness and success.

So let’s expose 10 of the cowardly mind’s most damaging lies and excuses once and for all:

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  1. I can’t do it. – It seems too difficult at first, so you think you can’t stick to the positive change you’re making.  You don’t believe in yourself enough to take another step.  This is a common lie/excuse that can be countered by looking at the fact that other people no more capable than you have done it.  For example, my 60-year-old next-door neighbor ran a marathon a little before I started training for my first marathon, and so I told myself, “If she can do it, so can I!”  And I was right.  Truth be told, the only person who can tell you “I can’t” is you.  If you hear those words echoing in the back of your mind, tune them out.  Realize that your doubts and your faith have something in common – they both ask you to believe in something you can’t see.  You simply have to decide which one you want to believe. Keep reading →

February 25th, 2015 - by: Marc Chernoff

7 Ways to Stay Strong When Everything Goes Wrong

7 Ways to Stay Strong When Everything Goes Wrong

When life is “falling apart,” it could actually be falling together… for the very first time.  Which is why it feels so darn uncomfortable.  Consider that what’s in front of you may be serving you in valuable ways you don’t even understand right now.

“Today, on my 47th birthday, I re-read the suicide letter I wrote on my 27th birthday about two minutes before my girlfriend showed up at my apartment and told me, ‘I’m pregnant.’  She was honestly the only reason I didn’t follow through with it.  Suddenly I felt I had something to live for.  Today she’s my wife, and we’ve been happily married for 19 years.  And my daughter, who is now a 21-year-old college student, has two younger brothers.  I re-read my suicide letter every year on my birthday as a reminder to be thankful – I am thankful I got a second chance at life.”

That’s the opening paragraph of an email I received last night from a reader named Kevin.  His words remind me that sometimes you have to die a little on the inside first in order to be reborn and rise again as a stronger, smarter version of yourself.

People and circumstances will occasionally break you down.  But if you keep your mind focused, your heart open to love, and continue to put one foot in front of the other, you can recover the pieces, rebuild, and come back much stronger and happier than you ever would have been otherwise.

Angel and I have dealt with our fair share of adversity over the years too – losing loved ones to illness, financial and business turmoil, etc. – and we’ve written a lot about it.  But today, in light of Kevin’s email and a dozen other emails I’ve received this past week from readers who are struggling with hard times, I want to revisit and discuss seven key actions Angel and I take to find strength when everything seems to be going wrong.

1.  Fully accept the reality of what is.

You cannot find peace by avoiding life.  Life spins with unexpected changes every hour; so instead of avoiding it, take every change and experience as a challenge for growth.  Either it will give you what you want or it will teach you what the next step is.

Finding peace and happiness in life does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, no challenges, and no hard work.  It means to be in the midst of those Keep reading →

February 22nd, 2015 - by: Marc Chernoff

5 Simple Questions that Will Make You 5 Times More Successful

5 Simple Questions that Will Make You 5 Times More Successful

Doing your best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.

There’s nothing more disheartening than a perfectly healthy, reasonably affluent human being with the whole world in his or her hands who’s chronically unhappy and unproductive.  There’s really no excuse for it either, yet I see this phenomenon unfolding every single day – people who choose to be stuck in misery and refuse to admit it.  This mindset results from an extremely unbalanced life – one with too much expectation and not enough discipline and appreciation.

What’s the point of achievement if your life has no balance?  There is no point.  Without commitment for what you want most, and gratitude for what you already have, you’ll never know the true joy of success, because nothing will ever change, and even when it does, it will never be good enough in your mind.

But how do you cultivate balance in life when everything is already so far out of whack?

For a decade now, Angel and I have had the privilege of coaching thousands of people from every walk of life, with various socioeconomic backgrounds, from dozens of countries around the world, including some extremely powerful and successful businessmen and businesswomen.

Across the board, we’ve found that successful people habitually ask themselves (and work through) five key questions that dictate both the effectiveness of their decisions and the quality of their lives.

If you avoid these questions and make decisions unconsciously, you’ll end up like the majority of people who tend to be out of shape physically, exhausted mentally, and personally and professionally stressed out.  But if you ask yourself these questions on a regular basis, and make your daily decisions consciously, you can literally change the entire course of your life from this moment forward.

1.  Am I focusing on the right things?

At every moment, millions of little things compete for your attention.  All these things fall into one of two categories: things that are important and things that are not. Keep reading →

February 18th, 2015 - by: Marc Chernoff

10 Proven Ways to Raise Smarter, Happier Children

10 Proven Ways to Raise Smarter, Happier Children

Children have never been perfect at listening to their parents, but they have never failed to imitate them.

When you ask parents what they want for their children, what are the most common replies?  They want their children to be smart and happy, of course.

From what we’ve studied, the education and well-being of their children is more important to parents than just about anything else — health care, cost of living, public safety, and even their own well-being.  And believe it or not, most non-parents also say they’re concerned about the well-being and intellectual growth of society’s youth; this concern seems to cut cleanly across gender, ethnicity, age, income and political affiliation.

As new parents, Angel and I get it.  We feel the same way.  We’re concerned about our son’s education and happiness.  So we’ve spent quite a bit of time researching just that — how to raise a smart, happy child.  If you’re looking to do the same, I’ll save you some trouble.  Here’s what our extensive research tells us:

1.  Walk the talk — always set a great example.

It’s not what you say, it’s how you live your life every day.  Don’t tell your children how to live; LIVE and let them watch you.  Practice what you preach or don’t preach at all.  Walk the talk.  Your children look up to you and they will emulate your actions and strive to become who you are.

So BE who you want them to be.

In other words, be the change you want to see in your child.  Give what you expect, reflect what you desire, become what you respect, and mirror what you admire.  Every single day.

Your children are the greatest gift life will give you, and their souls the heaviest responsibility it will place in your hands.  Take time with them, and teach them to have faith in themselves by being a person they can have faith in — a person they can trust without question.  When you are old, nothing else you’ve done will have mattered as much. Keep reading →

February 15th, 2015 - by: Marc Chernoff

7 Ways to Change Your Attitude When You Can’t Change Anything Else

7 Ways to Change Your Attitude When You Can't Change Anything Else

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Sometimes changing your circumstances isn’t possible – or simply not possible soon enough.  You can’t get to a new job in an instant.  You can’t make someone else change against his or her will.  And you certainly can’t erase the past.  So what options do you have left?

Change your perception, belief or opinion about your circumstances.  Doing so will help you change your attitude and ultimately allow you to grow beyond the struggles you can’t control.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus said it perfectly more than 2,000 years ago: “People are disturbed, not by things (that happen to them), but by the principles and opinions which they form concerning (those) things.  When we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never attribute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own principles and opinions.”

Modern behavioral science agrees too.  American psychologist Albert Ellis, famous for developing rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), has proven that how people react to events is determined predominantly by their view of the events, not the events themselves.

Have no clue how to change your perception of things – and improve your attitude?  Here are seven easy ways to start:

  1. Still your mind. – In order to gain conscious control of what goes on in your mind, you need to develop a keen awareness for this process.  What helps is to hold still for a moment, take a deep breath and free your mind of all the chatter that’s going on inside and all around.  This makes room for a change of state, for something new to enter.  So give yourself a break.  Don’t say you can’t.  Yes, you have battles out in the world to fight, insecurities to overcome, loved ones to contend with and goals to achieve, but a break from it all is necessary.  It’s perfectly healthy to pause and let the world spin without you for a while.  If you don’t, you will burn yourself out.  You must refill your bucket on a regular basis.  That means catching your breath, finding quiet solitude, focusing your attention inward, and otherwise making time for recovery from the chaos of your routine. Keep reading →

February 11th, 2015 - by: Angel Chernoff

20 Habits Happy Couples Have (But Never Talk About)

18 Simple Rules that Make Relationships Work

Nothing in this world is more difficult than love.
And nothing is more worth it.

A happy couple is not a ‘perfect couple’ that comes together, but an imperfect couple that learns to enjoy each other’s differences, and works together every day to create something special.  In other words, a great relationship isn’t luck and doesn’t just happen – it requires effort and care to endure and evolve in ways that keep both partners fulfilled.

Over the past decade, between the two of us, Marc and I have read hundreds of books on relationships, coached thousands of couples who were struggling to find happiness in their relationships, and interacted with over 100,000 subscribers (subscribe here) who continue to ask us questions and tell us stories on a daily basis about their relationships.

All of this has given us keen insight into the specific behaviors that make two human beings happy as a couple.  We’ve literally watched couples go from “ready to break up” to being “on cloud nine” in a matter of weeks, simply by making subtle, effective changes to their daily habits.

Not surprisingly though, once these couples get it figured out, their newfound relationship habits become second nature to them, and thus, they never talk about them.  Bystanders may witness their public displays of affection and contentment, but remain clueless as to the source of their happiness.  So that’s precisely what I want to discuss today – the habits happy couples have, but never talk about.

  1. They practice self-care as individuals. – Relationships don’t create joy, they reflect it.  Joy comes from within.  Relationships are simply mirrors of the combined joy that two people have as individuals.  What you see in the mirror is what you see in your relationships.  Your disappointments in your partner often reflect your disappointments in yourself.  Your acceptance of your partner often reflects your acceptance of yourself.  Thus, the first step to having a healthy relationship with someone else is to have a healthy relationship with yourself.
  2. They stand together and refuse to let outsiders call the shots. – Relationships don’t always make sense, especially from the outside.  So don’t let outsiders run your relationship for you.  If you’re having an issue with your partner Keep reading →

February 8th, 2015 - by: Marc Chernoff

7 Things You Should Insist On No Matter What People Say

7 Things You Should Insist On No Matter What People Say

Do more than just exist.  We all exist.  The question is: Do you live?

About 15 years ago, I had an intervention with myself.  I sat down at the local library on a Saturday morning and read through hundreds of archived entries in my journal.  Specifically, I was looking for all the unfulfilled goals and visions for the future that I had jotted down over the years.  And it didn’t take long before I realized that the entire course my life had taken up to that point had been the product of other people’s opinions and decisions.  Every day I was just going through the motions, and doing what I was “supposed” to do, instead of what was right for ME.

Fast forward to today, and as I awoke this morning, I marveled at my life.  Where once I woke with dread at the thought of a new day, now I wake with excitement to begin – grateful to be doing what I’m doing with my life.  I’m so happy I did what I had to do, and struggled through the tough times and fears, and realigned my life with the activities and ideals that make me feel alive.

I tell you this because I know life can get pretty crazy at times.  Sometimes it gets so busy that we forget how important it is to actually listen to ourselves, instead of others.  But I’m happy to tell you that things can change if you want them to, at any age.

Just as I’ve turned things around for myself, I know hundreds of other people who have done the same.  Through a decade of life, relationship, and small business coaching, I’ve witnessed people reinventing themselves at all ages – 48-year olds starting families, 57-year-olds graduating from college for the first time, 71-year-olds starting successful businesses, and so forth.

How did we do it?  We insisted upon making changes, and we followed through.

Above all, what you need to remember is happiness is dependent upon ourselves, and there are some things in life you have to insist on doing, no matter what others say about it.  For instance, you have to…

  1. Insist on making your life your own. – Most of us are not raised to actively seek our calling.  We may not even know that we have one.  As kids, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone.  Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others – that we should find our happiness exactly as they have found theirs.  Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are trained to ask others for permission.  We are, in effect, schooled to live other people’s versions of our lives.  Every day is designed and developed as told to us by someone else!  And then one day when we break free to survey our dreams, seeking to fulfill ourselves, we see that most of our dreams have gone unfulfilled because we believed, and those around us believed, that what we wanted for ourselves was somehow beyond our reach.  It’s time to unlearn these lies and make changes.  It takes courage to grow wiser and become who you really are.  And today is the first day of the rest of your life. Keep reading →

February 4th, 2015 - by: Marc Chernoff

9 Things You Should Be Able to Say About Your Life

9 Things You Should Be Able to Say About Your Life

“May you live every day of your life.”
―Jonathan Swift

I just received an email from a young reader named Diane that nearly brought me to tears.  The opening lines of her email read: “I’m dying of Leukemia at age 18.  I was sent home from the hospital for my final few weeks 156 days ago.  But now I’m back at the hospital being treated again, because my doctors now believe there is hope.”

I pray a miracle continues to work on Diane’s behalf, and I’m also selfishly grateful for the reminder she has given me.  Our lives are fleeting, and the best day to fight for the right to live a full life is today.  For those of us lucky enough to have our health, this means doing something amazing today.  And by “amazing,” I mean taking small, positive steps forward on a purposeful path.

Because everything you want to do takes daily practice.  Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same.  In each, it’s the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, mental and physical, from which comes the sense of achievement, clarity of one’s meaning, and a satisfaction of the inner spirit.  One becomes, in some way, an athlete of Life itself.  And practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, faith, or desire.  It’s the only means of lifelong fulfillment.

As Mae West so profoundly said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

And you know you’re on the right track when you can repeat each of the following headlines to yourself, honestly.  (And if you can’t, this short list gives you something positive to work on.)

  1. I have kept an open mind to new ideas and experiences. – As they say, a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.  Accepting some level of risk in life is important.  You cannot be both close-minded and wise.  You have to open up to the unknown.  Close-minded people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics.  Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it’s the farthest thing from it.  Because cynics don’t learn anything.  Cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world that occurs when we’re afraid it will hurt us or let us down.  Cynics always say “no.”  Do the opposite.  Saying “yes” begins things.  Saying “yes” is how things grow.  Saying “yes” leads to Keep reading →

February 2nd, 2015 - by: Angel Chernoff

10 Powerful Ideas that Will Change the Way You Work

10 Powerful Ideas that Will Change the Way You Work

by Karl Staib

“Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.”
―Austin Kleon

How are you managing your work?  What do you focus on?  Are you overly anxious?  Way too stressed out?  Or just in need of a little more mindfulness?

I’m here to tell you that a bracing dose of self-awareness could be just the trick.  To that end, I’ve culled together 10 powerful ideas that will help you tame your stress levels, persevere through uncertainty, boost your creativity, and get more of the right things done with a smile on your face.

1.  Dedicate time to playful exploration.

In 2006, students from Xavier High School were given an assignment to write to their favorite living authors – several students chose Kurt Vonnegut.  Vonnegut’s response, the only one the class received, encapsulates essential insight on the importance of playful exploration as it relates to doing great work:

“What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives.  Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her.  Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on.  Make a face in your mashed potatoes.  Pretend you’re Count Dracula.”

Although Vonnegut’s response was for young students to motivate them to start learning and exploring new ideas and skills, it’s easy for all of us to limit ourselves to one specific domain, like writing or coding or design.  We get comfortable and never stretch our creative and intellectual muscles.  We never become all that we can be. Keep reading →

January 28th, 2015 - by: Marc Chernoff

5 Ways to Stay Mentally Strong When You’re Not Feeling “Good Enough”

5 Ways to Stay Mentally Strong When You Are Not Feeling Good Enough

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
―Eleanor Roosevelt

Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough?

I bet you do!  I know the feeling.  We all doubt ourselves sometimes – it’s human nature.  And the really crazy thing is, we think everyone else is doing better than us.  But they aren’t.

Every day we’re comparing apples with oranges – comparing our insides with other people’s outsides.  That colleague of yours who’s giving a really smooth presentation to the boss, while you wait nervously in your chair until it’s your turn?  She very well might be panicking inside.  You just can’t tell.

In fact, if she’s truly great, she likely is panicking inside.  Research suggests that the so-called “impostor syndrome” may get more intense as people get better at what they do: the more accomplished you become, the more likely you are to rub shoulders with ever more talented and skilled people, leaving you feeling even more inadequate by comparison.  So, in a backwards way, if you’re concerned that you don’t measure up, that could very well be a good sign that you actually do measure up just fine.

The late and great Maya Angelou, a renowned novelist and poet, once said, “I have written 11 books, but each time, I think ‘Uh-oh.  They’re going to find out now.  I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.”  Angelou was an extraordinary talent, but she was also extraordinary in being willing to admit that she wasn’t always confident about that.

And in today’s always-connected world it’s even harder to keep things in perspective.  Our lives are literally unfolding on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.  We use these social technologies, not surprisingly, to showcase the best parts of our lives: the beautiful weddings and enviable honeymoons, the finished projects, and the best smiles.  But we forget that we’re only seeing everyone else’s highlight reel too – not the sleepless nights, the failed attempts, the moments of grief and self-doubt.

So with all of this in mind, if you’re not feeling “good enough” right now, it’s time to adjust your thinking.  Let’s go over five time-tested ways to do just that:

1.  Acknowledge that all emotions come from within.

It’s not outside forces that make us feel something, it’s what we tell ourselves about what’s happening that creates our feelings.  People’s judgments, life’s unplanned events, and your unchecked to-do lists are not Keep reading →