Category: Positively Positive

Afraid You Are a Fraud? Take a Reality Check to Crush Imposter Syndrome


Albert Einstein, famously said: “the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”

Maya Angelou, humbly acknowledged: “I have written eleven 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.”

Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, openly admits: “There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.”

The term imposter syndrome relates to self-doubt and the fear of being discovered as a fraud. Typically, it’s about career insecurity, but you could worry you aren’t good enough to fulfill roles like being a parent or student too.

People with imposter syndrome imagine others will find out they’re incompetent and the humiliation will be tantamount to social death. They think they’re viewed as more capable than they are and don’t deserve their status. The thought of being outed mortifies them. If you suffer from imposter syndrome, a reality check can help you gain perspective.

Reality Check

Reign in your doubt. Everybody worries they aren’t up to par occasionally. Self-evaluation is part of being human. Also, if your fears are about an unfamiliar experience, like being a parent for the first time, recognize everyone’s been in your shoes. You may have intellectual know-how, but until you gain experience from practice, you can’t expect to achieve brilliant results. Being a rookie doesn’t mean you are an imposter.

You Got Where You Are for a Reason

Imposter syndrome might make you feel like your success stems from good fortune or is a mistake. But people make their own luck. You got where you are because you’re the right person for the job, and if your fears relate to anything other than your career, the same applies.

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

Even experts make mistakes. Part of the reason they become authorities stems from having the courage to fall flat on their faces and the resolve to get back up again. They learn from blunders and their competence grows.

If you have imposter syndrome, no doubt, you worry about getting things wrong. You don’t want anyone to witness your errors because you think they will judge you harshly. The chances are they won’t make your gaffes into a big deal, however, if you admit your mistakes and don’t emphasize them.

Honesty can quell other misgivings, too. Imposter syndrome may make you want to hide your struggles or blunders, but it’s fine to admit you don’t have answers. You can always expand your know-how, and lack of it doesn’t mean you’re incapable. Your value arises from a combination of your skills, knowledge, and personality traits that grow.

If It Feels Easy, That’s Because You Know What You’re Doing

People with imposter syndrome sometimes worry when tasks are easy. Thoughts like, “I must have missed something” ruin their well-being. It might help to know it’s just as normal to feel concerned when things go well as when problems arise if you have imposter syndrome. Even business moguls aren’t immune to self-doubt when their jobs seem too simple. So remember, setbacks often have nothing to do with your professionalism or competence.

You Need Not Prove Yourself

Imposter syndrome often turns sufferers into perfectionists. You might aim to prove yourself and do far more than is necessary. It helps to notice, no matter your successes, the fear you are a fraud lingers. You can’t make it go away by working longer hours or getting more done.

Nor can accolades or other accomplishments lower the notion you’re an imposter. The way to get rid of fear is to work on your self-esteem, not struggle to show people you are worthy. You need to recognize you are valuable.

Procrastination Won’t Reduce the Fear You Are a Fake

Many people with imposter syndrome put off important tasks and projects. You might be so fearful of screwing up that you procrastinate. For a short while, putting off jobs gives you respite. But the sense of relief doesn’t last. Procrastinating makes matters worse because you have to rush to get things done at the last minute.

Comparing Yourself to Others Fuels Imposter Syndrome

If you have imposter syndrome, it’s likely you compare yourself to people you think are better than you. You check out their performance, popularity, attractiveness and other attributes and come off worse. You can’t gauge your worth when you compare yourself though, because you and your gifts are unique.

It’s Time to Expand

Imposter syndrome makes people shrink. You may hide your gifts because you don’t recognize them. When you do your best to emulate other people’s abilities, your strengths fall by the wayside. Rather than shrink and hide, it’s time to shine and expand.

You can reduce imposter syndrome by bringing your gifts to the fore. Show your strengths instead of aiming to copy other people’s. If you aren’t sure what your gifts are, consider what you love to do or would do if you had more confidence.

Are you a wonderful artist? Or a storyteller? Are you empathic? Kind? Organized? Fabulous with numbers? Identify your strengths. Jot them in a journal, and refer to them when imposter syndrome strikes, and vow to use them more in the roles you undertake. Practice them and your well-being will expand.

Don’t let imposter syndrome reduce your personal power. Take a reality check. Recognize most people suffer from self-doubt at times, and you got where you are in life because of your competence. Expand your personal power and use your gifts, then let self-worth seep into your psyche.


George J. Ziogas is an HR Consultant with 15+ years of experience across a number of industries with a specialization in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). He is a qualified vocational instructor/teacher and personal trainer. George is also a blogger and top writer in numerous categories/tags on Medium. He speaks several languages (English, Greek, Macedonian), and enjoys working out/keeping fit, music, reading, and traveling. He is married and lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

Image courtesy of Min An.

The Psychology of Jealousy: Why You Get Jealous and How to Handle It in a Healthy Way


Jealousy is one of those “icky” emotions where it feels gross or wrong simply to feel it in the first place.

Unfortunately, this sense of disgust or shame we feel about feeling jealous is exactly the thing that makes jealousy such a difficult emotion to manage effectively.

In the rest of this guide, I’m going to walk you through the psychology of jealousy—showing you a more helpful way to think about what jealousy is and how it really works.

We’ll end with some practical suggestions for how to manage jealousy in your own life in a healthy way.

What Is Jealousy, Exactly?

The standard dictionary definition of jealousy is something like this:

Feeling resentment because of another’s success or advantages.

Now, this is an okay definition, but I think it misses some psychological nuance…

1. Resentment isn’t quite right…

Resentment is close, but I think feeling jealous is really its own distinct emotion.

Part of the problem with resentment as a proxy for jealousy is that typically resentment happens as a result of being wronged in some way—and as such is closer to the anger family of emotion.

And while there’s definitely some of this anger element in jealousy, it’s my experience that when you really reflect on it, jealousy is more closely related to sadness and fear—that is, it tends to be a response to a perceived or threatened loss or inadequacy (more on this later).

2. It’s more about you than them.

This standard definition of jealousy makes it seem like it’s all about what the other person possesses. In reality, I think jealousy is a much more inward-focused emotion—as if another person’s success or value is a reminder of an inadequacy or fear within us.

3. Jealousy isn’t just a feeling.

We’ll talk a lot more about this in the next section, but one of the biggest problems with most definitions of jealousy and the way most of us think about jealousy is that it’s framed purely as an emotion.

But I think there’s often a lot more to jealousy than just the feeling… Specifically, jealousy usually involves both patterns of thinking and behavior that are important.

Because that last point is so important for how to actually manage your jealousy, let’s take a closer look into this distinction between feeling jealous vs acting jealous.

Feeling jealous vs acting jealous

For most of us, it’s pretty obvious when we’re feeling jealous:

  • You catch your boyfriend chatting with a member of the opposite sex and feel a little surge of jealousy.
  • You listen as your best friend describes the big promotion they got (and corresponding pay increase) and feel a spike of jealousy.
  • You notice how fit and muscular the person on the treadmill next to you at the gym is and feel jealous.

What’s less obvious, is what happens after that initial feeling of jealousy…

We almost always end up acting jealous immediately after feeling jealous.

Of course, this acting out of our jealousy is usually subtle and mostly invisible to other people. And it tends to come in two forms:

  1. Jealous thinking
  2. Jealous behavior

Jealous thinking is what your mind usually does after feeling jealous:

  • You start imagining how your boyfriend might secretly be having an affair because they’re over you and trying to get out of the relationship.
  • You start going through scenarios in your head of why your friend doesn’t really deserve the promotion nearly as much as you do.
  • You tell yourself that you’d be that fit too if you were young and single and actually had time to exercise regularly.

In other words, jealous thinking is the story you tell yourself when you feel jealous.

This matters because—as we’ll discuss later on—one of the things that make our jealousy both more intense and long-lasting is the story we tell ourselves about it and as a result of it.

In other words, people who have a more general tendency to worry and ruminate, are much more likely to act out their jealousy (if only in their own mind).

Jealous, behavior, on the other hand, is what we physically do in response to feeling jealous:

  • You start flirting with someone at the party yourself as a way to get your boyfriend’s attention or “make him pay.”
  • You start communicating in a passive-aggressive way with your friend any time the topic of work or your jobs come up.
  • You stop working out because being around fit people triggers painful feelings in you.

Jealous behavior is what you do—consciously or not—in response to feeling jealous.

Becoming more aware of our jealous behavior is critical because it can easily lead to self-sabotage and other destructive patterns.

Before we move on to some tips and strategies for dealing with our jealousy in a healthy way, we need to talk a little bit about where jealousy comes from.

Because you can’t respond to jealousy in a healthy way if you don’t understand its function or what it’s trying to do.

What causes jealousy?

If you want to understand how jealousy actually works, and how to work with it most effectively, you need to realize one crucial concept…

Jealousy is a natural reaction to real or threatened loss.

Okay, there’s a lot in that statement, so let’s unpack it a bit…

1. Jealousy is a natural reaction…

It’s critical that you see jealousy as a natural emotion and not something inherently bad or defective. Just like it’s natural to feel fear when we’re threatened or angry when an injustice has been committed, it’s natural to feel jealous sometimes too.

While jealousy is natural in the sense of being normal, it’s also natural in that it’s useful—or at least trying to be. Just like anger properly channeled is a useful way to correct injustice, jealousy can also be useful. More on this in a minute…

2. …To real or threatened loss.

Let’s work backward here… Jealousy is about loss. Now, this might sound counterintuitive at first, but bear with me.

When we see something good or valuable that someone else has and our focus is on that thing itself and that other person, our reaction is more like admiration, wonder, etc. Jealousy comes in when we start comparing what other people have to what we lack. So at a fundamental level, jealousy is about something we feel like we don’t possess but should.

Here’s an example to illustrate:

If you’re already a top manager in your company, and you see a low-level intern work hard and get their first promotion, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel jealous because what they have is something you already possess. You’re not losing anything or reminded of something you lack. Of course, you still might feel threatened, for example, but that’s a different thing.

Jealousy always involves comparison. And at the end of the day, it’s about what you value but lack (or are afraid of lacking).

Side Note: An interesting implication of this way of looking at jealousy, btw, is that jealousy is often a good indicator of what we value. Two jealousy researchers, Vilayanur Ramachandran and Baland Jalal, have argued that “what you really value in life is more often revealed by asking yourself who you are jealous of rather than asking yourself directly ‘what do I value.’” This is another sense in which even though jealousy feels bad, it could—with the right perspective—be a useful tool to accomplish something productive like getting to know your values.

The big takeaway from all this is pretty straightforward:

Jealousy is a very understandable reaction to realizing that you’re lacking something (or are at risk of losing something) valuable.

From this perspective, then, jealousy isn’t just another “negative emotion” to try and get rid of. It’s a valuable signal reminding you of what really matters to you and the potential risk of losing it or not possessing it.

Of course, like any emotion, the message it contains isn’t necessarily accurate…

For example:

You might be completely secure in your romantic relationship and still feel a little jealous when your partner does something that looks flirty to you. That little spike of jealousy might just be the result of your misinterpretation of what’s going on, in which case it’s not necessarily helpful.

The bigger point is this:

Jealousy will always feel uncomfortable. But if you use it as a way to consider your values, it can become constructive rather than destructive.

Jealousy can remind you of what you really value and help motivate you to move toward it, achieve it, or hold on to it if it’s something you already possess.

How to Deal with Jealousy in a Healthy Way: 5 Practical Suggestions

In the previous section, there were two key points that we should remember because all of the recommendations I’m going to give about dealing with jealousy are based on them:

  1. Just because jealousy feels bad, doesn’t mean it is a bad thing. Jealousy is a normal human emotion. Everybody experiences it sometimes. And there are often good reasons for feeling that way.
  2. Feeling jealous is different than acting jealous. Whether you feel jealous or not isn’t something you have direct control over. But you can control how you think and how you behave while you feel jealous or in response to it.

With those two core principles in mind, let’s jump into some practical suggestions for how to manage jealousy in a healthy and effective way.

1. Validate your jealousy

Emotional validation is a complicated-sounding idea that’s actually very straightforward…

Emotional validation means acknowledging how you feel and reminding yourself that it’s okay to feel that way—however painful or uncomfortable.

What really gets people into trouble with jealousy is that their starting assumption is that it’s not okay for them to feel jealous.

The problem is, when you start judging your jealousy (and yourself for feeling it) you add a second layer of painful emotions on top of an already difficult feeling:

  • When you judge yourself for feeling jealousy, you now feel guilty or ashamed and jealous.
  • When you tell yourself it’s bad that you feel jealous, now you feel anxious and jealous.
  • When you criticize yourself for feeling jealous, now you feel angry and jealous.

And the more painful emotion you pile on top of yourself, the more pressure you’re going to feel to do something quickly to feel better.

Unfortunately, these quick fixes for feeling better, often tap into our worst instincts and end up as self-sabotage…

  • Because you’re so ashamed of how you’re feeling, you lash out critically at someone else in order to very briefly make yourself feel powerful and justified.
  • You’re so afraid of being perceived as jealous, that you never speak up assertively about what’s bothering you.
  • You’re so angry that you end up acting out aggressively and saying or doing something hurtful and damaging to someone you love.

In short, it’s very easy to be judgmental of ourselves for feeling jealous, but when we do this, it only adds more pressure to the system. And more often than not, this pressure comes out in unhelpful ways.

Which brings us back to validation…

Emotional validation is like a pressure release valve for your emotions. When we feel bad, simply acknowledging those difficult feelings and reminding ourselves that it’s okay to feel that way takes an enormous amount of emotional pressure off of ourselves.

And when we don’t feel as pressured, it’s much easier to tolerate those difficult jealous feelings and respond in a way that’s helpful rather than destructive.

Summary: The first step in managing your jealousy in a healthy way is to validate it. Acknowledge that you’re feeling jealous and remind yourself that however much you dislike feeling that way, it doesn’t mean the feeling is bad or you are bad for feeling it.

2. Look for other emotions “behind” your jealousy

Most people, when asked to describe how they’re feeling, typically respond with one, single feeling:

  • I’m really anxious
  • I’m mad
  • I feel pretty sad

The thing is, it’s actually rare to only experience one single emotion at a time.

Far more often, we’re actually experiencing a range of different emotions at any given point. And while there’s usually one dominant “loud” emotion, it’s a mistake to assume that it’s the only one—or the only important one.

When it comes to feeling jealous, it’s easy to get fixated on jealousy and ignore the other “quieter” emotions behind it. Unfortunately, ignoring these other emotions can be a mistake because often they’re trying to tell us something valuable…

For example:

  • You’re at a party with your girlfriend and notice her talking with another guy. You instantly start to feel jealous.
  • But when you stop and consider how else you’re feeling, you realize you’re feeling a little sad too.
  • Upon further reflection, you realize that your sadness has to do with the fact that your girlfriend is very socially confident and finds it easy to talk with new people. But for you, this is hard. And you feel sad and disappointed that parties are so much more difficult for you to navigate.

Acknowledging the sadness behind your jealousy is important because it gives you another way of thinking about how you could respond.

Here’s how it might play out:

  • Instead of responding to your jealousy (which may or may not be an accurate reflection of what’s going on) and confronting your girlfriend about it, you could validate the jealousy, and then react constructively to your sadness and disappointment at not being very social at parties instead.
  • Specifically, you could try and strike up a conversation with someone and address your need for social connection.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible that your jealousy happened because your girlfriend is being inappropriately flirtatious with someone else. In which case, confronting her about it may in fact be the best action.

But, if there’s a good chance that’s not actually what’s going on, then acting on your jealousy (either mentally or behaviorally) is unlikely to be helpful. And very possibly could lead to you feeling worse and then doing something regrettable as a result.

On the other hand, when you take a moment to explore the other emotions behind the jealousy, you give yourself options for other ways to react. And many of these options could be far more helpful than reacting to the jealousy impulsively.

If you want to learn more about building emotional self-awareness, I run a course called Mood Mastery which includes a deep dive on this very topic and similar skills in emotional intelligence.

3. Write down your jealousy story

Without a doubt, the biggest reason people struggle with their jealousy is because they ruminate on it.

Rumination is a form of unhelpful negative thinking. It usually involves dwelling on upsetting topics you don’t have control over—replaying them or elaborating on them in your mind over and over again.

When people first feel jealous, often their instinct is to think more about it—analyze it, elaborate on it, judge it, etc. But one of the problems with this is that the more you focus on your jealousy, the bigger and more long-lasting it’s going to become.

On the other hand, if you can avoid ruminating on your jealousy, it’s much more likely to fade out rather quickly (most emotions—jealousy included—dissipate surprisingly quickly when we stop amplifying them by thinking and attending to them).

Of course, sometimes it is good to think about your jealousy, the situation that provoked it, what you want to do in response, etc.

So the dilemma here is how to think about your jealousy in a way that’s helpful and productive instead of simply stewing on and ruminating unhelpfully.

In my experience, the best way to ensure that your thinking is accurate and constructive rather than biased and destructive is to do it on paper.

  • For one thing, you can’t write nearly as fast as you can think. When you write down your jealousy story—what happened, what you think it means, what you ought to do, if anything—you’ll do it more slowly and intentionally.
  • It’s also a lot easier to get a balanced and realistic perspective on your story when it’s literally in front of you in writing. You’ll notice blatant exaggerations, irrational conclusions, and the like much more easily when your thoughts are written down slowly rather than speeding through your mind.

So, when you find yourself feeling jealous, and you decide it’s worth reflecting on more analytically, try to do it on paper rather than in your head.

Because remember:

For better or worse, your thoughts will determine how intensely you feel and for how long.

If you would like to feel less jealous, take control over your jealous story and make sure it’s as accurate and balanced as possible. Writing it down is a good place to start.

If you’re interested in learning more about how changing your thinking can change the way you feel, this guide on changing negative thinking might be helpful.

4. Clarify your values

Ironically, the most difficult part of jealousy isn’t the feeling itself but how we respond to it:

  • The hours of mental rumination and stewing about the person your’re jealous of. And all the extra jealousy, anger, anxiety, and other emotion that goes along with it.
  • The reactive and impulse decisions we make the instant we feel jealous that so often end up hurting both ourselves and other people.
  • Or sometimes our avoidance and suppression of jealousy allows bad behavior to go unchecked because of our own anxiety and lack of assertiveness.

Whatever the case may be, the real secret to managing your jealousy is this:

Stop trying to manage your jealousy itself and get better at managing your reaction to it.

In other words, other than some validation and self-acceptance, there’s not much you can do about the emotion of jealousy. Where we do have real control is in the ways we act out our jealousy—either internally or behaviorally.

In addition to the steps we’ve already listed, one of the best ways to start reacting to jealousy in a healthier way is to get more clarity about our values.

Values are the principles we aspire to live out. Honesty, for example, is often a value for people, or courage.

When our values are clearly defined and present in our minds, they exert a kind of motivating pull on our behavior which helps us steer clear of impulsive and self-sabotaging behavior.

For example:

  • Suppose you’re feeling jealous because of something your spouse did.
  • Your initial instinct is to “get back at them” by making a sarcastic and biting comment.
  • Obviously, this probably won’t be very helpful in the long run—either in terms of your own jealousy or your relationship. But it’s an easy thing to get “pulled into.” It’s a mild form of self-sabotage.
  • On the other hand, suppose at the moment you start feeling jealous, you remind yourself of your value of straightforward communication with your spouse. And how, in the past, you’ve been able to clear up issues much more quickly and smoothly when you communicate honestly.
  • Well, that’s going to make it much more likely that you choose an adaptive and helpful response to your jealousy rather than an impulsive or instinctual one.

We all have values of course. The problem is that most of the time they’re not very clear. And when values aren’t clear and personally relevant, they don’t exert nearly as much motivating pull on our actions.

If you want to start responding to jealousy more constructively, one of the best things you can do is make time to get to know your values.

5. Take assertive action

The final helpful step you can take when you’re feeling jealous is to take assertive action.

Taking assertive action means you make decisions and act in a way that aligns with your values and what you think is right—regardless of how you happen to feel in the moment.

Here’s an example:

  • Suppose you’re at lunch with a friend and they begin telling you about a big sum of money they just inherited and all the exciting things they’re planning to do with it.
  • Very understandably, you notice yourself feeling jealous.
  • Now, most people in this situation implicitly judge themselves for feeling jealous (She’s my best friend… I shouldn’t feel jealous—I should be happy for her! What’s wrong with me?). And as a result, they try to avoid or suppress their jealousy and pretend they’re not jealous.
  • Unfortunately, avoiding your jealousy makes it more likely that it will come out eventually in undesirable ways—usually resentment or passive-aggressiveness.
  • On the other hand, you could reflect on how you aspire to react to your friend’s windfall and remind yourself that just because I feel jealous doesn’t mean I can’t also express my happiness for them.
  • So in this case, taking assertive action might mean that, after your lunch, but before you leave, you make a point to tell them in a very genuine way that you’re excited for them.

Wait a second? It wouldn’t be honest for me to say I’m excited for them when really I’m jealous, right?

Here’s the thing: You can feel jealous and excited at the same time. And in my experience, it’s almost never the case that people feel exclusively jealous about someone else’s good fortune.

So, when you tell them you’re excited for them, that’s not a denial of your jealousy; you’re simply giving voice to a smaller but still perfectly valid emotion in you as well.

The more general point is this:

If you want to stop reacting negatively to your jealousy, be intentional about how you do want to respond to it.

The first step of this is what we discussed in part 4 about clarifying your values. But once you’ve done that, you still need to act on them. And to do it in a way that’s honest and straightforward—in other words, to act assertively.

With practice, assertiveness is a skill we can all build and get better at. And when you do, it will make managing your jealousy effective much, much easier.

Summary & Conclusion

The key to managing jealousy in a healthy and effective way is to understand what it really is and how it works.

If you don’t take anything else away from this guide, remember these two key ideas:

  1. Jealousy is a normal human emotion. Just because it feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad or that you’re bad for feeling it.
  2. Feeling jealous is different than acting on your jealousy. The key to managing jealousy well is to validate the feeling of jealousy and take control over your mental and behavioral response to jealousy.

Nick Wignall is a clinical psychologist and writer interested in practical psychology for meaningful personal growth. You can find more of his writing at NickWignall.com.

Image courtesy of cottonbro.

Balancing Introversion and the Need for Connection

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Only 1% Of Americans Do This Essential Daily Habit


​Only 3% of Americans have written goals.

Only 1% of Americans rewrite their goals on a daily basis.

Giving yourself even five minutes per day to orient your life in the direction of your goals is the difference between success and average.

If you don’t give yourself time, every single day, to orient your life in the direction you want to go, then you will default to former habits and patterns.

Life gets busy.

Life is stressful.

It’s easy to forget what you really want.

It’s easy to disconnect from your purpose and priorities.

It’s easy to fall into autopilot and go through the motions.

It’s easy to watch several weeks or months go by and realize you haven’t made much progress on your goals.

It’s easy to let the little fundamentals slip.

It’s easy to default to consumption rather than organizing your life and environment for creation.

It’s easy to focus on the constraints of your circumstances rather than the power of your capabilities.

Distraction fuels the need for more distraction.

Addiction is an endless vacuum.

Indecision and inaction lead to a loss of confidence, motivation, and hope.

Success Is a Choice

Choosing to be successful isn’t a moral decision.

You can be a good person or a bad person and be focused on your goals.

You can be a good person and choose to be average.

It’s really your choice, the life you will live.

It’s your choice if you’re going to be happy.

It’s your choice if you’re going to be healthy.

It’s your choice if you’re going to be financially successful.

The decisions you make right now are a direct reflection of the person you will be in one, three, five, ten, and 20 years from now.

When you look at yourself in the mirror, you’re looking at your former selves’ choices, actions, and habits.

Staying the Course

​It’s fundamentally impossible to stay on a straight course without continually checking in to see how you’re doing.

If you’re not reviewing your goals on a daily basis, then I can guarantee that your behavior and performance is suboptimal.

Without clarity of direction and purpose, behavior and motivation become erratic.

Without orienting yourself first thing in the morning with who you are and what you’re about, you will be going through the motions.

You’ll be disconnected from your purpose.

You’ll be disconnected in your relationships.

You’ll lack motivation and conviction.

You’ll allow low-level influences, activities, and actions to creep into your life.

On an occasional basis when triggered by something random in the environment, you’ll remember your goals and dreams.

You’ll feel a quick rush of excitement and enthusiasm to get back on track.

You may even engage in some powerful behaviors — like sending positive and helpful messages to key relationships, going to the gym, writing in your journal, or taking action toward a goal.

But unless you establish a lifestyle of reviewing, remembering, and engaging with your goals and purpose daily, you will make minimal progress.

In order to make extreme progress, you need momentum.

In order to get momentum, you need to be consistent.

Not just consistent, but you need to continually be getting better.

In order to get better, you need goals that you’re actively pushing toward. For example, many people go to the gym but have no goals. They are simply moving their body and not getting better.

In the book Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield said,

“Addictions embody repetition without progress.”

Doing something over and over may be how you develop a habit. But habits don’t guarantee success.

Habits, if unchecked, actually create apathy, boredom, and a lack of engagement. Habits can lead to mindlessness.

Consistency, not habits, is what you’re after. You want to consistently show up and push through your current level.

You want to get yourself focused and clear on what you want to achieve. You then need to fuel that focus by taking powerful and bold actions, daily, toward your goals.

As you take action toward your goals, your identity will change. You’ll quickly begin to see yourself as the person you intend to become.

Your personality will change.

Your expectations will change.

Your confidence will change.

Your subconscious will change.

Your results will change.

Your environment will change.

You’ll be able to produce results, easily, that once took enormous effort.

Your new normal will be beyond what your former selves’ dreams were.

Your standards for yourself and your flexibility and empathy toward others will improve.

Your appreciation for life will deepen. Your ability to feel and love will grow.

Your reasons for living will change. You’ll stop focusing on what you can get and simply try to be as helpful as you possibly can.

You’ll shift from consuming to creating.

You’ll stop focusing on your present circumstances and focus on the leverage you have to create new circumstances for yourself and others.

You’ll change your life more for the sake of others than for yourself. You’ll hold yourself to a higher standard so you can perform better work.

You’ll eat better because you can’t put regular fuel in a Ferrari.

Your goals will become bigger and longer term.

Confidence can be measured by how far out your goals are.

Most people are living day to day because they don’t have the confidence to see and believe in a bigger future.

Confidence can be earned, but it must be earned every single day.

You can create confidence with the choices you make, and you can lose confidence with the choices you make.

Your confidence reflects your self-trust.

The more you trust yourself, the more willing you will be to do things that are beyond your current capability.

The less you trust yourself, the less willing you will be to make decisions and commitments.

Conclusion

When was the last time you wrote your goals?

Did you write them down this morning?

Did you set yourself up last night for success, or were you numb in distractions?

Do you really love yourself?

Do you care about yourself?

If so, then why wouldn’t you become successful?

Why wouldn’t you create a better life for yourself?

Why wouldn’t you get clear on who you are, what you stand for, and what you want?

Why wouldn’t you crystallize that clarity and create the confidence to actually create a better future and life for yourself?

Why wouldn’t you upgrade your standards and let go of the low-level influences and choices holding you back?

Make the Decision

This is one choice that will influence all others.

Make the decision to start your day by writing your goals down.

Then do your best throughout the day to align your daily behaviors with your future dreams.

As you take daily steps toward your goals, your confidence will increase. As your confidence increases, your belief that you will succeed will grow.

Your identity will change.

Your environment will change.

Your brain will change.

You will change.

You will succeed.


Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work. His blogs have been read by over 100 million people and are featured on Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, Cheddar, Big Think, and many others. He is a regular contributor to Inc. and Psychology Today and from 2015-2018, he was the #1 writer, in the world, on Medium.com. He and his wife Lauren adopted three children through the foster system in February 2018 and, one month later, Lauren became pregnant with twins, who were born in December of 2018. They live in Orlando.

Image courtesy of Judit Peter.

When Food & Booze Are Your Favorite Vices


I love food. I can’t get enough of cooking meals for friends and family. I feel creative and skillful in the kitchen, and am in awe of the way new recipes can give you insight into different cultures without having to leave your own home (a bonus when you’re stuck inside for weeks on end…).

Cooking is an area of my life where I am adventurous and innovative and boldly take risks. I am proud of my skills and motivation. Great!

Not always. I also love to eat, and drink. I love dining out, I love amazing wine, I live for my morning coffee.

Food and booze are my favorite vices.

Let me explain.

I’ll get the sad part over with first: the truth is that I cannot trust my instincts when it comes to food and alcohol.

That’s the first thing that my HG coach woke me up to when we met.

My sneaky patterns around eating and drinking were outed in my first homework assignment.

Honestly, I didn’t think it was that bad. I mean, my weight had always fluctuated and I found it hard to say no to glass three, four, and five, but didn’t everyone?

Especially after the first two cocktails…

What my coach allowed me to see – with a spotlight held over it – was that food and booze had control over me.

I had been lying about eating and drinking and how far I would go to protect my bad habits since third grade (when my favorite after-school snack was tablespoons of Nutella straight from the jar eaten while hiding under the kitchen table).

There were also times I spent the money meant for the math tutor on McDonalds, because I needed that double cheeseburger…a meal to lift my spirits.

And let’s not forget frequently ordering enough takeout for two (“to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow”) but stuffing my face, slurping up every last noodle, before the delivery guy had even left the building.

For me, once the bottle was open, or I was one step inside the bakery, it was all over. My sugar-addict brat took over.

But I thought that since I felt sooooo bad after my bread binges and blackouts, wallowed in my guilt for 24-72 hours (easily done with a hangover, some edibles and new episodes of Great British Bake Off), I was paying the right price.

I mean, I was already following The Method via my husband. He had been working with a coach (to great effect) for a year. We only ate carbs and drank alcohol on the weekends if we were at our goal weight. We were in the best shape of our lives after each losing 50+ pounds and were successfully keeping it off.

The problem was that, because I wasn’t in The Method myself, I didn’t truly understand promises and consequences, so I was out of Personal Integrity.

Side note – my husband and his coach had been trying to bring me in for months. He had also secured a new job and doubled his salary through the work, so I knew it was powerful, but I resisted. My lie to get out of not wanting to go where I knew she would take me was that I wanted to respect his “thing.” What a, frankly, lazy cop out.

Anyway, when I (finally) met with her, I was a mess.

I had been out of work for months and was spinning on the spot, submitting half-assed applications for jobs I didn’t really want so that I wouldn’t be too upset when I never heard back (hi, chicken!), and using my favorite chores, cooking and laundry (yep, I love the old wash, dry, fold – see I’m not all bad), to fill my days, frequently “running out of time” to finish applications or “forgetting” to follow up with that contact.

How did I get out?

Among other things, I found a way to use my dark (food and drink) for light (realizing my dreams).

Here’s how it works.

  • I make a promise that both supports my schedule and is in alignment with my dreams.
  • Then, I set a consequence. An annoying one that is (usually) attached to one of my vices.

For example, I needed to get moving on writing this blog. So, I made a promise to write 500 words before 5pm on Tuesday.

If I didn’t get that done, I would lose my second coffee every day for the rest of the week. My word count was 554 by 4:46pm (when my mom called – bonus that I got to catch up with her because I was finished early).

Yesterday, I wanted to apply for a job I was well-qualified for at a company I admire. I could have easily put it off until the application window closed, diverting my attention to other tasks (one of my favorites is “organizing my inbox”) and letting the days slip away.

Instead, I made a promise to apply for that job AND follow up with a personal referral or introduction, and scheduled an hour for it in my calendar. If I didn’t get to it that day, I would lose one of my precious wines this weekend.

You see, I already have strict rules in those areas (I only allow two drinks per day, two days per weekend, and I only allow two cheat meals – with carbs – per weekend if I’m at my goal weight). So you can imagine how protective of them this snack queen is.

Other common consequences of mine are double workouts (one I’m paying this week for delivering a task late), and missing my next cheat meal/s. If it’s a major promise, I lose my entire cheat weekend (all food and drink).

Paying my consequences feels (almost) as productive as keeping my promises. I’m held accountable either way.

By managing my days (and my life) using promises and consequences I am more fulfilled, motivated, and excited than ever before. Even mid-pandemic I feel powerful and proud, because I’m building my Personal Integrity and taking actions to realize my dreams.

I have been doing a ton of spiritual exploration and self-development work in the past 18 months and I can promise you that The Handel Method has absolutely been the most powerful in practice. That, and regular meditation.

To be completely honest though, I’d be struggling to maintain my meditation practice without The Handel Method – I have an ongoing promise to meditate twice daily. If I don’t, I skip wines.

If you want to take control of your life, do this. Don’t listen to the chicken in your head. There could not possibly be a better time to start.

Love,

Marnie & Lou

P.S. Inner.U LIFE is a 12 session online course that gives you the tools to hack into your own life, hone your dreams, and have every last thing you want in the areas that matter most to you: CAREER, MONEY, LOVE, TIME, FAMILY, and HEALTH. Do this life thing better from wherever, whenever.


Marnie Nir is Senior Vice President & Chief Content Officer and Expert Life Coach with Handel Group. She finally returned from Florida (a period in her life she likes to refer to as “witness protection”) to her home state of New York, but has shuffled around from New York to California and back again throughout her life. Marnie’s professional and personal life have come full-circle as well. A student of Slavic Language and Literature at UCLA, Marnie graduated with a BA and an understanding of Russian Literature as “purification through suffering”. Years later, after several jobs in publicity and production, most notably for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle live tour (can’t make this stuff up), she began to see that, at least in her own life, suffering was not mandatory.  After marrying and giving birth to her first child, Marnie started coaching with her sister, Lauren Zander, creating the dream of who she wanted to be as not-her-mother. However, her work with Lauren took everything in her life to a much deeper level. More than a decade later, she is now an empty nester of two, co-author with Lauren Zander of Maybe It’s You, SVP of Chief Content Officer, and an Expert Life Coach in The Handel Method. She has also continued her creative work, namely as co-creator of the animated series Mother Up!, which aired 13 episodes on Hulu and starred Eva Longoria, serving as an expert at Campowerment, blogging for the Huffington Post, as well as writing her own blog (The Sour MILF).

Image courtesy of Rachel Claire.

Just Be Alive


More than two-thirds of the Earth is covered in saltwater; about 3% of all land is occupied by humans; 70% of Earth’s fresh surface-water is frozen in the Antarctica; there’s an ocean of fresh water larger than all the oceans of the world combined that sits two hundred miles below the surface of the Earth, and over 7 billion people are currently contributing greatly to the collapsing this global ecosystem. Now is the time to develop respect for the grandeur of all nature; to let the natural purpose take precedence over human nature; to follow inspiration and enthusiasm as a guide in life, and build the future with these powerful emotions. Inspirational and enthusiastic emotions are tools of higher alignment… aligning microcosms with macrocosms.

This is the wise use of the emotional body.

But so often in this world, dominated by logic, the concept of emotions is not considered constructive… a non-emotional response is believed more appropriate. However, the non-emotional responses are in fact the problem. They’re the most powerful emotions one can fall into — it’s the emotion of blockage — it stores the charges that erupt in random moments without real application or purpose… just a violent discharge. This is the current state of human nature, the constant random discharging of the emotional body which produces false positives; leading to erroneous protocols; producing unintended consequences called side-effects. This is what has led to our common human absurdities: violence to find peace; scarcity to create demand, and conspiracy for the intent of confusion… all in the nature of today’s human nature that’s collapsing its host-system… the only creature within nature that’s completely unnatural.

Our prayer is that you take on the grand and lonely task of being an absolute outlier — a master of inspiration and enthusiasm, and other emotional orientations that shed human nature for the sake of all nature . . . don’t earn a living, just be alive.


Guru Singh is a world-renowned yoga instructor, author, musician, and family man. Guru Singh works with the Dalai Lama, teaches with Tony Robbins, and has recorded an album with Grammy® Award-winning artist Seal. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out Guru Singh’s most recent book: Buried Treasures: The Journey From Where You Are to Who You Are.

Image courtesy of Vlada Karpovich.

When Kids Won’t Cooperate: Give Choices


Giving choices may be the single most useful tool parents have for managing life with young children. It really is almost a magic wand, at least until children are about five. And even into the teen years, choices help children learn to manage themselves.

“Do you want to go to bed now or in five minutes? Five minutes? Ok, do we have an agreement that in five minutes you’ll go to bed no matter what?”

Why does this little trick work so effectively? Because it’s a win-win solution. You’re offering only choices that are okay with you, so you’re happy. She gets to pick one that’s okay with her, so she’s happy. You sidestep the power struggle, because you aren’t making her do something; she is choosing. The child is in charge, within your parameters. No one likes to be forced to do something. Here, because she chooses, she cooperates.

So how do you use this magic wand?

1. Give limited choices.

Make them as palatable as possible to the child, but eliminate any options that are unacceptable to you.

2. For young children or any child who is easily overwhelmed, an either/or choice works best.

“We have to leave now. Do you want to put on your shoes yourself or do you want me to put them on for you?”

3. As children get older, choices can get more complicated.

“You can quit soccer if you want, but what sport or physical activity do you think you’d like to try? You need to choose one physical activity.”

4. Choices can be used to help kids learn to manage themselves.

“As soon as your homework is done, I’ll help you carve that pumpkin. Your choice, but I know you want to start on the pumpkin as soon as we can.” He has the choice to procrastinate on his homework, but you’re helping him motivate himself to tackle it now.

5. Choices can teach children consequences.

“You know your piano recital is coming up. Extra practice will help you feel more confident, but that’s your choice.” Don’t offer choices you can’t live with, of course. If you aren’t willing to let her make a fool of herself at the recital, you may need to help her structure her practice effectively.

6. Remember that empathy doubles the effectiveness of giving choices.

Empathy helps the child feel understood, so he’s less upset, and less resistant. That means he’s more likely to actually be able to make a choice and move on.

You might think of giving choices as Parenting Aikido. Instead of meeting your child’s resistance with force — which creates a power struggle, and, ultimately, a more resistant child — you affirm his right to some control, but within the bounds you set. The result: A happier, more cooperative child, who knows you’re on his side.


Dr. Laura Markham, founder of AhaParenting.com and author of The Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life.

Image courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto.

Real Men Feel


Let me tell you something you don’t know.

Men struggle.

That’s right. We struggle with stress at work, with our relationships, with our self-confidence and self-esteem, even with our mental health.

Every single day, men everywhere are putting on a mask and pretending they’re ok

Laughing, joking, being strong and dependable, while inside they are hurting, perhaps even despairing, and struggling to cope. And you didn’t even realise it.

Wait, what do you mean you knew? Who told you?!?

And why didn’t you tell us???

It’s ridiculous isn’t it? Of course you knew. We all know that men struggle, because, well, because we’re human. Because we’re alive and life isn’t easy. Yet still so many of us don’t feel we can admit to our struggles.

No, we have to carry our burdens ourselves, force down our ‘feelings’ (ugh, feelings, men don’t do them, right…??? I think you know the answer to that one as well…). We have to carry on as normal, get on with it, ‘be a man’. We can’t be weak.

Well I’m calling it our for what it is. Utter b….. I’ll let you fill in the blank.

I know from the many years I worked in boxing, that even the toughest among us struggle. I know how it feels to be at your lowest having been consumed by depression, and I know just how hard it is to face each day with its crushing weight upon you. I know just how much strength it takes to overcome our struggles.

And I know that we can pick ourselves up and not only survive, but thrive BECAUSE OF our struggles.

I also know just how important it is to be able to admit that we are struggling, and to ask for help. None of us wants to carry our burdens alone, keep our pain locked inside, eating away at us. But so many of us feel we have to.

It has to change.

We need to feel heard, understood, cared for and supported. We need to feel we’re not alone; that we’re not weak, mad, or less of a man. We need to know that struggling is normal, that we can get through it, and that we don’t have to struggle on our own.

I’m speaking up. It’s time to get real.

And I’m not just speaking to the men, I’m talking to the women too.

You know how it can be hard to get men to listen sometimes can’t it? Hard to get them to pay attention. Hard to get them to get help. Hell, it’s hard enough to get them to accept that they might, just might, need it.

We all struggle sometimes, but seeking help? Nah.

‘I’m alright’

‘I don’t need help’

‘I’ll beat it on my own’

And if and when us men do finally pluck up the courage to admit we’re struggling, when we do finally seek help, it’s often due to the urging of the women in our life (and here I should say, thanks Mam, for making me go to see the doctor after months of struggling back in 2006).

It can be hard for us fellas. We’re not supposed to show ‘weakness’. We’re meant to be the strong ones, we’re meant to be there for you. We’re not supposed to cry; it’s our shoulders that are for made for crying on, not yours.

So we pretend everything is okay. Some of us get bloody good at it. But really, it doesn’t do us any favours. And it can be hard to fool you for long. You know. But what can you do about it?

If you are a man who’s struggling, or if you are a woman that’s worried about a man in your life – a son, brother, husband, friend, colleague – then I have created something to help.

Because when we know we’re not alone, when we know someone else ‘gets it’, when we know that we won’t be judged or laughed at or considered to be weak or mad, then the weight we carry can begin to be lifted. We can talk, and we can face how we feel.

Real men feel.

So I am talking about why it’s so difficult for men to open up and seek help, about my own experiences of depression and what helped me through it. About the importance of the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are, and that change is always possible.

We can do this.

Click the link to get access to my Real Men Feel video series now.

Take care, Matthew.


Matthew Williams is an author, speaker and coach. He lives in the North East of England with his two young children. After overcoming a series of life-changing plot twists he is passionate about positive change, and turning life’s challenges into lessons for creating a better future. His book, Something Changed: Stumbling Through Divorce, Dating and Depression, is available now in eBook and paperback versions, from Amazon. He has also developed the unique online personal development programme, Change, which uses the power of your personal story to help you to create the life you love. For more information please visit change.afamiliarstranger.co.uk.

Image courtesy of Alex Green.

The Loss of Living a Singular Life


Where here should I start from?

Where does the beginning sit in a new story?

Is the beginning at the start of the new experience, or at the end of it.

I have been away inside new adventures for the last few weeks.

I swam in turquoise waters in Greece.

I witnessed a rocket blasting off to space at Cape Canaveral with a friend inside of it.

My eyes going from one world to another, adjusting to the new view.

Something happens when you change reality dramatically.

Where nothing is left the same.

People. Places. Streets. Words. You.

Skies. 

All speaking a new language.

Your inner compass becomes turbulent. Until it stabilizes.

But the beginning is not here yet. I can’t find it. 

The beginning is not inside the adventure. I looked. 

Maybe there will never be a beginning to think about again, because I will not need to begin again.

Is that possible even?

We seek new beginnings because wherever we are, is no longer needed, wanted, chosen. But what if you made your life exist inside many realities, where you leap from one to another. A new beginning would become irrelevant.

Wouldn’t it?

Loss would be minimized.

Love would become everything, everywhere, everyone.

You won’t have time to not love, as something new will always show up ready to be loved by you.

In the last few weeks I met people from all over the world, living lives I have never seen before.

Wanting things I have never wanted, because I didn’t know they existed. 

Living in a singular world creates immense loss.

I am just realizing that a monogamous relationship with life is not healthy.

We have created the concept of a new beginning because living a linear existence meant that we had to end one world to begin another.

What if we don’t have to?

What if we exist in many streets, and homes, and places, and most importantly inside many stories. All at the same time.

I don’t want to end my adventures.

I don’t want to begin anything else.

I just want to continue whatever this is.

Because this right here, feels like coming home.

With no beginnings, and no endings,

Christina


Christina Rasmussen is the creator and founder of The Life Reentry Institute, Second Firsts, and Star Letters, and the host of the Dear Life Podcast. Christina is on a crusade to help millions of people rebuild, reclaim, and relaunch their lives using the power of their own minds. Christina’s work has been featured on ABC News, NPR, The White House Blog, and MariaShriver.com. She is the bestselling author of Second Firsts: Live, Laugh, and Love Again, which has also been translated in Chinese and German and just released her second book Where Did You Go on expanding the mind in ways that allows co-creation with the forces of the universe. She is also writing her first work of fiction: a science fiction story about a woman on a quest to start over and begin a new life. You can find more information on her website and follow her on FB or Twitter.

Image courtesy of Andy Vu.

These 7 Productivity “Rules” Are Harmful, Anti-scientific Myths


I have a confession to make: I don’t obey any of the major productivity commandments. I often do work in my pajamas. Sometimes I work for hours without taking a single break. And I have yet to find a morning routine that sticks.

One thing I really hate is the preachy attitude of a lot of self-improvement content. Many productivity bloggers have this sort of tone which implies that the reason you’re so unproductive is that you haven’t followed their blog post instructions. Shame on you!

This leads people to try random productivity “hacks” that don’t work, and feeling like it’s their fault when they haven’t gotten that thing done yet.

If these work for you, great! But if not, I’m here to tell you that you can safely ignore these seven productivity rules. I’ve searched peer-reviewed study databases and found little to no evidence that these actually boost productivity. All they are is a massive guilt trip.

1. Don’t check email as soon as you wake up

This is the one I struggled with the longest. I tried and tried. I felt guilty when I failed. I convinced myself I was more productive when I managed. But just this morning, I rolled out of bed and checked my email.

The sky didn’t fall down.

Sometimes when I do this, I do get a niggling sense of unease. It prompts me to get up, get my coffee, and deal with the email that came in. But most often, it lets me have a way more relaxed morning. I’m not dreading whatever is sitting in my inbox — I’ve looked, and I’ve taken care of it.

It’s true that checking email less altogether reduces stress. Kushlev & Dunn found in their 2014 paper that of the 124 participants in their study who only checked email thrice daily were less stressed. (You’ll notice below, the benefits of less email touch on a bunch of things, only one of which is perceived productivity.)

Schematic taken from the Kushlev & Dunn 2014 paper

When you’re a freelancer, your day starts when you want. For me, my day starts as soon as I wake up. If you check your email as soon as you wake up, set aside your guilt. It’s not ruining your productivity and it’s not going to ruin your day.

2. You need a highly specific morning routine

This is one of the most pervasive productivity ideas out there: that you have to nail down what you do in the morning to have a great rest of the day. My mornings do typically have similar elements. I wake up, I checked my email, I put the coffee on, I play with my cats, not necessarily in that order. Sometimes I go for a run, sometimes I don’t. But I don’t have anything resembling the regimented morning routine the most productivity bloggers recommend.

This myth is SO pervasive that I checked on Google Scholar to see where the original source was. Who came up with the “science-backed” morning routine? The only evidence I could find was an article that cited Beethoven’s quirk of making coffee with exactly 60 beans as a morning routine.

The study did show that disruption to someone’s morning routine (e.g. not drinking coffee when they normally do) affected their day, but failed to take into account the fact that any kind of disruption is kind of jarring. Why did they miss their coffee? Did they wake up late? Did they have a fight with their partner? That kind of stuff throws you off your game — not just not getting your coffee.

There’s no peer-reviewed study that shows the productivity of people with morning routines with people without one. There’s no peer-reviewed study that says you have to nail down exactly what you do, in what order you do it, in order to have a great day.

3. You can’t wear pajamas to get sh*t done

I love my pajamas! I love the feeling of being in a cloud. I actually became more productive when I allowed myself to wear my pajamas during my day. Before, I used to force myself to put on makeup and a nice dress for my YouTube videos. Now? I give the camera my normal face and my ratty t-shirt. Nobody cares. I certainly don’t.

I was unable to find any empirical studies from a reputed journal on Google Scholar, but I was able to find a pop-sci article with quotes from alleged experts decrying lazy people who wore their pajamas all day.

Dr. Dragonette, a psychologist PureWow got to provide a quote for their pseudoscientific article, says: “What many might deem insignificant can actually lead to dwindling motivation and productivity as you subconsciously associate your pajamas with bedtime or relaxation time. So, by wearing relaxed clothes, your brain might start to feel sluggish too.”

(She’s the Executive Director from a rather expensive teen rehab clinic.) (The article also used an affiliate link to sell you clothes you can wear instead.)

She offered no potential neurological mechanisms for brains to become sluggish. She did not offer any empirical studies that say the same. The best she was able to provide was a study from a publication literally called Human Resource Development Quarterly that shows people feel nicer if they wear nice clothes.

All in all, there’s no scientific proof I was able to find that you accomplish less in your pajamas. And frankly, I find this productivity myth ableist, as with a lot of these other myths.

If you’re still in your pajamas at lunchtime, don’t beat yourself up. You’re doing just fine.

4. You can’t take breaks, AKA Deep Work

This is such a weird one because prevalent productivity hype has two theories. One, that you need to take regular breaks in order to get anything done; and two, deep work only happens if you manage to work uninterrupted for hours and hours.

(These are contradictory.)

Let’s start with the idea that productive work for hard tasks has to happen in big blocks.

Cal Newport came onto the productivity scene with his book, Deep Work, in 2016. In it, he collects a series of anecdotes from people he admires and respects, such as himself. I was unable to find any peer-reviewed scientific studies that back his claim up.

It’s a nice idea — the internet has ruined our attention span, we keep checking emails, it throws us off-kilter when we lose focus, etc. But it ignores the basic realities of living. Most of us simply cannot block the internet for hours at a time. When I’m creating products for my email list, which I’d consider a prime candidate for “deep work,” I need the internet open to research examples and formats. When I worked as an account manager, I had to be responsive to email.

Show me the peer-reviewed, well-methoded study that proves deep work works and I’ll take it all back. But until then? I’m calling bullsh*t.

5. You have to take breaks, AKA Pomodoro

Set aside everything you just heard about Deep Work, because the midnight sister to Deep Work is the totally contradictory Pomodoro technique.

The idea is you focus for 25 minutes and give yourself a five-minute break. While I was able to find many papers for the Pomodoro Technique™, I wasn’t able to find any empirical studies designed to prove or disprove its effectiveness. One PhD thesis from 2020 I found did say that “[m]ost participants found the PT® helpful for addressing their multitasking. However, there was little consensus on how the PT® helped participants or which aspects were helpful, with the same aspects (e.g. ticking timer, deferring potential interruptions) identified as helpful or ineffective by different participants.”

This roughly translates to, “It worked for some people, but it didn’t for others. I don’t know why.” The thesis did not include any potential neurological mechanisms why working for an arbitrary 25 minutes should make you more productive.

I often shock people when I announce my typical day is a long one. I start around 7:30 or 8 AM, and then I work until everything on my to-do list is done. If I stop to take any kind of longish break, like reading a book, playing a video game, or even lunch, I often lose my motivation to continue.

Instead, I take tons of microbreaks, as I described above. Then I get back to work. I do sometimes use an app called Forest which helps me focus when I want to, but only on my phone, which lets me check my laptop for whatever I like.

My method is not a scientific technique, but you also don’t see me peddling it to others and trying to claim it’s scientific. It works for me.

6. You need a consistent bedtime

“Go to bed on time every single night for healthy sleep!” insists just about every single productivity blogger.

Honestly, I go to bed when I’m tired. Sometimes that’s 9:30 PM. Sometimes it’s 11 PM. I searched for a study that could prove once and for all the consistent bedtimes boost productivity and performance, but all I could find was a study reviewing the time management habits of academically successful students, and those on academic probation (Hensley, 2018).

The study found that “course-takers with a history of academic struggles do not differ substantially from their classmates when it comes to when they study during the week or when they sleep and wake.” (Bolding mine.) The authors also noted “inconsistent sleep schedules for nearly all students, in contrast with prevailing recommendations to go to bed and awake near the same time throughout the week.”

Rough translation? High performers and low performers alike have irregular sleeping habits and it doesn’t seem to matter much.

7. Give up caffeine to attain peak productivity

It’s an addiction, OK? I love my coffee. Occasionally I’ll do a day without it to prove I still can, but most mornings include my French press.

I find productivity bloggers split on this issue. Some turn their love of coffee into a personality trait, referencing their steaming mug of java throughout their idealized morning routines and highly productive breaks. Others decry it as a dirty habit that’s holding you back from true productive potential. Honestly? I don’t think it’s true one way or another.

This is the one productivity rule that does actually have real science behind it. I just don’t think it’s persuasive. Intaking caffeine has been clinically demonstrated to “release the pre- and post-synaptic brakes that adenosine imposes on dopaminergic neurotransmission,” according to a rather dense paper from 2007.

(To be honest, I struggled reading that paper, so I looked for a rough translation. This textbook section explains the effect of caffeine on the brain, and concludes that “you get some stimulating effect from every cup of coffee you drink, and any tolerance you build up is minimal.”)

You should also recall that 62% of all Americans drink coffee every single day, according to the National Coffee Institute. And society hasn’t collapsed. (Well, maybe that’s debatable? But I doubt it’s due to the coffee consumption.)

Most productivity rules are pseudo-scientific BS

I hate to admit it because I bought into it for so long, but I genuinely believe most productivity “rules” are myths. And furthermore, people telling you about them are usually hypocrites. I don’t know a single person IRL who has a consistent morning routine. I don’t know of any real people who religiously go to bed at the same time. And yet most of us still manage to go about our days, getting stuff done.

Authors and bloggers will try to persuade you that their way is not only scientifically backed, but actually, the only right way to do things. (They also position productivity as a moral virtue which I find problematic all on its own, but that’s a separate issue.)

There are a few irrefutable rules: going outdoors makes you feel good. Relaxing is vital for health. Water is good for you. Sleep and eat when your body tells you. But beyond that, everyone is kind of making it up as they go along.

When you read those productivity articles, look for the source material. Don’t accept “science says so” — look for the science. Look for peer-reviewed studies describing potential neurological pathways and mechanisms to explain why this might be so. Look for people who don’t have anything to sell.

Take what you can from productivity gurus and ignore the rest. If it works for you? Great. If not? Don’t feel guilty.


Zulie Rane is a reader and a writer who believes in the power to change the world through the written word. You can find her writing on ZulieRane.com, posting selfies and art on Instagram at @zulierane and tweeting bad puns on Twitter at @zulierane.

Image courtesy of cottonbro.