RFS Blog | by Karl W. Palachuk – Relax Focus Succeed. Learn more at www.relaxfocussucceed.com

CAT | Goals

Oct/18

8

Do You Need to Be Done?

I realized a while back that I no longer strive to be “done” with a lot of things.

Some things need to be done, of course. But others are never done.

When I’m writing a book or putting together a new presentation, I love the feeling of making progress. I track it on Excel spreadsheets. I post chapters and share milestones. I love finishing the first draft and moving from the “creating” phase to the editing phase. And even though the post-writing phase is a lot less fun, I push through so I can be done. Done done. Really done. Go-do-something-else done.

But there’s a whole different class of things that are never done. For example, I love paying bills. I know that sounds odd, but I’ve always loved paying all the bills and making payroll. There’s a real sense of accomplishment that I can make enough money to pay down all those bills and have money left over. This used to be more fun back in the days when bills showed up as pieces of paper and were paid with checks in envelopes. Now bills show up electronically and area often paid the same way. Money just sort of magically moves around.

Laundry is another thing that’s never done. It’s always nice to be “done” with laundry. But, unless you do laundry naked, you know it’s never done. There’s always another towel, another pair of pants. I knew someone who was so obsessed with having the laundry done that she ran an entire washer and dryer cycle for one single sock. But of course, later that day, there was more laundry.

You can probably think of many things in your life that are never done. Cooking meals, mowing the lawn, cleaning everything, and getting ready for all the stuff you have to do in the next day, week, or year.

We all have never-ending chores. And we like some more than others.

One of the great lessons of my life is that it’s okay to accept that some things will never be done. When I stop mowing the lawn, it probably means my grass is dead. That’s no good. So mowing the lawn forever is a good thing. And, really, paying bills forever is a good thing. The same is true with filing paperwork, vacuuming, and figuring out what meals I’m going to eat in the week ahead.

At some level, I think it’s a universal human trait to enjoy finishing things. I wonder what that sense of accomplishment does to improve our lives or chances for survival. Is there an evolutionary reason that we are motivated to both start and complete projects? I can’t think of any. But I do think this is a universal human trait. I don’t think birds have a sense of accomplishment when they add the last twig to a nest, or fish when they swim to the place of their birth. For them it’s just a thing they do.

So I’ve divided my accomplishments into two types: Those with “Done” as a legitimate goal, and those that will never be done. And I’m at peace when certain things are never done and never will be.

Now, excuse me while I load the dishwasher.

:-)

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Sep/18

24

Your “Before” Picture

Here’s a quick exercise for you. Take a selfie with your cell phone and label it “Before.” How do I know that this is your “before” picture? Because change is coming in your life.

Portrait of a happy young man making selfie photo on smartphone isolated on a white background

You might know what’s coming. It could be the book you’re writing, the goal you’re working toward at work, the new degree, the new child, or a million other things. Or you might not know what’s coming. Life has no shortage of surprises for us. But something’s going to change.

This might be the time before you get a raise, before you make a new friend, or before you get an unexpected day off. Whatever is coming might be large or small. But change is all around us, all the time.

When we look back, we can easily define the before/after moments that affected us the most. Before we learned to read; before we learned to drive; before we got married. And of course, there’s the before and after of all of our family and friends. Before my child was born; before she graduated college; before she bought her first house.

While it’s easy to identify these points after the fact, you can also tune in as life progresses. How is life going for you right now? How about work? And family and hobbies? All those things are going to involve change in the next year. If nothing else, start a “now” journal or a “before” journal and take stock.

It can be very exciting to be self-aware when you’re in the middle of change. So often, we let life happen to us. But if you know you’re in the before time and you choose to tune in to it, you don’t have to be passive. If you tune into change, you can choose to mold that change and affect what it looks like.

One very common way we do this is to create some ceremony around change. We have graduation paries, give greeting cards, and take friends to dinner. We acknowledge certain points in our lives.

The only real difference between responding to change and affecting change is that we choose to do one or the other. We all play both roles, depending on the circumstances.

I encourage you to use some morning quiet time to take stock of how things are going in your life. And then speculate what “after” is going to look like. After all, the more you spend time thinking about it, the more you’ll be able to influence it.

:-)

 

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Jul/18

30

Priming Your Brain – Part 3

In my last two blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2), I introduced the reticular activating system (RAS) and talked a bit about how you can “prime” it to focus on your goals. In this blog post, I want to touch on what happens when you don’t focus your attention.

If you study a lot of self-help and “success” literature, you’ve probably noticed that one of the most common recommendations across all these works is to spend some time at the beginning of each day planning the day. For some it’s prayer. For some it’s meditation. For some it is simply reviewing a schedule. But no matter what form it takes, they all involve spending time just thinking about the day ahead.

Without knowing it, this advice is really about telling your reticular activating system what to pay attention to. In Part 2 of this series I went into some detail how I use this to give lots of attention and focus to something. Today I want to talk about what happens when you don’t do this – when you don’t consciously choose what to put your attention on.

We’ve all had the experience of worrying about something. Sometimes, we get “stuck” worrying. We start to focus on something and then we can’t stop. We get more and more worried until something snaps us out of it. Very often, the thing that snaps us out of worry is simply the passage of time as we realize that the bad thing didn’t happen.

As Mark Twain famously said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Money is a common worry. The safety of our children is a common worry. Success in business. Fall sales numbers. Grades. Taxes. The list goes on.

Here’s what we know about the RAS: Whatever you choose to focus on, it amplifies. That’s great if you’re focusing on your goals and ideals. But if you’re focusing on “bad stuff” like worries, it’s going to amplify that as well. Here’s why:

The RAS has a primary function of filtering OUT virtualy everthing you could be paying attention to. Hundreds of millions of things happen every day don’t get your attention. You simply can’t process all that. But the RAS has a secondary function of filtering IN the things that are most important to you.

Some important things are reinforced so much over time that one could argue they are hard-wired. For example, if you’re a parent at the State Fair, you will hear your child’s voice say “Mom” or “Dad” through a huge crowd of people. Hearing that voice calling you under any circumstances is important, so it gets filtered IN to the top of the list of stimuli. Years and years of responding to this call have burned it into a pathway that says there’s probably nothing more important for you to respond to – ever.

Worries and fears and problems can be the same way. We choose to pay attention to our children, our spouse, our business, etc. But very often we do not choose to pay attention to worries, fears, and other negative things. They take some of our attention. But they don’t dominate our attention unless we get carried away. If we let them in, don’t push them out, and don’t tell our RAS that we’d rather pay attention to something else, then we end up paying attention to them again.

This pattern reinforces itself. If you don’t choose what to reinforce, the RAS (which has no brain of its own) will automatically choose for you. More and more research is showing that we can break patterns of negative thought. We can lay down new neural pathways. We can change our overall tendencies to focus on certain things and instead focus on more positive things.

One of my mottos is, “Nothing Happens By Itself.” I believe that is very true and applies to every aspect of life.

Positive attitudes don’t happen by themselves. New ideas don’t just happen. New business plans. Renewed marital happiness. Nothing happens by itself. But almost anything can happen if you put your attention on it.

If you ignore your attitudes and your preferred thought pattterns, then you get whatever random stuff other people throw into your life. But if you focus on what you want – the attitudes you want, the goals you want, the friends you want – then your RAS will work hard to help you GET what you want.

For me, the best part about all this is its simplicity. The RAS is like an audio amplifier. You speak into the microphone and a loud voice comes out the speakers. You tell your RAS that you want to focus on something and it responds with massive attention on that thing. And the more you prime it, the more it gives you in return.

:-)

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Jul/18

23

Priming Your Brain – Part 2

In my last blog post, I introduced the reticular activating system (RAS) and talked about it’s basic functions. The RAS helps us filter the world around us. That has two primary features. First, it keeps out millions of things we don’t need to pay attention to. After all, we’re exposed to literally millions of impressions per day. Second, it helps to focus more clearly on what IS important.

That second part is the most interesting to me because we can “hack” our RAS to help us focus even more. Because the RAS helps us decide what is important, we can feed it stimuli. Your conscious brain can literally seed what your unconscious brain pays attention to.

In my book Relax Focus Succeed, I give an analogy between the brain and a filing system. All day long, you go through your day pulling cards out of the filing system and throwing them on the floor. Some cards are problems, some are experiences, some are ideas. And then, at night, your unconscious brain picks up the cards, sorts them, and files them away again. Every once in awhile it picks up a “problem” cards and an “idea” card that match. Your unconscious brain has solved a problem!

But you’re asleep and you’re not aware that you’ve solved a problem. That’s where meditation comes in. It allows your brain to relax and do that background work while you’re still awake.

Of course it’s all much more complicated than that. But here’s how you can use meditation to seed your RAS so that your focus is pointed directly where you want it.

You’ve heard of “mindfulness” meditation. Many people define this as a type of meditation where you try to clear your mind of all thoughts. For example, you just sit there and, when a thought wanders into your mind, you acknowledge it and then set it aside. Other people define mindfulness as simply experiencing what’s going on. In this variant, you sit there and name the things that enter your attention. A truck driving past. A bird. The breeze. Someone walking.

In both variants of mindfulness, you are attempting to NOT think – no not solve problems, not worry about money, not plan the day ahead, etc. It seems miraculous, but this lack of focusing on anything often results in major epiphanies. We’ve all had the experience of coming up with a great idea while you’re in the shower. That’s because it’s just you and your brain with no outside stimuli from radio, TV, the Internet, etc.

Let me suggest a technique that I use. I think you’ll be amazed at how easy it is.

First, choose an object for focus. It might be a poem, an idea for work, a problem with the kids, etc. Anything. Sit quietly and think about the object of focus. If you wish, take notes. The overall idea is to simply fill your mind – your attention – with thoughts and questions about this topic. I generally take anywhere from five to thirty minutes for this. The more time you give it, the more focused you become.

Here’s what’s going on physiologically: You are telling your RAS in no uncertain terms that you have something that needs your focus. You are doing this in a relaxed manner without frenzy or panic. You are, in fact, simply setting its agenda and letting it know that this is important to you.

Second, put an end to that and move into mindfulness meditation. Find a technique that works for you. STOP thinking about the problem you just spent time on. Focus on your breathing. Or do a whole body scan. For beginnings, I think full body scans or Yoga Nidra is excellent. Take as much time as you can. I recommend no less than fifteen minutes. If you can do thirty, that’s even better.

There’s no cheating here. You really are trying to clear your mind of everything. Clean the slate. Relax. Be open. Just experience your breath moving in and out. When ideas float by, acknowledge them and then move your attention back to your breath.

Third, go about your day. That’s it. Just do whatever you need to do. Go to work. Cook dinner. Have a beer. Enjoy some television. Whatever you do, just do that.

Here’s what’s really going on: You have put serious, focused attention on an object (problem, idea, etc.). That has given your RAS notice that you want attention on this. And as you go through your day, you will notice that lots of things seem to be related to the object of your focus. People you meet have ideas that are related. Snippets of news you see on the Internet are related to it. Comments you overhear are related.

It’s as if the world has conspired to help you achieve your goals, solve your problems, help you find funding for a project, or whatever you need. In reality, you have simply applied a filter. You are paying less attention to little, unimportant things, and more attention to the one thing you identified as needing your attention.

Imagine if you do this every day. Figure out what is the most important thing that needs your attention. And then spend the day finding that thing everwhere you look.

Way back in my college days, I was a camp counselor for the YMCA. Session after session, I had a cabin full of seven year olds. One of my favorite distractions was to give them a basic assignment such as:
– Everyone go out and bring back a red leaf
– Everyone go out and find a stick with a “Y”
– Everyone go out and bring me a small, smooth rock

These were simple assignments and everyone was always successful. This exercise with your RAS is basically the same thing. You’re telling your unconscious attention span to go focus on a specific object . . . and it does just that. – “Go find me a solution to this problem.”

The best part about priming your attention span is that it just works. The simple fact that you put your attention on something creates the focus that stays on that thing all day.

Try it! I would love to hear your results.

:-)

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In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins starts with the premise that Good is the enemy of Great.

The argument is that it takes a lot of hard work and organization to create a good company, hire good employees, have good policies, etc. And once all that hard work is done, people have a natural tendency to feel good about the good company they have created. And so they stop trying to improve beyond the “good” they have.

In order to achieve greatness, companies need to move past the good. They need to strive for greatness and not be satisfied with Good.

In this video I discuss how you can apply this to your personal life. After all, many of us have achieved many good things – personally and professionally. But if we’re happy with that, we might miss the opportunity to take ourselves to the next level and become Great in some areas of our life.

You know the things you do well, and the things where you are really good. You might even have a few things in your life where you know you’re great. Now, consider where else you can move from good to great in your life.

:-)

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I have friends whose dream was to build a custom home exactly the way they want. Most of them achieved that. Some are still working on it. I have other friends who dream to climb every significant mountain peak in their state, or to start a charity, or to run 100 marathons.

Those aren’t my dreams. And most or all of them are not your dreams. I don’t want a “perfect” house or to build a large company. My dream is to build a life that allows me to inspire success through a balance of serving myself and serving others.

To that end, I want my life to be filled with travel, reading, writing, teaching, speaking, and helping others to improve their lives.

That’s a very odd dream, I know. But it makes me happy. And it’s not easy or clear to many people. And that’s okay. It’s mine. And the only one who can ever achieve it or hold me accountable for it is ME.

 

What’s Your Dream?

Do you have one? Well, here’s the sad reality: If you don’t have a dream, it can’t come true.

I’m not talking about goals. Most people (about 97%) don’t have written goals. In fact, only about 14% have UNwritten goals.

You should have written goals!!!

But goals aren’t the same as dreams. Dreams are bigger, grander, and more engaging. A dream grabs you and pulls you into a better tomorrow. Dreams are also extremely personal. You can’t get them wrong. Your dream is your dream.

I suspect more people have what I would call a dream for their better life. They think about it from time to time. It’s always changing and always over the horizon. And the start-date for working on it? Well, that’s in the future as well.

Having a dream can bring focus and energy to your life. It can help you to improve many other aspects of your life. It can move everything in the right direction. When you have a dream, you can literally go back to it again and again. You can fill out the details and change it in any way you want.

I highly encourage you to spend at least 15-30 minutes per week just sitting in a chair and thinking about your dream. If you don’t have one, start there. Dream about your better tomorrow. Dream about what it will look like. Dream about the biggest, most visible aspects, and the smallest details.

Don’t worry about making it come true at first. Just dream about what you really, really want your life to be like. The very act of having a dream will change your life. You’ll start to unconsciously think about it at other times. And before you know it, you’ll start working on goals to make it come true.

As I always say: You get better at whatever you put your attention on. Once you start building a dream, and thinking about it, you will naturally start working to make it happen.

 

Now A Bit of Reality Check

Making your dream come true will take actual work. That comes later. Right now, just work on creating the dream. Later, you’ll have to start working on the goals that will make it happen.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1) Make it your dream. Don’t worry about what society thinks, what your spouse thinks, what your kids think, etc. Dream your dream. If it’s not personal, then it’s not your dream.

2) When you’re ready, write it down. You don’t have to show it to anyone, but you should write it down.

3) If it sounds stupid, that’s okay. Human beings flying through the air was stupid for a long time. Now we do it every day.

4) Escape to your dream from time to time. Dig in. Explore what it might actually look like. Enjoy working on it. The more you do this, the more real it will become.

5) Don’t worry about “reality” and the big challenges that will become obvious as you start thinking about the details. If you can imagine an obstacle, you will someday be able to imagine a fix for it.

6) Dream BIG. Again, your dream is not my dream. What BIG, awesome, amazing thing do you want to come true? Say it out loud. Make it part of who you are. Then start working on it.

7) Your dream will change over time. That’s totally ok. You don’t have to commit your entire life to it just because you dreamt it. There is no failure in dreaming. You just change to a new dream and make that come true!

I am in the middle of successfully fulfilling a massive dream. And in the beginning stages of working on the next one. Is my life perfect? No. Could it be improved? Of course. That’s the human condition.

Everyone dreams at some level. I challenge you to take your dreams seriously, formalize them, and make them come true.

Good luck!

:-)

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I had a strange idea a few years ago. And slowly, I realize it is coming true.

It happened when I was traveling a lot and figuring out ways to be just as productive on the road. When I’m in the U.S., this is generally not a problem. Most decent hotels have decent Internet and decent workstations in the room.

Overseas, I tend to use FlipKey to find places to stay for 4-7 days at a time. In those places, I had to make absolutely sure that the Internet was good – and I needed the right electrical adapters for my equipment. So it took a little work.

In the end, I developed routines to be productive and connected in England, Europe, and Australia. My experience is that South America was much easier because my cell phone just works and the electrical outlets are the same as the U.S.

That’s when the idea started to form. I have created a life in which I combine traveling, writing, and speaking. So I found myself in Australia for twenty-two days. I topped off the trip with a week on a beach in New Zealand. Great Internet, great electricity, great cell service. And since my business is totally based on cloud services, I had perfect communication with everyone all the time. The time zone was a challenge, but only a minor one.

If I can travel for a month and plop down on a beach for a week at a time . . . Why not find twelve places where I can relax and “live there” for a month? The Twelve City Project was born. Even when the idea was fresh, I was pretty sure that the first place (not really a city) would be one of the beaches near Brisbane, Australia. I love Brisbane. And the beaches going both north and south are undeniably some of the best beaches in the world.

City One: Brisbane (or Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast)

Another obvious city is Sacramento, CA. Why? Well, I’ve lived here for more than 30 years and traveled hundreds of thousands of miles all over the world – and I keep coming home to Sacramento. It’s a great location for pretty much anything you want to do. San Francisco and Napa are a quick drive away. So are Lake Tahoe, the foothills, Yosemite, and just about anything else you want to do. Plus the weather is almost always better in Sacramento than anywhere else I go on any given day.

City Two: Sacramento, CA

After that, I started thinking about my favorite places to visit. Some (e.g., New York City and London) are more “one week” cities than one month cities. I am pretty much done with these places after a week. That really makes them more vacation spots than “dig in and work” locations.

To be honest, weather plays a major role in my decision making. It will be fun to visit Scotland later this year, but I would not want to live in a place that’s so cold all the time. I imagine I will love it – for a week, not a month.

I have several candidate locations where I have stayed for a week and truly enjoyed myself, relaxed, and got some great writing done. Nomination for additional cities include:

– South Lake Tahoe in the Summer

– Del Mar (north of San Diego)

– Fort Lauderdale, FL

– Clearwater, FL

– Somewhere in Hawaii

Are you noticing a theme here? Lots of warm beaches. I am certainly open to other cool, fun places to hang out. Part of the experience is the local culture as well as the scenery. I really want to “live there” for a month. So I want a local bar and a place to go meditate. Beaches are good because I love meditating on a beach as the sun comes up and then going for a swim in the ocean.

If I can do all that and then take a shower and start my day by 8:00 AM, why not do it in a fun location?

Next Step: More Exploration

In talking to a few people about this, it’s clear that I need to visit Asia and I need to explore beach cities in Spain and Portugal. I need more non-U.S. cities. I found South America to be extremely inviting and friendly. And I certainly need to spend more time in the Caribbean.

Will I get there? Will I actually unplug from my tethered existence and live in twelve different places? Maybe! Along with the other great places I’m visiting this year, I’m going to spend 25 days in Australia – half of that on one beach. So Brisbane (are) and Sacramento really are the first two cities.

If nothing else, it’s a grand adventure!

Have you had similar thoughts or dream? If so, please feel free to share.

:-)

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Relax Focus Succeed®

– Balance Your Personal and Professional Lives and Be More Successful in Both

Taught by Karl W. Palachuk, Author and Coach

– Five Tuesdays – June 28 – July 26, 2016 – Register Now

– All classes start a 9:00 AM Pacific

 

DESCRIPTION:

Relax Focus Succeed (R) by Karl W. PalachukThis course will show you how to master the concepts of Relax Focus Succeed® – a program for balancing your personal and professional lives and finding more success in both.

This course is intended for anyone who is stressed out, over-worked, and ready to take their whole life to the next level. We all lead busy lives, filled with too many demands. Many of us don’t get enough sleep or exercise. We fight to be successful at work and at home.

Taught by someone who’s been there. Karl Palachuk was diagnosed with debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 39 and spent several years getting the disease under control. With two businesses to manage and a young family, he found himself unable to work more than a few hours a day. That’s when he developed a process for achieving goals at a very high level without working himself to death.

Many of us chase the entrepreneurial dream – but few of us reach our entrepreneurial vision.

In this course you’ll learn a new approach to balancing the demands in your life – and learn some strategies for building the life you want and deserve.

This is an intensive teleseminar course over a five week period. All assignments are voluntary, of course. But if you want feedback on assignments, please complete assignments during this course and email them to the instructor.

You will learn how to:

  • Balance your personal and professional lives
  • Focus on the single most important things in your life
  • Develop your vision for self-fulfillment
  • Relax – in a meaningful way
  • Be the same person in all elements of your life (overcome Jekyll/Hyde syndrome)
  • Put the past – and your present – in their place
  • Build your muscles of success
  • Stop working 50- or 60- or 70-hour weeks
  • Avoid being interrupt-driven
  • Slow Down, Get More Done
  • Work less and accomplish more
  • Define Goals: Long-term, Medium-term, and Short-term
  • Build quiet time into your life

The course will include a number of recommended do-it-yourself exercises.

Registration includes a copy of the book Relax Focus Succeed® by Karl W. Palachuk.

Includes five weeks of teleclasses with related handouts, assignments, and “office hours” with the instructor.

 

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It’s Complete!!!

The Audio Version of Relax Focus Succeed® is available right now in MP3 format.

It will be available very soon on Audible. If you have used Audible before, I highly recommend it. Go to audible.com and get started with Relax Focus Succeed as soon as it’s released.

Relax Focus Succeed

Relax Focus Succeed

Here’s where and how you can get the Revised Edition of Relax Focus Succeed®:

SMB Books

  • Paperback
  • Kindle format
  • Audio MP3
  • PDF

 

Amazon.com

  • Paperback
  • Kindle format
  • Soon: Audible Audio

 

Audible.com

  • Coming Soon

Thank you all for your support!

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If you’re like me, you can get the same advice over and over for years and it doesn’t sink in – until the time is right. That’s why I read all the “success” literature I can. I read to keep thinking about changes in my life until it’s personal for me.

I took a lot of statistics in graduate school. There was a recurring phenomenon with stats: I never truly, completely understood the math from one course until I had to apply it in the next course. I wasn’t alone in this. Many people found that taking a second semester stats class from a different professor than their first semester helped them understand more. And it didn’t matter which was first or second. It as a different way of explaining the math that made the difference.

hand-drawn-brain-book1kIt’s also the case that the first course prepared our minds for the next. One started laying down the pathways and the next started building the knowledge in a meaningful way. Your personal success is very much like this. You have to lay down the foundation before you can start building. When it comes to changing yourself and your habits, that means you might hear a message a hundred time – or a thousand times – before you decide that you really need to take action.

Success will never come until you internalize your commitment to your own self-improvement. This is because success is hard at the beginning. You have to change your habits, your knowledge, and your commitments. Then you begin the actual work of changing yourself.

Let’s look at how those three things are inter-connected. Knowledge is the easiest piece of the toolkit. You can listen to audio programs and read books all day and all night. You “know” you need to get up early, spend quiet time planning your day, exercise, eat right, set goals, focus on them, and execute.

You “know” all that but it’s all meaningless external knowledge until you make a commitment to change your life.

Some people spend years educating themselves on success but never take action until something suddenly makes sense and then the commitments start falling into place. Others start doing without commitment. In other words, they start following the formula even though they haven’t internally accepted that it really will change their lives.

Believe it or not, this also works. If you get in the habit of getting up early, it will make the habit of quiet time easier. If you get in the habit of exercising, it will make the habit of eating right easier. One by one you can adopt all the habits of success until one by one they are meaninful to you.

Knowledge doesn’t come overnight. Neither do habits nor commitments. But if you practice these things, you will eventually achieve them.

Remember: Nothing happens by itself. You have to work on your success. If you don’t work on your self-improvement, it won’t happen. Period.

Just like athletic development, you need to work on your self-improvement until it becomes real for you. One way to do that is to read and consume self-help books and blogs. The habits you execute without commitment will gradually help you become the person who is ready for success. One by one you will internalize these habits and see exactly how they contribute to your success.

Eventually things will start to click and you will develop a true commitment to each habit. So keep reading. Keep listening. Start doing the things successful people do. The more you do these things the more you prepare yourself for success.

Nothing happens by itself.

:-)

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