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Yummy, healthy and lean option of your favourite banana bread. I use oat flower and oatmeal to make it even healthier. You can easily fortify this bread with protein powder if you aim to increase your protein intake and swop stevia with other sweaters or fructose.
Perfect for breakfast, as pre and post-workout snack.
Could be stored up to 3 days in room temperature but usually it’s not the case.
Macros per piece: macros is approximate (depends on the portion size)
Calories: about 90-130 kcal
Protein: about 5 grams (without protein powder), about 15 grams fortified
Carbs: about 10 grams
Fat: about 4 grams
Yield: 1 loaf (about 5-6 pieces); prep time: 15 min; cook time: about 1 hour; total time: 1.30 min
1 cups oat flour + 1 cup whole wheat flower + 1 cup oatmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1-2 scoops whey protein powder (optional). I use bannoffee pie flavour.
½ tsp salt (optional)
8Tbsp coconut oil, plus 1 tsp. for greasing
1 Tbsp. stevia
2 Tbsp. honey (optional)
4 ripe bananas, mashed
mixed crushed nuts and dried fruits (optional)
85ml/3fl oz unsweetened almond milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice
1 lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Mix together flour, baking soda, salt and protein powder into a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil butter, stevia and honey together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, mashed bananas, almond milk and vanilla extract to the butter.
Add crushed nuts and dried fruits to the butter.
Grease a loaf tin and pour the cake mixture into the tin.
Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour.
Remove from the oven and cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.
How can you find your place in life, and lead a happy and fulfilling existence? If you have the answer to these two fundamental questions, then you are halfway to achieving them. Here are a few exercises that can help all of us down the path to a deep and enduring happiness.
Exercise 1 – Revisit your childhood. What did you love to do?
Make a list of all the things you remember enjoying as a child. Would you enjoy that activity now?… You can also ask yourself these questions to help get you started: what can be translated and added into my life now? How can those past experiences shape my career choices now?
Exercise 2 – Make a “creativity board.”
Start by taking a large poster board, put the words “New Business” in the centre and create a collage of images, sayings, articles, poems and other inspirations.
The idea behind this is that when you surround yourself with images of your intention — who you want to become or what you want to create — your awareness and passion will grow.
As your board evolves and becomes more focused, you will begin to recognise what is missing and imagine ways to fill the blanks and realise your vision.
Exercise 3 – Make a list of people who are where you want to be.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Study people who have been successful in the area you want to pursue.
For example, during the recession, many people shied away from the real estate market because they thought it was a dead end. Some experts believe that’s the perfect time to jump in — when most others are bailing out — because no matter the business, there are people who are successful in it. Study them, figure out how and why they are able to remain successful when everyone else is folding and then set up structures to emulate them.
If you want to be creative, create a rigorous and formal plan. It’s not the plan that is creative; it’s the process that you go through that opens up so many possibilities.
Exercise 4 – Start doing what you love, even without a business plan
A lot of people wait until they have an extensive business plan written down, along with angel investors wanting to throw cash at them — and their ideas never see the light of day.
Just do what you enjoy — even if you haven’t yet figured out how to monetise it. Test what it might be like to work in an area you’re passionate about, build your business network and ask for feedback that will help you develop and refine a business plan.
It’s a way to not only show the value you would bring, but you can also get testimonials that will help launch your business when you’re ready to make it official.
Exercise 5 – Take a break from business thinking.
While it might feel uncomfortable to step outside of business mode, the mind sometimes needs a rest from such bottom-line thinking. Maybe for you, it will be creative writing, painting, running or even gardening. Read also How to make your brain work better
After you take a mental vacation indulging in something you’re passionate about, come back to a journal and writing down any business ideas that come to mind. You’ll be amazed at how refreshed your ideas are. Looking at beautiful things – art and nature – creates connections that we often neglect to notice.
It is something of a cliché among runners, how the activity never fails to clear your head. Does some creative block have you feeling stuck? Go for a run. Are you deliberating between one of two potentially life-altering decisions? Go for a run. Are you feeling mildly mad, sad, or even just vaguely meh? Go for a run, go for a run, go for a run.
The author Joyce Carol Oates once wrote in a column for the New York Times that
in running the mind flees with the body … in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms.
Filmmaker Casey Neistat told Runner’s World last fall that running is sometimes the only thing that gives him clarity of mind.
“Every major decision I’ve made in the last eight years has been prefaced by a run,”
he told the magazine. But I maybe like the way a runner named Monte Davis phrased it best, as quoted in the 1976 book The Joy of Running:
“It’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. Also, there are those hours of clear-headedness that follow a long run.”
A good run can sometimes make you feel like a brand-new person. And, in a way, that feeling may be literally true. About three decades of research in neuroscience have identified a robust link between aerobic exercise and subsequent cognitive clarity, and to many in this field the most exciting recent finding in this area is that of neurogenesis. Not so many years ago, the brightest minds in neuroscience thought that our brains got a set amount of neurons, and that by adulthood, no new neurons would be birthed. But this turned out not to be true. Studies in animal models have shown that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout the lifespan, and, so far, only one activity is known to trigger the birth of those new neurons: vigorous aerobic exercise, said Karen Postal, president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology. “That’s it,” she said. “That’s the only trigger that we know about.”
The other fascinating thing here is where these new cells pop up: in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory. So this could help explain, at least partially, why so many studies have identified a link between aerobic exercise and improvement in memory.
If you are exercising so that you sweat — about 30 to 40 minutes — new brain cells are being born,
added Postal, who herself is a runner. “And it just happens to be in that memory area.”
Other post-run changes have been recorded in the brain’s frontal lobe, with increased activity seen in this region after people adopt a long-term habit of physical activity. This area of the brain — sometimes called the frontal executive network system — is located, obviously enough, at the very front: It’s right behind your forehead. After about 30 to 40 minutes of a vigorous aerobic workout – enough to make you sweat – studies have recorded increased blood flow to this region, which, incidentally, is associated with many of the attributes we associate with “clear thinking”: planning ahead, focus and concentration, goal-setting, time management.
But it’s this area that’s also been linked to emotion regulation, which may help explain the results of one recent study conducted by Harvard psychology professor Emily E. Bernstein. Like Postal, Bernstein is also a runner, and was curious about a pattern she saw in her own mind after a run.
I notice in myself that I just feel better when I’m active.
She started to become really interested in the intervention studies that have popped up in recent years that suggest if you can get people who are having trouble with mood or anxiety to exercise, it helps. “But why?” she wanted to know. “What is exercise actually doing?”
To find out, she did a version of a classic experiment among researchers who study emotion: She and her colleague — Richard J. McNally, also of Harvard — played a reliable tearjerker of a clip: the final scene of the 1979 film The Champ.
Before watching the film clip, some of the 80 participants were made to jog for 30 minutes; others just stretched for the same amount of time. Afterward, all of them filled out surveys to indicate how bummed out the film had made them. Bernstein kept them busy for about 15 minutes after that, and surveyed them again about how they were feeling. Those who’d done the 30-minute run were more likely to have recovered from the emotional gut-punch than those who’d just stretched — and, her results showed, the people who’d initially felt worse seemed to especially benefit from the run. Bernstein is currently doing a few follow-up research projects to determine exactly why this works the way it does.
But there’s another big mental benefit to gain from running, one that scientists haven’t quiet yet managed to pin down to poke at and study: the wonderful way your mind drifts here and there as the miles go by. Mindfulness, or being here now, is a wonderful thing, and there is a seemingly ever-growing stack of scientific evidence showing the good it can bring to your life. And yet mindlessness — daydreaming, or getting lost in your own weird thoughts — is important, too. Consider, for example, this argument, taken from a 2013 article by a trio of psychologists in the journal Frontiers in Psychology:
“We mind wander, by choice or by accident, because it produces tangible reward when measured against goals and aspirations that are personally meaningful. Having to reread a line of text three times because our attention has drifted away matters very little if that attention shift has allowed us to access a key insight, a precious memory or make sense of a troubling event. Pausing to reflect in the middle of telling a story is inconsequential if that pause allows us to retrieve a distant memory that makes the story more evocative and compelling. Losing a couple of minutes because we drove past our off ramp is a minor inconvenience if the attention lapse allowed us to finally understand why the boss was so upset by something we said in last week’s meeting. Arriving home from the store without the eggs that necessitated the trip is a mere annoyance when weighed against coming to a decision to ask for a raise, leave a job, or go back to school.
Just because the benefits of losing yourself in your own thoughts are not easily measured doesn’t mean they’re not of value, and there are few ways I know of that induce this state of mind more reliably than a long run. A handful of recent studies have tried to answer what every runner, whether pro or hobbyist, has no doubt been asked by friends and family: What on earth do you think about while you’re out there for so many miles? This, as the writer Haruki Murakami noted in his What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, is almost beside the point. Sometimes he thinks while on the run; sometimes, he doesn’t. It doesn’t really matter.
I just run. I run in void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void.
Living in a highly competitive environment, continuously emotionally assailed by depressing news, subjected to negative interactions with other people, overloaded with work and information… these features of modern life often mean that we lose our innate positivity. We rarely smile. We seem to be constantly in a rush, or puzzled, confused, embarrassed or angry. Anxiety and simmering psychological tension are etched on our faces. It is ever more difficult to be truly at peace, and feel happy, in this world. However, there are a few simple techniques to keep your mind clear, sideline negativity, focus on the right things, and ignore distractions.
I want to start this article with a story from my personal experience. It happened to me more than ten years ago, when I’d just completed my BA in literature and psychology and started my professional career in journalism, marketing and PR. This episode of my life was probably more valuable than the experience of all four of my degrees from top international universities combined. I’m really glad to be able to share this moment, and hope it will help you too.
Embrace your ‘Whatever!’ moment
I remember the time when I was living in New York. I was in my 20’s, working far from home as a PR manager for a few companies in Russia and Ukraine. I was incessantly busy, picking up new skills and abilities ‘on the go’, making mistakes, and attempting to juggle my career, studying, sporting activities and private life. I wanted to seize literally every opportunity, and be everywhere at once. I had problematic relationship with my boyfriend, and indeed had many complex, drama-filled relationships at the time. I was separated from my clients by a huge time difference and I was permanently jetlagged as I shuttled back and forth between countries.
I was finally exhausted and emotionally drained after a grueling twelve months of living such a lifestyle. My relationships eventually broke down and suddenly I had nothing left in the US. I felt both depressed and utterly overwhelmed. Finally, it became unbearable and I I took a week off which I decided to spend in Florida, simply to relax a little bit before leaving the States for good.
It was fantastic, sunny morning. One of those brilliant days when your wake up at 6 am with no alarm just because your body is sufficiently rested. I put my trainers on and went out for a run. I was still feeling confused and upset about my relationships and work, and my mind was churning with negative thoughts and self-pity. I could not see anything around me and felt nothing but anger and regret. I ran faster and faster, and suddenly stopped. When I lifted my eyes I saw a beautiful, magisterial yacht in the marina in front of me. The boat was black and its name – “WHATEVER” – was written on the prow huge, silver letters. It was so unusual that it resembled nothing so much as a spaceship: The contrast with the neighbouring yachts was striking, and at that moment it was the answer to all my questions and worries – ‘Whatever’. It was an insight that I have carried in my soul ever since…
On returning to Moscow my life changed dramatically – for the better. The change was not a result of life suddenly becoming smoother. On the contrary, I still had plenty of ups and downs after that. But it changed because any time when I felt negativity, anger, regrets about past and worries about future bubbling up, the magic yacht popped into my mind and filled it with those shiny, silver words… “WHATEVER”.
Purify your mind
“WHATEVER” is an amazing technique, but it is very much a personal touchstone, based on an experience unique to me. The majority of cognitive behavioral therapy practitioners recommend a regular purification of the mind. David Allen, the famous productivity coach, recommends clearing it out whenever an intrusive and unpleasant thought arises. I couldn’t agree more. When your mind is in order, your life, relationships, business and lifestyle will be in order too. But all of us are human beings and prone to involuntary compulsive thinking that can turn life into a nightmare. The following is a brief description of a few applicable techniques to help declutter mind.
The Little book of anger
According to Eckhart Tolle the majority of intrusive thoughts have negative connotations. Why? The answer is simple. The human brain is never trapped by positive thoughts. They flow easily through our mind and vanish, leaving perhaps only a slight, pleasant afterglow. It is amazing how quickly our brain discards positive emotions, and yet how long it’s able to mull over negative feelings. Tolle believes that our egos and ‘pain bodies’ (psychological traumas we carry though life) love negativity, as they are fed by such emotions, growing in size and strength. Why do they need it? Easy. To dominate and control us, deceiving us into believing that we are actually only the sum of our negative thoughts. However, we are not. Egos and pain bodies are separate constructions dwelling inside our minds. Simply, they are a reflection of our self-perception based on negative experiences from the past; when something unpleasant happens which resonates with our past traumas, our brain latches onto it for as long as possible. That’s why negative thoughts and emotions are so overwhelming.
Remember that even when these thoughts appear to merge, and define, us, they are not who we really are.
It is actually surprisingly easy to deal with them. Once a negative emotion is recognised, caught, acknowledged as a negative emotion, and analysed and assessed coolly and objectively, it loses its influential power.
Tell yourself, as I do:
“This is not me, but a little bundle of intrusive negativity”
Make your negative feelings small
Let’s look at this concept in more detail. For instance, a person suffered from a lack of parental approval when he or she was young. This probably happened not because this person had a lack of talent, but because his or her parents were not vocal enough in expressing their feelings. In consequence, the individual feels pain when they don’t receive approval or recognition from others around them. An example from the workplace might be a neutral or ambivalent feedback on a project, or after performing a work-related task.
The individual experiences negative feelings, including self-pity, and finally feels that they are not good enough. Such feelings could become dominant and result in a profound lack of motivation, even triggering depression. However, let’s extract the negative thought at the root of the problem from this person’s head, and put it down on paper.
“My colleagues do not appreciate me enough. They do not like what I do”.
Does this brief little statement written on a tiny piece of paper look dangerous, offensive or overwhelming? It looks like two short sentences, but hardly resembles a terrifying monster. Two sentences have no power to turn life into a nightmare. Two sentences have no power to kill motivation, self-respect and inspiration either. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it, to even attempt to prove some deeper truth from a few, inconsequential words. Neither is there any point in trying to engage in a discussion with the words: First of all, a statement does not hear you. Secondly, you definitely do not owe anything to the statement, which was written by your own hand….
Should you try to prove yourself to your colleagues, then? Believe it or not, people are always preoccupied by their own fears and anxieties, and in the majority of cases don’t really care how good or bad your presentation was. So, there is no point in trying to persuade them that your presentation was brilliant. Moreover, it really doesn’t matter as it’s done. Past. History. Finito. All you can really do is try to make the next one better!
This is just an example of how you can learn to deal with overwhelming thoughts. To recap: kick them out of your head as soon as they appear. Put them down on paper, and read them. Ridiculous, aren’t they?
I always carry a little notebook where I can write various thoughts that pop into my head. These could be creative ideas, plans, little tasks I should not forget to do or annoying emotions I want to dispose of.
David Allen also recommends putting thought on paper in order to keep the mind fresh and pure: “Writing thoughts down gets them out of your head, clearing your brain of those things that are interfering with your ability to focus on what’s really important”. Such tactics can help to eliminate negativity at its inception, giving you the mental space, and peace, you need to concentrate on what needs to be done at that particular moment.
Classify and break down thoughts
Once all thoughts are written down – sort them out. Personally, I firstly split them into two main categories: emotions and actions. Once classified in this way, the discord and ‘noise’ in your mind caused by the basic problem of effectively organizing your daily life will die down, and you’ll be able to view the day ahead more calmly and objectively.
Usually emotions account for the larger part of a woman’s ‘head noise’, whereas ‘actions’ are often, but by no means always, associated with men.
Emotions, as I mentioned earlier, are predominantly negative as positive feelings never linger in the mind for long. Maybe some highly trained individuals are able to cultivate positive thinking, but this is relatively rare. I will touch on this issue in the upcoming article How to cultivate positive thinking. Negative emotions can be divided into anger, fears, and doubts. You’ll be surprised at how simple and repetitive our emotions are. Once sorted, they lose their intrusive qualities and stop looking quite so scary. Now you can target and eliminate them one at a time.
Actions is the second category. It in turn can be split into sub-categories. Allen categorises them as follows: do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it. As I mention in another article, I don’t usually use “defer” as I believe that all postponed action has little bearing on the present moment, and can thus be easily dropped, delegated or done.
“The brain classifies everything as threat or reward — we’re always staying away from threat or moving towards reward”.
I agree. Try to stay in a ‘toward state’. Generally, Rock contends, people perform better by “minimizing stress and threat responses”. And he’s right.
Another technique to stay in “toward mode” is to reinterpret threatening events. If you have to deal with a hard task don’t perceive it as a potential threat: Rather, see it as an opportunity to learn new things, meet new and interesting people, or get new experiences. Doing this can change your brain’s response towards the task, and dramatically stimulate creativity. In Rock’s words: “As you change your interpretation, you change your whole mental state,” says Rock.
Give a hand
Another way to get rid of negativity and declutter your mind is to switch into collaborative mode. I’m personally not very competitive, but collaborative by nature. It’s always been easy for me to say to someone: “hey, let’s do it together”. However, for some people teamwork can be extremely difficult. But keep in mind that through accepting the ability of other people to work as well as you, or perhaps even better, you gain a great opportunity to delegate, split and share.
We often underestimate our peers or feel subconsciously threatened.
Competitiveness always makes success hard to achieve.
We spend more energy competing and worrying about our perceived rivals, than cultivating creativity and positivity to achieve better results. To eliminate such feelings, just start working together from the outset.
By empowering others you empower yourself
and create a positive, transparent, and friendly atmosphere with no threats, no anxieties and as a result, stimulate a clear and creative mind.
According to Forbes Magazine, the average worker receives about 200 emails a week. In the last five years we have embraced a bewildering variety of messaging apps and social media platforms. To stay on top of our lives, we’re obliged to read official communications, go through bills and bank statements, and work our way through piles of dreary virtual paperwork. We’re bombarded with data on hourly basis, from rolling news channels, online newsfeeds, automatic notifications and many other sources. The more ambitious and curious of us also have personal reading lists, with hundreds of unread books crammed onto our Kindle or I-pad. The volume of information we have to process is unparalleled in human history and our brain often struggles to deal with it, slipping into a “zombie” mode…
“Information overload” is a widely recognised contemporary social phenomenon, which was identified as far back as the 1960’s in books such as The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and graphic designer Quentin Fiore. The speed of information acquisition increases rapidly in conjunction with technological development. According to Daniel Levitin, McGill University psychology professor and author of the best-seller The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload,
“we produced more information in the last decade than in all of human history before that”.
We have to run at least twice as hard to ‘stay in the race’, and juggle the conflicting demands of being well-informed, productive and time-efficient. The mental effort that this entails often results in damage to our private life and personal wellbeing, effectively turning us into automatons.
I’m regularly asked how I’m able to run a few start-up companies, manage an on-lime magazine (OpenMindPortal), train twice a day, serve my private clients, read around 80 books a year, travel and keep my personal life on point. The following are a few of my thoughts on the subject:
The personal experience I gained whilst working for and with giant multinational companies such as Moscow Stock Exchange, Jaguar & Land Rover, GSK and so on was extremely useful. The stress and pace of life necessitated leading an organised, disciplined life;
I have been helped in this by dozens of books written by productivity gurus (you can find few of them in reference list below);
Ideas that I picked up during my MBA at Imperial College helped too;
Articles from popular magazines (Harvard Business review, Forbes, etc.) and blogs that I read at least few times a week aid in keeping my perception of productivity fresh.
This is the first article in a series devoted to productivity. I would like to open the series by offering ten useful tips that will help you to deal with information noise, and keep you focused, proactive and creative, able to overcome procrastination, and to get more done in less time.
The second article will be devoted to mind decluttering techniques. The third will be about the seven types of brain activity humans have, and how we can improve all of them. The fourth will suggest a range of useful tools to apply when dealing with emails and other message forms effectively and rationally. The fifth one will shed light on how to lead effective meetings, avoid wasting precious time on human drama and effectively achieve your goals. Finally, in the sixth article, I will share how to maintain a positive attitude and transmit good vibes to other people.
Declutter your mind
David Allen, the famous productivity coach, recommends regularly “clearing the mind”. I could not agree more. When your mind is in order, your life, relationships, business and lifestyle will be in order too. But we are only human, and all of us to some extent are prone to involuntary compulsive thoughts that can turn life into a nightmare.
However, there are plenty of methods which can help to cleanse the mind. I, for instance, always carry a little notebook in which I can jot down various thoughts. These can be creative ideas, plans, little tasks I have to accomplish or just annoying emotions I want to get rid of. David Allen also recommends putting thoughts on paper in order to keep the mind fresh and pure: “Writing thoughts down gets them out of your head, clearing your brain of things that are interfering with being able to focus on what you want to focus on”. Such simple strategies can help to eliminate negativity at its initial point, giving you the peace of mind to concentrate on what you want to keep done.
Read: Simple techniques to declutter your mind.
Classify, prioritize and break down
Once thoughts are down on paper – sort them out. My technique is to initially split them into two main categories: emotions and actions. Once classified, thoughts that have preoccupied you all day do not look quite so scary and overwhelming any more.
I want to focus on actions, which in turn can be split into sub-categories. Allen suggests splitting them into the following: DO, DELEGATE, DEFER, and DROP. I usually do not use “defer”, as all postponed actions bear little relation to the present moment, and could be easily dropped, delegated or done immediately.
Sometimes some of the actions on your list can seem quite daunting. For instance, ‘write a dissertation’ or ‘lose 10 lbs’. It may even sound scary, but don’t stress! What you have to do is to split them into smaller steps and to schedule all of them.
By sticking to your plan 80% of the time, and executing tasks from the ‘do’ category every day, you can be extremely productive without being overloaded with worries, and plagued by negative feelings.
Do not multitask
The human brain is designed to do only one conscious thing at a time. Multitasking not only burns a tremendous amount of energy, but also negatively impacts on performance, and leads to mistakes. And it is only the tip of the iceberg. Stress bubbles under the surface, a consequence of emotional burn, cortisol spikes and even subsequent muscle catabolism and fat gain. Moreover, multitasking saves no time at all. It has been scientifically established that switching between two activities takes the same, or even more, time than it does to carry them out sequentially. If you have two equally urgent and important tasks, do one first and then the other one.
Keep in mind that any exercise in multitasking is in fact a cluster of small decisions you have to take. According to Daniel Livitin, decision making ‘spends’ oxygenated glucose, the essential fuel you need to retain your focus, and to keep doing things. Constant prolonged jumping between tasks will cause physical and mental exhaustion, anxiety and disorientation. On the other hand,
“once we engage the central executive mode, staying in that state uses less energy than multitasking and actually reduces the brain’s need for glucose. This allows us to get more done and finish up with more energy,” writes Levitin.
As a qualified nutritionist I would add that avoiding multitasking is very beneficial for keeping fit. Doing one thing at a time in a calm, focused mode decreases the need to top your glucose levels up by consuming sugar and simple carbs, and as a result reduces the risks of gaining fat associated with sedentary office work.
First thing’s first
At the beginning of the day we are fresh and full of energy. Every decision we take and every movement we make uses fuel from the same tank. However, we have a limited supply. According to Livitin,
“important decisions should be made at the beginning of the day, when gumption and glucose is highest”.
“If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, the rest of the day goes better”!
Clearly not a statement to be taken literally, but his point about making crucial decisions in the morning is relevant.
Schedule 1-3 hours at the beginning of each day to accomplish 1 to 3 of your most important tasks. Turn notifications on your phone off and focus on your ‘first things’ fully and consciously. I always do cardio at morning. However, my body needs some time from my first glass of water with a shot of espresso until I’m ready to go out for a run. I use this time for planning editorials or writing. I love these productive 1-1.5 hours, as I can usually do 30% of my daily ‘must do’ activities. Then I can refresh my mind and dive into the details of a new article or a project while jogging two to three laps of the park. You can create your own way to ‘eat the frog in the morning.
There are various distractions around us, and they are always ready to capture our attention. It could be scrolling through social media (very often meaningless), idle banter or gossip, checking messages and emails, tidying up the workplace and other forms of banal procrastination.
“We need to be really clear about the most important things. As a rule of thumb, you can remember three ideas relatively well,” says David Rock.
Exactly for that reason, it is useful to limit your goals for the year, for the week, for the day to a maximum of three. With a larger number it becomes almost impossible to control their execution. Eliminating meaningless objectives, ego driven goals (to get one more trophy just for sake of it), and empty conversations, can enable you to focus on your real aims.
Group together tasks and do simple things quickly
Doing similar quick tasks at once is another way to lightening your ‘do’ list. Do not confuse this with multitasking. For example, paying a few bills, making a few phone calls or answering a bunch of emails in one, defined, time-slot is a great solution to keep on track. Allocate 15-30 minutes (no more) to execute similar, simple and quick tasks, eliminating them from the list and thus being able to switch your attention to more exciting things.
Be conscious when doing on-line tasks. It is always very tempting to start surfing the Net. Reserve a special time for that activity too – allocating 30 minutes after your evening workout in the gym or after lunch, when your brain activity is at its lowest. Alternatively you could split your reading time before bed into two parts: 30 minutes for browsing your favourite on-line sources, and devoting the other 30 minutes to a book from your reading list. When you set a specific time to do certain things it is far easier to avoid distractions and to stay fully focused.
Coaching people, I very often hear the same story: “I have no time for dates” or “I have no time for the gym/ another degree/ reading books/ grocery shopping/ eating healthily”. However, all of those ‘little things’ determine our quality of life. 14 years ago I made conscious decision to stop watching TV. It was one of the only types of affordable entertainment in the small town where I was born. I made an invaulable gift to myself, splitting the few free hours I had into training and reading.
When I moved to Moscow and started my career in PR and marketing I reconsidered my life habits again. I decided to stop being judgmental and reduced amount of unnecessary meetings and phone calls that I spend before with my female friends discussing gossips and mutual acquaintances. I’ve got few more hours and I start learning English and read English books.
Now I spend two hours doing fitness each day, and a further two hours reading and learning new things. And these are just four of the 24 hours available to me! The value of the time you are putting to more productive use when applying similar techniques is incalculable in life.
A short while ago I stopped competing in fitness shows that were taking up a significant amount of my time (stage rehearsals, posing practice, bikini making). I realized that gaining one more award did not improve my life. I’ve always been very much a people person, and helping others has always made my life more fulfilled. Now I spend two to three hours a day doing research and writing articles for OpenMindPortal and other media, to help people along their life journey.
The time you can save by refraining from obsessing about other people, associating with damaging or negative individuals and their accompanying worries, and ego-driven behaviour, could well be enough to free up hours and hours in which to do really valuable things. Start planning your wellbeing and self-development. Just consciously check what makes you happy and how you spend your time, and act accordingly.
Eight hours of quality sleep each night should be a rule of thumb. It has been proven that the human brain cannot be efficiently active and retain its focus for more than 1 to 2 hours in a row. We have to rest during the day as well.
“People who take a 15-minute break every couple of hours are much more efficient in the long run,” believes Levitin.
It is not only generally refreshing: Short relaxation activates some parts of the brain responsible for feelings of happiness. Apart from that, little breaks help us to keep our consciousness and energy levels high. “So taking a break, taking a nap, taking a walk around the block, listening to music — these activities, although most bosses would think that they’re a waste of time, in fact, they’re a big adjunct to productivity and creativity.” Levitin also claims that a “15-minute nap can increase your effective IQ by 10 points”.
The human brain works in two main modes: “one is when you’re directing your thoughts, and the other is when the thoughts take over and run themselves,” says Levitin. I call them proactive and insightful modes. The first one allows us to get things done.
In the insightful mode, according to Levitin, “one thought melds into another and they’re not particularly related.” Such a mode is a neural reset process that replenishes some of the glucose, and is also beneficial for boosting creativity. “The thoughts meander from one to another, creating links between things we might not have seen as linked before, and from that may come the solutions to problems,” writes Levitin.
So take regular breaks. I like doing fitness, meditate or simply do something completely different (graphic design is one of my favourite things to relax my mind during those periods), while my brain switches to a more insightful mode.
Don’t underestimate time
We always tend to underestimate simple tasks. Very often in my past I allocated fewer hours for a task than it really takes. I learnt through experience that being realistic about the length of time that tasks will take is beneficial, and to allocate extra time accordingly.
Don’t overestimate importance
This is the final, but also a crucial, point. Very often we become fully immersed in achieving our goals, and can easily lose a sense of reality. If everything goes right – that’s fine. In a worst-case scenario we could endure some unnecessary sacrifices, or experience physical and mental exhaustion. When something goes wrong, stress level increases rapidly, turning us into over-reactive zombies. However, in the majority of cases this is not calamitous, and nothing will really happen if we put everything and everyone aside for a moment, and take a reflective step back. Conscious control, required rest, mental flexibility and the ability to adjust, reconsider or even surrender some goals are also key to personal success.
Daniel Kahneman. Thinking fast and slow. 2004
Daniel Livitin. Organized mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. 2012
David Allen. Getting things done. The art of stress free productivity. 2001
David Allen. Making It All Work: Winning at the game of work and the business of life, 2008
David Allen. Ready for anything. 2003
David Rock. Your brain at work. 2009
Echart Tolle. The new Earth. 2013
Echart Tolle. The power of now.1997
Ivy-Marie Blackburn. Cognitive therapy in actioin. 1996
You wake up, down a cup of coffee, grab your stuff and rush to the station to take the tube to work. The same stations, the same people, the same situations are repeated over and over again. Every day. Every month. Every year. You live like a sleepwalker, in a trance-like state, losing your “today” and waiting passively for things – one day- to change …
… but miracles like that rarely happen by themselves. You clock-watch, spending much of your time waiting for the end of each day, looking forward to the weekend and that holiday you have planned. You are often angry, scared or indifferent. You are always in a rush and not really happy, but live in the hope of a better life. You don’t truly live in the present, but instead in the past or future, overwhelmed by irritating memories of what could have been, or dreaming about a better future life. You focus on the material side of life, trying to get more goods, more money, more brands, and better holidays. You are greedy for pleasure, but when you actually get them you still feel empty…
Does that sound familiar? If yes – it’s time to wake up.
Let me introduce one key term at this point – consciousness.
What is consciousness?
Simply, consciousness is the state of mind when you are fully awake, living in the moment, objectively aware of yourself and others, and possessing a clear understanding of the roots, causes and consequences of events and actions.
Why is it important?
In her book Personal Excellence, Celestine Chua says that
the perception, beliefs, mindsets and values we hold right now are a result of the consciousness we are operating in.
Chua compare consciousness with “a lens you use to view reality”. Eckhart Tolle, author of the bestselling The Power of Now, compares consciousness with the ability to be awake and present at any moment of being. He believes that people spend 99% of their time conducting an internal dialogue about their past and future, which could be classified as an unconscious state. Sometimes this internal dialogue stops, most often when we are involved in some process requiring our full, undivided attention. However, most of the time we perform tasks automatically whilst fully immersed in our stream of our worries.
Another scholar involved in the field of consciousness and self-development, Dr. Hawkins, believes that
the higher the level of consciousness you are in the more objective, positive and loving your mindset.
Chua compares consciousness with myopia. The lower the level of consciousness you have at any moment, the more distorted your perception of yourself and reality. Conversely, the higher the level of consciousness you have, the greater your clarity of vision:
The higher you go, the more lucid you become, and the calmer, more loving and compassionate, more successful, more generous and sharing, and more balanced and positive you become.
Successful people vs normal
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Have you ever thought what the unique characteristics of successful people are? Why they always look calm and confident and seem to reflect so much positive energy? I’m not talking about people who are ‘successful’ by chance (inheritance, lottery or other miracles!). I’m speaking of inspirational visionary leaders, trendsetters and philanthropists such as Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson. What do they have in common apart from fame and, in the case of the business-people on that list, money? You got it – a high level of consciousness! For exactly this reason they reached their goals and were able to manage their emotions and feelings, overcoming failure and disappointment to pursue their ambitions.
Levels of consciousness
Dr. Hawkins described 17 levels of consciousness. All of them were measured and marked from 0-1000 by the logarithmic method. I’m not going to cover the methodology in this article. I will focus on description of all 17 levels.
1). Shame (1-20)
This is the lowest level of consciousness, characterised by a feeling of constant humiliation and low self-esteem. These people feel worthless, miserable, ugly, stupid and unable to improve themselves or their lives. They tend to blame other people (parents, teachers, partners) or circumstances for their misery. According to Chua, “vibrating on this level for prolonged period of time can lead to elimination (of the self or others), in extreme cases resulting in suicide, or turning them into serial killers, rapists, moral extremists (mental of physical sadism)…”.
2) Guilt (30)
Feelings of misery are projected outward: This state is associated with public ‘punishment’ – a willingness to hurt or embarrass others. If you meet a person who tries to humiliate or hurt you, they are probably vibrating on this level.
3) Apathy (50)
This is a state of despair and helplessness. After being aggressive to others, abusers often experience feelings of emptiness that in turn trigger a sense of apathy. Many manifestations of addictive tendencies are common at this level, such as addictions to drugs, alcohol, TV, video games and social media.
4) Grief (75)
Many people are at this level at times of personal loss. The life-view is essentially tragic. The dominant colours are grey and black. People usually feel empty and paralysed, and want to break social contacts and escape from reality. This state is mostly inward focused. It may be externalised as a vibration of emotional disability or sadism, coldness, or ignorance.
People on the first four levels are overly focused on past heartaches, disappointments and tragedies. They don’t function ‘in the moment’ and are consequently unable to plan and create a future for themselves.
5) Fear (100)
The dominant feeling is one of anxiety. This level of consciousness is very often associated with anxiety disorder, and fears manifest themselves in a variety of ways: a fear of failure, loss, pain, death, even strangers, but the most powerful, overriding vibration is the same – timidity and defensiveness. People on this level are focused on the terrifyingly uncertain future. This level prevents any options for personal growth and self-development. One living on this level denies information and knowledge, and neglects and discounts the talents and wisdom of others.
6) Desire (125)
The dominant feelings at this level are ones of lust,craving and avarice. Someone on this level craves food, emotions, money, sex, and the consumption of material goods. They perceive others not as independent, valuable individuals but as tools to satisfy their cravings (material, professional, sexual, social). These people are focused on past experiences and on future pleasures and gains: They deny, and could even hate, their present existence as they see it as unsatisfying.
7) Anger (150)
The dominant emotion is hate. One of the common social expressions of anger is strident activism against something, followed by feelings of aggression, frustration and even revenge (ex. religious, environmental, animal rights, sexual minorities etc.). People on this level are focused on past pains and future revenge, seeing the present moment as basically frustrating, a time of waiting.
8) Pride (175)
The qualities which characterise this level are scorn, arrogance and racism. However, this state of consciousness is unstable, and could be destroyed at any time by people from the previous level (anger). You have probably noticed that arrogance is often “punished” with aggression. This is not by accident. Vibrating on the pride level, people often transmit the negative energy of dualism (I’m better then you – you are less worthy then me) that is easily picked up by people from the anger level (which may result in physical violence!) or even those on the guilt or shame strata (who, in a worst-case scenario, may be at risk of being physically or mentally abused or even killed). People on these level could be living in the present from time to time, but mostly dwell on their past achievements and dream about their future victories.
9) Courage (200)
This is the first wake-up point and a threshold between force (violence, aggression, physical and emotional extremism, jealousy, possessiveness, rudeness, and abuse) and power (help, support, sharing, empowering, and inspiring). The dominant emotions are openness (to knowledge, emotions, people, and tasks) and curiosity. Someone on the courage level of consciousness sees the world as an exciting place, full of great people and opportunities. Such a person is warm, open, willing to share (resources, emotions and information), supportive, collaborative, positive, and optimistic. These people have made a conscious effort to live in the present moment, even if their thoughts are mostly future-orientated. The past, in their mind, is accepted as providing lessons and experience.
10) Neutrality (250)
At this level people stop being judgmental. The dominant emotion is a feeling of safety and satisfaction. The individual is not possessive, not hungry for recognition, not aggressive, and very flexible. If they don’t attain something they aim for, they can easily refocus their energies toward something else. They believe in themselves and always have a plan B, a result of a solid understanding of the external world, an inner peace and a high degree of self-awareness. These people are very responsive due to their awakened state of being and are positive, supportive, confident and friendly.
11) Willingness (310)
This is a point where real social contributions begin. The dominant emotions are optimism and sympathy. Life is seen is hopeful. Someone on this level is able and willing to create and to contribute, not only for the benefit of themselves and those people close to them, but for the good of the whole world. These people are present and happy in their ‘now’.
12) Acceptance (350)
This is the second waking point, according to Chua. At this point the individual consciously realises that she or he is a creator. The person is highly aware of themselves and of the society in which they live, and see a clear path to reaching their goals of improving life. The dominant features at this level are acceptance over rejection, creativity, collaboration, openness, long-term vs short-term, ‘striving for personal excellence and growth’, and a willingness to educate and to develop him/herself and help others.
Another defining emotion at this level is forgiveness: Personal pain and old offences are relatively unimportant and go into the “memory box” of the past. One on this level clearly understands the abstract nature of time, and is able to separate the present from the past (in particular, painful memories) and the uncertain future (anxieties and fears) and direct all their optimism to fulfilling present tasks.
13) Reason (400)
Starting from this level, the individual’s presence ‘in the moment’ is constant.
Understanding and rationality are core features of those operating on the Reason Level. A person on this level tends to gather an enormous amount of information from various fields, puts it together, analyses it, and transforms it into easy understandable forms or extracts completely new ideas from it, transmitting these to others. “The life-view is meaningful” on this level, according to Chua. People on this level have the potential to make a huge, positive impact on society in general. Inventions, breakthroughs, and new scientific discoveries take place on this level. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robinson are just a few examples of people who reached the level of Reason.
14) Love (500)
Starting from this level, the uncontrollable internal dialogue is over. People reaching this and the following levels are constantly present ‘in the moment’, and consciously free from negative emotions.
The dominant feeling is unconditional love. There is no antithetical feeling of hate, just overwhelming, outwardly-radiating love. Mother Teresa is one of the brightest examples. According to Dr. Hawkins, only 0.4% of society could reach such a state of consciousness.
15) Joy (540)
According to Chua, “the dominant emotions are serenity and compassion”. The world is perceived as being inherently perfect at this level. “This is the level where saints, advanced spiritual students and healers dwell”, Chua concludes. She adds that some people close to death could also briefly ascend to the level of Joy.
16) Peace (600)
Bliss is the dominant feeling. “At this level, there is no longer any distinction between observer and subject”, Chua says. Eckhart Tolle describes this level as free from judgmentalism and negativity; the individual lives constantly in the ‘now’.
There are no random thoughts, no random emotions or destructive feelings. One on this level is fully connected with the universe at every single moment of their existence. Hawkins thinks that only one in a million could reach this level of consciousness. Examples include Jesus Christ, and the Buddha.
17) Enlightenment (700-1000)
No emotions and no thoughts at all exist at this level. The individual transforms into a channel of pure universal energy. Examples include Christ resurrected, the Buddha following enlightenment, and Krishna.
Consciousness vs success and productivity
What is the correlation between consciousness and productivity/creativity? The lower the level you are on, the lower your productivity and creativity are. Real creativity starts from the level of Courage, the first positive, outwardly-focused, level. Productivity is pretty low before the level of Pride because individuals waste their energy through continuously occupying themselves with negative thoughts, and worries.
Consciousness vs energy level
Your energy level is tightly linked with your level of presence ‘in the moment’, and the quantity of negative thoughts or dreams about your future you fill your mind with, with no actions to realise or avoid those possibilities. People literally waste themselves away on worries, anger, jealousy, aggression, pointless competition, and empty dreams, rather then creating anything useful for either themselves or others.
How to wake up
According to Dr. Hawkins 85% of society never even reach the first wake-up threshold, the level of Courage, instead fluctuating between shame and anger.
He explains this phenomenon largely through economics (being below the poverty line, many people simply don’t have any opportunity to develop themselves, instead spending their life time struggling to survive). Even with an abundance of resources, most people don’t even reach the level of Pride, as they are overly focused on competition and the acquisition of material goods. He concludes that the average level of consciousness on our planet is fairly low. The lower the average level, the greater the level of damage inflicted on a daily basis to both the planet, and ourselves.
Your personal level is mostly your own responsibility. Here are just a few tips on how to increase your consciousness
It could be anything, or anyone, inspiring: gurus, books, motivational talks, travelling to new places, interacting with interesting people.
Try to find inspiration in every day of your life. Collect inspirations, write them down or take pictures to use them in future. The more inspiration you have in your life, the more focused on the present moment and positive you become.
Leave your comfort zone.
Thy to do something new, explore new areas of activity, enhance your experiences and develop your skills, learn new subjects or delve more deeply into subjects you are familiar with, and acquire new experience and knowledge. Do this daily. Add new things on both the mental and physical sides to maintain a balance.
Time is an abstract phenomenon, existing only in our head. Logically, there is no past and no future. There is only the constant present moment – ‘now’. If you make an effort and focus on the present moment, cutting out the past (painful or aggravating memories) and the future (uncertainty and related anxieties) you could easily clear your mind of any negative thoughts. If you ask yourself if you have problems now, at this particular moment, 99% of the time the answer will be ‘no’. So, there are no reasons to worry. Just stay in the present.
Stay positive whatever happen
As in the previous point, there is no need to worry as the past no longer exists (it passed a second ago!) and the future has not yet happened. 99% of our worries live in our heads only, so be upbeat and create a better future for yourself.
It’s related to any sort of waste: clothing you don’t wear, folders you don’t use, watching TV, scrolling social medias feeds, chatting about nothing with people who don’t bring your up. Clean everything up and regularly aerate your space with fresh air, new ideas and new knowledge.
Moreover, be very careful choosing people you interact with. According to Celestine Chua your level of consciousness is an average of 5 people you interact more often. So, it’s up to you but keep in mind aggressive, shallow, apathetic, jealous, competitive, miserable and constantly moaning people will drag you down.
Help, support and empower others if you can. Remember the more positive energy you spread around the more positive your World will become.
Collaborate rather then compete
Competitiveness gives birth to aggression, jealousy, constant comparisons and other lower energy feelings. Collaboration is in opposite: put together creativity and recourses for better off, empower people, and multiply positivity.
Share experience and knowledge
Don’t be shy to share your knowledge and experience with others. Very possible they will appreciate and use it for better off.
Follow your life purpose
This point is worth to write a book. I will definitely write a separate article about it. For now just saying: never betray your dream. If you feel that you were born to express yourself in dancing – dance, if your were born to acquire and share knowledge – teach, if you feel you have a talent in sport – go for it.