We all want to be successful, but finding the energy necessary to get moving on our ideas and projects can sometimes pose an obstacle. It's totally normal to experience days when you just don't want to get out of bed. Modern life is extremely demanding -- our jobs, relationships, families, and financial responsibilities can overwhelm us at times -- and sometimes the brain's natural chemical response to this stress leaves us feeling lethargic or uninspired. The mistake, however, is when we fail to take advantage of how malleable our brains are. Although you may not feel it now, you are completely capable of retraining your thought patterns to support a happier, more energetic, and more successful life, and it's actually much easier than you might think!
It's often helpful for me to think of the decisions I make as opportunities to produce a net-positive or net-negative result. The things I do to take care of myself, like brushing my teeth, getting some exercise, or eating a healthy meal, are all net-positives. Choices like procrastinating work in favor of bad TV, staying up too late browsing social media, or forgoing a decent meal for fast food end up constituting net-negatives, even if they may feel pleasurable at the time. Obviously, a successful life is built on net positive decision-making, but you may have noticed that all of the net-positives examples require effort. It takes a lot of willpower to delay gratification, to suffer in the short term in the name of long term goals, so I prefer to simply make the tedious efforts of my net-positive decisions as pleasurable as possible. The solution I have found is often described as mindfulness.
Mindfulness is all about staying in the present moment and experiencing its depth -- which means (at least temporarily) letting go of worries about the past or future. This isn't something we can reasonably expect to maintain all day long, so practicing mindfulness means finding those little opportunities to recharge throughout the day, often while completing mundane tasks. For example, the next time you brush your teeth, try thinking about how grateful you are to have clean running water and a high-quality toothbrush, or how pleasant it is to feel your mouth getting cleaner and know that you're protecting your body from decay. When you stay truly present in the activity you're performing, suddenly it's not the same drudging experience that you slog through every day.
I think a great way to begin a more mindful lifestyle (or even a more mindful day, for that matter) is to assess your pre-existing baseline energy-level, and to reflect on the sources of energy available to you. There are lots of things that energize and inspire us -- nutritious food keeps our bodies moving, sensory input keeps us engaged with the world around us, human (or animal!) connection gives us emotional uplift, and spirituality awards us a broader sense of connection and meaning.
Most people, even if they're not always implementing best practices, have the basic information necessary to make-net positive decisions regarding their bodily energy, but emotional, social, and spiritual values can be a little more ambiguous. The most concrete, fundamental tip I can offer you is this: make eye contact! We encounter hundreds of service people and passersby everyday, and this little bit of human connection goes a long way, both for your mood and theirs! Meanwhile on the spiritual front, allow yourself to really feel this connection, not just to your fellow human beings, but to every aspect of your place in the world, and how unique and special that place is! Some people learn structures and rituals of gratitude from organized religion, but you definitely don't have to be religious at all to claim these enriching moments of reflection. Start trying to experience your life as the blessing that it is -- let yourself feel wonder at your capabilities and your surroundings. If you make an effort in this direction, you will eventually train your brain into experiencing gratitude more naturally, and you WILL be a happier, calmer, and ultimately more successful person.
This piece was written by Cat Goldberg and Moriel Berger for BrainBuzz.