Life / Can Do

Helpful tips to living a better life

Posts Tagged ‘Self Improvement

Live Fail Repeat

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Last night I watched the movie, Live Die Repeat : Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. I enjoyed it and would recommend it for action movie fans. It was the premise of the movie that intrigued me – the main character, a solider in a war against alien invaders, is able to reset time after dying.

Being in a war against a superior alien force, the opportunities to die are plentiful. Also knowing that he’ll be able to start over, the main character is able to take risks he would have previously avoided. Each time he dies he gets to try again learning from his previous attempts. As you would expect, he becomes a nearly invincible and fearless soldier.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had that ability? Would you believe me if I told you that you do have a similar ability?

For most goals, the penalty for failing is not death. We do have the opportunity to try as many times as necessary. Each time we fail we can take what we’ve learned and try again.

Why is it that most see failure as a permanent condition, like death?

In my life I have failed several times. I had found that sometimes success can be more difficult than failure. When you succeed you have to move into uncharted territory. You have to start the fail and repeat cycle all over again and run into new pitfalls. In additional after success, you often have more to lose if you fail.

Your level of success will depend on your ability to handle failure and keep learning.

Most often, there is no clear distinction between success and failure. For example, suppose someone named Jake took a job as a manager for the first time. As a new manager, Jake is bound to make mistakes but it is just as likely there will be aspects of the job that he excels at. Depending on the environment he works in and his ability to highlight his strengths, he could be perceived as failing or succeeding as a manager.

The better approach would be to work on areas that need improvement while recognizing areas and taking pride in areas that he excels at. Another approach would be to focus only on the areas he excels at and market himself as a specialist. Either approach may apply.

As a technologist, I constantly have to learn new skills so I get the chance to fail quite often. In the middle of my career, I found this process to be extremely stressful, but then I got better at coping with the reality of the situation and now I look forward to trying something new. What was once a curse is now a blessing.

What have you always want to do but didn’t because you were afraid of failing? What would be the worse that could happen if you tried and failed? Could you try again? Would your chances of success increase after failing? Whatever it is, I think you know the answer. The next question is: What are you going to do about it?

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

October 10, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Choose Your Path

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Success in life is about making choices. When making a decision, it is often difficult to determine which choice is the right one. Just as often, the right choice is a personal one. What is right for you, may not be right for someone else.

As you look back on choices you’ve made, you may determine that you could have made better choices. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Rather, give yourself credit for being able to grow, learn and recognize better choices in the future.

There is one choice that can be applied to any situation and that is choosing not to choose. When you simply let life push you in any direction without making a conscious decision at best you will make no progress. At worse, you could be led down a dark and dangerous path.

Drug abuse, obesity, alcoholism, crime are just a few examples of what is in store for those who choose not to choose. Nobody chooses to be obese – it just sort of happens. Most drug addicts would give anything to free of the uncontrollable urge to do drugs.

When I was a teenager, I was in an environment where drug abuse was common and expected. Everybody was doing it. The default path was to simple become part of that culture. However, I chose not to take drugs. I remember making a conscious choice not to abuse legal or illegal drugs (except caffeine but I did not know it at the time). Being born poor, I knew I had disadvantages in life and that doing drugs was not going to make my situation better. I consider that choice to be one of the most significant choices in my life.

Every time I would hear about someone I once knew who died from an overdose, ended up in prison or was seen lying on the street, I recognized that that was the default path I could have taken. I simply chose not to.

The choice to avoid drugs did have it’s difficult moments. I had to leave or not attend parties where I knew drugs going to be. I had to end or avoid friendships with people who used. I had to accept that I was going to be labelled as “not cool”. The terms “goody-two-shoes”,”narc”,”Momma’s boy” were just some of the labels thrown my way.

Despite my good choices, I did fall into alcohol trap however. For some years as an adult, I chose not to choose regarding alcohol. I knew and know now that there people who can consume alcohol without it being a major problem in their lives, but for me and my family history and the environment I grew up in, the default path led to over-consumption, alcoholism and all the other difficulties associated with drinking too much.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I chose to get out of the alcohol trap and get off the default path. The effects of drinking had only just started to erode the quality of my life so I believe I stopped before I became a full-blown alcoholic.

The important thing to remember is that we always have a choice. If you have been overweight for years, you can choose to take a different path. Sure it may be difficult and require a great deal of effort, but the choice is still yours.

Think about what you really want out of life and then choose to take the path to get you where you want to go.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

August 20, 2014 at 9:10 am

What You Think Is More Important than What You Eat

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Just as you can choose to which foods you put in your body, you can also choose what thoughts to have in your mind. And, just as low quality, unhealthy foods can have a negative impact on your physical health, low quality, unhealthy thoughts can be detrimental to your mental state.

I want to avoid labeling thoughts as “good” or “bad”. Using terms “good” or “bad” would be placing judgement on your thoughts and may lead one to think that they are a bad person for having bad thoughts. Rather let’s use the term maladaptive which is a fantastic word therapists uses to describe what most would call “negative thoughts”. To be consistent with other resources and help with understanding, I may use the term “negative thought” as well. Just know that this does not imply a judgement.

Below is Google’s definition of maladaptive:

not providing adequate or appropriate adjustment to the environment or situation.

To promote mental health one can try to control thoughts that are not adjusted to the environment or situation. For example, if it rains on the day you planned to go hiking, the thought, “Why does it always rain when I want to do something outside!” could be considered maladaptive because there is really no connection between the rain and your plans. Thinking that a natural process is working against you is not rational or realistic. Also, the thought, “I should have planned for rain! I’m so stupid” can also be considered maladaptive. It would have been helpful if you had planned for rain, but not doing so is not a reflection on your intelligence. A rational approach would be to consider it as a learning opportunity so you can take steps to account for rain in your future plans. You can replace your maladaptive thought with the rational thought, “If I had planned for rain, I could have packed rain gear and we would have had the unique opportunity of hiking in the rain. In the future, I’ll do that.”

As you can see above, the rational thought would have a person better prepared to handle rain in the future while feeling better in the present.

With dieters we often hear something along these lines: “I’ve tried every diet there is. I just can’t lose weight.” While we know that it is more difficult for some people to lose weight than others, we also know that anyone can lose weight with the right strategies. We can also be sure that this person has not tried “every” diet. A more rational thought could be, “I’ve tried a number of different diets that don’t appear to work for me. Could there be flaws in my approach that I am not aware of? I need to gather more information. I’m sure there is an approach that will work for me that I just have not found yet.”

One approach to changing how you think is to write down your maladaptive thoughts and then right down a rational thought for each. Seriously, don’t just do it in your head. If you want to improve how you think you will need to write it down. You don’t get points for good intentions.

Below is an example of an automatic thought/rational response listing:

Automatic Thought
I failed my exam. I am so stupid.

Rational Response
Obviously, I wasn’t prepared for the exam but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I’ve done well in other exams. What can I do in the future to better prepare myself for an exam?

From the example above, you can see how simple it would be to use this strategy. You can use a paper notebook or word processing software such as Google Docs or Google Sheets. Don’t worry about the medium or the format – just use what you prefer. It’s the process that is important, not the specifics.

I’ve just scratched the surface on the subject of automatic negative thoughts. I suggest you read more. Below is a link to an article that goes into more details:

AHHA: ANT Therapy

It’s surprising how few people know about techniques for managing negative thoughts. When you consider that just about everyone knows that physical exercise is beneficial to your health, why wouldn’t strategies for improving mental health be just as well known? I suspect the stigma of having mental health issues prevents people from even discussing it. There may be a fear that if you do work to improve your mental health, that people may think your mentally unstable. The truth is that everyone could benefit from the strategies.

Once I was asked by friend, “Why do you exercise and eat healthy? You are in great shape.” I was stunned at the person’s lack of understanding of a healthy lifestyle. It’s not a series of actions to get to a certain point and then stop. It’s a way of being. The same applies to developing mental fitness. I don’t do it because I’m mentally ill – I do it because I want a healthy lifestyle.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

July 31, 2014 at 9:39 am

Do You Want to Reach the Next Level?

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It has been awhile since I’ve posted anything new but there were good reasons. I’ve been doing a great deal of research and analysis about what it would take to achieve a higher level of self improvement.

There are several great resources that can help a person improve their lives and increase their happiness but there doesn’t appear to be a single source that brings it all together.

There are resources that focus on physical fitness and other resources that focus on mental fitness but I have yet to find a single resource that successfully integrates both development paths.

The mind and body are not independent systems. They are integrated and developing one system often requires that you develop the other. You can’t expect to lose weight and keep it off if there is no improvement in your mindset. On the flip side your mood can be improved by doing regular physical exercise.

To improve your physical fitness you must perform physical exercise and eat clean. To improve your mental fitness you must perform mental exercises and think positively. In future posts I would like to share ideas on how to develop both your body and mind.

The methods to develop your body are relatively simple to learn – it is the implementation that takes extraordinary discipline. It is the same for the mind. The methods are simple and easy to learn but you the level of commitment required can be difficult to maintain.

In future posts I plan to share what I’ve learned. Skeptics are welcome. I will provide links to resources that you can refer to.

No matter where you are in your life, it is important to know that you never stop growing. There are those who had lost all hope  that have changed how they think to live happy and rewarding lives. Even if you think you are relatively content, you can always improve your mental state. You will never reach a state of perfect mind and body perfection. It is the process that will be the most rewarding not the achievement of some impossible end state.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

July 30, 2014 at 10:52 pm

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Don’t Compare Yourself With Anyone

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As we strive to improve ourselves, it is tempting to compare ourselves with others. No matter how much we are failing, there will be someone else we can look at and tell ourselves that at least we are doing better than them. On the flip side, it is also true that no matter how successful we are, there will be someone else doing better.

Comparing ourselves with others is a destructive habit. It can prevent us from pushing forward when faced with failure and it can be demotivating when we are succeeding.

When you compare yourself with someone else, you are not seeing the whole truth. Everyone is different, with different motivations, advantages, backgrounds and strengths. Someone who is doing better than you at one aspect of life, may be struggling in others where you excel. A person who is failing where you are doing well, may not place the same level of importance on that particular endeavor. Whatever the differences, when you compare yourself to someone else, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

The better approach is to look to others for inspiration and strategies. It is not only acceptable to look to others for ideas, it is required to succeed. The difference is that you need to be more concerned with the behaviors than the results. Ask yourself: What is the other person doing that contributed to their success and is this a behavior I can adopt?

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

June 11, 2014 at 7:42 am

Train Your Brain Like You Train Your Body

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Like your body, your brain needs exercise.  Create a workout schedule that includes brain building routines. Study a topic your are interested in, do math problems, learn how to program a computer, play chess – whatever it is, it should be something that challenges you. Go heavy or go home.

There are people who crush it in the gym but if they try reading a book they pass out after a few pages. They think it is boring, tedious and uncomfortable to sit and read. Well, just like working out the body, start out slow, increase the volume and intensity over time, and don’t quit because it hurts. We all know we want to go where the discomfort is and embrace the struggle.

You can have the best looking body in the world, but if you have a weak brain, people won’t respect you. A person with a strong body and a strong mind is unstoppable.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

April 23, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Self Improvement : What’s the Point?

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I’m often saddened by others lack of motivation to improve themselves. When I see someone who could be doing so much better if they only put forth the effort, I see opportunity wasted. I think that, maybe they are satisfied with their current level of achievement and that they are happiest where they are at. They seem content enough. If someone can be happy on the path of least resistance, why can’t I. What’s the point of continually trying to improve myself?

But I can’t accept putting in less effort than I know I can give. That’s just how I’m wired. I always want to see how much farther I can go in whatever I do. It’s not about money, power or success. If it were, I would have been filthy rich a long time ago. It’s always been about being better than I was yesterday and discovering who I was meant to be. One may think it is a difficult life to be driven all the time, but I consider myself blessed to have the desire to improve. When I see people going through life day by day, just waiting to grow old and die, I am thankful for the struggle. It’s the struggle that keeps away the drudgery. Everyday is a new challenge.

Saying we all want to be happy is like saying we all like to eat. We have different preferences or flavors of happiness. Some want a sweet but simple life while others what something more hot and spicy. I want something more complex, subtle and wholesome. Sure the way I live would seem difficult but it’s an acquired taste.

I don’t think true happiness is something you can be given. It’s something you have to work for to truly appreciate. There are so many real life stories of how the offspring of wealthy parents grow up to be miserable and depressed often turning to drugs to escape. It must be to wake up everyday and not having to do anything. But then there are some wealthy people who find purpose and challenge in charity or building their companies to new heights.

Bill Gates was a man who had more money than anyone would ever need. So much money that he decided to give most of it away. He and his wife have dedicated the rest of their lives to helping others. They are currently working to rid the world of a number of deadly diseases. For his children, he was quoted as saying that he was leaving his children enough money so they do afford to do anything they wanted but not so much that they could afford to do nothing.

There’s the fantasy of being super rich and having mansions, yachts and fancy cars. Bill Gates version of the rich life is spending time in the most poverty stricken locations on Earth helping save the lives of millions. Rather than shelter himself from the realities of poverty, he went to fight it where it thrives.

We each have our own standards of happiness. Don’t accept the default version but rather find your own happiness and work towards it. You may not achieve everything you can imagine but on the way there you may find the happiness you seek.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 30, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Self Discipline Can Be Developed

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There’s a common misconception that your amount of self discipline is a trait you are born with and can’t be developed. Try telling that to the military which repeatedly turns fresh recruits into strong soldiers.

Sure genetics are a factor, but self discipline is more a result of influence and circumstance than genes. I personally know a set of identical twins who have radically different levels of self discipline. One is hard working family man who gets up every day and goes to work and also keeps his yard well groomed. The other can’t keep a job and routinely blows off work and family.

The first step to developing self discipline is to be honest with yourself and taking complete responsibility for your behavior. There may be many external factors that have had a negative impact on your self discipline, but you can decide to take action now to build self discipline.

Create a list the behaviors you would like to develop. For example, if you have a habit of being late for work, you might want to add “Get to work on time everyday”.

When you have your list, pick the behavior you would like to develop first. It is important to pick  a behavior that is not dependent on another behavior you need to develop. You can’t decide to go running everyday at 6AM if you currently have a problem with getting up before 8 AM. I’m not saying you can strive to do both, but your immediate focus should be on getting up early.

The next step is to track your compliance to the new behavior or habit. You can mark it down on a calendar, smart phone or online log. Whatever tool you use, make sure you are consistent and track whether or not you did what you are tracking. The goal is to try to have as many successful consecutive days as you can.

How many days it will take to develop the habit varies from person to person and habit to habit. There’s this belief that it take 21 days to form a new habit but in truth it can vary from 10 day to a year or more. In general, the easier it is to perform the habit action, the shorter the time it takes to develop the habit. Deciding to eat an apple everyday is going to take less time to make a habit than it would be to run a mile everyday.

When I first started trying to develop the habit of exercising everyday, I failed repeatedly for a couple of months before I was able to consistently exercise every day. Even then, it was still an act of will to keep doing it. It took me 6 months before it became a habit. Now I would find it uncomfortable to miss a workout.

I’ve read a few great books about how to form habits. My favorite is the Habit Factor because it is concise and easy to follow. There is even a companion app you can install on your smart phone to help you track your habit streaks. I highly recommend using a habit tracking app even if you track your habits on a more general purpose application. For some, paper and pencil is the best approach – it’s up to you.



Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 28, 2014 at 8:11 am

In Just 15 Minutes Per Day You Can …

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In just 15 minutes per day, you can learn a new skill or become an expert on a particular subject. The catch is that you have to do it everyday for as long as it takes to reach the level of competency you desire.

If you do this, it is unlikely you will limit your learning to just 15 minutes every day. There will be days when you become inspired and decide to spend several hours learning. Still, it is more important to remain consistent and continue to do 15 minutes per day.

It would be a mistake to think that you can cram and replace several short learning sessions with an extended session. The brain doesn’t work that way. You need to have a consistent pattern of learning over a long period of time to retain the knowledge or skill.

I used this technique to learn how to type. When I was at my peak, I was able to type over 70 word per minute and I achieved this by practicing everyday for at least 15 minutes. I would rarely practice more than an hour but I always practiced at least 15 minutes.

If 15 minutes is too much time to commit to, you can try 10 or even just 5 minutes. If you do it everyday, you will see progress. In my opinion, if you are going to spend 5 minutes on something, it would be a missed opportunity to not continue for at least 15 minutes, but that’s just my experience – it may fit your lifestyle.

There’s a bunch of brain science to back this up but why not simply try it. There may be skills that require too much prep time for 15 minutes to be realistic (scuba diving, flying a plane) but even then once your are actively engaged in the learning process, 15 minutes will produce results.


Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 24, 2014 at 7:54 am

Become Who You Were Meant To Be

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When getting assistance from a mentor or a coach, one may will take offense that they are being told to change who they are. But they are mistaken to feel that way.

Each of us is born with a blueprint of the person we are supposed to be. When we are young, it is obvious that we need to grow into that person. Children accept that learning and growth is part of their lives. But at some arbitrary age, society labels us as “adults”. We are considered matured and done with learning and  growing.

The truth is that we are is defined by the entirety of lives and the legacy we leave. We are not simply who we are when we reach a certain age. When we,  even as adults, continue to learn and grow, we are striving to become the person we were meant to be.

Even though I am over 40, I continue to find new ways to learn and grow. My behaviors and habits are not the same as they were twenty years ago or even just a year ago. However, I feel more at ease with who I am with the new behaviors and I’m excited to learn more about myself as I try new things.

When people reject opportunities to learn and grown, they are not defending who they are, but rather stopping themselves from being the person they were meant to be.



Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 23, 2014 at 1:15 pm