How To Consciously Evolve in 2016 (& the rest of your life)

As you prepare yourself for 2016, I challenge you to re-think 1) the entire process of how people change and 2) what’s possible.

How do human-beings actually change?

To what extent can you change?

How long does the process take?

How do you experience quantum leaps in your personal development?

How do you transcend internal-conflict and live in alignment with your values and ideals?

How can you consistently achieve your goals?

By the end of this article, you will have the answers to these questions.

Adaptation & Evolution: Human-Beings Are Fundamentally Different Than Animals

Animals are the direct product of their environment. They reactively evolve over-time based on external circumstances. The process of their evolution is slow and random.

Human-beings are the indirect product of their environment. Although the environment is the medium through which humans adapt and evolve, our choices determine our environments.

This is the fundamental difference.

We get to decide the course and intensity of our personal evolution by intelligently designing our environments. Mark my words, who you are and who you will become is the product of your environment. This one thing is indisputably certain.

Hence, you are the sum total of the five people you spend the most time with. You are what you eat, think, and read. You are what you do. Your life can be measured in direct proportion to the size of problems you seek to solve. So choose wisely.

Adaptation

Psychological research has found that fearful anticipation is almost always worse than the actual experience.

I find it amusing when people say things like, “You have 3 foster kids while doing a Ph.D. program? I could never do what you’re doing.” Or “I could never make it through the death of a loved one.” The fact is, yes they could. If these people had a loved one die, or had to do something hard (which we all do), they’d find new strength and resolve and would surprise themselves. Of course, life sometimes hurts like hell. But we get through it, stronger and hopefully wiser than we were before.

I recently met a woman with 17 kids — eight of her own and nine her and her husband fostered then adopted. This may seem ridiculous to you. But if you wanted to, you could do this as well. By the way, they are thriving as a family, not just surviving.

No matter the difficulty, we can adapt to anything. We can handle much more stress and strain than we think we can. So when it comes to goal-setting, we mid-as-well intentionally adapt to something grueling.

Although most people seek the path of least resistance and thus adapt to ease and idleness, you should seek challenge and difficulty. For example, trees that grow in windy and strenuous circumstances are forced to shoot forth deeper roots, making them impenetrable to their difficult environment.

As the poem by Douglas Malloch eloquently states:

The tree that never had to fight

For sun and sky and air and light,

But stood out in the open plain

And always got its share of rain,

Never became a forest king

But lived and died a scrubby thing.

Good timber does not grow with ease:

The stronger wind, the stronger trees;

The further sky, the greater length;

The more the storm, the more the strength.

By sun and cold, by rain and snow,

In trees and men good timbers grow.

Call to Action:

Don’t avoid problems, embrace and seek them. The bigger the problems you’re required to deal with, the more you’ll personally grow to resolve those problems.

Take on and adapt to bigger challenges in 2016 than you feel comfortable with.

10X Thinking & Effort: How to Achieve Your 2016 Goals By April

Before writing the first chapter of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling planned for seven years at Hogwarts. As a result, Harry Potter is one of the most read books of all-time.

Before creating the first Stars Wars movie in the 1970’s, George Lucas planned for at least six films and started at episode four, rather than episode one. As a result, almost 40 years later the entire world still freaks out when a new Star Wars come out. This would not be possible if Lucas hadn’t thoughtfully and largely planned.

Yes — when you plan — you should plan big. Don’t just plant a tree, plant an orchard. What you plant in life is also what you harvest.

So, look at your goals for 2016. Chances are, they reflect timid thinking and less-than-creative planning. Without question, your goals are less challenging than you can handle. You are more than you know. You can handle more than you think. You can adapt to anything.

As an example, if your goal is to earn $50,000 in 2016, I challenge you to change that goal to $500,000.

When you 10X your goals, you will be forced to approach your goal in non-conventional and innovative ways. The traditional approach doesn’t work with 10X thinking.

Not only does your mind need to expand in what you plan and strive for, but your daily effort needs to change as well. Just as people underestimate their personal ability, they also underestimate how much effort and time something will take. Thus, people are frequently late for appointments and fail to complete projects they begin.

Rather than expecting ideal circumstances, plan for the worst. Rather than underestimating how much time and effort something will take, overestimate those things. Put way more effort into your goal than you think is required to get there.

If you’re going to think 10X, you have to also put in 10X effort. Without the effort, it doesn’t matter how “big” your dreams are. But once your behavior matches (and exceeds) your intentions, your dreams quickly become a reality.

Call to Action:

“How can you achieve your 10 year plan in the next 6 months?” — Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal and Palantir

Take your main 2016 goal and re-schedule its completion for April 1st, 2016. This gives you three months, rather than 12.

Ready to get creative and bold?

Once you achieve your 12 month goal in three months, you’ll have created momentum evoking exponential or compounded progress. Getting to 10X is extremely possible.

Go “All In”

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

People are afraid of commitment. We’d rather keep our options open. We’d rather diversify our investments to mitigate risk.

But if you want to go big, you need to put all your eggs in one basket. It’s actually far easier and less risky to focus on one basket than many baskets. And yes, failure is a possibility.

Once you decide what you want, overcommit to that thing. Go all in. Pass your point of no return. When you do this, you’ll realize the true meaning of security, which can only come from within.

Once your security is in yourself, rather than something outside of you (like a steady paycheck, health insurance, or 401K), you’ll see yourself in a completely new light. Your confidence in yourself and your abilities will radically escalate. The obstacles that once held you back will become tools to propel you forward. Your external environment will match your internal desires. True security is a spiritual, not a physical thing.

Call to Action:

How you set the game up is more important than whether you are playing in the game. In order to win before you play, make bold commitments and promises upfront that require you to perform at an excellent level.

Like planning, your effort and execution needs to match (and exceed) your commitments and promises.

But go ahead, make your goals public. Commit big and then get to work.

Deliberate Practice: Your Skills Will Always Trump Your Passion

The famous psychologist, K. Anders Ericsson, coined the term deliberate practice. His research was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell and has become known as the 10,000 hour rule.

Time and again, the world’s elite performers are rarely the ones with innate ability. Rather, they are the ones who spend the most time on their craft. For example, many of the world’s top violinists have spent over 10,000 hours playing violin before age 20.

You can master anything — and you will increasingly enjoy what you become good at.

If you spent three hours, seven days per week, in focused-activity, you could get to 10,000 hours in a decade. If you spent four hours, five days per week, in focused-activity, you could get to 10,000 hours in a decade.

If what you deliberately practice is the same as what you do for work, it’s possible to only need to work 3–4 hours per day. If that work was highly focused and productive.

Prioritization & Execution

“Until my ONE thing is done, everything else is a distraction.” — Gary Keller

What is the one thing that if accomplished, would render everything else easier or unnecessary?

What is your one thing?

What is the one thing that you would put 3–4 hours of deliberate practice into everyday?

“If you chase two rabbits you will not catch either one.” — Russian Proverb

Simplification

In order to prioritize 3–4 hours of your craft each day, you’ll need to simplify your life. Without a doubt, there are activities, behaviors, and relationships in your life that are holding you back.

Removing non-essentials is difficult. Just yesterday, I sent an email to one of my professors and told him I could no longer work on our research projects in 2016. Although I love working with this particular professor, these projects take me away from my highest priorities — my family, my blogging, and my personal development.

It may be slightly scary canceling projects, breaking commitments that no longer make sense, or ending unhealthy relationships. But once you do, the relief is incredible. You’ll feel free! Free from the bondage of internal conflict.

Call to Action:

Simplify your life as much as you possibly can. The more you can remove, the better. We all have 24 hours in each day. How you spend those hours is a matter of prioritization.

If you can’t prioritize 3–4 hours each day for your craft, you don’t deserve to become world-class at what you do.

Block out 3–4 hours each day to deliberately practice the craft you want to master.

Execute.

Embrace Detachment: Your Power to Transcend the Trivial

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” — Henry David Thoreau

I recently spent Christmas in Omaha Nebraska with my in-laws. I’m always inspired by their lives and character traits.

My father-in-law is incredibly intelligent and successful. He’s one of those people who can do anything he sets his mind to. He never gives up and always figures out how to do what he’s trying to do.

But what strikes me most about him is his utter disregard for what most people find valuable. Despite being a millionaire, he and his wife live in a small apartment. He doesn’t wear fancy clothes or drive nice cars.

Appearances don’t sway or concern him. Impressing other people is the last of his concerns. But you will never find a harder working and more geniune person. He finds joy in living his faith, being with his family, and working hard every day.

“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is.” ―Rhett Bulter in Gone with the Wind

Call to Action:

Detach yourself from the need to have more and more stuff. To save is almost always better than to spend.

Detach yourself from the concern of other people’s opinions.

Essential Rituals & Routines to Facilitate Radical Personal Transformation: Your “YOU” Time

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” — F.M. Alexander

We evolve through repetition over time. According to psychological research, it takes 66 days to form a habit.

The following habits are essential to maximizing your potential in 2016 and in life:

Prayer & Meditation

“I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” — Martin Luther

Spending a good chunk of time at the beginning of your day in prayer and meditation brings clarity and perspective.

These activities help you distinguish the subtle signal from the pervasive noise all around you. Almost everything in life is a distraction.

If you don’t put yourself in a place of clarity and perspective at the beginning of each day, you may spend your entire day on activities taking you in the wrong direction.

Prayer and meditation also facilitate radical insights and inspiration. During my morning prayer and meditation, I’ve gotten ideas about articles to write, and people to reach out to.

Not only that, but during my prayer and meditation, I visualize and decide the best approach to achieve my objectives (often involving reaching out to people I don’t know). As a result, I have intense levels of confidence and momentum when I attack my day.

Daily Learning

Ordinary people seek entertainment and ease. Extraordinary people seek education and difficulty.

True learning is difficult, and is more than acquiring knowledge. There is a difference between knowing and understanding. You don’t truly know something until you’ve experienced it, until you can explain it simply, and do it. I could read every book about building a computer. But until I’ve actually built a computer, I don’t really know. Theory and lived experience are two completely different things.

So don’t let your only learning be that from books. Apply what you learn from books by actually doing stuff! Make mistakes. Have experiences.

Daily Journal Writing

If you aren’t keeping a daily journal, you’re missing out. There are endless benefits of journal writing. And it doesn’t need to be a long ordeal. Actually, it’s recommended this activity take less than 5–10 minutes.

And there’s no right or wrong way to journal.

You can use it to record your history, to write down your daily goals and affirmations, to record insights and inspiration, or to clear your emotions.

The best uses I’ve found after filling dozens of journals are:

· Writing 15 times each day the goal you intend to accomplish. Write your goal/affirmation in present tense (e.g., I am married to my dream girl. I am married to my dream girl. I am married to my dream girl).

· Writing your other goals and to-do’s daily. I usually write my weekly, monthly, and yearly goals in my journal at least once per week. Repetition ingrains my goals into my subconscious, allowing me to see opportunities I would otherwise miss.

· Writing about important events I don’t want to forget.

· Writing about my existential questions about faith, God, the universe, and life in general.

· Writing about the most important people in my life (my wife, foster kids, friends, mentors, and people I want to become my mentors)

Exercise

Despite endless evidence of the need for exercise, only one-third of American men and women between the ages of 25 to 64 years engage in regular physical activity according to the Center for Disease Control’s National Health Interview Survey.

If you want to be among the healthy, happy, and productive people in the world, get in the habit of regular exercise.

Exercise has been found to decrease your chance of depression, anxiety, and stress. It is also related to higher success in your career. If you don’t care about your body, every other aspect of your life will suffer. Humans are holistic beings.

Conclusion: Build a Life, Not Just A Career

An over-developed muscle can actually hinder holistic health and strength. You see it all the time. Some guys at the gym and have huge upper-bodies and “chicken legs.”

Focusing entirely on one area of your life is like going to the gym every day and excising the same muscle over and over, while ignoring all other aspects of your body.

When preparing for 2016, plan more than solely for wild success in your work. Plan big for your important relationships and the other key aspects of your life (e.g., travel, experiences, goals, spirituality, personal development, whatever interests you).

Some of my most exciting goals in 2016 have nothing to do with my work. My wife turns 30 in 2016! You better believe we’re going to do something amazing.

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