Habit #2 – Situational Gratitude

Did you know that every time you focus on what you don’t have and take what you have for granted you enter into a state of systemic lack of gratitude that leads you down the path of unhappiness; and for some, misery and depression. DID YOU ALSO KNOW THAT, in this negative state, your mind sends a message to your physical cells to die? That’s right. This accelerates your ageing and shortens telomere length that makes you look and feel older. In this article I will provide you with the antidote. And it’s NOT gratitude as you know it.

Last week I brought you Habit #1 as part of the series in our academy’s daily system for living – featuring 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 life-hacks. We have already covered the 4 essential Daily Rituals. (Incidentally the difference between rituals and habits is in the timing. Rituals are scheduled so you show up at the same time every day. Habits are something you do throughout the day). The link to all these prescriptive articles is on the A Higher Branch website. For now I want you to focus on what I call the battle between 1% and 99%. 99% wins hands down right?

1% vs 99%

Most people know of the power of journaling gratitude. This is where you sit at the end of the day and write down everything you are grateful for in life, blah blah blah… This way of practising gratitude is mediocre at best (I will admit however that it is better than nothing). Plus you will find it difficult to persist because you can end up writing the same thing every day and will quickly get bored.

I call it ‘mediocre’ because the rest of your day is unaccounted for. You have on average 16 waking hours. That is 960 minutes. If you practice gratitude for 10 minutes it means you have spent a miserly 1% of your day focused on being grateful. The question is: What are you focusing on the rest of your 950 minutes? The other 99% of the time? What is going on in your thoughts and feelings? What is inhabiting your heart and mind? Are you truly living in ‘a state’ of constant gratitude?

1% can never defeat 99%.

In the 21st Century, we are constantly bombarded with media and material wants designed to keep us on the hedonic treadmill. Which means we are constantly not happy with who we are or what we have. This is a sad state to be in – literally. If you are spending 99% of your day in that sad state, you are continuously sending signals to your cells to die. We call it ‘going after our goals’ or ‘progress’ or ‘winning’ or ‘achieving’, but in reality it is a discontentment with our life. When we are stuck in this cycle we cannot really be giving thanks for each and every powerful fulfilling moment. Instead, we are constantly focused on what we do NOT have and this causes us to take what we have for granted. So can 1% of gratitude override 99% of discontentment? Clearly not.

There is a rule in this universe. If you consistently take what you have for granted, it will either abandon you or be taken from you. Be it the people in your life: your family, your partner, your friends, your staff, your colleagues or your customers. Or your health, your wealth and your peace of mind.

In this 99% state you are also more inclined to be irritated throughout the day and this puts you more and more in the zone where you are constantly blaming and complaining about the state of your life and how you are “wanting change”. Pardon the cliche: Change is within.

“You will never materialise a magnificent future if you are not in love with the present”

Habit #2: Situational Gratitude

The Powerful Habit I learned from My Grandmother Rose

When you are in a constant state of gratitude throughout the day, you become innately happy without effort. You will not have to write anything down.

I grew up in a peaceful little village at the foothills of Mount Lebanon. As a boy I was always shadowing my grandmother as she harvested seasonal produce, milked cows and sheep, fetched eggs, cooked slow meals and baked bread. My role was to run and pick herbs for her as she stirred her old warped but deliciously coated pots that had the scent of fennel seeds, thyme and ghee. But most of the time I was listening to her speak. She was the type of person who verbalised just about everything she was thinking and feeling. So I grew up hearing her declarations of gratitude.

​What she said: “Summer has done its job and autumn will bring figs”
How it made me feel: “There is no good or bad season. Every season is exciting in its own way.”

What she said: “Enjoy these spinach pies Samuel, our precious neighbour made them with her gifted hands. Look at the perfect way she has shaped them.”
How it made me feel: “People matter. People have special talents and gifts.and I am so grateful to have them in my life.”

What she said: “Dont worry Samuel, God will make you feel better. He always takes care of you.”
How it made me feel: “Someone in this universe has my back. I cannot lose, even when I fail”

Over time I too developed the habit of being grateful for the little things that happened to me each and every day. I would give thanks quietly and inwardly, whether I am in traffic, sitting in a cafe or in a business meeting.

How to Practice Situational Gratitude

​Simply, whenever you mindfully experience something that engages one or more of your five senses.

Touch

When you touch your warm furry pet you are flooded with feelings of happiness and gratitude for their constant loyalty, playful energy and cuddles and muzzles. 

The warmth of the summer sun. The freshness of a cool winter breeze.

Taste

When you have a delicious cup of coffee or tea be grateful and give thanks to the hands that harvested the beans or leaves, the sun that ripened the plant, the water that nourished it and the 

​Give thanks to a meal that you can eat in a cafe or restaurant that has been grown by a farmer, transported by a truck driver and prepared by a cook. You can enjoy all of this at a fraction of the cost of your time.

Smell

When you inhale the scent of a bouquet of flowers, be grateful for the bees pollinating the plants, the growers, the florists who go to the markets at 3am every morning to select and then creatively arrange them;

The smell of freshly cut grass usually instantly brings happy childhood memories of playing outside and of warm weather.

Hear

When you hear a beautiful song, give thanks to the musicians who took the time to labour over the music and lyrics. For the engineer that set up the board. Not to mention the radio producer that cues the song. I know they are all getting paid for their work but that does not mean you cannot appreciate all the effort behind the scenes. All so you can enjoy it in a few minutes.

Sight

The beauty of the sunrise or sunset, the beach, the clouds, the flowers, natures art in the sky, the beauty of eyes, the design of clothes, cars, furniture, food and all things that are created by passionate creative humans. It is truly miraculous when you think about it.

Gratitude When You Have An Irritating Moment

We all experience irritating moments on any given day; sometimes multiple times a day, but when you get into the habit of slipping into gratitude in that irritating moment, you neutralise the irritation.

The practice of flipping an irritating moment is extremely powerful. It is simply practiced by reminding yourself of all the things you should be grateful for in each of the 8 areas of your life. The roof over your head, your health, your loved ones, the safe and secure country you live in, the clean air and water, the books, the courses, the people, the food, the friendships and the mere fact of being alive.

​So next time you have an irritating moment, let a smile fill your face. I say to myself: “Sam you are getting irritated, slip into gratitude.” I start to list all the things in my mind and sure enough the irritation subsides and disintegrates.

Incidentally, your high level gratitude list should be written at the very front of your journal. Click here to read all about the journaling ritual.

I hope this article has made you think of gratitude in a different way. I write with pure love and my ultimate aim is for you to sow the habits that will bring you happiness and joy.

Very soon we will be announcing our line-up of speakers for Upgrade Your Life 2020. If you have not yet secured your spot and are thinking about attending, please do so as soon as possible. What you will achieve in 3 days will revolutionise your whole year.

The 5 Powerful Daily Habits

This article is part of a series in our academy’s “4-5-6 System” – 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 life-hacks – for daily living. Systems like this are powerful because they do not rely on motivation. Whether you wake up feeling like crap or down on something, this daily system will keep you on track. What most of us don’t realise is that everyone on the planet experiences issues, setbacks and disappointments, some are just better equipped at managing them.


We have covered the 4 daily rituals in detail in past articles. Now we swing into the 5 daily habits that will absolutely revolutionise your life. If you are new to our community and have not read the rituals it is preferable you do so. Why? Because it will be difficult for you to instil these new habits without the 4 daily rituals as your foundation.

Ritual #1 – Journaling – is the conversation you have to hold yourself accountable.
Ritual #2 – Movement – gets you out of your head and into your body where the state of pure consciousness lives.
Ritual #3 – Meditation – teaches you to be mindful and conscious of your thoughts.
Ritual #4 – Learning – helps you grow so you continuously tweak your habits and life hacks.

To read the last 4 articles on the daily rituals and the one before titled: “Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity”, please go to www.ahigherbranch.com/blog

I know, I know. That is a lot of reading. But do you remember how many hours and effort you put at school, learning Shakespeare or trigonometry? Or at university getting your degree? How much more important are you than what you do? Your identity is not defined by what you do but who you are. So please take the time to learn about yourself. The ancient sears instructed us to “know thy self”. Why is this important? In my personal experience, my life started improving dramatically when I started to learn about me. That process of self-discovery is where you will discover and unleash your talents and skills. This in turn boosts your performance in all 8 areas of your life, including your work or business.

The Power of 5 Habits

We live in an era of self-actualisation where everybody has dreams but so few work on their goals. The difference? Dreams live in the heart. They ignite passion and excitement. Goals live in the mind. Goals are what you need to work on to achieve your dreams. (Some people describe dreams as ‘end goals’).

A dream may be to finish a degree. But the daily goals are the lectures you need to attend, the texts you have to read, the assignments you need to complete and the exams you need to pass. A dream may be to have a loving intimate relationship. But the daily goals are the dates you need to schedule, the hours you need to listen and the support you need to give, the tolerance you need to show in times of stress and conflict. A dream may be to have a have a fit and sculpted body. But the daily goal is to show up to the gym or park or oval, the waking early or staying up late to train, shopping, preparing and eating an athletic-engineered diet.

I outline this because people confuse goals with dreams. Why is it important for you to know the difference? Goals are the tough stuff you need to do daily. Everybody gets pumped up on ‘the dream’ but then lose motivation on the day to day goals they need to achieve. So, they give up.

Enter habits.

Habits are much more powerful than motivation. Habits are what drives the performance of your goals. Habits are what gets you through the tough stuff. The work. The grind. The setbacks. The rejections. The disappointments. The energy dips. The sore and sick moments.

Why Do Humans Have Habits?

Habits are an automation tool of the subconscious mind. Through the repetition of an act (that yields a reward), humans are wired to delegate tasks from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind so they end up performing a task without really thinking about it. This delegation frees the conscious mind up to focus on new experiences, new ideas, creativity, and other important functions. You don’t want to use the conscious mind to tie your shoe laces or brush your teeth. Waste of attention bandwidth, right? But what if we can use habits to automate actions that are tough but good for us? Really good for us.

In this next series of 5 articles I will outline the 5 habits that will help you power through the toughest of times. They will get you to show up every time, rain hail or shine. Before I reveal the first important habit you must be wondering….

How do you cultivate a new habit?

Through repetition and reward. Neuro scientists tell us that it takes two lunar cycles to cultivate a new habit. Roughly 60-odd days. So, at first, it is tough but as you repeat an action it gets easier and easier. You need to persist and have willpower at first. But to make it easier, the habits I will be sharing with you will yield a strong emotional reward and this is a critical element that makes you more inclined to repeat it until you cross what scientists call the ‘line of automaticity’. This is the point where this new task goes from the conscious to the subconscious. From there the task (and life) gets easier, not because you do not experience issues and challenges, but because you will have the toolset to deal with them.

The first habit is…..

Habit #1: Smiling

‘Smile on waking and smile all day.
Smile as soon as you open your eyes to greet a new day.’

My family say I am dorky for making up this simple little poem. But hey, behind those words is some powerful science. So please don’t dismiss this as too simple. Please stay with me as I demonstrate why this first daily habit is so important.

Did you know that people who walk around with a ready-smile…..

· Are more attractive and charismatic.
· Have more confidence.
· Are more trusted by customers or clients.
· Are less likely to have arguments and conflicts.
· Are more persuasive and influential.
· Make better leaders.
· Have happier children and families.
· Are more productive at work.
· Are much less likely to suffer from seriousness, anxiety and depression.
· Have lower blood pressure.
· Live longer!

Smiling even boosts your immune system! [See research by Dr Murray Grossan, ENT-otolaryngologist and the science of psychoneuroimmunology – how the brain is connected to the immune system]

The science of how our physiology impacts our thoughts and feelings has been established by many researchers [notably by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy). And there is countless research specifically on the benefits of smiling (even forced smiling) but the most interesting is recent research by the University of Cardiff that showed even people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.

Why is smiling on waking important?

The simple act of smiling on waking will set the tone for the next 16 waking hours. Science tells us that the first few seconds after we wake and the feeling we wake with stays with us all day.

How Can You Reward This Habit – so it Gets Repeated?

The benefits of smiling I listed above will be reward enough. But to make it even easier here are some powerful tips.

· Watch or listen to comedy before you go to bed – preferably before the last hour.
· Hang out with people that are fun or funny. There is a tonne of research on the ‘law of attraction’ and human mimicking behaviour. There is a tonne more showing that the majority of women prefer to marry or live with a partner who has a great sense of humour.
· Do more fun things in your day. For a detailed list of how to have fun read my blog: “Yes but are you having fun?”

How do I smile without appearing creepy?

It comes down to time and place. There is a time to be serious and a time for humour. There is a difference between child-like and childish. There is a difference between wit and just plain inappropriate conduct. And just like any other habit you create, the more you practice smiling, the more natural it will start to feel. And then you will find yourself smiling out of pure joy. It’s not about faking it until you make it, it is about faking it until you start to become it.

Coming Next: Habit #2

Essential Ritual #4: Learning

This article is in a series of articles about the ‘system’ of daily rituals, habits and hacks you that will completely transform your days. When you live by this 456 system you will find that obstacles and setbacks will not trip you up. You will find that on the days where motivation abandons you, you will still stay on track.

In case you missed the 3 previous essential daily rituals here are the links. It’s a good idea to go back and read them as a refresher anyway.

Essential Ritual #2: Journaling

Essential Ritual #2: Movement

Essential Ritual #3: Meditation

But this whole series started with this article that so many people absolutely loved: Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity

In today’s article I will share with you:

  • Why continuous learning is important to your success?
  • How and when to infuse learning into your day?
  • What books and podcasts should you learn from?
  • Who or what are the best teachers on earth?

Why Learning Is Important

Learning is how we grow personally and professionally. It is the sixth most important area in our lives and the foundation upon which A Higher Branch Success Academy has been established. It is the essence of our philosophy of ‘climbing higher’ in life and the quest for constant upgrade and improvement in all eight areas of our life.

Without learning we stagnate in those areas. We do the same things every day because we do not know any better. Learning empowers us to try new things and reach for new goals and dreams. All the latest brain research also shows that continuous learning and looking after your brain is good for our health and longevity.

The 3 mistakes we make when it comes to learning are as follows:

  1. We stop learning after we finish school and/or university.
  2. We only continue to learn about our job and subject matter expertise. True learning is a lifelong adventure where you continuously learn about each of the eight areas of life.
  3. We learn from the wrong sources. We live in an era of information overload and making sense of this information is difficult when digested in an unstructured way. The internet is also filled with information designed to promote one fad over another; one diet over another; one lifestyle over another; one product over another.

When Should You Learn Daily?

Something becomes a ritual when you do it at the same time every day or on cue. Learning should not be done as part of your morning and nightly rituals. These times are reserved for movement, meditation and journaling for the reasons previously discussed in those articles.

Welcome to Commute College. Most of us commute to and from work daily. This is the perfect time to plug in, listen and learn. I have learned to love traffic and sometimes I will arrive at work only to stay in the car for a few more minutes to listen to a riveting podcast or book. On weekends I also plug in whilst I am jogging or hiking.

Learning should be done whenever you have ‘dead’ time. Boredom should be your cue to read, listen and learn. In the car, on a plane, train or bus or whenever you having ‘nothing to do’. You need to resist the temptation to drift to mindless entertainment on radio, television, and social media. You need to be in conscious control with what you let into your brain.

This is what the highest of achievers do. Learning is their daily ritual. My first mentor and supervising partner in a law firm taught me this lesson in 1990 when he would hand me ‘cassette tapes’ to listen to in the car on the latest in property and finance law. This helped me become an expert. I simply applied this ritual to all other areas of my life. So I started to  listen to cassettes on health, fitness, relationships, and all 8 areas of my life.

What Should You Learn? Podcasts and Books…

You should be seeking books and podcasts about all 8 areas of your life and not just one area of interest (typically health). This is a problem in itself. I know some people who become obsessed about one area and start to neglect other parts of their life, especially relationships. It is important that you spread the learning equally among all areas.

We are so fortunate to live in an era where we have so much to read, listen and watch. We not only have so many books written by pioneering minds, but we also have Audible, we have Podcasts and we have YouTube. But we need to be discerning and distinguish between entertainment and information.

Two decades ago the challenge was the lack of information and lack of scientific research. Today the challenge is to sift through all the overwhelming and often conflicting information. These are the podcasts I recommend. They are all also on YouTube.

  1. Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik
  2. Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu
  3. The Joe Rogan Experience with Joe Rogan
  4. Found my Fitness with Dr Rhonda Patrick

I recommend these podcasts the hosts are caring, knowledgeable, authentic and share information generously with no strings attached. They rarely sell you anything. They also interview experts, researchers and actual practitioners across the 8 areas of life.

Is JIM KWIK The Best Teacher on Earth?

The standout and foremost world-renowned expert on the super power of learning is Jim Kwik. He is a world expert in memory improvement and optimal brain performance. I attended one of Jim’s workshops and implement his brain training methods and let me tell you it is unbelievably effective. It has helped me think smarter and faster in meetings. He is also one of the humblest people I have ever met. He has worked with actors on the biggest Hollywood blockbusters, top global organisations and CEO’s that includes Harvard, Virgin, Nike and GE. His personal story is also compelling.

One of the principles I learned from Jim Kwik is that your own curiosity is the best teacher on earth. If self-awareness is a great teacher of all things internal, then curiosity is the greatest teacher of all things external.

Applying Curiosity to Information

So, it is important when you read or listen to books and podcasts that you apply a curiosity mindset. Are you accepting everyday information as it is or are you adding to it or contradicting it with your curiosity? This means having your own opinion and questioning everything you learn. Do this by asking yourself: ‘Yes AND …’ or the ‘Yes BUT …’ principles. To apply these principles, we must let our curiosity break through our fear barrier. We all have this curiosity inside of us as children but over the years fear tends to keep it locked away. Trust that curiosity. Unleash it. You will find behind every curious thought is the potential to discover your own wisdom on what you read. It is that curiosity that leads to genius or a genius idea.

Applying Curiosity to People

There is also another huge area of knowledge, apart from books, where we can learn from – people. This is the fastest way to acquire knowledge. Therefore, we must master the skill of listening with undivided attention. We can never know everything in life but by listening to others we can learn from their experience and that accelerates our learning.

Listening is a dying art. Many people overindulge in constant talking that they go through life never really learning from others. I was once sitting in a café and overheard a conversation between a boss and what looked like her protégé. She said to him, ‘We have two ears and only one mouth. We must use those two faculties in that proportion. We must listen to our customers twice as much as we talk.’ Very good advice, I thought.

But my advice is that the people you must listen to first come from the 8 areas of life, in the following order:

  • Your partner who often knows you best
  • Your mother, father or grandparents. They have experience and perspective
  • Your work mentors, colleagues and customers
  • Your closest friends

But as always you need to filter any knowledge from these sources by using your own curiosity and asking the two questions above. This does not make you a contrarian. This make you progressive where you build on wisdom from others to create what’s right for you.

………….

This completes our series on the 4 Daily Rituals. Next Week we will start on the 5 Daily habits you need to program into your life.

Before I leave you, I’d like to share….

Something Personal

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of my book A Higher Branch called The Tree of Learning. It was a book that I consider my magnum opus. I have written 3 more books since then but I still consider this my finest and most instructive. It was dedicated to my grandmother Rose whose mulberry tree was the first thing I learned to climb in life and written as a guide for my 3 now grown-up children.

Epilogue to Chapter 3:

 “What the old man taught me about the Tree of Learning left a deep impression on me throughout my years as a student. It empowered me to look at school objectively, only applying the lessons that were relevant.

Just as the old man predicted, school made me think that learning was all about attaining good grades and getting a good job. I was never taught what I wanted to learn, but what the curriculum outlined. Had I been given the freedom to choose my learning, I would have embraced it. Instead, I expressed my defiance by doing the bare minimum in subjects I had no talent for or interest in.

I took the old man’s advice and taught myself about all areas of life. I studied books on health, love, family, work, friendship, wealth and charity. There were not that many at the time, but the ones I did find were insightful books by pioneering minds. After many years of private learning I began to discover my own ideas on how to live and express my talents. It was through these ideas that I developed self-awareness. They led me to many opportunities that I seized. What I Iearned privately became the real reason for my achievements, personally and professionally. Learning to climb to a higher branch in all Eight Trees taught me to be a healthier person, a loving partner, a supportive father, a caring brother, a fun friend, an inspirational leader, a visionary entrepreneur and an empathetic, charitable member of society.”

4 Essential Daily Rituals #1: Journaling

The Foundation for Identity Change

In the last article I wrote to you about defining your identity clearly by asking yourself “WHO do I want to become in each of the 8 areas of life?”.  Here is the link: Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity? In that article I made the point that chasing outcomes and relying on motivation is a trap. (Please note that I always write to you with pure love for your potential. I can say this with hand-on-heart because I always write using my 3 grown-up children as my frame of reference. They are my North Star. My BIG why). 

Please also note that this article is longer than usual because it is prescriptive and simply cannot be achieved with a brief blog. I respect you too much to give you stuff you can Google yourself. My information is proprietary and contained in my next book.

I write to start you on the journey for identity change using 4 Rituals, 5 Habits and 6 Life-hacks we use in our Higher Branch workshops. Today I start with the first most important ritual – Journaling. I will share with you the simple techniques for journaling I use in my one-on-one coaching. There are so many journals out there for sale that make it too complicated and frankly too airy-fairy. All you need is a simple blank journal and a system for journaling that I will teach you. 

Why Change is Hard

Most people don’t realise that they spend up to 85% of their day living in their subconscious in ‘cruise-control’, thinking, doing and feeling the same way they did yesterday and the day before that; effectively living in the past. This is fine if this 85% is filled with positive stuff that serves your growth. After all, the subconscious is there as an automation tool for us to do things without thinking. This frees up the conscious mind to focus on high impact, high return, high reward activities like creativity, strategy, and meaningful connection with others. But what if that 85% is filled with a lot of unwanted behaviour that just gets repeated without thinking? Stuff like procrastinating, eating too much, binge watching TV, mindlessly scrolling through social media, shopping online for stuff you don’t need, or picking fights with your family. It is difficult to erase these behaviours, but you can REPLACE them with better behaviours that serve the identity you want to create.

Over the next few series of articles I will step you through each ritual, each habit and each hack that will ensure you live consciously with purpose. I am starting with rituals because they will become the foundation for the 5 habits and 6 life-hacks. You cannot stack the habits and hacks without mastering these 4 rituals first. The reason will become clear.

It is Difficult at First

Infusing these 4 rituals daily is difficult at first, but know this, rarely does anything good in life come easy. You will feel the need to skip them because you are just ‘too busy’. You need to stay committed to them until you cross, what scientists call ‘the line of automaticity’. This simply means that when you repeat something enough it becomes second nature and easier. Some scientists say it takes two lunar cycles to cross this line but in my experience it all depends on the difficulty of the ritual and the frequency in which you repeat it. The former is subjective for all of us. What is extremely difficult for some can be lightly challenging for others. What is difficult may take you many months. What is easy may only take you a few weeks. Either way, I will outline a method that works for me and I trust it will work for you. 

Journaling

Journaling is the most important ritual out of the 4. It is also the most difficult to stick with because it can be confronting when done right. Mainly because this ritual is all about self-ACCOUNTABILITY. Ignoring it or skipping it is a big mistake because it has been the single most important success factor in my life.

Most people don’t journal because they don’t know how, or they underestimate how beneficial it is. The other reason why people don’t journal is because they wake up late and hurry to get to work on time, so they skip this ritual and the three other rituals because they ‘don’t have time’. Know this. Time is the great leveller. We all have the same 24 hours in the day so the difference between us can only be our discipline and the systems we follow (i.e. our rituals, habits and hacks).

You may have heard the phrase “Win the morning, win your day” which is so true, but the bigger truth is that winning your morning starts the night before. Getting organised the night before is the real secret to your morning success. Getting a deep sleep is the second biggest secret to winning your morning (Read my previous article on sleep). So, ask yourself, how do you spend your nights? This is where most people (even some high performers) waste their time because they feel like they’ve earned the right to flop in front of Netflix, scroll social media and snack. When rather it should be the time to hit repeat on the 4 morning rituals and get ready for the following day, by packing your workout gear, your work bag, your lunch, turning off all technology and socialising in person with your family or by phone with a friend. Not by text.

Why is JOURNALING so important?

Journaling is important for many reasons:

·     It is a conscious conversation you have with yourself
·     It helps you notice any negative self-talk
·     It keeps you focused on your priorities
·     It helps you take stock of your life, so you don’t drift aimlessly
·     It helps you notice whether you are neglecting parts of your life
·     It holds you accountable to the promises you make to yourself 
·     It helps you process and review any negative or hurt feelings

All these reasons will become apparent when you start to journal properly.

How do You Journal Properly?

At A Higher Branch Success Academy, we developed a unique journaling technique that shows you how to become your own life architect. We do not like the idea of an accountability coach. People need to hold themselves accountable and journaling is the ultimate accountability tool. 

​The template below gives you a guide. You need to devote two pages for every day. Once you use this template a few times, you will remember it. 

Morning Journaling – ACTION page

The left page of your journal is for your morning ritual. It is for the mind. The right page is for your heart. In the morning you need to focus on your actions for the day. So, it is future-focused. It is all about visualising as you write what you need to do for the day in each of the 8 areas of life depicted in the diagram below. (If this is your first time journaling, I suggest you devote the first few pages of your journal to write your long term goals and dreams in each of the 8 areas of life. That way, the front of your journal becomes your big picture reminder to reference from time to time. 

Nothing is too trivial or too small to write. Once it is written, it can be reviewed throughout the day to see how you are tracking. I always keep my journal in my bag and check in throughout the day to see if I have forgotten to action anything. I do one final check before I leave work and do a brain dump at the end of the day. If I have missed anything I write it on the next day’s ACTION page to get it out of my head and onto paper so I can shut down when I get home.

As a guide see below a few examples of daily action items I have written in my journal in the last week. You will notice that nothing is too trivial to write. You will also notice that there is an action item for each of the 8 elements of my life. We often make the mistake of thinking that our wellbeing is fuelled solely by diet and exercise. In truth it is all 8 elements that make us whole and complete us mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And so we cannot neglect them.

Health: Do F45 today at 12 noon. Stretch for 10 minutes afterward. Book a massage for Saturday. Use the stand-up desk between 8:30am – 11:30am. Buy blue-light blocking glasses. Fast till 1pm today. Have a no-protein day today. Order more turmeric & ashwaganda. Go to bed 10pm. Rest day, do brisk walk after work. Eat out in sunshine at lunch.

Love: Book a surprise dinner date for Saturday night. Light candles tonight and read together. Go for a hike together. Go home early today and cook her favourite pasta.

Family: Play backgammon with daughter. Share Chapter 8 of David Goggins with my oldest son. Book lunch at a Lebanese restaurant on Sunday for the whole family. Check in on my nephew who is studying for HSC. Call mum.

Work: [Keep a separate diary for your work to do]

Friendship: Organise tickets to the footy this Sunday with mates. Call mates to organise run on Saturday around the bay. Have breakfast after. Help mate with his wedding prep.

Learning: Listen latest episodes of Dr Rhonda Patrick and Jim Kwik. Research whether autophagy accelerates with exercise. Research whether coffee breaks a fast. Re-listen Chapter 11 in David Goggins book, “You Can’t Hurt me”.

Wealth: Assess UBER IPO. Look into solar panels and going off the grid.

Charity: Help son with setting up his new website. Spend 9am-12 noon training new recruits. Write next article for A Higher Branch community. Write cards to my World Vision sponsored children. Give legal advice and business strategy to a friend who is starting a new business.

Journaling in this way helps you keep track of your commitment to each of the 8 areas of life otherwise you will end up focusing all of your time on work. I do a stock take on Sunday night for the week in review to see if I have neglected any area. This helps me pivot for the next week. There is so much more I can write about morning journaling.

Evening Journaling – REFLECTION Page

The right page is for your heart. It is to review and reflect on what happened during the day. So it is best done in the last hour of the day before bed.

This nightly journaling is extremely powerful and useful for 3 reasons:

1.    To heal any hurt feelings, rejections, failures, disappointments that you had during the day.
2.    To list everything that happened in the day you are grateful for.
3.    To list all your achievements for the day.

1. Processing Feelings

Processing your feelings is all about acknowledging them. The worst thing you can do with hurt feelings is to deny them and sweep them under the metaphorical carpet of your subconscious, only to manifest itself in headaches, poor sleep and irritability. You cannot hide from your feelings. If you do they will haunt you. If you confront them head-on you will neutralise them. You need to feel to heal. Did someone reject you today? How did that make you feel? You need to process it by stepping into their shoes and forgiving them. Did you make a mistake that made you feel like a failure. You need to process it by writing down what you learned from that mistake. 

2. Gratitude

If this is your first time journaling then I want you to go to the front of your journal and just like you listed your goals and dreams in each of the 8 areas of life I want you to devote some of those first few pages to list everything you are grateful for in the 8 areas of life to date.

Then every night you should write down what you should be grateful for that happened to you on that day. Simple, powerful and effective.

3. Achievements

You may have heard of the power of a gratitude but heard little about the equally powerful task of listing your achievements in the 8 areas of your life. It will surprise how much you have achieved. We live in an era of over-achievement and most of us can be too hard on ourselves and fall into the trap of feeling like we are not enough, that we do not have enough and we do not do enough. The reality is that we have achieved a lot and continue to achieve so much daily. 

Listing your achievements daily reminds you of your self-worth, builds your confidence and neutralises the anxiety that lives in the gap between where you are now in life and where you want to be.

NEXT ARTICLE: Rituals 2, 3 & 4.

Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity?

An outstanding life is NOT about littering your day with lifehacks hoping for that magical transformation to your health, relationships and bank account. Transformation is such a misused word that has somehow become synonymous with ‘instant’. The reality is that it takes much longer than that. It’s a process of becoming WHO you want to be rather than WHAT you want to achieve. This principle not only applies to you as an individual. It also applies to businesses, families, and sports teams.

For example, you will notice that the most outstanding and pioneering companies are not focused on outcomes such as optimal PE ratios or dividend yields. That’s what mediocre companies focus on. They are instead focused on what they stand for, their values and the impact they want to make on the world. Wharton Business School studied these companies and called them “Firms of Endearment”. These were businesses focused on purpose before profit. But what the team at Wharton discovered, stunned everyone. These same companies financially outperformed the S & P 500 by a ratio of 9:1 over a ten-year period. They ironically made the most profit!

This is the way we should live. It is “goal-less” thinking. It is about WHO we want to become as a process of daily refinement where there is no finish line. It is about taking daily action and following a system for conscious living without any attachment to the outcome. And letting the results take care of themselves, slowly over time.

This is certainly how I live in my eight areas of life. For example, when it comes to health, I don’t have goals that sound like this: “I want 6-pack abs” or “I want to go to the gym 3 times a week”. Such outcome-based goals and process-based goals set us up for disappointment. What happens if I don’t get 6 pack abs? What if I miss going to the gym? I end up feeling like a failure and blame myself for not having (wait for the big M word) – MOTIVATION! 

Our addiction to motivation is one of the reasons why there are so many anxiety disorders in our society. Anxiety lives in the gap of where we are in our lives right now versus where we want to be. We have a restless desire to achieve but no system for achieving. Then we start comparing ourselves to ‘successful’ people who have great lives, great businesses (and a great six pack) and say “they must have more motivation, more money, more luck, more opportunity” etc… (when in fact they just have better systems for living). This helpless way of thinking makes us ‘give-up’ and slip back into a default state of mediocrity where we wake and live by old habits, slowly drifting in the direction of our greatest weaknesses; whether that is mindlessly scrolling social media, eating too much, procrastinating, binging on TV or blaming and arguing. If we focus on becoming WHO we want, then we never give up because there is no deadline and no fixed outcome. We are a work-in-progress. When we focus on this identity change, we start to naturally focus on systems for living rather that on motivation.

Hope (motivation) without habit (systems) is hopeless.

Hope without habit will also cause an inevitable identity crisis as you drift from one fad to the next in search of an identity that is not really yours. Therefore, I urge you to start with WHO you want to become in all 8 areas of your life depicted above. This will spark the right kind of motivation: Identity-based motivation. Not results-based. This kind of ‘intrinsic’ motivation can be the spark that starts your quest for behavioural change. BUT to stick it, you need to implement daily systems. It is systems that lead to progress. It is systems you can count on. Bit by bit, day by day, your efforts compound and you reach a tipping point where your life just becomes so much easier. What seems like an overnight success to everybody, really began many months or years before. Just ask any founder of a great business or any athlete what their overnight success looked like. Behind every game are many hours of training. Behind every product launch is a series of workshops with trial, error, research and painstaking review.

I recall that first day in 2008 when I realised that I REALLY wanted to become a runner after ‘attempting’ the Sydney City to Surf. I loved the freedom and the meditative trance of sneakers hitting the pavement. The next week I started ‘trying’ to run. I woke every morning at the same time and walked a bit, ran a bit, puffed out, slowed down and repeated the process. I didn’t give up because I was not focused on a result and therefore no measure to live up to. I was focused on becoming a ‘runner’ and that relaxed me into a state of patience and perseverance. I committed to the process and surrendered to the outcome. That’s the beauty of asking yourself WHO you want to become and not WHAT you want to achieve. My running gaps started getting longer and rest periods shorter. Two years later I ran a half-marathon in 96 minutes, not that I am bragging about that result. It is just to demonstrate what is achievable when you keep going. The outcome is what it is. What I considered impossible two years earlier became WHO I am. Now being ‘a runner’ is part of my identity. It is one part of WHO I am. When you start a new habit that is congruent with who you are, you are more inclined to stick to it. So, don’t try and be something you are not simply because you saw a celebrity doing it or an Instagram model ‘living it’. Be true to yourself and WHO you want to become.

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In the next part 2 of this article I will share with you the brief but powerful “456 System” for living every day as the dawn of a new identity. Day by day, this system will help you build a magnificent life without the need for motivation.