4 Essential Daily Rituals Part 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.

……………………….

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.

The Power of WHEN

WHY ignites motivation.
WHAT clarifies outcomes.
HOW is the process.
but
WHEN is your point of difference!

There is no doubt that we should all start at WHY. WHY sparks the motivation for change that shapes your beliefs and defines your identity, which is critical for behavioural change. But in my opinion, if you do not get the WHEN right, the WHY along with your motivation will disappear behind a sea of inevitable set-backs, energy dips, failures, rejections, hurts and disappointments.

Timing is everything.

If you get your timing wrong you are more likely to fail or get rejected; whether it is the time of day you wake, eat, sleep, exercise, work, and even initiate sex with your partner. Timing is critical. You may think you are not good at something, when in fact you just did it at the wrong time of day that is not aligned with your optimal chrono-type.

Munich University pioneered the research into discovering your chrono-type with a simple quiz but if you really think about it, you would know intuitively whether you are a morning person or a night owl. The research shows that approximately 30% of people are ‘morning’ types, 30% are ‘night owls’ and 40% are in-between. Most modern work schedules favour the morning types. I know some people who have gone into business for themselves purely so they can be in control of when they eat, sleep and work. Others have asked their boss if they can work different hours that favour their chrono-type. If you don’t have the privilege of either, don’t despair. Read on….

8 Tips to Get Your timing right?

Using the Higher Branch framework, consider how you can get your timing right in the following 8 AREAS of life. These tips can make a huge difference to your energy, motivation and performance.

Health

There are three branches to your physical health. Nutrition, sleep and movement (exercise). Sleep is by far the most important factor for your cognitive performance, emotional happiness, immunity and longevity.

If you are a night owl, going to bed early may cause you to slip into self-induced insomnia as you lie awake trying to get to sleep before you are ready. You start developing a negative association with your bed and it’s a spiral into anxiety from there that causes more insomnia. If your optimal time to go to bed is 11pm and wake at 7am then stick to that and be true to your chrono-type. If you prefer to sleep at 9pm and wake at 5am then go with that.

When it comes to eating, typically morning people can’t survive without breakfast, while night owls prefer to snack at night and fast till midday the next day. Some can have one or two meals per day, others are primed for grazing throughout the day. For some, exercise first thing boosts their energy level, for others midday or late afternoon is the best time.

Don’t try and be something you are not. You need to listen to your body. And if you cannot figure out what your body is telling you then maybe it is time to have an Ayurvedic or a genetic consultation with a peak performance coach. We recommend Mark Bunn, Alessandra Edwards and Anthia Koullouros. 

Love & Intimacy

Couples can sometimes think they have relationships ‘problems’ simply because they have their timing all wrong. For example, if you try to initiate sex with your partner late at night and they are a morning person, then you are setting yourself up for rejection. So, it is important to get your timing right. How do you do that? Start with sleep. In a previous article The Sex/Sleep Connection I talked about how important sleep is to a relationship.

Family

If you are a morning person, then the best time to spend with your children is in the morning. Driving them to school is a great way to do that. Otherwise, I know some parents who wake early and go jogging or swimming with their children. If they are too young, then a playground is an awesome way to start the day. If you are a night person, then flip that around and do those things later in the day. Pick them up from school. Read to them at night. Play board games. Please don’t watch TV or have any screen time at night with your children. Artificial light at night will mess up their sleep and yours whether you are a morning person or a night person. More on the importance of your circadian rhythm in the next article.

Work

If you are a morning person you need to do your most important work in the first 90 minutes after you start work. Why only 90 mins? Research shows that after 90 minutes, your attention span and focus deteriorate, and you need a 15 min break outside in sunlight to reset. Why the first 90 mins? For a morning person, the first 90 minutes at work is the most productive. This should never be spent checking email! Or in meetings, unless the meeting is for brainstorming or decision making. The converse is true for a night person. You need to ease into the day and do your best work later in the day when your brain comes alive.

Friendships

Socialising is a critical element to our wellbeing. In fact, all the research shows that the longest living humans in the blue zones of the world all have very strong social networks that keep them happy and mentally sharp. Friendships help us have fun and bring laughter to our life. BUT only when you socialise at the right time. If you are a night person then going out at night to the footy or a bar or restaurant brings the best out of you. You will be a lot more fun and energetic. If you are a morning person, then perhaps you should avoid going out at night and choose a morning cycle and coffee or a long lunch on weekends. Timing can be the difference between being perceived as fun or boring.

Learning

At A Higher Branch we consider learning to be an essential element for growth. Our whole mission is built around sharing actionable knowledge with our community. Learning is not just about attending seminars about your subject-matter expertise. But more importantly about your personal life. Your health, how to be a better partner, friend or parent and all the 8 areas of life. And learning is no different to working. You should read, listen or watch when you are most alert. Again, this leads back to whether you identify yourself as a morning person, a night person or an in-between. The best ways to learn on the fly is during your daily commute. Some call it ‘Traffic University’. By far the most effective exponential way to learn is face-to-face at seminars and events with other like-minded people.

Wealth

Your appetite for risk varies according to the time of day. If you are a morning person, then the worst time for you to make investment decisions is later in the day when you are more emotional and prone to impulsiveness. The converse is true for night owls. The morning is your worst time to make investment or business decisions.

Charity

Helping others, whether it is the new person at work or a friend that needs someone to listen to is best when you are emotionally solid. Otherwise you are going to come across as insincere or nonchalant. It is amazing how your chrono-type can influence the way you help others. I know timing for helping others may be difficult but if you do have the choice, always choose the time of day when you are most empathetic and patient. Listening requires both.

​I hope you enjoyed this article. It is shared with care and the utmost of respect for your time.

In the next article we will be discussing the most important success factor for just about every component of your life. SLEEP. The absolute latest research reveals some stunning truths about the importance of sleep and the TWO lifestyle changes that will take away all the anxiety that can sometimes be associated with sleep.

9 New Rules For 2019 Headstart

New year resolutions are as outdated as the fax machine. And change does NOT have to be grand or radical. The biggest mistake people make on 1st January is to make unrealistic and unsustainable goals. Please don’t. Its best to make none at all. The second biggest mistake people make is they wait around for the perfect time to start. The thing is, transformation does not fall out of the sky or happen as one big epiphany.

Becoming A Better Version Of Yourself Often Only Requires Little Steps And Small Changes That Honours The Life You Have Already Built.

  1. No more diet or exercise fads! Please. You are born different to everyone else. Think about that. There is no other you on this planet. Stay true to your uniqueness by eating and exercising to your genetic type. Don’t listen to self-indulgent ‘gurus’ who preach. They are probably trying to sell you something. And what works for them may not work for you. One person’s paleo is another person’s poison. One person’s gym session is another person’s stress. Get bio-tested by an expert to work out what foods you need to stay away from, what exercise is right for you and what sleep patterns optimises your performance. Biotech is now converging with infotech and you need to stay informed. Ageing is for people who don’t know any better…
  2. Don’t Dump on Your Past. I know you want to upgrade every component of your life but don’t look back on your past with regret or sadness. You need to honour the achievements of your past that brought you to this moment. They were your building blocks. Sure you made mistakes and sure life has dealt you some blows but it is still your life to own and respect. When you really think about it, you have achieved more in your life than you give yourself credit for. To help you appreciate how awesome you are, read the next rule.
  3. Become Your Own Hero. By this time next year, you need to look back with joy on your achievements for the whole year. So please give yourself the important exercise of keeping a hero file of every email, every text, every card, every photo that somebody has sent you telling you how much they thank you or appreciate you. Start today by writing the first note to yourself listing the 8 things you love about you. Don’t think this is strange. YOU need to love YOU because ‘love goes to where love is’ – Ben Okri. You will never attract good things, good people and wealth if you do not love yourself and take the time to appreciate how much you do and how much you have.
  4. Making an impact is a better measure of your success than money.
  5. Be generous. Be polite. Be punctual. Be impeccable with your conduct and words. Words matter. Stick and stones may break bones, but the wrong words scar for a lifetime.
  6. Make time to sleep more. This is the secret weapon of the highest performers.
  7. Don’t hang out with toxic people. Life is too short to spend it with whiners, blamers and complainers. Your energy will crash along with your bank account. Sorry to be blunt but the company you keep is far more potent on your performance than the food you eat.
  8. Whilst others are distracted with utter dribble on media, focus on your growth. Listen to audio books. Attend seminars and workshops. To double your income and wealth, you need to double your investment in learning and growth. If you are always the smartest person in the room, find a new room.
  9. Never Ever Be Too Busy for Family, Friends and People in Need. Kindness, love and compassion has untold and immeasurable reward both material and spiritual. That is the way of the world.

Join us at Upgrade Your Life event to learn many more new rules for 2019.

The Butterfly Effect

Today you paid an awesome compliment to a random shopkeeper who served you. She really needed it. She was depressed and suffering in silence – possibly even suicidal. Unbeknown to you, it was something you said in your compliment that really resonated with her. Your compliment inspired her to seek help or enroll in that course or call a family member or friend or apologise to their partner or give up drugs or a toxic relationship . Whatever it is, you helped her and all you did was pay a genuine compliment that made her feel good and valued as a human. You made her feel like she mattered. She went on to become a photographer or a dental nurse or a mother. She read more books, took better care of herself, started a business, employed people, had kids of her own and her effect on the world cascaded outward and touched many lives.

Read the full article >