Essential Habit #5: Review & Reflection

This article is in a series of 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks that will revolutionise your life. You will find the series at A Higher Branch Blog Page.

What is Reflection and Review?

I touched on this habit in Ritual #1 on Journaling. When you develop the habit of reflecting and reviewing throughout the day, you flip any failures and rejections that inevitably happen into opportunities for LEARNING and GROWTH.

Why is this Habit Important?

Without a process for reflection and review, you will indulge in toxic thinking throughout the day. By the time the day is over and you arrive home, your feelings will be littered with negative beliefs about yourself. But when you ask yourself two simple questions in that moment you will avoid ruminating, you will feel better and you will sleep better that night ready for growth the next morning. The two simple steps/questions are:

· NOTICING: How am I feeling right now?
· LEARNING: What can I learn so I can do it differently next time?

Here are some examples of how we process rejection and failure without reflection and review and then with Reflection and Review:

Health: You did exercise and you feel rundown after it.

Without reflection and review your subconscious negative self-talk might sound like this: “I am not fit enough” or “I should wait until it gets warmer” or “I am just not cut out for exercise” or “I must be coming down with a cold”.

With reflection and review: “What can I learn from this? Did I eat too much before exercise? Do I need to get more sleep? Did I need to stretch? Did I over-train? Was I dehydrated? Should I train at a different time of day that suits my chrono-type?” What can I do differently next time?

Love & Relationships: You initiated intimacy and was rejected by your partner. Single? You initiated conversation and you were brushed.

Without Reflection and Review: “My partner does not find me attractive. My partner does not love me. I am dull and boring. I am ugly. I have nothing interesting to say.”

Now With Reflection and Review: “What can I learn from this? Did I choose the wrong timing to approach my partner/that person? Did they have a bad day? Were they feeling tired and self-conscious and not in the mood? How can I approach it differently next time?”

Work & Clients: Customer doesn’t call you back after a consultation.

Without Reflection and Review: “They don’t like me. I’m not good at my job. Others are better than me. I should try another job.”

Now with reflection and review: “What can I learn from this? Do they fear making a decision and a commitment? Was I coming on too strong? Did I listen enough in the meeting? Are they just not ready? What can I do differently next time?”

Notice from all the above examples, ALL reflection and review starts with step one: noticing and acknowledging your feelings and step 2: starting with the question: “WHAT CAN I LEARN FROM THIS?” and finishes with the question “HOW CAN I DO IT DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?”

WHY Do We Dump on Ourselves?

If I can be honest with you, the major reason is that it is easier to indulge in negative self-talk (as much as it hurts) than to confront the pain. It gives us the excuse to fail and stop trying. It is much harder to stop, feel the pain, and reflect and review what you have learned. Why? Because your learnings require action and a lot of the time, the action requires you to pivot and step outside of your comfort zone. So review and reflection is tough. Step 1 requires you to feel the pain (you need to feel to heal). Step 2 requires you to learn, grow and do something different.

How do YOU cultivate this Habit?

To cultivate this habit, you need to practice mindfulness meditation. I know you have heard that word too many times but the truth is that mindfulness works. It helps you realise that you are not your thoughts. You need to step outside of your thoughts and notice (step 1) and take different action (step 2).

Just like Habit #2 on Situational Gratitude, this Habit #5 on Reflection and review must happen in the moment. It cannot wait until you get home and journal. By all means still do that, but for it to be most effective, it needs to be practiced right there and then, straight after the interaction that led to the sinking feeling from a fail or rejection. You need to process it on the fly. I often take moments out of my day in between meetings to do that. Now it’s a habit.

This is why this series of articles starts with the 4 rituals, including the ritual of daily meditation. It is meditation that helps you to notice your thoughts and feelings (being mindful). Without the ritual of daily meditation, you will find it difficult to develop the habit of Reflection and Review in the moment.

(Our meditation coach, Tom Sullivan, is an expert that can help you and your organisation learn the practice of mindful meditation. Please reach out to him by emailing our team on enquiries@ahigherbranch.com He coaches our team every two weeks and the results have been nothing short of remarkable.)

Essential Habit #4: The Power of Posture

Habit #4 – The Power of Posture on Your Psychology
This article is in a series on the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks to consciously systemise your days. It will revolutionise the way you live and boost your performance, even on days where you lack motivation. You will find the series at A Higher Branch Blog Page. 

Why is Posture important?

“If eyes are the windows to the soul, then posture is a window into your emotions.” Sam Makhoul

Posture is a habit. And if your posture is not optimal it will affect your thoughts, feelings and your health. It will affect all personal and business interactions because of how others perceive you. Your clients and customers read your posture. Your children mimic your posture and mimic your body language subconsciously. What kind of posture do you want them to have? A confident one or a defeated one?

The Science

For many year’s psychologists have known that there is a feedback loop between our physiology and our psychology. How we feel is reflected in our posture and our facial expression. In turn, our posture, how we move, and our facial expression impacts how we feel. If you are in a poor emotional state, your shoulders will drop, you will look down more often, you will slouch, you will walk around like you’re tired, and you will start to feel tired. You become caught in a negative loop where your emotions drive your posture and the habit of your posture then reinforces your emotions.

You are no match for your emotions, right? Or are you? In 2010 psychologists Amy Cuddy, Dana Carney and Andy Yap pioneered the research that demonstrated that you can reverse the way you feel by posture alone. This research merely reinforced what teachers such as Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra and Norman Cousins have been saying for years. And it works. Changing your posture will change the way you feel, especially if it is compounded with Habit#1 in our series.

BUT, and it’s a BIG BUT, how do you reverse the habit of poor posture? A habit is very tough to break. It is one thing for researchers to prove something but another to provide the solution. NONE of the research tells us HOW to reverse the habit of being yourself (because your posture becomes who you are). Power posing proposed by Amy Cuddy in her famous TED talk has since been discredited as pseudoscience because it is not a realistic permanent solution.

Change Your Posture in TWO steps.

This article aims to provide the solution by addressing the real issue; that posture is a habit that is reinforced by muscle memory. And therefore to change your posture permanently you need to change muscle memory in a two step process designed by A Higher Branch in our Conscious Living program.

Step 1

Just like method actors in Hollywood or Bollywood, you need to develop the habit of being self-conscious. You need to constantly be aware of how you are standing, walking or expressing your movements. This self-awareness helps you to be more mindful of the circumstances or situations that cue your body to behave in a certain way. This will give you an insight into how you feel in that moment. Are you in a meeting where you feel uncertain about your competence? Are you in a social setting where you feel shy and introverted? Notice how your body is reflecting that emotion. Are you hunching? Are you shallow breathing? Are you shrinking and hoping to be invisible? Tell yourself that you are not your thoughts or emotions. You are the essence witnessing how you feel. That’s who you really are. You don’t have to do anything to change your posture at this stage. Just noticing it is enough, because the real solution comes in step 2. (For more information on “breaking the habit of being yourself”, refer to the guided meditations by Dr Joe Dispenza, whose book by the same name is a prescriptive masterpiece in noticing your thoughts).

Step 2

Step 2 is not a quick fix. Nothing in life is a quick fix – just ask David Goggins. Anyone that tells you otherwise is often trying to sell you something, 

Step 2 is all about doing exercises that build a great posture over time. This is where strength training, yoga and Pilates come in. There is no doubt that all three methods impact how we feel. The combination of breathing and movement dissipates anxiety and relieves depression. It does this by changing our body chemistry; the pharmacy of our physical. In fact, the benefits of exercise have been proven to be more effective than both Xanax and Prozac. 

But one other consequence of all three modalities is that they improve posture by strengthening the core. So, it not only changes your biology but also your psychology through your physiology. Your body starts to stand more upright. Your muscles become more toned and support you in a way that is reassuring and balanced. You will look taller, and therefore feel and look more confident.

So, changing your physiology and the habit of your posture starts with exercise that strengthen the core and leads to an effortless posture. A good posture is NOT one that is forced. It is not in power posing or in a military-style stiff, upright way with head up, shoulders back. A good posture should never be tiring to maintain.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss exercises that strengthen the core and correct the posture effortlessly, but I will say this: Yoga and Pilates in particular strengthen the core, lengthen the spine, makes you feel open, light and effortless. My new friend and yogini, Rebecca Jarvis described the importance of this on the spine as follows:  

“Posture is the framework that allows for energy or life-force to flow through the body.  The spine has an innate intelligence and energy that is inhibited when we’re tense and contracted.  We need the spine to be lengthened, to create an optimal flow of energy, and to serve as an open channel for our breathing.”

Rebecca recommends the following sequence of yoga moves for office workers who are sitting all day. It is a sequence designed by Elena Bower. Click here.

My mobility coach and good friend, Phong Thach, put it this way: “your best posture is in your next movement”. In other words, we need to keep moving. Sitting all day is the enemy of a good posture, no matter how upright you sit. 

As a strength trainer he recommends you take a few minutes twice a day to do exercises such as push-ups, lunges and holding the plank – all simple, can be done anywhere and designed to strengthen the core. And if you make it to the gym, he also recommends pull ups and anything that works the back muscles.  You need to train your core and your back muscles to a point where it is built into your muscle memory. 

The habit of a good posture is too important to ignore because it impacts so much of your psychology. And this is why it is in the top 5 habits of our Conscious Living series.

Essential Habit #3 – Greetings and Goodbyes

In case you missed them, here are the links to the first 2 habits

Habit #1 – Smile on Waking
Habit #2 – Situational Gratitude

This is a series of articles on the 4 essential daily rituals, 5 essential daily habits and 6 energy boosting life hacks. We have covered the 4 daily rituals. If you would like to catch up after reading this article, please visit www.ahigherbranch.com/blog to read the series.

Why are greetings and goodbyes so important?

And why is it such an important habit to cultivate? Greetings and farewells are an important catalyst between people and situations. It sets the tone, pace and energy transfer between people. It’s an impression you leave on people that either engages them or repels them, consciously or subconsciously. This is critical socially and in business. It can be your secret weapon or your greatest weakness. And it is a relatively easy habit to implement and has the most powerful impact on all your personal and professional relationships.

In this article I will step you through how to cultivate this daily habit with your partner, your family, your friends, your colleagues and your clients; so people get to experience the real you. “But I am not charismatic or charming. In fact, I can be awkward” I hear you say.

I am not asking you to be fake. I am asking you to master the art of greetings and goodbyes in a way that attracts people to you, whether you are an introvert or an extravert, forward or awkward, cheerful or reserved, talkative or observant. Some of the most lovable people I know are introverts.

But first some science….

Psychologists have for many years confirmed that there is energy transference between humans which mean people ‘feel’ your energy first and hear what you have to say second. The ancient sears also declared there is an invisible force that connect all humans and animals, a universal consciousness. We know it as ‘spirit’, ‘Prana’ or ‘Chi’. Microbiologists are now saying there is a cellular basis for it as well. Our microbiome (gut bacteria) speak to each other and decide whether there is “chemistry” between us. So, what does it mean for greetings and goodbyes? It means how you greet and bid farewell to people is an energy transference.

How to Greet and Farewell Your Partner

As Dr Guy Winch said at Upgrade Your Life 2019, “it’s in the little gestures”. The research shows that lavish gifts are easily forgotten and mean very little compared to the compounding effect of small daily gestures. You need to get into the habit of kissing and hugging on seeing your partner and on saying goodbye. It will strengthen your relationship and builds connection at a deep level.

Rule: It does not count if you don’t look your partner in the eyes. The kiss needs to be on the lips and the hug, full body. Every time you leave and return, without fail, no exceptions, whether in a hurry or not, whether they reciprocate or not. Back it up with loving words and a smile. Make it a commitment from this day onwards and watch your relationship transform. It’s in the little things….

Your Family

The bottom line here is to greet and say goodbye to your family every time. Never ever sneak out. It sends a message to your kids that they do not matter. Greetings and goodbyes make children feel more emotionally secure.

Have a family meeting and tell your children it is important for the family to greet and say goodbye to each other. Make it a family rule. It will feel weird at first, if you have not done it in a while, but in a few days it will feel natural and reassuring. It will fill your home with joy and love. It is that powerful.

Children love big hugs– especially big family group hugs. Teenage children not so much but you can still insist on a small hug. Young children also love secret handshakes as a way of saying hello and goodbye.
Rule: Do not wait for them to come to you. If you enter the house it is your cue to announce your entry and find your family members. Be playful, fun or endearing. “How is my gorgeous family tonight?”

Your Friends

Greeting friends should be done warmly, with a smile and their name spoken out loud. People love to hear their name. It is a primal trigger for them to get closer to you. It builds instant connection, especially if you have not seen them in a while. Using phrases such as “Hey mate/buddy/beautiful” or “See ya mate/buddy/beautiful” are also terms of endearment you can use for friends you see often.

Should you kiss, touch or hug? If you know them well, then yes otherwise this should be limited to people of the same gender. More discretion should be exercised with the opposite sex whatever your heritage. An air kiss may be more suitable. You need to treat each friend individually. Some are affectionate and love a hug, others are uncomfortable and prefer their private space.

When saying goodbye to friends always leave them with a compliment that is genuine and leaves an impact on them.

Your Work Colleagues

Handshakes are usually adequate. High five’s is also okay in a team environment.

It is not appropriate to kiss colleagues unless you are long time colleagues who have become friends and you are meeting at a social function outside of work.

If you work in an office within a team, you need to make it your daily habit of greeting and saying goodbye to everyone in that team. A work environment resembles a family one. And all relationships require a sense of recognition and connection. Greeting and farewelling makes everyone feel valued.

Your Clients/Customers

The bottom line with clients and customers is to always leave an impression that you genuinely care. You need to be professional at all times. Shaking hands with eye contact and a smile is the general rule. A two cheek European kiss is not appropriate unless they are a long-time client. A warm but professional greeting captures their attention and builds instant rapport. “I was really looking to meeting you today.” A graceful and charming exit will make you unforgettable. It is how you make them feel on exit. It should never be hurried. “I enjoyed our meeting. Rest assured I will always do my best for you. This I promise you.”

Some Rules

Be present when you kiss or hug or shake hands. It never counts if you do not look the other person in the eye, warmly. Looking away is a big no-no. Never make too-personal comments, especially in cases of divorce, bereavement or illness.

If you are arriving home from work and in the wrong head space, stay in your car and do a brain dump in your diary to get your ‘to-do’ list out of your head. That way you can switch off and greet your family from the heart.

If you are at work and preoccupied when someone greets you, bring your awareness to your breath. This will bring you to the present moment where you can switch your attention to them and greet them properly and listen attentively.

Back it up with words. Whether you are greeting or saying goodbye, words in conjunction with a kiss, hug or handshake makes it more personal. “I love coming here…” applies when visiting not only family but also friends. “You always make my day…” is another example with friends and colleagues. Make it genuine and make it appropriate depending on the closeness of the relationship.

What is your trigger? Ask yourself this question. “If this is the last time you get to see this person, how do you want them to remember your last interaction. When it comes to your partner, family or close friends, even more so. You never know what happens in life. I know this is a morbid thought but knowing this helps make you memorable. It puts your greeting or goodbye into real perspective.

My Promise

I know the habit of greetings and goodbyes is simple and this article is unremarkable, but simple habits such as this need not be remarkable. The fact that it is ordinary should make it an easy habit to infuse into your days. And I promise you when you master the art of greetings and goodbyes, you will become unforgettable and bring joy to everyone around you.

Essential 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 2 days will revolutionise your whole year.