Why Having a Positive Attitude Isn’t Enough

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Have a positive attitude!

We hear this advice all the time. Have a positive attitude and things will work out.

Unfortunately life isn’t that simple. Our lives are filled with heartbreaks, losses, failures, and setbacks. There has to be more we can do than prop up the ideal of a positive attitude.

I’m not opposed to having a positive attitude. In fact, I believe maintaining a positive attitude defines how close we get to realizing our life potential. The only problem is that positive attitudes don’t just drop from the sky. A specific mindset is required in order to generate an authentic positive attitude.

Let’s dive deeper.

Enter the Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck achieved positive psychology stardom through her groundbreaking book Mindset. She defines two kinds of mindsets people can have: growth mindsets and fixed mindsets.

Dweck describes a growth mindset as maintaining the belief that skills grow through effort. People with a growth mindset are focused on getting better. With enough effort, change is possible. Any trait or skill can be developed from bad to good or from good to great.

If growth mindsets represent the ideal, then fixed mindsets fall on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Dweck describes those with a fixed mindset as focusing on permanent traits. The key word is “fixed.” Anything that is fixed remains the same over time.

If ability remains the same over time, why try? Any attempt to improve looks plain stupid.

Sucking at Math

How does one’s mindset affect one’s attitude? There’s no clearer example than learning the subject of math.

Let’s meet Sarah and Leo, both of whom struggle at math. Sarah is aware of her struggles, but believes through hard work she can improve and eventually become great at math. Leo is also aware of his struggles, but continuously tells himself he “sucks at math.”

An onlooker can easily claim Leo has a negative attitude while Sarah has a positive attitude. All Leo has to do is change his attitude. Right?

Not quite.

What Leo needs to focus on isn’t his attitude, but rather his mindset. Why? Because a positive attitude is a byproduct of having a growth mindset.

Currently Leo believes he sucks at math, which indicates he has a fixed mindset. Leo can be as positive as he wants, but until he has a mindset makeover not much will change.

In order for Leo to succeed at math (or anything else in life), he will need to convert from having a fixed mindset to having a growth mindset. As a byproduct, he will go from having a negative attitude to a positive one.

With this understanding we can come up with two simple equations:

Growth Mindset = Positive Attitude

Fixed Mindset = Negative Attitude

The Cart Before the Horse

Having a positive attitude without a growth mindset is putting the cart before the horse. It’s like learning multiplication before addition. It’s like teaching a child to walk before they learn to crawl. It’s like….

You get the idea.

The best thing you can do is maintain the belief that through effort things can change. Belief in change generates the positive attitude society values.

Focus on maintaining a growth mindset. The attitude will take care of itself.

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Why You Can’t Remember What Others Can

Imagine you’re speaking with a longtime friend you haven’t seen in years.  During the conversation, you bring up a memorable road trip the two of you took along with a group of friends.  Your friend looks puzzled and admits she has no recollection of the trip.  You think: “Is she serious right now?”.  How could your friend have no recollection of the trip, while you have fond memories of it?

This basic interaction begs the question: if two people experience the same thing, why does one person remember the experience while the other doesn’t?  More generally speaking, why do some people have better memories than others? 

The simple answer is genetics.  Some people are predisposed to remembering things better than others.  But that’s a lazy answer, and we’re not lazy people. 

We can understand memory better by first discussing experiences most people can remember, which can be broken down into three components.  After breaking down each component, I’ll connect all three to an overarching theme that is the grandaddy reason why we remember certain things and not others.

Monumental Memories

There are certain things most of us tend to remember.  The birth of a child, weddings, and graduations are all examples of what we’ll call “monumental memories”.  These moments are etched into our minds.  Why are these experiences things we’ll never forget?  

There are three components that make monumental experiences into memories we don’t forget.  The components are emotion, uniqueness, and importance.*  


Anything that elicits a strong emotion creates a memorable experience.  Weddings are filled with laughter and joy.  Funerals are comprised of sorrow and despair.  Even a seemingly trivial experience can be ingrained into our memories with the help of a strong emotion.  If you’re driving to work and see a hilarious billboard, the emotional kick of laughter can make the experience memorable.


We’re more likely to remember experiences that occur “once in a blue moon” as opposed to what occurs on a frequent basis.  Weddings are memorable for this reason because they are unique occurrences.  Now let’s say you’re a wedding crasher that attends weddings every weekend.  It’s unlikely the wedding crasher will remember every wedding.  All the weddings get meshed together because they are no longer unique.


We remember what we care about, and the things we care about have importance in our lives.  If you strive to climb the corporate latter, then getting a promotion is important.  The day your boss tells you you’ve been chosen for an upper managerial role is a day you will likely remember.  

The Grandaddy to Memories

Importance, uniqueness, and emotion all tie into one overarching theme.  Meaning.

What’s deemed meaningful is what’s remembered.  We become emotional because we have been moved by meaning.  We identity unique occurrences that create meaning.  We recognize something as important because it is meaningful.  

Failure to remember experiences is from a lack of meaning.  Therefore it’s not an issue of memory, but rather a failure in adding meaning to memories.  It’s easy to remember graduations and weddings because we’re conditioned to believe these are meaningful experiences. 

But what about my friend who failed to remember what I thought was a memorable trip?  From my friend’s perspective, the trip was a means of transportation from one place to the next.  From my perspective, the trip solidified our friendship.  It reminded me how fortunate I was to be part of a wonderful group of people.  

A means of transportation versus solidifying friendships.  No wonder I remembered the trip while my friend had no recollection.  

Find Meaning

We’re conditioned to believe only certain things are meaningful.  The thing is — most of life is mundane.  Therefore it’s our job to find meaning in the mundane.    

Meaning can be found anywhere you look, but you need to have the right perspective.  Not only are you watching the sun set, but you’re also internalizing the miracles of mother nature.  Not only were you helped up after a fall, but you recognized the kindness exhibited by strangers.  

Find meaning in your experiences.  Why?  Because a life of meaningful experiences leads to a life of meaning.  The issue isn’t a poor memory, but rather a failure to look at life through a meaningful lens.    


*If you’re wondering how I came up with the different components of memory, I was influenced by the two readings below:
Why Do We Remember Certain Things, But Forget Others?
Nostalgia, Emotions, and Why We Remember What We Remember 

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How to Make Better Decisions

Imagine you’re out to lunch and you’re deciding between a fresh salad or a juicy burger.  Part of you wants to order the salad for health reasons, while the other part of you wants to devour the juicy burger.  When the waiter comes over to take your order, what do you do?

Your decision is largely based on what mindset you’re in.  If you’re thinking short-term, you’re likely to order the burger to satisfy your craving.  If you’re thinking long-term, you’re likely to order the salad knowing it’s better for your long term health.  There’s a problem with this mental calculation.  You shortchange yourself by thinking only in terms of short term and long term.  One must recognize the full scope of pros and cons with every decision encountered.  In order to understand the full scope, there’s a third time frame that must be taken into account.  

Understanding the Mid-Term

Let’s say you order the burger.  You’ve made the decision to indulge in a short term pleasure in expense of your long term health.  While you’re stuffing your face, all you can think about is how great a decision you made bypassing the salad.  Leaves are gross anyway.

All is well as you pay the check.  You head back to your desk ready to tackle the rest of your workday.  Unfortunately by the early afternoon you start to feel the effects of the greasy burger sitting in your tummy.  You’re tired, lethargic, and feel like a sloth (according to yummypets.com, sloths are considered one of the five laziest animals in the animal kingdom — the more you know).

Was the energy-sucking effects of the burger a short term or long term consequence? The answer is neither. In truth, feeling like a sloth is a mid-term consequence.  The feeling of exhaustion falls between the short term burger indulgence and the long term health concerns. Mid-term consequences exist in almost every decision we make.  See a few more examples below:

  • Binge Drinking
    • Short Term – Euphoric night
    • Mid-Term – Hangover
    • Long-Term – Damaged liver
  • Lie to a Friend
    • Short Term – Avoid a difficult conversation
    • Mid Term – Lose a friend
    • Long Term – Diminished reputation within the community

Mid-term consequences can also serve us in a positive way.  Case in point below:

  •   Get More Sleep
    • Short term – Go to bed earlier
    • Mid-Term – Easier time waking up in the morning
    • Long-Term – Feel more energized throughout the day

So What?

Why is it important to take into account mid-term consequences?  Because it forces us to take into account the full scope of our actions, which in turn allows us to make better decisions. 

Think back to the burger vs. salad decision.  Without mid-term thinking, you thought the negative consequence of ordering the burger was solely your long term health.  Now insert the mid-term consequence, and you’re looking at a consequential double whammy.  Ordering the burger impacts your afternoon energy (mid-term) and your long term health (long-term). 

With this new mindset, you’ll be more inclined to make a better decision. The exercise of taking into account mid-term consequences makes you realize every decision you make carries more weight than you initially think.  A seemingly trivial decision can impact how you feel — not only in the moment, but also in the coming hours, days, and months.

If you desire to improve your decision making, think mid-term.  Ditch the burger, but if you choose to get it anyway, at least know what you’re getting yourself into.   

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Letting Go Of Sentimental Items

Throughout our lives we acquire things that over time create sentimental value.  Perhaps you have an item that has a memory attached to it.  That item could sit in your closet, basement, or garage.  You no longer use this item, but the thought of giving it away gives you anxiety.

We must ask ourselves, how do we coexist with belongings that have fulfilled their purpose, but maintain a sentimental attachment in our lives?

We send them off!

You may be wondering why this is the case.  Hopefully my backpack story will shed light on my reasoning.

My Odd Backpack Story

Throughout my last few months of college I rocked the backpack you see below.

Screen Shot 2020-08-03 at 6.55.02 AM.png

Aside from the awesomeness (or absurdity) of the backpack design, the thing that made the bag so special was how I acquired it.  You see, there’s actually quite a backstory to the bag.  My friend owned the bag and I convinced him to accept my Beats by Dre headphones in exchange for the bag.  Great choice!

During our negotiation over the backpack, my friend told me he wasn’t the first owner of the bag.  Apparently a college student at The University of Texas at Austin bought the bag.  Somehow my friend convinced the Texas student to give him the bag in exchange for something else.

This meant I was the third owner of the bag.  With this knowledge came added responsibility.  I wasn’t going to let the legacy of the green/pink JanSport backpack die on my watch.

The bag had a great run.  The combination of a 6’4″ guy walking around with a bright pink/green backpack made it possible for my friends, or anyone really, to spot me a mile across campus.  But as we know, all things must come to an end.  After graduating, I realized the workforce wasn’t going to be as receptive to the bag as my college community was.

There was a problem though.  Despite the fact I stopped using the bag, it still provided sentimental meaning in my life.  As a result, the bag sat in my closet for two years.  Eventually a hard decision was made.  I decided to mail the bag off to a rising senior at my alma mater.  Included with the bag were instructions – I recommended that the new recipient should pass the bag off to somebody else after graduation.

To my knowledge the bag has indeed been passed down yet again.  The current owner is the fifth owner of the bag.  If you see a bright pink/green JanSport backpack around Elon University, know it was once mine.

Letting Things Go

We must learn to let physical belongings go.  Letting go of my backpack, which made me feel uneasy at first, turned out to be a liberating decision.  I’ve come up with three reasons why it felt so great to let it go! (Had to reference the movie Frozen at least once in this post).

Forward Minded

The bag represented a clinging to the past.  After graduation, each time I looked at the bag it created a longing in me for a previous stage of my life.  The sight of the bag took me out of my forward minded mentality.

Once the bag was sent off, I felt a sentimental burden lifted from my shoulders.  I could focus on creating new opportunities without being bogged down thinking about “the good old days”.

Forge a Bond

It’s one thing to tell someone you trust them.  It’s another thing to give that person something of sentimental value.  The act of giving something of sentimental value to somebody is a profound indicator of trust.  It’s like saying “hey, I appreciate, trust, and respect you enough to give you something that has meant a lot to me”.

The recipient of the bag was very appreciative of the gesture.  We always had a mutual respect for each other, but passing down the bag forged a unique bond between us that I believe will continue for years to come.

Bring Joy to Others

I came to the realization that what made the bag special wasn’t my emotional attachment to it, but rather the pleasure other’s experienced when seeing the bag.

The bag created a feeling of warmth.  So then how was keeping the bag in my closet generating positive vibes?  I was doing the bag a disservice by stashing it in my closet.  If this sounds like a toxic relationship, I can confirm it was just that.

The bag had fulfilled its purpose in my life.  Therefore the best thing I could do was pass the bag off to somebody else who could continue the bag’s legacy.

Call to Action

Think about your belongings that at one time served a genuine purpose but have since become a memento.  If that item could be useful to another person, then figure out who would best fulfill the purpose of the item.  Since you’re giving away something of meaning, ensure that person is somebody you trust.

If you’re fearful of giving something sentimental away, remember this: what we fear isn’t losing sentimental belongings, but rather the memories attached to those belongings.

The act of giving doesn’t diminish your memories in any way.  If something is meaningful, you will carry those memories with you for the rest of your life.  In fact, by giving something away the item becomes even more meaningful and memorable.  There is power in knowing something of value is now in the possession of somebody you value.

Let go of the mementos holding you back.  In the process you’ll forge a bond with somebody you care about.  That’s what we call a win-win!

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Being Funny vs. Having a Sense of Humor

What’s so funny?

The world we live in is filled with hardships.  Every one of us faces unique struggles catered to our lives.  Amid all of this, one of the most common pieces of advice is to not take life too seriously and learn to laugh at ourselves.

Some may interject with “I’m not funny – how am I supposed to lighten up amid my struggles?”.  There’s a misconception that one has to be funny to enable the lighter side of life.  In reality there’s a difference between being funny and having a sense of humor.  By differentiating these two concepts, you’ll come to realize all you need is a sense of humor.  No “being funny’ required.

Being Funny – External

According to Dictionary.com, the word funny is defined as “providing fun; causing amusement or laughter; amusing; comical“.  Being funny is the ability to make others laugh.  You tell a joke and others laugh.  You tell a comical story and others laugh.  Being funny is an external act.  How funny you are has no bearing on whether you make yourself laugh.

Sense of Humor – Internal

Dictionary.com defines the term sense of humor as “the ability to find things funny, general enjoyment in doing so, or the particular types of things one finds funny“.  Having a sense of humor means only making yourself laugh.  Unlike being funny, you don’t have to worry whether somebody else is laughing.  Maintaining humor is an internal act.

There are plenty of ways to seek out humor.  Watch a TV show and laugh.  Watch a petty argument between two strangers and laugh.  Most importantly, observe your own life as if you’re in a sitcom and laugh.  Only with a sense of humor can you laugh off your day to day mishaps.

So What?

Hopefully now you recognize the difference between being funny and having a sense of humor.  It’s critical to have a sense of humor.  And the good news is having a sense of humor doesn’t require one to be funny.  Even if you’re the least funny person in the world, you still have the ability to maintain a sense of humor.

Why is it important to have a sense of humor?  Humor allows us to lighten up and put things in perspective.  We all can relate to moments in our lives where we felt embarrassment.  If something was truly embarrassing and you don’t want to think about it, I’m truly sorry.  But if something happened worth a dose of humor then by all means embrace that humor.

Additionally humor creates some of our greatest memories.  These are the moments we laugh so hard we can hardly breath.  The funniest moments occur when something is unintentionally funny.  Unintentionally funny moments are those in which something seemingly serious or mundane turns out to be so funny you can’t help but laugh your socks off.  Unless you have a sense of humor, you won’t recognize those unintentionally funny moments.  What a shame that would be.

Don’t worry about being funny and making others laugh.  As long as you can laugh at yourself and look at the world through a humorous scope, you’ll be well on your way.

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The Four Pillars of Life

People say life is all about having a healthy work-life balance.  The concept of a work-life balance is incomplete.  Life cannot simply be broken down as time spent working and time spent outside of work.  Our lives are much more intertwined and deserve a bit more complexity.

Instead of analyzing life as two entities (work and life), think of life consisting of four pillars.  Every action one takes can be designated under each pillar.  The four pillars of life are self, career, relationships, and world.  Below I will break down each pillar, and afterwards, explain the importance of combining multiple pillars at the same time.

1. Self

Think of this pillar the way people think about what it means to conduct self-care.  It’s important you do things that benefit yourself.  This could be something as simple as maintaining personal hygiene (showering, brushing your teeth), taking care of your health (sleeping, exercising), as well as leisure activities (watching TV, reading).

2. Career

Of all four pillars, this is likely the easiest to identify.  The time spent on your career can include the hours you spend at work, as well as the hours spent working at home or on the road.  For many people, the time spent on their career takes up the highest percentage of their time compared to the other pillars.

3. Relationships

The time spent with friends or family fall under the relationships pillar.  It’s critical we allocate time towards maintaining current relationships while nurturing new ones.  Honing in on our relationships can feel secondary, especially when life gets busy.  Therefore we must proactively set aside time to connect with those we care about.

4. World

Think of the world pillar as doing things that help the greater community.  Volunteering your time, donating to causes, and supporting social movements are all examples of contributions one can make to make the world a better place.

Intertwining Pillars

It’s critical to incorporate a balanced life between the four pillars.  Perhaps too much time is spent on one’s career while relationships fall by the wayside.  For others, the issue might be too much emphasis is placed on oneself while not enough energy is channeled into helping the greater world.

Every one of us have faced pillar imbalances at some point in our lives.  Part of the solution is rescheduling or reprioritizing your life.  Unfortunately many of us are too busy to properly balance the four pillars of life.  The key is to combine multiple pillars at the same time.  It’s critical to intertwine pillars into the same activities, which creates moments of greater impact.

While there are numerous pillar combination scenarios, I’ve highlighted a few notable ones below:

Self + Relationships: Think of things you do solo but could also be done with one or more people.  Find a friend who’s willing to be your workout buddy.  Instead of individually reading a book, find a community or book club to discuss it with.

Relationships + World: Forums to make a difference are also a great way to meet like-minded people.  You’re likely to build strong relationships with people who believe in the same vision and values as you.  Alternatively you can bring a friend along to volunteer with you.

Career + World: Does your job already intertwine with benefitting the greater community?  If the answer is yes, then great!  If the answer is no, then talk to your team for potential volunteer days or how your work can better support the community.

Self + Career: Find ways your career can improve you as a person.  Does your job challenge you to personally grow?  Perhaps there are opportunities to work on your listening skills, which will serve you better when at interacting with family at home.


As I write this post I’ve come to the following conclusion: it’s not only balancing our lives we strive for, but also interconnecting our lives.  Instead of growing yourself, why not do it with a group of people?  If you’re a workaholic, why not allocate some of your work time to benefit the greater community?

Don’t let a lack of time be an excuse for an unbalanced life.  Intertwine your life to get a healthy dosage of all four pillars.

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Having Your Own Standards

In 2015, Stephen Colbert was the Wake Forest University graduation commencement speaker.  He stressed the importance to have your own standards.  I love this mentality because it pushes us to consider what standards to hold ourselves to.  Sometimes standards imply the bear minimum, in which case it’s beneficial to hold a standard beyond what’s expected.

The concept of having your own standards is critical, but how does one apply this general concept into specific elements of their life?  The key is to identify instances in your life when there are gaps between common standards and personal standards.  I have an example from my own life that hopefully paints a clearer picture.

Shooting Hoops

Anyone who plays or watches basketball knows the goal is to put a rubber ball through a metal cylinder.  It doesn’t matter if the ball hits the rim three times or bounces off the backboard.  As long as the ball drops through the hoop it’s considered a made basket.

Over the years I’ve played shooting games where the basket only counts if the shot is a “swoosh”.  The swoosh is the sound the ball makes when the ball goes through the hoop without touching the medal cylinder.  It’s the purest shot in basketball not only because it makes a great sound, but also because it indicates the shot had the utmost precision.

Playing basketball games that required a swoosh shifted my frame of mind.  Instead of aspiring to the standard of making shots, my mind zoned in on swooshing shots.  I found I began swooshing a higher percentage of my shots.  More importantly my shooting percentage (shots made out of total shots taken) increased.  Keep in mind the majority of shots made aren’t swooshes, but still result in a positive outcome.  This aligns well with the old adage “Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss you land among the stars”.   Some of my “misses” would be makes for those with lower standards.

The Swoosh of Life

I recognize most people reading this have little to no interest in improving their jump shot.  Regardless you should ask yourself, “what’s my personal swoosh?“.  Your personal swoosh establishes your own standard that goes beyond the common standard.  Find areas in your own life where you attempt to swoosh it when others simply attempt to make it.  Perhaps your swoosh is to take 15,000 daily steps instead of the common standard of 10,000 daily steps.  Let’s say on a specific day you manage only 12,000 steps.  You may not have achieved your personal swoosh but you still surpassed the standard of 10,000 steps.

An objection to creating one’s own personal higher standard is experiencing disappointment.  Some people may feel if they set the bar too high, they will continuously fall short.  It’s vital to accept in order to set a higher standard, you must be ok with a higher rate of failure.  Swooshes wouldn’t be special if you achieved them with such ease.  Your swoosh should only be achieved in the moments your true potential is realized.


Even if you come short of your personal swoosh, by setting a higher bar for yourself, you will increase the likelihood of meeting or exceeding standards set by others.  Establishing a swoosh narrows your target, which gives you clarity on the specific result you desire.  Just as important, creating your own standard gives you a sense of control within your life.  It feels empowering to create rules within your own life, especially when it feels others are constantly making rules for us.

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3 Issues With The Slogan “Better Than Yesterday”

Every year I come up with a slogan to live by.  At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s I’ll put on a wristband with the slogan I’ve selected.  The chosen slogan for 2020 was Better Than Yesterday.  I chose this slogan because I liked the message of constant self improvement from the day before.

As the year has progressed, I’ve come to realize there are shortcomings to the slogan Better Than Yesterday.  My feeling towards the phrase festered to the point I’ve recently removed the wrist band from my arm.  Scandalous to say the least!  You might think what is wrong with the phrase?  After some deep thinking I’ve come up with three reasons why the slogan Better Than Yesterday doesn’t live up to standards.  Afterwards I’ve come up with an alternate phrase to counter Better Than Yesterday.

1. Unrealistic Expectations

Better Than Yesterday indicates you should always be better than the day before.  Unfortunately that’s not how things work.  Even if you give your best effort, there will be days that don’t go as well.  Let’s say you play golf everyday for a week.  Anybody who plays golf knows there are days you can’t sink a putt or keep a drive in the fairway to save your life.  This idea that if you play seven consecutive days and play marginally better each day is unrealistic.  You might start forcing the action to play better, which will in turn make you play worse.  You’ll go from thinking  Better Than Yesterday to instead thinking Worse Than Yesterday.

2. Pressure to Take No Days Off

If you wake up and shout Better Than Yesterday, your mentality becomes one-upping whatever you did yesterday.  If your goal is to one-up what you accomplished yesterday, you likely won’t take time to recharge.  Over time your mind and body will fatigue. Eventually you’ll begin to see diminishing return on your efforts.  The mental frustration along with physical fatigue can lead to burnout.  Think back to our golf example.  If you played poorly the last few days you might have a burning desire to get back out the following day to make amends.  The issue may not be your physical swing, when in reality your mind is pressing too hard.  The best solution is take time away from the course, which can reset your mind to perform at a higher level.

3. Too Short Term Oriented

Comparing yourself to yesterday can cause a loss of perspective.  There may not have been improvement from yesterday, and if there was improvement it was too marginal to even notice.  The real growth happens over a longer period of time.  Think back to when you were a child and tracking your height as you aged.  From your perspective you look the exact same height as you did yesterday.  If you’re always making a comparison solely to yesterday you aren’t going to notice your physical height increasing.  Now compare your own day to day perspective with somebody who only gets to see you once or twice a year.  That person remarks how much you’ve grown from the last time he or she saw you.  The reason this person notices the growth is because their comparison point is from the last time they saw you, whether that’s three months ago or a year ago.


It’s critical to maintain perspective when tracking your growth over time.  We choose how we look at the past, which as a result influences our current perspective and motivation for the future.  Therefore compare your ability today to where you were over a longer period of time.  The slogan Better Than Yesterday should be converted to Better Than Last Week, Better Than Last Month, or Better Than Last Year.  You decide which length is right for you based off your unique challenges.  This shift allows for a longer term perspective while eliminating unnecessary pressure and unrealistic expectations to improve day to day.

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Exchanging Problems

Let’s follow the short tale of Richard and his five problems.

We begin as Richard is seeking a job.  At this point he’s unemployed and can barely pay his rent (Problem #1).

Finally after months of searching Richard lands a job.  Though he can pay his rent, Richard finds his job unfulfilling and dreads going to work (Problem #2).

Thankfully Richard is a hard worker, and manages to rise the ranks into a position he is satisfied with.  All good right?  Wrong.  Despite the fact Richard has a job he likes, the job offers no work life balance (Problem #3).

Richard learns how to properly manage his time better, which results in more free time.  With more flexibility, Richard decides to consistently hit the gym.  He realizes pretty quickly his fitness has dropped significantly since high school (Problem #4).

As we know Richard is a disciplined guy.  After months of training Richard gets into the best shape of his life.  Anxious to test his endurance, Richard begins researching upcoming marathons in his area but can’t seem to find any (Problem #5).

What do you notice about the problems as they progress?  How does Problem #1 (unemployed/can’t pay rent) compare to Problem #5 (can’t find nearby marathon race)? It’s safe to assume all of us would rather deal with finding a marathon compared to finding a job.  Richard’s problems decrease in severity as each problem is properly addressed.

What Richard is doing is exchanging bad problems for less bad problems.  Obviously Richard doesn’t exist, but many of us have faced similar problems.  Once a problem is solved, we upgrade to a less serious or better problem that didn’t exist before.  This is a never-ending cycle throughout our lives.  The ideal scenario isn’t to have no problems, but rather reach a point in which the problems you’re dealing with are minimal in the grander scheme of things.

I used to think all problems were bad.  That is the furthest thing from reality.  There are good problems and bad problems.  We can all think of examples of bad problems.  But when is comes to good problems, we still manage to exhaust ourselves stressing over them.  The next time you’re stuck in the grocery line, remind yourself that’s a good problem to have.  Instead of the problem being a long line, it could have been not having enough money to buy the groceries in the first place.  Good problems serve as a a reminder we’ve reached a point in which the bad problems have been solved.

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The Problem With New Years Resolutions

We’re approaching that time of year when people begin chirping about New Years resolutions. Typically a resolution is a personal goal you set for yourself that you’ll religiously do every day in the coming calendar year.  As we all know, resolutions are more of a joke since it seems more times than not, people don’t actually follow through.

I’m not going to explain techniques on how to create the right resolution, or even try to explain how to follow through with it.  Instead I’ll explain why resolutions don’t make sense.  But to simply explain why they’re bad isn’t good enough.  Nothing is more unappealing than telling somebody there’s a problem without offering a solution.  Having said that, below are three reasons why resolutions are bad, and one resounding solution to this nonsense!

Reason #1 – Creates Procrastination

Let’s say you decide on December 17th your New Years resolutions is to exercise at least 30 minutes every day.  Does that mean you don’t exercise at all until the New Year?  Perhaps waking up at 6am to workout seemed like a great idea in mid-December, but by January 1st may not seem so appealing. By creating a resolution that you agree to start sometime in the future, you run a risk. The longer an idea wanes without taking action, the less motivated you’ll be to accomplish what you set out to do.  

Reason #2 – Allows Failure to be an Option

It’s January 1st and you’re ready to attack the 30 minute daily workout routine head on! Unfortunately by mid-January your flaming passion for exercise has mysteriously vanished.  At that point you say the magical words, “well there’s always next year”.  The second your resolution begins to slip, you think the resolution for the year is a lost cause.  Resolutions can create this feeling.  The moment we slip up, we may as well give up and wait for next year.

Reason #3 – Bad Timing

Think long and hard about New Years Day.  It’s likely you’re either on vacation, with family, or away from home.  Maybe you had too much fun New Years Eve, and therefore the thought of exercising the following day sounds like your worst nightmare.  Why is it that we decide to begin resolutions on a day when most of us are not in our daily routines?  In a way, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

The Solution

This is very simple.  Start your resolution today!  This means as soon as you finish reading this paragraph.  Don’t wait for New Years or sometime in the future.  There will never be a perfect time. The moment you come up with a resolution is the same day you should start it.  Take swift and immediate action towards whatever it is you’re aspiring to accomplish.  And if you slip up, realize this is not a one year challenge but an ongoing lifetime pursuit.  The world is your oyster, so get after it!

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Post-Decision Bias

Everyday we are faced with decisions.  Once a decision has been made we live with the results. When reflecting we tend to categorize previous choices as the right decision or the wrong decision. There’s a problem with this.  With many decisions, we can never definitively say whether it was the right or wrong one.  Let me illustrate this with a personal example.

On a daily basis I’m faced with a critical decision during my morning commute.  Like many New York City residents, I take the subway to work.  The original subway I get on is a local train, which means it makes every possible stop.  What’s interesting is I have the option to step off the train at my second stop, in order to get on the express train.  The express train makes fewer stops, and therefore I can get to my desired stop faster.

Now it would seem obvious to step off the local train in order to get on the express train.  Here’s the problem though.  Let’s say I make the decision to take the express train.  Once on the platform I hear the express train has been delayed.  Even worse when the express train arrives there’s no room for new passengers.  This means I have to wait for the next express train.  At this point I’m regretting my decision of stepping off the local train.

Looking back it’s easy to assume I made the wrong decision.  But not so fast!  I’ll never know if there were delays on the local train.  As any New Yorker knows, anything can happen on your morning commute.  There easily could have been delays on the local train.  Despite that, I’m still pouting on the platform questioning my life decision.

We must remember we can’t always be certain the correct decision has been made.  Think about the all the decisions you’ve made in your life, big or small.  Anything as small as deciding what to eat for lunch or as big as deciding where to attend school.  After a decision has been made, we are left wondering whether we made the right decision.  It’s common to question our decisions when things start to go wrong.

When things start to go wrong, remember that you likely have no idea what would have happened had you chosen a different option.  The following statement I’ve decided to call Post-Decision Bias, which is the following — we overemphasize the negative in what we have and overemphasize the positive in what we passed up on.  For all we know the other choice could have been even worse!

So the next time you make a decision, remember that all choices have pros and cons.  This includes the choice you made and the alternative option you passed up on.  Once you make a decision, accept it and then figure out how to make the most out of it.

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Appreciating The Anticipation

One of the most overused expressions is the following: “the journey matters more than the destination”.  Don’t get me wrong I wholeheartedly believe in this principle.  The problem is it’s been thrown around so much, to the point it has become somewhat of a cliché.  It wasn’t until I read the following passage from the novel The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff that I fully internalized this concept.

“The honey doesn’t taste as good once it is being eaten; the goal doesn’t mean so much once it is reached; the reward is not so rewarding once it has been given.  If we add up all the rewards in our lives, we won’t have very much.  But if we add up the spaces between the rewards, we’ll come up with quite a bit.  And if we add up the rewards and the spaces, then we’ll have everything.”  


Now let’s break this down.  I’ll examine the rewards as well as the spaces between the rewards.


A “reward” can be something we hope to receive as a result of hard work.  Examples include receiving a job promotion, making the varsity basketball team, or winning the Noble Peace Prize.  But there’s another type of reward.  Rewards can also be things we quite simply look forward to.  This can include such things as a party, a long awaited vacation, Christmas Day, the debut of Jay-Z’s new album, or the Super Bowl.

When it comes to rewards, especially things we don’t have to work towards, we focus on the actual event.  That’s a shame considering these “rewards” make up only a small portion of our lives.  This is where the “spaces” component comes into play.

“Spaces Between the Rewards”

Think of “spaces” as everything except the actual thing you’re looking forward to.  In many instances the spaces can be the anticipation for what’s to come.  There are countless examples.  The tailgate before the big game, the day before Christmas, or the car ride to the party.  I’d imagine in hindsight fond memories were made.  But did you appreciate those moments as they were occurring, or were you too focused on the actual event?

What’s important to realize is the reward is not always what we expect it to be.  Sometimes it’s exactly what we expect and we’re thrilled as a result.  But there are other times we are extremely disappointed by the reward.  Perhaps the party you were looking forward to turned out to be a complete bust.  But the fact you were looking forward it, had spent time talking about it with your friends, and had blasted you’re favorite music on the way there must mean the whole ordeal couldn’t have been an entire bust.


Regardless of the rewards we receive in our lives, whether through hard work or upcoming events, make sure to recognize the beauty that lies in the anticipation.  The anticipation is consistently pleasurable, while the reward —  well, that isn’t always the case.  Therefore recognize the anticipation as an extension of the reward, which at times is the best part of the reward.  As a result you’ll appreciate more aspects of life and have a better perspective of things as they unfold.

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3 Life Lessons From Dogs

Every year people spend millions of dollars seeking the answers to life.  We attend seminars, read books, and listen to every podcast.  What we are seeking is happiness, success, and fulfillment.  Being bombarded by different theories and programs can get extremely overwhelming, especially in this day and age in which many of us suffer from information overload.

It’s funny though like a lot of things in life, sometimes the answers we seek are sitting right in front of us,  and in this case literally.  I’m talking of course about dogs!  The same values thought leaders in the field of self-development preach are the same values we can acquire by observing creatures that consider sniffing each others rear ends as a formal greeting.

Below are three life lessons I’ve learned from observing our furry four-legged friends.

1. Living In The Present

Dogs are masters at living in the present.  What’s on their minds is whatever is occurring in the moment.  Dogs don’t think about what tomorrow will bring or dwell on something that happened a week ago.  They are in tune with the sensations around them in any given moment.  When a dog is playing outside all it’s thinking about is catching squirrels.  That same dog is not concerned about when the fun will end when the owner decides to pack it in.  

So next time you’re enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the sun, enjoy the dang moment!  Stop worrying about what Monday will bring.

2. Loyalty

One of the worst ways to describe somebody is the following, “he shares every characteristic of a dog except its loyalty.”  Ouch!  

When all else fails dogs have a knack for staying loyal to their owner or fellow pack members.  When was the last time you met a dog once and it absolutely adored you, and then the second time it was as if there was serious beef.  As if somehow the dog learned something about you and was now anywhere from jealous, envious, or held a grudge towards you.  I’ve never experienced or imagined a dog doing this towards another living creature.  As humans we can certainly learn a lot from dogs when it comes to loyalty.

3. Relentlessness

Mark Twain once said, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” This quote rings true when it comes to the two dogs that live with my parents.  One dog is 11 years old and very mature.  The other dog is less than four months old with unlimited energy.  When these two dogs playfully fight, the older dog dominates every single time.  

What is remarkable is the sheer relentlessness on the part of the puppy.  Despite being pinned hundreds of times, this little creature has no quit.  Once pinned, this dog immediately gets up and gets right back into the face of the older dog.  In the end the older dog tires out and eventually retreats.  Imagine as humans getting rejected and thrown down (hopefully metaphorically) hundreds of times. Next time you feel nothing is going your way, channel your inner puppy scrappiness.  If you push through enough rejections, you’ll eventually come out on top.


This all sounds great in theory but I understand some may feel humans can’t be compared to dogs.  It’s easy to object and say dogs don’t have nearly the same cognitive capacity as do humans. Additionally dogs don’t have the same responsibility as do humans.  Dogs don’t have to deal with jobs, deadlines, and writing papers.  

While all this is true we can all do a better job practicing what dogs seem to have all figured out.  Be present, demonstrate loyalty, and be relentless.  In the end you’ll be happier and more fulfilled. You’ll have our furry four-legged friends to thank!

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