By Pedram Shojai
It's almost the new year, and we’re all looking to work on ourselves somehow. Whether it’s by kicking a bad habit or dedicating ourselves to a new workout routine, there’s always more we can do in the process of self-development.
Unfortunately, if we stumble through a point in our improvement journey, we often start to think of ourselves as failures. So how can we restore some honor in our lives and stay motivated to go after all of our resolutions?
Here are 10 simple things we can do to start:
1. Learn to say no.
The word no is a very powerful tool. We’re accustomed to saying yes to too many things — a tendency that can overwhelm us energetically and rob us of precious time.
Saying yes to one thing could mean saying no to something even more important, and it could ultimately steer you away from your goals. Though tempting, saying yes to a night out drinking means saying no to that workout, that family time, or that sleep you’ve been craving.
2. Don’t overdo it.
Steer clear of unreasonable, lofty resolutions. Telling yourself you're going to go to the gym seven days a week every week is probably a bit overly ambitious. It would be more productive to start off with three days and get some wins under your belt before you move onto next steps.
Great change doesn't happen overnight.
Look at your current schedule and take stock of all you’ve already got going on, then make a reasonable addition or consciously take something else away to make room for a new, attainable goal.
3. Leave some gas in the tank.
Most of us give up when we’re tapped out, so you’ll need energy in order to make real change. Take small steps to manage your energy so you’re not wiped out by the end of the day — eat plenty of protein in the morning, take breaks throughout the day, and leave a good 15 minutes to relax and digest after lunch.
4. Talk is cheap.
Stop yapping about what you plan to do and just get to work. Don't let other people deter you — you can inspire your friends with your results, and then use your momentum to support their journeys too.
5. Take control of your calendar.
We’re terrible at building time for ourselves into our busy schedules, and great at filling them with the desires of others. If your resolution isn’t booked into your calendar, then when were you planning on doing it? If you really want to achieve your resolutions, set aside the time you'll need to work on them. Pen yourself in.
Get good with time and you’ll get better with life.
6. Keep your appointments with yourself.
It's one thing to slap something onto your calendar, and a whole other to honor it as a commitment. Time is precious — use it as an asset and invest it towards your goals. Create a habit of completing a task during the time period you've allotted for it. Get good with time and you’ll get better with life.
7. Keep moving all day.
Contrary to what you might think, sitting around all day can decrease our energy levels. In fact, some studies show that a sedentary lifestyle leads to chronic disease and premature death.
Get up and do something active (10 reps of some low-intensity exercise) every 25 minutes. Within a week, you’ll likely notice some newfound energy that you can re-invest into achieving the promises you've made to yourself.
8. Try a vow of silence.
Try and block out one day (Sundays are great) and do not speak. This vow of silence can be really difficult, but I promise the results are incredible. Going through this exercise will show you how much energy you've been wasting talking all day long.
Our thoughts are haphazard enough — by the time they become words, we’ve dangled a lot of chaos out into the world. Try to complete this exercise in restraint at least once a month (you can limit it to the morning if you can’t block out the whole day). Once you return to speaking, you’ll be better at measuring your words and aligning them with your intent.
Time is precious — use it as an asset and invest it towards your goals.
9. Make a "life garden."
If you only had room for five plants in your garden, what would they be? How much water would they require? Apply the same level of selectivity to your dreams. Think about what’s really important to you and what you need to do to water those things and bring them to life over the next few years. This way, when new things pop up, we can identify them as weeds and pluck them.
10. Remember: change happens daily.
If you want to see big things happen, start with single steps. What can you do each day to move towards your goal? What practice can you commit to on a regular basis? Start small. Once you nail an easy item everyday for a week, pick another one (or stick with the same one) for 30 days and then 100 days. Build the discipline like you would a muscle.
In my tradition, the key to manifestation is the understanding that, in order to make great things happen, our intent needs to be coupled with our focus. Assemble your life around small acts of self-improvement until they become habits. Once you nail this, positive change will become a way of life.
For more advice on how to achieve your dreams, check out my new book, The Urban Monk – Eastern Wisdom and Modern Hacks to Stop Time and Find Success, Happiness, and Peace, available for preorder now.
Photo Credit: Stocksy
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson