1. Practice accepting compliments. How you respond to a compliment speaks volumes about your self-esteem, personality and state of being. Some people justify. Some people deflect. Some people giggle. Some people simply say, ‘Thank you.’ Which one are you?
2. Practice aggressive pondering. My best friend, Andy Masters, taught me this one. You might say he’s a ‘master’ of this practice. Aggressive pondering can be designed around YOUR thinking and learning style. Whether you make lists, journal, sit on a beach, meditate in a cave, draw on flip charts or scatter hundreds of colored note cards across the carpet (my fave!), the challenge is to think. To really, really think. About whatever you want. How much time each day do you spend just thinking?
3. Practice being happy. Throughout your day, seek out specific things to observe that you KNOW will make you smile. Personally, I use kids and pets. Perfect vehicles for spontaneous happiness. It’s almost impossible NOT to smile when you see them, which means it’s impossible NOT to be happy. Also, if you’re fortunate enough to spend your waking hours engaged in something that you’re passionate about; I challenge you to step back every hour or so to simply drink in the moment and say to yourself, ‘This moment is perfect. I am perfect. I am happiness.’ What made you smile this morning?
4. Practice being yourself. Of course, the secret to this practice is first KNOWING yourself. That’s a big enough challenge as it is. So, here’s what you do. Think of three specific things, thoughts, behaviors or attitudes that you believe to be unique to YOU. Maybe it’s the questions you ask, maybe it’s the boundaries you set, or maybe it’s the values by which you live. Whatever you choose, solidify those attributes as the foundation of your BEING. Then, in to practice being yourself, constantly ask the great question made famous by author/speaker/thinker Jim Cathcart: How would the person I’m trying to become do what I’m about to do?
5. Practice confident uncertainty. In Ellen Langer’s classic book, Mindfulness, she defined this practice gorgeously. So, let me just quote a few of her key points on the idea: Confident uncertainty … legitimizes curiosity. Confident uncertainty … enables people construct the experience. Confident uncertainty … is conducive to innovation and initiative. Confident uncertainty … breeds independent judgment and a general freedom of action. Confident uncertainty … leads to a search for more information, and with more information there may be more options. How many of the decisions you make each day have absolutely correct answers?
6. Practice constructive solitude. Take a walk. Take a run. Take a swim. Sit in the corner of Starbucks with a book. Take a week off work and go to Sedona and don’t talk to ANYBODY (my fave!) Solitude is precious. It cures stress. It sorts ideas. It is a restoration that resonates resolution. And the best part is, creativity adores it. Are you giving yourself permission to be alone?
7. Practice inner attention. Every answer to every problem that ever arises in your life can be found by paying exquisite attention to yourself. To your body. To your mind. To your emotions. To your intuition. There are endless paths for doing so, from yoga to chanting mantras to praying to TM to journaling. How well are you listening to yourself?
8. Practice intense relaxation. Believe it or not, we have to teach ourselves how to relax. I know, it sounds dumb. But take it from someone who was hospitalized three times in six months because he didn’t know how to relax. Yep. Simultaneously the stupidest mistake AND the most glorious awakening of my life. And the best part is: now I’ve finally learned how to relax. Whether it’s meditating, mini-vacations, taking walks or watching Dumb & Dumber for the 179th time, it works for me. And that’s the key. You need to discover what works for you without overly regimenting anything. How did you relax yesterday?
9. Practice intentional discomfort. Comfort zones are overrated. You have absolutely NO business there. If you want to learn, you’ve GOT to stick yourself out there. All day. Every day. Literally. Metaphorically. Spiritually. Emotionally. In person. Online. On paper. On stage. What did you do yesterday that scared you?
10. Practice intentional silence. Whether it’s on paper, on stage or in conversation … pausing … is one of the great forces in the universe. Pausing applies pressure. Pausing creates space. Pausing evokes emotions. Pausing invites learning. Pausing examines nuances. Pausing communicates empathy. Pausing attracts attention. Pausing demonstrates respect. Pausing facilitates idea penetration. Are leaving enough space between words?
11. Practice irrepressible resilience. Determination. Commitment. Discipline. Perseverance. Stick-to-itiveness. Bouncing Back. Getting up. Not backing down. Refusing to go away. All that stuff. Same thing. Same practice. You can do this one all day, in everything endeavor. How are you building your resiliency?
12. Practice joyful service. There is no other way to serve. There is no other way to live. What’s more, when you bring joy into the service process, customers LOVE it. They have to – it’s contagious. It oozes out of you and coats the concrete on which you and your customers stand. How much loyalty are you sacrificing by NOT incorporate joy into your service process?
13. Practice mattering daily. It’s healthy. It builds character. It reinforces your self-esteem. If you can find a way to validate your existence on a daily basis, you’ll never waste another day in your life. And, by the way, I can guarantee that you DO matter. To someone or some THING, you matter. Are you, on a daily basis, doing stuff that matters?
14. Practice mental evacuations. Thinking is the great paradox: It’s the greatest thing man has achieved, yet it’s the single thing that’s going to destroy our civilization. Because of that, I challenge you to evacuate, to DUMP your mind on a regular basis. Now, that doesn’t mean DISPLACE your mind by getting stoned or drunk every other night. I said DUMP. Which means take out the trash. As aforementioned Peaceful Warrior suggests, ‘The trash is anything that takes you away from the present moment.’ What mental obstacles are preventing you from being an effective person?
15. Practice non-manipulative intentionality. People can smell manipulation from a mile a way. And if you telegraph your neediness, they won’t (1) Listen TO you, (2) Buy FROM you, or (3) Trust IN you. So, just relax. Persuade manipulation-free and earn trust trick-free. Are you harmonizing or manipulating?
16. Practice not doing. Maybe a little more BEING. After all, people aren’t going to be influenced by what you believe or say (or even) DO. They’ll be influenced by WHO YOU ARE. Less doing, more being. What does who-you-are tell people?
17. Practice participatory management. Stop dominating. Stop dictating. Stop doing and saying things AT people. Try WITH them instead. They might actually listen to you. How are you creating an environment where healthy participation naturally emerges?
18. Practice positive DOING. Nothing against Normal Vincent Peale. But, seriously. Positing thinking doesn’t make you money. It might give you an unstoppable attitude, but only ACTION … only EXECUTION is priceless. What actions can you take TODAY to eliminate or minimize barriers to your boldness?
19. Practice positive negativity. Speaking of positive attitudes, also remember that being a little negative can go a LONG way. Especially if it’s rooted in a healthy dose of doubt. Doubt protects us. Doubt gives us choices. Doubt is smart. Are you beginning with it?
20. Practice posture maintenance. First, literally. Beware of your shoulders sneaking their way up to your ears. Second, metaphorically. Beware of the way in which you walk in this world. Your posture – your attitude, your carriage, your approach – says a LOT about you. What do people get when they get you?
21. Practice proactive gratitude. If you’re not writing in a Gratitude Journal every day, you’re a putz. Perhaps that’s why stuff hasn’t been going you way. Because you’re not giving enough thanks. Remember, that which you appreciate appreciates. What ten things are you thankful for today?
22. Practice random thinking. Structure is overrated. Give yourself permission to just sit and think. About whatever comes to your mind. You may even consider doing so on PAPER, just in case you come up with something that’s GOLD JERRY GOLD! How much time yesterday do you spend just thinking?
23. Practice regular past shedding. You are not your past. That’s not your identity, that’s not what matters, and that’s not now what people care about. Let it go. Think of yourself as a snake whose skin requires seasonal shedding. What have you recently let go of?
24. Practice responsible anarchy. Order is (also) overrated. Craziness, chaos and rebellion, on the other hand, are much healthier. They put hair on your chest. They build character. How many waves did you make last week?
25. Practice strategic serendipity. Luck doesn’t exist. Luck is an acronym for ‘Working Your Ass Off.’ So, find out where the rock created the ripple and then go throw more rocks. And if you want to be in the right place at the right time, you need to be in a lot of places. How many places are YOU in?
26. Practice taking crap. Not only is it healthy for your ego, but it also trains you to respond instead of react. To judge whether or not this person’s criticism has any merit. In the words of my mentor, Jeffrey Gitomer, ‘If they have a nicer car than me, then I’ll listen to their criticism.’ How patient are you willing to be?
27. Practice talking normally. Like a person, not a robot. Like a human, not a script. Normalize, standardize and internalize your thoughts through writing, then share them with the world in a language your 11 year-old daughter could understand. Are you speaking simply enough?
28. Practice the presence. Especially when you’re listening. Focus on the breath. Focus the other person’s immediate experience. Focus on how their words have an affect on you. Also, when you’re not listening, you can do the same. Find a way to incorporate deep breathing into everything you do. Is your presence calming others?
29. Practice uncalculated generosity. Trash the scorecard. Just starting being kind to people for no reason and with no agenda. People will notice. Whose lunch did you buy this week?
30. Practice with everybody. Especially the people who are better than you. They will teach you, they will inspire you and they will keep you accountable. Also, don’t overlook the value of practicing with beginners. They will keep you humble and help you recognize how far you’ve come. Who are you afraid to practice next to?
31. Practice with passion. Last point. Most important point. PASSION. It makes the time go by faster. It makes it more fun. It makes it NOT feel like practice. Remember, it’s not ‘the way you practice is the way you play.’ If you practice EVERYTHING, then ‘the way you practice is the way you ARE.’ When was the last time you lost track of time while practicing?