Being “in the zone”

Have you ever had an instance when you were so immersed in an activity that you forgot about yourself and everything around you? Or perhaps you were so “in the zone” that you felt as if time had slowed down or sped up? This is a phenomenon in Psychology that is referred to as “flow.” It is an experience when you are highly engaged and so focused on the activity at hand that you forget about everything around you. This is an experience that many athletes often allude to. Take for example Kobe Bryant who describes what it is like to be in flow or in the zone:

You get in the zone and just try to stay here. You don’t think about your surroundings or what’s going on with the crowd or the team. You’re kind of locked in.

When you get in that zone, it’s just a supreme confidence… things just slow down. You really do not try to focus on what’s going on because you can lose it in a second. You have to really try to stay in the present, and not let anything break that rhythm.

Although this experience is most cited by athletes, it is something that everyone is capable of experiencing and has experienced in the past. Also, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, experiencing this high level of engagement can have a profound impact on the overall quality of your life. Not only can it help you cope with pain and suffering, but it can also make your life more rich, intense, and meaningful. Furthermore, research suggests that flow experiences are associated with increased individual and team performance.

What does flow look and feel like?

According to two of the leading researchers on this topic, Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi (2009), these are the characteristics of flow:

  • Intense focus and concentration on the present moment
  • A merging of action and awareness (Your focus and awareness are on what you are doing. If you are not in flow, you might be cleaning the house, but your focus is on the TV show you watched last night. Alternatively, if you are in flow, you are cleaning the house and your focus is entirely on what you are cleaning).
  • Loss of self-consciousness (You lose a sense of self and are not aware of yourself in that present moment. Your ego is non-existent. You’re not focused on what other people are thinking about you and nor are you focused on how you feel).
  • A sense that one can control one’s actions (It’s not that you feel like if you are in total control, because if you felt that, then you probably were not in flow. According to Csikszentmihalyi, it’s more that the issue of control, or a lack of it, does not even come up. In general, there is a sense that you are capable and can dictate what to do next in the activity).
  • A distortion of time (Either you feel that time has passed slower or faster than normal. You’re not aware of time when you are in flow. However, when you leave the state of flow, you look at the time and often feel as if it passed at a much slower or faster rate than you would have expected)
  • Experience of the activity is intrinsically rewarding (You enjoy the activity and the experience for the sake of it. There might be an end extrinsic goal in mind, but the flow experience itself is intrinsically rewarding).

Generally, when you are in flow, you’re not feeling any particular emotion (largely because of the loss of self-consciousness). However, when you get out of flow, you often feel happy. In his book on creativity and flow, Csikszentmihalyi writes that “in the long run, the more flow we experience in daily life, the more likely we are to feel happy overall” (p. 123). However, whether or not flow in daily life increases happiness largely depends on the activity that is producing flow. The activity must be complex and contribute to some personal, professional, or cultural growth. For example, a flow activity such as playing baseball or chess would lead to increases in happiness (personal growth), but an activity such as gambling would not (no meaningful growth).

How to get into flow.

To enter a state of flow, a few conditions must be met:

  • A balance between the challenge of the activity and the level of skill you have (A task that is too easy for you will leave you bored whereas a task that is too difficult will leave you anxious or uneasy. To enter a state of flow, you must engage in an activity where the challenge of the activity is equal to or slightly greater than your skill level. Of course, challenge is subjective. A professional athlete would find running a mile to be easy whereas I would find it quite challenging. The challenge you engage in should be based on your skill level and vice versa)
  • Clear proximal goals that provide immediate feedback about the progress being made. (think SMART goals here. The SMART goal you select should be challenging as well to meet the criteria of the previous condition. However, the goals you have should also be specific and easy to follow. A goal to “become a better basketball player” will not induce flow, whereas a goal to “make 80% of my free throws” has a better chance).

Practical tips to get into flow.

What I have shared above are the minimum requirements or conditions that must be met to enter a state of flow. However, I wanted to share a few additional suggestions and provide some examples of how you can introduce more flow and engagement into your day to day life.

  1. Have clear and specific goals in mind. As I said before, it is better to be as specific as possible. Try breaking down larger goals into smaller goals. What is the very next step you need to take to achieve your larger goals?
  2. Track your progress and know how well you are doing. Again, you need frame the activity so that it provides you feedback. In some instances, it is simple. When playing basketball, I can easily see how I am doing from moment to moment as I know whether I made or missed a shot. It is harder when I am a creator or inventor of some kind. For example, if I am a music composer, how do I gauge whether or not the combinations of notes I am creating are good or bad? How do I get feedback? In those instances, it is more difficult to get feedback, but the idea is the same. One solution is to internalize your field’s criteria of judgement so that you can give feedback to yourself rather than having to wait to hear from an expert. In other words, try to internalize and learn what other musicians view as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ music. How does your music compare to that? Or, what story is your music trying to convey and is the music you have created successfully doing so?
  3. Balance challenge and skill. An AP math student won’t be able to get into flow doing simple arithmetic whereas a fifth grader wouldn’t be able to get into flow studying Calculus. You have to see where you are at and do something that is equal to or slightly above your skill set. Because you cannot really adjust your skill level in the short-run, try adjusting your challenge level.  Rather than shooting 15 feet away from the basketball hoop, try shooting 10 feet away from the hoop first. With creative pursuits such as writing, composing music, or anything involving creating something from scratch, there is an added difficulty because you have less control. For example, as a blogger, how can I increase the challenge of my writing? Do I type with one hand instead? Not exactly. Perhaps I choose a topic that’s harder to research. When I hit writer’s block, I might tell myself to start off with just writing a paragraph summary rather than an entire page and then expanding the paragraph to a page afterward.
  4. Avoid distractions. Remember that three key symptoms of flow are (1) merging of action and awareness, (2) the loss of self-consciousness, and (3) distortion of time. Distractions can easily disrupt flow and even prevent you from getting into flow in the first place. When trying to get into flow, find a place where you won’t be so easily distracted. Perhaps go to a coffee shop rather than staying at home where your family will keep interrupting you. Disable the clock on your computer so you won’t keep looking at it every five minutes to see how much work you have done. However, distractions, of course, can come in many forms. They can be more serious such as health, family, or financial problems. While you will not have control over all these distractions, try to minimize the ones that you can control. For example, if you live a healthier lifestyle, you will have less personal health-related distractions.

Final words…

When people think about flow or engagement, they often think about momentary experiences. However, I think that we should aim to make it more of a lifestyle. The more engaged you are with each experience and activity, the richer your life will be and the less time you will spend ruminating over painful and difficult aspects of your life. You just won’t have the mental capacity or interest to do so. Furthermore, I think flow is a critical factor in one’s personal and professional development.

Think about it. I hate exercising. However, if I can find a way to induce flow while I’m exercising, I won’t hate it as much (since I won’t be focused on the displeasure of the exercise). When I finish exercising, I’ll feel happiness and satisfaction with the fact that I have exercised. That will help improve both my mental and physical health. Also, it is an endless cycle. Because flow is addictive and intrinsically motivating, the more you experience flow, the more you want to keep experiencing it. This means I’m more likely to keep seeking activities (such as exercise) that will induce flow.




Five Stages of Creativity

In my previous post, I debunked some commonly held beliefs on creativity. Mainly, I discussed that creativity is more of an action than a trait and that it is the result of conscious and hard work, not an ‘aha’ moment that you’ll have as you sit and wait for inspiration. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, just click here.

In this post, I want to talk about the different stages of creativity and how you can leverage each stage to help you come up with original ideas and develop creative solutions to problems that you may be having with your work or in your organization.

Stages of Creativity:

The most popular creativity framework identifies five stages of creativity. In his book on creativity, Csikszentmihalyi states that breaking down creativity into five stages can be a bit too simplified and even misleading, but it does offer a valid and simple way to organize the complexity associated with creativity. So while reading the five stages, it is important to not fixate on each individual stage and instead focus on the general process of how creativity works.

1) The first stage is preparation. 

The preparation stage is when you become curious and immersed in a problem that you find interesting. A problem could be as simple as you locking yourself out of your car or as complicated as high turnover in your workplace due to low employee morale. You might say that most forms of creativity do not have a problem (e.g., art, music, writing), however, I would actually disagree. For example, when I write blog posts, my problem is – how do I create engaging and valuable content? When you’re composing a musical score, your problem might be something like – how do I convey a specific emotion throughout the entire composition with a specific instrument? When trying to ‘be creative’, you need to have a problem, or a question, in mind that you want to solve or answer. Just think of it this way – if you didn’t have a problem or a question in mind, then you would have no need to be creative!

Therefore, the first part of the preparation stage is to find a problem. The second part of the preparation stage is to acquire information. Once you have identified a problem, you need to learn everything about the problem. What has been done by others in the past to solve a similar problem? Where have they succeeded or possibly failed? What skills are required to solve this problem? You need to now obtain that knowledge and acquire those skills to solve the problem (if you do not have it already). For example, if you wanted to evoke joy in your musical composition, you would need to have knowledge of music theory and of the major scales. Perhaps you would listen to what other composers have done in the past. If you have low employee morale, perhaps you acquire information through an employee engagement survey or you assess what other organizations are doing to mitigate this problem.

The stage of preparation might seem quite complicated and tedious, but the good news is that you probably already have a good degree of knowledge about the problem. However, if you want to be creative, you have to be open to always acquiring more knowledge.

2) The second stage is incubation. 

So you’ve identified the problem and acquired a lot of information, so what now? This is when you take a step back to allow your mind to process this information and let the unconscious mind get to work. This is when you take a break and go do something unrelated. Go to the gym, make a new recipe for dinner, or work on a different problem that’s unrelated.

The reason you do this is because the conscious mind tries to solve problems in a linear and logical manner. However, when we hit a wall and are struggling to produce anything meaningful, it’s best to let the unconscious mind take over for a bit as it can develop unexpected combinations and patterns that can help us come up with a creative solution.

This might seem contradictory to what I said in my previous post about how creativity is not just about waiting for an ‘aha’ moment, however, it’s not. This stage is only effective if you do conscious and hard work during the preparation phase. Your unconscious mind will only come up with creative solutions if you create the right mental conditions and feed it enough information to put unexpected combinations together.

So, why or how does incubation work? How does it eventually lead to a possible ‘aha’ or ‘Eureka’ moment? One theory is that even though you’re not focusing on the problem consciously, your unconscious mind is still working hard to solve it. Another theory is that your mind is exhausted, and during the incubation period, you’re giving your mind the rest it needs so that it can relax and recover. A third theory states that when you’re stuck on a problem, your mind is fixating on the wrong solution. By incubating and doing something else, your mind becomes less attached to the wrong solution and may even forget about the wrong solution. I could spend an entire blog post talking about the different theories that are out there for why incubation works, but the important thing to know is that it works. Incubation is most effective when you focus on a task that is completely unrelated to the problem you’re trying to solve.

3) The third stage is the ‘Aha!’ moment. 

Did you ever have that moment when you can’t find something, such as your keys, and you give up? Then you do something completely unrelated and, randomly, you remember where they were? That is a classic ‘aha’ moment. It is when you have that seemingly random insight that everyone glorifies. Of course, as I said, what we rarely see is the continued effort that occurs before (and after) this moment. Also, when you retrospectively look back, you’ll often find that the insight you had is not random but actually quite connected and rational. It just may have occurred at a random time. Nevertheless, this is an important moment.

What happens though if you do not have that ‘aha’ moment? Do you just keep waiting in that incubation period until something comes up? Well, no. If you do not have an ‘aha’ moment, you can always revisit the problem and see if a fresher mind allows you to solve it, or at least get closer to solving it. You can always go back to stage one and acquire more information. Sometimes the lack of a Eureka moment is insufficient knowledge. Regardless of whether you have that moment or not, however, make sure that you do not just keep on waiting. It is okay to occasionally take extended breaks from your problems, particularly if they are complex, but do revisit them and keep acquiring more information as needed.

4) The fourth stage is evaluation.

This is a very important step as it is deciding whether or not the insight you obtained from the ‘aha’ moment is worth pursuing. Not all insights or ideas you generate are good or useful. For example, you might decide that the solution to your low employee morale problem is to give everyone a raise, however, it turns out to be a poor solution because it is costly and the real problem is that management doesn’t appreciate their employees.

In this stage, you must evaluate the usefulness of your idea and decide whether or not it is worth pursuing. You might even find that you have a great idea, but it is not useful for this specific problem you are trying to solve. The evaluation stage, unlike stages 2 and 3, is fully conscious. To make the right decision, you must draw on the knowledge you acquired in stage one and possibly even acquire more knowledge to help you make your decision.

5) The fifth stage is Elaboration.

This is the hardest and the longest stage. This is where you must execute on your idea and transform your idea into reality. This is when you actually write the majority of your music composition or blog. This is when you implement your corrective action for low employee morale.

The important thing to note is that this is not just one large stage or process that occurs only after the first four stages are completed. In this process, you will often revert back to periods of preparation, incubation, and evaluation. Throughout this process, you will also continue to have small epiphanies that guide your work. Based on the vastness of the problem you are trying to solve, you will go through many iterations and need many insights to solve the problem you are trying to solve. Some problems may be solved in a few hours whereas others can take years.

Final words…

If there’s one takeaway that you take from this blog post and my previous post, I hope it is that creativity is about conscious and hard work. I cannot stress this enough. It is about taking action and putting in a ton of effort. There are no shortcuts. There are moments of idleness and distractions involved, but those should be strategically implemented as a way to maximize your efforts. When you try to tackle your next problem or when you pursue your next creative endeavor, I’d encourage you to see how these stages play into your creative process.

In future posts, I will discuss more on how we can enhance our personal creativity and how we can increase creativity in organizations.

Creativity requires creation

Creativity has become a popular term that we toss around when things are not going so well for us. In our personal lives, we say we’re just lacking that creative inspiration or that brilliant idea that is keeping us from publishing that book we’ve always dreamt about. At work, employers say that their organizations are not thriving because their employees lack creativity. Generally, when we think about creativity, we think about the ability to spontaneously come up with an original and transformative idea. However, that’s not creativity. That’s dumb luck. Creativity is something that requires a significant amount of time and effort. As Scott Berkun states in his book, to be creative, you must create!

The truth is that we have been fed this faulty perspective on creativity and act as if creativity is about inspiration or having some sort of revelation that allows you to produce something valuable overnight. Or perhaps it is a gene that only famous artists, musicians, or great thinkers possess. Unfortunately, when we think like this, it actually cripples our creativity because it encourages us to wait until we are inspired or have an ‘aha’ moment, and it dissuades us from taking action and putting in the effort required to come up with something creative.

So if this is not creativity, then what is it and how does one become creative?

Creativity Facts:

To provide a more thorough analysis of creativity, I extracted some ideas from Keith Sawyer’s book, Explaining Creativity.

  1. Creativity should not be viewed as a talent or trait, but instead should be viewed as an action. The root word of creativity is ‘create’ and to be creative, or come up with something creative, you must create something. If you want to be creative, then create.
  2. Creativity is not random insights that you have, but instead, is mostly conscious hard work. Most creative people usually go through draft and draft and failure after failure until they come up with something valuable. Everyone has ‘aha’ moments, but there’s a lot that needs to happen before and after that moment create something of real value. If you want to be creative, then work hard and don’t be afraid to fail.
  3. Creativity is more likely to occur when you are an expert in your domain. Many people think that an ‘outsider’ is more likely to come up with a creative idea because they can bring a fresh perspective. However, in reality, an individual that is an expert in their domain is more likely to come up with a creative idea. This is because they have a vast body of knowledge in their domain and can form new patterns and combinations using that knowledge.  If you want to be creative, become an expert in your domain.
  4. Creativity can be collaborative. Most people have this assumption that to be creative, you need to be isolated from the rest of the world and focused on just one thing. While it is true that you’ll need times of isolation to create, collaboration is a great way to learn from others and gain new insights. If you want to be creative, share thoughts with others. 
  5. To become more creative, learn more about your domain, develop a strong work ethic, learn how to select and invest in good ideas as opposed to bad ones, and practice connecting already existing ideas together. 

What I have presented is a quick summary of what is creativity and what it is not. In future posts, I will discuss the different stages of the creative process, how we can enhance our personal creativity, and what we can do from an organizational level to increase creative output in the workplace.


Do you really want it?

I often hear people say they have certain goals they want to accomplish, and yet their behaviors say otherwise. For example, you say you want that promotion, yet you continue to arrive to work late and take extended lunch breaks. You say you want to become a lawyer, yet you are hanging out with your friends two days before a big exam. For those of you whose actions don’t agree with your goals, my question to you is this — do you really want it, do you kind of want it, or do you feel you’re supposed to want it?

I really want it.

I think there are very few things that we truly want. If we really wanted something, we would be willing to put up with the struggle and adversity associated with it. If I truly wanted to be healthy and get in shape, then I would go out for a run instead of watching TV. I would tolerate the soreness from exercise and eat blackberries instead of brownies because I am intrinsically driven and it means that much to me.

In economics, there is a term called opportunity cost which refers to the cost or sacrifice you make for choosing one option over another. When I choose blackberries over brownies, the opportunity cost would be the short-term enjoyment that I get from eating a brownie or a cookie. When you choose to work overtime, the opportunity cost would be everything else that you could be doing at that time (e.g., spending time with family or friends, exercising, watching TV).

When you really want something, you feel that the gain from pursuing that goal is greater than the opportunity cost associated with it. Alternatively, you may feel that the opportunity cost of not pursuing your goals is greater than the gain you would get from doing something else. It doesn’t matter how you look at it. At the end of the day, if you really want something, you’ll go out and try to make it happen.

I kind of want it.

I think a majority of people’s goals fall into this category. We kind of want it, but maybe not as much as we want other things. For example, I kind of want to be healthier, but honestly, I enjoy the comfort of my couch and TV more than I enjoy going out for a run. I’m also a foodie so I’d rather go for the brownies than the blackberries. I’d even rather work an extra hour or two at work than go out for a run. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you’re happy with just sitting on the couch rather than working out, then by all means, sit on the couch. Now here is when this becomes a problem:

  • You choose to sit on the couch and watch TV rather than going out for a run, but then you also complain that you’re not as healthy as you want to be. Every choice we make has consequences associated with it — both good and bad. If we want to be happy with the choices that we make in our life, we need to accept that this is just a fact
  • You do not even want to sit on the couch and watch TV, and at best, you feel indifferent when watching TV. However, you still would rather watch TV than go out for a run. When we are not 100% committed to a goal, we tend to procrastinate and do things that require less energy instead. The book, Finding Flow, introduces a concept called ‘activation energy’ which states that we require a certain amount of energy to start an activity. Activities that are easier in nature (e.g., watching TV) or activities that we really enjoy (e.g., sports, hanging out with friends) require less activation energy whereas activities that we do not enjoy as much (e.g., exercise) require more activation energy. Because we have only a finite amount of energy, we often will opt for activities that require less energy.

So, what can you do when you kind of want something but are not 100% committed?

  1. Just accept it. Like I said, if you’re happy watching TV instead of working out and do not mind being a little out of shape, then do it without any guilt. If you would rather read a book than go out with friends, that’s fine!
  2. Find a way to decrease the amount of activation energy required. You do not need as much activation energy when you are doing something you enjoy. For example, rather than going to the gym, I opt to play sports such as basketball and baseball because I enjoy them more. I forget I am exercising and focus on the competition and skills development aspect of it instead.
  3. Make things easier for yourself. This is similar to #2 as this also decreases activation energy. Identify the things that get in the way of where you want to be. Perhaps you’re not focused on studying because you can’t get off your phone. If that’s the case, give your friend your cellphone and make sure she doesn’t give it back to you for three hours.
  4.  Do some soul-searching. Why do you even kind of want it? Why do you care about it at all? What’s driving you? What is the cost of not doing it? Why do you want that promotion — is it because of the prestige, the salary, or personal satisfaction? Whatever it is that even partially drives you, fixate on that part. If that is not a strong enough motivator, I would recommend reconsidering what you truly want.
  5. Reset your expectations. Everyone would love a mansion and three fancy cars, but not everyone is willing to put in 80 hour work weeks for 30 years to get it. If you want that mansion so bad, then put in the 80 hours a week and you will likely get it someday. However, if you want to have a nice work-life balance, live a family-oriented life, and work only 30 hours a week, then you might need to reset your expectations on that mansion. What is the opportunity cost of striving for that mansion?

I feel I am supposed to want it.

Unfortunately, a lot of people’s goals also fall into this category. You have these goals in mind that you think are yours, but they’re actually driven by external factors. For example, when you’re young, you are told by your parents that you need to become an engineer so that you can make a lot of money and live a lavish lifestyle. If you truly feel that way, great! Good for you. The problem is that many people do end up becoming engineers, making a lot of money, and living a lavish lifestyle, but that’s not what they really want. Alternatively, they keep trying and trying to become a successful engineer, but are unable to do it because their heart is not in it.

Just think of it, of how many of our goals and ambitions are driven by what other people tell us is appropriate and okay. So many people are miserable because they feel obligated to strive for things they don’t even care for. Here’s a simple tip that can make a big difference – if someone wants you to do something for yourself, but you do not want to do it, don’t do it. Think of how many people have a negative self-image of themselves because they are told to look a certain way. Think of how many people are pursuing careers they do not even like because they were told that is the only way to not end up on the street. My question to you is this – why? If you do not want to do something, and you are willing to accept the potential consequences that come from not doing it, then why are you putting pressure on yourself to do it?

As Gary Vaynerchuk often says, there is this negative stigma associated with grown adults living in their parents’ home. People are afraid of what their friends or high school buddies might think of it. Because of the fear of what other people might say, these people end up working at jobs they dislike or continue to live in debt rather than moving back home for a few years with their parents who they love. Stop caring about what other people think. We have enough clarity and motivation issues on our own. We do not need to also worry about others and what they think about the choices that we make or don’t make.

Final words…

As I said, there are very few things that we truly want. However, there are many things that we kind of want, or things we think we should want. For the goals you are truly passionate about, I believe you will put in the effort and work to achieve those goals. For the goals that you kind of want, I think it comes down to reducing external barriers, finding ways to increase intrinsic motivation, and doing a cost-benefit analysis on whether or not it is worth pursuing that goal. With goals that are driven by others – just tune them out.










The Snail’s way to Personal Development

Rapid personal development does not work.

Drastic changes to your current lifestyle are rarely the solution to achieving your long-term goals. The primary issue with drastic issues is that you’re relying on motivation to succeed. The problem is that motivation is limited. It runs out. Once it runs out, you regress to the same habits that you have been doing for the greater part of your life.

Why do new years resolutions fail? Because you have not worked out in six months and yet have made a goal to work out 45 minutes a day for 6 days a weeks. Why do you fail to get up at 5 am every morning? Because you have never established a disciplined sleep routine in the past.

When it comes to personal development that actually works, development that is more than just temporary, we need to accept that we do not have the discipline and willpower to make such sudden changes over a short period of time. Just think about it. If I have eaten burger and fries (or something similar) every day for the past three years for lunch, how can I all of a sudden convince myself to eat a substance-less salad? Not only will my mind rebel, but my body will too!

Slow personal development does.

In my opinion, the true solution to achieving your personal goals is what I like to call the snail’s way to personal development. Make very calculated and slow changes to your routine that seem almost non-existent, and then, incrementally increase the intensity of that change over time. For this to work, you need to be patient. Extremely patient. However, with this method, if you can just keep at it and continue to stay patient, you will start to see results and form habits that actually stick. As James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits says, “From today onward, if you aim to be just 1% better than you were yesterday, then in just one year, you will be 37 times better than you are today.”

The reason slow development works is because the changes you make are so small that they do not seem very different than what you have been doing your entire life. They require very little energy and motivation to complete, and the consequences that result from deviating from your normal routine (e.g., cravings, withdrawal, physical pain) are less severe. Below are a few examples from my own life that illustrate how this works:

  1. Goal: Reduce my caffeine intake and break my caffeine addiction. I usually drink about 2 cups (10 oz per cup) of coffee per day. If I were to quit immediately, I would experience major withdrawal symptoms that would severely inhibit me from being productive at work. Therefore, I really cannot do that. Nor do I want to. Instead, I have been slowly and slowly reducing my caffeine intake every month. In the morning, I still drink 10 oz of coffee. However, in the afternoon, I now drink just 8 oz of coffee. Honestly, my body can’t even tell that I have reduced my caffeine intake, and yet I am having 10% less caffeine than usual. I do this for a month (drinking 18 oz instead of 20), and after, I reduce the coffee consumption by 2 more ounces. I repeat this process for 10 months, and before you know it, I am entirely free of my caffeine addiction. Very strategic, very slow, and yet very effective.
  2. Goal: Start a consistent meditation routineThis slightly differs than the caffeine goal as I am trying to add a positive habit as opposed to getting rid of a bad habit. Nevertheless, the concept for incorporating a positive habit is the same. The first thing I do is block off time on my calendar to start meditating (I block off 30 minutes on my calendar in the morning since my end-goal is to meditate 30 minutes a day). This is my eventual meditation time, and therefore, I need to make sure that I do not fill this time, on any day, with any other commitment. I start off by meditating just 3 minutes a day. After a week, I increase the amount of meditation to 4 minutes a day. After another week, increase it to 5 minutes. Keep doing this until I get to meditating 30 minutes a day. Again, 3 minutes does not seem like a lot. However, in about half a year, that will turn into 30 minutes.

When taking the snail’s way to personal development, it is important to make sure you have an end goal in mind and then just break the end goal down into small pieces. Start very small. It’s very important for the goals to be process-driven and things that you can control. For example, don’t set a goal to lose an X number of pounds. Instead, set goals that target positive habits that will eventually lead to the reduction of weight. Also, be patient. This is not one of those processes where you get instant gratification. You don’t. It is easy to quit when you feel like it is taking forever to reach your goals, however, be patient. Keep your end goal in mind and remember that you will get there.

What I have presented to you is a basic and simple summary of a very powerful concept. Of course, you may encounter some hiccups along the way. In those situations, it is important to recalibrate your goals as needed. In a future post, I will discuss common struggles that you might face along the process and things that you can do to stay on course and continue to develop.