- Michael Thompson
Embrace the “Invert”
This past February marks the 10th year I’ve lived in Catalunya. When I look back at pictures of myself from before I moved here from the US compared to now, I feel like I’m looking at an entirely different person.
Not only have I managed to keep off the 60 pounds I lost during the first few months of living here. But in some photos, I actually look like I’m smiling without having to fake it.
Not drinking has played a role in this. The same goes for quitting smoking. And I cannot possibly put into words how much of a positive influence my wife has had on my life.
But for every big decision to either built a strong habit or cut one that wasn’t doing me any good, there were small or even some spontaneous decisions that led to waking up most days feeling pretty good about myself.
Below are the 4 that made the biggest difference.
1. Invert everything you possibly can
Walking out the door on the way to the market my wife said something jokingly that has seriously improved my quality of life: “Is there anything you don’t want me to buy?”
Within seconds, I barraged her phone with half a dozen things I didn’t want to see around the house because I knew I would eat them. This simple switch has played a massive role in helping me to keep off the weight I had gained. It also opened my eyes to the importance of flipping normal questions on their head.
If you want to improve your relationships, keep track of your behaviors or the things you say that light people up. But don’t underestimate the importance of building the habit of also taking note of what turns the people around you off.
If you want to improve your productivity, keep asking yourself what you need to do each day. But don’t underestimate the importance of building the habit of also asking yourself what you need to keep out of your environment to better focus.
If you want to increase your happiness levels, keep track of the things that make you smile. But don’t underestimate the importance of building the habit of also asking yourself what makes you miserable and working like hell to avoid these things.
In short, steal a line from Carl Jacobi and — “Invert. Always invert.”
2. Write down the answer to this one question every morning when you wake up
Like a lot of people, when I wake up in the morning, I immediately begin over-thinking about all the things I need to do throughout the day.
Work. Kids. Money. Obligations. These thoughts paralyzed me and made me want to pull the covers over my head and hide.
Fortunately, there’s a cure for this as long as you are willing to build the habit: steal a line from Viktor Frankl, the author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” and after giving thanks for being granted another day of life, ask yourself this one question — “Who needs me?”
According to Frankl, asking himself this question was one of the reasons he was able to endure four years of concentration camps.
Not only does asking yourself how you can best support the people around you help you to get out of your own head. But if you make it a point to do something nice for someone first thing in the morning, it’s hard not to feel good about yourself.
It could be as simple as letting a friend know how much they mean to you, or reaching out to someone who has an interview to give them a boost.
The beauty of doing this is it will take you all of a minute, leaving you plenty of time to think about how you can impact the world — while already impacting the world.
So, by all means, keep your own to-do list. But don’t forget to also keep a list of how you can support what the people you care about want to do.
If you start off the day by being helpful, it’s hard not to feel successful.
3. Leave an hour of blank space on your calendar each day before filling it in with work tasks
Yes, blocking off an hour for yourself cuts into the time you could be working.
Yes, this means you will have to say no to some opportunities that sound cool.
Yes, there will be days when you want to break this rule.
As the father of two young boys whose wife normally works an hour away from home, I know this can be hard as responsibilities have a funny way of only getting bigger.
But unless there really is a true emergency that cannot wait, fight like hell to keep this habit intact.
This decision to make time for yourself each and every day, like the points above, has a roll-off effect that is too important to ignore.
- It will force you to think about how you can do more with less.
- It will teach you the importance of minimizing distractions when you are working.
- It will grow your confidence as over time you’ll begin to refer to yourself as someone who makes time for themselves.
- Last but certainly not least, it will give you the time each day to feed your curiosity.
If you want to stand out, you have to be willing to do what other people don’t do. Being the type of person who rejects the notion that you always have to be busy to reach your goals is an easy way to start.
Who knows? You may discover by spending an hour a day to catch up with yourself, the dots you’ve been collecting begin to finally connect.
4. Limit yourself to $10 a day in spending money during the week
It sure didn’t feel like it at the time. But having $250,000 stolen from me by my ex-business partner’s dad, was the best thing to ever happen to me.
Being wiped out at the age of 29 forced me to start from zero and explore ways to entertain myself that didn’t involve spending money.
One of the most important lists you can keep each day — in addition to who you can best support — is the activities you can do that are free or relatively cheap.
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy being in nature, talking with friends, making some sort of art, or getting some exercise.
Learning that having a picnic is just as fun — if not more so — than going to a fancy restaurant has the potential to save you a small fortune over the span of your life. The same goes for developing the habit of only drinking coffee at home.
The best things in life aren’t always cheap. But if you limit yourself to $10 a day during the week, over time you’ll begin to have options to pursue those high ticket items without stressing over the decision to buy them.
Few things can improve your life more than making a commitment to learning how to make more with less.
I was going to add in a few more like walking everywhere you possibly can, and leaving fruit in plain sight in random places throughout your house. But for me personally, the habits above have had the biggest impact.
If you learn how to look at things from a different angle, reserve time for yourself each day, learn how to make do with less, and ask yourself who you can support, these 4 habits have the power to seriously improve your quality of life.
Not only that, but over time by embracing them you may find yourself smiling in photos without having to fake it.