If what we bring to the table changes day-to-day, that variability leaves a lot at stake. We are relied on by our friends, family, and workmates to show up time and time again as consistent performers, and yet we as humans don’t have as much control over this sense of consistency as we would prefer. More importantly, we owe it to ourselves to act in line with our values and show up with integrity in ways that drive us closer to our goals. However, the unfortunate truth is that it is in our nature to fatigue easily, avoid risks that might be necessary to drive us to the next level, and perpetuate laziness if we aren’t careful.
Consider this Scenario
You wake up one morning and leap out of bed with relative and surprising ease. You feel well-rested and ready to take on the day, and as you go through your morning routine you somehow start to feel this sense of “…wow – I’m killing it.” Your drive to work was painless, your day is productive and meaningful, and as you continue to buzz and interact with the people who constitute your life, you gain a sense of satisfaction. To top your day off, when you see your significant partner at home that evening you both spend an evening of quality time together, going to the gym, reading, and getting to bed at a reasonable hour.
You’ve done it – you’ve had an incredible day. You put forward the best version of yourself.
And then you wake up the next morning and everything changes. You’re tired and groggy. You feel ill-equipped to handle the big meetings you have later at work during which you’re expected to present. You feel annoyed and irritated by the small talk and meaningless chatter happening around you during your day, and you begin to notice every little thing that starts to bother you. You feel distracted and depressed for essentially the entire day, don’t get any of your necessary work done, and feel like a failure. To top it off, you get into a silly and avoidable argument with your partner when you get home.
You’re having a really bad day. You don’t feel good about the version of yourself you put out into the world today.
As much as we try, it can often be hard to pinpoint a direct source for both good days and really bad days. The unavoidable truth is that there are times that things just don’t go our way, and how we react to those circumstances is how we put forward the best versions of ourselves.
Dealing with Variability – A “Best Version” Insurance Policy
If you’re a living breathing human, you already know that life’s strange and sometimes random circumstances make it nearly impossible to control for external sources of stress, fear, and negative emotion that have the potential to make us lash out and show those ugly parts of ourselves. However, what we can control are our day-to-day habits that give us some sense of control over our physical and mental well-being. Just as we have the capacity to build a mountain out of a molehill when hit with those random obstacles life throws at us, we also have the ability to perpetuate positivity, discipline, and kindness that comes from within.
So here it is – a unique insurance policy you can follow to ensure the best version of “you” shows up more consistently. From daily habits to ways to deal with the normal stressors of life, just know that showing up as the best version of yourself isn’t easy or always possible, but can be made more likely when we follow a few powerful exercises.
1. Create a Morning Routine
Designing a repeatable morning routine is one of the best ways to set yourself up for daily success and influence some of the more controllable factors. In fact, many of the Fortune 500 leaders rely on morning routines to set themselves up for optimal performance. The focus and advantage here is to construct a system that is second nature, allowing you step through the motions with intent, similar to a breathing exercise.
There are many different exercises and practices people incorporate into their routine. For example, author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss begins his morning with a strict regimen of meditation, tea, and journaling. For him, this helps with clearing thoughts from the mind and putting them onto a page before starting the day. Former Navy Seal commander Jocko Willink begins his day early – at 4:30 am, and immediately jumps into a workout.
For you, a morning routine might look a little different. Try and test a number of sequences to see what works best for you. Helpful exercises you could incorporate are:
- Morning breathing exercises
- Visualization and goal-setting
2. Routine Goal-Setting
This is an easy tie-in with creating your morning routine in the sense that some of the goals you set should be accomplishments you hope to complete in the same day. Others will represent more mid to long-term goals that might take weeks, months, or years to complete. In order to continuously remind yourself of these goals and to create new ones every day, build a visual reminder (preferably in your home) that is unavoidable, especially in the mornings. For example, if you have a home office, keeping a whiteboard above your desk might be an easy idea.
Using whichever record-keeping methodology you choose, create three columns that will represent the following:
- Goals you intend to complete the same day
- Accomplishments that will take more than a day but less than 12 weeks
- Goals that will take more than 12 weeks but less than a year
The intention is to refresh column 1 on a daily basis, wiping it clean every night. This habit should result in a sense of daily success at the end of each day, while helping to focus the mind every morning.
3. Commit to Daily Habits
During your goal-setting exercise you should define those habits you must use as vehicles to get you closer to the finish line. For example, if you list a long-term goal of launching a successful blog, you can break this goal down into daily habits such as writing that are easy to tackle. Therefore, the goal that you write down at the beginning of any given day might be to write “x” article. It then becomes easy to document your success along the way as you measurably inch closer to your goal.
You should make these daily habits easier for yourself by making them obvious (similar to visualizing and adhering to your goals). For example, if your goal is to practice guitar every day, keep your instrument in the living room on a stand that you have to pass by every time you leave or enter the room. Or, if one of your desired daily habits is to exercise in the morning, prepare your gym pack before you go to sleep and night, and lay out all of your gym clothes so you don’t even have to think about finding them when you wake up.
4. Listen to an Inspirational Podcast
I am a staunch believer in using the free time you might have during your morning commute to find inspiration. Rather than consuming the daily news (which allows a level of variability to enter your life that can be distracting), try finding an inspirational podcast or a motivational speaker to listen to. For example, some of my personal favorites that I use to empower my creativity include The Ted Radio Hour and The Science of Happiness. And, of course, The Tim Ferriss Show.
5. Learn Something New Every Day
Whether you’re chipping away at learning a new language every day by using an app like Duolingo, or you’re able to read a great self-help book during your 20-minute subway commute, set aside the time for everyday learning. As we get older and the institutions that once cultivated learning are no longer around, we must find the time to learn new things and allow the brain to continue growing neural networks. We are all born as curious creatures, but as monotonous routines set in as we age, it becomes our responsibility to continuously teaching ourselves to be interesting people.
One easy way to ensure daily learning AND find inspiration is to listen to The Ted Radio Hour (instead of the news) during your daily commute. I guarantee you will learn something new every time you listen.
6. Keep Yourself Accountable
While I’m not suggesting that you beat yourself up if you miss a day of goal-setting or you don’t get anything done in a given day, it is nonetheless important to track your progress and keep yourself honest and aligned with your mission. Although methods differ between people, many choose to use a journal or a daily planner to take an inventory of actions, habits, and goals that have been met each day. Making a habit out of personal accountability will reinforce the positive feedback loops that are activated by the sense of getting things done, making it easier and easier to continue the habits you want to keep.
7. Visualize Success
Similar to routine goal setting and keeping yourself accountable, forcing your mind to articulate and outline what success looks like onto a piece of paper or a whiteboard is an extremely powerful exercise. This too can be paired with your daily, quarterly, and yearly goals if you plan to use a big record-keeping tool such as a whiteboard. Try keeping this visual nearby and in a spot you regularly pass by to stay reminded of what this end goal looks like.
8. Incorporate Healthy Brain and Body Supplements
While supplementing isn’t going to solve all of your problems for you, it certainly can make things a whole lot easier. Take focus for example – anyone who finds variability in their ability to concentrate should consider taking an all-natural ayurvedic herb for mental clarity.
One of my personal favorites is Ashwagandha – this herb is classified as an “adaptogen,” which means that it helps your body adapt and manage stress. Research has also shown that ashwagandha can improve cognitive and psychomotor functioning, aiding with both focus and memory. While it can be taken in capsule form, I blend ¼ – ½ a teaspoon of the powder into hot water and drink as a tea.
Bayan Botanicals Ashwagandha Powder is my favorite (certified organic).
Other popular herbal supplements for mental clarity, focus, and reducing stress include Brahmi, Ginkgo Biloba, Shankhpushpi.
In addition to a regimen of herbal supplements, I also take an all-in-one nutritional support supplement comprised primarily of superfood leafy greens. The one I use is Athletic Greens – it contains an impressive myriad of antioxidants, probiotics, and superfood greens that ensures I am consuming high levels of nutrients even on days I slack off on my diet. Ever since I started taking Athletic Greens I’ve noticed an increase in physical endurance, a boost in mood, and increased attention.
Click here for more information about Athletic Greens.
9. Consciously Suppress Involuntary Habits
While committing to helpful regular habits that move you closer toward your goals every day, it is equally as important to catch yourself from falling into maladaptive loops that are distracting or a waste of time. For example, it is tempting to open your mailbox every time an email comes through and disrupt whatever workflow or jam you are currently in. Habits like these become second nature, but it’s sometimes hard to recognize how disruptive and distracting they can be from getting things done. Here are some ideas to help prevent you from being distracted less-important things that constantly call for attention:
Turn off Facebook notifications
These push reminders that call for your attention can wait. Go into your settings and turn off these notifications, and instead check Facebook at planned intervals when you are not working
For many people, snacking is a response to boredom, not hunger. Train yourself to identify when you are actually hungry if you start reaching for snacks. If you find that you are indeed hungry, have a real, nutrition-rich meal
10. Remove the Toxicity
In the same vein as suppressing involuntary habits, practicing restrain and controlled responses to negativity is one of the most valuable teachings in showing up as the best version of oneself. When someone cuts you off while driving or you feel left out when someone doesn’t invite you to a get together, remind yourself that an emotional response of anger or jealousness is a waste of time and energy. Regardless of the intent of others, your energy should only be placed into actions that move you forward rather than getting caught up on negativity, toxicity, or feeling bad for yourself.