I’ve always been a bookworm. Just ask my wife. Reading has been my go to since I was a kid, picking my way through Harry Potter, The Magic Tree House series, or the Secrets of Droon. I was always into fiction, but I delved a little into non-fiction as well.
My background in Forensic Anthropology and Law Enforcement meant that my idea of a good non-fiction book sometimes elicited frightened fervent glances in waiting rooms. My bookshelves were (and still are) packed with everything from the North Carolina General Statutes to Gray’s Anatomy (the anatomy book, not the show, ladies).
But sadly, none of my chosen sources of reading material gave me anything other than education in science or law enforcement, or it entertained me. I had to seek out other reading. I started reading books about self growth, self-development, relationships, habits, strength finders, leadership, and even business (I had taken one business class in all my years as a student so this was not normally go-to material).
Out of this reading education, I learned how to pick myself up out of a really dark place and get myself on track for the life I wanted to live. And because of this experience and education, I have been able to help others with their life journeys as well.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve got a podcast playing pretty much all the time. While I’m washing dishes, cleaning house, driving in my truck, doing work on my computer, and even sleeping in my bed (check out my nifty pillow speakers that have options enabled for sleepscapes as well Bluetooth Speakers). I found these speakers on Amazon for less than $30 and it was one of my best purchases that year. You would be totally surprised at the content you can take in while you’re asleep!
Through these podcasts, I discovered a whole host of speakers I could identify with. I found that many of them had similar upbringings as me and others had been through far worse. I reveled in hearing about their pasts. But I valued even more the advice they gave for getting over the biggest obstacles and building a life you want.
I learned tips, tricks, habits, and found new books to read from their recommendations. I found the secret to unlocking my own potential was to find the speakers that really stood out and I was able to identify with and study them. I started reading their autobiographies and learning everything I could about them and how they had built their successes but even more importantly, how they had overcome their failures.
It was through this knowledge that I was able to apply many of the things discussed on these shows to my own life. I found ways to develop my own company using tips from these shows, and my own street smarts on a shoe string budget and no business experience.
3. Habit Tracking
I would hazard a guess that this was most likely my most valuable little known secret. Over a year ago, I developed a hard copy habit tracker that I would physically draw out, fill out, and color in every month. I drew a new one each month and I would go back and compare my progress. This habit tracker is exactly what it says it is. It tracks the habits you want to implement into building a better life.
Each column holds a number for each day of the month and each row holds a different habit. Every habit is a different color and it wasn’t long before my entire page (23 habits) was completely filled up. As I master habits (every day is filled in with no break, I do it without thought, for every day that month and the following month) I will remove those mastered habits from the list. I sometimes replace them with new habits or I will leave the empty space for future inspiration (I never run out of ideas for new things I want to work on)
I’m in the process of designing an app for iPhones and Android with this particular habit tracker. Once it is complete, I will be sure to let you guys know!
This was a MASSIVE hurdle for me! I cannot sit still. At all. Ever. When I was in law enforcement, the worst moments were when I was forced to sit on the side of a dark road and run radar, waiting in silence for someone to break the law. It was the worst man.
I have never liked yoga or staring at things for a long period of time, focusing on my breathing. It made me anxious and I thought it was super weird. I figured out later this was mostly because I was afraid to be left alone with my own thoughts in a place where I couldn’t act on sudden ideas or inspiration. I also couldn’t escape the memories that were less than positive.
I downloaded the free version of the Breathe app on my phone and added “meditation” as a daily habit on my habit tracker. That held me accountable. I also set up reminders to meditate through the app at certain times of the day when I knew I would feel the most stressed. I enjoyed the app so much I ended up buying the full version. I use it everyday even now. I use the sleep scapes, morning meditations, journaling, all of it. It helps me find peace of mind. It’s also the only meditation app I ever liked (I had previously downloaded several others that just weren’t what I was looking for).
I’ve always been a fitness geek. Lifting weights, running, martial arts, boxing, soccer, softball, these were things I have done my entire life to help find clarity. I find my best creative thoughts come after the longest, hardest runs. I can’t stand cardio but the mental and physical benefits that come from it cannot be ignored in my opinion.
In the last few of years, when I started falling into the neurotic phase of my life, I was at my most unhealthiest state. I wasn’t working out as much (maybe once a week or once every two weeks). I wasn’t eating my normal healthy foods or meal prepping like I used to.
I committed to the decision to get back on the wagon and begin exercising at least 5 days a week. I added this to my habit tracker for emphasis and what do ya know? It actually worked. I stuck to it. It was rocky as hell at first. Many gains, many falls, many more falls, but eventually my progress began to show. I saw more colored squares on my habit tracker each month, more activity, and I saw the pounds falling off on the scale. It was a great feeling.
This improved exercise program got my positivity back up and other realms of my life started falling back into place as well. My energy levels went up, my sleep got better, my marriage was better, and my business was launched shortly after.
This is huge for me. Everyone is different and while some people need only 4 or 5 hours sleep, I’ve heard of others needing 9 or 10 hours of sleep. The important thing is do what your body is telling you to do. My optimum time spent sleeping is 7.5-8 hours. So I added “8 hours sleep” to my habit tracker. Am I able to accomplish this everyday? Heck no, but I do much better than I used to.
When I first started out on the path of entrepreneurship, people in the field gave me all kinds of crazy and in retrospect, ignorant advice. I was told, “you can sleep when your financially free” or “if you’re not making money while you sleep, then why is sleep so important”. They made me feel as if I was some sort of big loser or something for trying to get the sleep my body needed to function.
Worse than that? I actually listened to them for awhile. It made my business worse! I was frustrated all the time because I actually started losing money in my business, I was cranky from lack of sleep, my body ached, my creativity was erased from existence, and I started getting sick more frequently. My immune system was getting worse no matter how many good foods and supplements I packed into my body.
When I wisened up and stopped listening to those people that weren’t having to live with the consequences of these actions, I started feeling better. I started sleeping the right amount of hours that my body needed and a crazy thing happened… My life got a million times better and I felt a million times better. My advice? Listen to your body, not your colleagues when it comes to your body’s health.
7. Applied Learning
This is the action phase of things. I had done my part in educating myself. I found exactly what interested me, what worked, what didn’t work, what helped me, what didn’t, etc. I started using this knowledge to re-construct and actually design the life I had always dreamed of but never had the courage to chase after.
Once I started making progress, and my happiness became ever more apparent, people in my life started asking me questions. They wanted to know what I had been doing differently. How did I drop weight, why was I smiling more, what had I been so busy on recently, what had changed, etc.
Some of those people became clients in my new lifestyle design company that I had just launched. I had been giving away free advice to people for awhile about what had made a huge difference in my life and I watched it transform others’ lives as well. I realized this was something I had gotten really good at and I began to build a business out of it.
I have expanded to include the local community in this small town and I now offer free resources to many small businesses in town via relationships I’ve developed with local colleges. I have had such fun giving back more and I have found this is the most fulfilling career I have ever had.
All of these things helped me get this far, but the best way I dragged myself out of my shit and into the life I deserved?
8. I Stopped Letting Other Peoples’ Opinions of Me Determine My Intrinsic Value
Out of all this work, and all of these new habits I built a life I am so very proud of. I chased the speakers I loved listening to by following their social media pages, YouTube Channels, and Podcasts. I went to a few conferences as well.
After discovering the things that worked or didn’t work, I took that knowledge to my clients, friends and family. I changed occupations, I traded up in my friend’s list. I began focusing on expanding my network to include people I had previously thought were out of my league.
I began caring more about my dreams that I ever had before and I didn’t care who felt offended by that. I refuse to dim my light just because it’s shining in your eyes. I refuse to make myself small again. I’m already only 5’1″ and I grew up being encouraged by my parents to always have big dreams and feel big. When I got out in the real world, I allowed society to put me in a small box and shrink my perception of myself.
After this process, I swore I would never do that again. My intrinsic value is no longer tied to my profession, my religion, my athleticism, my familial ties, my heritage, or by anything else that I “do” or by any other groups that I “belong to”.
I looked deep inside myself and started defining myself by who I ACTUALLY am. I’m honest, creative, giving, caring, loyal, courageous, and a whole host of other awesome things. I still work to manage my stress, my short temper, and other traits. I acknowledge my faults but I don’t let them define me. All I can be is better than i was yesterday and the day before that.
I can say with the utmost certainty that the person writing this today is light years better than the person I was 5 years ago or even 2 years ago. May your journey to self-discovery be as life changing and liberating as mine was.