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A publication from Medium on personal development.

Life Lessons

In Forge. More on Medium.

Trying to build a habit can backfire if you fall for the ‘habit trap.’

Photo: Fiordaliso/Getty Images

These days, when someone says they want to form a “habit,” what they often mean is that they want to make drudgery effortless. That is, they don’t want to actually do the work, rather they want to have done it — past tense.

None of them have anything to do with money, fame, or success

Licensed from Shutterstock // Ostanina Anna

How do you compare to the person you were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago? Are you kinder, braver, more principled? I’m fifty now, and those metrics matter to me. But that wasn’t always the case.

In my twenties, I lusted after money, job titles, and sex as trophies of a successful life. Those success criteria now seem laughable and childish. Yet, many of my peers still chase after the same cravings that drove them in their twenties. They’re frustrated with life. They feel left behind even though they’re rich. They’re aggrieved despite being blessed and privileged.

That’s what happens…

What a computer game about life has taught me about life

(Illustrations — Mark Starmach)

The turn of the 20th Century to the 21st Century was marked with many things — Y2K, the Sydney Olympics, Beanie Baby hysteria and ill-fitting jeans.

But none have impressed themselves as deeply into my psyche than the computer game franchise, ‘The Sims’.

First released in 2000, ‘The Sims’ was conceived by American game designer Will Wright, the mastermind behind a slew of highly successful simulation games in the 1990’s like ‘SimCity’, ‘Sim Theme Park’, and the oft-overlooked ‘SimAnt’. In each game the objective was to build, monitor and maintain the simulation of a complex system with many moving parts…

Maybe there’s something you’re trying to hide

Photo: We Are/Getty Images

If you ever consume information about nutrition, relationships, fitness, or productivity, then you know that people often make things overly complex. Sometimes complexity is necessary but often it is not, and it can make things worse rather than better.

On the supply side, many people make things complex so they can sell them. It is hard to monetize the basics. But come up with an intricate and sexy-sounding approach to pretty much any endeavor and people will pay⁠ — and often a lot⁠ — for it. But what about the demand side? …

A plan for (finally) dropping the victim narrative

Photo: Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

I use this term a lot in my work with coaching clients: despair mode.

I see folks slip into this place so easily. A mode of freak out. Of self pity. Of negativity. Of spiraling out about worst-case scenarios. Of what’s-the-point-ism. Of fear.

For most of my 40-plus years, this was my default, too. I was addicted to worst-case scenarios, of my own inability to change anything in my life, to my victim narrative.

What despair mode encouraged me to live in was two states: learned helplessness, and learned hopelessness.

The first, learned helplessness — well, if you read my…

A “digital detox” probably won’t fix what’s broken. Here’s what will.

Photo: 10'000 Hours/Getty Images

Not so long ago, I came to believe that I was prioritizing technology over the most important people in my life — including, most painfully, my daughter.

It hit me hard one day when the two of us were playing games from an activity book. The first activity involved naming each other’s favorite things. The next project was to build a paper airplane with one of the pages. The third was a question we both had to answer: “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?”

I wish I could tell you what my daughter said at that…

Why slower and smaller is often better

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

For myriad reasons, the culture of the past two decades has been obsessed with growth. I am going to call this the growth era. In the growth era, it doesn’t so much matter what you are growing — your company, your audience, your income, your network, your muscles, or the size of your house — but just that you are growing. Growth is good, the story goes, and growth is an end in and of itself.

Perhaps it is time reconsider this convention. What if smaller is better?

In my coaching practice, very rarely do I help people get and…

The question will save you from disappointment

Photo: PM Images/Getty Images

Wouldn’t it be nice to experience greater fulfillment in life?

Everyone has aspirations and dreams, but they don’t always think things through. Worse, they don’t stop to examine their underlying motivations, and where they might lead.

I’ll bet you know people who are unhappy in their careers. They complain about their bosses, the commute, office politics, and more. Maybe this applies to you?

“How did I get into this mess?” you might ask yourself.

The answer often has to do with money, the expectations of others, and unexamined goals. …

Pummeling toward efficiency can come at the cost of a more connected, interesting life

Photo: Jessie Casson/Getty Images

Last week, I got a text that filled me with dread.

I’m in a pickle. Can you come help me put the door back on my dryer?

It was from a neighbor who I’m becoming friends with, but who I don’t know well. It was on a day when my kids were at camp and I was flying through work, errands and volunteer commitments at breakneck pace. It was hot out and I was already sweaty.

I considered saying no, thinking about every article I’ve read, and written, about good boundaries. …

There’s real power in minimizing your choices

The more choices we have the better, or so we think. But that’s not always the case. Constraints, that is, artificially minimizing choices, are becoming increasingly important to our mental health. We should embrace them in more areas of our lives.

Here’s why: In a world where technology is accelerating, you have access to what, for all intents and purposes, is infinity in more areas of your life. …


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