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A publication from Medium on personal development.

Self Improvement

In Forge. More on Medium.

3 ways to process

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Remember this time last year, when we already thought we’d been through so much? Even just a few weeks into the Covid-19 pandemic, the analytically minded among us were wondering how this unprecedented experience would forever scar us, or maybe change us for the better. Now it’s, well, feeling a lot more precedented. And with each milestone — the one-year-anniversary of the pandemic’s start, the rollouts of vaccines, and even the sentencing in the George Floyd case that sparked last summer’s uprisings — it seems more and more like we should have some sense of understanding, some narrative arc.


To find your focus, understand the relationship between motivation and discomfort

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It took me five years to write my last book, which was a lot longer than it should have taken. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what to do — I did. I just didn’t do it. I wasn’t motivated.

My book, Indistractable, is about how to stop getting distracted. Ironically, the problem was that I kept getting distracted. That is, until I learned the key to finally doing what I set out to do.

When I finally understood the biology behind why we do what we do, I didn’t just write the book; I became more productive at…

Self-improvement through moral self-examination

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Journaling for self-improvement is popular today but it builds on a tradition of moral self-examination that goes all the back to ancient Greece and Rome. This article describes a simple method of daily reflection, which was well-known in antiquity. It was first described in a poem called The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, based upon the doctrines of the famous 6th century BC philosopher. However, it was later assimilated into Stoicism, as we’ll see.

Arrian and Stoicism

The most famous Stoic teacher of all, Epictetus, wrote nothing. His words were transcribed and edited by a Roman citizen, called Arrian of Nicomedia, the capital city…

If you’re wondering why you’re not happy, why things are always hard, try this thought experiment from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius

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We can imagine that Marcus Aurelius was a busy man, perhaps the busiest man in the world. He had 14 children. He was living through a pandemic. He had a nagging stomach ailment. He was taking philosophy classes.

Oh, and he was the emperor of Rome. His domain stretched some 2.2 million square miles and included some 120 million people for whom he was both responsible for and in charge of.

How did he manage it all? How did he get it all done? Without losing his mind? Without falling behind?

We know that one question played a huge role.

To find your focus, learn to resist this self-sabotaging excuse

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Imagine this: You’ve been diagnosed with a rare and serious disease. In hopes of keeping you alive, the doctor recommends a new, experimental course of treatment. It works for some people — maybe 60%. But it’s covered by your insurance, and if you are in the 60%, you’ll be successfully cured in six months. What do you do?

Of course you say yes. Maybe you’ll get unlucky and it won’t work for you, but it’s worth a try. You’d probably try the treatment even with only a 10% success rate. …

Train your brain to master the art of controlled anticipation

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Tell me if this rings a bell: After a long, long, long stretch of pandemic sameness, you finally have something on the calendar that has you looking forward — maybe a date with a friend you haven’t seen in forever, or a weekend day trip, or just a coveted afternoon alone, away from the people you’ve been cooped up with. You’re excited. You’re eager. You’re ready. And then, suddenly, it’s here and then over — and by the time the next week is out, you can barely remember how great you felt.

It’s natural. We have a tendency to tear…

📋 Today’s tip: Write your to-do list on a piece of paper.

There are so many neat apps and other digital tools out there that promise to keep us more organized and on-task, and thank goodness, in These Scattered Times, for that. But sometimes, as Rosie Spinks writes for Forge, the absolute best to-do list is the one you write down, with a pen, on paper.

This is not just for the usual reasons (writing something by hand can help solidify it in your brain, etc). As Spinks points out, a written to-do list can be as intimate and revealing…

📚 Today’s tip: A history book can help you see things a little differently.

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to become an informed citizen isn’t to watch the news or constantly check Twitter. Instead, as Ryan Holiday writes, you can gain an incredible amount of perspective by reading history books. In his annual list of recommendations, Holiday praises titles such as How to Be a Leader by Plutarch, A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy, and Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. “Reading is the way to gain easily what others have gained by difficult experience,”…

Nine phrases to try for yourself

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I have finally learned how to say “no.” I am 43. It’s taken 25 years of my adult life to get comfortable with these two tiny letters. Why? Three reasons, the combination of which is the perfect storm for someone like me: 1) I am a people pleaser; 2) it’s human nature to be really needy and demanding, even more so now that we’re trapped at home; and 3) We live in a “say yes to life” culture. But, of all the things that the pandemic has taught me, this is probably the most powerful one: “No” is the new…

Here’s how to maintain your digital resistance

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If you made a resolution to get off your phone, it’s probably starting to fall apart. The senseless alerts are back, your resolve to “just check one thing” bleeds into the next digital thing, and before you know it an hour (or two or three) have gone by.

You know what it’s costing you. You don’t want to be like the majority of Americans who spend on average 1,200 hours a year on their phone — a full waking month out of every year, a full waking year out of every decade. …

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