Habits That Make You Happy

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That feeling we call happiness is actually an elevation of primarily three neuro-chemicals – dopamine, seratonin and norepinephrine.

Dopamine naturally increases whenever we experience positive, good, upbeat events. Dopamine increases motivation, creative thinking, memory, problem solving and enthusiasm.

Serotonin naturally increases whenever we are around people we love or care about and experience love, compassion, friendship, etc. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer. it helps reduce depression, anxiety and chronic stress.

Norepinephrine naturally increases whenever you become excited about something. Norepinephrine increases arousal and alertness, promotes persistence, also enhances memory, and increases  your ability to focus.

The elevation occurs when these neuro-chemicals rise above a baseline. Each individual has their own happiness baseline. Leading experts on happiness have found that this happiness baseline is genetic, meaning hardwired into your DNA. Some people, therefore, experience happiness easier than others, depending on their happiness baseline.

But what if you could be happy most of the time? What if I told you that you could consistently elevate these happiness neuro-chemicals above your baseline and experience happiness more often?

The trick is to engage in daily habits which have the effect of increasing the daily production of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.

So, what habits boost these happiness neuro-chemicals?

  • Daily Aerobic Exercise – Aerobic exercise is a happiness activity because it contributes to an overall feeling of well being. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins (form of norepinephrine), natural painkillers that promote an increased sense of well-being and make us feel “happier”.
  • Daily Learning – Our brains are hardwired to learn. When we learn something the brain rewards you with specific neuro-chemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin and brain-derived neurotrophic factors, all of which make us feel happier.
  • Relationship-Building Activities – The latest science on happiness (Harvard University Longitudinal Study on Happiness) indicates that the more close relationships you have, the happier you are. Volunteering, networking, team sports activities, club participation, mentoring and groups you participate in will help increase the number of close relationships you have.
  • Practiced Positivity – Expressing gratitude daily, daily positive affirmations and reading something inspirational creates a positive mental outlook, which elevates serotonin.
  • Meditation – Mediation helps increase the production of serotonin, calming the mind and reducing stress.
  • Pursuing a Dream – Pursuing something meaningful or something you are passionate about is like hitting the trifecta – you elevate all three neuro-chemicals at once.
  • Pursuing Goals – Like pursuing a dream, the pursuit of goals triggers the release of the three primary happiness neuro-chemicals.
  • Spending Time With Family and Friends – Spending time with those you love or care about boosts serotonin and engaging in family or friend-related activities also boosts dopamine and norepinephrine.
  • Engaging in a Hobby – Finding something you love doing will increase dopamine and norepinephrine.

The Physical Structure of Habits Inside the Brain

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I believe if you understand the physiology of habits, their physical structure, it is easier to wrap your head around how habits work and why they are so important. So, let me try to explain that physiology.

We actually have three brains:

  1. Cortex – Also known as the “New Brain”. Evolutionarily, it is the most recent addition to the brain. Neurologists believe it evolved around 200,000 to 250,000 years ago.
  2. Limbic System – Second oldest part of the brain. Controls many functions, including habits.
  3. Brain Stem – Oldest part of the brain. Part of the central nervous system, which automates many functions, such as breathing, blood flow, hunger, heart function, and the automatic functioning of many other organs.

Inside the second brain region, the Limbic System, is something called the Basal Ganglia. The Basal Ganglia is considered the command and control center for habits.

Inside the Basal Ganglia is something called the Striatum. The Striatum has two parts:

  1. The Dorsal Striatum has long, branch-like tendrils which reach out and connect to the Cortex, Substantia Nigra and Thalamus. This is one of the many ways the “New Brain” is connected to the “Old Brain”.
  2. The Ventral Striatum includes something called the Nucleus Accumbens, which is the reward center of the brain. It too is connected to the “New Brain”.

The Striatum has two sets of unique neurons (brain cells) called Fast Spiking Interneurons (FSI):

  1. Go Pathway – The FSIs inside the Go Pathway turn on habits. They are the neurons that are activated when your kids see the McDonalds yellow arches.
  2. Stop Pathway – The FSIs inside the Stop Pathway turn off habits when the habit is done doing what it does (example – eating a McDonald’s burger). Once the reward is received for engaging in a habit, the Stop Pathway FSIs send a signal to the cortex to disengage from the habit (stop eating food at McDonalds).

Luck Likes Dreamers

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Opportunity Luck is a unique type of good luck because it is manufactured. You manufacture Opportunity Luck by doing things which create the opportunity for good luck to occur.

One of those things that creates Opportunity Luck is pursuing a dream.

The pursuit of a dream, by default, requires the creation of goals. Goals must have two things:

  1. Physical Activity and
  2. 100% Achievability

Dreams unleash passion which motivates you to take action. If you have the requisite skills and knowledge to take that action, the goals become 100% achievable.

The objective of every goal is to produce some desired outcome. Sometimes, however, those outcomes exceed your expectations or create unexpected outcomes that benefit your life in some way. Exceeded expectations and unexpected good outcomes are typically referred to as good luck.

This is Opportunity Luck – luck you create by pursuing the goals behind your dreams.

Opportunity Luck likes dreamers. And it reveals itself only to dreamers who take action on their dreams.

When you are the beneficiary of Opportunity Luck, your life improves in some way. Very often, this benefit is in the form of wealth or money, particularly if your dream is something that can be monetized.

Mark Zuckerberg was the beneficiary of Opportunity Luck. So too was Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.

They all took action on their dreams, and they got lucky.

Opportunity Luck does not visit those sitting on the couch watching TV. It doesn’t visit those reading Harry Potter (unless you are J.K. Rowling). It doesn’t visit those who are too afraid to pursue their dreams and, thus, the goals behind their dreams.

Opportunity Luck only visits those who take action on their dreams. It is one of the great secrets to success, that few are aware of.

Let luck find you. Pursue a dream today. Stop thinking about it and do it.

For every dreamer, hard work, disappointment, obstacles and problems are your bedfellows, but so too is Opportunity Luck. And when Opportunity Luck finds you, everything about your life changes, for the better.

Wealth, Health and Happiness is Just a Habit Away

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According to a 2006 Duke University Study, 40% or more of all daily activities are habits.

This means 40% of the time we are all on auto pilot. If we have good habits, our life is on autopilot for health, wealth and happiness. If we have bad habits, life is on autopilot for illness, poverty and unhappiness.

Think of habits as part of the seesaw of life. On one side of your seesaw are your good habits and on the other side are your bad habits. If you have more good habits than bad habits, the circumstances of your life will reflect those good habits.

If, however, you have far more bad habits than good habits, the circumstances of your life will not be very good.
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You Are The CEO Of Your Life

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Tom Corley boats - cropOne of my favorite Rich Habits is Rich Habit #6: I Will Live Each and Every Day in a State of Moderation.

I come from a big Irish family (11). And I married into an equally big Irish family (10). I love it when we get together because we love each other and get along so well. We like to drink, we like to eat, we like to gossip, we like to laugh and, sometimes, unfortunately, we like to fight.

Any problems, when we get together, are very rare. But, when we do have problems, there is always one common denominator – Excess.

If you allow it, excess can become a habit that WILL destroy your life, destroy your relationships, destroy your marriage, destroy your career, destroy your health or destroy your finances.

Excess eating. Excess drinking. Excess spending. Excess drugs. Excess anger. Excess talking. Excess gossiping. Excess smoking. Excess TV. Excess junk food. Excess Internet. Excess procrastination. Excess sloth. Excess sarcasm. Excess disrespect. Excess cursing. Excess working. Excess (fill-in-the-blank).

Excess is your enemy.

The remedy to excess is living your life in moderation. Moderation is really the foundation of discipline. To moderate your behavior, thinking and emotions means to discipline yourself to avoid excesses.

Successful people moderate their excesses. They forge the Moderation Rich Habit.

Because they do, no single thing can damage or control their life. Ultimately, moderation means taking control of your life and dictating how you will live your life.

You choose to be overweight.

You choose to be lean and healthy.

You choose to be angry.

You choose to be happy and grateful.

You choose to become an alcoholic.

You choose to avoid alcohol.

You choose to become a drug addict.

You choose to avoid taking drugs.

You choose to destroy your marriage with infidelity.

You choose to strengthen your marriage by being loyal and trustworthy.

Every excess is a choice you make.

If you want to have a shot at a successful life, you must forge the habit of moderating your behavior, thinking and emotions.

Those who fail, fail for a lot of reasons. Oftentimes, they are man-made reasons and those man-made reasons are almost always our excesses.

Will you let your excesses control your life or will you decide to be the CEO of you behavior, thinking and emotions?

Become the CEO of your life. Live your life in moderation.

How To Program Yourself To Be Successful

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For too many people, negative thinking is a habit.

When negative thoughts dominate your thinking, your subconscious mind (Reticular Activating System, Insular and Thalamus) receives that negative thinking as a directive. It then goes to work to build a life that will be in line with your negative thinking.

For example, if you are constantly saying to yourself, “I don’t have enough money to pay my bills”, your subconscious assumes this is something you desire. It will then go to work, behind the scenes, through intuition, directing your behavior and thinking in order to propel you towards a life of poverty – something you obviously desire, since you are, so frequently, programming it into your subconscious, through your self-talk.

Bottom line – negative thinking perpetuates a life of misery.

In order to put an end to this negative thinking Poor Habit, you must engage in positive thinking – you must reprogram your subconscious mind to be positive. If you do, your subconscious will direct your behavior in such a way that is in line with your internal self-talk.

Here are some tools that will help reprogram your subconscious from negativity to positivity:

  1. Meditate for fifteen minutes first thing upon waking up. Focus your mediation on your ideal, perfect life. See list item # 4.
  2. Create a list of positive things you desire. When you wake up after a night’s sleep, you are in an alpha state (the state between being awake and being asleep). Every night, right before you fall asleep, you drift into this same alpha state. Alpha state is when your conscious and subconscious mind are able to communicate with each other. Immediately upon waking and right before you go to bed, read your list of the positive things you desire. This will get both parts of your brain, your conscious and subconscious, working together in an effort to direct your behavior and thinking in a way that helps you realize the positive things you desire.
  3. Create a Gratitude List. This is a list of all of the things you are grateful for in your life. We all have things to be grateful for. Gratitude is the gateway to positivity. It shifts your thinking from negative to positive. Positivity, according to my Rich Habits research, is a prerequisite to success.
  4. Create a script you your ideal, future life, five to ten years into the future. One thousand words is all it takes. This creates an itch your subconscious will want to scratch. Your subconscious will then direct your behavior and your thinking in an effort to deliver to you the vision of your ideal, perfect, future life.
  5. Review Vision Board. A Vision Board is compilation of the photos/pictures, a visual, of all of the things that you desire.
  6. Write your obituary. Create an obituary that would make you feel your life had meaning. List all of your accomplishments, successes and the value you added to the lives of others, just because you lived.

 

You Don’t Need Confidence In Order To Succeed

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Confidence is too often defined as something that is required in order to become successful.

That is completely incorrect.

Confidence follows success, not the other way around.

You see, there are people who do not appear confident, but who, nonetheless, achieve enormous success.

How is that possible?

It’s really quite simple. Confidence must be earned. You earn confidence by realizing your dreams, achieving your goals, or by becoming a virtuoso in some specific niche.

Expert Skills Confidence 

Through Deliberate and Analytical Practice, you can develop Expert Skills. When you have Expert Skill Confidence, you are very confident in your area of expertise. Your confidence pours through every time you engage in your expertise.

Examples are professional athletes, neurosurgeons, successful authors, bridge engineers, architects who design skyscrapers, etc.

Expert Knowledge Confidence

Through ritual, daily study, in a particular area, you gain expert knowledge and this endows you with Expert Knowledge Confidence.

Examples include NASA/Rocket scientists, neurologists, geneticists, nuclear physicists, chemical engineers, etc.

Entrepreneurial Confidence

Entrepreneurs who pursue success by taking action on their dreams and goals, gain enormous confidence in their entrepreneurial abilities, but only after they begin to realize success.

I can go one and on with examples. My point is this, confidence is not a prerequisite to success – it is the result of success.

And success requires that you do certain, specific things consistently which makes you more skilled and knowledgeable in what you do.

As you grow in knowledge and skills, you become more expert. Success inevitably follows. And that success leads to confidence.

Pursuit of Success —> Growth —> Expertise —> Success —> Confidence

Relationships Are The Currency of The Wealthy

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80% of the wealthy in my Rich Habits Study used four core strategies to grow and strengthen their relationships:

#1    Hello Call

#2    Happy Birthday Call

#3    Life Event Call and

#4    Networking/Volunteering

The Hello Call is used primarily to gather information on each contact.

The Happy Birthday Call keeps your relationships on life support. At least once a year you are forced to reach out to your contacts to wish them a happy birthday. About 5-10% of these contacts will reciprocate and call you on your birthday, taking your relationship off life support.

The Life Event Call is the most powerful strategy because it puts your relationships on steroids. This is a call you make to acknowledge some life event: birth, death, engagement, marriage, health issue etc

Networking & Volunteering allows you to meet new people and offers the opportunity to showcase your skills in a safe, friendly and stress-free environment.

Volunteering is also where you will find success mentors. Many of the local non-profits are composed of board members who happen to be the most successful people in the community.

Volunteering also offers a stress-free way to develop new skills. Since you can’t get fired, there is little risk in experimentation with new skills. Mistakes will not result in you getting fired for incompetence. Non-profits are grateful to have volunteers and this positive environment provides a great deal of latitude in developing new skills.

Want to learn how to market? Join a committee that helps market those events.

Want to learn bookkeeping? Offer to assist the Treasurer.

Want to learn how to organize teams? Join a committee that is running one of the events.

Where To Find Your Mentor

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In order to be successful in life you must adopt certain, specific success habits. I call them the Rich Habits.

You must also avoid specific failure habits. I call them the Poor Habits.

There are five top sources from which you can learn about these Rich Habits and Poor Habits. We learn them from:

  1. Parents
  2. Career Mentors
  3. Teachers
  4. Reading
  5. The School of Hard Knocks

Only 33% of the self-made millionaires in my Rich Habits Study were fortunate enough to have had at least one mentor in life.

When you find a success mentor, they will help smooth out the pavement for you and help you avoid the potholes that are everywhere.

They teach you what to do and what not to do. Mistakes cost you time, money and reduced stress. Mistakes cause stress.

Success Mentors, therefore, save you time, money and help you avoid stress, which translates into better health, as stress impairs your immune system, leading to sickness and various diseases.

#1 Source – Parents

Parents are often the only shot most of us have at having a success mentor in life.

When you are raised by one or more parents who mentor you to be successful, you immediately leap frog over your peers. And this Parent-Mentor advantage begins to pay huge dividends when you enter the workforce, in terms of better jobs with higher pay and greater career opportunities.

Parent-Mentors tee you up for success as an adult. It is a great advantage.

#2 Source – Career Mentors

Career mentors steer you in the right direction in your career. Often, Career-Mentors are found within the organization you work for. If you find a Career-Mentor early on in your career, this puts you at a great advantage among your peers.

Career-Mentors not only teach you what to do and what not to do, they also open doors for you and introduce you to their inner circle of relationships.

#3 Source – Teachers

Teachers can be another great source for Success-Mentors. A good teacher will motivate you. They will help guide you. They will get you on the right path and keep you on the right path.

#4 Source – Reading

Mentors can be found in books. I consider Og Mandino, Dale Carnegie, Charles Duhigg, Napoleon Hill, Joseph Murphy, Jack Canfield, Malcolm Gladwell, T. Have Eker, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, George Washington, Andrew Carnegie, Calvin Coolidge, James Monroe, Cornelius Vanderbilt, JP Morgan and Nicoli Tesla some of my most important mentors. All, by the way, mentors through books I’ve read either by them or about them.

I have found biographies of successful people particularly full of great mentoring advice.

#5 Source – The School of Hard Knocks

I list this as last on my list because the mentoring you receive via The School of Hard Knocks, is painful mentoring.

You are, essentially, your own mentor. You make mistakes. Those mistakes cost you valuable time and money. The mistakes become like scar tissue on the brain – they are never forgotten because they are always tied to intense emotions – anger, sadness, disgust, pain, heartbreak and worry.

The School of Hard Knocks is the most difficult way to be mentored. If you are strong enough to survive this mentoring, however, the lessons you learn stick with you forever.

Nice People Can Become Rich

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One of the myths that I had about rich people before conducting my Rich Habits Study was that they were unhappy, aggressive, cut throat individuals.

That was how they were portrayed to me, growing up.

However, after interviewing 233 wealthy people, I was left scratching my head because, for the most part, they were among the nicest, kindest, generous people I had ever met.

In Richard Branson’s book, Like a Virgin, there is a section of the book where he is addressing some of the common questions he is asked.

One of those questions was:

Can nice guys finish anywhere but last?

Branson responded that he hated being aggressive and that the culture he fosters at Virgin is to engage with everyone in a positive, inclusive manner, rather than in an aggressive, combative or negative way.

Branson went on to highlight the importance of remaining upbeat, calm and collected when dealing with others – something I recently addressed in my article on Emotions.

Branson, like many of the rich in my study, destroys the myth that nice people can never be successful.

Nice people can finish first, and many do.

People like doing business with people they like.