Category Archives: Take Action

Taking action is critical to successfully achieving your goals.

These 5 Practices Will Make You Happier, Healthier And More Successful . . . At Any Age

The tagline for Forever Young Blog is “How To Be Happier, Healthier And More Successful . . . At Any Age” yet it occurred to me that I have never written an article on just that.

To correct my omission, I offer these suggestions.

1. Exercise And Make Healthy Eating Choices. Every Day.

Exercise

Move your body every day. 30 minutes is optimal, but anything is better than nothing. Establish the exercise habit.

Especially if you are a recovering couch potato, start slowly and build up. (Always consult your physician before starting or radically changing a fitness program.)

Make sure your exercise regime includes cardiovascular exercise and strength training. You need both.

Especially when you are starting out, choose exercises that you like. If you don’t like running, use a cross-trainer. If you don’t like the cross-trainer, swim. If you don’t like swimming, ride a bicycle. Play basketball. Play volleyball. Dance. If you don’t like any other exercise, walk. The fact is, you simply won’t continue doing something you hate. So find exercises you like, or at least dislike the least.

That’s the exercise part. Pretty simple, huh?

Actually, it’s quite simple. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 70% of Americans are overweight (weigh too much) and 35.7% of American adults are obese (have too much body fat, a BMI of 30 or higher). We are the second fattest country in the world, after only Mexico.

To beat these odds, focus on the increased energy and improved outlook that an exercise habit will give you. On the inevitable days you don’t feel like exercising . . . do it anyway. Sometimes you will get into it and be glad you started. Even on days when it never gets easy, you will be satisfied with yourself for toughing it out. Trust me: the benefits are worth working for.

Food plateHealthy eating is as important to your fitness as your exercise program. Maybe more so. Fitness experts often say that you can’t exercise away a bad diet. If you are eating crap, you won’t be fit even with adequate exercise.

Eat foods from all the food groups every day – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. And eliminate, or minimize, the fitness killers such as fried and processed foods. If you must have them, save doughnuts, french fries, chips, hot dogs, sausages and sugary cereal for your 21st meal, a concept that I created and explain here.

By the way, protein includes more than red meat. Try eggs, fish, avocado and nuts instead of artery-clogging red meat.

The reason this advice to get and stay healthy is listed first is that the rest of the list requires a strong body and the energy that comes with good health and fitness.

Health and fitness will provide a number of unanticipated benefits, too.

Fitness can help overcome injuries. I have some experience with that myself. I have been able to live an active life despite having had a herniated disc in my low back for more than 10 years because I am otherwise in good condition and the muscles surrounding and supporting my injury are strong. (Of course, I am not saying that you can exercise away all injuries. Get your medical advice from your doctor, not from some bozo with a blog.)

Exercise, nutrition and fitness are the best ways to slow the aging process. In fact, studies have shown that most of the maladies we associate with aging are actually caused not by aging but by lack of activity.

Here’s the bottom line: It feels good to feel good. So, clean up your diet and get moving!

2. Keep Learning. Every day.

Keep LearningTo reach your potential, and even just to keep up in this fast-paced world, you must keep learning and improving. If you are not moving forward, you are sliding backward.

You must continually gather new information, learn new skills and improve old ones.

Here’s a counter-intuitive suggestion: explore subjects and study things you don’t already know about and, in fact, might not even think will interest you. Exposure to different things will spur your imagination and creativity by teaching you different perspectives.

Fortunately, this is the best time in the history of the world to learn. Thanks to the Internet – the most important invention during my lifetime and, arguably, in all history – all of the world’s knowledge and wisdom are at your fingertips.

Here a few random, implementing recommendations:

  • Read every day for 1 to 2 hours.

  • Read on your digital products instead of on paper. Paper products are bad for the planet and not as portable or retrievable. So read newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. on your digital devices.

  • Use one of the fabulous news aggregator apps. My favorite is a free app called Zite (which is now owned by Flipboard). You tell the app what subjects interest you and the app searches the Internet for the best information on your topics and gives it to you in magazine format. It is basically a recommendation engine. For example, although I change this from time to time, my Zite app currently serves me articles about the wide-ranging subjects of entrepreneurship, healthy living, philosophy & spirituality, photography, psychology, social media, sports, technology, travel, productivity and atheism. I start every day sampling this smorgasbord of information on my iPad while I eat breakfast. Without fail, I read something that informs, intrigues or inspires me.

  • Take online courses. There is an educational revolution going on. Anyone with an Internet connection and a desire to learn can take free courses from the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world. Don’t miss this opportunity!

3. Take Action On Your Goals. Right Away And Every Day.

Take Action!Ideas are awesome. Goals are magic. But unless they are married to action, ideas and goals are just dreams.

I recently read a great story about Richard Branson. In the early 80s, he was best known for creating Virgin Records. In 1984, he conceived the idea of creating a high quality airline. Only 3 months later, after leasing a plane, leasing space at airports, getting licenses and hiring staff, Virgin Atlantic Airways was born. 3 Months! I have been told that he took action on his idea the very day it occurred to him. As I was told the story, before the day was over he had leased an airplane and was in the process of leasing airport space and hiring staff.

Wow. You may not have the assets of billionaire Branson (yet), so you may not be able to implement such large ideas immediately (yet), but you can certainly take immediate action on most of your good ideas and goals.

In other words, the best way to start is to start. Get moving. Take action.

Most people never act on their ideas and goals, and most of those who take action quit when they aren’t instantly successful. But you can’t.

Immediate, and then persistent, action is the key to success in all areas of your life.

4. Travel

I surprised even myself with how important I think travel is.

Traveling isn’t just about going on a vacation to escape the stresses of everyday life, although that certainly is valuable.

Traveling is about getting out of your routine, even out of your comfort zone, and exposing yourself to different cultures, people, foods, activities, languages, activities, sights. No curious person comes back from a journey the way they started it..

Through travel you will inevitably start thinking a different way.

You will understand different perspectives and have new insights.

Here is one insight I have reached from traveling: even though different in many ways, people throughout the world have more in common with each other than not. There really aren’t any significant “us” and “them” divisions. It’s just us, the family of man.

If you doubt that, just look at this rendition of the universe.

Earth In Universe

The most important thing all 7 billion of us share is that we are passengers on an insignificantly tiny planet in a vast universe. Compared to that shared reality, such things as national boundaries, different religions and languages and virtually every other difference become insignificant.

5. Live Congruent With Your Core Values.

Live your valuesKnow who you are and what you stand for.

If you have never done this, you should identfy your core values. This article suggests a 3-step process for doing this. And this article lists as many possible values as I could think of or find.

Values are personal, and yours will be different than mine. However, for whatever benefit this example might have, these are my 5 core values (copied straight from my journal, where they are the first entry that I see every day):

  1. Action
  2. Continuous improvement
  3. Achievement
  4. Fairness & Justice
  5. Kindness

There is nothing magic about five core values. You could have two or 22. Or any other number. The important thing is that you recognize what your values are.

Once you know what your values are, live them. Living authentically brings serenity.

Final Thoughts

1. You can start these practices any time. It’s never too soon to start. And it’s never too late. You will always benefit.

2. You don’t have to be perfect to benefit from these practices. You just have to be better than you were to see obvious improvements in your life. How cool is that?

3. Follow these practices to lead an extraordinary life full of experiences, contributions, creations and, of course, good times.

In the comments section, please share your advice for how to be happier, healthier and more successful . . . at any age.

Not Perfect, Just Better

Do you have goals you would like to pursue, but you don’t because they just seem too difficult? Say, learn another language? Learn money-making skillz? Lose those extra LBs?

When you try to achieve goals but aren’t successful as quickly as you would like, do you get frustrated and give up?

I know I have.

Not Perfect Just BetterLet me tell you about one of my failures.

I had thought for years that I should learn to use Photoshop so I could give my photos a little extra punch.

I even purchased Photoshop. Actually, not full Photoshop, but Photoshop Elements, a powerful but simpler (and less expensive) photo editing program.

But when I opened the program, it looked dauntingly complicated. There were lots of strange terms such as “layers” and the screen had so many icons, menus and selections that it looked like the cockpit of a jet fighter.

I froze. Because I didn’t think I could master Elements, I didn’t try. The program sat on my computer, unused.

Recently, I decided to try again to learn Elements. This time, thought, I tried a different approach. I changed my way of thinking.

And it worked!

This time, instead of focusing on my ultimate goal of mastering Elements, I decided to just learn one skill. I just concentrated on getting better than I was (which wasn’t difficult).

Guided by a YouTube video, I learned how to remove an object from a photo. Using something called the Clone Stamp Tool, I removed a distracting telephone pole from a picture. These are the before and after photos.

Old car and pole

Old car without pole

Even though it was a pretty clumsy job, when I learned that skill, I was jazzed. At that point, I knew about 1% of what there was to know about Elements, but I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I was inspired to learn another skill. So I did.

And then another.

Persistently getting better, skill by skill, was empowering.

Instead of being frustrated because I was miles from “perfecting” my use of Elements, I was energized by my progress.

I kept thinking: “You don’t have to be perfect, just better. Just keep at it. Make persistent, incremental improvements.”

Using this approach, I have now learned quite a few Photoshop Elements skillz and I’m still inspired to learn more.

In addition to learning Elements, I stumbled onto a strategy that I can use to achieve other goals.

Whether we think we can or we think we can’t, we are probably right. That is, our expectations are powerful predictors of whether we will succeed.

When we focus on gigantic goals that we don’t relieve believe we can achieve, we probably won’t.

Instead, we have to focus on goals we think are achievable. Making some progress, getting a little better, is achievable. So that is what I focused on.

It’s really this simple: To achieve your goals, forget about being perfect. Just be better today than you were yesterday. Then, do the same thing tomorrow. And don’t give up.

Cherry Blossoms

You’ve probably heard about the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, but do you know the story behind them?

In 1912, the people of Japan gave 3,020 cherry trees to the people of the United States as a gift of friendship. Those trees were planted in three places around Washington, most prominently at the Tidal Basin.

Each year, there is a National Cherry Blossom Festival which coincides with the blooming of the cherry trees. The cherry blossoms appear at different times each year, depending on the weather. The average date for the trees to bloom is April 4 and they usually last for about two weeks.

Here’s how the cherry blossoms looked this year . . .


Bug And Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms And Washington Monument

Cherry Blossoms

Red Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

The Tidal Basin

Cherry Blossoms

Couple Enjoying The Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Ghosts At The Jefferson Memorial

Ghosts At The Jefferson Memorial

You can see more cherry blossom photos here.

Kai, The Heroic Homeless Hitchhiker

I search for good news. I particularly like stories of regular folks rising to an unexpected challenge and doing something special, even heroic. Therefore, I loved this true story and I think you will too . . .

Kai, a homeless surfer dude, caught a ride near Fresno, California with what turned out to be a wingnut who thought he was Jesus Christ. Suddenly the driver, described as over 6 feet tall and more than 300 pounds, launched into a racist rant and rammed his car into a black utility worker.

When the messiah jumped out of the car and attacked the injured worker and a woman bystander, Kai sprang into action. Using the blunt end of a hatchet he had in his backpack, Kai fought off the much larger attacker and kept him occupied until the police arrived.

Then Kai, in his native language of 1970s surfspeak, told the story to a local reporter (2:25). I don’t want to spoil it for all of you, but Kai’s third appearance in the clip, around the 1:30 mark, is now permanently etched into my mind. Gnarly.

If you would like to hear more from Kai, you can watch the full, unedited and uncensored interview here (5:48).

15 Personal Rules That Make Me Happier, Healthier And More Successful

Whether we think about them or not, we all have “rules for life.”

They are the values, beliefs and principles, even habits, that we use to negotiate life.

You should think about your personal rules for life, write them down and make sure they lead you toward your goals, not away from them.

To start you thinking about this subject, and to serve as an example, these are the rules, some specific and some general, that I try to live by to be healthier, happier and more successful . . .

Healthier

1. I go to bed by 10 p.m. and get up at 5 a.m. 7 days a week.

I am a “morning person” so I to start my day early. I want to be at my home office desk by 6:30 a.m. Knowing that I need 7 hours of sleep to feel rested, and how long breakfast and other preliminaries take, figuring out my sleep schedule was just math. “Extra” sleep doesn’t make me feel any better and it keeps me from working on my goals for my health, wealth, relationships and personal development.

2. I exercise every day.

Living the best life I am capable of requires abundant energy. In addition to getting adequate rest and eating a healthy diet, sufficient exercise is what gives me the energy I need. Four days a week, I do cardiovascular exercise, 45 minutes per session, or a total of 180 minutes of cardio each week. The other three days I lift weights for an hour.

3. I make healthy food choices almost all the time.

While exercise is necessary for good health and high energy, you cannot exercise away a bad diet. I eat mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and occasional chicken and turkey. (I get protein from eggs, fish, avocado and nuts, and do not eat red meat often.) Anyone who does not know that fruits, vegetables, grains and fish can be as delicious as anything you have ever eaten just doesn’t know how to prepare them. Fortunately for me, my wife Kathie does. (Hint: spices are a key.) Of course, we all have foods that we love but know we should not eat. This fact motivated me to create my “21st Meal Rule.” That rule allows me one meal a week where I can eat something less healthy and not feel bad about it. My favorite splurge is pizza.

Happier

4. I look for opportunities to practice kindness and compassion.

Even if it is something as little as smiling and saying “hello” to a stranger on the street, holding a door for someone or giving a few dollars to a person who needs it more than I do, I look for opportunities to be kind and compassionate. “We’re all in this together,” and we have to help each other out.

5. I laugh often.

My favorite movies are comedies. All the buttons on my car radio are set for the satellite radio comedy stations. We go to comedy clubs regularly. I receive jokes daily from “AJokeADay.com.” I choose friends with senses of humor. I often write about humor at Forever Young Blog. I always look for the lighter side of things. I laugh at myself often.

6. I dance.

This sounds frivolous but I believe that deciding to dance more was one of the best decisions I ever made. Moving in time with the music (more or less) is a joyous thing to do, especially with someone you love. To get the benefits, you don’t even have to be a good dancer. You just have to not care that you aren’t.

7. I do not stay angry.

I would love to be able to write that I never get angry, but that would be a crock. But I try to get over anger quickly, hopefully within moments. I absolutely never make any important decisions – take any actions or say anything I could later regret – while I am angry. I never hold grudges (mainly because of what they do to me).

More Successful

8. I approach each day with enthusiasm.

And with a sense of urgency. An extraordinary life requires persistent action and extraordinary effort. But it’s worth it.

9. I plan each day at the end of the previous day and then I follow my plan.

All productive and happy people use their time wisely. Wasting your time is wasting your life, and who wants to do that? One essential component of my day is a period of uninterrupted time to work on special projects, such as writing this blog. My Thrive Time, as I call it, is from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

10. I start the day by reading something inspiring.

Just as exercising revs up my metabolism, reading something inspiring builds my energy. Among the things that inspire me are stories of good deeds and kindnesses. I read about them every day at such places as DailyGood.org, GoodNewsNetwork.org, and HelpOthers.org.

11. I learn something new every day.

In a rapidly changing world, you cannot stand still. You are always either moving forward of backward. You are moving toward your goals or away from them. That’s an easy choice to make.

12. I care about important issues in the world, but I do not obsess about things over which I have no control.

I focus on the things where I can have an impact. If I can’t do great things, at least I will do smaller things in a great way.

13. I refuse to live in fear.

Of failing. Of being embarrassed. Even of looking foolish. Since adopting this rule, I have accomplished things that I would not have even tried earlier. When I was afraid of making mistakes, I stayed in my warm and comfortable zone. Big mistake. Very limiting. I have actually come to believe that mistakes are “good.” They teach something. They enable us to show what we can overcome. They ultimately make us better. Here is a quote on this subject from Richard Branson that I like: “The best lessons are usually learned from failure. You musn’t beat yourself up if you fail – just pick yourself up, learn as much as you can from the experience and get on with the next challenge…The brave may not live forever, but the cautious never live at all.

14. I make offers, commitments and promises carefully and then I honor them.

I want the people in my life to know they can count on me, that I am trustworthy. Being true to your word shows respect for the other person. Of course, you can’t over-promise or you will spend your life fulfilling promises to others instead of achieving your own goals and dreams.

15. I do and create things that help people..

My goal is to contribute more to the world than I take from it. Is there really any other justification for existence? It turns out that adding value to the lives of others is not only the right thing to do, but it is also the best business strategy. As the immortal Zig Ziglar famously said: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

For me, the overarching purpose of having well-chosen personal rules is to lead an extraordinary life full of experiences, contributions, creations and good times.

Since these are personal rules for life, yours will be different from mine. How about sharing some of yours in the comment section.

What I learned From A Musical Legend

Last night, we saw a musical icon perform and I came away with more than an evening’s entertainment.

Young Bob DylanWho did we see?

Here’s a hint (I mean in addition to the picture of this legend earlier in life) . . .

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone

If you are from the pampered generation (that’s the one that currently uses Pampers . . . or Huggies or Depends, whatever is on sale), you already know who we saw.

That’s right, we saw the great Bob Dylan. The Bob Dylan.

If you did not recognize the lyrics, they are from Dylan’s 1965 classic, Like A Rolling Stone, which Rolling Stone Magazine has named the greatest song ever written!

Check it out.

In the history of music there have been a gazillion songs written (give or take) but you just listened to the GOAT . . . numbero uno.

I have to be straight with you. I’m not a Dylanophile (did I just make up a word?). I mean, I knew who he was and I knew many of his songs. I’ve always liked Lay, Lady, Lay. But I never quite knew what to make of his raspy singing voice.

So after seeing the show last night, I decided to do some research and learn more about Dylan.

You’ll find a brief but fascinating biography of him here.

If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick summary . . .

Who Is Bob Dylan?

Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota.

He started making music early. Influenced by the likes of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, young Dylan formed his own bands, including The Golden Chords, as well as a group he fronted under the pseudonym Elston Gunn. (This paragraph, alone, gives you enough trivia to drink free all night at your local watering hole.)

Zimmerman attended the University of Minnesota where he performed folk and country songs at local cafes and adopted the name “Bob Dylan” after the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

Dylan dropped out of the University of Minnesota and moved to New York where he began writing songs, including Song to Woody, a tribute to his ailing hero, Woody Guthrie.

In the fall of 1961, then 20-year-old Dylan signed a recording contract with Columbia Records and the rest, as they say, is history.

Over more than 50 years of recording, Dylan has released 35 studio albums. Some of his most memorable songs have been Blowin’ in the Wind (1963), The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964), Mr. Tambourine Man (1965) and Just Like a Woman (1966).

His latest album, Tempest, was just released in September, 2012, and Dylan is on tour in November, 2012, when I am writing this, promoting the new album.

So what has all of this got to do with a blog about being healthier, happier and more successful . . . at any age.

The Take-Away Lesson: Boogie Oogie Oogie Till You Just Can’t Boogie No More

At 71, after more than 50 years of writing his distinctive music and performing it in his unique gravely-voiced style, Dylan is still lighting up audiences.

He proves still again that you are never too old to accomplish great things.

Keep doing what you do. Keep rockin’, brother.

(Thanks to the Group A Taste Of Honey for the memorable lyrics that I used to express this lesson.)

Why I Take Pictures

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly in flight, caught by amateur photographer Phil Santa Maria
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly In Flight – By Phil Santa Maria

I am more action oriented than philosophical. I think.

For fun (and to come up with a blog post since it has been too long since the last one), I gave myself an assignment: explain why I take pictures.

Taking pictures is a hobby for me. I don’t do it as often as I would like, or as often as I should to get better. But I enjoy making pictures very much.

But why?

Here’s the best I can do. I think my reasons for taking pictures are somewhere in this off-the-top-of-my-head list.

I take pictures . . .

  • TO create

  • TO document

  • TO remember

  • TO inspire

  • TO express myself

  • TO capture beauty or “interesting”

  • TO communicate

  • TO save thousands of words

  • TO prove I was here

  • TO create a legacy

  • TO connect

  • TO see the world objectively

  • TO freeze a moment in time

  • TO capture and preserve emotions

  • TO get a reaction

  • TO get recognition

  • TO learn a skill

  • TO be artistic without being able to draw

  • TO challenge myself

  • TO tell stories

  • TO expose (that reminds me. Have you seen my post about puns?)

  • TO share

  • TO elicit a feeling

  • TO celebrate

  • TO compete

  • TO give

  • TO have fun!

There you have it. My list of the top 25 26 27 reasons I take pictures.

How about you? Why do you take picture? Hit me up in the comments.