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OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time

OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson features the best Big Ideas from the best optimal living books. More wisdom in less time to help you live your greatest life. (Learn more at optimize.me.)
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Now displaying: February, 2018
Feb 25, 2018

Ready to conquer anxiety? Our first step is to embrace the fact that it happens and then we’ll quit making it worse as we choose a target (calm confidence!), get our fundies in order, remember to breathe (deeply + properly), turn the serenity key in our brains, do some Olympic-style focus training so we see challenges not threats as we exit our mind and enter the moment. We’ll also look at how to create calm confidence in 5 steps and how to tap into infinite calm confidence. Tame those gremlins and rock it!

Feb 24, 2018
Rick Snyder was the founder of research into the science of hope. And, he was one of the pioneers of the positive psychology movement. In fact, he literally wrote the textbook on Positive Psychology.”
 
He documented just how important hope is to our overall well-being and tells us that there are three primary components to having high hope: Goals + Willpower + Waypower.
 
It all starts with a Goal. Happy people have projects. And, happy, hopeful people have GOALS! They have a future they’re excited about.
 
Then we have what Rick calls Willpower.” In this context, Rick tells us that Willpower is that spark of determination that says, We’ve got this!!” It needs to be there in the beginning AND it needs be there after you get knocked down a few times. (Rick’s protege Shane Lopez described this as Agency” a sense of personal power that we have what it takes to make our dreams a reality.)
 
Then we have what Rick calls Waypower.” Waypower is all about mapping out the plans for how you will attain your goal along with the wisdom to know that your first plan probably won’t work out perfectly requiring you to continue optimizing your strategy while pursuing different routes to your goal. (Shane Lopez called this Pathways.”)
 
So, again: Goals + Willpower +  Waypower.
 
To be high hope, we need to have all three of those Optimized. It’s obviously not enough to have Goals without Willpower or Waypower. But it’s also not enough to have Goals and Willpower but not have the Waypower. You could be really fired up and really believe you can crush it but… If you’re not also doing the planning to find all the routes to your goal, your hope will take a hit. 
 
Today’s +1. Let’s do a quick check in on the status of your hope.
 
Do you have specific, meaningful, and challenging yet doable Goals
 
Do you have a spark of determination or Willpower” that gives you the confidence that you can achieve your Goals and helps you move through the inevitable obstacles you’ll face along the way? 
 
And, do you have a plan on how you can achieve your Goals (and a willingness to constantly tweak that plan as you get feedback from the world) via a strong sense of Waypower”? 
 
Once more: Goals + Willpower +  Waypower.
 
Where are you strong? What needs work?
 
Here’s to cultivating your resilient, grounded, yet high hope day in and day out especially (!) when you don’t feel like it. 
 
P.S. Remember: If your basic fundamentals aren’t Optimized there’s no way you’ll be able to get yourself into that high-hope state consistently. Eating, moving, and sleeping well? That’s THE best way to boost your hope. Period.
Feb 19, 2018
In No Mud, No Lotus, Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that when he was a young monk he thought the Buddha never suffered. 
 
Then, as he matured, he realized that OF COURSE the Buddha suffered. He had a body so he had to at least occasionally get a headache or a stomachache. And, when a friend died, he’d feel sad. He was a human being. Therefore, he experienced pain and suffering.
 
Of course, he was also the enlightened Buddha so he was very good at regaining his equanimity.
 
Which leads to another interesting discussion.
 
If the Buddha was enlightened, Thich Nhat Hanh asks, then why did he still meditate after attaining his enlightenment? 
 
Hmmm… Fascinating question, eh?
 
Answer: Because the Buddha’s happiness and equanimity was, like EVERYTHING else in the world, IMPERMANENT. 
 
The Buddha needed to tend to his own well-being. Every day. Even after his enlightenment.
 
Now, if the Buddha needed to keep on doing his fundies after he attained his enlightenment, I’m pretty sure that means we do as well. (Hah.)
 
So…
 
Today’s +1.
 
How’re your fundies? 
 
Want to maintain your high levels of awesome? Continue crushing your fundamentals long after you think you need” to.
 
P.S. I’m reminded of peak performance and mental toughness trainers Lanny and Troy Bassham. They tell us that average performers practice something until they get it right. Elite performers? They practice until they can’t get it wrong. (That’s a really cool distinction.)
 
The jumbo, uber-elite? They never stop practicing.
Feb 14, 2018
Continuing our Harry Potter theme, let’s explore how to deal with dementors in your life.
 
Recall that dementors are big, ugly, wraith-like creatures that feed on and suck all the happiness out of you. And, if they’re feeling really feisty, they’ll give you a kiss that sucks your soul right out of you. (Yikes!) 
 
Also recall that there’s a special way to deal with these foul creatures. It’s called the Patronus Charm
 
Here’s how Professor Lupin describes it to Harry in The Prisoner of Azkaban: The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementor feeds upon hope, happiness, the desire to survive but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the dementors can’t hurt it. But I must warn you, Harry, that the charm might be too advanced for you. Many qualified wizards have difficulty with it.”
 
Harry wonders what the Patronus looks like and Lupin tells him that each one is unique to the wizard who conjures it.”
 
How do you conjure it? Well, Lupin tells us: With an incantation, which will work only if you are concentrating, with all your might, on a single, very happy memory.”
 
So…
 
Dementors feed on our happiness. And, if we allow them to, they will suck our very souls out of us. 
 
Sounds a lot like depression, eh? Indeed it does.
 
Fighting dementors requires magic that even many qualified wizards have difficulty with. Alas, so it is with depression.
 
The charm? We must concentrate WITH ALL OUR MIGHT on a single, very happy memory. Yep. That does the trick with depression as well. We know that the mind can’t simultaneously hold both the depressed and happy thoughts. But we must be fierce in our resolve and concentrate WITH ALL OUR MIGHT if we want to win the battle when the dementors glide into our daily lives.
 
Eating, moving and sleeping well help, too. So does training your ability to focus WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT via a meditation practice. Oh. And deep breathing helps as well flips the old switch from the fight-or-flight response (which dementors love) to a relaxation response (which they don’t like so much).
 
Back to Harry. The specific incantation we powerfully speak as we focus on that happy memory? EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!
 
Which reveals another key facet to fighting the dementors: We must expect that our efforts will work.
 
All that leads to a wonderful creature flowing out of your wand and standing between you and the dementor. As Lupin says, it’s different for each of us. For Harry it was a stag. For Hermione it was an otter. What’s yours? (Mine’s a lion.)
 
Today’s +1. Got any dementors gliding around in your life? 
 
Focus WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT on what’s awesome in your life. KNOW that you can protect yourself from them. 
 
“EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!”
 
P.S. If you have a bad encounter with a dementor, Rowling tells us that the best way to recover is to eat some chocolate. (Hah! Science agrees that chocolate does boost our mood but let’s just make sure we limit it to 1 ounce per day and make sure it’s 80%+ dark chocolate. Too much sugar DOES NOT help the cause.)
 
P.P.S. Remember the epic stag Harry created to fight off the 100+ dementors near the end of The Prisoner of Azkaban? Hermione couldn’t believe he could do that. Even HARRY couldn’t believe it. But… Because of Hermione’s handy dandy time turner, Harry had actually ALREADY SEEN himself do it. 
 
As he said in disbelief: I knew I could do it this time, because I’d already done it ... Does that make sense?”
 
Which reveals yet another scientifically-proven piece of wisdom. Recalling prior success is one of the fastest ways to boost your self-efficacy in the moment. 
 
So… 
 
Let’s add that to the mix. Focus WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT on what’s awesome in your life. KNOW that you can protect yourself from them. Recall a time in the past when you successfully faced down your biggest challenges and give me a big ol’ EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!”
 
Nicely done! What a beatiful Patronus!
Feb 9, 2018
In No Mud, No Lotus, Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that suffering is a part of life. 
 
You can’t create a beautiful lotus flower without some stinky mud. As he says, lotuses don’t grow in marble. And… You can’t create a happy, flourishing life without some suffering. That’s just how it is. We need to embrace that reality.
 
In fact, Thay (as he’s known to his students) tells us that a big part of happiness is learning how to suffer well.” We want to quit making our suffering worse than it needs to be.
 
To bring the point home, the Buddha shared a story about two arrows. The first arrow strikes you and it hurts. But, if a second arrow hits you in the exact same spot, the pain won’t just double, it’ll go up TEN fold. (Ouch!)
 
But, here’s the deal. WE are the ones shooting ourselves with that second arrow. How? By complaining about it, wishing it didn’t happen, moping around, etc. 
 
In Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff tells us the same thing in a slightly different way. She tells us that pain is inevitable in life but that suffering is a function of how much we resist that pain. 
 
She shares an equation: Suffering = Pain x Resistance. Pain happiness. Our suffering is a function of how much we resist it. Shoot ourselves with that second arrow and suffering goes up exponentially. So, let’s not do that.
 
Today’s +1. Got any challenges in your life right now? 
 
Are you shooting yourself with a second arrow? If so, stop. 
 
Let’s accept that suffering is a part of life and remember: No mud, no lotus.
Feb 7, 2018

Michael Gelb is one of the world’s leading creativity teachers. He’s also a qi gong and aikido master who wrote one of my favorite books: “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci.” In this book, he teaches us the art of creating connection. Big Ideas we explore include how to optimize our ability to connect (practice with the little moments!), The Pygmalion Effect (aka the self-fulfilling prophecy), the importance of centering for conflict resolution, and how our addiction to digital devices (ADD) is leading to attention deficit disorder (ADD) which is leading to troubles in connecting and what to do about it.

Feb 4, 2018

​​In our last +1, we explored the analytics of American farting behaviors and compared that to the even more prolific Facebook-liking behaviors. (Laughing.) Today, we’re going to explore the subject of farts a little more.​ ​​A particular, shall we say, spicy variety of farts.​​ Spiritual farts. ​​Yes, spiritual farts. ​​What are spiritual farts, you ask?

Feb 2, 2018

This book started out as a blog post by Carolyn Gregoire based on Scott Barry Kaufman’s work that went viral: 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently. Scott is one of the world’s leading creativity researchers. Carolyn is a senior writer at the Huffington Post. Together, they wrote a great little book on the mysteries of the creative mind. Big Ideas we explore include: the fact that creativity is a messy business (embrace complexity!), the power of walking for daydreaming (all the cool philosophers do it!), creating a nice home for your genius to visit (she’s got the magic!), creating again and again (and again), unitask rather than multitask (unless you want to atrophy the best part of your brain), and STAMP your life with your own personality (but only if you want to be great … and happy!).

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