“Your future is not ahead of you, it’s trapped within you.” — Myles Munroe
What are the ultimate life hacks and strategies that really pay off?
Here are 50 of my best life hacks and strategies that have served me well.
To put it another way, my Future Self thanks me for them.
These life hacks are the culmination of life experience, insight from mentors, personal development training, trial and error, and several hundred books.
I’ve also combined my life hacks with some powerful quotes to add an element of timeless wisdom. I’ve also targeted strategies that can help you at different stages in life, whether you are just starting out, or you’ve been around the block.
If you feel you’ve lost your way, several of these life hacks and strategies will help you get back on path. If you internalize these life hacks for your Future Self and put at least a few into action, you’ll give yourself an immediate and instant source of advantage.
As you explore the list, find three life hacks you can use right now to ignite a breakthrough or two, and take your life, and your Future Self, to the next level.
#1. Never Stop Learning
Learn from everyone and everything.
Be like a kid in the candy store and learn from everybody around you.
Everybody you know has their unique gifts. Learn from them, even if it means learning how NOT to do something. Also, people like to share what they’re good at, so eat it up.
Never be above learning, and learn from every one you can. Don’t let your ego get in the way, no matter how smart you are.
Focus on building your portable equity. Your day is filled with learning opportunities if you are open to them.
You can teach an old dog new tricks. If you stay open. If you keep trying new things.
You’re growing or dying. There’s no in-between.
Never close your mind. Stay open to new worlds and new possibilities.
#2. Invest in Yourself
This one will pay you back every time.
You are your best investment, and you take you with you wherever you go.
As Robin Sharma says, “Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. It will not only improve your life; it will improve the lives of all those around you.”
It’s too easy when you finish school and start a job to say, “I’m done with learning.” If you want to keep earning, you have to keep learning.
#3. Drive from Your “WHY”
Every day you make a choice about how you show up in this world – at work, in your business, in life. Have a cause that drives you and a belief that inspires you.
We fall short when we focus on what we do, and not what we stand for.
Life’s short. Then you die.
Make it matter.
Your purpose is power and it’s fuel for your passion,
Drive from your purpose.
But where do you find it?
Find the answer to the question, “Why do you do what you do?”
Peel away at an onion until you get to the inner core. Find your fire inside. That’s where your strength to move mountains comes from, and your purpose is the torch that lights the way for others to help you in your cause.
See Discover Your Why.
#4. Decide Who You Are
Don’t let others define you or what you’re capable of.
My favorite answer to “Who are you?” is from Scott Adams:
“You are what you learn.”
#5. Decide Who You Want To Be
In the Last Lecture, Randy Pausch asks us to decide if you’re Tigger or Eeyore
Own your choice and live it like you mean it.
One day when I was running around the halls at work, putting out fires, one of my mentors stopped me and asked, “How do you want others to experience you?”
Not like a chicken with its head cut off.
More like James Bond and on top of the situation.
How do you want others to experience you? How do YOU want to experience you?
Start from there, and drive from that.
You’ll immediately start creating more of the experiences that you want, and less of those that you don’t.
#6. Live YOUR Life
Who’s life do you want to live? The one your parents or your friends want for you? Or, the one that fairy tales taught you? Or the life that the media tells you?
It’s your life. Live it on your terms.
Don’t live other people’s lives. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Do what makes you happy. Know what you want, and what you need. Don’t let other people’s expectations for you rule your life, or limit the life that you want to lead.
People pleasing wears you out, unless you find a way to please yourself first.
#7. Live Your Life from the Inside Out
Start from the inside.
Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world.
We get what we project, and the world reflects back at us.
Here are a few words of wisdom from Earl Nightingale:
“It’s so easy to forget ultimates in the rush and hurry of daily life, especially for young people. So often, we’re merely responders, so to speak, simply reacting to stimuli, to rewards and punishments, to emergencies, to pains and fears, to demands of other people, to superficialities. It takes a specific, conscious effort, at least at first, to turn one’s attention to intrinsic things and values. Perhaps seeking actual physical aloneness. Perhaps exposing one’s self to great music, to good people, to natural beauty, and so forth. Only after practice do these strategies become easy and automatic so that one can be living totally immersed in his or her river.”
Immerse yourself in your river.
See Live Your Process.
#8. Live Your Values
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” — Henry David Thoreau
The key to The Good Life is spending more time in your values.
To live your values, you need to know your values.
When you know your values, you simply need to connect what you do each day back to your values.
The smart way is to connect what you do at work to your values. For example, if you like to learn, then use each day as a learning opportunity, or a chance to master your craft. Or, if you value excellence, then raise the bar. Or, if you value beauty, then do more beautiful things and produce more works of art.
#9. Drive from Your Life Style
For so many people, life makes more sense when they find a job where they can spend more time in their values and matches what they want their life style to be.
If you don’t like to travel, then don’t choose a job that requires a lot of travel.
If you don’t want to work crazy hours, then don’t choose a job where a crazy schedule comes with the territory and is the nature of the beast.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing the idea that the grass is greener, or that the glory of the job is worth it, or that climbing the ladder will make life so much better.
Then reality hits.
Going up the ladder, doesn’t necessarily mean spending more time doing what you love. Going up the ladder, doesn’t mean life gets better or easier. In fact, it often means more sacrifice and more responsibility that you might not want at this point in your life. Worse, it might mean you spend a lot less time doing what you love and spending a lot less time in your strengths.
Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.
#10. Be Yourself
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” ? Bernard M. Baruch
Besides the fact that everybody else is taken, you’re the best person for the job.
But don’t “just be yourself.” Really, bring out yourself.
Know what you bring to the table and how to flex what you’ve got.
Share your unique gifts with the world, by spending more time in your strengths. Do more of YOUR art.
Live your values. Know YOUR wants and needs.
Stay true to you.
The more authentic you are, the stronger you’ll be in everything you do.
#11. Know Thyself
“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” — Lao Tzu
To be yourself, you need to know yourself, and what you’re capable of. And, limitations, and opportunities for growth, too.
The more you know yourself, the more you grow yourself, and the more you can bring out your best. And, the more you know yourself, the more you can also understand and appreciate others, and deal with differences. This will help you connect better and build better bridges.
So you think you know yourself?
Let’s take a quick check …
Do you know WHY you do what you do? Do you have your short-list handy of your top values that shape your priorities in life? Can you name your top 5 strengths? Do you know your preferred learning styles? Do you know your preferred thinking styles? Do you know how you like to deal with conflict and your preferred conflict management style? Do you know your NLP meta-programs that you use to drive your mind? Do you know your personality and work environment type that shape your career path?
#12. Be Your Own Best Friend
“You’re always with yourself, so you might as well enjoy the company.” — Diane Von Furstenberg
If there’s one person to have in your corner, it’s you.
Be your best coach, not your worst critic.
You take you with you wherever you go, so it’s worth figuring out how to lift yourself up, not beat yourself up, and how to have a strong sense of self-worth.
The more compassionate you are with yourself, the more compassionate you’ll be with others, and you get what you give.
If you don’t think your worth it, here’s new for you …What separates the people that have a strong sense of love and belonging from those that don’t?
They think they’re worth it. That’s it.
The choice is yours.
#13. Seek Simplicity
It’s way easy to make things more complex than they need to be.
Simplicity is the key to sustainability.
Drive towards it.
If you keep things simple, you can better adapt to change. You can also focus more on what’s important without getting lost in distractions and weeds.
See Simplicity Quotes.
#14. Measure Your Life by the People Whose Lives You Touch
“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.”
If you’ve seen Rent, you know the song and that’s the number of minutes in a year. The song continues … “525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year? … In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. … In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?”
How do you measure your life?
You don’t measure it in mansions or yachts.
And, you don’t need to climb a mountain to find the truth.
You can measure your life by the people whose lives you touch.
#15. Embrace the Challenge
You know the saying, “Easy come, easy go.”
And, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Do the tough stuff. Embrace the effort. It’s how you grow.
You’ll often look back and you’ll be proud of yourself for all those moments and all those times where you leaned in to your challenges, and gave it all you got.
For so many things in life, you’ll need to remind yourself the following:
It’s not easy. But, it’s worth it.
See Embrace the effort.
#16. Never Give Up
“If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
Giving up is easy.
Keep getting up to bat.
Never shut down for good.
It’s not how hard you fall. It’s how high you bounce.
When you fall, get up again. As the saying goes, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
#17. Focus on What You Control, and Let the Rest Go
Every time life feels out of control, remind yourself to focus on what you control.
And, let the rest go.
When you act on what you control, you build momentum.
More importantly, when you exercise the things within your control, you remind yourself that you are powerful and resourceful.
#18. Take Action
“Life is like a game of chess. To win you have to make a move.” — Allan Rufus, The Master’s Sacred Knowledge
As Tony Robbins reminds us, “It’s not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.”
Our power is our ability to act. Exercise it. Life’s not static. Lead a life of action.
Taking action helps you deal with change. A lot of success in life is about reducing the gap between knowing what to do, and actually doing what you know. Taking action keeps you from wallowing in misery, and it helps build momentum.
If you’re worried that you missed the boat, remind yourself of this timeless Chinese proverb:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
#19. Ruthless Focus, Relentless Execution
Voltaire said, “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”
Likewise, no challenge can withstand our sustained action.
When it comes to making things happen on a consistent basis, no single strategy has served me better than extreme focus and relentless execution.
Act on your best idea, in some small way. Over time, with sustained focus, relentless thinking, and little actions, you compound your effort into greater results.
Keep in mind, that sometimes the best way to get great results is to take massive action.
In the words of Dan Brown, “Everything is possible. The impossible just takes longer.”
#20. Choose Your Response
“All change happens with a choice.” — Tony Robbins
Don’t let other people push your buttons.
Expand the space between the stimulus and the response.
Stephen Covey said it best:
“In the space between stimulus (what happens) and how we respond, lies our freedom to choose. Ultimately, this power to choose is what defines us as human beings. We may have limited choices but we can always choose. We can choose our thoughts, emotions, moods, our words, our actions; we can choose our values and live by principles. It is the choice of acting or being acted upon.”
As one of my mentors puts it, “You are the sum of your decisions.”
Exercise your choices.
When it comes to making big change and making big choices, put yourself into a position where failure is not an option. Tony Robbins shares this advice:
“If you want to take the island – burn the friggin’ boats!”
#21. Enjoy the Journey and the Destination
““Life is like skiing. Just like skiing, the goal is not to get to the bottom of the hill. It’s to have a bunch of good runs before the sun sets.” – Seth Godin
It’s one thing to focus on your destination.
It’s another to enjoy the journey as you go.
Find a way to make the journey worth it.
Sometimes, you won’t actually reach your destination. You’ll want to look back and know that you made your journey worth it, you stopped to smell the flowers along the way, and if you had to do it all over again, there’s a good chance you’d do it the same way.
#22. Be Here Now
“Where are you? …. HERE. What time is it? … NOW. What are you? … THIS MOMENT.” – Peaceful Warrior
Be here now. Your choices are in the moment.
You can choose what you focus on. You choose whether to worry or take. action.
Now is a great time to act.
Right here, right now, you can think the thoughts that serve you.
Throughout the day, you’ll have learning opportunities and leadership moments.
In the moments throughout the day, you can connect what you do and how you do it back to your values.
In this moment, do you know what you want, what you think, and what you feel?
#23. Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
“Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” — Rabbi H Schachtel
Acknowledgement and appreciation are the most powerful rewards on Earth.
You can cultivate your attitude of gratitude by being thankful for the good choices you make during your day. Acknowledge and appreciate when you make the tough call, do the right thing, or take the high road.
Tony Robbins starts his day from a place of strength by reminding himself what he’s grateful for.
Whenever you can’t find a way to be grateful for what you’ve got, remind yourself how things can always be worse, and if you look for examples, you’ll find plenty. There is always somebody worse off than you.
#24. Create a Feedback Loop
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” — Ken Blanchard
The fastest way to improve with skill is to get a feedback loop that gives you data to learn and improve from.
Find ways to build learning loops, where you can iterate on something, and get a little better each time.
If you’re not getting the insight you need, fast enough, or relevant enough, then tighten your loop.
#25. Form a Personal Board of Directors
Find people in your life that you trust to give you deep feedback on ways to improve.
They may even know you better than you know yourself.
Find the people and friends who are willing to offer you insight and guidance on how to bring out your best.
#26. Give Your Best Where You’ve Got Your Best to Give
Spend more time in your strengths.
It’s one thing to play to your strengths when you get the chance.
It’s another thing to deliberately find ways to spend a lot more time in your strengths.
John Wooden’s secret to a happy life was peace of mind. His secret to peace of mind was giving his best, every chance he got.
#27. Stay Hands-On
Use it or lose it.
Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and dive in. It’s part of learning.
When I was at Tiffany & Co, the head of our department always reminded us that you learn more by doing, and that you’re never above any job. And he would add that the more you know about the job at all levels, the more capable you are as you go up.
#28. Surround Yourself with Catalysts
Robin Hood had his Merry Men.
Build your wolf pack.
Some people we know, just happen to bring out our best.
Somehow, when you’re around them, you smile a little more. You feel a little stronger. You walk a little taller. You shine a little brighter.
They are your catalysts.
Surround yourself with the people that lift you.
#29. Embrace Change
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” — Charles Darwin
Change is a constant in our lives.
If we embrace it, we can use it as an opportunity to let go of what’s not working, and carry forward what is. We can also use it to reinvent ourselves.
See Change Quotes.
#30. Anticipate It
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” — Peter F. Drucker
Be what’s next.
Think ahead. Anticipate.
A lot of the same things happen every day, every week, every month, every year. Watch for the patterns. Make them work for you.
You’d be surprised how many things we think are random can be traced back to a simple flow of events that weren’t random at all.
When you get in the habit of looking head, you set the stage to help yourself prepare for changes that may come your way, long before they start to show up.
#31. Age Like a Fine Wine
Some people let time wear them down.
Others put time on their side. They get better with age.
Imagine if you got just a little better each day, how quickly that adds up over time.
Imagine you a year from now, better in so many ways, through better choices, better habits, and better thoughts.
#32. Seek Progress, Not Perfection
“The perfect is the enemy of good.” – Voltaire
Perfection is a great way to paralyze yourself.
Improvement over time beats seeking perfection out of the gate.
Think of perfection as a journey, not a destination, and enjoy the journey as you go.
#33. Add More Life to Your Years
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” — Abraham Lincoln
You can try to add more years to your life, but first add more life to your years.
Otherwise, what’s the point.
#34. Raise Your Frustration Tolerance
Imagine if you found out that your frustration tolerance level was the main thing holding you back from enjoying life a little more each day?
Think of all the little thing that bug you each day.
Maybe it’s the traffic. Maybe it’s people you know.
Maybe it’s a lot of little things throughout your day, that all seem to rub you the wrong way.
Imagine if you suddenly raised your frustration tolerance, and all the little things that bugged you no longer pushed your buttons?
This is one of those big choices in life that affects you every day.
#35. Take One Step Back to Take Two Steps Forward
I remember the pain of learning to type. I thought my two-finger method was fine. I hadn’t realized how much faster I could be.
But getting there was painful.
Speed didn’t come easy. It was like taking a step back. Eventually, taking the step back paid off, and now I get the benefit on a daily basis.
A lot of things you learn can be like that. Learning is awkward.
But the results are worth it, if you stick with it.
#36. Change the Things that Aren’t Working for You
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein
As Tony Robbins reminds us, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
If things aren’t working for you, change them.
Change yourself first. The fastest person you can change in any situation is you. If you’re not getting the results you want, try changing yourself first.
Change your rules. It’s easy to create a bunch of rules for yourself that make success impossible, or always out of reach.
Change your environment. As Deepak Chopra , “You can’t make positive choices for the rest of your life without an environment that makes those choices easy, natural, and enjoyable.”
Change your relationships. As W. Clement Stone says, “Be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.”
Change your metaphors for life. Is your life a comedy? A tragedy? A sitcom? An epic adventure? A dance?
Change how your represent things. Change what they mean to you. When you change how you represent things, you change how you experience them.
#37. Ask Better Questions
If you want better answers in life, ask better questions.
What are some better questions you can start asking yourself?
#38. Keep Reinventing Yourself
Life’s not static. Neither are you. Embrace your changes and make them work for you.
Life is a continuous process of reinvention.
Sometimes, it means becoming more of who you are. Sometimes, it means becoming more of who you were born to be. Other times, it means choosing more of who you want to be.
#39. Do More of What You Love
One of the best questions a mentor once asked me was:
“What do you want to spend more time doing?”
I had been so wrapped up in figuring out my career moves that I lost sight of the basics. After thinking it over, I got clarity around the things I liked to do the most. This made choosing my next moves a lot easier, because I now knew what I wanted to fill my day with.
Figure out what you want to spend more time doing.
Then, find a way to do more of it.
#40. Model the Best
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton
You can start from scratch or you can start from examples. By starting from examples, you can “Stand on the shoulders of giants” and leapfrog ahead. More importantly, you can use the examples to model from and inspire and guide yourself with skill. They will help you avoid dead ends and glass ceilings.
You can always choose to ignore what other people have done. But that should be an explicit decision. One of the best ways to speed up success is to build on the patterns and practices that work.
Success always leaves clues.
You can learn from the success of others to tune and prune your own success path.
#41. Use Mentors as the Short-Cuts
Mentors are the ultimate short-cut.
Find mentors who have “been there, done that.” They can shave years off your journey and help you avoid dead ends.
The best mentors will know how to tailor their experience and insight in a way that helps you play to your strengths and accelerate your success.
#42. Break the Loop
Our little loops can make us or break us.
Whether it’s an action or a thought, if it doesn’t serve you, break the loop. Don’t dig the ruts deeper.
When the loop starts, catch yourself and choose whether you need to start, stop, or continue something.
It’s easier said than done, but awareness it the first step.
#43. Build Better Habits
As the saying goes, “First, you make habits, and then your habits make you.”
Your routines and rituals can serve you well. Your daily little actions add up over time for the compound effect.
Do something once or twice and it’s a one off. Do it three times, and you might be on to something. Do it for 21 days in a row, and it just might stick.
Be careful in your little choices. The thoughts you think, the things you drink, the stuff you eat, and the little things you do. Habits can be insidious and act like a slippery slope.
#44. Do the Opposite
Sometimes the best thing you can do is to “do the opposite” of what you’d normally do, to periodically surprise people and have them see you in a new way.
It’s easy in life to fall into routines that don’t serve us.
The fastest way to change our game is to rattle our own cage and shake things up.
If you’re always late, try being early.
If you’re always slow, try changing your pace.
If you’re always fast, then try slowing down.
If you’re the person that always says, “No” to things, try saying more “Yes.”
If you always find what’s wrong with things, try finding what’s right.
If you lack your confidence, try strutting more of your stuff.
Doing the opposite of what you normally do, might lead to your next best breakthrough.
Worst case, you’ll learn more about you, you’ll learn more about balance, and you’ll put more options under your belt for how you show up or how you respond in life.
#45. Find Your Arena for Your Best Results
For 45 minutes, a violinist played his heart out in a subway station. During that time, thousands of people walked by. No applause. No recognition.
Two days earlier, that same violinist, Joshua Bell, one of the world’s best musicians, sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats average $100.
In the one arena, nobody appreciated his performance. Nobody expected the world’s best musician to be performing right there in front of them in a subway station.
Change the arena, and suddenly Bell’s world-class performance is recognized and rewarded.
As my one mentor put it to me, “You can’t be a preacher in your home town.”
Sometimes you have to change your container.
You might be the world’s worst boxer, but the bar’s best bouncer.
Maybe you’re a lousy novelist, but the word’s best children’s author.
Maybe you’re a second-rate teacher, but one of the world’s best entrepreneurs.
The ugly duckling wasn’t so ugly when he found out he was actually a Swan.
Don’t be a fish out of water.
When you’re in your element, it’s night and day.
#46. Root Yourself in Your Mission, Not Your Position
Missions are durable.
If you lose your job, you can find other ways to live your mission.
For example, if my mission was to help people live healthier lives, but if, for whatever reason, I couldn’t be a doctor, I would find other ways.
#47. Live Without Regrets
Go for it.
“It is not the things we do in life that we regret on our death bed. It is the things we do not. Find your passion and follow it.” — Randy Pausch
“Did I live, did I love, did I matter?” – Brendan Burchard
“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
“You get this one moment to regret all the things you said you’d do but never did, and then it’s over. You die or you live. If you live, the look in your eyes is never the same.” — Gabrielle Bouliane
#48. Take the High Road
Don’t get sucked into other people’s drama. Don’t get sucked into your own drama. Don’t spiral down into name calling, and blaming.
Step away from it.
Seek higher ground.
Don’t get pulled down, or stoop to their level.
#49. Be Your Own CEO
Apply business skills to life.
Business can teach us a lot. The most important thing they can teach us is how to be sustainable. You can use the same tools that create a strong, sustainable business, to create a strong, sustainable life.
If you know your vision, mission, and values, you have a strong foundation. Strategy skills teach us how to make the most of what we’ve got in terms of time and resources. We can innovate in our lives to do things better, faster, cheaper, much the same way we innovate in business. We can also reflect on and improve our performance in more objective ways, much the way a business does.
#50. Treat Work as Your Ultimate Form of Self-Expression
Work is a great place to show up how you want to be.
It’s your chance to make your soul sing.
It can be your ultimate dojo for personal development and your arena for your best results.
If you want to be an artist, do more art on the job.
You’re an individual with a unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and experiences. Maybe only your closest friends know your true strengths.
Maybe you don’t show your strengths at work.
Why not? No matter what the task is, you can leave your mark.
When you live your values on the job and you give your best where you have your best to give, you are operating at a higher level.
Your Habits Predict Your Future
Well, that’s my roundup of 50 of my best life hacks. I hope they serve you well.
I’d like to leave you with a quote from William Arthur Ward:
“Our words reveal our thoughts; our manners mirror our self-esteem; our actions reflect our character; our habits predict the future.”
Just like how the ghost warned Scrooge we wear the chains we forge in life, your habits will set you free.
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