rabbit holes and willpower.

The internet is full of rabbit holes. Some of the known ones: Facebook, Twitter, Feedly, Reddit, and pretty much any eye candy “news” site (Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, even The New Yorker and Mother Jones for that matter …).

Staying committed to your work instead of engaging in an hours-long dalliance? This requires willpower, my friends.

Ironically, a daily visit to one of my rabbit holes (my Feedly RSS feed) yielded this timely advice to avoid the distraction afforded by rabbit holes (and other things):

• Treat willpower as a skill that you can (and should) practice.

• Set achievable goals. Start by breaking down big projects into smaller pieces. And start knocking them out.

• Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking (at least effectively) is a myth.

• Don’t deplete your reserves on things that don’t matter. Get enough sleep; delegate the work that sucks the life out of you; don’t eat junk; get some exercise. You get the picture.

• Do the hard stuff first. Mark Twain called this eating the frog. Get it out of the way and the rest of your day is a piece of cake.

• Make the effort. Strengthening your willpower muscle isn’t hard, but you have to take the steps to do it.

[Inspiredlawblog is written by Cat Moon, a lawyer + coach who is sometimes successful in exercising her willpower muscle, and loves helping others be successful, too.]

go learn something. #actionmonday

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What are you doing today to learn something new?

What can you do every day to learn something new?

And I’m not talking about mandatory continuing education. Although it would be great if folks held CLE courses to a high standard and didn’t just phone it in. But I recognize that is a problem too big for me to fix.

I suggest that making learning a part of your daily routine — a habit, dare I say — can do as much, if not more, than any single other thing you can do to grow. As a lawyer, a person, a professional, a friend, a spouse, a parent. No matter the role, you will be better.

It’s one of my three big goals: learn something new. Every day.

It’s not hard. And only takes as much time as you want it to.

Here’s how.

READ. Find something to read that interests you. Blogs, books, magazines, research papers (which can actually be quite fascinating).

TALK. Find people to talk to. People who do things you’re interested in or want to know more about. This can lead to networking but it’s really more focused on learning new stuff. Though it’s interesting how connecting with new and different people can open up new and different opportunities.

TAKE A CLASS. Preferably a workshop. That’s hands-on. Yes, there are some good CLE courses out there, but most are not great. And anyway, this is an investment in your learning, not in getting mandatory CE credit. Explore your interests, hobbies, passions, through a class, either live or online.

GO TO CONFERENCES. Get out there and meet people. Some conferences are very good. Others are not so. Do some research, figure out where the intersection of your interests exists, register, and GO.

LISTEN. Listen to what interesting and smart people have to say. Really listen. Listen to audiobooks, podcasts, NPR during your commute/run/walk.

FIND OR CREATE A GROUP. Gather together some like-minded or even not-so-like-minded folks and meet on a regular basis to explore something or everything. I’ve done this more than once and have always been surprised at how much it added to my learning.

TEACH. The best way to really learn is to study something and then teach it to others. Beyond mastery, teaching is incredibly satisfying on many levels. 

Before your mind goes to all the reasons you can’t adopt the learning mindset, let me say this: As with exercise, diet, meditation, or whatever you do to stay alive and healthy, choosing to make time for learning is a choice. You can choose to make it a prioritized goal. Or not.

What’s not an excuse.

Access? Go online, spend 10 minutes on Google and you’ll have access to more resources on your chosen topic than you can possibly get through in your lifetime. It’s all there. Maybe the seminar you’ve chosen is expensive. So choose another one. Or take a course on Udemy or Skillshare or Coursera or Kahn Academy or edX.

Money? Nope. Again, 10 minutes on Google and most of what you find is free. Courses from the online sources above are free or very low in cost. Books from the library are free. Or join Amazon Prime (cheap, but not free), and check out ebooks.

Time? Well, this one’s on you. You either make time or you don’t. Make it one of your three annual/monthly/weekly/daily goals. Or not.

Why bother?

Lifelong learners are more interesting people than stagnant ones. This is just common sense. Don’t you want to be more interesting? And more interested?

You’re more likely to earn more than non-learners.

You’re more likely to have a healthier, happier, younger brain as you age.

And as Dan Pink shares in Drive, we humans need three things in order to feel motived in and satisfied with our lives: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Lifelong learning achieves all three.

be intentional.

Today, with intention, I’ve decided that I am qualified to opine on this: live intentionally, and your life will be more like what you want it to be.

Without intention, life is much less likely to happen in the way you wish it to happen.

Yes, I’m giving you this advice. Even though I question daily whether I am qualified to advise anyone on anything, really.*

You will find no links in this post to scientific or other support for this proposition. Simply my observation. My proposal. That whatever it is you seek is more likely to be if you spend your days with intention.

What this looks like? Well, that’s different for each of us. So, no “do these five things and you will be living an intentional life.” Nope, it’s not that easy. Or that hard.

For me? Living intentionally means that I spend some time each day pondering the what if. I visualize what it means to be wherever it is I want to be, and ponder further on what it will take to get there. With intention, I move forward. Whatever that may mean, on a given day.

Some days, that path is crystal clear. Others (most?) it’s murkier than the pond I used to swim in as a child.

I spend a lot of time talking to lawyers (and other really smart people) who are in various places in life, personally and professionally. A common thread? Those who live with intention focus less on the negative and more on the positive. They’re more likely to be close to where they think they want to be.

This truth is born out on those days that I’m able to do the same.

So, my advice for today: live with intention. Practice with intention. Don’t simply exist. BE what and who you wish to be. Even on the murky days. Especially on the murky days.

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*Despite the fact that I have a masters in communication, a law degree (from a top 20 school, no less), have been practicing law for 16 years, and taught communication at the university level. Despite the fact that I regularly consult with really smart people about how they can do and be even better in whatever it is that they want to do and be.

I’m not throwing all of this out there to convince you that I’m “qualified” to give you this advice. Perhaps I’m throwing it out there to convince myself.? Sometimes I hide behind these letters. Even when I know that they aren’t who I am. At best, they represent some work I did.