Who You Are is Not What You Do

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made over the years, the largest source of my anxiety and fear, the impetus behind my self-deprecating…


Jump on your opportunities, i.e., find a crack and drive a bus through it.

Issue #155 of the Better Humans Daily. Subscribe here for inspiration and knowledge.

“If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.” ~ Tom Peters

Good news about changing your mindsets, plural.

I just discovered Alia Crum’s mindset research coming out of Stanford. It feels like she’s part of the next wave of mindset work that can build and expand on Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset work.

“My parting advice is for people to remember that our mindsets are not a reflection of the world as it actually is. Instead they are our subjective interpretations of what is or could be that are informed by the cultures we live in, our development, by influential others and even by conscious choice. And that, when we recognize that we have mindsets, that they are not inevitable, and that they matter in shaping our health and wellbeing, we are empowered with a great gift: and that is the power to change our mindsets to improve our health and our lives.”

From Mindsets: Q&A with Dr. Alia Crum, Stanford Psychology

Exploiting unrecognized simplicities.

This is from James Clear’s 3–2–1 newsletter on how geniuses work:

“Most geniuses — especially those who lead others — prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognized simplicities.”

Original source: Andy Benoit, Sports Illustrated

This reminds me of advice from an entrepreneur that I grew up with: “Find a crack and drive a bus through it.”

Do you recognize how important it is to assert yourself?

And do you understand the difference between asserting yourself versus imposing yourself or dominating other people?

One of the big reactions I had while watching the Beatles documentary Get Back was watching George Harrison fail to assert himself. He had songs that he wanted to get released, but he didn’t have the tools to get them into the group conversation. Of course, he didn’t — he was only 25, locked into a childhood dynamic of a group he’d joined at age 13, and facing the extreme confidence of John Lennon and Paul McCartney in their own visions. This is a skill you get a lot better at as you get older.

Asserting yourself has two parts. One is finding the conviction that you deserve to have your needs met. Then two, finding the courage to insist on being heard, even though the outcome might be out of your control. IMO, George couldn’t find either and so he left himself only one option, which was to leave the group.

You could find criticism in the other direction in John and Paul’s leadership, but I gravitated toward George’s assertiveness because it’s such a universally needed skill. We need to assert ourselves in groups, in relationships, and often even over ourselves.

A reader sent me this review of the newsletter.

“Your personal message and your personal voice have both become clearer and clearer as you’ve been sending these out over time. It feels supportive, inquisitive, non-macho, realistic, kind to oneself and others. All good things in my book!”

As self-improvement should be!

Jump on your opportunities, i.e., find a crack and drive a bus through it. was originally published in Better Humans on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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Why doing an annual review is the best way to begin a new year

Why Doing an Annual Review Is the Best Way To Begin a New Year

Two free templates to get you started

Lesser Ury (1861–1931), Woman at a Writing-Desk (1898)

In her essay On Keeping A Notebook, the late Joan Didion, who left this world at the age of 87 just before Christmas, asked herself why we write things down. What is the purpose of keeping a notebook, a record of the events of our lives?

“Why did I write it down? In order to remember, of course, but exactly what was it I wanted to remember? How much of it actually happened? Did any of it?” — Joan Didion

It is 2022 already, although for many it may feel like 2020 never ended. Aren’t we all asking ourselves, ‘What just happened?’

Why an annual review is valuable

I always say that in order to be able to look forward, you have to be able to look back. That is why, for the past three years, I dedicate a few hours at the turn of every year to look back on what happened over the past twelve months, to take a look at my journey, where I started, where I ended, and where this path is taking me.

An exercise in remembering

We owe it to ourselves to remember our lives. To pay attention to what happened. Mary Oliver wrote, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” And so, an annual review becomes a method to remember who we were. To be kind to ourselves, but also honest. To celebrate achievements, and to acknowledge where we could have done better.

In The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You, one of the most valuable books I read in 2021, Julie Zhuo writes: “Nothing worthwhile happens overnight. Every big dream is the culmination of thousands of tiny steps forward.” By looking back at a longer period of time, we enable ourselves to see our successes and our progress, an essential exercise, particularly during a point in the history of mankind where it might all feel stagnant, where all our plans bump into obstacles that seem beyond our control.

Remembering to be honest

Everyone makes mistakes, and those who refuse to see and learn from their mistakes are those who remain stationary, who do not grow. An untruthful review will have no value. Be brutally honest with yourself, with facts, with pain points, with your own downsides. Do not embellish, but do not be ashamed to admit where things could have gone better, where your goals might have been too unrealistic, or just not important enough.

Conducting an end-of-year review for yourself

The review provides a natural closure to the year. You can write it all down, put it away, and start afresh. Before rushing into 2022, it is worth dwelling on 2021 just a little longer, especially since for many this might be the first week of the year where you are re-entering the bittersweet reality that only routines can offer.

I tend to use two templates for my end-of-year review. One focuses on my professional growth, the other gives me the ground to explore life as a whole, and key areas of it.

Detailed end-of-year retrospective

The first template makes for a detailed 2021 end-of-year retrospective. It consists of a series of questions that really lean into remembering the details of 2021, even key moments that you may have forgotten. This is the longer version, which is also the one I do with my team. You can get it for free here.

The detailed 2021 end-of-year retrospective is great for:

Teams and managersFocusing on professional and personal growthZooming into your careerSetting professional and growth goals for 2022

A Year in Review

The second template makes for the 2021: A Year in Review. It is the shortest of the two, and the one I do with myself. It is very simple, relying on prose and stream of consciousness, similar to doing morning pages, and covers the main areas of life. When filling out each section, ask yourself, ‘What happened? How did it feel?’ You can get this template for free here.

The 2021: A Year in Review template is great for:

Individuals investing in their personal growthSelf-discoveryIdentifying areas of your life you might be underinvesting inSetting some initial goals for the year ahead

Søren Kierkegaard famously said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” We owe it to ourselves to set time aside in order to understand where our lives are headed. Conducting the review needs time and space, a room of one’s own, preferably. Make sure you set enough, continuous time aside for this exercise for maximum impact, and ease yourself into the new year. There are still so many days of it left.

Summary points

The main reasons why an annual review is the best way to transition into a new year:

It brings closure to the year that just endedIt helps you appreciate and celebrate your achievementsIt surfaces what could have gone betterIt points towards what really mattersIt can help unpack recurring themesIt answers the question asked by James Clear, Are my choices helping me live the life I want to live?’It can nudge you towards setting better goals for the year ahead

I write Brain Food, a free daily newsletter that lands in people’s inboxes Monday to Friday, providing daily creative inspiration, tips on self-improvement, and exploring what makes a happy life. For longer pieces, follow me on Medium.

Why doing an annual review is the best way to begin a new year was originally published in Better Humans on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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Unconventional Ways to Fill Up Your Journal For Better Mental Health

Creative ways to explore your emotions, thoughts, and experiences with a greater of sovereignty and flow

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

There were fragments of memories in middle school where our English teacher would ask us to keep a journal in order to assess our vocabulary and grammar but the majority neglected the practice after getting the grade because middle schoolers are more immersed with gathering experiences through playing, socializing, and experimenting rather than writing about it. But what I realized as I clean up my closet, with my old entries at hand from when I was five until I was eight, was the fact that when you have gathered enough experiences through playing, socializing, and experimenting, it is best to clock in your experiences by recording it on paper either to reverse your history through recorded words or to prepare you for the next move.

The privacy of journaling enforces you to strip your layers and be completely honest with yourself about how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking. Studies also suggest that journaling helps us self-regulate in order to avoid stress, anxiety, and other mental health problems. It directs the brain to rewire itself and project the situation from a different angle, giving light to a different perspective.

Journaling is beyond writing when you’re overthinking or when you’re sad. You can write events and encounters that you are excited about, thus you have a reminder of good days in your life. You can write when you are upset or angry towards a person, decision, or argument thereby you can thoroughly steer through the situation and see more than your opinion. You can write before or after meditation to help silence your mind or motivate you to utilize your energy to power through more work.

There are several end goals for journaling but there comes an epoch that writing emotions, thoughts, plans, and experiences may be overwhelming to navigate through. It may be because of fear of being too unguarded or discerning like you cannot find the most appropriate words to encapsulate your headspace. But today, we are unraveling unconventional ways to fill up your journal to ease the practice and help you explore your emotions, thoughts, and experiences with more sense of sovereignty and flow.

1. Objective truths

Objective truths are factual evidence about our existence, emotions, thoughts, behavior. This aspect of the journal can become your cue to either calm or get excited when things around you are either too stressful or too slow.

Here are some examples of objective truths:

Sadness, anger, pain, frustrations, and all emotions alike are not “negative”. They are sometimes uncomfortable and unhealthy to live with but they are normal and they are as valid as emotions like happiness and excitement. These emotions arise because they are an indicator of something going wrong and sweeping them under the rug is counterproductive and it will only pile up and cause burnout.Our actions affect us as much as our feelings and our thoughts. Often, we may think the only way to overcome a “negative” event is through changing our feelings or thoughts but sometimes, we have more access to our actions. Instead of forcing ourselves to stop thinking about circumstances that stress us, it is easier to physically walk away or distance ourselves from it.We can control our actions but (sometimes) not the results. There are a plethora of possibilities as to how an event may unfold. We can act and react accordingly.Everyone deserves to take up space. Everyone came to the earth with a birthright to be nurtured, loved, and protected. I deserve to have resources and support. However, it may look different on different days.

Objective truths can also be a collection of advice that you have proven or tested. They can also be lessons you have learned from your therapist, from past experience, from a friend that encountered a similar situation, as long as this advice and learnings are unbiased and candor.

2. Energy Management vs. Time Management

Energy management and time management are both tools for enhancing productivity. Energy management dwells on activities, people, places that give you more power to accomplish work while time management addresses your usage of time as a resource to delegate tasks.

Journaling about energy management and time management supposes you keep track of moments when you felt most empowered and what were the reasons behind it.

Here are some prompts to identify how to manage energy and time better:

What does a low-energy day look like?What/who/where/why do I feel like I am drained of energy?How can I carry myself better during these days?What/who/where/why do I feel like I am full of energy?Create a hierarchy of things that must get done. List down their corresponding deadlines and workloads. The 1st priority is the earliest deadline while the 2nd priority is the heaviest workload.If I rest in between, would I lose momentum and focus, or would I feel more energized?

You can also make a chart or graph corresponding to your productivity level at specific times of the day. This can help identify the timestamps in which you have the most stamina to participate in your tasks. From here, you can rearrange your schedule based on your environment or fluctuating energy levels. For example, if you rate your energy or focus 4/10 consistently during 6:00 p.m. and 9/10 during 9:00 p.m., then you already know that you can finish more of your duty later on at night and you can adjust accordingly. You can take lighter work at 6:00 p.m. then increase the workload as the night progresses.

3. Reappraising when bad things happen

Harvard Edu defines cognitive reappraisal as distinctive thinking to approach a situation differently. One way of doing this is through cognitive reframing.

Cognitive reframing is like a metaphor of how you live the world based on your lenses and these lenses symbolize your emotions. Sometimes your lenses are foggy and your vision is fazed by the fog. When you face a situation, how you act upon it is based on whether you feel good about it or not.

How you interpret a situation can seem like the reality of that situation. If you are tired of your work, then you may be living under the reality that your work is tiring, if you are infuriated with your boss, then you may be living under the reality that your boss is infuriating.

The advantage of reappraising and reframing is it encourages openness to a different viewpoint. It motivates you to side with a belief that may be more helpful to follow. It is meant to neutralize your personal prejudice within the actual gravity of the circumstances.

Here are prompts to help with reframing:

Write the event from a 3rd person point of view or similar to how a reporter broadcasts a report.In this story, am I a character that is aligned with my values?Am I a character who has the authority to act?What aspect can I change? Where can or should I act?What advice would I give a 12-year-old in a similar situation?

4. Honing inner child

Inner child work can help you either dig into your core beliefs that lead to our automated responses or it can help you see situations outlandishly or creatively. It can also help heal some deep-seated wounds which you have never dealt with before or remind you to unleash the inner child within.

Here are some prompts for digging into our inner child:

Write a letter for someone who hurt or nurtured my child self.How was I put down as a child? What was I put down for?How was I empowered as a child? What was I empowered for?What are the most memorable events from my childhood?What are the activities I enjoyed as a child and how can I incorporate it now?

5. Tangible goals via 3 measurable and realistic benchmark

For some, goal-setting may be the initial purpose of keeping a journal. Having your goals written on paper can help you visualize your plans as well as keep you accountable for following up on your intentions. But the best way to follow through on your goals is via specific extents that you must complete or reach a pinnacle that serves as visible proof that a task is achieved.

Here is an example of how it may look like:

Goal: To live in a healthier environment sustainably.

Benchmark 1: I cleanse and organize my space as often as possible thus there is no accumulated dirt or clutter and I know where my things are located.

Benchmark 2: I change my sheets and pillowcases thus my sleeping space is clean and light and my body also feels clean and light after I wake up.

Benchmark 3: I maximize the use of reusable items and avoid the use of 1-time-only items to avoid unnecessary waste.

Writing in a journal can be a cathartic practice to strengthen your mental health. But there are also different mediums to take in journaling such as voice recording, pretending to be in a phone call with yourself or with a friend, and vlogging. You can also draw simple doodles without worrying if your illustration is comparable to bigger artists and simply let yourself express without aiming to make sense out of the results. No matter the method of journaling, what’s important is you channel an outlet that you can pour through your sacred emotions and thoughts.

Craving for more? You can follow me or check out my linktree to support my writing 🙂

Unconventional Ways to Fill Up Your Journal For Better Mental Health was originally published in Better Humans on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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