A Guide to Developing the Self-Discipline Habit

By Leo Babauta

One of the most important life skills to develop, for those just starting out in life (and everyone else!), is the skill of self-discipline.

It’s like a superpower: when I developed some self-discipline, I started exercising and eating healthier and meditating and writing more, I quit smoking and ran marathons, I started a blog and wrote books, I read more and work earlier, I decluttered and transformed my finances. I’m far from perfect, but I’ve learned a lot.

But if you don’t develop self-discipline, it causes problems: health problems, distraction, procrastination, financial problems, clutter, things piling up and overwhelming you, and much more.

So it’s such an important skill to develop, but most people don’t know where to start. This guide is aimed at helping you get started.

I’m writing it for my kids, and for anyone else who would like to develop a superpower.

Finding Motivation

The first question is, how do you even get motivated to start? Most of us don’t want to think about our lack of discipline, let alone take a bunch of actions.

For me, the motivation came from realizing that what I was doing wasn’t working. Ignoring the problems only made things worse. Trying to be disciplined but doing it half-assedly only resulted in me feeling bad about myself. Being wholly undisciplined was causing myself a bunch of pain.

Once you realize that you’re causing yourself pain … you might develop a whole-hearted intention to stop hurting yourself. You might say, “OK, that’s enough with making my life worse. Let’s try to make it less worse.”

With that in mind, you can tell yourself that you are going to:

  • Start taking small actions to make things better
  • Do the things that hurt you less
  • Push yourself into discomfort a little bit, so you can get better at this over time
  • Get good at self-discipline with some practice

Keep these things in mind as you practice, as you get the urge to not practice, and as you make mistakes and then want to give up.

There are other good motivations as well:

  1. Wanting to help others — if you get better at exercise or healthy eating, for example, you can help your aging parents who need to get better at these things. If you get better at not procrastinating on your life’s work, you can help more people with that meaningful work. More on this below, in the “Focus on Others” section.
  2. Appreciating life — we have a short time here on Earth, and the life we have is a gift. When we procrastinate and give in to endless distraction, and don’t make the most of our time, we are not fully appreciating the gift we have. Instead, we can appreciate it by being present, being grateful, and being purposeful about how we spend our time.

With these motivations — or whatever motivations move you the most — we can start to practice.

Small Actions

One of the most important things you can do to get better at self-discipline is to take small actions. It can seem overwhelming to tackle huge, intimidating projects … so don’t. Instead, tackle easy actions, things so small you can’t say no.

Have some taxes to do? Just do 5 minutes. Want to run? Just run for 10 minutes. Have a report to work on? Just do the first few paragraphs. Want to declutter? Just find 5 things to declutter.

You’ll get better at self-discipline if you focus on small tasks, and break bigger projects into small tasks. Read more.

Discomfort Training

One of the reasons we don’t have self-discipline is because we run from the hard, uncomfortable things. We would rather do the easy, comfortable, familiar things.

So instead of facing our hard, uncomfortable projects or finances, we run to distractions, videos, games. This running from discomfort is ruining our lives.

What you can tell yourself is that you’re done running. You are going to push into discomfort, a little at a time, and get good at being uncomfortable. This is another of your superpowers. When others run, you’re OK (even if it’s not always fun).

One small task at a time, push yourself into discomfort. See how it feels. See that it’s not the end of the world. See that you are awesome enough to handle discomfort, and that the results are well worth it.

Mindfulness with Urges

You’ll have the urge to quit doing something hard, or to put it off for now. Those urges don’t serve you well.

Instead, develop mindfulness around those urges, and see that you don’t have to follow them.

A good way to do that is to set a time for yourself where you can do nothing but X. For example, for the next 10 minutes, you can do nothing but write your book chapter (or exercise, meditate, etc.). When you have the urge to procrastinate or run to distractions, you’ll easily see it, because you’re either writing the book, or you’re not. When you have the urge, tell yourself you can’t follow it, you have to either write your book chapter or sit there and do nothing.

Raymond Chandler used that as his simple writing system: “Write or nothing. I find it works. Two very simple rules, a. you don’t have to write. b. you can’t do anything else.”

The reason it works is that you are setting up a time where you do nothing else but that one specified task, and you can see your urges to run away. Use this to learn to be mindful of your urges, and see that you don’t have to follow them.

Interval Training

If you combine the above items into a system of bursts, or intervals, you can train yourself using interval training:

  1. Set your intention to practice self-discipline and not hurt yourself anymore.
  2. Set a task to focus on (writing, drawing, strength training, meditating, etc).
  3. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Five minutes is also fine if 10 is too long. Don’t go longer until you get good at 10 minutes, then increase to 12 and eventually 15. I don’t find I need to go beyond 15-20 minutes even when I’m kicking butt.
  4. Do nothing but sit there and watch your urges, or push into your discomfort by doing the task.
  5. When the timer goes off, give yourself a 5-minute break.
  6. Repeat.

You can train for several intervals, or potentially for an hour or two. Then take a longer break, and do another set of intervals after that.

This kind of interval training is fantastic, because it’s not that hard, you really train yourself in discomfort and watching urges, and you can get a lot done this way.

A Focus on Others

When you find yourself struggling, dig into deeper motivation: doing your work/exercise/meditation etc. not for yourself, but for others.

For example:

  • I’m writing this article to help my kids, and anyone else who might benefit.
  • I work out to be healthy, not only for myself but as an example for my kids and others who might benefit.
  • I meditate not only for my own peace and sanity, but so that I can help others find their own peace and sanity.
  • You might draw or write or play music to inspire others.

In each example, you might benefit … but you’re also doing it to benefit others. And this benefit to others is much more motivating than doing something just for yourself.

Try it … try doing a difficult task for someone else. Tell them you’re going to do it for them beforehand, then keep them in mind as you do it. See if you feel more motivated.

Victories in Success & Failure

A huge mistake that a lot of people make is that they mess up, and get discouraged by this. They feel bad about messing up. This causes them to give up and not want to think about developing self-discipline.

Here’s the thing: failure is actually a victory.

Failure means you tried. So it’s a victory from the start.

But it also means you learned something — you now know that what you tried didn’t quite work. Next time, you can try something a bit different. Add more accountability, try it at a different time, unplug your wireless router, get a workout partner, anything. Because of your failure, you have new information. You’ve learned, and that helps you get better.

Failure is a victory. Success is also a victory. No matter what your result, you can see it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to get better.

Drop any ideas of being perfect at this, and just keep trying.

The next time you fail at whatever you’re trying, instead of letting it get you discouraged, see it as a victory. Then keep going, no matter what, because giving up is only going to hurt you some more.

Getting Support

You’re not in this alone. You have family, friends, online strangers who can help you. Form a support team by reaching out to the people around you, and asking for their help.

Lots of people skip this because they are embarrassed by their lack of discipline. They feel that the way they behave is shameful. That’s not true. Actually, we all act like this, but we’re just afraid to show that side to each other. But the truth is, if you show your “dark” side to people, they actually love you more, trust you more, relate to you more. So don’t be afraid to connect with others in a vulnerable way.

Find the courage to ask for help. Then let yourself be supported as you work on pushing yourself into discomfort and hurting yourself less.

If you need help from me, try my 44 Training Program – Turning Uncertainty & Discomfort into Mindful Openness.

You can do this.

Small Actions, Huge Impact

By Leo Babauta

Most people get hung up because of a few reasons:

  1. A task or project is too intimidating/overwhelming, so they put it off.
  2. Sticking to new habits is hard, so they fail after a week or two.
  3. Life becomes overwhelming, because there’s so much to do, so many choices.

The problems with these common situations is that we take the big picture, the overwhelming nature of it all, and use it as a reason to not do anything.

Instead, I’ve found it useful to pick one tiny action. It can change everything.

Some examples:

  1. I have too much to do right now, I’m overwhelmed — so I do one tiny thing. I just start a task. I just move a project along in the smallest way. I just make a list. Something that takes a minute or two — I can do that!
  2. I’ve fallen off a habit I was trying to start, such as meditation or exercise … and it’s causing me to not want to even think about the habit. So I just do the smallest version of the habit — can I pause for a few moments and meditate right now? Can I do a few pushups? This gets the ball rolling, and now the habit doesn’t seem that difficult. I just keep starting again, in small ways.
  3. I’ve been putting off a project, and I feel pretty bad about it — so I just do one small thing with the project, and now I feel a lot better. All of a sudden, I can get the project moving with small movements, small victories.

Each of these examples is so simple, so tiny — and yet their impact is bigger than most people realize. The action is small, but the impact is huge. The victory might seem trifling, but it’s actually a profound shift.

What are you stalling on? What are you overwhelmed by? What can you take a tiny action on right now?

Get an infinitessimal victory now, and see what it changes for you.

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The Magic of Being Held By the World

By Leo Babauta

Right now, as you read this article, you are being held up by an invisible, magic web.

Consider the following, with gratitude in your heart:

You are reading an article written for you by me, sent across the Internet thanks to the work of thousands and thousands of engineers and power workers and workers in computer factories, using a computer device produced by thousands of people around the world.

You are alive because you ate food and drink produced and delivered and served by thousands of people. You have shelter built by thousands of people (when you consider the manufacturing process), powered by a power system where thousands of people work every day, with water coming to you produced by thousands of people, cable (or Internet) entertainment streamed to you that was produced by millions of people. Your furniture, clothes, appliances, car, roads, work buildings, city were all built by millions of people.

When you were born, you were incapable of living without the support of your family, who fed, clothed, sheltered you, changed your diapers, kept you alive every single day. They were supported by many others, and then you were educated by many more. You were raised by a village, no matter what your childhood was like.

Your entire existence has been supported by millions of people, for your whole life, including right now.

And it’s not just your physical existence: your thoughts have been influenced by writers, pundits, TV shows, films, music, educators, friends and family, the work you do with others, politicians and government, philosophers and religious figures, the environment you live in. What you think and who you are is not something you just invented, it has been created by everyone and everything around you.

You have been co-created by every other human being alive, by the entire world. And your actions have co-created those around you as well.

You are held up by an invisible, magic web of human lives and thought, of food and shelter and electricity and devices, of human creation and nature and the cosmos around you.

We co-create each other, every moment. And we take it all for granted.

The only reasonable response to this realization is gratitude. Applause. Joy.

We are all connected, and our actions matter. How can you co-create the world around you today? What loving action can you take right now, to care for others around you, to make their lives better? What can you do to appreciate and show gratitude for those who have supported you?

Fill your heart with love for those who have created you, and fill their lives with your love so you can create something amazing for them.

My 44 Training Program

I just wanted to remind you of my free training program, that you can still sign up for:

The 44 Training Program: Turning Uncertainty & Discomfort into Mindful Openness

Again, it lasts 44 days, is entirely free, comes with a dozen videos I’ve created for you, and is my gift to you.

It’s about training in mindfulness, uncertainty and discomfort to create joy, gratitude and openness in your life. I hope you check it out.

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How We’re Harmed by Our Dissatisfaction with Ourselves

By Leo Babauta

Over the last five years or so, as I’ve worked with thousands of people on changing their habits, I’ve come to a realization: dissatisfaction with ourselves is a pretty universal phenomenon.

We are unhappy with who we are, sometimes in small ways but often in very fundamental ways.

We doubt ourselves, feel inadequate, dislike our looks, criticize our failing harshly, feel uncertain about whether we’re worthy of praise or love.

The result is anxiety, procrastination, fear, and the inability to change our habits. I’ve seen so many people who are unable to stick to an exercise program or healthy diet changes because they don’t believe in themselves. At the heart of their failure to make positive changes is a deep feeling of unworthiness and inadequacy.

Every time we fail, we are harsh with ourselves, and we see it as just more evidence that we suck. Every time things are less-than-ideal, we blame ourselves (or, if we don’t want to be blamed, we blame other people).

What if, instead of beating ourselves up (or blaming others), we just accepted what happened and then took appropriate action? What if we took this as an opportunity to see our humanness, to love ourselves, to see ourselves as innately good?

This dissatisfaction with ourselves doesn’t just hurt our health habits … it hurts our productivity and ability to focus on meaningful work. We doubt whether we’re up to facing this task filled with discomfort and uncertainty, so we look for relief from all of it instead of just trusting that we’re up to the task. We procrastinate, seek distraction, try to run from the uncertainty.

Our relationships are also harmed by this dissatisfaction with ourselves — when we don’t believe in ourselves, we are insecure in our relationships. That can result in jealousy, anger, fear of losing someone, and treating the other person with distrust. That’s not a good recipe for a good relationship, and if the relationship becomes shaky, we often either blame the other person or see it as more evidence that we suck.

Our happiness is marred by this dissatisfaction with ourselves— if we don’t like ourselves, don’t trust ourselves, don’t see ourselves as worthy of love … then how can we truly be happy in each moment? Underlying each moment is a dissatisfaction, a lack of contentedness, a wish that things would be different.

These are just a handful of ways that dissatisfaction with ourselves is harming us. This problem actually affects every area of our lives, from jobs to finances to parenting and more.

The Way Out: Loving Ourselves

Instead of harming ourselves with this self-doubt, this constant feeling of inadequacy … what if we loved ourselves instead?

What if we trusted ourselves, believed in our basic worthiness, believed that we would be OK even if things didn’t work out as planned, believed that we are loving, kind, and innately good human beings?

That would change everything: we’d be more trusting in relationships, we’d procrastinate less because we knew we could handle uncertainty and discomfort, we’d become healthier because we would see healthy food and exercise as just two more ways to love ourselves. We’d seek ways to love others, to serve the world with meaningful work, to enjoy the basic goodness of every moment. We’d be happier, and in the times when we’re not happy, we’d still be able to find contentment in the middle of difficulty.

Of course, that’s much easier said than done. We have so many years of experience in disliking ourselves, in being harsh with ourselves, that loving ourselves can seem impossible. It’s not. You can do this.

It starts with the simple intention to love yourself, to see yourself as adequate and worthy of love, to wish for your own happiness and the relief from pain and stress.

Once you have this intention, you can practice a daily session of wishing for your own happiness, wishing for an end to your pain. A daily session of gratitude for the good things about yourself.

You can start to see the basic goodness in everything you do, even if it’s less than perfect (as all humans are). You can see the good hearted nature in every one of your actions, even the ones that are harmful. You can start to see the good-hearted nature in what everyone else does as well.

This is the practice, and it takes lots of practice. But loving yourself might just be the most important project you’ve ever undertaken, because it will change your world.

My New Course: How to Love Yourself

I’m happy to offer a new course, called “How to Love Yourself,” as part of my Sea Change Program.

I invite you to join us in this 4-week course, by joining Sea Change today.

Sea Change is my monthly membership program for changing habits, learning mindfulness and changing your life. Each month, we focus on something different, and this month it’s procrastination.

What you’ll get with this course:

  1. Two video lessons per week
  2. A challenge to do a short compassion session six days a week for the whole month
  3. A weekly check-in for the challenge so you stay accountable
  4. A live video webinar where you can ask me questions

I encourage you to join me and have your efforts to change your old patterns be supported by me and more than a thousand other Sea Change members.

Join Sea Change today and start the course.

The 44 Training Program: Turning Uncertainty & Discomfort into Mindful Openness

By Leo Babauta

Today is my 44th birthday (thanks mom!) and I have a gift for you, my beautiful readers:

It’s called The 44 Training Program: Turning Uncertainty to Find Mindful Openness.

What the heck is that? It’s a video training program that I’m offering for free, to help you:

  • Overcome uncertainty, anxiety, fear, discomfort and procrastination
  • Find peace, mindful openness, gratitude and joy
  • Transform your difficulties and pain into growth and beauty
  • Overcome any struggle you’re having right now

Wow, can it really do all that?! Yes. Yes, my friends, it can. If you put in the effort to train.

What It’s About

In our lives, we have lots of difficulty: stress, anxiety, anger and frustration, plus the pain of loss and heartbreak and massive change, not to mention major illness and chronic pain and depression.

How do we deal with all of this? We can use it, as the place of transformation to happiness and peace. We can use it, as a way to awaken, to touch our inner goodness, to connect with the pain of others.

The place we find peace and mindfulness and happiness isn’t somewhere away from the pain and struggle … it’s right in the midst of it.

This program is about training ourselves to be mindful, to find peace in the midst of chaos and pain, to get good at dealing with discomfort and change and uncertainty.

This program is about simple practices that train our minds and our hearts. It’s my life’s work.

How It Works

So how does it work? It’s simple:

  • You train with 11 different practices, 4 days each. So 44 days total.
  • The daily practice sessions should take only 5-10 minutes a day.
  • If you sign up below, you’ll get an email every other day, with videos for each practice and a short article to encourage and inform your practice.
  • With each practice, I just ask you to give me a little feedback on how it’s going, to help me make the program better.

It’s mind training, training in uncertainty and discomfort, training in transforming our struggles and fear into openness and joy (as I shared in my mission a couple days ago).

Sign up below, and get started with the Intro video today!

Questions

You might have a few questions, here are the answers:

Question: Is this going to take a lot of my time?

Answer: It should take about 5-10 minutes a day, for 44 days, not including watching the short instructional videos.

Question: Are you going to try to sell me something if I sign up?

Answer: No. There are no “upsells” or soft sells or anything else. No spam. No marketing. Just short videos and short articles.

Question: What do I need to do this program?

Answer: A quiet place to sit for a few minutes would be ideal, but you could make it work on your commute, on the toilet, walking outside. An open mind is also great. And the willingness to commit to the practice for 44 days.

My Mission: Help the World Transform Fear into Openness & Joy

By Leo Babauta

When I started Zen Habits 10 years ago, I simply wanted to share what I’d been learning about changing my habits and simplifying my life with others.

Then something magical happened.

Over the next year or two, people took some of my tips and changed their lives. They were able to finally stick to some new habits, simplify their lives, even find a mindfulness practice. As they changed their lives, it changed me.

Now I didn’t just want to share life tips. I wanted to help. I wanted to serve my readers, help them find contentment and happiness and gratitude and joy. That meant I had to dig into their messy problems, meet them in the middle of their struggles.

In the last couple of years, I’ve been honing in on what I can do to help people, and I’ve been honing in on my life’s mission.

I think I have it now: my mission is to help people with their struggles, and help them find mindful openness, gratitude and joy. My mission is to transform fear, uncertainty and discomfort into this place of peace and contentment. I’ve been working on how to state that mission in a succinct way, and I’m still working on it.

But I’m going to own my mission statement as it is right now: Help the world transform fear & uncertainty into mindful openness and joy.

Transform fear and procrastination into joy and gratitude.

Transform struggle and frustration into growth and love.

Transform uncertainty and change into peace and openness.

That’s my mission, and I’m sharing it with you because over the next couple of years, you’ll see me write more about this, but also offer books, courses, webinars, workshops and retreats to try to accomplish this mission.

That’s why I offered the Dealing with Struggles Course (which is still open right now), why I offered the Zen Habits Mindfulness Retreat (just finished this past weekend, went brilliantly!), why I continue to offer new video courses in my Sea Change Program. I’m not doing these to make lots of money, but to fulfill my life’s mission.

This Sunday (April 30) is my 44th birthday, and I’m going to be offering a free video training program on that day, as a gift to all of you. I’ll tell you more about it on Sunday, but for now just know that’s it will be completely free, I won’t be trying to upsell you on any products or services, and the only reason I’m offering it is because I am driven to serve you and my mission.

It be called The 44 Training Program: Training in Uncertainty to Find Mindful Openness. It will be a 44-day training program, where you commit to practicing for just 5-10 minutes a day. You’ll get good at uncertainty and discomfort and change, and learn to find joy and openness in the midst of it all. More on Sunday!

For now, I just wanted to share my mission with you all, because I love you guys, and you have changed my life in a profound way. I’m deeply grateful for your support over the years, and just know that I’m committed to serving you with love and joy.

The Minimalist Question is the Important Thing

There’s a misunderstanding of the minimalist movement, that you should somehow have almost nothing, fewer than 100 things, or a house that’s empty and white. This can feel oppressive to some, and privileged to others.

But that’s not what minimalism is all about, at least not to me.

It’s not about telling people they can’t have clutter, or they should own next to nothing. It’s not even about possessions, really.

It’s about asking a simple question: what is important to you?

If you don’t have much money, and you need to put food on the table, then it’s obvious the answer to that question is food, rent, utilities and other basic necessities. In that case, asking the question “what is important to you” is a good idea, so you can focus on what’s needed for survival and not let yourself get distracted. I’ve been poor, and I know that distracting myself was something I did often, because I didn’t want to think about poor. I got into deep debt because I spent money on distractions instead of taking care of my basic bills.

If you have too much stuff, maybe you don’t need to worry about the survival basics. In fact, maybe your problem is that you don’t have any financial constraints, and can order whatever you want, whenever you want it. In that case, asking the question “what is important to you” is a good idea, because it forces you to understand what’s essential to you. I’ve been in this position too, and it’s easy to get distracted by luxuries, by too many choices, and fritter your life away ordering things and being distracted. Life is too short and precious to waste like this.

The question isn’t even about possessions or spending. It might be about figuring out what you want to focus on in life: is it better to focus on doing as many things as possible, or about making an impact with one or two things.

It might be about figuring out who you want in your life: do you want to make as many friends as possible, or pick a handful that give you meaning, people who lift you up?

It might be about deciding how you want to fill your day: do you want to try to do everything, or are there a handful of things that matter most to you? It’s possible that if you cleared away all the other choices you have, you will have more space for what matters and for what makes you happy.

It might be about what gives you meaning. What gives you contentment. What has an impact on the lives of those around you, or your community.

My answers, the answer of other minimalist writers … they don’t really matter. What really matters is asking yourself the question, and exploring what you find. You don’t even need definitive answers: even exploring the question is a profound shift for most of us. It’s going from the usual way of doing things to one that is more conscious, more curious, more interested in the stuff that makes life alive.

Finding Beauty in Every Freakin’ Moment, No Matter What

By Leo Babauta

How often are we anxious, frustrated, looking forward to something coming up, unhappy with ourselves, unhappy with others?

How often are we not happy with what’s going on in this present moment?

What if we could, instead, be completely in love with this moment?

What if, no matter what happened, we could find the beauty, joy, and gratitude in the moment as it happens?

Let’s make it so.

Rejecting the Experience

There are lots of very good reasons to reject our current experience:

  1. We have too much to do, and it is overwhelming.
  2. We have been hurt by someone else.
  3. We have deep doubts about ourselves, and wish we could be different.
  4. The situation is filled with uncertainty and fear.
  5. Someone is being inconsiderate and rude.
  6. There is injustice in the world.
  7. We are faced with discrimination, racism, sexism, prejudice, ignorance.
  8. We are poor, deeply in debt, struggling.
  9. We are lonely, alone, with no prospects of finding a partner.
  10. We are in pain.
  11. We have chronic pain or a terminal illness.

Those are hard things. In fact, if we contemplate some of these horrible situations, it doesn’t take much to see that the smaller problems of our daily lives don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

Given these kinds of difficulties (and more), how can I talk about finding beauty in the present moment?

The problem isn’t the situation. We’ll always face difficult situations in life, some dire and drastic, others small and irritating, but we can’t rid our lives of difficulty, pain and struggle.

The problem is that we reject whatever we face. It’s not good enough, it’s not wanted, it’s not welcome. I don’t want it that way … I want it that way.

That’s the problem: we reject the parts of our experience we don’t like, and wish for ideals instead.

Again … we can’t rid our lives of pain and difficulty. The problem isn’t the external situation, which will always be less than ideal. If we wish for an ideal life, free of our problems, we’ll be wishing until we die.

Given that we’ll never have the ideal situation … can we make the most of what we’ve been given?

Can we stop rejecting the gift of the life we’ve been given, and find beauty in it instead?

Let’s see how.

Finding Beauty in Pain

What good is there in someone angry with us, and us angry with them? How can we find joy in something as sucky as that?

Try this:

  1. Pause, and notice how your body is feeling.
  2. Stay with the feeling in your body with curiosity.
  3. Welcome the feeling. Invite it to tea.
  4. See that you are both suffering through pain, difficulty, fear, and tenderness in this moment. See that you’re connected through your pain and tenderness.
  5. Make a wish for relief of difficulty: “May I find peace. May they also find peace.” In this way, you are finding compassion for yourself, which is beautiful … and compassion for the other human being, which is also beautiful. It shifts you from worried about your self-concern, to wanting to ease the pain of the both of you.
  6. Find gratitude for what you do have: you are alive, you are connected with other human beings, you can love and appreciate flowers, music, the clouds and the gentle breeze and sunlight.

Every moment, even the most painful, have some kind of beauty, even if it is the simple fact that you are connected to all others who are in pain. You can feel the tenderness of your heart under your fear frustration and pain, and this tenderness is connected to all other human hearts. Everyone, around the world, has this good, tender heart too. This connection to human lives is beautiful.

Every moment is filled with learning, with strength, with love underneath the fear.

Yes, if you are unsafe, get yourself to safety as an act of love for yourself. But you don’t have to have hatred in your heart for the sonofabitch who has hurt you. They are suffering too, and though you don’t have to put up with their abuse, you can wish them peace, for the sake of the peace of your own heart. Take care of yourself, and that includes moving from fear and hatred to love and compassion.

Yes, if you are in constant pain, this is not easy. No one is claiming pain is easy. Who signed up for an easy life? By taking on your pain with patience, forbearance and strength, you are a shining example of love for all others. By taking on this pain, you are developing a capacity to help others with their pain. By taking in pain, you can find a place of joy in the midst of pain, a place of joy you can share with others.

Take the pain and turn it into art, into caring for others, into a heartrending song of life.

The Commitment to Live Fully

When we reject pain, sorrow, anger and loss … we are saying we don’t want all of our lives. We only want the good parts.

What I’m suggesting is that we fully engage with each and every moment. We don’t run, reject or avoid.

We embrace life fully.

We live fully in the groundlessness of our uncertainty and loss, the groundlessness of our anger and sorrow, the groundlessness of our pain. Instead of wishing for a stable, perfect moment … we learn to love the groundlessness and uncertainty of the moment we actually have.

We allow ourselves to fully feel whatever we’re feeling, without rejecting it, seeing this groundless tenderness as the enlightened energy of our lives.

We see this tenderness in our heart, in the midst of groundlessness, as goodness that is in us and everything around us.

We become fully present with an open heart, in full surrender to everything we experience. We reject nothing, and embrace everything.

We see everything as the path to joy and beauty. Everything is filled with goodness, if only we learn to see it as such. If we don’t see it, we only need to look closer.

We see every difficulty as our teacher. Every struggle has a lesson, every loss is a master class in becoming open and letting go of attachment, every pain is a way to touch our tender hearts. Any struggle and any difficult person is a teacher, if we embrace them as such.

Whenever we find ourselves wishing something were different … we use this as a touchstone to coming back to the moment and being fully with it, not rejecting it. Coming back and finding the beauty and goodness. Coming back and seeing this as our teacher.

When we begin to live each moment fully, we start to open up to a vast spacious awareness and beauty. It’s as if we wake up out of a dream to see the incredible mountains that have been in front of us the entire time.

It’s love, this thing in front of us. We just need to step fully into it, and feel the heart-breaking beauty of this love that we call life.

The 5 Keys to Forming Any Habit

By Leo Babauta

We all struggle with our habits — sticking to them, staying motivated, getting started, dealing with disruptions, it can become a big struggle.

And yet, to change our habits is to change our lives. If we can’t make habit changes, we will be stuck in our current way of doing things, which might not be so helpful.

If you want to lose weight, beat procrastination, write a book, get fit, live mindfully … you have to develop habits.

Luckily, the process is simpler than most people realize. Simple, not easy: you have to be committed and really want to make the change. Otherwise you’ll just quit when things get difficult.

Here’s the first thing to keep in mind: just choose one habit for now. Yes, you’ll want to change a bunch of things. Don’t ignore my advice. Later, you can form more, but for now, focus on just one.

With that in mind, follow these simple steps:

  1. Start super small. I’ve said this a million times on this blog, so you might gloss over this one — but don’t. It’s the most important thing. Do one habit at a time, and do it super small. How small? Just meditate for 2 minutes. Just write for 5 minutes. Just do 5 pushups or 5 sun salutations. Just eat one vegetable a day. If you start small, you remove the resistance to starting, which is the hardest part. I used to tell myself, “Just put on your shoes and get out the door,” and that’s how I formed my running habit, and I ended up running several marathons and an ultramarathon because of this small habit. For meditation, I tell myself, “Just get your butt on the cushion.” For drawing, just get out your pad & pencil.
  2. Remove choice. Don’t think about it — make a decision ahead of time to do it every day at the same time for at least a month, then each day, don’t make it a decision. Just start. Have a trigger that’s already in your daily life (like waking up, or showering, brushing your teeth, starting the coffee maker, eating lunch, whatever) and use that as the trigger for an when/then statement: “When I wake up, I’ll meditate for 2 minutes.” Put written reminders near where the trigger happens. The main point is: make the decision to do it every day, and then just do it without thinking.
  3. Get some accountability. Have at least one person you report to — an accountability partner. Or a group of friends. Or a walking/running partner. It doesn’t matter how you set it up, but having someone to report to means you are much more likely to push yourself past resistance when it comes up.
  4. Make it fun, find gratitude. Don’t just do the habit as if it were a chore. See if you can enjoy it. How can you make it fun, play, joyous? Can you find gratitude in the middle of your workout? The habit is much more likely to stick if you focus on the parts you enjoy, rather than mindlessly try to check it off your to-do list.
  5. Be committed. Why are you doing this habit? Reflect on this during the first week, as you do the habit. What deeper reason do you have? Are you doing this habit to help others? As an act of self-love, so that you can be healthier or happier? If you’re just doing it because you think you should, or because it sounds cool, you won’t really push past the resistance.

You can start with just the first item above, but I would recommend adding as many of the other four as you can during your first week or two, because you’ll be increasing your odds of success with each one.

This is doable. You can change your old ways by consciously doing something new repeatedly, until it’s a habit. Take small steps to get started, remove choice so you don’t think about whether to start or not, get some accountability and understand your motivation so you push past resistance, and find gratitude in the midst of the action.

One habit, done daily. Small steps with intention, support and a smile. It can make all the difference in the world.

A Guide to Fear Mastery

By Leo Babauta

We normally think of fear as something that’s holding us back, or something to be avoided … but what if we could see it as a powerful tool?

What if we could master that tool? We’d become masters at life, able to push through fears of rejection, failure, ridicule, and more.

Fear is normally like a barrier for us, keeping us from doing awesome things in life. Or if we push up against that barrier, we see the fear as making the experience miserable, and cringe because of it.

But in truth, fear is a useful thing. Once upon a time, fear was a signal to run from a lion or some other danger, and that was pretty useful. These days, we don’t usually have much physical danger (the lions have more to fear from us), but the same fear signals still happen, even when it’s trying to pursue our dreams or becoming vulnerable to other people.

These days, the fears aren’t physical — they’re more about not being good enough. Here are the top fears in a survey I did earlier this year:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Fear of being inadequate
  3. Fear of rejection
  4. Fear of not being prepared
  5. Fear of being a fraud
  6. Fear of ridicule

You might notice that they are all really the same fear. The fear of not being good enough — if we’re not good enough (inadequate), we might fail, we might get rejected, we might be ridiculed, we might be found a fraud, we might need preparation because without it we won’t be adequate. Our deepest and most common fear is that we’re not good enough. That’s not physical danger, it’s all internal.

So fear, then, is no longer a signal that we should run.

Instead, fear is a useful signal that we should go toward something.

Let’s find out how.

Freedom & the Wall of Fear

Whenever we feel fear, it means we’re up against some kind of wall … on the other side of the wall is some kind of freedom.

This is a freedom we desire, and that’s a healthy thing to want that kind of freedom. But we push up against the fear, and it can hold us back because our normal response is to avoid that wall of fear. By avoiding it, we remain on the side of the wall where we stay comfortable, where we know what we’re doing, where things are easy. We’re trapped by that wall of fear, as long as we keep avoiding it.

What would happen if we pushed through that wall? We’d have freedom: the freedom to connect with others in a vulnerable way, to put ourselves out there and pursue the life of meaning we really want, to publish books and websites and podcasts and poems, to explore the world or create a non-profit organization, to make friends and love with an open heart.

Freedom is on the other side of the wall of fear. So when we feel fear, it’s actually a signal that we should go toward the fear.

Yes, it’s difficult. But avoiding it doesn’t work. It just causes more difficulty. Instead, we can go inward, and see the turmoil that’s in there that the fear is signaling, go into our cave of darkness and process whatever’s in there. That means looking at how we think we’re not good enough, trying to learn to love ourselves, learning to trust ourselves to be OK even if we get rejected or if we fail.

And we can also courageously take action, in the presence of fear.

Acting in the Face of Fear

Just because fear is present, doesn’t mean we have to run. In fact, we can practice acting mindfully even with fear in our bodies.

The practice is to notice that there’s fear, and notice our habitual reaction. Stay with the fear, and notice how it feels as a physical sensation. Notice that it’s not so bad, that we can actually be OK in the middle of that physical sensation. It’s just hormones in our bodies, just an energy of excitement.

Being in the moment, we can take action: write a book, have a conversation, go to a social event, get on stage. We can immerse ourselves fully in the moment, feeling the fear in our bodies but still doing the action.

Fear is a worry about the future, which doesn’t exist. Noticing that, we can turn back to the present moment: what’s here in front of us. We can be grateful for what’s in front of us. We can smile at it, and take action.

This takes practice. Try it now. Practice it every day: go toward whatever scares you, repeatedly. Lean into the fear. Be courageous, pushing through the wall of fear into the freedom of openness

Listen to Me on the Rich Roll Podcast

I had the honor of sitting down with the awesome Rich Roll on his popular podcast … check it out:

Rich Roll Podcast: Leo Babauta’s Mission to End Human Struggle: Ruminations on Suffering, Simplicity & the Power of Mindfulness

It was an absolute joy, and Rich is such an incredible person. I hope you enjoy the podcast.