I teach people how to learn, so I’m used to seeing dramatic transformations. Like one of my first speed-reading students — she wanted to read 30 books in 30 days to help her cancer-stricken mother, who had 60 days to live. She read every health book she could get her hands on. Six months after I tutored her, she called me to let me know her mother was cancer free. Her mom credits it to the knowledge her daughter learned by speed-reading.
We love stories like this, but most of us forget that dramatic transformations aren’t actually all that dramatic. They just seem dramatic because we only see the beginning and the end. We don’t pay attention to the middle — the little changes we make on a day-to-day basis that allow us to transform into the superheroes we know we can be.
I know this process intimately. I struggled with learning challenges growing up and today, I train CEOs and Hollywood actors on how to use their brains. That was not an overnight transformation. I’ve spent years studying brain science, adult learning theory, multiple intelligence and memory.
Try this: work on improving yourself just a little each day this month. At the end of the month, your peers might be shocked at how much you’ve changed. But you’ll never look at dramatic before/after makeovers the same. Here are some things you can do.
How you sculpt your day sculpts your life, and your days are sculpted by your habits. After all, a habit is just a set of learned beliefs and learned actions around that belief. So whether it’s the habit of how you eat or how you learn, you make your habits and then your habits make you. It’s crucial to unlearn poor thinking and learning habits, so you can replace them with new, better ones instead.
Go on micro-adventures
Most of us fear stepping into the unknown, but the unknown is where the learning is. After all, if you’re learning something that you already know, then you’re not really learning. If you want to create new results, you must do and think new things. That said, it’s crucial to engage with the unknown safely. Traveling is a great way to do that, but if you want to change a little at a time, go on a micro-adventure instead! Renowned explorer Alastair Humphreys has popularized the concept, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a little adventure you can fit into your everyday life, like driving to a new nearby town on the weekend.
Ask for feedback
If you want to transform your life, you have to be able to change what’s not working. Unfortunately, a lot of us can’t see what’s wrong with our own lives, which is why it’s crucial to ask for feedback. Learn how to accept criticism. Accept responsibility for your own actions and situation. When you mess up, admit your mistakes and fix them. Remember: with great power comes great responsibility.
In times of stress, we naturally revert to the response we always use, even when we know that response is unhealthy. But changing our habits is hard! That’s why Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning, author of “Habits of a Happy Brain,” recommends doing nothing the next time you face a crisis. It’s much easier to do nothing than to create a new response. And if you wait 20 minutes, your body will metabolize the stress chemical cortisol, so you’ll be able to view the crisis from a more relaxed perspective. To avoid triggering more cortisol, do an activity that won’t frustrate you like watching a funny sitcom.
Make time for quiet contemplation
How different would you feel if you took 10 — 15 minutes of quiet contemplation each day? How much better would you know yourself? How much more in tune would you be with your body, mind and spirit? This month, take just 10 minutes to yourself each day. You can pray, reflect, meditate, journal, do yoga or even eat more mindfully.
Pick your pack
Who you spend time with is who you become. So this month, take a look at the people around you and ask yourself: are these people challenging you and making you better? Or do you always feel like you’re the smartest person in the room? Spend more time with the people who help you become a real-life superhero…and if you’re really struggling, come join us at the Superhero Brain Conference in Los Angeles on June 4 and 5! We’re gathering the world’s top experts in brain optimization — so you’re sure to find your tribe.