Thursday, 27 September 2012

Cranial Comeback

Boost your brain power in middle age

By Amy Anderson

As you age, your brain is more easily distracted and slower to retrieve information. It has trouble shutting out mental chatter and concentrating on the task at hand. That’s why you walk into a room to find the keys — that you’ve lost again — only to forget why you were there in the first place.

But a recent study called Midlife in the United States, or Midus, revealed that one of the most important elements in retaining memory and other cognitive skills over age 50 is a college degree. “Education seems to be an elixir that can bring us a healthy body and mind throughout adulthood and even a longer life,” says Margie E. Lachman, a psychologist at Brandeis University and a principal investigator for Midus.

Higher education slows the brain’s aging process by up to a decade, allowing people in their 50s to test in the range of less-educated people in their 40s. The more years of school someone has, the better he or she did on calculations, memory and reasoning tests. The study also revealed that higher education is associated with a longer life and a decreased risk of dementia.

But there were other similarities among those who scored the best on cognitive tests, including regular exercise, volunteering or belonging to organizations, being socially active and remaining calm in the face of stress.

Fortunately, the study found that people who regularly challenged their brains by reading, writing, attending lectures or working word puzzles did better on intelligence tests and even made up the difference between themselves and their more highly educated counterparts. “We have shown that those with less education may be able to compensate and look more like those who have higher education by adopting some of the common practices of the highly educated,” Lachman says.

In fact, regular mental challenges will actually alter your brain’s neural circuits, even as you age, making it more responsive. The earlier you start, the larger the impact, so keep reading and make a plan to get in a cognitive workout daily.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Book Review

Setting and achieving goals is perhaps one of the most important aspects of any self-development or success programme.  So for this month's review I have selected three books about goal setting and achieving.

The first is a Kindle book called "How to Set Goals".  A good starting point!  The others are "normal" books rather than Kindle versions.  The second takes you through the most important step once you have set your goal, and is called "Write It Down, Make It Happen".  Finally, a book focussed on ensuring you achieve your goals, called "Living in Your Top 1%".

Click on the title of any book that particularly interests you and you can buy it right away from Amazon.

How To Set Goals: Ultimate Goal Setting Guide to Having Your Best Year Ever


Craig Ballantyne

Here is what some readers of this Kindle edition thought about it:

"This is a quick read, yet a great one. I wish I had found it sooner.

Most goal setting books just tell you to aim high and the magic will happen. This doesn't. It tells you HOW AND WHY you'll achieve your goals and makes you think about ALL the areas of life. Some of them were difficult for me...I realized that a lot of my goals were one-dimensional and I was forgetting about setting goals outside one area.

The author also has some free videos at the end that make it interactive. Great stuff.

Now...onto achieving what I just wrote down."

-    JR

"I love this book. I am a big fan of Early To Rise, so I had to pick this up because anything by Craig Ballantyne is amazing. This book is in depth yet easy to read. I love the part about making SMART goals and also the importance of visualization. Craig provides great advice and actionable steps to achieve whatever goal you are striving for. I also picked up The Ultimate Fat Loss Secret which I love too! My main goal right now is fat loss and I believe this Goal setting book will help me to achieve my fat loss goals as well as any thing else I pursue. So thanks and I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to reach their goals sooner rather than later. "

-    Susie Schmidt

"Really great book. I got the kindle version and read it on those many sleepless nights. Craig Ballantyne really knows goal setting. As a personal trainer and huge online business success, his latest acquisition is one of my favorite websites - ETR (Early To Rise), he is a man who walks his talk. No-nonsense, down to earth stuff. This book is literally a steal to PRIME members, and to the rest of us, it's still a steal at ninety-nine cents for a kindle edition. HIGHLY recommend. "

-    InfoFish

Write It Down, Make It Happen: Knowing What You Want And Getting It


Henriette Anne Klauser

"The reason I am giving this book five stars is that I followed it to the letter and made what I wanted to happen happen. I wanted to take a solo summer road trip from Florida to New England, stay up there for a few weeks, and visit DC and Atlanta on the way back. I was scared to do it and needed the financial means. This book motivated me to work an extra job, work extra hours at the two jobs I had, to make the arrangements, make it possible to take five weeks off, and psyched me up to actually GO. I had a BLAST. That trip will be a jewel in my heart for the rest of my life. I am married with two kids now, and won't be able to do anything like that again, so I am grateful to this book and to myself for the experience. It's been eleven years. I should redo it with a new overwhelming goal!"

-    Musical Mama

"I'm a medical-surgical nurse and at the same time a business woman. I manage my own online store and it's now even bigger where I'm unable to manage and balance everything. My nursing career is very stressful and every time I went home I'll just sleep for the rest of the day leaving some of my customers online waiting for me to check their pending orders. I finished reading read this book last month, I'm happy to say that this book is just what I need to balance everything in my life. I totally agree that we should write down our goals in order for us to achieve it. I started writing my goals right after I finished this book. I set goals for my career; I set ways on how to divide my time to achieve the success I wanted and guess what? It worked!

I realized that reading this type of books is definitely helpful. I was so happy with the results that I bought another book to inspire myself and be on track all the time. Here's another powerful book that may help you,by Martin Gover Leadership,Authority & Influence - Creating a Life of Value-knowing the top of the mountain isn't even halfway.  This book also recommends writing down your goals and to mentally commit to it. Now, I have a collection of these types of books and I can't wait to finish everything. My online store is earning more than I expected and my nursing career is blossoming at the same time! "

-    alone0615!

"This book was a gift from my mother on Christmas. After 6 months, I decided to pick it up and read it. It was as if it was calling me.
I am so glad I did. This book was addicting! It taught me so much, writing in a journal, positive outlook and tools to help stay focused. She uses real life experiences to show the way to getting what you want. This book was amazing and taught me so much, perfect timing for what I was feeling in my personal life and it truly helped guide me back to a positive outlook and set me free of my fears for new journeys in life. Again, I couldn't wait to read it every morning and write in my journal afterwards. I have referred this book to many of my clients. "

-    Desiree Ashby

Living in Your Top 1%: Nine Essential Rituals to Achieve Your Ultimate Life Goals


Alissa Finerman

"This book was given to me by my friend, Aisha, as a gift. Wow! I have read many, many self-development books and this is actually one of the BEST - well-organized, down-to-earth, good examples and phenomenal stories, and I feel like I can not only understand what to do and why, but also HOW to get into my own top 1% success zone. This book is truly phenomenal; I HIGHLY recommend it! I wish everyone great success in your lives and I'm sure this book can play a huge part in that!"

-    Rosemarie Goodman-Urszuy (BALTIMORE, MD, US)

"Alissa Finerman wastes no time in this instructional self-improvement book. Upfront she dedicates it to "Every person who has overcome or will soon overcome the word impossible" - this concise but powerful intro sets the tone for what is to come: a series of 1st hand and 2nd hand stories of triumph over some of life's difficulties (especially the difficulties we erect for ourselves), combined with a near recipe like set of principles and instructions (presented as 9 'rituals') on how you can move from where you really are in life to where you really want to be.

Unlike many tomes from self-help Authors, Finerman's book does not take a long and winding road toward instruction. The book is organized as a set of true stories of transformation: Each person's story is concise, simple, and direct. Finerman's mixture of famous and ordinary people in these stories makes for engaging and interesting reading. A common thread of self-realization, mindset change and corrective action (or in Finerman's formula: Assess, Create, Implement) weaves each tale together to form a narrative of the book's theme: Successful self-change is possible for anyone willing to follow a proven plan.

A stirring, motivational quote from a bevy of famous achievers (from Aristotle to Anthony Robbins) establishes credibility for, then launches each new chapter while you as the reader begin to envision your own 'success story' unfolding vicariously through a combination of the tales of others' triumphs over doubt, debilitation or circumstance.

Finerman underscores her intent to help you drive toward results by integrating academic textbook like assignments, recaps and note-taking sections at the end of each chapter. This is what the book tangibly delivers: A real formula for self-transformation. For me, the textbook like instructions at the end of each chapter were a bit distracting--I prefer to read without interruption, digest the totality of a book, then review. But the point of this book is not to make you ponder or to merely be inspired-- the point of the book is to instruct and guide you through a thoughtfully developed regimen where the eventual outcome is the realization of your dreams. With that outcome in mind, Finerman's academic like instructional approach is tough to argue against.

Like any effective self-improvement process, Finerman's "9 rituals" aren't easy to complete-- nor is her process a quick one. But as any successful person can attest to, her 9 prescribed rituals absolutely do work. This book is written clearly and offers basic (yet powerful) evidence based instruction on how you can win in the game of life-- and be happy along your path to victory.

My favorite thing about LIVING IN YOUR TOP 1% is that for me it serves as a reliable 'pick me up' whenever I run into the inevitable obstacles along the path toward my realizing my own dreams and I need a healthy recharge of self-confidence. In this sense, the book is a wonderful motivator as it reliably restores my confidence and dutifully guides me back on the path toward achieving my ultimate life goals."

-    James McDonald

"Living in Your Top 1% is refreshing! Alissa skillfully provides an actionable blueprint for achieving goals and living your truth. Her book walks you through some thought provoking exercises as it helps you sketch out the actions and habits necessary to produce goal shattering results. This book focuses on iterative processes necessary to assess and reassess goals. Her personal story is inspiring and liberating. She places emphasis on redefining how one looks at life. Prioritizing yourself as the CEO of your life gives context to the meaning behind the goals you set. Alissa provokes you to challenge the status quo and invoke new feelings of self-esteem and belief. I love the way she rejects a microwaved approach to change and stresses the importance of forward progress and little victories. A must read for anyone looking for more out of life!"

-    Aisha D. Da Costa

Saturday, 15 September 2012

What is Your Goal?

From the Universal to the Universal

By Sri Swami Chidananda

The other day, when I was returning from my tour, I decided to get down at Dehra Dun instead of Hardwar. In the same compartment of the train were a Kashmiri lady and an army brigadier. They were talking about there being no provision in the India of today for the training of the youth—who are the wealth of the nation. I joined in the conversation and pointed out a number of organisations that were showing a real concern for the upcoming generation.

Finally, as we were getting close to Dehra Dun, the lady said to me, "Swamiji, you seem to know so much. Please give me some of your jnana, something that I can carry with me for my life." I said, "Look here, I have been giving it, and that should be enough. Nevertheless, as an individual aspirant approaching me, it is my duty to give you some jnana. Therefore let me say something."

I went on, "The first jnana I want to give you is: This life is only a journey. You have come here; you don’t belong here. You are on a journey, and at the end of the journey you will have to leave and go. So nothing is really yours here. Nor do you belong here. First truth.

"The second truth is that when a person is on a journey, they usually have a destination to reach. What destination have you set for yourself? Is it what you were discussing with the brigadier? Is that your destination? Is that your reach? Think of it! Your destination cannot be anything here for the simple reason that you do not belong here. If you reach any destination here, it will be here and you will go elsewhere. So you can reap no permanent benefit from whatever secular, temporal, worldly, earthly goal that you set for yourself—no matter how great it may be.

It may even be something as comprehensive as banning the use of nuclear weapons, something upon which the fate of all humanity on planet Earth hangs. It may be something as big as the United Nations or the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. All these things are trivial, for the simple reason that none of them can be your real goal; because no matter what you achieve here you will go empty-handed. You came empty-handed, you’ll go empty-handed. Therefore, think!

"Third truth: All these important things that you have been discussing—that there is no proper provision in India today for the youth and that you must do something about it—is based on the egoistical feeling that there is a you and that you can do something.

"Look here, this world has been going on for hundreds and thousands of years before you and the brigadier and all people came. You come now and you will disappear like little insects coming in the rainy season having a 24-hour lifespan. Empires have come and gone. You have come and you will go. This drama of life will go on, the world will go on—another 1000 years, 2000 years, 10,000 years.

"You are nothing. There is some higher power that has been looking after this world for eons. Scientists say that the first sign of life came on planet Earth so many millions of years ago. What is your calendar of 365 days before millions of years? So don’t worry about it. There is some higher power who is quite capable of looking after this world that you are so concerned about. He doesn’t require Kashmiri ladies like you. You better take care of yourself, so that during this precious little human life between an entry point and an exit point that you do something to improve yourself, bring out all the latent potential within yourself.

"And before you leave, try to do maximum benefit to God’s creation—into which He has put you. That is the only thing that makes life worth living. Life’s importance is not assessed in terms of how much you have amassed, what titles you have, how many audiences you have addressed or how many books you have written. All that is vain fancy. The value of life is in having come here, before you go how many people have been happier, how many have been benefited, how useful have you been to God’s creation. Not only human beings, the whole world."

I continued, "How many tears have you wiped from crying children, orphans, widows, helpless people, from poor, suffering people in the remotest villages where there is no drinking water, no sanitation, no education—they are disease bound? Try to do something. Go there and give them a proper road; they are cut off during the monsoon season. Go not to the posh cities, but help suffering humanity in the rural areas. Bring sanitation, hygiene, medical aid. Give eye camps for those who are blinded with cataracts. Then you have done something.

"Our culture, our country has as its highest ideal in life paropakara, benefiting others, being useful to others, doing something that is good for others, not only for yourself. Paropakara is the highest ideal. They went so far as to say that this body has been given only for this purpose. So bring about a change in the orientation of your vision.

"So this I am telling you personally. What then is the goal? Your goal is to go back from where you came. There is a great Universal Soul. You are not this body, this cage of flesh and bones. You are not the five karma indriyas or the five jnana indriyas. You are not this mind, emotion, sentiment, imagination and various moods such as anger, passion, greed, envy, jealousy. You are not even this little "I" that you are identifying yourself with when you look in a mirror. All these are not you. You are a centre of radiant consciousness, shining consciousness—eternal, imperishable, unborn, beyond time, beyond space, infinite. Read the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita every day!"

That is how we took leave. I did not speak to her as an individual addressing an individual. I spoke as the Universal addressing the Universal in that lady. And I said that you belong to that dimension. This is a golden chance to lift yourself up from this confined consciousness to your real dimension of infinite consciousness, universal consciousness. That is why we are here.

She asked for blessings. I said, "May the Universal Consciousness grace and fulfil whatever is there in your heart, whatever you are aspiring for, whatever you are ardently longing and wishing for. May it be fulfilled!"

(Reproduced by kind permission of Swami Padmanabhananda, the Divine Life Society)

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Learning from a Toddler

5 Lessons Learned from a Toddler

Author:  Deborah Fike

If I could summarize my world for you in one sentence, it would be: chasing my toddler. I know the back of my daughter’s scruffy blonde head anywhere: dashing across the living room, making a break for the next grocery aisle, or attempting to go up the slide (much more fun than going down). My old day job required me to attend meetings and sit in front of a computer most of the day. Now, I’m lucky if I get 10 minutes to sit down for a breather before my girl has me running to catch up with her.

I’ve never raised a child before, and given my personality, I decided to read about it. All the toddler self-help books talk about what you need to teach them: how to play with others, learn language, go potty. These books contain great advice for child rearing, but none discuss the things parents learn from toddlers. I have learned at least as much from my daughter as she has learned from me. So here are some tips for living from someone who just started her life journey:

1. It’s your duty to question everything.

Toddlers don’t take anything as a given. They don’t understand that you should eat your peas, not put them in your hair. On a more serious note, they don’t understand that running into the street can kill you, so they may bolt at any second. And when you stop them from doing something they want to do, you get the dreaded string of “whys.”

But “whys” are a good thing. They demonstrate curiosity and a thirst to understand the world. More importantly, they force us to evaluate all of our decisions. Toddlers don’t like to follow a rule with a weak “why,” and neither should adults. So if something bothers you, question it. Don’t like the answer? Channel your inner toddler and take action. You’ll feel better in the long run (especially on ethical decisions) if you always ask “why.”

2. All skills take practice, but you’ll get there eventually.

It is amazing how very little a baby can do at birth. He can’t see or hear well. Many babies struggle with the sucking reflex, so they can’t even eat well. When you watch a baby grow, it’s amazing to watch him master the ability to move and manipulate things, including himself. It literally takes years. Reasoning takes much longer. (Some parents of teenagers might argue that day never comes.) And how do we learn all of this? By doing it day in, day out for years at a time.

So as an adult, if you’re trying to learn a new skill, you’ve got to be patient and put in the time to learn something new. Toddlers thrive on doing the same things over and over again, and that’s how they become master walkers and talkers. Don’t get me wrong – toddlers are rarely patient. My daughter can cry with the best of them when she encounters a container she wants to open and can’t. But she works at it constantly until she does eventually open the box (usually to my frustrated sigh as I go find a broom).

3. There is opportunity in destruction.

Before my daughter was born, I saw the world as a place where I could create. I could find connections and establish a career. I could open up my computer and write a story. Opportunities abound in this world because I can build in it.

Toddlers like creation, but many value destruction even more. I stack blocks, my daughter knocks them down. At first, this frustrates an adult, especially when something you cherish has been ruined by your child. But there’s opportunity in destruction too. When your child scribbles marker on the wall, you have a chance to paint it a nicer color than its original boring beige. For a more adult-oriented example, perhaps you’ve been pigeonholed as a great accountant, but you’d rather be a carpenter. Casting away your old career for a new one can be more rewarding than building upon what you already have. Sometimes the greatest joy is found not in the creation, but the destruction, of something you’ve built.

4. Go outside as often as you can.

The outdoors is a magical place for a toddler. It doesn’t matter how many toys, books, and interesting things I shove in a room, it can only hold her attention for about 30 minutes (if I’m that lucky). Then I’m stuck either listening to her whine or taking her someplace else. This rule does not hold true if my toddler plays outside. We went to the beach the other weekend, and my daughter had no trouble entertaining herself for nearly 4 hours.

I used to spend a lot of time outdoors through my college years, but once I entered the “real world,” I’ve been less committed. I feel a lot healthier now that I spend more time outside with my daughter. Even if it’s just sitting on the front steps, the outdoors is at once more relaxing and exciting at the same time. It’s relaxing because natural noises lull you in the place of electronic ringtones and computer clicks. It’s exciting because all sorts of things can and do happen: you chat with your neighbors, a helicopter flies overhead, or a large butterfly catches your eye. I now value outdoor time as much as exercise and eating right.

5. Love like there’s no tomorrow.

Toddlers have little emotional restraint, and as parents, it’s our job to teach them how to work through emotions so they can live a normal life. But when it comes to love, toddlers have the right idea. They have no qualms springing a hug on you, even if it means nearly tripping you in the process. My daughter’s kiss is the best gift I have ever received in this world. She gives it at a moment’s notice, and it is always accompanied by the most genuine smile. The feeling it evokes cannot be described by ordinary words.

Imagine the world with more toddler love. It’d probably involve more chases and tickling, but I could live with that.

What have you learned from your children?

Monday, 3 September 2012

Desires and Goals in Tune

A lot of people try “affirmations”, “creative visualisations”, techniques such as the Law of Attraction and other methods outlined in "The Secret", or other ways to achieve their goals.  They do this for a while, sometimes for a long while, but find nothing appears to be happening.  They are no nearer their goals than when they first started.  What is going wrong?

Does this strike a chord at all?  Have you found yourself in this position?  I know I have!  But not because there is anything intrinsically wrong with those systems.  They have certainly worked for many people.  So why didn’t they work for me when I first tried them?

Continuing the musical metaphor, I believe the biggest cause of failure is that our goals are simply not properly in tune with our real underlying desires.  And until they ARE in tune I can pretty much guarantee they CANNOT work.

The first task, therefore, of anyone attempting any kind of self-improvement or success programme should be to isolate all of those underlying desires.

The second task is to check that each of those desires are in harmony, and work on “retuning” any that create a discord.

And finally, once we are certain all our desires are congruent, we can then check that our goals are also congruent with these “tuned up” desires.  At this point we will find those personal development and success systems really start to work.

Enough of the metaphors!  What exactly am I talking about?

Let me give you a simple example.

Imagine a young man who has decided he wants to find his perfect “mate”.  He has bought a system that claims it will teach the user to seduce any young lady he fancies.  She will be swooning over him before she even realises what is happening (yes, there really are such systems for sale out there, although I have never bought one or recommended one to any of my subscribers).  He is delighted with his purchase and immediately begins putting the system into practice.  It doesn’t work.

Why?  Was the system itself wrong?  No, in fact there was nothing technically wrong with the system.  I suggest there WAS something morally wrong, but technically it should have worked.

The reason it didn’t work is that this particular young man is not as lacking in morals as you might have imagined at the outset of my story.  Deep down inside he respects all people as individuals.  He has an underlying desire to love and respect everyone, and to be loved and respected by them.  This desire is quite out of harmony with his superficial desire to “seduce” any young lady he fancies.  He does not recognise this conflict, as he has interpreted his desire to be loved in the wrong way, and believes it will be satisfied by applying this “seduction” technique.  But his very powerful unconscious mind does recognise the conflict, and refuses to allow him to achieve that goal which is not properly aligned with his real underlying desire.  Every time he makes an affirmation that is out of line with that true desire, his unconscious mind throws a counter affirmation into the equation, which completely neutralises it.

Now the example I have just given was perhaps rather an extreme example, and one which is easy to recognise and to fix.  This young man should recognise that his goal of seducing a young lady is simply not appropriate for him, and throw away the system he bought.  That system would only work for him if he were not, underneath, the moral person he really is.

Most of us, of course, are not trying to use our success and personal development systems for such an obviously inappropriate purpose.  But still the reason they are not working for us is almost certainly that we have not yet fully understood our inner desires and made sure our goals are properly aligned with them.  Until we do, every time we “affirm” or “creatively visualise” we will be fighting with our own unconscious mind.  And believe me, in a battle between the conscious and unconscious mind the unconscious always wins.

So take some time now to analyse exactly what it is you want out of life.  Meditate on each of the desires or goals you have identified – do you really want this, or is it just a passing fancy (or something someone else wanted for you).  Make sure they are all aligned and none are out of kilter.  Eliminate those that create a discord – you will not find it too difficult to recognise them once you get into the habit of this practice.  If you take the time to do this I can guarantee you will at the very least be happier.  I cannot guarantee whatever success or personal development system you are using will then work – apart from anything else this will depend on the quality of that system itself.  But you will certainly be much better positioned to get better results from any systems you apply.


Graham A Dragon