Self-help lists are a dime a double dozen on the Internet. What do they boil down to? Eat right, get plenty of sleep and exercise each and every day. Right. Been there. Done that. Have the Bellin Run t-shirt -- in fact, I have drawer of Bellin Run t-shirts. But has this advice inspired me to create a new improved version of myself? How about you?
Then I came across a post from Drake Baer of Business Insider who asked a question on behalf of a 23-year-old physics student: “What can I do today to help out my future self in 2019?” Baer compiled the answers from a website called Quora and summarized the 20-something advice into 17 categories. I almost clicked through the post, but was pulled in by the first couple of suggestions. They were easy (see #17) and made a lot of sense even for someone who is a multiple of 20-something.
Now, I don't advocate starting all seventeen ideas right after you read this blog, but there are enough ideas here that if you can make one or two of them a habit (see #17, again) during the days of summer that are left to us you may achieve better personhood in five years. I am borrowing more or less direct from Baer's article so I am crediting the people who came up with the ideas. We do need to know who to award the t-shirts to.
Here are the seventeen ideas.
1 Pick up an athletic hobby that you can do over your lifetime. Coed rugby and mountain skateboarding will only last so long. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle will do awful things to you. David Cannon.
2. Write down key points of what you did each day. This may seem trivial and a bit middle-school journal-ish, but Harvard Business School research shows that taking as little as 15-minutes of written reflection at the end of the day can make you more productive. Stan Hayward.
3. Talk to one stranger every day. Strangers = opportunities. Opportunities = more opportunities. And, more +++ opportunities are better than fewer :-<<. Who you know (in other eras this was called networking) can accelerate your career, happiness and health. Ashraf Sobli.
4. Learn to listen well. People love to talk about themselves. Listening allows you to build #3 and gives you something to #2 about. Charles Tips.
5. Waste less time. Zig Ziglar (my quotation, not Baer's) points out that each of us have twenty-four hours each day. Lack of direction, not lack of time is the problem of those who waste time. Anonymous.
6. Find happiness in the process of accomplishing your dreams. Avoid a "deferred life plan." Find a way to do what you like to do today, or, like what you have to do. Attitude is always key. Dan Lowenthal.
7. Build strong friendships and be kind to people. See #3 and #4. That will also help #6. Edina Dizharevic.
8. Diversify your experiences. See #3. Dan Lowenthal.
9. Save money. Put a little bit away with each paycheck. Do it automatically so you don't miss it. This is called the miracle of compound interest. India L.J. Mitchell.
10. Drink with old people (see #3, #7, #8). They've been there, done that and have the t-shirts (see #4). Ben Hinks.
11. Start meditating. It trains your brain to be able to deal with the madness of each day (see #6). Anonymous.
12. Learn to work with shame and doubt. Those emotions probably mean your are stretching beyond your comfort zone (see #11). That's a good thing. Diego Mejia.
13. Go outside: hikes, walks, running, that new lifelong sport you are taking up (see #1), anything. Cognitive psychologists prescribe a little "wilderness bathing" to counteract depression and burnout. Non-cognitive sorts say you need a dose of fresh air to chase aways the blues. Stephen Steinberg.
14. Get to know people who are different from you (see #3, #4, #8, #10). You might even meet them during a #13. Judy Tyrer.
15. Date everything (see #2) — no, not that kind of “date.” Whether you're connecting with a person, taking notes during a meeting, or labeling takeout boxes in the fridge, knowing the date when something happened is useful in ways you can't predict. If it could be predicted, we might mention it here as incentive. Dee Vining.
16. Read novels. Fiction is emotional and cognitive stimulation. Novels train you to recognize, understand and model other people's experiences of life. It's almost as good as #3, #8, #10 and #14. It’s even up there with #1 and #13. Anuany Arunav.
17. Set minimum goals. Read 15 pages a day, do 20 push ups each morning (see #1-#16), floss a different tooth each day (???). Starting the habit, even a small habit, is key to changing your life.
Pick only one or two of the group to try for the rest of the summer but don't delay (#6). We’ll check back in five years. T-shirts to the finishers.