Category Archives: Productivity

Breathing Techniques for Stress Relief

Take a deep breath in. Now let it out. You may notice a difference in how you feel already. Your breath is a powerful tool to ease stress and make you feel less anxious. Some simple breathing exercises can make a big difference if you make them part of your regular routine.

Before you get started, keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose a place to do your breathing exercise. It could be in your bed, on your living room floor, or in a comfortable chair.
  • Don’t force it. This can make you feel more stressed.
  • Try to do it at the same time once or twice a day.
  • Wear comfortable clothes.

Many breathing exercises take only a few minutes. When you have more time, you can do them for 10 minutes or more to get even greater benefits.

Find below list of breathing techniques for you to practice:

1. One-minute Breathing

Breath and productivity go hand in hand. Incorrect breathing not only reduces your productivity levels; it can also lead to an increase in your heart rate, the same way sleep apnea quickens the pulse as the body struggles to take in oxygen.

Yoga breathing techniques offer a practical solution. Yoga has become a common form of stress management and exercise for overworked executives, and you can practice yogic breathing exercises without going to a yoga class.


Professional yoga therapist Felice Rhiannon uses this one-minute breath practice whenever she’s feeling frazzled or restless. It is a centering activity based on a slow inhalation and an incremental increase in the length of exhalations.

  • Inhale to the count of two
  • Exhale to the count of two
  • Inhale to the count of two
  • Exhale to the count of three
  • Inhale to the count of two
  • Exhale to the count of four
  • Inhale to the count of two
  • Exhale to the count of five

Repeat several times, then return to your normal breathing. Your improved breathing will help regulate the oxygen flow in your blood, making you more alert. With a sharper focus, you can stay on task and make fewer mistakes, saving you time in the long run.

2. Simple Breathing

Yes, it seems obvious, but not all breaths are created equal. A great, simple breathing exercise for calming both the nervous system and the overworked mind is a timed breath where the exhale is longer than the inhale. When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve (running from the neck down through the diaphragm) sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetics command your fight or flight response, and when they fire, your heart rate and your breathing speed up, and stress hormones like cortisol start pumping through your bloodstream, preparing your body to face a threat. If the threat is, “A lion is chasing me and I need to run away,” this is helpful. If the threat is, “I am late to work” or, “I’m so upset with my mom,” this is not particularly helpful, and in fact it can be damaging – when cortisol is elevated for too long or too frequently it disturbs all the hormonal systems of the body.

The parasympathetics, on the other hand, control your rest, relax, and digest response. When the parasympathetic system is dominant, your breathing slows, your heart rate drops, your blood pressure lowers as the blood vessels relax, and your body is put into a state of calm and healing.

Putting your body in a parasympathetic state is easy. Pick a count for your inhale and a count for your exhale that is a little longer. I like starting with 2 counts in, and 4 counts out, with a one count pause at the top of the inhale and a one count pause at the bottom of the exhale.

Step by step instructions:

To begin, sit still and tall somewhere comfortable. Close your eyes and being breathing through your nose.

Then, inhale for a count of two… hold the breath in for a count of one… exhale gently, counting out for four… and finish by holding the breath out for a count of one. Keep your breathing even and smooth.

If the 2-4 count feels too short try increasing the breath lengths to 4 in and 6 out, or 6 in and 8 out, and so on. But if longer breaths create any anxiety there is no need to push yourself. The most important thing is that the exhale is longer than the inhale, not the absolute length of the breath.

Set a timer and breathe this way for at least five minutes! You will see a difference in your mood.

3. 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.

This breathing pattern aims to reduce anxiety or help people get to sleep. Some proponents claim that the method helps people get to sleep in 1 minute.

There is limited scientific research to support this method, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that this type of deep, rhythmic breathing is relaxing and may help ease people into sleep.

In this article, we look at how to perform this breathing technique, why it might work, and apps that could help.

What is 4-7-8 breathing?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique requires a person to focus on taking a long, deep breath in and out. Rhythmic breathing is a core part of many meditation and yoga practices as it promotes relaxation.

Dr. Andrew Weil teaches the 4-7-8 breathing technique, which he believes can help with the following:

  • reducing anxiety
  • helping a person get to sleep
  • managing cravings
  • controlling or reducing anger responses

Dr. Weil is a celebrity doctor and the founder and director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

How to do it

Before starting the breathing pattern, adopt a comfortable sitting position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.

To use the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern:

  • empty the lungs of air
  • breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
  • hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
  • exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds
  • repeat the cycle up to 4 times

Dr. Weil recommends using the technique at least twice a day to start seeing the benefits sooner. He also suggests that people avoid doing more than four breath cycles in a row until they have more practice with the technique.

A person may feel lightheaded after doing this for the first few times. Therefore, it is advisable to try this technique when sitting or lying down to prevent dizziness or falls.

The total number of seconds that the pattern lasts for is less important than keeping the ratio. A person who cannot hold their breath for long enough may try a shorter pattern instead, such as:

  • breathe in through the nose for 2 seconds
  • hold the breath for a count of 3.5 seconds
  • exhale through the mouth for 4 seconds

As long as a person maintains the correct ratio, they may notice benefits after several days or weeks of doing 4-7-8 breathing consistently one to two times a day.

According to some advocates of 4-7-8 breathing, the longer and more frequently a person uses the technique, the more effective it becomes.

There is limited clinical research to support these claims about 4-7-8 breathing or other breathing techniques. The evidence is limited to anecdotal reports from satisfied users.

How it works and benefits

There is some evidence to suggest that deep breathing techniques have a positive impact on a person’s anxiety and stress levels.

For example, a 2011 review article in Health Science Journal identifies some of the potential health benefits of deep breathing techniques, particularly for deep breathing from the diaphragm. These possible benefits include:

  • decreased fatigue
  • reduced anxiety
  • reduced symptoms of asthma in children and adolescents
  • better stress management
  • reduced hypertension
  • reduced aggressive behavior in adolescent males
  • improved migraine symptoms

Studies suggest that 6 weeks of practicing pranayamic breathing, or breathing that focuses on controlling breath movement, may have a positive effect on a person’s heart rate variability, which correlates with stress, and also improve cognition and anxiety.


4 7 8 Breathing tai chi
Using 4-7-8 breathing in conjunction with tai chi may help reduce stress.

There is an association between certain breathing techniques, such as 4-7-8 breathing, and other relaxation techniques. Some people couple this breathing with the following practices:

  • guided imagery
  • progressive muscle relaxation
  • repetitive prayer
  • yoga, tai chi, and qigong
  • mindfulness meditation

The most common uses of 4-7-8 breathing are for reducing stress and anxiety. With frequent use, it reportedly becomes more effective in helping a person manage their stress levels.

This improvement is in contrast to anti-anxiety drugs, which tend to lose some of their effectiveness over time as the body adjusts to them.

4. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

Nadi Shodhana, or “alternate nostril breathing,” is a simple yet powerful technique that settles the mind, body, and emotions. If you’re feeling stressed, follow these steps to help you find your center.

Nadi Shodhana, or “alternate nostril breathing,” is a simple yet powerful technique that settles the mind, body, and emotions. You can use it to quiet your mind before beginning a meditation practice, and it is particularly helpful to ease racing thoughts if you are experiencing anxiety, stress, or having trouble falling asleep.

There are several different styles of Nadi Shodhana, but they all serve the purpose of creating balance and regulating the flow of air through your nasal passages. In fact, the term Nadi Shodhana means “clearing the channels of circulation.”

Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing

With just a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing, you can restore balance and ease in the mind and body. Sometimes when we feel frazzled or find ourselves doing too many things at once, it’s because energetically, we are out of alignment. This breath is great for restoring that necessary balance.

In addition to calming the mind and reversing stress, alternate nostril breathing also:

  • Improves our ability to focus the mind
  • Supports our lungs and respiratory functions
  • Restores balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and clears the energetic channels
  • Rejuvenates the nervous system
  • Removes toxins
  • Settles stress

Whether you’re nervous about a project or presentation, anxious about a conversation, or just generally stressed out, Nadi Shodhana is a quick and calming way to bring you back to your center. If you find it difficult to settle into your meditations, try moving through a few rounds first, then remain seated and shift directly into stillness; this should help to ground you before meditation.

Nadi Shodhana Practice

Next time you find yourself doing too many things at once, or you sense panic or anxiety begin to rise, move through a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing. It’s a great way to hit the reset button for your mental state.

  1. Take a comfortable and tall seat, making sure your spine is straight and your heart is open.
  2. Relax your left palm comfortably into your lap and bring your right hand just in front of your face.
  3. With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor. The fingers we’ll be actively using are the thumb and ring finger.
  4. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
  5. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily.
  6. Close the left nostril with your ring finger so both nostrils are held closed; retain your breath at the top of the inhale for a brief pause.
  7. Open your right nostril and release the breath slowly through the right side; pause briefly at the bottom of the exhale.
  8. Inhale through the right side slowly.
  9. Hold both nostrils closed (with ring finger and thumb).
  10. Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side. Pause briefly at the bottom.
  11. Repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.

Steps 5-9 represent one complete cycle of alternate nostril breathing. If you’re moving through the sequence slowly, one cycle should take you about 30-40 seconds. Move through 5-10 cycles when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or in need of a reset button.

Tip: Consistency is helpful, so try to match the length of your inhales, pauses, and exhales. For example, you can start to inhale for a count of five, hold for five, exhale for five, hold for five. You can slowly increase your count as you refine your practice.

Which apps can I use for practicing these breathing techniques?

People who are interested in trying breathing techniques but unsure of their ability to self-regulate may wish to use an app to help them. People can find apps for various devices in the Apple and Google Play stores.

For example, Mindfulness Breathing is a free app for Apple products, which helps people practice all of these breathing techniques. Overall, the app has good reviews from people who have installed it. It also includes a feature to set reminders to use it regularly during the day.

Mindfulness Breathing at App Store

10 Psychological Tricks to Stay Motivated and Stick with Your Goals

Today I want to show you 10 specific strategies from psychology that will help you stay motivated and follow through on your most challenging goals.

These are the same strategies I use every day in my clinical practice. Over the years, they’ve helped hundreds of clients boost their motivation to change and accomplish all kinds of goals from weight loss and assertiveness to starting a new business.

But these aren’t just internet self-help hacks. These are serious techniques based on well-established principles from psychology and behavioral science.

Okay, let’s get to it!


Feel free to jump straight to any technique that looks interesting or especially applicable to you and your life:

1. The Ulysses Pact

Named for the clever hero of the Trojan war, the Ulysses Pact is a technique for holding yourself accountable to stick with a goal even when it’s hard.

The key ingredient in a Ulysses Pact is that we make a choice in the present (when things are relatively easy) that binds us to perform an action in the future (when things are hard).

For example, suppose you want to stick to a plan of going for a run two times per week in the morning with a friend. You could write your friend a series of checks, each for $20, and instruct them to cash one and use the money on whatever they want if you miss a workout with them.

In short, the Ulysses Pact helps you maintain high motivation when things get tough by locking in a future behavior ahead of time.

2. Chunking

Chunking is a technique from cognitive psychology originally used to improve memory performance.

For most people, it might be pretty tough to remember a long string of random numbers like this: 5052950167

Chances are it’ll be easier to remember if you break it up into chunks: 505 – 295 – 0167

Luckily, the principle of chunking applies to much more than remembering number strings, or even memory in general. In fact, chunking—or breaking things down into smaller parts—is a fantastically effective strategy in just about any endeavor.

For example, suppose you have a big report to finish by the end of the week and you keep procrastinating on it. You imagine the 25+ pages of tedious corporate drivel you need to churn out by Sunday evening and you shudder at the mere thought of it, instinctively deciding to clean your bathroom rather than sit down to work on the report.

Psychologically, a big part of your procrastination here is how you look at the project. As it stands, you’re seeing it as one giant, overwhelming task. Instead, what if we broke it down into smaller chunks?

For example: If you have five days left to write the report, you might chunk it like this:

  • Day 1: Write the Intro (1-2 pages).
  • Day 2: Write Section 1 (3 pages before breakfast and 3 pages in the evening after putting kids to bed).
  • Day 3: Write Section 2 (at coffee shop before work).
  • Day 4: Write Conclusion (1 page at home office before work, 1 page at 11:00, final page after team meeting at 3:00)
  • Day 5: Proof draft and send in.

Chunking works to increase our motivation because by splitting things into smaller pieces, it increases our sense of self-efficacy, the belief that we can successfully accomplish a goal.

3. Artificial Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a fundamental principle of human behavior that says a behavior is more likely to happen (and continue to happen) when it’s followed by something enjoyable or rewarding:

  • Little kids are more likely to learn how to use the potty if their parents clap and sing songs and cheer profusely whenever they successfully go in the potty rather than somewhere else.
  • Employees are more likely to come to management with useful suggestions and feedback if managers listen to that feedback careful, take it seriously, and offer genuine thanks and appreciation.

You get the idea. We all know the power of positive reinforcement in our lives.

But what we’re not as good at is building in positive reinforcement when it doesn’t occur naturally or by default. But the ability to build in positive reinforcement mechanisms to our own challenges and goals—a process I call artificial positive reinforcement—is a surprisingly simple skill we can all learn.

For example:

Suppose you decided that this is the year you finally read Moby Dick. You’ve told yourself since college that one day you’d finally read The Great American Novel, but so many times before you’ve cracked it open, made it a few pages or chapters past Call me Ishmael, only to lose interest and fail at your goal once again.

What if you artificially set up a system of reward and positive reinforcement for yourself?

I know, it seems silly to reward yourself for reading a book—I’m an adult not an elementary school student!—but if you want a proven, effective way to keep your motivation up, this will do the trick.

Here’s how you might do it:

  • Pick a small amount of reading you would like to do each evening. Let’s say 15 pages.
  • Choose a small but enjoyable reward. I like those little Dove dark chocolates.
  • Keep your copy of Moby Dick and your bag of Dove dark chocolates on the shelf by the coach.
  • Each time you finish your 15 pages, put the book away and reward yourself with a chocolate.

Again, I know this one can seem silly and childish because we associate positive reinforcement with getting kids to do things, but it’s just as powerful a principle with adults as kids.

Give it a shot.

4. Visualization

For a long time, I was skeptical of the idea of using visualization as a technique for improving performance and motivation. It always seemed a little hokey and woo-woo to me, like something you’d read in a cheap self-help book or hear from a scammy motivational speaker.

But the truth is, visualization is a very straightforward practice that can powerfully boost motivation. And it has nothing to do with channeling cosmic energies, manifesting your inner purpose, or any other nonsense like that.

Instead, it works on a simple principle of motivation that says the more specific, concrete, and available our mental representation of a goal and its benefits are, the more we’ll feel motivated to achieve it.

For example, consider two scenarios for staying motivated to achieve a goal of losing weight:

  • Scenario A: The doctor told me it would be good for my health to lose weight. Guess I should try to eat better…
  • Scenario B: The doctor told me it would be good for my health to lose weight. And then I imagined how fun it would be if I could run and jump and swing and play with my grandkids at the park without getting instantly winded and fatigued.

Which scenario is going to provide more motivation to lose weight? Yeah, obviously Scenario B. The more detailed our image for the outcome and its benefits, the more motivational pull that outcome will have on us.

No matter what the specifics of our goal, if we make time to visualize and “pain the picture” in our minds of what it will look like to achieve our goal, we’ll have more sustained motivation to do the hard work required to get there.

I’ve found that the best practical way to add visualization into your routine or plan for change is to commit to a small journaling habit. Get yourself a small notebook and spend 5 minutes a few times a week writing about what it will really be like to achieve your goal and all the possible benefits that might go along with it.

5. Gentle Self-Talk

If your goals are good ones, you probably have more motivation than you realize. The trouble is, you may be wasting huge chunks of it. And one of the biggest culprits behind wasted motivation is our own self-talk.

Self-talk refers to our habits of talking to ourselves, both what we say to ourselves in our own head and how we say it.

If your habitual, automatic self-talk tends to be negative, harsh, and judgmental, it’s going to produce a lot of negative emotion like guilt, anxiety, frustration, and sadness, all of which sap you of your natural motivation to reach your goals.

This means that one of the best, if counterintuitive, ways to stay motivated is to stop robbing yourself of motivation with overly negative self-talk. And instead, create a new habit of gentle self-talk.

Here are some examples:

  • Suppose you hopped off the treadmill 5 minutes early because you were just too tired to keep going… Harsh Self-Talk: You’re so weak you couldn’t even finish the last 5 minutes. You’ll never get in shape for that 5K. Gentle Self-Talk: I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t make it all the way to the end, but the fact that I’m so tired means I must be really giving my muscles a good workout.
  • Imagine you impulsively blurt out a sarcastic comment to your spouse after dinner, even though you’ve been working on being less sarcastic in your relationship… Harsh Self-Talk: I knew I’d mess up again. I’m just a sarcastic person. What’s the use in fighting it? Gentle Self-Talk: Ah, man, I did it again. I’ll keep working at it because I know old habits are hard to break.

Our own habitual negative self-talk is one of the most powerful obstacles to staying motivated and working through challenges to our goals.

If you can learn to notice and then re-shape your self-talk to be more constructive and gentle, you’ll be amazed at how much motivation you’ll already have.

6. The Seinfeld Strategy

The Seinfeld Strategy is a simple but powerful way to stay motivated, especially when it comes to first developing a new habit.

The strategy comes from some advice comedian Jerry Seinfeld gave someone once about how to stay motivated and consistent in your work.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days, you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

So the strategy itself is simple:

  • For any habit, task, or routine you’d like to stick with, plan do you a little bit of it every day.
  • Each day you successfully complete the task, mark of that day on a calendar with a big red (or another color) X.
  • Try to keep your streak alive as long as possible. If you do miss a day, note how long your streak was next to that box. This is your new goal to beat.

The Seinfeld Strategy is an especially powerful way to stay motivated because it’s a Double Motivator. A double motivator is one that is motivating in two different ways simultaneously.

In this case, crossing off each successful day gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction—positive reinforcement.

But avoiding the pain that comes from breaking your streak is also motivates you to keep going—negative reinforcement.

Finally, the fact that you’ve got a big calendar full of red Xs on your desk or where you work is a tangible reminder that you need to do your task. Memory enhancement always helps you stay motivated, too.

7. Social Support (the Right Way)

When it comes to building a new habit and staying motivated to follow through on a new goal or commitment, the idea of social support is pretty common. You’ll often hear the advice to get an “accountability buddy” or something similar.

While the idea of recruiting positive social support to stay motivated is a good idea in principle, most people make two big mistakes:

  1. They think their social support person’s main role is to check in on their progress toward their goal or outcome. This is a problem since the best way to stay motivated and actually achieve our goals is to mostly ignore the end goal itself and keep your focus on the daily routines or tasks that will move you toward your goal.
  2. They think of their social support person as someone who will stop them from slipping up. This is problematic because it frames the challenge in negative terms—an accountability partner is there to stop you from messing up. But in general, positive reinforcement is far more reliable and powerful for keeping us motivated, especially in the long run.

All that being said, if you want to recruit a friend or partner to help you stay motivated and make progress toward your goal, try these two approaches:

  1. Don’t tell them your end goal. For example, if your end goal is to lose 30 pounds, tell your social support person that their job is to help you show up at the gym 5 days a week, nothing more. The more focused you and your social support person are on the regular routines you need to do to be successful, the more likely you are to stay motivated to stick with them.
  2. Tell your social support person that their entire job is to support your wins. Their job is to validate you and encourage you, not to serve as a form of social threat to keep you from slipping up. Their job is to congratulate you after a tough workout, not guilt-trip you to showing up at the gym.

Recruiting a friend or partner to aid you in your goal can be a powerful source of motivation and encouragement. Just make sure you set things up right from the beginning.

8. Productive Procrastination

One of the most damaging factors in our ability to stay motivated to achieve our goals is procrastination.

On the one hand, in the moment, procrastinating can be detrimental because it causes us to miss a task or routine and/or make it far more inefficient than it needs to be. Just one more episode of The Office, then I’ll go to the gym.

But more significant in the long run, when we procrastinate we lose trust and confidence in ourselves. It’s as if we tell ourselves that we can’t be trusted with important projects and goals. Over time, this erodes our sense of self-efficacy, the belief that I’m the kind of person who is competent and accomplishes what I set out to do.

But, if we can find a better way to deal with procrastination and foster our self-confidence and self-efficacy, not only will it help us stay motivated, it will actually boost our overall levels of motivation.

I’ve found that the best way to deal effectively with procrastination is through a series of techniques I call Productive Procrastination.

The basic idea is that fighting against our tendency to procrastinate doesn’t work very well in the long run. And instead, it’s best to accept that it’s normal to want to procrastinate and figure out a way to work with this tendency.

For example: One way to look at procrastination differently is that it’s the result of our brain’s natural desire for novel and change. Instead of getting down on ourselves because we crave novelty, what if we embraced this?

Suppose you’re working on staying motivated to keep up your journaling habit every evening. But you find yourself regularly procrastinating on doing it. Instead of fighting this, build in a little enjoyable activity right before your journaling.

Chances are, if you give yourself permission to procrastinate in small ways on a regular basis and in a structured deliberate way, you’ll be less likely to end up procrastinating in major, chaotic ways.

9. The Distractions List

The of the biggest obstacles to our ability to stay motivated and make progress on our goals is distraction: the unexpected text from our spouse in the middle of a workout, the old friend we bump into at the coffee shop while we’re trying to get work done, etc.

But it’s not just external distractions that can derail our motivation and sidetrack us on our goals… Sometimes the most powerful and destructive distractions are internal: worry about how the big meeting will go tomorrow distracts us from our work today; daydreaming about how great it will be to look fit distracts us from going on that run; replaying a frustrating conversation from the day before in our heads makes it hard to be present in our actual conversations.

The Distractions List is a tiny tool you can use to manage internal distractions like these and keep your motivation high.

Here’s how it works:

  • Whenever you set out to do your task, routine, habits tc., keep a small notebook or pad of paper and pencil with you.
  • If you notice yourself getting distracted by a thought, feeling, memory or any other internal distractor, quickly jot it down and then shift your focus back to your task.
  • Once your task is over, quickly review your distractions list. If there’s anything actually important, make a brief plan for addressing it.

Most of us don’t deal with internal distractions very well because our strategy is brute force ignoring. And while this can sometimes work temporarily, it usually leads to an even stronger surge of internal distractions.

The distractions list works so well because it helps you lean into your distractions. By briefly acknowledging them and having a plan to deal with them later, you can train yourself to becomes less reactive to them and better able to stay focused on your work.

10. The Bumpy Wagon Plan

I think there’s a lot of truth the saying Failing to plan is planning to fail. But I also think that Failing to plan to fail is just as dangerous.

In other words, it’s both naive and counterproductive to assume that you’ll never slip up or stumble in your journey toward your goals (if you never do, it probably means you should reexamine the goals you’re setting ).

So instead of getting blindsided and frustrated by slip-ups, we could save ourselves a lot of grief and stay motivated more effectively if we had a concrete plan for what to do should we slip up or stumble on the journey toward our goals.

Here are some examples of the types of specific action items you might include in your plan:

  • Avoid negative self-talk at all costs. In the long-run, beating yourself up with lots of overly critical self-talk only leads to excessive guilt, shame, and frustration, which in turn only make it less likely that you’ll bounce back and continue working.
  • Text your social support buddy right away and own the slip-up. Talk with them ahead of time about what you would like to hear from them by way of support and encouragement when you slip up.
  • Avoid over-interpreting failure. Acknowledge that at some point you will fall off the wagon and slip up. And when you do, remind yourself that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Slip-ups happen. Stewing on it is unlikely to be helpful.
  • If you are consistently slipping up in the same way, do some reflection. In a non-judgmental way, try to understand what is going on to make it difficult to follow through with your routine. At this point, the key is to think mechanically not morally. Instead of: What’s wrong with me? Try: Some part of the system isn’t functioning quite right, so can I identify it and make the necessary repairs?

The details of your plan are less important, I think, than the simple fact of having one in the first place. And aside from making it more likely that you’ll recover better and faster from slip-ups, simply knowing that you have a plan may actually give you more confidence and motivation as you work toward your goals.

The Dip: Lessons on the Art of Perseverance​​ and Quitting Intelligently

A lot of the advice we hear about being productive and achieving success boils down to one idea:

Stick with it.

And it’s true—it’s hard to find a single example of someone who achieved something truly extraordinary without perseverance.

At first blush, that seems to be the main takeaway of a wonderful little book by Seth Godin called The Dip, whose cover image shows a long, bleak valley in between the peaks of initial excitement and long-term success.

But this little book has a little secret that becomes obvious within the first couple pages:

Yes, perseverance is essential for success and truly extraordinary achievements. But just as important—though far less well-understood—is another simple idea: You must master the art of intelligent quitting.

What follows is a selection of my favorite quotes from the book along with my own brief thoughts and reflections.

On The Dip

The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery.

The excitement of new beginnings blinds us to the long, winding nature of the road to excellence.

Anticipate the dip—welcome it even—and you’re well on your way to breaking through it.

On Quitters

Most people quit. They just don’t quit successfully.

Winners quit intelligently. Quitters persevere unthinkingly.

On Worthiness

If it’s worth doing, there’s probably a dip.

Instead of viewing the Dip or challenging part of a journey merely as an obstacle to be worked through, what if we saw it as evidence that we’re on the right track? That it’s a task worth doing?

How many genuinely meaningful and enjoyable accomplishments in your life didn’t have a long period of struggle in the middle?

On Opportunity Cost

The opportunity cost of investing your life in something that’s not going to get better is just too high.

I continue to believe that the concept of opportunity cost is one of the most underappreciated ideas in all of well-being, mental health, and personal development.

Ever time you decide to put your time/attention/energy/passion in one place, you’re giving up putting it somewhere else.

Cultivating the habit of thinking like this is painful but necessary if you want to invest the currency of your life wisely.

On Adversity

In a competitive world, adversity is your ally. The harder it gets, the better chance you have of insulating yourself from the competition.

Adversity isn’t an obstacle; it’s a competitive advantage.

On Average

Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.

This sounds harsh, I know. And maybe it is. There are plenty of times, I think, when average is just fine. In fact, maybe that’s the problem…

Because average works in most of life, it’s that much harder to quit average when we really need to in order to become exceptional.

On Stress

Like most people, all day long, every day, you use your muscles. But you don’t grow. You don’t look like Mr. Universe because you quit using your muscles before you reach the moment where the stress causes them to start growing.

It’s a mistake to equate repetition with practice.

True practice—the kind that leads to growth—demands stress.

On Success

The business [and people] we think of as overnight successes weren’t. We just didn’t notice them until they were well baked.

It’s a useful exercise to take someone you admire and look up to and then try to reverse engineer their success.

Sure, Steven King is an amazing writer now with a huge following and readership. But what steps did he take to get there before he was successful?

On Rededication

The opposite of quitting is rededication. The opposite of quitting is an invigorated new strategy designed to break the problem apart.

I love this idea of rededication.

Dedication is easy and glamorous and exciting. Setting off for the first time and dedicating ourself to the cause, the goal, the ambition.

But to find yourself face down in the mud, having gotten bumped off the proverbial wagon for the fifth time in as many days, to dust your self off, hustle back to the wagon, and get back in again… Rededication.

On Vision

Persistent people are able to visualize the idea of light at the end of the tunnel when others can’t see it.

We talk about vision as if it’s some sort of superpower or genetic gift some people are blessed with.


Vision is a skill that gets cultivated like anything else. And there’s nothing magical about it. It means taking the time to actively imagine the details of a future possibility.

Developing a vision requires practice envisioning.

On Coping

Coping is a lousy alternative to quitting. The problem with coping is that it never leads to exceptional performance.

I hate the word coping. Maybe there are situations in life when the absolute best we can do is to simply cope. But in my experience, there are almost always viable ways to actually improve your situation, not just cope with it.

Of course, they may not be obvious or easy. But if we do the work to understand the true roots of our difficulties and have the courage to make the changes we need, improvement is almost always possible.

On Guts

We fail when we get distracted by tasks we don’t have the guts to quit.

Put another way: Success takes focus and courage—focus to resist tempting distractions and courage admit when we’re on the wrong path.

On Becoming Extraordinary

Persevering through hard times and quitting intelligently are two sides to the same coin—equally valuable skills necessary to achieve meaningful and lasting success in whatever endeavors we choose.

But are you willing to build those skills? To learn about them, practice them, and commit to them? They aren’t for everyone. There are more comfortable, easier paths through life. But if you want to become extraordinary, you won’t get there without them.

Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most. Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny majority with the guts to quit early and refocus their efforts on something new. — Seth Godin, The Dip