Welcome to episode 0 of the Break the Twitch podcast on doing more of what matters through minimalism, habits and creativity.
In this episode, my wife Amy and I talk about how Break the Twitch (BTT) started. We discuss how the BTT framework of minimizing distractions and doing more of what matters evolved over the years. Our journey started with minimalism to create the space first, then included habits to then build the foundation for creativity to flourish. This episode is about our origin story, as well as the process of continuously learning and taking action towards what matters.
See the latest episodes and more information on the Podcast page.
A few months ago, I got a question from a reader about our dog Rocky, and if Amy and I would recommend getting a dog from the lens of minimalism and intentional living. What are the pros and cons of getting a dog?
It’s a good question, and one I likely would’ve answered differently before having Rocky in our lives.
When we first embarked on our minimalism journey, a dog was never in the picture. I never had a dog growing up, while Amy’s family had dogs throughout her childhood to adult life. At the time, we were focused on location independence and increasing our free time—things that don’t really align with bringing a puppy into our lives. Amy knew what taking care of a dog involved, and so we figured getting a dog was something we’d do later on in life.
But when we started looking for a dog a couple years ago, we were in a different phase.
Amy was working full-time and I was building up the business while working from home. We were just starting to realize that, for us, we needed a creative space that was more rooted.
We looked at several adoption sites, but with our allergies and need for a hypoallergenic dog, it seemed nearly impossible to find one to adopt. The few hypoallergenic dogs available were seemingly snatched up within a day. We were about to give up and hold off on looking for a dog until I happened upon a listing for a maltipoo puppy named Rocky.
I fell in love with the little guy from the pictures.
At nearly five months old, Rocky had been returned to the local breeder from the family that got him at two months old. He came with a whole bunch of toys, a play pen, dog beds, a training crate, grooming items, blankets, food and treats. He clearly had been with a family who got everything for him, but didn’t know what having a dog—much less a puppy—involved.
After showing the listing to Amy, we decided to schedule a visit, which unsurprisingly resulted in us coming back home with Rocky in tow. While Rocky wasn’t an adoption in the traditional sense, we felt it was the next best thing given our need for hypoallergenic. That was the start of our lives with Rocky. It’s now been a year and a half later and we wouldn’t trade Rocky for anything in the world.
First, the pros on getting a dog. For us, the pros far outweigh the cons.
1 / More joy
Just looking at Rocky makes us happy. Add that to the love, affection and excitement he gives to us each day.
Getting a dog will add more joy into your life. There’s nothing else quite like having a pup snuggle next to you on the couch, greet you ecstatically at the door, or look up at you endearingly. They’ll also add more laughter with their antics, such as trying to sneak off with a sock (Rocky’s favorite activity) or doing all the tricks to get a treat.
2 / Reassuring presence
When we first got Rocky, I spent most of my days by myself working from home. During challenging political events and the cold winter, it was beneficial having a little pup around who needed my time and attention. It was nice not being alone in the house, and having an adorable presence to play with and break up the day. This is still the case with both Amy and I working from home now. These days, Rocky will just hang out with us in the office while we write, film and work.
3 / On schedule
Taking care of Rocky has helped us better take care of ourselves. It’s all in the daily routine.
Rocky helps get us up and going each morning. Every morning, we get outside to take him for his walk and get our vitamin D for the day. Sitting, training and playing with him keeps an element of joy and fun in our lives. Taking him for his evening walk gets us outside again, providing a break from the computer screen or phone that’s always beneficial when you work from home. His daily grooming is our cue to start getting for bed ourselves. We’ve found that we keep to a better schedule with him in our lives.
4 / Daily reminder of what matters
Dogs are masters of the present moment.
When they’re tired, they nap. When they’re hungry, they eat or ask for food. They’ll play with their toy or bring you the ball when they’re feeling playful. When they’re on a walk, they’re fully there—immersed in the experience. They’re not thinking of where else they could be at the moment or worrying about something in the future or the past. Rocky likes to take his time on our walks, to experience what’s going on and to literally stop to smell the flowers.
Rocky has taught me the power of presence. The element of enjoying each moment for what it is. The importance of appreciating your loved ones every single day, of spending quality time with them. He’s a daily reminder of what truly matters.
5 / Little take, big give
In our case since Rocky came with what his previous family had bought him, we didn’t end up needing to buy a lot of stuff for him. On the flip side, we actually decluttered a lot of what he came with as we learned what we really needed and what we didn’t. Especially when puppies are teething, it’s good to have more toys and treats so they don’t get bored and start chewing on cables, shoes, or other things in the home. But once dogs get older, they really don’t need as much.
They don’t need much aside from a collar, harness, leash, some grooming stuff, occasional medications, poop bags, food, water, and maybe a toy or two. You can buy a lot more than that for them if you wish. There are hundreds of dog toys, treats and accessories for purchase. We opt for higher quality food to keep him healthy, but otherwise keep it simple on the treats, accessories and toys. Overall, the cost of taking care of Rocky is pretty small for the joy he brings into our lives.
Now for the cons on getting a dog.
1 / Adjustment period
The first couple months with Rocky were tough. Not because he was a difficult pup, but because he was how puppies are. They’re furry balls of energy—exploring and getting into things they shouldn’t, and likely to pee or poop at any given moment. Puppies require constant supervision and attention, the only relief during the brief periods they pass out from sheer exhaustion. I could barely get any work done during those days.
There were moments during the first couple months when I looked at Amy and thought, “What have we done?” We never would’ve abandoned Rocky now that we were his owners, but I found myself wondering if I would’ve scheduled that initial visit if I went back in time. It was in the third month when I realized that I would absolutely do it all over again.
It simply took about two months for Rocky and us to get used to each other and into a new routine. At first, the extra work of having an additional living creature to constantly watch, clean up after, walk, groom and feed was overwhelming. But it got easier with each month, and it’s especially easy now a year and a half later.
Even if you don’t get a puppy and get an older dog, there will still be an adjustment period. It’s a time when the dog is learning the rules of the new home, and when you’ll need to be on top of training and reinforcement to set expectations early on. The training and time we invested in the early months has been more than worthwhile. He’s such a good boy, and a seamless part of our lives now.
2 / Less day-to-day flexibility
One downside is there’s less flexibility when it comes to going anywhere outside the home.
Before we got him, we didn’t have to worry about how long it has been since we left the house. We’d go off to a coffee shop and not come home until the late evening. Since Rocky’s been in our lives we’ve left events or friends’ houses earlier than we would’ve liked to come back and take care of him. There’s definitely less flexibility in the daily schedule with Rocky in the picture.
3 / Less Travel
We used to travel a lot more before we got Rocky. We could book a flight, pack and leave for the airport without much more thought. Whenever we travel nowadays, we need to consider Rocky’s arrangements.
It’s not that we don’t have options. Rocky’s small enough to fly with us so we could take him if we wanted. But the cost of flying him back and forth is sometimes the cost of a third ticket. Finding dog-friendly accommodations is often more difficult and expensive. We have friends who could watch him and access to pet-sitting services if we don’t take him. But we simply don’t want to be away from the little guy for too long. We miss him and worry about him while we’re gone. And likely, no one else is going to take care of him like we do, as we brush his teeth and wash his face generally every day.
4 / Potential expenses
Another con is that having a dog can easily get expensive when it comes to any health issues or vet bills. With Rocky being young and healthy, there hasn’t been any big expenses so far but we know that can change as he gets older. As he gets older, we may need to think about pet insurance, certain procedures and preventative treatments. If anything were to happen, we’d provide any medicare care he needed. Therefore, potential future expenses are definitely something to consider when you’re thinking of getting a dog.
Overall, getting a dog definitely impacted the flexibility and travel in our lifestyle, so that’s something important to consider. Despite that, we love our Rocky and can’t imagine our lives without the little guy. Hopefully these pros and cons from a minimalist, intentional living perspective will help you decide on whether a dog is right for you.
I often tell others that they should start creating something and put it out into the world.
What we create can be anything. You can paint a mural, create a podcast, launch a service, start a blog, or write a book. Whatever it is, I believe that when we create and put something out there, it helps us and other people grow.
While this sounds simple, anyone who has considered doing so probably has experienced the incredibly vulnerable feeling that comes with the act of creation.
I recently got a great question from someone in the Break the Twitch community around this, and have received similar questions in the past. The questions really boil down to this:
In a world full of content clutter, wouldn’t my creation just be adding to the noise? What do I have to offer and why would others care about what I have to say?
I’ve had these same exact feelings before—wondering if what I put out there will actually add any value. I ended up ignoring these thoughts, and putting something out there anyway. Several years later, I’m glad I did, and I hope to encourage you to start creating as well.
Why I think you should start creating and share the dang thing:
1 / You have a unique perspective
Each one of us has a unique experience and perspective to share. Sharing your story, your background, and what you’ve learned from the experiences you’ve had can be a powerful way to connect with others who have had similar experiences. Even in a cluttered and noisy world, it’s likely your perspective will be helpful to at least a few people.
Maybe someone had a similar upbringing, or is experiencing the same problem. Perhaps your personal challenges—what you view as a burden and disadvantage—can actually be a strength. This brings us to the next reason.
2 / It may help change a life (or more)
While it can feel intimidating when you start creating and sharing, would it be worthwhile if it significantly helped one other person? At what point would it be worthwhile for you to step out of your comfort zone and keep on creating? Perhaps your unique experience can help more than a few people; it can help hundreds or more.
For me, it took just one person. I still remember when I received a comment from someone saying that what I shared had been helpful. That was when I knew I needed to keep going. The same can happen for you.
3 / You’ll learn by doing
This of course depends on how you learn best. For me (and I think for most people), the best learning comes from actual, hands-on experience. I never was good at memorizing information and taking tests. I learned from trying, failing, and trying until something started to work. It may not be the fastest way to learn, but that’s what stuck for me.
My personal motto is to make stuff so you can learn how to make stuff better. Start with what you have, and you’ll learn how to improve and what else you need to know as you go along.
4 / There’s an internal benefit of clarity
One of the greatest benefits of creating and sharing something with the world, is it forces you to clarify what might only exist in your mind. By putting something out there in the world, you’re forced to write, describe or portray how you’re feeling and thinking. You’re forced to have an opinion.
When I first started this blog, I shared my own intentional journey and experience with minimalism. The act of blogging and making YouTube videos as I went along definitely enhanced my learning and opinions on the topic. But even if what you create doesn’t get shared publicly, the act of making something is still beneficial for your own clarity and growth.
5 / Sharing your creation creates conversations
The act of creating and sharing creates conversations. The content I put out there about why you should start creating prompted the question from Joe. The question I received from Joe then prompted this blog post and video—which will hopefully inspire more conversations.
That’s what this is all about. All of us sharing, learning and conversing together.
6 / It’s about letting go of the results
If you’re inspired to create something, it’s likely because it’s somehow important to your journey. And the journey is all about the experience of learning and growth, not the results. When you create, let go of the result and be open to whatever happens after.
You never know what’s going to happen anyway, so why would you hinge your creations on specific outcomes? Start creating and putting something out there just because you want to do it. Don’t worry about what other people may think or how many views or comments your creation gets.
Really, it’s up to us to start creating and put something out there. It’s our obligation to create and share what we know, in order to inspire others to create and share something. The act of creating is all about you—and at the same time—not about you at all. It’s about your growth, the growth of others, and for the good of us all.
So yes, for all the reasons above and more, I do think you should start creating something. Start a blog, a podcast, or whatever you feel called to do. Just make the dang thing and share it with the world.
I know firsthand that it can be easy to get off track and overlook your personal values, particularly during challenging or stressful times. Sometimes it’s great to have a little extra support. Sometimes you may find it helpful to ask, “What would Oprah do?”
I’d like to share something that’s been super helpful for me that you can create yourself. Many companies and organizations utilize a board of directors to help ensure they stay on track on their mission. A board of directors is there to help make recommendations to the company during good times but especially during challenges.
In a similar way, you can create your own board of directors, each one reflecting your personal values.
Visualize Your Personal Values With A Board of Directors - YouTube
When you need to make a big decision, you can check in with your board to see what each might recommend based on the values they represent. It’s a more visual, fun and interactive way to ensure you’re keeping true to your personal values.
Here’s how to visualize your personal values with a board of directors
1 / Choose your personal values
First, you need to identify core personal values you want to embody. You can read through this values list to see a broad list of options, and choose the ones that resonate most with you. These could be areas that you want to develop further in yourself, aspects that you want to prioritize in your life, or values that are a core part of who you are. Choose a mix during this exercise so you can build a more diverse board of directors.
2 / Find your board members
Once you’ve determined your personal values, find three to five people who embody those qualities for you. These are people who you look up to, who inspire you, and whose strengths include a value or two that are important to you. Ideally each member will reflect one or more of your personal values.
3 / Print out pictures of your board
Once you’ve found your board members, it’s time to print out pictures of each of them along with the values they represent underneath them. You can use a photo editor program to compile them together or arrange the printed pictures into a collage. And there you go, you have a board of directors for yourself.
Whenever you’re struggling with a decision or how to handle a difficult situation, consider how each of your board of directors might advise you and how they might handle it themselves. There’s something very reassuring about externalizing and stepping into another person’s shoes.
Having each board member represent an important value has helped me ask better questions and get out of my own head for a while. It’s helped me as I continuously do more of what matters in my life. Perhaps it would be helpful for you in doing more of what matters as well. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
When Amy and I first learned about minimalism, it felt intimidating. Looking back, I realize it didn’t need to be—and hopefully these minimalism tips for beginners will be helpful to anyone who feels that way.
Whether you’re a beginner to minimalism or in the midst of decluttering, it’s common to feel like the process is an overwhelming project that never ends. That was certainly the case when we first started on our minimizing journey several years ago.
What we found was minimizing got easier with time, and all the hard work was absolutely worthwhile.
Embracing minimalism principles in our lives was what enabled us to create the space—physically, mentally, financially and temporally—to do more of what mattered to us. To this day, minimalism continues to be a driving part of the framework we use to do more of what matters to us.
I’d like to share these minimalism tips for beginners to help you create space to do more of what matters as well.
1 / Prioritize mindset over matter
When you’re starting out, it can be easy to focus on the physical matter. After all, it’s all about decluttering the stuff around our home, right?
In reality, it’s really about building the mindset over matter—the idea of minimizing distractions on an everyday basis. The idea of consistently identifying and actively removing distractions from your life, maintaining it just like you would with weeds in a garden.
Developing the mindset is what will keep you going, far longer than wanting to get rid of stuff. As you go along, it will get easier and easier to build the mindset and make those decluttering decisions.
For more ideas on intentional living and minimalism, get actionable and practical strategies in my book Break the Twitch.
2 / Choose a system and stick to it
There are many methods and ways to declutter, but the important thing is to choose a system and stick to it for awhile. Here are some popular decluttering methods to learn about and explore what ends up working best for you.
Sticking to a system helps to develop the mindset and keep up the momentum of decluttering. What ended up working best for Amy and me was the minsgame, but we didn’t realize it was until we finished the first round and then a second round. We needed to stick with it for awhile before we saw the benefits.
As you get further along, you can change it up and you’ll eventually figure out what methods work best. These days, we simply declutter little things here and there as we go along, with maybe one or two bigger decluttering session each year depending on what’s going on.
3 / Remember slow and steady
Especially towards the beginning, it can feel like nothing is really happening. The clutter in the room may still be there, the drawers still crammed with too many items, the basement full of boxes of who knows what. On the flip side, it can also feel amazing to clear off surfaces and closets, and to sell, donate or get rid of things. But it’s really not about that.
What makes the biggest impact is the small and continuous decisions you make on minimizing distractions over time.
The impact really does add up. We’re several years in at this point of minimizing what no longer is working for us, and have seen drastic changes in our beliefs, living spaces and how we spend our time. Looking back, minimalism has been essential in our being able to do more of what matters to us and I only expect future changes as we continue to minimize, explore and learn more in the years to come.
4 / Find your own “look”
While you can take inspiration from other people’s living spaces, don’t feel the pressure to have your home look a certain way. It’s a common minimalism mistake to think that minimalism needs to look like the white-walled, sparse, model home that’s often portrayed in magazines, videos and other websites. It’s a little ironic, but I’ve seen people buying these trendy looking items in their efforts to be more minimalist.
Remember that form follows functionality, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone. Focus on functionality and developing a space that makes you feel inspired, productive and creative on a regular basis. Use what you have and love, and get rid of the rest through donating, selling, recycling or throwing away. Don’t buy something just for appearances. If you do buy something, buy what adds value to your life and helps you do more of what matters.
5 / Start with the easy stuff
This tip is all about sustainability and momentum. During our decluttering process, Amy and I inevitably came across things that we didn’t feel like we could get rid of at the time. Many of them were sentimental items; some of them weren’t. Most likely, you’ll come across these items as well.
If you spend more than a couple minutes thinking about whether or not you want to get rid of an item, simply move on the easier items. Start with paper clips, business cards, or magazines—whatever you need to get started. Hold off on the sentimental or sticky items for later on.
Instead of getting stuck on a certain thing, this strategy helped us continue our momentum and keep building our decluttering muscles. What we found was it got easier and easier to get rid of the harder stuff. Once we had our muscles built, we were able to let go of the harder stuff later on in the process.
6 / Reconnect with your “why”
At some point, you’ll likely encounter challenging moments during the decluttering process.
During these moments, it’s helpful to go back to the reason why you’re doing all this. What are you creating the space for? It could be to pay off debt, create more living space instead of storage space, travel more, feel less stressed, or to make more time for loved ones. Whatever it is, reconnecting to your “why” can help you push through the tough times during the minimizing process.
In the end, what’s most important is that you keep on exploring what minimalism looks like for you and creating space for what matters. Even after we had successfully decluttered many items, we still found more to get rid of in the following years with life changes and other events. Even now, we still find these six tips helpful to revisit. Really, these aren’t just minimalism tips for beginners; they can be reminders as we change, evolve and grow throughout our lives.
It wasn’t in our original plan, but our decision to design a creative space was intentional.
Yes, it was partly because of the podcast we’re starting.
We designed the creative space to better accommodate the new podcast. But that’s not the only reason.
Several years ago when I started Break the Twitch, it was just a side project. The website started as a way to share my own intentional journey through minimalism. It was something I was really passionate about while I was working full-time and based in Minneapolis.
At the time, I was enamored with the idea of location independence—the glamorized ability to work from anywhere in the world. I had this dream of being a digital nomad, working while traveling and experiencing the world. This desire led to the creation of our media and video company, a fairly location-independent business as I was typically able to fly out to client locations or work remotely.
Why We Made A Space For Creative Work / Story - YouTube
We tried some test runs on living this digital nomad lifestyle.
Two years ago, we went to the Dominican Republic for fun and also to work on the business. More recently, our transition from Minneapolis to Phoenix and back to Minneapolis was a whole upheaval that has taken us some adjustment to get back on a routine.
What I found was that I really thrive on routine and having a regular creative space to do my best work.
I found that I’m quite bad at working from different environments, particularly in new places where my attention gets pulled away easily. I simply don’t have the organization and concentration to work in different environments like many others who choose this lifestyle. While some people may find it easy to work while constantly on the move, it just hasn’t worked for me.
Our vision changed from what we thought, and we’re adapting to it.
Contrary to my original thought, my wife Amy and I are probably going to be more rooted—even though we have the ability to travel and work from different places. We’ve found that we enjoy our community, our friends and our space. We enjoy having a more regular routine: one that we create ourselves, but free from the variability and disruption that travel often introduces. I’ve found that I feel better, and do better creative work when I’m not on the move.
I think it’s important to realize that an idealized lifestyle that works for others may not work for you. My version ended up looking differently, and that may be the case for you as well. I hope this perspective helps you shape your life and perhaps build your own creative space to do what matters.
Over the past two weeks, Amy and I have been hard at work making our back office room into a more functional space (for the before, check out our practical minimalist house tour).
And we’re finally ready to show you the new digs.
We cleared everything out—including the giant white armoire that we took out in pieces—painted, built a DIY-hack using some IKEA furniture, set up our desks, and got more comfortable office chairs. There are still a few final touches, but we’re really happy with how it’s turned out.
The reason we did all this was because of the super secret project I mentioned earlier. Although, apparently it wasn’t all that secret as several people already guessed correctly.
We are starting a podcast.
There’s been more than a few asks and mentions on my starting a podcast throughout the years. A podcast was only a matter of time. But what I’m most excited about is sharing the process of launching this new project with you—the steps I’m taking, the challenges, the questions… all of it.
I’m also excited about hearing any feedback you may have, so that I can continue making the most relevant, helpful content as possible.
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Minimalism will look different for everyone, and I’d like to share my version of what it looks like for Amy and me. For us, minimalism has been an essential part of doing more of what matters—in a way that works best for our lifestyle and goals.
This isn’t your white-walled, extreme minimalist home. Over the last few years, we’ve used minimalism to create a space that works really well for everything we need on a daily basis. Call it practical or rational minimalism, where you get to define what it looks like for you.
Amy and I are living in about 850 square feet, and this is how we have our lives set up. We also both work from home on Break the Twitch and client video projects, and while the space has worked for us so far, we’ll be doing a makeover of our back office room to better accommodate a new initiative we’ll be launching soon.
Some highlights on our minimalist house tour:
We prefer to have our commonly used items accessible.
Some people prefer to keep their items stashed away in the cupboards and closets; we prefer to keep commonly used items out so they are easier to use. This includes the guitar that my parents bought over 30 years ago, Amy’s KitchenAid stand mixer that she actually built herself, and some decorative items among other things. The items that are displayed bring us joy and represent something in our lives.
We love our books.
We’ve donated, sold and given away a ton of books bought before we even knew about minimalism. We still love books though and have kept the ones we reference from time to time. With all the books we own on our bookshelf, we don’t worry as much about how many books we have; it’s more about whether the book adds value to our lives.
We live and work from home.
With both of us working from home and with our video-centric business, we have more work space and equipment than the average person has at their home. Most people have work computers and spaces they commute to while ours are all-in-one. As mentioned, we’re in the process of transforming our back office into a space that better suits our vision and objectives going forward.
We are constantly changing up our space as our needs and lives change.
As our needs shift, we are continuing to minimize and change up our space. When we first moved into our house, our layout and number of items looked completely different. Since 2013, we’ve significantly minimized what we’ve had to a level where we are able to do what matters most to us. Ultimately, that’s the most important thing about minimalism—minimizing distractions that get in your way of doing what matters to you.
More exciting updates to come, but in the meantime, hope you enjoyed the tour!
Anthony’s Note: This is a guest post written by Marc Chernoff from Marc & Angel Hack Life, an inspirational personal development blog on how to think, feel and live better. Marc (and Angel) Chernoff are amazing people (who truly embody what they talk about), good friends, professional coaches and authors of the new book, Getting Back to Happy.
When you look back on the recent past, don’t think of the pain you felt. Think of the strength you gained, and appreciate how far you’ve come. You’ve been through a lot, but you’ve grown a lot too. Give yourself credit for your resilience, and then step forward again with grace.
The next best step forward?
Doing something uncomfortable that will move your life forward. Let me explain…
Almost two decades ago, when I told my grandmother I was worried about taking a chance and regretting my choice, she hugged me and said, “Trust me, kiddo, that’s not what you’re going to regret when you’re my age. If anything, you will likely kick yourself for not taking more chances on the very real and accessible opportunities you have today.” And the older I get, the more I realize how right she was. Life is about trusting yourself and taking chances, losing and finding happiness, learning from experience, appreciating the journey, and realizing that every step is worth it.
But (and this is a big “but”)… you have to be willing to take each step. You have to give yourself a fair chance. Because in the end, more than anything else, we regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were too busy to nurture, and the decisions we waited too long to make.
Think about it…
The big opportunity you procrastinated on. That friend you never called. Those important words you left unspoken.
You know what I’m talking about.
Why do we do these things to ourselves?
Why do we make so many regretful decisions along the way?
In most cases the poor decisions we continuously make, and the ensuing regrets we face, are caused not by physical problems in our lives, but instead by common weaknesses of the inner mind—weaknesses that encourage us to avoid discomfort.
Discomfort is a form of pain, but it isn’t a deep pain—it’s a very shallow one. It’s that feeling you get when you’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone. The idea of exercising every morning, for example, brings discomfort—so we don’t do it. Eating green vegetables brings discomfort too. So does meditating, or focusing on a difficult task, or saying no to others. Of course, these are just examples, because all of us find discomfort in different things at different times, but you get the general idea.
The bottom line is most of us don’t want to be uncomfortable, so we subconsciously run from discomfort constantly.
The problem with this is that, by running from discomfort, we are forced to participate in only the (easy) activities and (unexciting) opportunities within our comfort zones. And since our comfort zones are relatively small, we miss out on most of life’s greatest and healthiest experiences, and we get stuck in a debilitating cycle that often leads to regret.
Are you tired of dealing with the same types of headaches and heartache over and over again?
Then it’s time to break the cycle, purge some bad habits, and embrace discomfort as you prepare for the year ahead. It’s time to learn from your mistakes rather than be conquered by them, and let your errors be of commission rather than omission.
Remember, you ultimately become what you repeatedly do. If your habits aren’t helping you, they’re hurting you. Which means it’s time for a change.
The best way to conquer discomfort is perhaps the single most uncomfortable thing you have to do for yourself in life: embrace it and engage it!
Lean into it. Show it your teeth.
Put yourself back in control!
Few things you do will matter as much in the long run.
Because here’s the reality: a tiny part of your life is decided by completely uncontrollable circumstances, while the vast majority of your life is decided by how you actively respond to them.
Whenever our students come to us feeling down about a life situation they can’t control, we typically start by reinforcing the hard truth: sometimes changing your situation isn’t possible—or simply not possible soon enough. But you CAN always choose a mindset that moves you forward. And doing so will help you change things from the inside out, and ultimately allow you to grow beyond the struggles you can’t control at any given moment. This is what it means to lean into it!
Here’s a powerful question that will support you with a mindset adjustment when you need it most:
Who would you be, and what else would you see, if you removed the thought that’s worrying you right now?
Roman Stoic Lucius Annaeus Seneca describes it perfectly:
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”
This isn’t to say what makes us uncomfortable shouldn’t make us uncomfortable, but we waste time and energy avoiding what’s uncomfortable. We whip ourselves into a frenzy over situations and interactions that, in reality, are less formidable than we imagine.
Facing discomfort with strength and courage is all about a change in mindset. Nobody wants to do uncomfortable things, but we choose to because they must be done.
And, the majority of the time, we end up saying to ourselves, “that wasn’t as bad as I thought…”
In our brand new book, Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality, and Turn Your Trials into Triumphs, Angel and I develop this kind of toughness with our readers as a key principle for growth. When we choose to embrace discomfort, we drain its power over us. It’s an active practice of taking life day by day and focusing on the little, uncomfortable things that make a lasting difference. This book represents the culmination of hundreds of hours of work with course students, and lots of one-on-one work with each other, too.
We’re sincerely excited to share Getting Back to Happy with you, so we’re also giving away over $50 in bonuses (including One Day at a Time — The 60-day workbook for implementing life-changing daily rituals) to Break the Twitch readers that order the book today. You can get details here.
About the author: Marc (and Angel) Chernoff are the creators of Marc & Angel Hack Life, which was recognized by Forbes as “one of the most popular personal development blogs” and the authors of the new book, Getting Back to Happy. Through their writing, coaching, course and annual live events (where Anthony Ongaro, founder of Break the Twitch, has spoken in the past), they’ve spent the past decade sharing proven strategies for getting unstuck in order to find lasting happiness and success.
It’s been an exciting and eventful year for us so far, full of many positive changes.
I’ve managed to lose about 25 pounds over the last several months, and am writing and creating YouTube videos more regularly than last year. While there have been some stressful aspects during this time, much of it has been mitigated by the habits Amy and I have implemented this year.
Overall, I’ve been feeling more productive, creative, and much healthier than I have in quite awhile.
I took some time to reflect on what the most impactful changes have been for us, and it really boiled down to five fundamental habits that I’ve started doing almost every day. While none of these are extraordinary on their own, they have added up to create quite a substantial impact.
Here are the 5 habits that changed my life in the last 120 days
This is something that I never would have even imagined six months ago—but a recent trip to Los Angeles sparked the change. After a workout at the Culver Steps, my friend Phil and I went to a restaurant in the area where we received what, at the time, seemed like a peculiar recommendation.
The server suggested we try the breakfast salad: mixed greens with over-easy eggs, tomatoes, avocado, and prosciutto on top. Being a breakfast traditionalist—enjoying the likes of waffles, pancakes, and cereal—this was not the most exciting idea to me. But, we decided to try it nevertheless.
The dish was absolutely amazing and when I brought the idea back to Amy, she loved it as well. Ever since, we’ve been making a big salad for breakfast with avocado, eggs, and tomatoes and we absolutely love it. A huge bowl of mixed greens is only 25-50 calories or so, and it really fills me up for the day. This has been an essential change that’s increased our veggie intake and helped us to feel less hungry throughout the day.
2 / Reduce Sugar Intake Substantially
This is a habit that I’ve done in the past with great success and have seen similar results this year. The biggest impact is when I reduce my sugar intake, I’m not hungry all the time, which makes it easier to avoid overeating in general. Every time I eliminate high sugar and high carb items from my diet I immediately lose weight, feel better, and sleep better.
The first week is absolutely the hardest, as my body always freaks out and wonders why it’s not getting its regular sugar-high. But after that, it feels completely natural and my energy evens out substantially throughout the day. I’ve yet to find a downside to doing this other than, well, not eating cookies and donuts as much as before.
It’s totally worth it though, and reducing sugar doesn’t mean that I don’t have the occasional treat from time to time.
3 / Drink Tons Of Water
Boring, I know, but so essential.
This one is in just about every health book, video or article, but after taking my water intake more seriously, I completely understand why. I have a big 32 ounce water bottle that I start off the day by filling up and drinking completely. After that, I make sure to drink at least one more full bottle at a minimum; sometimes I drink three or four of them totaling 128 oz per day.
Not only does it help me feel more satiated overall, but it also provides a relatively consistent reminder for me to get up from my computer during the day. Both to refill my water bottle and obviously, to go to the bathroom.
4 / Exercise 6x A Week
While this may seem pretty intense, my goal is to simply go to the gym six days a week.
Some days, I just walk on the treadmill. Other days, if I’m feeling pumped to exercise, I’ll lift and run for an hour or more. Just showing up at the gym six times a week is the key habit that’s helped accomplish great results. Amy and I go together, which makes it easier to keep up the habit as well.
Not only has this habit bettered my physical wellness, I’ve noticed substantial benefits when it comes to stress management and mental wellness, also. When I was going through a particularly stressful time, running on the treadmill was like therapy for me. Just like anything, running and going to the gym sucked at first but after a month or two it got easier and much more enjoyable.
Out of all the habits that changed my life this year, this one helped to integrate and enhance the others. Working out regularly encouraged me to eat better, drink more water and make healthier choices overall.
5 / Write Down And Catalogue Every Idea
This is what has enhanced my creativity and helped me stay on track with creating videos and new blog posts consistently. While an incredibly simple idea, it’s been very, very effective.
I carry my favorite notebook with me just about everywhere and jot down ideas as they come to me. I’ve forgotten enough “good” ideas at this point that I don’t want to lose anymore. The major benefit here is that once you start capturing your ideas, you can start comparing them, combining them, and sensing themes.
Instead of coming up with new ideas, it’s much easier to look though and expand on an existing idea. It’s a great resource to have so that when I sit down to come up with a blog post or video, I’m not starting from scratch.
While these habits are small changes on a day to day basis, the resulting impacts have added up substantially. My weight loss has been slow but steady. My productivity and output has slowly increased, and more systems are being built to help maintain and continually increase the momentum.
I’d encourage you to try one or two of these things and remember to start small. It’s really the repetition of these habits that changed my life, not how difficult or how many there were. While you don’t need to do everything at once, the important thing is to keep on going for as long as possible. It’s a journey, not a destination, as the old adage goes.