Direct Your Mind: What Did I Do Right Today?

One night I was getting ready for bed and I felt disappointed in myself. It had been a busy day but I didn’t feel like I’d done much to advance my goals, and I did a couple of things poorly. I didn’t want to end the day feeling down. Days like that I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and going nowhere. I feel frustrated and don’t look forward to tomorrow. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever wished you had a way to bring yourself out of it?

Well, from now on, you’ll have something you can use. I invented a technique that night and I’ve used it many times since, and it works every time to raise my spirits and make me feel strong again, looking forward to another day.

I asked myself, “What did I do today that was right?” As soon as I asked it, I thought of something. Earlier that day I was going to say something in anger, and I held my tongue. “That was a good thing to do,” I thought to myself. And I already felt better. I had done at least one thing right.

But I didn’t stop there. I asked it again. What else did I do right today? After only a minute’s thought or less, I thought of another one. There were three small items on my desk I’d been meaning to do but not getting around to, and I got them done that day.

I felt better still. The day wasn’t a total loss. Not at all. And even though I did a couple things poorly, I had also done a couple things right, and this made me feel better.

I asked the question again a few more times and went to sleep feeling relaxed and satisfied, looking forward to a new day.

If this technique did nothing more than make me feel better, it would have been worthwhile. An improved mood is a definite asset. But the question does something else that may be even more valuable: It made me look into my day to see which actions I took were the most valuable.

Each right thing you do is something you do voluntarily — you have a choice in whether to do it or not.

By paying special attention to which ones are the truly good choices, you clarify your goals and moral principles. You clarify what you think is good. You clarify what you want more of. This clarity has practical, long-term benefits.

Ask yourself the question tonight. What did you do today that helped you achieve your most important goals? What did you do right today? What did you do that you can feel good about? Think of something, even a small thing. Enjoy it for a moment, and then ask the question again. What else? And what else? It’s an excellent exercise to help you feel good more often and increase your ability to accomplish your goals.

Give yourself credit for what you do right or well. A variation on this question is, “What would I do differently if I could do the day over?” And then “What am I really glad I did today?” Very helpful. Very productive.

Another version is: “What did I do today that was productive and what was a waste of my time?”

Another version is: What did I do that makes me feel proud of myself?

These are all questions to help solve a common problem: Neglecting to take credit for what you do right and focusing your attention on what you do wrong. The human brain’s naturally negative bias gives this tendency to nearly everyone.

The simple solution is to start taking credit for the things you do right. Ask yourself what you’re doing right, and keep asking, getting more and more answers. It is amazingly relaxing. It is a relief to know you’ve done some things right, and it makes you more aware of what you consider to be “right.” 

The question is a great one to ask at the end of the day, but you can ask it any time. In the car on the way home from work, for example, ask yourself, “What did I do right today?”

What can you take credit for? Go ahead and feel good. 

Bragging may be a social blunder, but giving yourself legitimate credit in the privacy of your own mind for the good things you do is healthy, it feels good, and it boosts and helps maintain feelings of motivation (so it will help you accomplish your goals in the long run).

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal GrowthSlotralogyAntivirus For Your Mindand co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English)Follow his podcasts, The Adam Bomb and Talk to Klassy. You can email him here.

We're Paying For Our Own Brainwashing

People "know" all kinds of mistaken notions about alcohol fuel — it ruins car engines, causes food shortages, uses more energy to create than it produces, and so on. How did these ideas arrive in so many minds with so much credibility?

We have been paying an unnecessarily high price for gasoline, and the oil industry has been reaping excessive profit (because OPEC keeps the price of oil way above reasonable profit margins).

With so much money at its disposal, the oil industry spends lavishly on PR, advertising (and the influence over programming advertising can give), political contributions, funding studies, and lobbyists (they have what is considered by many the most powerful lobby in Washington DC).

The result: Politicians and ordinary citizens have a strong bias against clean-burning, American-made, renewable, economy-lifting, national-security-boosting alcohol fuels.

We have been brainwashed. And we have paid dearly for it.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam BombYou can email him here.

Direct Your Mind: What CAN I change?

One of the many interesting findings in the research on depression is that the most depressing assumption you can make about an undesirable condition is: This is permanent. If you think something bad is permanent and cannot be changed, it is one of the most — if not the most — demoralizing thought you can have.

If you are mistaken about the permanence, it is of enormous benefit to recognize your mistake. The moment of recognition can restore your morale immediately.

But sometimes you will realize that you were not mistaken. You assumed something was permanent and you were right. Then what?

Then the question is, “What can I change?”

To answer that question, however, you must first know the answer to a pre-question: What do I want?

So for example, you’re trying to sell pet rocks, and you’re not selling very many, so you argue with your negative thoughts on paper and one of your negative thoughts is: The fad is over. That is a permanent explanation of your setback. And let’s say you realize you are correct about this, and you realize no matter what you do, you may never be able to revive the fad. You feel demoralized by this realization. Now what?

The question is first, What do you want? Let’s say you want to have a successful business selling something.

Then the second question is: What can I change? Of course, you can change what you sell. If you want to be successful at selling something, it doesn’t have to be pet rocks. You could change what you sell, the way you sell it, change the way the rocks look, etc. What can you change?

When you find yourself fixated by the negative bias — when all you can see is what you can’t change — pull this question out of your pocket and ask it and keep asking it and don’t let it go until you’ve found some good answers.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal GrowthSlotralogyAntivirus For Your Mindand co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English)Follow his podcasts, The Adam Bomb and Talk to Klassy. You can email him here.

All In Your Head

In 1914, a small ship sailed into the icy Weddell Sea, on its way to the South Pole. It carried a crew of twenty-seven men, and their leader, Ernest Shackleton. But unseasonable gales shoved the floating ice together and the temperature sank below zero, freezing more than a million square miles of ice into a solid mass. And they were stuck in the middle of it. They had no radio transmitter. They were alone.

For ten months the pressure increased until it crushed the ship, stranding them in the middle of an icy wasteland which could, at any time, break up and become a sea of floating ice chunks. They had to get off this ice while it was still solid, so they headed for the nearest known land, 346 miles away, dragging their two lifeboats over the ice. But every few hundred yards they ran into a pressure ridge, sometimes two stories high, caused by the ice compacting. They had to chop through it. At the end of two backbreaking days in subzero weather, they were exhausted. After all their hacking and dragging, they had traveled only two miles.

They tried again. In five days they went a total of nine miles, but the ice was becoming softer and the pressure ridges were becoming larger. They could go no further. So they had to wait...for several months. Finally the ice opened up and they launched the boats into the churning mass of giant chunks of ice and made it out. But now they were sailing across a treacherous sea. They landed on a tiny, barren, ice-covered, lifeless island in the middle of nowhere.

To save themselves, they needed to reach the nearest outpost of civilization: South Georgia, 870 miles away! Shackleton and five men took the best lifeboat and sailed across the Drake Passage at the tip of South America, the most formidable piece of ocean in the world. Gales blow nonstop — up to 200 miles an hour (that’s as hard as a hurricane) — and waves get as high as ninety feet. Their chances of making it were very close to zero.

But determination can change the odds.

They made it. But they landed on the wrong side of the island, and their boat was pounded into the rocks and rendered useless. The whaling port they needed to reach was on the other side of the island, which has peaks 10,000 feet high and had never been crossed. They were the first. They didn’t have much choice. Three of them took their best equipment and set out.

When they staggered into the little whaling port on the other side of the island, everyone who saw them stopped dead in their tracks. The three men had coal-black skin from the seal oil they had been burning as fuel. They had long, black dreadlocks. Their clothing was shredded, filthy rags, and they had come from the direction of the mountains. Nobody in the history of the whaling port had ever been known to enter the town from that direction.

Although all the men at that whaling port had known about Shackleton’s expedition, his ship had been gone for seventeen months and was assumed to have sunk, and the crew with it. The whalers knew how deadly and unforgiving the ice could be.

The three ragged men made their way to the home of a man Shackleton knew, followed in silence by a growing crowd of people. When the man came to the door, he stepped back and stared in silence. Then he said, “Who the hell are you?”

The man in the center took a step forward and said, “My name is Shackleton.”

According to some witnesses, the hard-faced man at the door turned away and wept.

This story is incredible, and if it weren’t for the extensive verification and corroboration of the diaries and interviews with the men on the crew in Alfred Lansing’s account, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, it might easily be disbelieved. The story is true, and as incredible as what I’ve told you seems, I’ve only given you some highlights.

Shackleton went back and rescued his friends on the other side of the island first, and then after many attempts to get through the ice, on August 30th — almost two years since they’d embarked — he made it back to that barren island and rescued the rest of his men. Every man in Shackleton’s crew made it home alive.

Fifteen years earlier, a different ship got stuck in the ice in the Weddell Sea — the Belgica, led by Adrien de Gerlache — but they didn’t do so well. During the winter in the Antarctic, the sun completely disappears below the horizon for seventy-nine days. Shackleton’s crew endured it. But the crew of the Belgica grew depressed, gave up hope, and succumbed to negative thinking. Some of them couldn’t eat. Mental illness took over. One man had a heart attack from a terror of darkness. Paranoia and hysteria ran rampant.

None of this happened to Shackleton’s men because he insisted they keep a good attitude, and he did the same. He once said that the most important quality for an explorer was not courage or patience, but optimism. He said, “Optimism nullifies disappointment and makes one more ready than ever to go on.”

Shackleton also knew that attitudes are contagious. He was fully aware of the fact that if anyone lost hope they wouldn’t be able to put forth that last ounce of energy which may make the difference. And they did get pushed to the limits of human endurance. But he had convinced himself and his men they would make it out alive. His determination to remain optimistic ultimately saved their lives.

And it can achieve great things for you too. It comes down to what you say: Either you say it’s hopeless or you say it can be done. You can never look into the future to find the answer. It’s in your head.

This article was excerpted from the book, Principles For Personal Growth by Adam Khan. Buy it now here.

Ikigai is Good For You

The first time I took the "signature strengths" questionnaire at, I received an update on Martin Seligman's work, as I mentioned awhile ago. Here's another passage from that update, also an excerpt from Seligman's new book, Flourish:

There is one trait similar to optimism that seems to protect against cardiovascular disease: ikigai. This Japanese concept means having something worth living for, and ikigai is intimately related to the meaning element of flourishing (M in PERMA) as well as to optimism.

There are three prospective Japanese studies of ikigai, and all point to high levels of ikigai reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, even when controlling for traditional risk factors and perceived stress. In one study, the mortality rate among men and women without ikigai was 160 percent higher than for increased CVD mortality as compared to men and women with ikigai.

In a second study, men with ikigai had only 86 percent of the risk of mortality from CVD compared to men without ikigai; this was also true of women, but less robustly so.

And in a third study, men with high ikigai had only 28 percent of the risk for death from stroke relative to their low-ikigai counterparts, but there was no association with heart disease.

It is healthy to add more meaning and purpose to your life, and it will improve your mood. To explore this, start here:

Why Goals Are Good

How to Find a Purpose in Life

Immediate Practical Benefits to Having a Purpose

Visualizing Goals

"When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary projects, all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations; your consciousness expands in every direction; and you find yourself in a great new and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be."

- Patanjali

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam BombYou can email him here.