6 Pieces of Advice for Personal Growth in 2016

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Roughly 150 million Americans make New Year’s resolutions this year. About 25% of these people will give up after just one week, and only 46% will stay on track through June.1 That’s a lot of failure.

Setting and maintaining goals is hard. I say start simple. Rather than establish brand new goals, why not improve something you’re doing or working on already? Here are 6 pieces of advice for Personal Growth to take into 2016.

1. Set Audacious Goals for Personal Growth

As I go through and establish 2016 goals for myself and our marketing for Swap.com, aligning them to the business and our overall objectives is easy. The hard part is in knowing if I’m being too aggressive with the goals for my team and for my own personal growth. Or, are we not being aggressive enough? Are the goals even realistic?

However, this is how I know I’m on the right track. You should be setting goals that have some meat to them.

Success doesn’t come to those that convince themselves that their content where they are. Establish goals that have some meat to them. Goals that are scary, daunting and filled with potential failure are what you should be after if you really want to make a difference.

Here are the two questions I answer when establishing goals:

  1. Have I entered into Ludicrous Level yet? Not everything is realistic, and there is a clear line dividing what’s doable and what’s just ludicrous. However, once I know what’s going to end up in the looney-bin helps me to focus and bring the idea back down to an achievable, yet difficult, level.
  2. Are my goals comforting? If so, I cross those out. For something to matter, we have to stretch our resources, both mentally and physically. If I’m comfortable pursuing a goal, it’s either meaningless or just boring. Neither of which I’m interested in spending time on.

Set out to achieve greatness and you’ll surprise yourself at how close you land.

2. Own The Morning

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet 31 million of us still skip our morning meal.2 Beyond the dietary benefits, skipping breakfast robs you of cognitive improvements as well as increased physical activity.

Make it Cheaper has put together a great infographic including what some of the world’s most successful business leaders eat for Breakfast. Preparing and taking time for breakfast is a simple and easy part of a healthier morning routing.

My go to breakfast right now is avocado and egg toast3, which is easy to prepare while the morning coffee is brewing. I also love the thought of accomplishing something early on as in the first 15 minutes of waking up.

Preparing and eating breakfast in a busy world is tough, so whip up something simple each morning and celebrate your early win. Your brain will thank you for it.

3. Go Analog

I’ve used pen and paper for years. My wife makes fun of me because I am so anal about my pens, and even more anal about the paper I write on. Working on computers and in the digital world all day and night disengages you from the details of thought. A simple notebook and pen will bring you back in.

Here are some of the biggest benefits of keeping a daily journal:

  1. Writing keeps you engaged. Keeping a daily journal of ideas, thoughts, failures, and successes refocuses your mind and keeps the distraction at bay. You could start off by simply dumping your thoughts and ideas on paper each morning – you’ll be surprised at how quickly you fill a notebook.
  2. Clarify your thinking. Writing helps to untangle your thoughts. There is a reason mind maps and sketching are so important to generating and delivering new business ideas, and writing is the best way to wrestle through ideas and issues.
  3. Understand the context. Writing takes you away from design and layout. It’s paper, and it’s a pen. There are no predefined graphics, margins or other designy things that distract us from the context of what we’re working on. You write freely because that’s all you can do.4

4. Sleep

The one resource everyone has the exact same amount of is time. How you invest ( or waste ) your time is up to you, but you can’t buy more of it so you should use it wisely.

To really succeed, you need to sleep. We now know that sleep is so important to cognitive behavior and performance, that many businesses even encourage napping during the day and have invested in sleeping rooms for their employees at the office.

I love sleep and am a self-taught professional napper. Ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, fully recharged. Looking at the sleep schedules of 21 highly successful people, 76% of them sleep at least 6 hours per day and go to bed like normal humans ( between 10 – 11pm ).

If you think you can perform with 3-4 hours of sleep per day, you’re just being ridiculous. If you think you’re too busy to get some shut eye, you need to readjust how you invest the other 16 – 18 hours in the day.

For the curious, I’m a 9:30 – 4:30 sleeper and aim for a nap a day.

5. Be Alone

The best way to spin your wheels for days and months on end is to just live and work in a reactive state. We work on things until we’re distracted with something else from someone else. Because we’re always connected, it’s too easy to put other people’s priorities over our own.

I block out one hour each day just to think. It’s called “Lunch” in my calendar, and it’s a non-negotiable block where there is nothing scheduled, no attendees, and definetely no agenda.

This is my time to think about the things like what’s coming up, the bigger picture, what’s working, are my kids having enough fun?, do my wife and I work too much?, do we work enough?, etc.

The key is that I’m not focused on anything. I’m not achieveing anything, I’m just being alone and reflecting and possibly fitting in a 10 – 20 minute nap. Try this for two weeks, note the benefits, and I promise you’ll never go back.

6. Be Present

The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. – Lin Yutang

This is a powerful thought and one of my favorite quotes. Understanding what’s essential in your life, the why, is what helps you to pursue the goals that really matter in your life and career.

Mindfulness, the state of being active and holding an open attention on the present, improves performance by physically altering the structure of your brain.5 Practicing Mindfulness helps to strenghten two significant areas of the brain:

  • Anterior Cingulate Cortex, the part of the brain that helps you to regulate self control and provides more clarity in solving problems
  • Hippocampus, the section of the brain responsible for your resiliance after facing setbacks and challenges.

Mindfulness is a newer practice for me, but so far so good. I’m more aware and more focused, and I like that it’s backed by science. So get on the bandwagon and start meditating your way to clarity.


  1. New Year’s Resolution Statistics via Statistic Brain 
  2. from a 2011 Huffington Post article 
  3. Avocado toast is a really quick breakfast that provides a lot of energy. There are multiple variations you could try. 
  4. this is also one of the biggest reasons I love and use Markdown so much. It’s distraction free simplicity at its finest. 
  5. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Take it from scientists, not me 

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