Success Rituals: Design Your Habits – Change Your Life

Success Rituals: Julianne Hough – Dancing with the Stars

Dating & Relationship Expert April Braswell recently asked me what I thought were some of the success rituals that make the professional dancers, like Julianne Hough, on “Dancing with the Stars” so great and outstanding in their field.

While I haven’t worked with Julianne Hough or any of the other “Dancing with the Stars” dancers, I have met 2008 “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Toni Braxton, exchanged many personal messages with 2009 “Dancing with the Stars” contestant, Mya, and can offer some insight from my experience working with Paula Abdul as well as the professional dancers on the Cirque du Soleil show “Zumanity

Here’s what I’ve noticed: One of the many success rituals Julianne Hough and the other “Dancing with the Stars” professionals and other elite performers have in common is they do not believe in such a thing as an off-season.

What’s the off-season?

If you haven’t heard the term before, the off-season is when an athlete isn’t in a competition or when they aren’t working. During such times, especially when you’re on vacation, there is often a habit of not sticking to the success rituals that got you to your level of success to begin with during the season or competition.

When you’re on vacation or during a break from the action, it’s easy to fall into the habit of taking it easy because you feel you deserve to take a break from all the hard work you’ve put in. You indulge in a lot more things that aren’t a part of your eating success rituals. You start keeping different hours and soon you’re slipping out of your routine that produced your success.

Then when it’s time to go back to work or compete in a new competition or start a new season, suddenly you’re having to work much harder to get back to the level you were at when you went on your break. Sometimes you’ll even wind up injuring yourself because you’re pushing too hard to get back into top condition in as short a time as possible.

And that’s a very common story with performers who have short term success. They get into the bad habit of abandoning their success rituals during their off season, their vacation time or down time between major events.

The professional dancers like Julianne Hough, who was on “Dancing with the Stars” until recently, consistently stay in shape year round. One of the secrets of their success rituals for health and well being is that it’s ultimately easier to stay in shape all the time and just cut back a little bit during their off season to less intense and less frequent work out routines (but one that still maintains much of thier their physique and conditioning) rather than let themselves go completely and risk gaining extra weight or losing a lot of conditioning and then have to work that much harder to bring their bodies and minds back up to competition level from a much worse starting point.

A perfect example of this is Julianne Hough’s physical training to be in perfect shape for her roles in the upcoming remake of “Footloose” and another film “Rock of Ages”. She’s working out 5 times a week and for someone who could’ve let herself get really out of shape during her time away from “Dancing with the Stars” she’s not let that happen.

Just take a look at the photos of in this slideshow article from The Examiner about Julianne Hough’s diet and workout secrets: Julianne Hough Diet and Workout Secrets

So, how can you utilize this success ritual in your life?

Obviously you could use it to motivate yourself to start actively working on staying more healthy & fit year round instead of waiting until the spring to start getting into shape for hitting the pools or the beach in the summer. Think of how much easier it’d be if you started keeping fit year round instead of putting your body through that yo-yo effect of gaining and losing weight?

Mentally, it will also make it much easier in the long run if you choose to make this one of the success rituals of your lifestyle. The benefits of staying healthier year round will pay off in every area of your life and give you an advantage over your competition who are letting themselves indulge in their off season.

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One of the most overlooked success rituals is the routine you do every night just before bed.

Successful people understand the importance of having success rituals they do just before bed while those who struggle to achieve their ambitions can often trace a significant amount of their struggles to the self-sabotaging behaviors they indulge in just before bed.

Let’s take a look at some typical behaviors many of us have done just before bed for years without realizing the negative effects they were having on us.

For years I used to stay up really late, often watching TV in bed for 30-60 minutes just before bed. Of course, while watching TV I’d find myself wanting a snack so I’d typically wind up eating a snack and even drinking a soda. This was before I learned how horrible soda pop is for you.

As if that weren’t bad enough, I wasn’t considering what messages I was pumping into my brain as I watched whatever crap was on TV. Sometimes it was harmless, like a fun episode of Late Night with David Letterman. But on weekends it’d often be the news, so I was filling my head with a barrage of negative images ranging from people killing each other to politicians screwing over their own citizens for a few extra dollars to politicians screwing around on their spouses. The news media loves to tell you everything that’s wrong with the world and takes particular delight in telling you every sordid detail as graphically as possible.

So, I’d often find myself just before bed wondering why I was restless and edgy, my mind racing with a million thoughts and not being able to relax and fall asleep.

I’d wake up the next morning feeling terrible, my body begging me to let it sleep longer and my brain trying to figure out why I’d had disturbing dreams. At work, I’d often struggle to get going and a lot of times the quality of my work was nowhere near my best.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Maybe you don’t watch TV just before bed but maybe you spend some time replaying your day in your mind. Maybe you dwell on that argument you had with a friend, relative or co-worker. You find yourself second guessing how you handled that situation with your child. Or in your mind you run through something that didn’t go quite the way you wanted it to. Perhaps you find yourself caught in that loop of thinking about all the things you told yourself you wanted to get done and now just before bed you’re mentally going through your to-do list and feeling disappointed about all the things you didn’t get to cross off your list.

Does any of this sound familiar now?

These are very common habits. They are standard routines many of us unconsciously slip into without giving them much thought. And while there is nothing wrong with reflecting on your day and your daily activities, you might want to re-consider when you do this and choose to do it earlier in the day rather than letting it continue to be a ritual just before bed.

Here’s why:

It’s been shown in various research studies that your brain has a tendency to continue with the pattern of thoughts you give it just before bed and continuing on that same train of thought as you start to fall off into sleep. And recent research has shown that the very last thoughts you consciously hold as you drift off to sleep are repeated approximately 17-19 times before you drop off into deep sleep.

At first glance you might think “So what?” but let’s think about that for a moment.

Whatever thought patterns you have just before bed are getting repeated in your brain 17-19 times when your reasoning and judgment are shut off for the night.

In essence, when you are mentally at your most vulnerable, most pliable and suggestible, your brain–for better or worse—is sending your last thoughts deep inside you, past all your mental self-defense mechanisms and filters, 17-19 times.

Do you think it might be important for those last thoughts to be thoughts that encourage you and support you or benefit and help you in some way?

We’re talking the equivalent of self-hypnosis and deep, internal personal influence and priming on ourselves.

This is so important that Jim Fannin, the world’s #1 coach of champions, who has coached more champions in sports, business and life than anyone else on earth, teaches how to utilize this information as part of his mental performance training. He’s also the person who taught it to me in his 90 Second Rule program.

So, here’s what I do now as part of my success rituals just before bed to take full advantage of this mental technology.

1. I don’t watch TV in bed anymore. In fact, I don’t have a TV in my bedroom at all now. I guard what goes into my mind and removing the news and crappy TV shows from my nightly routine has been a huge positive step.

2. Often just before bed I will read a chapter from a book like Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill or something else that enriches my mind. It might be something I’m studying like the latest brain research or something to do with personal improvement. But I make sure it’s material that is good for me and has a positive impact on my mental state.

3. If I don’t feel like reading something, just before bed I will put in my earbuds and listen to a meditation or hypnosis audio. My primary purpose in doing this is to relax and reduce or eliminate any stress I might still be carrying in my body as I approach the end of my day.

4. The last thing I do before I let myself fall asleep is to mentally focus on one specific thing that will benefit me by being repeated 17-19 times while my mental defenses are down. So one night I might focus on how grateful I am for something. Another night I will mentally rehearse something I’m doing the next day and mentally see myself doing a great job. Some nights, especially if I’ve had a rough day, I’ll simply pick one powerful phrase to repeat to myself, some positive self-talk, my own little success mantra if you will, to make me feel better about myself. It’s not really an affirmation, it’s more a reminder of something I did do right to help put me back on track again.

I know some people will think this is silly but it’s the very same mental success rituals that many of the top Olympic athletes, Major League All-Star baseball players and wealthiest CEO’s in business use just before bed.

The results myself and other outstanding achievers have experienced convinces me that we should always be doing these success rituals just before bed. I’ve even let myself get lazy and stop using them to see what happens. You probably won’t be surprised to learn how easy it is for the old bad habits to come back and start eating away at your success.

You remember your parents or grandparents advising you at different times that you should sleep on it? Well, it turns out there was plenty of wisdom they were sharing with you by giving that advice. Now we have the scientific brain research to help us understand why it’s critical to control the last thing we think about before we fall asleep.

Hope you enjoyed this success rituals lesson on what to do just before bed.

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Success Rituals: Good Excuses



When you look at the success rituals of people who are effective at getting what they want in life you’ll notice they rarely if ever make good excuses for not getting something done.  In fact, they often will do one of two things.

1.       Rather than offer good excuses, they will flat out admit where, why or how they dropped the ball or were unable to accomplish the thing they said they would.  They will look you in the eye and level with you.

2.       Again, rather than make any good excuses, they will cite the circumstances and facts involved in their decision making that resulted in the goal not being accomplished.

So, how do you implement this into your life as one of your success rituals?

First, you might notice my phrasing of making good excuses or offering good excuses.  This is very deliberate because most of us have learned or somehow been taught the habit of making good excuses.  This is something we often do so quickly and easily because we’ve been trained to believe that if we can provide good excuses we will be forgiven or let off the hook or given a second chance.  With many people it’s treated like a get out of jail free card and so often we see people scrambling to come up with good excuses as if it is a life preserver that’s required for interacting with others.

But good excuses are a sucker’s game.  Sure, if you come up with good excuses for not delivering on a promise or completing something you were being counted on for, you may very well get off the hook or be forgiven.  And that’s OK in many areas of life and in many relationships.  But what does it really provide you?

Does it get you what you want?  No.

Does it empower you or motivate you to do better next time?  No.

Does it really improve the quality of your life in any way?  I don’t think so.  If anything, it merely makes the other party look far more forgiving and generous than you had any reason to expect them to be.

So rather than relying on the excuse machine, I encourage you to catch yourself making good excuses and instead find ways to honestly look at the facts and circumstances of why you didn’t do what you said you were going to do.  And I encourage you to do this not just with your interactions with others but with yourself.

Do you create good excuses to tell yourself for why you didn’t take that seminar or evening class?

Do you sell yourself on good excuses for why you probably couldn’t write that book in your spare time or do that thing you know in your heart you really wanted to do but let fear stop you?  And you made it sound better in your head by making up those good excuses so that your own guilt wouldn’t haunt you?

It is OK to fall short of expectations or fail to hit the mark.  We’re not perfect.  We’re all human.  Or at least last time I checked I think most of us were.

But there is real power and insight for you if you can interrupt your habit of relying on good excuses and honestly assess what happened.  Life does present tough choices & you have to make hard choices on what gets your immediate attention.  Sometimes you have to delay something you want in order to handle an obligation you’d rather not deal with.  These things happen.

But the more you can be aware of your behavior and why you acted a certain way in a specific situation, the more power you have with each decision and action you take in the future.

This is how you start to design your habits and change your life.

This is how you pick, choose and create your success rituals.

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Success Rituals: Power Naps

Success Rituals: Design Your Habits – Change Your Life

Power Naps

One of the least discussed success rituals is power naps.

Yes, you read that right.

Power naps.

You may have heard of the Thomas Edison’s infamous power naps where he’d lay down in his lab with a marble or ball bearing in his hand. He’d doze off for a few minutes—until his hand relaxed enough for him to drop the ball—the sound would wake him and he’d resume working on whatever he’d been doing prior to the power nap.

Many people have mistakenly taken this as a sign of eccentricity or just a quirky part of his creative genius but in actuality power naps have been one of the success rituals used by several Presidents (John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan & Bill Clinton) as well as Albert Einstein, Napoleon Bonaparte, commercial jet pilots, military pilots and brain scientists.

Power naps are often used to compensate for not getting enough sleep the night before or for helping restore energy when fighting off an illness or stress. But there is a less known advantage to power naps that is not widely taught that you can use to considerable advantage.

Brain research has shown that when learning something new, the first six hours after you learn or practice the new skill or subject is critical. This is when the initial memory consolidation takes place whether you’re asleep or awake. But studies show that the memory consolidation and any enhancements your brain does with the material is improved dramatically if you take a power nap of one hour or less during those first 6 hours after studying the new material or practicing the new activity you’re learning. More than one hour of a power nap does NOT help.

According to an article by Jane E. Brody ( a NASA scientist’s study indicated that 24 minute power naps significantly improved a pilot’s alertness & performance on trans-Atlantic flights. This closely matches findings I witnessed first-hand in sleep deprivation studies done with U.S. Air Force pilots when I worked in the flight simulation center.

So, how do you use this information on power naps as one of your success rituals?

Here’s two simple ways to add power naps as one of your success rituals:

1. Anytime you’re feeling low on energy or run down from a lack of sleep, use part of your lunch hour or break time to find a quiet and preferably dark spot to lay down or recline and relax. Set your watch or cell phone alarm for anywhere from 12-52 minutes. Then just focus on your breathing and letting all the tension in your muscles escape your body. Don’t worry about falling asleep. That’s why you set the alarm. Don’t try to force yourself to sleep either. Forcing yourself is counterproductive. Relaxing is the key.

When your alarm goes off, slowly get up and take some long deep breaths and see how you feel.

The first time I did this years ago, I didn’t notice an immediate effect because I was wanting more sleep. But as the afternoon went on, I noticed I was more alert and had an extra reserve of energy that hadn’t been there before the power nap.

2. Any time you’re learning something new, see if you can sneak in a 12-52 minute power nap in the first 6 hours immediately following your study session or practice session, class or whatever learning situation you’re in. This will help your brain consolidate the information better and give you an advantage over others trying to learn the same thing.

Cautionary Note:

This does not work with multiple subjects. For instance, if you’re learning to play guitar but between your guitar lesson and your power nap you also decide to take a cooking lesson, your brain will not consolidate the information efficiently. Stick to one topic or one new skill and your new success rituals use of power naps will be a major benefit to you.

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Charlie Sheen and Paula Abdul: A Study in Success Rituals

Success Rituals: Design Your Habits – Change Your Life

Charlie Sheen has dominated entertainment headlines since his very public departure from the popular CBS-TV show “Two and a Half Men“.  In some ways it reminds me of all the publicity surrounding Paula Abdul‘s departure from the Fox-TV sensation “American Idol“.   Both stars left after 7 very successful seasons with their respective shows.  Both departures were big headline generating controversies.  But for me, the similarities end there.  What I find useful in comparing these two stars is how they handled the events, their success rituals if you will, in dealing with their situations.

Let’s take a look:

Charlie Sheen has routinely used the press to badmouth, bash and denigrate Chuck Lorre, the producer of “Two and a Half Men“.  Based on what we know thus far, Charlie Sheen was fired after indulging in number of drug and alcohol related incidents and proceeding to publicly blast Chuck Lorre (creator of “Two and a Half Men“) and other CBS executives. 

In addition to the destructive habit he appears to have with alcohol and illegal drug use, Charlie Sheen seems to be engaging in a habit that makes him feel good–lashing out at his former employer–but by doing so publicly, even though this may feel like a success ritual to him, he’s likely poisoning any potential producer or production company against hiring him.  If this is a habit he relies on in a time of stress, how influenced would you be by his lack of success rituals when deciding whether to hire him or not? 

Now contrast Charlie Sheen’s success rituals or lack of success rituals with how Paula Abdul handled a stressful contract dispute with “American Idol“:

First of all, Paula Abdul did NOT get into trouble with the law nor did she bring bad press upon her employer or force them to halt production of the show.  

Secondly, when it became obvious there was a dispute over her continued participation on “American Idol“,   Paula Abdul’s comments to the press were that she was disappointed in how negotiations were going and at no point did she resort to profanities and name calling.  Her success rituals involved conducting herself professionally, with dignity and respect for what she’d devoted 7 years of her career to helping build. 

Paula Abdul made it a habit of dealing with her dispute in a powerful and diplomatic way that ensured she burned no bridges and left doors open for any number of positive future possibilities to develop.

Proof: Just this past week, Paula Abdul signed on with the TV show “The X Factor” where she will be working with her former “American Idol” co-star judge, Simon Cowell. 

Do you think Paula Abdul would’ve been offered the opportunity to join “The X Factor” if she had gone on numerous profanity laced verbal attacks against “American Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe every week during her contract dispute? 

I suppose someone might’ve been willing to take a chance on someone habitually acting in such an unprofessional manner, but I think the success rituals Paula Abdul uses every day in her personal and professional life played a big part in making that decision a lot easier for her new employer.

What do you think?

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