The Destructive Habit of Evaluating Everything We Do

By Leo Babauta

You’re going through your day, and it’s like you’re a newspaper critic, constantly looking for things to praise and criticize.

Did a workout? Amazing job Leo! Spent too much time on Youtube? Bad Leo! Body is looking flabby as you walk past the mirror? You absolute slob.

Everything we do becomes something to judge: are we worthy of praise? Or criticism?

We are in the mental habit of constantly evaluating everything we do, to see if we’re worthy or not. (Btw, we do this with other people as well, and with life situations in general — everything is evaluated as “good” or “bad”).

This mental habit of evaluating everything — while completely normal and natural — is actually pretty destructive.


Because every time you evaluate yourself, you are hurting your happiness.

Here’s what happens:

  1. You are going through your day, doing stuff.
  2. Your mind is constantly evaluating: is what I did good or not? Am I worthy of praise or not?
  3. If you do something worthy of praise, you are happy! Well, actually, you rarely take time to be happy about that. More likely, you’ll think about all the other things you haven’t done yet, and not think much about what you’ve done. Or maybe you think what you did is okay, but you feel it should be better. Or you should do more. Or you’re worried about losing what you’ve gained, messing up the next time. And you’re unsure of yourself even if you did OK at something.
  4. If you did something worthy of blame … well, that doesn’t make you too happy about yourself. And this is the majority of the time.

So this mental habit isn’t helpful. It is constantly making us feel bad about ourselves, insufficient, frustrated, like we’re doing things wrong.

Why do we do it? Because we want to be worthy of praise. We are uncertain about our worthiness, so we’re constantly asking the question. And constantly coming up short, because we’re comparing ourselves to 1) every person who’s done awesome things, 2) our ideal about how we should be doing (spoiler: perfectly, with every possible thing), and 3) what we think others would be impressed by. We can’t possibly compare well to these kinds of ideals.

A Different Mental Habit

If the evaluation habit doesn’t help, what can we do instead? And how do we change? Is it even possible?

I have to admit, mental habits are not easy to change. We have to be aware of what’s going on, and constantly vigilant. We’ll fall short of being constantly aware and vigilant … so we’ll evaluate ourselves badly. That moment, of course, is a beautiful opportunity to practice letting go of evaluating!

The habit I recommend instead is finding gratitude and contentment in this moment. Yes, that’s hokey, cheesy, corny and so on. But it works, like a badass.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You do something during the day.
  2. You notice yourself judging yourself: “I’ve been lazy today! Ugh.”
  3. You say, “Ah, I’m doing it again. Don’t waste one more second on that habit.”
  4. Instead, you pause and find a way to be grateful for something in this moment, about yourself or your life. You find a way to be content with what you have, who you are, and what is going on right now. You experience the sensations of this moment, as they’re happening.

And repeat. It doesn’t matter if you sucked at doing whatever you were doing, or you have been lazy or procrastinated or forgot to do something. It also doesn’t matter if you did something good — your gratitude and contentment don’t depend on how you do at anything. You can do something well and be grateful and content, or you can do something poorly and be grateful and content.

Some examples:

  • I just finished writing a Zen Habits post — I’m amazing! Actually, I’m not going to waste my time on the ol’ evaluation habit, and instead, I’m going to notice what’s going on right now in this moment. It’s a nice day outside. My body is feeling tired. I have a nice roof over my head, and I just ate a delicious meal. I’m grateful for those things, and for my kids, my wife, my family, my friends, my readers, life in general! This is all true whether or not I wrote the post.
  • I just wasted time reading my favorite websites instead of doing my work — I suck! Again, not gonna waste another second on that habit. Again, I pause and notice what is happening right now: the air is still, there’s a humming sound from the refrigerator, there are squirrels outside, I am feeling restless, and I’m grateful for all the things I listed previously and more (music, for example, is awesome!).

You can do this at any moment, no matter what is happening: your father is dying in the hospital, you’re running late for a meeting, you just missed your train, you got another subscriber on your Youtube channel, you just ate some delicious vegan ice cream. Drop the evaluation habit, and practice the gratitude and contentment habit.

Practice by keeping something visible around you (a little drawing you made, a gift from your daughter, a flower you found on the sidewalk outside, a stone from the river on your last hike) to remind you about your new mental habit. Practice when you do a 2-minute meditation in the morning. Practice whenever you notice yourself feeling unmotivated, frustrated with yourself, depressed, overwhelmed.

The habit of gratitude and contentment will never fail you, like a good friend.

from zen habits

The Destructive Habit of Evaluating Everything We Do

How to Get Back on Track with Motivation & Habits

By Leo Babauta

It happens to all of us: you are going strong with a project, with learning something new, with a new habit or two … and things go sideways. You get derailed.

This is a critical junction. If you let yourself quit, all your time and effort up until now has been for naught. If you can get back on track, things can be great again.

Most people don’t know how to get back on track, and so fail repeatedly. Today I’m going to share a simple method that works for me.

Recently, I’ve had to use the method because of a few difficulties:

  • A learning project got sidetracked. For a couple months, I’ve been focused on learning something new, but I got discouraged because a) my learning efforts got interrupted by travel, which was a bummer, and b) I had a couple of failures that made me feel like quitting. As of a couple of days ago, I was on the brink of quitting altogether.
  • My eating habits have been crap lately. Well, not complete crap, but crappy enough that I’ve felt a bit unhealthy. And I haven’t been able to get it back on track.
  • My focus hasn’t been what it could be lately. In recent months, I was super focused on my mission, on mindfulness and meditation and helping others. In the last month, that focus hasn’t been there, for a variety of reasons. I haven’t given up, but have definitely been sidetracked.

Sounds discouraging, right? But not to fear, getting back on track is actually fairly simple.

The Key Principle

Here’s the key idea to understand: getting off track and getting back on track is all about mood.

When we get off track, it’s because things that affect our mood as it relates to the project or habit. For example:

  1. We get interrupted because of travel, illness, visitors, crises, etc. This interruption makes us feel discouraged. It’s not the interruption that is the obstacle, it’s the feeling of discouragement that gets in the way.
  2. We get tired because of travel, illness, a lack of sleep, etc. … and the tiredness makes us feel unmotivated towards our project or habit. Tiredness is a huge obstacle, because when you’re tired, you don’t feel motivated, your mood isn’t as good, and you just want to comfort yourself with distractions and food (among other things).
  3. When things aren’t going well, we can get very discouraged — we’re not losing weight on our diet, exercise is harder than we fantasized about, language learning is very difficult, etc.
  4. When things get busy in our lives, we often have to skip the habit, which can make us feel bad about ourselves.

When our mood, as it relates to the project or habit, is bad … we often feel like quitting, and don’t even want to think about the problem. We avoid thinking about it, turn away from it, and seek other comforts.

The Method

So how do you get back on track? Here’s the method I use.

  1. Admit there’s a problem, and ask a key question. We often want to ignore the problem, not even think about it. But this only encourages quitting, and doesn’t help the problem. All we have to do is simply say, “I’m feeling bad about this. I’m discouraged and thinking about quitting.” Then we can ask ourselves, “Do I really want to quit, or is there a good reason to get back on track?”
  2. Take one small, easy step. If you have good reason to get back on track, don’t think about the entire project of getting back on track. That’s too much, and can be overwhelming, which means we’ll never start. Instead, just think of one thing you can do. For example, if you’ve fallen off the meditation habit … can you meditate for 30 seconds right now? 10 seconds? If you stopped listening to your language tapes, can you just do 2 minutes of the tapes today? If you stopped doing yoga or bodyweight exercises, can you just do a few minutes right now? It might seem ridiculously easy, but that’s exactly what you need to do. Something tiny, anything. This is the key step, so don’t take it lightly.
  3. Focus on getting any kind of victories. If you do 30 seconds, 2 minutes, whatever … you’ve had success! This is a victory, and a victory changes your mood. If you’ve been trying to play chess and you’ve been losing and become very discouraged, then focus on doing some tactics training for one minute. That’s a victory! What other kinds of victories can you get? Look for anything: just doing another minute later today or tomorrow morning, doing a little practice on your commute, reading a little about the topic online, anything you can do. Nurture your mood — victories change your mood. Defeats and tiredness can bring it down. So see what you can do to lift your mood up, including talking to someone else about it or making it more social, playing some good upbeat music to make it fun, making some tea or lighting some candles to make it more enjoyable, etc.
  4. Build long-term strength with small steps. If you build little victories, take small steps, and nurture your mood as in the previous steps … you’ll start to have a more solid habit or motivation for your project. After awhile, you become more robust, so that a little defeat won’t really matter too much. You have room for some tiredness now and then. You’ll be strong and won’t need to worry about all of the little mood changes. But it takes a bunch of small steps and victories to get there. So focus on one small step, one victory, at a time. Don’t worry about the long term, just focus on the short term. And the long-term strength will come.

This isn’t a difficult method — anyone can do it. All it takes is a small admission of struggle, a willingness to ask whether you want to get back on track, and a focus on small steps and victories. That’s doable, and awesome.

from zen habits

How to Get Back on Track with Motivation & Habits

The Eternal Dilemma: Revenge or Forgiveness?

By Leo Babauta

It’s easy to get upset at someone who has hurt you — but what’s the best way to get them back? What kind of revenge, served cold perhaps, can you dream up?

I recently had someone write to me about this:

“Recently one of my family members hurt me badly. They believe I am an easy target since I don’t want to retaliate or cause conflicts. My question is should I take the risk of getting revenge, knowing that it is never ending (not the best solution) or should I forgive this person? The problem is I don’t want to let them walk over me anymore. How to make them stop and respect me? Or maybe there is another solution?”

There are some important issues going on here:

  1. You’ve been hurt, which isn’t nice. It certainly doesn’t feel nice.
  2. You want to lash out at the person for hurting you. This is a natural reaction from the anger and indignation that can result from being hurt.
  3. You don’t want someone to walk all over you. This seems unfair, and seems like it’s just adding to the bad treatment.
  4. You want to be respected.
  5. You are worried about the bad consequences of getting back at them.

I’m obviously going to argue against revenge, so I should just say that now rather than acting like it’s going to surprise you. Instead, let me present my arguments against revenge, then offer up a different approach.

A Few Arguments Against Revenge

So why not just do what feels right, and lash out at them somehow?

There are some big problems with that:

  1. It doesn’t actually make you feel better. Retaliating might feel good in the moment, but you won’t feel better about yourself. You’ll just be sinking to a lower level and feeling bad about yourself.
  2. It hurts the relationship. You lash out because you’re hurt, but in doing so, you’re going to hurt and anger the other person. Your relationship actually gets worse. You might argue that it’s their fault, but actually, no, you’re contributing to this as well. You might argue that you don’t care, you don’t want a relationship with a person who would hurt you, and that might be true. Just be sure you’re not saying that out of anger, but you’ve calmed down and made that rational assessment.
  3. You’re just allowing yourself to act on impulse and fear. When we lash out at someone because they mistreated us, it’s not from a rational assessment of what will be best for us, or best for the situation. It’s an impulse that is borne from fear and anger. While this is a natural reaction, I’ve found that it’s not the best idea to just follow our impulses without pausing to consider. This leads to impulse problems like eating too much junk food, distraction, procrastination, addiction to video games or TV, and more. Instead, we should get in the habit of pausing whenever we have an impulse, letting the fear subside, and instead considering what’s best for the situation. We shouldn’t let ourselves get caught up in a story in our heads about what this person did to us and how wrong they are. That’s not helpful.
  4. It doesn’t actually make people respect you more. Lashing out in anger or fear is not a recipe for earning people’s respect. In my experience, people actually respect you less if you retaliate against others. Maybe they’ll want to be around you less. But that’s out of fear or dislike of your behavior, not respect. I tend to respect people more who can handle things maturely and with calmness and compassion.
  5. You’re not being your bigger self. It’s easy to act on our impulses, but what we really want is to become out bigger self. That means the best version of ourselves that we can be —
    and forgiving ourselves, of course, when we don’t do that. The bigger self is one that forgives, is compassionate, doesn’t act out of fear or anger, and handles things maturely. This isn’t always easy to do, so we shouldn’t think of it as an “ideal” to always strive for, but as a guideline for how to act when we’re able to consider things with calmness.

So if retaliation and revenge aren’t the best ideas, what’s better?

A More Compassionate Approach

I believe a more compassionate approach is better, because:

  • You’re being your better self.
  • It makes you feel better about yourself.
  • You earn the respect of others by being more mature.
  • It helps your relationships.
  • It is a kind thing to do to the other person, who is obviously having difficulties.
  • It makes the world a better place, one relationship at a time.

You might disagree with these reasons, but I’ve found them to be true.

Here’s how to do it.

  1. Pause instead of acting on impulse, fear and anger. Notice when you’re about to lash out from anger and fear. Instead of acting on that impulse, pause. Breathe. Take a timeout. Consider your actions before acting.
  2. Stay with the physical feeling, instead of the story. When you’re angry or afraid, there is a story in your head that’s causing it (“They’re being so rude!”) … instead of dwelling on this story, bring your attention to how this feels in your body, physically. Where is the feeling located — in your chest, stomach, neck, face? What physical sensations can you notice? Stay with these feelings as long as you can, returning to them when you notice your attention going back to the story (“Why do they need to act this way?”). Stay with the feeling, and give it some compassion.
  3. Enlarge your perspective to see their difficulty. Once you’ve stayed with the feeling for a few moments, see if you can get out of your you-centered story, and embiggen your perspective to include what the other person is going through. Are they having a bad day? Are they suffering through some difficulty? Feeling fear or anger? Do you know what it’s like to go through that yourself? When you realize the other person is probably having a difficult time, struggling with something … you might find some compassion in your heart for what they’re going through, in addition to the offense you feel. This is the space you want to enter.
  4. Ask: What is the most compassionate thing you can do for both of you? Is it having a gentle conversation with them? Is it ending the relationship so you don’t hurt each other? Is it getting a third party involved so you can resolve the situation? Is it just listening to their complaints? There are lots of options — try to consider ones that don’t originate from your anger or fear, but instead are compassionate.
  5. What do you need to do to respect yourself? I’m not suggesting that you be a “pushover” and let other people walk all over you. Compassion isn’t about not respecting yourself — in fact, it’s the opposite. You often need to take steps to protect yourself, so you don’t get hurt. Or at least to speak up for yourself. It’s not compassionate to remain silent when you’re being hurt. But at the same time, you can respect yourself if you make your concerns clear in a gentle way. Or set your boundaries with the other person firmly, but without anger.
  6. What’s the most loving thing you can do for them? This might be listening to them, giving them a hug, showing them that you care. But it also might be letting them go, because your relationship with them isn’t helping them. Or creating some space, at least for a little while, so they can have time to cool down (and you can too). There are lots of options, but considering this along with how to love and respect yourself, is where you want to be.

None of this is easy. I’m not claiming there are miracle solutions. But it’s not easy to hurt your relationship with escalating retaliations, and it’s not easy to deal with resentment and anger in yourself. Compassion isn’t easier, but it does bring greater happiness all around

The Magic of Forming New Relationships

I’d like to invite you to join me in my new course in the Sea Change Program to help others get good at making friends and dating … it’s called “The Magic of Forming New Relationships,” and it has just started. Join me!

The course features a guest expert, other than myself … my good friend Tynan, who is a blogger, author, coach and expert on topics ranging from minimalism, travel, productivity, habits, social dynamics, awesome cruise travel and much more. Tynan is a former pickup artist (he’s a good person, I swear) who learned to not suck at talking to girls, not suck at storytelling, and apply what he learned to making friends. I’m honored to have him as a guest expert.

So what’s this course about?

We’ll talk about making new friends and also dating — both involve getting out of our comfort zone and making new connections. It can be life-changing stuff.

Here are the video lessons — the first two have just came out:

  1. Overview — What Most People Do Wrong at First
  2. The Approach (Or, how to get someone to want to talk to you)
  3. The Art of Storytelling
  4. The First Three Dates
  5. The Preliminaries: Developing Your Confidence
  6. Making a Great Connection
  7. Building a Friendship (or Romantic Relationship)
  8. Avoiding Long-Term Pitfalls

It’ll be amazing. We’ll also talk about telling good stories, creating a great experience for the other person, and other awesome stuff that will help anyone, no matter where you are in life.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Every week this month I’ll publish two video lessons
  2. There’s a challenge to spend 5-10 minutes each day to working on one of the skills presented in the video lessons
  3. There are weekly check-in threads in the forum and discussion threads for each lesson
  4. I’ll hold a live video webinar on with a talk and a Q&A session on Aug. 19

This is all included in my Sea Change Program, which you can sign up for today. You also get access to a huge library of other courses and content for changing your life, one step at a time.

from zen habits

The Eternal Dilemma: Revenge or Forgiveness?

New Course: The Magic of Forming New Relationships

By Leo Babauta

It can be really difficult when you aren’t good at talking to people, at making friends, or at dating. It can stress you out, get you down, make your life harder.

I consider myself an introvert, but I’ve made a concerted effort in my life to get better at making friends and socializing. So it’s possible.

I’ve created a course in my Sea Change Program to help others get good at making friends and dating … it’s called “The Magic of Forming New Relationships,” and it has just started. Join me!

The course features a guest expert, other than myself … my good friend Tynan, who is a blogger, author, coach and expert on topics ranging from minimalism, travel, productivity, habits, social dynamics, awesome cruise travel and much more. Tynan is a former pickup artist (he’s a good person, I swear) who learned to not suck at talking to girls, not suck at storytelling, and apply what he learned to making friends. I’m honored to have him as a guest expert.

So what’s this course about?

We’ll talk about making new friends and also dating — both involve getting out of our comfort zone and making new connections. It can be life-changing stuff.

Here are the video lessons — the first one just came out:

  1. Overview — What Most People Do Wrong at First
  2. The Approach (Or, how to get someone to want to talk to you)
  3. The Art of Storytelling
  4. The First Three Dates
  5. The Preliminaries: Developing Your Confidence
  6. Making a Great Connection
  7. Building a Friendship (or Romantic Relationship)
  8. Avoiding Long-Term Pitfalls

It’ll be amazing. We’ll also talk about telling good stories, creating a great experience for the other person, and other awesome stuff that will help anyone, no matter where you are in life.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Every week this month I’ll publish two video lessons
  2. There’s a challenge to spend 5-10 minutes each day to working on one of the skills presented in the video lessons
  3. There are weekly check-in threads in the forum and discussion threads for each lesson
  4. I’ll hold a live video webinar on with a talk and a Q&A session on Aug. 19

This is all included in my Sea Change Program, which you can sign up for today. You also get access to a huge library of other courses and content for changing your life, one step at a time. I hope you’ll join me, I’m really excited!

from zen habits

New Course: The Magic of Forming New Relationships

Becoming Strong & Healthy as a Vegan

By Leo Babauta

As a vegan for the last five years (and veg for a decade), I’ve learned a bit about being healthy and strong on plants.

For those who would like to learn about it, I’m offering this guide (as a non-expert fellow learner).

I had a reader write to me about becoming vegetarian, and say that he went back to the gym and feels very weak. They didn’t like the feeling they got after eating meat, so wanted a change, but they’re worried about feeling weak.

Some things to say about this:

  1. It’s not necessarily eating vegetarian that is causing you to feel weak — it could be a number of other things, like not eating enough calories, not getting enough sleep, not being in the gym for awhile, etc.
  2. If it is your diet, there are things you can do to address this. Getting enough iron, protein, calcium and other nutrients is a good idea.
  3. Lots of vegans are super strong — seriously, google it, there are pro football players, mixed martial artists, bodybuilders, Olympians, Crossfitters, and more who are vegan (male and female). This is strong evidence that you can be strong, fit and healthy as a vegan. If you try it and have trouble, it just might take some research and experimenting.

So it’s not only possible to be a strong and healthy vegan, I think it’s not that hard. Anyone who gets into fitness and health tends to do research and experiment to figure out what works, so it’s not any harder than that for vegans.

Here’s what I suggest, based on my research and personal experience:

  1. Protein. It’s actually fairly easy to get enough protein as a vegan, with minimal effort. The best protein, in my opinion, comes from beans & legumes: black, red, pinto, garbanzo, navy and white beans, for example, but also lentils (awesome), edamame (soy beans), tofu, tempeh (one of my favorites), peas and peanuts. Nuts and seeds are also awesome for protein, and whole grains have a decent amount as well. If you eat some kind of bean/legume as a main part of your meal for at least two meals, and add some nuts and seeds and whole grains into the mix, you’ll be good. There are also vegan meat substitutes, which tend to be built off of soy or wheat protein (seitan, for example). These aren’t bad for you, but I like whole foods instead, so I would not make them the biggest part of your diet. Vegans doing strength training can also add protein powder, just like any weightlifter. I personally use PlantFusion (if I use any protein powder at all), which has all the essential amino acids and is a good mix of different plant protein. All of this is to say, you can get some amazing high-quality protein from plants, easily. (Read more.)
  2. Greens. These are the powerhouse foods of nutrition. Kale, spinach, broccoli, bok choy, collard greens, romaine lettuce … basically anything green is full of nutrients. The best bang for your calorie. Mix greens into your tofu scramble for breakfast, into your salad for lunch (with beans and seeds and nuts of course), into your soups and chilis, into your stir-frys and lentil curries.
  3. Calcium. Vegans don’t drink milk, but calcium is still an important nutrient for bones and other good things. I get most of my calcium from fortified soymilk (which I have with Ezekiel cereal, nuts and and berries, or in my protein shake), but there is good calcium in green veggies, and you can take a calcium supplement if you prefer. For bones, it’s also important to get enough Vitamin D (sunshine, fortified foods or a vegan vitamin) and do some kind of strength or impact exercise like running. (Read more.)
  4. Iron. One of the mistakes that new vegans often make is not getting enough iron. It’s not that hard, but it can be easy to ignore. It’s pretty simple: beans, grains and greens are amazing for iron. Vitamin C (which you can find in citrus fruits, spinach and yellow and red peppers, for example) also helps with iron absorption. (Read more.)
  5. Vitamin B12. Vegans absolutely need Vitamin B12, as it isn’t found in abundance in plant foods. Luckily, you don’t need that much, and it’s easy to get it in fortified foods (again, soymilk, or fortified nutritional yeast). Or you can take a vitamin, which I also do just for insurance (this is what I use). I get myself tested every year or two, btw, and I easily have enough B12, iron, etc. (Read more.)
  6. Other important nutrients. There are other nutrients to pay attention to, like iodine, Vitamins A and K, and more. They are also not hard to get into your diet. I recommend for educating yourself.
  7. Healthy fats. Omega fats in general are incredible for your brain, heart and overall health … but Omega 3s are the best. It’s easy to get them in plant diets if you choose a few good foods: walnuts, ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, chia seeds. Or just take a vegan dha/epa pill (like a fish oil pill, but from plants) — I take this one daily. This is an important nutrient, so read up on it. In addition, I like to use olive oil and canola oil in my cooking.

This might seem like a lot, but it’s a newbie mistake to not do your research, so read up on this stuff. In fact, if you do, you’ll be more educated than most non-vegans as well, who are often lacking in important nutrients too.

Putting It All Together

OK, with all of that to digest (pun!), how can one manage all of this into a simple vegan diet? This is what I recommend (again, as a non-nutritionist — don’t just take my advice, research it):

  • Eat lots of beans/legumes, nuts and seeds. I recommend a good serving of these with both lunch and dinner. Maybe even add some nuts/seeds to your breakfast. Good examples for lunch/dinner: lentil soups or curries, black bean tacos, three-bean chili, tempeh stir-fry with veggies, black bean or white bean soup. There are countless examples.
  • Eat lots of green veggies, with other color veggies as well. A big salad every day with lots of greens, as well as red and yellow veggies, mushrooms, nuts, beans and seeds … and you’re getting a ton of nutrition into one meal. Add some bean soup that has some greens cooked into it, and it’s an amazing meal. If you cook stir-frys, chilis, soups, curries, tacos or any other kind of meal, just add greens and other colored veggies into them. Or have a big helping of steamed greens as a side dish.
  • Whole grains and fruits are good too. Brown rice, corn tortillas, quinoa, flourless whole-grain breads and cereal, black rice, and more can be added to any meal for taste and nutrition. Fruits with breakfast or as a snack or dessert are incredibly nutritious.
  • Soymilk and/or supplement. For things like B12, calcium, etc. that I listed above, you can get a lot of it in fortified soymilk (I drink about a glass or two daily, again with my Ezekiel cereal or protein shake). But if you don’t like that, you can supplement with B12, calcium, and/or a DHA/EPA supplement.

If you find some recipes with these general guidelines — experiment to find a balance that works for you — you’ll find that a healthy vegan diet is not that difficult. It might take learning some new recipes, adjusting your taste buds a bit, trying some new foods, but it’s a lot of fun to learn to do all of this. And the benefits in health are incredible.

Exercise Ideas

Nutrition is just one part of fitness and health — a super important part, but not the only one. I’ve experimented with lots of kinds of exercise — from running marathons (and one ultramarathon) to Crossfit, the Goruck Challenge, weight training, sports, swimming, bicycling, yoga and more. I’m not an expert at any of them, just a learner.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Strength training is important. Lots of vegans overlook strength training, and they get weak, and people blame veganism. No, it’s just that if you don’t stress the muscle with some kind of resistance, it gets less strong. I personally like lifting barbells (squats, deadlifts, bench), but there are lots of different ways to do it. Bodyweight strength exercises like pushups, squats, lunges and chinups are amazing, and of course if your gym just has dumbbells and weight machines, that works too. If you want to get hard core, you can do Olympic barbell exercises and throw heavy stuff like logs and tires around, and drag sleds and stuff. All of it is fun, and will make you strong.
  2. Cardio is also important. You don’t have to spend a bunch of time on cardio machines (boring, imo), but getting your body moving is good for the heart and brain and muscles. A good brisk walk is a decent option, but I also like to go for short runs (2-4 miles), do sprint intervals, ride a bike, play some basketball. Swimming is also amazing. Whatever you find fun, do that, but just find a way to get moving regularly.
  3. Mixing in some yoga is amazing. I am not an experienced yogi by any means (you should see my flexibility, it’s laughable), but I find yoga to be such an incredible mix of flexibility, strength and mindfulness training that I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend it. A couple times a week would be the minimum to see any benefits, though more is of course better if you have the time and energy.

How would I mix all these together? Whatever works for your life is best, but here’s a sample schedule that I might follow:

  • Sunday: Run and yoga
  • Monday: Squat & bench press workout
  • Tuesday: Run and yoga
  • Wednesday: Sports and/or biking
  • Thursday: Deadlift and chinups
  • Friday: Run and yoga
  • Saturday: Rest day, maybe go for a walk

That would get you pretty strong and fit, I think. Of course, you should work your way up to this, starting with bodyweight strength training if you’ve never lifted weights, and getting a trainer to help you with form if you start lifting barbells. Go to an intro yoga class if you haven’t done that. Start with walking and then mix in some jogging with your walking if you don’t run. And of course, if you have any health risks, get checked out by a doctor, don’t just follow the advice of some guy on the Internet. 🙂

In the end, mixing up your exercise and easing into it is a good idea, as is eating lots of beans, nuts, seeds, greens, colored veggies, whole grains and fruits. With a plan like this, you’ll have a hard time not becoming strong and healthy as a vegan.

Questions & Answers

Some questions you might have:

Q: Why bother becoming vegan at all if you have to worry about these nutrients?

A: Vegans all have different reasons, but my reason is just to not participate in hurting and killing sentient beings if I can help it. I can be happy and healthy and enjoy delicious food without hurting animals (to the extent that I’m able), so why should I eat them?

Q: Isn’t supplementing unnatural?

A: Perhaps. I’m not as concerned about following the naturalistic fallacy — most of us do things that aren’t “natural” all the time, from using computers and cars to eating pizza and using deodorant. And the truth is, it’s a small inconvenience compared to what we do to animals.

Q: Isn’t soy bad for you?

A: Nope. I did an article on this myth years ago. I’ve been eating soy several times a week (sometimes daily) for a decade without any health problems. I prefer to eat less processed versions of soy, like tempeh (fermented soy beans) or edamame (green soy beans). But I have found no problem with tofu or soymilk on a regular basis (in moderation of course). I don’t recommend overdoing soy protein powder or soy meat substitutes, but here again, moderation is the key.

Q: What if I (or someone I know) got really unhealthy as a vegan?

A: It’s possible, especially if you didn’t eat good amounts of protein, calcium, iron, B12, and things like that. It’s also possible to get really unhealthy as a non-vegan. Lots of people eat diets that don’t have the right amount of nutrients, so educate yourself and do a bit of experimenting. One common problem is just eating raw plants, mostly raw vegetables, without getting all the nutrients you need. For taste, not getting enough fats or protein is a common problem, as is not getting enough umami flavor (the taste of grilled meat) — grilled mushrooms are a good way to get umami.

from zen habits

Becoming Strong & Healthy as a Vegan

The Secret to Interpersonal Happiness

By Leo Babauta

As much as we desire being connected to others — good friendships, a wonderful romantic relationship, close family members — this connection always comes at a cost.

We get frustrated by other people.

You know it’s true. You might be really good friends with someone, but then they get angry at you for some reason, or they behave without consideration, and all of a sudden, your mood is much darker. You’re not happy with them, maybe they’re not happy with you. Things can go sour very quickly.

This is such a difficult problem that you could devote entire books to ways of working out these kinds of conflicts and frustrations. But I have one technique that, if applied consistently, will lead to a lot more happiness.

The secret: always take the good-hearted view of other people.

That takes some explaining, so let’s take a look at two ways of looking at other people:

  1. The ill-intentioned view. When someone does something rude, you think, “Why do they have to be so inconsiderate?” or “Who does that?” Basically, you see their actions in the worst possible light, without putting yourself in their shoes. Most of us do this regularly without realizing it. Anytime you’re mad or frustrated with someone, this is what you’re doing.
  2. The good-hearted view. When someone does something inconsiderate — and I’m not saying their actions are justified — you can try to think of those actions in a good-hearted way. For example, maybe they’re having a bad day and are grump — that doesn’t excuse their actions, but you can understand the feeling of being grumpy. Or maybe they were hurt by something you did (which you might not realize) and they are lashing out because of that hurt. That’s not a nice way to react, of course, but we can all relate to feeling hurt and lashing out. So the good-hearted view is that this is someone you care about who is hurting. Forget the personal offense, think about their pain, and be compassionate towards that pain.

Let’s take a brief look at the ill-intentioned way of seeing things, then go into what I believe will transform most people’s interpersonal happiness — the good-hearted view.

Why the Ill-Intentioned View is a Problem

It’s easy to see the rudeness, inconsideration and plain wrongness of other people. That’s because we’re looking at it from our own point of view, and thinking they should see things the same way as you do.

For example:

  • They left dirty dishes or a big mess in the kitchen. Why didn’t they just clean up instead of being inconsiderate? You feel they’re not acting as they should.
  • They said something kind of mean to you. You have no idea why they would be mean, you’re a good person who doesn’t deserve that.
  • They are mad at you for some reason. You don’t deserve that! What’s their problem?

Of course, there are much worse things, but these are some typical interpersonal problems, and common reactions.

These are natural reactions, but looking at things this way causes you to feel bad about the other person. You are frustrated, angry, offended or hurt. You build up resentment.

You might also react badly to the other person — say something hurtful or angry, lash out, ignore them, whatever your habitual way of responding to these things might be. This obviously will make them react badly to you, and now your relationship is hurt. You’re not happy, and neither are they. This isn’t a good situation.

The problem with the ill-intentioned view is that it doesn’t help anybody, and hurt the relationship. Worse yet, it’s self-centered (you’re seeing things from your own point of view) rather than thinking about the other person (whom you care about), both of you, or your relationship together.

The Solution: The Good-Hearted View

OK, so the self-centered view of seeing the ill-intentions of the other person isn’t ideal (not that any of us are ideal!). So what about the good-hearted view?

Well, this approach tries to use empathy, to see the good heart of the other person, to assume that they are good people with decent intentions who make mistakes and are having trouble of some kind.

For example, some reasons someone might act badly:

  • They genuinely didn’t realize how you would take their actions — from their perspective, there was nothing wrong with what they did. Your interpretation might be that they are wrong, but that’s only one way of seeing it.
  • They were caught up in their world, and weren’t thinking of how their words or actions might affect other people. This, of course, is self-centered, but we all do this, probably every day.
  • They are having a bad day, are in a bad mood, or are in the middle of a tough problem in their life. This causes them to react badly to you. This is not an excuse for bad behavior, but you can understand this, as we all go through it.
  • They have a bad habit of reacting to people in certain harmful ways. This doesn’t mean they have a bad heart, but instead, they developed bad patterns when they were young. At one point, these patterns were meant to protect them from harm, but now they just harm others.
  • They were abused by someone, or hurt in the past, and now they are worried that you are going to harm them. So they protect themselves. Not an excuse, but more of a way to understand people’s behavior.
  • You did something that they took offense to, and so they’re reacting badly to something you did. Maybe you didn’t realize you did this, but that’s the world they’re in.
  • They genuinely were trying to do something to help you, but you took it the wrong way.

None of the above excuses bad behavior. It’s wrong to be rude, to yell, to be violent. But to act badly is human, and to judge everyone for their bad behavior means we won’t be friends with anyone. Ourselves included, because if we’re honest, we have to admit that we act badly sometimes too.

We’re not looking for excuses, but instead to see the good heart in the other person. Yes, they acted badly, but it’s with a good heart. If we can see this, perhaps we can see the other person in a more kind light, and react to them in a more helpful way.

Some ways we can react, now that we see them in a good-hearted light:

  1. We can try to understand them, maybe even talk to them about what’s going on. People often like to be heard and understood. Make them feel like what they’re doing is understandable.
  2. From this place, we might also share how their actions affected us, without blaming, accusing or guilt-tripping. Instead, it’s from a place of wanting to resolve the conflict.
  3. We might give them compassion for the difficulty they’re going through. Maybe a hug, or the appropriate equivalent — just a “hug attitude,” where we’re trying to commiserate with them and make them feel better somehow.
  4. Or we might just feel the compassion inside, and not let ourselves get caught up in resentful or frustrated emotions, and instead, just leave the other person alone until they feel better, if that’s more appropriate.
  5. If the other person is genuinely harmful, you might need to get away from them (for your own protection), but with compassion you might not be so angry at them.

These are just a few options, but you can see that these actions are much more helpful for the relationship, for the other person, and for our own happiness.

You might say, “Well, isn’t this just rewarding or excusing their bad behavior?” That’s one way to see it, but I believe it’s more about not getting caught up in our own self-centered view, and not engaging in unhelpful and harmful patterns of thought. With the good-hearted view, we are more understanding, more compassionate, more likely to be happy and have good relationships.

The next time you feel difficulty with someone, try the good-hearted view. You just might find some happiness in a difficult situation.

from zen habits

The Secret to Interpersonal Happiness

The 4 Keys to Learning Anything

By Leo Babauta

I’ve been studying how to learn, as I try to teach myself new skills … and absolutely love learning new things. But I keep running up against a few key problems:

  1. Becoming overwhelmed. The more you learn, the more you see there is to learn. The beginner doesn’t know how much there is to study, but as you start to explore, you find new caverns, and they are immense. Then as you explore those caverns, you find even bigger ones. It can become overwhelming, and lots of people eventually give up because of this feeling.
  2. Failure feels bad. If you want to learn to play chess, you’ll lose a lot at first. Then you get better, and lose a lot. In fact, no matter how good you get, you’ll probably lose a bunch of times. This happens not just with games, but with learning languages, physical skills, academic subjects — you’ll fail a lot. There are ways to set it up so that you rarely fail, but then you’re not really learning much.
  3. It can feel like you’re just treading water. In a fantasy world, you’d learn at a breakneck pace, downloading new skills and knowledge into your brain like they do in the Matrix. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. You read and read, or practice and practice, and a lot of the time you barely get better. Other people seem to be learning at twice your speed! Sometimes it seems like you’re not learning anything. This can be really discouraging.
  4. There’s always a strong feeling of uncertainty. Humans don’t like the feeling of uncertainty, for the most part. We avoid it, become afraid of it, get angry or frustrated. But when you try to learn a new skill, it’s almost all uncertainty. You constantly forget things, you don’t understand anything, or when you think you do understand, you try it and it turns out you didn’t understand at all. This feeling of uncertainty causes a lot of people to give up.

OK, so we all want to learn skills — new languages, programming skills, physical skills, history, math, writing, games, so much more. But these four problems stand in our way.

Let’s take them on. We’re going to discover four keys to overcoming these four problems, so that we can tackle anything we want to learn.

First Key: Small Focuses

Yes, it’s true: there’s a vast amount of things to learn, and it can be overwhelming. But that’s true of life itself — there’s so much to see and do, and no one can ever do it all. All we can do is one step at a time.

So we have to not focus on all the innumerable huge caverns that have yet to be explored … but the ground right in front of us.

What small area can we study right now?

What small focus can we conquer? What little area can we explore?

Ignore all the vast uncharted territories for now, shut the rest of the world out, and just be in this one place. Just study this one thing. One small step at a time, a few small steps each day, and we can explore a lot over time.

Second Key: Flip Failure on Its Head

Did you all see the video of Deepmind’s AI after it taught itself to walk? The amazing thing about this is that it did all of that through trial and error. Every single mistake was a lesson.

In fact, that’s similar to how we learn. We don’t know that our knowledge is wrong until we test it out and see whether it works. We can’t truly learn something new until we try and fail a bunch of times.

We all learned to walk that way … wobbly, falling down, until we got the hang of it. That’s also how we learned to talk, to feed ourselves with a spoon, etc. Sure, we had the benefit of being able to see examples of doing it right, but we had to try and fail a whole lot of times before we got it.

Unfortunately, at some point we start to fear failure, but that fear is just holding us back. Failure is really the learning process. Every loss at chess, every falling down when we’re learning a backflip … those are lessons.

So instead of looking at failure as “bad,” we have to flip it on its head. Failure is a lesson, an opportunity to get better, a wise old teacher telling us where we need to focus our learning efforts.

When you fail, smile and say thank you for the lesson.

Third Key: Find Enjoyment in the Process

It’s a tough thing when we feel we’re not making progress, that things are moving too slowly. We want to get to expert level (or at least “advanced beginner”) as quickly as we can, and when it takes five times as long, we can get frustrated.

The answer is to forget about the pace of our progress, but just focus on enjoying the process of learning.

It’s like when you go on a hike, and you’re fixed on getting to your beautiful destination … but it’s a long journey, and you get frustrated by how long it’s taking. Instead, focusing on the journey itself is a better way of traveling. Enjoy the scenery, the exertion, the beauty of each step.

When we’re learning, instead of focusing on where we want to be, we can enjoy the particular focus we’re studying right now. We can be grateful for where we are, for having the opportunity to learn at all. We can enjoy the falling down, and any progress we’ve made so far.

Whenever we find ourselves wishing things were moving faster, that’s a good sign to change focus to where we are.

Fourth Key: Learn to Relish Uncertainty

I think the uncertainty of learning something new, of being in such a foreign place, is probably the most difficult thing. We don’t like that uncertainty, and we usually shy away from it.

With conscious practice, we can change our feeling about uncertainty. We can start to find the joy in this place of not knowing, of not being in complete control, of not having solid ground under our feet. That might sound weird, but it’s possible.

Let’s take a few examples:

  • You’re learning to play Go, and you are playing your first few games. You keep losing, you don’t have any idea where you should play, you worry that every stone you place is a big mistake. This is a place of uncertainty. Can you enjoy this process of trying something and not knowing how it will turn out? Be curious about what might happen when you play your moves? See it as an exciting opportunity to experiment, to explore, to play and have fun!
  • When you’re learning a language, you might be deeply afraid of speaking, because you don’t know what you’re doing (uncertainty). But if you don’t speak, you’ll never learn. So instead of fearing this uncertainty, you dive in and make a complete fool of yourself. Better to be a fool who’s learning than the chicken who doesn’t learn anything new. It’s like dancing wildly with random moves in the middle of a crowd … just have fun being silly! You can do the same thing with speaking a new language — try it, look foolish, enjoy this place of wild abandon.
  • When you’re learning to play music, you can get stuck on the certainty of learning songs from sheet music, because it’s easy to just follow pre-written instructions. But you don’t really learn until you put the sheet music away and try to play the song on your own. And you really learn when you try to play without following someone else’s pre-written music — just playing your own song, riffing and making it up as you play. Of course it’s much more uncertain, and will probably suck. But so what? Just have fun and make stuff up. Relish this place of creation and uncertainty.

So uncertainty can be enjoyed if we think of it as play. If we think of it as creation, learning, exploration, curiosity, finding out, experimenting, openness and newness. It’s courage.

Be courageous today, and put yourself in a place of uncertainty. And then let your heart fill up with the freedom of not knowing and flying without a plan.

from zen habits

The 4 Keys to Learning Anything