9 Things You Never See Successful People Do

Here’s what successful people avoid, and why you should, too.

BY CHAD PERRY, VP of Sales, Motivosity

It’s fun to read lists of what makes successful people tick.

Their morning rituals. Their habits. Their goal-setting routines. The things they do before calling it a day. What they eat for lunch.

But sometimes, it’s interesting to see what they don’t do.

In life, simplicity is more. Less is more.

In that spirit, here are a few things to do less of, so that you can experience more success.

Never Live in the Past

Individuals that live in the past miss seeing what the future holds. They’re blinded by what could have been, instead of seeing what can be.

Unsuccessful people trade yesterday for today, and forfeit tomorrow.

You can let your past shape you, but don’t let it imprison you.

Respect Risk, Don’t Fear It

The fear of risk will lead to a lifetime of regret. That’s because when you don’t take that occasional risk, you’ll spend a lifetime looking back and wondering “if only” and “what if?”

Educate yourself. Do your homework. Trust your gut.

But don’t be afraid to jump every now and then, even when the only thing you can see is what your imagination believes.

Never Dwell on Failure

We live in a world obsessed with perfection. With winning. With succeeding at every attempt. With participation trophies.

The reality is: That’s not real.

Success doesn’t come without bumps and bruises. Great wins rarely come without great losses.

If you fail, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and keep going.

(Nobody is watching that close anyway.)

Never Make Excuses

Excuses come because you’re afraid to take a risk. They come because you tried and failed.

Sometimes they come because you didn’t try…and you failed.

If you didn’t try, don’t cover it up with an excuse. You were lazy. No one will buy it.

Go back and try again.

Never Hold a Grudge, Ever

Let it go.

Holding a grudge is living in a past that you can never change.

Holding a grudge will only keep holding you back. Not them.

Never Hold Others Back

If someone else succeeds, it doesn’t mean you fail. There’s plenty to go around.

Let them try, and win.

Be a gracious winner, and an even bigger cheerleader.

Never Rely on Luck

The funny thing about luck?

It finds the people who look for it, not the ones who are waiting for it.

Unless you’re playing the lottery, your chances of finding luck increase the more you’re out there working, hustling, and not taking no for an answer.

Successful people find luck because they work at it.

Never Waste Time

Not wasting time isn’t the same thing as always being busy.

It means making time count.

It means not trading your valuable and limited time for something of little worth.

Unlike a bank account, you cannot increase the amount of time you have. Once you use it, it’s gone. There’s no getting more of it.

Choose carefully how you invest your time.

Never Accept Limitations

Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run his first time at bat.

Michael Jordan didn’t sink a three-pointer on his first attempt.

Tiger Woods didn’t hit a hole-in-one on his first swing.

Being successful takes practice. It takes courage. It takes persistence to work through the kinks.

Each of us has brilliance in us. You just have to get beyond the limitations you create in your own mind to find out how successful you can become.

 

MaxCo Advisors, October 2016

Love Can Beat This.

Written by Mauricio Estrella

In the heat of arguing, it’s human nature to do our best to win. However, arguing can get quite irrational when we lose focus of what we’re trying to resolve. If we’re not focused on solving a problem, we’re wasting time and energy that can be diverted into something more positive.

In a bad argument, our empathy for the other person disappears, and we become self-centered and defensive. We basically turn into angry, snappy Chihuahuas or cursing sailors. All that matters is our own perspective on the problem. Our proposal to resolve it. Our solution. Screw everything and everybody else.

But what if we’re wrong?

How do we know we’re right if we’re focused on forcing our reasoning onto the other person? Some people just can’t handle arguments.

For many, a sudden spike of adrenaline during an argument directly proceeds a bout of cursing. It happens right before they throw a plate off the table. Before slamming a door. Before sending an angry email. Or right before physical aggression. Losing control of an argument can end in terrifying ways.

The journey to conquering a problem is tedious enough. I’d rather have an extremely simple shortcut than a deep and detailed run-down of methods and processes to do so. I try to focus on finding paths—and in the case of a heated disagreement, I tried to find a direct path, a shortcut, to resolve conflicts.

To put things in the context: My fiancée is Chinese, I’m Ecuadorian, so cultural differences do make an impact in our lives. Sometimes these differences are funny. Sometimes they’re not.

Here’s my recipe for navigating conflict.

Step 1: Shut up

It’s such a waste of time to spend your energy arguing. Once the discussion reaches the point when you’re irrational, there’s no way in the world you’re gonna end up victorious. Instead, you’re gonna end up sleeping on the couch. Eating some ugly microwaveable food. Watching TV till late. Drinking a beer on your own, pretending you’re reflecting on your brilliance.

Why go through all of this? Just…shut up. Let the silence embrace your anger. Put a pause to the conflict.

Breathe.

Step 2: Turn around

I came up with the idea of sitting (or standing), leaning my back against my girlfriend’s back whenever a discussion heated up and we needed to resolve a dispute over something.

That’s right.

“Stand, or sit down, and lean your back against the other person’s back.” —Me, scientist.

Step 3: Continue arguing

That’s right. Continue where you left. With the same energy. Just imagine you’re still facing the other person, as if nothing has changed, and watch how magic happens.

After a couple of minutes, this always helps to end the discussion. Thanks to this method, we have learned a lot about ourselves and each other. And saved countless moments of angry body language and words bouncing between the walls of our home.

But how?

“What happens is that the arguing immediately becomes more objective.” —Me, scientist.

There’s no better way to realize if you’re right or wrong than speaking with yourself, with honesty. Honesty, however, is hard to achieve when we can’t control our emotions and interactions.

By standing back-against-back, you no longer have another person across the room to argue with. You become vulnerable, because your words are aimed at nobody in front of you. You’re on your own, looking at a corner of the room. Your voice reflects off the walls and yells back at you. You will hear what the other person in the room hears. It’s a wonderful experience.

“You will trick your mind. For your brain, it is illogical to be arguing with nobody. Your mind’s logical self-preservation instinct will fight against doing something as dumb as yelling at the air.” —Me, psycholoscientist.

You will be more clear and objective and think, “Well, I do have a point!” or maybe, “Oh, this is wrong. I am wrong.”

For me and my fiancée, it usually takes a few minutes to end the discussion for good. The best part is when you turn around and you get to face the person who you just agreed with.

Step 4: Turn around again, and enjoy your peace

This is exceptional with couples. It’s a moment of relief and happiness where you go: “Ah! There she is!” or “Ah! There he is!” Feel the beauty of a peaceful moment.

This often ends with a silly smirk, a tiny laugh. Or a slap. Or sex. Or both. Depends. Results may vary.

This post originally appeared at Medium.

MaxCo Advisors, September 2016

Trying To Make Other People Happy Is Counter-Productive

I really like this article, written by Christine Carter. I’d encourage you to read it completely.


People ask me all the time what the secret to happiness is. “If you had to pick just one thing,” they wonder, “what would be the most important thing for leading a happy life?”

Ten years ago, I would have told you a regular gratitude practice was the most important thing—and while that is still my favorite instant happiness booster, my answer has changed. I believe the most important thing for happiness is living truthfully. Here’s the specific advice I recently gave my kids:

Live with total integrity. Be transparent, honest, and authentic. Do not ever waiver from this—white lies and false smiles quickly snowball into a life lived out of alignment. It is better to be yourself and risk having people not like you than to suffer the stress and tension that comes from pretending to be someone you’re not, or professing to like something that you don’t. I promise you: Pretending will rob you of joy.

I’ve spent the better part of my life as a people-pleaser—trying to meet other people’s expectations, trying to keep everyone happy and liking me. But when we are trying to please others, we are usually out of sync with our own wants and needs. It’s not that it’s bad to be thinking of others. It’s that pleasing others is not the same as helping others.

People pleasing, in my extensive personal experience, is a process of guessing what other people want, or what will make them think favorably of us, and then acting accordingly. It’s an often subtle and usually unconscious attempt at manipulating other people’s perceptions of us. Anytime we pretend to be something we aren’t or feel something we don’t, we lose personal integrity.

And any time we’re doing something that is more about influencing what others think of us than authentically expressing ourselves—even something as simple as a Facebook post that makes it seem like we are having a better day than we actually are—we lose personal integrity.

Losing integrity has pretty serious consequences for our happiness, and for our relationships. Here’s what happens when we aren’t being authentic:

  1. We don’t actually fool anyone

Say you are at work, and you’re doing your best to put on a happy face even though your home life is feeling shaky. You may not want to reveal to your work friends that you and your significant other had a major fight over the weekend, but if you pretend that you are okay—and you’re not—you’ll probably make the people around you feel worse, too. Why?

We humans aren’t actually very good at hiding how we are feeling. We exhibit micro-expressions that the people we are with might not consciously register, but that trigger their mirror neurons—so a little part of their brain thinks that they are feeling our negative feelings. Trying to suppress negative emotions when we are talking with someone—like when we don’t want to trouble someone else with our own distress—actually increases the stress levels of both people more than if we had shared our distress in the first place. (It also reduces rapport and inhibits the connection between two people.)

  1. We find it harder to focus

Pretending takes a huge conscious effort—it’s an act of self-control that drains your brain of its power to focus and do deep work. That’s because performing—or pretending to be or feel something you’re not—requires tremendous willpower.

Tons of research suggests that our ability to repeatedly exert our self-control is actually quite limited. Like a muscle that tires and can no longer perform at its peak strength after a workout, our self-control is diminished by previous efforts at control, even if those efforts take place in a totally different realm.

So that little fib at the water cooler you told in order to make yourself seem happier than you are is going to make it hard for you to focus later in the afternoon. A performance—or any attempt to hide who you really are, or pretend to be something you aren’t—is later going to make it harder to control your attention and your thoughts, and to regulate your emotions. It’ll increase the odds that you react more aggressively to provocation, eat more tempting snacks, engage in riskier behaviors, and—this one is pretty compelling to me—perform more poorly on tasks that require executive function, like managing your time, planning, or organizing.

  1. We become more stressed and anxious

Let’s just call it like it is: Pretending to be or feel something that you don’t—even if it is a small thing, and even if it is relatively meaningless, and even if it is meant to protect someone else—is a lie – and it’s exhausting.

And lying, even if we do it a lot or are good at it, is very stressful to our brains and our bodies. The polygraph test depends on this: “Lie detectors” don’t actually detect lies, but rather they detect the subconscious stress and fear that lying causes. These tests sense changes in our skin conductivity, pulse rate, and breathing. They also detect when someone’s vocal pitch has changed in a nearly imperceptible way, a consequence of tension in the body that tightens vocal chords.

The physiological changes that lie detectors sense are caused by glucocorticoids—hormones that are released during a stress response. And as you well know, stress hormones are bad news for your health and happiness over the long run.

Research shows that people who are given instructions for how to lie less in their day-to-day lives are actually able to lie less—and when they do, their physical health improves. For example, they report less trouble sleeping, less tension, fewer headaches, and fewer sore throats. These improvements in health are likely caused by the relative absence of a stress response.

And that’s not all: When the people in the above study lied less, they also reported improvements in their relationships, and decreased anxiety.

We don’t lie or pretend or perform all the time, of course. But when we do, it’s important to see the consequences: increased stress, decreased willpower, impaired relationships. Although we might actually be trying to feel better by putting on a happy face for others, pretending always backfires in the end. Living in-authentically makes life hard and cuts us off from our sweet spot—that place where we have both ease and power.

This post originally appeared at ChristineCarter.com.

MaxCo Advisors, September 2016

Other Changes Hong Kong Forced Tesla To Make To Its Driving Software

Written by Paul Smalera

Funny.

Tesla HK

Update Succeeded–What’s New in This Update

At the request of the Hong Kong Transport Department, the milk frothing function of the glovebox espresso machine has been disabled. The Hong Kong Transport Department has determined that cappuccinos and lattes have no bearing on the drivability of the car and therefore should not be offered in Tesla vehicles in Hong Kong. Tesla Motors regrets that Hong Kong customers will now only be able to consume espressos and Americanos in their Teslas–unlike customers in the rest of the world, where this feature will remain available.

Also at the request of the Hong Kong Transport Department, Tesla cars will automatically skip any musical tracks performed by Huey Lewis and the News. The Hong Kong Transport Department has determined that Huey Lewis and the News’s clear, crisp sound and sheen of consummate professionalism has no bearing on the drivability of the car. The Hong Kong Transport Department has therefore determined that Huey Lewis and the News’s bitter, cynical sense of humor should not be offered in Tesla vehicles in Hong Kong. Tesla Motors customers in Hong Kong who attempt to play Huey Lewis and the News songs on their standard or premium sound system will have those tracks automatically substituted with Elvis Costello’s Alison–unlike customers in the rest of the world, where Huey Lewis and the News will remain available.

By separate request from the Hong Kong Transport Department, Tesla cars are now programmed to say the words “coconut ice cream” over and over through the external loudspeaker whenever the car is is stopped at a traffic light or autoparking itself. The Hong Kong Transport Department has determined that coconut ice cream is a tasty treat and the general public should be reminded of its existence when Tesla cars are within earshot of pedestrians. The Hong Kong Transport Department has determined that repeatedly announcing “coconut ice cream” has no bearing on the drivability of the car. Based on this request, Tesla is proudly unveiling a new feature for customers in the rest of the world, who are now able to program the announcement of any sweet dessert they choose while the car is in these modes. (Savory dessert functionality will be released in a future update.) Customers can program this feature via the calendar app.

MaxCo Advisors, June 2016

Purdah – A Rule That Aims To Stop Officials From Prejudicing Voters.

An approach that the US could benefit from, too.

These are trying times for voters in the US and the UK. Stateside, Americans must contend with the rise of Donald Trump. Across the pond, British citizens are preparing to vote on whether to leave the European Union, known as Brexit.

Trump’s unlikely rise to prominence and the Brexit vote are each driven by many of the same issues—nationalism, xenophobia, and a pervasive sense of economic impotence. But as a dual citizen of both the US and the UK, I’ve been struck by the vast differences in how each of the countries campaign. Nowhere is this difference more pronounced than in the UK’s convention of the purdah, which goes into effect today and limits what government officials can do and say for the four-week period before UK citizens head to the polls on June 23rd.

Purdah is a Persian word that means “curtain” or “veil.” Also sometimes referred to as the “period of sensitivity,” it describes “the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants are in place.” So although prime minister David Cameron is on the record as being against the UK leaving the EU (despite, illogically, calling for the referendum himself), from this point forward he will not be able to use his office to enact any policy or publicity that might sway the public.

Meanwhile, during the general election in 2015, official guidance stated that ministers were expected to postpone “decisions on matters of policy on which a new Government might … take a different view from the present Government” and “not to undertake any activity which could call into question their political impartiality.”

Stephen Fisher is a sociology professor at Oxford University’s Trinity College who studies elections. He says the purdah convention is reflective of a larger approach to British elections that is starkly different from America’s. You can find a hint of that disparity, he says, in the language used in each nation.

“There is a calmer approach to the way that elections and political competitions are conducted in Britain compared to the US.”

“In the US you ‘run for office’ and in Britain you ‘stand for election,’” Fisher says. “There is a calmer, less dynamic, and less frantic approach to the way that elections and political competitions are conducted in Britain compared to the US. There is a longer cycle and different electoral law, and there was traditionally much more of a sense of [having] large periods of time when people weren’t focusing on trying to win the next election.”

The purdah was passed relatively recently in 2000 as part of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act. However, according to Dr Andrew Blick, a lecturer in politics and contemporary history at Kings College London, “the idea that ministers should not abuse their position to serve clearly party political ends long predates 2000.” The purdah does not apply to designated campaigners—so candidates can still be on the stump right up until election day. Rather, it applies to government ministers and departments, local authorities, and bodies funded with taxpayer money, excluding the BBC.

The purdah is not the only restriction on UK elections. The Electoral Commission limits campaign expenditure within what is called the “regulated period.” In the case of the Brexit referendum, this period began on April 15th, 10 weeks before the vote. Any individual or group who spends more than £10,000 campaigning for one side must register and report their spending. During 2015’s general election, meanwhile, the regulated period was just under 12 months. Spending limits were capped within that time frame for both sides.

The idea that voters should have time to debate and contemplate issues without hype from politicians is novel to my American ears.

Fisher says that in practice, one of the most tangible outcomes of the purdah is that it inconveniences the government, which can’t push policy along as effectively when it’s in place. For this reason, David Cameron attempted to prevent a purdah from being applied to the upcoming referendum. But the idea that those in power should not be allowed to put the full machinery of the government behind their own election aims is a hugely refreshing departure from the near-constant election chatter in the US.

It’s important to note that the purdah doesn’t apply to the media. It’s hard to judge with any certainty the effect that silencing government and civil servants has on the ensuing media coverage in the run-up to an election. Fisher posits that the restriction tends to cause a “front-loading” of government reports, such as Monday’s Treasury report, which warned of “immediate and profound shock to [the] economy” if Britain votes to leave. Regardless, the idea that voters should have time to debate and contemplate issues without hype from politicians is novel to my American ears.

In recent weeks, the US media has indulged in self-flagellation over the idea that they “created Trump” by giving him endless free publicity ($2 billion worth, according to The New York Times). But a more compelling explanation for Trump’s rise may be that he is the inevitable product of a political system that is more focused on campaigning than governing.

Trump is the inevitable product of a political system that is more focused on campaigning than governing.

US election cycles have stretched to become a two-year bloodbath. If you consider what political scientists call the “rule of anticipated importance,” Trump benefited from a long period where he could convince the electorate of how much he mattered. In that time, there were also comparatively few restrictions on what he could spend.

But what if Trump had campaigned in a climate that had an aim of civic impartiality? What if running for office wasn’t a money-raising contest, and campaigning mid-way through a sitting president’s term was viewed as counter to the nation’s best interests? In that alternative scenario, I have a hunch Trump’s main assets—storytelling and deep pockets—might not have gotten him so far.

The debate around Brexit has certainly been fervent and, at times, ugly. But at least it hasn’t been long. The date of the referendum was only announced in February, giving the saga just four months to unfold.

Given the seemingly endless slog of the US election, it’s hard not to yearn for a similar spirit of electoral restraint in America. Until then, I’ll be counting down the 164 days until November 8th.

MaxCo Advisors, May 2016

20 Misused English Words That Make Smart People Look Silly

We’re all tempted to use words that we’re not too familiar with. If this were the only problem, I wouldn’t have much to write about. That’s because we’re cautious with words we’re unsure of and, thus, they don’t create much of an issue for us. It’s the words that we think we’re using correctly that wreak the most havoc. We throw them around in meetings, e-mails and important documents (such as resumes and client reports), and they land, like fingernails across a chalkboard, on everyone who has to hear or read them. We’re all guilty of this from time to time, especially myself.

When I write, I usually ask an editor friend who is an expert in grammar to review my articles before I post them online. It’s bad enough to have a roomful of people witness your blunder—it’s something else entirely to stumble in front of many others. The point is, we can all benefit from opportunities to sharpen the saw and minimize our mistakes. Often, it’s the words we perceive as being more correct or sophisticated that don’t really mean what we think they do. There are 20 such words that have a tendency to make even really smart people stumble.

Have a look to see which of these commonly confused words throw you off.

Accept vs. Except

These two words sound similar but have very different meanings. Accept means to receive something willingly: “His mom accepted his explanation” or “She accepted the gift graciously.” Except signifies exclusion: “I can attend every meeting except the one next week.” To help you remember, note that both except and exclusion begin with ex.

Affect vs. Effect

To make these words even more confusing than they already are, both can be used as either a noun or a verb. Let’s start with the verbs. Affect means to influence something or someone; effect means to accomplish something. “Your job was affected by the organizational restructuring” but “These changes will be effected on Monday.” As a noun, an effect is the result of something: “The sunny weather had a huge effect on sales.” It’s almost always the right choice because the noun affect refers to an emotional state and is rarely used outside of psychological circles: “The patient’s affect was flat.”

Lie vs. Lay

We’re all pretty clear on the lie that means an untruth. It’s the other usage that trips us up. Lie also means to recline: “Why don’t you liedown and rest?” Lay requires an object: “Lay the book on the table.” Lieis something you can do by yourself, but you need an object to lay. It’s more confusing in the past tense. The past tense of lie is—you guessed it—lay: “I lay down for an hour last night.” And the past tense of lay is laid: “I laid the book on the table.”

Bring vs. Take

Bring and take both describe transporting something or someone from one place to another, but the correct usage depends on the speaker’s point of view. Somebody brings something to you, but you take it to somewhere else: “Bring me the mail, then take your shoes to your room.” Just remember, if the movement is toward you, use bring; if the movement is away from you, use take.

Ironic vs. Coincidental

A lot of people get this wrong. If you break your leg the day before a ski trip, that’s not ironic—it’s coincidental (and bad luck). Ironic has several meanings, all of which include some type of reversal of what was expected. Verbal irony is when a person says one thing but clearly means another. Situational irony is when a result is the opposite of what was expected. O. Henry was a master of situational irony. In his famous short story The Gift of the Magi, Jim sells his watch to buy combs for his wife’s hair, and she sells her hair to buy a chain for Jim’s watch. Each character sold something precious to buy a gift for the other, but those gifts were intended for what the other person sold. That is true irony. If you break your leg the day before a ski trip, that’s coincidental. If you drive up to the mountains to ski, and there was more snow back at your house, that’s ironic.

Imply vs. Infer

To imply means to suggest something without saying it outright. To infer means to draw a conclusion from what someone else implies. As a general rule, the speaker/writer implies, and the listener/reader infers.

Nauseous vs. Nauseated

Nauseous has been misused so often that the incorrect usage is accepted in some circles. Still, it’s important to note the difference. Nauseous means causing nausea; nauseated means experiencing nausea. So, if your circle includes ultra-particular grammar sticklers, never say “I’m nauseous” unless you want them to be snickering behind your back.

Comprise vs. Compose

These are two of the most commonly misused words in the English language. Comprise means to include; compose means to make up. It all comes down to parts versus the whole. When you use comprise, you put the whole first: “A soccer game comprises (includes) two halves.” When you use compose, you put the pieces first: “Fifty states compose (make up) the United States of America.”

Farther vs. Further

Farther refers to physical distance, while further describes the degree or extent of an action or situation. “I can’t run any farther,” but “I have nothing further to say.” If you can substitute “more” or “additional,” use further.

Fewer vs. Less

Use fewer when you’re referring to separate items that can be counted; use less when referring to a whole: “You have fewer dollars, but less money.”

Bringing it all together

English grammar can be tricky, and, a lot of times, the words that sound right are actually wrong. With words such as those listed above, you just have to memorize the rules so that when you are about to use them, you’ll catch yourself in the act and know for certain that you’ve written or said the right one.

MaxCo Advisors, May 2016

The Importance Of Breaking Free Of … Yourself

By Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh, Harvard University

 

We know countless students who entered college thinking, “I’m going to figure out who I am, and then make my life plan, and hopefully have an impact on the world.” After all, it’s how you were raised, and it’s the message you heard — from your parents, from school counselors, from the culture at large — about how to have a good and flourishing life.

But now that you’re graduating, you might be wondering if you did all you were supposed to have done. You haven’t figured out your calling. You haven’t found your passions. You haven’t found yourself. Instead, you are taking a gap year. You’ve taken a job offer but aren’t sure it’s for you. You’re headed for law school even though you really didn’t plan on being a lawyer. Rather than feeling liberated by a four-year search for your true self, you ended up feeling anxious, oppressed, and constrained by it.

Our recommendation: Read Confucius, Mencius, Zhuangzi, and other great Chinese thinkers who lived thousands of years ago, because they have the real liberation you are looking for.

For instance, instead of embracing your self, Confucius urged, overcome your self. Break from who you think you are, because that is how you will change and grow.

Don’t feel pressured to make firm plans for the person you think you are now and will be years hence. They will box you in. You will wake up decades from now wondering how you are living a life decided on by who you believed you truly were when you were 21 years old. Instead, keep living life for the as-yet unknown person you will keep on morphing into; keep the possibilities open.

This is why, when students encounter Chinese philosophy, they are often relieved to learn that there was a group of thinkers who thought hard 2,000 years ago about the very same things on their own undergraduate minds.

These philosophers had keen insights into human psychology. What they discovered sounds bleak at first. They saw us for who we are: messy creatures, full of contradictions and anxieties, petty jealousies, complicated feelings, ambitions, hopes, longings, and fears.

Not only that, they saw us each of us bumping up against other messy creatures all day long. This is what it means to be on this earth: our lives are composed almost entirely of the relationships we have with those around us.

For most of us, those relationships aren’t easy. That’s because, as these philosophers understood well, as we endlessly bump up against each other, loving one another, trying to get along, we tend to fall into patterns of behavior. We react in the same predictable ways. Encounters with people draw out a variety of emotions and reactions from us: One sort of comment will almost invariably draw out feelings of anger, while a certain gesture from someone else might elicit a feeling of calm. Our days are spent being passively pulled in one direction or another depending on who we encounter or what situations we are in. Worse still, these passive reactions have a cascading effect. We react even to the subtlest signals from those around us. A smile or a frown on a passerby can cause a slight change in our mood in an instant. The reactive patterns we get stuck in — sometimes good, but more often, bad — ripple outward and affect others too.

That’s why the Chinese philosophers would have found our penchant for thinking of the self as singular and true, something we dig deep to discover within, as incredibly dangerous. We think we know ourselves, what makes us tick: that we tend to blow up over small things, or that tests make us anxious; that we are perfectionists or slobs. But when we define who we are, we are all too often labeling ourselves according to these passive patterns, unhealthy ruts, and automatic rote reactions.

Our philosophers’ ideas were supremely doable. One of the most important things they suggested was to engage in rituals, of all things.

“But how can that be?” you ask. “How could rituals be liberating?”

Engaging in rituals in a Confucian sense, though, is transformative. Confucian rituals — or “as if” rituals — come from the small conventional things we do all the time. When you pass a friend on the street and smile and say hi as if you weren’t just stressing over a bad exam grade you got, you’re engaging in an as-if ritual . When you’re tempted to roll your eyes over something your annoying cousin said, but instead respond as if what she said was insightful, you’re engaging in an as-if ritual.

Yes, these moments go against our authentic, true feelings. They can feel fake, or like we’re being nice for politeness’ sake.

But Confucius saw value in such rituals — if we do them ritually, and not rotely —precisely because they go against your authentic, true feelings and thus have the potential to allow you to become a different, and a better, person for a brief moment. The more you consciously engage in such moments the more you cultivate yourself. You train yourself not to always act true to yourself, in order to behave better.

And such pedestrian moments throughout the day are not the only chance we have to break from who we really are. You can also actively choose other ways to go against your idea of what is really you.

As you grew up your parents, and you, paid attention to what you were good at, and you learned how to play to your strengths. By now you know that you like videogaming or museums, math or music, you hate track but you love soccer. You learned to narrow down and focus on your interests and strengths, to choose your classes and extracurriculars carefully and plan things out in order to move efficiently towards the future.

But by focusing down on what you are good at or what you love in order to hone your strengths and interests, you ended up inadvertently doing something else: training yourself to cut out other things that could lead you in all sorts of unprecedented, unpredictable directions. Instead of being directed and efficient, you end up closing yourself off from new experience.

The way out is to deliberately go against the focused, the narrow, or what you love. Intentionally seek out things you don’t love, aren’t good at. Pay attention to interests you think you have no time for; choose experiences precisely because they are so not you.

The point is not to develop well roundedness, nor is it to develop expertise in a new area. The point is to get in the habit of expanding your perspective and expanding your life. It’s to practice constantly engaging in anything that that forces you away from the constraints that come from living as a singular, authentic self. You’re opening yourself up to living life as a series of breaks: breaks from your true feelings, your true interests, your true strengths.

The end result of all of this? As you cultivate your ability to break from yourself, you will continue to grow and change. As you cultivate your goodness, it slowly becomes second nature and radiates outward. Your kindness, rooted in the mundane and everyday, extends from the family and friends around you to town, region, nation, world.

That’s why our Chinese philosophers would say: don’t discover who you are, let alone embrace what you find. Instead of choosing self-acceptance, choose self-cultivation. Instead of embracing yourself, overcome yourself. This is not just how you become a flourishing adult. It is the best way to create a flourishing world.

This post has been adapted from the authors’ new book, “The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life,”