We know that different types of triggers can cause us to fall back into certain habits, but actually doing something about that is harder than it seems. Over on NPR, a handful of psychologists explain how altering a physical place can help you break bad habits.
Over time, we integrate our habits into our environment and the environment itself becomes a trigger. The trigger itself isn’t always obvious either, sometimes it’s nothing more than a door:
“For a smoker, the view of the entrance to their office building — which is a place that they go to smoke all the time — becomes a powerful mental cue to go and perform that behavior,” Neal says.
Over time those cues become so deeply ingrained that they are very hard to resist. And so we smoke at the entrance to work when we don’t want to. We sit on the couch and eat ice cream when we don’t need to, despite our best intentions, despite our resolutions…
To battle bad behaviors then, one answer is to disrupt the environment in some way. Even small changes can help — like eating the ice cream with your nondominant hand. What this does is disrupt the learned body sequence that’s driving the behavior, which allows your conscious mind to come back online and reassert control.
Of course, adapting to your triggers is going to be different, but if you’re struggling to get into a good habit (or break a bad one), look around and see if you can do things a little differently.
The fancy digital, pedometer-bracelet thingy around my wrist tells me I slept six hours and 25 minutes with four interruptions. As I struggle to awake, my body can tell you, that isn’t nearly enough.
An estimated 70 million Americans are sleep-deprived, according to the National Sleep Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many nights, I am among them.
Aside from the health risks associated with inadequate sleep, such as depression, memory and attention issues, mood disorders, and the higher risk of physical illness, researchers at the University of Oxford now believe a lack of sleep or poor sleep quality may also contribute to brain shrinkage. That thought alone might keep you up at night.
Sleep is essential to repair and restore the brain, says lead researcher Claire Sexton. If the repair process is interrupted by a sleepless night, brain function also can be affected. In her study, participants who experienced poor sleep also showed brain shrinkage in the three lobes of the brain linked to decision-making, movement, emotions, thoughts, memory and learning, according to the study published in the journal Neurology.
It doesn’t take a study to remind us that sleep is essential, but for many getting a good night’s sleep begins long before bedtime.
Parents of young children talk often and even obsess about how to get their kids to sleep. When my daughter was a toddler, we put her on a sleep schedule.
Every night beginning an hour or so before bed, we followed the same routine, a ritual of sorts, to help her wind down and get primed for sleep. We turned off the television, dressed her in her pajamas, brushed her teeth, snuggled in the rocking chair, read books, and finally, after she was tucked in with lights out, we sang some little songs. By the time we left her room, she was, most nights, ready to rest.
A sleep schedule or consistent sleep-priming routine also can help adults get better sleep. Here are five things to include in your routine:
Turn off all devices. Starting two hours before bed, shut down the smartphones, computers, televisions sets and other electronics that emit blue light waves. This light throws off our natural rhythms, making it harder to sleep.
Eat early and wisely. If you are an evening snacker, nibble on a few crackers and a slice of cheese, or another small protein/carb combo at least two hours before bed. Also lay off caffeine and alcohol in the evening hours.
Turn down the lights. When darkness falls, turn off (or at least dim) the lights in the house. Our bodies are sensitive to the natural day and night light patterns called circadian rhythms. When the sun rises, the light helps us wake up and become alert and our bodies secrete cortisol. When darkness falls, our bodies are infused with sleep-inducing melatonin. But here’s the rub: artificial lighting throws off those biological rhythms, suppresses the release of melatonin, and makes it hard to sleep. Keeping things dark at night and exposing yourself to natural light during the day will help.
Release the niggling negative thoughts. After you’ve created a sleep-promoting environment, choose a relaxing activity such as meditation, a hot bath, deep breathing exercises, journal writing or something else that allows you to release the day’s stress. Sometimes, I practice mindfulness while brushing my teeth and washing my face as a way to release bad feelings and promote calm.No matter which you choose, do use this time to quietly observe, without judgment, your thoughts and concerns and then release them. This will keep you from ruminating into the early hours
Go to bed. Finally, after you’ve gone through your sleep routine, head to bed, turn off the light and lie down. Even if you don’t feel like sleep, it’s important that you develop the habit by lying down in bed and getting up at the same time, every single day. It may take a few days, but soon your body will catch on that it’s time to sleep when you lie down in bed.
In this hectic, heavily-booked culture we live in, a sleep schedule may seem like a cumbersome way to get rest. But anything that will help you sleep better will also improve your physical health, daytime productivity, mental resilience and even your relationships. Sleep could just be the simplest way to boost overall health and happiness.
Polly Campbell is a sought-after motivational speaker and the author of two books, Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People and How to Reach Enlightenment.
Deep breathing has become increasingly important in my recovery from depression and anxiety because I recognize that shallow breath contributes to my panic. In fact, at my worst hours, I would use a paper bag to keep from hyperventilating.
The practice of deep breathing stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), responsible for activities that occur when our body is at rest. It functions in opposite to the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates activities associated with the flight-or-fight response. I like to the think of the PNS as the calm sister and the sympathetic nervous system as the non-sympathetic crazy sister on the verge of a nervous breakdown. You know that woman in the movie “Airplane” that’s wigging out (watch this clip), and there is a line behind her of people with weapons saying “Get a hold of yourself.” The woman represents the sympathetic nervous system, and the long line of folks with bats, ropes, purses, etc. are members of the parasympathetic nervous system trying to calm the panicked passenger.
Of all the automatic functions of the body—cardiovascular, digestive, hormonal, glandular, immune–only the breath can be easily controlled voluntarily, explain Richard P. Brown, M.D. and Patricia L. Gerbarg, M.D. in their book, “The Healing Power of the Breath.” They write:
By voluntarily changing the rate, depth, and pattern of breathing, we can change the messages being sent from the body’s respiratory system to the brain. In this way, breathing techniques provide a portal to the autonomic communication network through which we can, by changing our breathing patterns, send specific messages to the brain using the language of the body, a language the brain understands and to which it responds. Messages from the respiratory system have rapid, powerful effects on major brain centers involved in thought, emotion, and behavior.
In their eight substantive chapters, the authors discuss several techniques of deep breathing to reduce stress and anxiety. They start off with three basic approaches which provide the building blocks for the others:
Coherent breathing is basically breathing at a rate of five breaths per minute, which is the middle of the resonant breathing rate range. I achieve this if I count to five inhaling and count to five exhaling. The five-minute rate maximizes the heart rate variability (HRV), a measurement of how well the parasympathetic nervous system is working. Brown and Bergarg explain that changing our rate and pattern of breath alters the HRV, which causes shifts in our nervous system. The higher the HRV the better because a higher HRV is associated with a healthier cardiovascular system and a stronger stress-response system. Breathing at a rate that is close to one’s ideal resonant rate (around five breaths per minute) can induce up to a tenfold improvement in HRV.
Resistance breathing is exactly what its name suggests: breathing that creates resistance to the flow of air. Per the authors:
Resistance can be created by pursing the lips, placing the tip of the tongue against the inside of the upper teeth, hissing through the clenched teeth, tightening the throat muscles, partly closing the glottis, narrowing the space between the vocal cords, or using an external object such as breathing through a straw.
All that sounds a bit complicated to me. Breathing should be easy, right? So I simply breathe out of my nose, which, according to Brown and Bergarg, creates more resistance than breathing through the mouth. I do think it’s interesting when they explain that singing and chanting – all musical sounds created by contracting vocal cords—are forms of resistance breathing, and that is why they provide that relaxed sensation you can get meditating (if you CAN meditate).
Breath Moving is when, well, the breath moves. Courtesy of your imagination. Brown compares this exercise to an internal massage. I’m not sure I’d go that far. I like the real deal. However, I do think sending your breath on a little journey around your body – as long as it doesn’t get too lost — does help you keep your concentration on the exercise and not on your to-do list because counting to five can get a little old. For example, here’s part of a circuit the authors offer in their book:
As you breathe in, imagine you are moving your breath to the top of your head.
As you breathe out, imagine you are moving your breath to the base of your spine, your perineum, your sit bones.
Each time you breathe in, move the breath to the top of the head.
Each time you breathe out, move the breath to the base of the spine.
Breathe in this circuit for ten cycles.
The history of Breath Moving is fascinating. According to the authors, the technique was created in large part by the Russian Christian Orthodox Hesychast monks around the eleventh century. The monks would teach the technique of moving the breath to the holy Russian warriors to help protect them from harm and to empower them as they defended their territory against invaders.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
– Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People
Have you ever been standing alone in a room full of strangers?
You don’t recognize anyone. You’re not even sure you belong there, and you have no idea what to say. You think about darting for the door or at least jumping on your phone so you don’t look like a total loser. Or maybe just the thought kept you from showing up in the first place.
I’ve been there. More than once.
But I can also link almost all of my business or personal success back to the friends I’ve met – often at events that could have felt just like that.
In a couple days, a lot of us will be heading to Portland for the World Domination Summit – probably my favorite event of the the year for hanging around people doing the things you didn’t think could be done.
When I first went to WDS, I knew two people and Live Your Legend was just an idea. I left on Monday morning with dozens of new friends. Friends who not only understood me, but who showed me a new type of possibility – one that landed me right here.
It is experiences like this that have made environment and connection the heart of how LYL helps people find and do work that matters. It’s why we created our How to Connect with Anyone community and it’s why I decided to create today’s rather in-depth guide.
Because it all starts with connection.
And nothing beats showing up in the real world.
As long as it’s actually fun… So this is meant to be a resource for you to return to before or during a live meetup of any kind – conference, event or just connecting with someone new at the cafe down the street. It’s all universal. If you’re headed to WDS, print this out for your flight and to refer to over the weekend – or for the next time you’ll be around a bunch of new faces.
Also, once you’re done, I’d love to hear your best in-person connection technique in the comments.
There’s a lot to cover, so I’ve broken things down into a few sections. Now, let’s make some friends…
32 Ways to Immediately Connect with Strangers at Live Events
I. Get Your Mind Right
None of this stuff works (or is any fun) if you aren’t coming from the right place…
1. See strangers as friends you haven’t met yet. Thinking about a room of strangers is often intimidating enough to keep you from ever showing up. It’s also usually not true. If you’ve picked an event that aligns with who you are, the people you’re about to meet are your people. Approach conversations knowing you have beliefs and ideas in common.
Reframing strangers as friends also makes it a lot easier to know what to do. With good friends, we listen, try to help, make introductions, remember names and talk about shared passions – all of which we’ll cover below. We do not try to dominate the conversation, shove our product or website down their throat or think about how we can use them to move up some ladder. Treat them as friends you’ve yet to meet and the rest of this stuff becomes pretty obvious.
2. Know that there’s possibility in every conversation. I’ve experienced enough serendipity to know that every new event or interaction has the potential to lead to a new friend, partner or idea. Approach new people that way and it starts to become self-fulfilling.
3. Realize everyone is as scared as you are. No matter how unknown or well known someone is, we all share fears of being in a room with no familiar faces, feeling lonely and not fitting in. That’s natural. Your situation is not special. It’s normal. As soon as you realize you’re in the same place as everyone around you, new faces start to feel a lot more welcoming.
4. Be there to help. Sure, you want to meet people to help build out whatever you’re working on, and that will come. But real connection is built from genuinely caring about serving the people around you. If that’s not your intention, then you’ve come to the wrong place and most of your efforts will backfire. Constantly come back to adding value. People will feel it and your conversations and results will be all the richer for it. Remember Carnegie’s quote above.
II. Make a Plan
Getting the most out of a live event starts long before you get there, so in the days or week leading up, lay out some groundwork…
5. Know and research people you want to meet. Some of the most important interactions often end up being the people you never saw coming. But you still want to create as much luck as possible. Write down the names and a few notes about the people you know will be there who you’d love to connect with. Do some research on their current projects and know what you want to say when you happen to connect. What idea could you share? What specific piece of their work could you sincerely and personally thank them for? Keep this on you during the event.
You could also make a Twitter list so you can follow and interact with them during the event. Thanks to Caleb at Fizzle for that one.
6. Reach out in advance. Go back through your list and send short notes of anticipation. Remind them who you are, let them know you’re excited to meet and how and when you hope to cross paths. Make it a super short email and follow with a couple tweets or other social mentions so they can associate your face with the name and note.
III. Show Up
Here’s what to do once you walk through the door…
7. Smile. I wish I didn’t have to mention it, but it’s too easy to forget when you’re immersed in new surroundings. Smiles are contagious. They show confidence. They make people want to be around you. Any smile is better than none, but also try not to grin like some connection-deprived clown.
8. Obey The 3-Second Rule. I first learned this from a professional pickup artist years ago, but it works magic with any new person. This is your 80/20 rule – it will lead to more interactions than anything else on this page. The rule is simple: When you see someone interesting to talk to, you have three seconds to walk up and say hello. Wait longer and you’ll either overthink it and screw it up or overthink it and never approach. Not sure what to say? It doesn’t matter. Anything is better than nothing, because it takes you from being a no-name in a sea of faces to being an actual person with a story (who had the courage to say hello). If it’s someone you’ve always wanted to meet, you’ll at least be able to open by thanking them for their work and how it’s impacted you.
I shared this rule at my How to Connect With Anyone talk at WDS in 2012 and the next day, a woman named Erica wrote me an email. Here’s one sentence from it:
“I am a very nervous introvert but after finishing your workshop, I went on to meet roughly 70 people in one afternoon and 115 in one weekend!”
She included the list of people she’d met. This stuff works.
Here’s a little bonus video on The 3-Second Rule from Module 2 of our How to Connect With Anyone course on Overcoming Approach Anxiety & Creating Instant Physical Rapport.
9. Warm up. The 3-Second Rule isn’t just for people you recognize. Use it to talk to anyone who looks interesting. And in the beginning, apply it to everyone you see. It’s just like warming up for a race or big talk. You gotta get some reps in and build confidence. Do that by saying hello to anyone you can, when there’s nothing at stake.
10. Take notes. Write down names and memorable details immediately after meeting someone. I keep a list in my iPhone. You could even do this during your chat as long as you tell them what you’re doing – that you really care about remembering their name and following up about something cool they’ve mentioned. They’ll probably be flattered. Better to use a paper notebook than phone if doing this in person, so they don’t think you’re distracted. Notes will make you much more likely to remember them during the event and follow up with something meaningful once it’s over.
11. Know names. No excuses here. No one’s good with names unless they try. Repeat it back to them. Write it down. Introduce them to someone else. Picture a friend who has the same name. If you forget, just ask again. In a pinch, you could introduce them to a friend without mentioning the new person’s name, so hopefully they repeat it back (or ask your friend or spouse to always introduce themselves when they approach you and someone new, just in case you’ve forgotten). Then use it every time you see each other. Hearing your own name makes people feel on top of the world, especially from someone you wouldn’t expect to remember.
Also, don’t expect others to remember yours – make it easy for them by quickly mentioning your name the next time you meet, especially if you’ve only met once before or if it’s a distant acquaintance you haven’t seen in a long time. And definitely never say something like “so do you remember my name?” or “I bet you don’t remember me.” I’m surprised by how often I hear this and all it does is make the person you’re talking to feel like an ass. People forget. Be nice.
12. Take pictures. I love taking pictures with people I’ve met. It’s a fun way to remember folks, get them to remember you and also great for follow-up. Have fun with it, but don’t be pushy.
13. Bring a small group together. Invite some new friends to dinner or drinks that night or for a little workout. Or with enough advance notice, set up a little party for folks you know and want to meet. That’s what we’re doing with our LYL pre-party and beer tasting on Friday at WDS. I invited all of you as well as a bunch of personal friends and people I’d love to meet.
14. Know your elevator pitch. I don’t like the term, but everyone’s familiar with it. What’s your 30-second story of who you are, what you’re doing and why you care so much? Have something sharp and concise, but be ready to modify to fit the person you’re talking to. And share it with some excitement!
15. Know what you want to say to those you know you want to meet. Do your homework so you don’t get caught fumbling when you bump into your idol in the bathroom (best to wait until after you’re both done, though…). What do you want to thank them for? Who do you know in common? What idea do you want to share? How can it connect with and help their work?
16. Find common ground. Building rapport is all about finding things in common as fast as possible. This can be mutual friends, cities, travels, ideas, businesses, fears, whatever. Being at the same event means you’re already starting with something. Build from there.
17. Know your ABC stories. The more you know your experiences, the higher your odds of quickly finding similarities as you ask questions and learn their story. An easy exercise for this is to write a 1-2 sentence true story about yourself for every letter of the alphabet (My friend Tynan taught me this one). Ask a friend to help if need be. “A” for me might be that I went on a safari in Africa and we almost ran into an elephant in our 6-person motor boat. The point isn’t to tell everyone all your stories (definitely don’t do that) – it’s to have a refined lens for listening to theirs and seeing how you can relate. It also makes for much more memorable conversation.
18. Be interesting, ask interesting questions and become contagious. Do whatever you can to interrupt the usual small talk pattern. Share passions. Anything’s fair game (well, almost). Ask about fun things like recent adventures or what they’re most excited about right now. Tell them the same about you. Don’t ask, “So, um, what do you do?” There are much more entertaining ways to get to that question. One of my go-to questions is, “So, what are you building?”
People want to be around people who are excited about what they’re doing. Energy and passion are contagious. Let it rub off on the people you’re with. But don’t dominate the conversation. Let them do more talking than you. Then play your energy off the things you learn.
19. Meet on their level. If someone is quiet and reserved, you being your wild and crazy extroverted self will likely turn them off. Tone it down to where they are. Your goal is to make people feel welcome and safe. This creates rapport. You can still be contagious without making people feel like you’re crazy.
20. Be with them and only them. If you’re talking to someone then talk to them. Do not glance all around the room looking for more important people. That sucks. Encourage others to talk about themselves – then listen and actually hear what they’re saying. Make it a game to listen so intently that you pick up on how you can uniquely relate and help.
21. And while we’re on don’ts, DO NOT retreat to mindlessly checking your phone when you don’t have someone to talk to. Leave it in your pocket on “do not disturb”. Anytime you notice yourself pulling it out because you feel alone, use it as a trigger to apply the 3-second rule.
22. Create a time limit. This is especially important for influential people who are constantly being bombarded. Open up by letting them know you’re headed to dinner in two minutes but just had to say … then offer a memorable thank you and quick idea. If natural rapport and conversation grows from there, go with it, but still only stay a few minutes. It’s much less awkward for you to decide to walk away than them trying to leave. Or if they’re talking to someone, you could just walk up, touch them on the shoulder, apologize for the interruption and say a quick thank you and good bye, and maybe that you’ll try to catch them later in the weekend. Find a way to make contact, but be respectful of their space.
23. Change seats. Don’t sit in the same place during every session or eat or stand in the same area throughout the weekend. Most people do, so show up somewhere different and see who else you can bump into.
24. Take advantage of transitions. Walking into and out of a venue is a natural time to start up a chat. So is any transition. It usually feels less awkward than walking straight up to someone. Say hi to the people beside you. Who knows, the woman in the stairwell might be your future business partner.
25. Make and share introductions. Once you meet someone, think about who else you know that they’d have fun with. If you see a group of friends, introduce everyone to the new guy. Also make an agreement with a few friends that you’ll introduce each other to the people you meet.
26. Be the host. Act as if this is your party. If you see someone alone, go say hi. I don’t care if you don’t know anyone else. Make someone else feel welcome. And you’ll both have someone to talk to. Offer help, directions, introductions, whatever. If you’re headed to a meal, invite them to join. A few years ago, I was at an event where I saw one of my biggest mentors and hugely successful author wander around looking for a place to eat – so I invited him to join us. Made for a hell of a lunch. Remember, no one wants to feel alone. Always be welcoming.
27. Embrace the party. This is crucial. Most the real connection happens between events and after hours. Share unique experiences – get up early for a workout, jump in the river or go bungee jumping (if that’s your thing). Skip a session for an afternoon beer with new friends, go out and do some partying together, get your dance on, stay late, get a little tipsy. These are the non conference things that bring your guard down and turn acquaintances into lasting friends. Take your pick. Be creative. Get a little crazy. And always be sure to dance – that’s my signature move on the right…
IV. Follow Up
The event is just the beginning. What comes next is where the lasting friendships form…
28. Send a note and add some value. In your follow-up, thank them for something specific and find a way to offer an idea, article, talk, book, whatever that might help with something they mentioned when you met. Make each note unique and memorable. Do it within 24-48 hours, max. If you wait longer, you’ll probably never do it or it’ll get lost. Send an email as well as snail mail and maybe a tweet. If you have a fun picture, print it out and put it with the letter.
29. Thank speakers even if you didn’t meet. Send a note to the people who left an impression and tell them why.
30. Write about them. For the past couple years, I’ve published summary postsabout WDS with mentions and links to the people who taught me something. Then I’ll include a link in my followups.
31. Find a way to connect in real-time within a few weeks. If you care about keeping up, prove it.
32. Be You & Allow Others to Be Them
This is the blanket that covers the whole process.
When you’re around accomplished people, it’s easy to want to puff your chest out and be someone you’re not. The problem is that people see straight through the bull sh*t and it kills rapport. Be open, vulnerable and unapologetically you. This connects way better than some Superman story, and makes people actually enjoy being around you. Plus, you being uniquely you helps inspire the person you’re with to do the same. And that’s a rare gift.
Do that and you become unforgettable.
Stop worrying about what to say or what to do. Just show up and care about who you’re talking to.
We’re all coming from the same place. We’re all at least a little nervous. We all wonder where and how we’ll fit in.
And we all want to connect with people who believe in the same things we do.