ECHO Guidelines- cultivating a better self

Why do we set goals?  Everyone has their own goals and their own reasons, but it always boils down to becoming a better person in some way or living a fuller life than what we have.  This is our meta-goal, so to speak.  Too often we focus on our desired results, however.  Of course this is very useful, but we often forget to focus on the very process itself.

With that in mind, here’s a simple set of guidelines to keep your process on track, no matter who you are, or what your goals are.  I call these the ECHO Guidelines.

ECHO stands for:

Exercise
Create
Heart
Organize

Find a way to incorporate these four simple things in your life every day.  And I mean every single day.  Chances are good that you’re already doing each of these four things most days, but recognizing these guidelines helps you focus and expand on the right things in an achievable way.  This is about process, so consistency is key.  It’s like depositing money to a savings account.  Even if you only deposit a dollar at a time, you are doing it every day, and its interest will compound more quickly than you think.

Here’s the good news about these guidelines: you can define these terms as loosely as you want. Let yourself be half-assed about them if you’re having an off day– it doesn’t matter; the point is that you are doing something.

To clarify these guidelines just a little further:

Do some sort of exercise every day..  It could be for burpees for 1 minute, a brisk walk for an hour, or a yoga session.  It doesn’t matter.  Move your body.

Create something.  Paint, draw, doodle, cook, build, make, whatever you want.  Create new connections with people at a networking meeting.  Create a different atmosphere at home. When you consciously get involved to bring something new to the world that didn’t exist before, you create something.

Let what you think and what you do be born of a loving heart.  I’m sure you’re a good person (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading an article about self-betterment on a blog called The Running Llama).  But even good people can have casual, malicious thoughts towards other; just think of the first thing that goes through your head when you’re running late and someone’s driving too slow in front of you… it’s probably not filled with brotherly love.  Watch these thoughts.  Don’t beat yourself up if you have them- we’re all human, after all, but be mindful of them.  If you were simply cognizant of all the little instances that you judge someone else, or casually wish them away, you vastly improve your life in the long run. But go ahead and take it one tiny step further, and make sure you do, think, or say something, no matter how small, that is specifically for the good of someone else. If it’s for a complete stranger, give yourself bonus points.

Organize something.  You don’t have to create a new organizational system (unless you want to), but at least contribute to the organizational systems you already have.  It could be cleaning dishes, going through old files, rearranging books, whatever you want. Keep the principle “a place for everything, and everything in its place” in the back of your mind.

When you touch on each of these four categories at least a little bit every day, you will have:

  • made a positive contribution to your physical health
  • added something new to the world to make your life easier or more enjoyable
  • increased the amount of love in the world, instead of adding hate or judgement
  • made the world a little more efficient and orderly

Again, this is about process, the important thing is not what you do or how much you do, but that you do it at all, at least a little bit every day.  It’s about thinking on the right things, giving yourself small victories, and letting consistency be your stepping stones. You won’t leap to the top of a building in a single bound, but by keeping focused on the process, you’ll remind yourself to achieve your goals one step at a time.

By keeping the ECHO guidelines in mind, you’ll simplify your process, take some pressure off, and give yourself at least four small victories every day as you work towards fulfilling whatever type of person you want to be.

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