My Life As A Heretic

River, Confidence, faith, heretic, against the grain,

Is there a word you hear often that you don’t know the definition of? Maybe you loosely know what it means, but when honest with yourself you really have no idea. This word for me was Heretic.



No, I wasn’t totally in the dark – I knew it was something “bad”. I finally looked it up and told me it meant – “anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.”



This was me. I was a heretic. Now, the main undertones of this word do have religious connections – my use of the term is outside of any religious believes – unless “keeping up with the Jones’s” is a religion.



I seem to have the crazy notion there is more to life than piling up money and buying things. I believe in the value of investing in ourselves by learning and working toward our highest goals to achieve something truly spectacular -even if this “something spectacular” doesn’t monetarily pay out.



I have tried to convey this idea to others, but nobody seems to get it.



“You want to work less and earn less money to do what?” or “Do you think that will make money?” – Is money the only reward out there and the only way to evaluate an idea? What about personal fulfillment, happiness, and purpose?



Now I like money. I want to earn as much as I can. But I believe after a certain point (enough to live on) it loses some of it’s importance. Once we hit this marker what’s stopping us from changing our focus to something else important?



“But you have so much potential”, I’m told. Does this mean that if potential isn’t used to make money its wasted?



I’m a heretic – I would rather consciously earn less money and work toward what is important to me than simply make more money.



I’m a heretic – I would choose NOT to automatically upgrade my house because I can afford it, but instead take more time off to spend with my children.



I’m a heretic – I rate my personal success on a scale that isn’t measured by my bank account.



At the end of the day a heretic is only crazy until they succeed. When starting off many successful people seemed out of sync with everyone else, but it wasn’t until they accomplish something amazing that people started changing their tunes – “Maybe he wasn’t that crazy after all”.



So there lies the issue – we are working hard to carry out our goals. We are taking risks and spending time that could be spent doing other “normal” things – watching tv, hanging out, or playing on our phones. Know your efforts will continue to be questioned until your progress can start to be seen by others.



Hang in there, keep working, keep moving forward and soon your critics will start to change their tunes.



And at that point you’ll no longer be a heretic.





Choosing the Right Goal

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this site and I wanted to tell you why and what I’ve been working on.


At its core this site is about achieving goals and learning the skills, mindset, discipline, routines, etc. that will help you reach your desired outcome. All of these tips and tricks are great and I don’t want to down play them – but they aren’t going to make much difference if you aren’t working towards the right goal.


I looked closely at my life and asked a couple of questions:

  1. Was I working on the right goal?
  2. Was this my goal or someone else’s? (Parents, Spouse, Society)
  3. Was I working on this because I wanted to or because I thought I should be?
  4. What would happen if I didn’t achieve this goal?


After a little soul-searching the answer surprised me.


A little back story: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. There is something special for me about creating something from nothing be it a story, a song, an article, or even a website. I’m attracted to a project where I can pour in sweat and tears, but at the end hold something in my hand (ok can’t really hold a website – or a song for that matter).


The creation of this website goes back years when I was working on a novel. Writing a novel is difficult and takes discipline. The longer the project the greater the motivation needed to succeed. I worked hard on the book and completed a rough draft, in fact I did three drafts. I had a couple of friends read it, but I never sent it out. To be honest it wasn’t very good – but it taught me a lot.


I should have kept working on it, but instead I started blogging, because blogging is writing? Right?


My first intentions with blogging (I had about 5 different ones before landings on KTOOLS) was to start a writer’s blog for my book. I read all the writing magazines and they all said you need to have a “web presence”. So I started learning about blogging and setting up a website to begin showcasing the novel I hadn’t yet finished writing.


I was spending time on the wrong goal, instead of writing my novel (priority goal) I was blogging about writing a book. See the irony?


Besides writing, another passion of mine is music. For a reason I can’t remember now, I stopped playing music in my mid twenties. Later this continued because I never had time with a new family and two jobs. As clichéd as it sounds I felt that something was missing in my life. I always wanted to get back into it, but just couldn’t seem to find the time.


It took a New Years Resolution (they aren’t all bad) to move me to action and on 1 January of 2016 I took out my guitar, dusted it off, and I started playing. More importantly for someone who calls themselves a writer – I started writing. Instead of trying to give advice I tried following my own advice (the 6am Challenge) and started waking up early to get more playing time in before the family woke.


I still have two jobs and two small children (third on the way), but I treat my music time as sacred and the dedication is starting to pay off. I still don’t have much time to play and write, but it’s enough to see small gains – and little steps can compound into big leaps over time. To keep from being distracted (as I was when writing the novel by blogging and social media), I told myself I wouldn’t start recording until I’d written 25 new complete songs. I’ve hit 30 songs now and have started taking the next step by starting to record my work.


I admit my skills in this department are very limited as you will probably notice (you may also notice the same issue with my voice and guitar 🙂 )- but I’m working on these issues and I’m a believer that hard work and dedication can make a difference.


But this article is about goal setting and priority goals, not about me. I’ve been known to be a bit of a train jumper; I’m into music, creative writing, blogging, have two jobs (more by choice than necessity), home renovations, outdoor sports, and finally there is my family. It’s a busy life – and I serve a lot of masters.


A reason I think I’ve stuck with music for this long is it is finally the “right” goal. Sometimes you need to quit and move on from the wrong thing to find the right one. Once you find your “priority goal” you need to work on it everyday, even if it’s a short amount of time. Progress can’t be seen daily, but when you look back you will see the bounds you’ve taken.


So stop and ask yourself – “Am I working on the RIGHT goal?”


Thanks for visiting the site and to answer all those asking where I’ve been? Been writing and recording music – or more better yet – working on my “BIG Goal”.


Here are the first few demo recordings if you’re interested. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think. And please like, comment and share.


Cheers and Thank You!




Affirmations and Positive Thinking

affirmation, affirmations, positive thinking, mindset, positive, happiness


What are the voices in your head telling you? Are they motivating you with encouragement and pushing you toward your goals or are they putting you down? These negative voices have been ingrained in our minds over time are slowly picking away at your self-esteem. Your inner critic is programming you with negative self-talk producing self-fulling prophecies that hinder your achievements and are setting you up for failure – because “how can you succeed if you’ve already told yourself you’ll fail?”  


Luckily you can fight back against these negative thoughts with positive affirmations. It’s time to stop that negative voice and replace it with one that will push you further, try harder, and feel happier.


What are Affirmations?


The use of affirmations is the practice of using positive thinking to increase self empowerment and motivation. An affirmation is a specific statement that assists you in overcoming negative thoughts and self sabotage. Affirmations and positive thinking has been used to fight against depression, low-self esteem, and other mental health conditions with success. One study found that using positive affirmations “significantly increased scores on self-esteem and decreased depression scores” (1).



Positive affirmations is one method of positive thinking and changing your mindset. Affirmations might not be for everyone, some see the practice as as too “New Age”, but for others including business leaders and top athletes the practice can bring amazing results, however your results will be based on your own mindset. If you start this practice believing it’s a waste of time – it will be for YOU. On the other hand if you believe it will bring you positive thoughts – it will!


Affirmations are exercises for your mind. You are repeatedly working your brain to improve it’s performance and function. Like any type of exercise it will take time, but the results can be truly amazing.


Create your own Affirmations


Affirmations are flexible and best when they are as personal as possible. Work on creating a list of 10 to 20 positive affirmations covering all the important aspects of your life.

  1. Affirmations should be short, simple, and direct.
  1. Affirmations must be in the present tense “I am…” or present progressive tense “I am becoming…”.
  1. Keep away from negatives. Don’t use statements such as, “I’m NOT perfect”, instead use wording like, “It’s OK to make mistakes.”
  1. Believe in the Statement – You must have some belief in the statement. If you are still far from your goal or the change scares you add a modifier. “I’m a confident person,” might be too far of a stretch for you, so make the change, “I’m becoming a confident person.” Willing and learning also work well. Once you start gaining momentum and getting closer to your goal – remove these additional words and get more direct.


How to Practice with Affirmations

Affirmations can be used any time you need to change your thinking be it overall or in a specific situation. Repetition and increased exposure to your new scripts are the key to imprinting them deep into both your active mind and your subconscious.

  1. Repeat Them To Yourself – this can take place when you’re walking, driving, eating,… basically any time you need a quick boost of positive thinking. You can say your affirmations to yourself (in your head), but if you’re alone say them out loud.
  1. Use Cues – Cues allow you to practice affirmations every time you do something, these could be specific affirmations connected to the activity. When walking into the office – “Today I will be…” or looking at the mirror when brushing your teeth – “I’m a good person.”
  1. Post and Read. Print or write out your affirmations and put them somewhere you’ll see them often. Keep the writing large enough you can read it twenty feet away. Want to be more subtle? A sticky note on the mirror or even your computer desktop will work
  1. Write them out. This will work with a single affirmation or a list. The act of writing them out helps cement them in  your mind. Better yet, use an affirmation journal which you can return to and read over.  
  1. Set a reminder. It could be a hourly reminder or set time. When the alarm sounds read or repeat your chosen affirmation for a few minutes.
  1. Record them. Record a list of affirmations and listen to the recording whenever you need a boost. Use 20 or so affirmations and space them about 5 -10 seconds apart as you read them. In the space between repeat them to yourself.
  1. Make Cards – Use small flash cards and write out your affirmations. Whenever you have the chance go through the cards reading each one slow and with conviction.
  1. Take a single Affirmation into Meditation. Repeating the affirmation slowly in a deep relaxed state is will assist in cementing it into your consciousness. It doesn’t only need to be meditation you can do this while exercising or walking.


Tips for Success


  1. Repetition – it took years to ingrain the negative thoughts and feelings into your mind and the same will be true with the positive thoughts you want to replace them with. The more you actively practice with affirmations the deeper they will be ingrained. You don’t need to use every strategy above, but pick a few ways that resonate with you and get started.
  1. Conviction – I’ve already mentioned that mindset will be crucial in affirmations working for you. Saying affirmations (out loud) with deep conviction and feelings is one of the best ways for strengthening them.
  1. Confirmations – Don’t just say and believe in the affirmation, but look for evidence that it’s true. If your confirmation is “I’m a confident person” – when were you confident today? Look for clues. Better yet write these confirmations down (use the back of the flashcards or affirmation journal). Discovering real life evidence that your affirmations are true and part of your life gives another layer of authority to them.


Positive Affirmations to get you Started


  1. I’m in control of my life.
  2. I accept the natural ups and down of life.
  3. I am learning to love myself.
  4. I am learning to balance work and play in my life.
  5. I trust my inner wisdom and intuition.
  6. I play a big role in my own career success.
  7. I take the time to show my friends that I care about them.
  8. I deserve whatever good comes my way today.
  9. What I did is in the past and now I can create my future.
  10. I am deeply fulfilled with who I am.


Want more – Here are 101 Positive Affirmations for all Parts of your life – coming soon…




Affirmations are a fantastic way to stop negative self talk and start thinking positive. Take five minutes right now to review the list or write a couple personal affirmations you can work with to start changing your mindset for the future!


I’d love you hear if you use affirmations and how they help you achieve your goals. Please share your favorite affirmation with us or leave us a tweet at #KeysToOptimalLiving.


Subscribe to our Newsletter for Affirmations sent straight to your inbox.



Sources: Psychol Rep. 1996 Aug;79(1):83-91.
Rehearsal of positive self-statements and restructured negative self-statements to increase self-esteem and decrease depression.
Philpot VD1, Bamburg JW.


Journal Challenge – The Benefits of a Keeping a Journal

how to journal, types of journals, journals

I’ve kept a journal for years, but never considered it a positive life habit. Instead, I used it as a tool to express ideas, write down lyrics (I used to want to be a songwriter/rock star), but mostly, I used it to vent.  Although this practice was somewhat therapeutic, I was missing out on other major benefits of keeping a journal – advantages I’ve since found and want to share with you.

The Benefits of a Journal

Night Time Routine

sleep, night time routine, routine, night time, prepare for sleep, sleep better, productivityWhat do many high achievers have in common? A productive Night Time Routine that closes their day on a positive note and sets them up for success the following morning. Many people have morning routines due purely to the necessity of time – they are rushed and need to do a number of things before getting out the door. The evening is a little more relaxed (hopefully), but just as important. It’s time you began an evening routine that allows you to unwind, prepares you for a great night’s sleep, and gives you a head start on tomorrow.


A Night Time Routine


First a little digression – Be kind to your future self. It’s important to understand we only have a finite amount of mental energy. It is used up on every little decision we make throughout the day and once it’s gone, your motivation and discipline suffers. After a long day there isn’t much gas left in the tank, which is why once you sit down in front of the television it’s hard to get up and do anything else after. Why do I mention the concept of Mental Energy? Because by making your nighttime rituals into a habit or routine, you can just run on autopilot and still be productive.


With this said…a word of warning! Here are just of few of the distractions that can lead you astray and waste the night away.



Night Time Traps


1. Keep the Television Off – I said it above and I’ll say it again. Beware the TV! Think you’ll only watch one episode and then go to bed? Think again.


2. Beware the Internet – Ok, I really hope you aren’t reading this at night. It is so easy to get caught in the loop of Youtube videos or mindless internet surfing and then you look at the clock. Hours have gone by and really nothing has been accomplished.


3. Learn to Say No – Every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else. During the week, social invitations come up. I often have to force myself to say no. Yes, they could be fun, but what are your goals? This point can go beyond social situations and even include work. I was moonlighting in another job for a little extra cash. The problem was that I was so tired the next day, it put me behind in my priority work.


Tips for a Productive Night Routine


You will notice the tips that follow for a great Night Routine complement your morning routine because these two routines work together. So, with mental energy in mind, let’s look at what can be done. The end goal is calming yourself for sleep and preparing for the next day.


Unplug an hour before bed – stop looking at screens of any kind. This includes computers, televisions, phones, etc. If you use your smartphone as your alarm clock turn it on Airplane Mode – Signals can affect sleep, but even on silent the screen lighting up every time you get an email or text can affect your sleep.


Plan for Tomorrow – Go over what you accomplished today and make a short list of what you want to do tomorrow. This will allow you to wake up and know exactly what to do. Waking up with purpose will help you get out of bed. This also helps keep your mind obsessing all night over what needs to be done. Write it and forget it. Limit yourself to writing down only the priorities.


Journal – I found the best journal was a gratitude journal. The other option is to write what you accomplished, which could complement your morning entry of “What I hope to accomplish today” or be like Ben Franklin and ask, “What good did I do today?”. Presently I’ve been using the Five Minute Journal, which is a journal with a number of prompts to keep you focused.


Clean your Desk – Once you’ve completed the points above it is time to clean house. This will allow you to start fresh the next morning clear of distraction.


Give your future self a head start – This is the time to use up any remaining mental energy you have left.
a. Prepare the Coffee machine.
b. Layout your clothes for tomorrow – This can include your workout clothes or running gear.
c. Make lunches and even think about dinner the next night.
d. Pack up your briefcase / backpack, or whatever else you need.


Drink a little water – You can get dehydrated during the night, so drink a little water and have a cup by your bed to throw back when you get up.


Hygiene Needs – This is the normal stuff washing your face, brushing your teeth, and flossing. If you’re a man – shaving at night will save you some time in the morning.


***Important Note – all the above should be done outside of your bed. Your bed is for two things, sleeping and sex (yes I said it). Reading in bed is fine, but do the other activities (making lists and journal writing) somewhere else. Our minds connect activity with locations – if you write in bed your mind will associate bed with writing. Bed is not for writing – bed is for sleep!


Calm your mind – this can take the form of meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or simple stretching. You are preparing your body for rest and quieting your mind.


Enjoy a quiet activity – This can take the form of reading (remember no television), listening to music (keep it mellow), or something else that relaxes you. The goal here is not to entertain you, but to relax you a little further, until you’re tired.


Turn out the Light – It needs to be said. If you follow all the tips, but stay up all night reading, you won’t get the results you’re looking for. Have a designated time to turn off the light.


Don’t Forget to Set Your Alarm – Because after a deep sleep you’ll be waking up early to conquer the day!


What do you do in your Night Time Routine? I’d love to hear the tips or practices that work for you. Please comment below or join the conversation at .


The Gratitude Challenge

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Increasing Happiness is all the rage and a key ingredient to this contentment is gratitude. A quick definition of Gratitude is simply being thankful, but I wanted to uncover what specific benefits are provided when actively practicing gratitude and how to turn that practice into a new positive habit. In my own life I have the tendency to not look on the bright side or notice all the wonderful things around me, so I dug deeper into gratitude and I’m happy I did.

How To Be More Thankful