Ultralight: The Zen Habits Guide to Traveling Light & Living Light (short read ebook)


By Leo Babauta

I’m excited to announce the latest “short read” ebook that I’ve written: Ultralight: The Zen Habits Guide to Traveling Light & Living Light.

Traveling light has become one of the joys of my life, shedding the extra weight in return for freedom, lightness, and energy.

This book contains my recommendations and methods for:

  • Breezing through airports
  • Cutting back on clothing
  • Minimizing electronics, toiletries, and more
  • Finding restaurants, apartments, recommendations for where to go
  • What you don’t need to pack
  • Developing a flexible mindset
  • My packing list
  • My favorite travel apps
  • Ultralight backpacking
  • And lots more

I also talk about applying these ideas to simplify the rest of your life, in a “living light” section of the book:

  • Living without too much stuff
  • Cutting back on clothing, books, papers, everything else
  • Finding digital simplicity
  • Dealing with the urge to buy

I’ve found that living simply and traveling light are wonderful ways to live, and I hope you’ll find use out of this book as I’ve tried to put as much useful information as I can.

The Short Ebook & the Package Deal

I’ve written this intentionally as a “short read” … and so I’m pricing it low ($ 4.99), so more people will be able to buy and use it.

You can buy just the ebook here (in PDF, Kindle & iBooks formats):

Buy the Ebook

But I’ve also created a package with three videos to go along with the ebook:

  1. My favorite travel gear
  2. A packing video that shows what I bring and how I pack it
  3. How I wash clothes simply while traveling

You can buy the package with the video downloads and the ebook in 3 formats here:

Buy the Package


Here’s the table of contents:

Introduction: Why Travel Light? Freedom From Burden
Part I: Ultralight Travel

  • Chapter 1: Traveling Light Isn’t a Competition
  • Chapter 2: What It’s Like to Travel with One Bag
  • Chapter 3: Why We Pack Too Many Clothes, & How to Cut Back
  • Chapter 4: Clothing System
  • Chapter 5: Electronics
  • Chapter 6: Toiletries
  • Chapter 7: Water & Food
  • Chapter 8: What You Don’t Need
  • Chapter 9: Don’t Pack Your Fears
  • Chapter 10: What Bag?
  • Chapter 11: Getting Through Airports
  • Chapter 12: Apartments & Hotels
  • Chapter 13: Getting Around Cities & Where to Go
  • Chapter 14: Longer Trips
  • Chapter 15: Flexible Mind, Flexible Travel
  • Chapter 16: Useful Travel Apps
  • Chapter 17: Travel Miles & Cards
  • Chapter 18: My Packing List
  • Chapter 19: Ultralight Hiking

Part II: Living Lightly

  • Chapter 20: What It’s Like to Live Without Too Much Stuff
  • Chapter 21: Less Clothing
  • Chapter 22: Books & Papers
  • Chapter 23: Less Other Stuff
  • Chapter 24: Electronics & Digital Simplicity
  • Chapter 25: Dealing with the Urge to Buy
  • Chapter 26: A Final Word on Living Lightly

Book Formats

I’ve written the book in PDF, Kindle (mobi) and iBooks (epub) formats. You can buy them all in one compressed file here for $ 4.99:

Buy the Ebook

If you just want to buy the book from the Amazon Kindle store, you can buy it here for $ 4.99. That will only be the Kindle format, though. I would love it if you gave me a good review and/or rating! (Note: It should be available in all of the global Amazon stores.)

If you just want to buy the book from the Apple iBooks store, you can buy it here for $ 4.99. That will only be the iBooks/epub format, though. And again, I would love it if you gave me a good review and/or rating! (Note: It’s available in all of the global iBooks stores.)

Finally, I have the three formats (PDF, mobi, epub) plus a package of three audio guided meditations for $ 9.99 that you can buy here:

Buy the Package

Table of Contents & Sample Chapters

If you’d like to see the table of contents, plus the introduction and first two chapters, you can download/open the PDF here:

Table of Contents & Sample Chapters


You have questions, I have answers.

Q: What do I get when I buy the ebook?

A: If you buy it using the blue “buy the ebook” button above, you’ll get a compressed zip file … when you decompress it, there will be a folder with the PDF, epub (for iBooks) and mobi (for Kindle) files.

If you buy from the Kindle store, you’ll just get the Kindle book.

If you buy from the iBooks store, you’ll just get the epub version.

And if you buy the package deal, you’ll get the three formats plus links to download three companion videos that I’ve recorded.

Q: Is there a print version? What about an audiobook version?

A: No, sorry. This is only being released as an ebook.

Q: I bought the package, but where are the video files?

A: Open the “Read me” PDF file in the folder you downloaded … there are links to download the video files in the Read me PDF.

Q: Did you do the design yourself?

A: No, I wish! The cover was designed by Dave of Spyre, and the interior was designed by Shawn Mihalik.

Q: I’m hugely disappointed and want my money back!

A: I’m sorry to hear that. There’s a 100% money back guarantee on all my books. Just email support@zenhabits.net and we’ll give you a full refund. I don’t want unhappy customers.

zen habits

End of Busy: A Deliberate Life vs. Reactive Life, with Jonathan Fields

By Leo Babauta

Every day, we get caught up in busyness — reacting to what comes at us, lost in the thousands of tasks and emails we have to deal with, and we are so busy dealing with all of it that we get stuck on autopilot.

What if we could get out of that trap, and live a more deliberate life?

This is what I recently talked about with my friend Jonathan Fields, who is releasing his new book today: How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science and Practical Wisdom.

You can read Jonathan’s responses to some of my questions below, and watch us talk about mindfulness, uncertainty, and living a good life in this video:

Living a Deliberate Life

Leo: A lot of us get caught in the trap of busyness — reacting to what comes at us. And often it feels like a status symbol, being busy. But this busyness isn’t a part of the Good Life prescription, is it? Can you talk about why it’s a problem?

jfields-bw-1Jonathan: Busyness has become a bit of a lightning rod. In one camp, we’ve got busyness as a status symbol of hustle and achievement (though, often it’s neither). In the other, we have busyness as a signpost of failure and surrender.

Truth is, I’ve come to see busyness as more of a symptom of a bigger problem, rather than a cause. Being busy, alone, need not be a bad thing. What makes it good or bad is why we’re busy, what we’re busy with, and what we’re giving up along the way.

Being busy as a reaction to the compounding agendas others, to what they’ve chosen to heap into our lives, without considering whether any of it matters to us, that’s a problem. It drops us into a state of mindless autopilot busyness, reacting rather than responding. It leaves us watching our lives fill with unrelenting pace, screaming past us, without ever stopping to choose what matters, be present, cultivate meaning, joy, connection and vitality, and experience each moment through the lense of choice and presence. We end up busy without a cause, and it leaves us utterly gutted. Empty.

Being busy from a place of meaning and intention, though, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If our days, weeks, months and life are populated by a stream of experiences, activities and people that keep us engaged much of every day, including things like moving our bodies, sitting in meditation, expressing our voices, engaging our strengths, deepening into service and meaning, working and playing with people we cannot get enough of, choosing only what truly lifts us up and matters deeply, we end up crafting a life of intention, joy, vitality and meaning. Are we busy along the way? Yes! But, that type of busyness leaves us full, not empty.

And, that adds to a life well lived.

Leo: You tell the story of a woman you had in mind while writing the book, a woman who is overwhelmed by a sense of busyness, who reacts to other people’s agendas, who realizes she’s living an “autopilot life.” How do we seem to slip into these autopilot lives?

Jonathan: This is where it gets a little scary. The challenge is that we never really choose to live reactively. Instead, it just kind of happens. A little bit, every day. Until, one day, we wake up and realize, “my life is not my own.”

Think about it. Did you choose, “I will begin checking my email first thing before I get out of bed, and then respond to what everyone else says is important today?” Was there a moment where you said to yourself, “I will respond immediately, in real time to every email that hits my inbox, every to-do I’m tasked with and every status update on Facebook?”

Not likely, you just started doing it, and the technology that supports this behavior is the perfect intermittent reinforcement machine. In short order, it becomes habit. And, it all went down, bit by momentary bit, by surrendering to seemingly innocuous prompts that end up adding up to autopilot, reactive mindlessness.

There’s no blame here, it’s become the social norm to build a life this way. But, just because it’s the norm, doesn’t mean it’s good.

Question is, now that you know, what will you do moving forward? Choose with intention, or continue to surrender to a life of default reactive busyness, bundled with the annihilation of agency and intention?

Leo: What’s the alternative to the reactive, autopilot life of busyness that you recommend for a good life?

Jonathan: Awareness and intention. We need to break the cycle of mindless, reactive living and reclaim a sense of choice, agency and intention. We need to step back into the driver’s seat of our lives. To say, “I get to choose. My days, my years, my life belongs to me. Other people’s agendas, stories and will are not the primary driver of where I place my attention, my gifts, my love and energy.”

If we want to fill our days with activities, experiences and peoples, so be it. But, let’s start making those choices actively and proactively. Mindfully, from a place of filling our lives with connection, vitality and meaning. Not reactively, because we’ve never stopped to own the responsibility and the blessing of choice.

Leo: How do we start to move from autopilot to this direction?

Jonathan: Step one, own that we’ve got a problem. Step two, begin to cultivate a daily awareness practice. For me, it’s a sitting mindfulness practice, bundled with daily prompts that keep me “dropping into” the moment. These train your brain to become increasingly more present and aware of what’s really happening in life.

One you become more mindful, you start to see the opportunities to swap intention for reactivity all around you, and you begin to choose choice, rather than succumb to pace and mindless surrender.

This is so important, it’s actually why I’ve devoted an entire chapter to it in my new book, and even created guided audio practices to help you begin the practice.

Leo: What might a day of awareness and intention look like, just so we can visualize what this might mean?

Jonathan: This’ll be completely different for each person. It’s so important to honor the very real-world demands of your life, and not hold yourself to the opportunities and constraints of anyone else. But, here’s an example.

You wake and, wait for it, do not check your device. Not email. Not instagram. Not facebook or snapchat. Not even texts. Just lie in bed, place one hand over your heart, the other over your abdomen, eyes closed and breathe for a few moments. Note how you’re feeling as you enter the day. Calm, stressed, energized, fatigued, focus, distracted? No need to change it, just notice, and know that is going to play into the way you move through the day.

You roll quietly out of bed and find somewhere to sit comfortably, eyes half-closed, allowing your attention to rest on your breath for a brief, seated mindfulness practice. Anywhere from 3 to 30-minutes. From there, maybe you’ll close by setting an intention for the day. I always close my morning practice with a brief loving-kindness or “metta” incantation. This is how I’ll bring myself to the day. Then, you write down the single most important thing to accomplish, the one that actually is meaningful to you.

You head into the kitchen, grind some coffee and make a cup, or a pot if you’re brewing for more than one. As the coffee brews, you take single action, spend less than 30-seconds, that connects you with someone you care about. Maybe you text a friend to say, “just thinking about you and sending wishes for a great day.”

While you sit with your coffee, you know that the next few hours are your peak creative time, your window to get your most meaningful work done first. Especially, if it’s your most challenging work. But you also know that you need to get the “checking siren” out of your head, so you quickly spin through email and more. Still, you cap it at 5 minutes, and commit to only responding if there is true urgency. Everyone else can wait. This is your day, not theirs. They may be renting space in your device, but not your heart and head. You then come back to your computer and spend the rest of the morning creating, not consuming or managing.

Then comes a little movement break, just 10 or 15 minutes, because you know it’s good for your body and brain, followed by a lunch break. After lunch, you feel great, because you’ve already accomplished what matters most, so you settle into more of a managing and socializing and meeting mode. Catching up online, but still limiting time to 30-minutes and starting with the things that matter most. In the late afternoon, you walk-n-talk with your colleague or anyone else who wants your time, leaving your phone in your pocket the whole time, giving them your attention. Later in the day, you exercise for 40 minutes, then settle in to read or relax, spend time with friends and family and start to ease toward dinner together.

After dinner, more relaxation or creative time, and, if you need, catching up with any lingering tasks that really matter. Then you spend the evening in a wind-down mode, journaling a bit, reflecting on your day, how it went, how you feel, what you learned, what can bring into tomorrow, writing in gratitude, sharing conversation with an intimate partner, family or friends, and settling in to read, watch a movie or whatever else you enjoy.

Now, does this sound somewhat Utopian? Sure. But, many elements of it, on any given day, can become mindful anchors, moments that allow you to touch back down into your life. The idea is simply to make it yours. To keep finding ways to be present, mindful and focus your attention and actions on the people and activities that fill your Good Life Buckets, rather than empty them. Those will shift on any given day, too, so be open to the possibility of unforeseen experiences and the need to adapt on the fly.

htl-3d-cover-1-crop-247x300Leo: Thanks for the amazing info and inspiration, Jonathan! To everyone: I highly recommend checking out Jonathan’s new book, How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science and Practical Wisdom.

zen habits

6 Practical Ways to Practice Being Present

By Leo Babauta

There are a lot of amazing benefits to being more present and mindful, but one of my favorites is this: you’re not missing the beauty and joy of the present moment.

Being present also helps you to see when you are feeling fear or resistance, uncertainty or the urge to procrastinate, anger or resentment … and then to work with those difficulties mindfully.

That’s all great, but how do you remember to practice being present? It’s so easy to get caught up in our thoughts and distractions, and forget to practice.

The honest truth is that no one is perfect at this. Me least of all. It’s a continual learning process, not something you figure out and then you’re good. It’s messy and beautiful.

So with that in mind, here are some practical ways to practice:

  1. A Small Regular Practice. Form the simple habit of meditating for just two minutes a day (to start with). After you wake up, simply sit comfortably and try to focus on your breath for two minutes. When (not if) your mind wanders, just notice it and label it “thinking.” And gently return to the breath, without harshness. Set a timer, and when the timer goes off, you’re done! If you feel like expanding it by a minute every week or so, feel free to do so, but you don’t have to expand. The benefit of this regular practice is that you learn skills you can take and practice in other parts of your day.
  2. Work with Others. Having a regular group or partner to meditate with is helpful. You support each other continuing to practice, and can talk about struggles and things you’re learning. If you don’t have a practice group in your area, you could find people online to talk to regularly about practicing.
  3. Have Mindfulness Bells. You could have a chime regularly sound off on your phone or computer (numerous apps do this) to remind you to pause and be mindful of what’s going on right now. I’ve also found it useful to see other things as mindfulness bells: seeing my child’s face, a traffic light, hearing an alert from an appliance or the computer. Each of these can be a reminder to be present when I notice them.
  4. Set an Intention Before an Activity. If you’re about to do a work task, process email, read a book, cook dinner … you can pause just before starting, and think for a second about what your intention for that activity might be. What are you hoping to do with this activity? For me, I might cook dinner out of love for my family or myself. I might write a blog post (like this one) out of love for my readers. I might do a workout out of love for myself (and to set a good example for my kids). I process email out of responsibility and consideration for those trying to communicate with me. By setting an intention, it reminds you to be mindful of that intention as you do any activity.
  5. Reflect Daily. At the end of each day, or at the beginning, take a minute to journal or just reflect on how your day has gone. How have you done with practicing being present? What have you struggled with? Have you been using your mindfulness bells and setting intentions? What resistance has come up for you, what stories are you telling yourself about all of this? Daily reflection is one of the most useful habits for continuing to practice and getting better at practicing.
  6. See Everything as a Teacher. This method admittedly sounds a bit corny, but it’s actually amazing. When you’re feeling frustrated with someone, feeling stressed out by work, feeling upset or grieving about the health of a loved one, feeling anxious about a national election … pause and see this person or situation as a teacher. What can you learn from them about being present? What attachments can you see in yourself that are causing this difficulty? What stories are you forming that are causing you to feel this way? What can you practice letting go of? What can you appreciate about this moment that you are taking for granted? In this way, every difficulty, every person, everything that arises in the present moment can be a loving teacher that is helping us along the path to being present.

Mindfulness for Beginner’s ebook

If you’d like help with mindfulness, check out my new Zen Habits Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness short ebook.

zen habits

A Method for Dealing with Feeling Stressed & Overwhelmed

By Leo Babauta

I have an overwhelming amount on my mind today, and with that feeling of being overwhelmed, my stress levels have gone up significantly.

This is a wonderful opportunity to practice being present.

We all experience stress, we all get overwhelmed, and we can drown in it and let it rule our lives … or we can practice with it. Learn from it.

So here’s what I’m doing today to deal with my stress:

  1. Recognize the signs. When my stress levels go up, two things happen: I have stress hormones flooding my body, and I tend to rush around and jump from one task to another really quickly. These are great signals that something is going on! So the first step of this method is to realize that I’m overwhelmed, and that I need to pause.
  2. Pause and notice. I stop moving, and notice what’s going on. Just sit still and look inward. Feel the stress in my body. It feels like waves of electricity flowing from my head and chest toward my extremities. Just notice this physical feeling, notice how rushed I feel, notice how I am feeling like the world is crashing down on me.
  3. Notice the urge to be in control. The feeling of being overwhelmed is so strong because I don’t feel in control. When I can do one thing at a time and have a manageable amount on my plate, I feel in control. This is simply an illusion. I’m never really in control. I make lists, I create systems, I develop routines, I have goals and mark my progress, I have accountability … but I’m just floundering in the dark like everyone else. I don’t know where I’m going, nor am I executing an exact plan to get anywhere. I’m just trying to make my way in an uncertain, uncontrollable world, without falling on my face too much. So now I notice this urge to be in control of my life, and don’t act on it. Just see it, acknowledge it.
  4. Give yourself love. As I see this urge to be in control, see the stress flowing through me … I can send love to myself. It’s like putting a warm hand over my heart. Then putting a warm hand over the other parts of me that are stressed, that want control. It relaxes me a bit, makes me feel less anxious. It’s like a mother’s love calming an upset child.
  5. Narrow my scope. This is my concession to my desire to be in control. I can’t do everything at once. Nor can I do in a single day all of the thousand and one things I need to do. I can only do a handful of things today. So I make a list, then pick a few things I can do today. The Today list ends up being too long, so I have to renegotiate my commitments and acknowledge that I only have a limited capacity. I narrow down my Today list. This is now doable. The rest I’ll have to do once I’m done with this smaller list.
  6. Focus on one thing. All I can do is one thing. I want to do a hundred right now. But I can only do one. So I pick one, clear everything else away, and just focus completely on that one thing. Yes, there’s still stress in my body, and I can be aware of that stress and the urge to be in control that remains, continue to give myself love, as I do my one thing. This is the best I can do. So I do my best at it.
  7. Relax into the moment. As I do my one thing right now, I can feel the tension in myself. My chest is tight, my neck is tense, my arms and legs are tensed up. So I tell myself to relax into this present moment. I just let myself relax and accept what’s going on, relax and be here with this moment instead of fighting against it, relax and see that there’s beauty and joy to appreciate in this moment, even in the midst of chaos and stress. There’s so much in this one moment that I don’t need to focus on everything else — I’ll get to those things later — but instead can relax into the warm embrace of the goodness of this moment.

I am practicing this method as I write these words, and hope to practice it all day today. I offer it to you in hopes that you’ll find some beauty, joy, and appreciation with it as well.

zen habits

Kickstarter Bonus: Dealing with Struggles Video Course

By Leo Babauta

As I get closer to the goal for my Habit Zen app on Kickstarter, I’ve decided to add a new bonus reward: a video course on dealing with life struggles.

It’s for anyone who is struggling with:

  • Frustration
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Feeling down or unmotivated
  • Unhappy with their direction in life
  • Feeling bad about themselves

I won’t be able to give you all the answers to turn your life around, but we’ll look at dealing with these difficulties and easing them.

It’ll be a four-week video course with:

  1. Twice-weekly video lessons
  2. Exercises designed to help you build skills
  3. The ability to submit your struggle – I’ll do a video or article addressing your (anonymous) case
  4. A live video webinar with me, where you can ask questions

I’m planning on launching this video course in November, and I will sell it for $ 200 at that time. But if you back my project on Kickstarter at the “Dealing with Struggles” level (campaign ends Tuesday morning), you can get it for $ 150. Plus more: beta access to the Habit Zen app, the Habit Guide ebook and videos, and access to a series of habit webinars. And a deep thank you from me!

Note: If you have already backed the project at a different reward level, you can update your level to get this reward (if you do the $ 150 level and select Dealing with Struggles reward level)

Guys, I am opening my heart to anyone who joins this Dealing with Struggles course. I’m not doing it for money, but because I know what it’s like to struggle. I have found some mindfulness techniques that have helped me and a lot of other people I’ve coached, and I want to help. It won’t necessarily be easy — you’ll have to put in some work — but it can be life-changing. And I’ll be there with you.

My friends, I am so close to meeting my goal with this Kickstarter project! I’d like to not only hit the goal, but surpass it. That will enable me to pay the Kickstarter fee plus taxes, plus hopefully get the phone app development going soon. I would be incredibly grateful if you could help me — there are only a few days left!

Back the Habit Zen app on Kickstarter today.

zen habits

A Short Guide to Starting, if You’re Struggling

By Leo Babauta

I know a lot of people who fall into a slump, losing the habit of exercise, procrastinating with work, slipping into a bad diet, and generally not feeling motivated.

It’s hard to get out of a slump like that.

It’s hard to get going again, to get started when all the forces of inertia are against you.

Here’s how to get started, in just a few easy steps.

  1. Pick one thing. Pick just one change. People who want to change their lives usually want to change everything at once. But trust me, one change is enough for now: go for a short walk, do a few pushups, eat a fruit for breakfast, do a 5-sentence journal every morning. Not all of these, just pick one! Focus on it for the next month.
  2. Send a friend an email. Just a quick email, asking for help. Tell them you’ve been slumping, but you’re going to stick to one change. Ask them to keep you accountable — if you don’t do what you promise every day for a month, you owe them something big (or embarrassing). Make it something powerful, so you definitely won’t allow yourself to fail.
  3. Promise to do something ridiculously easy. Tell your friend you’re going to do something every day — but something super easy. Again, go for a 5-minute walk. Do just a few pushups every morning. Do a journal of just 5 sentences each day. The easier the better. Again, trust me on this one. You want it so easy you can’t say no.
  4. Create unmissable reminders. Put a huge sign somewhere you won’t miss it. Reminders in your email, calendar, phone. Ask people around you to remind you. Put a rubber band around your wrist. Don’t let yourself forget!
  5. Build trust with a single step. Every day, you just need to take one step. Just write one sentence in your journal. Just do one pushup or yoga pose. When you take that step, do it mindfully and with gratitude and joy. Smile. Enjoy that tiny victory. With that step, you’re building trust in yourself. When you see yourself want to put it off, pause. Breathe. Stay with the urge to run away but don’t let yourself run. Smile, and do the habit anyway.

With every single step, you’ll feel better. When you finish that step, take the next one. You’ll trust yourself more and more, and eventually you’ll be able to add another small habit, then another the month after. And soon you’ll be kicking butt, happy you’re moving in a good direction, smiling with gratitude with every good thing you’re doing for yourself.

zen habits

What’s the Most Loving Thing You Can Do?

By Leo Babauta

The question I’ve been asking myself lately, before I do anything, is a deceptively simple one: “What’s the most loving thing you can do in this situation?

Now, that might sound corny to some of you, might seem irrelevant to most of you. But give me one minute of your time to explain.

I’ve been experimenting for awhile with letting go. Not running when I have uncertainty, fear, discomfort. Not acting on my fears or frustrations. Not letting these things drive me, but sitting still with them instead, and facing them with courage.

That’s wonderful, but what if you actually need to act? You could sit still all day, but then you’d never help anyone, never create anything, never do anything.

So there’s a need to not act, to sit still … and there’s a need to act. How do we determine which is which?

By asking that question. “What’s the most loving thing you can do in this situation?”

When you’re about to take an action (including running away, going away from uncertainty to comfort, procrastinating, going to distractions or comfort food) … stop and sit still.

Turn inward and see if fear or stress is coming up, see if you’re feeling uncertainty and wanting to cope by getting control. See if you’re trying to comfort yourself, or to lash out, to close down.

In this case, the most loving thing you can do is nothing.

The most loving thing you can do, for yourself and others, is to sit still. Face the fear and uncertainty. Not act out wanting to control these emotions, wanting to comfort yourself.

But in other cases, you want to take action. Doing your work, for example, could be something that helps you or your team or the world. Taking care of someone, talking to them, being there for them, serving them … those can be very helpful things to do.

In these cases, acting to help yourself or someone else is the most loving thing you can do.

If I’m going to read with my kid, take a walk with my wife, clean the kitchen for my family, write a book for my readers … these are loving acts.

If I’m running to check email or social media because I want something easy to do instead of writing that book for my readers … the loving act is to sit still and face this discomfort, fear and uncertainty.

When I’m talking to someone out of frustration, the most loving thing I can do is to refrain from trying to criticize or control them or be defensive. Instead, I can face this frustration. When I calm myself down, I can talk to them in a loving way and try to help them, try to empathize with them, try to be there for them.

Each time I’m about to act, the best thing I can do is ask that question: What’s the most loving thing you can do in this situation? I might not always remember, but when I do, it is always a helpful question.

Note: If you’d like to dive into mindfulness, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness here.

zen habits

Habit Guide Ebook, Habit Mastery Video Course, and Mindfulness Seminar Available

By Leo Babauta

I told you guys earlier about the Kickstarter campaign for my Habit Zen app, but today I wanted to share three special rewards that I included in that campaign: a habit guide ebook, my new Habit Mastery video course, and a one-day mindfulness seminar with me in San Francisco.

These are three new products I’ve been creating, and I’m offering them in this campaign for the first time.

I think they’re some of the most important things I’ve created, so I’m going to share some details about each so you can grab them before the campaign ends (in less than 2 weeks) if you want.

Habit Guide Ebook

Similar to the Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness short ebook I released last month, this is a concise guide for beginners — the mechanics of how habits are formed, the common obstacles to sticking to a habit and how to solve them, and some key habit skills. This is something you can read in a couple of sittings, but put the exercises into practice over a month to learn the fundamentals of creating new habits.

I’m writing this book now, and hope to finish it by next month, and release it either at the end of October or sometime in November. It’ll be sold separately as a regular short-read ebook at $ 4.99 here on Zen Habits, or as a package for $ 9.99 with some additional instructional videos. But you can reserve your copy of the ebook and videos now by supporting my Habit Zen app project on Kickstarter!

Habit Mastery Video Course

I’ve been working on this course nearly all year, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever made, I believe. It’s pretty much all written, and now I just need to shoot the videos and package it together as a course.

Why is this my best product yet? Because it’s intended to take you into the intermediate and advanced stages of habit mastery, not just the beginner level. Because it’s guided by video lessons and a series of exercises designed to give you the skills you need to create all kinds of habits, if you do the work. And because it’s focused on the meta skills of habit creation (and quitting habits), not just specific habits (like exercise or meditation).

I’m really excited to offer this video course. I plan to sell it early next year for about $ 300 (or $ 400 for the premium level), but again, you can get in on it while supporting my Kickstarter campaign (and I could use the help!).

Habit Webinars

I didn’t mention this in the title, but in the Kickstarter campaign, I’m offering a series of webinars on creating habits. Similar to the habit guide ebook, these webinars (you could get just one, or the whole series) is intended to give you the basics of forming habits, and to help you overcome common obstacles. The difference? These webinars will be live, online, and I’ll answer questions you can ask in the chat.

I find the webinar format really useful — I offer a 25-minute (or so) talk, and then answer audience questions, which is always an enlightening process to watch, even if you don’t ask any questions. But I encourage you to ask questions, because that’s when the real learning happens. I love doing webinars, and I hope you’ll join me (note: you’ll get access to these webinars if you choose a higher reward level).

One-Day Mindfulness Seminar (in person)

OK, this one is really special. It’ll be a live seminar, in person, in San Francisco. For one day, next Spring (date will be determined by a poll of all attendees).

I’m limiting this reward to 15 people for now, but I might sell a few more spots in this webinar here on Zen Habits later this year or early next year. I want to keep the group small.

Why is this special? It’ll be the first seminar I’ve ever created like this. I’ll work with the small group of attendees to develop some powerful mindfulness skills over the course of a day, using hands-on exercises that I’ll be supervising and offering feedback on. This isn’t just about being present or living in the moment — it’s about dealing with fears and procrastination that might be holding you back, struggles with frustration and anxiety, finding more focus to do the work you love and are meant to do.

In addition to the mindfulness training, we’ll eat some of my favorite vegan food in San Francisco, have a tea tasting, and eat some world-class chocolate. Yum!

I hope you’ll join me by backing my Kickstarter at the appropriate level.

zen habits

Not Doing All the Things We Want to Do

By Leo Babauta

I think we’ve all been there: we’ve signed up for the gym, signed up for a class, bought an ebook … and then not used it.

We’ve had hopes of learning to draw, to program, to play a musical instrument … and then promptly failed to do so.

We’ve had the best intentions for a project (maybe starting a blog or writing a book). We’ve had the best intentions for our day, to be productive and kick some butt.

And then our plans fall apart. We fail to live up to our hopes.

Why is this? What’s wrong with us?

In my experience, there are a few key obstacles:

  1. We are overly optimistic. We think we’re going to be able to do about 2-5 times what we can actually do. We only have so much capacity, only so much energy, only so much time in the day. But we are not very good at estimating any of those, and we also think the things we want to do are going to take way less time than they’ll actually take. Optimism beats us every time.
  2. We don’t account for the little things. This goes hand-in-hand with the optimism, but when we’re thinking about our plans, we don’t think about all the tiny things, like maintenance tasks, that need to be done in order to accomplish our plans … or even just to live. We don’t think about showering, brushing our teeth, getting dressed, cooking, eating, cleaning up, doing laundry, driving, getting gas, answering a thousand and two emails, taking phone calls, using the bathroom, and so on and so on. We just aren’t wired to be able to calculate all of that.
  3. We fail in the face of resistance. When we have the choice to focus on what we hoped to focus on, or do some busywork or go to one of our comfortable distractions … resistance comes up. And our habitual, conditioned response is to shy away from the resistance. Sometimes we have the motivation to overcome it, but most times we put things off, because beating the resistance isn’t easy.
  4. We don’t have the right environment. A big part of whether we succeed at overcoming the resistance is whether we have an environment that’s conducive to keeping us on task or holding us accountable. For example, if we are a part of a team, and they are counting on us to get a project done by the end of the day … we will be more motivated to overcome resistance because we don’t want to let them down. But let’s say no one will know if we procrastinate for an entire day … and there are lots of tempting distractions staring at us from the browser … we’re less likely to get things done. And if people in our lives are actively against us taking a class or learning an instrument, we’re less likely to do it. Accountability, supportive people, the presence of distractions … these are some key parts of whatever environment we’re in.

These are things we all do. There isn’t a person among us who is immune to these problems — certainly not me, nor anyone I know.

So what can we do? It turns out there are a few key habits we can form to help with these problems, and some of them are going to seem obvious now that we’ve identified the causes.

Solutions to Key Obtacles

If you want to actually put that class or gym pass to use, if you want to get that personal project done or read that ebook you bought … here are some suggestions that I’ve found to be powerful in actually doing what I hope to do:

  • Know that you probably only have 3-4 hours a day of productive time to get projects done, get important work done, read books, learn stuff. The rest of the time is spent on sleeping, eating, personal maintenance, transportation, meetings, calls, email, distractions, shopping, cooking, errands, taking care of kids or hanging with friends, and so on.
  • Block out what you can do in that time. Exercise, writing, reading, learning, a few important tasks.
  • Now cut out half of those. The things you want to do are going to take twice as long as you hope. If you have some time left over, bonus! Use that time not on distractions but on the tasks you cut out.
  • If you want more productive time, cut out some distractions, TV, online reading. But you’ll probably only be able to add another hour a day.
  • Set up a good environment for each project you want to complete — if you want to learn guitar, have some accountability and someone who will be supportive, even if that means finding someone online. Set deadlines and have people who count on you to get your project done. Go somewhere for 30 minutes where you won’t have any distractions.
  • When you’re ready to focus on the thing you hoped to get done … face the resistance instead of running from it. Stare it in the face. See that it’s not that bad. Know your deeper reason for wanting to get this done, and remember that this reason is worth facing the resistance and pushing on despite that discomfort.

I hope you find these useful. I’ve used them to learn things, to get projects done, to stick to exercise programs, to do things with my kids. I’m far from perfect, I forget these things all the time, but when I remember to do them, I am much better at living up to my hopes and dreams.

zen habits

Dealing with the Sweat-Inducing Fear of Launching a Major Project

By Leo Babauta

Last week, I launched my new app, Habit Zen, on Kickstarter. Immediately the fears started surging through my body.

What if people hate this? What if no one funds it? What if I publicly flop in front of a million people?

And what if it gets funded, but I do a horrible job at it?

Fear grips you, and doesn’t seem to want to let go. You start worrying about every little thing, start getting desperate, start trying to figure out ways you can control the uncontrollable. Letting go would be the answer, but it’s not so easy. Fear rules with an iron grip.

But what is my alternative? I could never do anything big, never push myself into the wild territory of fearfulness, never try anything difficult that I might fail at.

Launching something big is freaking scary, but also it’s what I need to do to grow.

So here’s what I do:

Ask myself what my intention is. Why do I want to do this project? Is it to look good, to accomplish something awesome, for my ego? Or am I doing it to help people, out of love? How much do people need this help?

The truth is, if it’s for my ego, I probably shouldn’t push through the fear. It’s not worth it. But if I’m doing this for someone else, it’s worth the struggle. I should definitely make myself go through the fear if I think people will benefit from this.

Ask friends if I’m crazy. It’s possible that I’m deluded. So I ask people I trust: do you think I should do this? If I have good friends, they’ll be honest with me. They might be crazy too, though, so that’s worth considering. 🙂

My friends told me to do this. They’re supportive, and they don’t let me back out of stuff just because I’m scared. Thanks guys! It also helps to calm my fears if I have voices of sanity talking to me.

Stare the fear in the face. I am very likely to try to run from my fear, hide away in some safe comfort zone, or run to try to control my fear somehow. It’s a defense mechanism, and I’ve conditioned myself to do it for years.

Instead, I’m trying to teach myself to just sit still and face the fear. Look at it kindly in the face, and see what it’s like. What kind of courage does it take to stay with my fear? What is it like to not run? I try to explore this, with curiosity.

And what I find is that it’s not so bad. Fear can make me panicky, but when I face it, I find that it’s not the end of the world. Not such a big deal.

Stop myself from taking desperate actions. When I’m fearful, I can do desperate things. Anything to try to get things to turn out the way I want. But the desperate things are often harmful, not helpful.

So I’m trying to get myself to breathe, and take a more rational look at the actions I want to take. Ask myself questions like: am I doing this out of fear, or is this actually going to be helpful? Am I doing this because of ego, or will others benefit from this action? What would happen if I do nothing? Is there a better action I can take?

And once I calm down, the actions tend to be less self-centered, and more compassionate. When I remember.

Give myself compassion. If I’m filled with fear, I like to look at the scared part of me like it’s a little kid. We’ve all been that scared little child before. And instead of ignoring the scared child, instead of scoffing at the child … why don’t we just give it a little compassion? By sending love towards this fear, I can get it to calm down a bit, and not run.

What I’ve found is when I give myself compassion, I learn to trust that things will be OK. They won’t necessarily turn out the way I want, but they’ll be just fine. I’ll figure things out. I’m a good friend to myself, and a good friend will help you pick up the pieces when things fall apart. And they will. I’ll be there with compassion when that happens.

Tell myself to plunge into the water. I’ve stood at the edge of ice-cold waters before, dreading the iciness that would shock my body. And no matter how long I stood there, dwelling in my fears, it didn’t help.

What worked for me is just diving in, without thinking too much about it. Stop the dwelling, and just plunge. Brace myself for the shock, and accept that it will be uncomfortable. And that the discomfort would be temporary. And worth it.

With this latest project, I know there will be overwhelming fear. I know that things could collapse. And yet, I’m taking the plunge anyway. I’m going to trust that things will turn out differently than I hope, but that I’ll be OK anyway.

If you’d like to help allay my fears, go ahead and help fund my Habit Zen app on Kickstarter!

zen habits