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Life Lesson 1

 

5 Truths You Must Accept Before You Can Grow

Hard but essential pills to swallow in order to

become your best self

 
Ayodeji Awosika

Ambitious people are a dime a dozen. Most people doubt themselves. All of us — in some shape or form — are stuck in la la land.

 

One of the most difficult yet useful skills is the ability to balance your aspirations with reality. A pessimist and an idealist both miss the point.

 

The point is to have optimism about your future but look at the state of society, your environment, and your circumstances without rose-colored glasses.

 

Many of these truths sit right under your nose. Intuitively you know they’re true, but facing them head-on means discomfort.

 

Success or failure in life comes from which type of discomfort you choose.

 

You can choose the discomfort of facing reality, making decisions to change, and having the difficult dialogue needed to do both.

 

You can also choose the discomfort of rationalizing your situation, lying to yourself, and making excuses.

 

The choice is yours. In my experience, and from what I’ve observed, taking the discomfort upfront can feel horrible in the short run but rewarding in the long run. Pushing it away with the avoidance of truth alleviates discomfort in the short term, but it always comes back and persists until you do something about it.

 

Take a look at the truths I’m about to share with you. Technically, they are my opinions. You’re free to disagree with them. Before you do, though, try to take a look at yourself and your situation honestly to determine whether you really disagree with me, or you’re just hiding.

 

1.  The World Will Never Quit Poking You

 

Most [people] make the error of thinking that one day it will be done. They think, “If I can work enough, then one day I could rest.”Or, “I’m only doing this now so that one day I can do what I really want with my life.” The […] error is to think that eventually, things will be different in some fundamental way. They won’t. It never ends. As long as life continues, the creative challenge is to tussle, play, and make love with the present moment while giving your unique gift. — David Deida

 

Have you ever felt like your circumstances were trying to break you?

 

Just when you’ve improved your finances, your car breaks down.

You wake up on the wrong side of the bed, come to work to a nagging boss and go home to an indifferent spouse.

Every time you take a step forward, you take three back. Inevitably, just as you’re on the rise, something or someone tries to knock you down.

If only life would give you a little bit of a break, you tell yourself, you’d have enough energy to make an effort to become successful.

 

Deep down, you believe success provides an escape from life’s problems. You figure if you had enough income, freedom, and positive experiences in your life…the bullshit would stop.

 

It doesn’t and it never will.

 

In fact, when you push to do something outside of the box — start a business, write a book, become an artist, carve your own route — not only will things get worse before they get better, you’ll still have to work to maintain what you’ve achieved.

 

People of all walks of life have problems. Billionaires have problems, Hollywood actors, the Dalai Lama all have problems. Around every corner, just when you think you’ve won, life will find a way to see what you’re made of.

 

But there’s beauty in the struggle of life when you look at the right way. When life tests you, you get the chance to prove you’re resilient. One of the deepest levels of satisfaction comes from knowing how strong you are. Few memories are better than those of overcoming struggles, persisting, and absorbing pressure and turning it into fuel instead of letting it break you.

 

Realizing the world will constantly test you removes the element of surprise. When you find yourself in a bad spot, it feels doubly worse because you didn’t see it coming.

 

Know that life is preparing its next right hook, but as Jim Rohn said, “Don’t wish it was easier. Wish you were Better. Don’t wish for fewer problems. Wish for more skills.”

 

Our first reaction to pain and hardship — mine included — is to dwell on how much it sucks. A few of us, however, realize there’s an opportunity to be had.

 

It’s easy to say and difficult to do, but if you can learn how to transform pain into purpose you’ll feel a type of happiness that is ten times better than the feeling of having a life devoid of difficulties.

Maybe our purpose on this planet isn’t to feel good. Maybe we’ve been placed here to see what we’re made of.

 

Almost every time life tests you, you won’t want to find the opportunity in it. I never look positively at a challenge or hardship instantly, but after I’m done sulking, I look to take a step in a positive direction.

 

Try it. Over time, it works wonders.

 

2.  Things Will Never Be the Way They “Should” Be

 

“We unconsciously imprison ourselves to avoid our most primal fears. We choose Should because choosing Must is terrifying, incomprehensible.”- Elle Luna

 

Should — what a simultaneously dangerous and useless word.

 

People often use should in one of two ways — to give themselves an excuse for not doing something or for complaining about an unchangeable circumstance.

 

A perfect world doesn’t exist — the one without inequality, injustice, unfairness, superficial people, hate, greed, envy, lust, the list goes on.

 

Are you using the world to avoid living in reality?

 

Maybe you think you should be making more money. But you’re not, and believing you should make more isn’t going to change that. Finding a new job could change that. Improving your performance and negotiating a raise could change that.

 

Complaining definitely won’t.

 

Maybe you think you shouldn’t have to work twice as hard to achieve the same level of success as someone else. But what if you do have to work twice as hard? Are you going to wait for the scales of justice to even out? They won’t.

 

Again, you can complain if you want, but complaining isn’t a strategy. It doesn’t do anything.

The same energy you use to rail against the way life should or shouldn’t be could be used to improve your situation.

 

Should also become dangerous when you talk about the things you aspire to do. “I should start working out,” you tell yourself. “I should start working harder and being motivated.” The minute you use the word in your head or out loud, you’ve already lost. It gives you an out. You almost get a perverse satisfaction from thinking about doing something. It gives you the credit you don’t deserve yet.

 

Instead of talking about what you should do and the way the world should be, you’re better off doing.

 

Doers make change happen for themselves and for others. Doers don’t have time to think about what they should or shouldn’t do. They know what to do. If they don’t, they gather enough information to have an idea of what to do and act on it.

 

Ask yourself where the word should is causing harm in your life. Now, what are you going to do about it?

 

 

3.  No One is Coming to Save You

 

“Sure, raise the minimum wage if you plan to stay there your entire life.” — Jim Rohn

 

When was the last time the government came to your rescue?

 

The answer is likely never. Yet we treat it like a savior or a demon when it’s neither. It’s a machine. An uncaring machine that’s completely self-interested. Regardless, we make our way to the voting booths to ensure our guy or girl wins.

 

Look at your own life. Has it changed dramatically between presidencies — not in terms of news coverage or your feelings about the president — but your actual life from day to day?

 

Are you waiting for an employer to save you with a raise or magically improving your work environment? If so, you might be waiting for a long time.

 

It’s easy to blame the government, your employer, or someone other than yourself for your woes. It’s easier to say wages should be higher than to try to become more valuable.

 

I’m not saying the institutions of society are fair. They’re definitely not. With the fleeting life you live, however, you don’t have time to wait for institutions to save you.

 

Odds are, you’ll have to lift yourself out of your circumstances. Will it be easy? Hell no. But you really don’t have a choice — not if you want to change your life.

 

4.  Everything is Your Fault

 

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”-Theodore Roosevelt

 

I know what you’re thinking.

 

You were born poor, your parents didn’t treat you well, you have a disability, you have a funny accent, you live in the wrong city, you’re sick, your boss hates you, you have no money, you’re a disabled veteran, you’re black, you’re a woman, you’re gay, you’re trans.

 

You’re special. And because your circumstances are so unique, you couldn’t possibly be to blame for your failures.

 

Deep down we know we’re the common denominator of all our problems, but it’s hard to face. Why?

Because it means we’re the ones who have to change our situations. And if we don’t change our situations, we can only blame ourselves. Nobody wants to think they’re the only real barrier to their own success, happiness, and well-being. It’s easier to blame someone or something else.

 

And no, I don’t think you’re lazy, mediocre, or “don’t want it bad enough.” It’s genuinely difficult to take full ownership of your life. It can be uncomfortable or downright painful. The natural reaction is blaming someone other than yourself because your brain wants to protect you from harm and danger.

 

But you can overcome these excuses.

 

You’re in control of your life.

 

Are you in control of what happens to you? No, but you’re in control of how you react to what happens to you.

 

You choose how to react to situations, maybe not fully and consciously, but choose nonetheless.

 

If you don’t take responsibility for your life, who will? I know how hard it is. Denial feels bad, but it hurts a little less than accepting the truth of your role in your own life.

 

If you go through the painful period of acceptance and get up from the floor, I promise greater things are ahead.

 

5.  You’ll Never Find the Perfect Start Time

 

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” — Proverb

 

I remember the first time I told my wife I wanted to start writing.

 

“I think it would be really fun to have a blog and start writing,” I said.

 

“Well…why don’t you start writing then?” She replied.

 

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 17 years old. I didn’t start until I was 25. Maybe I was too immature to write anything of value until I’d lived a little, but I still wonder how much further along I could be now if I started earlier.

 

Did I make a declaration to become a writer, buy a typewriter, and lock myself in a room to write for hours? No.

 

I started with one blog post…and I’ve been writing nearly every day for years since. There’s power in starting. You don’t have to make a big deal out of starting a new project, just do it.

 

Seriously, what are you waiting for?

 

Are you waiting for the kids to grow older or move out so you can write that book?

 

Leo Tolstoy had 13 kids when he wrote War and Peace.

 

Are you waiting to have enough money to start your business?

 

If you have a good idea, there are various ways to start businesses at a low cost or find seed money. Oh, it’s hard to find seed money? Well, starting a business is hard. Deal with it.

 

All salesmen know the phrase “now isn’t the right time,” is a lie. There’s always a hidden objection behind the polite ones given such as lack of time, money, or ideal circumstances. The objection could be that the buyer doesn’t trust the seller, they don’t believe the product will deliver on its benefits, or they do believe in the product but not in themselves to get the most from it.

 

The way you self-talk is much like the relationship between a salesperson and a customer. You give yourself the polite out, but the truth is there’s a deeper objection.

 

What is it?

 

You may not have even consciously thought of it yet. You really might believe in your own polite excuses. Until you dig deep to find the hidden reasons behind your behavior, you’ll never change. I talk about this process at length in my book.

 

We all have deeply embedded beliefs about ourselves and about the world we live in — business is “risky,” intelligence and talent are fixed traits, finding a secure job will make us happy, others are luckier than you are, rich people steal, you’re left or right brained and can’t cross over, being healthy means depriving yourself, you must own a home and have kids, men are evil, women are evil, the list goes on and on and on.

 

Many of these beliefs keep you from starting. You’re not a “numbers person” you tell yourself. Richard Branson has dyslexia and teachers labeled him learning disabled as a child — he’s a billionaire.

You think you can’t succeed because you’re ill or have a disability. Jon Morrow — a man who cannot move anything below his neck — owns a multi-million dollar blog with a viewership of millions per month.

 

I can find a counterexample to every excuse you have for not starting “x.”Rather than argue with me about it, why not just start?

 

Learn How to See

 

There’s a lot of noise in the world. A lot of b.s. You can find success by seeing through it all.

 

You can wait for the world to change into the ideal state you want it to be, or you can learn to navigate it.

 

The people we call successful, they can see — through the limits, society tries to place on people, through the cliches that aren’t true, through the joy-sucking prisons called institutions.

 

Can you see now?

 

I hope you decide to use the lens of truth to shape your decisions moving forward. It won’t feel good right away, but it will feel amazing when you look back at all you’ve done.

 


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Life Lesson 2

 

To Become Super-Likable, Practice “The Ben Franklin Effect”

The 18th-century observation later confirmed by science

 

Barry Davret

When Ben Franklin sought to transform an adversary into a supporter, he turned to an unusual approach. He later described it in his autobiography as an old maxim.

 

In 1969, researchers would confirm his maxim. Today, we call it “The Ben Franklin Effect.”

 

I’d first heard of it during a sales training years ago, and would learn more about it from Franklin’s autobiography. In it, he writes a story about an adversary of his in the Pennsylvania legislature.

Franklin wished to befriend or at least neutralize this adversary, so Ben asked him for a favor — to borrow a rare book. The adversary sent it, and Franklin returned it a week later with a note expressing his gratitude. When they next spoke, it was with great civility, a departure from their previous encounters. In time, they became lifelong friends.

 

He summed it up this way.

 

He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged — Ben Franklin

 

Okay, a bit too 18th century, so I’ll modernize his quote. In short, logic suggests that if you do someone a favor, they’ll reciprocate. Not so, according to the theory. You are more likely to receive a favor from someone if they have already done one for you.

 

Cognitive dissonance explains why it works.

 

Let’s suppose you perform a favor for someone to whom you feel indifferent towards, or maybe even dislike. You now experience dissonance, an inconsistency between your belief and your action, which you must resolve. I just went out of my way to do a favor for this jerk. Why?

 

Your mind reaches for harmony between the two, so you alter your beliefs to fit your action. Eh, he’s not all bad. Actually pretty cool at times. It’s far easier to convince yourself you like the other person than it is to reason away your action or pretend it never happened. And since we do favors for people we like, we’re more likely to grant additional ones.

 

The possibility of using this technique intoxicated me. I’ve always suffered from a lack of charisma and have struggled with meeting new people. I was eager to try out this strategy, not to manipulate others, but to improve my likability.


The hard truth about the “Ben Franklin Effect.”

Sorry, but you can’t go around asking people to do you favors and expect them to oblige. You might even annoy a shit-ton of folks. But that doesn’t mean you can’t employ the essence of what Franklin observed centuries ago.

 

If you read over the snippet about Franklin’s original request, you might notice the second factor at play. It wasn’t just a favor that he asked; it was a special kind, one that probably evoked a feeling of pride in his adversary.

 

Franklin’s adversary took great pride in his rare book collection. By asking to borrow from it, Franklin validated his adversary’s passion. He implicitly stated, “You have excellent taste and judgment in books.”

 

That kind of validation generates warmth and appreciation. It’s hard to avoid liking someone who compliments you on your excellence, passion, or taste.


A strategy to enhance your likability

 

Like most techniques to improve your interpersonal relationships, you need to put in effort on the backend before you execute on the frontend.

 

1. Learn about the people you wish to befriend

Pay attention to the subtle clues people drop in their conversations. What skills do they pride themselves in? What passions do they pursue? Ask questions to learn more about their likes and interests. Pay attention to the things they speak of most. You’ll discover what’s important to them.

By acquiring this information, you can seek small favors in a way that validates their passions and abilities.

 

2. Ask for a targeted favor

Ask for a favor that’s easy to deliver but meaningful for you to receive. Don’t put someone in an uncomfortable position. Never ask someone to do you a favor when you should be paying them for their work. That’s a surefire strategy to make you unlikable.

 

By acquiring the right knowledge in step one, you’ll attune yourself to opportunities as they arise. You only need to pay attention to the subtle cues.

 

Perhaps an acquaintance of yours touts their chops as a foodie. She boasts about her connections with local restaurants. Since you have a date night planned with your partner, an opportunity presents itself.

 

You need a restaurant. Call that foodie acquaintance of yours. Ask her for a favor.

“I have a special dinner planned for Friday,” you say. “I need to pick the perfect place. Can you do me a favor and help me?”

 

If she prides herself in this sort of thing, she’ll appreciate that you recognize her expertise. And since the ask is simple, she’ll oblige. She may even offer to set up the reservation with her contact.

 

3. The gratitude sandwich

 

Always express gratitude once the favor completes. Start with a sincere thank you. Include a sentence about how it benefitted you or what it meant to you. Sandwich it with a closing, thank you.

“Thank you for getting us into that restaurant. It was an unforgettable evening. My partner can’t stop talking about it. Thanks again. I appreciate your help.”

 

Avoid saying something like, I owe you one, or I’ll make it up to you. That makes it transactional. Friends do things for each other out of kindness; they don’t enter into transactions.


Ben Franklin made a lifelong friend when he asked an adversary to borrow a book. Simply asking people for favors won’t make you more likable. It might even make them resent you.

Instead, learn about people’s passions and interests. Ask for a targeted favor when the opportunity arises. And always remember to express gratitude in a way that demonstrates how much it meant to you.

 

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Life Lesson 3

 

The Danger in Fake Positivity and Spiritual Bypassing

Negative emotions and experiences allow us to grow

Vanessa Smith Bennett

These days, the realm of spirituality (and sometimes psychology) can feel fake.

 

Instagram and other social media are jammed with influencer posts about positive vibes, about not allowing negative energy or thoughts to get to you, about surrounding yourself with only supportive, positive people.

 

Unless you live in a bubble or on Mars, this is not only unrealistic, but also a recipe for never growing or truly learning who you are.

 

If you attempt to transcend or avoid difficult experiences, you can remain emotionally stunted. Spiritually minded psychologists and teachers refer to this as spiritual bypassing. Like it or not, the ugly parts of our humanity are where growth can occur. In the words of Buddhist teacher, author, and nun Pema Chödrön:

 

Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear… are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They’re like messengers that tell us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck.

 

Many emotions serve as flags indicating an opportunity for us to learn. Challenge, sorrow, change, discomfort, conflict, hatred, depression, and anxiety are paths to growth and change. We can explore and accept the parts of ourselves society urges us to keep tucked away. Painful or uncomfortable experiences enable us to grow past our current emotional and spiritual states.

 

Fake positivity can perpetuate a lot of the stigma around mental illness. Encouraging someone who has clinical depression to focus on the positive is not helpful and can actually do more harm. This advice can bolster the feeling that they are at fault because they cannot simply pull themselves up by the bootstraps. I tell people struggling with depression that they are more tuned in to real human experience and emotion than those pushing the positive-vibes-only agenda.

 

Clients don’t come to therapy or seek life coaching because everything in their lives is going wonderfully.

 

They are stuck in a pattern chock-full of negative emotions, and they cannot seem to break free.

 

Sometimes we need an unbiased third party to help us see what we are running from or challenge us to face what we are unwilling to feel.

 

Friends and loved ones can’t do it for us; we have too many emotional ties.

 

Doing this difficult work can lead to lasting change. It takes real courage to stop pretending you have it all together and shake hands with deep sadness or childhood trauma. (Yes, this is a plug for going to therapy. I can’t help it. I’m a therapist.)

 

The path of individuation asks for total integration of all facets of the self: good, bad, and ugly.

 

Sometimes there is nothing to do with or about these emotions. Sometimes we need to simply acknowledge these feelings—to sit with sorrow, resentment, or jealousy without trying to change the experience or pick it apart.

 

We have to allow ourselves to unfold, to witness emotions flooding our system, to breathe into the places in our bodies where we are stuck. We experience a softening when we allow space for all emotions, not just those that feel good.

 

If we can allow ourselves the space and acceptance to be multifaceted, we will experience life to its fullest.

 

Being human means facing suffering.

 

There is no light without dark, no joy without sadness. If we don’t experience all feelings, we have no basis for comparison.

 

If we run from certain emotions by staying busy, expressing fake positivity, or abusing mood-altering substances, we are cutting away half our existence.

 

When we stop and honor difficult emotions, we have the opportunity to live fully and integrate all parts of ourselves. These feelings will torment us until we stop running from them—and from the truth of who we are.

 

Next time you feel a sense of anger, fear, or sorrow, I challenge you to pause, get still, and remain quiet.

 

Notice the feeling in your body and take a deep breath into that space. You might even place a hand on the spot—the chest, the stomach, the throat—where the emotion seems to reside.

 

When you recognize these feelings, you truly honor your humanity. You may feel a loosening or a challenging emotion washing over you. But it will fade, like a wave that crashes on the shore before receding into the ocean.

 

It’s also important to own your feelings.

No one can make anyone feel any particular way.

It may seem like someone else is triggering us, but the source of discomfort is always within.

 

Blaming your anger or resentment on someone else is a very easy way to bypass the inner work.

 

The path of individuation asks for total integration of all facets of the self: good, bad, and ugly.

 

Don’t get discouraged by the difficult moments and emotions, and don’t push them away or diminish someone else’s experience by encouraging fake positivity.

 

Uncovering and understanding the self is a lifelong journey that demands rejection of conventional attitudes and the mask of positivity.

 

June Singer, noted American psychologist, put it this way:

 

It is an easy thing to say “be yourself” but quite another thing to know who you truly are. How can you be yourself if you do not know that self? Therefore, the process of individuation becomes a seeking after self-knowledge.

 

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Life Lesson 4

 

13 Rumi Quotes That Will Change The Way You Think

They will open your heart and mind to the beauty that lies within you.

Omar Itani

Rumi was a Persian poet and scholar from the 13th century.

 

His words and wisdom have crossed all borders and continue to stand the test of time. There is great beauty in the words he spoke, and it’s no wonder he has influenced and inspired many artists throughout the years.

 

His quotes stand to transform your life for the better by inviting more hope, love, and awakening. Here are 13 quotes that will open your heart and mind to the beauty that lies within you and, in doing so, change the way you think.


 

1. “Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.”

 

Who you were ten years ago and who you are now are two different people. The same applies to me. What began as a journey of seeking an answer to “how can I change this world with my ideas” transformed, in more recent years, into “how can I change myself so I can better be suited to contribute to this world.”

 

Changing yourself doesn’t mean becoming a different person, it simply means working on improving yourself to become better; learn how to have higher self-awareness, cultivate a stronger mindset, find meaning in what you do and develop mindful habits that boost your productivity.

Your goal is to understand yourself better and become more grateful, resilient, confident and productive in your daily life.

Work on bettering yourself — only then can you be in a position to contribute positive change to the world.


 

2. “The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.”

 

Every year, Bill Gates takes two “Think Weeks” and spends them alone in a cabin in the woods. He does it to escape the noise, read books, reflect on his progress and engage in deeper creative thought. Studies have shown that people who learn to find comfort in solitude tend to be happier, experience lower levels of stress and are less likely to have depression.

 

A few years ago, I flew to Sri Lanka on a solo trip and spent a week on a silent retreat. That experience was eye-opening; it set me on a path of greater self-awareness and gave me a much better idea of where I wanted to take my life. I went quiet, and in that silence, I was able to hear.

Silence and solitude go hand-in-hand. Learn to integrate at least 10 minutes per day to be alone with your thoughts because “the quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.”


 

3. “The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore… Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death.”

 

There will be people who will try to stop you from following your dreams and most will project their fears and limiting beliefs onto you.

 

Gary Keller, the author of The One Thing, says that “the way to protect what you’ve said yes to and stay productive is to say no to anyone or anything that could derail you.”

 

We are faced with so much noise in life that sometimes it’s easy to get lost in it. The key is to say no. Say no to the doubters — ignore them. Say no the ones holding you back — ignore them. Say no to fear, negativity and criticism — ignore them.

 

If you wish to make music in your life, you must tune out the noise. Find strength in ignoring what derails you from your focus of becoming better and moving forward in reaching your potential.


 

4. “It’s your road, and yours alone, others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.”

 

In other words, if you don’t find the courage to go after what you want in life, you’ll never get it.

I spent the majority of my life talking about “one day writing a book”.

 

But instead of doing anything about it, I just talked about it — and never wrote. I’d always find an excuse why not to: ‘I don’t have time to write’; ‘it’s a great book idea but I don’t know how to start it’…

Excuses are fabricated illusions we create to rationalize our behaviors when we’re too afraid to go after what we really want.

 

If you keep giving yourself excuses, you’ll never walk the road. Twenty years down the line, you’ll regretfully look back and say “I wish I had.”

 

Whatever it is you want to achieve in your life, you must be the first one to step forward toward it. Start walking the road now, so that later on, others may walk it with you.


 

5. “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

 

On May 19th, 2017, I had a bike accident and blacked out on the street. It was bad; I ended up spending the rest of the summer recovering from surgery. But that accident — that wound — transformed me.

 

Light is defined as “the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.” Through that accident, light entered to show me things I was blind to.

 

It taught me to slow life down and appreciate what I have. It opened my eyes to the abundance in my life and I became a grateful person who set out on a deeper path of self-discovery.

 

Light makes things visible, and a wound is a place where the light enters you. We all experience pain, sorrow, and misfortunate in life; no road is free from bumps.

 

The key is to not fall blind in the moment’s darkness and dwell in self-pity but to allow the light to enter you and show you all that you cannot see.


 

6. “Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about.”

 

This is similar to Picasso said:

 

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

 

J.K Rowling is an artist in the way she unfolds a story. Kobe Bryant was an artist in the way he played the game of basketball.

 

Michael Jackson was an artist in the way he brought music to life.

 

Pablo Picasso was an artist in the way he interpreted his paintings: “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”

 

Art is defined as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” Which means we all have the capacity to create art.

 

The key is to allow yourself to explore it.

 

Never lose sight of your inner-child. You are an artist in your own way. The question is are you willing to take the time to resurface your inner-child, discover what your talent is and be curious enough to explore it?


 

7. “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.”

 

This is so true. So many times we find ourselves hesitant because we know where we want to go but we don’t know how to start.

 

You want to build your own business, but you’re not sure how to start.

You want to become a New York Times Bestselling author but you’re not sure how to get there.

You want to become a musician, but you’re not sure how to release music.

 

But it’s not about the how; it’s about the where.

 

You need to be moving towards something in life — a goal, a direction or destination. Don’t dwell on the details, just get started.

 

How you’ll get there is something that will unravel as you begin the journey towards that destination. But you must start walking first — walk, and the way of “how” will present itself to you. You’ll figure it out as you go.


 

8. “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

 

Some call it passion.

Some call it purpose.

Others call it meaning.

Whatever you call it — it’s “curiosity” that pulls you closer to it.

 

And curiosity isn’t something you “think”, it’s something you “feel” that stems from the heart.

 

It’s that feeling you have for someone that goes from a crush to one date to a relationship. It’s that feeling you have for writing that takes you from amateur to blogger to author. Let yourself be drawn by its pull.

 

Learn to follow your heart. It can lead you to places you could’ve never imagined.


 

9. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

 

This is beautiful. What Rumi is saying is we must learn to love ourselves before we try to love someone else.

 

When we were first born into this world, we joined it as a little bundle of joy, screaming our way into existence.

 

Thoughts like “I’m not good enough” or “I’m fat” or “I’m not a good person” are things we’ve come to believe either because we were told these things earlier in life and we never questioned them, or because we repeatedly said (and still say) those things to ourselves, and through time, they were encoded in our subconscious mind.

 

Self-care is necessary for your sanity and your health. It means loving yourself for who you are today and forgiving yourself for your past.

 

It means changing the story you tell yourself: “I am good enough”; “I love my body”; “I am a good person”.


 

10. “The garden of the world has no limits, except in your mind.”

 

This is the most powerful of all because it reminds us that we set our own limits in life.

 

You can choose to see the world as a lush green garden scattered with waterfalls that flow with possibilities. You can also choose to see it as a bottomless pit of troubles and a life-sucking machine of death.

 

Which one will it be?

 

The world is a direct reflection of your mind.

 

Look through a lens of positive possibility and you will see the gardens of growth; look through a lens of negative restrictions and you will see the abyss of demise.


 

11. “Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.”

 

Recent research has proven that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

 

It not only unshackles you from toxic emotions, improves your physical and mental health and offers positive lasting effects on the brain, but it also helps you feel more positive emotions, become more resilient in dealing with adversity, and build stronger relationships with family and friends.

 

Gratitude allows you to see life with abundance. Practice gratitude and its positive implications will spill over into other areas of your life.


 

12. “You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?”

 

You were born with wings.

You are meant to fly, explore and discover.

Why are you crawling?

Why are you not spreading your wings, filling them with the winds of conviction?

It’s fear isn’t?

 

That’s completely normal because fear is omnipresent; fear is always there.

 

But with time, I’ve learned that fear is not something we must overcome, rather it’s simply an emotion that we must channel differently.

 

Fear is an instinct and it only rises for things that we care for — it’s a form of resistance to stop us from spreading our winds.

 

Not wanting to do something will make you feel indifferent about it, and thus fear is tamed. It’s only when you have an inclination for something — an interest — that fear rises.

 

If you give in to that fear, you will continue to crawl through life; if you don’t, you will spread your wings and fly like you were born to do.


 

13. “When you let go of who you are, you become who you might be.”

 

If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you must shed your older habits and limiting beliefs in order to grow in the journey.

 

If you want to become a great writer, you must learn to crush your self-doubt and fear of vulnerability and expand in the process of “becoming.”

 

It’s in the journey where you find happiness.

 

It’s in the journey where you become what you dream to be.

But to grow and expand, you must be willing to let go of who you are — your limiting beliefs, harmful habits, and negative self-talk.

At the end of the day, you are the only one holding yourself back from reaching your potential.

 

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Life Lesson 5

 

How to Become Popular Without Being Charming, Funny, or Outgoing

It’s your actions that matter most

Barry Davret

My first day of eighth grade taught me the meaning of the word “unpopular.” I had just moved to a new school district and didn’t know anyone. At lunchtime, I grabbed a tray of food, walked into the seating area, and thought, “Oh shit.”

 

There were no open tables. Plenty of seats were available, but I couldn’t bring myself to plop down in an open chair in the middle of a group of friends. So for most of the year, I ate while walking around, pretending like I had somewhere to go.

 

Even as an adult, I never grew into the type of person whom others were automatically drawn to. I couldn’t spin a good joke or charm my way around cocktail parties. I wasn’t a master conversationalist. I figured I would never achieve popularity, and just had to live with it.

But then I learned to adapt.

 

Over the years, I learned that if you’re charming, funny, or outgoing — great. But in the long run, it’s your actions that matter most. You become popular when you exhibit behaviors that make people like you, admire you, respect you, and seek you out. Here are seven ways to do that.

 

Be the diplomatic one

Long before I developed skills to compensate for my shyness, friends knew me as someone who could resolve disputes and break the tension.

They saw me as impartial, fair, and coolheaded.

When you develop this reputation, people will seek you out as a trusted adviser to settle confrontations.

To take on this role, spend more time listening than talking.

Don’t take sides.

Refrain from inserting yourself into disagreements.

If someone asks for your opinion, say, “I don’t know.

Can each of you explain your stance on the issue?”

You’ll be amazed at how often people work things out without any additional effort on your part, but you’ll still get credit for restoring the peace.

 

Give unforgettable compliments

Anyone can give a compliment, but most compliments are lazy.

Flattery like “You have nice eyes” or “Love your work ethic” is too vague to spark anything in the recipient other than a passing appreciation.

A memorable compliment has three components:

  • It’s narrow. The compliment addresses a small aspect of a person’s actions, expertise, or values.
  • It’s specific. It expresses in detail what triggered the desire to praise.
  • It validates. It shows appreciation for the person’s skills, taste, or values, and most importantly, recognizes what they believe (or wish to believe) about themselves.

Here’s an example of a compliment that accomplishes all three objectives: “I loved your article about rekindling a lost love. The idea of demonstrating instead of expressing love explained the distance I’ve been feeling with my spouse. We tried your communication strategy and really reconnected.”

 

Don’t keep score

I once believed you should give and then wait for reciprocation before giving again.

That was a mistake.

Fretting over debits and credits of favors only leads to resentment.

 

Giving freely to others benefits you, even when the recipient fails to balance the ledger. When you share your expertise, you reinforce the lesson for yourself. When you do someone a favor, you feel good about being helpful.

 

That doesn’t mean you should let people exploit you.

Nor should you give away something that deserves compensation. But when you give out of passion rather than obligation, you become someone people like, admire, and respect.

 

Ask, don’t tell

My quiet personality brought me one benefit: I never became one of those self-absorbed blowhards — one who rambles on about their life as if nobody else in the world matters.

 

To compensate for my lack of charm, I learned to ask questions.

When you ask open-ended queries, you keep others talking while you learn about them. You might ask: “Tell me a little bit about your role” or “Interesting, can you say more about the challenge of winning a deal?” or “What’s it like to have that responsibility?”

 

Follow your questions up with punchy reversals to keep people talking about themselves: “How’d you do that?” “What’s next?” “How so?” “I’m curious to hear more about…”

 

Once you get in the habit of asking questions, conversations become more comfortable. Your friends and peers will appreciate the opportunity to talk about their favorite subject: themselves.

 

Remember the insignificant

A mentor of mine had a practice of finding out trivial facts about people and tracking them in a spreadsheet.

Then, whenever he’d read an article, spot a quirky gift, or meet someone who reminded him of a person, he’d reach out, saying something like, “Hey, I just found this auction for Russian nested dolls. Was it your wife who had a collection?”

 

You don’t need to be that organized about it, but find your own way to remember the seemingly insignificant details of a person’s life. It makes them light up. They know you’re really listening.

 

Don’t complain

Some folks are quick to express negativity when things don’t go their way. I know this because I’m one of them. But after years of hearing, “Why are you always so negative?” I’ve become conscious of my behavior.

 

Avoiding negativity and complaining won’t instantly make you the most popular, but being the one who always finds a problem in everything is sure to repel people like a steak at a vegan retreat.

When you feel the urge to go negative, try this:

  1. Think, but do not speak your negative thought.
  2. Change perspectives. Ask yourself, “What good can come of this? How can I turn it into something positive?”
  3. Share your positive perspective.

 

Be first when it hurts

Be the first one to lead. Be the first one to defend. Be the first one to call out injustice.

 

Standing up for the vulnerable puts you at risk for rejection and attack.

That’s why most people refuse to do it. It’s less risky when you’re the second, third, or fourth person to join the fray.

 

But being the first when it hurts earns you respect from the people who matter.

 

If you exhibit these seven behaviors consistently, it won’t matter whether you’re someone who can captivate crowds at dinner parties or make hilarious observations wherever you go. You’ll attract people simply by being a better version of you.

 

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Life Lesson  6

 

Life Lessons From a Psychiatrist Who’s Been Listening to People’s Problems For Decades

 

How you approach life says a lot about who you are.

 

As I get deeper into my late 30s I have learned to focus more on experiences that bring meaning and fulfilment to my life.

 

I try to consistently pursue life goals that will make me and my closest relations happy; a trait that many individuals search for their entire lives.

 

Nothing gives a person inner wholeness and peace like a distinct understanding of where they are going, how they can get there, and a sense of control over their actions.

Seneca once said, “Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.”

 

“No people can be truly happy if they do not feel that they are choosing the course of their own life,” states the World Happiness Report 2012. The report also found that having this freedom of choice is one of the six factors that explain why some people are happier than others.

 

In his best-selling first book, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now, Dr Gordon Livingston, a psychiatrist who’s been listening to people’s problems for decades, revealed thirty bedrock truths about life, and how best to live it.

 

In his capacity as a psychiatrist, Dr Livingston listened to people talk about their lives and the many ways people induced unhappiness on themselves. In his book, he brings his insight and wisdom to the subjects of happiness, fear and courage.

 

“Life’s two most important questions are “Why?” and “Why not?” The trick is knowing which one to ask.” Acquiring some understanding of why we do things is often a prerequisite to change. This is especially true when talking about repetitive patterns of behavior that do not serve us well. This is what Socrates meant when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” That more of us do not take his advice is testimony to the hard work and potential embarrassment that self-examination implies.”

 

Most people operate on autopilot, doing the same things today that didn’t work yesterday. They rarely stop to measure the impact of their actions on themselves and others, and how those actions affect their total well-being.

 

They are caught in a cycle.

 

And once you get caught in the loop, it can be difficult to break free and do something meaningful.

Past behaviour is the most reliable predictor of future behaviour.

 

If your daily actions and choices are making you unhappy, make a deliberate choice to change direction. No matter how bleak or desperate a situation may appear to look, you always have a choice.

 

“People often come to me asking for medication. They are tired of their sad mood, fatigue, and loss of interest in things that previously gave them pleasure. ”…“Their days are routine: unsatisfying jobs, few friends, lots of boredom. They feel cut off from the pleasures enjoyed by others.

Here is what I tell them: The good news is that we have effective treatments for the symptoms of depression; the bad news is that medication will not make you happy. Happiness is not simply the absence of despair. It is an affirmative state in which our lives have both meaning and pleasure.”

 

“In general we get, not what we deserve, but what we expect,” he says.

 

Most people know what is good for them, they know what will make them feel better. They don’t avoid meaningful life habits because of ignorance of their value, but because they are no longer “motivated” to do them, Dr Livingston found. They are waiting until they feel better.

Frequently, it’s a long wait, he says.

 

Life is too short to wait for a great day to invest in better life experiences.

 

Most unhappiness is self-induced, Dr Livingston found.

 

The three components of happiness are something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.

 

Think about it.

 

If we have useful work, sustaining relationships, and the promise of pleasure, it is hard to be unhappy. I use the term “work” to encompass any activity, paid or unpaid, that gives us a feeling of personal significance. If we have a compelling avocation that lends meaning to our lives, that is our work, ” says Dr Livingston.

 

Many experiences in life that bring happiness are in your control. The more choices you are able to exercise, and control, the happier you are likely to be.

 

“Happiness is an inside job. Don’t assign anyone else that much power over your life,” says Mandy Hale.

 

Many people wait for something to happen or someone to help them live their best lives.

They expect others to make them happy.

They think they have lost the ability to improve their lives.

 

The thing that characterizes those who struggle emotionally is that they have lost, or believe they have lost, their ability to choose those behaviors that will make them happy, says Dr Livingston.

 

You are responsible for your own life experiences, whether you are seeking a meaningful life or a happy life.

 

If you expect others to make you happy, you will always be disappointed.

 

You can consistently choose actions that could become everyday habits.

 

It takes time, but it’s an investment that will be worth your while.

 

“Virtually all the happiness-producing processes in our lives take time, usually a long time: Learning new things, changing old behaviors, building new relationships, raising children. This is why patience and determination are among life’s primary virtues,”

 

Most people are stuck in life because of fear. Fear of everything outside their safe zones. Your mind has a way of rising to the occasion. Challenge it, and it will reward you.

 

Your determination to overcome fear and discouragement constitutes the only effective antidote to that feeling on unhappiness you don’t want.

 

Dr Livingston explains.

 

“The most secure prisons are those we construct for ourselves.”

“I frequently ask people who are risk-averse, “What is the biggest chance you have ever taken?” People begin to realize what “safe” lives they have chosen to lead.”

 

“Everything we are afraid to try, all our unfulfilled dreams, constitute a limitation on what we are and could become. Usually it is fear and its close cousin, anxiety, that keep us from doing those things that would make us happy. So much of our lives consists of broken promises to ourselves. The things we long to do — educate ourselves, become successful in our work, fall in love — are goals shared by all. Nor are the means to achieve these things obscure. And yet we often do not do what is necessary to become the people we want to be.”

 

As you increasingly install experiences of acceptance, gratitude, accomplishment, and feeling that there’s a fullness in your life rather than an emptiness or a scarcity, you will be able to deal with the issues of life better.

 

Closing thoughts

 

Dr Livingston’s words feel true and profound.

 

The real secret to a happy life is selective attention, he says.

 

If you choose to focus your awareness and energy on things and people that bring you pleasure and satisfaction, you have a very good chance of being happy in a world full of unhappiness, uncertainty, and fear.

 

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Life Lesson 7

 

5 Exceptional Morning Routines That You Probably Didn’t Consider Yet

How you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have. — Daniel Handler

Sinem Günel
 
The power of morning routines is no secret anymore.

At the latest through the fame of amazing books like The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, or Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club, morning routines became very popular among those who are into personal growth and self-improvement.

 

Yet, that’s no coincidence. The world’s greatest minds and most successful people have been reporting to practice morning rituals for many decades.

 

Bill Gates, for example, starts his day on the treadmill, watching educational videos.

Benjamin Franklin woke up at 4 AM every day and scheduled his day.

Oprah starts her day with at least 20 minutes of meditation.

 

However, sadly, the majority of people spend their mornings in a rush. Instead of leading their days, they fight through them.

 

A continuous morning routine is the best way to start your day properly and improve your productivity and your wellbeing throughout your days. Through a morning routine, you let go of the stress and instead focus on things that are good for you.

 

While habits like meditation, sports, reading, and journaling are quite well-known, I want to introduce you to a few morning routines that are less known, yet incredibly effective.


1. Hydrate

I am not sure if that one is really exceptional, but I know that many people neglect to drink enough water.

 

You should take care of hydrating your body throughout the whole day, yet the mornings are especially important.

 

While sleeping, you spend many hours without hydrating your body. You wouldn’t do that throughout a typical day.

 

At least you shouldn’t.

 

Going through a day without drinking water for six hours or more would cause fatigue, headache, and a few other unpleasant symptoms. That’s precisely why you should extensively hydrate your body right after getting up.

 

Being dehydrated makes you feel tired and lowers your performance.

 

If you feel exhausted and low in the morning, the reason might not be a lack of sleep but dehydration.

For me personally, that means filling up my bottle with warm water and drinking 2–3 cups of tea right in the morning.

 

Most of the time, it’s warm water with lemon and turmeric.

 

That doesn’t only hydrate my body but also provides essential nutrients to my body.

 

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

— Marcus Aurelius


2. Go for a Walk

If you don’t like exercising the first thing in the morning, going for a walk might be a great choice.

 

I need to admit that I don’t stick to this during winter months, but in summer, I love it.

 

Going for a walk in the fresh air is a fantastic way to start your day. Especially if you have a little park and some nature around the corner.

 

A walk in the morning is meditative and yet energizing. It helps you to clear your mind and start your day with fresh energy.

 

Plus, walking itself comes with many more health benefits.

According to Harvard Medical School, a daily walk:

  • counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes
  • helps tame a sweet tooth
  • reduces the risk of developing breast cancer
  • eases joint pain
  • boosts immune function

You see, a little walk in the morning doesn’t only boost your daily mood and performance, but it also comes with many more long-term health benefits.


3. Scrape Your Tongue

Tongue scraping might sound too fancy, but it is actually an Ayuverdic self-care practice that is around for decades.

 

Even though you might brush and floss your teeth, without scraping your tongue, your mouth stays full of bacteria, fungi, toxins, and dead cells.

 

In addition, scraping your tongue promotes good oral and digestive health, improves your ability to taste, stimulates internal organs, and is a defense against bad breath.

 

You can get a tongue scraper for a few bucks, yet, it can be a massive gamechanger for your oral hygiene.


4. Dry Brush Your Skin

Brushing our teeth and hair is normal, but what about our skin?

 

Dry brushing is uncommon but highly effective in cleaning your body from the inside out. It helps to detoxify by increasing your blood circulation. It also unclogs your pores and stimulates the nervous system.

 

The best time to brush your skin is right before your morning shower so that you can wash off the dead skin cells.

 

However, dry brushing your skin is not something that you should practice every day. Once or twice per week is completely fine.


5. Listen to Binaural Beats

Binaural beats help you to bring your brain into the same state as when you are meditating. It’s a brainwave entertainment technology that helps you to hold the mind’s focus.

 

Listening to binaural beats helps you to get into a meditative state easily and quickly.

 

“It is possible that hormonally induced physiological behavior changes may be made apparent by measuring the binaural-beat spectrum.” — Dr. Gerald Oster

 

For those who struggle with meditation, but want to have a few calm minutes in the morning, binaural beats are a great alternative.

 

Additionally, binaural beats come with many more benefits, like reducing anxiety, increasing focus and concentration, lowering stress, fostering positive mood, and promoting creativity.


A morning ritual shouldn’t be complex or exhausting.

 

On the contrary, it should let you feel energized and well prepared for your day.

For me, journaling, breathing exercises, visualization, and hydration are inevitable parts of my morning routine.

 

Yet, what I experienced is that sometimes, if you are too versed in doing something, you are not mindful anymore.

 

While I appreciate the benefits of everything that I do in the morning, I don’t want to be in an automatic mode throughout my mornings.

 

I want to be mindful and present.

 

That’s why I try to mix my routine up every now and then.

 

And I believe that these five habits can also improve your life and wellbeing at least a little bit.

Just choose one of them (except hydration, that’s a must-have) and explore whether it works for you and makes you feel better throughout your mornings and days.

 

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Life Lesson  8

 

How to Practice Letting Go (When You Catch Yourself Holding On)

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How to Practice Letting Go (When You Catch Yourself Holding On)

 

If you worry too much about what might be, or what might have been, you will ignore and overlook what is. Remember this. Happiness is letting go of what you assume life is supposed to be like right now and sincerely appreciating it for everything it is.

 

Over the past decade, as Angel and I have gradually worked with hundreds of our course students, coaching clients, and live event attendees, we’ve come to understand that the root cause of most human stress is simply our stubborn propensity to hold on to things. In a nutshell, we hold on tight to the hope that things will go exactly as we imagine, and then we complicate our lives to no end when they don’t.

 

For example, there are a number of times when our minds cling to unhelpful ideals…

  • Life isn’t supposed to be this way, I need it to be different
  • There is only one thing I want, I can’t be happy without it
  • I am absolutely right, the other person is absolutely wrong
  • This person should love me and want to be with me
  • I should not be alone, should not be overweight, should not be exactly how I am right now, etc.
  •  

In all of these common examples the mind holds on tight to something—an ideal—that isn’t real. And, after a while, the inevitable happens—lots of unnecessary stress, anxiety, unhappiness, self-righteousness, self-hate, and depressive emotions ensue.

 

So, how can we stop holding on so tight?

 

By realizing that there’s nothing to hold on to in the first place.

Most of the things we desperately try to hold on to, as if they’re real, certain, solid, everlasting fixtures in our lives, aren’t really there. Or if they are there in some form, they’re changing, fluid, impermanent, or simply imagined in our minds.

 

Life gets a lot easier to deal with when we remind ourselves of this and live accordingly. Today, let’s practice doing just that…

 

1. Practice letting everything breathe.

 

As you read these words, you are breathing. Stop for a moment and notice this breath. You can control this breath, and make it faster or slower, or make it behave as you like. Or you can simply let yourself inhale and exhale naturally. There is peace in just letting your lungs breathe, without having to control the situation or do anything about it. Now imagine letting other parts of your body breathe, like your tense shoulders. Just let them be, without having to tense them or control them.

 

Now look around the room you’re in and notice the objects around you. Pick one, and let it breathe. There are likely people in the room with you too, or in the same house or building, or in nearby houses or buildings. Visualize them in your mind, and let them breathe.

 

When you let everything and everyone breathe, you just let them be, exactly as they are. You don’t need to control them, worry about them, or change them. You just let them breathe, in peace, and you accept them as they are. This is what letting go is all about. It can be a life-changing practice.

 

2. Practice accepting your present reality, and just floating.

 

Imagine you’re blindfolded and treading water in the center of a large swimming pool, and you’re struggling desperately to grab the edge of the pool that you think is nearby, but really it’s not—it’s far away. Trying to grab that imaginary edge is stressing you out, and tiring you out, as you splash around aimlessly trying to holding on to something that isn’t there.

 

Now imagine you pause, take a deep breath, and realize that there’s nothing nearby to hold on to. Just water around you. You can continue to struggle with grabbing at something that doesn’t exist… or you can accept that there’s only water around you, and relax, and float.

 

Truth be told, inner peace begins the moment you take a new breath and choose not to allow an uncontrollable event to dominate you in the present. You are not what happened to you. You are what you choose to become in this moment. Let go, breathe, and begin again.

 

3. Practice challenging the stories you keep telling yourself.

 

Many of the biggest misunderstandings in life could be avoided if we simply took the time to ask, “What else could this mean?” A wonderful way to do this is by using a reframing tool we initially picked up from research professor Brene Brown, which we then tailored through our coaching work with students and live event attendees.

 

We call the tool The story I’m telling myself. Although asking the question itself—“What else could this mean?”—can help reframe our thoughts and broaden our perspectives, using the simple phrase The story I’m telling myself as a prefix to troubling thoughts has undoubtedly created many “aha moments” for our students and clients in recent times.

 

Here’s how it works: The story I’m telling myself can be applied to any difficult life situation or circumstance in which a troubling thought is getting the best of you. For example, perhaps someone you love (husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc.) didn’t call you or text you when they said they would, and now an hour has passed and you’re feeling upset because you’re obviously not a high enough priority to them. When you catch yourself feeling this way, use the phrase: The story I’m telling myself is that they didn’t call me because I’m not a high enough priority to them.

 

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I be absolutely certain this story is true?
  • How do I feel and behave when I tell myself this story?
  • What’s one other possibility that might also make the ending to this story true?

Give yourself the space to think it all through carefully.

 

Challenge yourself to think better on a daily basis—to challenge the stories you subconsciously tell yourself and do a reality check with a more objective mindset. (Angel and I build small, life-changing daily rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)

 

4. Practice putting the figurative glass down.

 

Twenty years ago, when Angel and I were just undergrads in college, our psychology professor taught us a lesson we’ve never forgotten. On the last day of class before graduation, she walked up on stage to teach one final lesson, which she called “a vital lesson on the power of perspective and mindset.” As she raised a glass of water over her head, everyone expected her to mention the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” metaphor. Instead, with a smile on her face, our professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”

 

Students shouted out answers ranging from a couple of ounces to a couple of pounds.

After a few moments of fielding answers and nodding her head, she replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass is irrelevant. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the absolute weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”

 

As most of us students nodded our heads in agreement, she continued. “Your worries, frustrations, disappointments, and stressful thoughts are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a little while and nothing drastic happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to feel noticeable pain. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed, incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”

 

Think about how this relates to your life right now.

 

If you’ve been struggling to cope with the weight of what’s on your mind today, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the figurative glass down.

 

Renew Your Faith in Yourself

 

A big part of practicing letting go is gradually renewing your faith in yourself. This ‘renewed faith’ means finding the willingness to live with uncertainty, to feel your way through each day, to let your intuition guide you like a flashlight in the dark.

 

It’s about standing firmly on your own two legs without the crutches you’ve been holding on to.

And YOU ARE strong enough!

 

YOU GOT THIS!

 

So…

What if, for today, you choose to believe that you have enough and you are enough? What if, for today, you choose to believe that you are strong enough, wise enough, kind enough, and loved enough to take a positive step forward? What if, for today, you accepted people exactly as they are, and life exactly as it is? What if, as the sun sets on today, you choose to believe that the little bits of progress you made were more than enough for one day? And what if, tomorrow, you choose to believe it all over again?

 

Practice making those choices.

 

Practice letting go and renewing the faith you once had in yourself.

 

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Life Lesson 9

 

Six Habits of Deeply Miserable People

Psychologists say these are the giveaways to watch out for.Zulie RaneZulie Rane

 
The fact is that many of us sleepwalk through life, totally unaware that actually, we’re not happy at all. We have all the trimmings of the perfect life — we have the right hobbies, we get the promotion, we have 2.4 children, a golden retriever, and a white picket fence.

But truthfully told, we’re miserable.

 

Here are the six most common habits of truly unhappy people. If you spot yourself exhibiting any of these, it may be time to reevaluate your life and what brings you joy.


1. You Lash Out at the Smallest Provocation.

 

This is a typical one.

Have you ever found yourself flying into a rage because of something really small, like traffic?

The worst that can happen is you’re a few minutes late, but you’re still sitting in your car, swearing like a sailor with steam coming out of your ears because some idiot cut you off.

 

If you notice that you’re frequently getting really angry about events that actually aren’t that big a deal, it’s likely there’s an underlying cause.

 

Overreactions are often a sign that you’re stressed or tense. Think of your mind as a cup that is nearly overflowing. It only takes the smallest splash to make everything spillover.

 

Of course, you didn’t really overreact because you stubbed your toe. You overreacted because there was already a lot going on to make you upset — the toe stub was just the cherry on top.

Take stock of your situation: what’s causing you stress?

 

What’s making you feel unhappy? Determining the root origin of your overreaction will do more good in the long run than just shouting swear words.


2. You Find Excuses Not to Take Risks.

 

Yesterday evening, instead of attending a friend’s virtual birthday party, I scrolled through Twitter. I love my friend, and I know browsing Twitter stresses me out. So why was I doing it?

When we’re unhappy, we look for ways out of anything that might be even slightly more energy than we think we have.

 

You don’t like to take a chance on anything uncertain, because your negative mindset makes you look for ways it could go wrong instead of anticipating the joy you might feel.

If you notice that you’re finding reasons not to do things that you used to enjoy, probe yourself to find a deeper reason. What’s really going on? Do you genuinely not want to do it, or are you just looking at it from a negative perspective?

 

Even if you don’t feel up to it, forcing yourself to do things that scare you a bit can be a good way to shock your system and prove to yourself that you still love doing these things.


3. Nothing is Ever Your Fault.

 

Of course, nobody likes to be at fault. But people who are chronically unhappy will never admit that they did something wrong. If you’re noticing that you really struggle to take the blame for things that were probably your mess-ups, it’s likely that you’re unhappy.

 

This is because when you’re unhappy, it’s really difficult to open the door to more bad feelings. You don’t want to feel the shame that’s associated with doing something bad. It’s even possible that by admitting you did something wrong, you feel you’re admitting to being a bad person altogether. Apologizing puts you in a vulnerable position.

 

Happy, well-adjusted people are perfectly capable of looking at a situation and realizing they messed up. Unhappy people struggle much more to open up and admit fault.

 

If you struggle to apologize for things even when they’re really your fault, try to notice when other people do it. Realizing that nobody will resent or hate you for apologizing is often the best way to work up the nerve to do it.


4. You Try to Anticipate Future Problems.

 

Happy people are capable of living fully in the moment. They appreciate what they have, and they don’t need to panic about the future.

 

Unhappy people, by contrast, are always looking for ways things could get worse. This is because if you’re unhappy, you believe that by anticipating potential problems, you can prepare yourself from further unhappiness.

 

The truth is that you’re only borrowing trouble. While it is helpful to consider worst-case scenarios on occasion, it’s not healthy to always jump to the worst possible conclusion every time.

 

If you notice that when good things happen, you immediately start worrying about how they can go wrong, it’s likely that deep down, you’re unhappy. Try to experience joy in the everyday moments of your life.


5. You Never Want to Try to Change.

 

Happy people love to try — it doesn’t matter what. Unhappy people are afraid to.

 

For example, happy people will often work on themselves — building relationships by staying in touch with their friends, working out frequently, picking up new habits that bring them joy.

 

Unhappy people are fundamentally coming from a place of fear. If you’re unhappy, it’s likely that you don’t want to try new things for fear you’ll fail at it. You feel a lack of control over your own life, and prefer to sit back and wait for life to happen to you, instead.

 

If you feel any hesitation when it comes to improving yourself or trying new things, question that feeling. What makes you hold back? If it’s fear, try to meet your fear halfway. For instance, you can try one new thing per week, whether it’s just going for a five-minute walk or taking a painting class.


6. You Can’t Feel Gratitude for Anything.

 

This is the most persistent trait of deeply miserable people — you don’t have any capacity to feel gratitude, whether it’s for an act of kindness or even just a beautiful scene in nature.

 

When you’re unhappy, you’re deep inside your own head. You’re anticipating bad things to happen, you’re afraid of failing, you’re overreacting to any tiny provocation.

 

You’re not in the right headspace to appreciate when unexpectedly good things happen, because you’re too busy worrying about yourself.

 

It’s hard to be grateful when everything feels dismal, especially yourself. But simply recognizing it as an area to work on can be a great place to start.

 

Choose one thing per day — write it down, or just say it aloud. You can be grateful for a person, an event, or even your cat.

 

Focus on what you do have instead of worrying about what you don’t.

 

Feeling gratitude is one of the best feelings in the world, and actively choosing to practice it is one of the best ways to lift yourself out of unhappiness.

 

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Life Lesson 10

 

Stop Trying to Be Who You Were Before You Got Hurt

That person does not exist anymore, which is why you’re only getting so far.

 

Brianna WiestBrianna Wiest

 
 
W

When we get hurt physically, we know our bodies need time to repair. When we break a bone, we know it can regenerate and heal itself. We imagine the best possible outcome is a return to normalcy. Perhaps we’ll be a bit weaker where we were injured, but generally, we’ll be similar to how we were before.

 

Emotional healing is nothing like this.

We only think it is, which is why we get so stuck.

 

When you get hurt emotionally, you want to go back to the way things were before the traumatic event.

Maybe you’ll be a bit more jaded, a little more skeptical, but generally, returning to your former state of mind is the goal when you’re going through a hard time.

 

You think retrograde growth is the solution because the problem is that someone or something else came along and threw you off your path.

You intend to get back to the person you used to be. You try to reset.

 

But returning to who you used to be is not the goal. That person does not exist anymore.

Forcing yourself to be them is not only futile, but it also prevents you from growing and changing.

 

When we experience a massive change in our lives, we’re often also dealing with a process of positive disintegration.

We see our old self-concept collapse, and we must create a new one in its place.

 

We use the word “positive” here because this process is supposed to leave us better than we were before — that’s the objective.

 

All those times you thought you had it figured out?

You didn’t, which is why you made the mistakes you did.

 

When we get hurt, we’re often facing a barrage of unfamiliar feelings and unknowns.

We cling to what’s familiar, which is the past. As we interpret the past to be our safety net, we conveniently glance over the fact that it was not as great as we remember.

(If it was, we wouldn’t have ended up at rock bottom in the first place.)

 

We want to return to how things were at the beginning of a relationship when we were “so in love.”

 

Yet things really weren’t that good initially, which is why they got worse. It ended for a reason. We want to go back to how we felt before, so carefree and trusting.

But all those times you thought you had it figured out? You didn’t, which is why you made the mistakes you did.

 

You do not want to go back to who you were before.

You want to become someone entirely new. Rather, you need to become someone entirely new.

 

 

YYour old self does not exist anymore.

 

Not because someone came along and destroyed it, and not because some unfair life circumstances cropped up and derailed you.

 

Rather, your old self doesn’t exist because self-reformation is a natural, healthy process of being human.

 

In the same way, our bodies shed skin cells and hair follicles, our minds shed identities, ideas of who we were when others were telling us who to be.

When our old self-concept can no longer handle our current circumstances, we are compelled to transform.

 

How you respond to this depends on how you look at it. You can see it as a misfortune, or as an incredible opportunity to not only become better than you’ve been before but to become exactly who you’ve wanted to be all along.

 

Letting go of your old self does not mean letting go of your old dreams. It does not mean giving up on everything you wanted. It means becoming a person who is ready and equipped to give those things to yourself.

 

Returning to your old self will not get you there — which is why you’re standing here now.

 

Things are never as good as we remember them in retrospect.

 

As long as you keep trying to return to who you were before you got hurt, you’re missing the point.

 

In the same way that dwelling on potential future events can give us a sense of escape, the past is so far removed from us that we are free to fantasize and reimagine it, piecing together vignettes that create a feeling we want to have.

We want to think we had it all together, and we want to think the feeling that good is possible again.

 

Yet, when we constantly try to become who we used to be, to fit our new goals into our old lives, we almost always end up with conflicting, self-sabotaging behaviors.

 

 

YYou must radically transform your self-concept. Until you do this, you are not healing — you are simply recovering.

Recovery is mending the hurt without learning the lesson.

It might mean you’re over what happened, but it also means you haven’t fundamentally changed the beliefs and behaviors that got you where you were.

 

All of the lessons you‘ve learned from getting hurt will become the wisdom you extract to build this new version of yourself.

 

As long as you keep trying to return to who you were before you got hurt, you’re missing the point. You’re setting yourself up to fail again, and again.

 

You didn’t know better then. You didn’t know what love was, you didn’t know who you were, you didn’t know what you valued, you didn’t know how you liked to dress, how important it was to be responsible.

 

You did not know, but you know now.

If it seems daunting to revolutionize your identity — until you realize that you’re already doing it. It’s already happening.

All of the lessons you’ve learned from getting hurt will become the wisdom you extract to build this new version of yourself.

 

The person you were before is not the person who had all the answers.

They were not as happy or as well-off as you want to believe.

 

Romanticizing that past self is like trying to reanimate the dead — it might make you feel better temporarily, but it will not bring them back.

You cannot keep trying to force yourself into a version of yourself that you’ve outgrown.

 

Instead, imagine and then step into a completely new person, someone ready to build the life you really want. Shed your wounded self like a layer, and allow someone new to be born.

 

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Life Lesson 11

 

If You Can’t Motivate Yourself to Accomplish Basic Tasks, You’re Not Alone

When keeping up daily routines feels impossible, there’s a deeper cause at play

If there’s been any resounding sentiment on the internet over the past few weeks, it’s this: Functioning at optimal levels of productivity simply isn’t a reasonable expectation right now.

This is true.

However, it ignores the fact that many of us lacked motivation before the pandemic — and our current reality has only exacerbated that.

 

If the simplest tasks feel overwhelming right now, don’t worry.

 

It’s not just you. It’s everyone.

 

It’s also a solvable problem — but solving it requires a few mindset shifts.

 

If you’re someone who finds very little motivation in completing mundane daily tasks that are at once seemingly insignificant and tremendously important to your sense of sanity, read on.

 

Stop overloading

 

If you find it hard to complete seemingly simple tasks throughout the day, your issue is probably not that you’re doing too little, but that you’re trying to do too much.

 

No, you probably won’t cook three complicated meals, dress in your best outfit, keep the house immaculate, parent, work, keep up with social media, and listen to a podcast all in one day. You could, but most people don’t, because most people don’t want to.

 

The internet has inflated our sense of “normal” to a deeply unhealthy degree.

We think everyone is performing at max capacity each day, and while it certainly motivates us to improve in some ways, this disconnect holds us back in the end.

 

It’s okay to eat simple meals.

It’s okay to wear simple clothes.

It’s okay if you didn’t knock out a ton of work.

It’s okay if you weren’t a perfect parent.

It’s okay if there are dishes in your sink right now.

 

This doesn’t make you a failure.

It doesn’t mean you lack motivation or willpower.

It means you are a human being doing the best they can to manage the limited energy they have in a day — and you’re doing pretty well at that, too.

 

Create systems

 

All of that said, when you do care about accomplishing something, you must create systems. Systems are rituals and routines that incorporate your desired actions and contribute to your long-term goals.

 

This can look like always taking your vitamins when you wake up, tending to a skincare routine (even a simple one) at the same time each day, drinking your cup of coffee in the morning, doing a 10-minute tidy before you go to bed, reading in the evening, or taking a break to walk around the neighborhood at 3:00 p.m.

 

Once you establish your system, you’ll adapt to it pretty quickly — that’s the whole point.

 

Decide on your top priority each day, and then create a routine to get it done. That’s the secret highly productive people don’t tell you: You must get yourself on autopilot.

 

Stop trying to care about everything

 

One secret of self-sabotage is that, sometimes, the things we resist doing are things we never wanted to do in the first place. We’ve simply allowed society or peers or insecurity to pressure us into thinking we must accomplish them.

 

Most people don’t care to have a perfect Instagram feed, gourmet meals, perfect ensembles, Friday night plans with posh friends, a high-paying job, a sports car, and a six-pack.

 

Maybe you laughed while you were reading that list — and you should.

 

Most people don’t have these things not because they aren’t capable of attaining them, but because they don’t care.

 

An internal battle begins when your head tells you something might be ideal, but your heart knows your priorities are elsewhere.

 

You need to give yourself permission to care about what you care about and let go of everything else. You do not need to master every aspect of your life; you just have to get to a place where you are sincerely content. No other opinions matter.

 

Find your own motivation

 

Low motivation can be a sign that you’re performing for someone else.

 

Human beings are naturally highly motivated to accomplish whatever it is they genuinely want to. (We’re less motivated to accomplish what other people want us to do.)

 

So, to motivate yourself to accomplish simple tasks, focus on what you get out of them, as opposed to how your work might be perceived.

 

For example, focus on how relaxed you will feel when your space is clean; focus on how good it will taste to eat a meal you really like; focus on how nice it will feel to wear what you really want.

 

When you shift your focus back to what you will gain — instead of what other people will think — you’ll easily find yourself doing more.

 

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Life Lesson 12

 

How to Stop Taking Other People’s Opinions About You So Personally

Your metaperceptions are creating your self-imageBrianna WiestBrianna Wiest

 
When people judge, it’s coming from a wounded place.

I know this because I also have that wounded place in me.

 

If you were honest with yourself, I imagine you’d find it in you, too. We all have a similar wounding pattern, which is why it’s easy to recognize.

 

You’re probably familiar with this pattern: You see someone who is similar enough to you that you relate to them, but they’re also ahead of you enough to trigger feelings of doubt. You respond by trying to humanize them, in away.

 

If you’re a decent person, you do this in your head.

 

If you’re a little less decent, you probably post it online.

 

You weigh the checks and balances of this person’s life, pulling on the negative in order to level them out. If you cannot find anything negative, you manufacture an assumption.

You generate an idea about this person and why they are actually, in some way, beneath you. You imagine how fake they are, what kind of parent or partner they are, how they live or don’t.

Then, over time, you start to believe the ideas you made up for self-defense.

 

You form a fractional view of other people from your actual, lived interactions with them. The rest is just a projection.

 


 

You should stop taking everything so personally.

 

You should especially stop taking other people’s opinions so personally.

 

I know that it’s easier said than done, but it’s also more easily done than you might assume.

 

First, you have to take an honest look at the way you judge other people.

 

You have spent so much of your life sitting and wondering and fearing what assumptions others might make about you and being somewhat controlled by your idea of their fixed ideas about you.

 

Have you ever stopped to take an honest inventory of the judgments, thoughts, and opinions you have about other people — especially the ones you don’t say out loud?

You probably haven’t, and that’s okay.

 

Most of us don’t.

 

But it’s where we have to start when we begin the work of untethering ourselves to an illusion of approval we can never really achieve.

 


 

If you’re like most people, you’re probably controlled by a meta perception you have of yourself.

A meta perception is a way you imagine other people see you.

 

You believe your meta perceptions are true, and that’s what binds you so tightly to your fears. You can imagine someone else seeing you as a failure, as unworthy, as unattractive, and so you simply begin to believe it’s true.

 

What you might not consider is that your meta perception is a projection of the way you see yourself.

You cannot know what another person really thinks about you, and you will not know unless you ask — and even then, you might not receive the full truth.

 

While actions tend to reveal the truth more often than words, you can still have secret admirers and secret haters.

 

The way you think other people see you is really the way you see yourself.

 

This is important because it’s how we reverse engineer our way out of feeling afraid of what other people might think.

 

You’re actually just afraid of what you’ll think of yourself.

 

Or rather, how you’ll feel about yourself.


The truth is that other people’s perceptions are projections.

 

They are projections of their wants, needs, desires, and insecurities.

 

They are projections of their fears, wounds, and wishes.

 

We see in others what we want to see in others.

 

The brain is spectacular at self-preservation, and if it imagines that another person’s success could overshadow your chances of survival, it will do mental gymnastics in milliseconds to downgrade that individual in order to safeguard your sense of self.

 

There is no greater threat to your long-term wellness and stability than imagining that someone else has the key to your self-acceptance.

 

That is exactly what happens when other people judge you, too. Nobody is really thinking about you, in the same way, that you’re not really thinking about them.

 

We are only ever truly thinking of ourselves.

 


 

Nobody else’s mental narrative focuses on you, and it’s not supposed to.

 

You enter the picture when this person sees you, hears you, or engages with you. What they choose to perceive of you then has to be integrated into their worldview, which means their concept of you will adapt accordingly.

 

If you do something that challenges what they believe to be true, they will probably invalidate you before they change what they think.

 

If an individual deeply desires success in an artistic field and sees you achieving just that, they will attempt to invalidate your efforts as a way of rationalizing why they are not likewise putting themselves out there.

 

If an individual deeply desires romantic love and sees you dating someone new, they will attempt to invalidate the legitimacy of your relationship as a way of rationalizing why they have not also found love.

 

But it works the opposite way, too.

 

For the few instances of doubt and negativity you might incur now and again, you’ll come across far more people who love you, support you, and want to spend time with you.

 

The trouble is that your brain will want to focus on the outliers, the negatives, the potential threats.

 

Please know that there is no greater threat to your long-term wellness and stability than imagining that someone else has the key to your self-acceptance.

 

There is no greater negative outcome of your life than trying to bend yourself in every possible direction to convince everyone to at least like you.

 

There is no way that we turn our backs on ourselves more significantly than when we start prioritizing the fear of what others might perceive over the truth of what we feel.

 

If we are honest with ourselves, we know how we are doing in life.

 

We know whether or not we’re on track.

 

We don’t need to look outside ourselves to validate or invalidate this.

 

What we do need to start doing is managing the way we perceive other people: recognizing our own judgments and tracing them back to their roots.

 

This will, in turn, teach us how self-absorbed most other people’s thoughts about us really are.

 

We cannot control the projections someone else may place on us. But we can always remember that casting shade on someone else’s light does not dim their shine — it only reveals the darkness in us.

 

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Life Lesson 14

 

The Victim-Mentality Is The Root Of Most Of Our ProblemsDr. Ava PommerenkDr. Ava Pommerenk

14 Signs of a Victim Mentality You Need to Know Pronto - Psychologenie

 

 

I understand that many people go through some harrowing, horrifying experiences in life.

 

I also see that the younger we are when we go through these experiences, a deeper impression is made upon our personalities, and our perceptions of self, and reality. In a sense, the earlier we are victimized, as well as the intensity and the frequency with which the victimization occurs, the more likely we end up with a more extreme and pervasive “victim-mentality”.

 

What is a victim- mentality?

 

A victim mentality is a perception that life is happening to us, and that we must take a self-protective, tactical approach to how we are, and how we do everything. It is an expression of believing we don’t have the power to ensure we don’t keep having the experience of being dragged about by our emotional responses from disappointments, challenges, and conflicts in our life.

 

The victim mentality is when we go to a healer, psychic, or doctor and expect them to fix us, without being willing to gain greater self-awareness, and address the core issues we keep playing out, that cause us to keep our self sick, in pain, or stuck.

 

A victim mentality is the pervasive conscious and unconscious perception that we are not safe, and thus must be prepared with all sorts of excuses, assumptions, perceptions, and responses that protect us from having to take responsibility for partly causing what we are experiencing.

 

We view others as responsible for our feelings and believe they are too much, not enough, or simply wrong, when they perhaps attempt to point to our own culpability for co-creating a dynamic.

 

The victim mentality is a black and white, us versus them, perception of the world, where if we were to acknowledge any fault for co-creating chaos, pain, or negative consequences, we might then believe we are “bad”, and a “perpetrator”.

 

So, we then default to ascribing that “badness” to the other, the group, or the situation.

 

We believe we deserve an apology first, and our actions are justified by someone having done something first because we were simply just “protecting” our self.

 

In extreme cases, victim mentality is when we have had so many screwed up, painful things happen to us in life, we believe we are entitled to and have somehow earned, privileged status for being exempt from fault for our experience or behaviors, no matter how harmful or destructive we are.

 

And, in these circumstances, we might spend a whole lot of time complaining and blaming every situation, everyone and everything for why we are in pain, rather than acknowledging we are STILL in pain because on some level, we are making a choice to be.

 

And, finally, the victim- mentality is believing there is an unlimited amount of time available to us to be a victim and to not take responsibility for the fact that destructive consequences often urgently require corrective action.

 

Why is it important you read this?

 

This victim-mentality creates SO many destructive consequences on this planet. In fact, I can guarantee many of you reading this were instantly triggered by reading what I wrote above.

 

Why were you triggered? Because you likely take the victim-mentality to some degree in your life, and it feels harsh to read about it. In fact, I think perhaps many people have bypassed this article because it would have been too triggering to read.

 

There are destructive consequences to the reality we surround ourselves with, by avoiding accountability and awareness, in order to maintain our safe little victim existence.

 

We get to put off engaging responsibly in life, while life responds with victimizing us through consequences of our actions, which further perpetuates our justifications for maintaining a victim stance.

 

We get to point the finger at others for being too much or too little of something, and exclaim they are at fault for how chaotic, destructive, imperfect, bad, or wrong current environmental, global, political, communal, economic, financial, social, cultural, work systems are, and feel smug and comfortable in knowing we have unloaded any shame we might have if we could be implicated in any way, on to the “offending” party.

 

And, we go about living in our own little world, where we are the center and are entitled to use the environment, the privileges, and resources available to us, and the people around us, to go on being victims, who daily “triumph” over forces trying to bring us down.

 

When we are the ones bringing us down.

 

What to do as a means to not participate in victim-mentality?

 

Well, this is where it is important to recognize WE ARE ALL programmed to participate in victim-mentality, to some degree. In fact, I would say we all hold a position of victim-mentality, on a spectrum.

 

So, the first step to increasingly overcoming where you are on the victim-mentality spectrum is to drop the black and white thinking.

 

The second step is to realize when you are making others and external situations responsible for your pain. Especially realize when you give yourself permission to not need to be accountable for your actions because someone metaphorically or literally slapped you first.

 

The third step is to begin to realize the beliefs that encourage you to hold on to your pain, as a badge of honor. Realize the beliefs about yourself and reality that cause you to accept and continue to perpetuate what keeps occurring for you in your life.

 

And finally, the fourth step is to begin a practice to work on self-love, self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. This will allow you to begin to change your experience of your self, will help you overcome fear and shame, and will also help you begin to practice deeper, truer love, valuation, acceptance, and compassion of others, the planet, and in varying situations.

 

Victim mentality: how it affects you and what you can do about it ...

 

I wish you the best in your journey toward happiness, empowerment, and freedom!

 

Written by

Dr. Ava Pommerenk

Psychologist. Coach. Writing about new perspectives, love, relationships, Narcissism, healing, transformation, & culture. www.avapommerenkphd.com

 

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Life Lesson 15

 

 

9 Micro-Habits That Will Completely Change Your Life in a Year

How small actions lead to big results.

Larisa Andras
 

“Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.” — James Clear, Atomic Habits

 

To reach your goals, you need a system.

You need to build habits and you have to stick around long enough to let them do their magic.

You hear it over and over again because it’s true.

 

In 2019, one of the most popular books was Atomic Habits, by James Clear. It’s a practical guide to break bad habits and build good ones. The author explains clearly why small, everyday habits lead to great success.

If you haven’t read the book yet, make sure you do. But don’t just read it. Put in practice everything you learn from it. Until you do so, here are 9 micro-habits that can improve your life.


1. Delay Your Reactions

 

I know, I know, it’s a fast-moving world. But that does not mean we have to respond quickly to everything.

Learn to say “I’ll let you know later”, “I’ll get back to you on this”, and other similar phrases.

Instead of saying yes to an offer only to realize later that it doesn’t fit your schedule, better to take a few minutes to think about it.

It will save you a great amount of time and disappointment in the long run.

 

2. Push Yourself to Complete a Task When You

    Don’t Feel Like It

 

Every day, pick a small task you don’t want to do then go ahead and complete it.

From washing the dishes to making your bed and from going for a run to making dinner instead of ordering food. It can be anything.

 

After doing this for a few days, you’ll realize the problem is not the task itself. It’s your habit of postponing things.

 

It’s being comfortable, especially when you have a choice.

But often, once you make the first step, you get yourself in the mood and get the job done.

 

Once you’ve spent a few days completing small tasks, make the jump to bigger ones.

 

3. Spend a Day Away From Social Media

 

There were days when my phone was the extension of my hand.

I would pick it up for no reason and then scroll on social media for 30 minutes without realizing it.

 

And I’m not even big on social media platforms.

I never post anything on Facebook and have around 200 followers on Instagram, whom I spam with pictures of my travels from time to time.

 

But I can’t give it up for good, nor do I want to. Facebook is a great way to find out about local events, and Instagram is a great source of inspiration for my writing.

But all of these are useful if I use the platforms in moderation.

 

So instead of deleting the apps from my phone, I’ve decided that I’m not going to use them on Sundays.

And so I did. After four weeks, I’ve drastically reduced my screen time and even set a 1-hour limit for social apps.

 

So if you’re struggling with this as well, start small. Spend a day away from social media or don’t connect your phone to wifi at all.

 

After you realize you’re not missing out on anything, by being offline for one day, you’ll consciously choose to spend less time online, every day.

 

4. Prepare Your Next Day the Night Before

Choose your outfit and put everything in your bag (men might not understand this, but most women have a looong list of things that they need to have in their everyday bag).

 

Write down a to-do list and check your calendar to see if you scheduled any meetings or calls. Do anything you can to make the next day easier.

 

If you have a plan, you get things done faster. There’s no magic involved, it’s pure logic.

 

5. Eat Mindfully

 

When you’re eating and working/reading/watching a movie at the same time, you often eat more than you need.

Plus, you’re not enjoying the food, nor are you being productive.

Can you even taste those vegetables if you’re busy trying to make sense of an excel document? Probably not.

 

Having lunch or dinner shouldn’t take more than 10–15 minutes. So when did we become so busy that we don’t even have 10 minutes to spare to fuel our bodies?

 

Next time you eat, do just that: eat.

You’ll see it’s not easy at all to not reach for your phone.

And the simple fact that we have to talk ourselves out of doing it should raise some questions.

 

6 Use a Timer for Your Tasks

 

The Pomodoro Technique might as well be called the Bible of Productivity.

It got so famous because it works so it does deserve all the praise.

Out of all the micro-habits I mention here, this one has helped me the most.

 

Working and traveling full-time is not always easy (or fun, might I add) and you have to come up with a schedule and stick to it.

So I’ve adjusted the Pomodoro Technique in a way that works for me: I write for one hour, take a 10-minute break, and then write for another hour.

 

This is one of the main tricks that have helped meet my deadlines while exploring a few different cities every month.

 

7. Place Your Phone on the Opposite Side of the Room

 

If you keep your phone next to you when you sleep, you’ll just keep hitting the snooze button until it’s almost too late to get out of bed.

But for most of us, the hard part is standing up, not waking up.

And this is why this method works.

 

When your phone is on the opposite side of the room, you have to get up and take a few steps to stop it from ringing.

Then you might realize you are also thirsty and have a lot to do in the next following hours.

So your bed doesn’t look so comfortable anymore.

 

8. Set a Spending Waiting Period

 

For the past few years, I’ve been applying two rules before buying anything. First, if I see something I like, I never buy it on the spot — unless it’s something I need and have been looking for.

Instead, I wait for a few days to see if it’s still going to be on my mind.

 

If after three days I still dream about a dress or some shoes, I go ahead and buy them.

If I completely forget about them, then I just dodged a bullet because it was probably just compulsive shopping.

 

The second rule applies to items on sale. Everybody loves the sales periods, right?

Of course, we do. But it’s also when we tend to buy a lot of stuff we don’t need.

It’s how our brains are wired.

That’s why marketing works.

Getting a good deal makes us happy.

Satisfied.

Until we get home and realize it was just a temporary feeling.

 

To avoid buying unnecessary things, ask yourself a simple question: “ Would I pay the full price for it?”

 

If the answer is “yes”, then take out your wallet.

If it’s negative, walk away.

 

9. Write Down Every Idea

“It’s ok, I’ll remember it” should go down in history as the biggest lie we tell ourselves.

Out of all the things you pick up during the day, you end up forgetting more than half of it.

 

So make a habit of writing everything down, even the silly stuff that seems unimportant.


Final Thoughts

 

The main reason why people don’t reach their goals is that they make drastic changes instead of building small, everyday habits. To do so, you only need to follow these two simple rules:

 

1. Drop a Bad One

 

Make a list of all the bad habits you have and want to get rid of.

Instead of going on a war against yourself, trying to get rid of all of them at the same time, pick only one and focus on that.

Take baby steps.

Smoke one less cigarette.

Buy one less unnecessary item every week.

Stop eating one thing out of a few you want to give up.

Only after you’ve managed to give up a bad habit, start working on another one.

 

2. Add a Good One

 

The same goes for good changes you want to make.

Don’t try to drink 2 liters of water every day if you only drank 1 glass before.

Instead, try to drink 2 glasses per day and slowly increase.

Add one more vegetable to your plate. Run one more minute on the treadmill.

Read one more page every night.

 

Choose something you’re struggling with and slowly increase the time you spend building that good habit.

When you feel like it became a habit, start working on the next one.

 

As James Clear said in Atomic Habits:

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

 

So make sure you have a well-established system for every goal.

 

 

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Life Lesson 16

 

Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live

Without inner narratives we would be lost in a chaotic world.

Robert A. Burton,  Nautilus
 
Brain Lobe Function - First Memory Clinic
 

We are all storytellers;

we make sense out of the world by telling stories. And science is a great source of stories. Not so, you might argue.

Science is an objective collection and interpretation of data. I completely agree. At the level of the study of purely physical phenomena, science is the only reliable method for establishing the facts of the world.

 

But when we use data of the physical world to explain phenomena that cannot be reduced to physical facts, or when we extend incomplete data to draw general conclusions, we are telling stories. Knowing the atomic weight of carbon and oxygen cannot tell us what life is.

 

There are no naked facts that completely explain why animals sacrifice themselves for the good of their kin, why we fall in love, the meaning and purpose of existence, or why we kill each other.

Science is not at fault.

 

On the contrary, science can save us from false stories. It is an irreplaceable means of understanding our world. But despite the verities of science, many of our most important questions compel us to tell stories that venture beyond the facts. For all of the sophisticated methodologies in science, we have not moved beyond the story as the primary way that we make sense of our lives.

 


To see where science and story meet.

Let’s take a look at how story is created in the brain. Let’s begin with an utterly simple example of a story, offered by E. M. Forster in his classic book on writing, Aspects of the Novel: “The king died and then the queen died.”

 

It is nearly impossible to read this juxtaposition of events without wondering why the queen died. Even with a minimum of description, the construction of the sentence makes us guess at a pattern. Why would the author mention both events in the same sentence if he didn’t mean to imply a causal relationship?

 

Once a relationship has been suggested, we feel obliged to come up with an explanation. This makes us turn to what we know, to our storehouse of facts. It is general knowledge that a spouse can die of grief. Did the queen then die of heartbreak? This possibility draws on the science of human behavior, which competes with other, more traditional narratives. A high school student who has been studying Hamlet, for instance, might read the story as a microsynopsis of the play.

 

Despite the verities of science, we are compelled to tell stories that venture beyond the facts.

The pleasurable feeling that our explanation is the right one—ranging from a modest sense of familiarity to the powerful and sublime “a-ha!”—is meted out by the same reward system in the brain integral to drug, alcohol, and gambling addictions.

 

The reward system extends from the limbic area of the brain, vital to the expression of emotion, to the prefrontal cortex, critical to executive thought. Though still imperfectly understood, it is generally thought that the reward system plays a central role in the promotion and reinforcement of learning. Key to the system, and found primarily within its brain cells, is dopamine, a neurotransmitter that carries and modulates signals among brain cells. Studies consistently show that feeling rewarded is accompanied by a rise in dopamine levels.

 

This reward system was first noted in the 1950s by two McGill University researchers, James Olds and Peter Milner. Stimulating electrodes were placed in presumed brain reward areas of rats. When allowed full unrestricted access to a lever that, when depressed, would cause the electrodes to fire, the rats quickly learned to repeatedly depress the lever, often to the exclusion of food and water. Realizing that our brains are capable of producing feelings so intense that we choose to ignore such basic drives as hunger and thirst was a first step toward understanding the enormous power of the brain’s reward circuitry.

 

Critical to understanding how stories spark the brain’s reward system is the theory known as pattern recognition—the brain’s way of piecing together a number of separate components of an image into a coherent picture. The first time you see a lion, for instance, you have to figure out what you’re seeing.

 

At least 30 separate areas of the brain’s visual cortex pitch in, each processing an aspect of the overall image—from the detection of motion and edges, to the register of color and facial features. Collectively they form an overall image of a lion.

 

Each subsequent exposure to a lion enhances your neural circuitry; the connections among processing regions become more robust and efficient. (This theory, based on the research of Canadian psychologist Donald O. Hebb, a pioneer in studying how people learn, is often stated as “cells that fire together wire together.”)

 

Soon, less input is necessary to recognize the lion. A fleeting glimpse of a partial picture is sufficient for recognition, which occurs via positive feedback from your reward system. Yes, you are assured by your brain, that is a lion.

 

An efficient pattern recognition of a lion makes perfect evolutionary sense. If you see a large feline shape moving in some nearby brush, it is unwise to wait until you see the yellows of the lion’s eyes before starting to run up the nearest tree. You need a brain that quickly detects entire shapes from fragments of the total picture and provides you with a powerful sense of the accuracy of this recognition.

 

One need only think of the recognition of a new pattern that is so profound that it triggers an involuntary “a-ha!” to understand the degree of pleasure that can be associated with learning. It’s no wonder that once a particular pattern-recognition-reward relationship is well grooved into our circuitry, it is hard to shake. In general—outside of addiction, that is—this “stickiness” of a correlation is a good thing. It is through repetition and the sense of familiarity and “rightness” of a correlation that we learn to navigate our way in the world.

 

Science is in the business

of making up stories called hypotheses and testing them, then trying its best to make up better ones. Thought-experiments can be compared to storytelling exercises using well-known characters.

 

What would Sherlock Holmes do if he found a body suspended in a tree with a note strapped to its ankle? What would a light ray being bounced between two mirrors look like to an observer sitting on a train? Once done with their story, scientists go to the lab to test it; writers call editors to see if they will buy it.

 

People and science are like bread and butter.

We are hardwired to need stories; science has storytelling buried deep in its nature.

But there is also a problem.

We can get our dopamine reward, and walk away with a story in hand, before science has finished testing it.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the brain, hungry for its pattern-matching dopamine reward, overlooks contradictory or conflicting information whenever possible.

 

A fundamental prerequisite for pattern recognition is the ability to quickly distinguish between similar but not identical inputs. Not being able to pigeonhole an event or idea makes it much more difficult for the brain to label and store it as a discrete memory. Neat and tidy promotes learning; loose ends lead to the “yes, but” of indecision and inability to draw a precise conclusion.

 

 

Home – Ethics committee – Gypworld.com

 

When we make and take incomplete stories from science, there are moral consequences.

 

Just as proper pattern recognition results in the reward of an increased release of dopamine, faulty pattern recognition is associated with decreased dopamine release.

 

In monkeys, the failure to make a successful prediction (correlation between expected and actual outcome) characteristically diminishes dopamine release exactly at the time that the predicted event is anticipated but fails to occur.

 

Just as accurate correlations are pleasurable, lack of correlation produces the neurotransmitter equivalent of thwarted expectation (or worse).

 

Once we see that stories are the narrative equivalent of correlation, it is easy to understand why our brains seek out stories (patterns) whenever and wherever possible.

 

You may have read or heard about the famous experiment in which University of Illinois psychology professor Daniel Simons asked subjects to watch a video and count the number of times a ball is dribbled by a basketball team.

 

When focused on counting, the majority of viewers failed to see a woman in a gorilla suit walk across the playing area. In effect, well-oiled patterns of observation encourage our brains to compose a story that we expect to hear.

 

Because we are compelled to make stories, we are often compelled to take incomplete stories and run with them. With a half-story from science in our minds, we earn a dopamine “reward” every time it helps us understand something in our world—even if that explanation is incomplete or wrong.

Following the Newtown massacre, some experts commented on the killer having Asperger’s syndrome, as though that might at least partially explain his behavior.

 

Though Asperger’s syndrome feels like a specific diagnosis, it is, by definition, nothing more than a constellation of symptoms common to a group of people.

 

In the 1940s, Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger noted that a number of patients had similar problems with social skills, eccentric or repetitive actions, unusual preoccupation rituals, and communication difficulties, including lack of eye contact and trouble understanding facial expressions and gestures.

 

The 2013 decision by the American Psychiatric Association to remove the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome from its guidebook for clinicians, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM-V), for failing to conform to any specific neuropathology, underscores the all-too-common problem of accepting a clustering of symptoms as synonymous with a specific disease. Syndromes are stories in search of underlying causes.

 

Similarly, studies of psychopaths have shown a diminished volume of gray matter in specific regions of the prefrontal cortex.

 

But these findings aren’t the sole explanation for violent acts. Because it is impossible to stimulate a specific brain region to produce complex and premeditated acts, we are left to conclude that while certain brain conditions can be correlated with a complex act, they are not necessarily causing it. Likewise, brain scans that reveal abnormalities in mass murderers may help us understand what might have contributed to their behavior.

 

But the abnormalities are no more the sole explanation for violence than childhood neglect or poor nutrition are. They are stories, albeit with a detailed neurophysiological component, but stories nonetheless.


When we make and take

incomplete stories from science, there are often moral consequences.

How much personal responsibility should we assign to an individual with a damaged or malfunctioning brain? What is the appropriate punishment and possibility of rehabilitation for such a person?

Only when we openly acknowledge the degree to which science is presenting its observations in the form of story can we address this moral dimension.

We must each work out our own guidelines for when we think scientific data has exceeded its bounds and has morphed into the agenda and bias of story. Of course this is always going to be a challenge in the absence of a full array of scientific data.

 

But we can begin by being aware of the various ways that storytelling can insinuate itself into the presentation and interpretation of data.

Good science is a combination of meticulously obtained and analyzed data, a restriction of the conclusions to those interpretations that are explicitly reflected in the data, and an honest and humble recognition of the limits of what this data can say about the world.

 

Loose ends lead to the “yes, but” of indecision and inability to draw a precise conclusion.

 

As members of the public, we need to ensure that any science we accept as truth has passed through the peer-review process.

 

We should also understand that even peer-reviewed data is not always accurate. In 2011, Nature reported that published retractions had increased by a factor of 10 over the last 10 years, while the number of papers published rose only 44 percent. Also in Nature, scientists C. Glenn Begley and Lee M. Ellis wrote that their colleagues at the biotechnology firm Amgen could reproduce only six of 53 landmark hematology and oncology studies from the scientific literature.

 

Similarly, scientists from Bayer reported in 2011 that they could not consistently reproduce about two-thirds of oncology studies relevant to their work.

 

When reading science reports, we should also search for information on the limits of the data. Were assumptions made? What do the “error bars,” or graphic representations of variable data, say? We may not always understand the data limits, but we should be worried when some discussion of them is completely absent.

 

In the end, scientists have the tools, language, and experience to tell us informed, engaging, and powerful stories.

 

In turn, we should judge their studies in the same light in which we judge other artistic forms. Like a literary critic, we should assess the preciseness of language, the tightness of structure, the clarity and originality of vision, the overall elegance and grace of the study, the restraint with which they present moral issues, how they place their studies in historical, cultural, and personal context, and their willingness to entertain alternative opinions and interpretations.

 

The methodology of science remains one of the great advances of humankind. Its stories, properly told, are epic poems in progress, and deserve to stand alongside the great stories of history.

 

Robert A. Burton, M.D., a neurologist and novelist, is the author of On Being Certain: Believing That You Are Right Even When You’re Not, and A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves.

 

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Life Lesson 17

 

How to Be Kind to Yourself: Stop Chasing Self-Confidence

The enemy lies within.Gustavo RazzettiGustavo Razzetti

 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
― Plato

 

Why am I so harsh on myself?

 

I’m asked this question way too often from both readers and people who attend my workshops — self-reflection makes them realize they are ruthless on themselves.

 

All the way from leadership gurus to the media (even dentists) everyone is trying to trick us into this confidence nonsense.

 

You have to look good and feel good to conquer the world, they tell you.

 

What’s driving everyone anxious is this: no matter how hard you try, no matter how successful you are, no matter how good you are — it’s never enough.

 

The “be more confident” advice is hurting us — the more we try to boost our confidence, the more damage we cause.

 

Stretching beyond your comfort zone is one thing; being harsh on yourself is another. Not understanding the difference between the two hinders your potential as well as your relationships.

 

 

Text sign showing I Love Who I Am And What I Do. Conceptual photo High self-stem being comfortable with your job Hand hold paper l. Ob and red pen red circled royalty free stock images

The Self-esteem Trap Is Dangerous

 

Our culture is rooted in high self-esteem — you have to be special, unique, and above average.

This pressure is false pretentious.

 

By trying to become special in the eyes of others, we turn acceptance into a moving target. We never fulfill other people’s expectations, neither our own.

 

Self-esteem is a deceiving trap — once you get caught, it’s almost impossible to set yourself free.

 

We are experiencing a narcissist epidemic — we are rewarding and promoting vanity more than ever. American academics Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell found that narcissistic personality traits rose just as fast as obesity from the 1980s to the present.

 

It’s not surprising that selfies have become mainstream — people prefer to see themselves that the place they are visiting.

Who cares about the Taj Mahal?

We want to make sure our faces are visible to others.

 

There’s nothing wrong about selfies — the narcissistic trap is the problem.

 

People used to take pictures to remember what they saw. Now, many take selfies to remember how they looked to the eyes of others — they want reassurance that someone was paying attention to them.

 

A culture that encourages narcissistic self-confidence does anything but help us succeed. The need to win at all costs pushes people to cheat at school, sports or at work — they end up deceiving themselves too.

 

Overconfidence is the most dangerous consequences of the confidence trap.

 

It forces you to compare to others: instead of becoming your own standard, you let others define what you should care about. Continuous comparisons create the two most poisonous emotions: envy and jealousy.

 

It blinds you: when we feel overconfident, we stop listening to other points of views — our perspective is the only one we pay attention to.

 

You overestimate your abilities: the desire to overpower others takes over. Arrogance is a punch you don’t see coming — it unexpectedly knocks you out.

 

You measure yourself by your appearance: the ‘me-ness’ cult makes us focus on the outside. We believe that looking good will make us feel more confident.

 

Research shows that self-appreciation is directly linked to one’s beauty, especially among women.

The worst part?

 

Self-esteem is contingent on success — when things go wrong, you feel miserable.

The pressure is way too hard —most people believe they need permission to be kind and compassionate to themselves.

 

Self-compassion Beats Self-confidence Anytime

 

“Kindness is not just about how you treat others; it’s rooted in how you treat yourself.” — Londro Rinzler

 

Pursuing self-esteem is directly linked to anxiety and depression disorders.

 

Research shows that we tend to see ourselves through others’ eyes — especially when we are teenagers.

 

A study by psychologist and educator David Elkind describes how the ‘imaginary audience’ reflects adolescent’s limited abilities to differentiate between their own thoughts about themselves and what other people think about them— they often imagine there is an engrossed audience observing them.

 

This exaggerated sense of being ‘on stage’ all the time, results in heightened self-consciousness and harsher self-criticism. This pressure leads to a sense of isolation, loneliness, anxiety and/or depression.

 

Self-esteem is about comparing one’s abilities with those of others, resulting in an evaluation or judgment (often negative). Self-compassion is about being open and moved by one’s experiences and feelings — it’s a nonjudgmental view of our self (both our wins and failures).

 

Self-confidence arises out of fear — we create a perfect mask to protect ourselves from others. Self-compassion arises out of love — we appreciate who we truly are.

 

Self-compassion is anything but being weak.

 

Research led by Madeleine Ferrari, from the Australian Catholic University in Sydney, discovered that self-compassion protects perfectionists from depression.

 

Conversely, “study after study shows that self-criticism is consistently associated with less motivation and worse self-control,” says Kelly McGonigal. In fact, it shifts the brain into a state of inhibition, preventing us from taking action to reach our goals, the Stanford professor explains in her book The Willpower Instinct.

 

Being harsh on oneself is cowardice — it’s easier to punish yourself than to learn to accept your whole self (flaws included).

 

There is a need within our culture to understand, study, and cultivate self-acceptance and kindness. Our lack of self-compassion is “not our fault,” according to Paul Gilbert. In his book The Compassionate Mind, he explains how our compassionate skills are biological, inherited, conditioned, and learned.

 

Thousands of years ago, people had to be on guard for threats and danger — their brains were hard-wired for alertness and self-protection. How you’ve been raised determines your relationship with self-compassion too.

 

The author discusses how traumatic experiences and earlier developmental life challenges also affect our brain functions.

 

The good news is that we can train and rewire our brains to be more self-compassionate.

 

Put on Your Oxygen Mask First

 

“When you’re in the trenches, do you want an enemy or an ally?” — Kristin Neff

 

Most everyone desires to possess high self-esteem — they believe their happiness depends on it.

 

Self-esteem is the enemy within; it encourages to see yourself in terms of good or bad.

We wrongfully think that self-criticism will drive us into action.

 

However, when we are harsh on ourselves, we become both the attacker and the attacked as Dr. Kristin Neff explains. The ‘self-compassion’ expert believes that having a more objective reality is more effective.

 

As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said: “Acknowledging the problems and coming to terms with them is often the foundation for a long-term friendship. Since you know all the negative aspects, you don’t have to hide from that side of the relationship (with yourself).”

 

Compassion is your ally, especially during harsh times.

 

Researchers at UC Berkeley wanted to see how self-compassion would affect students’ behaviors after doing poorly on a test.

 

Each student was allowed to study as long as they wanted. But, before they received the materials, one group was given a message purposefully crafted to encourage a compassionate mindset.

The ‘self-compassionate’ group studied 33.3% longer than the other groups and performed much better when retaking the test.

 

Being self-compassionate is like fresh oxygen to your mind.

 

Dr. Neff’s research shows that compassionate acts towards ourselves or others release the ‘feel good’ hormones. Increased levels of oxytocin strongly trigger feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness.

 

To take care of others, you have to put on your oxygen mask first — you can’t truly love other people if you don’t love yourself.

 

How to Defeat the Enemy Within

 

Definition of compassion. Fake Dictionary, Dictionary definition of compassion royalty free stock images

“Compassion constitutes the base of human survival, it’s what makes human lives valuable and meaningful.” — Dalai Lama

 

Compassion is the integration of the mind made evident. When you are kind to yourself, all the pieces fall in the right place.

 

Embrace ‘unconditional self-acceptance:’

 

Albert Ellis, the father of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, coined this term to refer to a basic, yet often missed truth — we are less than perfect. Accepting that you are a fallible human being is the first step towards coming to terms with yourself.

 

Unconditional self-acceptance is not the easy way out; it’s the first step to pursuing self-betterment in a healthy manner.

 

Accept that sometimes you’ll perform well, but you will also err and fail. You are the sum of all your parts — not just the bad or good ones. Unconditionally embrace your entire self without being judgmental.

 

Love yourself, especially during harsh times:

 

Compassion is not feeling pity — it’s feeling love.

 

It’s easy to like your perfect image on Instagram when everything feels and looks good. However, it’s during hard times that you need to be more compassionate with yourself.

 

Own your mistakes without attacking you because you’ve erred.

 

Psychologists say that mother’s love is (the only) unconditional — no matter what their children do, they will always profoundly care for them. Shouldn’t you love yourself the same way?

 

Reframe extreme self-criticism:

 

When your inner voice is making critical judgments, moderate those thoughts by making them conscious. If you think “I am useless,” say to yourself: “Not everything I do happens the way I’d like.” If you think “I’m not smart,” say to yourself: “I need to continue learning and improving my game.”

 

Reframe your judgmental words in a positive way.

 

The above are just examples, use your own words. Find a way to observe yourself through a kinder lens.

The idea is not to lower your bar but rather focus on what you can improve — criticism will only get you stuck.

 

Meditate:

 

The practice of cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment opens up your mind and heart — compassion needs space to grow. Meditation can improve compassion and altruistic behavior, according to a study from Harvard and Northeastern University.

 

Empathy can be cultivated by exercising the brain with loving-kindness meditation.

 

Monks were asked to meditate on unconditional loving-kindness and compassion. Their brains generated powerful Gamma waves that may indicate a compassionate state of mind, as reported by Wired.

 

Be compassionate to others:

 

The innate desire to lessen the suffering of others is deeply ingrained in Buddhism — it’s a natural state.

 

When you observe a dog being hit by a car, you don’t judge the dog’s action; you feel pity for the animal.

 

But, when someone (you included) makes a mistake, we judge the behavior —we make him/her look stupid rather than provide support.

 

Being compassionate to others requires training our mind — overcoming our judgmental mentality is a habit that we must build.

 

Neuroscience is starting to understand the profound impact mindfulness and compassion have on the brain.

 

Compassion is not just a religious thing. As Dalai Lama said, “Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.”


Being kind to yourself is anything but being weak. It takes a strong character to confront your objective reality — you are vulnerable and perfectly imperfect.

 

Compassion is a mental state — it’s non-violent and doesn’t cause harm. It’s about wishing good things for yourself and others.

You don’t want people to suffer (you included).

 

Forgiveness, self-compassion, and compassion go hand-in-hand. It’s difficult to be compassionate if you are not willing to forgive others or yourself.

 

Remember, put on your oxygen mask first.

 

Only then you can help others.

 

Train your mind to be more kind, tolerant, and self-compassionate (more exercises here).

You don’t need permission for that.


Gustavo Razzetti is a change instigator that helps organizations lead positive change. Author, Consultant, and Speaker on team building and cultural transformation.

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

 

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 Life Lesson 18

 

The Moment Your True Life Begins

We’re not struggling to survive. We lack the courage to thrive.

Niklas Göke

Life is simple. You’re given a finite amount of time, then you die. In that time, you will do everything you’ll ever do. No do-overs.

 

You want to spend as much of this time as you possibly can feeling healthy, meaningful, and happy. Let’s call that “true living.”

The rest is just noise.

 

Every choice you make adds or subtracts hours from this true life of yours.

 

You don’t control every outcome, but there’s always something you control — a way to convert noise into time well spent. When you’re sick, you can find a perspective.

 

When you’re unhappy, you can still help others.

 

We know all this, and yet, we often fail to make the right choices. To exercise our control. Why is that?

 

In 1888, Friedrich Nietzsche coined the phrase that would define the Western world: “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”

 

Today, few things can kill us here. Basic healthcare is good. Cities are safe. Bankruptcy isn’t a death sentence.

And yet, we’re still operating under this old model.

 

Instead of being proactive in steering the big changes, we hope to see in our lives, we’re chugging along thinking that one day, some cataclysmic event will disrupt our whole existence.

 

But the overwhelming odds are that will never happen.

 

If you’re waiting to change until you can do it while bouncing back from some large-scale disaster, you’ll spend your whole life waiting for a day that might never come.

 

You’ll go to work every day, and it’ll be the same.

 

You’ll get sick every once in a while, recover, and it’ll be the same. You’ll travel to many places, return home unscathed, and it’ll be the same.

 

The famine, the drought, the complete economic collapse?

Those aren’t coming.

They’re black swan events.

Maybe, one day, they will.

But can you really afford to wait that long to write your book? To finally go self-employed?

To kick your slightly excessive drinking habit?

 

Because all the while, we’re drowning inconvenience. Seduced by the noise.

Buy one pill for health, another for happiness.

Who needs meaning when you have materialism, right?

Even experiences are becoming a rat race.

 

Kill what doesn’t make you stronger. Even if it means killing something you love.

 

We have so much of the comfort our ancestors craved that we’re suffocating from it.

 

One pleasure at a time, we’re numbing our brains, medicating from one boring day to the next.

 

Of course, we do it in small doses.

 

Most of us never alert their doctor, their friends, their authorities. A pill at a festival here, a vacation that leaves you broke there, just enough damage to justify returning to our normal, steady, waiting-for-the-end-to-come pace.

 

But that’s not living.

 

We’re not condemned to be peasants.

Or anything.

We’re all-equipped, nearly all-powerful individuals with mega processors in our heads and the world’s knowledge in our pockets.

What am I saying?

It was a long play for sure, but, after 130 years, Nietzsche’s record has run out. We’re no longer struggling to survive.

We lack the courage to thrive. It’s time to turn it around: Kill what doesn’t make you stronger. Even if it means killing something you love.

 

Whatever catastrophe you’re secretly hoping will one day wake you up to the life of your dreams would have to be one you engineer yourself — knocking over that first domino is on you. Of course, dominoes don’t resemble a nuclear explosion.

They neatly fall over, one at a time.

But it is a chain reaction.

The chain reaction we want is one of good, compounding decisions.

One that maximizes our share of happy hours on this planet and makes use of the control we have in designing them.

 

If you’re waiting to change until you can do it while bouncing back from some large-scale disaster, you’ll spend your whole life waiting for a day that might never come.

 

Flipping Nietzsche’s script will provide the backdrop for our transition from a survivor’s mindset to a thriver’s mindset.

Committing to the right, small actions every day is a different game than struggling to return to stability, and it rests on having space.

 

Emptiness.

 

Room in your life that’s unfilled.

Not littered with distractions that round out your routine.

 

You need a blank canvas.

 

That canvas will be shaped with a single word: no.

 

A no to alcohol saves you the choice among 10,000 drinks.

A no to side projects is yes to a focused career.

What else can you say no to?

Junk food?

Gambling?

TV?

 

It’s not just bad habits either.

Sometimes, even good ones can keep us from doing something we feel we’re meant to do. Pleasing your boss with late-night assignments.

 

Taking on extra gigs instead of launching your Youtube channel.

 

Whatever keeps you in the safe, smaller-evil zone might be a drag on your truly-alive time. It all feels temporary, but if you don’t change it, much will be permanent.

 

Every yes is a no to a million other things. Choose your yeses carefully. Every no can make 1,000 future choices unnecessary.

 

Be generous with your nos.

 

In a world that’s no longer trying to kill you, it’s on you to call the shots.

 

That’s an incredible gift. But with so much game walking into your crosshairs, you have to conserve bullets.

 

Otherwise, you’ll spend it all on poisonous bait.

 

Living is easier than ever. Living truly as hard as never.

 

To not get wiped out by freedom is to settle on just one.

One principle.

One location.

One dinner.

One attitude.

One friend.

 

If and when you succeed, that’ll be the moment your true life begins.

 

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Life Lesson 19

 

 

Forget Positive Thinking. This Is How To Actually Change Negative Thoughts

Make your self-talk work for you instead of against you.

Melody Wilding, LMSW

There’s no shortage of self-help gurus who swear that repeating positive phrases to yourself can change your life.

 

They say that if you simply tell yourself “I am strong and successful”, your fears will disappear.

 

If you’ve tried using positive affirmations, you know that it can be a difficult habit to maintain.

 

You may spend five, 10 or even 20 minutes reciting your affirmation, but the other 23 hours of the day? Chances are that your mind drifts back to old, repetitive thoughts that have burned deep grooves in your brain.

 

The problem with positive affirmations is that they operate at the surface level of conscious thinking and do nothing to contend with the subconscious mind where limiting beliefs really live.

 

It goes without saying that if you command yourself to think “I am abundant and attract wealth”, yet your deeply held core belief is that you are never enough or unworthy of your success, your brain will be quick to incite an inner war.

 

If you trying to tell yourself “I am successful”, but you struggle with insecurity regarding your skills and accomplishments, your subconscious may likely remind you of the many times you’ve embarrassed yourself in front of your boss or made a mistake at work (trust me, we’ve all been there!).

 

The truth is that it’s natural and healthy to experience a range of feelings, including less pleasant ones like disappointment, sadness, or guilt.

 

 

While there’s no question that ruminating in negative emotions can turn toxic, whitewashing your insecurities with positive thinking is merely a temporary fix.

 

Unreasonably optimistic thinking can trigger a self-defeating spiral, particularly for those prone to anxiety and depression.

 

Research shows that while repeating positive self-statements may benefit people with high self-regard, it can backfire for those lacking confidence.

 

If positive affirmations can be ineffective — even detrimental — how are we to take control and mentally empower ourselves to change?

 

While wishing ourselves into a success mindset won’t work for most, here are a few strategies to try to make your self-talk work for you instead of against you.

 

 

Dig Yourself Out From “Debbie Downer” Thoughts.

 

Start with articulating and acknowledging thoughts weighing you down–ones that don’t serve any useful purpose beyond keeping you stuck.

 

Releasing statements, such as, “I forgive myself for procrastinating” or “It’s okay for me to be angry” shortcut self-bashing and free up emotional resources.

 

If you spend less time beating yourself up for procrastinating, you can redirect that energy into breaking down a project into manageable tasks and actually tackling your to-do list instead.

 

Give Interrogative Self-Talk A Try.

 

Research shows that asking ourselves questions rather than issuing commands is a much more effective way to create change.

 

It’s as simple as tweaking the way you speak to yourself. When you catch your inner critic flinging accusations, think: how can I turn this statement into a question? (see what I did there?). Asking questions opens up exploration and possibility.

 

Here are some examples:

Am I willing to do what it takes?

When have I done this before?

What if [insert worse case scenario] happens?

How can I…?

 

This type of self-inquiry powers up problem-solving areas of the brain helping you tap into your innate creativity. You’re able to greet negative thoughts with curiosity instead of fear.

 

Focus on Progress, Not Perfection.

 

Using a positive affirmation like “I am wonderful and powerful” may backfire if you don’t truly, deeply believe it at both a cognitive and emotional level.

 

To effectively re-frame your thinking, consider who you are becoming, focusing on your progress–the current track or path you’re on.

 

You might re-work your self-talk to sound more like “I am a work in progress, and that’s OK.”

 

It’s pointing you in the direction of positive growth and is both realistic and achievable. Another example: telling yourself “Every moment I’m making an effort to be more conscious about how I spend my money” acknowledges the fact that you are evolving and that you have a choice in creating a better financial future for yourself.

 

If you’re prone to negative self-talk and are sick of positive affirmations that don’t work, try one of these re-framing techniques.

 

You may start to notice major changes in your mindset and an uptick in your productivity and success.

 

 

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Life Lesson 20

 

 

Life Lessons Learned in My 40’s That I Wish I Could Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

Life Lessons For Young People (Especially Women)Rebecca GrantRebecca Grant

 
 
 

Prioritize Your Passions

Always keep your dreams in sight.

Chart a life’s course around them just as an ancient sailor would chart a course using the stars.

 

“All we need do is find a star that is directly above the place we need to get to and it will point exactly the right direction for us.”

 

Let your dreams be your guiding light.

 

Even if you can’t build a career around them, you can carve out time to work on them each and every day. Make this your #1 priority.

 

Your goals, dreams, and passions will change and evolve.

That’s okay.

Just go with it.

 

Think of your life’s plan like a language immersion program. In the beginning, you may only spend 5–10% of your time working toward your dreams.

Increase this time as you age so you are spending 100% of your time pursuing your passions by the time you retire.

 

Focus On Flow

 

Stop wasting your thoughts on marrying a rich guy/girl and living happily ever after!

Disney got it wrong.

 

Getting rich and retiring is not the ultimate goal in life.

Retiring with no dreams, passions, or even hobbies = inevitable decline.

A life well-lived needs purpose.

We should strive for flow.

 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, psychologist and author of the book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience defines flow as

“A state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

He also says:

“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times — although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

 

What activities bring you to a flow state?

How can you spend even more of your time in this state of clarity and excitement?

Flow-producing activities will lead to inner satisfaction and that is infinitely more valuable than the outward appearance of success.

 

Become Financially Literate

 

My number one regret about high school — not taking the class where you carry around a soda bottle baby and learn life skills.

This class conflicted with a college prep course I was supposed to take, so I skipped it.

 

In hindsight, this would have been the single most useful high school class offering.

My friends and I arrived on our college campuses full of idealism and naivety.

 

The credit card companies were waiting.

They offered us free ski lift tickets, meals, and even hotel vouchers.

All we had to do was sign up for a credit card. After all, we had to establish credit, right?

I still remember the amazing Weezer and Live concert I got to attend when I signed up for my first credit card.

Be careful! Getting into credit card debt means you start the journey of life already behind. And you have to pay interest!

 

Cut up those credit cards after you go to the free concert or give them to a parent to keep for you (out of sight, out of mind, right?).

If you have learned to stick to your budget, get a credit card that offers cash back and pay it off automatically each month. If you can’t do this, cut it up!

Learn as much as you can about saving and investing wisely. Remember, your #1 goal is to have a financial plan that will allow you to pursue your passions when you retire.

There are many free resources online.

Just remember that many bloggers/businesses have affiliate links so if they try to convince you to purchase something, they get paid. Be skeptical. Do your own research and compare.

You don’t have to purchase anything (except maybe a book).

 

Experiences Not Stuff

 

When you do spend your hard-earned cash, spend it on experiences. These are the things you will remember and look back on with nostalgia when you are older.

 

Don’t go shopping with friends if it means they are going to convince you to buy shoes and handbags that are out of your budget.

 

If you buy stuff in your 20’s and 30’s, you will spend your 40’s decluttering all of the crap you bought when you were younger.

 

I’m still getting rid shoes and handbags that don’t spark joy.

 

When I see them, I imagine the weekends away I could have had or the extra money I could have invested.

 

Don’t buy them in the first place.

 

Travel

 

Travel. It will transform your life (for the better).

You will learn to be more open and empathetic.

And, you will gain confidence!

 

Once you have had to ring someone up and make travel arrangements in another language, you will feel like you can do anything.

 

When you return to your home country, everything will seem so much easier. You will fearlessly phone people (even if you hate being on the phone).

 

There are several ways to incorporate travel into your life without going into debt. Do it before you have house payments and children!

  1. Study abroad for at least a year — This is often the same price as attending college at home. I got this right and it remains one of the best and most transformative experiences of my life.
  2. Teach English abroad — There are many countries that will pay all of your costs if you are brave enough to go and teach English for 1–2 years.
  3. Volunteer for a service organization like the Peace Corps.
  4. Be a nanny — if you like children and you find a nice family to hire you.
  5. Be a digital nomad — if you can figure out how to make it work for you..

 

Know Your Personality Type

 

Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, has been a revelation to me.

Our Western ideal is extroverted.

This book shows the value of introversion.

It helped me understand myself better. I wish I had thought about my personality type more when I was making decisions about career options.

 

“It’s not always so easy, it turns out, to identify your core personal projects. And it can be especially tough for introverts, who have spent so much of their lives conforming to extroverted norms that by the time they choose a career, or a calling, it feels perfectly normal to ignore their own preferences.” — Susan Cain

 

Consider your personality type when you make career choices.

 

Of course introversion and extroversion are on a spectrum and many introverts are able to rise to the occasion and be outgoing and charismatic when the situation demands it.

 

The important thing to consider is how you recharge your batteries. If you need alone time to do this, be sure to build this into your working life.

 

Perfectionism Is Bad

 

I used to wear my perfection like a badge of honor. I was a teacher. I worked really long hours trying to design amazing lessons and decorate my classroom to ‘Open House’ standards.

 

Unfortunately, this led to burnout. It was all or nothing and it wasn’t good for my health or finding balance in my life.

 

Being a perfectionist is unsustainable and unhealthy.

 

Often, perfection paralyzes us and keeps us from action.

 

I also dreamt of writing a children’s novel. Whenever I sat down to write, perfectionism reared its ugly head and kept me from moving forward.

 

I finally let it go and just wrote. Even though I cringe when I look back at some of my early drafts, I am proud of myself for moving forward. I know I am learning and growing.

 

The only way to get better is to just do it, fail and move on. If you do this enough, you will be ahead in the game of life.

 

Appreciate Your Healthy Body

 

I guarantee that when you are in your 40’s, you will look back at pictures of yourself in your 20’s and marvel at how good you used to look.

 

It’s all a matter of perspective.

 

You are healthy. You can exercise without feeling sore afterward. Appreciate your healthy body.

 

Stop looking at images of beautiful, photo-shopped people on social media. It will only make you miserable.

 

I still remember the time my British husband and I were in a French hotel room searching for English channels on TV.

 

On the American channel, they were showing ‘The Girls Next Door’, the reality show about the playboy mansion.

 

Women in full make-up, skimpy clothing, and plastic parts paraded around the mansion.

 

On the BBC, they were airing Gardeners’ World.

 

Two mud-covered older women in baggy trousers, wearing absolutely no make-up and jewelry were enthusiastically digging in the garden and discussing flowers.

 

The contrast between the images on the two channels will forever be ingrained in my head. It was so refreshing to see women enthusiastically engaged in an activity they loved without any expectations of looking good for a TV audience.

 

So ladies, when you start feeling bad about your appearance, flip on Gardeners’ World and remember rule #1: Prioritize Your Passions.

 

If you liked this post, you may also like this one:


 

Life Lessons 21

 

 

When You Are Disappointed in Yourself, Practice Self-Compassion

Don’t allow past and present disappointments to ripple through to the core of who you are. Pick yourself back up!

Thomas Oppong
 

Disappointment in ourselves is something we all share.

 

You’ve probably had at least one time when you could have pushed yourself a little bit further to reach a goal, change a habit, or meet a deadline.

 

We all get frustrated when this happens.

 

Learning how to thrive in spite of even your most epic disappointment is the key to bouncing back as soon as possible.

 

Most people experience disappointments almost every week.

They feel they are not living life to their own standards and values.

They expect more from themselves.

When you are disappointed, your mood quickly can changes. The feeling can significantly affect your progress in life.

 

Disappointing yourself can make you question your choices, ambitions, self-worth, and your abilities.

 

Robert Kiyosaki once said, “The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.”

 

 

Be kind your yourself

 

If you recently failed to deliver a career-making presentation, missed a deadline, said something you absolutely should not have said to a loved one, a colleague at work or a friend — your life is not over! Everyone will not remember this mistake for the rest of your life.

 

Our failures are rarely as big as we imagine them to be. Ask yourself, will this matter one year from now?

 

“Being overly critical of ourselves can increase anxiety about a setback. But overthinking, or ruminating on what happened, is like agonizing self-criticism on repeat,” Rachel Simmons wrote in The New York Times’s guide to overcoming failure.

 

Accept and acknowledge your disappointments

 

The first step, as always, is awareness — name it to tame it.

 

Pause for a moment, and turn inward to find out if your feeling frustrated or disappointed with yourself for anything.

 

If you notice a negative shift in your attitude, get in touch with your emotions by asking yourself why you feel the way you do.

 

Try to zero in on the real issue rather than continuing to feel emotionally distressed.

Instead of overthinking your many disappointments — which makes it harder to live life to the fullest, accept what went wrong, remind yourself of your successes in the past, and find ways to do better next time.

 

 

Overthinking any mistake, disappointment, or personal failure — asking questions like, “How could I have said/done that?”, or “What’s wrong with me”, can damage your self-worth or motivation.

 

“The first step to correcting a monumental blunder is, to be honest, and critical with yourself and to acknowledge that it was indeed a mistake.

 

This is much easier said than done, but unless we’re nakedly candid with ourselves about the mistake itself, there’s no way to move past it,” writes Tim Herrera in The New York Times.

 

If you know why you’re disappointed, you’ve got a head start on being able to make an action plan. When you take the time to learn from your disappointment, you’ll be more prepared for your next actions.

 

“In a study, executives and engineers who deliberately confronted feelings about job loss felt more control over their situation and had a much higher rate of re-employment in the following months,” says Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist.

 

But acknowledgment is only helpful if you can get past it. Your priority should be moving on quickly from it and making progress. The point is to remember you are more than your disappointments.

 

Practice self-compassion

 

In the past decade, self-compassion has emerged as an important quality for mental health and well-being. Respond to your inadequacies or disappointments with understanding, patience, and acceptance, rather than with harsh self-criticism.

 

Dr. Julia Breines, who studies how social experience influences the way people treat themselves, explains, “The ability to forgive ourselves for mistakes, large and small, is critical to psychological well-being. Difficulties with self-forgiveness are linked with suicide attempts, eating disorders, and alcohol abuse, among other problems.”

 

Self-compassion can also help you bounce back stronger, make better choices, and live life to the fullest despite your shortcomings.

 

“People who have higher levels of self-compassion tend to handle stress better — they have less of a physical stress response when they are stuck in traffic, have an argument with their spouse, or don’t get that job offer — and they spend less time reactivating stressful events by dwelling on them,” writes Carrie Dennett in The Washington Post.

 

Pursue realistic and attainable goals

 

Disappointment is directly tied to the expectations we place on ourselves. If you are aiming for nothing less than perfect, you will be disappointed.

 

High expectations are great, but to reduce your disappointments, match your actions with your expectations. Making sure you’re prepared is an important way to protect yourself from future disappointment.

 

Do you give yourself enough time to reach your goals? Do you set clear and measurable boundaries? Asking the right questions and understanding how your plans can fail is crucial to plotting your next big endeavor.

 

Whatever you plan to do or achieve, dig deeper to expose any of the flaws in your plan. Help yourself win more.

 

Disappointments are difficult to deal with, but with the right personal support system, you can always bounce back and keep moving. With patience, you can get back on track to build the life you want.

 

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Life Lesson 22

 

Quiet Your Mind................

 

Jeff BartonJeff Barton

 

Corn Fields Under White Clouds With Blue Sky during Daytime
 

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.”

— Caroline Myss

 

I took my daughter to the doctor’s office to get one of the myriad of shots they get on their way to adulthood. Typically, these trips are not something I look forward to. She gets very anxious, and with good reason.

 

Shots aren’t fun, so many of these previous trips resulted in screaming and sheer terror. For both of us (the terror, not the screaming).

 

And even though she’s had them before, the thought of the experience is always worse than reality.

 

So as we got closer to the office, I could see her worry. She became quiet, her body tensed up, and I could observe the change in her face.

 

That anxiety crept in and had a hold of her. It took over and I could see and feel how her mind was racing.

 

Because I’ve been there.

 

I dealt with anxiety for a long time and still have occasional episodes although they are nowhere close to what I used to experience. And that is because I’ve learned to manage and control it much better. I’ve learned to quiet my mind.

 
Mountains With Crepuscular Ray

Over the past two years, I’ve figured out a lot about myself. I’m not anywhere near finished as I’m continually growing and learning.

 

But part of this process of discovery includes finding what I enjoy. Activities like running, working out, reading, writing, or hiking. And I use these activities to help quiet my mind.

 

What happens when I am doing one of the above tasks is that I reflect on what I’m thinking about.

 

I reflect on what’s in my mind.

 

When I’m running, I’m constantly processing.

 

I’m contemplating life, my problems, and whatever else is going on in my world.

 

While running and reflecting, I’m also releasing everything.

 

I’m getting it out of my head and body through the exercise.

 

It’s a two-for-one deal, and it’s not just running.

It works when I’m working out, reading, writing, or hiking too.

These activities allow me to get lost in myself and my thoughts, and I can process what I’m going through.

Once I’m done with one of these activities, I move on from those thoughts in my mind. I don’t ruminate any longer because I’ve worked through it. My mind is quiet.

 

And while it may not remain quiet, I can just repeat this process the next time I get these racing thoughts.

 

I reflect, release, and move on.

 
Silhouette of Bird Above Clouds

I’ve found what helps me quiet my mind.

 

It’s not a cure, but it helps me manage those episodes where my thoughts are trying to take over.

 

Many people find meditation to be helpful and mindfulness is also a good way to learn how to remain in the present moment. But it may not work for everyone.

 

I meditated for a long time and, at one point, had a long streak going where I meditated every day. But I couldn’t sustain it and I didn’t feel it had the same impact as what I’ve found now.

 

But I get lost when I run or write. Not only in my thoughts but away from the stresses of life.

 

These two things combined allow that release and if you can find something which allows that reflect and release, it may also help you.

 

There is nothing wrong with escaping for a bit despite what you’ve been told. If it gives you a little peace that’s what’s important.

 

Because sometimes all we need is to get away and find some peace. So get lost in something occasionally.

 

Find that thing or things that allow you to reflect, release, and move on. Empty your mind of what is ailing you and fill it back up with things that excite you. Activities that bring you to life and fill you with joy.

 

Find your way to quiet your mind.

 

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Life Lesson 23

 

Signs They’re Attracted To You

And why we usually mess up how to tell if they like youKris GageKris Gage

 

 
You’ve probably Googled it and if you haven’t Googled it, you’ve certainly still wondered it. I say this because we all have.

“Are they into me or not?”

 

Maybe you see them from across the room.

Maybe you know them — a friend, an acquaintance, a colleague, the barista at the coffee shop — and you want to know if they’re flirting or being friendly.

Maybe you’re casually dating and not quite sure if they’re in it for the long haul, or just for fun.

Maybe we wonder because we’re into them and want to know if it’s reciprocated. Maybe we wonder because we think we see signs and want to know if they’re for real.

 

But at some point or another, we’ve all wondered if someone is attracted to us.

And for those of us who try to Google it, we run into a slew of problems, mostly centralized around the fact that:

 

Most information out there is really, really stupid.

 

Signs like which direction their feet are pointing, whether or not they make eye contact or ask questions or giggle and twirl their hair or whatever.

 

The problem with “signs” comes down to these two errors:

 

1. False Positives

 

Also known as “type I” errors in statistical hypothesis, this is an error in which a result improperly indicates the presence of a condition when in reality it is not present. In other words: a “false alarm,” or “boy who cried wolf.”

 

In the case of attraction, this means:

You think they’re into you, but they’re not.

 
Image for post

False positives happen with:

  • Friendly or flirtatious people
  • People who may be attracted to you but (see below) don’t want to be, or don’t want to pursue anything
  • People who give mixed signals
  • When your one-way attraction to them overrides any sense or self-awareness you have about accurately reading their behavior
  • You get overly hopeful, grasping at things and making small signs indicative of something bigger
  • i.e., people who struggle (i.e., fail) to accurately read other people’s signs

 

2. False Negatives

 

Also known as “type II” errors in statistical hypothesis, this is an error in which a result improperly indicates presence of a condition when it is not actually present. For example: a medical condition that goes undetected, a guilty suspect acquitted of their crime, or the “silent but deadly” fart — you don’t think it’s there, but it is.

 

In the case of attraction, this means:

You think they’re NOT into you, but they are.

 
Image for post

Happens with:

  • Shy people
  • Socially awkward people
  • People trying to hide that they’re into you, for whatever reason
  • People who give mixed signals
  • People who struggle (and fail) to accurately read other people’s signs
  •  

THE PROBLEMS:

1. Human Beings Are Messy

 

Much of my writing hinges on this and I’ve already said a lot of what I want to say (here and here and here and here and here and many more places), but:

 

People are messy, imperfect human beings.

 

We are often (though not always) simple but very rarely straightforward.

 

2. Attraction Is Not Black and White

 

I’m writing a whole other post on this, because it is such a huge topic and I am amazed at how badly we butcher it.

 

“Attraction” is not binary.

 

I get so impatient with people who fail to realize this — I am truly taken aback at how much pain we cause ourselves by failing to realize it, and my jaw drops when people want “advice” because someone does one thing that indicates attraction (“texting”) and another that doesn’t (“ignoring you for a week.”)

 

We would resolve so much of our own pain and confusion if we just realized: attraction is not binary.

 

Just because they like you doesn’t mean they LIKE you.

 

Like, there’s the gross oversimplification even of “looks vs. personality,” or “attraction vs. availability” — and even those are, as I said, gross oversimplifications!

 

Here’s an example:
I am not into cake.

Like, at all.

But today we swung by a local, hipster bakery with these adorable, Instagram-ready cakes, and even though I do not like cake and do not want cake, even I could admit: “that’s a pretty cake.”

But that doesn’t mean I want some. So much in life goes like this, and so much of our “confusion” hinges on not realizing it.

 

3. Attraction Is Not Linear

 

Look, the attraction isn’t clean-cut. Just because we feel attracted to someone doesn’t mean we’re on some “pre-defined” track that automatically progresses us to the next stage. In fact?

 

More often than not, we don’t. More often than not, we are attracted to countless people in our lives, on various levels, without pursuing anything at all.

 

Like, we find others physically attractive but not like their personality.

 

We may like both their appearance and their personality, but not be available for a relationship. We may like everything and be open to a relationship, but they’re already in one. Or, we might all be single and heavily attracted to each other on every level, but live in different countries. And even these are gross over-simplifications.

 

Like: I may want carbs, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to eat them.

 

Or: obviously Benjamin Sledge is an attractive dude and a good writer (hey boye), but that doesn’t mean I want to run off into the sunset with him, or him with me.

 

And: the same goes for anyone else I — or anyone else — may find attractive.

Ya dig?

 
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Just because you agree the cake looks good doesn’t mean you actually want the cake

 

Unreliable (i.e., total crapshoot) signs of “attraction”

 

Look, I’m not saying these are ALL WRONG.

They may not be.

In fact, these may well be 80% foolproof signs like 60% of the time, and you may well have some anecdotal story of when you or someone you knew or some situation you dreamed up in your head did one or more of these and it was “totally legit” and the parties involved were definitely attracted. That’s great.

Mazel tov.

 

But the point here is: that’s not always the case. So let’s explore…

 

First of all, let’s understand contextual differences:

  • Is this a stranger in a bar?
  • A friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker?
  • Someone you’re casually dating?

These are all very different. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to tackle the second one: someone you know, have interacted with, and see interacting with others.

Signs that don’t matter…

 

EYES

Eye contact

 

The “signs” say:

 

“We like to make tons of eye contact with people when we think they’re attractive.” — Bustle

“Eye contact is a universal symbol of human attraction… even infants maintain eye contact with people they’re interested in.”

 

This is probably one of the worst “signs.

 

I mean, sure, eye contact does indicate attention. But it does not indicate attraction. (I mean come on — they have infants right there as support!)

 

Furthermore… false negative: they like you but are incredibly shy, avoiding eye contact. But more importantly, false positive: they’re a normally-functioning adult who understands how to converse.

I make eye contact with almost everyone I talk to. Want to take a stab at what percentage I want to bang? (Hint: very low.)

 

Pupil Dilation

 

Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of Success Signals, A Guide to Reading Body Language, shared:

 

“Dilation is a brain response that occurs when you like and are attracted to something.”

Which is true — but we have to be careful with this “sign,” because pupils dilate in response to anything that demands increased levels of attention.

 

Poppy Crum, Ph.D., a neuroscientist, and technologist did a TedTalk on technology and micro-expressions, in which she shared,

 

“Your eye responds to how hard your brain is working… When your brain’s having to work harder, your autonomic nervous system drives your pupil to dilate. When it’s not, it contracts.”

 

Below is a test subject’s eye responding to two jumbled, overlapping voices (about 3:35 in the video if you want to watch) — not sexual attraction.

 
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THE REST OF THE BODY

Body language

 

“Body language speaks a lot when it comes to knowing a guy that wants to date you.” — Dami Rhythms

 

It may — but it could also be very misleading.

 

You should observe the eye contact he makes with you, the way he leans toward you, and his sitting position

 

Proximity

 

The “signs” say:

People who like you are “anticipating the opportunity to become closer to you.”

 

Which, is true.

But the problem with this is: sometimes people just like being close to others.

Like, I like crowds and the middle seats on planes. I like throwing my arm around whoever is closest to me.

That doesn’t mean I want to bang these people.

 

Leaning toward you

 

“They lean toward you… they just want to be close to you!” — Bustle

See above.

 

Feet / Toes

 

“The feet tend to point where the heart wants to go” — Wood

Please no more with the feet and toes. I almost never point my feet or toes toward the person I’m attracted to. We need to stop with this.

 

Mirroring:

 

The “signs” say:

“If they mimic your gestures, odds are they like you.”

 

Lemme be real honest: this is a basic “trick” of rapport. I’ve used “mirroring” in every single job interview I’ve been on since learning about it, and in most of the “big” in-person discussions, I’ve had since.

 

So sure, it may indicate rapport or even desire — but that doesn’t always mean it’s sexual.

 

Touching

 

The “signs” read:

“If there’s a lot of arm-touching or ‘accidental’… grazing, take heed: that probably wasn’t an accident.” — Bustle

“Touch is a key sign of interest that will help you develop a relationship and you can use touch.” — Dami Rhythms

“If the guy moves his head towards your direction or touches you back. That means he has interest in you.” — Dami Rhythms

“If they’re interested, they might brush against you, or won’t move away if you brush against them.”

 

But like, great. You know who else touches me? My great aunt. Especially when she wants me to take a second helping of tuna casserole or something.

 

The other problem with this: touch can be forced. Like, when I want to create chemistry, I can touch someone. Easy as hell. And I’m not saying everyone (o even anyone) who does this is faking it, the reality is that “touch” is a major element in artificially creating (or maybe I should say “amplifying?”) rapport, as exemplified in pickup artist communities’ use of “kino” — touching someone in order to build comfort and attraction.

 

They lick their lips

 

Cosmo, geniuses that they are, wrote,

 

“When you’re into someone, you produce surplus saliva… If they quickly lick their lips or press them together, this weird phenomenon may be happening.”

 

Ever since I read that this was a “sign,” I’ve been hyper-aware of when I do it. And lemme be real honest: I do it almost every time I talk to someone. Now to be fair, I also sometimes wanna lick people’s faces, so maybe I’m the weirdo. Though I doubt it.

 

ENERGY

Showing Off

Dami Rhythms wrote that people who are attracted “start talking about [themselves] a lot because he [or she] wants to prove [themselves] to you.”

 

Which… is partly true. But you know who else shows off? Little kids. Children run around like “look what I can do!” when they want attention.

 
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Wanna know who else likes showing off? Hibachi chefs, strippers, and ESFPs.

 

Nervousness:

 

The “signs” say:

“Unnecessary laughter, deep breaths, sweaty palms, fidgeting, looking away from you… [acting] anxious.” — Dami Rhythms

“If your crush appears to have butterflies when you’re around, they’re excited to be around you.”

 

Look, I get nervous every time I give a presentation, including the one-on-one, super casual presentation I gave to my company’s CFO. Does this mean I want to bang any of these people? NO.

 

They’re sensitive

Sure. Or they’re just sensitive.

You seem to put a bounce in their step

“You can tell when someone is happy to see you. If seeing you seems to enliven them, you’re on the right track.”

Probably true. Or they’re just excitable.

 

SPEAKING

Teasing

 

The “signs” say:

“If they tease you, it could signal interest. They do this to draw your attention towards them.”

Sure. Maybe sometimes. But you know who else I tease? My brother. Mercilessly. (Last time I saw him I glanced down at his belly as I went in for the “hello hug” and then said in his ear as we embraced “you’re getting fat.”)

 

Complimenting

 

The “signs” say:

“Recognize any compliments… this is a good sign.”

Lol. I compliment my mom, my sister, most of my friends, a great deal of my colleagues, and a lot of strangers. And sure, I like most of them — but sometimes I just like their haircut, or their shirt, or the way they always remember everyone’s birthday.

 

Asking questions

 

“We are very inquisitive when we’re around people who interest us. So if they’re asking tons of questions, they want to know more about you — and see more of you.” — Bustle

 

Yeah, or they’re just a normal person making conversation.

 

They don’t talk about other romantic conquests

 

Yeah, or they’re private. I don’t talk about my love life with anyone in my real life, and it has zero percent with me wanting to bone them all.

 

They ask your opinion

 

This is 100% personality. My sister, for example, asks everyone in her life about every decision, big or small, that she makes — from career to hair color. Others (see: me) care so little we all but forget to tell others that we’ve made them.

 

They listen

 

Come on. If this is how starved we all are for attention, I feel bad for us. This is just common courtesy, guys.

 

They tell you things about themselves

Guys, last week on my flight I sat next to a woman who told me all about her son, her daughter in law, her husband, where she lived, where she grew up, what kind of dog she owned…

I think you get the picture. The point is: I can almost guarantee mama wasn’t “into me.” She was just bored — and chatty.

 

BEHAVIOR

“Running” into you

 

The “signs” say:

“If they turn up at certain places at a certain time of the day where you don’t expect to see they, it might be that they’ve been consciously ‘finding’ occasions to bump into you.”

Sure, maybe. Orrr they might just be running into you. Let’s calm down.

 

Smiling

 

The “signs” say,

“They smile at you.”

“According to M.Farouk Radwan, MSc, an ‘extended smile,’ or one that doesn’t fade quickly, ‘for no obvious reason,’ is real, and shows interest.”

Please don’t make me list all of the reasons that smiling is social, and doesn’t mean they want in your pants.

 

They invite you to meet their friends

 

Sure, you passed a basic barometer — they don’t think you suck — but that doesn’t automatically mean anything else.

 

They are nice

 

“It doesn’t have to be grand gestures of affection, but do they bring you a coffee after work because they know how tired you are?… Little gestures go a long way.”

Please tell me you see the flaw here. Some people are just nice. Some people (see: me) aren’t.

 

They stay up late with you

 

“Even if they have to work early in the morning. Because they can’t get enough of you, and they want to talk until 2.”

 

Maybe sometimes. I mean, yeah, I’ve definitely stayed on the phone until like 6 am with a dude I was into.

 

Buuut I’ve also stayed up with people I barely cared about, simply because I was having fun. So.

 

They try new things with you

See above.

 

Friends:

 

The “signs” say:

“If their friend knows that they have interest in you, they might tease them when you’re around.”

 

Oh, honey… Yeah, this might be true. Or they could be the sort of friends who are just giving him hell, or just wing-manning to get him laid when he’s not actually interested in much more — let alone you.

 

They are observant

 

The “signs” say:

“If you got a new haircut or changed your appearance in some way, they notice, because they’re paying attention to you.”

 

Please. None of my boyfriends ever consistently noticed when I got a haircut. I once dated a dude for six months without him realizing I was a vegetarian. Some people just aren’t that observant.

 

They engage with you on social media

 

Oh no.

 

First of all: tons of people who aren’t actually interested engage with people on social media. I mean, I myself follow and engage with tons of people I don’t want to sleep with (or date, whatever.) Get out more.

 

Second: there are people I am actually attracted to that I don’t engage with at all on social media. Namely: my boyfriend? I’ve never liked a single IG post.

 

They want your number

 

The other day my colleague asked for my number so we could carpool. Calm down.

 

They pick up the phone

 

“When it comes to plans, they just call you, instead of endlessly trying to figure things out via text.”

 

I’ve gone months without calling my mom. That doesn’t mean I don’t like her.

 

They don’t play games

 

“They think games are silly, and they want to be authentic with you.”

Lol, I 100% “play” with most of the people I like. You want to know the people I don’t “play” with? The ones I don’t like.

etc.

There are so many stupid signs.


The Signs That Matter

 

4. Staring (when you’re not speaking to each other)

 

“If they can’t stop staring… you’ve got your first clue.” — Bustle

This includes: glancing over, extending eye contact, flat-out staring, looking at you while they laugh, etc.

This is especially true for dudes, and I’ve almost never found a scenario when this wasn’t true. Even when I assume the glance isn’t attraction, I very often later find out it was.

 

3. They want time with you

 

“They make plans… if they want to see you again sometime soon, they’re into you. No one wants to commit to something next Thursday unless they actually really want to spend time with you.” — Bustle

 

One big indicator (that you’ll likely not see, but is still there) is scheduling a party and inviting a bunch of people when you’re the only one they actually want to see.

That is huge.

 

2. They want ALONE time — uninterrupted — with you

 

And “they minimize interruptions and distractions — putting their phone away, and resisting interruptions.”

 

If they are willing to spend along time with you, it’s probably a good sign. That being said, I have totally hung out with people one on one who didn’t make a move. So.

 

1. They treat you differently than anyone else

 

This is probably THE BIGGEST SIGN (below the actual biggest sign, below.)

Take any of the signs above — and all of the others I didn’t include — and just know that: all of these differ based on who they are and how they act with others.

 

Like, for me: “time” is the tell. I am normally a private person who can spend days on end by myself, and would rather hang out alone than with people I don’t like. I’ll flirt with anything that moves, but if I want to spend time with someone, it’s because I like them. (Or I want something from them, i.e., we work together, which also happens.)

 

But for other people, socializing is just socializing and doesn’t mean that much. Their “tells” are something else — and it’s for us to figure out.

 

The actual biggest sign: they tell you flat out that they like you.

 

Obviously, if someone comes right out and tells you, “Hey, Bozo, I like you!” then they probably do! Of course, it’s no secret at that point.

 

Again, even if someone says it as “a joke,” it probably isn’t. They’re just looking for a positive reaction but don’t have the guts to tell you in an obvious way.

 

If your friend straight up tells you that they like you, take it seriously. Even if you don’t like them back, have a talk with them and let them know, in no uncertain terms, how you feel.

 

You might be worried that you’ll lose their friendship, but it’s better than stringing them along and making them think they have a chance with you.

 
Kris Gage

Written by

Writer — www.krisgage.com reach me at krisgagemedium@gmail.com

 

 

 

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Life Lesson 23

 

If You Want To Be Happy, Make The World Small

 

Niklas GökeNiklas GökeMeet Our Members – Armorgators

 


One of my favorite scenes in Man of Steel is when young Clark first discovers his powers at elementary school.

 

His senses are hypersensitive and, by activating all at once, trigger a seizure.

Suddenly, he can see not just people’s appearance, but their insides, bones, organs. He can hear not just loud noise, but every noise, even tiny ones far away. Overwhelmed with all the impressions, he runs away and hides.

 

The whole class gathers outside the closet he’s locked himself in, but, ultimately, his mom must come to his rescue.

 

At first, he won’t let her in.

 

“The world’s too big, Mom.”

 

But then, Martha Kent shares a piece of advice that could only ever make sense coming from a loving, compassionate mother:

“Then make it small.”

 

The Good Thing About Fame

 

A few days ago, I was looking for gameplay clips from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey because, you know, procrastination.

 

I found theRadBrad.

After watching a few videos, I realized he has 9.8 million subscribers.

That’s more than the entire population of Austria, Honduras, or Hungary.

I’m a gamer at heart. I’ve used Youtube for as long as it exists.

And yet, I had never heard of theRadBrad, one of the biggest channels in this sector.

 

I guess it’s true.

The world has become a big place.

Or, maybe it always was.

 

Christianity has remained the world’s largest religion for the past 200 years. But it still covers just a third of our planet’s population.

 

That means one of, maybe the most famous person in history — Jesus Christ — is someone most people have never heard of.

 

I think that’s a good thing.

It’s soothing.

The problem is I keep forgetting it.

 

All It Takes Is Pancakes

 

In an early How I Met Your Mother episode, Barney shares one of his most memorable quotes:

 

“You know what Marshall needs to do? He needs to stop being sad. When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead. True story.”

 

But, unless you can seamlessly switch from one irrational, emotional state to another, like Barney, that’s not so easy, is it?

 

It sure wasn’t for Marshall. For 67 days after his breakup, he was a miserable, weeping puddle of his former self.

 

Every day, some new trigger would launch him into another nightmare about his ex.

Where’s Lily?

What is she doing?

And with whom?

Why that?

Why now?

Why there?

 

Of course, none of his obsessive behavior gave any answers.

Eventually, after over two months, his roommates woke up to the smell of fresh pancakes. Marshall was over the hump. Why now? What changed?

 

The world was too big. And, finally, Marshall had made it small.

 

Pretend It’s An Island

 

I think most of my sadness is overwhelm in disguise.

The world’s too big.

I postpone all kinds of decisions until I do something stupid or extreme.

As a result, I lose even more time, which only reinforces the cycle.

 

But it all starts with the fact that there’s too much of everything.

Too many projects to tackle.

Too many notifications to answer.

Too many people to meet.

Too many places to go.

Too many shows to watch.

Too many books to read.

I know I’ll never get to it all. So there’s always someone to disappoint. Even if it’s just myself. But it never fails to sting.

 

The only way I can ever move past this is by doing what Martha told Clark:

“Just focus on my voice. Pretend it’s an island, out in the ocean. Can you see it?”

“I see it.”

“Then swim towards it, honey.”

 

When the world’s too big, I have to forget it for a while.

I have to start swimming.

 

The Only Thing We Can Do

 

On Nov 27th, 2006, Brad Colburn created a Youtube account. It had zero subscribers. Now, every time he launches another playthrough, he says:

 

“So guys it’s, uh, it’s kind of hard to start off these big games. ‘Cause I know that this series is gonna have a lot of people watching.”

 

No single human is meant to have an entire country follow them around.

We’re tribal creatures.

Not global citizens.

No matter how much we wish we were.

The sheer mental presence of more than a few dozen people is enough to cause serious anxiety.

It’s a huge responsibility to shoulder.

 

So the best thing, the only thing, really, that RadBrad can do is to make another video.

Just one.

 

Pretend it’s an island.

Start swimming.

I don’t know Brad personally. But I can tell you, every time he forgets this, he feels sad and overwhelmed.

 

And when he remembers? He finds his way back to happy.

 

We’re All Clark Kent

 

The internet has made all of us hypersensitive.

We’re all Clark Kent.

We can see not just people’s appearance, but their insides, thoughts, emotions.

We can hear not just loud noise, but every noise, even tiny ones far away.

 

And sometimes, it makes us want to run away and hide.

When Marshall sifted through his ex-lover’s credit card transactions, his world was too big.

Too many terrible fantasies.

Too many alternatives to imagine.

Only when he said “stop,” when he refused to engage with the noise, could he focus on what was right in front of him: two hungry friends.

 

If Superman existed, how long would it take until the whole world knows him?

A month?

A year?

In any case, he better master his senses.

Unlike him, however, we can turn off the noise.

Disconnect.

Get quiet.

 

What’s more, we’ll never carry quite as much responsibility.

If we’re really lucky, how many people will follow us?

A couple thousand?

A few million?

Still, most of the world will never know who we are. We’ll always stay small.

 

Remembering this smallness is where happiness lies. Forget the vastness that’s out there. It does nothing for you. Just focus on one voice. One friend. Make one video. And then do it again.

 

The world’s too big.

Even for the best of us.

Let’s carve out our own space.

Make it small.

Find your island.

And then swim towards it.

 

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Life Lesson 24

 

How To Remember That You’re Not Alone, Even When It Really Feels Like You Are

Loneliness is what happens when you convince yourself that you’re no longer worth connection.Brianna WiestBrianna Wiest

 
 
 

When you feel like you’re alone, it’s not the aloneness you’re afraid of.

 

You know how to spread your arms across cool sheets at night.

You know how to drive with the windows down, letting the cadences of your favorite songs move through you.

You know the tranquil peace of slowly setting yourself into a warm bath.

You know the strange charm of walking around by yourself, gazing upwards, and imagining the stories of the city.

You know that it is only ever in solitude that we extract the most important truths about our lives. Without the expectations of others around us, we get to see who we most essentially are.

You know what it is to be alone.

It is not aloneness that gives you that pinching and panicked feeling.

 

It’s loneliness, which sounds the same, but is actually different.

 

Loneliness is what happens when you convince yourself that you’re no longer worth connection.

 

Loneliness is what happens when you misbelieve that love is something you get when you’re good enough, something you receive when you play by the specific and unrelenting rules of those you’re most invested in receiving it from.

 

That type of connection, though?

It’s not a connection.

It’s hunger.

It’s vanity.

It’s an attachment.

 

A connection is a free-flowing state of sharing presence with one another, and more people would want to do it with you than you’d probably assume.

 

A connection is recognizing that even when life hands you a season of aloneness, you are never completely disconnected.

 

You are part of every person you’ve ever loved.

You are a part of every place you’ve ever been to.

You are cared for even if those who care are no longer present in your day-to-day life.

You almost always have at least one person who will care enough to stay by you, even at your worst.

 

We all assume that because we live in such a hyper-connected society, we would be less lonely than ever.

We can not only keep in touch with everyone we’ve ever known, but we can witness every detail of their lives unfold before us. No human beings prior to this ever experienced society in such away.

 

That’s exactly the problem.

 

What we gain in “connection,” we lose in context.

 

People used to move on from old towns and groups and friends, catching up now and again, but generally reserving the intimate details of their lives for those who grew in alignment with them.

 

This is healthy because it gives us space to find new identities instead of being stuck trying to appease all of the different ones we constructed, that have come together all at once, to witness how we are today.

 

We feel most alone when we are strangers to ourselves, and in a world where everyone is watching, we are more pieces of what they would want us to be than the whole of what we want to become.

 

We don’t know where we fit because our ideas of ourselves are bound up in expectations.

We have different faces for different people and somewhere throughout the constant pressure to be something else, we lose something.

 

Our true selves.

Our real selves.

 

The selves that know we are permanently and fundamentally connected.

The selves that know we don’t need 100 friends to be fulfilled.

 

We don’t even need 10.

 

Life is not a popularity contest.

It’s not about who is best at what and how much so.

 

It’s about that real connection, which is the willingness to show up exactly as we are, and realizing we’re being met exactly where we are.

 

No adjustments.

No shifting.

No hiding.

 

When we have this type of authentic connection, we end up discovering a sense of unity that we could never piece together from staring at vignettes of someone’s life.

We begin to understand that those creeping doubts, subtle fears, deep curiosities — they’re universal.

 

For how different we are and how much our experiences may vary, there is no human experience that you can have that someone else has not had at least a similar version of.

 

Coming to this realization is simple, but hard.

 

We have to truly see through the guise of what we thought connection was in an effort to foster it in reality.

 

We have to truly let go of trying to appeal to every person imaginable in an effort to come home to ourselves.

 

When life hands us a season of being by ourselves, we have to find the courage to sleep alone and eat alone and dance in the kitchen in our underwear and lay in bed at night and wonder if we are going to be okay.

 

We do not earn a connection.

 

In the words of Mary Oliver, “you do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

 

Try to find love for the moments that life has given you to be alone.

Try to find love as you remember that you are already a piece of something far bigger than you, from where you came and where you will return.

Try to find love in the fact that maybe you’re being given an opportunity to be introduced to yourself so that you might be able to introduce that person to someone else.

 

And maybe that was the piece missing all along.

 

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Life Lesson 25

 

7 Unconscious Behaviors That Are Delaying Your Success In Life

You’re working toward something you don’t actually want.

 
Brianna Wiest
Though we’re all constantly being hit over the head with a pre-written narrative of what success is and isn’t and what we should aspire to and not, the honest truth is that success is something you define for yourself, and it is only by reaching that definition that you will ever start to feel at ease.

Most people don’t genuinely desire all that they think they do, it’s often a stand-in for the humbler, simpler wants that somehow seem harder to secure.

 

The truth is that there are a handful of ways in which you’re probably delaying your own success in life, and contrary to what you might think, they have very little to do with chasing what you want, and a whole lot to do with letting go of what you don’t.

 

1. You’re working toward something you don’t actually want.

 

Is it possible that the stress and strain of your life aren’t so much coming from taking on impossible workloads, but that you know, deep down, the benefit won’t outweigh the cost?

 

Maybe you feel so exhausted not because you’re doing too much, but because you’re doing too little of what you actually desire.

Instead of blindly stepping toward each milestone, have the courage to consider what you really want to put your energy toward.

 

Do you actually want to upgrade your home, or is your desire to live in a cabin in a beautiful, remote area of the woods?

Do you actually want to continue to pursue corporate life, or do you really want to give consulting a try, though you’re afraid to take the leap?

Are you really committed to being a nomad artist, or would you really prefer to be a more professional artist that can turn off that part of their lives at the end of the day and go on to live an otherwise balanced and healthy existence?

Do you actually care about your business, or is your heart really at home, where you would like to spend more of your time with your loved ones, with ample time to cook and read?

 

The lines aren’t linear here, and your answers might not always make sense when you try to compare them to the narrative of what you’re supposed to want or do, next.

You are allowed to want what it is you want, even if it is simpler, smaller, or less impressive than your initial ideas.

 

2. You’re waiting for perfect circumstances.

 

If you wait for the perfect moment to begin, you will spend your entire life in limbo.

 

I know that it seems like you should wait until you have every last detail perfected, that a serendipitous moment might come where the proverbial door opens and you can easily step through, or that once it’s really right, everything you’re waiting for will fall into alignment.

 

The truth is that flow comes from showing up consistently.

Opportunites do, too.

We perfect our work through repetition, trial and error, and practice. It’s not something we can wait for.

 

You can’t wait to feel inspired, you just have to begin working and allow inspiration to come.

You can’t wait until the moment seems just right, you have to start and amend as you go.

You can’t hit pause until everything around you is just right, you have to start now and grow as you go.

Waiting for everything to be picture-perfect is self-sabotaging behavior.

 

At the end of the day, nothing is ever going to be perfect, least of all our circumstances.

We have to dare to defy our fears and forge ahead in spite of them.

 

 

3. You’re overlooking what’s effortless.

 

The honest, and yet somehow seldom discussed truth, is that success is a byproduct of consistently doing what comes effortlessly to you.

 

That’s it.

 

What’s effortless is what you either enjoy or are really good at, and those two things tend to intersect.

When you like something, you are willing to do it enough to get really, really good at it.

On the other hand, even if you aren’t incredible at it, the sheer power of your love for it usually overrides that, and you’re content to show up and do it regardless.

 

In life, ease is the director.

Ease shows us what we’re best at, what we’re meant for.

It’s also what we most often overlook because we unconsciously believe that for anything to be impressive or impactful in our lives, it must also be difficult and challenging.

 

This isn’t true.

 

What comes most effortlessly to you is also where you have the most potential to grow.

Don’t brush those things aside because they don’t seem hard enough.

You do not have to always suffer to arrive somewhere worthwhile.

 

4. You’re trying to bridge together all of your old identities.

 

Does this sound familiar?

 

You decide on some new detail or project for your life, either big or small, and your next line of thinking is to imagine it through the eyes of people who once knew you, how they would see your life unfolding, how impressive it would be, how unexpected, and whether or not it would make sense.

 

Maybe you imagine how it would look on social media, or even just in discussions with friends.

 

The point is that either way, what you’re really trying to do is continue to write an old story about the way you used to be.

You’re trying to bridge together all of your identities and that simply won’t work, because the story won’t make sense.

 

You are not that person those people once knew.

 

You are not the person you used to be.

 

In a culture that documents every piece and turn in our lives, often in the succession of one another, collected on a single grid or social media page, to be witnessed and digested by all who like and follow, we struggle to grow out of our old selves and into our emerging ones.

 

We are always trying to keep up with old identities in a way that we never had to before because we weren’t connected to our past in the way we are now.

 

What this means is that you have to realize you are a different person than you used to be, and it is okay to want things that are different than what it would have once made sense to want.

 

There are many lifetimes in life.

Let yourself find them.

 

5. You haven’t let go of your old dreams.

 

Similar to trying to bridge your old identities is not letting go of your old dreams.

 

The truth is that we often construct future projections for ourselves at many different phases of our lives.

 

However, it’s our earliest ones that tend to be the stickiest.

It’s often the first ideas we have about our futures and what they might be that haunt us when our trajectory doesn’t match up.

 

You have to let go of your old dreams because they were designed for a person you no longer are.

 

You’re likely still being influenced by the ideas you had of what you, and your life, should turn out like.

These ideas were extremely limited when you first came up with them — they were likely fragments of your environment, your upbringing, and your limited knowledge of what’s possible.

 

Altogether, they created a picture that seemed to make perfect sense, a series of goals that were safe and admirable and would place you squarely inside the realm of being approved of, desired, or appreciated.

 

It’s really hard to accept this, but you don’t owe your younger self anything — least of all a future they’d grow up to realize they’ve outgrown.

 

Give yourself permission to let go of the old stories in favor of the new ones you’re writing now.

Your job is to get into alignment with who you are in this moment, and not constantly try to live up to the ideas you had about life before you even knew what life could be.

 

6. You’re not thinking long-term.

 

What are you willing to wait for?

 

This question is a really good way to differentiate what we truly want out of life versus what we’re using as an escape fantasy.

 

The truth is that many of the things you desire might be nearly impossible in the short-term, but what about the long-term?

What if you could save and plan and create that reality over the next 2, 5, or 10 years?

 

If you’re 30-years-old and make it just past the average age of death, you likely have about two more entire lifetimes ahead of you.

Seriously, two more times to go through all that you’ve been through so far.

If you’re 60-years-old, you have one more entire lifetime to enjoy what you want to enjoy.

 

Instead of getting dismayed at what you probably can’t accomplish by years’ end, get excited at what you could create in the next half-decade.

 

So many things are possible, and the time is going to pass anyway.

Use it to arrive somewhere you’d really want to be.

 

7. You’re delaying happiness for the future.

 

Through all of this planning, preparing, and dreaming, you are probably falling into the most common trap of all: waiting to feel good until everything is “fixed.”

 

The truth is that happiness is not something we can invest in and cash out of one day.

The interest doesn’t compound. We don’t get more for having waited, delayed, stashed it away for the future.

 

Happiness is a practice, and the more often we train our brains to appreciate what we have, find some small joy in our day, and be at peace with the journey, the better and better we are going to be at feeling good once we do finally arrive at where we want to be.

 

Your life does not begin the day you get it all together.

It is happening right now.

 

What matters is that you find some way to make the most of it.

Not in the sense that you max out your productivity or potential, but in the sense that you do something — anything— that’s meaningful, worthwhile, or brings you a sense of awe or peace.

 

We cannot control everything.

But if we could find more little moments to live for, those little shimmering glimpses of ease, maybe it would be a whole lot easier to keep moving forward.

 

Maybe what we’d find is that success was never anything more than being able to appreciate what we have while we have it.

 

If you enjoyed this article, check out my new book on self-sabotage, or follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more writing.

 

 

 

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Life Lesson 26

 

How to Stop Lying to Yourself (So You Can Start Living the Life You Deserve)Ayodeji AwosikaAyodeji Awosika

 


 
 

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” — Richard Feynman

 

Do you know what I love about books and blog posts?

 

They give me a rare opportunity.

What’s the opportunity, you ask?

 

The opportunity to be honest with yourself.

 

See, it’s hard, to be honest with yourself in most other situations.

Hell, it’s hard, to be honest with yourself even when you’re alone.

But social situations — where we have a face to save — make it difficult to impossible.

 

You’ve experienced this when a friend or family member calls you out on something you know is true.

 

You get the most defensive in those situations because the truer something is the more it hurts.

When you’re alone you have a fighting chance at real self-reflection.

 

The author doesn’t know you personally, so it feels less like an attack. Because it isn’t.

 

I’ll never tell you that you must do something. I’m here to provide insights, get you to have an internal dialogue, and let you take the reigns from there.

 

It’s a new year.

You can be a new you.

But you have to stop bullshitting yourself.

And, paraphrasing Feynman, you’re the easiest one to bullshit.

 

The Mental Kryptonite That Keeps You From Changing

You’re not a “rational” person.

 

You don’t carefully weigh the evidence before making decisions.

You don’t have an accurate self-image. You’re not a (fully) conscious agent in your life.

Neither am I.

No one is.

 

If you had to go through life making every single decision logically, you’d go crazy and life would actually be dangerous and miserable for you.

 

You use intuition — emotion — first to make decisions.

You then fill in the gaps later with explanations.

 

Over time, your pattern recognizing and irrational belief constructing brain forms of personality.

The central theme of your it being confirmation bias — you believe what you want to believe and ignore what doesn’t fit.

 

This is pop-psych 101 stuff, though.

You’ve heard all of this before, right?

So why am I talking about it?

 

Because self-improvement is the process of doing more than paying lip service to what you know.

Don’t treat your ability to lie to yourself lightly.

Don’t go “Yeah, I know that,” and then continue to suffer the consequences of lying to yourself.

To take self-improvement seriously, you have to know this one important truth.

 

 

The Truth About Self-Improvement Other Gurus Won’t Tell You

 

I don’t care how many motivational videos you watch, TEDx talks you watch, podcasts you listen to, or books you read.

 

Self-improvement is often futile.

It’s hard and you’ll end up failing at it more often than not.

 

I gave a TEDx talk, but I don’t think you watching it will suddenly make your life better.

 

The weight of past experience, bias, personality, circumstance, and everything in between is heavy.

You’re going to fight to the death to maintain your identity rather than change.

You are the Johnny Cochran of making excuses for yourself. Not only that, but you’re probably justified in doing so.

Trying to improve your life — on top of everything else you’re already doing — is a lot to ask. You will have to find a balance between self-love and kicking yourself in the ass when you need it.

 

There are no easy answers and before it gets better, you will go backward. But like a bow and arrow, you have to pull back to shoot yourself forward.

 

I take the view that getting one, two, three percent better at being honest with yourself creates a dramatic effect on the outcomes you experience.

You’re not going to self-actualize.

Ever.

You’ll chase an unattainable outcome but become a much better version of yourself in the process.

Time to rip the band-aid.

How to Be Brutally Honest With Yourself

“An unexamined life is not worth living” — Socrates

 

So how do you analyze yourself when your subconscious wants do to nothing but lie to you?

You’re not going to like this answer…

Sorry in advance.

 

You have to repeatedly analyze yourself, constantly, often in vain, every day until you die.

 

Are you feeling inspired yet?

 

I use a journal to wade through my thoughts.

If I want to get deep, I write morning pages — three pages of unfiltered thought.

This process usually helps me discover what’s really going on.

I did have a role in that fight with my wife.

I was wallowing in self-pity instead of doing something about “x” (there’s always an x).

Maybe gratitude and self-love aren’t what I need today. Maybe I do need to suck it up.

 

Try it.

 

You have a lot of different types of lies to unravel.

The process of unraveling them will set you free.

Do this long enough and consistent enough and you’ll develop real self-awareness.

 

When you have a more accurate sense of self, you’ll play games you can win, make decisions that suit your specific needs, and stop worrying about things outside of your wheelhouse and control.

 

 

Let’s look at some of the most common lies you tell yourself.

 

“I deserve [x]”

 

X = More money, status, love, acceptance, opportunity, and all the other things humans desire.

Drill down into that belief.

Why do you deserve anything?

 

No really, ask yourself that and think deeply about it.

Because you’re a good person?

Not good enough.

Have you really exhausted both your resources and resourcefulness before wishing something fell into your lap?

No?

Oh, ok.

 

Look, I suffer from this as much as you do.

Sometimes people get things they don’t deserve.

 

Luck plays a role in life. But if you don’t get lucky, shouting at the sky about what the universe owes you won’t work.

 

If you’ve really put your all into something and it doesn’t pan out, I’m sorry.

That sucks and I don’t know what to tell you.

But I doubt that’s the case and so do you.

 

“I’m Content With What I Have”

Buddha, I’m calling you out.

 

Eastern philosophy tells you to suppress your ego, free yourself from desires, live in the present moment, and be content with what you have.

 

I’ve meditated daily for almost a half-decade. Mindfulness is hard-work. And it’s goal-oriented.

You need the desire to suppress your desire in order to suppress your desire.

Minimalists?

They’re the worst.

In their aim to stop obsessing over having too much stuff, they obsess about getting rid of stuff.

It’s just another form of materialism — the obsession with the lack of materials.

 

We’re the animals that went from tool-making apes to a pyramid, wheel, and iPhone creating super-species.

We’re wired to have goals.

We don’t like being idle.

 

2020 is the year of owning your ambition.

 

If you thought you could be rich, have six-pack abs, travel the world, etc, you would do it.

 

I’m not saying these are worthwhile goals.

I’m saying it’s fruitless to pretend like you’re not interested in success.

Maybe I’m projecting here, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.

Only you know the real answer.

 

“It’s someone else’s fault”

How much is politics really influencing your life?

 

Is somebody putting a gun to your head telling you that you need to work at your current job?

 

Who’s at fault for the majority of your problems aside from you?

 

I’ve been putting a ton of thought into the unfairness of the world, structural inequality, cultural biases, all of the above.

My verdict?

These forces are very real.

I mean, I’m a black male.

I would know.

 

If you are born to a single mother in poverty, your odds of a successful life are much much worse than those of a child born into an affluent family.

This is irrefutable.

We all have circumstantial forces that mess with our lives in one way or another.

 

I’m black, but I grew up middle-class and have a college education.

I can see why a white person in rural West Virginia might not feel more privileged than me.

There’s nuance here.

 

I’m not sure what to do about this.

There are smarter people than me working on those problems.

In the meantime, I’m trying to do everything within my power to make my life better — adjusted for the advantages and disadvantages I have.

 

I wish things were different.

I wish you didn’t have your own unique set of problems, but you do. How you choose to deal with them is up to you.

You can wait for all the scales to tip evenly, but you might (and probably will) die before they do.

That would be a waste.

 

So while you can justifiably lay blame at the feet of society, you still have to live your life.

And there doesn’t seem any other better way to live it than taking as much personal responsibility as you can.

 

At The End of the Day…

You have to be you.

 

No matter where you go, you will always be you.

 

You might as well start liking yourself and doing the most you can for yourself. Because you have to be with yourself forever.

 

Rationalization is the opiate of the masses.

But for addicts often get sick and die. Don’t let your mind, heart, and soul suffer this fate metaphorically.

 

Have the conversation you need to have with yourself.

 

No one else is around.

Be honest.

Really, really, really, honest.

Then you can begin the process of really changing.

 

Build profitable skills with this free checklistThe Ultimate Guide to Discovering Your Natural Talents and Strengths.

 

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Life Lesson 28

 

4 Underrated Personality Traits You Need to Live Your Best LifeNiklas GökeNiklas Göke

 
 

1. Detachment (Being okay when life sucks)

 

We flip a coin.

Heads, you get $100,000.

Tails, you get nothing.

Or, I give you $10,000, no questions asked.

Do you flip the coin or take the money?

 

Most people would pick the $10,000, saying it’s “the obvious choice,” but it’s not.

It’s just more certain — and humans love certainty.

 

The math of the coin toss is that you have a 50% chance to walk home with $0 and an equal chance of winning $100,000.

 

A statistician would say, “This gamble has an expected value of $50,000.

” If we replayed this experiment endlessly, choosing the coin toss each time would maximize your earnings.

 

As a one-off decision, however, the element of uncertainty makes the gamble less attractive — so much so that you’re willing to sacrifice $40,000 of the expected payout just to get a sure outcome.

 

The $40,000 is called risk premium — the additional return you can expect for bearing uncertainty — and even though the numbers are contrived, you’ll often get similarly outsized rewards in life if you hang on a little longer when the future is unclear.

 

Facebook didn’t sell to Yahoo! for $1 billion, now it’s worth $500 billion.

 

Tarantino sold one of his screenplays early on and hated the resulting movie so much that he vowed to produce all of his films on his own from then on.

 

If you give the hesitant person the benefit of the doubt at the start of your relationship, maybe, they’ll end up being the one you marry.

 

All of this requires bearing risk and uncertainty.

 

The reason most people are incapable of accepting them is that they lack the skill of detachment.

As a result, they spend their entire lives chasing certainty.

 

Regardless of how big their dreams, how huge the potential payoff, their desperate craving for sure outcomes will determine all of their choices in advance — long before life even presents them with multiple options.

 

Detachment is the act of removing yourself from your many expectations.

 

Instead of hoping life will pan out a certain way, you accept you don’t have control.

Stop waiting for what you think “must surely play out like this.”

Let go of this sense of entitlement, and you’ll be okay even when life sucks when you don’t know what’s going to happen, and you’re not sure if things might get worse before they get better.

 

Detachment allows you to do great things.

 

You only get one life. You want to swing for the fences.

You can’t do that when you’re stuck in the status quo, stuck in the hamster wheel of trying to preserve every little thing you have without ever risking anything.

Sure, sometimes, you’ll have to take the safe route.

Most of the time, however, you’ll do it not because it’s necessary but because it’s comfortable.

 

It’s a great irony: Caring a little less will let you get more out of everything you care so much about. Don’t settle.

Don’t play life too safely.

Demand more, ask for the best, and when someone offers you a coin toss, tell them to flick it.

 

2. Assiduity (Persistent personal attention)

“Work hard” is good advice, but “be assiduous” is better.

What sounds like a fancy word for a simple thing is actually an enhanced, more varied definition of showing up to your work when it matters the most.

 

Charlie Munger once said about assiduity, “I like that word because it means: Sit down on your ass until you do it.”

That’s one side of the coin.

The other is remaining in your seat until it’s done.

“Staying power” is a good way to put it.

 

Assiduity is more than brute-force philosophy.

 

Working hard is part of the deal, yes, but it also includes a level of selectivity.

Assiduity is doing the right thing at the right time and then doing it all the way.

Not doing all the things all the time when most of them don’t matter.

 

Assiduity also includes a level of detail-orientation that usually gets lost in the noise of “you gotta hustle!” Merriam-Webster has a brilliant, three-word definition: persistent personal attention.

Yes, you continue to show up for the things that are important to you, but you also approach them from a creative angle, an angle only you are able to take.

You also show a love of the process, an eye for detail, and you care about the results and people involved.

 

Assiduity doesn’t just make your work better, it makes it more fun.

You’ll stop feeling threatened by every difficult problem, put on a smirk as you roll up your sleeves, and take it as a challenge to finish what you’ve started.

 

3. Strategic Flexibility (Take one-off chances)

An interviewer once asked Bill Gates: “What was the worst day of your life?” Bill said: “The day my mother died.” That’s a sad day for anyone who loves their mother, but with Bill, you could tell there were some unresolved issues.

 

It seemed he didn’t wish just for more time, he wished for another chance, a chance he’d never get. There he was, an all-rich, nearly all-powerful man, unable to do something about his regrets. It reminded me of that scene in Iron Man where fellow prisoner Yinsen tells billionaire Tony Stark about his family and asks what he looks forward to once they escape. Tony stays silent, and so Yinsen goes: “So you’re a man who has everything — and nothing.”

 

If you don’t want to end up like that, with a mountain of accomplishments that’ll be sadly overshadowed by a mountain of regrets, you have to take one-off chances. Certain opportunities in life really only present themselves once.

 

Some of these chances are big, like accepting a rare job offer, finding the timing to start a company, or saying yes to the person you’ll marry, but many of them are actually really small. As important as it is to work hard and wholeheartedly dedicate yourself to your goals, if you don’t stop to celebrate the little moments, to spend time with the ones you love now, to enjoy the moment, the sunset, the cup of coffee in front of you, you won’t get another shot at those either.

 

Strategic flexibility is about knowing which of the small and big crossroads matter right when you reach them.

This requires projecting yourself into the future.

Think about the long term consequences of today’s choices.

What will you regret in five years if you don’t do it now? And what will you regret not stopping sooner?

 

Life won’t always give you the chance to do what’s right at a convenient time.

Strategic flexibility is about putting aside your ego and stepping up to what’s most important now so you can feel content and satisfied with your life later.

 

4. Mental Lingering (Play dumb & you’ll see you are)

There’s a great quote by German writer Kurt Tucholsky: “The advantage of wisdom is that you can play dumb. The opposite is more difficult.”

 

It’s meant to be a funny quip, but it holds an ounce of truth: Sometimes, it’s best to keep your mouth shut, even when you think you already know everything you’re about to be presented with.

This applies everywhere in life, but especially in conversations, particularly those you hold with people you only met recently.

 

In a video about love, Will Smith said: “Listening is a magnificent superpower.

Really deep listening.

And we can’t listen if we’ve got something that we want to say.”

It echoes a quote by Roy Bennett: “The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand.

We listen to reply.”

 

Imagine this scenario: Jack and Jane meet for a first date.

Jane knows Jack is a car geek, and she’s proud to know quite a bit about them too.

As she tries to explain why the Porsche 997 Turbo S is her all-time favorite, Jack cuts her off: “Aw yeah, man, what a machine, 530 hp, 700 Nm, lighter than the standard, it rocks!”

At this point, all Jane can do is nod politely and die a little bit inside.

 

Now, imagine Jack had simply closed his mouth as he drew his breath to interrupt her.

Maybe, Jane would have told him that it wasn’t just the fastest production car ever built at the time, but that some car magazines measured the 0–60 times as a mind-blowing 2.6 seconds — more than 20% faster as advertised by Porsche themselves.

She might even have told him about the hilarious “race” Top Gear once did, where they dropped a VW beetle from a helicopter to see if the Porsche could reach the impact line faster than the beetle would drop from the sky.

At this point, all Jack would do is collect his chin off the floor and be damn glad he kept his mouth shut — unfortunately, that rarely happens.

 

Patience in conversations is a virtue.

You can think of it as mental lingering.

Even when you don’t expect to hear anything new, you show curiosity.

You wait.

And you might learn something new regardless.

 

Don’t hijack conversations because you can, even when you’re excited.

It’s okay to be.

It’s awesome when you can contribute a lot and, in time, you will.

But right now, let them finish talking.

Talking is easy, but most of the time, listening is the right thing to do.

 

Every person you’ll ever meet knows something you don’t.

Play dumb, and you just might find: in a way, we all still are.

 

All You Need to Know

If you want to live your best life, don’t obsess so much about getting every step of the way exactly right.

Remember that being your best is as much about the things you don’t do as it is about the things you do.

Try cultivating these underrated traits and attract more into your life through the power of less.

  1. Detach yourself from your expectations to be okay even when life sucks.
  2. Work hard, but obsess more about doing the right thing than doing everything.
  3. Be strategically flexible, take important chances as they appear so you won’t have big regrets at the end of your life.
  4. Hang around mentally and give people the benefit of the doubt — most of the time, you’ll learn something new.

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Life Lesson 29

 

5 Toxic Behaviors and Attitudes You Must Give Up to Improve Your LifeAyodeji AwosikaAyodeji Awosika

Do you want to know the crazy, sad, liberating, simple, complex, obvious, and hidden thing about your life?

 

You’re mostly in your own way.

You know it, too.

If you were just able to rid yourself of some of these toxic behavioral traits and attitudes that keep you stuck, you’d be well on your way to a better life.

 

Everyone knows this, deep down. But if you look around, you see massive piles of rationalizations, outrage, complaints, despair, or even just lackluster energy maintaining the status quo.

 

The vast majority of society could experience a personal revolution just by snapping out of their mental fog and doing the things they know they need to do.

That will never happen collectively, but it can happen for you.

 

I know a lot of self-improvement articles come off trite, don’t stick, and get you fired up but don’t always help you follow through.

That being said, try to take the words you read to heart so that they do eventually stick.

 

Before we get into some of these mental obstacles you’ll need to overcome, I’ll just tell you that life on the other side of your doubts, fears, and rationalizations is as good as you think it is.

 

Not because of the outcomes and the rewards, but because of the peace, you’ll gain from not having to live with that low-level anxiety of ‘what if’ for the rest of your life.

 

Things won’t be perfect, ever, but you can build the type of life where you’re quite pleased with what you’ve been able to do with the little amount of time you have.

 

 

The Number One Reason Why People Don’t Change

Do you know why it’s so hard to change people’s minds on hot-button topics?

When you disagree with them, you’re not disagreeing with a fact or a statement, you’re disagreeing with their identity.

 

Your identity is the central piece to your perception of the world.

You don’t want to lose your identity, even if that means you have to suffer to keep the one you have.

 

There are many harmful identities out there, but few are worse than the victim and martyr identities.

 

These people have constructed such an elaborate set of reasons for why they can’t succeed that it’s near impossible for them to escape.

 

Those people can’t be saved. But you can. If you find yourself leaning in that direction, just stop. But how?

 

All good decision making comes from being able to fully embrace the weight of future consequences. Deeply think about how the identity you currently have is going to serve you in the future.

 

You’re better off being a bit delusional if that gives you a shot at better outcomes. Some people create this aloof, realist, pessimist attitude that guarantees failure.

 

If you have an identity that doesn’t serve you, then you must ditch it, kill it, and experience the grieving process that comes with it.

You don’t want to give up your old identity mainly because it makes you feel stupid that you carried it so long in the first place. Sunk cost, though. It’s over with.

You could decide to change the way you view yourself, combined with taking action toward worthwhile goals, and within a few years, you’ll have totally transformed yourself with tons of runway left to go.

 

Or, you can cling on to who you are and die a slow death as you feel each day slip away knowing you could do better. Your choice.

 

The “Best Supporting Actor” to Reason Number One

Human beings run on stories.

The stories you tell yourself shape your sense of self.

You use narratives to confirm who you already believe you are.

The thing about these stories? None of them are objectively true.

Which is funny because people talk like they are.

 

It’s funny watching people have a conversation about something like politics.

They speak as if they’re talking about the laws of physics.

And they’re genuinely baffled that people disagree with them.

Their narrative is reality. It carries as much weight to them as the laws of physics.

 

Your worldview has the same effect on you.

You think you have an objective sense of reality, but you probably don’t. Morgan Housel put it well:

 

Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.

 

I judge worldviews based on how effective they are.

If your worldview isn’t helping you get what you want, then how useful is it?

Again, when it comes to narratives and identity, reason and logic go right out the window. You have to fight to reach anything close to objectivity.

 

Again, how do you change your narratives?

You learn how to use a sort of Socratic reasoning on yourself where you question your BS narratives to death.

“You can’t get ahead in this world” Really, says who? No one is getting ahead, ever?

Everyone is failing?

You can’t find any examples of people winning in today’s society.

 

“The rich are keeping me from a better life.”

Ok, how, exactly?

Create the causal chain between billionaires Jeff Bezos and your life.

Be specific.

What does their success have to do with your failure? Be honest.

 

“You need talent and connections in this world. I have neither.”

Ok, do you really have absolutely zero talent?

You don’t know anyone?

Are you sure?

You can’t do anything, really? At all?

 

You have these conversations with yourself and you imagine your mind being the equivalent of someone talking to you while rolling their eyes.

 

You realize you’re full of it and that your narratives are coping mechanisms instead of the truth. If you’re able to wade through your rationalizations long enough, you find compelling truths to push you forward.

 

The Worst Reason to Live Below Your Potential

I care what people think about me.

When someone leaves a negative comment on one of my blog posts, it hurts.

Still to this day, I get that sinking feeling of embarrassment.

There are goals I have yet to reach because I still have a level of fear due to social status.

We all have this to a degree.

 

You care what people think. And the level to which you care, and the specific opinions you’re worried about, can get in the way of doing the things you really want to do.

Parents might be number one.

My father is Nigerian and my mother has two masters degrees.

They both wanted me to be an engineer, lawyer, doctor, etc. Instead, I chose my path, even though I know I’d ‘disappoint them.’

 

This will sound harsh, but I looked at my parents’ life and realized I didn’t want to live how they lived. Their results didn’t make me want to listen to their opinion, so I didn’t.

This is a rule I try to use with everyone.

It’s not that I need to want to be just like you to listen to you, but if there aren’t some aspects of your life I want to emulate, I’m probably not going to take your advice.

 

As far as fitting in with people, it’s not that hard. I run a multi-six-figure company, have millions of readers, and live an unconventional life.

But when I’m just hanging out with people, I hang out with them.

I don’t rub my success in their face, give self-improvement sermons, or try to convert people.

 

Develop a live and let live attitude.

No one else is going to live your life for you, pay your bills, or live with the consequences of your decisions.

The rule of thumb works both ways.

 

Eventually, you’ll realize that no one really cares what you’re doing all that much, to begin with. Most people are holding themselves back due to fear of an imaginary ghost that doesn’t really exist.

 

The Most Misunderstood Concept of All Time

Your concept of time is getting in your way of doing the work it takes to achieve amazing outcomes.

 

What do I mean?

 

First, you think in a linear fashion because you’ve been trained your whole life.

You think that equal amounts of work create equal amounts of output.

 

When you choose something with the opportunity to scale, like a business, you’ll do equal amounts of work but get different amounts of output over time.

In the beginning, you’ll get almost zero output.

In the middle, you’ll get a moderate level of output.

Later, you’ll get massive levels of output for the same level of effort.

 

I spend a couple of hours a day on my business and have done so for years.

Now. though?

A single blog post might make me $3,000 when it used to make zero.

Get it?

 

Get through the initial point of being a beginner where everything is hard and you suck.

After that, you’ll set yourself up for explosive growth.

You can’t predict when it will happen, but on a long enough timescale, it’ll happen.

 

And when I say long, I mean a few damn years of your life.

You can transform your life in five years and become the top one percent at damn near anything in a decade.

Compared to four or five decades doing what you hate just to get by, this is an easy trade.

 

Like the saying goes “the time will pass anyway.”

Wherever you’re at in your life, think about how quickly the last five years went. Like a blink. You can use that same sliver of time to make a complete 180 and never look back.

 

All You Have to Do is Let Go

All of these issues come down to your ego.

You have an inflated sense of self.

You operate as if you’re the center of the universe yet simultaneously don’t take care of yourself and help yourself thrive all that well.

 

It’s a paradox.

You create serious levels of motivation by taking your life less seriously.

You become more confident when you stop thinking about yourself so damn much and just operate in the present moment.

 

Your life is one big drama that’s happening only inside of your own head.

You think it’s so real when it’s not.

Just one of seven billion interpretations of reality.

You’re not that important.

And that’s a good thing.

 

You’re not important enough for there to be a large number of people waiting to fail and laugh at you. You’re not important enough for your feelings of rejection and embarrassment to even matter, at all.

 

And the funny thing is, they don’t matter.

We all know this.

We’ve had moments where we’ve been really embarrassed, but days, weeks, or months later we totally forget about this fleeting physiological feeling.

 

Yet we don’t seem to build much of a tolerance to new moments of potential embarrassment.

Why?

Because due to that you have to let go.

 

That’s the hardest thing for us to do, myself included.

 

Just loosen up the grip on the god damn steering wheel, even just a little bit. The more you’re able to operate freely, from faith instead of ego, the better results you’ll get.

 

You get better results by taking your ego, identity, and narrative out of the outcomes themselves and just focus on doing.

 

Again, I know that’s easier said than done but focus on having that conversation with yourself over and over again until it sticks.

 

You’re the only thing in your way.

The only thing.

 

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Life Lesson 30

 

5 Simple Things I Removed from My Life to Become Happier

Happiness comes from subtraction, not addition.Anthony J. YeungAnthony J. Yeung

 

 

 

When I was a kid, I was miserable, hated life, and didn’t think things could improve: I had a traumatic childhood and was teased by other kids for being so “angry.” I knew I couldn’t go the rest of my days with so much negativity, tension, and pain, so I committed to change.

 

And after a decade of studying hundreds of books, journaling thousands of pages, and testing countless strategies, I was able to reinvent my life to be happier than I’ve ever been.

 

Yet after pouring over all that information, here’s the single biggest lesson I’ve learned during that journey: Happiness is more about subtraction than addition.

 

Sure, it’s easy to think that a few life hacks, breathing exercises, and affirmations are going to transform everything and make your content.

But it’s far easier to be happy in life when you’re not actively engaged in making yourself unhappy. So rather than adding more things to your life, it’s far more effective and practical to eliminate what hurts our happiness in the first place.

 

“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” — Bruce Lee

While there are plenty of things that can affect your happiness, here are the 5 simple things I removed that made the biggest impact:

 

 

1. Remove Negative Information

Many people get accustomed to negativity, stress, and frustration whether it’s from their social circle or what they see. Here are two changes that removed my biggest offenders:

 

I stopped watching and reading the news.

 

I do make exceptions for major events of serious impact, but I generally avoid all news.

First, it’s a massive stressor. From a study by the American Psychological Association:

 

“More than half of Americans say the news causes them stress, and many report feeling anxiety, fatigue or sleep loss as a result, the survey shows. Yet one in 10 adults checks the news every hour, and fully 20% of Americans report “constantly” monitoring their social media feeds — which often exposes them to the latest news headlines, whether they like it or not.”

 

Consuming negative headlines after negative headlines can make you far more worried, anxious, and sad.

Also, while occasionally the news is helpful, it often portrays a negative, extreme, and biased view, making it look like there’s more violence, conflict, and strife than in reality.

 

For example, some Westerners think poorly about regions like Africa because, frankly, the media only shows “bad” news from there. (But if they visited, they would see it’s nowhere near as bad and locals can actually be happy.)

 

I remember when I was living in South Korea and there were skirmishes with North Korea, my family would ask me if everything was OK. But in South Korea, people acted as if nothing happened — they were just living normally whereas, in the US, everyone was panicking because of the news.

 

Here’s another important reason: Most news doesn’t affect you at all. For example, a hit-and-run in another town, a drug bust, a sex scandal, someone killing themselves, etc.

You only have limited mental energy each day; why waste it on negative things you have no control over?

 

This isn’t about ignorance; it’s about knowing that certain things just aren’t worth the impact on your mental health.

 

I significantly reduced social media usage.

 

The problem with social media is there’s a tendency to become depressed and unhappy with your own life. In a recent study, Canadian and Australian researchers stated:

 

The most important finding of the post hoc analyses was that increased social media and television use were associated with lower self-esteem over time. Taking into account the upward social comparison, it might be that repeated exposure to idealized images on social media and television decreases self-esteem. However, according to our results, the reinforcing spirals only applies to depressive symptoms and not self-esteem, suggesting cognitive and mood exacerbating effects of social media.

 

Generally, on social media, people only share the best things that happen.

And while there’s nothing wrong with that, as Dr. Meg Jay wrote in The Defining Decade, people start to feel unhappy with their own lives in comparison:

 

“Rather than a way of catching up, Facebook can be one more way of keeping up. What’s worse is that now we feel the need to keep up not just with our closest friends and neighbors, but with hundreds of others whose manufactured updates continually remind us of how glorious life should be.”

 

As result, many use it as a way of “keeping up with the Joneses” and see how they’re performing by comparison:

 

“For many, Facebook is less about looking up friends than it is about looking at friends. Research tells us that, on average, Facebook users spend more time examining others’ pages than adding content to their own. The site’s most frequent visitors — most often females who post and share photos and who receive status updates — use the site for “social surveillance.” These social investigators usually aren’t getting in touch or staying in touch with friends as much as they are checking up on them.”

 

Once I started limiting social media, however, I felt massive relief.

I also had far more free time to spend on the things I love.

 

The average person spends 2 hours and 24 minutes every day checking social media.

(This can further affect happiness because there’s an association between screen time and depression.)

Yet people often wish they had more time to travel, read, exercise, learn a language, spend time with loved ones, etc. — all of which can help boost joy, fulfillment, and positivity.

 

Something doesn’t add up.

Cut out all social media and news consumption for two weeks and see what happens.

What will you do with your extra two hours each day?

 

 

2. Remove The Bottom 20% From Your Life

The 80/20 Rule suggests that 20% of causes create 80% of effects. That’s why every few months I do an 80/20 analysis and ask two questions:

 

  1. What are the 20% of things that cause 80% of my unhappiness?
  2. What are the 20% of things that cause 80% of my happiness?

If certain activities, commitments, or even people make me unhappy, I’ll do whatever I can to avoid them. (And if they’re boosting my happiness, I’ll do whatever I can to increase them.)

 

Often, just by removing 2 or 3 things I don’t like, I notice my life gets significantly (and instantly) better. Sure, it’s helpful to be calm and accept annoyances you can’t control, but there’s no need to be a masochist — if you can avoid them, why not?

Be ruthless.

This is your life we’re talking about.

 

 

3. Remove Negative People

Of all the self-improvement quotes, none impacted my life more than this:

 

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

— Jim Rohn

 

If you surround yourself with negative, unhappy, and unambitious people, they will bring you down to their level no matter how hard you try.

You cannot out-willpower your environment so, if you want to change, you have to change your environment first.

 

Do not underestimate the power of your social circle.

In a 75-year study from Harvard, researchers found that relationships are the strongest factor in a life of happiness and health:

 

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

— Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development

 

That’s why I removed negative people from my life.

Please note: I’m not blaming them for my unhappiness — a big reason we were friends was likely because they mirrored where I was in life. But I knew if I wanted to change, I had to change my friends.

 

Try using the 80/20 Rule: Which 20% of your friends or family cause 80% of your unhappiness, self-doubt, anger, etc.? Find the sources of your negativity, have honest conversations respectfully, and create boundaries to protect yourself.

 

“You train the world how to treat you.”

— Dr. Ben Hardy

 

Ultimately, I set a precedent on how I want my friendships and relationships to be and I choose what I will — and will not — tolerate.

Removing toxic relationships transformed my happiness almost instantly.

 

4. Remove The Desire To “Prove Myself”

There’s nothing wrong with having big, ambitious goals.

But I’ve noticed that many people pursue lofty goals in order to prove something to others and, more importantly, to themselves.

They care so much about what people think about them, yet they also care about proving their self-worth, showing they’re at a certain level, and validating their existence.

 

I’ve been guilty of this too.

But it only took me further away from happiness.

Because the need to be “perfect” tends to lead to depression, anxiety, and burnout.

 

I was chasing an imaginary standard of “perfection,” one that will never be attained because my definition of perfection will always change.

Yet who I am as a person is constant.

There is no level of achievement that will make me more worthy as a person.

 

Sure, I can improve my communication skills, be more tolerant of others, be kinder, be more patient, be less judgmental, and more, but I don’t believe personal development makes me a better person.

 

After all, was I “worse” of a person before I learned those skills?

Or am I “better” than people who don’t do personal development?

Hell no.

Nowadays, I don’t pursue personal development to become a “better person,” but simply to improve certain life skills and create better results.

 

To eliminate the tendency to prove myself, I regularly ask:

  • If I could never tell a single person about my achievements, would I still pursue them?
  • If my journey of self-improvement doesn’t make me a “better” person, would I still do it?

By removing my chase for an imaginary standard of excellence, I did things purely for enjoyment and love, which made it a lot easier to be happy.

 

 

5. Remove My Attachments

Some people believe they can’t be happy until they have certain things — wealth, health, relationships, possessions, etc.

But that doesn’t hold up under psychology.

 

When we achieve something and feel happy, we quickly adapt, and lose that happiness — we then try to achieve something else, and the cycle repeats, creating what’s called the “hedonic treadmill.”

 

Ultimately, if they can’t be happy without those things, then they can’t be happy with them.

That’s not to say you should never try to achieve anything in life.

Instead, I try to reach goals without making my happiness depend on them — in other words, without attaching my happiness to them.

It creates far more freedom, ease, and peace. And if I ever happened to lose what I had, I won’t be as devastated because it was never the source of my happiness in the first place.

 

This also includes my attachment to life itself.

Being scared of death and my mortality led me to hold onto my life with a death grip.

Once I released that attachment, happiness came with it.

 

While some might feel that thinking about death or mortality causes sadness or “nihilism,” in reality, it can actually give people a deeper appreciation and gratitude for the joys, pleasures, and opportunities they do have.

 

Think about it:

  • How much more will you cherish the time you have with friends and family when you know you’ll eventually pass?
  • How much more will you enjoy doing the things you love when you know, someday, you can’t?

Even when there’s pain, anger, or sadness, realizing there’s only so much time left before I go makes life easier to enjoy. Because happiness is always there, right in front of me. I just need to look.

 

Takeaways

  1. Negative information can cause a lot of stress and depression so take action by cutting out the news and limiting social media usage.
  2. Use the 80/20 Rule to see which 20% of things cause 80% of your unhappiness and find ways to remove them from your life.
  3. Relationships are the biggest factor for your health and wellbeing. Use the 80/20 Rule again to see which 20% of your social circle is causing 80% of your unhappiness and find ways to create boundaries with them.
  4. Stop trying to be perfect and stop trying to prove yourself as “worthy.” Do more things for yourself and keep more announcements to yourself.
  5. Stop attaching your happiness to your achievements, goals, possessions, etc. and step off the hedonic treadmill.

 

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Life Lesson 32

 

8 Signs You Have a Rich Life

Even when your circumstances defy it.Karen NimmoKaren Nimmo

When working in India, I got a free lesson in happiness.

 

Across the road from my Pune hotel was a run-down urban village.

It was overcrowded, the buildings were crumbling, the people had limited access to basic services.

 

Every morning, the women who lived there were up early, beautifully dressed in colorful saris. They worked all day, cooking and selling food in the streets, alongside their sisters, aunties, and friends.

 

Their kids played in the streets.

 

I knew how little they had, how tough their lives must be, yet they laughed more than most people I knew back home.

They seemed able to frame their circumstances to work for them — not against. Which is an enviable skill in a world struggling with — well, everything.

 

There’s no doubt that money makes life easier — it provides options. But the measure of a rich life is not found in your bank account or in the size or beauty of your home.

 

It’s in living your days as well as you can — even when your circumstances defy it.

Here’s what I learned from looking across that Pune street.

 

8 Signs You Have a Rich Life

 

“I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive.” — Joan Rivers

 

1. You like who you work with.

Liking who you sit alongside, who you hang out with all day long, makes a big difference to your daily happiness.

 

Most of us spend a minimum of eight hours at work: that’s often more time than we spend at home. That’s a lot of time — often with people, we wouldn’t choose to be with!

When people say they hate their jobs, it’s often because they are struggling with their bosses, colleagues, or work-mates: they don’t like them or don’t feel aligned with them.

To be able to say “I work with a bunch of great people” makes all the difference to a dull or repetitive job.

 

2. You know WHY you do what you do.

Having a compelling reason for what you do is the best motivation.

Your reason for what you do doesn’t have to be lofty or grand.

It may be to feed your family or to serve others. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s meaningful to you.

 

A compelling WHY gets you out of bed, it keeps you engaged.

If you don’t have a solid reason underpinning your activities you’ll find it hard to motivate yourself — and you’ll struggle to persist over time.

 

Know WHY. It gives your life meaning.

 

3. You work hard, no matter what the job is.

When you’re working, you give yourself to it.

 

You don’t shirk or cut corners.

You put in an honest day’s work — whether it’s for yourself or someone else.

Even when it’s a job you don’t like (or can’t wait to leave). You know that a job well done gives you a sense of achievement, no matter what it is.

It doesn’t hurt your reputation either.

 

4. You give freely to others.

Even if you don’t have much, you’re up for sharing it — or, where possible, giving it away. It’s a way of life, rather than a choice.

 

In a competitive world, people often struggle to share without a promise they’ll get something in return.

But that sets up a give-take struggle which is more stressful than comforting.

The truly rich are those who share their time, their energy, their “stuff”, their support, without expecting anything in return (and without destroying their own health). For some reason known only to the universe, the goodies tend to come back to them.

 

5. You show yourself respect.

You dress for the occasion — and every day is an occasion.

 

You take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually.

And you dress up; you dress in ways that show who you are.

You know physical appearance is one way of showing yourself respect.

And of showing the world too.

 

6. You don’t bother being envious.

You try to improve your life for yourself and your family, not because someone on Instagram has more.

 

Many privileged people don’t enjoy their lives because they’re stuck in the churn of wanting more; they can’t help coveting what others have.

Envy is a useless emotion, not to mention unhealthy.

Healthy people appreciate what (and who) they have and, when they see others with things they don’t, they’re happy for them.

Or they at least don’t wind themselves into a frenzy over it.

 

7. You’re open to what the day brings.

You’re up for seeing — and enjoying — the little pleasures of the day.

 

You get up in the morning and crack into what you have to do, but you stay open to any opportunities that might come your way.

You’re spontaneous, and up for changing “the best-laid plans” because you know the best moments in life — the ones you’ll remember when you’re in your rocking chair — are often the unexpected ones.

 

8. You laugh.

You laugh, often over not much.

You ensure every day has a good measure of the fun stuff.

You understand that, even in suffering, there are light moments everywhere if you look for them.

 

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Life Lesson 33

 

How to Remember You’re Not Alone, Even When It Really Feels Like You Are

Loneliness is what happens when you convince yourself that you’re no longer worth the connection

Brianna Wiest

 


When you feel like you’re alone, it’s not the aloneness you’re afraid of.

 

You know how to spread your arms across cool sheets at night.

You know how to drive with the windows down, letting the cadences of your favorite songs move through you.

 

You know the tranquil peace of slowly setting yourself into a warm bath.

You know the strange charm of walking around by yourself, gazing upward and imagining the stories of the city.

You know it is only ever in solitude that we extract the most important truths about our lives. Without the expectations of others around us, we get to see who we most essentially are.

 

 

It is not aloneness that gives you that pinching and panicked feeling.

It’s loneliness—which sounds the same but is actually different.

 

Loneliness is what happens when you convince yourself that you’re no longer worth connection. Loneliness is what happens when you misbelieve that love is something you get when you’re good enough, something you receive when you play by the specific and unrelenting rules of those you’re most invested in receiving it from.

 

That type of connection, though?

It’s not a connection.

It’s hunger.

It’s vanity.

It’s an attachment.

 

The connection is the free-flowing state of sharing presence with one another, and more people would want to connect with you than you’d probably assume.

The connection is recognizing that even when life hands you a season of aloneness, you are never completely disconnected.

 

You are part of every person you’ve ever loved.

You are a part of every place you’ve ever been to.

You are cared for even if those who care are no longer present in your day-to-day life.

 

You almost always have at least one person who will care enough to stay by you, even at your worst.

We all assume that because we live in such a hyperconnected society, we should be less lonely than ever.

We not only can keep in touch with everyone we’ve ever known, but we can witness every detail of their lives unfold before us.

No human beings prior to this ever experienced society in such away.

 

That’s exactly the problem.

 

What we gain in “connection,” we lose in context.

 

People used to move on from old towns and groups and friends, catching up now and again, but generally reserving the intimate details of their lives for those who grew in alignment with them.

 

This is healthy because it gives us space to find new identities instead of being stuck trying to appease all the different ones we constructed, that have come together all at once, to witness how we are today.

 

We feel most alone when we are strangers to ourselves, and in a world where everyone is watching, we are more pieces of what they would want us to be than the whole of what we want to become.

 

We don’t know where we fit because our ideas of ourselves are bound up in expectations.

We have different faces for different people and somewhere throughout the constant pressure to be something else, we lose something.

 

Our true selves.

Our real selves.

 

The selves that know we are permanently and fundamentally connected.

The selves that know we don’t need 100 friends to be fulfilled.

We don’t even need 10.

 

Life is not a popularity contest.

 

It’s not about who is best at what and how much so.

 

It’s about that real connection, which is the willingness to show up exactly as we are and realizing we’re being met exactly where we are.

 

No adjustments.

No shifting.

No hiding.

 

When we have this type of authentic connection, we end up discovering a sense of unity that we could never piece together from staring at vignettes of someone’s life.

We begin to understand that those creeping doubts, subtle fears, deep curiosities — they’re universal. For how different we are and how much our experiences may vary, there is no human experience you can have that someone else has not had at least a similar version of.

 

Coming to this realization is simple, but hard.

 

We have to truly see through the guise of what we thought connection was in an effort to foster it in reality.

We have to truly let go of trying to appeal to every person imaginable in an effort to come home to ourselves.

 

When life hands us a season of being by ourselves, we have to find the courage to sleep alone and eat alone and dance in the kitchen in our underwear and lay in bed at night and wonder if we are going to be okay.

 

We do not earn a connection.

 

In the words of Mary Oliver, “You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles through the desert repenting / You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves.

 

Try to find love for the moments that life has given you to be alone.

Try to find love as you remember that you are already a piece of something far bigger than you, from where you came and where you will return.

 

Try to find love in the fact that maybe you’re being given an opportunity to be introduced to yourself so that you might be able to introduce that person to someone else.

 

And maybe that was the piece that was missing all along.

 

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Life Lesson 34

 

How to Deal With Difficult People Without Losing Your Mind

Don’t wrestle with pigs and don’t die on every hill.Don JohnsonDon Johnson

 

 
 

Given the political, social, and economic climate right now, tension and conflict are apt to surface more than ever.

 

People under stress are more likely to display a “bad day” version of themselves.

Emotions close to the surface are easily triggered.

When someone is stressed, angry, or irritated, they are less rational and empathetic — making the ability to resolve differences even more important.

 

What really matters in a difficult situation is how conscious and skilled you are.

My former colleague and author of the bestselling book Conscious Business, Fred Kofman, says:

 

“There are no difficult conflicts. There are only conflicts we don’t know how to resolve.”

 

Everyone has a unique story

We each have a view of the world, and it’s just that — our view. Others have their own views, which are likely different than ours.

If I am self-absorbed, I believe my view of the world is correct and everyone else is either wrong or badly misinformed. This is where many problems begin.

 

For example: If I’m a Democrat, I may believe I’m one of the good guys.

Therefore, Republicans are the bad guys, and I will likely discount anything a Republican says.

I don’t fully accept them or their point of view. Labeling something as bad because I disagree with it is prejudice.

This narrow-minded attitude has been the cause of wars, racial bias, political stalemates, religious prosecution, and the destruction of entire cultures.

 

Resolving conflict begins with accepting your point of view as just one version of the truth. There’s always another story.

 

The resolution will be found through dialogue, not arguing about whose story is right, better, or more complete. Both stories are right.

 

Accept duality

 

Lisa Earle McLeod, in her superb book on conflict resolution, The Triangle of Truth, talks about seeing the world in binary terms.

She calls it “either-or thinking.”

We categorize and judge people and things as good or bad.

When someone says or does something we disagree with, we often conclude they are wrong or manipulative.

Filtered through that lens, it’s all too easy to ignore, deny, or minimize their positive qualities.

 

While most of us admit we are far less than perfect, we often find it quite difficult to accept others’ imperfection.

If we are to handle difficult situations successfully, we must accept that people can be both flawed and fabulous.

 

People think you gain control of a conversation by talking. You don’t.

 

One of the most significant breakthroughs I’ve ever had is when I applied this principle to myself.

Not only did I discover the healing power of full self-acceptance, but I also found I was more accepting of others as they are.

If I am flawed and fabulous, can’t others be? If I can be self-absorbed and loving, can’t others be?

If I am short-tempered and forgiving, can’t others be?

 

Understanding the principle of duality allows us to be more open-minded when co-creating solutions to conflicts.

 

We let go of harsh judgments, and we open our hearts and mind to improving the challenging situations we face.

 

Check your intent

No one wants to be steamrolled, beaten up, humiliated, or taken advantage of by someone in an argument.

Nor do we want to do that to anyone else.

 

While it may feel good at the moment to prove someone wrong, it doesn’t improve the health of any relationship — business or personal.

 

If you know you are heading into a potentially difficult situation or suddenly find yourself in one, ask yourself: What is my intention?

Do I want to look good and be right, or do I want the best possible solution for everyone involved?

 

The root of many conflicts is the desire to be right and to defend your position at all costs. Life is not about being right.

 

It’s about learning, growing, and making peace with ourselves and others.

 

 

If things heat up, get curious

In an argument where no one is listening, someone has to stop interrupting, tuning out, or discounting others.

Let it be you.

People think you gain control of a conversation by talking.

You don’t.

You get it through inquiry, asking genuine questions because you are curious.

 

To resolve a conflict, you need to understand the other person’s story and why they think the way they do.

 

“I’m struggling to understand what your real concern is.”

“Please tell me what makes you say that.”

 

“I must be missing something.

Why don’t you think the project will work?”

 

See my article on verbal aikido, an effective way to diffuse a heated conversation, for more on this technique.

 

Listen not only to what is being said but how it’s being said.

Notice body language and tone of voice.

According to the research done by psychology professor Albert Mehrabian, words only convey about 7% of the meaning in any conversation.

Thirty-eight percent comes from tone of voice and 55% from nonverbal communication.

 

Learn to recognize the early warning signs of your emotions taking over.

 

If you really listen, you can pick up the story and emotions underneath the issue being argued.

When you recognize and acknowledge someone’s emotional state, you’re letting them know you’re really paying attention.

An operational or specific issue is more easily solved when someone’s emotions are acknowledged first.

 

“I can see you are really, really frustrated and upset right now.

You’ve got every right to feel that way, given the situation.

There’s nothing more I want than for us to get through this peacefully.

Help me understand what we can do to resolve this.”

 

Remember to breathe

If you can’t listen to the person you’re in conflict with, then the conflict will continue.

Being aware of your breathing will help you get centered and increase your ability to listen.

 

Breathe from your belly — deep breathing will restore oxygen to your body and your brain.

Take as many deep breaths as you can.

 

Slow the pace of the conversation down.

You’ve got to regain balance so that you can think clearly. It isn’t easy to listen when you’re flooded with emotion.

 

I’ve done this recently, and it enabled me to stop arguing and become curious about what I heard instead of rejecting it.

When I did that, the argument was soon resolved.

 

Learn to recognize the early warning signs of your emotions taking over.

If you feel your face getting red, chest or throat tightening, or your body temperature rising, your reptilian “protect me from danger” brain has awoken.

You’ve been triggered and are likely to go into a flight, fight, or freeze response.

The stress and survival hormone, cortisol, is in your bloodstream.

Deep breathing will help you come back from the edge.

 

Speak honestly, respectfully, and accurately

Don’t exaggerate or use grandiose statements: “You always do that” or “You never do anything I ask.” They are useless and inflammatory.

 

Be specific and factual.

Say what is true for you and state it that way. “I don’t agree with that approach because…”

Or, “My concern about the project is…”

Be accurate in your words.

 

Another part of speaking honestly is asking for what you want.

Many people struggle with making requests — instead, we drop hints, expect others to magically figure out what we want, or make demands or ultimatums.

None of those work well.

If we want to improve our relationships, resolve conflicts, and stop blaming others, we have to learn to ask for what we want, politely.

 

“I suggest that before you decide to spend that kind of money, please speak to me first.

Are you okay with that?”

“I really need some quiet time now.”

“I propose that we split the cost on this one.”

 

 

 

Be the first to apologize

If you have screwed up, admit it, and say it with sincerity.

There’s nothing worse than a half-hearted, mock attempt at apologizing: “Yeah, sorry about that. I won’t do it again.”

 

If you apologize from your heart, you’re not only honest with yourself, but you are also letting the other person know you recognize your contribution to the situation.

I have seen real apologies turn the tables entirely around in heated discussions.

 

Know when to disengage

If an argument is getting out of hand and emotions are running high on both sides, you have to make the call: continue or not.

The reptilian brain is in charge, and it’s all about survival — defend and attack.

All head and no heart.

 

What’s the point?

The only thing to do is to reduce the temperature.

 

Someone has to stop pouring fuel on the fire.

 

Call a time out.

Take a break.

Reschedule when everyone is more clearheaded.

Find a way to shift the energy; it can help.

 

If you are sitting down, stand up.

If you are standing, sit down.

Avoid one person sitting and the other standing — be at the same physical level.

 

And remember, choose your battles carefully. Not every hill is worth dying on.

 

Life is a journey to be more conscious, loving, and compassionate.

Along the way, we face challenges, and we grow as a result — learning to make better choices.

 

When resolving any difficult situation, we can choose to do it thoughtfully with skill and kindness, or we can fight it out.

 

I choose to do it thoughtfully, with skill and kindness.

What do you choose?

 

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Life Lesson 35

 

 

How To Get Sober When You Still Love Drinking

The unique difficulties of quitting alcohol without a dramatic rock bottom, and how to overcome them.

 

Chelsey FloodChelsey Flood

 

It’s easy enough to let go of headaches, nausea, and shame, but what about that first pint in a sunny beer garden?

What about those daft nights in with friends?

What about that heavy drinking boyfriend?

When you’re contemplating life without alcohol, the potential losses can seem to outweigh the gains.

 

This is one of the things that makes it so hard to even consider quitting for good.

(This and the fact that it’s one of the most addictive substances on the planet.)

 

It’s especially hard to consider when everyone you know loves to drink.

Wednesday night catch up, dinner with friends, wedding, or funeral, your pals will be on the sauce.

 

At first, naturally, you want to join them. After all, it’s a social occasion, you feel a bit awkward and everyone is drinking. Because drinking is the best.

 

This is why it’s important that you find people who understand your particular quandary — i.e. that you love drinking so much you need to stop drinking — and can help you stick to your decision.

 

If you’re very fortunate, the people immediately surrounding you when you decide to get sober might already be those people. But they might not.

 

Unhelpful things people say when you stop drinking

 

My boyfriend Joe* was unsettled when it became clear I wasn’t joking about total abstinence.

For years I had tried unsuccessfully to help him moderate — You need to choose between me and alcohol — in a dynamic that was boring and painful for both of us.

 

And now, I was embarking on a new plan that didn’t involve him at all: I wouldn’t drink, no matter what, a day at a time.

 

I’d failed to quit enough times to know I needed help if I was going to have a chance at succeeding, and so I joined an alcohol support group. This time things would be different.

Joe didn’t think I had enough of a problem to seek help, an opinion that triggered the cripplingly low self-esteem which was inextricably tied to my booze habit.

 

I’m wasting people’s time, I don’t deserve the attention.

 

But it also made me dig my heels in.

“I want to stop drinking, and I can’t.

How isn’t that a problem?” I asked.

He did a facial shrug that incensed me because of everything I read into it. He thinks I’m overreacting, attention-seeking, pathetic.

 

Our stances in this arena, which had been a favorite party-site and battleground for years, rearranged and we found ourselves, for the first time, holding new positions.

It was a relief, but it was scary too.

I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

Did I need to?

 

“But you’re not alcoholic,” he said, seeming confused by this new version of me that was always baking or fiddling with a guitar or heading out to meet new people, non-drinkers, to do who knows what.

I screwed up my mouth, unsure what to s0ay. Not drinking had been my aim for years, and for the first time, I was actually achieving it, but was I an alcoholic? I didn’t believe it either.**

 

Do you need to identify as an alcoholic to get sober?

 

It’s a big word to come to terms with, there’s no getting around it.

 

Especially for a person who grew up in a small British town, in a working-class/lower-middle-class(?) family.

The only people I’d ever known who earned the fated title, Alcoholic, all gradually, painfully and publicly, drank themselves to death.

 

My understanding was that alcoholics drink in the morning and at work.

They drink themselves into corners so squalid even their own families want nothing to do with them.

 

The ‘big book’ of Alcoholics Anonymous offers a slightly broader definition.

 

“If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic.”

 

That, without a doubt, described me. But, then, didn’t it describe everyone?

 

Annie Grace, who wrote This Naked Mind, has this to say.

 

“I don’t want to criticise AA because before it there was nothing. But it perpetuates the ideas that there are alcoholics who have an incurable long-term illness and there are people who drink normally. This comes entirely from AA, not from the medical or scientific communities who don’t use the term alcoholic.”

 

It made me wonder. Is there such a thing as ‘a normal drinker’?

Annie doesn’t think so.

 

“Any person with the right level of exposure over time can become addicted.”

 

Filling the void left by alcohol

 

“You’re more obsessed with alcohol now than you ever were,” Joe said, on finding me baking and listening to Recovery Elevator yet again, one evening when he arrived home from the pub.

 

I knew what he meant.

 

In the last few weeks, I had binge-listened to dozens of episodes, met up with non-drinking friends three or four times a week, and books about quitting booze perched all over our tiny flat.

 

And it was working. I was still sober, and I felt great.

 

I couldn’t get enough of the podcasts — the format and content were so comforting and reassuring — the coffee and chat were essential too.

It was incredible how many people there were, all over Bristol — all over the world — who had found themselves in precisely my dilemma.

 

For the first time in years, I felt like part of a community.

 

Identifying with the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of ex-drinkers empowered me to stay firm in my decision not to drink.

Something I had previously been literally incapable of doing.

Meetings made abstinence feel meaningful and positive, instead of boring and depressing.

 

Most of my new sober friends hadn’t drunk in the mornings or gotten sacked for drinking on the job either.

A handful of them struggled to see themselves as ‘alcoholic’ too.

We seemed to be a new wave of problem-drinker, less willing to suffer than those that had come before. (‘Snowflake alcoholics’ anyone?)

 

In the Big Book of AA they say that this type of drinker ‘stopped in time’. We recognized our drinking was increasingly problematic and quit before it got any worse.

 

“Though there is no way of proving it, we believe that early in our drinking careers most of us could have stopped drinking. But the difficulty is that few alcoholics have the desire to stop while there is still time.” — the Big Book

 

Not an easy thing to do, I assure you.

The temptation to get back on the ride for one more whizz around is almost irresistible.

Sometimes, over the years, I’ve wished for a more dramatic rock bottom, just so the door back to drinking felt a little more securely closed.

 

I honestly believe I could start again, and I’d get away with it.

Just like I was getting away with it before.

Nobody around me would notice, but I would pay the price when I was alone and deep within myself.

 

4.5 years sober I have no desire to go back to my old way of life, but it’s taken a long time to get here, and I think that’s because of my totally undramatic rock bottom.

 

 

 

Not everybody is capable of helping you quit drinking

 

Just before I reached six months sober, Joe and I split.

For years, I had believed he had to choose between me and alcohol, but in the end, I had to choose between sobriety and him.

 

Find the people who are able to support your new mission.

Online or at AA or Smart.

I was shown the way by women who had sobered up before me and they made the quest enjoyable.

 

Together, we celebrated milestones: 30 days, 60 days, 90 days.

We pushed each other to take good care of ourselves and explore who we really were and what we liked doing besides drinking.

We laughed at stories we’d never dared tell before and felt our shame lifting.

 

If you stick with it, getting sober is worth the effort.

 

Letting go of drinking when it’s been central to your whole life isn’t easy, but it is possible.

 

There will be things you lose, besides blackouts and hangovers, but you can’t change your life without changing your life.

 

Transformation is painful, but sometimes, staying the same hurts even more.

 

If you need help to stop drinking, you’re not alone.

 

And there’s no shame in getting addicted to something deeply addictive.

The fact is, it’s likely not going to get any easier to stop than it is this very moment.

 

If you’re ready to try something different, try my alcohol experiment.

Do whatever it takes to stay sober for 30 days: go to your doctor, try Smart or AA or Hip Sobriety, or Soberistas. Read beautiful hangover. Listen to Recovery Elevator and SHAIR podcasts. Read This Naked Mind. Try Moderation Management.

 

There is a whole community of people just waiting to help you. Reach out. Something better is waiting for you.

.

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Life Lesson 36

 

 

20 Things Most People Learn Too Late In Life

 

Nicolas ColeNicolas Cole

 
 

Life is a journey of twists and turns, peaks and valleys, mountains to climb, and oceans to explore.

Good times and bad times. Happy times and sad times.

 

But always, life is a movement forward.

 

No matter where you are on the journey, in some way, you are continuing on — and that’s what makes it so magnificent.

 

One day, you’re questioning what on earth will ever make you feel happy and fulfilled.

And the next, you’re perfectly inflow, writing the most important book of your entire career.

 

What nobody ever tells you, though, when you are a wide-eyed child, are all the little things that come along with “growing up.”

 

1. Most people are scared of using their imagination.

They’ve disconnected from their inner child.

They don’t feel they are “creative.”

 

They like things “just the way they are.”

 

2. Your dream doesn’t really matter to anyone else.

Some people might take an interest. Some may support you in your quest.

 

But at the end of the day, nobody cares, or will ever care about your dream as much as you.

 

3. Friends are relative to where you are in your life.

Most friends only stay for a period of time — usually in reference to your current interest. But when you move on, or your priorities change, so too do the majority of your friends.

 

4. Your potential increases with age.

As people get older, they tend to think that they can do less and less — when in reality, they should be able to do more and more, because they have had time to soak up more knowledge.

Being great at something is a daily habit.

 

You aren’t just “born” that way.

 

5. Spontaneity is the sister of creativity.

If all you do is follow the exact same routine every day, you will never leave yourself open to moments of sudden discovery.

 

Do you remember how spontaneous you were as a child?

 

Anything could happen, at any moment!

 

6. You forget the value of “touch” later on.

When was the last time you played in the rain?

When was the last time you sat on a sidewalk and looked closely at the cracks, the rocks, the dirt, the one weed growing between the concrete and the grass nearby?

Do that again.

 

You will feel so connected to the playfulness of life.

 

7. Most people don’t do what they love.

It’s true.

The “masses” are not the ones who live the lives they dreamed of living.

And the reason is that they didn’t fight hard enough.

They didn’t make it happen for themselves.

And the older you get, and the more you look around, the easier it becomes to believe that you’ll end up the same.

 

Don’t fall for the trap.

 

8. Many stop reading after college.

Ask anyone you know the last good book they read, and I’ll bet most of them respond with, “Wow, I haven’t read a book in a long time.”

 

9. People talk more than they listen.

There is nothing more ridiculous to me than hearing two people talk “at” each other, neither one listening, but waiting for the other person to stop talking so they can start up again.

 

10. Creativity takes practice.

It’s funny how much we as society praise and value creativity, and yet seem to do as much as we can to prohibit and control creative expression unless it is in some way profitable.

 

If you want to keep your creative muscle pumped and active, you have to practice it on your own.

 

11. “Success” is a relative term.

As kids, we’re taught to “reach for success.”

What does that really mean?

Success to one person could mean the opposite for someone else.

 

Define your own success.

 

12. You can’t change your parents.

A sad and difficult truth to face as you get older: You can’t change your parents.

They are who they are.

Whether they approve of what you do or not, at some point, no longer matters.

 

Love them for bringing you into this world, and leave the rest at the door.

 

13. The only person you have to face in the morning is yourself.

When you’re younger, it feels like you have to please the entire world.

You don’t.

Do what makes you happy, and create the life you want to live for yourself.

 

You’ll see someone you truly love staring back at you every morning if you can do that.

 

14. Nothing feels as good as something you do from the heart.

No amount of money or achievement or external validation will ever take the place of what you do out of pure love.

 

Follow your heart, and the rest will follow.

 

15. Your potential is directly correlated to how well you know yourself.

Those who know themselves and maximize their strengths are the ones who go where they want to go.

Those who don’t know themselves, and avoid the hard work of looking inward, live life by default.

 

They lack the ability to create for themselves their own future.

 

16. Everyone who doubts you will always come back around.

That kid who used to bully you will come asking for a job.

The girl who didn’t want to date you will call you back once she sees where you’re headed.

It always happens that way.

 

Just focus on you, stay true to what you believe in, and all the doubters will eventually come asking for help.

 

17. You are a reflection of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

Nobody creates themselves, by themselves.

We are all mirror images, sculpted through the reflections we see in other people.

This isn’t a game you play by yourself.

 

Work to be surrounded by those you wish to be like, and in time, you too will carry the very things you admire in them.

 

18. Beliefs are relative to what you pursue.

Wherever you are in life, and based on who is around you, and based on your current aspirations, those are the things that shape your beliefs.

 

Nobody explains, though, that “beliefs” then are not “fixed.” There is no “right and wrong.” It is all relative.

 

Find what works for you.

 

19. Anything can be a vice.

Be wary.

Again, there is no “right” and “wrong” as you get older.

A coping mechanism to one could be a way to relax on a Sunday to another.

Just remain aware of your habits and how you spend your time, and what habits start to increase in frequency — and then question where they are coming from in you and why you feel compelled to repeat them.

 

Never mistakes, always lessons.

As I said, know yourself.

 

20. Your purpose is to be YOU.

What is the meaning of life?

To be you, all of you, always, in everything you do — whatever that means to you.

You are your own creator.

You are your own evolving masterpiece.

Growing up is the realization that you are both the sculpture and the sculptor, the painter, and the portrait.

Paint yourself however you wish.

 

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Lesson 37

 

7 Skills That Will Make You Emotionally Strong

Nick Wignall
 

Do you ever feel like your emotions are all over the place? Like your moods ping-pong around erratically and unpredictably?

 

If so, you probably wish you could feel a little less at the mercy of external events — able to stay cool and keep your calm no matter what was happening.

 

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with feeling any emotion.

And it’s normal for our emotions to fluctuate.

But some people are able to control their emotional reactions better than others.

 

And while there are many reasons for this — from genetics and upbringing to how much sleep you got last night —here’s what matters most:

 

What follows are 7 skills you can learn that will help you to become more emotionally strong.

 

1. Metacognition

Metacognition means thinking about your thinking.

 

More specifically, it’s the ability to be aware of and assess what’s going on in your own mind — thoughts, emotions, beliefs, moods, expectations, self-talk, etc.

 

Most of the time our minds are on autopilot — stuff happens and we react:

  • Your spouse gives you a nasty look, so you fire back with a nasty comment.
  • Your boss sends a passive-aggressive email you don’t know how to respond to, so you distract yourself in Facebook.
  • A painful old memory pops into your mind and you end up lost in ruminations and regret.

 

The more you ignore your own mind, the more your behaviors become reactions rather than choices.

 

And this leads to a lot of emotional volatility and stress:

  • If your default self-talk is to catastrophize negative events and go straight to the worst-case scenario, you’re going to feel pretty anxious all the time.
  • If your default response to criticism is to criticize back, you’re going to find yourself pretty frustrated and angry all the time.
  • If your default interpretation of negative events is to criticize yourself and internalize things, you’re going to end up with a lot of shame and fake guilt.

On the other hand, if you can learn to pause and observe what’s happening in your mind, you give yourself the opportunity to act intentionally and purposefully.

 

Stop trying to control your emotions and learn to be curious about them instead.

 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Viktor Frankl

 

2. Attention Shifting

Most people spend their time thinking about whatever grabs their attention.

 

Whether it’s doom-scrolling social media or fantasizing about a new car, our minds are easily pulled from one thing to the next, often with very little deliberation on our part.

 

Here’s the problem with that:

 

The contents of your thoughts determine the contents of your moods.

 

Think about it:

  • If you’re always worried about the future, you’re going to feel pretty anxious.
  • If you’re always dwelling on past mistakes, you’re going to feel pretty ashamed.
  • If you’re always ruminating on how you’ve been wronged, you’re going to feel pretty angry.
  •  

If you want to change how emotional you feel, you’ve got to change what you spend your time thinking about.

 

Unfortunately, this can be tough:

  • When you’re caught in a worry spiral, it can be difficult to refocus your mind on your work.
  • When you’re stuck ruminating on some slight against you, it’s hard to be present with the person sitting next to you.
  • When you’re trapped in obsessing about how you feel, it’s hard to take action on the things you know will make you feel better.

 

To free yourself from unhelpful thinking patterns—and the painful feelings they produce—you must learn to control your attention.

 

But here’s the thing: Your ability to control your attention is a muscle. And if you don’t exercise it, it will remain weak.

This means your mood and emotions will be at the mercy of whatever comes to mind.

 

Mindfulness meditation is a great place to start.

 

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

3. Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is a somewhat technical-sounding term for a very simple idea:

 

When you’re struggling, treat yourself like you would treat a good friend.

 

Most of us have this strange habit of beating ourselves up and being overly self-critical anytime we make a mistake.

This is especially ironic since, at the same time, we’re usually incredibly compassionate and understanding when other people make mistakes!

 

Unfortunately, most of us learned growing up that the “secret” to success and happiness in life is to be hard on yourself.

Like the tough drill sergeant yelling at his new recruits, we mistakenly learn that being tough on ourselves prevents failures

. Except, that’s not really true…

 

Most people succeed despite their self-judgment, not because of it.

 

And in fact, most people could be both far more effective and far happier

if they stopped beating themselves up for every failure or misstep.

Because when you beat yourself up for making a mistake, you only add more painful emotion and stress onto the original frustration or sadness that goes along with making mistakes.

If you want to avoid these spikes and spirals of painful emotion, learn to practice self-compassion instead of self-judgment.

“This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.”
Kristin Neff

 

4. Emotional Tolerance

Much of emotional strength involves learning better ways to respond to difficult emotions and moods so that they don’t explode out of control.

 

But the initial difficult feelings are often inevitable:

  • No matter how self-compassionate you are, making mistakes still stings and will likely lead to some amount of guilt or shame.
  • No matter self-aware you are of your painful emotions, they will still hurt when they show up unannounced.
  • No matter how good you are at managing your attention, you will still get stuck in worry from time to time and that will lead to anxiety.

All of which means…

 

You have to be able to get on with life despite feeling bad.

 

Just like a runner needs to be able to keep running despite feeling tired if they want to finish the race, you need to be able to live your life despite feeling difficult emotions.

 

Because really, what’s the alternative?

 

You can’t wait around to do important things with your life until you feel perfect.

That’s a recipe for chronic procrastination and regret.

 

But doing even small things when we feel bad emotionally is tough, no doubt about it.

The trick is to build up your emotional tolerance.

 

The only way runners are able to keep going for so long even though they’re tired and in pain is because they’ve built up their tolerance and strength.

They started with running a couple of miles until they got stronger, then worked up to 5 miles as they got stronger, then 10, and on and on.

 

Well, emotional tolerance works the same way…

 

You have to practice feeling bad if you want to get better at feeling bad and getting on with your life anyway.

 

So, the next time a difficult emotion hits you, instead of asking How can I not feel so bad? ask yourself this: How can I use this as an opportunity to improve my emotional tolerance?

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
Confucius

 

5. Cognitive Restructuring

How we think determines how we feel emotionally.

And a huge part of how we think comes down to self-talk — that running narrator in our head.

 

This means that if you want to get better at dealing with difficult moods and emotions, learning to deal with your self-talk is key.

 

Unfortunately, many of us grow up internalizing an extremely negative and pessimistic style of self-talk:

  • The minute something bad happens, you catastrophize: “Oh my God, it’s all over now…”
  • As soon as you make a mistake, you generalize it into a core character defect: “I’m such an idiot!”
  • Whenever someone looks at you sideways, you interpret malice: “She’s always so judgmental!”

The problem with this overly negative self-talk is that it creates self-fulfilling prophecies…

 

When you’re constantly telling yourself how bad everything is, everything starts feeling pretty bad.

 

The way out of this dilemma is to retrain your self-talk to be more realistic and accurate.

And a powerful technique for doing this mental retraining is called Cognitive Restructuring.

In short, it means learning to:

  1. Identify your negative self-talk and what triggers it.
  2. Observe the connection between how you think and how you feel.
  3. Generate alternative ways of interpreting what happens to you in more realistic terms.
  4. Paying attention to the emotional and behavioral benefits that go along with these alternative stories.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use cognitive restructuring to retrain negative self-talk, you can read this guide: Cognitive Restructuring: The Complete Guide to Changing Negative Thinking

 

“Words matter. And the words that matter most are the ones you say to yourself.”
David Taylor-Klaus

 

6. Assertiveness

Most people hear the term assertive and they think rude or pushy.

But in reality, assertive communication isn’t rude or pushy at all.

 

Assertiveness is the healthy middle ground between passive communication and aggressive communication:

  • Aggressive communication means not respecting the wants and needs of other people (manipulation, for example).
  • Passive communication is when you don’t respect your own wants and needs (being a “pushover.”)
  • Assertive communication is when you honestly express your own wants and needs, but you do it in a way that’s respectful of others as well.

Why does this matter for emotional strength and managing difficult moods?

 

Here’s the deal:

When you habitually avoid external conflict, you end up creating internal conflict.

 

This happens most often when people are overly passive in the way they communicate:

  • You usually just “go with the flow” when there are group decisions to be made.
  • You chronically hold back from voicing your opinions or ideas.
  • You give in easily in order to avoid conflict.

 

Here’s the problem with being so passive and overly accommodating of others:

  • When you constantly give in to other people’s wishes — and ignore your own — you start to feel bad about yourself and your self-esteem drops.
  • Your frustration and anxiety levels also tend to go up because you’re never getting your needs met.
  • Finally, you end up resenting other people because they always get what they want and you never get what you want.
  •  

Now think about it…

 

If your self-esteem is low, you’re full of frustration and anxiety, and you’re resentful of your most important relationships, how effective are you going to be trying to manage more difficult emotions on top of all that?

 

Yeah, not very.

 

On the other hand, when you learn how to be assertive, your ability to be strong and balanced in the face of difficult emotions goes way up because your self-esteem and confidence are much higher.

 

Learning to be more assertive is the single most underrated thing you can do to improve your emotional health: Assertiveness: The Complete Beginner’s Guide.

 

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

7. Values Clarification

You can spend all the time in the world avoiding what you don’t want, but if you’re not sure where you’re going, how likely are you to get there?

 

No, that’s not a brain teaser or a world problem. It’s just meant to get you thinking about a simple but frequently overlooked idea:

 

Fundamentally, life is about moving toward the things you want, not running away from the things you don’t want.

 

Consider this…

  • It’s no little kid’s dream to grow up to become really good at managing their anxiety.
  • It’s no little kid’s dream to become really good at anger management when they grow up.
  • It’s no little kid’s dream to one day be an expert non-procrastinator.
  •  

Little kids want to become astronauts and doctors and scientists and professional athletes! They want to do cool, awesome stuff!

 

Of course, along the way, they’ll have to figure out how to be courageous in the face of fear or stick to a habit even when it’s hard. But these are secondary to the big picture: Going after the stuff they really want!

 

Well, is this any different for us adults?

 

As important as it is to learn the skills that will help you deal with difficult things like bad moods, fears, and low self-esteem, let’s not forget about the big picture…

 

Ask yourself this question:

 

If I had tons of confidence, never experienced a bad mood, and always felt motivated, what would I do?

 

What are the really good things in life that difficult moods and emotions are holding you back from? What are your goals, your dreams, your aspirations? What are your values — the things that matter most to you in life?

 

Here’s one last way to think about this:

 

Are you more likely to work through difficult moods and emotions when you have crystal clear goals and values you’re moving toward or when you’re just stumbling through life hoping to avoid much pain or discomfort?

 

Obviously the first!

 

So, take the time to get to know your values.

Everything’s easier when you do.

 

“Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.”
Marcus Aurelius

 

All You Need to Know

If you want to be more emotionally strong — able to manage difficult moods and emotions with confidence and calm — work to build these skills:

  1. Metacognition
  2. Attention Shifting
  3. Self-compassion
  4. Cognitive Restructuring
  5. Emotional Tolerance
  6. Assertiveness
  7. Values Clarification

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Life Lesson 38

 

To Live a Happy Life, Look After Your Inner and Outer Worlds

Positive thinking helps shape your environment and, in turn, your environment helps create more positive thinking.JoxenJoxen

 
Woman hands praying for blessing from god on sunset background Woman hands praying for blessing from god on sunset background positive thinking stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images
 
 

When I used to look back to my teens, I genuinely believed I was a positive person.

 

It felt right to call myself that because I was someone who loved to try and find the good in everything, someone who deified the positives I could get out of my life and recited the motto that “things will always get better.” — or so that’s what I told my friends whenever I was the one giving advice.

 

The problem, however, was only recently — now a fair few years later — did I start to look back on my past with a refreshed perspective and realise I wasn’t as happy as I thought.

Although I was positive on the outside, I realised I was incessantly enmeshing my memories with positive outlooks and more comfortable, self-serving thoughts.

 

No matter how bad they were.

What I wasn’t doing was admitting that I spent a long time trailing through a vastly unhappy period in my life and was covering it up.

 

Back then, from around six years ago, while I was a positive person on the outside, I struggled to be positive on the inside.

I spent years of my time feeling angry, neurotic, judgemental and confused with who I was.

I tried to believe I could change who I was with a simple blink.

And, admittedly, my sense of self was non-existent.

It took me years to realise that. I even tried to squish the memory of how, at one point, I acted as though I was fighting against everyone, even my friends and family.

 

I suppressed this reality and thought I was still a happy person.

Honestly, I was inadvertently suppressing the cold truths of my frivolous past: that I lacked direction, purpose and integrity.

I know it’s not easy to have those qualities as a teenager.

But when you lack them around people who appear so sure and confident in themselves, it can feel rough on your mind.

What I should have done all those years ago was confront and challenge each and every single way I thought and acted.

Then it wouldn’t have kept affecting me until recently.

The greatest offender to who I turned out to be was my environment, but what it taught me was that your environment, both mental and physical, is everything. Here’s what I mean.

 

Positive thinking creates your environment, and your environment creates positive thinking.

 

Self-improvement is one of my favourite topics.

One of the most powerful musings of this topic is that positive thinking shapes your environment, and your environment creates positive thinking.

 

This was a conundrum I struggled to understand as a teen; I only grasped it in the last two years.

It signifies that you must learn the balance of control within your inside and outside world — before either of them control you.

 

There was a time in school where I didn’t question my inner thinking, nor did I question who I was around and their way of thinking. Because I didn’t know who I was to any degree, I emulated other peoples’ behaviour.

 

A telltale sign that you don’t know yourself very well is that you try and fit in everywhere and think like everyone else, like a puzzle piece trying to convince itself that it can squeeze itself into ten different puzzle sets.

I had no idea as to whether I was around the right people growing up; I only assumed I was around the right people. And so I just tried to fit in everywhere.

And I didn’t question it for a long time, so the problems that came next affected me for several years.

Many of the people I spent my time with were negative, judgemental and harsh thinkers.

 

What came from their mind to their mouths most of the time was venomous.

And at the same time, I was in and out of relationships that were truly toxic.

But it wasn’t something I confronted because I just wanted to be accepted and appreciated.

This propped another sign to show just how disconnected I was with myself; what I said, thought and did never matched — and this was something I struggled with.

 

I spent quite a few years around negative people in school, the ones that were self-serving and judgmental towards others.

It made me turn into someone I wasn’t.

I began gossiping myself and putting people down to make myself feel better.

I was fighting with seeing the good in everything. It only made me more unhappy.

 

This is why who you’re around matters.

Although I made myself appear positive on the outside, I was reliant on external validation and social status to make me happy.

My inner world became unbalanced and unhealthy, as did my outer world.

 

I know I am also to blame for it; I made the conscious choice to be around these people, despite all obvious signs.

But in a world where we’re more easily influenced than ever, it’s not easy for us to become the way we want when there are so many factors and people influencing how we think and act.

But for me to improve, and importantly: raise my happiness, I had to start paying attention to every important aspect constituting a good life.

That started with one simple principle.

 

I can do it Man using scissors to remove the word can't to read I can do it concept for self belief, positive attitude and motivation positive thinking stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

You become the way your environment thinks, moves, and lives.

 

Thinking, moving and living better is my central mantra.

When we take control of how we master each of these, we don’t just move to a better environment that is better for us; we create the strength to control our new environment and avoid negative influences that can come our way.

 

When I wanted to fit in at school, I spent time with all of the wrong people.

They loved to gossip and fight and talk negatively about each other, and this spiteful behaviour caught onto me — I often ended up behaving the same way.

 

I wasn’t who I wanted to be; I became who I thought other people wanted to have around them.

I tried to be cool.

I tried to act the same as the popular people did.

But it led to nurturing toxic traits that put me miles away from who I should have been.

 

With that said, it taught me to now learn the powerful notion of being shaped by who we’re around. To become better people and improve our lives, we need to take care of our environments first.

So, that’s what I’ve started doing.

 

Your mind is like a garden. It benefits from long-term growth and peaceful movement.

Your physical environment is the same, but it grows or nurtures what your mind chooses to put forward.

 

When we’re in an environment of people who embed positive thinking in their mind, people who embrace their authentic sense of happiness, peace, self-esteem and integrity, and we put them forward to absorb their way of thinking, we work for the same feelings.

 

The same goes for negative thinkers. And when we continue to nurture the growth of the seeds of positive or negative thinking in our worlds, we consume and radiate what they give out.

 

Hand flip wooden cube with word "change" to "chance", Personal development and career growth or change yourself concept Hand flip wooden cube with word "change" to "chance", Personal development and career growth or change yourself concept positive thinking stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

 

Three Ways to Create a Better Mental and Physical Environment

 

The people you choose to surround yourself with is the most important choice you’ll ever make.

They don’t have to be positive all the time, nor do they have to be giving you something at every corner. But they should be anyone who helps you feel happy or makes you want to help others feel happy.

 

Your mind is equally important; it doesn’t have to be happy and positive place all the time, but it should nurture the thoughts and ideas that help you think, move, and live better.

 

Here are three ways to achieve this:

1. Learn to motivate yourself and others.

Manifest positive actions into your daily habits. Do something that helps you or other people feel better each day.

Whether it’s writing down your thoughts, creating an art piece, or planning your month.

 

2. Celebrate your small wins and milestones.

You’ll often find that your small accomplishments become the seeds to your most monumental results.

If you celebrate being around positive people or practise gratitude for where and who you are, you’ll gradually shape your environment to expand the best parts of your life and self.

 

3. Encourage positive thinking.

 

Whether that’s in yourself or others, when something good happens that you hear, touch or see, encourage it.

Try to see it again.

When you have a good day, think of the positives that made it good.

Repeat them.

Tell yourself that the way you were thinking during a challenging time was good, and allow yourself to do it again.

 

Everyone can benefit from taking the time to use positive thinking to make their environments better. When I finally made the decision to reject the way I was, it fundamentally changed my life, and the same can happen for you.

 

In other words: your inner world creates your outer world, and your outer world nurtures your inner world.

 

Want to learn more about thinking, moving, and living better? Join my newsletter: Self-Mastery, to dive deeper into timeless ideas on psychology, health & fitness, and philosophy.

 

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Lesson 39

 

 
 

It’s Not You. It’s Trauma.

When you think the problem is the answer, you’re helpless to solve it

Miyah Byrd

“You have to call it what it is before you can tackle it.”

 

Those words repeat in my thoughts, bounce around my skull, and buzz under my skin. “But I don’t know what it is.”

“Okay. Describe again how you’ve been feeling the past month?”

“Tired, sluggish.

My life just feels monotonous, so I’m bored and restless.

I can’t focus on my class assignments, at all, which is new for me. I keep not being able to sleep, so I feel like I’m moving underwater the next day.

I used to love school.

I just don’t care about it right now…

I can’t make myself care about much.”

I finish with an exhale.

 

“All right. I want you to read something for me.”

Reaching sideways to her desk, she shuffles some papers and pulls some sheets to her clipboard. Holding the clipboard out to me, I notice she’s covering half the page.

 

I read through the typed list quickly:

  • Feelings of sadness, worthlessness
  • Fixation on past mistakes, guilt
  • Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy (hobbies, entertainment, sports)
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Irritability, frustration, bouts of anger
  • Trouble concentrating, making decisions, and with memory
  • Slower thinking, speaking, or body movements

 

There are a few more items, and while all of them didn’t apply to me, most were eerily recognizable. Glancing up at her, she must have read the question in my face.

She uncovered the top half of the paper revealing “Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder.”

 

My face burned like the words were emblazoned on my chest instead of the page.

But it was also the first time I saw exactly what I was dealing with. By naming the beast, I could learn how to fight it.

 

When we use language to soften the blow or make the message more palatable, the impact of gaining that knowledge is lost.

When you treat a bullet wound like a scratch, people end up bleeding out, yet we do this all the time for everything from individual issues to system failures.

 

She’s not depressed. She’s just tired.

He’s not suicidal.

He’s just struggling.

They didn’t abuse you.

They did their best.

They’re not racist.

They’re from a different generation.

He didn’t rape her.

He was caught up in the moment.

That’s not PTSD.

It’s just morbid humor.

Our workplace isn’t upholding white supremacy.

We’re just proud of our traditions.

Our family isn’t dysfunctional.

We’re just quirky.

That’s not generational poverty from inequity.

That’s the rough part of town.

They’re not fascists.

They’re just disappointed and frustrated.

 

 

When I was nine, two people walked around my neighborhood, having short conversations with neighbors about Christianity and passing out tracts.

The homeless man on the street who took their tract with a smile and a “God bless you” ripped it up and threw it into the street when they turned their backs.

Our words and actions can change the trajectory of a person’s existence. But when we give them useless tools meant for an entirely different problem, we can bind them even further in the spiral.

 

Americans, by and large, aren’t the greatest at recognizing and naming trauma.

 

People call me a “truth-teller,” someone willing to be the dissenting opinion.

But it took me years to even say “clinical depression,” “anxiety,” “emotional abuse,” “manipulation,” and “trauma.”

And while I say them on the regular now, they still scrape the edges of my throat raw sometimes.

They still make my skin crawl and buzz.

 

When friends have pointed out my increasingly restless, aggressive dissatisfaction with politics or Christianity or America or white supremacy/imploding capitalism over the last few years as “brave,” it makes me stifle a half-laugh from my fearful, people-pleasing soul.

 

My willingness to ask the tough questions doesn’t come from courage or boldness.

It comes from a raw sort of desperation.

Challenging the absences at the table not out of bravery, but born from empathy.

 

“I’m not doing well.

Thought I’d be handling this better.”

I feel her misplaced frustration through the screen.

“If you were doing well during a time like this, that’d be a problem.”

 

Americans, by and large, aren’t the greatest at recognizing and naming trauma.

Amidst a global pandemic, growing civil unrest, wildfires, protests, hurricanes, countless deaths, tornadoes, and countless individual pains, we expect each other to be productive, creative, healthy, and happy at schools churches, and workplaces.

 

We expect packages to be delivered day in and day out during a pandemic without anxiety.

We expect to “get those numbers to you by the end of the week” without curling into a ball on the couch.

We expect school assignments to be completed without thinking why we’re being tested on this stuff at a time like this. We expect hustling and picking up side jobs without wanting to smash the wheels on this rat race.

We expect it of each other during this time because we expect it of ourselves all the time.

 

We’ve been conditioned to accept trauma as background noise.

 

We approach multiple, collective traumas with the expectation that everyone’s going to keep a positive outlook and log onto Zoom while the world’s on fire.

We don’t name it because then we’d have to admit it’s taken a toll on us.

Blah, blah, blah capitalism.

Blah, blah, blah oppressive systems.

Blah, blah, blah, power imbalances.

 

As Americans, we’ve acclimated to this outright denial or shrugging indifference or apathetic response to mass death for decades.

We’ve been conditioned to accept trauma as background noise.

 

Elementary school children were gunned down in their schools, but gun laws didn’t change.

Citizens are dying at ages almost a decade younger than Canadians or Europeans, but nobody seems to want to investigate why.

Health issues are decimating the finances of entire families, and the best solution we’ve had is passing the same $100 around GoFundMe campaigns.

People are gunned down in the streets, and we rationalize it as inevitable.

People starve to death or freeze to death or drink to death, and we put up spikes to keep them from sleeping where we’d have to look them in the eyes.

 

I’m used to calling trauma by many other names.

I was raised in a Christianity where mental disorders were demons, queer identities were demons, and humanity was inherently evil.

I mistook fear for respect and blind obedience for love for years.

I grew up being told that racism ended in the 1960s from white friends and told it absolutely had not from Black families, and the resulting cognitive dissonance half-melted my brain.

 

But you can’t heal a wound if you’re constantly folding the trauma deeper within.

 

Dressing trauma in soft clothing or calling the resulting symptoms “being dramatic” or sticking it under a rug or wishing it away doesn’t help you heal.

It actively harms.

The pain of this magnitude is a collective soul-sucking nightmare.

 

I can’t write “5 Ways to Heal From Oppression” as a quick-read self-help thinkpiece.

I’ve seen too many of those articles.

You’ve seen too many of those articles.

The boring daily choices?

Do your dishes.

Call the people you love.

Move your body.

Breathe fresh air.

Help when you can.

Cook nourishing food.

Have a good cry.

Make the kind choice.

Wash your clothes.

Brush your teeth.

Listen to music.

Those will help get you to baseline happiness.

Individual issues can be partly tackled with individual actions.

 

No amount of self-care can heal living in an oppressive society.

I don’t care how decadent that wine is, how hot that bubble bath is, how great the products have been, it won’t heal you.

Capitalism can’t heal capitalism.

 

No amount of self-betterment can heal living in an oppressive society.

It doesn’t matter how many anti-racist books you read, how rad your therapist is (shout out to Ms. P), how many instruments you play, how many languages you learn, how many boundaries you maintain—it won’t heal you.

There are people who have been digging deep into the roots for years because they had no other options.

There are people who have survived fascism once and continually try to warn us to no avail. There are people fighting for liberation who we’ve mocked for years.

There are also people who passed the line from “we didn’t know” to malicious ignorance a long time ago.

 

How do you tackle the fascism and cognitive dissonance brought on by failed economic promises, white supremacy, and vast misinformation mixed with religious dogma?

Not by yourself, that’s for damn sure.

 

No, this takes all of us who don’t want a more competent repeat of the past decade or the ongoing mass death spiral of the past 400+ years in America.

 

Collective traumas can only be tackled with collective actions, and I’m only a piece of the puzzle.

I wouldn’t dare be arrogant enough to suggest the bandaid of self-care when open-heart surgery is necessary.

There are rare moments of hope and peace you can hold onto and there are tangible actions you can take to help change things, but if you feel trapped in a Sisyphean loop, it’s because, at this moment, we are.

 

You can’t fight the beasts until you name them.

 

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Lesson 40

 

7 Signs of Emotional Unavailability in a Person

Does your partner put up a wall? Or is it you?Karen NimmoKaren Nimmo

 

 

“Being alone is scary, but not as scary as feeling alone in a relationship.”- Amelia Earhart

 

“He’s emotionally unavailable,” a woman said of her partner.

“I can’t seem to break through and figure out what he’s thinking.

I can’t get close to him.

It’s like he doesn’t trust me with his feelings.”

She’d been dating this man for six months and it didn’t seem to get any easier.

She wanted to know if emotional unavailability was an actual “condition”; was it something that could be changed?

It’s a good question. “Emotional unavailability” is a term commonly used by people who are struggling in their relationships, when they can’t access the other person’s true feelings.

Or they’re just confused about why they feel loved one day — then shut out the next.

 

What’s Emotional Unavailability?

A person who is emotionally unavailable finds it difficult to share feelings and to get genuinely close to another.

While they can come across as evasive, cold, inconsistent — or just hard to read — it’s not that simple. Mostly, it comes down to a fear of intimacy; a struggle with trust.

 

That fear comes from their unique combination of personality traits, past experiences — especially loss, abandonment, and rejection — and the feedback they’ve had from the world.

 

Those things create their emotional legacy, which influences how they relate to others, not just partners but also friends and family.

 

Emotionally unavailable people are often described as “toxic” or as having narcissistic traits.

While that can be true, it’s frequently not the case.

Early loss and rejection can leave a painful imprint.

Extreme shyness can close you up emotionally.

For the person who genuinely struggles to “let down the guard”, love can be excruciating, as well as frightening.

 

Here are the key signs.

7 Signs of Emotional Unavailability in a Person

1. They avoid the “big” or “deep” stuff.

Diving down into the world of emotion and feelings makes them uncomfortable. They’ll be happy to listen to their partner’s emotional “stuff” but only up to a point. When the subject matter gets too heavy they’ll change the subject. And talk of formal commitment may rattle them or even push them away.

2. They have intimacy in the same basket with something else.

A person with trust issues often connects intimacy with high drama or conflict or inevitable loss/rejection — things that have happened in their past. Even when willing, they’re not free to love for love’s own sake because it means something uncomfortable for them.

3. They are naturally distrustful.

When a person’s been hurt or suffered significant loss, they struggle to enter relationships — even close friendships — with an open heart. That’s because they’re scared it’ll happen again and they can’t bear that sort of pain.

4. They can’t express their feelings.

Emotionally unavailable people often don’t have a language for expressing their feelings. It may be that they never learnt to match words with their feelings or had sound emotional expression modelled to them. It’s not that they don’t have feelings. They just don’t know how to release them appropriately.

5. They can cut people out of their life easily and often without reason.

Relationships — including friendships and family ties — can be terminated suddenly and without explanation. This is very hurtful, and confusing, if you’re on the end of it. These acts may have a toxic agenda. But they also just think it’s easier to end a relationship, than wade through an explanation of why.

6. They’re most comfortable with people outside their day-to-day orbit.

Emotionally unavailable people will often choose relationships they can keep at arm’s length. Affairs, long distance relationships, cultural divides: People who are not free to commit to them. It’s less stressful to keep some space between them and they don’t have the pressure of moving the relationship forward.

7. They respond to others’ feelings rather than offering their own.

They’ll often find it easy to show a lot of interest in you, especially at the beginning of a relationship because asking questions is non-threatening. It can be seductive because it makes you feel fascinating but it also keeps you away from their feelings, which is the whole point.

 

Is it over?

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”- Hermann Hesse

It’s important to remember that not all people who struggle with emotional intimacy are toxic or “make bad partners”.

There are often genuine reasons for emotional difficulties.

With patience, and where trust is carefully built, they can make excellent mates.

 

However, I always say to clients who have difficult relationships of any kind, you need to consider YOUR experience of being with this person, whatever their issues.

 

If a relationship is persistently hard and confusing, if you are doing all the heavy lifting, if it makes you feel bad about yourself, then you need to ask if being with them is worth it.

Your life — and happiness — matters too.

 

 

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Lesson 41
 

How to Make Sure You Never Ruin Your Life

Words of wisdom from people in their 50s and 60s.

Don Johnson

 

Why getting “Caught Masturbating” could ruin your life – AfraidToAsk.com

 

No one wants to ruin their life intentionally,

but some people manage to do it.

 

When we see it happen, whether it’s a celebrity or someone we know, we’re often surprised, but when we look closer, it’s most often been a slow burn on the way to the wreckage.

 

That intrigued me, so I asked about 100 people, all over the age of 50,

“What is the best way for someone to slowly ruin their life?”

 

The word “slowly” adds a provocative nature to the question — it implies the possibility of hope because if something takes place over time, there is a chance to catch it, reverse it, or stop it before it’s too late.

 

Imagine a pencil rolling slowly across a table to the edge — you can see it; you know it’s going to roll off.

You can grab it and save yourself the trouble of bending over and picking it up, or you can just let it continue rolling until suddenly, it’s gone, over the edge.

 

It’s like the answer given by a character from the Hemingway novel The Sun Also Rises.

When asked, “How did you go bankrupt?” the character answers, “Two ways.

Gradually, then suddenly.”

 

Apparently, the question was easy to answer. Within minutes, I received dozens and dozens of responses, some of which I have included below.

 

They fell into three categories:

Having a negative mindset.

Responses: Being cynical, blaming others for one’s behavior, looking at everything you don’t have, having a harsh inner critic, worrying about the past or future, letting fear run your life.

 

Lacking self-awareness.

Responses: lack of interest in your inner world, inability to slow down, lying to yourself, ignoring your intuition, allowing others to define who you are, a constant focus on gratification from your outside world, which you think you can control, linking your happiness to others’ perceptions and expectations of you.

 

Ignoring mental, spiritual, and physical health.

Examples: eating unhealthy foods, poor physical health habits, escaping into addictions, staying in toxic relationships, putting yourself in compromising situations.

 

Common sense says if you don’t want to ruin your life, then do the opposite of everything listed above: Be positive, not cynical, don’t blame others, take responsibility, don’t live on junk food, eat healthily.

 

All certainly helpful. However, I wanted to get below the surface and address the mindset, attitudes, and beliefs that underlie destructive behavior patterns.

 

Here are the themes I found that can help make sure you don’t ruin your life, and if you do get off course, they’ll help you get back on track too.

 

Face the wind

Denial is a dangerous job.

 

When we’re hiding from something we don’t like, part of ourselves, or the situation we’re in, we invent distractions.

We escape confronting the issue by anesthetizing ourselves with activities that initially appear harmless but take on a destructive life of their own.

 

For example, we can deny the toxic relationship we are in is acceptable; or our compulsive behavior or addiction to something is just temporary and will end soon, or the long work hours we’re putting in are necessary, even though we know it’s an escape from an unfulfilling relationship.

 

Left unchecked, these excuses become addictions, ingrained habits, or accepted ways of living detrimental to our well-being.

 

When I’ve found myself on the wrong side of the tracks, the turnaround began with facing the brutal truth.

Without doing that, nothing would have changed.

 

Accepting your circumstances as they are, looking in the mirror, admitting what is happening is the first step in breaking the cycle of denial.

Putting things off, minimizing the impact of unhealthy habits, and convincing yourself there is some redeeming benefit to what you are doing, knowing full well it’s not good for you, is flat-out denial, lying to yourself, as one person told me.

 

Facing the wind with your eyes open to the truth will keep you honest and a critical step to get yourself heading in the right direction if you aren’t.

Ask yourself: “What am I allowing in my life that is no longer good for me?”

 

Summon courage

Facing what you don’t want to deal with is not easy at first.

 

There is courage within us; we have to find and make friends with it.

I found courage through prayer, asking for help, and digging deep inside myself to find my heart.

 

When I found my heart, I found courage.

 

The heart knows what is right and is our inner guidance system. The heart doesn’t care about the future or the past — it only cares about what is best for you and doing the right thing.

 

When we face a challenging situation, it’s often necessary to make hard choices, and sometimes to get what we want, we have to let go of something significant.

 

For example, if you choose to leave a marriage and have children, you know changing the structure of the family unit will be difficult, but the reasons to do so are more critical than keeping it intact.

That is not an easy decision.

 

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
― Nelson Mandela

 

Enter your cave

The cave is our inner world.

 

It’s the part of us that contains our fears, false beliefs, lies, guilt, and shame.

When we first enter the cave, we’re usually afraid of what we will find in the shadows and darkness.

 

Courage lights the way and steadies us as we go deeper into ourselves.

It’s not unusual to find a guide, a friend, a mentor to offer assistance on the journey.

 

When you enter your cave and face your darkness, it’s more important than ever to pay specific attention to the situations you're in, the people you encounter, and the messages you receive from them.

What may seem like a coincidence is not.

Once you start the process of transformation to wholeness, help will appear in new and seemingly unusual ways.

Don’t ignore it.

Sometimes we think we don’t have the power to be the person we want to be. But we do. That person exists already within us, hidden in the shadows, waiting to come out. The darker it gets, the brighter the light on the other side.

 

Know what you want

Knowing what you want in life ignites movement toward the vision.

Without knowing what you want, how can you move towards it?

The vision might be a few words as simple as, “I want a loving relationship,” or “I have a life of abundance.”

Don’t underestimate the power of intention.

How things are going to happen, and the details are not necessary at this point.

What is essential is freeing yourself from being held captive by false stories and limiting beliefs.

 

The stories you tell yourself make or break you.

Tell yourself you are amazing, you’re good, you deserve everything possible, you want the best life has to offer, and that’s there is nothing, nothing at all, that can stop you.

 

Be a warrior

Warriors walk the middle path- the path of poise, balance, and inner strength.

 

There is a wise warrior within you, the warrior archetype, the part of you that completes complex tasks, persevering in the heat of a challenge, getting things done, and solving problems.

Warriors speak honestly without being hurtful, they’re confident without being arrogant, and they’re humble without being timid.

 

Warriors manage their inner world, think clearly, speak truthfully and act with respectively.

They face difficult situations knowing they can only control what they do and say.

The truth is most important — looking good and being right is not important at all.

Their mission is not to please others or to fit in.

Their mission is to be true to themselves.

The word ruin means to damage irreparably, destroy completely, or spoil something.

 

Warriors only ruin that which seeks to harm themselves or others.

 

Warriors aren’t cynical about life; they fully embrace life, don’t blame others, wish they had more than they do, criticize themselves or let fear run the show.

Warriors take an interest in their inner world, pay attention to their intuition, take care of their body, knowing life is short.

They focus on what it’s their control and know real contentment is in the heart.

 

Life is all about choices — we get to choose what we think about, how we show up, and what we do. It’s the little things, the small decisions that make our life great or not.

Make the best ones you can, every day.

It’s all we can do.

 

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Lesson 42
 

6 Key Life Skills to Help You Thrive in the Real World

We live in a world that needs skills but values degrees.

Neeramitra Reddy

Neeramitra Reddy

 

Woman, Businesswoman, Stairs, Font

 

Ever since we’re born, we are thrown into school for our “education,” which includes: sitting on a bench for hours memorizing “important” things such as the name of the capital city of some state on the other side of the globe or the atomic number of Boron.

 

But I am not really sure about their “importance.”

Except for school exams where I had to regurgitate them on paper and was assigned a grade based on how well I did that, I don’t remember ever using them.

 

“They teach us what we’re apparently ‘supposed’ to know as opposed to what we need to know.”

Well, no hate to Chemistry or Geography — they are definitely important in their own right, but only to someone like a chemical engineer or a cartographer in my opinion.

 

I am neither of those, most of us are neither of those.

 

Most of us work salaried jobs, collect our paychecks, spend some of it, save some of it, pay taxes, face problems, solve problems and after a few decades, we retire and after a few more years or if lucky, a few more decades, we die.

 

And schools don’t teach what most of us, in fact, all of us need to thrive in the real world — they teach us what we are supposedly “supposed” to know as opposed to what we need to know. As Mark Twain rightly said:

 

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

 

I want to share six skills that aren’t taught in school but I found to be absolutely essential to thriving in the real world.

Suburban, Inner City, Living, Apartments

 

Critical Thinking

Growing up, being an inquisitive kid, I had a lot of “whys” and “hows” at my disposal. But at school, they were met with disapproval and I was taught to shut the f**k up.

 

That’s what schools primarily do —they dull our thinking, kill our inquisitiveness, and mold us into docile unquestioning beings.

“But at school, I was taught to shut the f**k up.”

 

It makes sense when you consider the fact that schools are modeled after factories and producing modern-day society compliant workers is their goal.

 

But thinking is everything in the real world — every step of our lives, we are faced with problems that need solving, decisions that need making, and all sorts of things that need thinking.

 

But the sad part is that thinking is a rarity. To quote Edison:

 

“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

 

Now, as a thinker, most of my day, I am either thinking, doing activities that require thinking or thinking about my thinking. And my life has never been better.

 

Moreover, thinking is like a muscle so the more you think, the stronger or better it gets.

“Most of my day, I am either thinking, doing activities that require thinking or thinking about my thinking.”

Read about and practice critical thinking. Perform activities that stimulate your thinking such as reading, writing, painting, playing a musical instrument, learning a new language, etc.

 

Engage in intellectual conversations and every day, spend time introspecting or thinking about your thinking.

 

Fortunate, Fruitful, Happy, Lucky

 

Negotiation

After I joined college, the harsh reality of life started to become evident.

I was no longer a kid and with a single mother, not only did I have a say in family decisions but I had to take them myself.

 

“One of the first things I realized about negotiation was that it was much more than just bargaining.”

When we shifted homes, I had to negotiate the rent and the terms of the agreement.

When buying property, it was even harder.

It wasn’t mere rupees anymore but thousands and even lakhs of rupees at stake.

 

And, one of the first things I realized about negotiation was that it was much more than just bargaining — it was a means to arrive at an acceptable middle ground for both parties in any kind of trade.

 

The trade could be as small as buying a kilogram of tomatoes from a vegetable hawker or as large as striking a billion-dollar business partnership.

 

Such an important skill and not even a reference to it is made in our “education”. Speaks volumes doesn’t it? Now, the important question — how do you learn this skill?

 

Well, there are books, blogs, videos, courses, and a host of other content on the internet. But at the end of the day, the best way to get better at negotiating is by negotiating.

 

Negotiate before making any purchase. Try to sell a used item.

Try settling a dispute if you come across one.

You just have to look intently, there are opportunities everywhere.

 

“The best way to get better at negotiating is by negotiating.”

 

Salesforce, Bmo, Regions, Downtown

Personal Finance

A year or so ago, I knew nothing about nothing when it came to the field of finance.

All I knew was that I had to land a good job, then — collect my paycheck every month, spend most of it, save some of it, and repeat.

 

“Turns out, getting rich does NOT require a fat paycheck, big brains, or miserably living.”

 

To me, Finance was a complex subject limited to the “pros” — blazered men and women on their phones, shuffling in and out of meetings clutching their suitcases and talking to CNBC reporters.

 

When the lockdown first started, I stumbled across Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. It was reading it that lured me into the world of finance.

 

It was only random articles and YouTube videos at first. Then seeing a golden opportunity in the stock market crash, I dove in, bought, held, and reaped crazy profits as the markets recovered.

 

Excited, I dove into stock trading, then gravitated towards investing, and finally towards personal finance.

 

“Why teach us how to compute the nth root of unity but not about money, the root of our economy?”

 

All in all, the biggest thing I realized was just how ignorant my past self, probably you, and in fact, most of us are about money.

Turns out, getting rich does NOT require a fat paycheck, big brains, or miserably living.

All it requires is a basic understanding of basic finance.

 

Well, we aren’t to blame.

Our education system is.

Why teach us how to compute the nth root of unity but not money, the root of our economy?

 

In today’s world, being literate alone isn’t enough.

You need to be financially literate as well.

 

Rich Dad Poor Dad is a good starting point.

Investing For Dummies, The Intelligent Investor, Investopedia, The Financial Express, The Wall Street Journal, and Zerodha Varsity are excellent reading resources to look into.

 

Coming to YouTube channels, Graham Stephan, The Swedish Investor, The Motley Fool, Financial Education, and Andrei Jikh are my go-to's.

 

Kids Don't Need School To Thrive. Advice on how to deal with forced… | by Ben Callif | The Startup | Medium

 

Effective Communication

One of my classmates, arguably one of the most technically skilled in my class, is still looking for a job while another with barely any technical skills managed to bag one of the best job offers.

 

The former struggles to put together a simple sentence while the latter can explain rocket science to a kid.

 

You can be the most knowledgeable person in the world but if you can’t communicate well, the point becomes moot.

 

A lifetime of devouring books, years of being a thinker, and hundreds of hours of intellectual conversations have really honed my communication skills.

And since I’ve started writing on Medium, they have gotten even better.

 

Communication, like any other skill, can be honed only through one thing — practice. Converse with people, engage in debates, read books, watch Ted talks and write.

 

You don’t have to write online or for others, writing for yourself is enough.

And if the traditional communication advice doesn’t cut it, the five unconventional will.

 

Presentation

The funny thing about this skill is that we tend to think it’s only about giving effective slide presentations but I have come to realize that it’s much more than that.

 

Take the process of how I landed my first job offer — I interned and was then offered a Pre-Placement Offer (PPO). Presenting was a huge part of it.

  • Presenting my skills. Reading tons of articles, spending hours crafting my resume, having a few of my seniors review it, and spending many more hours trying to improve it.
  • Presenting myself. Shuttling between my wardrobe and the mirror, adjusting, readjusting my tie, retucking my shirt, smoothing it out. Then before walking into the interview room, taking a few deep breaths, smiling my best smile, and walking in.
  • Presenting my work. Watching Steve Job’s presentations, reading articles on how to create effective slide presentations, and rehearsing a few times before presenting my work at the end of my internship.

“Life is show biz and the best showman is more likely to receive attention.”

 

From first dates to political speeches, presentation is everywhere.

You know yourself, your skills, and the kind of person you are but others don’t.

They can only rely on how you present yourself.

 

A good presenter with good skills can outshine a bad one with excellent skills.

Seems unfair right?

But life is show biz and the best showman is more likely to receive attention.

You don’t have to be super skilled, confident, or capable, you just have to look like you are.

 

Dress better and for the occasion.

Take care of your health and hygiene.

Communicate audibly and clearly.

Wear a warm smile.

Have a strong handshake. Walk with confidence.

 

“You don’t have to be super skilled, confident, or capable, you just have to look like you are.”

 

Prosper Pictures, Prosper Stock Photos & Images | Depositphotos®

 

The Skill of Learning New Skills

The world is moving at a mind-boggling pace.

Just a few decades ago, the internet didn’t exist and smartphones a.k.a the touch screen fingerprint enabled computers we carry around in our pockets were 5 kg briefcases.

 

What was relevant yesterday isn’t today. What is today won’t be tomorrow. It’s the same with skills. As Peter Drucker said:

 

“The only skill that will be relevant in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time.”

 

We are in a race with a high-speed train and the key to winning is keeping up with the train — mastering the skill of learning new skills or improving your learning ability.

 

Devour books.

Explore different subjects.

Pick up new skills.

Practice critical thinking.

Engage in intellectual conversations.

Listen to Podcasts.

Watch documentaries.

Whatever you do, just keep learning.

Your learning ability is a muscle and like with any other muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.

66 Life Coaching Topics to Thrive - Life Coaching Tips

 

Final Thoughts

We live in a world that needs skills but values degrees.

Quite the irony I must say.

Go to school, then college, enter the real world, learn the necessary skills, and slave away at a job to pay back the student debt.

 

“We live in a world that needs skills but values degrees.”

 

How much simpler things would be if we were taught what we actually needed in college itself. But no, we like to do things in a convoluted manner.

 

The world is progressing at a rapid pace but our education system refuses to change.

It’s a modern world with an ancient education system that we are living in.

 

Changes are slowly creeping in and it might take a couple of years to see anything promising.

Until then, all we can do is skill up and not merely survive but thrive.

 

“It’s a modern world with an ancient education system that we are living in.”

 
 

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Lesson 43

 

How I Overcame My Fears To Become a More Confident and Assertive Person

My pathway to confidence, assertiveness, and meaning—and how neuroscience informs the tactics that work for me

Simon Spichak

4,311 Overcoming Fear Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

 

If I met a version of myself from five or even three years ago, I would not recognize the older version.

I know that sounds quite cliché but I do mean it.

 

For a long time, I was shy and awkward; my fear of rejection prevented me from connecting with new friends.

 

I did not advocate for myself or network particularly well.

I wanted people to like me and I didn’t want to bear the burden of their criticism.

I had trouble asking people that I knew, friends and colleagues for help.

I worried about expressing myself in different meetings.

 

Just over three years ago, I hopped on a flight to Ireland.

I applied for a graduate neuroscience program in a country that I’d never visited.

I didn’t even know anyone that went to my new university let alone lived in the country.

The new environment forced me to adapt to my challenges.

 

I grew and developed into a more confident and assertive person.

Stepping out of my comfort zone, improving my emotional regulation, and learning more about the people around me.

Despite being a neuroscientist, I only recently began practicing evidence-based self-improvement.

I’ve broken these psychological tricks into step-by-step nuggets of practical information.

Hopefully, something in this guide will resonate with you and lead you to confidence.

 

Mastering Emotional Regulation

To grow as a person, we need to learn more about our emotions.

We need to understand what makes us vulnerable, what events lead to the onset of emotions, and how to react.

 

Two of the earliest models of emotion are extremely useful in this case.

Models of emotion

The first is the James-Lange theory, developed by psychologists William James and Carl Lange in the late 1800s.

They theorized that our body first responds to an event or situation.

The changes in our physiology then make us feel a specific emotion.

 

Coming across an angry bear, for example, my fight or flight response would initiate.

My pupils would dilate, my heart rate and breathing would speed up.

According to the James-Lange theory, this physiological reaction would make me feel scared.

 

Decades later, psychologist Walter B. Cannon and his graduate student, Philip Bard, developed another theory.

We respond to a particular event with the emotion itself.

Only afterward would we have the physiological reaction.

 

Coming across this same angry bear, I would fear for my life.

Let’s face it, bears are huge and scary from a few feet away.

My fear would then trigger my physiological fight-or-flight response.

 

These models are both important to keep in mind but in no way completely explain our emotions or biology.

There are a lot of other vulnerabilities we can and can’t change that affect our reactions.

 

Factors that we can’t completely control include physical ailments or genetic dispositions, past trauma, or other people’s behaviors.

We can control our sleep schedule, the quality of the foods we eat, and how we react to our emotions.

 

Regulating our emotions

The next step towards confidence was understanding my emotions.

For example, I feared others not liking me or judging me negatively.

This prevented me from engaging and speaking with new people.

My reaction involved avoidance while my body activated its fight or flight response.

I wanted to change this, but how?

 

Over a long period, I practiced using opposite actions.

The tactic of opposite actions simply means to look at how you feel urged to respond, identify whether that urge fits the facts of the situation, and then choose your response rather than just flowing along with the urge.

 

I knew that my responses to these emotions were unhealthy and that they held me back from participating in public events.

 

The next time I felt this fear, I had a few strategies to tackle it.

Rather than avoiding conversation with a new person, I would engage. No matter how awkward, anxious, or afraid I felt.

 

Additionally, I wanted to change the way my body responded.

I practiced breathing slowly, to help calm my nerves while I participated in these activities.

As I also worked on staying active and healthy, I became a more confident communicator.

 

Let’s take networking as an example.

Joining different entrepreneurial Zoom chats, I’d face this anxiety with opposite actions.

I feel anxious and nervous that I’d make a fool out of myself.

Rather than keeping silent and withdrawing I take a few slow, deliberate breaths to calm my nerves.

 

I introduce myself during the breakout session, ask other people in the group questions, and even follow up after the event.

Opposite actions show me that these fears and anxieties don’t need to hold me back.

 

Practice and Master a Skill

The next step to becoming more confident was learning to do something very well.

Learning these skills helps imbue you with an internal sense of confidence.

It helps us realize that there’s more to us than how well we communicate or how often we succeed in school and work.

 

It doesn’t matter what it is, because finding something you like doing will bring you meaning. I would go to my favorite spot on a small lake, feeding pigeons and ducks with birdseed.

I practiced patience as I sat still so that birds would come near me. It gave me meaning knowing that I could form small temporary bonds with other living beings.

 

I also worked on my coffee brewing skills, buying some new equipment.

I mastered the perfect filter brewed coffee.

I felt like I could do anything, whenever I diligently brewed my cup.

I shared my love of coffee by brewing some for anyone and everyone I came across.

This also helped spark communication with other people in my life.

 

Learning, practicing, and mastering hobbies are stepping stones towards confident communication. When we immerse ourselves in these hobbies, we also immerse ourselves in the communities around them.

With the internet, this can also include people you connect with online through Discord, Facebook, and Twitter.

I’d find myself confidently speaking and sharing my insights about coffee with relative strangers who also shared this interest.

I was confident in myself and barely noticed that I was making small talk with strangers.

I could then take this feeling and this confidence, and talk with strangers about something else in a different context.

 

Do Public Speaking, Even if You Don’t Want To

The next step for me was learning that I could do something new, that used to scare me.

I worked on my public communication skills, stepping out of my comfort zone to talk about science. In our institute, we had a strong community outreach program.

Anytime I had an opportunity, I would volunteer.

 

Normally, I was afraid of speaking to groups of people that I knew, let alone strangers.

Starting my public communication three years ago, I would run workshops for kids.

I walked children and parents through a giant inflatable gut, explaining the digestive system.

Before long, I signed up for more adventurous volunteering gigs.

 

In my final year in Ireland, I performed a stand-up comedy about my science in pubs.

I also participated and won a public speaking competition where I explained a scientific concept in three minutes to a general audience.

By this point, I gained a brand new skill and became more confident in my communication abilities. This confidence would carry over to other areas of my life.

 

Since I knew I was an excellent communicator, I felt like I could assert myself.

When I communicated with colleagues, bosses, or supervisors, I asked for what I needed.

I had the skills to face much of the social anxiety that had been holding me back.

But I still had a little bit more to learn.

 

Understanding Your Goals and Values

Even though I knew how to be more assertive, sometimes I didn’t know what I wanted.

Being confident and assertive doesn’t mean so much if you aren’t sure what you want.

I had to ask myself the difficult questions about what I valued and what I wanted to get out of my education.

 

I hadn’t thought about alternative paths towards meaning besides staying in academia.

Worse yet, I wasn’t having so much fun by the end of my graduate school experience.

Rather than focusing on careers or jobs, I thought about the things that I valued.

 

I am focused on improving mental health for students and communicating science.

I want to keep up good connections with my friends, even those an ocean away from me.

I want to explore the world and spot animals from a safe distance.

These are the values that everything else will fit into.

Each of these values can be broken down into specific goals that you can pursue.

 

How can we communicate these goals or needs step by step?

It takes a while to figure out how these values relate to your day-to-day life.

How do I craft conversations within my network that will help me live by these values? I can make small goals that serve different values.

 

Take the example of my friends that no longer live in the same city or country.

I value these connections, so I make a mental note to catch up with my friends.

If I see someone’s picture pop up on Facebook or I’m otherwise reminded of them, I’ll send them a message or schedule a phone call.

 

I make a goal of catching up with at least one or two friends every single week.

 

This makes it very easy to follow this value across my day-to-day life.

It takes some practice to turn this into an automatic reflex, and after a while, it’s practically automatic.

 

For another example, I needed to develop professional partnerships to learn about starting a business.

This is necessary so I can live by one of my values, which is improving student mental health.

I can break down networking and conversations into distinct goals.

 

By researching people that I schedule meetings with ahead of time, I can prepare tailored questions based on their expertise.

 

I turn this day-to-day conversation with a business mentor into a goal that relates directly to my values.

 

Practice Effective Communication

Communication is a two-way street.

 

When I expected others to read my thoughts or ideas, I was disappointed.

The truth is other people can’t read my mind, nor should they be able to.

After all, half of the conversation comes from me anyways.

 

If I wanted a friend to know I was upset at them, I would need to tell them.

Similarly, I appreciated the same level of candor from my friends.

I practiced as I communicated with more and more people, using a stepwise method. Later, I could become assertive even with managers or supervisors.

 

Here are the not-so-tricky secrets to effective communication.

In the case of an unreasonable deadline, I could come to a supervisor and colleague.

Before my self-development phase, I wouldn’t bring up this challenging deadline.

I would simply agree and work towards carrying it out, even if I’d need to stay up all night to do it.

 

Now I communicate my goals and needs more effectively.

The unreasonable deadline will be challenging and prevent me from living by more important values.

 

An extra week wouldn’t make any grand differences in the universe.

The way to get others to respect me more is to assert myself in this situation.

 

First, I make sure to regulate my emotions.

If I am anxious or afraid, I can counteract it through opposite actions.

This lets me describe the situation to my supervisor in detail, using only facts. Using the word I and omitting adverbs, I explain my predicament.

“I am unable to complete the project by the deadline because X, Y, Z.

This will lead to undue stress and a lower quality of work.”

 

Often, the other person might not agree, might ignore or belittle your opinion.

 

You need to avoid volatile emotions and hold steady to assert this issue.

Keep repeating and reasserting yourself until the person agrees to negotiate.

At this point, you can ask the other person to suggest a solution.

For example, you ask them to suggest another reasonable deadline, given the situation. This puts the ball in their court.

 

Part of being confident and assertive is knowing that you might need to negotiate.

At the end of the day, you have a goal or change you want to make through the conversation.

Here I want a better deadline so I would be amenable to agreeing to a five-day extension instead of a seven-day extension.

 

Remember to play it fair, listening to the other person’s point of view.

You can practice active listening, asking them to elaborate on their points.

At the end of the conversation, you’ll be confident that you haven’t destroyed a relationship.

You will gain self-respect by sticking to your goals and values.

For me, practicing being assertive over a few years made it almost automatic.

 

 

Realize Everyone Isn’t Constantly Judging Your Actions

There are a lot of fears and communication myths that influence our behaviors.

Even if these myths aren’t obvious, we can break them down and debunk them.

What are the emotional consequences of specific actions or stimuli?

Looking at my justification for these feelings helped me break them down.

 

Specifically, I looked at two ways that I justified some aspects of my social anxiety.

 

Justification #1: If you assert yourself, other people won’t like you.

Underlying this pernicious thought is the idea that you need to do things for others.

That your wants and needs are less important than everyone else’s.

It implies the only way that other people will appreciate your company is if you are a doormat.

 

People appreciate you for more than just your agreeableness.

Part of a strong friendship is being able to respectfully disagree or compromise.

Part of ensuring a healthy relationship is knowing that others can’t read your mind.

You have to speak up if something is wrong, otherwise, you might begin to brew resentment.

 

Justification #2: If I do X badly (i.e. dancing) others will remember my failure.

Yes, embarrassing yourself is a one-way stop towards losing the respect of ending a friendship.

Other people will remember and use these mistakes against you.

 

This was my social anxiety speaking and yelling.

I had to learn to accept that yes, I might look silly on the dance floor but I would also have a lot of fun.

The truth of the matter is people have short memories of other people.

After all, nobody lays awake at night cringing at something a friend did.

Everyone is overly critical of their appearance and actions.

In reality, no one will remember and hey, they might think you look like a lot of fun.

 

Give People the Benefit of the Doubt

You sent someone a message a few hours ago but you still haven’t received a response.

Do you get anxious and think about whether or not you did something wrong to the person?

 

Often my mind would jump to these unfounded conclusions.

In reality, I failed to realize that other people have lives too.

They get busy, they forget to send messages, they’re human.

Other people have their desires, motivations, wants, and needs.

I realized that if they didn’t answer the text, it had nothing to do with me.

 

It took me years of practice to nail this one down.

It takes a long time to get comfortable with this uncertainty.

All I can tell you is to provide someone the benefit of the doubt that you’d want them to give you.

 

Conclusion and Takeaways

Becoming more confident and assertive will help you live a more meaningful life. I developed from a very anxious, unsure person to becoming a more fulfilled version of myself. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy but these psychological tricks helped me improve myself. To summarize:

  • Understand the role of different factors in influencing your emotions
  • Practice opposite actions to change unhealthy responses to fear or anxiety
  • Practice and master something you like for an external sense of meaning and confidence
  • Step out of your comfort zone to turn something new and unknown into a skill
  • Practice effective communication
  • Realize the communication myths that are holding you back
  • No one is constantly judging your actions
  • Don’t automatically assume the worst

Good luck on your self-improvement journey, hopefully, you find the same success that I found.

 

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Lesson 45

 

4 Ways To Distinguish Your Intuition From Your Ego

Are you paying attention to your inner voices?

Patrícia S. Williams

balancing steine auf weiß - steine balance stock-fotos und bilderIf we pay attention to our inner world, we realize that we have two voices within us: the voice of our ego and the voice of our consciousness, which we often call intuition.

 

The ego is that part of us that wants to keep us safe at all costs.

It makes up stories and creates beliefs that lead us to always play safe and stay in our comfort zones. It lives in constant fear: fear of getting hurt, fear of rejection, fear of the past repeating itself.

 

On the other hand, our consciousness knows how to live in the present moment.

It knows there’s a life force working for us, guiding and supporting us every step of the way.

It doesn’t judge, freak out or obsess over anything.

 

When we first start our spiritual journey, it’s easy to see our ego as something we need to get rid of. We’re told how harmful and painful it can be, and how better our lives would be without it.

Although it’s true that it does more harm than good, I don’t believe we should eliminate it from our lives (is it even possible?).

But I do believe in our ability to acknowledge its presence, calm it and let it be.

 

However, my main difficulty has always been distinguishing between the two.

When I have to make a choice and turn inward, I struggle to know who to listen to and who to ignore. I mean, how can I know which voice is it?

And how can I tell which one is advising me the best?

Thankfully, mindfulness has helped me identify my ego, soothe its worries and listen to my intuition instead.

 

I’ve learned a few things along the way.

 

1. Does the voice come from a place of love or fear?

Your ego has a single mission: to have everything under control.

It needs to know where you’re going, what’s going to happen, who’s going to be there — everything.

This trait can do wonders for you when you’re in a dangerous, alarming situation.

 

The problem is, more often than not, there’s no real threat and the ego is still there, disturbing you and forcing you to think about the million things that can go wrong.

It lives in fear to protect you, even when you don’t need any protection whatsoever.

 

But your intuition knows better. It knows control is an illusion.

It knows the first step to find true peace is accepting the world as it is instead of trying to change it. It trusts the journey of life.

The more attached you are to your ego, the more scared, anxious, distressed you’ll be. Unfortunately, most of us operate through our ego because our whole society is built on egoistic foundations, with no awareness of our emotions or our consciousness.

 

2. Does it give you a list of reasons or does it simply let you know the best way?

The ego has a very bossy, loud voice — so loud that you don’t even consider the possibility of it not being your true voice.

 

If you hear a voice enumerating all the reasons why you’re going to fail, or why your plan is not the best option, that’s your ego right there.

 

On the other hand, your intuition gives you subtle messages:

“Your intuition will give you the same one consistent message over and over again until you take heed. At first, it feels like a soft tap on your shoulder. And if you don’t listen, like Oprah said, it will feel like a pebble in your shoe. If you still ignore it, it will throw you a rock and hit you over the head to make sure you do.”

Jessie Chiang, in Intuition vs Ego

 

3. Does it come from a place of scarcity or abundance?

The illusion of control leads the ego to focus on everything that’s negative.

It hates the idea of not being in charge because it’s constantly worrying about not being good enough, or pretty enough, or intelligent enough.

 

On the other hand, when you’re connected to your intuition, you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to.

Why wouldn’t you?

The world truly is a beautiful place and there are infinite opportunities out there once you learn to see them.

 

So, let’s say you have to decide whether or not you’re going to quit your job.

 

The ego will probably say,

Stay.

There’s no way you’re going to find a better job.

You’ll be broke.

It doesn’t matter how miserable you are right now, because this is your safest option.

 

While your intuition says,

If this doesn’t make you happy then this is not for you.

You have a purpose and you’re not fulfilling it.

Anything can happen and you have everything you need within yourself.

 

4. Does it sound wise and calm, or judgemental and controlling?

The ego is at war with the world.

It can’t help but believe there’s always something wrong and, as a consequence, it attaches itself to an identity — your nationality, your gender, your political beliefs — to make you feel safe.

 

Ironically, while these beliefs give you a sense of safety and even of superiority, the ego is not as strong as it seems.

In fact, it’s extremely weak, which is why it feels the need to judge and control every single detail.

 

If, however, the voice you’re hearing gives you a sense of peace and deep-knowing — a knowing that can’t be explained by fact or thought, but that you somehow trust so deeply — that’s the voice of your consciousness.

 

Most of us live in a constant state of fear without ever noticing it.

We re-live past events because we’re afraid they will happen again, and we worry about the future because we’re afraid we can’t handle it.

 

Once we’re able to recognize the ego for what it is — a voice that’s trying to protect us at all costs — we take away its power.

We become more conscious, more self-aware and we understand ourselves and the world better.

And that’s when a peaceful, intentional life begins.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Life Lesson 46

 

 5 Tiny Life Upgrades That Cost $0

     Living a life of quality doesn’t have to cost anything

 


Upgrade your life concept. Text on slate blackboard against weathered red painted barn wood with a dumbbell, apple and tape measure stock photo

#1. YouTube

Don’t quote me on this but probably 99% of the people you know use YouTube as a platform for their entertainment.

Some use it for knowledge or tutorials on matters they don’t understand. But even fewer use it to benefit themselves.

 

I’m talking about replacing your gym subscription with Youtube videos.

 

This trend started during the pandemic.

And now, there are so damn many home workout videos on YouTube now that you can’t even finish all of them if you just do one a day.

What’s even better is that most of them don’t require you to have any equipment at all.

Maybe just a dumbbell and an exercise mat.

But that’s it, you can train whenever and from wherever you want.

Callisthenics!

You don’t need sets of iron to be strong or get in shape or reach hypertrophy, your body is a weight itself.

Your muscles are dumb, they can’t tell if it’s iron or your bodyweight.

Use that to your advantage.

There’s no need to remind you of the benefits of exercising every day.

So no more excuses.

 

#2. Mailbrew

I absolutely hate it when some companies somehow managed to get my email and choose to send me a tonne of random information that I don’t want.

I don’t want to have to sift through all the noise just to find the important emails, I only want to see the important ones.

 

Here’s how I counter that.

First, if you want to remove all newsletters from your email, just filter the word “unsubscribe” and it will give you every newsletter that you have.

Spare a few minutes to ‘Marie Kondo’ your email once in a while.

Our emails get thrown around so much that it often ends up with information that we don’t need.

 

Second, use a software called mailbrew.

This thing basically grabs all your favourite sources and hand them to you on a silver platter.

For example, it will take from Reddit threads, Twitter accounts, newsletters or even Google news, compile it and then send it all to you in one email.

 

#3. The Blue Light Filter Button

Toggle that!

You simply cannot perform at your best without sufficient sleep and blue light is proven to affect our sleep more than any colour on the spectrum.

It messes with your body’s ability to secrete the chemical called melatonin.

 

This blue light filter button is built into almost every phone on the market right now.

Google how to toggle it.

Automate it so that it only turns on at night (this light has some benefits during the day).

Alternatives:

  • Not free but it wouldn’t cost that much to get a blue light screen protector.
  • Don’t look at any screens at all for an hour before you sleep. Pick up a book or an instrument instead.

#4. Saying it’s Okay

Each morning, you wake up thinking about how you’re going to tackle the issue at hand and how good you’ll feel after accomplishing them.

You start the day with a cup of coffee and spend the rest in front of that blue light-emitting screen.

One task after another, you’re feeling great, but the moment your eyes are off the screens, the sun wasn’t there anymore.

And you hear that grumbling sound resonating from your belly. You’re famished.

 

The Reality

It’s 7 pm and you haven’t left your table since that 8 am cup of instant coffee.

No food or water went into your body since.

You had no idea how this time went by and question if you had gotten kidnapped by some time-bending aliens.

 

You do this almost every single day because you’re on a semester break and you have nothing better to do anyway.

You pride yourself on working until you physically can’t anymore every day, thinking you’re working on yourself when your peers are Netflix-ing and doom scrolling.

 

The Burnout

Just after a few weeks of 14-hour days, you get your first burn out.

You tell yourself that you just needed a break.

Just take it a little bit slower and it’ll be fine.

 

Surprise!

You were back on track in just two days of taking it slower than usual.

The 14-hour days lives!

Back to conquering the world.

 

The Cycle

A few more weeks and you get your second burn out.

This one took a few more days to recover.

But then you got back on your foot just as soon as you physically can.

Well, as long as your eyes are not burning, you still have it in you to keep going, right?

 

The semester starts, but you wanted to keep up with your previous pace because it would mean that you “became lazy” if you didn’t.

So you ended up working even more hours than usual.

 

You’ve sacrificed your friends and family so that you could work on “your dreams” as you call it. You’re on a quest.

Four years later, you’re still on this quest.

 

Lost for directions and completely drained of motivation to keep going.

But you don’t want to give up.

That would mean all those burnouts, sleepless nights, and sacrifices you made were for nothing.

 

Deep down, you know that this road has most likely ended. And really, the only thing left for you to do is to let go.

 

The Solution — Release What You Can’t Control

The pain, the anger, the disappointment, they were all real.

But you simply cannot force or hold on to something that isn’t meant for you.

The “hustle culture” is toxic when not implemented appropriately, you need to rest, have enough sleep, and sharpen your saw once in a while.

 

The slow burn will hurt you much more than facing the truth ever will.

Your effort hasn’t gone to waste at all. The skills you learned along the way will become the tools for another battle.

 

Letting go doesn’t mean giving up.

 

It means that you accept the fact that some things just aren’t meant to be or that maybe the time is not right.

Letting go of what you wanted to have happened takes courage.

You’re surrendering control to the universe.

You have to, for yourself.

 

Because if you don’t, it’s going to become baggage.

The more items you don’t let go of, the heavier the baggage.

Before you know it, you’d find yourself anchored to the ground with no strength to push forward.

It’s okay.

Severe ties and burn bridges if you have to. Nothing too bad is going to happen and you’ll figure it out. I promise.

 

Free yourself from both the past and the future.

It’s okay to take a break sometimes.
It’s okay if things just didn’t work out like you thought they would.
It’s okay if a career path didn’t pan out.
It’s okay if a relationship didn’t work.
It’s okay to leave that grudge behind.
It’s okay to not be in control once in a while.
It’s okay to take a break.
It’s okay to not be perfect.
It’s okay to want more.
It’s okay to let go.


You’ve given it your everything, and that’s everything we can do, really.

The world is intertwined among billions of threads of effects and causes.

Just because something went wrong, doesn’t mean it’s your fault.

Have faith that every story has a happy ending.

That the universe has better plans for you.

If you haven’t had yours yet, that simply means that it’s just a plot twist.

 

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

 

#5. Switch Off the News

Keep yourself updated on what’s going on in the world.

But you definitely don’t need to hear another story about the side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccines.

 

Thanks for reading, let’s stay connected!

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