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Big Steps On Life's Path
There is the freedom that comes with awareness, because with it comes the opportunity to make a choice.
Life is a journey comprised of many steps on our personal path that takes us down a winding road of constant evolution.
And each day, we are provided with a myriad of opportunities that can allow us to transform into our next best selves.
One moment we are presented with an opportunity to react differently when yet another someone in our life rubs us the wrong way; on another day we may find ourselves wanting to walk away from a
particular circumstance but are not sure if we can.
Eventually, we may find ourselves stuck in a rut that we can never seem to get out of.
We may even make the same choices over and over again because we don't know how to choose otherwise.
Rather than moving us forward, our personal paths may take us in a seemingly never-ending circle where our actions and choices lead us nowhere but to where we've already been.
It is during these moments that awareness can be the first step to change.
Awareness is when we are able to realize what we are doing.
We observe ourselves, noticing our reactions, actions, and choices as if we were a detached viewers.
Awareness is the first step to change because we can't make a change unless we are aware that one needs to be made in the first place.
We can then begin understanding why we are doing what we are doing.
Afterward, it becomes difficult not to change because we are no longer asleep to the truth behind our behaviors.
We also begin to realize that, just as much as we are the root source behind the causes for our behaviors, we are also the originator for any changes that we want to happen.
There is freedom that comes with awareness.
Rather than thinking that we are stuck in a repetitive cycle where there is no escape, we begin to see that we very much play a hand in creating our lives.
Whether we are aware of them or not, our behaviors and choices are always ours to make.
Our past and our present no longer have to dictate our future when we choose to be aware.
We are then free to move beyond our old limits, make new choices, and take new actions.
With awareness, our paths can't help but wind us forward in our lives while paving the way for new experiences and new ways of being.
It is through awareness that we can continue to consciously evolve.
How To Find an Excellent Therapist and Get the Most Out of Therapy
A step-by-step approach based on my two years of psychotherapy with two different therapists.
I’ve been in therapy for more than two years in total
I had two different therapists from two different psychotherapy schools
It‘s only with my current therapist I feel the incredible power of this work.
I picked my first therapist rashly and without accurate consideration.
I didn’t want to repeat this mistake.
Therefore, I researched my current therapist and dove deep into the science of therapy before I gave it a second chance.
It’s crucial to find a suitable therapist and approach therapy systematically.
In the following paragraphs, I walk you from cluelessness to your first therapy session.
You’ll learn about the impact therapy can have on your life.
I familiarize you with the four schools of psychotherapy and which role they play when you look for a suitable therapist.
Last but not least I prepare you for your trial sessions and explain how you can make the most of therapy long-term.
If you already have therapy experience this question seems obsolete.
I only learned the true meaning of therapy months in.
To describe the essence of therapy I’ll use the wonderful words of Alain de Botton from The School of
“Therapy is an invention devised to correct the substantial difficulties we face in understanding ourselves, trusting others, communicating successfully, honoring our potential, and feeling
adequately serene, confident, authentic, direct, and unashamed.”
As he continues,
“In every social interaction, we sensibly ensure that there remains a large and secure divide between what we say and what is truly going on inside our minds.
The exception can be psychotherapy.”
In psychotherapy, you’re finally allowed to say everything you think and feel.
You don’t have to convince your therapist of your sanity or impress them.
You can safely show your dark, odd, terrified, or perverted side, and your therapist won’t be offended. You’ll learn you’re not a monster or a freak.
Experienced therapists have seen many facades of humanity
They speak to victims and villains of the greatest traumas without judgment.
Your only job is to be willing to open up and show a little of what’s going on inside of you.
Is Psychotherapy For You?
It’s up to you to decide if you need or want psychotherapy.
However, I want to correct one common misconception: You don’t need a grave, specific reason or trauma to seek out therapy.
Many friends tell me they ponder therapy but feel their problems aren’t big enough.
This isn’t a contest.
Your problems are as big as you perceive them to be.
When I tell people I go to therapy they often ask why. I answer what I wrote above — I seek a place to be unapologetically myself and talk about what bothers me without annoying anyone or the need
Behavioral therapy is the most direct way of problem-solving from all therapy schools.
Its goal is to equip you with the agency, ability, and autonomy to shape your life effectively.
A big part of behavioral therapy is the confrontation with situations that petrify and hinder you in your everyday life.
You learn how to change your behavior to improve the outcome of such situations.
Therefore, behavioral therapy is a powerful place to go for people with anxiety disorders, PTSD, addiction, and personality disorders (e.g. obsessive-compulsive disorder or borderline personality
It combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with Buddhist mindfulness practice.
Psychotherapy school #3: Systemic orientation
According to the systemic orientation, an emotional disturbance is the result of a faulty system and communication.
This system is usually your family or partnership.
Systemic therapy tackles the system on top of the individual: Its goal is to change the family (or partnership) dynamics and improve the interaction patterns within this system.
As an individual, previous generations, rules, norms, and patterns influence your development and agency.
Unlike depth-oriented therapy systemic therapy doesn’t attempt to determine past causes.
Rather, it seeks to identify stagnant patterns of behavior in groups of people and address those patterns directly
The analysis of the cause of these problems is irrelevant.
Psychotherapy school #4: Humanistic-existential orientation
This is a heterogeneous group of therapy forms.
They each foster your innate recuperative power and personality growth
The focus is on the present moment; your perception in the here and now is the main focus of the sessions.
Gestalt therapy, for example, is a sub-form of humanistic-existential therapy
It emphasizes personal responsibility and agency.
The therapist-client relationship plays a big role.
In Gestalt therapy, the therapist acts as a mirror and openly talks about the moods and feelings you and what you have to say evoke in them.
This helps you get a grasp of the feelings you evoke in other people.
Other examples of the humanistic-existential orientation are Janov’s trauma-based primal therapy or Roger’s humanistic therapy with the focus to increase your self-worth.
Which School Should You Pick?
There’s no magic formula to help you know which school to pick.
You can go with the right school and still be with the wrong therapist if you don’t feel comfortable opening up and sharing in your sessions.
That said, one or the other description above sure evoked your curiosity.
Based on why you seek therapy you might already have an idea which school could be right for you.
The above descriptions are starting points.
All of these schools have several sub-branches and different therapy forms.
It’s worth diving into them before you decide to contact a therapist.
My first therapist was depth-oriented.
While I made progress and it was an interesting therapy experience, I had trouble handling the lengthy excavations of my childhood.
Moreover, I found it difficult to apply what I learned from therapy in my life
I couldn’t connect the past with the present.
I’m currently in Gestalt therapy (humanistic orientation) and it suits me a lot better.
It’s more present-oriented, helps me in decision-making, and I feel I can apply what I learn.
Note these are my personal preferences and not a ranking of the different forms of therapy.
I reveal them because I want to show the difference the therapy school can make.
That said, I’m also better in tune with my current therapist than I was with my last one.
The therapy school is important but so is the relationship and the comfort you feel with your therapist.
How to Find the Right Therapist For You
Step 1: Decide whom to contact
Once you read up on the different schools of therapy and feel one or the other orientation could be right for you, it’s time to approach therapists.
To decide which therapists to contact, listen to your gut preferences first and imagine your ideal therapist.
These are the aspects you can think about:
Ethnicity (can be especially relevant for BIPOC);
In-person sessions vs. video therapy;
Language: is English okay if it’s not your mother tongue?
Experience: Some therapists are under supervision as part of their training. Usually, sessions with them are cheaper and they have less experience. This doesn’t make them worse therapists — my
current therapist was under supervision when I started and I’m 100% satisfied.
Another good screening method is to have a thorough look at their online presence (website+social media) and self-description: Do what they write and the way they write resonate with you?
Can you imagine opening up to this person?
Try to find 2–3 potential therapists based on their therapy school, your other preferences, and their self-description, and contact them.
Step 2: The trial session
Most therapists will offer a free trial session.
This will give you the chance to get to know them without strings attached and ask any questions.
At the same time, you can explain why you seek help.
Prepare for this session to get the most out of it.
Here’s how you can prepare:
Questions your potential therapist will likely ask you:
What do you seek help with?
Were you in therapy before?
What do you hope to accomplish with therapy?
Do you want to know anything about me that would help you decide if I’m the right therapist for you?
Questions you can ask your potential therapist:
These are the questions I asked my current therapist.
Have you worked with people like me (or my specific issue) before?
How much experience do you have?
How will I know if I’m progressing?
If relevant: What cultural competence/anti-racism training did you take?
What’s your cancellation policy?
How long is each session and how often will we meet?
How can I get in touch with you in-between sessions?
What will we do if I feel stuck?
It’s also worth clarifying what you don’t want.
I was clueless when I went to my first therapist but had a much clearer picture with my second. Therefore, I clarified what I didn’t like about the sessions with my first therapist in my trial
Therapist red flags
These telltale signs indicate you shouldn’t hire a specific therapist.
They don’t all mean the therapist is bad.
It only means they aren’t the right therapist for you.
A cancellation policy you can’t abide by. My first therapist had a cancellation policy of a week. I ended up paying for sessions I didn’t have if I canceled a day later. It was a rule I couldn’t
They overshare personal information with you. Not to relate to you, but for the sake of sharing;
They ask you for favors;
You feel like they don’t listen to you properly;
They try to be your friend;
You feel judged.
In the end, there’s no hard code to figure out who’s right for you.
Someone incompatible with me can be your perfect match.
The most important question to answer before you decide to go with someone is this:
Do you feel comfortable with this person? Can you imagine opening up to them and being vulnerable?
Throughout your trial sessions, remember: You’re hiring.
If it feels off, go to the next one.
How to Make the Most of Your Sessions
This is the exciting part. The right therapist is only one part of the equation.
You’re the other.
Therapy means effort for both.
The success of therapy depends to a large extent on you and your willingness to work on yourself and show up.
Here are the most important lessons I learned from years of therapy.
They help you make the most of your sessions and foster your personal development within the framework of therapy.
Lesson #1: Consistency is key
It’s tempting to only go to therapy when you have a specific burning problem and skip it when everything’s fine.
It doesn’t work that way.
It’s a common misconception every session is about problem-solving and deep insights.
Many of your sessions will feel they aren’t special and you might occasionally ponder why you pay for this.
Only a handful of my sessions revealed grandiose insights.
Many came with small insights while some came with none.
However, none of these insights can happen without consistency.
All your sessions build on each other and pave the way to induce meaningful change in your life.
Trust the process.
Lesson #2: Don’t expect concrete answers
Your therapist won’t tell you what to do.
This can be nerve-wracking, as sometimes all we want is a clear direction and someone to tell us our next logical step.
The point of therapy, however, is to find answers within yourself. Your therapist will help you with the right questions, not black or white answers.
Lesson #3: Learn to show your worst side
This is something I still struggle with.
We’re wired to show our best sides to people and convince them of our sanity.
Technically, you know what it means to be radically honest.
In practice, it’s an arduous process.
We think some of our thoughts and deeds are too much, even for a therapist.
We’re too evil, too perverted, a case for the psychiatric ward or prison if someone knew how we truly think and feel.
Here’s what helped me overcome this tremendous inner hurdle: Fantasizing is normal.
Your actions define you as a person, not your thoughts.
People think horrible things.
Our social contract prevents us from saying most of what goes in inside of us out loud.
This leaves us isolated, thinking we’re worse than others.
Therapy can only unfold its power if you‘re honest and reveal what’s going on inside of you.
Lesson #4: Ask yourself: “What am I most ashamed of right now?”
If you’re unsure what you want to talk about in a particular session, ask yourself “What am I most ashamed of?”.
We tend to hide shameful topics deep within ourselves.
However, they won’t go away unless you process them.
Search specifically for shame within yourself and you’ll have a topic for every session.
Lesson #5: Leave space for silence and good vibes
Not every session needs to be a cathartic experience to leave you thinking for days.
Quite the opposite — therapy shouldn’t become too much to handle.
Remember: You’re the customer.
It’s perfectly legit to spend time in silence.
It’s also okay to cater to your physical needs: If I had a hectic day I bring my food to therapy and eat it, even if it means I spend less time talking.
Last but not least, allow yourself to feel amazing.
If you come to therapy exhilarated, you’re under no obligation to destroy your mood and uncover your deepest shame.
You can talk about your joy and success.
It’s okay to remain in these feelings and keep dark thoughts out for a few sessions.
Your First Dive Into Therapy — Summary
Therapy can be an intimidating concept.
It’s about the revelation of your most hidden and shameful parts to a stranger, after all.
I hope the above paragraphs can take away your fear and help you get on track with finding a great therapist and making the most of your sessions.
To give you a simple overview, here's a checklist and summary of everything I elaborated on:
Step 1: Decide if you need therapy. Listen to your gut feeling to find out. Remember: You don’t need a grave, specific problem or trauma to seek out therapy.
Step 2: To find a good therapist, research the four psychotherapy schools:
Step 3: Decide which therapist to contact based on your preferred therapy school(s) and other preferences, like age, gender, language, etc.
Step 4: Set up a trial session and prepare for it: Think about which questions you want to ask your potential therapist and the answers to the questions they might ask you (your
reasons, goals, etc.). Beware of potential red flags and if something feels off, don’t hire that therapist.
Step 5: Go to therapy. Be consistent and patient. Dare to be honest. Give yourself space. Learn and grow.
Therapy changed my life and helps me grow consistently
My therapist is someone I can confide in without the fear of being judged.
It will do the same for you if you approach it deliberately.
If you were pondering therapy, this is the sign you’ve been waiting for.
If you need more help,join my Self-Letter.
It’s a weekly email where I help you learn more about yourself, embrace your creativity, and make money while you live aligned with your values.
Is there an aspect of your performance you wish to change?
Maybe you can’t pinpoint what it is, but you know there is something not quite right.
Within your performances, are there certain blocks that are keeping you from performing your best?
What about habits?
Take a look at your life and see if there are any habits, that if changed, would lead to more happiness and success for yourself.
If there is any part of yourself right now you wish to change, I say go for it! But here comes the next question…how do you make that change happen?
How Do You Think Change Happens?
Where do you think change comes from?
Once you decide on something in your life to change, maybe a habit or a certain
behavior, where do you then look for that change to occur?
Understanding how change happens is crucial to you actually making that switch within your life. Holding onto a faulty idea of how to generate change will leave you spinning your wheels,
ultimately feeling frustrated.
That’s why many people give up.
I’ve experienced this in my life on many occasions.
There was this way of thinking or behavior that I knew my life would benefit from me changing.
Yet, I never seemed to make that change stick.
Because I was looking in all the wrong places.
Has this ever happened to you?
You see something you wish to change, and then you look outside of yourself for that change to occur.
Whether that be looking for other people to change, the environment you’re in to change, or anything else.
Sure, all of these will be affected by the change, but that is not where true change originates.
A good example of looking for a change in all the wrong places comes from when I was in college.
At the time, I was dealing with a lot of self-doubt around baseball.
A realization had occurred where I understood the necessity to do something about the way I was feeling. But here’s where I went wrong.
My belief was something outside of myself that needed to happen in order for my confidence to grow.
An External View of Change
First, I thought my performances had to go up in order for me to see myself as successful.
This would result in higher levels of self-belief.
Well, in order to string together consistently good games, confidence was needed.
I had this one backward.
Next, my thinking was, if my coaches and teammates thought highly of me, my confidence would skyrocket.
Once again, this was not the recipe for appropriate change.
Truth be told, my coaches had been telling me repeatedly how good I was and that they were grateful I was there.
What more was I looking for?
I’m not sure.
What I do know, is that thinking a change in my self-confidence
would come from the admiration of others left me in a desperate state of people-pleasing.
That’s what will happen when you look to others for change.
They hold the power (in your mind), so you become a slave to their emotions and judgments.
Waiting for an experience to happen or looking to others in order for change to occur within yourself is not going to get you the result you desire.
On top of these two, there is a third way of thinking that will equally leave you feeling frustrated and short of change, though it does have more positive attributes than the ones previously
This comes from environmental change.
Now, on the surface, changing your environment may seem like a wonderful way to generate change within yourself.
However, the change will be brief and not long-lasting if the environment is the only driver.
At first, altering your outside environment may have some positive effects.
That is why it can be a more positive way of viewing change than the other two.
However, only if you couple environmental change with the true change we will discuss later on.+
If you only rely on the change in your outside world, what happens when that environment becomes familiar to you?
What happens when old situations pop up within your new surroundings?
By only looking externally, you will not be getting to the root cause which allows for long-lasting change.
Sometimes changing environments is necessary, as it can help create immediate change.
Though you must remember such change is likely impermanent.
Only when you take on the necessary ownership, will the true, lasting change take place.
True Origins of Change
Where should you look when wanting to change something about yourself?
Well, as we’ve already covered, the answer is not something external.
It is not to wait for others to change, or for something to happen before a shift within yourself can take place.
So, what options are left?
Only one, and that is to look within.
You must seek change from within yourself.
Only then will something permanent take form.
Why must change happen from within?
The answer lies in our thoughts.
When discussing how to change a way of feeling, such as low confidence or anxiety, or a type of behavior, the origin is going to be a cognitive reaction.
Even if you think that someone else is making you feel a certain way, or a certain situation leads to you acting in a specific manner, it’s still your own mind’s reaction that is the true
That’s why changing environments only provide momentary relief.
“If you do not shift the way you think and how you respond, you’ll soon find yourself in another similar situation.
Since you did not get to the root of your problem, it will find other ways to surface again and again.”
If you do not shift the way you think and how you respond, you’ll soon find yourself in another similar situation.
Since you did not get to the root of your problem, it will find other ways to surface again and again.
A great example is an athlete who is dealing with anxiety and low self-confidence in his sport.
Let’s say he is a starter on his college basketball team.
He’s been there for two years, with each leading to worsening feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.
This is frustrating to the athlete, and he desires to change.
If only he could perform confidently and relaxedly, then he would be successful.
Knowing such change needs to occur, he begins to look for the cause of his negative feelings.
Without the understanding of where change comes from, he fails to realize the true cause of his problems.
Seeking answers he lands on his coaches.
They are admittedly not the greatest, often criticizing the players more than focusing on their success.
Aha, he feels as though an answer has been found.
The coach’s negativity is leading him to feel anxious and to play with low self-confidence. What do you think he’ll do next?
He can’t change the way they coach, so he decides the best solution is to transfer.
After finding another school to attend, he begins his junior with high hopes.
As the season starts, to the young man’s surprise, feelings of anxiety and doubt start to form.
Now he is frustrated.
Why did he leave his old school with all his friends only to once again feel such negative emotions?
In the beginning, the athlete felt some reprieve.
He thought that everything had been solved once he transferred. However, he failed to attack the true causes of his anxiety and self-doubt, which allowed them to reveal themselves in this new
This goes to show how environmental change can be helpful, only if you combine it with work on your mindset.
Had he transferred, felt some relief, and then gotten to work on his mind, maybe the change would have been permanent.
But he did not.
The responsibility did not fall on his shoulders.
He believed that someone else was to blame for his anxiety and low confidence. By removing them from his life, all would be cured.
We’ve all fallen victim to this type of thinking.
I have struggled with the idea on many occasions.
It’s easy to push blame and think everyone and everything but ourselves is the reason we feel the way we do.
However, change does not come from easy.
If you truly want to alter the way you feel, you have to begin recognizing who holds this responsibility.
“However, change does not come from easy. If you truly want to alter the way you feel, you have to begin recognizing who holds this responsibility. “
What does it mean for you to take responsibility for change?
It has to do with power. Who has the power to do something about the way you’re feeling?
In the example I gave above, the athlete first thought his anxiety and self-doubt were due to his negative coaches.
While it may be true their coaching style played into him feeling that way, it proved not to be the true cause.
Once he transferred schools, the feelings formed once more.
This all has to do with responsibility. While he did take responsibility to remove himself from the negative coaches, he failed to realize another key piece to responsibility, ownership.
Taking Ownership for How You Feel
The only way you can make a change within yourself is to first take ownership.
You must own the way that you think, feel, and behave.
This is much easier said than done.
In order to take ownership, no longer will you be able to push blame.
It will not be someone else who is causing you to feel a certain way. It won’t be the situation that forces you to behave a certain way.
It’s you who is choosing the way you think, how you feel, and the actions you take in response to your surroundings.
Of course, the environment and those around you will play a part.
But the part they play is that of a stimulus.
You then have the power to choose what your response will be.
That is what it means to take ownership.
Now, at first, this might not seem like a fun thing to do.
Until you realize the power it provides.
Once you own your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you come to the truth that you are the one who can change them.
No longer must you wait for others to change or for your environment to be altered.
You hold the power to change, with that comes the responsibility to make it happen.
The question now becomes, what are you going to do about it?
How to Generate Lasting Change
Ownership comes first, after which you must decide how you’ll make the change happen.
We often get scared when it comes to ownership because we don’t move forward.
We dwell on the fact we feel a certain way and beat ourselves up since we are the ones responsible. Such ownership leads to self-pity if you do not take the next step.
After deciding you are the one responsible for your thoughts, feelings, and behavior, you now have to decide what you’ll do to change.
Maybe you don’t want to change, and that’s okay.
But if you do, know it must come from within.
When you’re thinking about how to make this change happen there are two steps you want to take.
First, identify the why.
Why are you feeling anxious?
Why are you feeling scared?
Why are you lashing out and getting angry?
Look within yourself and these answers will become clear.
Second, once you’ve identified why, begin work on that area of yourself.
Going back to the example of the basketball player, let’s say he looked within and realized he held a lot of perfectionist tendencies.
These were resulting in him putting incredible amounts of pressure on himself.
That drove his anxiety, which worsened his performance.
The worse he played, the lower his confidence dropped.
What he must do is work through that perfectionism.
He could become more process-oriented or set a clear picture of what it will mean for him to be successful.
The key is, he’s recognized a true cause within himself that is the driving force behind his feelings.
From there, real change will occur.
For you, what is it that’s wanting to be changed?
Be sure to look within for the real cause, and then take the necessary steps to implement change.
“After deciding you are the one responsible for your thoughts, feelings, and behavior, you now have to decide what you’ll do to change. Maybe you don’t want to change, and that’s okay. But if
you do, know it must come from within.”
Procrastination happens when our goals are bigger than our energy levels, our time and even sometimes, our courage.
When we look at something that at first seems so insurmountable, it’s easy just to stuff everything back into our closest and place our body weight against the door to shut it closed, again.
It’s the same way with everything we want to change in our lives.
We imagine the big, ultimate end goal and see ourselves at mile marker #1, already exhausted by our thoughts and drowning in our own stress sweat.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
After I realized that Kourtney Kardashian eating a bowl of yogurt the size of her knee cap and Kim Kardashian taking a selfie on a boat in Thailand was a pathetic excuse for not doing what needed
to be done, I turned off the TV and started to “deal” my closest piece by piece.
Here’s a list of other big changes you can start making in small ways.
1. Appreciate what you have in your life on a daily basis.
When we scroll through Instagram and marvel over the adventurous and perfectly filtered lives of our “friends” or get
suffocated by our to-do list at work, our minds start to harp on what we wish we had (more time to sleep or the money to take a one week vacation to Costa Rica).
A few months ago, a friend of mine told me about Morning Pages.
Before you start your day in the morning, you flip open a notebook and write down three pages of whatever you want.
If you don’t know what to write, you can write “IDK” for three entire pages.
Or you can write about what’s on your mind, in your dreams, or on your plate for the day.
Lately, I’ve been using this to wake up and remind myself what I’m grateful for. A morning list of the things (tiny or large) that I sometimes forget mean the world to me — or at least more than
any stressor that’s on Monday’s agenda.
2. Express more vulnerability.
Compliment someone once a day.
The lady sitting next to you on the subway with baby-blue nails or the women standing in front of you at the check-out line who has an delicious selection of food in her cart.
Instead of thinking about something positive you feel about them — tell them.
While you’re eating a salad with your best friend on a Sunday afternoon, tell her that she means the world for you — and you’re thankful she puts up with you.
Tell your parents that you don’t know how the heck they have as much patience as they do or the intern who sits across from you that you appreciate how hard she is working and things will
eventually get easier.
Compliments put you out there, as if you’re pulling open the curtain of a Broadway stage open and stepping out and speaking your mind like people, these days, rarely do.
3. Feel more comfortable in your skin.
Add on an extra 10 minutes to your workout.
If you don’t workout regularly, try to do just 10 minutes, three times a week.
You can watch two sets of commercials during that time, so while you’re waiting for your show to come back on, do some jumping jacks, push ups, squats.
Every week, add on another 10 minutes until you’ve mastered a routine that works for you.
4. Reconnect with people in your life.
Turn off your social media for a week and insert a “no text message” policy.
People think they know everything that’s going on in your life because they see what you post on Facebook or Twitter — so they rarely call to see how you’re doing or even ask when they bump into
you in person.
Spend a week dialing phone numbers of people you haven’t see in a while or heard their voice. Say you’re calling for no reason other than to see how they are really doing.
5. Switch up your day-to-day grind.
When the days start to blend together and you feel like you can’t change much due to your overwhelming work schedule, initiate a small change in the morning that’ll carry you through the day, like
wearing a different perfume.
Use a bottle you haven’t touched in a while or call up a friend and see if they’d like to swap bottles with you for just one week.
Doing something as simple as introducing a new smell into your life will really make you feel as though you’re starting the week off with a brand new experience.
P.S.: Splurge — without breaking your piggy bank — and head to the mall or a department store and get a handful of perfume samples from brands that cost more than your electric bill!
6. Learn something new.
Talk to one new person every single day.
Strangers have the power to turn your world upside.
If anything, they will be the most honest and unbiased person you’ll speak to during that day.
Every human being has a story to tell — has experiences to share with you — has wisdom and advice from the things
they have learned.
Ask them how their day is going.
See what happens.
7. Stop feeling like a grown up.
Spend Saturday afternoon doing something that you used to love doing when you were 8-years-old.
Maybe it’s making friendship bracelets or sliding down a slip and slide in your backyard.
Perhaps it’s rollerblading or writing love letters to a guy you have a giant crush on while you dance on top of your mattress to a 98 Degrees song.
Change has the power to make life slow down a bit.
It gives us the opportunity to press the reset button on a situation that’s spun wildly out of our control.
It makes us shake off the crud that’s building up inside of our eye socket and say hello to a world we’ve been casually sleeping through.
No more of doing that, okay?
7 Brutally Honest Reasons You Haven’t Achieved Your Goals… Yet
Goals are powerful because they give you the direction, clarity, and focus to thrive in life.
Yet many people struggle to make consistent progress, follow through on their tasks, or reach any of their objectives despite their best effort.
But often, there’s something deeper at root holding them back—mentally, emotionally, etc.—from achieving their visions.
In my experience, there are 7 brutally honest reasons—and if you struggle to hit your goals, it’s most likely due to one of them.
Read on to learn how these barriers work and, more importantly, how to overcome them to finally reach your dreams.
1. Lack of Focus
The common, yet counterintuitive reason why many people aren't successful is they have too many goals.
They try to achieve a million different things at once, yet every goal has an opportunity cost; doing one thing usually takes time and energy away from another.
As a result, they spread themselves too thin across many goals and rarely finish.
But rather than giving yourself countless options (which creates indecision and less commitment), the key
to success is finding what’s most important in your life right now, focusing your time and energy there, and making progress on those few priorities.
“Success isn’t that difficult; it merely involves taking twenty steps in a singular direction. Most people take one step in twenty directions.”
— Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Other things that ruin focus are distractions.
Whether it’s social media, TV, games, etc., there are countless addictive activities that lure you away from your goals. Sure, occasional entertainment is fine, but don’t allow it to
overshadow what’s most important.
Set boundaries from the useless distractions that oppose your goals. For example, use Airplane Mode to control your phone, download apps to prevent mindless clicking, and regularly ask yourself,
“Will this help me achieve my goals?”
“[Perfectionism] is the dominant behavioral characteristic behind mindbody syndromes. It is a form of neurosis. It is not knowing when to put limits on behavior. How much is enough? When to let
go? Is it too little or too much? Am I going to be accepted or rejected? Am I good or good enough? I don’t know — so I will continue on my obsessive path to get it right, to avoid that next sting of
rejection. It’s a hybrid cocktail of low self-esteem and increased narcissism (with a twist of lime).”
For example, someone’s goal is to find a relationship, but first, they try to get the perfect body, fashion, hair, etc.—yet it’s just a way to avoid the actual work of finding a partner.
No one’s perfect.
Let yourself be bad at things.
Let yourself fail.
It’s a necessary step to learn, grow, and reach your goals.
4. They’re Not *Your* Goals
This might hurt, but the truth is many things you think you want in life are just things your family, society, or culture taught you to want.
(Or they’re things other people have that you think you should have too.)
But if you only do something because everyone told you to, you’ll feel unfulfilled, lose motivation, and struggle to achieve your so-called “goals.”
Be honest with yourself.
Are your goals truly your goals, or are they just things everyone taught you to want?
Don’t strive to build a million-dollar startup, travel the world, drive fancy cars, or get a ripped body only because you were told it’s the only way to live, be free, or be happy.
Instead, have goals that come from within—goals with a deep purpose and motivation that’s significant to you and only you.
5. Lack of Self-Accountability
Be honest: How well do you follow through with the promises and commitments you make to yourself?
How often do you do what you say you’ll do?
Some people set goals, but month after month, make no progress, lie to themselves, and don’t seem to care.
But if you build a habit of breaking your own promises, you’ll gradually stop believing yourself, lose confidence, and lose hope, which makes it even harder to achieve your goals.
“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
Learn to keep yourself accountable.
Sure, having outside accountability can help, but no one can want your success more than you.
Start following through with your commitments.
When you regularly keep the promises you make to yourself, you’ll feel far more confident and empowered and you’ll build serious momentum.
6. You Haven’t Changed Your Environment
People who struggle often say, “I just need more willpower.”
But it's not your willpower that creates your future—it's your
environment. Your friends, your information sources, your city, etc. shape who you are, your opportunities, and your odds of success.
But if your environment limits you, you’ll continuously block your own progress and waste energy.
Instead, redesign your environments.
To me, the best place to start is your social circle.
As Jim Rohn would say, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
So, for example, if you want to get healthier but your friends are extremely unhealthy, they will hold you back.
Find friends who are doing the things that you want to do.
Then, intentionally design your lifestyle so that it gets you to where you want to go.
7. You Don’t *Actually* Want to Achieve Your Goals
Why wouldn’t someone want to achieve their goals?
The answers actually run deep:
First, there’s the fear of success. Achieving your goals could create difficult outcomes
or emotions—jealous friends, the realization you never wanted it, guilt, etc.—so some people inadvertently sabotage their progress.
“The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt.
We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we do not deserve to get what we want either…
I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp, went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal — when it was only a step away.
This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest.”
— Paulo Coelho
Second, some attach their self-worth to their goals.
But that means if they give their best effort and fail, it would devastate them and be a blemish on their character.
As a result, they might give a half-assed effort so any resulting failure is less damaging on their ego—or they’ll work on trivial things (i.e. bikeshedding) to avoid finishing and facing possible
Finally, many people don’t “really” want their goals — they “kinda” want their goals.
They’d “like” to get them, but they’ll put limits on how hard they’ll work or how much they’ll sacrifice.
“Wealth does not come from merely wanting it.
How do you know this is true?
With a simple reality check: billions of people want to be rich, relatively few are…
In my experience, getting rich takes focus, courage, knowledge, expertise, 100 percent of your effort, a never-give-up attitude, and of course a rich mindset.
You also have to believe in your heart of hearts that you can create wealth and that you absolutely deserve it.
Again, what this means is that, if you are not fully, totally, and truly committed to creating wealth, chances are you won’t.”
— T. Harv Eker
To overcome these barriers, remind yourself of why you want your goal in the first place.
How would it enhance your life?
What joy would it bring? And if you’re about to achieve it, think of all the effort and sacrifice you gave to reach that point — and how much you deserve your success.
Next, understand that you’re already worthy—right now—whether you hit your goals or not.
Your goals are for direction and clarity, not to measure you as a human being.
Ultimately, no accomplishment will bring you validation or approval—it must come from within.
And once you learn to accept, love, and appreciate your worth, you'll feel more liberated to walk forward on your journey.
Finally, start committing fully to your goals. What are you willing to endure? Are you ready to go all-in? How bad do you want them?
As you go from “wanting” to succeed to “doing whatever it takes,” it’ll be a lot easier to put in the work, make the sacrifices, and reinvent yourself to achieve what you want.
And your goals will finally become a reality.
These 5 Little Habits Will Boost Your Mental Health
Subtle ways you can support your mental health on a daily basis.
On the days when I find myself really struggling, I remind myself of this quote I read as a teenager.
If we want to take care of our mental health, and really our whole health in general, we need to make it a daily practice.
There are so many ways to take care of your wellbeing, and you likely are aware of some of these. However, how often do you prioritize these practices?
Do you make time for them every day?
Here are the top 5 subtle but effective ways I have been able to take care of my mental health on a regular basis.
1. Let yourself sleep in sometimes.
I’m all about hustling and working hard on the things that are important to me, but I have also come to appreciate the power of simply taking a morning off.
I love to get up and get going with my morning routine, before diving into a writing session.
But three days ago, I let myself sleep in.
I woke up and saw the sun streaming through the blinds (which never happens these days, with the sun coming up at 7:30 am at this time of year and me usually being up by 7 at the absolute latest)
and I thought, You know what, I’m going to have some coffee in bed this morning.
This simple change made a huge difference in my whole week.
I felt so much happier that day, and that sense of wellbeing has been carried into each day since.
Give yourself a break sometimes.
Stay in bed until the sun is shining into your bedroom.
2. Get outside. Go for a walk. Go to a park or a forest.
I have recently been embracing the concept of forest bathing, after noticing how my mental health changes depending on how often I get out into nature.
Forest bathing is a concept that emerged in Japan in the 1980s.
The Japanese term is shinrin-yoku, and it is both a physical and psychological practice.
It translates to ‘forest bathing, or, more specifically, ‘taking in the forest atmosphere.’
“This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge.
By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.” — TIME
It is claimed that this practice can prevent anything
from cancer to depression, as well as improving our immune functioning and our quality of sleep.
I think the most important benefit of shinrin-yoku is its impact on our stress and cortisol levels.
I think here is where the power of this practice lies.
“Even just 20 minutes can help, though 10 hours a month is even better. If you live in a city, you may not be able to get to a forest easily, but taking off your shoes in the park
and feeling the grass will help you de-stress.” — The
Try to get outside, especially into forested areas, as often as possible. Just being outside can reliably boost your well-being.
“I make myself a mocha and really sit down and enjoy that. It’s about stopping. I stop 10 times during the day. Mindfulness is staying in the present. The most important thing for your mental
health is when you are doing something: stop and do it.” — Sir John Kirwan
Sir John Kirwan, a former New Zealand All Black rugby player, is very wise when it comes to protecting our mental health.
This is such a simple practice and probably one you already do every day.
We just need to turn it into an opportunity to take care of our mental health.
When you make coffee, or tea, or any other drink, slow down and pay attention.
Think about where the beans or the leaves have come from, how many hands have touched them. Think about the water and its journey.
Smell the aromas when you pour the water.
Then, sit down and pay attention.
Feel the warmth of the cup.
Watch the steam rising.
See what smells you can identify.
Close your eyes and take a sip.
This is a simple but powerful practice to bring you into the present moment on a regular basis.
Make an effort to be mindful for at least 2 minutes when you sit down with a drink.
This simple practice will bring multiple pockets of mindfulness into your day, and your mental health will be much better off because of it.
4. Slow down.
How well do you feel when you are rushing around?
I know I don’t feel happy, nor healthy.
Simply allowing an extra 5 minutes in the morning, or leaving 5 minutes early for an appointment, or giving yourself an extra day for a project, can make a huge difference in your wellbeing.
Rushing releases cortisol and gets your body in a fight or flight mode, which is definitely not conducive to wellbeing.
Identify when you find yourself rushing, and see if you can add just a few more minutes to mitigate some of that chaos.
Our mental health thrives on slow and purposeful living.
5. Fight against the scarcity mindset.
I believe so much of our unhappiness comes from the scarcity mindset.
How often is your first thought of the day, “I didn’t get enough sleep”?
How often is your last thought at night, “I didn’t get enough done”?
And what about throughout the day?
How often do you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have enough time to get all this done, to do the things I want to do, to try a new hobby, to exercise, etc”?
We are emersed in the scarcity mindset.
And it’s detrimental to our mental health.
We need to fight against it.
So, instead of waking up and thinking about how you haven’t had enough sleep, think, “I have had enough sleep.”
During the day, think, “I have enough time to do what I need to do.”
And when you go to bed, think, “I got enough done today. I am enough.”
This practice takes a matter of seconds, and although you may feel silly doing it, and you may think you’re lying to yourself, it will start making a really big difference.
Just being able to wake up and go to sleep knowing you have enough, you’ve done enough, and you are enough, will change everything.
Let yourself have lazy mornings in bed sometimes.
Get outside every day.
When you have a cup of coffee or tea, sit down and do nothing else.
Allow a few extra minutes so you’re not always rushing.
Remind yourself you have enough, you’ve done enough, and you are enough.
You Aren’t Lazy. You Are Overstimulated.
Slowing your life down is the secret to getting things done.
When I’m most distracted, I close my eyes and focus on not allowing in any thoughts.
It is in those moments that mental silence is most difficult.
My head is full of chaotic energy and thoughts that gust and jerk around inside of me.
But in the end, I feel still and focused.
I am prepared to work.
Start with 5–10 minutes.
A little bit goes a long way.
Why objectives help defeat overstimulation
Robert A. Heinlein once said, “In the absence of
clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”
Having goals streamlines your efforts into a tunnel past the noise.
There doesn’t need to be a huge checklist.
It dilutes task importance.
Keep the list simple and short.
It heightens your connection to your goal. It fortifies you from useless distractions.
Unlike with mice experiments, we don’t see the results from the “control self” that is outperforming us.
Like an efficient mouse, start by knowing what maze you want to get through.
Then ignore anything that distracts you from that journey.
Consider any distraction as a wrong turn in a maze that is hard to come back from.
Too many people are chained to repetitive, unproductive habits that are designed to keep them in a feedback loop.
Focus on slowing down your mind.
Do this by practicing meditation and having forced disconnect periods from technology.
I have a two-hour window each day where no screens are allowed.
Productivity isn’t about getting everything done, it’s about getting the right things done.
Have clear goals.
Force yourself to do nothing if you are procrastinating.
Doing nothing has a habit of turning into doing something.
Above all, be selective about what you allow into your mind.
Filter out as much noise as possible.
How to think clearly
By learning to question and clarify your thoughts, you’ll improve your self-knowledge and become a better communicator
by Tom Chatfield
Need to know
Sometimes, when I’m grappling with a tricky topic, I pretend that I need to explain it to a child.
For example, here is my attempt at explaining the purpose of this Guide to a notional nine-year-old:
I want to help people work out what they really think and mean, and then to share the results with other people.
This is surprisingly hard. It’s easy to talk about what you want and like.
But it can be really difficult to work out why you want or like particular things – and why other people should pay attention.
I’m going to set out a three-part process that can help with this.
As the parent of two young children, I often get to skip the pretending part of this exercise.
But I’d recommend giving it a try, no matter what your domestic situation.
It can be both challenging and powerful to talk someone else through an idea, step by step, in terms that take as little as possible for granted.
Often, it’s only when I try to explain something in this way that I discover that I don’t fully understand it myself.
As it happens, there’s a subreddit devoted to precisely this principle.
It’s called ‘Explain Like I’m Five’, and features tens of thousands of attempts at explaining complex ideas as simply as possible. Question: how can archaeologists translate ancient scriptures or
Answer: ‘It’s basically a giant jigsaw puzzle.’
Q: how do conferencing programs such as Zoom handle so many different screens?
A: ‘Everyone has one connection to Zoom’s central servers.’
Q: if carbs are sugar, why can’t we just eat sugar?
A: ‘It would be a bit like replacing the firewood in your fire pit with a tub of gasoline …’ And so on.
I enjoy browsing ‘Explain Like I’m Five’ partly because it isn’t interested in perfection.
Instead, it’s packed with comments, debates, and works-in-progress; with points and counterpoints, gags and squibs.
Much like the business of explaining something to an actual five-year-old, it’s full of distractions and dead ends.
But it’s also relentlessly committed to dispelling errors and unexamined assumptions, and in privileging honest questions and confessions of uncertainty over any performance of expertise.
All of this emphasizes a fundamental point about clarifying your thinking.
It asks you to admit your thoughts are unclear to begin with – and thus, that certain elements within them need to be rethought, or placed upon more secure foundations.
It’s as if you’re shedding layers of preconception, misconception, and false consciousness.
And the ultimate prize isn’t being right, gratifying though this might be. It’s being understood.
Why should anyone care about any of this?
Without wishing to be grandiose, I’d argue that seeking clarity is both humane and life-enhancing.
To idealize, it entails the mutual and respectful pursuit of knowledge.
To be more pragmatic, it can help us know ourselves a little better, dispel prejudices and misapprehensions – and communicate more richly and persuasively amid the 21st century’s tumult.
Aspiring towards clarity is also inexorably iterative.
Whenever you set out to clarify your thinking, you’re not aiming to articulate an ultimate truth. Rather, you’re aiming at a process, the result of which will always be an act of
communication, complete with all the imperfections and contingencies this implies.
In this Guide, I want to help you think about what this process looks like for you.
As promised, I’ll do this in three stages (preceded by a pause).
The first stage entails reflecting on why you believe something to be true or important.
The second entails teasing out the assumptions this reasoning relies upon.
The third entails acknowledging what you do and don’t know, where you’re uncertain – and what it might mean to redress these things.
Think it through
Before you begin…
To start with, let’s take a moment.
Draw a breath.
Slow yourself down.
What’s going on?
What are you thinking and feeling?
What most deserves your attention?
There’s a great line in Robert Poynton’s bookDo Pause (2019) that
speaks to the significance of taking stock in this way:
In a pause you can question existing ways of acting, have new ideas or simply appreciate the life you are living. Without ever stopping to observe yourself, how can you explore what else
you might do or who you might become?
Inviting people to pause is among the easiest advice in the world to give, and the hardest to take.
Yet it’s foundational to clarifying your thinking because this is where it all begins: with a moment of self-reflection.
Without pauses, there can be no second thoughts and no self-interrogations.
There is no process until you take the time to embark upon it.
You might think that this point is too obvious to be worth making.
Yet, in my experience, it’s where most of us fall down.
We all carry around countless unclear, confused, contradictory thoughts and feelings.
And precisely because we have neither the time nor the tools to sort them out, they mostly stay this way.
Once you’ve paused, a common psychotherapeutic exercise can help you take the first step towards clearer thinking.
It’s about observing yourself as neutrally as possible.
You make yourself comfortable, relax, then try to notice the flow of your thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way: the flickers of anxiety, anticipation, regret; the memories and ideas
bubbling into consciousness.
These are the raw materials that any process of clarification must work with.
The more carefully you’re able to attend to them, the more likely you are to tease out their complexities and contradictions.
And the less likely you are to mistakenly assume that whatever seems obvious to you will necessarily seem obvious, or compelling, to someone else.
What are you claiming, and why?
When I perform the above exercise, I notice one thing that’s on my mind is a nagging question about what I eat.
Should I become a vegetarian, or a vegan, for ethical and environmental reasons?
And if not, why not?
In philosophy, what’s known as a standard form is often used to set out the essentials of a line of thought as clearly as possible.
Expressing your thinking in standard form means writing out a numbered list of statements followed by a conclusion.
If you’ve done it properly, the numbered statements should present a line of reasoning that justifies your final conclusion.
For example, here’s a first attempt at organizing my thoughts around diet:
Both eating meat and using animal products are associated with vast amounts of unnecessary animal suffering.
They also use more energy and resources than most plant-based alternatives.
It’s perfectly possible to have a healthy diet and live a full life without eating meat or using most animal products.
So far as possible, I should try to prevent unnecessary animal suffering, excessive energy usage and the overconsumption of resources.
If I believe all of the above to be true, I should thus adopt a vegetarian or a vegan diet.
You might have seen examples of this approach before, or used it in your own work.
You might also have encountered a great deal of discussion around logical forms, reasonable and unreasonable justifications, and so on.
What I find most useful about standard form, however, is not so much its promise of logical rigor as its insistence that I break down my thinking into individual steps, and then ask two questions
of each one:
Why should a reasonable person accept this particular claim?
What follows from this claim, once it’s been accepted?
When it comes to clarifying my thoughts and feelings, the power of such an approach is that anything relevant can potentially be integrated into its accounting – but only if I’m able to make this
relevance explicit. Here’s how a few further thoughts might fit into my example:
Both eating meat and using animal products are associated with vast amounts of unnecessary animal suffering.
They also use more energy and resources than most plant-based alternatives.
It’s perfectly possible to have a healthy diet and live a full life without eating meat or using most animal products.
So far as possible, I should try to prevent unnecessary animal suffering, excessive energy usage, and the overconsumption of resources.
If I believe all of the above to be true, I should thus adopt a vegetarian or a vegan diet.
However, I’m not currently a vegetarian or a vegan.
This suggests that either: I don’t believe the above reasons to be true or to be the whole story; or that I do, yet somehow still don’t find them compelling.
If I want to clarify my thinking around this issue, I need to investigate the divide between my apparent beliefs and my actions.
How might you apply such an approach yourself?
As you’ll have noticed, the thoughts I’ve just added bring further complexities and qualifications into focus.
They take what was once a relatively straightforward conclusion and turn it into something more complex – and revealing.
Paradoxically enough, this is a vital component of clarifying your thinking: stripping away oversimplifications, no matter how compelling or appealing, and replacing them with an honest
acknowledgment of circumstances.
The logic of my initial argument might have seemed admirably clear, but this clarity doesn’t correspond as closely as I might wish to reality.
Honest self-examination and iteration are vital, here.
Even now, reading back my own words, I’m not sure I’ve managed to describe my state of mind accurately – or the issues at stake.
Is it really true that there’s no ethical way of eating meat or of using animal products?
Are there shades of meaning I’ve neglected in an effort to establish clear categories of right and wrong?
Or am I simply failing to act on my beliefs because of a combination of inertia and self-indulgence?
These are just a few of the questions my scenario begs.
And behind them is a fundamental point: that it’s only by repeatedly questioning both the why and the what of our claims, and the claims they, in turn, rely on, that we can hope
to strip away the layers of habit, confusion, and self-justification that all too often typify everyday thoughts.
What have you taken for granted?
On what basis can I justify any claims?
Some will rely on external evidence; some on personal preferences and experiences; some on a combination of these factors.
But all of them will at some point invoke certain assumptions that I’m prepared to accept as fundamental.
And it’s in unearthing and analyzing these assumptions that the most important clarifications await.
Assumptions are those things we take for granted: whatever we don’t explicitly spell out, but that our thinking relies upon.
Assumptions are also extremely important.
Indeed, it’s the existence of shared assumptions that makes communication (and much else) possible.
As I write these words, I’m assuming they mean approximately the same thing to you as they do to me.
It would be incredibly tiresome if I tried to explain every word in a sentence.
It would also, in the end, be futile.
I’d still have to explain my words via other words, my ideas via other ideas, and so on. Without some shared assumptions, there would be no way of building either common understandings or
While common understanding and meaningful disagreement might sound like opposites, they’re actually two sides of the same coin.
No matter how self-evident they might seem to us, the assumptions that our ideas rest upon might need spelling out to others.
Some people could, for example, view animal suffering as a non-issue, on the grounds that human experience is all that counts when it comes to ethics.
Some could believe that no further justification of veganism is required beyond the self-evident evil of inflicting unnecessary suffering on our fellow creatures.
And some (among whom I tentatively count myself) might believe that most forms of industrial farming and fishing are abhorrent, but that there are some circumstances under which animal products
can be ethically and sustainably sourced.
Our assumptions, in other words, aren’t just unexamined ideas.
They’re also the roots of identity and allegiance; the stuff of our personal and shared histories; of our communities and our morality.
They are the sources of much of the greatest good and deepest harm we do to one another.
That which we take as ‘given’ is nothing less than the bedrock of what we believe the world to be.
What follow from this?
When it comes to clarifying your thinking, it means that you need to be very clear about the difference between what follows from your assumptions and the status of those
assumptions. To take things to step by step:
Any line of thought must begin with certain assumptions: those things that you both explicitly and implicitly accept as given. No matter how deep you dig, you’ll never be able to find a
wholly clear, self-evident, and uncontroversial claim.
A careful process of analysis can show where your assumptions lead: what reasonably follows from them if you assume that they’re true or accurate.
But different lines of reasoning based on different sets of assumptions are likely to take you in very different directions.
One of the most useful things you can thus do is to spell out both your own and other people’s key assumptions, then to compare what follows from each.
If you’re sufficiently open-minded, this can help you identify assumptions you hold in common with others, challenge faulty ones on both sides, and respectfully engage with alternative
perspectives from your own.
Working out the implications of your assumptions is, in other words, far from the same thing as being definitively correct; and grasping the difference between these lies at the heart of honestly
and persuasively articulating your views.
Embrace dialogue – and know your limits
What do you make of my attempts to clarify my thinking about meat-eating, thus far?
Hopefully, even if you disagree with every single word I’ve written, you’re more likely to understand where I’m coming from than if I just blurted out: ‘I think that maybe I ought to stop eating
I certainly feel more confident about what’s going on in my head.
And this suggests that, if we ever end up discussing these things in person, we’re more likely to be able to debate our differences constructively.
We’ll perhaps be able to work out where we do and don’t disagree – and why – rather than falling back upon blanket assertions or aspersions.
In the end, we might even arrive at a new, clearer understanding together.
This, I’d suggest, is the most precious thing about clearly presenting the thinking behind any point of view: not that it proves your rightness or righteousness, but that it volunteers your
willingness to participate in a reasoned exchange of ideas.
At least in principle, it suggests that you’re prepared to:
Justify your position via evidence and reasoned analysis.
Listen to, and learn from, perspectives other than your own.
Accept that, in the face of sufficiently compelling arguments or evidence, it might be reasonable to change your mind.
This approach is underpinned by what’s known as the principle of charity: a phrase that can sound strange in the context of disagreements, but that embodies one of our oldest and most
practical guides to constructive debate.
It exists in various formulations, all rooted in the same idea:
So far as possible, you should try to extract the maximum truthful and reasonable content from what others say, especially if they disagree with you.
Importantly, the principle of charity extends not only to what someone is saying but also to your assumptions around why they are saying it:
Unless you have decisive evidence to the contrary, you should start off by assuming that someone else’s position is reasonable and sincerely held, rather than that they’re malicious,
ignorant or mistaken.
In both cases, the answer isn’t because this is a nice thing to do, but because it’s only by beginning with charitable assumptions that you can get to grips with the underpinnings of someone
else’s perspective – and ensure that any judgment you eventually pass is based on a careful, fair-minded assessment.
All of which brings us back to the most important point of all: that clarifying your thinking means being as honest as possible about what you don’t know, and then putting a frank engagement with
these limitations at the heart of your account.
Indeed, perhaps the most important tool in any attempt at clear thinking is the capacity to test (and to keep on testing and refining) your ideas as if they belonged to someone else: as acts of
reasoned persuasion that must stand, or fall, on their own terms.
Clarifying your thinking is a process: one that’s necessarily incremental, iterative, and imperfect. There’s no such thing as a perfectly clear statement.
The clarification comes from setting out your thinking, step by step, in as straightforward and explicit a manner as possible – and then stepping back, revisiting the result, and seeking to
redress its limitations.
First of all: pause. It’s only by slowing down and attending carefully to your own thoughts that you can hope to embark upon a process of clarification.
What’s on your mind?
Once you’ve worked out what deserves your attention, try to spell out why you believe it to be true or important.
This entails reconstructing your reasoning systematically.
Set it out in numbered sequence, being sure to ask of each claim: why should a reasonable person accept this; and what does (and doesn’t) follow once it’s been accepted.
Don’t be seduced by oversimplifications or too tidy a formulation of complex issues.
It’s important to be as clear as possible about the tensions, ambivalences, and ambiguities you’re grappling with.
Addressing complex ideas lucidly isn’t the same as pretending they’re simple.
Be explicit about the relevant assumptions your reasoning relies on.
These will invariably include some claims you believe to be fundamental.
Be aware that two perfectly reasonable lines of argument based upon different fundamental assumptions could lead to very different conclusions.
Engage charitably and rigorously with perspectives other than your own, and don’t assume dishonesty or bad faith in others without good reason.
To idealize, a constructive exchange of views is one in which you first ensure you’ve stated someone else’s position in a manner they agree is fair – and only set about addressing your
differences once you’ve done this.
Three Things in Life That Are Totally Worth It
Invest in your time and money in things that provide long-term benefits
As a child he grew up dirt poor, having to babysit his siblings at 6 while his mom went to work.
By 7, he was cooking for his family.
Life continued to be rocky as he grew up.
He had countless careers, from the army, to railroad worker, to tire salesman, and even a midwife. His failures were so epic, they could be part of a comedy skit.
During a stint as a lawyer he lost his job after getting into a fist fight with a client in
the court room
He created a successful ferryboat business and lost it when the government built a bridge across the river.
His successful diner failed when the turnpike commission moved the off ramp of the highway he
was located next to.
By the time he reached retirement age, he was flat broke.
Most might have been cowed by fate or been crippled by the unfairness.
However, Harland embraced it.
Since he had no savings and a social security check, he went on the road at 66 years old.
He took the only thing of value he had with him — a recipe for chicken.
Years later a former Navy SEAL named Jocko Willink explained how he deals with unfair situations:
“Whenever anything sucks — I like it.
It’s going to make me tougher.
It’s going to give me a good story to tell.
It’s going to toughen my mind.
It’s going to bring us together…”
Willink makes another similar statement in recounting dealings with a subordinate while he was in command of a SEAL unit.
Every time this assistant came with a problem, Willink immediately responded “good”.
When the subordinate asked why problems were “good”, Jocko responded, “When things go bad, there will always be some good that comes from it”.
He went on to explain problems give us an opportunity to discover solutions.
While neither are as eloquent as Epictetus or Nietzsche, both Sanders and Willink show a similar path to dealing with unfairness.
It’s to love your fate.
Two Words Can Change Your World
Right after my surgery, I shut down.
I couldn’t take my mind off the things I could never do.
It wasn’t uncommon for me to lash out at others because the world seemed so unfair.
It didn’t help; no progress was made.
As soon as I embraced my fate, the world began to slowly change.
The sports I wanted to play were gone, but martial arts arrived, and a new world opened which was unknown to me.
Physical and career limitations also forced me to sit down and write. This opened another world as well.
An ancient philosopher with a lame leg was correct; if you wish for things to happen as they actually do, you’ll be alright.
There’s only one guarantee in life: it’ll be unfair.
Somebody will build a bridge in front of your ferryboat and — as Jocko reminds us — things will inevitably suck.
But we can choose to respond to this unfairness with two words: amor fati.
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Do you sometimes feel that God is unfair? – Francis Alvarez, SJ
A landowner goes out at dawn and hires laborers to work in his vineyard.
He does the same at 9:00 am, 12:00 noon, 3:00 pm, and 5:00 pm.
That evening, those who started working at 5:00 pm are given a full day’s wage.
Those who started working at dawn then expect to receive more, but they are given the same amount.
This group must have thought so for as they leave, they grumble against the owner, “These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the
heat” (Matthew 20:12).
If the laborers who toiled the whole day had not found out that those who worked for only an hour were given a full day’s wage, I think they who sweated for 12 hours would have gone home happy.
They might have been exhausted, but it was still a good day.
After all, they had found employment (or more precisely, employment had found them), and they were compensated with the agreed upon amount.
Do you still think what happened was unfair?
When the laborers who worked the whole day learned how much was given to those who worked much less, they must have started calculating how much more they were going to get even if they had
already talked with the owner about their pay.
As the owner later told them, “I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?”
But maybe the disgruntled workers had already planned what they were going to do with the extra money they thought could be in their hands.
Or maybe they had even smirked at the surprised faces of those who were remunerated for a full day though they had even barely broken a sweat and thought, “Well, I’m definitely going to be
happier than they are when I get my due.”
The problem with those who worked for a full day and were paid “only” a day’s wage is this: They were focused on what they did not have rather than on what they did have.
They were stuck on the money that they thought could have been theirs.
Maybe they could not move on from thinking, “I should have started working only at 5:00 pm. I wasted my time and my strength.
Now, all those hours and all my effort are gone, and there is no way to get them back.” In lamenting only for what they did not have, they missed rejoicing for what they did have – a full day’s
work and a full day’s pay.
I am reminded of another person in Scripture who could not see his blessings because he was blinded by what he thought he deserved.
The elder brother of the prodigal son complained to his father, “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on
with my friends.
But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf” (Luke 15:29-30).
Anger and envy blocked the elder brother from appreciating what was truly important.
This, the father pointed out in the very next verse when he replied, “‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.”
Is this not enough?
Is this not more than enough?
It was the prodigal son who had less – even though he had the fattened calf – because he had spent so much time away from the father.
In a similar way, those who worked for only an hour actually had less because they had less time working for the master in the fields.
This does not make sense when you think about it in hours and minutes, in pesos and centavos, in terms of punching in at the Bundy clock and keeping track of your employee benefits.
But it makes infinite sense when you start seeing it in the light of harvesting at the Lord’s vineyard. Spending time working for and with God – can we see this not just as an imposition or
obligation? Can we see this as already a gift in itself?
There are certain situations which are not just unfair but which must rightly be called unjust.
In these situations, we must do everything we can to fight and correct the wrongs that are happening.
Peace can come only when we address the situation.
But there are also certain situations which may seem unfair and about which we can do nothing.
Here, peace can come only when we accept the situation.
Why was I born with these particular talents when it is other talents which I want?
Why does she love him and not me?
The more we complain, the less joy we will have to celebrate the talents we do have and the many people who do love us.
For the longest time, I have been in admiration of a family I was given the great gift to know.
They are a family of more than just modest means, but you would never guess this from where they live and what they wear.
The only son’s phone is three generations behind the latest one even if they can easily buy the model that was just released.
Their TV set does not have as many pixels as the TVs in other houses I have visited.
Their car is not equipped with the top-of-the-line features and amenities.
I asked the mother once, “Why does your son still stick with his old phone?”
The mother replied simply, “Because it still works.
It can do all that things he needs it to do.
He is more than happy with it.
And come on, it is a great phone!”
They have the same attitude with their other possessions.
This family looks at what they have, and they are thankful.
It is when you look at what you do not have that you start getting restless and resentful.
I do not know another family who gives as big a percentage of what they earn to charity.
I think it is also because they look at what they have with gratitude.
Because they truly see and appreciate what they have, this family has also seen what they can give to others.