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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. 

 

 

 

7 Small Ways To Make Big Changes In Your Life

headshot
September: Time for Making Changes | Change quotes, 10th quotes, Image quotes

 

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.

Say hello.

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

And how to finally reach them.


 

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?”

 

2. Bikeshedding

When working on their goals, many people spend more time on insignificant tasks and less time on more impactful things, which is called “bikeshedding” or Parkinson’s law of triviality.

 

For example, if they want to start a blog, they spend more time deciding where to put images (not important) and less time writing articles (very important).

Although they’re technically “working on their goal,” they’ll never get real results because they only do trivial things.

 

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

— John Maxwell

 

Focus on what really gets you progress.

Use the 80/20 Rule: Spend your time on the 20% of things that will create 80% of your results.

That way, you get the biggest impact from your effort and move forward faster.

 

3. Perfectionism

Perfectionism inhibits your creativity, performance, and growth.

Some might think it’s a badge of honor, but it’s a double-edged sword.

Due to extreme conscientiousness and impossibly high standards, it can cause internal issues and feelings of unworthiness:

 

“[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).”

— Steven Ozanich

 

Perfectionism can also be a form of avoidance.

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

Huh?

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 rejection.

 

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.

Photo by David Boca on Unsplash

“Wellness is daily.” — Sir John Kirwan

 

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 Guardian

 

Try to get outside, especially into forested areas, as often as possible. Just being outside can reliably boost your well-being.

 

3. Take time to sit down and have coffee.

“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.

 

Summary:

  1. Let yourself have lazy mornings in bed sometimes.
  2. Get outside every day.
  3. When you have a cup of coffee or tea, sit down and do nothing else.
  4. Allow a few extra minutes so you’re not always rushing.
  5. 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.

 

Premium Vector | Hand drawn inspirational lettering. slow down and enjoy your life.

Every now and then I write an article that unintentionally exposes my own problems.

Here I am, pushing self-help content each month, showing people how to live more effectively.

Then I begin my research and realize I’ve got holes in my game.

This is one of those articles. It’s about overstimulation.

Too often, it is ignored or mistaken for something else.

Its effects are vast and ongoing.

 

Learn to avoid excess stimuli, and you’ll unchain an industriousness that was always there waiting for you.

 
 

The surest sign you are overstimulated

Many of you already know about the danger of social media and flashing screens.

It is becoming old science that they impair cognitive function and the ability to complete tasks.

Yet people still don’t seem to get how severe the impact is.

 

Consider this, your eyeballs aren’t just tethered to your brain, they are considered actual brain tissue. Your retina made of the very same substance as your frontal lobe.

Technically, when you look someone in the eyes, you are looking at the only visible part of a person’s brain.

These organs are the highway for destructive stimuli.

 

For example, when mice are exposed to screens that resemble cell phones and TV, they perform significantly worse in cognitive tests: mazes, memory, and various forms of problem-solving.

When they are less engaged in screens, they move through mazes with cold and natural efficiency. Distractions are ignored.

 

Practice dopamine fasting to boost work ethic

I still have days when I look back and wonder what I actually got done.

I’m sure I did nothing. But technically, I was still doing things.

 

I was in my bed scrolling Facebook and watching YouTube. I checked my Medium stats a few dozen times. Everything becomes about pleasure.

That’s all dopamine hits do.

Data scientists are not hired to do what’s best for you.

They are hired to boost engagement, which often involves you swirling the drain of app notifications.

 

This is why dopamine fasting is so effective.

You are unwinding your instinct to juke your pleasure receptors.

When you actively disengage from this loop, you are priming your brain to engage and get things done without feeling that tug of applications.

 

The big idea here is cognitive awareness, also called metacognition.

The highest performers are great at it.

Rather than living like a wild animal, giving in to each whim, they step outside of themselves and observe their performance.

They take a critical third-person view.

They see the chaos and put a stop to it.

 

To practice this, take a piece of paper and begin marking a line when you catch yourself itching for a dopamine hit.

As you begin marking your paper, you drive awareness of that impulse.

It’s not unusual to have 50 lines on your first try.

Focus on lowering that number each day.

To take it a step further, notice when other objects trigger bad habits.

For example, I have a blue Yeti cup that often triggers me to pour myself a soda.

When I hide it, I tend to drink less soda and sugar crash less often.

I’m far from a metacognitive master, but it’s a step.

 

Doing nothing becomes everything

When you are feeling unproductive, don’t allow yourself to do anything.

This means no entertainment devices, no books, nothing. It is very boring.

But if you make this rule and allow yourself only to do only one thing, you will find yourself walking the plank and doing that very task.

It feels like putting yourself in time out. But you’ll find your task beats the despair of boredom.

 

Distraction tracking reinforces your executive function, your ability to complete tasks in spite of other desires.

 

It also saves you from wasting your day drip-feeding your tasks to 2% completion.

 

Meditation is also extremely effective if you can’t get focused.

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.

Stay vigilant.

Consider any distraction as a wrong turn in a maze that is hard to come back from.

 

The takeaway

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

Critical thinking Images, Royalty-free Stock Critical thinking Photos & Pictures | DepositphotosNeed 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 languages?

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 book Do 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:

  1. Both eating meat and using animal products are associated with vast amounts of unnecessary animal suffering.
  2. They also use more energy and resources than most plant-based alternatives.
  3. It’s perfectly possible to have a healthy diet and live a full life without eating meat or using most animal products.
  4. 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:

  1. Both eating meat and using animal products are associated with vast amounts of unnecessary animal suffering.
  2. They also use more energy and resources than most plant-based alternatives.
  3. It’s perfectly possible to have a healthy diet and live a full life without eating meat or using most animal products.
  4. So far as possible, I should try to prevent unnecessary animal suffering, excessive energy usage, and the overconsumption of resources.
  5. If I believe all of the above to be true, I should thus adopt a vegetarian or a vegan diet.
  6. However, I’m not currently a vegetarian or a vegan.
  7. 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 meaningful disagreements.

 

Critical Thinking Cartoon - ReadyToManage

 

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 meat.’

 

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.
 

Why?

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.

 
 

Key points

  • 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

The surest sign something was a great idea is that you curse yourself for not doing it sooner.

You realize your time and energy could have been better spent elsewhere.

Your quality of life took a dent when it didn’t have to.

 

My ratio of good-to-bad decisions has improved with time. But I’ve only made a few homerun moves. Do these three things and they’ll pay dividends over time.

 

Embracing the beauty of medicine

The origins of laser eye surgery are among the most unique in medicine.

Famed Russian eye surgeon, Dr. Fydorov, was treating an extremely nearsighted boy who’d been in an accident.

He’d fallen and his thick glasses cracked and injured his eye. Fortunately, he was able to make a full recovery.

 

Incredibly, the boy’s nearsightedness got remarkably better.

The eye damage had unintentionally improved his vision.

It was through this initial discovery, that new procedures in vision correction began and eventually led to the invention laser eye surgery.

I had the procedure done three years ago.

It was almost entirely automated.

There was this crazy moment when the doctor said, “Don’t move.

The laser is starting.” I’ve never held more still in my life.

 

It was painless and the results were near-instantaneous.

I have perfect vision.

The experience taught me an important lesson: the value of embracing medicine.

 

So many people fear medicine and let conditions fester and impact their quality of life.

My uncle was a surgeon and literally begged patients to undergo surgery.

They had acute conditions and lumps growing and he knew he could fix them.

But they often avoided it and took misguided naturopathic remedies. It often cost them their life.

 

Avoiding doctors has a vast and detrimental medical impact on the people around us.

Modern medicine is a marvelous branch of science that can solve so many of the world’s ailments. Heck, we can even fix superficial issues like baldness.

Don’t be afraid of checking out your options.

 

Investing in your sleep cycle

It’s crazy that every night of our life we crawl into our bed and turn off our lights to recharge.

We fall asleep.

Then we wake up several times.

We toss and turn.

We avoid that annoying dent.

 

Finally, when our alarm goes off, our back hurts; we are exhausted and unproductive.

We drag along and are unfocused all day.

 

All because we chose to spend $200 on a mattress.

A bad mattress is proven to cause bad sleep, lower energy, back problems, and a slew of other issues.

The average person spends more than a quarter-million hours in a bed in a given lifetime.

 

Yet some people thought I was crazy for spending $3000 on a mattress.

Truthfully?

I’d have spent more and I’m far from being rich.

My sleep is seamless.

My girlfriend and I can share the bed peacefully.

Rolling over doesn’t create a shockwave that slams into her.

 

I’ll easily get 10–15 years out of this mattress.

Spending around $300 a year for better sleep, mood, focus, and performance?

I’d call that a good deal.

We’ll spend around 30% of our life in our bed.

Investing in a quality mattress is totally worth it.

 

The endless cycle

I’m guessing I’m not the only person with friends who only want to talk about the news and politics. You can’t have coffee without them bringing up the latest investigation, law, or headline.

 

A few years back, I was that guy.

I was constantly checking in on news cycles.

I’d always be all worked up.

I was switching between all of the networks to get a pulse on things.

 

Every day there was some new “BREAKING NEWS” ribbon on the screen.

Somewhere along the way, that headline became a tool to boost clicks and ratings rather than report actual breaking news.

My Facebook was all politics and controversial stories, people churning things up, blasting their opinions at each other.

 

I reached a breaking point.

As an experiment, I blacked out the news for a month.

I extended it to all media platforms.

If someone on Facebook posted something political?

They got muted.

My life immediately got better.

I was more positive.

It freed up my headspace.

There wasn’t that anxiety and tension.

I felt like I’d sobered up from an addiction.

 

If cutting news completely isn’t possible, try cutting it to 5% of what it is now.

Give three minutes a day to scan the headlines and get what you need to know.

Then get out.

 

Definitely don’t let Twitter be your main source of news or social media in general.

Someone once said, “But how will you know who to vote for?”

How long does it actually take to figure that out?

Look at their positions and make a decision.

 

It would be amazing if we just had a list of key issues and a summary of their position on them.

Then we used that information to move forward.

 

You won’t be missing much.

The most important news still works its way into my life even with everything cut off.

I use that free time to meditate and read and do other positive things.

 

So much of modern journalism has become opinion pieces.

And, believe it or not, there was a time when the news wasn’t just about politics.

 

Remember, small changes can generate big results. The benefits will easily justify the pains.

Recap for memory

  1. Buying a high-quality mattress. Think of sleep as an investment.
  2. Trust and believe in medicine. Get an annual check-up. Listen to doctors.
  3. Cut out the excess news and politics from your life. Try going thirty days without. Watch your energy change.

 

 

22 Microhabits That Will Completely Change Your Life In A Year

Brianna Wiest
Brianna Wiest
Senior Contributor
What do in small, almost undetectable moments of your life has the biggest impact.

Breakthroughs don't change your life. Microhabits do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Two Words Can Help Us Deal With Life’s Unfair Moments

The ancient wisdom of loving your fate.

I tried it again and got the same result.

 

The jump rope cracked down on my leg like a whip.

It wasn’t the sudden pain that annoyed me, as I craned my head around and looked at the rest of the room.

Mentally, the failure stung more.

 

I could see others in the room getting it.

My martial arts instructor easily spun the rope around himself and it cooperated willingly.

However, it chose to torment me, and snapped my leg again with a crack to prove it. I let it go and continued on.

 

Letting it go and continuing on was a good description for that period of my life.

The back surgery I had as a kid changed many of my plans.

Football was immediately cancelled for me.

So, I went into a modified form of weightlifting and it didn’t agree with my body as I aged. Now, I tried martial arts to fill the open space.

 

I’d also have to figure out dealing with continual pain.

Although this is more of a mental challenge — like the jump rope.

No way around it, life can be unfair.

In fact, it likely will be unfair and we’re left to figure things out in whatever way we can.

 

It may seem like we’re on this road alone, but we’re not.

 

Unfairness is a common lot of humanity.

Fortunately for us, our ancestors left us a way to better deal with the pains of fate gracefully.

In fact, they summed the method into two simple words: amor fati.

 

A Stoic Interpretation For Dealing With Unfairness

“Don’t ask for things to happen as you would like them to but wish them to happen as they actually do, and you’ll be alright.”

— Epictetus (Enchiridion), translation by A.A.

 

Long in How to be Free

 

About 2,000 years ago a slave won his freedom and became recognized as one of the wisest people in the Roman Empire.

In addition, he was known as one of the greatest teachers in the realm.

Whether emperors attended his lectures personally isn’t known for certain, but Marcus Aurelius mentions having read his words.

 

If anyone could understand the pains of unfairness, it had to be Epictetus.

In fact, his real name is lost to history.

Epiktētos translated to “acquired” and this became his moniker.

As you can imagine, being at the bottom of Roman society likely wasn’t a picnic.

 

In addition, it appears the philosopher may have been abused.

A lame leg which impeded his movement was reported to have been broken in a rage by his owner. Although some report it due to terrible arthritis.

Either way, Epictetus had more than his share of unfairness dished out to him by fate.

 

But he taught his followers an interesting way to deal with this: don’t only accept your fate but embrace it.

 

Closer to our own time, Friedrich Nietzsche neatly put this idea into two Latin words — amor fati: a love of one’s fate.

In his work Ecce Homo, he referred to the idea as a “formula for greatness”.

He also advised it was not enough just to bear fate, but to love it.

 

It’s counterintuitive at first glance.

However, Epictetus used his lame leg as a teaching tool with this thought in mind.

He reminded his students; lameness can be a hinderance to the body but not the will.

 

Obviously, it would be only too human to be bitter about his constant pain.

It’s unfair after all.

If Epictetus broke out bottles of Roman whiskey, got hammered, and cracked somebody over the head with his crutch, a modern reader might sympathize.

 

Although it seems the amor fati approach was much more fruitful.

What’s more, we can do the same when unfairness visits us in the modern world.

 

Amor Poultry And A Navy SEAL

Harland Sanders might have been the biggest failure of all time.

Although you may not recognize the name.

Like Epictetus, he became famous under a moniker as well — Colonel Sanders.

 

The chicken mogul’s early life was an endless parade of unfairness.

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.

Life Is Unfair Quotes

He traveled from restaurants to diners, licensing his recipe for 5 cents per piece. This final insane idea paid off, literally.

It’s the reason why you know who Harland “Colonel” Sanders is.

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

Posted by ninangdeb

 

 
99de2c4e2b52fa3f62a9b55e2cf07793--kid-sayings-not-fair
 
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.
Unfair?
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.
For example:
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.