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The value of scientific theories lies not in telling you what’s right or wrong. A good theory is a springboard to a richer and more nuanced discussion. That’s why even false theories can be useful. You get to think about yourself and life in a way you otherwise wouldn’t have.
Many of us are aware of polarity: Democrats versus Republicans, hot or cold, good or bad. To say that there are things in the middle is one thing. But through the abundance of polarity we often constrict ourselves to seeing only two options: either I go grad school or I don’t. Either I stay in this relationship or I don’t. We are not trained to come up with several scenarios:
- I could stay in this relationship and learn to take care of my own happiness
- I could stay in this relationship and get outside help
- I could stay in this relationship and we could seek help together
- I could stay in this relationship and see what happens if I start a new loving habit today
- I could stay in this relationship and see what happens if I speak the unspeakable
- We could take a time-out
Once we understand that there is a whole midrange to choose from, not just when it comes to big decisions but also small ones as well, we don’t need to go with the first reflex feeling or thought. That is liberating.
Mystics have highlighted that pain breaks open our barriers, that it serves a purpose. When that is true it is of great comfort to know that despite the pain, growth will result, that we will be more resilient or even more loving.
However if we think that every pain serves this noble purpose there is the danger of letting it take control of us for longer than necessary. Rumination is a good example. At a certain point we just revisit things not out of necessity for reflection but because it has become a thinking or feeling habit. In that case taking comfort in pain is dangerous and reinforces misery.
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.-Khalil Gibran
To all of you going through this: you are brave. Nothing can keep breaking. At some point the new understanding will emerge.
Sometimes one of the most compassionate things we can do for someone else is to not ask an obvious question. If someone is out of work they don’t need to be reminded of it by asking how the job search is going. They will enthusiastically tell you once they have a job.
If someone is ill they might not want to talk about their illness with everyone all the time.
We have been taught that questions signal that we care and it can be true. But sometimes it can have the opposite effect. Not bringing something up is not always a door to repression but simply an acknowledgment that you are dealing with a person and not a dysfunction.
We know that letting go is good for us. But we don’t really know how to do it. I don’t know any answer except that sometimes letting go works out and other times it doesn’t. When it does there are different shades of it: letting go reluctantly, with our brain but not our heart and then there’s fully-hearted letting go which truly feels like freedom. When is the last time you felt like that? What led up to it? For me it was yesterday, when lots of clutter I had held on to for years suddenly ceased to be important. Like most changes, the whole process was anything but sudden. But once you are ready you know it. I love the freedom of empty space. I want more of it. What about you?
How did you like the last book you read? What did you learn from it? The time period over which a book, movie or regular conversation releases its impact on us can vary radically. Some books we read and we know immediately that the challenge us on several levels. Others work their magic over time, sometimes in secret away from our conscious awareness.
With the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin I thought initially it was an easy and enjoyable if slightly superficial read. Until I picked it up again two years later and saw that lots of her ideas had suddenly become my ideas and that her key idea, experimentation was suddenly much more part of my life. Some conversations or movies change our lives right in the moment and we know it immediately. Others are more subtle and almost humble because we might never be able to credit where the impact came from.
In terms of money most people buy stocks high (when there’s lots of hype) and sell low (when everything comes crashing down). The ones who are successful do the opposite.
With self-development it is very similar: we tend to get really interested in it when life is hard and we are already in a difficult state (hype). Then we stop doing the behaviours which would have helped us to grow when it gets hard to maintain.
It’s not about becoming a habit machine and never missing a day. It’s about adopting the long-term mindset of a successful investor: often the results we want take a few months or years. Understanding that the lows are normal and to be expected but also training ourselves to have faith, even if the positive feedback is not yet coming our way, means that we can cultivate the patience needed to succeed.
Originality can be wonderful. Yet more often than not we need reminders of things we used to know, know but don’t apply or know but need some validation for. We revere the new when more often than not the solution lies in rephrasing the old and taking it seriously enough, to actually not just be entertained or intellectually tickled but compelled to act by it. So what truths do you know about but need to be reminded of?
We understand changes only through comparison. Therefore we are naturally paying attention to big changes because you don’t need to be perceptive to detect those. However nature’s changes are mostly imperceptible when they happen: the leaves don’t change from one day to the next but start with small spots that change colour. The change might seem sudden if we haven’t looked at
It’s incredible how opinionated that voice in our head is. How it believes that it knows how things should work, even things which don’t matter at all or we have never done before in our lives. That voice will continuously look at everything we do, judge where we are at and decide that wherever that is, it’s not good enough. This is not personal, though it is personal how loud and how frequently you allow this voice to remain inside your head. It doesn’t like reasoning where you objectively point out, how it couldn’t know how to do something or how it doesn’t matter, because you are not partaking in a contest. It talks back to you at first to give you the illusion that this is not a way out. But if you calmly ask for evidence it will sulkily shut up. For a while.
It’s not going to do any good to land on Mars if we are stupid.
It’s not going to do any good if we change jobs without changing ourselves. It’s not going to do any good if we win the lottery if we are stupid about it, because we might end up in more debt than we ever had before. Getting somewhere is completely pointless if we are not the kind of person who can make anything good grow out of it. Bradbury put this truth into surprisingly blunt words. That is why the process takes time: not because of the distance covered but because of the transformation we go through.
The most valuable thing to come out of science are not the individual findings: it’s the attitude of experimentation. When something unexpected happens it’s a data point, simply something that tells the scientist, that a particular hypothesis did not work. Failure is not failure but simply information that is used to design the next experiment.
What do you miss by amassing mathematical knowledge about the stars?
The feeling of kinship when you return home late and everything is quiet and all you can see are the stars. They have shifted but you still recognize some constellations you probably can’t name.
Lots of things are left undone because we apparently stop having time when we get into our twenties. Success is this straightforward thing that means we can only pursue the things that bring some immediate and known return. Which is why any form of intentional creative activities cease to be part of lots of people’s lives. Same with learning stuff that we don’t immediately know how to use. Studying another language other than English or Spanish? Hard and a waste of time. Practicing an instrument? Would be nice but who has the time for that?
Interestingly when successful people are asked about the early days and what they did it turns out that pretty much everybody did something or someone random with no intention of turning it into a success at all: they traveled for a month by themselves or met someone while they were watching their kids play soccer.
When we engage in learning the exotic dance that nobody has an idea what it is or learn a language we don’t need for business it’s not only enjoyable when we are practicing these activities. We become people who can tell different stories. We will bond much quicker with fellow weird-dance-enthusiasts or random language speakers and even entertain those, who have nothing to do with these things. They allow us to make memories and to create the kind of serendipity that is often the beginning of great success stories.
Let’s say your morning routine: what’s the goal of it? To be able to sleep as long as possible and leave home in as little time as possible? To connect with your family and set the day off right? Or to spend some alone time before taking on the world?
The thing is almost everything we do is optimized for something even if we don’t think about it. Usually it’s speed: people want to get from A to B in the shortest amount of time.
One way of building happiness into your daily life without thinking about it is to screen your habits and do small adjustments. What can you do to make the morning a good start for the day? Eat good quality breakfast? Practice being truly in the moment and enjoying the self care you are showing yourself while taking a shower? What happens if you take an extra 10 min on your commute but choose a route that will expose you to more natural beauty? Walk on the other side of the street so you can soak up some extra sun? Leave the house 5 min early so you don’t have to run everywhere?
On their own these things won’t make a huge difference in your life. But they add up.
I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.
By definition too much sense sends your brain cells to sleep.
In a couple of years you might remember today or February 2015 as the time when you started, or even better, persevered with something you cared about. You will think back and be grateful to a version of yourself that won’t exist anymore because today you decided to take one step towards becoming that future you, and tomorrow you will do the same.
What everybody sees is even less than what is visible on this picture. What everybody sees is the end result as TROY the magician says. The end result not only hides what’s underneath but actually makes the right choices and actions clear. Everyone who did not take them appears a bit thick. Not exactly promising. Who can you encourage today by showing that while the end result is maybe the only thing that you can see you are willing to spend enough time with that person, to learn more, appreciate more about them and the stuff that’s underneath the surface?