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Only 50% of the challenge of being disabled comes from actually being disabled. We disable each other by
It seems that the obsession for quick fixes would not be so rampant if people felt that they can stick to long-term projects. People lack confidence in themselves. But almost everything you can do today comes from something that was the opposite of a quick fix:
- your ability to read and type
- the skills you had to learn to get your job done
- how to keep order (this one confounds me to this day)
So relax. You have demonstrated over and over that you stick with things. You don’t need to delude yourself with quick fixes because you have already shown that the path that works, the path of mastery, is something you have undertaken many many times already.
In Better than Before Gretchen Rubin talks about people who schedule time to worry. What sounds really strange seems to work well for some people. If you find yourself worrying more than you would like to why not give your full attention to the activity and then, when done, tell your worrier self that it can continue at the next scheduled meeting?
Is there anything weird you can schedule to free your mind?
Sometimes I find it hard to distinguish between accepting a situation, a person’s behaviour or my own and letting myself or others get away with things.
Acceptance is good in the long term, loopholes seem a good idea in the short term. But sometimes they seem to look very similar, almost like twins.
What I see in lots of people I talk to is that they are too harsh with themselves, seeing everything, even true acceptance as a loophole. Acceptance sets you free as clichéd as it sounds, whereas constantly choosing loopholes narrows down options.
If we want more control over the quality of our thoughts we need to learn to be vigilant. Thoughts which occur at the same time have a tendency to befriend each other and before you know it, you can’t think one thought without the other instantly appearing as well. This is a helpful mechanism if you associate good things with a person or a place. That association is likely to grow stronger and stronger over time.
However the same is true if you permit more problematic thoughts to be associated with people, activities or places you like or love. This can turn out to be problematic because as the connection between let’s say your friend Daniel and the emotion of guilt get stronger it might actually overpower everything else you feel for Daniel, unless you do something about it. With time even just reading the name Daniel is likely to invoke feelings of guilt, even if ‘your Daniel’ is not even concerned.
Does this mean that negative thoughts need to be eliminated immediately? Negative emotions often alert us to the fact that something is going wrong. But if we do nothing about it, it’s very likely that at some stage, we won’t be able to have a good friendship with Daniel anymore. So when our negative emotions alert us to a problem, we should act on it but not let the guilt or other negative emotions always tag along, when we think about a person, place or activity we care about.
Don’t send me flowers when I’m dead. If you like me, send them while I’m alive.-Brian Clough
I recently encountered this idea of a fuck-it list. Some say it’s the opposite of a bucket list, things you wanted to do before you die but simply grew out of. Others said it’s a list of all the supposed societal expectations and ‘truths’ which put us in a place we don’t want to be. So what’s on your fuck-it list?
- Think of some habits you do every day without thinking.
- Identify what triggers those behaviours.
- Think about what conditions are in place when the habits happens (sorry too much Hobbitses).
- Pat yourself on the back.
- There is no step 5.
I admit that I may have said or done it on this very blog: saying someone should just say, do or think something. The word just is so innocent and everyday. Yet I try to use it as a red flag for myself. Because when I find myself thinking that an individual should just do X it means that I am not taking their entire experience seriously, that in a way I feel that it’s easy to change if only this person would just start doing this or stop doing that. But usually it is not because otherwise people wouldn’t struggle and need help. What might me a just for me and you might be a huge challenge for someone else who is facing barriers. We give no information on how to overcome barriers when we just ask people to do things. If anything it’s the opposite because we fail to empathize enough to see the reality of their situation.
Pride has a bad reputation. It’s often closely followed by guilt. Since at least biblical times we are warned of pride’s horrible implications. Yet feeling pride and being a narcissist are not the same thing. Pride has been found to motivate us to keep doing more and better work and even help others. So go ahead and allow yourself to feel good about you. It is likely to make you want to do more stuff to be proud about.
It’s a classic in psychology but well worth remembering: the difference between performance goals and mastery goals. In performance goals we aim to get a certain grade in an exam, lose a certain amount of weight or target a particular income number. If it works out we are happy but if it doesn’t we feel incompetent.
Sometimes we can think ourselves in knots when looking for a solution. We stare at the blank page and the watch and drive ourselves crazy. Weirdly enough, if we stop looking for one solution and force ourselves to come up with 20 something happens: we relax, write down stupid ideas and then chances are, among the 20 ideas there is one useful one that we can work with. We are so afraid to spend too much mental energy that we spend way more mental energy being mentally cramped up than we would, if we try to generate several problems. Go ahead, make yourself laugh, amaze yourself and be humbled by some of the more trivial thoughts that come to your mind. 20 is better than one.
While looking for outward inspiration is a good first step we can never find balance in anything if we don’t look at our own life. The strengths lens can help us with that. Usually strengths are used to discover what we enjoy and what gives us energy and meaning. But by asking some simple and strengths lens inspired questions we can get helpful clues:
You must have seen them: the maps of the world with comments on them: Cowboy country in Texas or ‘maids and gardeners’ in Texas. But jokes (funny and not so funny ones) aside what do you really think about when you look at the world? What if you had to make a comment like that for every country? Would the world according to you be a scary place? Bitter-sweet?
The news wants to make me believe, that Russia equals crazy Putin land or that the continent of Africa can be reduced to terrorism, starvation and AIDS. If we never meet people from these places and never travel our mind will take that information to fill in the map of the world. Not because we’re bad people, but because our mind does not like empty spaces, so it just takes the information it has.
When I think of my map of the world I want it to be full of hearts representing dear friends, memories of awe-inspiring nature and cool cities and interesting bits about culture, language and anything else that is quirky and interesting. I won’t get it for free and if I just do as I am told and believe as I read in the papers. It’s a mission for life.
Gretchen Rubin the author of the book Better than Before mentioned in an interview, that not all habits take long. This is often overlooked. In the spirit of looking at what works ask yourself which habits you have picked up fairly easily. Do you always do them at the same time or place? What is the trigger? Do you reward yourself or not? Are there any exceptions to the habit or not?
I lost a bet and will have to sit in Starbucks with an 1980s Tina Turner wig. That made me think: why had it never occurred to me to do that anyway? Isn’t life serious enough? Playfulness has been shown to be good in all kinds of ways: it helps us reframe and deal better with stress among other things. Routine rules much of the day anyway. Why not spice it up? If a wig is a step too much try rebellious socks.
Often we investigate ways to get more energy and forget the ways in which the existing energy needs to be protected. How do we protect our passion and creative energy? By using both a fix-it approach and a what’s-working-well:
- what commonly distracts you from using your creativity?
- what keeps you from using your creativity?
- are there any people who seem to require a lot of energy to handle well?
- which activities reliably sap your energy?
- what helps you focus on your creativity?
- where are you when you are at your most creative?
- which activities energize you?
Creative people are able to inhabit a space of opposites: they need to be alone to create their art, yet they need the inspiration of talking to others regularly in order to have ideas. They are extremely curious and open to experience yet when it’s time to create, they need the ability to focus on one thing only and remove all distractions. They need to be interested to push the limits and go beyond the known however in other areas of life, they are often very conforming, because everything else would use energy they could otherwise use for their art.
What kinds of opposites do you live in? Are you aware of these opposites and if so, do you try to remove or celebrate them?
Yesterday professional photographer Stelian Pavalache said: ‘when doing street photography in India things are moving fast, you just don’t have time. You have to pay attention to your peripheral vision to see colours and compositions that go well together. But you don’t have time to think about these things, everything moves so fast, you have to have the reflexes.’
Reflexes is something that sets the masters apart. Roger Federer doesn’t necessarily shoot the backhand differently than you do but he can do it without thinking in tons of different situations. Similarly I might get lucky but Stelian can make a living from his photography because his reflexes enable him to capture the moment without having to think.
So which reflexes would you like to have? Which ones do you already have, both good and bad?
The beauty of the concepts coming out of positive psychology such as positive emotions, engagement or strengths is that it’s a lens that can be applied to anything in life. You don’t have to stop at your personal life but can use these concepts as inspiration to think about almost every issue under the sun. How would product packaging look like if we wanted to help customers live their values? How would we decorate our house if we wanted to place a bigger emphasis on coming together as a family? What would help gym folks experience more flow while exercising?