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One of the big problems of problems is that we think we are responsible for all of them. That we went wrong, that it’s us who should have known better. But while we doubtlessly screw up sometimes there are issues that millions of people are dealing with in silence: how to have a healthy relationship with family and friends but doing what you think is right, even if they expect you to do otherwise. Fighting with perfectionism. Not knowing how to process loss. Wondering whether this is all life has to offer. Or trying to understand how to stop the negative chatter in your mind that makes everything seem so hard. You’d probably be hard pressed to find even just one person who is not struggling with one of these things right now.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
-Carl Sagan (scientist)
When a kid breaks an arm or a leg their friends write all kinds of things on the cast: get well wishes, jokes and hearts. What if we would do that with emotional pain as well? Especially our own. Cover that part of ourselves and others with extra love and care.
Revolutions destroy the perfect and enable the impossible.
The next time I feel that my life is falling apart I hope I will have the sense to choose to believe that this is what is happening to me.
We often calculate in linear ways whether we have time for something or not. Exercising takes 3 hours a week and I have no three hours of dead time, so it can’t happen. Same with the hobby that you love but that is unfortunately not as important as all the other demands on your time. The problem with this logic is that we pretend that everything exists in separate little boxes, which if added up make 24 hours a day.
However in reality it’s rather like a stone that you throw into a pond. Each action influences each other action. If three hours of exercise, more sleep or more fun influences almost everything else you do, you might suddenly find that you actually have more time, because your previously tired or lethargic brain does stuff more quickly. Or you stumble upon business opportunities while doing something fun which might have taken you weeks of cold-calling and emailling.
If you are working on a long-term goal, anything at all, chances are that something you have been doing successfully for weeks or months suddenly doesn’t bring you the same success. Seth Godin calls this the dip. It’s a milestone although not a particularly enjoyable one. Nevertheless take a moment to be proud to have reached the plateau. Even if you don’t know right now how to keep on succeeding you kept long enough at it for it to even hit a plateau. That’s like getting to the second base on Mount Everest: still an achievement in itself.
How do you define failure? Is a failed marriage one that didn’t last forever? What about not being promoted or not feeling happy all the time?
How do these definitions serve you? They make us feel bad for the majority of all possible outcomes. Yet if we don’t define a relationship by its length, a career according to the number or promotions and happiness not exclusively as feeling happy all the time we change how we see ourselves.
Just like success failure can mean all kinds of things. You should be the one to decide not the majority.
There are some things that could be harmful but which you don’t do. Usually we think about everything we should or shouldn’t be doing. Today let’s focus on the harmful stuff that you are not doing to yourself or others. If you feel proud that’s great. This is something that you could be doing but you are not. Instead when it comes to this you are acting in the best interest of your health, creativity or happiness. Enjoy this feeling without the need to do anything right now.
Yesterday I wrote something so disconnected, random, all over the place and shallow that I will have to trash it or 98% of it. And I smiled the whole time. This is really bad I said to myself. Yes I know I replied with glee.
The pride that I am sticking with a new habit is bigger than the desire to stop, just because it’s bad. It’s more important in the long run to stick with this habit than to hold on to the delusion that everything I write contains a good thought.
Bad work that we don’t care about sometimes has to be written down to make space for other things. It shouldn’t have the power to keep us from articulating the good work that is still somewhere inside.
This is apparently what a person from my hometown in Zurich/Switzerland looks like when a stranger starts talking to them. That’s something that always made me kind of sad until I went for a run yesterday. And I saw someone who I thought used to be my co-worker. I said Katja? and the people turned around and gave me exactly this look. Which made me giggle on my entire run home. I can’t change how Swiss people relate to strangers but now I can laugh about it…
Fiction is the truth inside the lie.
What did that person who lied to you want to be true? And what if that person were you?
A lot of timeless questions such as ‘does God exist?’ or ‘what’s the meaning in life?’ cannot be answered with certainty and evidence. Sure people might feel they are sure but none of these things will probably ever be settled by science. So we operate based on some assumptions and wonder if these assumptions are true or not. But focusing our energy on unanswerable questions can occupy us for long without really helping us progress. That’s why I search for beliefs I could be wrong about:
- maybe people don’t have a soul
- maybe we really aren’t somehow connected in ways we don’t yet understand
The fact that I could be wrong about these beliefs and similar things does not bother me: because as I act as if these things were true I become more of the person I want to be. Even if I am mistaken.
The thought that inspired us yesterday might feel demotivating today. The question is not whether some information or question is useful in general but whether it is useful in this very moment or whether it hinders me from where I would like to go right now.
The opposite of happiness is not sadness, it’s boredom.
According to this definition how happy are you?
There’s a necessary bit of delusion to get something off the ground that doesn’t exist yet. Sometimes we need to pause our desire to be normal in order to be just deluded enough to believe that something can succeed, even if we or even those around us have never done it.
It’s easy to underestimate the small: a blog post a day, some posts consisting of even one sentence, what is that going to do for me? I have to write at least a thousand words a day to become a real writer.
Walking every day is not going to make me a fit person, for that I have to be able to run an hour.
But no matter where we are, unless we already have some foundation, most of us can’t start at the training levels of real professionals. This is easier to understand in sports but is true for other skills as well. And as a result we often don’t start at all. Which is a sure fire way to never do what we truly want.
Let’s look at the small as bridges. Bridges to bigger things that will emerge eventually. And we will enjoy the ride more, if we don’t stop every ten seconds, staring at our watches and ask ‘are we there yet?’
What is your favourite part of your city that you don’t go to regularly? What about in other countries? One of my all time favourite places is Central Park. Seeing just a picture is enough to ignite all kinds of fuzzy goodness in my stomach. Can you make it a priority to go to your place of peace this week? Or at least refuel looking at some images and savouring the emotions and memories that go with it?
Today why not go through your email archive and re-read fun or touching messages you have received or even heartfelt gratitude messages you sent to others? Chances are that if you don’t remember the content of the message you can tap into some of the feelings they produced in the first place.
Writing wise I am still trying to recover from my university years. Before I started with my undergrad my writing was about characters, plots and settings. Now it’s about conveying information as directly as possible. While that might be helpful for those in a rush who just want the information it doesn’t exactly help to make the information memorable and enjoyable. So I need to unlearn or at least box the kind of writing I learned at university in order to become a better writer. What do you have to unlearn to overcome barriers or become better at something that is important to you?
We all know what it’s like to want to do something that is good for us but somehow not do it nevertheless. It’s easy to think ‘oh I don’t like to workout’. Funny enough the workout barely ever feels bad. The resistance is towards something else: feeling like we haven’t arrived yet, that we are not good at something.
Dissociating where the resistance comes from and reminding myself that the activity itself is enjoyable has been helpful for me. Where do you confuse what creates resistance in you?