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We often think that people who create unique work are outstanding in many different ways too. Yet research shows that this is not the case. The opposite is true: if someone is ready to risk something in one domain, by for example abandoning the established path they make sure that they don’t take too many risks in other areas of life. The reason is that we have to balance the risks that we take: if we risk a lot in one domain, we make sure that other aspects of our life remain perfectly safe. This logic is also tied to energy: standing out takes a lot of energy. We have to deal with people staring, asking questions, possibly talking behind our backs. We can deal with all of that if we think it’s worth it but it’s too much if we would risk it in all areas of life.
I have a new philosophy. I’m only going to dread one day at a time.-Charles M. Schulz
Certain things are said so often that they become a clichée: that the simple life matters such as being around people we love or being grateful for what we have. Yet as we live accordingly unlike words which can feel empty if repeated often enough, if we are present to the experience of these clichées it does not feel stereotypical at all.
The same life events and facts can make a very different story: a difficult childhood can be seen as the reason why everything else turned out bad or it can be the reason we developed resilience and understand how to read others. The highpoints can be things we love to remember or the reason of anguish because we think we can never attain the same happiness again. What kind of story do you tell yourself about your life? Is it ho-hum or an adventure, challenging or breaking? How we explain our past to ourselves influences not only our happiness but also how we approach things in the future. The good news is that even if you have told yourself a tale that you found depressing you can rewrite it. That doesn’t mean changing the facts. It means deciding to explore alternative and more helpful ways of seeing your life.
New stuff is irresistible and compelling. I believe firmly in having a good mix between the old and the new (and the blue:) in our life. Yet sometimes the new distracts us from what needs to be done. A good way of keeping that tendency in check is to ask ourselves: what happened as a result of this past trend or must-have product? What changed in my life as a result? Why would it be different with this new trend or product?
We are supposed to take up a lot of things for life if we want to make a positive difference: clean eating ,exercising or meditation are just a few. Often we carry over this unconscious expectation that we will need to continue forever which in turn prevents us from starting potentially rewarding activities. What could you do for a limited time that will make a positive difference in your life without taking on the pressure of forever?
If you read this blog long enough you will notice that the opposite of a truth is also true (thanks Gretchen Rubin for that nice expression). I have mentioned mindfulness and how keeping our mind on one thing is good for happiness and our health. Yet I have noticed in my own work that when I get stuck writing a speech or preparing course material the solution usually comes to me while I am simultaneously listening to a related audiobook and engaging my hands without using too much brainpower (washing up or doing routine Excel spreadsheets at the bank) work very well. Without knowledge about psychology these things sometimes work for and sometimes against us. However once we understand these mechanisms we can deliberately take charge to induce what we know works: mindfulness and savouring when we need to calm down and be present but creative split-attention mindlessness movements when we are in problem-solving mode.
We like to wait for stuff although we barely ever give in to that pleasure anymore. What could you wait for instead of immediately getting it? What can you anticipate and imagine weeks or even months ahead?
Yesterday I went to see an improv show and it was all beginners, meaning they had never performed before an audience yet. By far the best were the folks, in particular one woman, who didn’t let their fear of being silly spoil what they’re doing. The ones who were less fun were the ones holding back because they didn’t want to look silly. They didn’t manage to let go of our natural everyday instincts of trying not to stand out and to be perceived as serious.
To be clear this doesn’t mean the entertaining lot weren’t nervous or had no fear. They probably did. However they somehow managed two things:
- To let go and give their all despite knowing that people would judge them. They were okay with that, probably because while they want to improve they are not willing to be harsh to themselves. Therefore if nobody liked it but them, they were still okay with it.
- They understood that within this context goofing off was not only okay but actually improved performance. They showed flexibility adopting different personas because they understood that they don’t have to be the same person all the time.