People don’t refuse change. They refuse being changed.
Change needs space and time to unfold. This space is not filled with activities but is designed to have insights bump into each other and fuse. Time spent reflecting 10-15 min each day is more helpful than 10-15 min of additional work. For this to happen we have to accept that we will not have great insights each time we do this. We have to accept that these insights might happen at completely different times but that the space and reflection is needed nevertheless. We also have to let go of control, of this notion that everything happens in a linear fashion and instead trust that something good will happen, even if we don’t yet know any details about it.
When can you successfully speak up and when are you doomed to fail? Research has found that you have to earn the right to speak up. You contribute to a group. These contributions make others respect you. You gain idiosyncrasy credit. Now is the time to challenge what is happening. Without the ICs you will just be shot down as an annoying weirdo.
(one of many interesting insights featured in Adam Grant’s new book Originals)
To those of you who travel a lot and easily make new friends this is no surprise: one of the quickest ways to expand your mind is to meet, befriend and if possible love (not necessarily romantically) someone who is different from you. The love for one person can put all the lies that people tell about their group right. The love for one person can give you the determination to not judge even if it’s easy. Watching a person you know in flesh and blood actually achieve something is very different from just hearing about something from famous people. Watching several people achieve something who you know might be precisely what you need to change from believing something to be for the select few to going after it yourself.
Negativity is often in your face or gut. The good stuff is more subtle and when good changes happen, they often happen in subtle ways, like how the sky changes from moment to moment but so gradually that it’s hard to believe, things haven’t always been like this. So it’s not just about creating positive things, it’s about training our vision to see shades of colour we usually don’t pay attention to.
The Olympian athlete trains before the competition. The fire-fighter before the fire happens. But when it comes to psychology most have it backwards: we ignore it until we’re in the middle of whatever mayhem makes us wish we had better psychological fitness. The body and mind are absolutely the same in this respect. So if you’re feeling good start training now. If you just got out of a crisis: start training now. If you’re in the middle of a battle: have patience with yourself.
We are obsessed with making things compact so that we can do as many things as possible. That’s why titles such as ’10 day diet’ or ‘5 min workout’ sell so well. But what about the things that are so enjoyable that you don’t want anything more efficient?
There’s research that says you can get lots of the health benefits of long distance running when you train right for 20 min. I have zero interest. I love being outside and I love the feeling of knowing ‘you just did a 10K’.
Never seen the movie The Help despite the fact that it’s my favourite audiobook in the world. Even if it’s superb why would I spend only two hours in that world when I can stretch the fun to 17 hours?
Look for the things you don’t want to shorten or find some kind of hack and do more of it.
Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk turned worldly meditation teacher, encourages his students to repeat the techniques they learned in previous sessions. He points out that actually there’s no such thing as repetition because through practice our minds change and we evolve. So therefore why not revisit material more often?
When your car breaks down you want the mechanic to diagnose the problem and then fix it. If it doesn’t work the first time around you expect the said mechanic to come up with alternative solutions and try them out one by one until the car is fixed. What you probably don’t want your mechanic to do is to discuss with you how many other cars have this problem, why it’s really hard, that the spare parts exist but each supplier for this spare part sucks for this and this reason.
Yet in psychology, the media, government and even established business we not only accept some of these completely pointless discussions, we participate in them.
At work when you train youngsters there are always people scared that you spoil them. The reasoning goes that only if you are firm and establish strict rules do the kids learn. Yet most of those people when they go home see no problem in loving their own children and refraining from setting up a military school.
Yes contexts differ and what applies to your mechanic might not be the same as what works for a journalist. But sometimes these differences have absolutely nothing to do with context or rationality but are simply a result of old ways of doing things and being too lazy to transition to something else.
Our ability to adapt is amazing. Things change and yet we are able to adapt after a while without doing anything consciously. It just happens. What’s the last change you got used to without having to get into action mode? How do you feel about it? Proud? Grateful?
Who or what do you expect to be the source of change? Yourself? Other people? The passing of time? Is this pretty generally true about you or are you more passive in some instances and more active in others? And how has this worked for you? What would happen if you experimented a bit more by shifting your expectations?
Yesterday we talked about how the general sometimes keeps us from experiencing tangible everyday events. Often the general is a hollow vessel filled with some shadow of experiences or whatever information we encountered on the past, true or not.
When we want to change our minds it’s often very hard to convince ourselves of abstract concepts like ‘the world is a good place’ or ‘diversity is a good thing’ if we don’t already believe these things. The more we learn specific things the easier it is to change our abstract ideas.
So for example if we set out travelling and everyone from the kebab seller to the person sitting next to you on the train is helpful and open you will find it much easier to believe that people are generally good. You experienced it yourself, it’s not something that you just heard from others. Similarly if you have worked on a team where people from very different backgrounds successfully worked together and you experienced that the creative energy and level of interest was higher there than in more homogeneous groups believing in diversity is not so hard anymore.
Therefore one part of changing your mental climate lastingly in a positive way is to seek out the experiences, books and movies which turn the abstract into tangible concrete examples.
When we begin doing something like meditation or exercise we do it as a practice: we have expectations as well as a time and a place when we do it. What practices in your life could benefit from expansion by turning them into a way of life? That doesn’t mean you abandon your practice. It’s the cornerstone. It just means that you take the attitude and lens from that practice and view life through that lens.
The Ten Commandments are an utter failure. If God’s message didn’t stop people from stealing, committing adultery and murdering each other your message won’t either.
What does help is to engage in the actions we want to see in others. Goals and actions are both contagious.
-Dr. Art Markman
Could you run a marathon now? Could you run a marathon if you trained properly? How about if you had to run 500 metres for 85 days? Would your fitness level permit that? This is why tiny steps work. Break it down and if it’s hard break it down some more.
If something doesn’t work out we often think the reason is that we didn’t try hard enough. But maybe the approach itself doesn’t work. Maybe instead of questioning ourselves we have to question the method.
We all have routines. Not only the activity itself is routine but the thoughts that accompany it as well. Thoughts lead to emotional reactions and different feelings combine to make up our moods. So if we pay attention to the thoughts we have each time we do routine tasks we have the chance to adjust what we think repeatedly. If you want to be more grateful, savour more and appreciate the good focus yourself while you are brushing your teeth. In the beginning it requires effort but after a while just seeing a tooth brush will remind you of positive thoughts and feelings. Give it a try.
Stuff like ‘the path is the goal’ and ‘it’s more about process than outcome’ are true but as humans we are prone to get discouraged if we don’t see results. Therefore doing something for one single reason is a risky strategy – if we don’t get what we want we deem the effort useless. I like to think of several outcomes. If I would write daily just to get more people to my website I would have stopped months ago. But it turns out that I am training myself to keep a habit, writing out thoughts which might one day be put together in a book or some other format and that those who read regularly claim makes them think. So how can you pursue activities that lead to multiple good outcomes so you get the feedback to keep going, even if one or two objectives don’t work out?
It’s so easy to share and like articles nowadays that more people know what to do about anything than ever before (presumably).
But did you actually give it a try? From all the advice and ideas and inspiration what did you try? Did you try it once or give it some time? Or are the phantasies satisfying enough, that trying becomes obsolete?
What are the things you are happy about as they are? It can be big stuff like a happy marriage or something small like breakfast. It’s liberating to think about the things you neither have to or want to change.
Here are a few examples from my own life to get things going:
- breakfast (seriously)
- the walk to work
- work-life balance
- trying out new things for the inspiration and experience and not pressuring myself to continue with everything
So what about you?