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They're all around us, affecting our lives in unseen ways, causing worry, hesitation, confusion, anxiety, avoidance. They bring us to our knees. Fears control us in ways we never realize, unacknowledged and more powerful because of their unknown workings.
I've gone from obese to overweight to normal weight to pretty fit, in the last decade, and I'm sometimes asked what someone should eat if they want to lose fat. I've tried many diets: Atkins, Mediterranean, South Beach, Paleo, Vegan, and a handful of others.
We all do it: we look at what others are doing and wish we were doing that too. Or, alternatively, we scoff at what they're doing and judge them, and see ourselves as better. One makes us feel bad, the other makes us feel superior. Neither makes us happy.
It's no secret that we live in the Age of Instant gratification. That's not news. But Paul Roberts has written an excellent essay at The American Scholar looking at the breadth of this phenomena on our society - it's a must read.
I open the door to my house after a long flight and drive home from the airport, and Eva and I and the kids throw our bags down and immediately want to go to sleep. We're jetlagged, tired from traveling, worn from all-day walks around foreign cities.
How do you beat something so addictive as the Internet, or TV - things most of us find ourselves increasingly immersed in, all day long? I won't get into the whys of curbing an addiction like this - I'm going to assume you already want to make a change.
Your day is getting hectic, and you're tired, or anxious, or distracted, or full of doubt. You're a bit lost, feeling without direction. Take a breath. Turn the spotlight of your attention from all the worries of your day to your breath, as it comes in and then goes out.
A craftsman masters his trade by repeated practice, with care and continual learning, with devotion to the purpose. It takes the same kinds of things to master the craft of discipline: Repeated practice Single-minded devotion to the purpose Continual learning Care I've been giving some thought to what it takes to master the craft of discipline, and have been following some practices that I've found extremely useful: Do the task even when I'm not in the mood.
I enjoy creating a few simple rules to live by that take away some of the overwhelming decision making we need to make every day. Pre-think these decisions, formulate them into rules, and then just follow them, freeing your brain for more important decisions.
We set out for the Sierra Nevada as a family, all eight of us, excited but unsure what to expect from our first family camping trip in these mountains. I surveyed our two vehicles full of camping gear and food, and wondered at foolishly calling myself a minimalist sometimes.
The mind is a wonderful thing. It's also a complete liar that constantly tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us, and stops many great changes in our lives. Scumbag mind.
There was a long time when the lack of belief in myself was a major factor in my life. I didn't pursue an ideal career, or start my own business, because I didn't think I could. I didn't stick to habits because I didn't really believe I had the discipline.
What wouldn't be worthy, in my opinion: watching crappy TV (a few really good shows during the month might be an exception), constantly being distracted, constantly reading the news and social media, being mean or selfish all the time, shopping, feeling unmotivated and doing nothing with that time, worrying, regretting.
Let's say you're feeling unmotivated, unsure of yourself, aimless, can't find your passion, directionless, not clear on what your purpose in life is. You're in good company - most people are in the same boat. Now, there about a million things online telling you how to find your passion in life, and that's a good thing.
Now consider how you can make a difference in the lives of others. Consider your current work, which perhaps already makes a difference - how can you refocus yourself on this work? Or consider creating a side project, and carving out the time for this.
One of the biggest problems you need to solve if you work for yourself is how to make yourself do work. The best entrepreneurs have figured it out and just pound out the work they need to do. But many others put off their dream careers, or stay in jobs they like, because they're afraid to figure this out.
'We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take time to enjoy where we are.' ~Bill Watterson We all go through our lives almost on autopilot, our minds generally elsewhere, occupied with other thoughts as we float through the real world like ghosts.
'A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.' ~Henry David Thoreau For almost 9 years now, I've been learning to live a simple life. A life uncluttered by most of the things people fill their lives with, and left with space for what really matters.
'Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.' ~Marcus Aurelius There are various ways to prepare yourself for what might come your way, whether that's a tough work project, a crisis, the loss of a loved one, an argument with your partner, or the zombie apocalypse.
Much of our lives is spent trying to ignore problems, not wanting to deal with them, procrastinating. Bills are pushed to the side to deal with later. People we have troubles with are avoided. Work we don't want to do is put off while we browse the Internet.
I've learned these answers through repeated observation, but you can learn your own answers by asking the question before you do anything, making a hypothesis ("I won't regret this later") and then seeing if you're right by reviewing the results at the end of each day.
The cherry blossom falls after its short beautiful bloom. It floats gently down to earth. Its life is over, but the limitedness of its existence is one of the biggest reasons the blossom is so gorgeous. If we knew that the blossom would last forever, it wouldn't have the same poignant beauty, and we'd take it for granted.
If only we could get others to be more considerate, less annoying, more diligent, see our point of view ... How often have you wanted to change other people so they'd be better? Better spouses, kids, roommates, coworkers, employees?
And this choice, to dedicate your time to helping others, relieving their suffering, making them happy ... this is the motivation you can use for doing great things, for building something useful, for creating and working and being a good parent. It's not about increasing your own happiness, but the happiness of others.