Decision paralysis and the donkey

A donkey that’s hungry and thirsty stands at equal distance from hay a few feet to its left, and water to its right. Not being able to decide whether to eat or drink first, the donkey dies of hunger and thirst.

Death by indecision is an extreme analogy. But a reminder that you can have both when you see the bigger picture and plan properly. So many of us are fortunate enough to live in a world of “and” not “or”. Think it through but then commit to taking action. Don’t be an ass.

Happiness and your calendar

We don’t think of methodically managing our calendars as adding to our fulfilment. Isn’t it interesting though how we are quick to add necessary but obligatory things like doctor’s appointments and business meetings?

When we consider the few activities and people that bring us the most fulfillment, it’s a wonder that these don’t take up more space on our schedules.  Obligatory appointments are necessary.  But not scheduling time for deep work, creative time, relaxing time, connection with those close to us…just leaves these things up to fate.

If you think deeply about this, what we’re really saying is that it’s important to schedule all the things we must do, and then hope that there’s time left to do the things we love.

The importance of forgiveness

Some people have a hard time forgiving or letting go because doing so feels like letting the offender off the hook. But the reward for getting past your ego’s objection to forgiveness is emotional freedom.

Carrying a grudge is like carrying around poison and waiting to throw it. Carrying it doesn’t punish the guilty, and it doesn’t do you any good either.

Practicing what you preach

Ancient stoic practices help you walk the talk about things people tend to say, but perhaps not live up to:
 
– “I don’t care what people think” – Wear odd clothing in public that draws negative attention and reflect on how trivial it is to worry about what others think
– “I don’t do nice things to take credit” – Anonymously buy lunch for a stranger or the person behind you in line
– “Material things aren’t important” – Assign days where you don’t make purchases, overeat, wear nice clothes, or live in abundance, all the while asking yourself “is this the condition I so feared?”

“Practice” implies making it a habit.  We are what we do, not what we say we are.

High quality questions to help you get unstuck

  • What would be ideal? (I find this to be MUCH more informative than “what do you want?” or “what would make you happy?”)
  • What one thing can I let go of such that my level of stress will be significantly reduced? 
  • Can I convert this thought or belief from shame/fear to hope/compassion? 

What I learned about codependence

There are multiple books (and psychologists) that specialize in helping people with codependence. I’m hoping that my brief definition and summary of my personal lessons are of help to many others.

Briefly: to be codependent is to have an over-inflated sense of responsibility for others’ feelings. It’s the desire to meet others’ needs at the expense of your own.

As challenging as it is to embody these principles, here are a few things to internalize:
– When there’s a choice to honor your needs or others’ needs, choose your own.
– Putting yourself first is not selfish. It’s a radical act of self-love.
– You are not the antidote for how anyone else feels. 

How to apply what you learn

When you consume a lot and are in learning mode, whether via mentors, books, lectures, seminars, or podcasts, there are better and worse ways to internalize what you learned.

One thing that helps me turn a chunk of new knowledge into something immediate and actionable is to ask these two questions: Based on what I just learned…

  1. What will I commit to start or stop doing?
  2. What perspective have I gained that converts to valuable advice?

The illusion of control

The “close door” button on elevators isn’t connected to anything. Pushing it does absolutely nothing.

We often believe we have control over circumstances that we don’t. This can work against you. We might blame ourselves for outcomes which were never under our control. That’s just as true for the outcome of a product launch, the stock market, to how our children turn out. Of course you influence these things. But there are far more variables that lead to the outcome for you to assume full responsibility.

Next time you’re placing blame on yourself because of an unwanted outcome, try to look for the (many) other factors that have contributed to it.

The other communication skill

The U.S. education system teaches three kinds of communication: speaking (think grammar and presentation skills), reading and writing.

There is a fourth communication category that’s hugely important: listening. Chances are, if you have knowledge of active listening, empathetic listening, “I” statements, and other related skills, you learned them outside of academics.

You can make big communication skill leaps by learning and applying good listening skills. My goal isn’t to teach you listening skills in a few sentences, but to urge you to think of them as every bit as important and technical as delivering a speech or interpreting the written word.

You 2.0

It’s a useful analogy to equate uses of our attention to using apps or software. There are bugs to fix with each new upgrade, and enough introspection reveals that we’ve been running some old programs that may have been appropriate at one time, but have outlived their usefulness.

The thought of new software or an update to existing software makes all of us nervous, as we know there will be changes we’ll have to get used to.

You should occasionally reflect on your uses of time and energy, and make sure you’re running programs that improve your personal operating system, and aren’t just running because they’ve always been.