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 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.

Remaining who you are

A man sees a snake that’s headed into a firepit. He picks it up trying to save it and it bites him. When the snake then actually enters the fire, the man again tries to save it and is again bitten.

His friend asks why he would risk this a second time when it was obvious what would happen. He replied: “The snake was just being a snake, and doing what was in its nature. I was also being myself, and doing what was in my nature. I won’t let outside forces change who I am.”

We don’t have to put ourselves in danger to be true to our nature, but this is a good reminder that even if we’re victims of harmful gossip, manipulation, or someone else’s uncontrolled anger, doesn’t mean we have to employ those tactics. Others’ “bad” shouldn’t change your “good.”

Who’s in control?

A psychologist in the 1950s coined the term “locus of control”, which identifies the difference (internal or external locus) in whether we perceive to be in control of our lives, or outside forces are controlling us.

We can change our own perception to notice how much of our lives we are able to architect, despite (or even because of) external forces out of our control.

Not surprisingly, those with an internal locus of control are consistently happier, less stressed, more productive, and more fulfilled than those who believe that they are victims to outside forces.