Re-framing

Re-framing is an important cognitive tool that allows us to improve our situation by assigning a meaning that serves us better.

We’ll occasionally be wrong, but we’re in a better place to assume our friend who hasn’t called back is busy rather than that she stopped caring about us, or that our pre-performance anxiety is actually excitement (look it up – the symptoms are identical).

Words matter.  Not just in how we use them with each other, but how we use them with ourselves.

The impermanence of emotion

Language often reflects our thoughts.  There’s a reason we don’t say “I am a broken ankle” and “I am a fever”.  And yet when it comes to emotion we say “I am depressed” or “I am angry”.

There’s a chicken and egg problem regarding influence of language on thoughts (or vice versa), and I can’t solve that.  But I can tell you that it’s easier to recognize the impermanence of your current emotion if you just think: “For the time being, I feel angry”.

This too shall pass.

What is freedom?

It’s tempting and occasionally true to equate the level of freedom with one’s wealth and resources.  And while it’s cliche of me to tell you that these things alone rarely dictate the amount of freedom we have, I’m going to offer an alternative definition.

Freedom = options.

For me, our freedom increases in relation to the options and choices WE are able to make.  And most people reading this are fortunate enough to choose our own adventures, rather than pick from a short list of what we’re “supposed to” (or worse yet, “have to”) do.

Be grateful for your options.

Smartphone setup, habits and health

Since most people who read this (and the person writing this) are glued to their smartphones, it seems sensible to optimize them to serve us.

Ever notice a difference between what we know we “should” do what we actually do?  One way to overcome this is to create systems using the device you’re probably holding right now.

Here are a few personal examples:
1) I should  incorporate mindfulness –> use the Breathe app that reminds me 5x/day to “Take a few mindful breaths”
2) I should take more “me” time –> actually schedule time with/for myself, rather than hoping I’ll have time left over when everything I “have to” do is done
3) I shouldn’t sit for 8 hours straight (“Sitting is our generation’s smoking”) –> Set an hourly reminder in my phone to stand up, stretch, and do short anti-sitting exercises

What should you do that you could use systems to start doing?

Cleaning house

Have you ever deleted negative or antagonistic Facebook friends, only to realize that your feed seems to be filled with content that makes you feel good?

 

 Perhaps you notice more interesting, useful, funny, inventive things shared.  Advice.  Requests for help.  Recommendations.  Pictures of events or kids or things you care about, because you really care about the people in those pictures.  If this sounds like your idea of a community, you can take control.

 

 It should be obvious that this applies – perhaps even more significantly – to your “real” life.  The energetic effects of those in your physical presence  are even more influential than what happens when you scroll.

 

Survive vs. Thrive

Our two million year old brain is designed to keep us safe – a useful default mental state for cavemen/women.

But at this point in our evolution there are more positive alternatives than a software that incessantly scans our environment asking “what could go wrong?”

We grow and thrive when it becomes a habit to incorporate alternatives like “what most excites me?” or “how can I do work that matters?”

 

The utility of optimism

Yes, you’re a realist to notice that the glass of water is both half empty and half full.  The functional difference between optimism and pessimism is nothing more than the story we tell ourselves.

If we’re convinced that failure is inevitable, it’s only rational to give up. I’ve always considered myself delusionally optimistic.  Apparently delusion doesn’t always work against us.  Science now confirms what we’ve probably guessed all along: the story we tell ourselves matters.  And if we tell ourselves  optimistic stories, some form of success is almost unavoidable.