Self first is not selfish

The “put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others” airplane instruction is a strong example of how we can best be of service to others.  The analogy applies to unrelated and non-urgent scenarios.

Sick, sleep-deprived moms won’t be their best selves.  “Selfless” people who donate all their money are promptly in a position where they can no longer help anyone.

Drowning people make lousy lifeguards.

Caring for your own well-being is a prerequisite for being useful to those around us.

Give bleakness the boot

While some of us have unlucky wiring that makes us predisposed to depression, no one on earth is immune to it.

A simple tactic can reliably help improve your mood and well-being. It doesn’t have to cost money.  It’s a practice that gets you out of your head and almost always immediately upgrades your mental condition.  Psychological and even physiological evidence supports this.  Are you ready for the “secret” (I can’t stand that word)?

Find someone less fortunate than you and help them.  Right now.

Maybe you’ll only move from a 2 to a 5 on the well-being scale.  But trending in the right direction is a strong start.

Simple vs. Easy

Some exercises (Turkish getup) are complex and require coordination.  Others (sprinting uphill) can inspire results, and while simple, are far from easy.

We tend to overlook habits and practices that can bring us disproportionate value, because they seem too “simple” to be valuable. Deliberately creating a mindfulness, anger management or compassion practice requires very little time and nothing complicated.  Simple, but not easy.

Don’t underestimate the significance of simple tools and habits, used consciously, properly, and with intent.

Scheduling things that matter

Many of us who are vigilant about managing our calendars don’t use them in ways that best serve us.

We use calendars to schedule meetings, doctors appointments, and other obligations.  While necessary, these are actually scheduled interruptions of deep work, family time, self improvement, and time spent on hobbies or connecting with close friends.

Being vigilant with your calendar is useful.  But be sure to schedule things that matter in addition to interruptions.  If you don’t decide what you’re going to do on your “free” time, the rest of the world will step in and decide for you.

Disorders and compassion

For those of us who don’t suffer from mental or psychological disorders, it can be difficult to empathize with those who are bipolar, manic depressants, or generalized anxiety disorder (just to name a few).

Before we judge and label people, it’s important to remember that these are actual (and in some cases un-treatable) ailments that these people didn’t choose.

This perspective can be helpful in cultivating empathy: We would never be quick to judge someone because they had diabetes or tuberculosis.  Similarly, we can have compassion for those with other ailments for which they are essentially victims of biology.

Get over what “they” think of you

Our need for approval has us pursuing unfulfilling careers and relationships, and saying “yes” out of obligation rather than desire.  The culprit is the voice in our heads that says “what will they think of me?”

The pill for this is self-reflection, and a commitment to exploring your own operating system, and true aspirations.

Three perspectives that have helped me on this:

  1. Others’ opinions of me are not my business.
  2. My world revolves around me but everyone else’s doesn’t (people think of us far less than we think, or at least, far less than we do).
  3. The #1 deathbed regret globally is that people lived their lives as they believed others thought they should.

Deliberate practice makes perfect

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he presents 10,000 as the magic number of practice hours a person must devote to achieve mastery.  This popular but simplistic view assumes that anyone can achieve mastery given the requisite number of hours.

Other books, such as the Art of Learning and the Talent Code, respect the enormous distinction between practice and deliberate practice.

The moral is that while the success of many experts can be correlated to a minimum number of practice hours, mastery can be attained much more quickly by optimizing practice/training for quality, focus, and intensity over quantity of hours.