This too shall pass

Life has ups and downs. Where you are right now, and how you feel about it, is much like a balance sheet. It’s just a snapshot of your emotional assets and liabilities for a moment in time.

The most important thing to remember is that where you are right now (physically, financially, emotionally) does not reflect what you are.

Motion and action

People confuse being busy with getting things done.  And then we confuse getting the right things done – the things that matter.  As my dad would say: “don’t confuse motion with action.”

Working long hours doing unimportant things efficiently accomplishes nothing but burning resources that could be used on important things.

Before getting busy painting rooms, make sure you’re in the right house.  Working hard on the wrong things is demotivating and takes you further from your goal.

Persuasion hack

Psychology teaches us that people will work harder to avoid a loss than they will to achieve a possible gain.  A famous, successful investor admits that it angers him more to lose $100 than it excites him to gain $100.

You can utilize this with any kind of persuasion, whether it be sales, or helping friends make positive changes.  Put them in a position where the perceived gain looks more attractive than the risk of doing nothing.

One non-sales-related hack to guide others to help themselves is to ask: “How would you feel if…?”  This allows them to envision a world in which they have a successful career, a fulfilling relationship, or a substance-free life.

The value of rituals

One significant cause of stress is the uneasy feeling that things are out of control. Children may or may not crave structure, but it’s certainly what they need.

Don’t discount the value of simple routines or practices like making your bed, establishing a morning routine, taking 10 quiet minutes to enjoy your coffee without multi-tasking.

As much as we want to see ourselves as spontaneous and free, there is a part of us that craves and needs structure. Rituals may be an antidote to chaos and stress.

Not my fault

You’re probably right. So many things that happen are completely out of our control. No one chooses an illness, a bad investment, or being a victim of any kind.

And yet, you are the one that has to deal with these things. The attitude of extreme ownership (thank you Jocko Willink) is to recognize that even when something is not your fault, it’s still your responsibility. Own it.

Go easy on yourself

If you were to guess what one variable had the greatest effect on anxiety and depression, you might go with one of the usual suspects: past trauma, family history, genetics, or missed opportunities. But one study found the one trait that had the greatest influence: self-compassion.

Most of us have an inner dialogue running all day that functions like the world’s most annoying roommate, criticizing us and questioning our actions. Here’s a guideline I’ve found to be most useful:  treat yourself as though you were someone (else) for whom you cared deeply.

You may not be able to control the inner voice, but it’s your choice to listen.

Best and better

Dysfunctional and self-limiting beliefs can be thrust upon us by culture and society. Some beliefs feel like obvious truths because they’re so deeply conditioned.

What is your one true passion? Who says we have to pick one thing to be passionate about? Is choice A or B the best? Why does everything have to be a zero-sum contest where everyone aside from one winner is a loser?

There are no rules. You can have just one passion, but it’s possible (and probable) that you’ll have have multiple passions. Especially at different times of your life. The unattainable “best” is the enemy of multiple “betters”. 

One-question self-assessment tool

Great questions may be the most powerful tool we have for honest introspection. The most transformative questions are usually simple while being the most difficult to answer.

All of us know of people or scenarios that continue to cause us emotional pain. Blaming others (even when it’s warranted) is not helpful. It doesn’t mitigate future issues, and worse, it allows you to side-step any of the blame.

Here is the most profound question I’ve learned to force honest introspection when history repeats itself in a negative way: How am I complicit in creating the conditions that I say I don’t want?

Becoming a nicer person

One thing that keeps us from being a nicer person than we would be otherwise is our tendency to judge others.

Next time you catch yourself judging someone for their clothing, their hairstyle, interests, or hobbies, ask: Do I have similar attributes that could be judged by others? Then ask yourself the more important question: Why does this matter?

The more you train yourself to not care about the personal preferences of other people, the nicer and more relaxed you become as a person.

Gratitude via negative thinking

The mental subtraction method is an alternate way to elicit the feeling of gratitude.

As an alternative to looking at the bright side or paying attention to all that you have for which you feel grateful, try visualizing the absence of the people, things, and moments in your life that make it most meaningful.

Force yourself to consider the impact on your life without the the people, places, things, and experiences that are so valuable. Returning to the present moment after a short time contemplating these negative thoughts offers an unconventional but useful way to spark gratitude.