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.

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.

It’s all been said

Imposter syndrome creeps up on those of us who communicate (hopefully useful) ideas publicly. Although I share advice online, I’m aware that it’s all been said – probably by people smarter than me. So who am I to advise others?

It’s important to understand that execution matters just as much as ideas. I’ve read multiple books on a topic only to have something finally click with me when I stumbled on a particular perspective.

It probably has all been said before. But perhaps not better, or in a way that resonates with and inspires people.

“Free” and “Available”

When I worked for a Fortune 10 company, our team had mutual access to each others’ calendars. Naturally people scheduled meetings in open time slots. It makes sense – open spaces on a calendar were viewed as “free” time, and an invitation to schedule something.

Since then I’ve learned to guard my time and create meetings with myself, not only to allow time for my own creative or professional or deep work, but even to plan my social or otherwise “free” time, in an intentional way.

Don’t confuse someone’s free time with their availability.

Seizing the moment

“Seize the moment” is trite and pervasive wisdom.

But if we observe our thoughts we’ll find that most of the time we are future-planning or past-regretting. This creates anxiety over what may (or may not) come to pass, or disappointment over what already did.

Cliche or not, it makes sense to remind yourself multiple times per day to be centered, present, and essentially…where you are.

Making things actionable

One thing I enjoy doing is distilling complex ideas into actionable concepts.   That is in fact one of the objectives of this blog.  No matter how much you read or how many opinions you consider, in the end, you’ll have to decide what to do with all of it.

Since not everyone’s brain works in a way that allows them to simplify, here are some questions you can ask – preferably to the most knowledgeable experts – to extract something actionable:
1) Given all that you know…what action would you encourage me to take?
2) What do you think is the risk of not taking that action?

Anger is dangerous

Anger is a useful emotion if we need to physically defend ourselves. Outside of that, nothing good comes of it. Regardless of how warranted it is, you’re not affecting the subject of your anger.

To paraphrase the historical Buddha: Anger is a hot coal that you hold onto while waiting to throw at someone.

Let it go for your own well-being.