“Because” vs “And”

Sometimes you’re stressing out about something and you have sneaking suspicion that you’re being unreasonable. Or at least, you can see that your reaction might be disproportionate to the situation. But it still feels as if your behaviour is being caused by the situation. So how can you tell?

Seth Godin offers a simple answer

Has this situation ever happened without you (or anyone, for that matter) feeling the way you’re feeling?

Here, Seth highlights the distinction between having a feeling because of a situation and having a feeling at the same time as a particular situation.

The answer is option number 2 far more often than most of us would like to believe. People have endured all kinds of stress and hardships without giving in to stress or anger or defeatism.

To say that you have no choice but to succumb to these feelings it to say that you’re weaker than those who went before, and this is simply not true. We all have the ability to choose how we respond to life’s twists and turns, the trick is maintaining a wide enough perspective to do so.

How To Win Without Trying

A wise…man, once said: “Do or do not, there is no try”, and when you think about it, He’s right. Doing refers to what is happening right now, which is the only thing we can influence. Trying refers to what we want to happen, and we have no control over that whatsoever.

Trying shifts our focus from what we’re doing now to what we’re hoping will happen in the future, and by doing so, we make ourselves less effective..

This is the reason we perform better when we aren’t being watched or speak more confidently when there’s no audience or sing better when we’re not being recorded. The thought of future judgement, the embarrassment that we’re trying to avoid, acts as nothing more than a distraction.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The present is the only place where we have any power. The less we’re distracted from it, the better we perform, the less we’re affected by fear or nerves, and, ironically, the more likely we are to get the thing we’re trying for.

When it’s necessary to act, there is no try. Or at least there shouldn’t be. we should make no room for anything but doing.

"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation."
8 secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life

When Oliver Burkeman wrote the first instalment of his life advice column (appropriately titled “This Column Will Change Your Life”), he stated that it would continue until he had discovered the secret of human happiness.

Over ten years later, he admits that he might have fallen just short of the mark, but as he writes the final instalment of the column, he reflects on the insights he has picked up along the way by offering these 8 secrets for a (fairly) fulfilled life.

As you might expect from someone who’s spent the last four-hundred weeks figuring out ways to help people with their problems, this farewell column is full of great advice. Like this gem for example.

The future will never provide the reassurance you seek from it. As the ancient Greek and Roman Stoics understood, much of our suffering arises from attempting to control what is not in our control. And the main thing we try but fail to control – the seasoned worriers among us, anyway – is the future. We want to know, from our vantage point in the present, that things will be OK later on. But we never can. (This is why it’s wrong to say we live in especially uncertain times. The future is always uncertain; it’s just that we’re currently very aware of it.)

It’s freeing to grasp that no amount of fretting will ever alter this truth. It’s still useful to make plans. But do that with the awareness that a plan is only ever a present-moment statement of intent, not a lasso thrown around the future to bring it under control. The spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti said his secret was simple: “I don’t mind what happens.” That needn’t mean not trying to make life better, for yourself or others. It just means not living each day anxiously braced to see if things work out as you hoped

Brilliant. Do yourself a favour abe go read the whole thing.

20 Small Ways to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Speaking of programming, the comfort zone is perhaps the clearest expression of the programs with which we live every day. It’s the internal list of thought, feelings and actions that we’ve decided are safe in a physical and social list.

There’s no problem with the existence of such a list of course. It’s only logical that we’d keep track of the things which had proven to be safe and those which seemed to be dangerous and referred to it when we needed it.

The problem is, there’s a lot of guesswork that goes on. Most of our comfort zone is made up of things which we’re afraid to try rather than things which will actually be bad for us. In fact, many of the things we’re afraid of will be actively good for us, if only we can get out of our own way.

Here, Henrik Edberg of Positivity Blog gives us 20 ways of doing just that. Most of them are small, easy boundary pushes that won’t cause any of us too much stress, but the simple act of doing them can still have a real impact on what we imagine the limits of our comfort zone to be. Go ahead, try something new today.

The Most Important Skill You Can Develop

It’s uncomfortable to think of ourselves as machines even though that’s essentially what we are. We wake up every day and execute a program which has been written by our past and the beliefs we hold about ourselves.

We take the risks our programming tells us that we can afford to take, we feel the way our programming tells us that we should feel about our bodies and our accomplishments and ourselves, we say the things that our programming tells us are acceptable to say.

Once we’re old enough for this programming to be embedded, most of us never seriously consider doing anything which runs counter to it for the rest of our lives.

The only tool we have for hacking this programming is our attention. The more the programming takes over, the more time we spend operating on autopilot, the less attention we are bringing to the present moment. This is the entire reason that “being present” is considered important.

Being present gives us options. It helps us to be more human because it gives us the chance to choose our actions rather than following a program that was written, perhaps decades ago.

Best of all, we can get better at being present. We can develop our attention just as we develop any other skill. Just as with any other skill, progress can be difficult, to begin with, but it’s no exaggeration to say that there’s no more valuable investment of our time.

8 Pieces Of Toxic Positivity That Aren’t As Helpful As You Mean Them To Be

I have a strained relationship with the word “toxic” as it’s often used today. Toxic masculinity, toxic relationships, toxic people. Dismissing human beings as worthless, evil and malicious, rather than recognising that maybe they just aren’t for you and that you might not be so great yourself, is too easy then there’s a simple, catch word to use to do it.

But toxic positivity might be a term I warm to. This is basically positivity that doesn’t pass the empathy test. Positivity as a means of moving the conversation onto a new topic, rather than showing a genuine interest and, god forbid, a sincere willingness to help.

Phrases like: “other people have it much worse”, or “you just need to stay positive”, or worst of all in my opinion, “everything happens for a reason“.

These aren’t expressions of support, they’re catchphrases that express your desire to move on. To say something, anything, without going to the trouble of actually understanding the problem or simply empathising and letting the person know you’re there for them.

So here are eight of them that you might want to avoid using. They won’t help the person you’re talking to and will probably make them feel worse. If you don’t know what to say that’s fine. Just let the person you’re talking to know that you care.

5 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Daily Life

With life being what it is, starting in the moment can be difficult. Most of us are just too busy moment to moment to actually be in the moment. Luckily, as with anything else, we can develop mindfulness habits, moments when we deliberately stop for a second and take in what’s going oil a conscious way.

Here, Mindful.org brings us five mindfulness practices that we can integrate mindfulness into ordinary activities like exercise, eating, and even waking up:

1. On waking, sit in your bed or a chair in a relaxed posture

2. Take three long, deep, nourishing breath

3. Ask yourself: “What is my intention for today?”

There’s more detail in the full post, but I think this by itself is already a far better start to the day than most of us are getting. Better yet, it doesn’t require a lot of time or any special effort of willpower to do. Best of all, you can do it when you’ve got your full drool-covered zombie face on and nobody will know.

What Is Higher Consciousness?

The term higher consciousness just sounds smug, right? Not for the enlightened the normal lower consciousness that most people about under. Instead, those who are sufficiently spiritually awakened get to breathe the rarefied air of higher consciousness, in which they can presumably see and understand things that the rest of us mere mortals will never grasp.

School of Life nails it in the introduction to this video:

The term higher consciousness is often used by spiritually minded people to describe important, but hard to reach, mental states. Hindu sages, Christian monks and Buddhist ascetics, all speak of reaching moments of higher consciousness through meditation or chanting, fasting or pilgrimages.

Unfortunately, the way in which these spiritual people discuss their states of higher consciousness, has a tendency to put a lot of secular types on edge. It can all sound maddeningly vague, wishy-washy, touchy-feely, and, for want of a better word, annoying.

I’d second the use of the word annoying, which is a shame, because the states they’re describing are incredible valuable, well recognised by science, and, with effort, is available to everybody, regardless of beliefs or a willingness to dress in long, flowing robes.

Anyway, the video is great and breaks down the topic in a clear, totally non-annoying, and even beautiful way. So if you’re interested in expanding your mind, I highly recommend checking it out.

The Subtle Power Of Changing Your Identity

I’ve written her many times about the illusory nature of the self. About how we think of our personalities as these fixed, permanent things, when in fact we’re just a string of choices and habits, threaded together by a story we tell ourselves. Many people feel a little disheartened to be described ini this way, but for me, it highlights how limitless our potential for change and growth is at every moment.

That’s the theme of Leo Babauta’s latest piece for Zen Habits on changing your identity.

One of the most powerful switches I ever made when changing my entire life was switching up my identity.

And while I never did it overnight, I successfully did it in multiple areas:

I changed from a smoker to a non-smoker — and once I did, I stopped thinking of smoking as something to do when I was stressed.

I went from meat-eater to vegetarian (and later to vegan). It literally took meat off the menu for me, so that I didn’t even consider eating it.

I thought of myself as a marathoner. Later, as just someone who exercises regularly to stay fit and healthy. It meant that there was no question I was going to exercise, even if I fell out of it for a bit because of disruptions.

Leo breaks down how he was able to make these changes and even some of the potential pitfalls of changing the way you look at yourself, but there’s no question that taking the opportunity to look at yourself in a new way can be life changing.