Philosophies, Productivity

Residing Within the Eye of the Storm

Today’s thought is a simple one, yet un-ignorably powerful:

Peace resides within.

It’s three words, but if we look a little deeper, it is wonderfully revelatory. To begin with, the word “resides” stands out. The suggestion is that peace exists within us already, waiting to calm us and bring us serenity.

The second word that stands out is “peace”. What does this mean for you? Physiologically it means a slower heart-rate, calmer breathing, relaxed muscles, and a still or slow gait and manner. Psychologically it means acceptance of circumstances, calm with the consequences of circumstances, stillness, diligence, and purposefulness of mind. The methods of attaining these states depends entirely on your personal situation and the method of calming and accepting you respond to the most.

The final word is “within”. This word is probably the most powerful because it reframes our concept of where peace comes from. In general we spend a lot of time trying to obtain relaxation through external means or by changing external circumstances. The truth is, if Buddhist monks can find warmth wearing only robes in the frigid mountains, simply through meditation and force of mind, we can find calm in our daily lives by looking inward instead of outward.

Pretty cool right? Three words, such profundity. Work today to find calm within and envision yourself within the calm eye of the storm. Peace is attainable, today, right now.

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Habits, Philosophies, Productivity

Act

Growth. It is what brings forest to being, rockets to space, and love to one another. It’s a powerful, powerful force. But I’m not here to talk about growth. I’m here to talk about its brother: destruction.

Okay, let’s dial back the theatrics a bit. By destruction I do not mean Armageddon, but instead simple failure. Shortcoming, insufficient effort, the lack of success, whatever you want to call it; it’s present and, to be perfectly honest about our condition, it’s here to stay.

The general rule of thumb is to see failure as, well failure. But I propose an alternative perspective. What if we strip the emotional and personal judgment from the term entirely? What if we remove the ego from the process and simply look at failure as, well, failure? What we get, is the very opposite of failure: opportunity. The potential for growth, the antithesis of inadequacy, and the very converse of a closed door.

So let’s take stock of what has happened here: by seeing our actions, not as extensions of our self-worth, but instead as the honest, good-natured efforts of people doing their best in the world, then we really only ever do one of two very positive things. We either grow, or we see potential for growth. That folks, ain’t bad.

So act. If this is our true situation (and it is) then the only negative choice is inaction. The doldrums strand good sailors and inaction stalls growth. In either situation we have the sails, it’s just a matter of putting them to the winds.

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Habits, Philosophies, Productivity

Strengthen Your Core

If you’re reading this today, I have a simple question for you: who are you?

It’s something we think we know. We attach a name and a job and an address to our identity but our principles, loves, passions, cares, and dreams can go completely ignored. These accessories to our lives, the “identifications” of our clothes, location, and career are little more than fruit of a tree and identifying our core values, nurturing that tree, leads to healthier, more bountiful fruit. Fruit of confidence, fulfillment, personal accomplishment, and long-term, sustaining happiness.

So, at least for today, consider your metaphorical tree. What ideals and character traits are important to you and which ones comprise you? What truly makes you, you?

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Habits, Philosophies, Productivity

1/4 Cup Change

Pancakes are great. There are many ways to make them, but the same basic recipe remains the same. They taste about the same every time (delicious) and to make things even simpler, the word “pancake” never changes definition, thus averting confusion. They have the same basic toppings, go in the same place after being eaten, and for all these reasons are one of my favorite dishes to make.

Humans are not pancakes.

You see, we come up with recipes for our everyday lives. I, for example, had my productivity tools utterly figured out over the past few months as I established new habits, endeavored to get more done, and did my best to squeeze my hobbies into my life. Things worked like a well-oiled machine, until recently when I realized that a few of my productivity tools were actually preventing me from getting my work done.

I had established my habits, learned my lessons from the process, and was not endeavoring to reshape my life by paring back down to what was essential and necessary. I had changed and my productivity tools had to change with me.

And thus is the greatest challenge of living an active, successful, happy lifestyle: we are not pancakes. We require different ingredients at different times and even the definition of “us” changes constantly throughout our lives. The important thing to remember is that growth is a beautiful thing, and the tools we need to further that growth change.

Be flexible to change and the world will be at your feet. Learn to adapt your recipe and you will become even more awesome than pancakes.

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Productivity

Don’t Get Busy

I’m big on avoiding burnout. It’s a problem that’s plagued me for years and years and years, hamstringing my productivity at the worst times and forcing me to take a break from the hobbies and pursuits that I enjoy most.

There are simple ways to avoid burnout in the short-term, but a long-term solution requires quite a bit more understanding of how success is constructed.

In this article from the blog Study Hacks, the author details a study conducted by psychologists at the Universität der Künste (the Wolverines if I’m not mistaken…). The short version is that the most successful individuals studied spent their time hyper-focused on one task at a time instead of overloading themselves with many tasks at once.

But while this may be hard to stomach or comprehend, it’s the truth, and it is exactly that psychological bias that causes us to stay in patterns of burn-out. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, if you have to exhaust yourself physically and mentally to slow down, you may be relying on faulty assumptions such as the desire to be perfect, the belief that you should not feel stressed, and the need to delay relaxation until all tasks are done.

There is no easy formula for preventing the big BO, but there are patterns we can recognize within ourselves to improve our quality of life. The most important message is to cut yourself some slack, relax, and do less with more focus. Trust me, you deserve it.

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Habits, Philosophies, Productivity

Spring Cleaning

It’s snowing. Again. It’s always fucking snowing in the state of Iowa. At least, that’s how it feels this year.

So in order to vent my cabin fever, today’s post is about Spring. Spring cleaning to be specific. You see, as of late I have spent a good deal of time trying to get organized, scheduling and rescheduling perceived obligations, and looking for holes in my personality that have led to such a challenging few months.

But the truth is, as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the problem is not as simple as it appears.

One approach, featured on the Happiness Project blog, approaches the organization problem with a simple strategy: don’t get organized. Don’t keep things around that you don’t need and be honest with yourself. I mean, what are the odds that you’re going to use that five-year-old coupon to El Pollo Loco?

Extend this concept even further into your life. I had to come to grips with the fact that, despite my desire to become fluent in Japanese, my life is simply too cluttered, and my goals simply too divergent from that knowledge for it to be kept around. I do plan to go to Tokyo some day, and at that time the language will be useful and thus, the habit. But in the mean time, it’s much more advantageous to refuse to become organized.

The important thing to remember is priorities. Though certain scholarly pursuits, hobbies, or activities may seem like great fun, keeping clutter around for sentimental reasons is not nearly as rewarding as keeping a clean house and a clean mind.

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Inspiration, Productivity

I Am, Therefore I Think

Staring at a blank page, exhausted and taxed, it’s easy to conceive why we may be, at times, uninspired. Even coming up with words in this very moment is a struggle the likes of which I have not faced this millenium. But in a situation like this, three things come to mind.

The first: A little effort, day in and day out, no matter how small, makes a difference. Even if the end product is short, even if you only clean one dish, even if you only learn one word in Japanese, you made a difference today.

The second: habits are liberating. The decision to sit down and write this morning was an easy one because I have made writing a priority. In this way, the cognitive burden of choosing whether or not to put in the effort was made before I even woke up this morning, freeing my mind for more challenging tasks.

And the third: acting when uninspired or doing when bored are powerful creators, in the same way that smiling when sad creates happiness. Our moods and motivations are a two-fold tango of underlying mood and action, and the interplay between them works in both directions. We may be moved to smile by something that makes us happy or create by something inspiring, but the physical act of smiling also causes us pleasure and creating something breeds inspiration.

When you’re tired, work out. When you’re bored, do something. The truth is that restlessness is simply your hungry brain, standing in front of a full fridge, deciding what it wants to eat.

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What about you? What do you do to get motivated? Join the conversation with CFiST on Twitter and Facebook!

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