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

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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Philosophies

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this article. It’s a Lifehacker piece about helping those that are grieving. Being someone without any recent deaths or friends with recent deaths, it wasn’t exactly topical but I decided to read on anyway. I didn’t expect to find anything, but what I did find has become profoundly helpful for many people in my life, including myself.

The tip I’m referring to is the phrase, “You don’t have to have the answers right now.” The basic message is that healing will take time, but on another level it makes the suggestion that it is okay to not feel perfect. We spend a lot of time trying to change our emotions. We believe that by focusing on the symptoms of our personal ailments, that we can treat their root cause. But what if the cause is beyond our control, like a physical disease or a stressful time at work? Clearly, acceptance is a more helpful path than rejection of our very natural feelings.

And when I say acceptance, I very explicitly mean acceptance of ourselves. We don’t have to have all the answers right now, we don’t have to feel better right now, and, as a result of this, we do not have to dislike ourselves or our circumstances for making us feel less than perfect. Understand your circumstances and uncover potential solutions if they exist, but above all else, accept yourself.

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Habits, How-To

Eat Your Veggies

I am big into nutrition right now. I may or may not be depending on how great my craving for cookies is in the next couple of months (seriously, I have less nutritional discipline than a Biggest Loser contestant without extreme external-monitoring) but for right now I’m big into nutrition.

Each day I eat a balance of proteins and fiber, less carbs (gotta look good for bikini season) and plenty of water. It wasn’t until I was enjoying one of my colorful meals with my paramour that I considered: what if the food pyramid could be applied to our time budget?

I often speak about priorities here on CFiST but today I’d like to give you a tool to make that concept a reality. So even though Time Pyramid would make an awesome 80’s sci-fi title, in this context I’d like to harken back to the now retired food pyramid.

The Plan

Start by considering all the different activities you do during the day. For example, my list would look like the following:

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Time with loved ones
  • Work
  • Read
  • Chores
  • Journal
  • Reading
  • Personal care
  • Code
  • Write
  • Television
  • Social networking
  • Online shopping

It’s pretty busy to say the least. Now, here’s how I would break that down, carrying the food analogy:

Grains

The essentials. Require the most servings and form the building blocks of your happiness.

  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Time with loved ones

Fruits and veggies

The enriching activities. Substantial, colorful, and tasty!

  • Work
  • Read
  • Chores
  • Journal

Dairy/protein

Essential, but fewer servings. Build mental strength and get some “culture”. Get it? Yogurt joke.

  • Reading
  • Personal care
  • Code
  • Write

Sweets and oils

Delicious, but to be partaken of… sparingly.

  • Television
  • Social networking
  • Online shopping

The result is a coherent metaphor for time “nutrition”; a way to balance out your activities in the best way possible using knowledge you already know. Pretty cool, right?

So how about you? What does your time nutrition look like? List your activities and try breaking them down into these groups and see how many servings you get in an average day. Feel free to post the results in the comments below and think about eating healthier. I have a hunch that you’ll be glad you did.

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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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Commentary, Habits, Philosophies

Is This Real Life?

Context: this particular post was written a couple of weeks ago while the misses was away for a business trip and my work was exceedingly stressful. The commentary is, however, no less universal today than it was then.

Barring a stroke of pure genius, welcome to my ham-fisted introduction, pounded out beligerently on the keyboard well past my bed time on a school night. I’m tired, my head hurts, my eyes are extremely dry, and the cat will, not stop, jumping, into, my lap. At this point, it’s hard to appreciate my tea or find the patience for studying Japanese, my physical circumstances simply don’t permit my attitude a sliver of optimism or enthusiasm. Yet, at the same time, I cannot ignore that my perspective as a self-improvement junkie, aspiring polyglot (knower of many languages) welcomes the reluctant learning as a badge of honor; a moment when my willpower and intellectual curiosity won out over my physical circumstances.

You see, today was a difficult day. Besides the brow-beating a 9-to-5 work environment can regularly lay on unsuspecting victims, the absence of my paramour (business trip) has made maintenance of my usual (pardon the term) “swagger” exceedingly difficult. Physically drained, emotionally exhausted, and mentally taxed beyond my usual burn-the-bitch-at-both-ends work style, normal circumstances simply aren’t what they would be in the right lighting. My persistent pesimism born of a physical inability to muster a smile makes crackers bland, tea uninteresting, and conversations labored.

On the flip side, my usual sunny demeanor has its benefits, pardoxically serving as a hindrance to my dispassionate evaluation of the world around me. The same day, viewed with a good night’s sleep, a warm hug from mah bebe, and a fresh batch of esoteric albums to listen to would taste the same crackers with delight, sip the same tea with appreciation, and lead to joke after hilariously delivered joke (I’m a God damn delight). Unfortunately, what this means is that regardless of the circumstances, you and I both are bound and determined to have our subjective evaluations swayed more by our physiology than by the flavor of crackers in front of us (I’m really hungry and all we have are crackers).

So what defines us? Clearly we aren’t serial killers one day and happy-bunnies the next. You see, the common thread that runs through all of our perceptions is our perspective. The perspective that comes from many years of living our own lives, walking in the shoes of others, and having cultural experiences that expand our minds. No matter how pissed off you get that X didn’t do Y or Z doesn’t taste like Q, down at your core you know who you are: a person capable of patience and empathy, unwilling to rely on heartburn and assumptions when making judgments or decisions. You are capable of doing better.

I’m not saying it’s easy, God knows it isn’t. But seeing the world objectively, not attaching a label or a positive/negative evaluation to everything you perceive will help you be a more calm, secure, and happy person. I speak from experience. Look beyond your assumptions and ask yourself, what is happening in this moment? And when you’re done, come back here and tell me about it because once my knee stops hurting and my complexion clears up, I will be a person that wants to hear about your life.

And you will be to.

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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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