6 Weird Ideas Which Could Actually Change Things
“It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”Chinese Proverb
- Take Stock of What You Have — Be Grateful & Grow
- Start From Zero — Radically Eliminate the Non-Essential, Shake the Dust
- There’s Beauty in Consistency — Don’t Restart! —Balance Happiness & Dedication
- Understand the Psychology of Reactance — Mindset is Everything
- Community Is Everything — There Is So Much Good in Others, So Find It (Storytelling Is the Only Thing We Have)
- Build Your Identity on All of the Above — a Confession
1. Take stock of what you already have — be grateful that you’re still here and still breathing.
One day, I was sitting outside a coffee shop and I noticed a row of shrubs planted by the curb. They were uniform and lined up neat — all except for one. It’s kind of scrawny looking, a little patchy and misshapen. Ugly.
And it occurred to me how wonderful it must be to be that shrub! A shrub doesn’t care what it looks like or what shape it takes. There’s no self-consciousness. It just stands there proud, trying to grow its little heart out and just exist.
There’s a line from the poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann that goes: “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”
For me, in that particular moment, it all clicked at once. No less than that little, ugly shrub. I have a right to be here. And not just be here, but the be here at this very moment in the exact form that I have. I have absolutely no reason to feel bad being the human being that I am, and trying my best to grow just as everybody else does.
I’m not beautiful, and neither is that shrub. But we’re both still alive and capable of doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing.
The shrub still has branches, leaves, and roots. I still have a mind that can write and place to put it — so I ought to put that to use, and be grateful for the time I have to do what I can. I ought to take stock of it all, and be grateful for everything that I’ve had up until this point, regardless of how easy it would be to ruminate and regret instead.
The alternative, of succumbing to the all-too-human pressures of unnaturally giving up, is often times tempting, but if that shrub doesn’t choose to wither away, neither will I.
2. Start with only a clean slate — shake the dust off and be radical in eliminating everything that isn’t essential.
“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”Lily Tomlin
This probably seems rather counter-intuitive, given the first point. Although it’s important to recognize the goodness that’s in our past that’s brought us here, it is just as important to not let it influence neither our intentions or future at all. They are entirely separate entities.
Give yourself permission to see nothing as obligatory, because in truth, it isn’t. There is suppression of the radical freedom we all have — our ability to take any action at all.
Of course, it’s important to first have a solid foundation of good principles to intelligently utilize this freedom. As the realization of it’s existence is often only dangerously exercised for impulsive or irresponsible decisions — but it doesn’t have to.
Imagine you could totally restart your life right now — because you can. Shake the dust off your back. You can still be the person your eight-year-old self dreamed you could be.
When hearing this motivation, it is tempting to try to completely fill up a blank canvas. To start meditating, reading more, working out, wake up earlier, and eat healthier all at once. But that’s creating a life which is just as busy, complicated and difficult as the one you already have now.
No matter how many times you pinch yourself — no matter how many times you attempt to shake the dust off your body, it’s still easy to get caught in the mundane day-to-day. Neglecting your passion projects, ignoring any creative spark, because you’re exhausted from your job & obligations. And the longer this break becomes, the more difficult it is to jump back into it.
Eliminate anything non-essential. There is an illusion that life is now fast paced and impossible to keep up with, but this isn’t true. There is a bombardment of information that can be in front of us, but only if we want it to be. But only if we let it. If we give it permission. You get to control what you focus on. Radically delete. Embrace boredom — writing is boring. Good work is boring to do, but it’s also the most important thing to do.
If you could only do 3 things a day, what would they be? You have to be curt and harsh in your choices here. Set limits & boundaries. Push yourself to work in a fixed amount of time because of parkinson’s law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
Stop giving up your finite time on things that you don’t actually care about, radically eliminate them out of your life. Cut your losses and don’t fall for the sunken-cost fallacy. The more intentional you are, and the less that you do, the better you’ll become at the things you do decide to do.
3. Seek the beauty of consistency — stick with things you’d rather quit and stop restarting all of the time.
Again, this seems counter-intuitive given the second point. How are you supposed to value being consistent in what you do if you’re trying to start over? I believe that it’s easy to fall into a rhythm that’s harmful if you aren’t being diligent. Nothing fruitful comes from having consistency in something that is easy or safe.
Instead what I mean is to consistently do what’s difficult, and push further when it becomes easy. Consistently do what you’re afraid of doing.
Let go of impossible ideas & guilt. Stop lying to yourself. People don’t care about your expectations. They just care about what you show them. Real is always better.
It’s often said that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. This is, of course, dead wrong. And you’ll have to balance happiness with dedication for even the most enjoyed tasks. You need to maintain something for it to truly grow into something substantial — which means you have you work on it even when you don’t feel like working on it.
It can sort of feel paradoxical when you shouldn’t be forcing yourself to work on something that no longer brings you joy. However, it is therefore important to truly understand the difference between no longer enjoying something as opposed to just getting over a difficult day or certain aspect of a project.
In order to keep going each & everyday, you need the most basic, underlying foundation. Something powerful enough that it can defeat your lazy monkey brain.
4. Don’t be fooled by your own subconscious willpower — you’re actually smarter than that.
Understand the rarely discussed psychological phenomenon of reactance. To put it simply, it’s when you want to do a task — until somebody specifically asks you to do it. This changes it from a willing affair into a disciplined and labored chore, yet nothing has actually changed.
According to the theory of ego depletion, we only have a finite amount of energy we can spend each day until our willpower wears out and we cave into whatever coping mechanisms or easy desires that were being pushed away the entire day. But understanding that our perception of how difficult a task is means we can look at things differently — as less work.
Our frame of mind is the largest variable when it comes to how much work something is. There’s a parable about 3 bricklayers. The first just thinks he is laying bricks. The second thinks he’s building a wall. And the third thinks he’s building a cathedral.
All three of these men were performing the exact same task, but the first saw it as a job, the second saw it as a career, and the third saw it as a calling. Are you writing a post, running a blog, or creating a legacy?
5. Our connections with others is the most important thing we have — spend time and energy cultivating that seriously.
Something I’ve been figuring out recently is that community is the most important thing we have. We are social creatures and flourish when we can find meaningful connections with others on a personal level.
It feels increasingly difficult to find community, though. With social isolation and loneliness at an all time high. There’s no easy solution to this. It takes time and effort to build authentic relationships, especially face-to-face and in real life. I’m still trying to find a community of my own.
But regardless, it is important to love thy neighbour. Trustworthy people are trusting. Unconditional idealism is always better than cynicism !— it actually allows things to get done. Always reach out to others, not for anything, but just for the sake of reaching out — there’s nothing to lose from that.
Understand that people are ultimately reasonable creatures, though you might think some of them might be lost — separate character from opinion. There needs to be hope for the people you hate.
At the end of the day, all we have are our stories. There’s nothing else. Money disappears, we die no matter what. But our stories can last forever. And the only way our stories exist is if other people are there to listen and care about them. Make real stories with others on the foundation of love.
6. Build who you are on all of the above.
Three years ago, I wrote a simple list of new year’s resolutions that I wanted to commit to. This year, I’ve attempted to instead synthesize difficult ideas that I felt were most important to me into a single place.
I hope that I didn’t mislead you, but I’ve realized the underlying concepts that we shape our reality around need to come before the trendy, bite-sized habits we put on top of them.
While I might be able to neatly fit these grand, wholistic ideas into a single package, I am nowhere near close to living a life based on any of them. I’m an extremely flawed human being that very often takes the path of least resistance.
It is so easy to forget all of this, and mindlessly go months without doing anything meaningful to me. That’s terrifying. This is exactly why I write so often about these things — trying to drill into my monkey mind.
It’s so easy to harbor resentment and ruminate about my past, or quit just when things start going steady, or try to run away from myself. There is a stark contrast between the formal & stoic persona I present online, and who I really am as a person.
People often compartmentalize different aspects of their personality depending on the situation or people they’re around — but at some point you detach from who you are and you’re no longer authentic.
There’s a difficult balance between understanding vs. creating who you really are. My identity should be the person I am behind closed doors — not just the performative behavior I indulge in for the sake of looking good. The optics of a person mean far less than their intent.
There’s no eloquent conclusion here — and there never will be. There’s never going to be a point when I figure things out for good. There’s always a need to constantly pinch myself and remember what I ought to be doing. There’s always going to be re-calibrating, a need to look at new perspectives. I’m going to keep trying to be a better person, because I only fail if I think I’ve finished.