- Less Talk, More Action “Well done is better than well said.”
- Don’t Procrastinate “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”
- Be Prepared “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
- Don’t Fight Change “When you're finished changing, you're finished.”
- Get Moving “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.”
- Avoid Busywork “Never confuse motion with action.”
- Give Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”
- Act Quickly on Opportunities “To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.”
- Continue to Grow “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”
- Keep Going “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
- Know Yourself “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self.”
- Don’t Self-Sabotage “Who had deceived thee so often as thyself?”
- Don’t Give Up “Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
- Wise Up “Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”
Our greatest instrument for understanding the world—introspection . . . . The best way of knowing the inwardness of our neighbor is to know ourselves. Walter Lippmann (1889-1974)
So you go about your daily life and might not think too much about your every action. In martial arts we say that "He who conquers others is strong, but he who conquers himself is mighty." In order to really understand the world around you and make it work for you, you must first understand - and conquer - yourself. Conquer your fears, answer your own questions, find truths that are critical to your existence and understand them.
Easier said than done? Indubitably.
In my last post I suggested that you "question everything". And didn't really explain it. Sorry about that. What I mean is:
- Question the answers you're given even if it is from a "reputable source". No one is perfect and if the world is to be your oyster, you must be the one to understand the answers. If that requires that you create your own answers then that is the best way.
- Question your own capabilities. At first this will lead to doubt --> then understanding --> then confidence.
- Question your own solutions to problems. How did you come up with that solution? How were you influenced?
- Question your own subconscious actions. Why do you sit in a certain place at your dinner table?
- Get out of your routine. Take a different route to work. Read something that you would normally be put out by.
- Keep an objective attitude. Don't be put out by anything. Don't fall back on reactions you would normally use. Treat each moment as if it is entirely new and create responses to situations as if you had never experienced them before.
- Put yourself in someone else's shoes. Erase all of your notions of someone you interact with and create entirely new notions as if you were THEM observing YOURSELF. Watch yourself objectively as you proceed to live your life. Notice the details of your movements, your thoughts, your reactions.
Question yourself like you question others. Forgive others like you forgive youself.
It's only when you understand why you do the things you do that you will start to see better ways. Be open minded and take influences for problem solutions from anywhere you can. Don't let pride get in your way - immediately admit when you are wrong, or when you start to question yourself. No one is perfect, so learn from your surroundings.
There will always be discomfort in your life. On some level, in some facet, either physical, mental, social or otherwise, discomfort will always be a part of our lives. Is discomfort uncomfortable? By definition... yes. Does it have to be all bad? No. Here is a list of items that will hopefully help you to keep your eyes open and see some of the benefits that your discomfort can provide you.
1. Learn about the world around you.
Where does it come from? When did it begin? What are all of its constituents? Can you learn anything on the basis of observation alone?
2. Ponder interconnectedness.
What is the direct and indirect impacts of this discomfort on you? What is its impact on others? Is this discomfort caused by others? Is it caused by you?
3. Realize how your accommodations can improve.
Look around. Are there other methods or strategies that could be implemented that would not require the problem to be solved, but rather would render the situation non-existent?
4. Practice awareness.
Practice bringing attention to the situation in order to really understand it before trying to rectify it. Bringing your attention to a particular sensation and avoiding other thought patterns can help you to isolate the problem. The sensation of having a rock in your shoe is far different than the thoughts of "Why do I always get rocks in my shoe?" or "I really can't afford a better pair of shoes".
5. Understand your tolerance for pain.
This can apply physically or mentally. Ask yourself. "Okay, how much is this really bothering me?" See Pain is Only What You Make It.
6. Increase your tolerance for pain.
While pain is a signal to your brain that your body is in danger of being damaged, it often overcompensates. After understanding what your pain tolerance is, make it a personal challenge to ride that line and accept it as a simple indicator to your brain.
7. Brainstorm a solution.
What can you build/make/modify, to rectify the situation? Think about the items at your disposal. Try to challenge yourself to come up with an inventive and unique solution. By patching the problem with a carelessly thought-out solution or something that won't quite work, you're only giving yourself something to complain about and fix again later.
8. Practice "creative experimentation"
Example: There's a painful wart on my foot. How can I change my stance, foot placement, stride, etc to ease the pain? Are there other objects nearby that I could be supporting some weight on to take it off of my foot? How many helium balloons do I have to hold to alleviate the pain? This will help you with creativity, as well as take your mind off the situation and it may also provide a reasonable solution.
9. Practice acceptance
Harboring "The serenity to accept the things you cannot change" is a very powerful skill. You may need to find something, a phrase or thought, to constantly remind yourself of the goal of being more accepting to avoid getting frustrated with the practice.
10. Harbor compassion
Somewhere out there, there is someone with the same discomfort as you. Somewhere else, there is someone far worse off than you.
Commonly, people pose the question: "What would I do if I had only 1 day left to live?" Answers are generally comprised of places they would go, things they would accomplish, and people they would visit. This is a good way to help you understand the things and people that are really important to you.
Imagine now, that I told you that you have only 30 seconds left to live...
I'd like you to actually put yourself in this situation now. You're sitting right where you're sitting now and wearing whatever you're wearing when you read this. And you're all alone; at least more than 30 seconds away from any other human being. Savor this moment.
What do you do with your last 25 seconds on earth?.... Do you make one last phone call? How do you decide who to call? And by the time you decide, is it worth calling? What do you say, and will you be gone before you can say it? Savor this moment.
How many things can you actually do in 20 seconds of life? Do you retrieve a favorite memory or look ahead at your unfound goals? Which memories / goals to you choose to relish? Savor this moment.
You only have 15 seconds left now. Do you panic in fear of the actual sensation of death or do you revel in the glory that was your life? Savor this moment.
Death is only 10 seconds away and what have you done with the last 20 seconds? Have you made the best possible use of them? If only you had more time to decide what to do... Take a look around. Use your eyes. Use your ears. Look at your hands. Savor this moment.
Take a deep breath of fresh air, you have 5 seconds to live. Do you realize your own human impermanence? Does all of the worry and dischord in your life seem distant? None of it means anything anymore. What does it feel like to be wearing this skin you've been wearing for so many years? Savor this moment.
You have one second to live. What does being alive feel like? Savor this moment.
Wait, you're still alive! Keep reading!
In Bushido, the philosophy of the Samurai, death is always imminent. They lived their lives as if each moment could be the last, savoring every step of the journey and always putting their best foot forward, whether it be on the battlefield or training ground, or playing with their children or drinking tea. Death is held in the highest regard and is never forgotten by the Samurai. All the moments in our lives lead up to it.
This exercise can help you gain a better understanding of the intrinsic nature of your human being-ness. Not really having enough time to prepare for imminence, every moment must be lived completely. What would change about your life if every 30 seconds was your last?
Getting to know yourself is a major turning point on the way to truly enjoying your life. In order to understand the world around you, you must first understand yourself and how you react to stimuli in any given situation. Physical awareness is the very first step to take on the road to full awareness of mind and body. Mental and spiritual awareness would follow, but for now let's just focus on the body. This helps us to realize what we can and can't do and also how others perceive us. Here is a short list of 10 questions that will, if you take the time to honestly consider them, will help you to better understand yourself and become more physically aware.
- What is the distance from the tip of my thumb to the tip of my little finger when my hand is outstretched? (This can be very useful when taking quick measurements of objects around the house.)
- What does my normal sitting posture look like? What would I need to do to improve it?
- What is my average reflex time? (Take this online test) Is it above or below average?
- What is the speed of my resting heartbeat?
- What is the duration of one full breath? How does it change depending on my mood or activity?
- How much weight can I lift without injuring myself?
- When standing or sitting, is my center of gravity perfectly centered over my feet or chair? Is my weight naturally shifted? This could mean issues with your posture.
- How high can I jump? How far can I jump? (See Always Challenge your Limits)
- How long is my normal walking stride? This will increase accuracy when pacing off distances.
- What volume of food is comfortable for me to eat and not be stuffed, or left hungry? (See 10 questions to avoid over-eating)
Feel free to add your own questions to the comments.
Reference previous post: The Pain is Only What you Make It - Mind over Matter
With every impact, blood seeped out of my aching knuckles as I struck the wall-mounted training pad over …and over …and over again. Right, left, right left, right, left… My senior instructor, in his naturally menacing manner bellowed, “Punch harder!! I better feel the building shake! The pain is only what you make it.” as he walked out of the dojo and went upstairs to eat his lunch…
There were two of us testing for our black belts that day and we both took a healthy breath, focused in a little closer to our targets …and we punched harder. As our fists throbbed and knuckles stung, his words resounded in ears, and we persevered. My mind sunk into contemplation and became detached from my current situation. After many years of martial arts training, I knew the capabilities of my body, and I knew how it would react to certain types of damage. “They’re only knuckles. They’ll lose their skin and bleed. Since I’m human I know they’ll heal.”
“If the pain is only what I make it, then the fact that I’m stuck in this situation is unimportant.”
Physical pain is only a response to outside stimuli, and it tells a brain that there may be damage occurring at a certain location on the body. Essentially, it’s an electrical memo sent from your nerve endings to your brain and can be thought of as merely a form of communication. Well, if you are already aware of what is happening with your body, then you have no reason to read the memo. You have the option to disregard the memo in order to more effectively get your task done. Of course, the same philosophy can be applied to more than just the physical sort of pain or suffering.
“I know that I am in pain now, but I know that some time in the future I will no longer be in pain.”
Knowing that pain is temporary is also helpful. When you begin to realize that the climate of life is always changing, then you will always be prepared to embrace the approaching climate, be it painful or joyful. If this is the case, what difference does it make that there is pain now?
Image by KayVee.INC via Flickr
One-hour meditation too much to handle? 20 minutes? 5 minutes got you beat? Here's a new approach to meditation with one very westernized quality about it. It's very fast.
This method is less focused on meditation, but more about trying to sit peacefully and achieve a brief moment of clarity, or clarity of presence. This way of thinking comes from Zen philosophy. The idea here is to create an instantaneous state of mind, or state of being wherein your awareness or understanding of your immediate surroundings or situation is increased. Try not to exert effort when attempting this. It will inevitably lead to failure and regret. Failure to do something that you didn’t “try” to do, is not really a failure. If you want it to be a sunny day and it turns out rainy, you did not fail. If it rains, it rains; if it’s sunny, it’s sunny.
Hints to help you achieve a moment of clarity:
- Focus on your heartbeat until you can feel it pushing the blood throughout all of your arteries.
- Create a phrase or sentence that describes what it feels like to be alive.
- Look at your hand and try to understand that no matter what happens in this life, all that's sure is that you will have this body.
- Picture yourself from a bird's eye view. Visualize whatever you're doing at the moment and zoom out little by little to picture the room, building, trees, street, town, state, country, continent, planet, galaxy, and all of the cosmos.
- Imagine you have just been born and are seeing all of the things around you for the first time.
- Do not concentrate, just pay attention.
- Do something you absolutely love doing. Something that engages your mind and body 100%.
- Rise to a challenge that is slightly more than you think you are capable of.
- Breathe silently and listen to the other sounds your body may be making.
- Focus on your skin until it begins to tingle.
Have a nice day!
You've had the "oh-man, I-don't-feel-like-I'm-doing-anything-meaningful-at-work-and-can't-bring-myself-to-stay-on-task-for-the-life-of-me" blues. I know, so have I.
No matter what your job is, it is most likely important that you have it, if not for the community or the planet, at least for the survival of you and your family. So whether or not you actually find the immediate task at hand entertaining or otherwise captivating, you must convince yourself that it is worth the battle if not for the sole purpose of your own survival.
Oh yeah, and if you really don't like your job and think you could do better, have more fun, contribute more to society at another job, by all means, QUIT and get another job! But that's a topic for another post...
If you do, in fact, enjoy your job (as I do) and feel that it is the right place for you to be right now, but sometimes have trouble staying on task or motivating yourself, I've come up with a list of little tricks I've tried to keep up a good work flow and avoid the bosses raised eyebrow that says: "Really, what is your purpose here?"
1. Make a to-do list. Write all of your tasks down on a piece of PAPER; not on the computer or in your PDA. Something that will remain right in front of your face no matter what you are doing.
2. Listen to music. But not just any music, and certainly not your favorite music (that can be distracting) find the right music to motivate you. I find that I work best to fast music with no lyrics. I also find Japanese drums to be invigorating, and there's always the old stand-by: Iron Maiden. Great for productivity.
3. Play games with yourself. Get in touch with your inner child and make believe that it is your duty to save the world and the only way to do it is to press a button at the bottom of your stack of papers (or something else relevant to your tasks).
4. Compete with peers. Maybe not outwardly, not if it would be awkward, but play a game where at the weekly meeting you have 2 more things to report than everyone else in the room. Or maybe you have assembled more product, or stocked more boxes than anyone else.
5. Stretch. Take a few minutes a few times a day and do some stretching. Feeling relaxed and avoiding fatigue is critical to getting good work done. Read this article on Eye Exercises that can be done at your desk. And here is a link to some stretching you can do without leaving your desk. (and here )
6. Try standing up. Stand up at your desk for a new perspective and a better posture. Read Try Standing up at your Desk for more info on how this can be beneficial.
7. Include yourself in more tasks - Force yourself to partake. Take on a challenge and give people something to expect from you. If there are short term results that people are expecting, it will be much more difficult to slack off.
8. Offer your services in other areas - Carry water jugs, refill the soap in the bathroom, fix someone else's computer, etc. IE: Take on some task that is not technically yours. This will give you a little variety and should make it easier to come back to your position with a new perspective.
9. Take a "Dry Bath". This is a technique that originated in ancient Chinese Kung-Fu. Rub your hands together vigorously until the palms heat up. Immediately rub your arms, shoulders, head, torso and legs. This is said to be good for blood flow, metabolism and internal organs. I find that it is also useful in waking yourself up or bringing you into the present moment.
10. Take a "Brain Bath". Also a concept from ancient China, a "brain bath" is removing yourself from an arduous environment and giving your senses something more soothing to experience. This can be listening to birds or a stream, looking at artwork or flowers, petting an animal or otherwise giving pleasure to your senses. This is good for invigorating the functions of the brain. Upon returning to work you may find that a portion of the dullness of your tasks has been eradicated.
There may be another list a little later since this was kind of fun. But for now, let me know if you use any of these or if I missed any big ones for you.
A zen koan (short story) tells of a boy who was training under his father as a burglar:
The boy followed his father on a burglary one night and once inside the house, his father intentionally made a ruckus and fled the house. The boy darted to the nearest closet and his heart began to pound furiously as the home owners rose to see who was in their house. The boy had been given very little training, but the adrenaline of this moment was all he needed to be able to do anything he needed to do to prevent being caught. Eventually he made it out of the house undetected, and while he was not pleased with what his father had done, he had learned many lessons that night.
Often times it is important to leave your comfort zone and throw yourself into new situations where, if you think about it, you might not be entirely sure of yourself, but if you just do it you will find a way to get through it. This doesn't necessarily have to involve adrenaline - it can apply to cooking a new meal, changing careers, taking up a new sport, or virtually anything else.
Don't forget - this also offers a great way to observe yourself. Once you are thrown into a new situation, take a little time to observe your actions, your words and your feelings. You never know what you will learn about yourself.
"Observe all men; thy self most." - Benjamin Franklin
Image by Amin Tabrizi via Flickr
It’s aggravating to drop things you’re carrying or to spill your briefcase or book bag all over the floor because you were in a hurry. Do you think a samurai would ever drop his sword if he was in a hurry? Do you think a ninja would drop... anything... ever? The likelihood is that they would not. The trick here is that they have a level of understanding of these objects that allows them to know exactly how they will react under any given circumstance.
For example, a Samurai would know the following about his Katana:
- How is it weighted?
- What is the exact physical size in all three dimensions?
- How much weight can it support?
- How fast can he wield it with two hands? One hand?
- What will it cut through and how easily will it cut?
Know your book bag / briefcase
By understanding how your object (book bag or briefcase in this example) will react to certain circumstances will help to give you a fundamental understanding of what you will, or will not be able to do with it. For example:
- What happens when you hold it in a different place? Different handle? From the side? From a hanging strap? Does everything fall out? Will it break or tear when you hold it this way? Are there any other dangers you should know about if you’re holding it funny? Sharp edges, etc?
- How many fingers are required to hold its weight?
- Is there any way you can hold it with something else, like your elbow, or your foot?
- How much friction is there between your hand and the material it is made from?
Ask these questions, and ask any other question you can dream to ask. Ask these questions about any object you may encounter.
Be Prepared. Know all your utilities.
Make observations about your cell phone, wallet, pen, keychain, etc..
Your awareness for things around you will increase as will your fundamental understanding for these things with respect to how they function and react in this world. You will slowly be able to piece together the results from the physical tests and be able to infer other bits of useful information. You will probably be surprised at how you can use this information and how much it can benefit you.