Where We Are Meant To Be

We’re all looking for that Goldilocks position in life. That ultimate purpose specifically suited to our own unique talents and values.

Of course, we want to maximise our potential to do the most possible good. This is why many of us have this gnawing sense that the job we’re in isn’t quite right.

We feel like we are meant for something else, something more.

I didn’t pay much attention to my nature during adolescence, that critical life period when we are supposed to decide what we want to do forever and always. I simply did what I was told I should. Which was anything but the creative subjects I truly loved.

So I took a random collection of other subjects that left me increasingly confused about my future. Then I studied history for reasons I honestly couldn’t tell you, and then I decided to become an airline pilot.

Becoming a pilot was, at least, based on something I was passionate about. Traveling the world. Nothing satisfies my soul more. Still – and this is important – I didn’t become a pilot to fly aeroplanes.

Since the pandemic hit, that’s all I’ve been left with. Ironically, the profession I took up to travel the world is the reason I find myself cut off from it.

I can fly, but my wings have been clipped.

In a sense, this has been a blessing. It’s placed a spotlight on the person I am

And the person I’m not.

I believe this is why so many of us have joined the great resignation. And why many others feel incredibly burnt out. 

We settle into a job. We get comfortable with it – we know we can do it and do it well – so we preserve with it even though we know it isn’t quite right. We keep pushing the boulder uphill.

But you can only fight your nature for so long before it catches up with you. At some point, you have to make a choice: You can either take a chance on the person you are or kill the person you are. 

If you let that inner spark go out it can be very difficult to find the strength to fly again.

As I embark on the next chapter of my life, I mean to take a chance on the person I am. I mean to honour my inner child in the hope that I may do the most possible good with the gifts I have been given.

To inspire others through creativity.

As I embark on this journey, I want to take you along for the ride. I want to show you how to increase your self-understanding. I want to help you specialise in who you are so you don’t feel out of place anymore.

So that together, we may fly free in the knowledge we are exactly where we are meant to be.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that takes an extended break without telling anyone… (I missed you all too!)

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) If you think of a task in its entirety it can often feel overwhelming. Like staring up at a dragon. If that’s the case, don’t tell yourself you have to take down the whole dragon today. Just see if you can take a step closer to the cave that it’s residing in. Simply sharpen your sword. Get your armour ready. Whatever it is – reduce your ambition till you find the task you are willing to do and then move towards it.

2) A low energy life is a dangerous one. To live optimally you need look after your energy levels. You need to match the amount you’re carrying to the amount of drive you have available depending on the time or day. That might mean letting something go, which can be hard. But if you don’t – if you carry too much weight – you run the risk of stalling. This makes things much harder.

3) Often the reason we don’t gain energy from/motivation for an activity is to do with our relationship towards it, not the activity itself.


2 x Quotes:

“Show me a man who isn’t a slave; one who is a slave to sex, another to money, another to ambition; all are slaves to hope or fear.”

Seneca

“Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakes.

Carl Jung 

1 x Thing:

This Psyche article: How to take things less personally by Joel Minden. I particuarly liked the advice about distinguishing thoughts from feelings. Quote:

A good way to distinguish feelings from thoughts is to remember that feelings can often be summarised in one word – nervous, happy, surprised, scared – and thoughts are the ideas that drive or follow the feelings… practise labelling them whenever you have the opportunity. For example, if during a dinner, your guest suddenly got quiet and you thought: ‘He doesn’t like talking with me,’ acknowledge that you’re working with a thought that may or may not be true, and then consider the feeling that came with that thought. An example of a more accurate way to describe what happened is: ‘When he got silent during dinner, I felt sad because I thought he didn’t like talking with me.’ Remember that feelings are not debatable – you just feel how you feel, even when you wish you didn’t. Your thoughts, on the other hand, can be challenged, revised or replaced with more realistic and useful ones.


1 x Joke:

We took our kids to beach yesterday.

I turned to my eldest and said, “How does the sea say hi to the beach?”

“It waves, of course!”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 25/03/22

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @anxiouspilot

A Creative Leave of Absence

So my muse decided to take a holiday recently. He packed his bags and went to Hawaii or somewhere. And I know he’s been sitting in the sun drinking Pina Coladas the whole time.

That smug bastard.

Now, I should say I told him to take a break. The problem is, I’ve found it hard to get back into the flow of things. It turns out my muse enjoyed his holiday a little too much!

1I figured the break would do me good. I thought I would be raring to go by the time “I was ready” to write again. But that’s not been the case.

This is odd given my firm belief that you should take a break if you find the muse begging. In my experience you only end up creating more work for yourself if you try to force it.

If you feel overly stressed or burnt-out, I suggest you walk away and grab a beer. Catch up with some friends. Play with your children. Whatever it is, sometimes the muse just needs a little time to connect the dots. 

I swear it works wonders.

That said, I’ve realised that there is such a thing as too much time off. So much so that muse forgets the dots altogether. You still need to show up most days.

If you want to increase your creativity, you need some perseverance. Of course, you have to be around to catch the muse when that smug bastard actually bothers to show up. 

Consistency and creativity go hand in hand. 

The trick, I think, is to make sure you show up almost every day. But make sure, when you sit down to write, you do so without any expectations. Don’t pressure yourself to create something you must publish. Just aim to have some fun. Horse around a little.

Speak your mind. 

Then review it in the light of the next day. It doesn’t matter whether you wrote complete garbage. Ruthlessly murder all of your darlings if you have to. 

What matters is that you showed up. This is how you learn. This is how you improve. The more you do this, the more willing your muse will ultimately be.

With that said – and this is perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned during my recent creative leave of absence – what matters most of all is that you show up for life first and foremost. Your muse isn’t going to play ball if you have bigger fish to fry.

To quote Steven King, “Life is not a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” 

The real reason I took an extended leave of absence is because my wife got a job offer in Singapore. Provided the visa gets approved, I will be tendering my resignation and leaving behind a job and a life here in Hong Kong I’ve spent the last decade building.

Of course we needed some time to prepare ourselves for this potential move. I also needed some time to process my emotions which, as you can imagine, have been a little over the place.  

Between this, my full-time job and parenting two frenetic boys, I decided to put blogging on the back burner for a while.

Honestly, I’m glad I did. It’s been a bit of a struggle to get back into it, but here I am. I feel ten times lighter for it.

The good news is my muse – that smug bastard – is starting to come round. And guess what?

He’s rocking a sweet tan. 

He’s telling me, it’s time to get down to business.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Fear-Setting: A powerful exercise for making major life decisions.

Beware Fear Disguised As Optimism.

“There’s no difference between a pessimist who says, ‘Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,’ and an optimist who says, ‘Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine any way.’ Either way, nothing happens.”

— Yvon Chouinard

Most of us don’t call fear out for what it is. We often dress it up as something else. Many of us will even rationalise our fear as optimism.

We entertain thoughts that our situation will magically improve over time. This is common for someone working a job they dislike. 

But the truth is – if you feel the same way you did several months or years ago – things probably won’t get better by themselves. Unless you do something about it, the chances are you’ll remain just as unhappy as you are now.

This is what’s happened to me. 

Right now I’m standing at the edge of the precipice about to take a leap of faith. All of my gremlins have come crawling out of the woodwork. 

They’re whispering in my ear. Telling me this is a massive mistake, that it will end in disaster, that I have no idea what I’m doing… 

Of course fear wants us to play it safe. It wants us to choose certainty over happiness. That’s because the ego isn’t interested happiness. It’s only interested in survival.  

But that’s why it’s important to understand just how dangerous that leap of faith really is.

But to do that, you first have to embrace your demons. You have to give them the time and space to air out their concerns. So that you can really examine them. So you can hold them up in the light and see that fear for what it is:

  • False. 
  • Evidence. 
  • Appearing. 
  • Real. 

This helps us understand where our fears are really coming from. It helps us see what we can do to mitigate those concerns. Which fears are worth listening to and which really aren’t.

This in turn can give us the strength we need to take that leap of faith.

Fear-Setting: A powerful exercise for making major life decisions.

“You have comfort. You don’t have luxury. And don’t tell me that money plays a part. The luxury I advocate has nothing to do with money. It cannot be bought. It is the reward of those who have no fear of discomfort.”

— Jean Cocteau.

With this in mind I have an exercise you might consider. It’s an exercise I ran through the other night in an attempt to gain more clarity on my impending decision to divert from Hong Kong and my career in aviation.

It’s called fear-setting – an exercise that Tim Ferris called, “the most valuable one he does every month.” If you’re interested his article breaks it down in greater detail.

In a nut shell, here’s what you do:

  1. First, you write down the major life change you’re considering. 
  2. Second, define the worst case scenario in pain staking detail. Ask yourself if it really would be the end of your life? How permanent would it be? How likely is the worst case scenario?
  3. Third, ask yourself what steps could you take to repair the damage/deal with worst. Would you be able to get another job? What if you were fired from your job today? What would you do? How would you cope?
  4. Forth, ask yourself what the outcomes/benefits of a more probable scenario are. What are the definite positive outcomes (including for your self-esteem, mental and physical health etc)? What would the impact of these more likely outcomes be? 
  5. Fifth, ask what the cost will be if you do nothing? What is the cost of inaction? What will it cost you financially, emotionally & physically if you postpone this difficult choice?
  6. Finally, ask yourself what you’re so afraid of? What are currently putting off out of fear?

Perhaps It’s Better the Devil You Don’t Know?

“It’s not that we fear the unknown. You cannot fear something that you do not know. Nobody is afraid of the unknown. What you really fear is the loss of the known. That’s what you fear.”

– SJ Anthony de Mello

After running through this exercise the other night I came to a number of important insights.

I realised the nightmare scenario I’d been envisioning was one in a million. And the benefits – the positive outcomes – were much more likely. Even if the worst did come to pass, I realised that much of what I felt I was giving up was reversible.

But I also considered what the longer term costs of inaction might be. This presented me with another picture. One that was every bit as scary as the one that had been causing me to hesitate.

So I asked myself, ‘what I am really afraid of here?’ 

After giving it some thought it occurred to me that I what fear most – isn’t what the future might hold – but losing what I know.

I fear losing the gremlins that have kept safe for so long.

People often say it’s better the devil you know. But what if the devil you don’t know isn’t a devil after all?

After all, you don’t know.

What if it’s not an angel sent to save you? If only you had the courage to reach out to it – if only you had the strength to take that leap of faith and leave the shoreline behind.

The truth is, change is the only inevitability in this life. To cling to what we know only provides us with a false sense of security.

I would argue, to embrace change – to embrace the unknown – is to embrace life itself. 

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that believes embracing uncertainty is the only sure way to live…

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) A relationship without conflict is doomed. We must challenge each other if we want to grow together. We need a person who will contend with us, not someone who will only worship us. We need someone who is courageous enough to tell us the truth, even if it hurts.

2) If you want to conquer fear you have to define it in pain-staking detail first. You have to hold it up in the light and examine it to see it for what it really is:

  • False.
  • Evidence.
  • Appearing. 
  • Real.

3) Change is the only certainty in life. To cling to what you know only provides you with a false sense of security. To embrace change – to embrace the unknown – is to embrace life itself. 


2 x Quotes:

Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?””

— Seneca

What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. 

Tim Ferris.

1 x Thing:

This Tim Ferris article: Fear-Setting: The Most Valuable Exercise I Do Every Month. I highly suggest giving the article a read – especially if you’re currently challenged with making a major life decision. The article goes into greater detail but, in a nut shell, this is what you do:

  1. Write down the major life change you’re considering. 
  2. Define the worst case scenario in pain staking detail. 
  3. Ask yourself what steps could you take to repair the damage/deal with worst. 
  4. Ask yourself what the outcomes/benefits of a more probable scenario are
  5. Ask yourself what the cost will be if you do nothing? What is the cost of inaction? 
  6. Finally, ask yourself what you’re so afraid of? 

1 x Joke:

Did you hear about the rock that faced his greatest fear?

He is now a little boulder.


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 11/03/22

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Why It’s Wrong To Be Right

If you think back to the Middle Ages and compare what we know now to what we thought we knew then, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that we weren’t terribly smart. That most of what we thought we knew about the world was patently wrong. 

It seems obvious to us now that the earth revolves around the sun (and not the other way around), that sperm doesn’t contain tiny people inside them (I kid you not), and that cats aren’t doing the devil’s work (and that we don’t have to go around executing them). 

If you think back to when you were a kid or a teenager or the idiot you were one year ago – you’ll probably come to a similar conclusion. You’ll look back and laugh thinking, “I can’t believe I actually thought that!” 

Hopefully, as you’ve gotten a little older you’ve come to realise that you still don’t know very much. But crucially, you know you don’t know very much. You know that the more you know the more you know you don’t know.

You know?  

Hopefully you’ve come to see that we never gain a complete picture or arrive at an absolute truth for ourselves or the world around us – rather, we only ever become a little less wrong. We simply chip away at our rock-place beliefs and find slightly firmer ground to stand on over time.

And I’m fairly certain (although I could be wrong) that this is the right approach to life. 

Not to think in terms of being right, but in terms of trying to be a little less wrong than the person we were yesterday. That way it won’t bother you as much when you are. That way you’re more willing to challenge your beliefs in order to come to a greater understanding. 

I think it’s helpful to think of life like an experiment where:

  • Our beliefs are hypotheses.
  • Our actions and behaviours are experiments. 
  • Our emotions and thought patterns are data.

We can go about making experiments based on our new hypotheses and comparing that data to our original beliefs/previous experiments. Then we can integrate the results into our overall understanding about ourselves and the world we live in.

I believe this approach works well because you’re not starting with an old belief and trying to validate it. You’re starting with the experiment – being open to the experience – and then interpreting the results in order to gain a clearer picture. This allows your beliefs to evolve and grow over time. 

The problem with asserting that our original hypothesis must be right is you end up locking yourself into a career or marriage that isn’t. You don’t allow yourself the flexibility to adapt over time. Your need to be right prevents you from growing.

We often think the reason we don’t change our lives is because we’re afraid of failure, but it’s more than that. We’re afraid of confronting the fact we might be wrong. We’re afraid of confronting our beliefs. If I change careers I’ll be confronted with the false belief that I’m not capable of doing something else. So I refrain.

The problem with this is we end up sacrificing our longer term happiness for shorter term comfort. Over the long run this is extremely costly. Choosing comfort now leads to greater unhappiness later on. Choosing discomfort now, on the other hand, leads to a greater understanding of oneself later on.

That’s why I suggest you ask yourself what you were wrong about today? What have you always been wrong about? (It’s best to assume most things.) Then think up ways to experiment and test any new hypotheses you come up with the following day. 

I’m confident that if you do, you’ll find you definitely are wrong. I’m confident that you’ll find you’re wrong the following day too. In fact, I’m confident that you’ll find you’re wrong in some way, shape or form, everyday for the rest of your life.  

But that’s ok. Because I’m also confident you’ll see your life improve immeasurably. You’ll see it’s only by being wrong that our life does improve. You’ll see that life really is a series of trials and errors. 

Those who are brave enough to keep falling flat on their faces, who are brave enough to keep making a fool of themselves, will end up living the best of lives. At the end of it all – just like those who, several hundred years from now, will look back at the way we live our lives and laugh – you’ll look back and laugh about how stupid you were. 

But, you’ll also be proud of the fact that you were always willing to be wrong – that you were always willing to fall flat on your face. You’ll smile and realise that although you never arrived at any absolute truth for yourself or the world at large – you had a bloody good time trying.

You’ll realise that this was, at least, the right way to live.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that believes you have to write your thoughts down in order to see them.

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) The more notes you take the more connections you build. The more connections you build the more your writing improves.

2) A simple way to outline blog post.

  • Start with the problem.
  • Tell your readers what the solution is.
  • Tell them how to implement this solution (break it down).
  • Finish by highlighting the main takeaway(s). 

3) A guide to challenging negative beliefs:

  1. Write down your negative belief.
  2. Ask yourself what factual evidence exists to support this belief.
  3. Ask yourself what contrary evidence exists to refute it.
  4. Ask yourself what a friend would say.
  5. State a new belief based on new evidence/what your friend would say.
  6. Ask yourself what your life would look like if you continue to invest in this belief.
  7. Every time you notice your old belief surfacing challenge it with your new belief.
  8. State your new belief every morning as part of your routine – keep repeating it your mind until it takes over.

2 x Quotes:

“Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up. But the writing is a way of not allowing those things to destroy you.”

— John Edgar Wideman

“The worst readers are those who behave like plundering troops: they take away a few things they can use, dirty and confound the remainder, and revile the whole… The philosopher believes that the value of his philosophy lies in the whole, in the building: posterity discovers it in the bricks with which he built and which are then often used again for better building: in the fact, that is to say, that that building can be destroyed and nonetheless possess value as material.

— Nietzsche

1 x Thing:

This beast of a post by Micheal SimmonsThe Brutal Truth About Reading: If You Don’t Take Notes Right, You’ll Forget Nearly Everything. The post outlines how to take high quality notes – but also the benefits of sharing those notes publicly. Here’s an excerpt:

“We ask ourselves, “Who am I to share what I know?” Actually, who are you not to share? You have an embarrassment of riches. You know more than 99.9% of people in human history. You having impostor’s syndrome does not serve the world. Everyone is a teacher. Knowledge is abundant. The more you give it, the more you have it. When you teach others, you teach a student and create a future teacher. You become a link in the chain of wisdom that gets passed from human to human and generation to generation.”


1 x Joke:

We were having fondue for dinner the other night when my son flung melted cheese across the table.

I said, “Watch out, there’s been an explosion… Da brie is everywhere!!”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 04/03/22

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Must We Not Fight for Peace?

War would end if the dead could return.” — Stanley Baldwin.

Just imagine you wake up the following morning to the sound of bombs exploding and artillery firing. The enemy has invaded. You didn’t think it would ever happen, but there you are.

Suddenly you’ve been thrown back into the 1940s.

Now, what do you do? Do you gather your most prized belongings and flee? Or do you kiss your wife and children goodbye  – send them packing  –  and then pick up a gun and fight for your homeland? Assuming you don’t have to stay, that is. Assuming that you can leave.

Should you go? Or should you stand and fight? 

I remember reading a quote by Bertrand Russell, who once said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” Yet, I suspect there is little debate about what most people reading this feel regarding Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

Do we honestly believe we might be wrong here? I firmly believe war is wrong. There are never any winners when it comes to war. To quote Harry Patch (one of the last surviving combat soldiers from the First World War), “War is organised murder and nothing else.”

But, if that’s the case  –  if you don’t believe in war  – what do you do when war comes knocking down your front door?

Do you stand and fight in defence  – do you engage in war  – or do you walk away? Do you find another place to call home? And what if leaving isn’t a choice? Do you accept your fate because you don’t believe in killing another human being? 

There’s another quote that’s always struck a chord with me. Words once uttered by the great Mahatma Gandhi. He said, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” I don’t doubt that he’s right. However, it feels idealistic when I think about what’s going on right now.

Because let’s be honest, man’s ability to transcend his ego is pathetic. Of course, peace is right and war is wrong. It’s easy to say that. But peace can only be maintained if both sides believe in it. And there are always exceptions aren’t there? Like standing up to tyranny and oppression? 

If no one had fought and died for our freedoms, where would we be now? How much worse would our lives be?

Killing someone in self-defence is protected under the law for a reason. Just imagine someone decides to invade your home. Image you have nowhere to run and that no one is coming to your aid. Imagine this person is intent on killing your children. What do you do? Do you hesitate to kill that person? In order to protect those that you love? If you’re left with no other choice?

Martin Luther King once said, “If a man has not found something worth dying for, he is not fit to live.” That’t powerful isn’t it? What if that thing is freedom, equality or human rights? Are those not worth dying for? Are they not worth defending to the death? If not for you, then for your children and your children’s children?

I honestly don’t know what I would do if I was in the situation the people of Ukraine find themselves now. Whether or not I would have what it takes to kill another human being  – even if it is for a righteous cause. For something that I strongly believe in. 

Although the thoughts have crossed my mind before, I’ve quickly put a lid on them  –  never thinking for one moment that I would ever have to contemplate killing another human being under the conditions of war. 

Perhaps I never will. Or maybe  –  if this shameless act of aggression is allowed to stand  – we all will. Maybe it will be our children who are forced to make this choice. 

I can think of nothing worse.

After all, here we are. War has returned to Europe. It’s the closest we’ve been to World War since the Cold War. And right now we need to ask ourselves, what would we do? 

How would we respond if we woke up to bombing and heavy artillery tomorrow morning? What if we found ourselves in a war we didn’t ask for? What if we were made to choose between accepting the rule of tyranny and oppression or killing those trying to enforce it upon us?

Finally, we need to ask what we can do to help.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that believes we must fight for peace.

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) There is value in anger if used constructively. There is no value in resentment. It means the enemy is inside your head. If we are to stand and win the fight for peace, we must first win it within ourselves.

2) Concentrate on loving and protecting those who need it, not hating those who don’t.

3) We all need to ask ourselves, what would we do? How would we respond if we woke up to bombing and heavy artillery tomorrow morning? What if we found ourselves in a war we didn’t ask for? What if we were made to choose between accepting the rule of tyranny and oppression or killing those trying to enforce that upon us? Then we need to ask ourselves how we can help.


2 x Quotes:

“War is organised murder and nothing else.” 

— Harry Patch (One of the last surviving combat soldiers from the First World War)

“No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in the present instant. Take peace. The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within reach, is joy. Take joy.”

— Fra Giovanni

1 x Thing:

This article by Yuval Noah HarariWhy Vladimir Putin has already lost this war. Here’s an excerpt:

“Nations are ultimately built on stories. Each passing day adds more stories that Ukrainians will tell not only in the dark days ahead, but in the decades and generations to come. The president who refused to flee the capital, telling the US that he needs ammunition, not a ride; the soldiers from Snake Island who told a Russian warship to “go fuck yourself”; the civilians who tried to stop Russian tanks by sitting in their path. This is the stuff nations are built from. In the long run, these stories count for more than tanks.”



PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 11/02/22

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

The Two Paths to Wealth

I have two images of wealth in my mind. 

One looks like what most people envision. A lavish lifestyle, a big plastic mansion, a luxury yacht, 8 sports cars… You get it.

Then there is this second image. 

In this picture, there is a place called home. It’s quaint, rustic. Filled with messy, silly, somewhat annoying children. There are a lot of friends and family nearby. A wonderful community. Maybe some dogs. Actually, there are definitely some dogs.

Dogs are the best. 

But it isn’t without money. That image still appreciates its importance. The need to provide. To first survive before we thrive. But it also understands what enough is. It understands true contentment. It’s not clinging to anything. Or feeling like it has to have more. It’s ok with less, provided it feels fulfilled in the other areas.   

The areas that really matter. 

Of course, we aren’t human doers at the end of the day. We are human beings. But to be, we must first do. This is the paradox. We must first put food on the table before we can relax and savour and enjoy. 

However, provided you do enough – and you know what enough is – after you’re done doing, and you know how to let go, I believe you’ll see that being is the true embodiment of wealth

And I think we really need to ask ourselves what we are making money for. If you’re not content with your lot now, what makes you believe a bigger house or fancier car will solve that? If you’re incapable of being still and appreciating what is, what makes you think more money will allow that to happen? 

This is why I believe we need to ask ourselves what enough actually is.

And I mean strip it right back. What is just enough to be comfortable, for having a roof over your head and putting food on the table? Really, what is enough? How do you get it? And I’m just talking about having enough for your retirement or 10 years from now, but today.   

Now. 

Do you not have enough in this moment?    

Chasing monetary gain is one way to think about wealth. But another way is to think about it is in terms of time. Freedom from having to do so much all the time. Is anyone else tired of trying to be a goddamn hero 24/7?    

If you’ve defined enough in a modest way, if you reframe your perspective, you might find you’re already sitting on a mountain of gold. Although it is hard to change our conditioning, I believe this is the quickest and easiest path to wealth. 

And these are the two paths: You can keep earning money to buy more things – you can keep chasing the big orange carrot that’s always just out of reach – or you can teach yourself what enough is and then give yourself more time to be with those you love and to do the things you genuinely love. 

And who are those people? What are those things? Can you do them today? Can you see them now? Do you not already have it made? 

If you ask me, freedom is the real measure of wealth in this world. That’s freedom from feeling like you are racing against the clock. When we keep chasing and striving, the real problem isn’t our inability to see that we already have enough, but our inability to switch off.  

Someone incapable of being, who has spent so much time doing that they can’t switch off, even if they’re already sitting a mountain of gold, might just be the poorest of us all. 

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

How To Gain a Clear Picture of Your Future Self

I haven’t been myself lately. 

The unrelenting madness at work over the past couple of years has taken a toll. I decided I needed some time to clear the storm clouds that had gathered inside my mind. I realised I’d been too close to everything at work. 

So, I called the doc and went on long-term stress leave.

After a few weeks of playing with my children and otherwise ignoring the news and anything work-related, I deiced to sit down and address these clouds – the repeated thoughts about leaving my profession and Hong Kong – and map out a flight plan for my diversion. 

When I did, two uncomfortable questions kept popping up. Those were:

  • Who am I? 
  • Who do I want to become?

As fate would have it – after stewing on those questions for a while – I read a BBC article about the importance of imaging your future self. It noted, “a large number of psychological studies over the past decade have shown those who struggle to imagine their future selves as a continuation of the person that they are today, tend to be less responsible.” 

This caused me to spill my morning coffee. I thought, “That’s it! The picture of my future self has become blurry. So long as my future self remains a stranger to me – so long as I think of him as someone different to the person I am today – I will remain rudderless in the present.”

After reflecting on this, I decided to follow the same article’s advice. Which was to write a letter to my future self 20 years from now describing what is most important to me today and my plans for the coming decades. 

So, I thought long and hard about my values and wrote this letter. And then, I wrote a second one. A reply from my future self. I found it to be a powerful exercise. One that brought that picture back into sharp focus. That has allowed me to find my bearings again in the present. 

Aside from clarifying my values, it helped me look at everything happening from a longer-term perspective – helping to understand another mistake I’d been making. 

Everything that has led me to this significant crossroads in my life, I’ve been telling myself that it represents a diversion from the person I thought I was supposed to become.

But that’s not true. As my future self put it, 

“The values that are causing you to reconsider your future aren’t taking you away from the person you thought you were meant to be. They are driving you back towards the person you already are – the person you’ve always been at heart. If you place faith in him, I promise that he will take you exactly where you want to go. 

That’s because – if you do – you’ll see there is nowhere you have to go, no place you have to be, nothing you have to do. You’ve already arrived. You’re already exactly where you’re meant to be. You’re already the person you’re meant to become.

Your only problem is that you’re fighting him – you’re fighting who you already are. But he will win this fight. And you must let him. You must place your faith in the person you already are.”

After writing this out, I felt this wave of calm wash over me. I saw my future self smiling back at me. As if he knows this is the moment I’ve finally come to understand something vital for both his sake and mine. 

It’s this thought – this insight – that I want to leave you with to reflect on:

If you want to gain a clear picture of the person you are meant to become, you have to stop fighting who you already are.


***

You can find AP2’s personal blog here at: https://clear-air-turbulence.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that is completely unaware of how awesome it is.

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) The only way to gain a clear picture of the person you are meant to become is to stop fighting who you already are(Click to tweet

2) The most important psychological trait you can develop is self-awareness. The caveat is, it doesn’t work without self- acceptance. It’s the combination of the two that leads to genuine change/growth in an individual. Self-awareness without self-acceptance leads to self-absorption. (Click to tweet)

3) Anger is a useful cue to zoom the lens out and foster greater perspective. (Click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

Friendship means we are willing to carry things for other people that they won’t carry for themselves. We hold in our packs a version of our friends at their brightest and most creative that can be shown to them when they are in a slump. We carry memories of the times we laughed, did silly things, failed and succeeded. We store all the depth of the ways we have walked side by side on the path as well as the times we waited at an intersection while they took a detour and vice versa. Then at just the right moment, we unpack the brownies we’ve carried so far and celebrate our friends… There are some things worth the extra weight and friendship is one of them.”

— Wynne Leon (Source: https://pointlessoverthinking.com/2022/02/09/backpacks/)

“We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.”

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (Source: https://pointlessoverthinking.com/2022/02/05/marcus-aurelius-on-humility-and-duty/)

1 x Thing:

This article by John Salvatier: Reality has a surprising amount of detail. The article was recommended by Tim Ferris in his 5 bullet Friday newsletter. It details the detail in the seemingly simple, and why it’s important to look for the details you wouldn’t normally pay attention to. Well worth the 5-10 min read! Here are a few quotes from the piece:

This means it’s really easy to get stuck. Stuck in your current way of seeing and thinking about things. Frames are made out of the details that seem important to you. The important details you haven’t noticed are invisible to you, and the details you have noticed seem completely obvious and you see right through them. This all makes it difficult to imagine how you could be missing something important.

The direction for improvement is clear: seek detail you would not normally notice about the world. When you go for a walk, notice the unexpected detail in a flower or what the seams in the road imply about how the road was built. When you talk to someone who is smart but just seems so wrong, figure out what details seem important to them and why. In your work, notice how that meeting actually wouldn’t have accomplished much if Sarah hadn’t pointed out that one thing. As you learn, notice which details actually change how you think.

If you wish to not get stuck, seek to perceive what you have not yet perceived. 


1 x Joke:

When does a joke turn into a dad joke?


When it becomes apparent.



PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 04/02/22

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that likes to lift you up before bringing you back down to earth.

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) A simple three letter word for developing a growth mindset: YET  (Click to tweet

2) If you never assume you’re a good person, you will continue to look for how you can be a better one. (Click to tweet)

3) The beauty of a moment comes from its impermanence. The moment you cling to it, it’s destroyed. In order to truly live in the moment, therefore, you have to let go... of everything! (Click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less”

— Rick Warren

“Whatever you’re doing, a sense of superiority will make you worse at it. Humility, on the other hand, will make you better. The moment you think you’ve got it all figured out, your progress stops. Instead, continue to advance and improve by reminding yourself how much more there will always be to discover. Confidence is positive and empowering, but arrogance is deadly. Be confident, but not at the expense of your respect for others. Don’t burn up all your energy proving how great you are. Invest your time and energy being thoughtful and helpful. See the victories not as proof of your supremacy, but as opportunities to offer more value to life. See the defeats not as personal affronts, but as chances to learn and grow stronger. Take care not to waste your time in delusions of grandeur. Embrace the power of confident humility, and live well.”

Ralph Marston

1 x Thing:

This BBC article by David Robson: How thinking about ‘future you’ can build a happier life. It points out, ‘a number of studies have shown that those who struggle to imagine their future selves as a continuation of the person that they are today, tend to be less responsible. Those who have a vivd sense of their future self, on the other hand, tend to be more responsible.’

One suggestion for helping to increase this connection to your future self is “to write a letter to yourself 20 years from now, describing what is most important for you now and your plans for the coming decades.” It goes on to suggest “that you could amplify the effects by writing a reply from the future, since that will force you to adopt a long-term perspective.”


1 x Joke:

We took our children on a trip aboard the iconic Star Ferry here in Hong Kong the other day.

Just before we departed my eldest shouted, “ALL ABOARD!!”

I laughed before commenting, “Well said. Just like a train conductor!”

My wife asked, “What do boat drivers usually say when it’s time to leave?”

I shouted, “ALL ABOAT!!”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 28/01/22


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***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that doesn’t know where it’s going.

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Increasing self awareness means taking the auto pilot out and hand flying the damn thing. It is a skill you must practise by actively bringing your focus back to the present moment over and over again. Not only to develop self awareness, but maintain it. (Click to tweet)

2) Before we act we must accept. Before we accept we must become aware. Step one, therefore, is the practise of presence moment awareness. Step two is the practice of universal compassion. Step three is taking action in alignment with your values. Awareness > Acceptance > Action. (Click to tweet)

3) Instead of trying to work out how you can get what you want, maybe you should seek to understand why you want it? Through understanding it’s possible you’ll drop your desire altogether. (Click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

“The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.”

– ARAB PROVERB

Self-observation—watching yourself—is important. It is not the same as self-absorption. Self-absorption is self-preoccupation, where you’re concerned about yourself, worried about yourself. I’m talking about self-observation. What’s that? It means to watch everything in you and around you as far as possible and watch it as if it were happening to someone else. What does that last sentence mean? It means that you do not personalize what is happening to you. It means that you look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever.

– ANTHONY DE MELLO

1 x Thing:

This article on Medium by Darius Foroux: Ask Yourself These 20 Questions to Improve Your Self-Awareness. A few of them include:

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What am I bad at?
  3. Who are the most important people in my life?
  4. How much sleep do I need?
  5. What’s my definition of success?
  6. What makes me sad?
  7. What makes me happy?
  8. What type of friend do I want to be?
  9. What do I think about myself?
  10. What things do I value in life?

His advice after answering these questions? “Double down on the advantageous stuff and start eliminating the harmful stuff, as much as you can. Do more things that make you happy or things you’re good at. Avoid things that make you unhappy or things you’re bad at. That’s it. That’s knowing yourself.”


1 x Joke:

As we walked into the elevator the other day I asked my wife is she wanted to hear a good elevator joke.

She replied, “Not really.”

I said, “Are you sure? This one works on so many levels.”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 14/01/22


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***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Diversion

We don’t always end up where we intended in life. Sometimes, we are made to divert long before reaching our final destination. Other times we may complete the journey only to find the airport is closed on arrival, forcing us to divert at the last moment.

Whether it’s some kind of emergency or our own health that forces us to come back to earth, the reasons are often out of our control. Sometimes, however, we divert because we realise the flight we’re on isn’t taking us where we want to go. We admit the journey itself isn’t what we wanted after all.

This can be a difficult decision to make when you’re already cruising at a comfortable level. A level that you worked hard to reach. The thought of coming back to earth and climbing back up again can be off-putting. Any decision to divert – especially if the possibility of continuing exists – shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I’ve had thoughts about diverting from my profession for a while now. A decade of long-haul flying has taken its toll. I realise that another decade in this job might cost me significantly – if it hasn’t already. The risk to my health is something that plagues my mind. 

I haven’t left yet because, well, I’m also scared of what might happen if I do. I’m scared about what a career change might mean for my children, for the quality of life I can provide for them. I’ve also been comfortable. 

My job – pre-pandemic, at least – has been decent. It’s not only paid the bills but allowed me to have a wonderful lifestyle. I have traveled the world many times over. Outside of work, at least, it has given me everything I wanted. Although I despise flying through the night, I do enjoy flying aeroplanes. 

For all of the above, I told myself to keep going. To grit it out and get my command first. Achieve that, collect my four bars, and then move on. That way, I’ll have achieved everything I wanted and still have time left on the clock to pursue something else.

I figured this would also allow me to work towards a second career in my spare time – to make for an easier transition before I close this chapter of my life. 

That was the flight plan. 

Unfortunately, things have changed. The journey has become much more turbulent. The ride is approaching unbearable. The forecast at destination is looking increasingly dicey too. 

Hong Kong’s strict zero cases policy has come at an extreme cost for the aircrew. The government has handed us a prison sentence. If we break that sentence – for so much as going outside to get some fresh air – they may well send us to prison. 

The burden on our mental health has been immense. To give you one statistic: our crew body spent over 73,000 days in isolation last year. That’s the equivalent of 200 years in prison. 

The truth is, there is no life here for aircrew at the moment. So long as this madness persists, there is no escaping it either. Getting home is an impossible task because of the quarantine restrictions coming back in. 

We’re boxed in. The choice is to either stay and endure or leave for good – to divert sooner than intended. At the moment, I’m weighing the cost of security in the form of a pay cheque against my mental and physical health. Also, against the cost of not leaving a place I feel an increasing dissonance towards.

But what is the cost of one’s aliveness anyway? What is the price of feeling free? Must we not make enormous sacrifices for it? Do my children not need that more? Do they not need to see me make those sacrifices even? To understand if you value freedom, a pay cheque can often work against you. 

The truth is – you know it – the decision in my heart has already been made. Right now, I’m in the process of formulating a plan before I execute my diversion – just short of the destination I had in mind. 

I am scared. 

I realise it’s ok to acknowledge that. But, like Winston Churchill once said, you have to be willing to leave the shore to explore new oceans. Of course, that’s going to leave you stranded at sea for a while. 

But, that’s exactly what an adventure is. The human spirit can only be made in adventure. Provided I back myself to navigate the tricky waters ahead, I believe I can teach my children something that no amount of money ever will: what it really means to live. 

There is no greater reason to divert than that.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that believes a meaningless existence is the whole point.

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Our lives hold as much meaning as we give them. Which is why we must give ours as much meaning as we can. In our relationships and our work. We must fill every corner of our precious existence with it. If we do, we won’t be concerned with what the meaning of life is. We will understand that the question doesn’t matter. We will understand – that when it comes to the meaning of life – our own unique, unrepeatable lives – that we aren’t meant to ask the question. We are meant to answer it in the only way that we can.

2) The real fear isn’t that we’re going to die or that soon after we will be quickly forgotten. The real fear is getting to that point and realising we didn’t really live in the first place – that we didn’t live a life we felt was truly meaningful. This is why a fear of death is so heavily associated with a fear of life. Why we often feel like we’re “racing against the clock.” It’s when we don’t feel that our lives are currently meaningful that the worm at the core starts to eat us alive. 

3) Why it’s helpful to think you’re not a good person: A good person implies something black or white. You either are or you aren’t. This fixes your mindset. You believe you’re a good person and go at lengths to avoid being proven otherwise. You also become defensive about that belief. You feel threatened whenever this comes into question and so avoid the very conversations you need to hear so you may become a better person. That’s the way you should think. Not in terms of being a good person, but in terms of being a better one. Of course, you always can be.


2 x Quotes:

“Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the centre of it all.”

– Robert Pirsig

“In their fear of death, those living fear life itself, a life that is doomed to die… The mode in which life knows and perceives itself is worry. Thus the object of fear comes to be fear itself. Even if we should assume that there is nothing to fear, that death is no evil, the fact of fear (that all living things shun death) remains… Fearlessness is what love seeks. Love as craving is determined by its goal, and this goal is freedom from fear… Such fearlessness exists only in the complete calm that can no longer be shaken by events expected of the future… Hence the only valid tense is the present, the Now.”

Hannah Arendt

1 x Thing:

This Mark Manson article: The Meaning of Life Is a Ham Sandwich. As he explains, “Meaning is not something that exists outside of ourselves. It is not some cosmic universal truth waiting to be discovered. It is not some grand ‘eureka’ moment that will change our lives forever. Meaning requires action. Meaning is something that we must continually find and nurture. Consistently.” I particularly liked the two ways he suggests doing that: Either by solving problems or helping others. Well worth the quick read!


1 x Joke:

I had my haircut the other day.

When I got home my 3 year old asked, “Dad, did you get a haircut?”

I said, “No, I got them all cut!”

Unfortunately the joke went over his head.


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 14/01/22


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***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Is This the Meaning of a Meaningless Existence?

Nihilism is a dangerous belief. The inability to make sense of it all leads many to conclude that life is entirely pointless. This, in turn, can lead to the belief that there is little point in trying at anything.

Now, I’m not here to debate the existence of a grand creator. (Thank God, I hear you say.) I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with believing in or not believing in a God or Gods. I can see many good reasons for. But I sympathise with those who find it hard to accept the idea. 

Truthfully, I would like to believe in God. I would like to take solace in the idea that I will go somewhere after death, along with all who I love. I appreciate and understand how this can provide psychological security. 

I have a theory that we are theists by nature. Becoming self-aware came at a massive price. I believe we were meant to place our faith in something bigger than ourselves – that this is the antidote to one’s fear of death that resides at the core. Still, I can’t help but struggle with the idea. 

But I also struggle with the idea of a meaningless existence. Why should anything exist if there is no God? Just because? That answer has never satisfied my soul. And for all of science’s ability to explain the how, it will never be capable of answering the why.

I’ve had these thoughts long enough to understand at least one thing that’s for sure. You can waste your life asking such questions. Asking what it all means. Why me? Why this kind of insanity?

I’ve come to realise that this is definitely the wrong approach. 

Many people wish to live in a world free from suffering, of course – one that only has abundant love. But they fail to see that compassion cannot exist without suffering. In the same way, high cannot exist without low or light without darkness. 

Even love without hate. 

What if that’s the point? What if the meaninglessness of existence is a blank canvas that you’re supposed to paint meaning onto? Does the backdrop of meaning not have to be meaninglessness?

I don’t know if that’s true.

But I am sure, at least, when it comes to the meaning of life – our own unique, unrepeatable lives – that we aren’t meant to ask the question. We are meant to answer it in the only way we can.

Perhaps – just perhaps – this really was by design.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that enjoys having its head stuck in the clouds…

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) The problem isn’t negative thinking per se, but an inability to get off the train and determine the clouds from the sky. That’s why it’s essential to know how to get off the train. It’s in the space outside our thoughts that we can view them objectively. Just like a cloud, this is where the smooth air is. It’s from this space that we can see things clearly. We can then choose which thought clouds we wish to engage with and which/when we shouldn’t.

2) You may never change someone’s mind on the spot, but by having the conversation you can, at least, plant the seed. It often takes a long time for a seed to sprout let alone blossom. The lesson? Keep having the conversations that matter – however difficult or futile they may seem.

3) Success isn’t achieving something. Success is enjoying achieving something. Win or lose. Success is about enjoyment. Not money. Not titles. Not prestige. Not being right. Not fame. It’s enjoyment. It’s loving what you’re doing.


2 x Quotes:

“Enlightenment is an accident – but meditation makes us accident-prone.”

Baker Roshi

“When dealing with people remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”

– Dale Carnegie 

1 x Thing:

This BBC work-life article on Awe: The ‘little earthquake’ that could free your mind by David Robson. The article explores the myriad of benefits that come from seeking out moments of awe. Well worth the quick read!

Awe-inspiring experiences – with their sense of grandeur, wonder and amazement – may confound our expectations, creating a “little earthquake” in the mind that causes the brain to reassess its assumptions and to pay more attention to what is actually in front of it.

– Michelle Shiota, a professor of social psychology at Arizona State University

1 x Joke:

After cooking dinner the other night, as we sat down to eat, I turned to my wife and asked,

“What did one dinner plate say to the other dinner plate?”

“Dinner’s on me!”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 07/01/22


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You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Stuck in the Clouds: An Aviator’s Guide to Pointless Overthinking

I have a love-hate relationship with thinking. Sometimes, I get in these kinds of flow states where I follow my train of thought – connecting the dots along the way – to an exciting, unexpected destination. When I follow my thoughts in this way, I find it euphoric. I often derive my best writing doing so.  

This is all well and good when my thought train takes me on a such journey; however, it’s not so great when my train of thought – as it likes to do – takes me down some dark tunnels. I’ve come to realise that the problem isn’t negative thinking per se, but an inability to get off the train and determine the clouds from the sky. 

Thoughts are a lot like clouds. When viewed from the outside, we can see them clearly and the air is calm. When you’re stuck inside, however, the air becomes turbulent. Seeing things clearly becomes much more difficult as a result. 

That’s why it’s essential to know how to get off the train – especially when our thoughts aren’t serving us. It’s in the space outside our thoughts that we can view them objectively. It’s in this space that we can then choose which thoughts to engage with and which/when we shouldn’t. 

The question is, how do we get off the train to distinguish the clouds from the sky in the first place?

What Is Pointless Overthinking?

Before we work out how, it’s important to define what and why. 

There’s a fine line between thoughtful, thorough consideration surrounding a problem or idea versus worrying about certain should haves or could haves or events over which we have no control. 

The first type of thinking – let’s call it deep-thinking – is about figuring something out or coming to a deeper understanding. That’s to say, it serves a purpose. Either helping us grow as individuals or take more meaningful action. Engaging in this kind of deep-thinking is necessary when we have a difficult life decision to make. 

The danger comes from engaging with an idea or problem to such an extent that it actually prevents us from taking any kind of action or deepening our understanding on a topic. Not only does this type of thinking – let’s call it pointless overthinking – fail to achieve anything, it’s actually counter-productive.

It usually involves dwelling on how bad we feel or worrying about events we have no control over.

Why Do We Pointlessly Overthink?

Many perfectionists and overachievers are prone to this kind of overthinking. According to Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist in New York, this is because “the fear of failing and the need to be perfect take over, which leads to replaying or criticizing decisions and mistakes.”

For others, overthinking is rooted in mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Which comes first – mental illness or overthinking – is a bit like asking if it’s the chicken or the egg. At any rate, those who overthink are more prone to neuroses and vice versa.

It can also lead to a host of other problems affecting everything from your work and relationships to your sleep and health. One Harvard study found that excessive brain activity depletes an essential protein, which may shorten the human lifespan

Clearly then, learning to tame the overthinking mind is important. So how do we curb overthinking?

How To Curb Pointless Overthinking

  1. Understand what triggers overthinking

Ideally, you want to spot the storm on your radar so you can go around it or, at least, prepare yourself in advance. This is why it’s useful to have a clear understanding of what your triggers are

One tip is to write down specific moments that caused you to overthink or worry during the day. One of my major triggers is fatigue. It often sends me into a spiral where I tell myself that I shouldn’t feel tired all the time. So I end up feeling bad about feeling bad, which makes me feel, well, bad. This, of course, sends me down the emotional rabbit hole.

The good news is I’m now much quicker to spot it now. This has allowed my to better implement a number of different coping strategies.

  1. Observe your thoughts without judgment.

“Pure attention without judgement is not only the highest form of human intelligence, but also the expression of love.” – JIDDU KRISHNAMURT

It’s best to go around the storm clouds if you can help it. However, we need a plan for the times we inevitably find ourselves enveloped. 

Just like flying an aircraft – the best course of action isn’t to try and control the plane when we encounter turbulence but to sit on our hands and ride it out. Similarly, when it comes to the mind, the best solution is often not to look for one. 

What I’m getting at here is the practice of observing your thoughts without judgement. The more we do this, the better we become at letting them go. 

Eckhart Tolle is his famous book “The Power of Now,” suggests asking yourself the following question, “What will my next thought be?” This works by creating a gap in the mind that allows you to dis-identify with your thoughts. 

If you keep asking, “What next?” you will soon start to see the thought clouds begin to dissipate. 

  1. Redirect your attention to the present.

This is the equivalent of exiting the clouds by coming back to earth. Meditation is a handy tool here.

One acronym I like to use in the real world (when I don’t have the time to sit and meditate) is STOP. It stands for: 

  • Stop for a moment
  • Take a deep breath 
  • Observe without judgement
  • Proceed 
  1. Move your body/Engage in flow. 

“No problem is so formidable that you can’t walk away from it.” – Charles M. Schulz.

One of the best ways to get out of your head is to get into your body. Practicing yoga or going for a walk outside can be a big help.

A great deal of research demonstrates exercise can improve depression and other mental illnesses such as related to chronic overthinking. It can also help shift your nervous system out of the fight or flight mode. This can be particularly beneficial for those suffering from any trauma-related rumination

Other activities where you can focus your attention – that generates a flow-like state – are also good. 

For example, recently I bought a lego fire engine for my 3-year old that I thought we could build together. It turned out to be too advanced for him, so I made it myself. I was surprised by how much enjoyment I got from it. It took me a little over two hours to build, but I hardly noticed the time go by. I was completely immersed.

  1. Challenge your thoughts objectively.

Our attempts to analyse our thoughts are often futile precisely because we are stuck inside them. That’s why it’s vital to first exit the clouds before attempting to understand them. Of course, many meditations work by bringing your attention to the present before attempting to understand any thought or emotion that may arise.

One meditation I like to use – useful on those particularly stormy days – is called RAIN. It stands for:

  • Recognise the emotion or thought pattern
  • Accept it (practice compassion towards it)
  • Investigate it (question it objectively)
  • Not identify with it (zoom the lens out)

Another way to examine your thoughts is by journaling. 

Every morning as part of my routine, I ask and answer the following questions: What is worrying me most today? What can I do about it? What can’t I do about it? 

This helps me determine whether I’m engaging in thoughtful, deep-thinking or pointless overthinking. It also helps me concentrate on what I can control and formulate a plan to commit to meaningful action.

  1. Talk to someone/Get professional help.

Talking to someone – whether a close friend or health care professional – can go a long way. We all need a support network. Often the courageous act of articulating our thoughts helps to see them clearly. I liken it to placing your thought clouds out in the open. 

In clinical psychology, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is one of the most effective methods to improve anxiety, mood, and self-confidence.

Brad Stulberg, in his book, “The Practise of Groundedness,” notes the most powerful teachings of ACT – which happen to fit into the acronym – are to “Accept what is happening without fusing your identity to it. Zoom out to a larger perspective or awareness from which you can observe your situation without feeling like you are trapped in it. Choose how you want to move forward in a way that aligns with your innermost values. Take action, even if doing so feels scary or uncomfortable.”

Ultimately that last part – taking action – is what matters most. We are not defined by our thoughts but our actions. But, of course, our thoughts are what lead to action or inaction as the case may be.

If you find yourself paralysed by your own thoughts, then the first action you should take is to reach out for help.


I hope you enjoyed my guide to pointless overthinking. I’m curious to know if overthinking is something you have trouble with? What techniques, if any, do you use to help? I look forward to hearing your deep thoughts on the matter.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to the Flying Fridays newsletter! The only weekly newsletter that starts the year a week later than everyone else.

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) If you don’t want to get stuck in the past, you must embrace the future.

2) When setting resolutions remember the language you use matters. You don’t have to write in a gratitude journal, you get to. You don’t have to be part of saving the planet for our children, you get to be. You don’t have to eat your vegetables or go for a run at 5am (you definitely don’t have to do that), you get to live a healthy lifestyle.

3) Two rules for writers: 1. Do more living than reading. 2. Do more reading than writing. Feed your brain with experiences and books before you write.


2 x Quotes:

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

– Vivian Greene

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

– Rumi

1 x Thing:

This BBC article by David Robson: Are New Year’s resolutions powerful or pointless? The article explores the psychological reasons behind setting resolutions at the start of a new year with something known as “the fresh start effect.”

Katy Milkman, a psychology professor noted,“Any time you have a moment that feels like a division of time, your mind does a special thing where it creates a sense that you have a fresh start. This helps you to create psychological distance from past failures allowing you to feel that any mistake was the “old you” and that you’ll now do better.”

A useful takeaway mentioned that those who set approach goals – which involves adopting a new habit like meditation – versus those who set avoidance goals – which, as the name suggests, involves quitting something like sweets, alcohol or social media – were about 25% more likely to meet them.

The good thing is, if you want to give something up, you can turn into an appraoch goal. For example, if you want to give up social media, make the goal to take up reading ebooks whenever you feel like a bit of downtime on your smartphone.


1 x Joke:

I thought you might enjoy this.

“Lexophile” describes those that have a love for sentences such as, “You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish,”  and, “To write with a broken pencil is pointless.”

An annual competition is held by the ‘New York Times’ to see who can create the best original lexophile.  

This year’s submissions:  

  • I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic.  It’s syncing now.  
  • England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.  
  • Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
  • This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I’d swear I’ve never met herbivore. 
  • I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.  
  • A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.  
  • When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.  
  • I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.  
  • A dentist and a manicurist married.  They fought tooth and nail.  
  • A will is a dead giveaway.  
  • With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.  
  • Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.  
  • Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off?  He’s all right now.  
  • A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.  
  • The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.  
  • He had a photographic memory but it was never fully developed.  
  • When she saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she’d dye.  
  • Acupuncture is a jab well done.  That’s the point of it.  
  • I didn’t like my beard at first.  Then it grew on me.  
  • Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?  
  • When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.  
  • When chemists die, they barium.  
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
  • I’m reading a book about anti-gravity.  I just can’t put it down.
  • Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.


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