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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A Few of My Favourite Things

I’m curious to know what some of your favourite things are? But also, why are they your favourite things?

For example, why is your favourite colour blue? Or why is your favourite band, say, the Beatles? Why is your favourite food strawberry ice cream? 

Is it just because, or is there a deeper meaning behind those things?

I started thinking about this because my eldest son’s favourite animal is, well, something rather wonderfully odd.

This summer, we took him to a place in Hong Kong called Ocean Park. It’s a theme park filled with all sorts of animal exhibits and aquariums. The main aquarium is spectacular. Filled with giant manta rays, sharks, octopuses, walruses, seals, and other giant fishy things.

But my son wasn’t interested in any of those. He only had eyes for one animal. And he searched for them inside every single tank. 

Never mind the sharks and giant manta rays. Forget the massive walrus and the seals. The whole time he kept asking, “Daddy, where are the starfish?”

He absolutely loves them! We’ve been back several times and he’s always so excited to see them. And if you ask what his favourite animal is, that’s what he’ll tell you.

And, well, why not? I mean, an animal that is shaped like a star is pretty cool. I never really thought about it before. 

My wife and I were a little perplexed at this strange fascination, to begin with, but after giving it some thought, I believe there’s a deeper connection.

He has a love for outer space. He can name all the planets and tell you some strange facts about them, like Venus is the hottest planet even though Mercury is closer to the sun. 

I believe this stemmed from when we took him outside to look at the night-sky during the Full Moon festival over a year ago, when he was just 2 years old.

That evening the moon was spectacular. I recall him looking upward with such awe. It even frightened him. I remember holding him while he buried his eyes in my shoulder, occasionally peeking up to look at it before covering his eyes again.

I explained that the moon is our friend – always looking down on us. Sometimes we can only see part of it, sometimes we can’t see the moon at all, but it’s always there keeping watch while the sun attends to the other side of the earth.

Since that day, his fascination with the moon and space expanded. We read him lots of books on the topic. He loves looking up at the stars. He always asks where the moon and the planets are. For Halloween this year, he dressed up as an astronaut.

Now, I could be wrong. Maybe my son simply loves starfishes. But I believe it has a lot to do with his love of the moon and all things space-related.

When I think about some of my favourite things, I realise there’s usually a deeper meaning hidden behind them. It’s just, I often forget the why. My favourite colour is blue. When I think about why that is, I realise it’s because I have light blue eyes. As a kid, my parents used to tell me how beautiful they were. Weirdly enough I love drawing eyes too.

My favourite animal is the cheetah. I remember seeing it vividly as a kid on safari in South Africa. It was the first animal we saw on that trip. Within 5 minutes of driving into the reserve, we spotted this majestic cat feasting on an Impala. I remember our guide explaining that it was the fastest land animal on earth. I just thought it was the coolest cat on the planet. 

I still do.

There were lots of other memories from that trip. We followed a pack of lions as they hunted and killed a mongoose one evening. Our guide surprised us with a treehouse brunch overlooking the reserve on the last day. My family and I agree it’s our favourite holiday. 

I believe both my love of animals and travelling (another one of my favourite things) has a lot to do with that vacation. 

Anyway, I bring all of this up because it’s fast approaching my favourite time of year. And I thought, if you’re struggling to think about what to get your loved ones for Christmas this year, perhaps, instead of thinking about what they like, maybe it’s worth thinking about why they love the things they do? 

It might just give you the inspiration you’re looking for. If nothing else, reminding yourself of the deeper meaning behind the things you love might just bring out the wonderfully unique child in you too. 

As it happens, that’s exactly why Christmas is my favourite time of the year.

***

You can find AP2’s personal blog 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 believes wearing a seatbelt is a matter of freedom.

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 ability to entertain (and thus love) yourself is a skill developed through boredom.

2) If only have time for one thing today, meditate. If you have time for two, meditate and then exercise. If you have time for three, add quality time with those you love. Look after yourself first and foremost, then your innermost circle. Expand outward from there.

3) A gratitude journalling hack: Instead of writing down what is clear and obvious, think of the things you’re not grateful for. Think of the things, relationships, circumstances, etc. that you find trying. Then think of a good reason to be grateful for them. For example, I might say I’m grateful for what this pandemic has taught me about resilience. I’m grateful for the clarity it has given me about what I want for both myself and my family. We suffer when we feel our pain holds no meaning. The moment you derive a clear meaning from your pain, you cease to suffer.


2 x Quotes:

Tell me, and I forget, teach me, and I may remember, involve me, and I learn.

– Benjamin Franklin

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

– Fyodor Dostoevsky


1 x Thing:

This fascinating Guardian article by Sirin Kale: Chakras, crystals and conspiracy theories: how the wellness industry turned its back on Covid science. An interesting read about the influencers within wellness circles who have increasingly promoted vaccine scepticism, conspiracy theories, and the myth that ill people have themselves to blame. Well worth a read.


1 x Joke:

My son and I were placing stickers on his toy box the other day, when he picked out one with a picture of a dog gnawing on a bone.

I looked at him and said, “Son, I have a bone to stick with you.”


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3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 19/11/21


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The Sweetie Draw

When I was about 8 years old, my family and I went over to our next-door neighbour’s house for dinner. After dinner, their daughter offered me a sweet for dessert. So, she led me into her room and opened up her “sweetie draw.” 

What she had done was save her sweets over months and months to fill up this draw with all of her favourite goodies. It was a big draw. Skittles, liquorice allsorts, gummy bears, gobstoppers… you name it, she had it.

The thought of it now makes me salivate. 

It made such an impression, I decided to build my own. So, while we were out shopping the next day, I pleaded with my mum to buy me some sweets. I remember getting a packet of chewy fruit mentos. I vowed not to eat it but to save it for my very own sweetie draw. 

On the way home, however, I couldn’t help myself. I bargained with myself, “It’s ok if I eat a few. I can save the rest of the packet for my sweetie draw!” By the car ride home, I’d eaten most of the packet.

After we got home, I placed this mostly eaten mentos packet in my bedside drawer. Of course, it didn’t last long. The thought of it continued to eat away at me. Eventually, I gave in and consumed the rest.

But do you know what? Do you know how I felt after this crushing defeat? Well, nothing really. I didn’t care. I simply moved on with my life. 

Now, I’m sure you’ve most of you have heard of the famous marshmallow experiment. For those who haven’t, it was a study conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel, where children were offered a choice between one marshmallow now or two marshmallows if they waited for a period of time.

Years later, researchers found that the children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards “tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures.”

I bring it up because every time I read about it, it always made me feel kinda bad. Because I know I would have been one of the kids who “failed” that experiment. Just like I failed to build that sweetie draw.

Still, I realize something is up because, by most of those metrics, I am “successful.” Not as successful as some, but I could have done worse. How much of this “success” has to do with my skin colour, sex, or other advantages I take for granted, is up for debate. I feel it would be remiss not to mention that. 

Either way, I know I’m still that kid inside. 

My wife has no problem eating in moderation. On the other hand, given half the chance, I will consume an entire box of Oreos in one sitting. This is why I ask my wife not to buy treaty things when she goes shopping. She once asked, “What if I hide them?” I told her in my best Liam Neeson impression, “That I will find them, and I will eat them.” 

None of this is to say I haven’t learned to delay gratification. I believe I have. My finances are in good order. I eat a balanced diet (at home). I’m fit and healthy. It’s just, none of this is really achieved through willpower. I’m not sitting on my hands, trying to distract myself from eating the marshmallow in front of me.

I’ve learned that designing my environment is a FAR more effective way to control my impulsivity. I’m better off with no marshmallows than I am trying to get two. And this, I’ve figured out, is my superpower. It’s not the ability to delay gratification so I can get what I want. It’s not wanting it in the first place. 

I can’t help but wonder, what if, many of those kids – the ones who weren’t “capable” of delaying gratification – were misunderstood. What if they were happy being who they were until society placed a spotlight on the “successful” people of this world and told them this is who you should be and what you should have? Until society showed them the sweetie draw and said, “look at this!”  

Of course, that same society also teaches us that our wants and desire “are the root of all evil.” That may well be true, but what happens when you hate on your own wants and desires? What happens when you hate yourself for being human? What happens when you resist or hate anything? Of course, you give those parts of yourself control. You give those things strength. (That applies to the political party and leader you hate too!)

But people don’t build sweetie draws because of their ability to delay gratification. They find the act of building a sweetie draw gratifying. They love collecting. They love saving up. Similarly, people don’t get up at 5 am to exercise because of their incredible willpower. People obsessed with health and fitness are simply obsessed with health and wellness. 

They have made those things part of their identity. It’s who they are.

Of course, we can learn to make those things part of our identity too. We can put the habits in place that reinforce the identity we wish to build. We can learn to visualise our goals and “surf the urge” whenever we find ourselves tempted to dig into the packet of mentos. 

These things are worth working on.

But if you’re going about it to make up for the fact that you don’t currently have a sweetie draw. If you’re trying to make up for feelings of inadequacy, it’s going to be hard, if not impossible. If you ask me, self-discipline is an illusion. The real secret to self-improvement is self-acceptance. It’s when you learn to understand, love and work with the person you are, that things become easier.

And you should take the time to ask yourself who you are and what it is you really want.. Maybe you want the second marshmallow, or, maybe you don’t one in the first place?

Personally, I love going with the flow. I don’t care so much for stuff. I tend to think that security is overrated. If I’m being brutally honest, I’ve found having three mortgages, keeping up with several different investment portfolios, etc., somewhat imprisoning. I’m looking to drastically simplify my finances over the next couple of years for that reason.

The older I get, the more I realise how much happier I am giving away my marshmallow than I am trying to save for a second. I realise there will never be a sweetie draw in my household and do you know what?

I don’t care.

***

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 tells you to stop playing so it can win…

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) Before you play a game, there’s an important question you should ask yourself. That’s why you’re playing the game that you are, because the reason you’re playing – your why – has got to be bigger than winning. Success alone isn’t enough. Winning isn’t enough. Why do you want more followers on Twitter, or Instagram, or WordPress? Why do you want to become a published author? Why do you want to get that promotion?  What is the reason for playing the game that you are? 

2) No child plays to win. A child plays because it wants to play. That’s because playing is an expression of joy. Playing is an expression of freedom. Playing, in its purest form, is an expression of love. The reason for playing at anything is for the love of that thing. 

3) If you want more than what you already have, you’re poor. If you believe you have more than enough, you’re rich. This is true regardless of how much stuff you actually have.


2 x Quotes:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

“[A] low state of consciousness occurs when “we believe we are separate from everything else, alone and vulnerable.” If the world is all about you and your political preferences, injustices, fears, wants, and attention-seeking, then you’re putting yourself in a low state of consciousness. You’re taking every little thing too damn seriously and not zooming out to see the big picture: you are just like them, there is no enemy, people change, you’re not here for long, and your opinion isn’t right or wrong (it just is).”

Consciousness expert Vishen Lakhiani

1 x Thing:

This Psychology Today article: Seeing Is Believing: The Power of Visualization by resilience coach A.J. Adams. Using a number of example A.J. Adams demonstrates just how powerful the practise of visualisation can be for achieving your goals/improving performance. Her advice below:

Begin by establishing a highly specific goal. Imagine the future; you have already achieved your goal. Hold a mental “picture” of it as if it were occurring to you right at that moment. Imagine the scene in as much detail as possible. Engage as many of the five senses as you can in your visualization. Who are you with? Which emotions are you feeling right now? What are you wearing? Is there a smell in the air? What do you hear? What is your environment? Sit with a straight spine when you do this. Practice at night or in the morning (just before/after sleep). Eliminate any doubts, if they come to you. Repeat this practice often. Combine with meditation or an affirmation (e.g. “I am courageous; I am strong.”)

A.J. Adams.

1 x Joke:

My wife mentioned that there was a lunar eclipse this evening.

I asked, “Do you know how the moon cuts his hair?

“Eclipse it, of course!”


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Are You Playing To Win or To Avoid Losing?

Let me ask you a question. When you play a game, when you embark on a project, when you go to work, when you get up in the morning, when you sit down to write, when you make a presentation, when you have to do anything,

Are you playing to win or to avoid losing?

If you’re wondering what the difference is, when you play to win you’re focused on it. When you play to win, you back yourself to achieve, you back yourself to perform, you back yourself to get shit done

When you’re playing to avoid losing, on the other hand, well, you’re not really playing. You’re simply trying to avoid making mistakes. Your focus is on the negative outcome. As a result, you’re always on guard for fear of failure or embarrassment.

Psychologists call this the difference between a performance approach and a performance avoidance mindsetStudy after study has concluded that those with a performance approach mindset have a much easier time immersing themselves in the game and entering a flow-like state.

I’ve experienced both multiple times. 

When I didn’t really want to be at work – when I had to fly through the night or with a Captain I didn’t get along with, I fretted. Not only did this spoil the game, it affected my performance. Even if I did make it through unscathed, the feeling wasn’t one of confidence but relief.

The truth was, on those occasions, I wasn’t in it to win it. I was merely trying to avoid failure for fear of being found out.

Conversely, when I did show up to work with a willing attitude. When I backed myself to do well in a sim or pull off a landing in tricky conditions, it was rarely as bad a day at the office. Not only would I perform better and gain more confidence as a result, if I did make a mistake I was able to look at it objectively.

Instead of viewing them as confirmation that I wasn’t capable, I was able to take the lessons onboard. That same attitude then gave me the impetuous to get back on the horse and have another go.

The question is, how do we adopt such an attitude consistently? How do we take a performance approach to work and life every time we show up to play?

For Adopting a Winning Mindset

One technique that’s used by many top athletes is visualisation. Psychology Today notes that mental practices “enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow.”

The idea is you mentally rehearse the performance ahead of time. Not only that, you visualise the future after you’ve achieved your goal. You picture it in vivid detail. Imagine the scene – the time and place, the people you’re with, how it feels, etc. The more detailed the meditation, the better. It helps to combine it with a positive affirmation. 

But before you do that, there’s an important question you should ask yourself. Especially if you find yourself repeatedly playing to avoid losing. That’s why you’re playing the game that you are, because the reason you’re playing – your why – has got to be bigger than winning.

Success alone isn’t enough. Winning isn’t enough. Why do you want more followers on Twitter, or Instagram, or WordPress? Why do you want to become a published author? Why do you want to get that promotion? Why do you want to be a captain, or a lawyer, or a doctor? 

What is the reason for playing the game that you are? 

It’s worth stating that no child plays to win. A child plays because it wants to play. That’s because playing is an expression of joy. Playing is an expression of freedom. Playing, in its purest form, is an expression of love. 

The reason for playing at anything is for the love of that thing. 

You play to play. Similarly, you write to write. You don’t write to become a published author or get thousands of followers. You don’t write to win. You write because you love the craft. You fly aeroplanes because getting airborne gives you a rush that few other things can.

One of the problems we have in today’s results-obsessed culture is that we forget those reasons for playing in the first place. That desire to win, to be successful, to say we have achieved this, that or what-the-fuck ever (by the way, no-one else cares except you) takes over. We end up thinking that winning is the point. 

This blinds us. 

If you’re not careful, ambition has a way of sucking the life out of everything in its wake. It has a way of sucking the fun out of play too. Which misses the point completely. 

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” That’s the point right there. To keep your spirit, to keep your love for the game going no matter how many times you get knocked down. So you get back up, over and over again. 

If you play enough times in this life, you will win eventually. The most important thing is to make sure that you’re playing the game you want to play when you do. 

Otherwise, you really have lost.

***

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 laughs when you fall over before helping you back up…

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) Treat your emotions like you would a child. They’re equally irrational. It’s non judgemental compassion that gets them on side. Getting angry at a child who is throwing a tantrum doesn’t work. So it is with you.

2) The belief that something is wrong with us is central to the issue of feeling bad about feeling bad because that belief brings up more negative emotions (go figure), which we then see as confirmation that something is wrong with us.

3) Attempts to control negative thoughts and emotions makes them worse. Better to concentrate on forming desirable habits instead. Mood follows action.


2 x Quotes:

“For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts and that the world is not so ill with you and me as it might have been is half owing to those who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs.”

― George Eliot, MiddleMarch

“Most people die at 25… we just don’t bury them until they are 70.”

Benjamin Franklin

1 x Thing:

This excerpt from The Practice of Groundedness by Brad Stulberg on perception of vulnerability:

Researchers at the University of Mannheim, in Germany, conducted a series of seven experiments in which they had adult participants share information about themselves with one another at varying levels of vulnerability. They repeatedly found that the individual doing the sharing felt that their vulnerability would be perceived as weak, as a negative. But the person on the other end of the conversation, the listener, felt the exact opposite: the more vulnerable the sharer was, the more courageous they perceived him or her to be. The listener viewed vulnerability as an unambiguously positive trait. “Confessing romantic feelings, asking for help, or taking responsibility for a mistake constitute just a few examples of situations that require showing one’s vulnerability,” write the researchers from the University of Mannheim. “Out of fear, many individuals decide against it.” But this, the researchers conclude, is a mistake. “Even when examples of showing vulnerability might sometimes feel more like weakness from the inside, our findings indicate that, to others, these acts might look more like courage from the outside. Given the positive consequences [increased trust and connection, improved learning from others, and forgiveness after making a mistake] of showing vulnerability for relationship quality, health, or job performance, it might, indeed, be beneficial to try to overcome one’s fears and to choose to see the beauty in the mess of vulnerable situations.” The University of Mannheim researchers aptly coined their finding “the beautiful mess effect.”

– Brad Stulberg

1 x Joke:

What did the left eyebrow say to the right eyebrow?

“Between you and me, something smells.”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 29/10/21


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Escaping the Emotional Rabbit Hole

The Parable of the Second Arrow

According to the Buddha, any time we suffer misfortune, two arrows fly our way. The first arrow is the bad event itself, which certainly can (and often does) cause pain. The second arrow is our reaction to the bad event, the suffering we attach to our pain. This secondary pain, he tells us, is always self-inflicted. 

What you might not have been told, however, is that there’s often a third arrow in response to that second arrow! And, sometimes, even, a fourth arrow in response to that one. In fact, every now and then, hundreds of them start raining down. So much so that you end up feeling like this:

(That feeling when someone criticises your blog post)

To give you an example, let’s say I step on my son’s toy lego (first arrow), but instead of accepting this pain, I react by getting angry (second arrow). But then, I get mad about the fact that I’m angry (third arrow). So now I’m really angry. As a result, I lash out at my children for failing to put their toys away, and also my wife, who I decide (because I’m über pissed) is too nice to our kids (fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh arrow). 

Eventually, in a moment of ever-so-brief clarity, I realised that I was being unfair and regret shouting at my family (eighth arrow). But then, guess what? This makes me angry (ninth arrow). So now I’m mad about feeling guilty because I got angry, about my anger, because of my pain, and then taking it out on my family. I think I got that right. Anyway, you get the point. 

You see, there is suffering, and then there is suffering. The first kind of suffering, as Buddha taught us, is equal to pain times resistance. The second kind of suffering is equal to pain times resistance to the power of arrows fired. (That’s real maths!)

Of course, the emotion doesn’t have to be anger. To use a real-life example (I swear I made the last one up) earlier this year, I started to feel sad because of the pandemic. As a result of not being able to get home to see my family, I began to feel isolated.

But I didn’t just feel sad; I felt bad that I felt sad. I did this by painting a picture of what I thought life should be like. Then, eventually, I felt bad about doing that. So, I told myself I shouldn’t feel sad because other people have it much worse. Then it occurred to me that I should be happy even though I’m not. Therefore, I concluded, something must be wrong with me. 

And this sent me down the emotional rabbit hole. 

Secondary Emotions = Suffering

Now, there’s a psychological name for these kinds of secondary emotions, and that’s, well, secondary emotions. These are the feelings we have about our feelings. Naturally, we’re the only animal on the planet who has these, and, naturally, they have a tendency to mess everything up (thanks consciousness). Basically, there are four major ones. Those are:

  1. Feeling bad about feeling bad (think self-loathing)
  2. Feeling good about feeling bad (think self-righteous)
  3. Feeling bad about feeling good (think excessive guilt)
  4. Feeling good about feeling good (think narcissism/ego) 

Of course, many complex reasons contribute to these secondary emotions, including our upbringing, cultural beliefs, past traumas, etc. However, to give you a simplified answer, I believe the essence of the problem stems from a belief that because an emotion feels good or bad, it must mean it/us/the world is good or bad, instead of seeing the feeling as just, well, a feeling. 

Now, how much of this has to do with what, exactly, is up for debate, but (to give you a few examples) one suspects telling boys things like, “men don’t cry” has something to do with it. One also suspects certain helicopter parents who worship their children’s feelings (instead of allowing them to struggle and fail in order to grow) might have something to do with it. The role of social media broadcasting everyone’s perfect airbrushed lives 24/7 can’t help either. 

“How come everyone else is so happy? Why am I not happy? Something must be wrong!

Feeling Bad About Feeling Bad Makes You Feel Bad

At any rate, this belief that something is wrong with us, in particular, is central to the issue of feeling bad about feeling bad. This is because that belief brings up more negative emotions (go figure), which we then see as confirmation that something is wrong with us. So, we end up in this emotional rabbit hole where we fire arrow after arrow after arrow – feeling bad about feeling bad – and on and on until, well, we have depression, or anger management issues, or an anxiety disorder.

Aside from forming a habit that becomes very hard to break, that first arrow pain is still there. So long as we keep firing second arrows, it will continue to do all manner of push-ups, pull-ups, and sits ups in an attempt to get out. That mother is getting ripped! Unless you give it the space it needs, eventually, it will break free and tear you (or someone else) apart.

Unfortunately, if you’ve been firing these secondary arrows for a long time, you may be unclear what your first arrow pain is really about. If standing on a piece of toy Lego turns you into the Hulk, for example, you can bet your bottom dollar that your primary pain has little to do with that piece of toy Lego, or your kids failing to put their toys away, or your wife being too nice. 

On the surface, we may believe our suffering is because of these things, but it’s rarely true. That’s simply the narrative we’ve written over the top of our emotional pain because we believe we shouldn’t (or should) feel the way we do. Of course, we need to drop this false narrative to escape the emotional rabbit hole and process our pain. 

To come back to my previous example, I felt sad for some very understandable reasons earlier this year. However, my belief that something must be wrong compounded my misery. The truth is these difficult emotions brought up secondary emotions related to low self-worth. This is a common reaction that has to do with past trauma rearing its ugly head. I wasn’t resisting my sadness so much as I was resisting my habitual response to that sadness. 

It’s at this point things started to unravel.

Escaping the Emotional Rabbit Hole

Having a clear understanding of the false beliefs/traumas driving our secondary arrow of choice is important for this reason. Not because it will stop that second arrow, necessarily – unless you’re a Buddhist monk, it probably won’t – but because it will, at least, prevent you from firing a third arrow. If not a third, then a fourth, fifth, or, in my case, twenty-seventh arrow. This awareness gives you an out. It allows you to transcend the false beliefs masking your real pain. 

Baruch Spinoza once said,Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” 

If you’re still suffering – if you’re still firing arrow after arrow – then you don’t have a clear picture of it, despite what you might be telling yourself. For some, it might require therapy to untangle the web of secondary arrows and see that picture clearly. For others, it might simply need a period of quiet introspection. Happily, there is a well-touted meditation that I’ve used to great effect on many occasions called RAIN. I like to think of it like this – when it’s raining arrows, I need to:

  1. Recognise it (become aware that you are firing arrows or experiencing difficult emotions)
  2. Accept it (allow your pain to be as it is/don’t judge it)
  3. Investigate it (look into it with curiosity)
  4. Not identify/Nurture it (understand you are not your pain/practice universal compassion)

After torturing myself for longer than I care to admit, I sat down and did this meditation. I soon understood what I was resisting (it’s always the same). Of course, it had nothing to do with my pain about the pandemic, but what I believed those emotions said about me. When I saw through this false belief – when I could see my demons in the light – the whole web of arrows I’d been firing crumbled to the floor. 


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 my weekly newsletter! The only newsletter that can’t decide what to call itself… (Please let us know if you prefer Friday Flyer, Flying Fridays, or Mindset Mondays. If any other ideas I’d be glad to hear them 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) We only do things for one of two reasons, because it makes us feel good or we believe it is good. This is where our consciousness becomes our friend. We have the ability to determine what is right despite how it makes us feel.

2) You can’t sprint a marathon. The bigger the project or goal the steadier the pace should be. You need to zoom the lens way out to keep that perspective. You were never meant to build Rome in a day.

3) Acceptance places responsibility and hope where it belongs: in you. It gives you clarity to then take meaningful action based on your values in the present moment. It’s rarely a question of whether you should act or accept, but a question of order. Accept and then act.


2 x Quotes:

“Remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” 

― EPICURUS

Excitement is contracting; it narrows your world. Your focus is on what comes next, always a few steps ahead of where you are. Excitement temporarily feels good. And there is no doubt that bursts of excitement add texture to your life. But if you are obsessively trying to generate the feeling, you may miss out on what is in front of you because you are already moving ahead. Ease, on the other hand, is expansive. Time slows and space widens.

– BRAD STULBERG SOURCE: The Practice of Groundedness

1 x Thing:

This Ryan Holiday article: These 5 Stoic Strategies Will Help You Slay Your Stress. Quote below:

The wonderful thing about what the Stoics called “the dichotomy of control” — that is, separating the things we can control from the things we can’t — is the resource allocation it promotes. When you stop worrying about what’s not in your control, you have more time and energy to put toward the things you can influence.

– Ryan Holiday

1 x Joke:

My youngest son was eating egg the other day.

I said to my wife, “It looks like he’s having an egg-cellent time.”

She rolled her eyes.

Then my son threw his egg on the floor. I said, “Oops, looks like he’s had a little egg-cidnet!”

At this point, while I was laughing to myself, I managed to spill my own drink.

My wife looked at me and said, “Who has egg on their face now?”


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The 3-2-1 Friday Flyer – 22/10/21


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The 3-2-1 Friday Flyer

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my weekly newsletter! The only newsletter that reminds which direction earth is whenever you’re up looking at the stars…

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). 

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Your values aren’t what you say they are. Your values are what you do. They’re what you embody. If you binge watch Netflix every night, that is something you value. Living and acting in accordance with our values is what gives our lives meaning and raises self-esteem. Saying what we believe is right but acting otherwise does the opposite. 

2) There’s a big difference between treating people the same and forcing equal outcomes.

3) Sometimes doing what is right feels good as well, and that makes things easy. It’s also true that what is bad sometimes makes us feels bad too. More often than not, however, what feels good and what is right don’t align. Conversely what is wrong but feels good does. At least initially. The trick here is acknowledging and being kind to how we feel now, while reminding ourselves how things will feel/be in the future. Another trick is reminding yourself what will happen if you fail to act in accordance with your values. You want an idea to run away from as much as you want a goal to run towards.

 


2 x Quotes:

“Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” 

― Baruch Spinoza, Ethics

“It’s a curious truth that when you gently pay attention to negative emotions, they tend to dissipate – but positive ones expand.”

Oliver Burkeman Source: If you want to have a good time, ask a Buddhist

1 x Thing:

This week I have a question: What are your most important values and why? How do you live up to them?


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

The Friday Flyer – 15/10/21


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The Friday Flyer

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to the first edition of my new and improved weekly newsletter! The only weekly newsletter that disappears for a month only to return on a different day of the week with a completely different name… (Let me know what you think in the comments.)

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 extra special (maybe).

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) When you stop giving a fuck about the end result, you start having a lot more fun.

2) Your plant won’t grow if you only feed water to the leaves. You have to feed the roots in order to grow. That means taking care of your fundamentals first (think health, relationships, security, etc.), before you start chasing your goals.

3) The more you believe in yourself, the more willing you are to accept your current reality. Preparing for the worst helps you build the confidence needed to deal with it. When the worst happens and the fruits of your labour are rewarded, this becomes the difference between failure or, if you’re lucky, feeling relieved, and gaining an unstoppable sense of self-belief. Preparing for the worst in life – both mentally and physically – helps you accept life on its terms. It prevents from placing hope externally, for circumstances out of your control to go your way, and instead places it internally, for your ability to deal with anything and everything that comes your way. 


2 x Quotes:

“Groundedness does not eliminate passion, productivity, or all forms of striving and ambition. Instead, it is about ditching an omnipresent and frantic anxiety to begin living in alignment with your innermost values, pursuing your interests, and expressing your authentic self in the here and now. When you are grounded there is no need to look up or down. You are where you are, and you hold true strength and power from that position. Your success, and the way in which you pursue it, becomes more enduring and robust. You gain the confidence to opt out of the consumer-driven rat-race that leaves you feeling like you are never enough.”

— Brad Stulberg: The Practice of Groundedness

The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.

– Mark Manson: https://markmanson.net/feedback-loop-from-hell


1 x Thing:

This medium article from Tim Denning: Burned Out to Fired Up: 22 Simple Things That Can Completely Transform Your Life in 30 Days. Favourite quote below:

“When you write your ideas into reality, you attract those minds, which then connects you to other people, collectively raising human consciousness.”

Grounded

In aviation we have a term called AOG that means Aircraft on Ground. It refers to a plane that can’t fly because of a technical issue. We might also say a pilot is grounded because of a disciplinary issue, or that passengers are grounded because of weather. 

In all cases, the term indicates an inability to fly.

We might also use examples in real life. We can say we have been grounded by the pandemic, or personally because of health issues (or because we misbehaved). I could say my current reality has left me grounded here in Hong Kong. Extremely strict quarantine restrictions means I can’t leave, even though I’m currently on holiday. 

Once again this idea of being grounded is seen as bad.

Of course we desperately want to fly in life. It’s in our nature. But I question whether being physically grounded is the real problem. In fact, when we’re physically grounded in life, it’s our inability to stay mentally grounded – that’s the real problem. This is when we lose our footing. This is when we find ourselves off balance

When we desperately wish we could fly, even though we can’t.

But being grounded is a matter of safety. When an aircraft is AOG, it’s for very good reasons – whether that’s extreme weather conditions or a technical issue. We should wait for the right conditions. We should wait until we are at full strength before we attempt to get airborne. Otherwise, the results may be catastrophic. 

Keeping that perspective is important.

It also worth noting that an aircraft (or person) should always remain grounded, at least in some sense. Not only must we begin and end our journey on the ground, once airborne, it’s imperative that we retain contact with it. Especially when we fly over remote expanses, thousands of miles from home. Let me tell you, it’s a lonely place to be flying halfway across the Pacific. That connection is crucial. I need only mention the mystery surrounding MH370 to tell what losing contact with the ground can mean.

This is what I believe being grounded is really about: connection. It’s about being connected with your current reality, with those around you. It’s about being planted in the present. When we think of a person we describe as grounded this is what we think of. Someone who is level-headed and balanced, someone who understands what is important here and now. Grounded in this respect is undeniably a good thing. It prevents you from getting caught up in regret or worrying about the future.

It’s easy to get ahead of yourself in this life. We can relax well before we arrive at our destination. We can assume that the journey will go according to plan. We can switch off as a result. Equally, we can get hung up on past mistakes. We can let an error we made distract us from the task at hand. This usually leads to more mistakes. If we fail to put those mistakes behind us, we can quickly find ourselves in a hole.

We may also wish we were at our destination long before we’ve arrived. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tortured myself while working the graveyard shift, wishing for it to end so I could get some sleep. It’s a classic example of Buddha’s second arrow. The first arrow is the fact that I have to work through the night. This pain is unavoidable. The second arrow – wishing for something different. Desperately hoping I had arrived. That pain is entirely self-inflicted.

This is what I’ve been doing recently. I’ve been getting ahead of myself. Putting too much emphasis on my future plans at the expense of my present-day responsibilities. As a result of my relentless pursuits, I can feel myself stalling. And I know what that means. I need to point the nose down. I need to spend some time playing and being with my gorgeous family. Being grateful for everything I have today. For my perfectly imperfect life.

I need to regain my footing in the present. I need to find that secure base again before I attempt to climb higher. And so, ladies and gentlemen, that is what I’m going to do. I’m going to take a break. I’m gonna come back to earth for a while. Although I can’t physically fly anywhere, I fully intend to let go and enjoy this time off. I realise that being on holiday, like most things, is a mindset. I don’t need to travel halfway across the world. I just need to stay grounded in the present.

That really is the best way to fly anyway.

***

You can find AP2 at the following places and spaces:

Why I Write

The seeds of doubt were planted at a young age. I can’t tell you exactly when, but I know it started in childhood. I was lead to believe I wasn’t capable, that I would struggle in this life.

In particular, concerns surrounded my abilities in English. At first, my parents worried that I had a hearing problem. They believed this stunted my development. Later they had me tested for dyslexia.

I’m not, of course. It just happened to be one of my weaknesses. And I just happened to be different. I’ve always been a daydreamer, a wanderer by nature.

Languages, the English language – spelling, grammar – has never come naturally to me. But that has never been the problem. The problem was I didn’t believe, and because I didn’t believe, I didn’t try. I internalised that belief and thought, “What’s the point?”

“I’m no good, so why bother?”

Unfortunately, that belief took root at a much deeper level than my English proficiency.

Problems really started in adolescence – at the age of 13 – when I was first offered drugs. I didn’t say yes because I was curious. I didn’t say yes because I thought it was cool. I didn’t say yes as a form of rebellion. I said yes because I was afraid.

I took drugs because I was too scared to say no.

So began some of the most challenging years of my life. At first, it was fun, but I soon felt trapped. At one point, I was smoking pot every single day. I suffered from intense bouts of anxiety that I hid from everyone. Depression soon followed. 

I sank deep into my shell.

I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know how to ask for it. I was too afraid to speak up. So I drowned silently. It came to a head when a friend of mine was caught in possession of my drugs.

I was made to make a choice that day. When the deputy headmaster sat us down in his office, he asked me if I had also been using. He said I can’t help you if you’re not honest.

I was so scared at that moment. I wanted to tell the truth, but I was afraid of the repercussions. The thought of breaking my parent’s hearts broke my own. Yet, I also feared what would happen if I didn’t tell the truth.

While fighting back the tears, I admitted the truth.

It proved to be one of the most pivotal moments of my life. I was suspended, but the deputy headmaster held true to his word. No permanent record was kept. He honoured my honesty by protecting my future. How different my life would look now had I lied.

Honesty hurts to begin with, but in the long run it will set you free.

During those years, I sat my GCSEs. I didn’t care about my grades. I didn’t care about what future I had. I simply wanted to escape the hell I found myself in. As a result, I didn’t put much effort in. 

My results came as a surprise.

I landed 4 A’s, 6 B’s and an E (in German). I was far more competent than I gave myself credit. English language and English literature were the biggest surprises. Had it not been for one teacher, in particular, my grades would have been very different.

She taught the class with the top peers in our age group. Except she did something a little different. She took several students who were really struggling from the lowest level and placed us in hers. She had me sit in the front row.

She was petrifying, which helped. I was made to apply myself. I remember she believed I had a voice. She pushed me to do a lot of public speaking – which also scared the bejesus out of me!

My coursework marks steadily improved over the two years she taught me. Still, my coursework barely averaged a C. This made the final results even more surprising. Following our final examinations, I ended up with B’s in English language and English literature. I must have aced those exams to achieve those grades.

They’re my proudest grades from secondary school.

What she proved was more important, even if it didn’t fully register until years later. She showed that if I chose to apply myself, I was more than capable. She planted the seeds of self-belief that would bear fruit many years later.

To my English teacher, wherever you are, thank you.

I didn’t pursue English for A levels. It wasn’t for me. I also lacked clarity. As a result, I took a random collection of subjects. Art (the one subject I truly loved), Biology, History, and Geography.

I dropped Art halfway through my A levels despite getting an A. I dropped it for the wrong reasons – because no one else took it seriously. It would be an entire decade before I started drawing again. 

Somewhere along the way, I forgot.

Doing something simply because you love it is enough. More than enough.

History was the subject I went on to take at University. I took it because my parents were adamant that I should go to University and get a degree. I took it out of preference, not because I truly loved it. The truth is I only enjoyed aspects of it.

I later realised that what I really enjoyed was applying lessons from what history has to teach us about living life. What I was really interested in was philosophy.

During University, I fell in love with a French lady. In the second year, she asked me to edit much of her coursework. She studied media and communications. I didn’t just edit her work; I rewrote large chunks of it.

I loved it. 

I found I had a knack for drawing conclusions. I loved finishing with the right words. I realised there was an art to it. Between her coursework and my own, these skills developed.

Then she broke my heart. I finished my degree and forgot about this.

After University, I was clear about one thing. One thing I had always been clear about. A deep longing in my heart to travel the world.

So I applied for a cadetship offered by the airline I now work for. For the airline my father used to work for. He was keen, provided I was serious about it. So he took me flying. I didn’t look back.

And so followed the last 12 years of my life. 

There was a big break where I didn’t write. Several years passed while learning to fly and traveling the world before I decided to pick up a pen again.

One of my hobbies is traveling through cuisine. Anthony Bourdain has long been a personal hero of mine. Inspired by him, I put together a blog documenting my travels. 

I enjoyed it for a while, but that passion started to wane as depression and anxiety took a firmer grip.

This came to a head during another pivotal moment of my life. I froze up while trying to land during my Junior First Officer training. The training captain had to take control and go around as a result.

That scarred me deeply.

Added to the list of depression and anxiety, I had PTSD to contend with too. I remember flying approaches for years afterwards where my heart would beat so hard, it felt like it was going to break through my chest.

So many times, I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw in the towel. Those demons screamed at me. “GET OUT! YOU CAN’T! YOU’RE A FRAUD! YOU’RE NOT CAPABLE!”

I kept going.

Part of me refused to give in. I was so sick of those voices. Overcoming and passing my Junior First Officer upgrade was something I felt I had to do. So, I worked harder than I ever have in my entire life.

My demons started to drive me.

9 months on from that day, I was upgraded to First Officer. It meant everything to me at the time. I thought that was it. I thought that would be enough to finally put those voices to bed.

I was wrong.

It wasn’t until the birth of my first child 3 years ago that I finally sought professional help. At a low moment, I broke down. Once again, my demons were screaming at me. Telling me I couldn’t parent. That my boy deserved better. The guilt overwhelmed me, and I cried and cried.

Afterward, I felt a deep peace I’d not known in years. I knew exactly what I had to do. I picked up the phone and called for help.

This time I was ready. 

The following 4 months of therapy were difficult, emotional, and liberating all at the same time, but I didn’t hold back. In doing so, I finally gained the clarity I needed. In seeing my demons in the light, they lost their power.

The fog of depression finally started to lift.

Shortly afterwards, the pandemic hit, and I was left grounded. I used the time to do something I’d not done since I dropped Art during my A levels.

I started drawing.

And because I was feeling particularly creative – BECAUSE THAT’S WHO I AM – I started writing again. I put together a children’s book. I went to a publisher who loved it. Last summer, I became a published author. 

How do you like them apples?

At the same time, I started blogging. This time I had a different motivation. I spoke from my core. It felt like a spark had ignited something inside. I felt possessed. My intuition kept telling me to keep going. It’s leading somewhere. I don’t where yet, but it is.

It has.

My writing has given me clarity about what I want to do next. I will be starting an online degree in psychology next year with a long-term view of changing careers. I also have an idea for a number of books I plan to write.

Once again, I hear my demons screaming. Telling me not to do it. That I can’t. That I’m making a big mistake.

There’s a difference this time. 

My relationship has changed. I know those voices will be with me till the day I die. It that doesn’t phase me anymore. Honestly, I smile. I realise I don’t want those voices to go away. You see, they’re a guide. A powerful one telling me which direction to go in. What obstacles I must take on.  

Those voices also remind me of all the pain and suffering I’ve gone through. They keep it close to my heart. That’s want I want. To use that to help others who are suffering as I have. To give meaning to my pain by helping others with theirs. 

And so, as I sit at another crossroads in my life – as I build towards my second career – I keep writing. This time I won’t ever stop. Even though it continues to scare me – every single time I hit that publish button. 

I see it now.

I now know why it has to be this way. I was meant to write my way out. It’s poetry in motion.

You see the seeds of doubt that were planted at such a young age. The demons that have plagued me my whole life. They all stemmed from a lack of faith in my ability to overcome one of my biggest weaknesses.

That’s why I write.

For the boy inside who was lead to doubt himself. Who was told he couldn’t. Who was told he would struggle.

I write for every child who suffered under the weight of their fears, for everyone whose fears have been used against them in the cruelest possible way.

I write because I can. I write because I know that you can too.

I write to call myself a writer and be called a writer, because that means more to me than words could ever convey. 

The question I have is, why do you? 

4 Ways To Practise Safe Sex Blogging

I’m afraid that the time has come.

Now that I’ve been blogging for over a year – now I’ve officially entered my blogging adolescence – it’s imperative we have “that chat.”

You see, one’s blogging adolescence is a perilous time. It’s a time when you think you know everything there is, when you think you’re God’s greatest gift on this here blogosphere. When you feel you can do and say as you please. When you make promises that, well, you probably can’t keep.

The problem is you, like I, may say something foolish. Something that actually hurts someone. Something that someone may take as gospel even when they really shouldn’t. This might become a big problem if that person decides to file a lawsuit against you for blogging sexual misconduct.

There are other dangers too!

Now that people are beginning to recognise you – now that you have thousands of followers (maybe) – it’s possible someone may want to steal your content. The last thing any of us want to contract is an STD. (Otherwise known as a Stealing Thieving Douchbag.)

This is why I decided to draw up this post. I want to protect you, dear blogger, by helping place a metaphorical condom over your blog. To prevent you from contracting an STD… or worse!

Here are 4 ways to do that. 

1. Make Sure You Wear Protection 

A Disclaimer really is the equivalent of putting a condom over your blog. 

“What does a Disclaimer do?” (I didn’t hear you ask.)

Well, a Disclaimer protects you against any legal action should someone be stupid enough to take your advice without consulting an actual professional. For example, a disclaimer for this blog post might say, “I’m not a lawyer. If I’m wrong, it’s your fault for not doing your own research. It’s your fault for believing me.”

To quote Abraham Lincoln, “Don’t trust everything you read on the internet.”

I like to think I know what I’m talking about. I want to believe I do my homework, but the truth is, sometimes (perhaps more than I care to admit), I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I write about mental health, psychology and philosophy, but my day job is flying aeroplanes, boys and girls. That’s what I have a licence for! Not for giving unsolicited life advice (as much as I enjoy it).

Anyway, the point is, a Disclaimer provides you with legal protection in case someone tries to sue you for stupid choices they made when they were drunk.

Another reason to wear a Disclaimer is let others know about any money you might be making from the use of affiliate links, products or services. To put it another way, it lets your readers know if you’re a pimp!

Now, there are a couple of other forms of contraception you should be aware of. 

Those are your Terms & Conditions and your Privacy Policy. Together with your disclaimer, YOU NEED ALL THREE PAGES ON YOUR BLOG TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND COMPLY WITH THE LAWS.

I know, I know, I had no idea either. I only found out after doing research for this post. I figured I was set with my disclaimer. But that’s not enough. Just like a condom, it’s only 98% effective. You might think it’s enough, but to be extra sure, you need the other two as well. 

Let me break those down.

Your Terms & Conditions is basically an agreement that says you have to abide by my rules if you come into my house. This includes, but is not limited to, “rules and guidelines on payment and subscriptions, community behaviour, copyright protection, and circumstances where you’re allowed to terminate user’s accounts.”

On the other hand, your Privacy Policy tells your visitors how you collect and use their personal information. This, unlike your Disclaimer or Terms & Conditions, is actually required by law. Without boring you with too much legal jargon, I’ll leave you with this link where you learn a bit more about all of the above. 

Now you might think that putting all the above is a massive ball ache, but you’d be surprised at just how easy it is to place these types of contraception over your little blog. All you have to do is head over to this website I found called freeprivacypolicy.com.

Here, you can fill out a quick questionnaire about your site or business, and they will generate your privacy policy, terms & conditions, and/or disclaimer for you. All you have to do is copy and paste the resulting text onto your blog. If you need to update that policy at a later date, you can simply log back in and edit as necessary. 

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

2. Have a Repellent Handy

The last thing any of us want to catch is an STD. STDs are nasty pieces of work. The problem is that some people lack any sort of creative nous, so they search the internet looking for content to steal instead of coming up with their own. 

So, what can you do about it?

Something I use on my blog that a fellow blogger told me about is the DMCA. (Not to be confused with the YMCA young men!) By registering your website with them, you can copy and paste this scary-looking badge (see below), which serves as a deterrent to any STD. It’s a bit like displaying a beware of dog sign on your front lawn. 

The other thing they will do, if you happen to find out you’ve contracted an STD, is they will take down that stolen content for you for free. All you have to do – after you have registered your site with them – is report it!

A good deal, I think you’ll agree!

3. Invent Your Own Moves

Listen, we all “steal” ideas from one another. To quote Pablo Piccaso, “Good artists copy, great artist steal.” Learning to steal like an artist without actually stealing is a skill. 

To use an example, Apple didn’t invent the tablet, but they did invent the iPad. 

The big difference is repurposing specific ideas and connecting the dots in our own unique way. What we don’t do (what you should never do) is simply copy and paste. That is to say – we create our own original content that is influenced by others. 

Anyway, without stating the obvious, here are a couple of excellent reasons for creating original content:

  1. You’ll know that your work hasn’t been stolen and that you’re not infringing any copyright or plagiarism laws. 
  2. You immediately own the rights to that content. No matter how unlovable that piece of work is, that baby is yours. That baby is something you can be proud of!

4. Make Sure You Get Consent

The other thing one should do is give credit where credit is due. For example, I can say that the idea for this blog post came from fellow blogger Shelly. Who, incidentally, runs a much better blog than mine over at growingwithspawn.com. (Check it out!)

This is true. A blog post of hers a while back sparked the idea for this one. I simply decided to expand upon it with additional research while using my own twisted sense of humour. (Hello original content.)

Of course, if you plan to use and/or quote large chunks of people’s work directly, then it’s best to ask first. Most people don’t bite. In fact, when it comes to blogging, they physically can’t, which is excellent news! 

It also happens that bloggers quite enjoy the backlinks. You’ll find if you make an effort to give credit, you might just receive the same in return. Give to receive, dear reader. Give to receive.

Just a heads up. 

Climax

This stuff isn’t hard, of course. First and foremost, practice safe sex blogging by wearing some protection. Other than that, basically, just do the right thing. Be respectful towards bloggers of the opposite sex… or the same sex. 

Wait?! What am I trying to say again? 

That’s right – just be respectful! 

If you really love their work and want to use it, ASK PERMISSION. If you’re in doubt about whether your work infringes someone else rights, then GIVE CREDIT. 

It can’t hurt, right? (Well, maybe the first time.)

Anyway, that’s it from me for today. Hopefully, you learned something about safe sex… and also blogging.

Time for a cigarette!

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays!

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 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Growth for growth’s sake isn’t enough. Why do you want more money? Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want more followers on Twitter? You need to define your values first and foremost.

2) The truth hurts initially but makes you stronger in the long run. A lie feels good to begin with but ultimately hurts much more.

3) Prioritising the things you value the most means learning to let go of everything else. That means understanding that everything you don’t pay attention to will get messy. It means embracing chaos in certain areas of your life. A happy, loving, laughter-filled day with my children means a chaotic household – I can tell you that right now! The point here is about perfection. Perfection and balance don’t work together. Attempts at having a perfect life will ruin your chances at having a balanced one.

 


2 x Quotes:

““The things you run from are inside you.” 

– Seneca

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”

– Mark Twain

1 x Question:

This BBC work-life article: How workers are re-defining professional ambition. As someone who has been reevaluating his own career ambitions, I found this article to be particularly interesting. Quote, “We’re not necessarily becoming less professionally ambitious, experts say, but our collective understanding of ambition – as a concept in the context of work – is evolving into something less standardised, more subtle, increasingly personal and often quite complex for employers wedded to tradition to understand.”


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 30/08/21


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Finding Life Balance Using the Four Forces of Flight

Do you feel like the weight of responsibility is keeping you grounded? Or the sheer drag of life is forcing on the brakes?

Do you find it hard to muster the requisite lift and thrust to overcome these forces in life?

Of course, we’ve all been there. We’ve all had those days where everything has felt like one big drag, where the simple act of getting out of bed has felt like this herculean task.

To be honest, that’s how I’ve been feeling recently. It got me thinking about this idea of life balance and how, exactly, one is supposed to find it?

Then something struck me. I thought, “Of course! Balance isn’t something you find. It is something you have to maintain – like a tightrope walker!”

Three ideas immediately sprung to mind:

  1. Don’t carry too much weight.
  2. Go at a steady pace.
  3. Don’t stop moving.

Then, as soon as I wrote these thoughts down, I had another brain wave.

It occurred to me that the same laws govern an aeroplane in flight. Then it occurred to me that the laws of aerodynamics might be able to teach us how to maintain balance in our own lives. 

So I came up with this post.

Anyway dear readers, please sit back and relax with your seat belts securely fasten, because I’m about to teach you how to fly…

The Four Forces of Flight

To give you a quick lesson in aerodynamicsthe four forces of flight are thrust, lift, drag, and weight. 

When you throw a paper aeroplane you give it thrust. On a conventional aeroplane thrust is generated by a propeller or jet engine that pulls air in and pushes it out in the opposite direction. 

The forward motion of the aeroplane causes air to pass over the wings. Because of the camber of the wing, this creates a pressure differential that sucks the wings upward. This force – namely lift – is what holds an aeroplane in the air. 

Counter to these forces are drag and weight. 

Drag is the resistance the aeroplane meets as it flies through the air. Weight is the force caused by gravity that pulls the aeroplane toward the earth. Thrust counteracts drag, whereas lift counteracts weight. 

Now, if lift and thrust are greater than weight and drag, your aeroplane will climb. If they are less, it will descend. If they are balanced, your aeroplane will remain in level flight. 

Here’s an awesome diagram:

The Four Forces of Living

To rename the four forces of flight, we can say that the four forces of living are Health, Purpose, Life & Responsibility. 

Just like an aeroplane, these forces counteract one another. Health (Thrust) counteracts Life (Drag), whereas Purpose (Lift) counteracts Responsibility (Weight).

Instead of an aeroplane, of course, it’s you that’s stuck in the middle.

Here’s another awesome diagram:

Now, we can say that we’re out of balance when the forces of life and responsibility are much greater than the other two.

This usually happens for one of two reasons.

The first comes from trying to avoid drag and weight altogether, preventing you from getting airborne in the first place (or out of bed). At the other end of the balance scales are those who carry far more than they’re capable of, causing them to stall.

From experience, I believe the latter is a far better place to be. The way I see it, having too much on your plate is a good thing. It means your life is already filled with purpose and meaning. 

That’s half the battle. 

Once you’re off the ground (which is the hardest part) balance becomes a question of priorities. Understanding exactly what we should pay attention to and what we should let go of.

With that in mind, let’s tackle these issues from the ground up by looking at what it takes to get airborne in the first place. 

Thrust vs Drag

Life is drag. 

Getting out of bed in the morning is drag. Making your breakfast, brushing your teeth, taking your dog for a walk, Donald Trump… all of these things are drag. 

What I mean is, anything and everything you do will always involve a certain amount of energy to overcome. It is unavoidable. No matter how streamlined your aeroplane is, you will always encounter resistance.  

The problem with attempts to avoid drag is it makes us weaker. Of course, this makes everything much harder. We need to test ourselves – to actively meet the resistance of life – to gain strength from it. 

Just like lifting weights in the gym causes us to gain muscle mass. By meeting the resistance of life, we gain strength from it. As we gain strength, over time, we’re able to climb higher. The higher we climb in life, the less resistance there is, the easier it becomes.

Badda bing badda boom.

So, how do we meet the resistance of life? 

We meet the resistance of life by targeting the very thing that creates the most drag: your health. 

The better your health is, the more energy you will have, the greater your ability to face and overcome life’s obstacles. 

Thrust is more critical than lift. 

Theoretically, with enough thrust, you can climb without generating any lift – like a rocketship. It’s impossible to get off the ground without it. That isn’t true of lift. Lift needs thrust to get off the ground. That’s why, as everyone likes to say, there is nothing more important than your health. 

Health is thrust. 

This is where we must start if we want to maintain balance.

How to Increase Thrust

The four pillars of health are rest (sleep), fuel (diet), movement (exercise) and mental health.

Let me break each of those down for you.

  1. Prioritise your sleep. 

The most productive thing you can do is prioritise your sleep and then build your life around it. Here are a few top tips from yours truly.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Have a proper evening routine to help you wind down in the evening and a kick-ass morning routine to get you pumped after you wake up. 

Other things worth considering include limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption. Also, limiting blue light exposure in the evenings and increasing it in the mornings. (Hello sunlight!) 

For more about sleep, I can highly recommend checking out this site: thesleepdoctor.com.

A book I can also highly recommend is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

  1. Change your diet.

The food you eat is the fuel you put into your aeroplane. If you feed it garbage, you’re going to get shit performance. A balanced diet is so essential for generating thrust. 

Of course, I could prattle on about getting your five a day, but I don’t want to bore you. I can, however, recommend you take a look at Dr. Mark Hyman’s blog

His book, What The Heck Should I Eat, is worth your time.

  1. Get regular exercise.

An aeroplane needs to fly the same way a car needs to be driven. If you leave your car in the garage for too long, it’s going to create problems. We are designed to move. I suggest a mixture of weight lifting, core exercises, cardio, and yoga. 

Of course, if you hate going to the gym, then don’t. Find something you enjoy. I love to swim and play tennis. I also love to go for long walks in my local park. I find few things calm my mind as well. 

The most important thing is that you make exercise a habit.

If you really find yourself struggling for motivation, consider following along to an online exercise video from the comfort of your living room floor. 

You can find tons of free workout videos here at: fitnessblender.com

  1. Look after your mental health. 

All of the above are intrinsically linked to your mental health; however, there are other tools worth implementing. 

The main forms of personal therapy I use are meditation, yoga, and journaling. I also earmark a half-hour to talk to my wife about any concerns or feelings I have every evening without fail

Having someone you can talk to who you can trust when shit gets serious is SO DAMN IMPORTANT. 

Moving on. 

Lift vs Weight

Responsibility is weight.

You cannot avoid it. You didn’t ask for this life, but here you are anyway. Now you have a fundamental responsibility to love, honour, and protect that one life. 

So many struggle against their responsibilities – desperately wishing they didn’t have to deal with them. Yet, our responsibilities indirectly generate lift. The same way an aeroplane takes cargo and passengers onboard. That “weight” pays for the fuel which generates thrust and then, consequently, lift. 

Now, you might think the fewer responsibilities you have, the lighter you will feel, the more able you’ll be to climb. To a certain extent, this is true. We need to be careful about how many responsibilities we choose to take on – depending on our capacity – for that reason. 

It’s important to stress that if you make all of the world’s problems your own, you’ll never take off. 

However, an absence of responsibility isn’t freedom. An absence of responsibility isn’t anything. It’s like an absence of weight. There’s no aeroplane in the first place. To avoid responsibility is to avoid life itself. To try to live in its absence will leave you feeling void. 

The major difference between responsibility and purpose is perspective. You will always have responsibilities. Understanding how they serve your greater purpose helps you find the motivation to take them on. This is what turns your responsibilities into a source of lift.

Of course, purpose is the thing that gets you up and moving in the morning. It’s the things in your life that give you both joy and hope. 

Purpose is lift.

How to Generate Lift

  1. Remain Grounded

Wherever you are in life, it’s essential to remain grounded. The only place we live is here and now. To constantly wish you had arrived at your destination is to miss the part we call life – that would be a far greater tragedy than not making your destination. That’s why, as a mantra for life, one should always start with radical acceptance.

I like to think of radical acceptance in terms of three pillars:

  • The first is present moment awareness. 
  • The second is universal compassion. 
  • The third is gratitude. 

Meditation is an excellent tool for all of the above. I also use several mindful hacks throughout the day to keep my monkey mind from getting lost in the clouds. Writing in a gratitude journal is another habit that’s worth implementing. 

Without harping on for too long, I can highly recommend the following book: Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

  1. Build a Moral Compass

This is something you should prioritise long before you start setting goals. I suggest you design your own moral compass by listing out a set of values that mean the most to you and then listing those in order of personal significance. 

I then suggest you think about the identity you want to form based on your set of particular values. Following that, you want to build habits that reinforce this identity. (i.e., a loving father and husband who makes time for his family every day, a person who prioritises his own health by meditating and exercising every day, a person who writes every day).

(For all things habit related, I suggest reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. You can find his blog here.)

Once you’ve done that, you can start thinking more about the destination by setting some short and long-term goals. Just keep in mind that it’s far more important to embody the person you wish to be today than it is to achieve anything in the long run. 

After all, shit happens, and rarely if ever, in this life, we end up at the destination we had in mind.

  1. Change Your Perspective

Turn your demons into angels by giving meaning to your pain. 

If your battle is with mental health, then make that part of your purpose in your life. If you have suffered a major affliction, draw on that pain to help others who have suffered/are suffering similarly. I believe this is one of the most powerful ways to generate lift in life. You can apply this idea to almost all areas of your life.

Take having children as an example. They are a significant source of lift in my life, but they are also a considerable weight. I can either look at them as a weight or actively choose to take them on board – to make it my mission to help raise a generation of resilient, responsible, and virtuous children. 

Need I say anymore?

  1. Remove Unnecessary Baggage

Many of us carry baggage we really shouldn’t. Usually, that baggage is other people’s bullshit that has found its way into our minds. Once again, becoming clear about your values will help here. Know what is truly important to you and then not giving a fuck what anyone else thinks.

This is no easy battle, of course, but a great place to start is by getting a handle on your smartphone addiction. Disconnect and have a digital sabbath one day a week. This should help you gain some much-needed clarity.

I also recommend living a simple life. Be happier with less. Spend the money on a few high-quality products/hobbies that give you a considerable amount of joy instead of mindlessly consuming things you don’t need because it’s a “good deal.” 

This applies to people too. Form close relationships instead of lots of superficial ones. Find the people you love and trust. Cut out the toxic individuals that aren’t serving you.

  1. Make time for the things and people you love. 

Doing the things you have to do but don’t want to makes you feel less guilty about doing what you love. To turn that on its head, doing what you love gives you the energy to do the things you have to but don’t want to.

As part of harmonious life, you must make time for the things you love. Whether that’s reading, playing video games, or socialising… Don’t neglect fun. Don’t neglect joy. Don’t neglect being silly and spontaneous. Don’t neglect your sense of adventure. Try new restaurants, dance in the rain, fart and laugh about it.

Occasionally say fuck it to all of the above and just go with the flow.

You definitely need that.

Maintaining Straight and Level

Your day-to-day journey, just like life itself, should follow a similar pattern. At first, you should apply more thrust to overcome the forces of drag and weight. You should reduce the thrust and glide gently back to earth towards the end of the day.

As for maintaining straight and level flight, the rest of the time, I don’t believe it should feel like this almighty struggle – like everything has a threat level response attached to it. 

When you encounter turbulence, you shouldn’t fight it. You should take a seat, ride it out, and then gently fly your bird back to your desired track and level. 

If you really do feel like you’re stalling, there is only one thing for it. You must push the nose down to regain lift. Don’t, whatever you do, keep pitching up in desperation. Heed the warning signs and let go of the controls. 

The truth is maintaining balance is a state of mind. One that is firmly grounded in the present moment. It is about going with the flow and dissolving the boundaries that separate work from play, life from death, purpose from responsibility…

It’s important to have a destination in mind, but it’s equally important we don’t get hung up on it. As cliche as it is to say, life is about the journey, not the destination. 

Take care of yourself today. Tackle your most pressing responsibilities today. Get rid of any unnecessary baggage. After that, learn to go with the flow and enjoy the journey.

If you can, then you really will fly free. 

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing at the following: 

https://pointlessoverthinking.com

https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Also on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot


3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that is considering becoming a monthly post instead…

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 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.

As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good. 

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Thoughts are like clouds. When you view them from the outside in, the ride is smooth. However, if you’re stuck inside the ride is turbulent. Just like an aeroplane, if you find yourself stuck in the clouds, it’s best to take a seat and ride it out. Trying to “fight” the turbulence only makes it worse.

2) If you want to instil a greater sense of control in your life it’s important to set clear boundaries. A child who isn’t given clear boundaries is unruly, and so it is with you. 

3) The moment you want something, you are no longer present. If you are not present you cannot be at peace. To actively practise not wanting is at the heart of mindfulness. 


2 x Quotes:

“Don’t beat yourself up for what you couldn’t do, or didn’t do. Just do the best you can now, now, and now. 

– Akiroq Brost

“Freedom without discipline is foolish, discipline without freedom is insanity.”

– Ilona Mialik


1 x Thing:

This BBC work-life article: How mindfulness could make you selfish. The article cites a study which suggests, “Practicing mindfulness can exaggerate some people’s selfish tendencies. With their increased inward focus, they seem to forget about others, and are less willing to help those in need.” The likelihood is greater for those with a more independent worldview (versus those who have a more interdependent one). Well worth the quick read.


1 x Joke:

Another far side comic for you all this week. I hope you enjoy!



PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 16/08/21

Why You Shouldn’t Hope for the Best

“Misfortune weighs most heavily on those who expect nothing but good fortune.”

– SENECA

Have you ever noticed how we’re taught that our wants and desires have everything to do with our suffering, yet we’re also taught to “live in hope”? Have you ever stopped to consider how these messages might muddy the waters?

You see it all over the blogosphere, of course. “Don’t give up,” “Hang in there,” “Never lose hope”… 

But what, exactly, are we supposed to never lose hope for? A perfect body? A million dollars? For becoming a celebrity so we may be adored forever? For politicians to do as they promised – to do what’s right for our children?!

Hah! 

So many talk as if hope is the panacea to life’s problems. As if hope will set us free. I wonder how many people have stopped to ask themselves whether hoping is the problem? That maybe it’s because they’re hoping that they’re suffering? I wonder how many people miss their own lives because they’re constantly hoping for something different? 

I’m guessing it’s a lot.

What if you shouldn’t be hoping for something different? What if, when your survival isn’t at stake – when, at this moment, there is nothing wrong – what if hoping is the last thing you should be doing? 

What if accepting life as it stands is more important than hoping?

We cannot hope the pandemic will disappear tomorrow after all, or that evil will vanquish without a fight. Of course, we must believe in our ability to prevail, but to hope for things out of our control? 

Well, hello, psychological torture my old friend!

Maybe we can work towards improving our lives without feeling it needs to be? Maybe we can work in recognition that we already have everything we need? Maybe our work can be dedicated to helping others for that reason? For those who really do need to “live in hope” because their survival depends on it?

What Hope Is For

This is where I believe we need to be clear: Hope isn’t for external reality, it’s for your ability to deal with it. It’s for survivalIt’s designed to lift you from the brink of destruction. When your back is against the wall and you ingest birds in both of your engines, hope gives you the fortitude to land that fucker in the Hudson.

Talking of which, when Sully Sullenberger ingested a flock of geese in both engines, the most remarkable thing about that day wasn’t that he successfully managed to ditch an aeroplane on the Hudson. (Although that was pretty damn remarkable.) 

No, the most remarkable thing was his ability to rapidly come to terms with his predicament. The most remarkable thing was his ability to take stock of his situation and find the clarity needed to do his job under the most extreme circumstances. 

In a TV interview where he describes the events of that day, he said he remembers the first three conscious thoughts he had vividly. The first was, “This can’t be happening.” Followed by, “This doesn’t happen to me.” Then, he said, this was followed by a dawning realisation that this flight, unlike any other flight during his 40 + career in aviation, wouldn’t end on a runway with the aircraft undamaged. He said, “I was ok with that, as long as I could solve the problem.”

Talk about radical acceptance! I don’t know about you, but it takes me more time to accept life when the alarm goes off in the morning.

A Counterintuitive Approach

Here’s the funny thing about acceptance – it provides a counterintuitive approach to hope. If you have the fortitude to do so, it prevents you from hoping for something different. To be saved by some knight in shining armour. 

It means you’re left hoping for one thing and one thing alone: yourself. Your ability to deal with life as it stands. Even if that’s means you’ve just ingested birds in both of your engines!

Of course, that’s scary. Having to come to terms with the brutal facts of your reality. To understand that you and you alone are responsible for it. 

That’s why most people don’t. They’re too scared to own that level of responsibility. So they distract themselves through addiction and false hope, convincing themselves that their life circumstances are not their fault and, therefore, not their responsibility. 

Of course, that’s wrong. We are always responsible for things that aren’t our fault. In fact, that’s life. Life isn’t your fault, but here you are anyway. What do you want to do about it? Hope for something else?

Preparing for the Worst

Bruce Lee once said, “Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Of course, building the strength to deal with adversity when it happens is something you can control. Whether you have an easy life or not isn’t. What hand the universe deals you is beyond your control. What he’s really saying is you should hope for your best, not the best. 

How do you that?

By actively preparing yourself for the worst. By challenging yourself. By putting yourself in the dragon’s den and proving that you can. By defining yourself by your pain. There’s a reason why the proverbial kitchen sink is thrown at pilots every 3 months in the simulator. We are thrown in at the deep end and told to sink or swim. Deal with it or have your license invalidated.

In that same TV interview Sully said, that although they had never practiced a water landing in the simulator before, “Because I had learned my craft so well and because I knew my plane and my profession so intimately, I could set clear priorities. And so I chose to do only the highest priority items, and then I had the discipline to ignore everything I did not have time to do.”

What a legend.

I’ll finish with one more thought.

Acting in hope for your survival and those you love is easy. It’s necessary, so it’s easy. When you have no other choice but to act against all odds, of course, you act. It might not be easy to do, but the decision is. 

The real measure of a person is how they respond to events outside of their control. When they cannot act, despite their hopes. The real measure of a person is in their ability to accept. To accept the reality of their past – to accept and embrace the demons in their closet. To accept, ultimately, their own mortality. And that of those who they love most dearly. That is true courage. That is true strength.

And it isn’t hope that will bring you peace – although it may save you. It’s acceptance that does that. That’s why, I suggest you start with radical acceptance for what is long before you start hoping. Then, and only then, if you still have the audacity to hope, you better be prepared to take action.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing at the following: 

https://pointlessoverthinking.com

https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Also on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot


3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that believes balance can only be found in outer space…

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 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.

As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good. 

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) If you ignore what you have to do, you’ll feel bad about doing the things you enjoy. If you don’t do the things you enjoy, you will find it hard to muster the energy needed to do what you have to. Prioritise both. Don’t neglect either. Lift is needed to counteract weight.

(click to tweet)

2) Balance isn’t something you find, it is something you maintain, like a tight rope walker. 3 things with that in mind: 

  1. Don’t carry too much weight.
  2. Go at a steady pace.
  3. Don’t stop moving.

(click to tweet)

3) Getting things off your chest means getting thoughts out of your head. That means communicating your feelings. If you want peace of mind – whether you’re right or wrong – you gotta speak up. You gotta speak your truth. That’s how you get things off your chest. This allows you to breathe easier. 

(click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.”

– John Gardner

“The main thing is the YOU beneath the clothes and skin—the ability to do, the will to conquer, the determination to understand and know this great, wonderful, curious world. Don’t shrink from new experiences and custom. Take the cold bath bravely. Enter into the spirit of your big bedroom. Enjoy what is and not pine for what is not. Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make yourself do unpleasant things, so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.

W. E. B. Du Bois (Source: James Clear Newsletter)

1 x Thing:

This Seth Godin blog post on the difference between making a point and a making a difference:

“There are countless ways to make a point. You can clearly demonstrate that you are angry, smart, concerned, stronger, faster or more prepared than the person you’re engaging with. But making a point isn’t the same thing as making a difference. To make a difference, we need the practical empathy to realize that the other person doesn’t know what you know, doesn’t believe what you believe and might not want what you want. We have to move from where we are and momentarily understand where they are. When we make a point, we reject all of this. When we make a point, we establish our power in one way or another, but we probably don’t change very much. Change comes about when the story the other person tells themselves begins to change. If all you do is make a point, you’ve handed them a story about yourself. When you make a change, you’ve helped them embrace a new story about themselves. And even though it’s more fun (and feels safe, in some way) to make a point, if we really care, we’ll do the hard work to make a difference instead.”


1 x Joke:

Another far side comic for you all this week – I hope you enjoy!


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. As always I welcome ALL thoughts on this blog. Let us know in the comments below.


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Mindset Mondays – 09/08/21