3-2-1 Flying Fridays

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

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

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

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

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

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

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


2 x Quotes:

“War is organised murder and nothing else.” 

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

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

— Fra Giovanni

1 x Thing:

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

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



PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 11/02/22

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

The Two Paths to Wealth

I have two images of wealth in my mind. 

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

Then there is this second image. 

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

Dogs are the best. 

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

The areas that really matter. 

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

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

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

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

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

Now. 

Do you not have enough in this moment?    

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

How To Gain a Clear Picture of Your Future Self

I haven’t been myself lately. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

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

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

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

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

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

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

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


2 x Quotes:

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

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

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

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

1 x Thing:

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

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

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

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


1 x Joke:

When does a joke turn into a dad joke?


When it becomes apparent.



PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 04/02/22

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

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

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

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

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

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

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

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


2 x Quotes:

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

— Rick Warren

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

Ralph Marston

1 x Thing:

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

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


1 x Joke:

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

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

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

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

I shouted, “ALL ABOAT!!”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 28/01/22


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***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

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

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

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

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

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

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

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


2 x Quotes:

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

– ARAB PROVERB

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

– ANTHONY DE MELLO

1 x Thing:

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

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

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


1 x Joke:

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

She replied, “Not really.”

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


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 14/01/22


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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Diversion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was the flight plan. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am scared. 

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

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

There is no greater reason to divert than that.

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

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

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

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

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

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

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

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


2 x Quotes:

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

– Robert Pirsig

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

Hannah Arendt

1 x Thing:

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


1 x Joke:

I had my haircut the other day.

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

I said, “No, I got them all cut!”

Unfortunately the joke went over his head.


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 14/01/22


Enter your email below and get the Flying Fridays Newsletter delivered to your inbox (almost) every week!

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Is This the Meaning of a Meaningless Existence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even love without hate. 

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

I don’t know if that’s true.

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

Perhaps – just perhaps – this really was by design.

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

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

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

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

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

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

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

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


2 x Quotes:

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

Baker Roshi

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

– Dale Carnegie 

1 x Thing:

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

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

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

1 x Joke:

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

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

“Dinner’s on me!”


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***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is Pointless Overthinking?

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

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

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

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

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

Why Do We Pointlessly Overthink?

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

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

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

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

How To Curb Pointless Overthinking

  1. Understand what triggers overthinking

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

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

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

  1. Observe your thoughts without judgment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Redirect your attention to the present.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Challenge your thoughts objectively.

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

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

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

Another way to examine your thoughts is by journaling. 

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

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

  1. Talk to someone/Get professional help.

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

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

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

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

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


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

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

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

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

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

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

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

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

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


2 x Quotes:

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

– Vivian Greene

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

– Rumi

1 x Thing:

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

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

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

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


1 x Joke:

I thought you might enjoy this.

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

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

This year’s submissions:  

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


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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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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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3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 5/11/21


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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.”


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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?”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

The 3-2-1 Friday Flyer – 22/10/21


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