I’m Back

When Micheal Jordan returned from the NBA after an extended hiatus his publicity manager was unsure how they should announce the news. So, he wrote a number of press releases for Micheal to choose from. 

But Jordan didn’t like any of them. He said, “I’ll do it myself.” before picking up a pen and writing down the following message,

“I’m back.”

That was it. The entire press release consisted of just those two words. Yet, everyone who was anyone knew exactly who and what. 

Of course, when you’re a legend like MJ you don’t need to say very much. In many respects, the less you say the better. You should let your actions do the talking.

Unfortunately most of us aren’t legends. Our actions usually don’t do the talking. That’s why we write! 

As much as I like to think of myself as the Micheal Jordan of the blogging world, I feel my press realise needs to be a wee bit longer. Mainly because my actions haven’t been talking at all.

Honestly, the last couple of months have been difficult for me. It’s felt like I’ve been stuck in the past. Desperately wishing to catch up with my family – my present – who had been waiting for me in Singapore while I saw out the remaining months of my contract in Hong Kong. 

Aside from failing to process some very difficult emotions, I’ve had a million and one things to do. I’m sure you can appreciate what a massive undertaking moving to a new country is.

For all of the above my motivation to write has gone begging. Instead, my muse has spent the last several weeks eating his emotions. I hesitate to point out he’s on a bit of weight..

This morning is the first time in a long time that I’ve sat down to really write and reflect. I quickly released how much I missed it. I released just how much I needed it. Even if my muse did struggle to get up from the couch!

I forget that writing helps me process my emotions. When I lose the motivation it may well be because I’m avoiding them. At any rate, I haven’t been. 

All things not said and not done, all I have are excuses. It comes back to actions versus words. There’s nothing wrong with having words, but they must align with action. That’s what makes them true.

As a writer, well, that means creating some words. 

I feel particularly guilty because I know how hard the rest of the team here at the new and vastly improved Wise and Shine have been working in my absence. 

Let me take this opportunity to say how extremely grateful I am to all of you for your efforts. Your actions do speak louder than words. They haven’t gone unnoticed. 

The good news is, I’m starting to feel like the seas are calming. Like I’ve finally caught up with my present self. 

I actually moved to Singapore last week. I managed to negotiate leaving a week early so I could arrive in time for my eldest son’s 4 year birthday. He’d been asking where daddy is for several weeks.

So, when I walked through the front door with suitcases in hand, his eyes lit up. He shouted “Daddy!’ before running across the living room and giving me a huge hug. As I struggle to hold back the tears, I said nothing. 

Not even the words, “I’m back.”

***

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

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

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

The Ghosts of My Past

My emotions come at me in waves. Often I’m strong enough to withstand them – to hold the ship steady – but every now and then they catch me with my shields down. I’m swept away. 

That happened the other day when the movers came in to pack everything up. Seeing my whole life packed into boxes. That was difficult. 

But the hardest moment came after they had gone. When I was left all alone in an empty apartment, the place we’d called home for the past four years. 

And I could see it all at once. I could see the first time we brought my eldest son home from the hospital. I could picture my youngest taking his first steps across the living room floor. All the heart to hearts with my wife, sat exhausted on the sofa after a long day. 

The ghosts of my past were everywhere to be seen.

Yet, my present had already packed up and left. Waiting for me in Singapore while I see out the remaining 3 months of my contract here in Hong Kong.

It was then that the sheer enormity of the decision we’d made hit me. It was then that the real ghosts of my past started screaming. Telling me I’ve made a huge mistake, that I don’t what I’m doing, that I’m weak for not having put up with everything.

Here we go again, I thought. The voices in my head that never let up. The voices that have haunted me for so long.

Part of me worried that maybe, underneath it all – behind the politics, the toxic work culture, the endless days of quarantine – the real reason for leaving is a futile attempt to try and outrun these ghosts. Hoping I would somehow be able to leave them behind when I leave myself.

For the longest time I thought the voices telling me to leave were those ghosts. So, I figured the path to salvation was staying put. I figured I had to stay the course.

But I know that’s not true. I know it was my ghosts that kept me frozen in fear for so long.

The funny thing is, now that the decision is made, it seems, in some strange sense, the louder they scream the surer I am. Yet, they still scream, they still kick. 

Thankfully I know my ghosts well. l know, more often than not, they appear in a desperate attempt to mask some deeper pain beneath the surface. I also know that trying to outrun them is a mistake.

So, I believe, a better question isn’t how to stop your ghosts from appearing, but how to see through them when they do. To do that, you have to hold them in your heart. 

To see through the ghosts of your past you have to accept them as they are.

After torturing myself for a while that day I sat down in middle of that empty apartment and took some time to let my ghosts be. Slowly but surely the voices started to quell. 

Slowly but surely the real pain my ghosts were masking began to surface: Grief. 

Of course, the only way to process grief is to let your shields downs. The only way to process grief is to let your emotions sweep you away. So, that’s what I did.

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

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

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that never gives up – even when all hope is lost!

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 joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) We’re taught to do things to please our parents for survival. When we eventually grow up we realise we don’t have to do things to please others anymore. Only what we know is right in our hearts. Often that means saving yourself because we’re the only ones that can.

2) It’s important to maintain both a sense of control and a sense of change in our lives. Too much predictability the more meaningless our existence begins to feel. But too much change can throw us into chaos. We start to feel out of control. We need to pursue meaningful but manageable change over time. To do that we need to imagine the person we want to become and then take baby steps through steady, controlled self-discipline.

3) When a pilot flies an aeroplane the last thing they aim at is the obstacle they don’t want to hit. If a plane is on fire the pilots only have one goal: The nearest piece of tarmac. They will think of nothing else. They sure as hell won’t give up, even if the odds are truly stacked against them. How could they? Why would they? And why would you?


2 x Quotes:

“My conclusion as a clinical psychologist has been that as paralyzing and terrible as our propensity for negative emotion is, and as grounded in reality as that propensity might be, it’s more the case that our ability to overcome it is actually stronger than it’s grip on us.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin

1 x Joke:

It’s been raining a lot here recently. When we went outside yesterday I asked my wife is she wanted to hear a joke about umbrellas.

She said, “No, it’ll probably go straight over my head.”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 20/05/22

***

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 takes an extended break without telling anyone… (I missed you all too!)

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

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

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

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

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

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


2 x Quotes:

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

Seneca

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

Carl Jung 

1 x Thing:

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

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


1 x Joke:

We took our kids to beach yesterday.

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

“It waves, of course!”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 25/03/22

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @anxiouspilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

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

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

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

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

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

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

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

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


2 x Quotes:

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

— Seneca

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

Tim Ferris.

1 x Thing:

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

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

1 x Joke:

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

He is now a little boulder.


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 11/03/22

***

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

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

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

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

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.”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 19/11/21


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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

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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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? 

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

5 Simple Tricks For Overcoming To-Do List Anxiety

“Procastination isn’t caused by laziness. We don’t postpone tasks to avoid work. We do it to avoid negative emotions that a task stirs up – like anxiety, frustration, confusion, and boredom.”

Adam Grant

Do you know that feeling, after you’ve written out your to-do list, despite how it’s suppose to make you feel, when all you want to-do is crawl under a rock and die? 

You know, when a slow and painful death seems preferable to confronting the mountain of tedious work you feel you have to-do?

And so you slowly put down your to-do list, walk over to the couch, gently sit down, carefully pick up the remote control and turn on NETFLIX. Which you then proceed to binge watch for several hours…

A bit like a psychopath who completely disconnects from all his or her responsibilities and emotions? 

I’m sure you do.

Anyway this got me thinking.

Why exactly does writing out our responsibilities on paper cause some us to run away from them faster than a teenage boy climaxes?

After all we know this kind of behaviour doesn’t help us, yet we can’t help ourselves. Sometimes all we want is to tell life to go fuck itself and so we do, even if that means fucking ourselves in the process.

The real question, of course, is how can we stop our to-do lists from making us feel like shit and help us get shit done instead?

Well fear not my fine readers for I’ve complied 5 simple tricks – as partially backed by science – to help you not only write a to-do list that doesn’t make you want to tell life to go fuck itself, but carry it out as well!

You’re very welcome!


1 – Do the thing that scares you the most first.

“The task you’re avoiding isn’t always the one you hate. Sometimes it’s the one you fear. The one that’s most worth pursuing.”

ADAM GRANT

The science shows that making a plan to complete a task provides the same mental relief as completing the task itself.

Which is exactly the point. Writing a to-do list is suppose to make you feel better so you can actually get started with something.

It’s suppose to get you in the mood… (Yeah baby!)

The problem for me, and I suspect countless others, was never a matter of productivity, but what it was I actually chose to accomplish during the day. I now realise I used my to-do list as a way to constantly defer the shit I was most afraid of.

I’m not talking about homework assignments here of course. I mean things like confronting my depression by asking for professional help or having certain difficult conversations with certain family members about shit I really don’t want to talk about…

Yeah, you know, the shit you really need to be doing first!

It was pointed out to me, in Adam Grant‘s excellent worklife podcast episode – ‘the real reason you procrastinate,’ that it wasn’t the tasks I was avoiding but the emotions I’d attached to said tasks.

The problem with ignoring these tasks is you inadvertently give those emotions (the thing that you’re actually afraid of confronting) greater hold over you. Thus the longer you leave said tasks undone the harder they become to-do.

Unfortunately there’s only one solution.

However scary they are, the tasks that you fear the most are exactly the ones you should be pursuing first. Not tidy the apartment!

Why?

Well it’s a classic Catch 22. By doing the very tasks you’re afraid of, you’re helping to confront and resolve those emotions that caused you to avoid those tasks in the first place.

If you don’t want to live with those emotions any longer, then you have to stop avoiding them. You have to rip the bandaid off. If you don’t it’s only gonna hurt more later on. Believe me!

Of course I realise this might not be what you want to hear so I thought I’d offer a few more tips that can help you do what’s necessary by putting things into perspective.

2 – Ask yourself, “What would I do if today were my last on earth?

It’s important to be very clear about what your most important tasks are on any given day. Often we’re not. A great way to do this – something I do every morning as part of my journalling routine – is to ask yourself the following question: “What would I do if this were my last day on earth?”

I’m guessing your to-do list would look markedly different.

Things like telling your family how much you love them. Apologising for any major wrong doings or forgiving those that wronged you would also probably appear. Remaining as present as you possibly can be. Paying attention to every waking moment for the truly precious moment that it is! Sitting with and observing any difficult emotions. Allowing those emotions to come out (instead of watching NETFLIX). Taking a walk outside to feel the elements – wind, rain, hail or shine! Simply being…

You get the point.

Of course you shouldn’t take this question too seriously otherwise you’ll probably bin your to-do list altogether and tell your boss to-go fuck himself. Perhaps not in the best interest of your future self…

Still, this is a great question because it helps align your to-do list with the values you hold closest. It helps to prioritise the things that you really should. It also puts thing into perspective.

The truth is you don’t have to-do anything. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and self-loathing by thinking so. You don’t have to-do anything if you don’t want to.

You get to do those things.

Which brings me to my next trick for reframing your to-do list. That is…

3 – Write a GET to-do list instead

Put that at the top in big bold capital letters: GET to-do.

Not only does this set yourself up to be more grateful for what you feel you might have to-do, it also helps to take the pressure off.

You get to do it, you don’t have to do it.

Keep reminding yourself of this important fact.

I’d add another small tip.

Write out 3 things you’re grateful for today before you write out your get to-do list. I could show you some science that shows just how beneficial having a gratitude practise is, but I don’t want to bore you.

You know all this.

The point to label is YOU GET TO-DO THESE THIHGS. One day you’ll be dead and you won’t get to.

It helps to keep that in mind.

4 – Keep it modest and specific.

How much do you really need to-do today?

So many of us put everything down we’d like to complete and then burn out after realising we’ll never be able to achieve all those things.

You’ve got make it manageable.

Don’t say I’ll write one blog post or go for a 10km run or finish reading that book. Say I’ll write one paragraph, jog for five minutes and read one chapter.

Simply taking a step in the right direction is enough.

So what if you didn’t quite get everything you wanted to-do done?

The most important thing is that you enjoyed it. You’re never going to enjoy it if you’re always racing towards the finish line.

And if you really don’t manage to complete much, if anything, of what you intended, then please refer to point number 5.

5 – Show yourself show compassion.

‘You can change some of those emotions by showing yourself compassion. We procrastinate less when we remind ourselves that it’s part of the human condition. We’re not the only one suffering from it.’

ADAM GRANT

A tough one to finish I know. The truth is I’m awful at being kind to myself.

This is why, every morning as part of my meditation routine before I do anything else, I practise a loving kindness meditation for everybody including myself.

After all it can’t be called universal compassion if it doesn’t include yourself.

It’s important to remember we’re all fallible humans at the end of the day. Things like confronting our demons aren’t easy. It takes time to find the courage.

Go easy on yourself if you don’t do that scary task.

Who honestly get’s everything they mean to-do in a day? Really? I certainly don’t.

That said, I tell my wife I love her every night before bed without fail. I make sure I spend a couple of quality hours with my boys – laughing and playing with them every afternoon before dinner. I meditate every single morning and take every opportunity to practise mindfulness whenever I can. I always go for a walk outside as a way to remind myself that I’m alive and how fucking amazing that is!

Quite frankly the rest can fucked. Occasionally it does!

The older I get the more willing I am to say, so the fuck what? Tomorrow’s another day right? If you fall off the horse today, simply get back on it tomorrow. Falling down is inevitable. Getting back up is what matters.

That’s life!


SOURCES:

https://doist.com/blog/todo-list-tips/

WorkLife with Adam Grant episode on ‘The Real Reason You Procrastinate.’

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201310/why-your-do-list-drives-you-crazy

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/zeigarnik-effect

Angels and Demons

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”

― Carl Jung

I spent most of my adult life trying to avoid suffering. It made everything worse. I spent my days waiting, hoping for my knight in shining armour. The funny thing is she existed, I just didn’t have the courage to ask her for help. I was too afraid to challenge my beliefs.

I also didn’t understand the paradoxical nature of change. The fact that you have to first accept who you are, that you have to first accept your life circumstances.

Which is hard, of course. I mean, how could I accept what my demons were telling me? How could I accept that what I really believed, was that I wasn’t capable – that I wasn’t worthy?

I tried in desperation to whip myself into something I wasn’t. I tried to kill that part of myself and in the process became consumed by it. Depression took a firm grip and I found myself drowning. In my attempts to fight, I only sunk deeper.

Eventually I gave up altogether.

Yet, it was only when I finally let go that I started to see something. What’s already there is there, so why fight it? To fight your demons, to resit them – is not only futile, it makes things worse.

Attempts to kill your demons makes them scream louder. It’s hating those parts of yourself that gives them strength. It’s only by embracing your demons, by having the courage to hold them in your heart, that you will start to see change.

And it won’t be that those demons go away. They won’t. What changes is your relationship to them. Suddenly they become part of you. You see both the light and the dark side. You come to understand them. You start to see where they’ve really come from.

That is insight.

And because your demons feel heard, they start to soften. They don’t feel the need to scream for oxygen anymore. It’s no different to a child who is shown love after a long period of neglect. Of course that’s all that the inner-child deep down in all of us wants – to be heard, to be held, to be loved.

I believe life’s biggest lesson is acceptance. For who we are, for life in all it’s fucked up glory, for, ultimately, our own mortality and that of those we love.

That’s why I suggest making it part of your morning prayer or meditation ritual. Find ways, design habits, whatever you have to do to cultivate an extreme sense of gratitude for who you are and what you have in this moment. It’s not easy, of course. I get it. It is something you have to practise everyday.

That’s not to say one shouldn’t act. No, that’s resignation. Resignation is choosing not to act when you can make a change. Resignation is choosing to believe the false narratives in your head instead of looking deeply. Resignation is believing that you can’t be helped, when you can. I know all about resignation.

Acceptance is something very different.

Acceptance is about acknowledging your demons, it’s not about letting them dictate the terms. Acceptance is about having discipline to face your current reality as it stands, to own up to it.

You need to let your demons know you hear them, then go ahead and do what you know is right. That includes asking for help if you need it. That includes processing your grief. There is no shame in this. In fact, that’s exactly what courage is.

Now here’s the paradox.

What follows a fear to accept is a fear to act. What follows the courage to accept is the courage to act. If you do that, you’ll find your demons switch shoulders. You’ll find you’re driven by them, not burdened by them. You’ll find your demons are everything to you – they’re what give your life it’s ultimate meaning. Once that happens, you’re not just going through the motions. You’re not just doing a job. It’s far deeper than that.

From radical acceptance comes meaningful action.

That’s why we need to infuse our existence with as much meaning as we can. In the way we interact with others. The way we play with our children. The way we hold our partners. Even in seemingly small or mundane tasks. If you look deeply, you can access peace in every moment by giving it meaning.

I can’t stress that point enough. 

We need meaning in our lives, because that’s what gives us hope. It’s what helps us to guard against nihilism. The more meaning you find in life, the more meaningful you believe your life is – the more peace and joy and love you will find in it. The most powerful way to do that is give meaning to your suffering.

If you do, you’ll realise your demons were trying to lead you from darkness all along. You’ll look down and realise, your shadows are made from light. You’ll realise your demons are your angels as well.


HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that enjoys eating its own words.

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) Emotions are like tunnels. You have to go through them in order to get to the light on the other side. Resist and you’ll end up stuck in the dark.

2) As a rule: The dumber the question feels, the more it needs to be asked. The only real fool is the one who deliberately remains in the dark. 

3) A wining formula for life: Radical Acceptance followed by Meaningful Action.


2 x Quotes:

“In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”

— Oscar Wilde

“When the starting point is self-love and self-appreciation, we already give ourselves what we need so we don’t need to try to take it from people.”

Betul Erbasi (SOURCE: https://pointlessoverthinking.com/2021/05/30/self-appreciation/)

1 x Thing:

This BBC article: Why some narcissists actually hate themselves. The article argues that narcissists – far from loving who they are – actually suffer from issues related to self-hatred. It suggests that this understanding can help us see through their actions and foster compassion for them instead. Well worth the quick read!


1 x Joke:

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


Thanks ladies and gentlemen, I’m here all week! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know in the comments section below.

One bonus question: How can you make your actions more meaningful today?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 31/05/21

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that believes you have to earn self-acceptance…

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) Something better than hoping your children have a happy life, is hoping they have the strength to deal with a difficult one. 

2) Don’t give yourself the satisfaction of complaining. It’s like scratching a mosquito bite. It feels good initially, but only makes things worse. Think in terms of taking action, or practising acceptance instead.

3) You aren’t meant to deny your emotions, you’re meant to negotiate with them. You say, “I understand you don’t want to go for a run, I understand you feel tired, but think about how great you’ll feel afterwards – think about the sense of accomplishment you’ll get once you’re done!” If you ask me, the biggest secret when it comes to self-improvement is self-acceptance. This allows you to work with your emotions, instead of against them. This is also what it means to love yourself. You don’t try to become something more because you feel inadequate, you try to become something more because you love who you are and want to look after that person to the best of your ability.


2 x Quotes:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

John Wooden (Source: https://mindfulnessbits.wordpress.com)

“If you want to soar in life, you must learn to F.L.Y ( First Love Yourself )”

Mark Sterling (Source: https://philosophyvia.photos)

1 x Thing:

This brilliant Ted Talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action from the author of Start with Why, Simon Sinek. In this episode Simon explains the difference between leaders and those who lead using a simple but powerful model – starting with a golden circle and the question: “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers. My favourite quote, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” I believe his model could just as easily be applied to the world of blogging. Well worth the watch!


1 x Joke:

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


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know in the comments section below.

One bonus question: What is your WHY? 


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 24/05/21

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that can’t stop thinking about itself…

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)  When it comes to taking action, if you can learn to first accept yourself completely, if you can first learn to accept your current reality, it will give you wings. 

2) It isn’t what other people think of you that’s the problem, it’s what you think other people are thinking of you, that’s the problem. So allow me clear this up. If the other person doesn’t care about you, they definitely aren’t thinking about you (this applies to the vast majority of people we come into contact). If they do, then what they have to say isn’t something you should worry about, but ask after.

3)  A 4 Step Guide For Recovering From Burnout

  1. Acknowledge The Stall: Say it out-loud. Mention it to someone close. Tell them how you feel. If you feel burnout don’t pretend everything is ok when it’s not. This only makes things worse. You need to first acknowledge your feelings.
  2. Point The Nose Down: Stop doing what you’re doing and take the time to process your emotions. How do you do that? By being kind to yourself – by accepting them. Then, by utilising your support networks – by talking to your friends and family who want nothing more than to make you feel better.
  3. Add Thrust: If you try to climb too soon there’s a danger you could stall again. You need to make sure you have enough energy by taking the time to rest and repair. How do you do that? By getting a good night’s sleep, by eating a wholesome diet, by doing some exercise, etc. This might include other activities that make you feel rested, such as going for a walk in nature, reading a book, meditating or journalling, etc.
  4. Stabilise: When you’re ready to go back to work remember to take it slow. If you point the nose up too quickly you could re enter the stall. You want to find your optimum pace. Pointing the nose down slightly when you start to feel stressed is often enough to prevent it from happening again. It will also allow to fly higher and further. (80% effort is more sustainable than 100%.)

2 x Quotes:

“The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short”

– Arthur Schopenhauer

“My personal message to people is that I hope they will go towards self-actualization rather than self-Image actualization.  I hope they will search within themselves for honest self-expression.”

– Bruce Lee


1 x Thing:

This short TED Talks podcast episode: The cure for burnout (hint: it isn’t self-care) with Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski. In this episode sisters Emily and Amelia detail three signs that stress is getting the best of you – and share actionable ways to feel better when you’re burning out. Notes below.

3 Symptoms Of Burnout:

  • Depersonalisation – where you distance yourself emotionally from your work. 
  • Decreased sense of accomplishment – where you fail to see the purpose of your work.
  • Emotional exhaustion – when you feel overwhelmed and on edge all the time.

The Cure:

  • We need to show ourselves self-compassion. You have to process/express the emotions/stress in your body otherwise it builds up.
  • We also need each other. We’ve been taught that we’re stronger when we’re alone and strong and independent. It’s simply not true. We are strongest when we have a close support network. 

1 x Joke:

Today I bring you a BREAKING NEWS BULLETIN:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that those who have contracted the new Indian COVID variant will be offered the new Pun Jab.

He said, “We must start taking this variant more seriously. There are several reports of people having gone into kormas. Others have had to bury their naans!”


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know in the comments section below.

One bonus question: How do you recognise the stall? What can you do to prevent it from happening?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 10/05/21

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that you should take with a pinch of salt…

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) Something to think about: In your attempts to avoid suffering you suffer more.  

2) Those who refuse to acknowledge their parent’s shortcomings are bound to repeat them.

3)  Expectations – that’s your problem! Expectations of a clean, perfect, fair world. Of kindness from strangers. For people to treat you a particular way. When the world doesn’t meet these expectations your happiness gets checked. Drop all expectations of your external world and instead turn the spotlight inward. Get your house in perfect order before you even consider criticising the world. In fact, as a rule for life, give up blaming and give up complaining. Take full responsibility for your problems. Concentrate only on your circle of control. Make peace with the rest of it. 


2 x Quotes:

“Your perception of me, is a reflection of you. My reaction to you is an awareness of me.”

 UNKNOWN

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

– JIDDU KRISHNAMURTI


1 x Thing:

This Mark Manson article: How To Break Hearts and Risk Losing Everything. The article explores why the hard questions in life appear difficult to anyone who has them, but appear easy to anyone who does not. For anyone who is contemplating a major life decision I can recommend giving it a quick read. 3 of my fav quotes below:

“The person who is forever obsessed with their own feelings and satisfaction is a person who is unable to look outside themselves, a person who is unable to take on the perspectives and feelings of others as their own, a person who is unable to hold values beyond their own credit and gain. 

When choosing what to do with your life, emotions can’t be your only reasons. Feel your emotions but do not allow yourself to be defined by your emotions. Acknowledge the feeling and then act based on something more than the feeling.

There is a difference between what we are capable of doing and what we allow ourselves to do. We often don’t recognize that difference.

– MARK MANSON


1 x Joke:

My wife was trying to rock my son to sleep the other day so I gave her his dummy to help out.

I said, “You know why they call it a dummy don’t you?”

She replied, “No, why?”

I said, “Because it’s not a real nipple, you dummy!”


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know in the comments section below.

One bonus question to ponder: What are you willing to suffer for?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 19/04/21