12 Personal Commandments For A Happier Life

A long time ago (5 years?) I put together this list – 12 personal commandments for living a happier, healthier and more purposeful life. I found it in one of my old note books and thought I’d share with you all.

It was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. As she said in her book, “these aren’t meant to be specific resolutions but overarching principles by which to live.”

Anyway, I recall it being a fun and creative way to help outline any core values you may have.

I should say the quotes aren’t mine, but ones that stuck in my mind from various readings over the years. Anyway, without further ado, here they are:

  1. “Live in day-tight compartments” – Live in the moment. There’s no point in living with regret about yesterday or worry for tomorrow. 
  1. “Don’t cry over spilt milk”You can’t change what’s happened. Only pick up the pieces and move forward. Forgive and forget. 
  1. “Pay Rapt Attention” – Meditate daily and show a keen interest in your daily activities and conversations. Stay in the moment and participate fully. 
  1. “Act and think the way you wish to feel – be fearless” – Smile and be happy. Stand up tall and be confident. We live in the mind whether we know it or not. The wisest among us use our actions to influence our emotions and not the other way around. 
  1. “Count your blessings – Not your troubles” – First – aim to get what you want and then Second – Enjoy it! Be grateful everyday. You’re exceptionally lucky. 
  1. “Be Yourself” – Imitation is suicide. Be your best self and embrace your uniqueness. 
  1. “Have malice toward none and charity for all” – Don’t waste a second thinking about those that have wronged you. It serves no purpose. We must harbour no bitterness. Instead find time to give and serve those in greater need. 
  1. “Order is Heaven’s First Law” – Clearing clutter will help create peace of mind. Set specific measurable goals, visualise them complete, then act on them. 
  1. “Lose yourself in action – Just do it” – Secret to being miserable is to have the time to wonder whether you are happy or not. Keep yourself busy. Work daily, Exercise daily and Play daily. The time is now so go!
  1. “Do what’s right, not what’s easy” – The easiest is rarely the best option. Strive toward a higher purpose and think before every word and action. 
  1. “Remember life comes from you not at you” – Give up blaming and complaining. Only YOU are responsible for YOU. Be honest with yourself and understand that belief is a choice so choose to believe!
  1. “Look to the stars” – Have faith you can turn around any situation. To profit from your losses is far more important than capitalising on your gains. Take the time to reflect everyday. 

Thanks for taking the time to read everyone. Looking back I feel it could definitely use an update! With that in mind, what commandments do you live by (if any)? What would you add (or take away) from the list? Let us know in the comments below. I’d be grateful for the inspiration.

Wishing you all well, AP2 – X

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that believes the meaning of life is irrelevant…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

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

Let’s begin!

(As a way to give credit and to say thank you, I’ve linked back to any posts that have inspired my thoughts. I’ve linked back to any quotes I’ve found as well.)


4 x Thoughts:

1) Knowledge is power but imagination is freedom.

2) When doing something that makes you anxious it’s important to tell yourself that you can. Not because this will ease the nerves, but because when you do manage to pull off the task that you’ve been dreading, instead of feeling relief you will gain confidence. 

3)  I’m guessing we all struggle with the notion of what life means. I think the ego is always looking for more – hoping that it can somehow live on for eternity. Meaning or belief is a way of guarding against our irrefutable mortality. However I don’t believe that’s necessarily a bad thing. The truth is we are all part of something much bigger. We are all interconnected. I like to say we are nothing if not those who came before us, and we will be for nothing if we don’t serve those who will come after. Meaning is something we must instil – it’s necessary. It’s what eases our own suffering and that of others. It’s what gives us peace. I believe we are meant to serve a greater good. God or no God. Not because it will matter in thousands of years to come but because it matters now, today. Look at what is right in front of you. That’s where the meaning you need to find lies. That’s what matters most. 

4) You’ll never stop having problems. That’s a something people often don’t realise. They think if they can achieve this or acquire that, then they’ll be rid of their problems and finally be happy. As if happiness is some eternal thing to be realised. It doesn’t work like that. Happiness isn’t permanent. Problems are. Paradoxically expectations of an endlessly happy life will only lead to unhappiness. It’s perfectly ok to be unhappy and normal that you’ll go through low periods during your lifetime. Equally it’s perfectly ok to have problems! Not that you’ll have much of a choice about that. What you might have some choice about is what problems you wish to have. What you’ll always have a choice about is how you interpret and respond to your problems. Go about solving those problems and you might just find some happiness in the process. Keep solving problems and that happiness might actually last.


3 x Quotes:

“The meaning of life is whatever you’re doing that prevents you from killing yourself”

– ALBERT CAMUS

“Meaning is the Way, the path of life more abundant, the place you live when you are guided by Love and speaking the Truth and when nothing you want or could possibly want takes any precedence over precisely that.”

– JORDAN B. PETERSON (From his book: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos)

“If you change the MEANING of your life, it’s going to change the FEELINGS…Then, your life is really going to CHANGE.”

RASHEDUR RYAN RAHMAN


2 x Things:

1) This article on psychology today: What is the Meaning of Life? by Neel Burton M.D. Neel argues that the meaning of life is that which we choose to give it. Moreover he argues that we should choose to give it meaning – whether or not you believe in God or an afterlife. How to choose? Drawing from the lessons of Victor Frankl he outlines 3 ways in which we meaning can be found:

  1. Experiencing reality by interacting authentically with the environment and with others.
  2. Giving something back to the world through creativity and self-expression, and,
  3. Changing our attitude when faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.

2) This New York Times article: The American Abyss by Timothy Snyder. It’s one of the best things I have read about the events of January 6th, and what it means/might mean for American democracy. Favourite quotes below.

“Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves.”

“We cannot be a democratic republic if we tell lies about race, big or small. Democracy is not about minimizing the vote nor ignoring it, neither a matter of gaming nor of breaking a system, but of accepting the equality of others, heeding their voices and counting their votes.”


1 x Joke:

Sorry folks I’m out of jokes this week so I’ll leave you with this far side comic instead. Hope you enjoy.


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! I sincerely hope you all have a great week ahead. As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know below.

One bonus question to finish:

What can you do today that would give your life greater meaning tomorrow?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 11/01/21

The Hopeless Nature Of Hoping

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”

– Vietnam War. Admiral James Stockdale 

Do you want to know the one reason you’re not happy right now? 

It’s because you’re hoping for something different. 

It’s as simple as that. 

By wishing for something different your perception of what reality should be crashes against what is. This friction is the source of all your suffering. 

You cannot alter reality. Only your perception of it, your acceptance of it.

Reality is perfectly happy being the fucked up place it is because it can’t be anything else.

It was just as fucked before you were born as it will be the day after you die. 

Stop hoping for something different. 

Either Act Or Accept.

These are far better choices than hoping.

Do you want to know why you’re in the mess that you are?

It’s because you were sold a dummy by a society that has glorified hope. With the movies and TV shows you watch. The super hero who swoops in to save the day at the final hour. You cling to that, waiting for your knight in shining armour to save you.

It’s true to say hope can serve as temporary relief from your current pain, but that’s about all one can say. 

Do you know what else achieves the same? 

Taking drugs. Drinking alcohol. Binge watching NETFLIX. 

How have those things worked out for you in the past?

What has hope really done for you?

It’s another form of avoidance, of distraction. 

What happened to your hope when coronavirus fucked up all your plans last year? What happened to your hope when governments repeatedly failed you?

Is hope going to get us out of this mess?

No.

Fuck hope. 

You’re the super hero of your own reality. You control yourself, your thoughts and the way you look at the world. 

Fuck hope. 

Hope is an excuse not to do what you can.

Hope is an excuse to say these problems are beyond you, to say they are beyond all of us.

Hope is saying all will be ok when I die and go to heaven. 

Fuck hope. 

Hope is what led you to hopelessness when the world didn’t live up to your expectations. 

And let me tell you, living in hopelessness is an equally terrible place because that isn’t based in reality either. 

Act or Accept. 

Those are your choices.

I’ll say one more thing before I wrap up.

Giving up hope isn’t about being overly pessimistic – it’s about coming back to reality and seeing it for what it is. 

Hopelessness is being overly pessimistic.

If you have clothes on your back, food on the table and a roof over your head. If you can breathe…!

I’d say there is more right with you than not.

The best things in life haven’t changed because you lost your job or your wife left you.

Taking a shit or having a wank is just as wonderful with zero dollars in the bank as it is with billions (sorry, I meant feeling the cool breeze on your skin or listening to the birds chirping in the morning – yeah those things too).

Will this message inspire you in some way?

Who knows.

All I can do is my best to reinforce the narratives that help me and see if it helps others.

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.

Either way, I’m not holding onto any hope.


(Thanks for reading ladies and gentlemen. I hope (ha) you enjoyed it. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I take an extreme position on a topic simply to challenge myself (and you) to think differently, even if I don’t agree with the argument. Do I really think that hope is such a terrible emotion? No, of course not. Hope is a very important emotion designed to inspire action. But here is what I did take from this post – hope must be tied to action otherwise it’s dangerous. Hoping for things out of your control (as I learnt the hard way this past year) is truly awful for your mental health. Hope only for yourself, for the things that you can control. And then take action to make it so. For everything else you can’t control – I suggest you practise acceptance instead. With that said I’m curious what your thoughts are on the topic of hope? As always I welcome ALL comments and opinions. Wishing you well, AP2 🙏)

***

You can see find more of AP2’s nonsensical world views and poor self-help advice here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

24 Invaluable Lessons From 2020

“Learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively based on finely honed personal values is perhaps the greatest and most important struggle in life.”

– Mark Manson. 

“In a crisis, the inevitable suffering that life entails can rapidly make a mockery of the idea that happiness is the proper pursuit of the individual.”

– Jordan B. Peterson

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

– Sigmund Freud

I’ve always felt that a period of reflection does more for the soul than sitting down to outline any goals for the year. When we take the time to reflect on our values. When we look deeply at how we have failed to live up-to them. I believe it’s through a deeper reflection that we can derive the most insight. It’s from those lessons that the goals we really want to chase after become clear. Those goals becoming, in turn, an expression of those values. An expression of the things that make you feel whole. That make you feel integral.

Something a fellow blogging buddy of mine said in response to my earlier post, The Things That I Will Miss got me thinking. He said – to paraphrase slightly – “It’s not so much the things that I will miss but the things that I have learnt.” And so I thought, as part of my personal end of year review, I’d ask the question to you dear readers:

What are the things that you’ve learnt from this most tumultuous 2020?

To get the ball rolling (and for a bit of fun) I’ve put together the following list. A kind of rough draft taken from a quick look back at what I’ve written this year. It’s far from polished but then again – it’s the holidays! Anyway here you are – 24 Invaluable Lessons From 2020. I hope you enjoy.


  1. Hope without action is dangerous.
  2. If you can’t act you must accept.
  3. Acceptance is something you must practise.
  4. Honesty is the ultimate form of kindness.
  5. Honesty has to be the gold standard by which we measure our leaders.
  6. Protecting our freedoms means protecting the truth.
  7. The truth is hard. Avoiding it is harder.
  8. The truth is more important than your emotions.
  9. Freedom and responsibility are synonymous
  10. Think as one. Always assume a position of collective responsibility.
  11. You are either being racist or anti-racist. There is no such thing as “not racist.”
  12. No black. No white. Only grey.
  13. We must embrace our demons.
  14. It’s ok to cry (especially as a man).
  15. Looking after yourself = looking after others.
  16. Happiness does not exist without gratitude.
  17. A question for clarifying motivation: Am I doing this because of love or fear?
  18. The other side of shame is a better person.
  19. Better is better than perfect.
  20. Routine has everything to do with developing a growth mindset.
  21. Enthusiasm increases intelligence.
  22. Success is what you alone define.
  23. Spirituality = Awareness
  24. Prepare for the worst. Believe in yourself. Expect nothing.

Thanks for Reading Ladies and Gentlemen. I am of course curious, what have you have learnt this year? What would be on your list? As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions. Let me finish by saying it’s been an absolute pleasure connecting with all of you this year. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. To each and every one of you – for lifting me up. For making me think. For challenging me. For making me laugh. For everything. You have been a life line for me. I wish you all an infinitely brighter 2021. AP2 X

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter to kiss your mommy after filling up your stocking…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always, I’ve finished with 1 terrible joke that’s so bad you won’t be able to help but laugh…

Let’s begin!


4 x Thoughts From Me:

Trying to create motivation is massively overrated. Trying to gain clarity is massively underrated. 

We all follow the herd to some extent. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing provided that the herd subscribes to high standards. However when the herd is not above blaming others or shirking responsibility, when the heard is consumed by fear or led by evil, you need to think very carefully. Because if you want to become the change you wish to see, you have to surround yourself with the right people. You have to put yourself in the right environment. Most of us vastly underestimate the influence others have on ourselves.

The greatest joy in life comes not from receiving praise or accumulating wealth, but from giving to others. Which, of course, is a form of letting go. Ultimately it’s about letting go of the idea that you need praise or things to be happy which is BS. It’s making other people happy that makes us happy.

Honesty is often about admitting you’re wrong. It’s important to understand thought that this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. Because being wrong is the most ordinary thing in the world. The most dangerous people in this world are the ones incapable of seeing this. The most miserable people often fall into the same boat.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“Life laughs at you when you are unhappy; Life smiles at you when you are happy; But, life salutes you when you make others happy.” — Charlie Chaplin (Source: https://purplerays.wordpress.com/2020/12/03/life-salutes-you-when-you-make-others-happy/)

“If a man can reduce his needs to zero, he is truly free: there is nothing that can be taken from him; nothing can hurt him.”— John Boyd

“Life will present you with unexpected opportunities, and you won’t always know in advance which are the important moments. Above all, it’s the quality of your relationships that will determine the quality of your life. Invest in your connections, even those that seem inconsequential.”— Esther Perel (Source: https://jamesclear.com/3-2-1/refer?rh_ref=36174ee4)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1) This Best Inventions of 2020 from Time Magazine. For a bit of fun in the build up to Christmas thought I’d share this list of random inventions. As they note, “Nominations were made from editors and correspondents around the world through an online application process. They were then evaluated on key factors, including originality, creativity, effectiveness, ambition and impact. The result? 100 groundbreaking inventions—including a smarter beehive, a greener tube of toothpaste, and technology that could catalyze a COVID-19 vaccine—that are changing the way we live, work, play and think about what’s possible.”

2 – For bit more fun this piece from Tom Whitwell: 52 things I Learned in 2020.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

So we had a wee Christmas celebration the other night in which I ate a bit too much food (and drank a bit too much ale).

Despite this I couldn’t resist having a wee bit of cheese just before bed.

Needless to say this was a bad idea.

So when I climbed into bed next to my 37 weeks pregnant wife while groaning I said,

“You have no idea how uncomfortably full I feel.”

(silence)

I continued,

“I think I need a cheese-arean section.”


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week!

FYI I’m going to be taking something of a blogging hiatus in preparation for Christmas and the arrival of my second child.

Till the new year,

Have a very merry Christmas and an infinitely brighter 2021!

Love to all,

AP2 X


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 07/12/20

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that expresses gratitude after forcing you to concede…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always, I’ve finished with 1 terrible joke that’s so bad, you won’t be able to help but laugh…

Let’s begin!


4 x Thoughts From Me:

There is always a silver lining. You just have to look for it.

Expressing gratitude might just be one of the single best ways to interpret reality – for the fact that we are alive is an extraordinary miracle. That this is lost on us for the majority of our lives shows a sad and astonishing disconnect from the reality of what it means to be alive. Practising gratitude shouldn’t just be something you practise everyday but something you strive to practise every waking moment of your existence.

Isn’t it amazing that you can fail an unlimited number of times in life but still succeed? I find that reassuring. Sadly many of us allow repeated failure to grind us down. To tell us we are failures. It’s simply not true. The most successful people in life are the ones who have failed the most. It’s actually a measure of effort. It’s actually a measure of courage. 

If there’s one thing I could get you to learn – I’d want you to see that you don’t need to achieve anything anymore. You don’t need to keep pushing for some goal to complete. You have everything you need. You’ve achieved it already. Slow down and look. Observe. See and experience what you have. Enjoy it. That’s the part of what it means to be truly successful that most of us fail at. Many people believe they’re successful yet can’t understand why they’re unhappy. People will never realise what true success is until they learn how to enjoy what they’ve already achieved. 


3 x Quotes From Others:

“As we express our gratitude we must never forget the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”John F. Kennedy

“Dead people receive more flowers than the living ones because regret is stronger than gratitude.”Anne Frank (Source: https://myexpressionofthoughtsblog.wordpress.com/)

It is only from such a place of gratefulness that we can perform beautiful acts — from a place of absolute, ravishing appreciation for the sheer wonder of being alive at all, each of us an improbable and temporary triumph over the staggering odds of nonbeing and nothingness inking the ledger of spacetime. But because we are human, because we are batted about by the violent immediacies of everyday life, such gratitude eludes us as a continuous state of being. We access it only at moments, only when the trance of busyness lifts and the blackout curtain of daily demands parts to let the radiance in, those delicious moments when we find ourselves awash in nonspecific gladness, grateful not to this person, grateful not for this turn of events, but grateful at life — a diffuse gratitude that irradiates every aspect and atom of the world, however small, however unremarkable, however coated with the dull patina of habit. In those moments, everything sings, everything shimmers. In those moments, we are most alive.” — Maria Popova (Source: https://www.brainpickings.org/)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This Mark Manson article – Shut Up and Be Grateful. In it Manson explains the why gratitude is linked to happiness and why all of us should be practising it. Well worth the quick read!

“For decades, research has tied gratefulness and appreciation to happiness. People who are happier tend to be more grateful and appreciative for what they have. But what they’ve also found is that it also works the other way around: consciously practicing gratitude makes one happier. It makes one appreciate what one has and helps one to remain in the present moment. Practicing gratitude increases accountability which directly leads to higher self-esteem and happiness.” 

– Mark Manson

2 – Since we’re on the subject, this TED Talk video with monk and interfaith scholar (and Jedi master) David Steindl-RastWant to be happy? Be grateful. Well worth watching – just in case I haven’t labelled the point enough…

It’s not happiness that makes you grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes you happy

Become aware that every moment is a gift. You haven’t done anything to earn it… it was given to you.

Opportunity is the gift within every gift. If you miss the opportunity of this moment another one is given to you. If we avail ourselves to this opportunity it is the key to happiness.” 

– David Steindl-Rast

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

We decided to start potty training this week.

Progress has been non existent.

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard my boy cry out from across room, “Daddy! Look at the shit!”

At first I didn’t know whether to tell him off for swearing or express how proud I was for doing a poo all on his own.

And then I thought, ‘there’s no way he’s managed to do it on his own so soon… is there?’

But sure enough, when I walked over to have look, there it was – my son stood proudly, pointing at a picture of a ship in one of this books.

Then I thought, Thank God I misheard him.


Thanks ladies and gentleman. I’m here all week!

I want to finish this weeks post by taking a moment to express my gratitude to all of you – for everything. For all your support. For helping to keep my head above water this year. For giving my life greater purpose and meaning. For making me a better person. Connecting with each and everyone of you is what has made blogging so incredibly meaningful. You are why I will continue to do so for a long time to come.  

Till next time… Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

A couple of bonus questions for you all:

What are you grateful for this year? What has this year given you that others haven’t?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 23/11/20

Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do

Why is it always said, he cried like a little girl?

We never say, she cried like a little boy, do we? 

For that matter, we never say she cried like a little girl either.

Of course I’m forgetting that’s because it’s acceptable for girls to cry! Silly me. It’s just boys who don’t cry!

Except that’s not true, is it?

Last I checked, little boys cry too. 

In fact I know it’s not true, because my two year old boy cries every single day.

And let me tell you something, he’s the happiest person I know.

The. Happiest. Person. I. Know. 

It’s odd don’t you think?

How happy and peaceful children can be, yet we adults have such a hard time accessing those same emotions?

It got me thinking as to why that might be. I wondered, ‘it couldn’t be related… could it?’

Could crying, as one example of allowing ourselves to feel and process negative emotions, be exactly what we need to do in order to access positive emotions like peace and joy?

I decided to do a little research.

My first findings confirmed what I suspected – that crying from time to time, contrary to popular chauvinistic belief, is actually a pretty fucking good thing for you to do.

This article from Medical News Today on the benefits of crying noted,

Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins. These chemicals make people feel good and may also ease both physical and emotional pain. In this way, crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being.”

In addition the article also noted that crying reduces stress, boosts your mood, aids sleep, fights bacteria and even improves your vision (remind me to tell some of my older pilot co-workers of this fact).

Jebus!

I figured it must help, but I had no idea it helped this much.

I wonder then, does this account for why we adults (and men in particular) have a much harder time accessing feelings of peace and happiness?

Do we not allow ourselves to cry enough?

Thinking about my own life it certainly makes sense.

Years of depression was a result of not allowing myself to feel exactly what I needed. After uncovering some hard truths and facing those demons head on, following months of therapy, I finally allowed myself to break down (or ‘break open’ as my therapist referred to it, which I much prefer).

It was such an enormous relief to finally let go of what I’d been fighting for so many years. Afterwards I’d felt an inner peace I’d not felt for years. I remember sleeping like a baby that night.

Now I understand the science behind why that was.

More importantly though the harmful narrative I’d clung onto for years finally began to shift. My life has been immeasurably better ever since.

Of course this wasn’t purely because I allowed myself to cry, but I do believe I’d never have been able to properly process and let go of those difficult emotions without doing so.

Recently I’ve been allowing myself to cry more often. I can tell you that’s not easy for a man who has been conditioned by society to keep him emotions under lock and key. Yet in doing so, my life is now filled with far more beauty and meaning.

I cried the other day when holding my son simply because I became aware of how precious it was while he hugged me during a quiet moment. I let myself cry in front of him. I wanted him to know that this is both a normal and healthy thing to do.

I wonder if any of you thinks this make me less of a man?

Did crying when my son was born make me less of a man? When I first held him in my arms?

Did crying on my wedding day make me less of a man? When I stood in front of all my friends and family as I read out my vows to my wife?

These were some of the happiest, most meaningful days and moments of my life.

If the answer is yes then I formally request to be a female because allowing yourself to cry, allowing yourself to feel your emotions, is what makes life beautiful. It’s what allows your difficult emotions to pass. It’s what allows you to find greater peace.

Luckily I don’t have to go through a sex change operation to allow myself to cry.

As it turns out – newsflash everyone – men can cry after all!

Not only can men cry, I found out that it doesn’t result in your life falling apart or your penis falling off.

Unbelievable news I know but completely true! I can confirm this, you see, because last I checked it’s still there.

In fact, I’ll double check now for you… Yep, still there.

Phew!

Do you want to know why men cry?

Because it’s not a female thing to cry. Shock, horror… It’s actually a human thing to cry. It’s in our nature to cry.

I mean of course it is! Evolution wouldn’t have up with crying pointlessly. Think about it.

Why are we the only species on the planet to deny our nature?

This is exactly what makes us all a bunch of lunatics.

Anyway I’ve gotten away from the research that backs all these opinions up, so let me get back to it.

When I dug a little deeper for this post an extremely bizarre statistic stuck out for me like a sore thumb.

I assumed that men, being more prone to bottle up their emotions and ‘do it alone,’ would almost certainly have higher rates of depression.

WRONG.

Women have been found to have higher rates of depression by a factor of nearly two.

There are a number of reasons for this including gender inequality but studies suggest biological factors to be the major determinant.

At any rate, without getting sidetracked into another very important debate, that wasn’t the bit I found weird.

What I found particularly bizarre was the finding that men are three to four times more likely to take their own life than women.

Why would men be three to four times as likely to die from suicide if they are half as likely to become depressed in the first place?

Assuming my very rough maths is correct and assuming that those who commit suicide have first developed depression, then a man with depression is actually 6 to 8 times more likely to kill himself than a women who develops depression does.

Of course you have to take that with a huge amount of salt, but even so…

Wow!

Talk about being a man hey? Or ‘manning the fuck up’ as some my friends might say.

Talk about the strong emotionally resilient men we have built as a society.

Clearly we’ve done a great job at giving men the tools they need to process their own emotions right?

Or maybe not.

Maybe, instead, we ought to rethink our narrative.

Maybe, just maybe, telling our boys not to cry isn’t such a smart move.

Maybe, just maybe, telling our young boys to ‘man up,’ or ‘grow a pair,’ or ‘stop being such a pussy,’ actually hurts both sexes, especially men.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to redefine what it means to be a man in the first instance.

What do you think?

I’ll tell you why I decided to bring this subject up.

I overheard someone we had hired to babysit our son tell him not to cry. It was a women, by the way, it case you were thinking it must be a man. She clearly didn’t mean any harm but I had to say something.

I asked her if she’d have said the same thing to a girl, or whether she would, in fact, have picked her up and comforted her?

(FYI Research shows that mothers talk more on average with their girl children, including sharing and identifying emotions, as opposed to their boy children.)

I let her know how damaging I believe telling children not to cry is.

I told her that I hope my son always allows himself to cry if he feels the need and that I will never allow him to be shamed for doing so in my household.

Never.

After going away and giving it some more thought, I realised something else.

A deeper problem that many of us might have with other people crying. And how this problem can likely be attributed to telling our boys not to cry.

I suspect many of our distraction techniques aren’t about helping the child so much as a strategy by adults to avoid issues they themselves have about how crying makes them feel.

I believe it’s the adult who often has the problem, whether they are conscious of it or not.

I know whenever my child cried, early on in the weeks shortly after he was born, it brought up intense feelings for me. I felt like a failure every time I was unable to settle him. I would say, “why doesn’t he like my breastmilk as much as my wife’s?”

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself with that joke.

Seriously though, on occasions he’d cry for long periods, without successfully calming him down, I would get very angry with him (not historically an emotion I’ve had a lot of trouble with). I would get so angry that I had to leave the room. Now I was never going to hurt him, but that anger was new to me.

It felt very intense.

What quickly followed, whenever I gave up by leaving him in another room, was intense feelings of remorse.

How could I treat him like that?

How could I just abandon him in his cot when he’s crying?

Why am I taking an infant crying so personally?

What the fuck is wrong with me?

Clearly I had some serious shit to work through. Yet in a typically male way, I didn’t seek any help, didn’t talk about it, nor did I let myself cry.

I just beat myself up.

(FYIAll of these can be explained as reasons why men have a harder time dealing with depression and why they are more likely to commit suicide – see this article for more details)

It wasn’t until one day when I got home from work that I saw my son playing on the living room floor. In that moment I felt nothing but an overwhelming repulsion to get away from him. I didn’t want to be with him. I didn’t want to father my son. My gorgeous boy.

This time the remorse that came flooding up was too much. I went to the bedroom closed the door and started to cry.

I cried like a little girl.

No.

I cried like a man.

I let myself really cry. When I was finished I remember seeing with such clarity, there was no doubt about what it was I needed to do next. I reached for the phone and spoke to someone. I finally asked for the professional help I knew I’d needed for a long time.

Crying was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

It gave me the clarity to see what I needed.

It gave me the courage to ask for help.

I can’t emphasise that last statement enough.

Crying gave me courage.


CLOSING WORDS

To all men who feel conflicted about their need to cry, it’s important to understand that crying doesn’t mean you’re not capable of dealing with your emotion. It means you are dealing with your emotions. Please understand it’s perfectly ok to do so.

Equally don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There is no shame in this. There is nothing unmanly about asking for help or showing emotions. We all need help from time to time. That’s part of the human experience.

Don’t think you need to ‘man the fuck up,’ or stop ‘crying like a little girl.’

If it helps consider the phrase, ‘man the fuck up and cry.’

In doing so you might just shatter the bullshit stereotype of what it actually means to be a man.

In doing so you might just have a greater understanding of what it is to be human.

In doing so you might give this world something it needs more than another macho man incapable of accessing his own emotions.

(Thank you to all for taking the time to read. I’m very curious to know your thoughts and get a proper debate going. To challenge my views so I can grow. Please help me cry by leaving your comments below. I welcome ALL opinions.)


ADDITIONAL SOURCES/FURTHER READING

BBC Article: Why more men than women die by suicide

Medical News Today Article: Eight benefits of crying: Why it’s good to shed a few tears

Happiness is here blog post: 10 things for parents to say instead of ‘stop crying.’

Janet Lansbury’s blog post: No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame (9 Guidelines)

This study examined gender differences in emotion word use during mother–child and father–child conversations.

This study explores why depression is more prevalent in women

For those who might be dealing with depression and/or struggling with thoughts of suicide it goes without saying I hope you can find the strength to reach out and talk to someone. Coming back from the brink isn’t easy, but it’s never too late. Never. Below is a list of various hotlines and websites in which you can seek help.

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

Local Websites And Emergency Contact Numbers

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/international/global-mental-health

The Shameless Nature Of Pride

As the dust settles on the US election my feeling is not jubilation. I’m not happy that 70 million people still find Trump an acceptable leader. I’m not happy that a man whose flagrant disregard for the safety of his fellow Americans has cost hundreds of thousands their lives. I’m not happy that in death, the Trump campaign still has the audacity to attack the freedoms that millions have died for. I knew it was coming, but it still hurts. It hurts enormously.

I broke down and cried when Biden won. A cocktail of difficult emotions coming to a head following weeks of anxiety, depression, anger, shame, hatred… I’ve felt them all this year but not as acutely as I had in the 2 weeks preceding. In the end it was too much. 

The question I have is where do we go from here? Biden is a gift during a year that’s been desperately short of them, but it doesn’t detract from my feeling that we are nowhere near where we need to be. We cannot continue on our path of wilful ignorance. We cannot continue to turn our attention away from one another or from the marginalised of society. We cannot continue to let our fear get in the way of doing what is right. We must bring greater integrity back into our lives. We must live for our values, not our pride

We must also start finding common ground and working together. For me that common ground has to be the freedoms for which democracy stands. However we have a massive problem if we can’t agree on what reality is anymore. Perhaps this is the larger consequence of our vote 4 years ago? Where we have become so desensitised to lying that we are willing to accept it as fact. Where we are willing to believe whatever we want because it’s easier or because it’s more interesting – because the “facts” exist to support any cockamamy conspiracy theory out there. 

We’re clearly addicted to the drama. It feels like we want life to one big conspiracy. In the process we have isolated ourselves from our own reality. In much the same way we refuse to accept the parts of ourselves we dislike, we have pushed the other side away. But in doing so we have only given them strength. We have only deepened the divide. Eventually we will reach a breaking point where we can no longer avoid the other side – those parts of ourselves. In that moment we have choice. We can let pride seal our hearts or let shame break down our egos. 

As I write this tears are rolling down my face. I look at my 2-year-old boy and my wife who is pregnant with our second. I think about what I want my children to understand as they grow up. I desperately want them to understand that decency and character matter. That the truth and honesty matter. That morals and integrity matter. That responsibility matters. But I also want them to understand just how much forgiveness matters. This is where I have been failing. 

The truth is I find it difficult to forgive those who still support Trump. And I get it. I understand why it’s the right thing to do. However it’s far easier to say the right thing than to do it. And let’s be honest, would you be able to forgive those who voted for Trump had he actually won? If you’re a Trump supporter do you forgive me? It’s much easier to forgive someone when you don’t have to sacrifice your pride. I recall that I wasn’t in a very forgiving mood four years ago. Maybe this is why so many of us refuse to accept the outcome? Not because we can’t accept reality but because we can’t forgive? It occurs to me that pride holds way more value in our society than honesty. It also occurs to me that I must swallow mine if I’m to forgive those I disagree. So let me do it. Let me say how truly sorry I am. Let me admit my shame publicly. 

4 years ago I didn’t vote. I’m not talking about the US election. I’m not American FYI. I’m talking about the Brexit referendum in the UK. I didn’t pay attention living here in Hong Kong. I naively assumed we would never leave the EU. I assumed I didn’t need to go through the trouble of voting. Then I watched in disbelief as we voted to leave. And then, as if to teach me the cruelest kind of lesson, I watched on as the rest of the world seemed to follow. A series of backwards political movements that followed me home, culminating in the loss of autonomy here in Hong Kong. A loss that has meant a genuine fear of what I can say publicly. A fear that now has me writing under a pseudonym. And now I watch on in horror as the very legitimacy of voting comes under attack in what might be one of most treacherous acts from a sitting president in the history of American democracy. All for the sake of fucking pride.

And it is pride that Trump has successfully used against me. He understood that pride can be used to stoke the fires of rage and hatred in my heart. In all our hearts. And he has. He’s made me angrier than any other politician, or indeed few other people, ever have. I believe this is the main reason I cried when I found out Biden won. There was a part of me that needed to be broken down. There still is. That needs to mourn the passing of a previous self. The part that thinks it’s somehow better than others. The part of me who is unwilling to forgive those for the same mistakes I’ve made in my own past. For being human. So for my arrogance, for my wilful ignorance, for ignoring the other side, for avoiding the difficult conversations and for my pride, I am deeply sorry. I will do better.

Let me finish by telling you about the shame I’ve felt since that period in my life 4 years ago. What I’ve learnt from it and why I’m owning it now. Shame is demonised in our society yet pride is glorified. I call bullshit. Pride is a means of avoiding shame. Often the very shame we need to feel in order to change – to become a better person. Shame isn’t the bugbear that everyone makes out. Of course you shouldn’t cling to it. You need to forgive yourself, but I believe you do need to feel it. You need to process it. Shame allowed me to really see the error of my ways. It allowed me to see why I must never take my freedom for granted ever again. Why I must protect it for my children. Shame has undeniably made me a better person. 

Of course I understand that pride has its place and that shame for the wrong reasons is very damaging, but if you asked me to swallow one and accept the other – if pride came in form of a red pill and shame in the form of a blue one (you’ll have to excuse my choice of colours) – I would swallow my pride. I would choose to feel shame. It’s by far the harder choice. It’s not hopeful or inspiring like pride is. It’s difficult. It’s brutal in fact, but it hurts because it’s meant to. That’s what makes you change. That’s what makes you a better person. Right now, if you care about freedom and democracy, at the very least, I believe you need to swallow the red pill as well. 

Thanks for reading everyone. I might have given you a bit too much to chew on there! I also appreciate many of you might have had your fill of politics recently… Still I’m curious to get your thoughts on the relationship between pride and shame. Do we use pride as a shield – as a way of avoiding shame? As a means to avoid reality even? What do you think? As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. And please don’t worry – all is forgiven.

***

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

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that forces you to accept the reality on your situation…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always, I’ve finished with 1 terrible joke that’s so bad, you won’t be able to help but laugh…

Let’s begin!


4 x Thoughts From Me:

What follows a generation who got things wrong is one that understands why they must not make the same mistakes. 

Don’t waste your life trying to punish those who wronged you. Don’t spend your life trying to prove yourself to those who doubted you. Instead spend your life proving yourself to those who always believed in you. Reward those who’ve always loved you. Those who were wrong about you don’t need to be told. They’ll know only too well when the time comes. 

3 simple rules to help you take full responsibility for your life. 1) Give up blaming (yourself or others). 2) Give up complaining (about life circumstances- esp that which is out of your control). 3) Give up excuses (apologise without condition. Make amends where you can and do better next time. Most importantly forgive yourself once you have.)

An exercise in critical thought: Write down your opinions on a subject exactly as you think them. However outlandish, just put it down on paper and argue your side. Then go about proving it wrong in every conceivable way. Do the research, find the facts and consider the opinions that contradict your argument. If that doesn’t change your mind to some degree then you, my friend, have your head stuck in the sand (or somewhere much worse).


3 x Quotes From Others:

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie the standards of thought) no longer exist.” – Hannah Arendt (Source: THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM.)

“Let’s point our curiosity at the people who anger us, even when ignoring them feels easier…let’s regrow our collective empathy and mend the tears in our social fabric.” – Jamil Zaki (Source: https://mindfulnessbits.wordpress.com/2020/10/26/inspirational-quotes-and-blogs-monthly-4/)

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”Anne Frank (Source: https://purplerays.wordpress.com/2020/10/26/how-wonderful-it-is/)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This brilliant Happiness Lab Podcast with Dr. Laurie SantosA Happier Election. In this episode ‘Dr. Laurie Santos talks to Niala Boodhoo from the news podcast Axios Today about the simple steps we can take to increase our well-being during stressful and uncertain times.’ Notes and quotes below.

  • Elections are historically fear provoking. The lymphatic nervous system is only meant to be active for a short while. ie. when you see a snake. It’s not designed to keep going over days or weeks at a time because of a pandemic, or this past week because of the election. It wasn’t built for the 24/7 news cycle.
  • How do we look after ourselves? Simple answer is to shut off the lymphatic nervous system. One way to do that is through your breath. Actually taking a really big belly breath signals to the opposite system – the rest and digest system – to kick in.
  • The second thing is remembering what you have control over. What you do have a say in, is how you react. You have a say as to whether you are doom scrolling all the time.
  • Go do the things that bring you joy. There is evidence that you will be able to think much more clearly – that you can problem solve better/more creatively if you are in a joyful state. It’s almost a civic duty to put yourself in a good frame of mind. That means going back to basics. Getting some sleep. Going for some exercise. Eating well. Those basics become much more important during a tough time. 
  • It’s very easy to get into the blame cycle at the moment. To blame others for their actions. For not being more considerate. It’s well proven that blaming others does not feel good. 
  • What feels good? Human connection. Feeling like you’re doing something nice for other people. . You can act empathic towards others. You can try to understand them. This is something you can control. It probably won’t change your political views but it can increase your compassion. 
  • How can we use technology to increase empathy? Empathy is very difficult to communicate using social media and the internet. It’s very difficult to read facial expressions and get a deep connection with people. We are short when we talk using social media. It takes time and effort and intention to convey what our hearts are saying.
  • If you see a post or political opinion from a friend or family member that you disagree instead of ignoring it or scrolling past, you could call them up and have a proper conversation. Narrative dialogue – sharing personal stories is a far more effective way to change minds. Or at least understand them. 
  • Another tip is something called psychological distancing. Where you think about how you will feel in a few months time. The likely hood is you will be much calmer about it all. It’s a great trick for reducing stress. Putting yourself in your future selves shoes. 
  • The danger we have now is we’ve gotten to the point where we don’t like the other side to the point that we are willing to hurt on them.We need to bring empathy and personal connections back to online interactions otherwise we will continue on this dangerous path. 

2 – This Mark Manson article: 5 Common Beliefs that Can Subtly Screw You Over. The article explores the critical subject of questioning your own beliefs. Make Manson singles out five common categories of belief errors that most of us fall victim to some degree or another. It’s well worth taking the 10 mins or so to read. I’ve left a few quotes from the article below.

“The antidote to this ego is simply accepting the fact that you might not know what you’re doing. There’s an old saying that the difference between an expert and an amateur is that the expert is aware of what they don’t know.

“In order to find meaning and purpose in our lives, we almost always have to do the opposite. We have to focus on simplifying. We have to cut out what’s not necessary, to end the addictive cycle of more consumption and more experiences. To pick a handful of pursuits and people and commit to them passionately.

“The point of goals is not necessarily to accomplish them. Most of the value in them is that they give you direction. They give you something to work towards and ways to improve yourself. The exact quantity of that improvement is less important.

“It’s important to develop an interest and capacity for self-improvement. But it’s also important to develop an interest and capacity in non-improvement. Ironically, every once in a while, the most useful thing you can do is not useful. It’s to just sit and play a video game, drink a beer, laugh with a friend, talk to your kid, read a book, fart and laugh about it. Then sleep a little too late and do it again.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

My son refused to get out of the bath tub before we put him to bed last night. Eventually we had to put our foot down. Unfortunately this resulted in an almighty tantrum. I’m talking screaming, kicking – the works!

After a prolonged battle my wife and I sat down with a glass of wine to calm our frazzled nerves.

I looked at her and said, “Unbelievable.”

She asked, “What?!”

I said, “That was just like trying to get Donald Trump out of the White House.”


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! 

Till next time… Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise you silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all: What beliefs are you holding onto that are no longer serving you?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays – 09/11/20

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that forces you to take your medicine with a spoon full of sugar…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always, I’ve finished with 1 terrible joke that’s so bad, you won’t be able to help but laugh…

Let’s begin!


4 x Thoughts From Me:

If you were completely at peace with who you are and where you’re at in life, you wouldn’t be thinking so much about yourself. In fact, beyond your basic needs, you wouldn’t be thinking about yourself at all. 

Ignorance is bliss… but only for you, for everyone else it’s miserable. That’s not to say ignorance is unforgivable. We’re all ignorant to a large degree. The important thing is not to be deliberately ignorant about matters that affect us all. Listen to the facts. Don’t simply choose to believe something so you don’t have to feel shame. Shame is a useful emotion designed to make you change. It works wonders. Don’t ignore it. Accept it. Process it. Then move on with the greater meaning and purpose that you have derived from it. 

People forget that our emotions are both our biggest weakness and our biggest superpower. What you need to do is understand them. And I’m not talking on an intellectual level. That’s easy. I’m talking about insight my friend. Insight is what you need. Insight will set you free. 

If you’re not talking to yourself as you would your own friends and family then perhaps you’re not showing yourself the love and compassion that you should? And if you are, perhaps you’re not being as honest with yourself as you should? (Side note: What a f***ing dichotomy of thought that is.)


3 x Quotes From Others:

“You don’t build self esteem by patting people on the back and telling them they’re wonderful. Confidence is a much more complex phenomenon that comes from experiencing one’s strengths in action.” – Rosabeth Moss Kanter

“There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” – Erin Hanson (Source: https://cristianmihai.net/these-5-quotes-changed-my-mindset-forever/)

“We are each responsible for our own life. If you are holding anyone else accountable for your happiness, you are wasting your time. You must be fearless enough to give yourself the love you didn’t receive. Begin noticing how each day brings a new opportunity for your growth. Pay attention. Every choice gives you a chance to pave your own road. Keep moving. Full speed ahead.” – Oprah Winfrey (Source: https://vrundachauk.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/taking-responsibility/)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This Brain Pickings article – 13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings – from one of my favourite bloggers Maria Popova. If you’ve not read her blog I can highly recommend you spend some time exploring. She’s a truly gifted writer. This article is well worth digesting with a cup of tea and bickies! I’ve quoted number 13 from her article below.

“In any bond of depth and significance, forgive, forgive, forgive. And then forgive again. The richest relationships are lifeboats, but they are also submarines that descend to the darkest and most disquieting places, to the unfathomed trenches of the soul where our deepest shames and foibles and vulnerabilities live, where we are less than we would like to be. Forgiveness is the alchemy by which the shame transforms into the honor and privilege of being invited into another’s darkness and having them witness your own with the undimmed light of love, of sympathy, of nonjudgmental understanding. Forgiveness is the engine of buoyancy that keeps the submarine rising again and again toward the light, so that it may become a lifeboat once more.”

– Maria Popova

2 – This YouTube video – Why Coronavirus Will Win Trump The Election – narrated by Stephen Fry. Just is case you haven’t made your mind up about who to vote for yet and just in case there was any doubt about who you really must vote for, well, give this a watch!


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

My dad sent me a picture of my mum stood next to a ginormous pumpkin that they happened upon in a local farmers market last week.

This thing was massive! It was wider than my mum is tall! Honestly I’ve never seen a pumpkin so big before in my life.

Anyway I thought for a second before replying, “Hey, if you carve Donald Trump’s face into that thing you’ll have a life sized replica!”

(Wait for it…)

“You could call it Trumpkin!”

(Just imagine the horror – 4 more years of this! Probably best we just throw it it out in November hey?)


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! 

Till next time…

Have a Happy Halloween Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

How can you give yourself a break today?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 19/10/20