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:
“Live in day-tight compartments”– Live in the moment. There’s no point in living with regret about yesterday or worry for tomorrow.
“Don’t cry over spilt milk” – You can’t change what’s happened. Only pick up the pieces and move forward. Forgive and forget.
“Pay Rapt Attention”– Meditate daily and show a keen interest in your daily activities and conversations. Stay in the moment and participate fully.
“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.
“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.
“Be Yourself” – Imitation is suicide. Be your best self and embrace your uniqueness.
“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.
“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.
“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!
“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.
“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!
“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.
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that forces you to make resolutions you can’t possibly meet.
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.
4 x Thoughts:
1) You have to stop pouring water in your glass if you want to drink from it.
2) Concentrate on improving your routine – the actions that you take everyday. This is far more important than achieving any goal.
3) As a rule: The more needs or wants a person has, the unhappier he or she is.
4) A period of reflection does more for the soul than sitting down to outline 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. It’s through this deeper reflection that we derive the most insight. Then it’s from those lessons that the goals we really want to chase after become clear. Those goals becoming, in turn, an expression of your true values. An expression of the things that make you feel whole. That make you feel integral.
3 x Quotes:
“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
2 x Things:
1) This Mark Manson article: 1,273 People Share Their Best Life Lessons from 2020. Mark collated a series of the most common lessons learnt from his readers after asking them the question, “What have been your biggest lessons from 2020?” It’s about a 20 minute read but well worth your time. I’ve listed my favourite 3 lessons below:
You Only Really Know Who You Are When Everything Is Taken From You
A Crisis Doesn’t Change People; It Amplifies Who They Already Are
Most Things Are Both Good and Bad at the Same Time
Discipline is superior to motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting. You won’t be able to accomplish great things if you’re only relying on motivation.
Cultivate a reputation for being dependable. Good reputations are valuable because they’re rare (easily destroyed and hard to rebuild). You don’t have to brew the most amazing coffee if your customers know the coffee will always be hot.
Selfish people should listen to advice to be more selfless, selfless people should listen to advice to be more selfish. This applies to many things. Whenever you receive advice, consider its opposite as well. You might be filtering out the advice you need most.
Defining yourself by your suffering is an effective way to keep suffering forever (ex. incels, trauma).
Keep your identity small. “I’m not the kind of person who does things like that” is not an explanation, it’s a trap. It prevents nerds from working out and men from dancing.
To start defining your problems, say (out loud) “everything in my life is completely fine.” Notice what objections arise.
Sometimes unsolvable questions like “what is my purpose?” and “why should I exist?” lose their force upon lifestyle fixes. In other words, seeing friends regularly and getting enough sleep can go a long way to solving existentialism.
Human mood and well-being are heavily influenced by simple things: Exercise, good sleep, light, being in nature. It’s cheap to experiment with these.
You have vanishingly little political influence and every thought you spend on politics will probably come to nothing. Consider building things instead, or at least going for a walk.
Bad things happen dramatically (a pandemic). Good things happen gradually (malaria deaths dropping annually) and don’t feel like ‘news’. Endeavour to keep track of the good things to avoid an inaccurate and dismal view of the world.
1 x Joke:
I’m happy to report that this year we gave 2020 the send off that it deserved! That’s right ladies and gentleman, we were in bed by 9:30.
Before that, however, we managed to have a wee party with close relatives. Of course it wasn’t a New Year’s Eve party so much as a “Truck Off 2020 party.”
Why “Truck Off” you ask?
Well, as I explained to my family, all you have to do is ask my 2 year old son to say it! Because he struggles to pronounce the “tr” sound in truck, when he says “Truck Off 2020,” he means it!
Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! I sincerely hope you had a wonderful New Years Celebration! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know below.
One bonus question to finish:
What’s the biggest lesson that you can implement from 2020?
I don’t care much for New Year’s Resolutions. The idea of sitting down to make a list of things I must or must not do. Frankly it makes me want to jam a pen in my eye. (Which would, incidentally, be less painful than watching as I inevitably fail to stick at any of them.)
My feeling is the exercise is more about indulging false hopes than it is about setting specific, measurable goals. Where we end up writing out these fairy-tale type lists. Where we say that this year we’re finally going to become the perfect version of ourselves – the person we were always meant to be.
Instead of coming to terms with who we actually are and the hand we’ve been dealt. Instead of appreciating what we have and accepting what currently is. Instead of taking stock and reflecting on the painful lessons of the previous year.
Instead, we make the same mistake by charging head first into the new year – setting our expectations sky high and then… BAM!
2020 smacks us in the face with a baseball bat (or a cricket bat if you’re British).
The question then becomes, what’s left?
What’s left when your identity as a super high-achieving what-the-fuck ever comes crashing down to earth? (Side note: terrible pun for a pilot.) When all your goals, aspirations and plans go out the window faster than a teenage boy climaxes? (Side note: just terrible.) When your partner leaves you? When your career is left in tatters? When close relatives or friends pass away? When your own health deteriorates and you become wholly dependant on others?
That’s what’s happened hasn’t it? For so many of us this year. It’s forced us to ask some very difficult questions. To come to terms with difficult life circumstances out of our control. To think deeply about our relationships and our careers. About the values that define us.
In my eyes that’s what this time of year should be about. Not about how you’re going to have a rippling 6 pack or a fat bank account. But about reflection. Looking deeply at both how you have lived up the values you say you hold dear and in what ways you have failed. And then from there, looking to course correct. Using the valuable lessons of the past year to steer your ship.
Goals are then meant to be an expression of those values. Of who are at your core. The version of yourself that makes you feel whole. That makes you feel integral. They should change throughout your lifetime as you evolve. They should move depending on your unique life circumstances.
Goals are, at the end of the day, simply something to shoot at. The results of which matters far less than the process – than the the actions that you take everyday. That define you as a person. That are based on an increasingly clear set of values or overarching principles that have strengthened over time. That help to keep your head above the water when all else fails. When shit hits the fan and all you’re left with is a fat waistline and zero dollars in the bank (thanks again 2020).
But here’s the trick that nobody taught you. The moment you tell yourself in absolute terms you have to do something, you’re going to resent doing it. You’re going to hate it. A bit like telling yourself you can’t have sex until you get married – you’re going to be thinking about it your whole life until you do. Not only are going to hate doing or not doing that thing, you will become tied to it. Your self worth will become entirely dependent on whether or not you stick to that resolution or achieve that goal. And if you fail, well, you’ll probably feel like jamming a pen in your eye.
The truth is you don’t have to do anything. With the exception of breathing, sleeping and eating, you don’t have to do shit (ok you have to do that as well but you get the point). Nor should you think in those terms. It’s like Troy said in his previous post, the language you use matters. You don’t have to write in a gratitude journal. You get to. You don’t have to be part of saving the planet for our children. You get to be. You don’t have to eat your vegetables or go for a run at 5am (you definitely don’t have to do that). You get to live a healthy lifestyle.
So what’s the only new year’s resolution you’ll ever need to make. Simple. Don’t have one. That way the habits you want to form might actually stick. That way they won’t matter so much if they don’t. After all tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow, thankfully, is another year.
Thanks for reading everyone! I wrote this post for Pointless Overthinking yesterday. Thought I’d share with you on here as well. As always I’m curious to get your thoughts. Resolutions – yes or no? Are specific measurable goals the way to go instead? What about being clear about our values? As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. I hope you all had a wonderful New Years Day.
“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.
Hope without action is dangerous.
If you can’t act you must accept.
Acceptance is something you must practise.
Honesty is the ultimate form of kindness.
Honesty has to be the gold standard by which we measure our leaders.
Protecting our freedoms means protecting the truth.
The truth is hard. Avoiding it is harder.
The truth is more important than your emotions.
Freedom and responsibility are synonymous
Think as one. Always assume a position of collective responsibility.
You are either being racist or anti-racist. There is no such thing as “not racist.”
No black. No white. Only grey.
We must embrace our demons.
It’s ok to cry (especially as a man).
Looking after yourself = looking after others.
Happiness does not exist without gratitude.
A question for clarifying motivation: Am I doing this because of love or fear?
The other side of shame is a better person.
Better is better than perfect.
Routine has everything to do with developing a growth mindset.
Enthusiasm increases intelligence.
Success is what you alone define.
Spirituality = Awareness
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
“It’s not the existence of beliefs that is the problem, but what happens to us when we hold them rigidly, without examining them, when we presume the absolutely centrality of our views and become disdainful of others.”
– Sharon Salzberg
“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.”
– law of propaganda attributed to Nazi Joseph Goebbels
As part of my selfless crusade to solve all the world‘s problems by doing nothing except have an opinion (how very middle white class of me), this week I thought I’d tackle the issue of why, exactly, so many of us are still prepared to trust such a prolific lier. Also why, exactly, honesty seems to hold the equivalent value of a broken condom in today’s society. As a bonus I thought I’d tell you all what, exactly, we need to do about it. You’re welcome! (Ok not exactly but ball park… ish)
Now you all remember the fable of the boy who cried wolf right? The boy who lies repeatedly, who consequently loses the trust of his fellow villagers? So much so that the day he actually tells the truth no-one believes him and so, as the story goes, the whole village gets fucked?
Now it would be unfair to lay all the blame at the feet of the boy who cried wolf, but the fable is more about the message for our children. And indeed Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is a small part of what I believe to be a much bigger problem. That is a society which has increasingly pandered to our Neolithic emotions for sake of clickbait. One in which the powerful algorithms that sit behind the other side of our screens (like the very one you’re reading now) – designed purely to keep us attached to said screens – feed us only the articles, opinions and beliefs we want to hear. Add all of this to a global pandemic and it appears we’ve found ourselves in the midst of the perfect shit storm. One in which people don’t know up from down anymore!
All of these issues have put a supercharger on a fundamental problem to do with the human condition. That is our propensity to look for the things we want to believe while ignoring everything else. Put another way, our propensity to love the smell of our own bullshit but hate the smell of anyone else’s. What the modern world has done is make it eminently easier to confirm our bullshit smells great, without having to go through the pain of smelling anyone else’s. (I mean, it just smells so good right?)
Anyway if I want to believe that global warning, the pandemic and recent election results are all part of some radical left wing plot by a satanic underground pedophile ring (that happens to be the Democratic Party) working to overthrow our lord and saviour Donald Trump, then I can. I can live in that world. I can easily find the sordid dark corners of the internet that will confirm it. In fact the algorithms will quickly realise that this is what gets me off and feed me that information. So all my social media channels and the like can help me mentally masterbate over my strongly held beliefs 24/7, 365 days a year.
I used to think the majority were immune from being so blatanly radicalised online but I’ve seen more and more of it in recent years. Even among friends and family. Even in my profession – one heavily driven by math and science!
Now there isn’t a single pilot in the world who believes the earth is flat. And should you find one I suggest you get off that plane toot sweet! (That is, unless, you also believe the earth is flat, in which case all I’ll say is, “Godspeed old chap.”) Why? Well, to state the obvious (like the earth is round), it’s because we have observed it first hand. Everything we’ve been taught as pilots is backed by everything we have observed as pilots. We know categorically that it simply isn’t true. Of course if we did believe it, well, our identity as pilots would coming crashing down to earth – hard! (Pun fully intended).
That said there are a number of pilots (more than I care to admit) who believe that global warming is a hoax. Greta Thunberg, for one, is not a popular lady in my line of work. I always end up asking these colleagues of mine the following question – it’s pretty convenient for a pilot to believe his or her choice of profession does nothing to harm the planet don’t you think?
Of course that’s what I want to believe too. The same way I want to believe that eating Bambi actually helps the rainforest grow (hmmm delicious and environmentally friendly). I don’t want to confront the ways in which my lifestyle choices have undeniably and aggressively contributed to the problem of global warming. I don’t want to face that shame. But I must. We all must. We cannot afford to pick and choose the science that fits the narrative we want to believe. I think it’s high time we all grow the fuck up and eat our vegetables (like what I did there?). Of course that’s very difficult to do if we stop believing vegetables are actually good for us.
So how do we safeguard against rampant disinformation, smear campaigns, powerful clickbait algorithms, media networks who place the same value on integrity as they do the toilet paper they wipe their asses with, and a certain orange twat with a twitter feed? Well we certainly shouldn’t hope for any of that to change soon. No. What I believe we need to do is become more aware as individuals. We need to understand that ALL OF US are extremely susceptible to believing whatever it is we want to. That we are always looking for the things that confirm our extremely narrow minded view of the world. That confirms our bullshit smells great.
A good way to guard against this is to start with the assumption that what you believe is, in fact, bullshit. To make sure you go through the pain of questioning your own beliefs regularly. To find the information that challenges you to think differently (and also fact check the shit out of anything you do read). Look for the evidence that supports the other side. Go deep. Learn HOW to think not WHAT to think. This is what a good education teaches you to do.
This is important because people who know how to think understand they know far less than they could ever possibly hope to know in single lifetime about anyone subject. They understand there is no black and white – only a sea of grey (or maybe brown). For this reason they don’t hang tightly onto their undeniably limited views of the world. They are also willing to keep said mind open to other possibilities and viewpoints that question or contradict their previously held beliefs. They remain open to the possibility that they are wrong (because they probably are). More importantly though they understand the need to place their faith in the experts of their respective fields.
There’s something else that’s worth bearing in mind. We as a society (hate to break it to you) care more about our emotions than the truth. Ultimately this is the biggest issue of all. Until we start making the truth our top priority, until we start protecting it, until we start worshipping it like it’s our God… Until we start making honesty one of our most important values, we are fucked. It is time, ladies and gentlemen, to wake the fuck up and do so. To face reality for it is. Not only our own but that of the world. That is, that Global warming is not a hoax but the earth is, in fact, flat! You can trust me as a pilot of course – I’ve nearly flown of the edge several times…
Rant complete – thanks for reading everyone. As always, if it wasn’t abundantly clear, my writing requires a pinch of salt.StillI’d appreciate your complete honest opinions on the matter below. Also if you happen to think my shit stinks please say so. Even if it hurts I want to know so that I may feed myself a more wholesome plant based diet – so my shit can stink that little bit less. My feelings are NOT more important than the truth. Wishing you all the very best, AP2 🙏
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that provides you with 90% protection from COVID19…
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…
4 x Thoughts From Me:
The problem with regret is that it takes you away from the present moment. Yet that’s exactly where all the opportunities lie to put things right.
We are not the labels we place on ourselves. For example no one is successful. It’s simply something you enjoy for a moment before it‘s gone. Learning to simply be is one of life’s most important skills for this reason. It allows us to see what we truly are.
In a world where people are so afraid of what others think of them, honesty will take you far.
I believe we all instinctively know what is right and when we have failed to live up to our own values. We just need to be brave enough to feel our ‘own’ shame when we’ve fallen short. We need to process it and then move on a better person. But there has to be a willingness from the individual to feel that shame. When that shame is placed on us by society it twists us. So we resist it – we repress it. Individuals ultimately act in accordance with how others do, not in accordance with what they are told. We are a society that loves to say the right thing without doing it. We need be one that does the right thing, with no need to say it.
3 x Quotes From Others:
“Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” – C.S. Lewis
“No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.” – Seneca
“I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” – Booker T. Washington
2 x Things That Helped Me Grow
1 – This interesting video: How Trump Has Divided America by cognitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian who explains why using something called Terror Management Theory. He goes onto explain how we can begin to bring people together using a scientific and spiritual world view called The Cosmic Perspective. It’s well worth a watch!
How to increase gratitude? Write a gratitude letter for someone. It’s deeper than a thank you note. You are thanking someone important in your life for helping you or for being an important role model.
Another thing to create greater happiness is to write in a gratitude journal. Both have benefits but the longer term habit of a gratitude journal will have more enduring benefits.
How to apologise to someone? If you want it to be accepted you have be sincere. You have to acknowledge your wrong doing. (ie. not saying – I’m sorry you feel that way or I’m sorry you got offended). There needs to be a commitment to improve. From economic perspective it has to be costly for the apologiser. You make a commitment of some kind. If I do this again I will. Or I will do this to make up.
The value of an apology is not just to cleanse you conscious or to make the other person feel better. The idea is more to repair and then grow the relationship. From an economic perspective then an apology is a great thing because it creates a future benefit.
Why people fail to apologise? 3 main reasons. You have a low concern about the victim of the relationship. You don’t care. You have a perceived threat to your own self image. That you are going to look bad. You have a perception that the apology won’t be effective. You think it’s too late.
If you can think of 3 things to be grateful for every day perhaps it is also worth thinking about one thing you can take responsibility for? Have a forgiveness or apology section and add that to your gratitude journal – something to say you’re sorry for and what you are going to do to make amends.
1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:
Struggling for a good (terrible) joke this week folks so thought I’d leave you with another comic that made me chuckle. Hope you enjoy.
Thanks ladies and gentlemen. Till next time… Have a Happy Monday Everybody!
P.S. Don’t forget to exercise you silly muscle this week!
A couple of bonus questions for you all: What is something you can apologise for today? What is something you can forgive?
(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.)
If you value the rights that millions have died for, vote.
If you value the planet that we live on, vote.
If you believe in living a life of greater purpose and meaning, vote.
If you believe in securing a better future for your children, vote.
If you believe in looking after one another, vote.
If you care for those who have lost their lives this year, vote.
If you believe in honesty, compassion, kindness, responsibility, love… vote.
Look your children in the eyes and ask yourself, what’s in their best interest – really dig deep. Ask yourself what is best for them, for your fellow Americans, for your fellow humans.
Really ask yourself the question.
Because if you really love them you cannot, in good conscious, vote for the person that will hurt them. Don’t let pride form your narrative. Forgive yourself for any and all past mistakes. Make amends by putting yourself on the right side of history. It is never too late to do what’s right.
It was late the other night that my wife told me about her sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things she sets herself to do – of always feeling pushed to do things – of feeling “the need” to do things – that she sometimes feels driven by an underlying sense of ‘not good enough.’
I paused to take in what she was saying, before climbing into bed next to her.
She’s certainly not alone, I thought. I knew those feelings well. I suspect those feelings are probably shared by the vast majority of young professionals driven by certain expectations of society, of their parents, of their conditioning to be the best version of themselves.
As I responded, in one of my rare moments of clarity, I remembered a question that I wrote down from a podcast I heard a few weeks ago. It’s something I’ve asked myself repeatedly since, as a way to guide my actions , especially when I’ve felt a strong resistance to them – like my perceived need to keep up with my own work.
The question was this:
“Am I making this decision because of love or fear?”
– Dr Vivek Murthy
I felt it was such an insightful way of asking yourself why or why not you should do something – whatever that may be – as you go about your day. The more I contemplated it over the following weeks, the more I realised how powerful it was as a guiding force in keeping the values I hold close to my heart, clear in my mind. After all, I believe all our feelings and actions are driven, on a basis level, by one of these two underlying emotions. This question is a great way of bringing to light, exactly which one of these two emotions is driving your actions at any particular moment.
Am I doing this because of love or fear?
As I climbed into bed I asked my wife what her motives are for doing (she’s a yoga teacher FYI) what she’s been doing? Is it because she believes strongly in the cause, to help others, or does she feel pushed to perform, to be better because of some perceived need to prove something to others or, indeed, herself? Is it from, on some level, a feeling of inadequacy, of not being good enough as she is right now?
I went on to explain something that dawned on me about why my own motivation towards work had stalled so many times in the past.
I never felt good enough. I was scared what others thought. I was scared that I would underperform and not be seen as good enough in the eyes of my coworkers. I was so scared of ‘being found out’ for who I thought I was. Of confirming a long help belief – a false one – that I wasn’t good enough. The same has been true of my writing.
Thinking back it’s no wonder my motivation died. It’s no wonder when I sat down to do the work I needed that it was such an enormous struggle. It felt like walking through quick sand as I ploughed ahead while fighting the stress, anxiety and sometimes, full blown depression, that had consumed my heart.
If only someone had shouted, “you are good enough you fool – you know this – you’re just doing it for the wrong reasons!!”
Alas, I know that wouldn’t have helped. True insight and understanding has to come from within and that takes time. It has taken years to grow in my heart. It still is.
LOVE AS MOTIVATION FOR WORK & LIFE
The last six months – since the world of aviation has been brought to its knees because of the coronavirus pandemic – have given me, like countless others, plenty of time to reflect.
With regards to work I have come to realise that framing my motivations, to be clear that they are coming from a genuine place of love, is what I need to do. Whipping myself into shape doesn’t work in the longer term. It’s too hard.
As I explained to my wife, when I sit down to prepare for work, for a flight or simulator check, whatever it may be, the question I have started asking is, am I preparing from a place of fear or love? And, if I am feeling fearful, what is it that I’m really afraid of? Why am I doing what I am? If it’s because I feel the need to prove something, then I know I’m coming from the wrong place.
Of course preparing so you don’t fuck up in such a way that the flight ends in catastrophe is one way to think about things. Ultimately that’s our goal – Safety absolutely, rightly, comes first. However there’s a big difference between preparing or working from a place of all consuming fear, versus love. Even if you still feel fearful, if you’re coming from a place of genuine love, that will give you strength to carry on. To stare down the eyes of the beast.
I relayed some of those loving motives, as they applied to me in my work, to my wife.
To honour and protect my fellow crew members whom I owe it to perform at my best as I know they are. To do my best for every single passenger we transport – to make sure they arrive at their destinations – that they make it home safely to their loved ones. To remember I am providing for my own family through this job – that gives us everything we need to live a happy, healthy and secure life. To remember I love myself – self preservation because I want to be alive – so I can be around for my family and friends. So my wife has a husband to love her. So my son has a father to lead him.
There’s something else at this moment in time too.
Although there isn’t a huge amount of flying to go around at the moment – I realised the small amount there is, is an opportunity to be part of something, to help in a way most others around the world can’t. To help bring the few people who need to travel for very urgent reasons. To help bring critical supplies, medical or otherwise, to areas of the world who desperately need it. To help the world keep turning to some degree at a time when it has all but ground to a halt! It’s a gift to be able to do something more than simply stay at home during this pandemic. I know millions of others would give a lot for the opportunity to do the same. It’s something to be extremely grateful for.
While these might seem like obvious motivations, I can tell you they are easily lost, or have been for me at least, in a profession so heavily driven by perfectionism – to prove your competency, and that you know everything there is to know. The pressure to prove yourself isn’t part of the the job I relish.
Yet, when I allowed myself to think in these terms, I found myself itching to get back into the righthand seat for the first time in a long time. To be a larger part of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic – even if that means I only get to fly a single sector. I want to help in any way I can. Through my wiring and my profession.
I now realise just how important it is to remind myself of my real motives when I feel anxious, especially when plagued by self-doubt, to help refocus the mind and bring me back to the present.
Am I doing this because of love or fear?
As I relayed these thoughts to my wife that night, it was interesting to hear that for the charity classes she had been organising, from which she earned not a penny, she had felt none of this resistance. She believed in the cause strongly, for a number of reasons including bringing people together from their homes at this difficult time globally. So they too could do something more than just sit at home – to contribute to charities in need, while showing love to themselves. A beautiful act of self-compassion extending outwards.
It’s obvious isn’t it? She had been acting from a place of love and the motivation for doing so was effortless.
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 actually 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 YOU FEAR 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.”
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!
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 THIS WERE MY LAST DAY 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 BE 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 SOME 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.’
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 son – laughing and playing with him 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.
(As always I welcome ALL opinions on this blog. If you have any other tips about crafting the ultimate to-do list I’d be very keen to hear from you in the comments section below! Thank you all so much for reading!)
“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.”
When we voted in men we know lied to obtain their positions, what were we really saying?
Did we vote in the way we did because we refused to acknowledge our previous mistakes?
Will we vote the same way because we don’t have the balls to admit we were wrong?
Let me be more blunt.
What the shitting fuck has happened that we allow a man who almost only talks in complete bullshit to remain in office? Who is actively and openly preventing others from accessing the truth?
What the fuck has happened to our values?
When did freedom of speech become the freedom to lie your fucking ass off without repercussion?
You know that boy who cried wolf – who caused the death of all those villagers? Shall we vote him into power?
Great fucking idea.
Should we protect freedom of speech? Yes, of course we should. We should even protect the right to lie. But to allow people – the president of the United States none the fucking less – to lie without consequence?
What the fuck are we teaching our children?
How can we as a democratic society be ok with a man who actively seeks to prevent people from accessing the truth? This is a heinous crime.
I’m sorry for my anger and I’m sorry if you’re offended, but the truth is far more important than your ego. Actually I’m not sorry, fuck your ego. (I say that with love. I really do.)
To ask difficult questions means to confront some difficult truths.
Here are a few.
Democracy isn’t failing.
It’s not the republicans or the democrats fault. It’s not the presidents fault.
It’s our fault.
We together are all responsible. Regardless of whether you voted for that man or not.
Somewhere along the way we stopped trying to understand the other and it became a game of us against them.
In that moment we all lost.
That policeman who killed George Floyd. Who do you think is responsible for his death?
We. All. Are.
None of our hands are clean.
So long as we continue on our path of accumulating wealth while others starve.
So long as we continue to rape the planet will while we sit eating imported steak dinners simultaneously discussing how bad it is for the environment then joking how delicious it is.
So long as we sit quietly while someone with strong opinions talks about how our Black/Hispanic/Chinese/Female coworkers are less able. You know, the type of person who opens a sentence by saying, “I’m not racist but… I’m about to say something very fucking racist.
So long as we continue to think in terms of us vs them instead of a collective we. So long as we keep looking at each other as the enemy. So long as we allow those who we hate to be people we hate. We’ve lost.
I’m ashamed to say I’m guilty of all theses things.
You’re a hypocrite then? Is that what you’re telling us?
Yes. Yes I am. Absolutely. Both hands in the air.
I’m a pampered middle class white man who has enjoyed the privilege without even knowing it. My ignorance has been a disease. In no small way the colour of my skin has been an advantage that allowed me to succeed ahead of others who I’ve no doubt are more qualified, more intelligent and harder worker than I will ever be. All because I’m white and they’re not.
You know what. I don’t welcome it. It’s made me weak and I don’t welcome it. I honestly don’t welcome the easy life I’ve had.
I want a level playing field. And on it I want to compete with all my brothers and sisters regardless of background, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference. I want to embrace them at the end. Win, lose or draw. I want them to challenge me – to be able to really challenge me, so I can grow.
Do you think the athletic world benefited from allowing black people to openly compete with white people? Of course it did. Why the fuck don’t we think that true equality wouldn’t benefit us all? Of course it fucking will.
It will make ALL OF US STRONGER.
You see what we did when we marginalised and made groups of people unable to compete with us on the same level playing field? We made ourselves weaker. We made ourselves weaker because we made it easier for us by making it impossible for others.
Now we’re so fucking weak that equality feels like a burden. It feels like sharing wealth and opportunity is an affront to our being.
I’m wrong. My way of living is wrong. I’m so far from what is right it hurts. But you know what. I’m willing to admit it. Are you?
Are you willing to say I’m wrong or is your ego too fucking precious? We should all be encouraging each other everyday to openly say I am wrong and ask the question, how can I be less so?
Quite frankly if you don’t have the balls to admit you’re wrong, you’re a coward.
Is this making you uncomfortable? I hope so. It’s making me uncomfortable. Which is why I know it’s where I must go. If you’re uncomfortable it’s because I’m challenging your beliefs.
THATS A GOOD THING EVEN IF IM WRONG.
Let’s have the discussion. Let’s have the conversation. Let’s try to understand each other. Let’s move closer together.
And let’s stop giving power to those who aren’t willing to do the same.
Please, I bet of you, for our children’s sake. Let’s value our fucking values again.
(As always I welcome ALL comments and opinions. This is just me venting. Please don’t think I would ever direct that at you. I’m simply trying to get myself to wake up to the ways I can be better.)