Want

From a young age, we learn that want is a powerful force. Grabbing for toys, apple slices, candy… We get in touch with instant gratification long before we can ever understand how delaying our desires, or redirecting them, can often lead to much healthier, multifacted goals – priorities can be optimized and refocused!

But no matter how hard we try, no matter how we live our lives, it’s difficult to escape that primal feeling of want. as we get older, our desires become more diverse as well.. the smattering of chocolate bars throughout the week, the moccafrappuchinos that punctuate our day, the extra slice of pie after a satisfying meal are but taken for granted. They’re replaced by yearning for a bigger, thinner television, a faster car.. the list goes on. pushing the envelope. There’s balance in availability – how common it is, how many places it’s available, and the cost.. We often lust after things that are on the outside edge of our means.

Often this balances a further argument between perceived value vs personal connection – buying a Louis Vuitton bag because it’s a well recognized status symbol – the logo on the fabric carries a certain level of jealousy or respect from others that share in it’s value or desire. Sure, this won’t resonate with everyone, but that’s not the point. It creates a shared connection with those in that desired peer group who also hold it in high regard. This applies to fashion, cars, technology… Because often those same people – those with a real passion for various “things” tend to socialize with others who have that same desire. It’s a way for humans to externalize a shared connection with others.

Now don’t think that I’m standing on a soapbox, shaking my fist at the sky, ruing all the people who enjoy standing in a parking lot, the hoods of their Subaru’s open, drooling over each other’s cold air intakes – there’s value and genuine satisfaction in a shared hobby – but it should be approached with some sensibility and mindful engagement.

DatTruck

No, it’s not the Delorean.

Recently I came across a pickup truck that check all my boxes, so to speak. It’s the truck that Marty lusted after in the original Back To The Future movie, and has quite a cult following in regards to dependability, even over 30 years later. Probably why it is listed at $8,500. This truck is on the other side of the country, and had me daydreaming about flying out and driving it home.

Let’s think about this. We need to ask ourselves a few key questions:

  1. Why do I want this?
  2. Do I *need* this in any fashion? Why?
  3. Once I have this, what will change versus now, when I don’t have this?
  4. What feeling does this “thing” inspire?
  5. Is there any way to get this same sort of feeling without spending time, money, and stress in the process of acquiring of this “thing”?

The 4th (and perhaps the fifth) are the real keys to this line of reasoning, because they encapsulate the primary takeaway in this situation – a situation where I *don’t* get the thing, but still feel the satisfaction I’d have if I did.

A couple years ago I started working on a simple worksheet entitled “Simple Things: A Roadmap to Success”, and it’s got a couple columns labelled “Things that Make Me Feel Good/Bad” – I mention that some of the things that make me feel good, like watching clouds and drinking a hot cup of ginger tea, that I often forget about when I’m feeling bad. Note that it can take months of awareness and self honesty to fill out more than a few lines – and that’s ok! Don’t write anything that doesn’t instantly spring to mind, it won’t be genuine and won’t carry the gravitas you need this list to embody.

I’ll write up a full post on the entire worksheet, but since I mention it in the accompanying video below, I wanted to share it with you now, so you can get a head start on reading it, should it resonate with you – I’d also love to get some feedback on it, it’s something I’d like to work on, to expand on.

So, to wrap up, it’s ok to want things, it’s also ok to get things.. but understand what drives that want, and be honest with yourself as to the motivation behind it.. Often you’ll find that a nice warm hug gives you the same good feelings as sliding behind the wheel of a 30 year old pickup truck.

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Perception of Perfection

The world has always been temporary, our time here is but a blink of the eye – yet our society has only amplified the effect. We’re looking to replace our existing items, relationships, jobs with those that appear better. We’ve been served up a platter of apps, powered by the internet, to give into those basal desires.

Don’t like your car? Find a better one online! Don’t like your job? Apply to dozens with the click of a button! Don’t like your relationship? Swipe your way to a new one!!

Yet we’re all looking for the perfect situation – something that is perceived as having immense value, but available with the minimal amount of commitment, money, or effort.

Striving for that perfection is an endless pursuit.. No matter how shiny and new something is at first, time only serves to dull it’s patina; even if it’s something that doesn’t lose it’s value – potentially even getting MORE valuable with each sweep of the clock hands, it’s often equally easy to start to take it for granted. and seek out something new, strange and different.

Perfection

This applies to the ideal self as well. We often identify with the future self, hold them in such high esteem, that we life in that dream, eschewing the now to exist in this fantasy.

Now, if you want it, if you want anything, it’s possible. You just have to understand that it takes effort. And boatloads of it. You need to make compromises, sacrifices, and get back up over and over again each time obstacles in your path knock you off your feet.

Furthermore, the thing that we want so badly, the person who’s life, who’s relationship, who’s job, we desperately want to emulate.. It’s rarely all it seems, we never see the backstage, the flipside of the positive. Even products we see advertised rarely give us lasting satisfaction.. the reality, the flaws behind the curtain become all too real once we’ve finally attained what we yearn for.. And this only serves to disappoint, to act as a springboard towards the next fixation.

Here’s the takeaway. You’ll never be your future self, it’s always in the future, out of reach. Look at yourself in the mirror right now, and smile – who you are, right now, is your optimal self – you can’t be anyone other than who you are right now. Understand that your flaws are just as important as your strengths, and they make you who you are.

Life is difficult. We’re all struggling with something, and it’s just as important to us as it is different to what someone else is grappling with. Instead of seeing the flaws, the imperfect facets, look for the good – in yourself, and in others.

You never reach the destination. You’re always traveling, so get comfortable with the now – it’s all you’ve got.

Time, Money, and (in)dependence

Money and time create an interesting interplay. Although time is the only resource that we have in finite supply, we tend to invest a significant amount of it in frivolous pursuits – most bizarre since we also don’t know how much of it we have left! We can’t log into our life and check how much we have remaining.

Not only is this an unknown balance, but there’s equal constraints on how many hours a day we can healthily invest and balance between work, rest, play, sleep.. Prioritizing what we choose to spend our time on has immense impact on our quality of the life we lead. If we shirk sleep, exercise, and healthy head space in order to increase the time we log in other pursuits, the balance slowly teeters and creates instability.

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Whenever I’m looking at starting a new project, I burn energy and time in the passion that fuels the idea. Since I’m only human, like the rest of us, I always get excited about sharing this growth with those around me. I want to get others involved not only so that I can create a more cohesive result, but I want to ensure that when I’m burning out a bit, the aspects of fear and failure can be shouldered by others.. Someone else who’s equally committed to success is an invaluable ally in assisting on a project.. Because suddenly there’s extra hours available to further the direction without need to unbalance personal investment.

But what if they aren’t interested? Or worse, what if they initially express interest, but then fail carry their own weight – not being accountable in following up with their promises? Then their involvement flips from being an asset to an anchor.

This is one of the reasons why the concept of money exists. As a universal concept, it creates value through time/effort – effectively providing transactional incentive that makes up for the lack of passion. But it doesn’t replace it all together, and no amount of money can make up for genuine interest and engagement. But if you’re in the market of creating content, products, or even a new business – then you won’t have much money of your own to put into it, and here’s where the challenge lies – do you  look for people to help out, donating their precious time for free, who are satisfied by being co-creators? Or do you toss a bit of money their way and see what percolates?

I personally struggle a little with overcoming fear and failure, so try to infect others with my passions – and when it doesn’t work, it feels like the idea can quickly get forgotten on the backburner. Looking for alternative solutions that don’t involve spending cash – such as hosting a cowork space from my home, create solutions that endeavor to keep the pot where it belongs – heating up to a boil at the forefront of my attention.

Everyday Is A Gift

Every single day that passes is a unique series of moments, that will never repeat, ever again, in the entirety of time. Sounds pretty overwhelming, can you feel that pressure building in your solar plexus? Now fill that space in your chest with a deep breath, and release it slowly, and attach all that stress to the air leaving your body…

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– by Phạm Hữu Dư

There’s no pressure to be anyone you have to be other than who you are, right now. There’s no reason to do anything other than accept yourself, as in order to exist within this very moment, we need to be at peace with everything exactly as it is. Anything that distracts us from that feeling actually takes effort to maintain. If you surrender to the moment, fully, you’ll feel buoyant, yet anchored, in each moment. That giddiness is the elation of living authentically in each now as it passes onto the next.

We’ve all heard the age old mantra that everyday is a gift, and that each day we have the opportunity to begin anew. There’s only one thing about this that I’m not such a fan of, and that’s treating each day as a separate “existence”. Sure, it gives us the excuse, the power, to reinvent ourselves as we wake with the rising sun, but what about those days where we open our eyes feeling tired, sad, or hungover? Those days where the very act of getting our weary bones unfolded and out of bed is a near insurmountable chore? Are we to struggle haphazardly throughout the day, waiting for the promise of beginning anew tomorrow?

Here’s the thing – it never comes, and as much as the promise of renewal gives us hope, it equally dashes the existence of the dreary hum-drum days that often, realistically, populate the majority of our lives.

So what if each moment is treated as a new day? Each breath, each heartbeat, each “now” is an excuse to exist authentically in the now? This new perspective teaches that sort of mindfulness where even the most mundane day can be as beautiful as the sunny, warm, lazy ones at the beach?

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a personal day, but instead of dwelling in the guilt accompanied by not spending it as we should, instead we should simply bask in it’s unique existence, as we only get to experience a limited number of them in this precious gift called life – by adjusting our perspective, we suddenly change how we see everything – and that small shift is the most precious thing we have to appreciate, not just every day.. but every single moment.

 

 

 

Deliberance

I always abhor those articles that extol various life “hacks” that preach small effort techniques delivering huge results.

So it’s with trepidation that I share this advice with you, as it carries a similar message.. but it’s by no means a shortcut. It’s more a method to refocus your perspective on everything you do, which produces the result of keeping you in a mindful state.

Think about everything you do on a daily basis. No, not the tasks, work, or the “big picture” stuff: instead, I’m talking about the little things that fill in the gaps. When you’re walking, place each foot with deliberation, when you put a carton of juice away in the fridge, slot it into it’s place mindfully, don’t just drop it into place.

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Tightrope walking is a great example to apply to deliberate activity: each step is done with careful placement and purpose: balance!

The easiest task to try this activity is with the way that I got into meditation in the first place: washing the dishes (which is now one of my favorite activities). Pick up each plate carefully, slide it into the water with care. Each careful swipe with the sponge or cloth should be deliberate and done with attention to detail, with purpose. This behavior translates into rinsing, and placing each item into the rack. At first, all this effort will feel unnatural, perhaps even mentally taxing.. But as it becomes a measured, practiced effort, you’ll fall into a rhythm. You’ll start to appreciate the feel of the hot water on your hands, the suds running off the plate, the rainbows dancing in the soap bubbles, the lemony scent of the water.. This is what it is to be present in the moment, each moment.

As you start to understand the calm that these moments hold, you’ll catch yourself applying this same behavior to other banal tasks.. Each step you take, every keyboard key you type, the notes in the music that fill your ears: every activity will anchor you in each moment as it comes and goes.

It’s important not to let this active deliberation stress you out. It should use minimal effort. If you’re doing multiple things at once, let your attention drift from one activity to the next, taking delight in each as you dwell in it.

Mindfulness is not a chore, it’s a simple process of living purposefully. Not only will this sort of mindset improve your mood, but it will also create a sense of confidence, of conscious existence in the world that surrounds you.

Winding Up

When I talk to most people; friends and strangers alike, mornings are often a shared bone of contention  – It’s common to grumble and complain, and since it’s a common phenomenon, something to share with others in its distaste.

It’s easy to get into the habit of hiding under the covers, waiting until the last possible second before rushing through a shower, a hastily swallowed breakfast, then rushing out of the house to miss the bus or to waste more time trying to get the car started.

This process sets the tone for the whole day: arriving to work flustered, taking up to an hour to become focused. An attitude of always lagging behind that’s near inescapable. It doesn’t stop once we’re home either: often worrying about what we didn’t get done, and trying to shoehorn in as much relaxation as we can, going to bed way past our bedtime, or unable to sleep due to an inability to put our phones down.

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What if you could recapture your day, frame it in a positive light? Wind it up at your own pace?

There’s only so many hours of daylight, but chances are you are not using them all to the fullest. Waking up earlier gives you the flexibility and room to enjoy your morning. Get up, stretch for half an hour while you make a nice pot of tea or coffee. Sit on your mat and meditate, or in the rocking chair on the porch, hugging the mug in your hands and watching the sun rise.. A relaxed cadence sets your pace where instead of being behind, you’re ahead of your schedule, getting the chores, work, and tasks you need to on your own time.

Try just going to bed 10 minutes earlier, and waking up 10 earlier than you normally do. Then every week, wind it back another 10. 3 months from now you will have reclaimed 2 full hours of the day. It will take a few weeks not only to add sufficient time to your day to reap the rewards, but also to experiment with what sort of things you want to add to your new morning routine. Enjoy the process and set an unhurried pace.  What’s equally appealing about this process is that you’ll end up in bed much earlier, but you’ll find it much easier to wind down in the evenings after work – your quality of life will be better, you’ll leave more stress behind, and it will leave you relaxed.

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

I’m driving to see a client this morning, and I’m bubbling along happily in the right hand lane. Around me are other commuters, drivers – all of us travelers, but most are rushing around me, impatient to get to their destinations.

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I can’t assume, but I can only guess they are all running late, or otherwise just eager to be somewhere else than they already were.  Completely oblivious that their current presence in the now is inescapable – another great comparison to how many of us lead our lives. But this post isn’t just about the analogy to slow down and enjoy your life. I could wax philosophical about enjoying the cool breeze from your open window, the panoramic view of the clouds, the sun peeking out from behind a skyscraper..

But I’d rather be far more direct, simple, for you see, this post is one of those extremely rare ones where I’m urging you to do the bare minimum.

Go the speed limit. Do not exceed it. If you need to make it easier on yourself, or you have a lead foot, use cruise control (for most cars the minimum for this is 60kph). As you drive, pay attention to your breath, to the periphery of your vision – live in this space.

Listen to music if you wish, but my caveat here is that you must dance, sing along, and bounce to the beat. Enjoy your life, enjoy the now – it’s the only one you have.

As a caveat, I will admit I do enjoy driving in sports cars, even as a passenger, and I would be a hypocrite to say that it isn’t fun to drive a little fast (keep it safe folks!). But in those situations, driving is part of the experience – a Sunday ride on my motorcycle through a set of the local twisties or taking the top down on the convertible for a weekend away in wine country is completely acceptable and understandable. Here, the car and the company is integral to many as part in parcel with the destination – just be wary not to make it a habit in daily life.

Recognition and Value

I’ve got about ten days left until this cast comes off, and then I can enjoy the burgeoning springtime.. I’ve been re-prioritizing my time, figuring out how I can live more authentically once I’m mobile again.

One thing I’ve identified in myself is this need to be known, recognized. At first I attributed this to some sort of lifetime accomplishment that would allow me to live on posthumously, but now I realize it’s much more basic, and dwells somewhere much less grandiose: recognition from others. Not for anything in particular, just for me to have some sort of value to other people – to be relied on or needed in some regard.

Naturally, we all have a little of this built-in: as humans we share social spaces, living spaces, work spaces.. Unless we hermit ourselves in the forest and chop wood for a living (namely our living.. in Ontario you’d freeze to death otherwise!), we can’t really escape this requirement to “need” other people – But I’m referring to a deeper recognition. The value that others attach to our worth as individuals. Whether it’s feedback from our peers at work, management telling us we’re indispensable, or our friends and loved ones telling us how awesome we are as people – it’s normal to enjoy this attention, but sometimes I find that without this, I have less inherent worth. Now this only really rears it’s head in any severity if I’m travelling through a stint of depression, but for me, who is regularly in a state of general malaise, that destination is always one short stop away from any current location.

The “aha” moment came to me when I read this quote by Harbhajan Singh Yogi:

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Now while this quote doesn’t directly pinpoint the question at hand, as it deals with the reaction of others as their issues versus those of our own worth, I ended up resonating as if I was the other person – Not only that, but I immediately assumed the behavior in question was poor in nature – I was the one who was troubled, and perhaps projecting that state of disturbance onto others.

Instantly concluding that the quote referred to someone reacting negatively towards me is one thing, but actually identifying as that person who’s behaving badly is one further step towards the realization that my internal value scales are well out of alignment when weighing my self value.

I’ve known in the past that poor self confidence has been a struggle for me, but I’m constantly amazed at the number of paths and ways that I end up back at this same conclusion. Sure, it’s easy and “obvious” to see the value is self-respect, but for many, changing this value from a 0 to a 1 isn’t all that simple as it is in binary terms.

On a journey from black to white, expect there to be plenty of grey: change doesn’t happen overnight, and a small setback can’t become the unforgettable pea under the mattress.. it’s just a bump in the road. As long as self-worth becomes the cornerstone, a non-negotiable priority in all situations, positive change will manifest.

Conscious vs Unconscious – Active Existence

At the end of February, I broke my ankle. It was a bad break, and it has left me to run my empire from the couch. One thing it has rather painfully reminded me of is that we cannot take anything for granted: our mobility, our independence, can be whisked away at a moment’s notice.

This also prompted me to re-evaluate conscious existence: how much of your day passes without creating any sort of meaningful memories? How often do you find yourself daydreaming, or in autopilot? How many hours are your thoughts racing without any result or direction?

Don’t panic if you often find large chunks of your day disappear without much conscious involvement. It’s actually so common that it’s considered normal. We always seek some sort of “break” from our mundane, day-in, day-out activities – some sort of distraction. Yet the departure we seek is often unreachable, or rather the state of relaxation and peace we seek feels unsatisfying. This is because we are looking to escape..from escape.

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You can’t escape a life that you aren’t consciously  engaged in. Without active living there’s no escape.. but what you’ll find, if you grab life head on, that suddenly you don’t want to run away.. because you know those little moments? When you pour a fresh cup of coffee, the steam swirling a pungent cloud into your nostrils, when you hear the first few notes of a song from your rebellious youth, when you bite into a fresh croissant as you walk from one meeting to the next? That’s what makes life worth living, makes existence so sweet. And why would you want to run away from those?

So, as you go about your daily schedule today, start consciously  appreciating the small things. Even if you have to book an appointment with yourself.. Try sitting on a park bench, closing your eyes, opening your ears, your nose, and live within that moment. It might take a few repeat sessions, but you’ll get hooked on life – I promise.

1,2,3 Rule

There’s so many tasks that we procrastinate on, that we pass by to do “later”. I recently read an article about something called the “1,2, 3” rule, and as I absorbed it’s instructions, I found it to be pretty silly.

The basic premise is that when one of those simple chores pops up, one we’d normally dismiss, instead of procrastinating, instead of making an excuse, we vocalize the phrase “1, 2, 3, Go!” and then do it.

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See? Sounds pretty silly. But it’s simple enough that I figured I’d at least give it a shot.

You know what? It works. Since implementing the rule, the trash gets taken out on time, the puppy hair gets swept before it’s clustered in nests around the table legs, and the coffee grounds don’t have time to pile up on the espresso machine.

I think the effectiveness is connected with the habit – becoming aware of when we are procrastinating on a task is the hinge to birthing the 1,2,3 habit. Vocalizing it gears us up, mentally, to get it started. And since it’s such a small thing, it’s completed before we get distracted.

Lazy Sundays (it’s even raining here today!) are an idea time to relax on the couch, watch a movie, and veg out. When you’re heading to the kitchen to grab a snack, keep your eyes open for a quick chore you might have been putting off, and 1, 2, 3, get it done. Netflix will wait for your return