Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Tap into Your Genius by Optimizing Your Mental and Emotional States

If there was a mental and emotional state that improved your creativity, your ability to think rationally, analytically, and critically, and as a result improved your cognitive performance, would you be interested in getting to know it and doing your best to get into it?

In my experience, there’s such a state. It is equanimity and mental clarity. To me, both of those states are the two sides of the same coin. Equanimity results in mental clarity, and mental clarity causes equanimity.

My mind works best in the absence of intense emotions and distracting thoughts. To me, this is what equanimity and mental clarity are all about.

How to Reach Equanimity and Mental Clarity

Equanimity and mental clarity require silence and relaxation. Noise and stimulation interfere with them. We need to sacrifice the external and internal obstacles to reach those states.

External obstacles to equanimity and mental clarity are obvious. These are the distractions in our lives. Here’s a short list of them.

  • Noise,
  • TV, radio, and distracting music in the background,
  • Substances like caffeine, alcohol, and so on,
  • Unhealthy food choices, overeating, heavy or stimulating foods,
  • Distraction through unnecessary Internet usage,
  • Newspapers, magazines, and so on,
  • Inessential communication and relationships with others,
  • Unnecessary objects in your environment, a messy environment.

The list goes on, but we can summarize it as everything inessential.

Internal Obstacles

Internal obstacles to equanimity and mental clarity are subtler than the external ones. These are the intense emotions, including the so-called positive ones, and irrelevant thoughts.

Handling the external distractions are straightforward. You switch off the radio and TV, stop indulging in coffee and social media, and donate all the useless belongings at your home.

Some of your addictions are harder to give up, but there are techniques to eliminate bad habits as well. The real challenge is the internal distractions.

Dealing with Internal Distractions

The best way to deal with internal distractions is to let them go. When an intense emotion or a distracting thought comes up, stop paying more attention or feeding more mental energy to it.

The ideal way to deal with an intense emotion is to stay with it without trying to change it, suppress it, escape it, or feeding it with more mental energy. If you stay with it long enough, it will subside by itself.

In some cases, the emotion might be too strong to bear. In such cases, let go as much as you can and use your escape strategies consciously.

In some cases, you might not have the time to stay with a distracting emotion until it subsides. In such cases, you can use the dark side of motivation.

For example, you can switch from the desire to distract yourself to the fear of the consequences of your distractions. You haven’t reached equanimity or mental clarity, but in your case, the fear might be a more productive emotion than desire.

Summary

I wholeheartedly believe that we are all geniuses. We need equanimity and mental clarity to tap into our genius. What keeps us from getting into those mental and emotional states is our internal and external distractions.

All we need to do to tap into our genius is to eliminate our distractions. It’s a long, hard journey, but a happy, satisfactory life is waiting for us at the end.

Equanimity: A Key Factor in High Performance and Success

According to Wikipedia, equanimity is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind.

Can you see how crucial equanimity is for high performance and success?

Hardship Is a Part of Life

Imagine, you’re a salesperson visiting a prospect for a critical sales call. You got stuck in a traffic jam for a couple of hours. You had to deal with other drivers honking at each other and cutting each other off. You’re an hour late for the meeting. And your prospect makes sarcastic remarks when they see you arrive.

Imagine, you had to bring a loved one to a hospital before you go to work. When you arrived at work, your boss yells at you because of an unsatisfied customer. And on top of all of that, your computer crashes.

Those scenarios might sound exaggerated, but ask anyone who had a long enough career, and they’ll confirm the existence of such days.

How would you feel in such scenarios? Would you throw in the towel and quit? Would you take it on someone else, like a coworker, a family member, or a complete stranger? Or would you take it on the chin and move on? If you can choose the last option, congratulations, you have equanimity.

Equanimity in Daily Life

Equanimity is not only useful in disaster scenarios. Working toward a worthy goal can often involve frustrating episodes. Then, there are the disappointments, desperations, and boredom of our daily lives.

Even excessive happiness can feel uncomfortable at times and keep you from concentrating on the job at hand. Equanimity is the antidote to all of those common scenarios.

How to Cultivate Equanimity

You might think that acting out your intense emotions would calm you down. The real effect of acting out your emotions is actually reinforcing them. You might feel wound down when you act out, but the next time the same emotion hits you, it will feel more intense. So, expressing your emotions won’t help you with equanimity.

How about suppressing them? Avoiding them, or treating them with drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, binge eating, sex, internet surfing, or with another distraction? Suppressing intense emotions won’t contribute to your equanimity either.

A reliable way to build equanimity is to stay with your emotions without expressing, suppressing, or trying to change them in any other way. David Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D., calls this practice the letting go method, and he has a book with the same name, which is one of my 12 recommended personal development books.

In some cases, your emotions might be so overwhelming that you might not be able to stay with them. In such cases, Hawkins recommends using expression or suppression consciously. You let go as much as you can, and you express or suppress the rest in a safe and sound way.

The Rewards of Equanimity

Letting go is hard work, but it’s worth its rewards. You reach equanimity and mental clarity. Both help you with taking rational decisions and behaving reasonably, which increase your performance and lead to success.

Moreover, in the absence of intense emotions, you reach a state of bliss. For many, this state of bliss is a greater reward than the material gains.

Whether your goal is to reach material success or spiritual rewards, you can take your practice to the next level by actively engaging in experiences that make you feel intense emotions and apply the letting go method. In other words, go toward the eye of the storm to reach equanimity faster.

Summary

Equanimity is the ability to stay calm and collected even in the face of the most disturbing experiences.

You can cultivate equanimity by staying with intense emotions without expressing or suppressing them, or trying to change them in any other way.

When you reach equanimity, your rewards will not only be mental clarity, high performance, and material success, but also spiritual bliss.

Why You’re Stuck and How to Get Unstuck

In an interview on Impact Theory, Joe Dispenza explains the link between the thoughts in our mind and emotions in our body.

There’s a positive feedback loop between our thoughts and emotions. Our thoughts trigger emotions in our body, and our emotions cause thoughts in our mind.

For example, when you think a sad thought, you feel depressed. Those emotions trigger other sad thoughts, which in turn make you feel more depressed.

If you repeat that cycle enough times, it gets reinforced in your body and mind. A feeling turns into a mood. A mood turns into a temperament. And a temperament turns into a personality trait. Eventually, it becomes your identity.

Your Reality Is Influenced by Your Feelings and Thoughts

Feelings and thoughts influence the way you perceive the reality, the choices you make, and the actions you take. Your choices and actions have a great impact on your reality.

If you don’t pay attention to your thoughts and emotions, you’ll repeat the same thought and emotion patterns over and over because of the feedback loop.

As a result, you’ll keep perceiving the world the same way, make the same choices, and take the same actions. That’s the mechanism that keeps you stuck in a certain life situation.

“95% of who we are by the time we are 35 years old is a memorized set of behaviors, emotional reactions, unconscious habits, hardwired attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions that function like a computer program.” Joe Dispenza

How to Get Unstuck

The way to get unstuck is to perceive the world differently, make different choices, and take different actions than your default ones.

To do that, you need to change your thoughts and emotions. That’s a challenge because you have a default program in your body and mind.

That default program is producing the same thoughts and emotions over and over, day after day. To break that cycle, you have to make a conscious effort to be aware of your thoughts and emotions.

Letting Go of Dysfunctional Emotions

When you feel dysfunctional emotions, you need to stop your mind from creating thoughts that feed on those emotions. You don’t have power over your emotions, but you have control over your thoughts.

When a dysfunctional emotion hits, just sit with it without investing any mental energy to the thoughts that feed on that emotion.

Don’t act on that emotion. Don’t try to escape it or change it in any way. Let it be there. It will come, and it will go. This is called the letting go technique.

As you don’t react to that emotion, its intensity will gradually diminish, and the dysfunctional pattern will eventually disappear.

Install Positive Thoughts and Emotional Patterns

As you let go of dysfunctional thought and emotion patterns, you can install positive ones in place of them.

You can do that by visualizing positive outcomes and getting into the feeling of those outcomes. If you repeat that enough, you’ll change your thought and emotional imprints over time.

That will affect the way you perceive the world, the choices you make, and the actions you take. And as a result, you’ll get unstuck and change your life for the better.

Conclusion

Our reality is influenced by our choices and actions, which in turn are affected by our thoughts and feelings.

Most of our thoughts and feelings are repetitive patterns. That’s why we make the same choices and take the same actions day after day. That’s how we get stuck.

The way to get unstuck is to be aware of the dysfunctional thought and emotional patterns, let them go, and install positive thoughts and emotional patterns in their place.

Three Life Lessons I Learned from My Cardio Workouts

I do a light-moderate cardio workout three days a week, even though I hate it. Running or biking at the same tempo for 25 minutes bores the hell out of me. That’s one of the reasons I do it because it increases my mental toughness.

Many people associate lifting heavy weights in the gym with toughness. The other day, I saw someone wearing a t-shirt with the motto “Cardio is for pussies.” Such statements make me laugh because of their ignorance.

Personally, I enjoy lifting weights, even though I look like suffering. I like the intensity of it, and a set is over in 45 seconds at most. After that, I can enjoy the good feelings my biochemistry provides me with.

Contrary to lifting weights, cardio is like Chinese water torture. It’s low intensity, but persistent over a longer time, which drives me crazy.

I have respect for long distance runners. I know my 25 minutes of jogging is nothing next to their accomplishments, but I still learned some life lessons from my cardio workouts.

How Do I Deal with the Mental Challenge of Cardio Workouts?

For me, cardio is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. My mind looks for stimulation all the time, and lifting weights provides that stimulation; cardio, not so much.

When I first started cardio workouts, I realized that I had to let go of the constant chatter in my mind. That endless chatter was negative, and it was weakening my mind. I needed my mind to be strong to be able to finish my workout.

It Isn’t Over until You Cross the Finish Line

Just like my weightlifting workouts, I tried to remind myself how much of my workout was left. 1.5 laps left. 1 lap left. 1 kilometer left. Last 500 meters. And so on. That tactic backfired.

I realized a cardio session isn’t over unless you cross the finish line. Knowing how much of it is left doesn’t make the slightest difference.

The best approach is to switch off my mind and put one foot in front of the other until I cross the finish line.

That approach matches the entrepreneurial journey very much. You have a final goal, for example, an exit. And you do whatever you can, day after day, to get closer to that goal.

How much progress you made or how much progress you still have to make doesn’t matter as long as you haven’t reached your goal.

Cardio Is Like Meditation

Recently, I realized that cardio workouts are like meditation because I have to switch off my mind for 25 minutes. To maximize that effect, I stopped listening to audiobooks while jogging yesterday, and I felt much better afterward.

How to Deal with the Urges to Quit

There are times when I feel like I can’t make it until the finish line. In those moments, I remind myself of the good times I’ll experience later.

I dream about the pleasant walk back from the park after the session. I dream about the first coffee I’ll drink the next morning. Thinking about those rewards make me feel good and keep me going.

Conclusion

A cardio session resembles to the challenges that we experience in our lives. It’s a low intensity challenge you have to endure for a long time.

It requires mental toughness, and the biggest enemy of mental toughness is the constant negative chatter in our minds. We can let go of that weakening chatter in our minds with mindfulness.

If you’re in a really tough spot and feel like giving up, just motivate yourself with the eventual rewards you’ll receive when you succeed. Get into the feeling of them.

A cardio session, just like a challenging project, isn’t over until you cross the finish line. Until then, the only thing that matters is that you put one foot in front of the other until you accomplish your goal.

Dealing with Difficult People

We are all a bunch of programs. These programs are transferred from generation to generation through genes and culture.

Some of these programs are very basic. On a deep level, we all want to survive and reproduce. A lot of our behaviors stem from those two basic instincts. We share those instincts with other animals.

Then, there are more advanced programs, like loving our family members. These programs are specific to mammals.

Primates like humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas have even more advanced programs. We form tribes and relationships with individuals other than our immediate family members.

And of course, we, humans, have many advanced programs that other primates don’t have.

We All Have Contradicting Programs

As a result, each human carries a set of programs from the most primitive to the most sophisticated. Some of those programs inevitably contradict each other.

We all have programs that derive pleasure from the misfortunes of others. Do you think that you don’t have that? You either haven’t been aware of that program, or you haven’t been in a situation where that program was triggered.

We also have very advanced programs like feeling the pain of someone that we don’t know and helping them.

Obviously, these two programs contradict each other, and all of us have these programs in us. It’s one thing to have these programs in us. It’s another to act on them.

Beyond all of these programs, we all have access to pure consciousness.

Develop Empathy and Compassion

When you have to deal with a difficult person, just realize that a program is activated in that person and that person consciously or unconsciously chooses to act on that program. And most probably, you have the same program in yourself, no matter how much you deny.

Maybe, you don’t act on that program, because you aren’t in the same situation as that person. Maybe, you don’t act on it, because you’re further in the evolution of your consciousness. But you have the same program too.

Knowing that you have the potential to behave the same way already makes a difference in your perception of the situation. You understand that person better. You develop empathy toward them. You don’t get angry at them. You feel sad for them.

Some people hurt others just because they enjoy it, but most people don’t. When people hurt others, it’s most of the time because of their accumulated pain in the past. When you recognize the pain of the difficult person in your life, you develop compassion for them.

Developing empathy and compassion for a person isn’t a weakness. On the contrary, it requires mental toughness. Not many people are able to do that.

When you feel empathy and compassion toward a person, your relationship to that person is already transformed. Think about a child that throws a tantrum instead of a grownup who acts consciously. When it’s a child that misbehaves, you will act differently, won’t you?

A Growth Opportunity to Develop Your Conflict Management Skills

The second step is to see this situation as a growth opportunity. You won’t get too far by blaming the other party. You need to take the responsibility. This is an excellent opportunity for you to develop some conflict management skills.

Teaching conflict management skills is beyond the scope of this post. I recommend the audio program: Art of Conflict Management by Prof. Michael Dues. You need to listen to that program multiple times and apply what you have learned.

Make a Decision

If you take the two steps above and the situation still doesn’t improve, you have a decision to make. Will you get out of that relationship or stay with it?

In some cases, getting out of a relationship might not be an option. For example, that person might be in your immediate family. If that’s the case, I recommend improving your compassion to a level where you don’t perceive the person to be difficult anymore.

Loving Kindness Meditation

There’s a way to improve your compassion, and it’s called loving-kindness meditation. I recommend the audio program Noble Heart by Pema Chödrön. As an alternative, you’ll find many free guided meditations if you google that term.

Developing compassion toward a difficult person isn’t weakness; it requires mental toughness. Mental toughness isn’t cruelness. It’s having the strength to not act on your most primitive instincts like lashing out on people.

Moreover, you don’t develop loving-kindness for the welfare of others. You develop it for your own wellness. Hostility is harming you. Loving-kindness improves your physical and mental health by eliminating hostility.

Getting out of a relationship is always an option. The problem with that option is that you miss a growth opportunity. The chances are high that you’ll create, attract, or experience a similar situation down the road. Therefore, it’s better to cease the opportunity in this relationship to grow.

Summary

We all carry a bunch of malevolent and benevolent programs in us. Some of us act on them, and some of us don’t. We all have the potential to act on our most malicious programs when the situation calls for it. Most of the time, difficult people act on their worst programs because of their pain.

Just knowing those facts is enough to develop empathy and compassion for the difficult people in your life. That takes mental toughness. Compassion isn’t a weakness.

The second step is to see the situation as a growth opportunity and to develop your conflict management skills.

If the second step doesn’t work, you can practice loving-kindness meditation to deal with the situation better and to preserve your health and wellness.

Quitting a relationship always seems to be a solution, but if you don’t solve your problems in a particular situation, you’ll likely experience the same issues in the future.

Realize Your Potential and Accomplish Extraordinary Feats

We, humans, have extraordinary potentials but use only a tiny fraction of our potential. Do you wonder why? Because we are not focused.

We are distracted by millions of irrelevant things. If we have to realize our potential and accomplish extraordinary feats, we need to focus our attention single-mindedly on our vision.

How are we going to accomplish that in this age, when our minds are attacked by millions of distractions every day?

The answer is simple: mindfulness.

Break the Vicious Circles in Your Life

Mindfulness requires being aware of what’s going on in our minds and being able to guide our thoughts at will. This might sound easy if you haven’t tried it yet.

In reality, our minds jump from one thought to another like crazy monkeys jumping from one tree to another.

We don’t have any control over our thoughts. Most of the time, we aren’t even aware of them. That’s why our thoughts cycle around vicious circles. So, do our lives.

To break the vicious circles in our lives, we need to cut the vicious circles in our minds.

Downward Spirals

Let’s think about the following scenario. Suppose that you have a stressful day at work. You get depressed. You get yourself some junk food, a can of beer, and switch on the TV.

After hours of watching TV and drinking, you realize that it is already too late to go to bed and you have to go to work the next day. As a result, you have a bad day at work again.

Do you see the vicious circle here? Maybe, you don’t need to medicate yourself with junk food, alcohol, and TV after a hard day at work.

Why not read a book or listen to an audiobook instead? Breaking habits can be hard. However, it all starts in your mind. It requires mindfulness.

Think about mindfulness as a mental muscle. Your mindfulness muscle is weak if you haven’t used it much. It’ll get stronger as you exercise it.

Improve Every Area of Your Life

Think about an area of your life you want to improve. Suppose that you’re inclined to drive fast.

The desire to drive fast can be very sneaky. It can be too late before you become aware of it. You might have exceeded the speed limit and receive a ticket.

Overcoming a habit requires mindfulness. You need to be focused on your driving all the time, pay attention to your speed and to the speed limits.

You need to let go of all the other distractions. You need to switch off the radio. You need to let go of all the thoughts in your mind. You need to let go of your annoying colleague or the project that runs late.

You need to concentrate your whole attention on your driving. Driving can be an excellent mindfulness exercise.

Work is also an excellent mindfulness exercise. If you want to do a great job, you need to concentrate single-mindedly on the task at hand and let go of all the other distractions and thoughts in your mind.

The same holds for relationships. If you tend to be angry with your loved ones, you need to be mindful of this fact, when you’re interacting with them, even when you’re thinking about them.

The Greatest Benefit of Mindfulness

Mindfulness results in success and growth in every area of your life. The greatest benefit of mindfulness is the feeling of peace that becomes your default mental state. Who wouldn’t want to go through life in peace and feeling relaxed most of the time?

The Ultimate Mindfulness Exercise

The ultimate mindfulness exercise is meditation. There’s nothing metaphysical, fancy, or esoteric about meditation. Get over the image of a monk in an orange robe sitting in a complicated posture on top of a mountain. Make meditation a part of your daily life.

  • Set your alarm clock to a specific duration, for example, 20 minutes.
  • Sit upright on a comfortable chair.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Focus on your breath, in and out.
  • Be aware of your thoughts, but don’t pay attention to them. Let them go.

If you find 20 minutes too long, you can start with a shorter duration and work your way up. If focusing on your breath is difficult, you can download a guided meditation program and listen to it.

Meditation exercises your mindfulness muscle and makes it stronger so that you can be more mindful during your daily life. It’s also a great way to rest your mind.

Improve the Quality of Your Life by Letting Go

You might say that you don’t have 20 minutes to meditate every day. This brings me to another practice to improve your mindfulness, the practice of letting go of what doesn’t serve you.

Distracting habits don’t serve you. Quitting them will improve not only your mindfulness but also the overall quality of your life.

  • Quit smoking, using recreational drugs, drinking alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
  • Quit watching TV, reading mainstream newspapers and magazines.
  • Quit listening to the radio in your car, while working or resting.
  • Quit checking your email all the time.
  • Quit surfing the Internet mindlessly.
  • Let go of toxic thoughts, situations, and people in your life.

If you do these, you’ll have more than 20 minutes every day to meditate. It might require some willpower at the start, but once you get used to it, you’re going to look forward to your daily meditation session.

The Bug That’s Trying to Mate with a Beer Bottle

This post isn’t my attempt to dethrone Franz Kafka from his position in the royal family of literature. It’s about a species of beetles from Australia, and the similarities of our behavior with them.

The males of this species are attracted to a particular beer bottle and try to mate with it. These beer bottles resemble the females of the species, but they are just bigger and brighter. This behavior is an example of a phenomenon called supernormal stimulus.

If you look up from your phone and look at the people around, you can see many examples of the same phenomenon. In the last decade, technology evolved to take advantage of supernormal stimulus in humans.

The high-resolution screens of our devices and endless streams of bright and colorful content on social media channels such as YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook are hijacking our attention.

Just like the male beetle that’s wasting its time and energy trying to mate with a beer bottle, we’re depleting our attention with an activity that doesn’t add any value to our lives.

Similarities with Alcoholism

Our device addiction is built in a similar way to alcohol addiction, as a result of a positive feedback loop. Jordan B. Peterson explains the positive feedback loop in his book 12 Rules for Life.

A person consumes alcohol, and they feel good. This state reverses when their body starts to break down alcohol. Then, they realize that they can cure the bad feelings of withdrawal by drinking more alcohol. Once this feedback loop is established, the person gets more and more addicted to alcohol.

A similar mechanism is in play with the device addiction. We become stressed or bored in a specific situation. Instead of dealing with the stress or boredom directly, we use our gadgets to avoid them.

As we get used to the stimulation of our devices, not checking them causes withdrawal symptoms, which we cure by spending more time on them.

The Motivation to Quit

If you’re addicted to your device, you can use those two pieces of information as motivation to quit. Whenever you feel like checking your device unnecessarily, remind yourself that your device is to you what the beer bottle is to the Australian beetle.

Moreover, remind yourself that the positive feedback loop is drawing you further into the deeper levels of addiction hell.

If you need further tips to let go of your device addiction, you can check the three steps to quit and how to deal with the withdrawal symptoms.

Last but not least, take a deep breath, look up from your phone, and take a look around. You’ll realize that there’s a beautiful, real life out there, which feels much better than looking at a bright screen all the time.

An Effective Method to Eliminate Bad Habits

 

Let me share with you three facts, and then explain how we can use them to eliminate bad habits.

  1. Our minds work with associations.
  2. Emotions have a higher impact on our behavior than thoughts.
  3. Negative emotions have a higher impact than positive emotions.

An Example: Quitting Smoking

I used to be a smoker. It was a severe addiction. A few cigarettes a day weren’t enough. When I smoked, I had to smoke around a pack a day.

On an intellectual level, I knew that this habit wasn’t sustainable. Understanding this on an intellectual level wasn’t enough to quit smoking.

Then, horrible pictures of mouth, throat, and lung cancer were put on cigarette packages, and that was the end of it.

Once, I made the association with the horrible pictures and smoking, I couldn’t smoke and feel good about it anymore.

Knowing Isn’t Enough

In the past, I knew that smoking was harmful, but the good feelings of the habit overrode that knowledge.

Remember the second fact above, “emotions have a higher impact on our behavior than thoughts.

Then, I associated smoking with bad feelings as well. Now, two emotions and one piece of information competed to influence my behavior.

  • The bad feelings triggered by the images of mouth, throat, and lung cancers.
  • The good feelings triggered by smoking.
  • The information that smoking was harmful.

The good feelings easily overrode the information, but the bad feelings triggered by the images had a higher impact than the good feelings. That confirmed the third fact above, “negative emotions have a higher impact than positive emotions.

A Habit Harder to Quit: Distraction

In my daily life, I don’t watch any TV. I don’t listen to distracting pop music. I don’t surf the Internet for hours. I used to do all of that in my life. I’m glad that I quit those habits.

There’s another habit that stuck with me though. I watch distracting clips on YouTube for half an hour a day.

You might say that half an hour isn’t worth bothering about, but half an hour each day makes 7.6 full days a year. If you count only the waking hours, it’s 11.4 days a year. That’s a lot of time to waste, isn’t it?

The Subtler Effects of Distraction

Distraction has other, subtler effects on our lives than losing time. It reduces our capacity to process the critical events of the day. Moreover, it keeps our minds busy even if we don’t engage with it.

If you distract yourself for 10 minutes, that’s 10 minutes less for your mind to relax and process the events of the day.

Depending on the intensity of the distraction, your mind has one more event to process. This fact holds even if your distraction was a funny clip.

Your mind has to play the same funny clip over and over in your imagination until it doesn’t produce intense emotions. That distracts you long after you stop watching YouTube and have to concentrate on your work.

The Competition of Thoughts and Emotions

On an intellectual level, I know that even 10 minutes a day is too much distraction. I want to quit it altogether.

Unfortunately, the good feelings of watching a funny clip overrule the knowledge that it’s a distraction. I need to associate that behavior with negative emotions.

I tried to do that by thinking about death as Stoics suggest. I even associated it with images of skulls and cemeteries. None of that helped me. Death is still an abstract concept for me. To me, cemeteries are beautiful, peaceful places, and skulls don’t scare me.

Finally, I found something that influenced me, pictures of old people. That reminds me of the possibility of getting old and having wasted an essential portion of my time. At this moment, that scares me.

Now, my goal is to associate distraction with the fear of regret in my old age. I try to create that association with images of old people. Let’s see if that fear will override the good feelings triggered by distraction.

Conclusion

If you’re trying to quit a habit, don’t waste your time to convince yourself with intellectual arguments. They don’t work.

Habits are associated with emotions. Those emotions make you maintain your habits.

To quit a habit, you need to associate other emotions with that habit. Those emotions need to be more intense than the ones that make you maintain that habit.

Negative emotions have a higher impact than positive emotions. For that reason, it’s easier to find a negative emotion to quit a habit than a positive emotion.

The easiest way to associate an emotion with a habit is through images that trigger that emotion. Find pictures that trigger your target emotion, look at them frequently until you memorize them. Fire that image in your mind every time you feel the urge for that habit.

How would your life look like if you eliminated all of your bad habits using this method?

This Is Why You’re a Failure

Make an honest assessment of your life.

Do you consider yourself a success or a failure?

If you consider yourself a success, great.

If you consider yourself a failure, keep on reading. You’ll find out why you’re a failure and how to eliminate those reasons from your life.

Before we continue, take a moment to answer the following questions.

  • What are your top 5 life goals?
  • What are your top 5 goals for the next 10 years?
  • What are your top 5 goals for the next 5 years?
  • What are your top 5 goals for this year?
  • What are your top 5 goals for this quarter?
  • What are your top 5 goals for this month?
  • What are your top 5 goals for this week?
  • What are your top 5 action items today?

Maybe, you don’t have 5 goals for each term, but do you have goals for specific terms?

  • Are your goals specific and measurable?
  • Do your goals have deadlines?
  • Are your goals, their satisfaction criteria, and their deadlines written down somewhere?
  • How often do you read or remind yourself of your goals?

How Do You Spend Your Time?

Write down how you spend your time for a week. Set your timer to go off at the end of each hour while you’re awake. When it goes off write down what you have done in the previous hour. Do this for a week.

At the end of the week, look at how you spent your time. Now, imagine those sheets are from someone else. Examine those time sheets and answer the following questions.

  • Does this person have any goals?
  • If yes, what are their goals?
  • Prioritize their goals according to the time spent on each of them.

Now, compare your answers to your goals. Do they match? To which extent do they match? What’s the percentage of the time you spend on your goals?

Sure, we have to spend time sleeping, eating, and recuperating, but what about the rest of the time? Especially, your spare time? Do you do anything about your goals in your free time? Or is it entirely spent on entertainment and distraction?

How Do You Spend Your Mental Energy?

Now, we’ll go to a deeper level. Do the same exercise above, but now with your thoughts instead of your time.

At the end of each waking hour, write down how you spent your attention in the previous hour. Which thoughts did you think? To which thoughts did you pay attention and invest mental energy?

At the end of the week, ask the same questions for your thoughts.

  • Does this person have any goals?
  • If yes, what are their goals?
  • Prioritize their goals according to the mental energy spent on each of them.

Do your answers above match the goals you’ve written above?

Now, You Know Why

If you’ve done these exercises or have a rough idea of what your answers would be, you know why you’re a failure. It’s one or more of the following.

  • You haven’t written down specific, measurable goals with deadlines.
  • The way you spend your time doesn’t match your goals.
  • The way you spend your mental energy doesn’t match your goals.

Become a Success

Once you determine the reasons you’re a failure, it’s time to work on becoming a success.

  • Write down your top 5 specific, measurable goals for different terms with their deadlines.
  • Make sure that the way you spend your time reflects your goals and their priorities.
  • Make sure that the way you spend your mental energy reflects your goals and their priorities.

If you don’t do these steps, don’t expect any success in your life.

The Simple Formula of Progress

Today’s wisdom comes from two people from different walks of life. One is an American billionaire investor, and the other one is a Buddhist nun.

We all experience psychological pain from time to time. I’m not talking about mental disorders like a major depression but the discomfort that happens as a result of unmet desires, challenges, and failures.

How to Deal with Pain

Our default way of dealing with pain is to get rid of it as soon as possible. We do that in various ways.

  • We escape it with distraction.
  • We numb ourselves with depressants like alcohol.
  • We act on our pain by expressing it.

Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist nun, calls our default reaction “scratching our itch” in her audio-program Getting Unstuck. Scratching our itch relieves the discomfort at that moment, but it makes things worse in the long term.

Our Default Behavior Reinforces Our Pain

David Hawkins mentions two ways to escape our pain in his book Letting Go, suppressing and expressing.

When we suppress our pain, we escape it with distractions or depressants like alcohol. When we express our pain, we react to the cause of the pain. That might be screaming at a family member or a colleague.

Even though expressing our pain feels good and relaxing at the moment, it reinforces our pain. We feel it more intensely the next time. As a result, we need to express it with greater intensity.

The same is true of suppressing our pain. We need greater doses every time we suppress our pain. We need more distraction or depressants not to feel the pain the next time.

Staying with the Pain

David Hawkins recommends that we stay with the pain without suppressing, expressing, or trying to change it in any other way. He calls this the Letting Go Method.

When you stay with the discomfort, it subsides gradually. The next time it comes up, it becomes less intense. Eventually, it disappears altogether.

The Formula of Progress

Ray Dalio, an American billionaire investor, defines the formula of progress as “Pain + Reflection” in his book Principles.

Pain + Reflection = Progress

When we escape our pain by suppressing or expressing it, we miss the chance to reflect on it. As a result, we lose the opportunity to make progress in our lives. That’s why we end up running in circles, repeating the same mistakes over and over, and stay stuck.

Accelerating Our Progress

According to Dalio’s formula, we make progress by facing our pain, but we can accelerate the process even more by going toward the eye of the storm. That is taking challenges that are outside of our comfort zone, which would benefit us if we succeed.

Reflecting On Our Lives Regularly

Taking the time to ask ourselves a few questions and reflecting on them at the end of each day is an easy yet worthwhile practice to make progress in our lives. Nowadays, I ask myself two questions at the end of each day.

  • What was good today?
  • What could be better?

I try to come up with more or less three answers to both questions. I acknowledge what was good on a given day, but also what needs to get improved. I think what I can do about those points of improvements.

It’s also interesting to do the same exercise at the end of each week, month, quarter, and year. The end of a year is an excellent opportunity to evaluate the past year and come up with new goals for the next year.

Conclusion

We get stuck in our lives because we escape our pain. We all have different strategies to do that. Some of us distract themselves, others numb themselves, yet others express their pain. Each method reinforces the pain and makes it more intense the next time.

The way to cure our pain is to stay with it, face it, and to reflect on it. That’s how we get unstuck and make progress in our lives.

We can even accelerate our progress by moving toward the eye of the storm. That is taking challenges out of our comfort zone, which benefit us if we succeed.