“Every moment is an opportunity to set yourself free.”
I have 24 hours to be my best self.
24 hours to sit with my feelings.
24 hours to settle in with every breath I take.
24 hours to connect with myself first – and then with the world.
24 hours to shine my light.
24 hours to be in service.
24 hours to live my life.
“When are you going to honour yourself?” During my morning meditation on my 31st birthday it comes crashing down on me.
My construct of negative thoughts can’t sustain itself anymore.
Like an avalanche boulders of anxiety, self-doubt, misgiving and hesitation fall off my back. Lightness captures my whole body.
My energy level rises headspinningly quick.
The ‘doer’ is taking over. There is only flow – no fighting, no dispute. The imprisonment is over. Finally the refreshing breeze of freedom is rejuvenating my senses.
All the tension is released. The vibration amplifies apruptly. There is nothing but sympathy and concord. I’m expanding. Tears of gratefulness turn my face into a riverbed. The salt water washes away the remains of my resentments.
Every fiber of my body screams “FORGIVE YOURSELF”. Release is imperative.
Happiness updates its definition. Destiny welcomes me with open arms. I saw it coming, but it doesn’t downgrade my reverence.
It is here – doubtlessly: The reward of my journey.
For a long time I was obsessed with improving my productivity. A long time I tried to learn as many skills as possible – I still do to some extend. I wanted to read one book a week, learn two languages at the same time, learn coding, web design, improve my motion design skills, produce music and get better at writing, public speaking, coffee making, barkeeping and so on and so on.
‘On the side’ wanted to volunteer, learn sailing and in the meantime I was trying to meet my friends, find a boyfriend, eat healthy, start a business, travel… Hahaha, now only writing this down I feel dizzy. How could I think I would ‘succeed’ with this ‘attempt’? And how could I think I would be beneficial for others? And at the end – beneficial for the planet? (This is what I’m modestly aiming for.)
Nowadays my life choices maneuver me further and further away from the work-hard-play-hard mentality.
After all the ‘paradigm’: “If you are not stressed out you are not working hard enough.” still dominates the heads of us westerners. This applies to all areas of life. ‘Having time’ for oneself doesn’t seem to be worthwhile in a society where any activity is always on our fingertips. If you are not busy, you are doing something wrong.
Our time is scheduled from the day we are born. Isn’t it crazy!?
Anyhow: I ended up being completely exhausted with my attempt to do as much as possible. I’m surprised my nervous system hadn’t collapsed yet (Knock on wood!).
Beating the Torturer
“Before you can save the world you need to know who you are.” This was a piece of advice by a friend I couldn’t get a hold of in years. He addressed my – let’s be a bit pathetic here – desperate try to ‘do good’ in this world.
What he meant was that I always searched for the me in the outside. By achieving or doing something what I considered as meaningful I expected ‘to move along’ the path of self-discovery.
In reality the opposite was the case: The more I did the more I moved away from my path. I moved away from the core of my being.
Instead of finding out about my deepest needs I jumped head over heels from one challenge to another. Don’t get me wrong – challenges are good in order to find out what you are capable of. But by being obsessed with challenges I only distracted myself. I wanted to proof myself that I’m strong enough to accomplish everything. If I wouldn’t succeed I would beat myself up.
There was this voice telling me: “You are not doing enough.” – every single day. A voice that kept beating me up with reproaches all the time.
Something big had to change. Taming the torturer in my head – this became my real mission instead of being my own punisher.
“We better be nice to ourselves. Nobody wants to hang out with assholes.” Unfortunately I don’t know who this quote belongs to. Maybe I flung it into my notebook myself.
In any case – the message is clear: Be nice to yourself. Have self-compassion. Love yourself more. How many times have I been repeating these phrases? How long have I been trying so hard to cultivate this compassion with myself? I even wrote about it many times.
Become One With Yourself and then Become One With The World
Before you can connect with the world you have to connect with yourself first. And how can you connect with yourself if you are your hardest critic?
In order to spread love and positive energy on this planet you have to love yourself first. Treat yourself like you want to be treated by others – it sounds so simple and platitudinous but yet it is crucial.
We can only make a contribution to this society if we attempt every action with a positive mindset. If we want to make the world a better place we better be happy. Happiness is contagious. Malcom Gladwell explains it very well in “The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.”
“We normally think of the expressions on our face as the reflection of an inner state. I feel happy, so I smile. I feel sad, so I frown. Emotion goes inside out. Emotional contagion, though, suggests that the opposite is also true. If I can make you smile, I can make you happy. If I can make you frown, I can make you sad. Emotion in this sense, goes outside-in.” Malcom Gladwell
Demasking Your Desires
Recently I found out that in order to cultivate this compassion I have to go through the process of what I call ‘demasking my desires’. My journey is re-conditioning. Back to root level. And only from there I can carry out something.
The process of learning about my needs is a painful one. The pursuit of carving out my personality provokes disappointment and loneliness. Like a snake I’m peeling myself as I grow out of my old skin. Over and over I shuffle off one layer at a time. Every layer requires its own technique. I really need to take the time to learn about these techniques.
Why is it such a long and complicated process? If I don’t take the time to question my desires I eventually won’t find out about my real needs. I need an example for this:
If I have the desire to get drunk every weekend or I’m obsessive about my relationship then I might distract myself from something. To be more precise: I distract myself from connecting with my own self and fulfilling my own needs.
I might want to ask “Where I am avoiding life at the moment?” This process requires honesty and courage. It is not easy. It’s time-consuming and there are a lot of forthright questions to answer.
Self-compassion is crucial for this process. Self-compassion is nothing else than self-care. And self-care is another word for self-love.
Self-care is not just treating yourself once in a while, it is nurturing yourself with what you need for your survival. And what do I need? I need to do what makes me feel the best version of who I am. It is my obligation to take these needs seriously.
Repeat after me: “My Energy Resources are Limited.”
I only have a certain amount of lifetime and according energy to spend on this planet. It is important to spend it wisely. Okay, pseudo-hyper-human, repeat after me: “My energy resources are limited.”
So, in which area am I going to invest my energy? In the area where I’m not good at? In the area where I have the most deadly learning curve? Haha, ‘nice try’ the universe is laughing out loud.
When do my eyes sparkle the most? What parts of my job do I enjoy? Who do I admire and why? When do I feel myself the most? When do I feel the most alive?
The answers to these questions are the ones that are pulling us in the right direction. What draws our attention smoothly is where we find fulfillment.
When our eyes sparkle the most we are able to connect with each other and share our gift. When we feel the least exhausted and the most alive we are able to share. And this is also when we are able to be in service for other people.
So, it is my obligation to make sure that my glass is always full. Nobody can benefit from me when I’m not my best self.
Yes, it is that simple. This is following your bliss. This is self-care. It sounds pretty straight forward, but getting there is the challenge of a lifetime.
Since I started to invest in my strengths, I manifest positive change in my life. I become the change that I want to see in this world. The circle of unhappiness had ended and this is the beginning of a new circle. The circle of happiness.
Finally I’m following my excitement and the excitement is following me.
Treat Yourself with Not Giving a Fuck
There are always people who disagree. People who are disappointed, because I don’t do what they want me to do. It took me an disproportionate time to understand that it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks of me or expects of me.
I want to be my best self and this is why I take care of myself. I can only serve a higher purpose if I’m in peace with myself. It’s not that I want to not give a fuck, no, I have to. It is healthy for me and necessary in order to live up to my own values.
Self-care is crucial in order to fulfill our purpose on this earth.
So, “When are you going to honour yourself?”
Like a monstrous burden anxiety suspends me from aliveness.
Sensory input turns into an impenetrable nebula. I can’t distinguish between me and the rest.
A painful transformation disrupts my being. My existence morphs into vacuum.
This time I don’t resist. I sit and breathe. There is only black. I stare into the nothingness.
Is this the beginning or the end?
A void is clearing my chest. The fated moment of surrender has arrived.
Something cracks with a bubbly sound. The next level is here. Subconsciousness ruptures into recognition. Presence reciprocates.
I thought I won’t make it. I thought opium would be the only tranquilizer for my perturbed brain.
But life has other plans. Effortlessly I’m peeling off the old layer. Experience updated its metaphysics.
Life had started again with a new sort of darkness.
At the beginning of this blog in summer 2017 I thought this is all about ‘learning’. My aim was to expand my toolbox in order to be more productive, more balanced, more happy (Whatever that meant to me at this point in time.). I thought: “If I’d just learnt this lifehack.” “If I’d just be able to master my mind like successful person xy.”, everything would be perfect.
I failed adapting most of productivity hacks. I couldn’t develop these ‘healthy routines’ that supposedly would project an undreamt-of-degree of happiness into my life. Nothing improved. I might got slightly more stuff done, but my overall well-being hadn’t improved. And: I didn’t have the slightest idea how I wanted to feel.
“Why do you only think black and white?”, my therapist during this time called upon my lacking self-compassion. I didn’t have a proper answer. There was only this massive wall of perfectionism sealing off my potential. I could touch it, but I didn’t know how to demolish it.
I had to dig deeper. This was for sure. What I found was a lot of pain buried deep down under my obsessive will to ‘improve myself’. Under the pain there were my strengths downtrodden by my negative thinking patterns and destructive behaviours.
My mission was not to add something to my personality, but to reveal my individual traits. These characteristics are my weapons. These are the tools that help me to fulfill my purpose in this world. Happiness or let’s call it contentment is what comes naturally with accepting and integrating these peculiarities.
My task in this lifetime is to eradicate toxic habits in order to root up my real me. This requires commitment and courage. I can’t just ‘adapt’ other peoples methods of being productive, creative or self-disciplined. I have to develop my own strategies.
What I found out was that my bad habits and my thinking-patterns are not my own. I adopted them. I’m conditioned to think in a certain way. I’m conditioned to judge, to react, to be afraid. The good news is: I have the power to change.
But how? How do I unlearn? How do I re-condition? By pausing. By observing and by questioning my behaviour and my thoughts. The following to-do’s are not necessarily consecutive, they are interdependent. You will understand why:
1. Observe Your Behaviour
The first step in our process of unlearning is to observe. By observing we create a gap between us and our actions. Things change aggregate state as soon as we look at them. Habits lose their power as soon as we catch them unattended. They move from a subconscious level to consciousness.
This is something we can integrate into our daily life. “Again I wasted my energy for some stupid shit.” So what? This realization is the type of observation we need in order to create a gap.
It doesn’t only apply to actions, but also to thoughts. If the immoderate perfectionism is lurking, we just ask him what he wants. And there it is again: The gap. As soon as you look right into the eyes of your perfectionism it loses its power.
2. Detach From Your Conditions
If I keep telling myself “Stop this stupid perfectionism” I’m narrowing this gap again. I become a victim of the characteristic that I want to eliminate.
By punishing myself my mind becomes my enemy again. My whole body gets tight. I’m falling into subconscious behaviour.
The only option is “to let go”, to detach from it. To not see it as my trait, but as something that occurs every now and then. This way I look at my supposedly mistakes and surrender. If I take them lightly I don’t get trapped again.
3. Question Your Desires
Questioning became my tool to explore my needs and get to the core of my being. I found out that I can’t know what I want, but I can feel it – if I ask honest questions and take the time to find the answer.
To stay with the example of poisonous perfectionism: I asked myself. “Why am I such a perfectionist?”. The answer is that I’m not allowing myself mistakes, because I’m afraid to not be lovable. So, the desire under my desire to be perfect is to be loved. This reveals a complete different need. My need is not to be perfect, but to be loved.
More and more it becomes obvious why all my attempts to live happily failed. By following all these notions and desires blindly I distracted myself. I cured the symtoms, but I didn’t try to heal myself.
4. Connect With Yourself
I didn’t question if what I wanted was what I really wanted or just what I was told to be wanting or what I thought could fix my lack of self-esteem.
I wanted to become somebody instead of accepting who I am. I was not able to connect with myself and find out about my real qualities. It is not possible to find purpose anywhere else apart from at the very core of my being.
5. Alter Your Habits
There is always this thin line between not being too hard on myself and becoming the person who I want to be. But after all it is inevitable to start walking on the tight-rope of self-improvement.
In order to unlearn there needs to be the willingness to change. That’s the only reason why we should look at our behaviours, question them, detach from them and finally connect with ourselves. The next step is to do what is good for you – for your real you. And then DO IT. Alter it. Don’t do what doesn’t serve you anymore….
Through this whole procedure we reach a complete new layer of consciousness. This is how we are diving into the unknown – how we connect with the divine of our existence.
“I don’t have this urge to create.” This is how a conversation I’ve had at a New Years party started off and swiftly ended.
After all this product designer and I didn’t have that much in common. “You need some sort of pain in order to create something.” This we both agreed on in our short examination of “What makes a creative person?” Whereas an artist I spoke to the other day disagreed strongly when I asked her about her growing pain during creation: ”Art doesn’t have to hurt. Only because you are creative doesn’t mean you have to suffer.”
I would love to agree with Chandra, but I can’t. This incoherent incomprehensible unrooted urge to express myself doesn’t let me sleep at night. This is suffering. Maybe the ‘creatives’ are just a bit of masochists.
In order to create something there must be some sort of discomfort. Something that pushes us towards the finishing line of a project – is it a job deadline or a personal goal we are aiming for. There needs to be some sort of necessity to create. If it doesn’t hurt at least an unease needs to be eliminated.
‘To create’ something means to build, design, construct or initiate something that hasn’t been there before. Some sort of invisible hole needs to be ‘filled’, a gap closed, a thirst quenched.
You can only create if you are willing to go beyond the existing. ‘A creative’ is brave enough to face the unknown.
Everybody is creative in one way or another. It’s a human trait. Life itself demands a level of creativity: When we are communicating we have to read between the lines, we have to ‘make sense’ of the world around us. We need to be creative when we cook, when we want to date someone, when we want to book holidays, when we post something on instagram. (pahaha!)
Creativity in the sense of ‘doing something with an artistic merit’ is commitment to walk into the unknown. It is ‘not being afraid of the empty page’. It is ‘not stopping to create’ until the creator is satisfied. Creativity is dedication.
It is an inexhaustible force that won’t stop pulling until we are done or something close to done.
For me this doesn’t go without any sort of pain. Sometimes the pain is hard to stand, but there is only one way: to keep creating.
This is a worksheet. It started off three years ago with a page in my notebook with the title “Things To Consider” and it issued into this blog. Haha, but I condensed some of the things here. There is no order. Everything is crucial for my survival.
- Surround yourself with people who are lifting you higher.
- Express your gratefulness as often as you can.
- Be happy and let the world know it. Happiness is contagious.
- Don’t put too much value and truth in words, ideas or concepts, but trust your intuition.
- Have always positive intentions. Think ONLY positive (I always thought it is normal to have doubts all the time, but no, it’s not. If negative thoughts loom, don’t make a movie out of it. Just stop it. Think about something else.)
- Appreciate endings, because they are always new beginnings.
- Drop your perfectionism. Forgive yourself mistakes immediately. Best case scenario: Drop the word ‘mistake’ from your vocabulary completely, because there are no mistakes in this world.
- Be as loud as you want. Be as quiet as you want. Be you.
- Don’t re-act all the time. Be passive at times. Only act, when it’s necessary. (Kung-Fu)
- Stay grounded and always balance your energy level. Don’t let emotions take you over.
- Never forget: You’ve got a treasure in your heart. You’ve got all the beauty inside of you. Just release it. Turn it into energy. You’ve got the power – use it.
- Don’t be afraid of the nothingness. It is taken care of you. Everything you need is right there.
- You don’t have to do anything. Do what is good for you. Say no to everything else.
- You don’t need to be “professional”. You don’t need to be anything. Just be you.
- You can heal yourself from the inside. And life itself can cure you.
- Keep in touch with the planet. Mother nature needs you (how you are).
- Be in service. Be available for the people around you. Listen, give hugs and smile at people as much as you can.
- You are welcome. Everywhere you go.
- Don’t be scared. Trust.
- Stop reaching for more. Be happy with less.
- Don’t forget who you are, but don’t take yourself so f*cking serious all the time. You are just one of many human beings. So stop trying to be a saint.
- Don’t see the obstacles, but see the opportunities.
- Slow down. Take a break. Never rush. It’s unhealthy for you. Impatience is your enemy.
- Don’t hesitate, but do not hurry.
- Follow your excitement.
- The force is with you.
A few days ago I told you why I get nothing done. Writing this down I realized a recurring pattern: I’m too hard on myself. Tadaa! – Nothing new. However I won’t give up on changing this mindset. I do it by reprogramming my belief system, nurturing self-love on a daily basis, but also by classical change of behaviours. This article touches all of these ‘categories’.
A long time ago I shot off my first threesome about how to tackle procrastination. This is a good sequel.
1. Be realistic
I’m contemplating about writing since I’ve started writing – especially this blog. But only recently I had some major breakthroughs. I started to read a lot more about writing and – most importantly – about the people who write things I want to write.
Most of them don’t have this ‘regular life’ – whatever that is. Also they invested a lot of time in their work. And this made me realize: My goals are just unrealistic and this is why ‘I get nothing done’.
I used to think: “If I don’t publish an article today, I’m not a good writer.” Ironically this belief spirals me deeper into my negative thinking patterns instead of pushing my motivation. And isn’t this what I want to change with this blog?
What’s the point of publishing at all costs if I’m just ‘not ready yet’? If I do an hour of writing a day and afterwards I still think “I did nothing.” Come on, Uli, THIS is self-destructive. I will drop that from now on and instead cultivate healthy writing routines – no matter if I publish or not. This leads me to the next point:
2. Set the stage
Sometimes I’m ‘not in the mood’ to write. I don’t have a desk. I don’t have ‘inspiration’. I have people around, because I sleep in a hostel or or or. These things work as perfect excuses. What I learnt is to just ‘make space’ for my head.
If I don’t have the right setting to get work done and I’m not able to shut off the distraction, sometimes it is enough to just change the location. Either it is just changing the room or going to a café or a library. Other times I might have to improvise – change device or just hide in the forest with my notebook. Where there is a will, there is a way.
3. Take your goals seriously
This is a very personal advice. I notice over and over again how I downgrade my own priorities. For me writing is a really big part of my life. In the past I’ve always tried to ‘fit it in’ into my daily life. And a lot of times it didn’t fit in, because I replaced it with other – what I considered – priorities.
Of course, we have to work and sometimes we have to do things if we want it or not in order to make a living in this world. But if we don’t take our personal goals seriously there is not a chance to reach them.
This applies to any creative activity, but also to a change of diet, exercising, going for more walks, spending time with the kids or whatever. This fits into the category of self-love. Love yourself and do what you love! This should be the highest priority.
In one of my next articles I will explain why self-care is so essential for making the world a better place.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
It’s not accurate that I get nothing done. I just don’t get done what I want to get done.
I found this verbal outpour in my inexhaustible source of notes. What stunnes me is how accurate I describe my – I would like to call it – ideation process. In a few years probably I will smile about this type of examination, but right now it illustrates my behaviour lively. My goal is still to write my heart out here – believing in the process and stuff. So, here we go:
“Why I get nothing done” – Well, this is actually the wrong title for this article, because it suggests that I know why I get nothing done. Reality is, I don’t know, really. But if I continue searching I might won’t publish anything (like in most cases as you will find out later on).
In the hope to unclog my blogging-pipeline I will just press the publishing button in a few minutes.
What happens if I want to write an article?
Phase 1: “I have an idea”
Well, it all starts with an idea (some random situation, metro, bed, toilet, any kind of waiting room, forest, plane, train,…) I write down the rough idea/insight into my notebook or on my phone. I think to myself “This is already half the article. Great I will just sit down for half an hour more and than it is all ready to publish.”
Happy and half-accomplished I continue my day knowing that I will write an article the next time I’ll sit on my computer.
But than reality strikes. I open my laptop. I even close all the unnecessary tabs and windows and I start writing. At the beginning it all looks promising. Until one point. Let’s call it the point of no return.
I’m overflowing with ideas and all of a sudden I realize that I have to start another article, because I already reach too many aspects with this one article. And then I think: “Wait a second?” – “Do I actually know what I’m talking about here?” – “What does this word actually mean?” All of a sudden I’m losing control over my own thoughts. I start another document. Maybe a third one where I’m trying to filter my thoughts. Let’s call it ‘outtakes’.
Then I get so confused and I decide “I leave it for now” and rather listen to some 432 Hz forest sounds.
Phase 2: “I want to finish this article”
A couple of weeks later another idea crosses my path. And than it comes in to my mind that I already had started a similar article a few weeks back. “I should have a look and re-read what I thought a few months ago”.
“Wait – I think I read an inspiring article about this topic in a blog. Or was in a book? Or did I have a conversation about it? Or was it Alan Watts who visited me in my dreams and told me about it? 🙂 ”
And this is already the beginning of the end. In this case either I will find out how shitty and unispired my idea is or I just get sucked in by ‘inspiring talks’ on youtube or the odd TED talk about “How to travel the world with no money” or something like this… You get the point.
Phase 3: “Procrastinating procrastination”
But then, sometimes something magical happens – I catch myself watching stuff not related to my topic and miraculously I shake an article like this one off my sleeve.
Hm, I’m not sure if I’m crazy or if this is just part of the process? Maybe I’m just learning? I guess it’s part of the process. I also guess it’s time for The Artist’s Way – many people I admire recommended me this book. The thing is – I write so much already, but none of my ideas gets out of my way. So – maybe this is my way? We will see.
Cheers from the procrastination front
… and three ways to practice it.
“You don’t know why you do it, but life will reward you. It’s like going to the gym.” Adriano is annotating my – at times exhausting – nomad life style. I still have to smile about the metaphor as my lifestyle is not at all healthy at times.
I learn a lot during travelling – about: being happy with less, appreciating privacy or a space to live in, valuing a fully equipped kitchen, absorbing hugs from people I just met a few moments earlier… These are a few of many things travelling teaches me. But what do I benefit the most from? Probably it is the skill of ‘being grateful’.
‘Be grateful’ might sounds a bit platitudinous. It is one of the phrases that got exploited by our ‘cultural narrators’ (I have to admit, I stole this expression from school of life.)
Nevertheless it is so important to cultivate this well-quoted ‘gratefulness’ in order to live life properly. Recently I found out that it is actually a skill to be grateful.
First you might have to think about things to be grateful for. “Oh, today I had a coffee and a really good chat with a friend, my boss or the taxi driver was in a good mood, the weather was good…”
Appreciation grows exponentially.
If you practice being grateful everyday, you will notice more and more things to be grateful for. Appreciation grows exponentially. It’s like a perpetuum mobile that keeps moving as soon as you prompt it.
One day, you don’t need to tell yourself anymore to ‘be grateful’. It becomes your natural trait.
What happens when you are grateful? Life loses its tightness automatically. You are beginning to appreciate the huge miracle you are a part of. It is here. It is you. You are beginning to appreciate the beauty.
When you know good things will come float into your life, you will walk through life only with curiosity. But you need to initiate it. You need to get in touch with the core of joy in order to cultivate it. At the beginning you need to search for the beauty. But as soon as you find it, you can nourish it – like a plant that grows inside of you.
Alright, but how do we practice gratefulness? This is not a real threesome-style threesome, but here we go.
1. List of Gratefulness
Write down what you are grateful for regularly. Maybe you even start a small book only for things to be grateful for. It can be the tiniest things, you will see how this will change your whole perspective on your day.
2. Gratefulness as a Reward System
Let gratefulness be your reward system – appreciate your own achievements. Everytime you finish something during the day take a moment of appreciation. For example if you tick off a task of your To-Do-List, this can be a reason to smile. It can be the smallest task. But if you take a moment every time you accomplish something, you will automatically gain gratitude. A positive side-effect is a rise of motivation as you honour yourself much more.
3. Minute of Appreciation
It took a while – but nowadays I’m trying to use technology as my tool (and not my undertaker as it used to be due to self-diagnosed social-media-addiction.) Set a daily alarm for a “Minute of Appreciation” (or three or five minutes, it is up to you.). Only one minutes a day will help you to activate the flow of gratitude. It doesn’t matter which time of the day it will be. In the morning it will boost your energy level, but also it can be a good way to balance the afternoon low. Or even before going to sleep it can be a good fertilizer for positive dreams.
All this – of course – is perceived from the perspective of a spoilt western european. But funnily I learnt the most about appreciation/gratefulness from people who have the least.