The quest is the pursuit of happiness. The reward is the present moment.
You are standing on the edge of a cliff. Beneath your feet the blue of the ocean is hypnotizing you. Waves are breaking powerfully on the rocks. “You can do that!” – “Can I do that?” – “You just dive in” -“What if I crash?” – The voices in your head are fighting a running battle. Finally with the heartbeat up to your chin you jump. A rush of adrenaline is taking your breathe before you plunge smoothly into the water.
For a fraction of a second you lose your sense of direction. One moment later you are already back on the surface. A smile arises from your inside while you are swimming with ease back to the boulders you climbed before. “The next time I gonna do a cannonball.”, you think to yourself with a sense of fulfillment.
Jumping down these five meters was just a matter of overcoming your fear of failure. By making a leap you became aware of your true capabilities.
It is by diving into the unknown that we learn. We are learning to swim, we are learning to jump off cliffs (or three meter towers), we are learning to interact with others, we are learning a different language, new skills. At the beginning we are making mistakes: We might land on our belly the first time we jump off the cliff. Or we can’t wrap our head around the verb classifications of a new language. But we are getting there slowly. Our brain gets there, because it creates new connections everytime we supposedly “fail”.
A long time I’d rather do nothing than doing something wrong. What I didn’t understand was that I only learn through my mistakes. More and more in the process of learning to appreciate my own suffering I’m understanding that this “suffering” is just the pain I feel after making a what I consider “wrong” decision. Or it is caused by this fear of making the wrong decision.
At the moment I’m fighting a lot of battles with myself about which way to go, which job to keep, which friends to meet or which new destination to target. Whether if it is on a personal level or on a professional level – these thoughts are stealing my energy and shattering my last nerve.
What I’m practicing is the acceptance of this pain AND the ability to make a decision anyways. Yes, making a decision not the (the only right) decision.
Mistakes are invariable in the process of making anything better (a life or a product). To put it differently – failure is inevitable on the way to success. The inventor of the light bulb Thomas Edison and his team tested around 3000 (!!) different designs for the light bulb before they found a solid solution. It took years.
Without failure also personal growth is not possible. We don’t learn, if we do everything perfect all the time. Because if we do everything perfect we only adjust to the demands, but we never actually seize our full potential.
I’m repeating myself: What had always been holding me back from achieving personal or professional goals was my fear of failure!
Now I’m trying a different approach: I prototype my life. I define, I try, I fail, I improve – “trial and error”. How ever you want to call it – the idea is the same. A prototype is not perfect. It improves in iterations and so does my life.
Okay, so far so good. That’s easier said than done. But how are we going to put this in practice?
1. Don’t be attached to the image you have of yourself
We don’t realise that we become the slaves of our own thoughts by saying: “This is just how I am.” These thoughts are planted into our head – either by ourselves or by our surrounding. Maybe we are still attached to the idea we had about ourselves when we were twelve years old?
You don’t consider yourself as creative? Maybe you just didn’t find the right way to express yourself or you simply have the wrong idea about “somebody who is creative” in your head? You are not a rational thinker? Only because you spoiled your physics exam in school doesn’t mean you can never be an engineer. The most important thing is to understand, that these thoughts are not us – even if we are the ones telling them to ourselves. What if you have skills you never thought of?
2. Don’t fall in love with your ideas
There is a rule in the method of design thinking (and other lean/agile working methods) that links to the written above. “Don’t fall in love with your ideas”. We have this overall image about ourselves in our head. On the other hand we also vision the necessary improvements: Things that need to be done in order to become the person we are supposed to be being.
“When I achieve this and this I gonna be happy.” “If I was just a little bit more rational/outgoing/talkative/had more knowledge/more friends my life would be perfect” or “If I just had that much money, I would be able to live a happy life.” Don’t get me wrong – it is good, no it is neccesary to have goals in life, but by focussing on only the things that we already have in mind we might miss the opportunity to find something else that lights up our heart. With this attitude we close ourselves towards our own truth. So, don’t fall in love with your ideas and stay flexible.
3. Be willing to change
What teaches me the most in life? Basically the situations where I let go of old patterns. The moments when I try something new. The moments when I have to adapt to a new situation. In these moments I can literally feel how my ability to live life properly (whatever that means, I will think about it) had improved. Exposing myself to adversity, trying new jobs, learning new skills – this is what really teaches me the most.
“Invent yourself new” – is not only a slogan from the fashion industry (?). Sticking with the same hobbies, the same interests, the same people can only lead to stagnation. Our brain literally needs stimulation to build new connections. Once in a while it is important to do something where we once said “I’m not the type for this.” We might fail, we might don’t like it, but if we never try we will never know.
4. Be open for advice
The great thing about living amongst other human beings is that we can learn from each other. Everyone of us makes their own experiences and creates their personal reality.
In order to broaden our horizon we need to listen to others. We can’t change our perspective by standing at the same point of view. Sometimes others know better what we are capable of. A lot of times we limit ourselves with the idea about what we can and what we can’t do. If we take our desires and perspectives too seriously we obstruct the outlook for new opportunities.
5. Drop this f*cking perfectionism
… and cultivate a healthy failure culture. Aiming for perfection leads nowhere. Nothing will ever be perfect or to put it differently: everything is already perfect. With this approach every new start becomes easier. There is nothing to achieve, there is only something to learn. Don’t blame yourself for being a failure only because things don’t turn out how you wish. Accept your mistakes as being a part of the process.
6. Be willing to start again and again and again…..
“Nobody said it was easy….” In order to improve anything in our life we need patience. Sometimes I ask myself: “Will I ever learn?” I feel like I’m doing the same mistakes over and over again. But with this question I already hold myself back from learning. Instead I have to acknowledge: “Hmm, again the same mistake. What have I learnt this time?” The lessons we face are always confronting us for a reason. The same mistakes are just reminding us to keep digging. This is the peaceful war with ourselves.
While we grow older we lose our sense of adventure a little bit. We are trying to predict the future by considering risks, opportunities and values of a decision. A lot of times we are trying to make “the right decision” instead of allowing ourselves to leave things a little bit more open.
What if we admit that we can’t predict the outcome of a decision anyways? Instead we remain in a state of fear. This fear is leaving us in a state of faint. I don’t say we need to fail on purpose, but I say we should allow ourselves more often to jump off the cliff into a deep blue ocean of the unknown.
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
We can only heal ourselves from the inside. There is nobody, who could ever heal us apart from ourselves. We have everything we need already within us. We have the power. All we have to do is to choose to heal.
But how? Some brief reminders:
- Look into the mirror with all honesty. Do you see you? Can you see your true self? Are you ok? Are you bullshitting yourself? If yes, are you willing to change? Do you really know what you want and what you need in life? If no, are you willing to find out?
- Listen to the signs of your body: Is there anxiety, aggression or even panic? Are self-doubts sucking your energy? Are you in physical pain? What is itching and aching?
- Give yourself time – rushing doesn’t lead you anywhere. Like a wound doesn’t heal within one day also your inner wounds need time to heal.
- Allow yourself to crack. Crack like a seed. Every new beginning starts with destruction. A seed has to crack before the seedling can follow the sun.
- Do the clearance work – clean out the debris of former destruction. Clean the pathways of your energy before you are starting something new. This is a sweat inducive process. You might need a couple of runs, check the dark corners again and again and maybe consult an expert in order to move along. But it is worth it. How do you want to build something new without a solid foundation?
- Trust your intuition and release. All of a sudden help will be naturally given. Like a plant you start growing as soon as you follow your intuition. The energy comes from the inside. It is already a part of you. If you are willing to listen to your inner voice you automatically start to heal. A plant doesn’t ask for permission to grow, it just grows.
Okay life – let’s do this.
Instead of playing hide and seek I’m accepting your challenges.
Instead of distracting myself I’m connecting with your energy as often as I can.
In a state of meditation I am minding my steps, my words and my actions.
But without hesitation I am acting out of consciousness instead of “re”-acting out of fear.
Yes, I throw myself out there. Out of the blue into the deep end.
The blur of my mind will vanish.
Life – I’m taking you in. I let you flow like the waves in the ocean and the clouds in the sky.
You won’t scare me anymore, because you gave me the power.
When I hit rock bottom you gonna lift me up again.
I’m making the most of it – sleepless nights, confusion and heartaches won’t drag me down.
No, I trust you one hundred percent.
Living life to the fullest means a life full of gratitude, full of trust and appreciation.
I commit life not suicide.
I share my struggles, my challenges, my weaknesses, my brain-clutter on this blog. This is something else – a burst of appreciation:
A wave of gratitude is rolling over me. I’m grateful for all the people who have been and keep crossing my path recently, within the last years and within my lifetime.
I’m so grateful to walk with you.
I’m grateful for the random strangers who tell me the right things at the right time.
I’m grateful for my friends who remind me to believe in myself – who help me to appreciate my own gifts.
I’m grateful for the people who share their vulnaribility with me, the people who are willing to crack and to grow with me.
I’m grateful for the people lighting my way – the people who are pointing out in different directions showing me open doors, where I only see them closing.
I’m grateful for the people who are holding the mirror for me – showing me truth – no matter if I want to see it or not. (it helps)
I feel so lucky to have met all of you and I’m so fucking excited to meet you again.
We will laugh, cry and fall together and always stand up, move on, make our own way.
We rock this world. We are the change and I’m so proud to be a part of this all together with you.
The loneliness has an end.
Our mind likes to trick us. It wants to convince us, that we can explain the world with our thoughts. But our thoughts are just generated. They are programmed into our system. Our thoughts are disconnected from the essence of our being. They are intruders – foreign matter. They don’t belong to us.
Without our thoughts – what are we? We breathe, we eat, we reproduce. This is the reality that has been given to us by nature. Everything else is just a creation.
Everything we know about us and others are just our thoughts. And thoughts are always subjective. They will never reflect the reality.
We can acknowledge, but we can never know. With everything we put in words we attempt an explanation. (Like this post, too.)
It is time to say good bye to presumptions, prejeduice and judgements. It can only lead to disappointment. Nothing is like it seems. We set free by not-knowing.
Pizza or pasta? Tea or coffee? Should I stay or should I go? Over and over I catch myself paralyzed by the same thinking-pattern: I’m searching for the best solution, the perfect answer, the right decision, the only path that leads to happiness.
I beat myself down over and over again for having not enough discipline – for not being “straight” enough. If I’d just learn another language/did more yoga/became a software developer/travelled to place xy… my life would be perfect. Violently I’m pondering every possibility. The restaurant (Pizza or Pasta?) is just one venue of competition. The toughest fights I stage within myself. “Should I start a new job?” “Should I work this or that job? “Should I travel to Portugal or Indonesia?” – to name just a few of my ridiculous first-world-problems.
Why am I struggling so much with making decisions? And why am I beating myself down for not doing the “right” things? I have a suspicion: It is all in my head! The problem is, that my mind still wants to convince me that there is one perfect decision. If I’d just consider ALL available data I couldn’t go wrong. But you know what? There is no such thing like “all data”. How can we know the outcome of a decision in advance? How do we know who we are going to meet, who might changes our “path” in an irreversible way? How do we know which outlook awaits us behind the next curve of this windy road called life?
A lot of times I’m trying so hard to make the “right” decision that I’m loosing sight of what I actually want. Sometimes I want none of the things, I think I want.
My own thoughts keep me trapped somewhere between past and future – but for sure they hold me back from the now. Often I’m loosing contact with the present moment completely. And wait a minute – this moment is all that we have!
It is time for me to really accept that there is no “right” decision – for sure not when it comes to choosing pizza or pasta, but what about the “real” decisions? Where do I want to live? Should I change my job? Should I quit? Travel? Get pregnant? Break up? Get married? Stay single? And what exactly should I do?
The word “should” already implies that the answers to these questions often enough are not mine. They are the answers of society, my family, my friends or my “peer-group”. (if this is a word)
The truth is that we have to create our own reality by walking our own way. As long as we are searching for the “right” answer or our “recipe to happiness” we forget to live.
We will probably never find what we are looking for – but what we will find is even more thrilling and beautiful: surprises, connections, friendships – the pleasure of the unknown.
If we stop thinking black or white we will discover how colorful this world is.
So how am I going to overcome this narrow decision-making-fight? I’m following my excitement by doing what I enjoy doing, by following my heart and dropping my thoughts completely.
The difficult part is to give an ear to my heart, my inner voice. The chatterbox in my head still likes to dominate, but my heart wins with trust and patience.
My thoughts are like needles tickling my skull. First they are soft and gentle. They are trying to stimulate my brain. After a while they start to poke more relentlessly. They are trying to control my feelings and my behaviour. If I’m not careful they are torturing me until I forget who I am. I don’t know who I am exactly, but for sure I am not my thoughts.
Sometimes there are these moments that only belong to me.
All of a sudden a burst of energy fills my chest.
A warm smile from the interior arises.
It is one of these moments, when everything feels right.
Life becomes bearable again. All the negativity vanishes in exhilaration.
Absence turns into awareness.
I arrive in the present moment while lifting off into the future of my own history.
Alright, the process of renewing is continuing. I can literally feel the shell bursting. Before I started this article I thought “Okay, this will be short but intense.” – A fertilizer for my growth – a brief reminder of how far I’ve come. But there is so much more to it: Welcome to the story of my life.
“You don’t take yourself seriously” – A few months ago a friend of mine put a finger right into a wound. A wound I didn’t even know it existed. “Love yourself more” – This is a phrase I heard a lot over the past few years. “Put yourself on number one”, only recently a couchsurfing host pointed out to me witnessing my struggle to find my own priorities.
It made me think. Within the past five years I’ve tried hard to live my life up to my own believes. Maybe too hard? I’ve changed jobs, rooms, cities and countries. I’ve ended relationships. I’ve started new ones. I’ve tried new things, I’ve travelled, I’ve improved my physical fitness and so on and so on. Some of my changes you might witness on this blog.
“Do what you love.” – This expression too became omnipresent in our highly individualized world. Well, so I did! Everything was supposed to be good. But it wasn’t. I stressed myself out. I stressed myself out, because I was struggling to meet my own expectations. Was I happy in the meantime?
Of course not. I always felt like there is something missing. Even if I thought I had all I wanted, I felt this numbing anxiety. But where was it coming from? I had to dig deeper.
What I found was a hole – a hole I was always closing my eyes from. I filled it with a lot of things. Temporary pleasures like partying, alcohol or sex gave me a superficial satisfaction. Working hard gave me a feeling of purpose. But at the end even sports and physical challenges just seemed to be a substitution. But a substitution for what? Only when I started to observe the dark corners of my psyche the cover-up crumbled. The process is still ongoing.
The more honest I become with myself the more the truth discloses: Now I know that I was looking for love in the wrong places. I had to find it within myself. What I have been trying to pad was a lack of self-love.
I was looking for love in the wrong places
To be honest with you, it was only about five years ago, I was 25 years old and I didn’t have the slightest idea who I was or who I wanted to become. I thought I had, but I hadn’t.
Self-doubts were shadowing any future prospects. I couldn’t see myself or anything else clear. I didn’t know what I’m passionate about. I wanted to write, I wanted to hike, I wanted to travel, but I couldn’t find the motivation to do it. I was scared. I always found excuses.
Now I know that I felt obligated to follow a beaten track. A path that wasn’t mine. I thought I would have to find somebody to walk this path with me. Slowly it dawned me that I have to find myself in the first place.
I always had the feeling there must be more to life, but I couldn’t quite grasp what it was. In the past there was always something missing – with or without a boyfriend I was unhappy – neither physically nor spiritually satisfied.
A long time (actually all of my life) I thought I have to change. There must be something wrong with me. I must be mentally sick or something. The truth is that I didn’t take my personal needs seriously. That’s why I felt like shit most of the time.
Five years ago I did not know my journey will be about self-love. I would fight my fears and expand my comfort zone in the name of (self-) love.
Love is in the air and stuff. But how do I receive it?
How to foster self-love
So far so good – apparently I was looking for love. The question was how to cultivate love in my system? This is only partly an “How-to” guide, but more an arbitrary list of thoughts and assumptions that crossed my way during the last months. I’m curious what you have to add.
1. Stop lying to yourself
Before I started my journey of self-love I kept up an idealized image of my self. Disregarding my own nature I tried to be somebody else. Painfully I learnt that this leads only to physical and mental suffering.
Don’t try to be somebody you are not. Look into the mirror and see your true nature. Be true to yourself. Be authentic, but most of all be honest with yourself. Acknowledge your roots and be proud of who you are.
2. Stop looking for approval by others
A long long time I was aiming for acceptance instead of striving towards my own goals. I was hoping to find somebody to “fix” me and help me with my life. In the meantime I was living somebody else’s life not mine.
If you are looking for approval by others you are losing credibility. You give away responsibility for your well-being and slowly you are losing your self-esteem. Stop being a people pleaser and please yourself first.
3. Lower your expectations on yourself
Harder, faster, better, stronger – this is the slogan of our time not only when it comes to technology. Self-optimization became common courtesy, but the slavedriver is only in your head: The inner judge – your chatterbox – is the one who is convicting you for being insufficient.
Don’t get me wrong – self-discipline is required to make changes. But what you have to optimize is your way of thinking from “I have to become better” to “I’m okay how I am”. Self-criticism is the opposite of self-love.
So please, please you chatterbox in the back of the head – stop judging. Instead of heightening the expectations on yourself accept who you are: A human being and not a robot.
4. Accept your flaws and shortcomings
I’m still working on examining my strengths and weaknesses. During this process I learnt something essential: When you are able to give yourself a warm smile as soon as you discover weaknesses then you are able to transform them.
What you consider as your negative traits are might be ulterior talents or advantages? As soon as you take a look at your personality characteristics these supposedly negative attributes convert into your personal gifts.
5. Appreciate your individual gifts
In order to love yourself more you have to honour these personal gifts. You have to say yes to your uniqueness. Take a moment of appreciation and gratefulness – it is worth it. Believe in yourself. The world needs you how you are.
6. Give yourself time to heal
This is a tough one. Up to today I’m asking too much of myself. Most of my life I was busy beating myself down for not meeting my own expectations.
Over and over my body told me to stop, but I wasn’t listening until recently. I found out that I need the time to lick my wounds and recover from life-changing events like breaking up with my boyfriend or changing my environment rapidly. Allowing myself to heal is essential in order to achieve anything in my life.
Walk your own pace and household with your energy. Take your time to make the steps that are required to become the person you want to be. You only have this one life – so why rush?
7. Take your personal needs seriously
If you don’t take your needs seriously you end up suffering. Imagine a dog who can’t go for a walk or doesn’t get fed? Will he lead a happy and healthy life?
We can only nurture one another (friends, partner, family or even society) if we satisfy our own needs first.
I was standing in my own way by not taking myself seriously until I realized, that only I know what’s good for me. As soon as I started listening to my inner voice I found out about my personal needs. It is important to mute all the distraction and start listening.
8. Be compassionate
I don’t say you should feel sorry for yourself. No, actually self-compassion is the opposite of self-pity. Self-compassion is being warm, kind-hearted and friendly towards your inner self. When you are able to put a warm smile on your face, when you encounter negative feelings, fears or unsatisfied desires, then you are starting to love yourself. It is being supportive like you are to your friends.
9. Relax every day
Take a break. Go for a walk. Do some yoga. Meditate or just breathe in and out consciously every day for five minutes or an hour. Carve out this time for yourself. It will help you to clear your vision. (Note to my distracted self.)
9. Trust in the Process
Like every plant, every animal, every river and every cloud you are a part of nature. It is already taken care of you. Don’t worry too much. Just trust.
What I am really saying is that you don’t need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomenon of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all.
~ Alan Watts