When doing work that matters, in risking something of yourself, a voice stirs inside of you. Some call it the Lizard Brain, some call it the resistance, and there are many other things you can call it.
You can call it the enemy. It comes at you with teeth flashing, ready to attack you. What do you at times like that? You feel that you must resist it. You feel like you must fight it in order to address it, in order to make it go away.
But this is its plan all along.
Start a venture, the beast comes to attack you. “This cannot be done. You will fail and lose everything.”
Express your interest in someone you like. “This person will reject you. You will never get her/him/the role you want.” Also the beast.
Publish something, create something, and put it out there. “No one will want this. You’re wasting your time. Stop dreaming.”
The beast will come and attack you, and want to fight you. It will make you believe that the only way to counter its voice, is to fight it.
Not so. Fighting it is what it wants. When you even touch this beast, its teeth bite into you and makes you rabid. You believe you’re fighting this beast, but actually you’re letting it control you.
Instead, stop fighting the beast. You will at first believe that if you stop fighting it, it will win. It will own you. But that is already happening right now.
Stop fighting it. You will notice that it will have nothing to attack then. It will pass right through you. You will see that you are much bigger than it. You will see that the beast was toothless all along. You will then be able to move on.
Instead of making a career, health, or any other external resolution in 2019, consider making a resolution in changing how you think.
Over the last few months, I’ve taken on more projects, work, and just stuff to do. On top of that there’s taking time for relationships, and staying healthy (both mentally and physically). I’ve searched for ways to organize my life my effectively.
Enter TheBullet Journal.
This is an paper based way of organizing my life that has made a huge difference in just how much more effective I am. It’s also made me a lot more deliberate in spending time on things that matter.
Check it out for yourself:
On top of this, I’ve been deeply affected by the work of Brian Tracy, who recommends writing out your big goals every day. For weeks, I’ve been repeatedly writing out the same goals. This too has had a big difference in the kind of progress I’ve made in my life.
While this external growth has been great, there’s still a gnawing at the back of my mind and gut about what to do for 2019. There’s still a feel of inadequacy, a feeling of incompleteness, incompetence, unworthiness.
I’d been searching for ways to tackle this. And after much reading, I wanted to share a powerful Resolution of Thinking I’ve taken on.
This is not about “positive thinking” which is just putting layers of fakehood on our real vulnerabilities.
Instead, this is about entering your mind and visualizing yourself as someone who competently and confidently lives the way your best self would. This is mental rehearsal of being the kind of person you want to be.
This is not necessarily about external goals. It is deliberately internal.
How would your best self wake up? How would they be in social situations? How would they work? How would they handle a crisis? How would they work? How would they eat? Move? What kinds of habits would they have?
There is a lot of research that shows that this kind of mental practice does amazing things in increasing our self-esteem, self-efficacy. It changes our self-image for the better so we feel worthy and capable of handling the big audacious goals we have (or even the simpler things). This is based on the work by Dr. Maxwell Maltz who wrote the book on how to change your self-image. See more here.
Our mind is not able to tell the difference between what’s happening in reality and what we picture in our minds. That is why this is the kind of progressive exercise that can help us change ourselves from the inside out.
Change your thinking, change your life. In this new year, resolve to change how you think about yourself. Visualize your ideal self in detail daily. See yourself slowly becoming this person.
I finished reading this excellent book: The Outward Mindset by The Arbinger Institute. Rarely does a leadership book resound so deeply with me. I found myself highlighting large chunks of the book, and I wanted to share some of the choicest passages from the book with you.
The basic premise of the book tells us that we need to change our mindset and see people as, well, people instead of objects or obstacles to manipulate, push, persuade, or overcome. They are people with their own internal needs, challenges, wants, objectives, hopes and dreams. When we see truly see people for who they are and what they want, make our work about serving them, and constantly adjust to make sure we see people for who they are, we create better families, communities, and organizations.
This is far from a “soft skills” book. Getting this right creates a strategic competitive advantage which cannot be replicated. It creates record breaking profits, low turnover rates, and drives real business results. This set of ideas have been used by SWAT Teams, non-profits, and multinational corporations.
This is similar to the premise of Listen & Lead by Richard Himmer which I wrote about in my two previous posts here and here. This books flows nicely from these other linked articles.
I have seen the power of these ideas in over a decade of my volunteering effort with BAPS, and BAPS Charities. While no one has formalized these ideas in this non-profit organization, I have seen its spirit everyday. The results have been breathtaking as a small organization founded in early 20th century India in a tiny village has grown to become one of the largest international India-based non-profits in the world with a host of activities impacting millions and thousands of centres globally.
I would say that if Arbinger really wants to see how deeply the Outward Mindset is embedded in an organization, they should carefully study BAPS.
Here are the excerpts:
In whatever a person does, his or her mind-set comes through, and others respond to this combination of behavior and mindset. This means that the effectiveness of an individual’s behaviors will depend to some significant degree on that individual’s mindset.
Seeing people as people rather than as objects enables better thinking because such thinking is done in response to the truth: others really are people and not objects.
When my mindset is outward, I am alive to and interested in other people and their objectives and needs. I see others as people whom I am open to helping.
Not caring to notice or be moved by others requires something of me that takes a tremendous personal and social toll: it requires me to feel justified for not caring. I find justification by focusing on others’ faults, real and imagined.
Are there people in your life, either at work or at home, whose needs, objectives, and burdens you resist seeing? How about people that you don’t resist—people with whom you are open, curious, interested, aware?
As you compare these relationships, what differences do you notice in how you feel and act? Can you spot any blame in what you tell yourself about others or any self-justifying narratives that you’ve come to believe
The most troubling areas of our lives will be those in which we resist what the humanity of others invites us to see. This is a hopeful truth.
What is the cost of an inward mindset? When people focus on themselves rather than on their impact, lots of activity and effort get wasted on the wrong things.
Think about the times in your life when you have felt most alive and engaged. Who and what were you focused on in those moments—on yourself or on something bigger that included others?
Real helpfulness can’t be made into a formula. To be outward doesn’t mean that people should adopt this or that prescribed behavior. Rather, it means that when people see the needs, challenges, desires, and humanity of others, the most effective ways to adjust their efforts occur to them in the moment. When they see others as people, they respond in human and helpful ways.
This approach to measuring one’s impact requires nothing but a willingness to stay in regular conversations with others about whether they feel one’s efforts are helping them or not.
While the goal in shifting mindsets is to get everyone turned toward each other, accomplishing this goal is possible only if people are prepared to turn their mindsets toward others with no expectation that others will change their mindsets in return.
For all these reasons—as well as because widespread mindset change happens in large measure in response to those who change first—being able to operate with an outward mind-set when others do not is a critically important ability. It is the most important move.
People misunderstand the most important move we are talking about if they think that working with an outward mindset when others refuse to do the same makes a person blind to reality or soft on bad behavior. It does neither. In fact, what obscures vision and exposes people to more risk is not an outward mindset, which stays fully alive to and aware of others, but an inward one.
If you start with changing mindsets, behavioral transformations can happen quickly.
Whether in rethinking community policing or resolving labor- management disputes, when people see situations that need to change, the temptation is to immediately apply a behavioral solution. That seems like the fast approach. But if mindset is not addressed, it is usually the slow approach to change.
We’re not trying to have a homogenized group of people who work in the same way. Everybody works individually, but they work toward a collective solution. It’s about taking difference and focusing together on results.
Without realizing it, too many leaders assume that the role of leadership is to control.
When I try to impose my ideas on others and thereby refuse to allow them to think, I end up getting in the way more than I end up being helpful. It’s not my job as a leader to have the solution to every problem.
Last week, we learned that great leaders are those that can create psychological safety within their teams. These teams outperform others where psychological safety is lacking no matter how talented, creative, educated, etc the individual team members are. We learned that it is important to create trust & respect in team members, and this in turn creates a feeling of safety. You can read more about this here.
This week, we will go into what it takes to actually create this psychological safety. My proposal is contrary to much of what pop culture portrays as leadership. There are images of high powered corporate CEOs and world leaders. YouTube videos and articles on the Internet talk about how to be charismatic, how to persuade people, how to convince others, etc.
Learning these skills have been akin to getting superpowers. The quality of relationships has gone up substantially for me, and I hope you can get something similar out of them.
Our models on leadership are broken. We know a lot about WHAT it takes to be a leader. We know good leaders are meant to have a vision, motivate others, forge a path, and take their team there.
There are also many truisms related to leadership. For example, Simon Sinek says ‘Leaders Eat Last’. They lead by example, etc. But what’s often lost is the HOW behind it. Behind the lofty words and intentions, there’s a big void where practical skills are ignored.
During this past week, I had the privilege of being one of the 100 people invited to the St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland to discuss the Future of Work. The event is an intimate gathering of roughly 600 people: leaders of tomorrow and leaders of today including billionaire entrepreneurs, world leaders, and cutting edge researchers, and brilliant thinkers.
To qualify for this all expenses trip, more than 1,300 people wrote an essay. I was one of the 100 whose essay and ideas were picked. I wanted to share this essay that discusses what the future of work will be.
I was trying to answer how I plan on being economically relevant in the future as computers increasingly take over the work of so many humans. Here’s my essay below.
Tribe was on my to-read list for a while, and it only took me 2 days to finish it. It’s a very short, sparse 130 pages. Here are some of the most interesting quotes from the book with a few thoughts near the end.
“I know what coming back to America from a war zone is like because I’ve done it so many times. First, there’s a kind of shock at the comfort and affluence that we enjoy, but that is followed by the dismal realization that we live in a society that is basically at war with itself. People speak with incredible contempt about, depending on their views: the rich, the poor, the educated, the foreign born, the President, or the entire US government. It is a level of contempt that is usually reserved for enemies in wartime except that now it is applied to our fellow citizens. Unlike criticism, contempt is particularly toxic because it assumes a moral superiority in the speaker. Contempt is often directed at people who have been excluded from a group or declared unworthy its benefits. Contempt is often used by governments to provide rhetorical cover for torture or abuse. Contempt is one of four behaviors that, statistically, can predict divorce in married couples. People who speak with contempt for one another will probably not remain united for long.”
“If you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different—you underscore your shared humanity,”
“As affluence and urbanization rise in a society, rates of depression and suicide tend to go up rather than down.”
“It may be worth considering whether middle-class American life—for all its material good fortune—has lost some essential sense of unity that might otherwise discourage alienated men from turning apocalyptically violent.”
“What would you risk dying for—and for whom—is perhaps the most profound question a person can ask themselves. The vast majority of people in modern society are able to pass their whole lives without ever having to answer that question, which is both an enormous blessing and a significant loss.”
“How do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a man in a world that doesn’t require courage?”
“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It’s time for that to end.”
“Human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others. These values are considered “intrinsic” to human happiness and far outweigh “extrinsic” values such as beauty, money and status.”
This book with full of insights on why we have evolved to essentially to live in tribes, and what we’ve lost from abandoning that model. Contempt and superiority of one side compared to another has really overtaken any sense of coming together. Parents will find it interesting to learn we isolate our babies right from the first few months of birth, which is so contrary to our design. Whereas in tribal societies, we were held 90%> of the time, in today’s age of separate rooms and trying to imbue a false sense of independence (instead of interdependence) in babies, no wonder we are creating a generation of anxious, stressed out, depressed young people.
What we need today is a greater sense of unity and tribal community (Ubuntu) than ever before. Not only does it restore us to our more natural evolutionary past, but also restores happiness and security into our lives. This is not about a false sense of tribe that social media provides us,
The world needs it in large doses. The book also does a great job exploring why so many of us feel so distant with our neighbours, our friends, and ourselves.
Perfectionism affects too many of us. It prevents us from taking action and never really getting anywhere in life.
That is why I picked up this book. How to be an Imperfectionist by Stephen Guise is excellent in resetting the frame. Below, I’ve highlighted some of my favourite quotes to give you a taste of this book.
I found myself highlighting much of the book. More importantly, after reading this, I found myself taking ACTION that I was stalling on for a long time.
Perfectionism is an imposter—a hoax; it’s the worst mindset you can pick out of a hat. Imperfectionism, however, is the real deal; it’s luxury… five stars… the best.
This isn’t a “trick”to make you happier. Remember, the unrealistic, ridiculous side of this coin is perfectionism. The idea that we can do anything perfectly is completely and irreversibly contrary to logic, the history of mankind, and every person’s experience.
Perfectionists’ fear causes them to drown in complexity. Considering all of the possible ways a mistake could be made takes a lot of mental effort. This “works” for them because the overwhelming pressure and increased fear from visualizing everything that could go wrong drives them to a safer activity, where relief is found (until they’re reminded again). Can you see why perfectionism is the root cause of procrastination?
Against a giant tortoise, we’re all speed demons! Against a cheetah, even Usain “The Human Lightning” Bolt will get embarrassed. Your confidence in your foot speed depends on what relative benchmarks you consider to be adequate, poor, or remarkable…Every confidence benchmark is arbitrary, so we may as well create our own.
Focusing on quantity (not quality) of repetitions over time leads to consistency, which leads to habit formation, which is the heart of personal growth. When you engage in this process and a behavior becomes habitual, your subconscious will prefer it instead of resist it. That’s victory. Can you see now why I cringe when I see so many people try to “get motivated” to achieve their goals? We need long-lasting habits to win, not short-lived motivational bursts.
Motivation should more or less be ignored if you want your changes to last.
Excellent stuff right? I won’t get into the actual solutions Stephen suggests, but these ideas alone are enough of a paradigm shift that I think they were worth sharing.
It’s high time we all consider a media fast. Mental illness is at an all time high (although one can argue it is just reported for the first time). So is a feeling of helplessness and lack of control over one’s life.
Perhaps you end your day having spent hours surfing reddit, random blogs, social media, or news websites, and you wonder what you even got done that day. Maybe you feel very pessimistic about life given current events. These moments train our mind that we are pretty much helpless in controlling the destiny of our lives.
I’ve already written a lot about quitting social media here. The purpose of this series is to go one step further. I am going to write about my experience quitting ALL media for the next 30 days. This includes TV shows, movies and documentaries, YouTube series, magazines, newspapers, and blogs.
Just to be clear, this does not mean I will stop watching videos or reading information on the Internet or in print. Rather, I mean to consume information consciously: I must have a purpose before I open another tab, and start watching that video, reading that post, or listening to that podcast.
This is in contrast to the mindless nature of browsing the net to keep myself occupied, distracted, entertained, or informed. My method will be to consume media that serves my goals. That’s it.
10 Reasons We Need A Media Fast
Reclaim your mental sanity. We spend so much time prescribing therapy and drugs to people with mental health issues: be it depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a whole lot more, but don’t bother to focus on a major contributing factor for all this: the media. TV shows, movies, internet articles about tech billionaires, and the constant barrage of click-bait celebrity gossip does tremendous harm. It creates the expectations reinforced daily of our inadequacies, our failures for not being fit/healthy/sexy/rich/successful/young enough. Don’t believe me? Start watching this excellent series by Charlie Booker titled “How TV Ruined Your Life” (I know it’s about TV but it applies to all modern media):
Have more time. If you feel constantly stressed, overworked, and wonder at how achievers get stuff done, this is how! Quit all this mindless consumption and get on a media fast and you will discover a tremendous amount of time you didn’t even know you had. Your mind will fight to binge on this kind of stuff again. Resist it. Breath. Meditate. It will go away. After the first few days, you will discover time that you did not know you had.
Feel more in control. A lot of us feel out of control in our lives. I credit much of this to the constant attack of negativity from the news and social media. I am not claiming that ignorance or sticking your head in the sand is a good strategy to live life. Rather, it’s the idea about getting very selective about what we consume.
In The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli, the author asks, “Out of the 10,000 news stories you may have read in the last 12 months, did even one allow you to make a better decision about a serious matter in your life?” You can find a quick summary of the affect of news and our out-of-control feelings from this article: News is bad for you–and giving up reading it will make you happier.
Live Purposefully. When the mind clears up from all the noise, noise, noise of TV shows, Internet, magazines, etc, you will get space to create life a lot more purposefully. Our consumption of media becomes directed in the service of the life we want, not away from the life we’re living (and we’re not happy with). When we subtract out the unnecessary, what’s life is the necessary that makes a big difference.
Feel freedom. Additionally, we actually feel the freedom that comes from having a lot more time. We feel the freedom to live purposefully. This is a crucial distinction from points 2 & 4. While we may physically have more time to live a better life, this reality is useless unless we actually believe that is the case. The barrage of what we consume is so endless that we feel the opposite: that there isn’t enough time and space for our lives. Ironically, this is just not true.
When we drink water from a fire hose, no wonder we feel overwhelmed.
When we do a media fast, we actually end up feeling that we do. This new belief will be one of the key factors is helping us take control and live purposefully.
Build discipline. It feels wonderful to set goals and accomplish them! And this goal is tremendously powerful because it is an internal goal: something where we fight our minds and work to overcome our own mental scripts. I wrote about the potent power of such goals in my previous post about goal setting. If you’re struggling to figure out what sort of goal to set that will challenge your mind, this 30 day media fast is a great one to get started. It will build discipline that will permeate into all other parts of your life.
Mindful growth. Our growth is often driven by necessity. We don’t have money in the bank, so we work on getting a job and earning a buck. But when we get rid of distractions, we are free to pursue goals that matter deeply to us. Additionally, when we choose to consume media mindfully, we have to force ourselves to pick the things that we want to be informed about/consume. This type of mindful growth will be a lot more powerful.
Be happier. Next, we become a whole lot happier when we don’t surround ourselves with negativity. For example, you might think watching How I Met Your Mother or the latest Superhero movie doesn’t affect you in any way. Now this is just not true! Product placements remind us that we can be a lot more sexier/stronger/heroic if we owned the same products. The body shapes we see give us an immense sense of dissatisfaction with our own bodies. I’ve talked about this in the past that this won’t help us get into exercising, so this negativity isn’t helpful. And finally, the dramatic story lines and character lives just do not exist in real life.
We are deeply dissatisfied with our lives because we think life is supposed to be like these fictional stories. We may not know it, but it is affecting us in a very deep and primal way. But what makes a good story doesn’t make a good model for our life. For more, read this.
Make a positive difference in the world. Ironically, when we give up reading the news and feeling helpless, we actually have the freedom to actually go out in the world and make a difference. Volunteer, help someone in the community, get informed about the few things you care deeply about, and take action! You will feel powerful and in control of your life and the lives of others. This happens when you don’t let the 24/7 media channel run your mind 24/7.
Just to see if you can! Last, just do this to see if you can! Make it into a fun challenge with your mind. Explore this theme and see what difference it can make. Treat is as a 30 day experiment.
So that’s it for this post! I would be curious to hear about your experiences with the negativity of the media. Please also let me know if you’d like to join me in taking on a media fast together!
Leave a comment below or message me privately to let me know!
When it comes to goal setting, there are tons of books, seminars, and courses out there. Everyone has a different take on how to set goals.
Most experts will tell you to set goals for your business, career, relationships, health, spirituality, and contributions in the community. They will tell you that without goals, you will not succeed.
They will tell you that people who write down their goals are much more likely to succeed with them. Write your goal in the present tense, they say, as if you have already achieved it! It tricks your mind into thinking you already have the goal.
Others promote setting SMART goals. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. As an example, “my goal is to make $5,000 more than I make right now, by July 31st of this year by working a part time job close to home.” Very smart.
These are all great tactics for goal setting, and experts are probably right that writing out your goal and reminding yourself about it everyday helps in attaining them.
The biggest issue with these tactics is that they ignore the real problem: even when we achieve most of our goals, we are still as unhappy as before.
I saw a fantastic video the other day from some contemporary celebrities who talk about this:
You may not care about these people, but their lesson still stands. When we set external goals, we grow externally, but remain unfulfilled within.
Of course there is nothing wrong with setting a goal to get that great career, or lose your weight, or anything like that. The problem is the motivation behind it is half-baked. We think we’ll be happy when we achieve this goal. From the experience of millions of people throughout history (including some people in the video above), you probably won’t.
A Different Goal
Throughout my life, I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with amazing people. The most important two figures have been Pramukh Swami Maharaj, and Mahant Swami Maharaj. Sadly, they have been mostly unheard of by people in the Western world, but their wisdom and impact has touched the lives of millions including presidents, scientists, artists, community activities, teachers, business tycoons, and regular folk.
They have taught me that life is a cycle of ups and downs. Sometimes, we win, and sometimes we lose. We must remain stable throughout it all. How can we hold onto something that constantly changes for happiness? Our happiness also becomes temporary when we do that!
That which is temporary is not real, and that which is real is not temporary.
It is much better to centre our lives on that which is permanent. To that which does not change.
What can that one thing be?
Goal Setting in Reality
If we commit to goal setting in the world of reality (that which is permanent), we must set the direction of life to conquer our own minds. Every external achievement is accomplished by honing the mind. We experience all the ups and downs of life in the mind. So, if we work on conquering the mind, we can accomplish wonders.
This is the goal that will give us happiness. This is the goal that will help us be our best selves. Peace and stability will be found in making self-mastery the goal.
The external stuff will change. Identify with that which is unchanging, and we will win the game of life.