Say yes

Miscellaneous thoughts, Motivation, Philosophy

Say yes to that flash of inspiration.

I started this blog in a frenzy, not knowing what it would be.

Say yes to that thing you’re frightened of doing.

I was scared to share it with my friends and family, embarrassed of what people might think.

Say yes to trying out something new.

I didn’t know if I could write. 

Say yes to getting up early to crush that workout.

It never feels easy, but it is always worth it.

Say yes to that opportunity, whatever it is – even (especially) if you don’t know you can do it.

Someone asked if I could do an illustration for the cover of their book after finding me on Instagram. I said yes.

Say yes to the best possible version of you. 

“Actions express priorities” | January in review

Creativity, economics, Fitness, Motivation, productivity, writing

Well, we got through it: January’s done. How was it for you?

Mine was good. At the start of this year, I set myself the goal of doing more. That’s what I figure it all boils down to. January’s been pretty successful on those terms.

Here’s some of what I’ve been doing:

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I drew, I wrote, I lifted heavy weights, I slogged through some tricky assignments, read some good books, listened to interesting podcasts and great music, and tried to stay present throughout. I’m meditating more consistently than ever at the moment. Getting here has genuinely been a transformative process. These days, I rarely find myself lost in thought, a state which has been the norm for the majority of my life. It’s refreshing to feel focussed, determined, and happy instead of anxious, depressed and worried. I’ll link to some resources in the notes below if you’re interested in learning more about meditation.

Here’s today’s thought: remember that regardless of how your January went, it’s over. You can’t change it. The future, however, is yours. So take a moment to consider what went well well last month, what you might have handled better and what your goals are for February. After you’re done thinking, consider the quote below:

“Action expresses priorities.”

-Mahatma Gandhi 

What are your priorities? Are your actions in line with them?

Here’s a way to approach February:

  1. Decide what you want your month to look like.
  2. Think about the specific things you need to do to make it that way.
  3. Set your days up so that you have scheduled time for those things.
  4. Get to work!

Links/notes:

Here’s a short video summarising some of the benefits of meditation, and one of the best introductory guided meditations I know of (if you’re ready to give it a go):

Jon Kabat-Zimm is the founder of much of modern mindfulness practices. Pretty amazing bloke.

This meditation is only 8 minutes long, and Sam Harris is an excellent guide:

By the way, if you’re interested in my drawings/artwork, the best place to see more is my Instagram. Expect 28 new drawings this February:

Getting back on the horse

Creativity, Motivation, Philosophy, productivity

You know the story. It’s all going brilliantly: the diet, the study schedule, the workouts, the commitment to practice learning a new language. Then something comes along and messes it all up.

Before you know it you’re in a downward spiral. You ate that donut, so the rest of the diet can go out the window. You missed a workout so you may as well wait until next week to start the new routine again.

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In my case, I missed a few days of writing and drawing over the weekend. I prioritised other things. It doesn’t feel good to know I’m never, ever going to get those hours back. But there’s nothing to do about it now other than to get going.

Think of a strongman dragging a lorry (or truck for any of my American readers). They push off, straining, every tendon taut. It’s hard at first, but they start making progress, inch by painful inch. As soon as they start to slow down, even slightly, it’s essentially impossible to get going again.

So keep the momentum up for as long as you can. When you mess up (which you will, and I will), leave as little time as possible before getting back to work. Don’t give yourself a chance to breathe. Don’t let the thing you’re hammering at stiffen and set – get right back to pounding at it until it’s red hot again.

Today, I got back on the horse. And that’s good enough for now.

Always be closing

Creativity, Fitness, Motivation, productivity

Juggling commitments is hard. I’ve got coursework due, projects to work on, gym sessions to hit and goals to achieve. So do we all.

Sometimes we get worn down. It’s impossible to go full throttle all the time. But let’s remember one thing: always be closing. Don’t lose sight of what you’re working towards.

If you need to, take a breather, reload – and get back to work.

Birds flying high

Creativity, Motivation, Philosophy

Thinking about your life in its entirety is overwhelming. It can be especially hard when you have a bad day – when you disappoint yourself, when you don’t live up to your expectations. To err is inherently human.

But telling yourself that doesn’t make it easier to stomach the feeling of upsetting someone you love, skipping a workout, or procrastinating on that long put-off project. It’s easy to enter a downward spiral from here, compounding poor decisions.

Don’t let the fuckups define you. I’ve found this saying immensely important over the last few years. It helps me deal with my frequent, inevitable shortcomings:

 

“To the wise man, each day is a new life.”

 

Every single day of your life, you have an opportunity to completely reinvent yourself. It doesn’t matter how you spent yesterday. That’s over, it’s done, it’s utterly unchangeable. But you can do the right thing today. A factory reset. Your victories don’t last forever. But neither do your failures.

This saying has become a mantra to me. I’ve realised how incredibly lucky we all are just to experience being at all.

I genuinely look forward to making a cup of coffee in the morning. Smelling the beans, boiling the kettle, listening to the sound of the water hitting the grounds, the smooth plunge of my cafetiere. And that’s before I’ve even taken a sip. Something that on the surface seems mundane has become one of my favourite rituals. And every day I get to experience it anew.

You’re not indelibly tied to your past failures. You can define who you are. So find the beauty in every day and make the right choices.

Nina’s got it right.


Notes:

I coupled this evening’s writing with a drawing. I’m not pleased with it – Nina’s someone I’ll definitely revisit.

Brain reps

Philosophy

Humans are unique. Between stimulus and response, there’s an opportunity to decide how we feel. For some, that idea sounds ridiculous. Someone slaps you in the face for no reason, you’re going to be angry, right? For others, this will ring true. There can be a vast expanse in which to gather your thoughts, and the prospect of just lashing out like any other animal would seems equally silly.

This was one of the key ideas of Austrian psychologist Viktor Frankl. His seminal work, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. It details his survival in three different death camps during the Holocaust. That’s an incredible example of someone deciding how to react to the outside world. Life for him at that time was full of darkness, despair and misery. His entire family was killed. Every day, he faced his own impending death. Yet he kept going, somehow…

I am confident that not a single person reading this faces any problems remotely approaching those of Dr. Frankl. And yet, how many times today did you find yourself frustrated over something completely inconsequential – when you’d rather not be? Did you snap at your other half, or swear at someone for driving slightly too slowly for your liking? Wouldn’t it be better if you could take a moment to just consider your reaction, to show some of Frankl’s measured, calm reserve?

I am absolutely not an exception to this kind of behaviour. Only yesterday, I spent about 30 minutes playing with the spacing of the margins and layout of my dissertation, growing increasingly annoyed when I couldn’t get it ‘just right’. But, I was able to recognise myself getting lost in thought and move on, rather than walking around with a nagging sense of frustration, without being aware of why, all day (or all week for that matter).

You work on growing that gap between stimulus and response in exactly the same way you’d seek to grow stronger or more flexible physically. You come up with a plan you can stick to and you consistently put the work in. The body and the mind are incontrovertibly linked.

The exercise? Meditation.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Blaise Pascal

I have always found sitting still, even for 10 minutes, unbelievably hard. In today’s world, nobody is used to being alone with their thoughts. The internet has killed boredom. But it’s so vital to spend some time faced with the reality of being. Otherwise, you’re just permanently ‘lost in thought’ (as I’ve heard Sam Harris phrase it).

Guided meditation is a good place to start. I’m a big fan of Headspace. Here’s one I found on Youtube.

If you can’t watch it right now, mindfulness meditation looks something like this:

You sit down, preferably somewhere quiet. You don’t need to sit in a lotus position like a monk. Just on a chair, the floor or the end of your bed is fine. You close your eyes and pay close attention to the sensation of the breath. You’re not trying to ‘empty your mind’. Rather, when you’re inevitably distracted by something, you recognise the distraction, and return your focus to the breath. Do this for as long as you can – 10 minutes is about right to start, but one mindful breath is infinitely better than nothing.

10 minutes out of 24 hours is less than 1% of your day. Can you think of anything with more upside and so little downside? Doing this regularly is exactly the equivalent of tearing muscle fibres. They’ll knit together and heal, stronger than before. The benefits of meditation are vast. You’ll start widening that gap between things happening to you and how you respond. In making better decisions, you’ll find your freedom.

Think of Viktor Frankl in the camp next time you find yourself moaning or complaining. You have the option to choose. That’s not to be taken lightly.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning


Notes:

Man’s Search for Meaning really is an incredible book. I read it in one sitting – it was impossible to put down. I’d highly recommend it. Find it here.

Meditation is also something that’s vastly improved the quality of my life – this Reddit article really captures some of the specific benefits. I’ve experienced everything on the list, including some lucid dreaming. Definitely the thinking visually too.

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