2013 Review; 2014 Preview

Last year was, by far, the year in which I have grown the most. In this post I’ll try to summarize what has been going on in my life and this blog in the past 365+ days and give you a glimpse of how I expect 2014 to turn out. Let’s start with the blog.

VascoBrazão.com

Last November, this blog completed its first rotation around the sun and I’m happy to say I expect to keep writing for many more rounds. Writing for it gives me pleasure and helps me bring coherence to my many (and often very confusing) moments of introspection. And the fact that there’s other people – you! – who benefit from what I put out into the world is the icing on the cake.

In 2013 I published 41 original posts and one guest post on the blog as well as my own guest post on HighExistence.com. I’m proud to have written so much despite pursuing lots of other projects and being a generally unorganised person. In case you’re a fairly new reader or are reading this post in 2017 and have never explored the depths of the (hopefully now huge) archives, these are my 2013 posts you can’t miss:

Besides the posts, this year I created a monthly newsletter that readers can subscribe to to receive original content not published on the blog, a list of the posts published that month and transparent info on the blog’s stats.

My idea was to send out original content with every newsletter, but I have since come to terms with the fact that I might not be inspired to do so or have time for it every month (see the last post on the list above) so I won’t promise that this year. The newsletter will be sent out every month, sometimes with, sometimes without original content. After experimenting with it for the past months, I’ve found it better for my sanity not to put that kind of pressure on myself. The same policy applies to  : I will publish when I’m inspired to and feel no guilt or shame if I spend a whole month without publishing.

Last year I also wrote an ebook that I was planning on releasing in the summer. However, I ran into problems and the ebook is still waiting for final design. When it is finished, it will be sent out for free to everyone who subscribes to the newsletter (or is already subscribed at that time).

And now, some statistics:

  • All-time page views: 19,761 (18,948 in 2013)
  • Highest page views for one day: 3,732
  • Average daily page views 2013: 52
  • Post of the year: How To Have Deep Conversations (8,541 views)
  • Newsletter subscribers: 41

I know these stats are not very impressive, but I’m adding them to the post for the sake of transparency, to show other beginning bloggers what they’re in for in the beginning and so that I can compare these numbers over the years.

In 2014, like I said before, I plan to keep writing, to finally release the ebook and to continue the newsletter. Additionally, I might experiment with monetising the blog, either with ads, product recommendations, or by selling original products.

Personal Life

Yes, I have a life besides the blog too :)

Like I said before, this year I have grown more as a person than in any other year of my life, maybe even than all other years combined. Obviously I can’t tell you everything that happened, so here are some highlights:

In May 2013 I graduated from the German School of Lisbon (in Portugal) and some months later found myself in Bremen, Germany, studying Integrated Social And Cognitive Psychology at Jacobs University. Even though I do not want to be a psychologist, this has so far proven to be one of the best decisions of my life. I love most of my classes and the fact that I am required to take transdisciplinary courses – something you won’t usually find in German or Portuguese universities.

But what I like most about the university are the people, which brings me to another topic. During my 4 months in college, I have become friends with so many awesome people I barely recognise my past self anymore. The guy who used to have a group of 3-5 close friends somehow vanished, and I gained a new ability to socialize more effortlessly than ever, which I love doing. Of course all of this was heavily influenced by the fact that Jacobs has an international, residencial campus, something you also won’t find anywhere else in Germany.

The best part, and something I’ve been learning these past few months, is that having more friends doesn’t have to make your connections shallower. I’ve made sure to seek and encourage closeness in my relationships with others, and so far it has worked wonderfully. Next semester I will aim to find even more like-minded people as well as expand my network to people outside of university.

Since between finishing high school and the start of college there were about three empty months, I decided (with the help and support of my parents) to take a trip. After a few emails and a Skype ‘interview’, I found myself buying plane tickets to Montreal, Canada, and spending one month at the Valhalla Movement headquarters. Valhalla is a project created, among others, by Jordan Lejuwaan, creator of HighExistence, and aims at building and connecting sustainable communities around the world.

Living among so many awesome-minded people was a fantastic experience and a big growth catalyst for me, and I can’t thank them enough for making me feel a part of the community and teaching me so many valuable things (nor can I thank my parents enough for financing the trip and letting me go in the first place).  In the future I hope to be able to share more amazing moments with the Valhalla community and be of service to them in any way I can.

This year was a year of many firsts. After two embarrassing attempts, I finally lost my virginity and, I must admit, I think sex is pretty cool. Next year I want to explore that part of my life more – it’s about time. Most of my others first envolve experimenting with drugs. I’ve always found psychoactive substances to be very interesting, not so much from a party point of view (though some are perfect for that), but more in a personal development point of view (which should be obvious, if you know me at all). Next year I want to try magic mushrooms and LSD, which I believe to be very useful for self-discovery and -mastery, as well as to keep experimenting with other drugs – no mum, I won’t do heroin, promise. Hopefully those trips will inspire even better and deeper blog posts for you to enjoy.

But that’s not all: there’s at least two more things I am very excited about. The first I cannot tell you too much about just yet; let’s just say it involves opening a business and that you’ll hear about it when the time is right. The second thing is coaching. If all goes according to plan, I’ll have three month’s worth of transformational coaching with Drew Gerald. It will be my first ever coaching experience, so I can’t stress how stoked I am about it :D .

Without further ado, and because I get tired of talking too much about myself, I wish you an amazing 2014 full of growth and awesome experiences!

Don’t Make It The End Of The World

You’re late for a big meeting? So what? It’s not the end of the world.

Who cares if you didn’t submit your paper on time? Your professor, maybe, but it’s not the end of the world.

You failed to send out the newsletter your promised to write? Guess what: it’s not the end of the world…

… unless YOU make it so.

Today, more and more people do what they love, work towards their own goals, go to university because they want to learn, or otherwise follow their dreams in the way, shape and form they desire. And yet, many of us still struggle with work-related stress. We say we want to create our own lives, but it sometimes feels like this “work we love” controls us, rather than the other way around.

And why does this happen?

You see, just like everyone else, we fail. We set expectations for ourselves and don’t fulfil them; we set goals and don’t achieve them; we slack off. But that’s not the problem.

When we fail, we feel guilty. We beat ourselves up, dust ourselves off and beat ourselves up again as we inevitably make another ‘mistake’. And suddenly the very work that was supposed to make us happy brings us nothing but frustration and self-doubt. But that’s not the problem, either.

Guilt is merely a symptom, and the cause is fear. Fear that we are actually frauds; fear that we don’t deserve to succeed and have the amazing life we know to be possible; in essence, fear that we are not good enough. And that might be a problem, but it is not the problem.

The real problem, the root of all this unnecessary pain, is not fear itself. It’s using fear as motivation. By using fear as motivation to do the work you love, you’re corrupting it, depriving it of the very thing you sought in it: love.

If the sole reason you write a blog post is because otherwise you might lose subscribers, you’re driven by fear; when you show up for work in order not to be fired, you’re driven by fear. A fear mentality is one of avoiding: avoiding loss, avoiding pain, avoiding humiliation… Avoiding, avoiding, avoiding.

But we don’t get what we want by avoiding the opposite. Health isn’t the absence of disease, just like happiness is not the absence of sadness.

And while using fear as a motivator might work short-term, it will hurt you in the long run. Trust me.

In the years I have been blogging (VascoBrazão.com was not my first endeavour of the kind), I have noticed a very obvious trend: being motivated by fear makes me grind to a halt, create nothing, and feel very – very – bad about myself. As proof, just notice how little I have been writing these past few months and how many times I somehow apologised for letting you – someone I don’t even know – down.

The second thing I have noticed is that my best posts, the ones I am most proud of having written, the ones I believe bring the most value to people, were all written on love, not fear. I wrote them (just like I am writing this post right now) because I was inspired to, not because I thought I ‘had’ to, and the process of writing them brought me joy. Publishing them didn’t feel like turning in a homework assignment I never wanted to do; rather, it felt like surprising someone with a present from the bottom of my heart.

And today, this post is my present to you. I hope you like it but if you don’t, I won’t be sad, because I loved giving it anyway.

Now, please, let’s stop making it – whatever it is for you – the end of the world. You know better, I know better, and everyone else will thank us for it.

Guide To Happiness: Happiness First or How To Be Happy

Some weeks ago, I started publishing this guide to happiness, but had to stop writing before finishing for personal reasons. In this post, we will continue creating a guide to happiness, taking up where we left off.

In the previous post I argued that happiness and fulfilment are two separate yet interwoven concepts. You can be happy while unfulfilled, and you can feel sad despite having everything you could possibly need. This is because even though happiness is somewhat influenced by outside circumstances, it is a creation of the mind and therefore only truly dependant on your own thoughts and attitudes. The power of your surroundings or circumstances is that they can make it easier or harder for you to create the feeling of happiness.

When you have just woken up from a good night’s sleep, the sun is shining, and you are about to do what you love most, surrounded by those whom you love most, feeling happy is easy. When you’re stuck in traffic, late for a meeting in a stressful job you hate… not so much. So most people simply assume that, in order to be happy, they have to change their lives. If only they lived somewhere else, got the promotion, or had time to read a book, they would be happy. Except that as we have seen over and over, happiness doesn’t work that way.

All it takes to be happy is being happy.

Read that carefully: all it takes to be happy is being happy.

But happiness is an emotion, you say, and emotions are short-lived! Even the happiest person on earth will feel sad sometimes, right? Right. But that person can still be happy. Because happiness is a feeling (emotion) as well as a way of life. It is this distinction most people fail to see: the difference between feeling something and being it. This is how @manimal, a member of the High Existence forums, puts it:

Being happy and feeling happy are different things, you know. You can be happy but feel sad or angry or cold or whatever, people let their pseudo-emotions dictate how they ARE, not just how they FEEL. That’s where the confusion comes from.

Instead of saying “I feel angry” people say “I am angry” and that’s what turns them into angry people. They make a personality out of their bullshit emotions, disregarding the real emotions of the true self. I am always happy but sometimes I FEEL mad, it’s like a lake where even though the surface might be chaotic, deep down it’s always calm.

Being constantly happy is not hard or special or new. People have been trying to teach this to other people for thousands and thousands of years. People are just too self-righteous and unteachable to accept it as reality. They’d rather believe in a tragic world and be tragic. Don’t be like that.

The world is your playground filled with all your favourite toys. It’s for you, ENJOY IT :D  (source)

With this paradigm in mind, it is easy to understand why most people aren’t happy: they believe that in order to feel happy (which they think equals being happy) their outside circumstances have to meet certain criteria. Their first mistake is not noticing the difference between the state of mind of deep joy (or being happy) and the emotion we call “happiness”; the second mistake is believing either is dependent on anything but themselves.

Don’t get me wrong – changing your external reality can be beneficial to your long-term happiness, and we will cover that in the next post – but in order to create any meaningful change, we have to tackle the root of the problem. Be happy first, then create the circumstances that will help you stay happy.

Happiness First – But How?

In the last post we went through a sort of “happiness-exercise”. That exercise – based on gratitude – was supposed to teach you how easy it can be to invoke the feeling of happiness. If you didn’t read that post or didn’t actually do the exercise, I encourage you to (re)read the exercise and go through the described steps. It will take you less that 3 minutes.

Now we will go through the much longer-term steps of changing your mindset to one of happiness. Going through the steps might take you a long time or it might take you only a couple of minutes, but it will definitely be worth your investment.

1. Know that feeling happy most of the time is under your control

By now you should know that, at least in theory, you are responsible for your own happiness. If that is not clear yet, please reread this series from the beginning and check out my post on responsibility.

Knowing something in theory, though, is not nearly as powerful as when you have acquired your knowledge through personal experience. One way to do this regarding is playing with your emotions. Make yourself feel happy, sad, angry, afraid, etc. Exert as much control over your emotions for short periods of time as possible. If you’re interested, I encourage you to take acting classes, especially if they use Stanislavski’s ideas – they are a great way to experience how much control you actually have over your emotions.

Once you have played with emotions, play with your mood. Can you induce a sad/happy/irritable/… mood in yourself? Can you get out of the mood you’re in and into another one? Can you identify circumstances that would usually put you in a certain mood and consciously change your response? For example, if you are usually in a sad mood during overcast weather, can you decide that the clouds will make you happy? Can you be grateful for the rain?

This sort of “exercises” will not only help you understand that you can consciously influence you emotions, they will also provide you with a tool to better cope with any emotional slumps you might experience. Practice them for a while until you feel comfortable moving on to the next step.

2. Decide to BE happy (and take appropriate action)

Now that you know yourself to be capable of choosing how you feel – at least some of the time -, make a commitment to being happy. This is not the same as trying to feel happy all of the time. It implies a different level of understanding, namely that there is a difference between what some call deep joy and the (fleeting) emotion of happiness. This step is not about unlocking your deep joy just yet, but it is very good preparation.

An integral part of personal development is making conscious decisions and implementing them. This step is all about that: at one – but most probably on more than one – point in time you will have to consciously decide to be happy. Not wish, decide. Acknowledge your wish to be happy, and turn it into a must. This is not about trying to be happy; that doesn’t work, especially not with this kind of goal. This is about deciding that you will be happy, with full knowledge that you will have to change something about the way you think, talk and act in order to achieve it.

But a decision alone won’t cut it unless you already know how to unlock your deep joy and can do it instantly. For beginners like you and me, it requires preparatory action and change. It requires applying all that you have learned so far in your everyday life to change the way you perceive reality. First, start by training yourself to think positive thoughts:

  • Have a gratitude journal. With only five minutes a day, you can program your brain to look at the bright side of life. Just get a notebook (or a sheet of paper, or anything you can write on) and, every night, livst five things you feel grateful for; it’s that easy.
  • Have a gratitude mindset. Eventually, and if you consistenly write in your gratitude journal, you should naturlly begin to spot things you’re grateful for throughout your day without having to look. Well, guess what, you’ll spot even more of those things if you remember to look for them. So, instead of only thinking about your day to find things you’re grateful for at night, start actively looking for them during the day. It’s a virtuous cycle: the more you look, the more you’ll find, the better you’ll get at looking, and the more you will keep finding.

When thinking positive is easy for you, progress onto the next stage and say positive words:

  • Pay attention to what you say and change it. Remove expressions such as “this sucks” and “I hate my life” and say “life is beautiful” and “I love my life” instead. Complain less, thank more. Judge less, compliment more. You get it, right?

These changes will already give you a substantial boost in happiness. You will be in a happy mood more often, which is also conducive to more happy feelings. In fact, you might experience “explosions of happiness” from time to time – moments when, out of the blue, you feel so happy that you cannot stop yourself from smiling. Usually you will also experience a very positive mood for hours after such an “event”. This is an indicator that you are getting more and more connected to your inner deep joy, a very good sign.

However, to truly unlock your deep joy, an unshakable, unreasonable joy that will accompany you no matter what emotion you are feeling, you have to go deeper. You will have to integrate all that we have discussed into the fundamental way you approach life. It is simple, but not easy.

3. Resist nothing.

Personally, I feel that I have not fully reached this third part of the process in my life yet. If I had to describe the stage I’m in, I would say that I am currently progressing from step 2 to step 3. For that reason, I can’t fully explain all that his step is about from personal experience just yet. However, a lot of reading and introspection has led me to believe that the final step is indeed to “resist nothing.” The following are three examples of what led me to this conclusion:

As I walked down Shattuck a couple of fire engines wailed by me. I didn’t think anything about it until I neared the cafe and saw the orange sky. I began to run. The crowd was already dispersing when I arrived. Joseph had just arrived himself and was standing in front of his charred and gutted cafe. I was still twenty yards away from Joseph when I heard his cry of anguish and saw him drop slowly to his knees and cry. He leaped up with a scream of fury; then he relaxed. He saw me. “Dan! It’s good to see you again.” His face was serene. The fire chief came over to him, and told him that the fire had probably started at the dry cleaners next door. “Thank you,” Joseph said.

“Oh, Joseph, I’m so sorry,” then my curiosity surfaced. “Joseph, I saw you a minute ago you were very upset.”

He smiled “Yes I felt very upset, so I really I let it out”

I remembered Soc’s words “let it flow and let it go.” (Way of The Peaceful Warrior)

This excerpt from Way of The Peaceful Warrior is the moment when Dan (the main character) realises the truth of Soc’s (his mentor) advice to “let it flow and let it go.” When Joseph (a mutual friend) sees his most beloved possession, the place where he can best express his passion for cooking and healthy food, burning down, he accepts his emotions, expresses them, and lets them go. He feels sad and angry, but doesn’t become sad or angry – he is still as joyous as he had been before.

Another post by @manimal, a member of the High Existence forum, expresses a seemingly paradoxical view:

How to be happy in every situation: Stay aware of your emotions as frequently as you can and know that when you feel a negative emotion you’re doing something wrong, resisting something. Follow this simple step and you will both become happier and unblock your deep joy.

This is what it truly means to be high on life. It’s the higher existence (Source)

However contradictory they seem on the surface-level, theses views go together and complement each other.

When you experience a negative emotion, you are resisting something in your reality. However, it is counter-productive to resist the emotion itself, since emotions occur naturally. Thus, it is not the experience of a negative emotion that is “wrong.” Instead, and I believe this is what @manimal meant, emotions are indicators of how you are responding internally to your outer reality.

On a similar note, Soc’s advice is to notice whatever emotion you are experiencing, realise that you are resisting something in your reality and accepting both what you were resisting and the emotion itself, thereby “letting it go”.

My third inspiration for choosing “resist nothing” as the ultimate step on your path to happiness was a post called “Secret to Life in 2 Words“. It is an infographic illustrating the arguments we just went over earlier in this section and sums everything up pretty well.

 

Delay

Earlier this month I began publishing a series of posts on Happiness, which has yet to be completed. I wasn’t able to manage my time well during midterms so I will only be able to finish the series next week. The newsletter for October will also be sent out next week. I’m sorry for the delay and will do my best to assure that this doesn’t happen again. Have a nice weekend :)

Guide To Happiness Series: Happiness vs Fulfillment

The first step on our guide to happiness is to analyze the relationship between happiness and fulfillment. This knowledge is an important building block for the concepts and applications we will arrive at later on.

Happiness and fulfillment seem to go hand-in-hand, yet they are not the same. Nor is the relationship between them very clear. We can intuitively conclude that higher need-fulfillment correlates with higher happiness, but we cannot assume that one causes the other (or which one causes which) or whether there is a third variable that influences both at the same time. In a moment we will analyze this problem and have a glimpse at the true relationship between happiness and fulfillment, but first some clarifications:

***

For the purposes of this series, happiness is the in-the-moment feeling of being content with life, appreciative of the now and positive about the future. It is the feeling you create when you focus on gratitude and free your mind from the regrets of the past, worries about the future and pain in the present (read more about this here and here). If you want to experience this feeling first-hand right now, do a simple exercise with me:

Look around and find something you are grateful for. It could be the chair you’re sitting on, a tree that you are looking at, the fact that you just had a good grade on an exam, the wonderful music you’re listening to, etc. Whatever makes you feel gratitude, just focus on it.
Now say it out loud: “I am grateful for X.” Really try to feel the gratitude. Repeat this process until you can feel the gratitude as if it is alive and burning within you; then breathe in deeply and smile. I recommend you play your favorite song at the same time to intensify the feeling.
Make sure to give yourself every possible reason to be happy: appreciate the temperature of your skin, the sounds you are hearing, your ability to see, your family and friends, the city you’re living in, your clothes, – heck, even your ability to feel the happiness.

This was happiness, folks. You’re welcome :)

Fulfillment is not as easy to explain. The word’s basic meaning in this context relates to satisfying your desires and needs (TheFreeDictionary.com). However, I am using it in a very specific way, relating to the highest need Maslow identified, that of self- actualization (Maslow, 1943). In his article he wrote “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.” (Original emphasis) In other words, a person must become what they feel they are meant to be in order to be self-fulfilled.

Of course the satisfaction of all other needs identified by Maslow (take a quick glimpse of his pyramid here) has the same right to be called “fulfillment”, which is why I want to mention once more that, if not specified, I am always referring to the satisfaction of the highest of needs, since only this leaves someone feeling fulfilled in the way the words are used by the general population.

Ultimately, self-fulfillment is achieved when the way you intend to live your life and the way you currently live it match perfectly. If you work as an accountant but yearn for being a lawyer and winning cases in court, you are not fulfilled. If you see yourself as a healthy person at the core yet engage in unhealthy habits and don’t feel the high energy you think you deserve to feel, you will not be fulfilled. There are many more general examples for this, and of course every single person will have their own image of their best self.
Luckily though, you also feel fulfilled when you know you are well on your way to becoming the strongest version of yourself, as Elliott Hulse likes to call it.

With this framework in mind, let’s continue.

***

Despite there being no scientific evidence about the happiness-fulfillment-correlation (that I know of), it’s possible to make predictions about how happiness and fulfillment interact by relying on the empirical evidence we come across in our own lives. For instance, I have observed that I can feel happiness even while a lot of my needs are unmet.

I can be happy despite my procrastination and a lack of creative output; I can be happy even if I feel like I have achieved nothing; I can be happy when I am not with friends, family or a sexual relationship; I can be happy when I have no money or am otherwise not “safe”; and I can be happy while I’m hungry and sleep-deprived. Luckily I have never been in a situation of extreme-deprivation (and I’m thankful for that – do you notice a pattern?), so I cannot be certain of how I would react. However, I believe that, in principle, it is possible to happy in all situations.

Still, even though it is theoretically possible to be completely happy without too much focus on fulfilling your higher needs (or even the basic needs, as many people who fast often and deprive themselves of other pleasures demonstrate), I believe it is beneficial to take one’s needs into account if one wishes to be more than just happy.
Think of it as if the point of greatest satisfaction with life were a perfect song: the melody and instrumentals are your “happiness” and  your “self-fulfillment” is the bass. You can have one without the other but they complement each other perfectly and together create something that is larger than the sum of its parts.

Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that self-fulfillment will help you be happier. In order to be self-fulfilled, you must do things you love and appreciate during a big portion of your daily life, which in turn will help you be appreciative of life in general. You will also spend a larger part of your day in a happy mindset if you do what you love and were meant to do, thereby raising your ‘net happiness’.

Guide To Happiness Series: Intro

Lately, I have not been productive. I haven’t written one single post for my blog in over a month, procrastinated on work for university and barely read. I did not meditate or exercise every day and failed at every single habit I wanted to work on in September. Usually this would put me in a very bad state: I’d be unhappy, unfulfilled and I would feel like a failure. Surprisingly, I’ve been feeling very happy these past few weeks.

When I realized how incongruous the situation seemed to me, I came to the conclusion that at least some of my beliefs about happiness must be wrong. Of course theoretically I knew that our happiness comes from within and there is no need to let outside circumstances influence it. But it also felt logical to me that our happiness could depend on certain factors that are very important to us. I thought that the closer I got to the best version of my self (and that includes being very disciplined; writing, reading and meditating regularly; and having a perfect diet) the happier I would be.

What I started understanding lately, though, is that your happiness is 100 percent dependent on your thoughts and attitudes about reality. No matter what your reality is, happiness lies the in way you choose to feel about it. Logically, then, you can be unproductive and very happy as well as “successful” and unhappy. So why would you still want to be successful? Because it is easier to feel happy when your reality matches what you expect to achieve and you spend your time doing something that fulfills you deeply.

In this series, we will explore the relationship between happiness and fulfillment, become aware of how they influence each other, and conclude with a practical “guide” to happiness you can start applying right away.

How To Overcome Temptations And Achieve Your Goals

** this is a guest post by Stefano Ganddini of Collegetopia **

By definition, a temptation is “the desire to perform an action that one may enjoy immediately or in the short term but will probably later regret” (Wikipedia).

The key word here is short-term. Temptations provide short-term enjoyment but ultimately hinder you in one way or another, hence the regret. So how do some people muster up the will-power to overcome their temptations and achieve their goals while others crash and burn?

Well, it has nothing to do with will-power, and everything to do with vision. People who repeatedly give in to their temptations are short-sighted. They make decisions based on what will bring them the most gratification in the present moment, even if it will hurt them in the future, because they have poor vision.

The most successful people in the world, on the other hand, have 20/20 vision (I’m not talking about their eyesight). They are long-term and big-picture thinkers. They start with the end in mind and take persistent, purposeful action until they reach it. They choose delayed gratification over instant gratification because they are 100% focused on the end goal.

This focus comes from an underlying purpose. If you really want something, you have to ask yourself how badly you want it, and more importantly, why you want it. If you don’t have a genuine reason for wanting to do something, you won’t have the motivation and drive to fully commit to it. If you do have a real reason with an underlying purpose, nothing will be able to stop you from making it happen. When you have this burning desire to see something through to the end, it’s not about making sacrifices or having the self-discipline to overcome your temptations, it’s simply a matter of choosing what you want.

“A true Master does not “give up” something. A true Master simply sets it aside, as he would do with anything for which he no longer has any use. There are those who say you must overcome your desires. I say you must simply change them.” – Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch

Do you want short-term enjoyment or long-term success? Change your desires to match your vision, not just of your goals, but of your life. Before you can have a vision for anything, you must to have a vision for yourself. Who do you want to be in this world? Your deepest desires, goals, and ambitions should all stem from this question.

If you’re not really sure, or only have a vague idea and want a more clear picture, I have an incredibly powerful exercise for you called “The Eulogy Exercise,” which I read about on Phil Drolet’s blog The Feel Good Lifestyle. The exercise goes like this:

Imagine you’re at your funeral. One by one, your friends and family get on stage and make their eulogy to you. They share all the great things they remember about you, what kind of a person you were and what kind of a difference you made in the world. You are gone, but everything you did will always be remembered.

How do you want to be remembered? Go grab a piece of paper and write down what you really want people to say at your funeral. Write a eulogy to yourself. How do you want to be described? What do you want to have achieved? What kind of life do you want to have lived?

This exercise can change your life (especially if you actually write it down) because it applies the long-term thinking I was talking about earlier to the core of your existence, not just a single goal or project. With a clear vision of who you want to be as a person you now have something to aim for and should be able to decide with purpose what you want to achieve in your life while overcoming any temptations or bad habits that might be holding you back.

Don’t be overwhelmed if you feel like you have a lot of work to do. The purpose of the eulogy exercise is simply to help you find purpose. Once you have your vision, just think about one thing you can do today to start becoming the person you really want to be. This is how you should approach any goal, no matter how big or small it may be—once you’ve figured out what you want, just do one thing every day to keep moving forward.

Jordan Lejuwaan, creator of HighExistence , offers a clever way of tackling long-term goals by making commitments “just for today”. Instead of thinking about long-term goals as huge commitments, make a commitment just for today. Then tomorrow, think about if that choice benefitted you, and if it did, then make the commitment the next day too. Repeat this process as necessary and you will achieve great things.

With the start of the school year just around the corner, what goals do you have for the year? Take action towards turning your vision into a reality, and the next time you’re tempted by something, instead of thinking about how it will make you feel now, think about how you will feel later. Place yourself in the shoes of your future self. How you will feel tomorrow, or at the end of the year, or 10 years down the line when you look back on the actions you make today?

Open your eyes and look at the big picture. Stop doing things that are holding you back from reaching your fullest potential. Quit bad habits and start developing good ones. Get out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you. If you need a little push to get the ball rolling, the 30-Day Cold Shower Challenge might be a good place to start. You alone have the power to choose what kind of life you want to live, and it all starts with a vision, so make it a good one.

About Stefano

Stefano is a Junior at the University of Southern California and founder of Collegetopia, a blog that helps students reach their fullest potential and make the most of their college experience. He writes about topics ranging from productivity and career growth to personal development and the pursuit of happiness. Follow him on Twitter.

How To Overcome Boredom: What Do You Really Want To Do?

This post is a part of the ‘how to overcome boredom’ series from a previous blog I used to write on, edited and republished here for your pleasure.

You’ve done everything you’d planned for today, tried out some of the activities in “Filling In the Gaps“, and are feeling positive. And still you’re bored. “Now what?”, you may ask yourself. And you’re doing the right thing. When you’ve exhausted everything you had to do and may have found somewhat interesting, it is time to find out what you really want to do.

With this I don’t mean, however, that you should do whatever gives you more pleasure in the moment. If it were, everyone would be playing games while eating chocolate and watching TV. I want you to focus not so much on your dopamine system but rather on your heart. When Steve Pavlina talked about prioritizing with your heart, he wrote “You may come up with a list that looks something like this:

  1. Feeling connected
  2. Helping people
  3. Serving the greater good
  4. Being kind
  5. Sharing my gifts and talents with the world,”

We’re not discussing priorities, though, so maybe you’ll come up with something like this:

  • Visiting a close friend
  • Calling a loved one
  • Starting a challenge (eg 100-pushups)
  • Reading a book
  • Going out for a walk
  • Deciding my priorities
  • Growing as a person

The point is that you should think about what you want to do and not what you want to focus on, because you’ll want something you can do right now.

Most people might be happy with the list provided in the previous post, but some will find that it lacks something. Maybe you can’t even define that something, but you just know that what’s on the list doesn’t match what you genuinely want to do. I find there are two ways to find out what you really want to do: intuition and intuition.

Obviously, they are both the same. They are based on the assumption that deep down you already know what you want to do. If you are used to the first intuition, you probably don’t need to read any further. Whenever you have nothing to do, you automatically know what you want to do next. Probably you’re very in touch with your values, goals and purpose, which give you a sense of clarity about what should come next. An example would be Alice, who commented on a previous post in the series (when it was first published). She wrote,

“I haven’t been bored in [...]YEARS, as I always have a few projects to work on.

They differ from each other – so if I’m more in the mood for composing, I will work on a soundtrack or my next album or whatever. And when I feel in the mood like writing, I will write on my personal blog or on my personal development website. When I feel more like learning something, I have always a book that needs to be read or a topic I’m exploring at the moment… There’s always a project for every occasion.”

Unfortunately, not everyone experiences this kind of clarity, or at least not all the time. Luckily for us ‘regular’ people, there are easy ways to get instant clarity, even if not so long-lasting. The one I’d like to introduce you to uses meditation and coherence as its core and may take some time, but heck, if you’d be bored anyway why not give it a go? You might find it better if you sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and hands on your lap:

  1. Breathe deeply. With your eyes closed, focus solely on your breath and count to 15, imagining the numbers change with every breath. You may want to imagine writing the number in the sand of the beach as you inhale and have a wave clear the sand for the next one as you exhale. Once you’ve done this enough times, counting to ten or five may suffice.
  2. Focus on your heart. Now you can breathe normally again. Don’t let any thoughts enter your mind as you focus on the  area around your heart for a moment.
  3. Feel gratitude, compassion and love. Remember a time when you were very grateful and feel it in your heart. Do the same with compassion until you are drenched in positive emotions and unconditional love. Smile.
  4. Ask  the question, “what do I want to do?” Don’t try to force and answer, they should come to you sooner or later. Don’t judge the answers that come to you. Instead wait for the one that makes you want to get up and act.
  5. Just do it. Count down from five to zero, open your eyes, and do what you want to do!

If you want, you can call this the BFFAJ technique, although I’m not sure how such an acronym will help you remember anything at all.

Of course there are many more ways to get clarity (and make it last long), and it wouldn’t feel right not to redirect you to an outside post (or two), so you might want to check out Steve’s articles Why Logic Always Fails You and 11 Ways to Gain Clarity.

** this marks the end of the ‘how to overcome boredom series’, hope you liked these posts though to me they feel like they came from the paleolithic era ;) **

 

Here are all the posts on the How To Overcome Boredom series:

  1. The APNA Trick
  2. Filling In The Gaps
  3. Mood And Energy
  4. What Do You Really Want To Do? 

How To Overcome Boredom: Mood And Energy

This post is a part of the ‘how to overcome boredom’ series from a previous blog I used to write on, edited and republished here for your pleasure.

In the last two posts in the series, we’ve discussed several activities one can do instead of being bored, and so the last two posts, this one including, will deal with how to choose an activity that fits you.

When you’re sad, you’ll probably listen to sad music, because a happy song won’t resonate with you in that moment. When you have very little energy, you’re more likely to go read or sleep that run a marathon. Of course the contrary applies as well. MoodMapping is a book that attempts to join these two variables (positive/negative feelings and low/high energy) to show your current mood in a graph (right).*

Using this concept you can apply it to your boredom. First of all, work on your feeling. If you’re feeling negative, you’re not as likely to be productive and thus will drag your boredom with you when trying to work. There are many ways of eliminating fear, anxiety and negative feelings in general, some of which can be found here (focus on Right Brain Switch Technique) and here and which can be found with a quick Google search. Since the purpose of this article is not to make you simle but to put a stop to the sighs and yawns, I won’t go into the techniques and will assume you can put yourself in a positive mood.

Positive feelings: check. Now to the energy.

Look at the activities in the list you created / those in this post or make up some. Now, looking at the chart, decide whether they are more suitable for when you have high or low energy. Assessing your current state of energy, which activities would you be more prone to doing? The ones that require an energy level not to far from your current one, of course.

What if you only have activities that don’t match your current level of energy? Only one level is going to change — yours — and so you’ll have to find ways to raise or lower it. Sleeping, getting into the fresh air and taking a hot and cold shower are ways to raise your energy level. Lowering it can be achieved by using your energy (running, doing pushups), or doing activities that require you to be calm, like meditating. You should experiment and come up with your own energy boosts and suckers.

Sometimes you’re bored because whatever you’re doing doesn’t match your current mood, and now you know how to change the mood to fit the activity. If, however, the task is not worth doing, pick something else that matches your mood. This way you can also plan obligatory tasks’ orders in order to better fit your energy level and overall mood, and you’ll find it a lot easier to complete them.

*Side note: I haven’t read the book but am familiar with the concept from another source

 

Here are all the posts on the How To Overcome Boredom series:

  1. The APNA Trick
  2. Filling In The Gaps
  3. Mood And Energy
  4. What Do You Really Want To Do? 

How To Overcome Boredom: Filling In The Gaps

This post is a part of the ‘how to overcome boredom’ series from a previous blog I used to write on, edited and republished here for your pleasure.

Have you done everything you’d set for today? No more tasks on your list? This blog post is about ideas for what you could be doing instead of being bored, assuming you really have extra time and are not procrastinating. Note that this list is by no means complete and you should use your own ideas, too.

  • HighExistence has a post called “How to Overcome Internet Boredom,” in which Jordan Lejuwaan gives some examples of what you could do. His recommendations include using StumbleUpon, starting an online business/blog, and chatting with stranger on Omegle.com, something I find very entertaining.
  • He also suggests finding other blogs you love. Personally, I like to regularly check FollowTheRedQueenScottHYoungStevePavlina.com (search here for a list of my favourite StevePavlina.com articles), HighExistence and The Vigilant Citizen, but I encourage you to find others of your interest.
  • If you’re keen on having ‘useless’ knowledge, embark on a Wikipedia-Spree. Search for something of interest and then just go wherever the links lead you.
  • Watch TED talks. It is amazing what some people can convey in 15 minutes, and there are 1000+ to choose from. That’s a bit overwhelming, so I encourage you to start with a talk on my list of favourite TED Talks and take it from there.
  • Join an online forum. Find a forum about a topic that interests you and join it.
  • Read. Pick a book from your shelf and start reading. Or maybe there’s that book you wanted to buy… buy it and read it.
  • Take walks. Sometimes you really don’t feel like doing anything, but you don’t want to go to sleep either. That’s a good time to take a walk or meditate.
  • Be creative. Write a short story, draw, paint, [insert creative idea here]…
  • Some 30-Day challenges will take you only 5 minutes every day, while others might take much longer. Depending on the time span during which you’re usually bored, pick a 30-Day challenge that suits you and do it. For ideas you can look up HighExistence’s 30 challenges for 30 days and FollowTheRedQueen’s getting out of your comfort zone — exercises.
  • Practice a skill. Maybe you play an instrument, like to draw or write. What ever it is that you’re passionate about, you can practice it in your extra time.
  • Do the 100pushups challenge (here). This will use up about 30 minutes every week and will make you very proud when you finish. There’s even a badge you can put up on your website when you’ve completed the challenge.
  • Socialize. Spend time with your family and friends. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
  • Practice sports. Run, swim, jog, stretch, etc.
  • Clean your house, or otherwise declutter. If you’ve done that already, clean your house again. Make those files on the computer perfectly organized.

I tried to include in this list only activities you’ll somehow benefit from, mentally or physically. You’ll also see many links and too much to do in one day. That’s because I planned this post to be something you could bookmark and re-read in a fututre time of boredom.

Here are all the posts on the How To Overcome Boredom series:

  1. The APNA Trick
  2. Filling In The Gaps
  3. Mood And Energy
  4. What Do You Really Want To Do?