Thoughts & Observations

Addicted to Unsatisfied

In many ways we’ve become addicted to being unsatisfied.

There is a huge business built around making us believe that we don’t have enough yet, that we don’t have the right things, or the right jobs, or the best experiences.

There’s a growing social sexiness to the ultimate dissatisfaction rebellion: quitting what we’ve got to supposedly trade up.

And while I absolutely believe in recognizing when you are truly not happy and need to seek something new, I think that it is incredibly important to also recognize how much social pressure compels us to question what we have, to believe that maybe we shouldn’t be satisfied.

We get addicted to thinking that the grass is greener, but the outcome doesn’t always lead us to greener grass, it leads us to a consistent state of not being able to recognize happiness and satisfaction when it is sitting right in front of us.

Thoughts & Observations

Reasonable Expectations

For a long time, I set my expectations about certain things a bit too high.

When I thought about getting in better shape, I pictured myself both doing yoga every day and hitting the gym to jog and take classes with names like “Ass and Abs” seven days a week.

When I thought about meditating, I pictured myself spending at least 20 to 30 minutes sitting peacefully on a cushion every single day.

In some ways, I thought that if I couldn’t push myself to do things in that much of the extreme, then they weren’t worth doing – they weren’t going to have an impact.

The problem with those expectations, though, was that there was no way for me to actually meet them. I would attempt something, inevitably fall short, feel disappointed in myself, and then give up (or sometimes not even try in the first place).

We think that the point of setting high expectations it to push ourselves to do our best: we thrive on stories of people accomplishing the unreasonable and then push ourselves to get to that unreasonable place immediately.

But the truth is that there are a very few people who accomplish what seem like unreasonable feats from the very beginning.

Running a marathon seems like an unreasonable feat to me. And many people make it look easy when they are actually running the marathon. But by the time they have made to that marathon they have often practiced for months or years. And they most likely didn’t start out running 10 miles every day. They might have started with a simple goal of jogging a quarter of the way around a track.

When I realized that my unreasonable expectations were backfiring and  were actually causing me to get nowhere with some of the things I wanted to do, I sat down and made a chart of the things I wanted to incorporate into my life (meditating, yoga, running, etc.). Next to each thing, I listed my unreasonable expectations: One hour of yoga seven days a week! Classes at the gym five days a week! And then I made another column where I wrote the reasonable counterpoint to all of my unreasonable expectation: yoga two times a week (and even 15 minutes counts), jogging three times a week, etc.

Once I shifted to reasonable expectations, something magic happened: I actually started doing all of these things. In the past six weeks, I went from doing none of the things I wanted to do to meeting all of my reasonable expectations. I’ve lost weight, I’ve seen my muscles start to come back, I’m jogging for longer than I thought I could, I’ve been meditating every day,  and just in general feel better.

And to think that I was depriving myself of all of those things because I felt that the only type of goals that created impact were the unreasonable ones.

Here’s to being reasonable every once in a while.

 

Thoughts & Observations

The Energy of Full Engagement

When we’re engaged in any activity – whether it is checking email or eating dinner with the family – we often find ourselves feeling like we should be doing something else.

By thinking about whatever else we feel like we ought to be doing, we aren’t fully engaged in the moment.

We might think that by not being fully engaged (letting our mind wander to our to do list, for instance), we conserve energy.

But the problem is that emotions like guilt and anxiety (the emotions that cause us to pull away from full engagement) drain dramatic amounts of energy, as does the process of multi-tasking.

If we spend the time we’ve decided to spend on email feeling guilty or anxious about all of the other work that we have to do, doing our email will make us more exhausted then if we had been fully engaged.

If we instead fully commit to whatever we are doing in the moment, and tell any thoughts of guilt or anxiety that come up that they can wait, we are actually more likely to have the energy to eventually tackle all of the things that we want to.

Thoughts & Observations

A Second to Recognize and Celebrate

It’s easy in going about the business of our day-to-day lives to just gloss over what we accomplish, to turn it into one run-on sentence in which we move from one thing to the next without pausing to recognize that we are actually accomplishing something.

Meeting the fact that you accomplished your company’s revenue goals with a shoulder shrug or a quiet “huh, that’s cool” under your breath is not really giving full recognition to what you’ve done.

Recognizing the fact that you actually kept your New Year’s resolution of going to the gym three times a week for the last month with a quick passing glance at your check-ins doesn’t give full weight to the fact that you just changed a significant habit.

Pause and give yourself applause. Or a literal pat on the back. Or make celebratory sign that you’ll see when you brush your teeth.

It will give you that extra boost for the next big thing you want to do.

Thoughts & Observations

The Sometimes Trap of Self-Help

We often seek out self-help tools because we aren’t feeling the way that we want to – we feel sad when we want to feel happy, we feel heavy when we want to feel light, we feel anxiety when we want to feel confident, we feel weak when we want to feel strong, we feel jealous when we want to feel supportive, we feel angry when we want to feel calm.

We start out wanting to change for good reasons, maybe because we’re suffering or we feel that we’re causing others to suffer, or because we don’t think we’re experiencing life as fully as we could.

But sometimes when we get embroiled in the project of trying to change these things, we start to see ourselves as needing to be fixed, as beings that are starting with a deficit that needs to be made up for or as people who won’t truly be good until we embody all of the traits that we aspire to.

Our entire life can become so centered around fixing the aspects of ourselves that we think are harmful or bad that we forget how much good is already there.

Yes, focus on not lashing out in anger or on being supportive instead of jealous, but also spend time reminding yourself of what you already bring to the table.

 

Thoughts & Observations

Habit Automation

It’s easy to start thinking that your habits aren’t just activities that you do but in many ways that your habits are you – that they define you.

You have a habit of getting a latte every morning. Therefore who you are is a person who likes lattes and who gets one every morning.

This is part of what makes habits so difficult to change. We feel wedded to them. Even simple ones, like lattes. We might not feel like a latte one morning, but we still get it because that’s what we do.

But something amazing can happen when you notice these moments of automation, when you pause before acting, and when you ask yourself what you really feel like in the moment.

Maybe you feel like a latte. Maybe you don’t.

Maybe it’s noon and you’re hungry for lunch. But maybe you’re not.

The challenge with automation is that it often leads you to do things like eat when you’re not hungry, drink more than makes you feel good, and avoid activities you think you don’t like. Automation also means that you may not enjoy what you used to enjoy because you’re doing it mindlessly instead of mindfully.

When you stop the automation, you give yourself an opportunity to be more in tune with what you actually want and need, and in turn the act of being mindful gives you an opportunity to actually enjoy whatever it is that you choose to do.