To all News Junkies, Read the News that Never makes the Headlines

Consider these facts:

Percentage of local TV news broadcast time devoted to advertising: 30

Percentage devoted to stories about crime, disaster and war: 53.8

Percentage devoted to public service announcements: 0.7

(Source: CSUN)

How much time do we devote to the news that never makes the headlines?

Dear all news junkies, read the news that NEVER makes the headlines, instead.

You’re probably wondering:

What’s wrong with consuming news daily?

And that’s what I wanna talk with you today.

I. The Types of News I’m Talking about

  • Any type of news programs on TV (weather forecasts, local news, global news, crime reports, stock market/political updates, morning/afternoon/late night news, etc.)
  • and on Radio
  • Any type of daily newspapers (USA Today, The Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, etc.)
  • Any type of magazines (Money, Bloomberg, Vanity Fair, People, Cosmopolitan, etc.)
  • Any news on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)

You get it. I have a low opinion for almost all types of reading/listening/watching news, if I don’t see any direct link to my well-being.

That means:

  • I don’t watch TV, unless it’s already on during family dinner time
  • I don’t subscribe to any type of newspapers or magazines (the last subscriptions I got were with Forbes and Success magazines, both ended 2013)
  • I don’t read any daily newspapers
  • I quit surfing YouTube, unless I want to check out something specific
  • I quit scrolling Facebook mindlessly. In fact, I now follow under 10 pages on Facebook and I check Facebook less than 5 times a day
  • I do spend 15 minutes max daily on Mon-Sat checking out Flipboard app for articles about my interests

Perhaps you’re wondering:

Why make such a big deal? What’s wrong with consuming news daily?

It’s because:

  1. Consuming news is NOT a cure for our ignorance.
  2. Consuming news is another type of entertainment, and if we get hooked, may wreak havoc to our minds.

My friend, below I’d like you to consider these 2 points,

and if you agree with my logic, you can save at least 8 hours a week, in addition to many other benefits, by trying the steps that I set for myself.

II. Consuming News is NOT a Cure for our Ignorance

An argument I often get regarding reading news is that, we need news to educate ourselves about what’s happening around us.

We need news to stay informed,

to get full knowledge before making a stand on a subject,

to know both sides of a story, not merely the one we are told by friends or relatives,

and to acquire full evidence to prove/disprove our beliefs or faiths.

And I agree.

I firmly believe that lifelong learning helps us avoid being ignorant, and is the key to personal success,

if what we read conveys the truth that will benefit our lives.

Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.

The news that we consume daily, more often than not, presents only one snapshot of the whole picture,

or worse,

a twisted view that serves hidden agendas.

What do I mean by that?

News only gives you one side of the story, the side that the journalist focuses on.

And what do journalists focus on?

The contents that are dramatic, bizarre, and personal.

In other words, the things that catch readers’ attention.

Why our attention?

Because our attention (and trust also) is an asset that news corporations capitalize to make profit via ads, promotion, and affiliate marketing.

And under this formula of making money, a question always left unanswered is that, whether what we read is what the reporters actually saw, or what they wanted us to see.

This leads me to my main argument. I’m suggesting that, consuming news daily is not the cure for our ignorance, because it weakens our ability to think critically.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to process available data to form our own conclusion.

The purpose of reporting an event, however, is not to present the audience with objective data. Information is provided bit by bit, conditioned to make us think in a certain way. Opinions and assumptions dominate facts.

What’s worse?

The limited facts supplied are too often interrupted by scandalous and flashy features, the wow factors, that are individualized, and story-driven, rather than conveying the big picture.

So, the result is that we’re left with insufficient and distorted information, with a lot of noise. This hinders our ability to think clearly,

if we do think at all (another question mark, right?).

Thus,

We hope that daily news comes to the rescue for our fear of ignorance, while the reality is that, to me, consuming them daily acts more like a “fix” for our endless curiosity.  

Now, there’s nothing wrong with curiosity, provided we intensify its power by fixating on very few things,

the few things that directly benefit us.

Suppose you’re searching YouTube for that famous Stanford speech by Steve Jobs, you’ve found it, and just before closing the browser, you see something about Elon Musk making incredible speech, you may think: “I’ll just watch a bit, it doesn’t hurt!”, and then after a short while, you wonder: “Let see if there’s something else”…

Sound familiar?

Isn’t that how we keep getting lost in the rabbit hole of online surfing?

Curiosity, once spread over multiple directions, leads to the incurable disease of FoMO (Fear of Missing Out). Those who catch it believe they don’t know enough, and are afraid of being caught off-guard by the things that they’re missing out, and so consuming news makes them whole, complete.

Thus, admitting our ignorance makes us want to know more.

But if left unchecked, an eternal desire of wanting to know more, which stems from the misguided curiosity, may eventually become even stronger than the desire to seek the truth.

And that’s why I believe that consuming news daily is NOT a cure for our ignorance, but merely a “fix” for our endless curiosity.

Yep, you heard me right!

Daily news is a kind of mental candy that once you get hooked, may wreak havoc to your mind.

III. An Addictive Entertainment & its Negative Effects

Remember the last time you read news?

How did you actually read the news?

Did you read the article slowly, sentence by sentence, trying to understand what the author wanted to say?

Or,

Did you scan the text, paragraph by paragraph, looking for sensationalized facts, surprises, twists and turns of the story,

and pause occasionally to glance at a photo in the article,

perhaps you might go through the text before or after the picture, if it’s really cool, but hard to see why the writer put it there?

I’m no different.

We don’t read news.

We scan the headlines, sub-headlines, and the text for highlights,

for drama,

for anything that seems unconventional,

anything to shake the minds out of their constant states of lethargy and boredom.

In fact, scientific research on television (1) finds that boredom drives people to the media to seek sensational and arousing content.

We say we need news for self-education.

Yet we treat news, like Rolf Dobelli suggested, as “candies for the mind”, nothing more than another type of entertainment.

And what do you expect reporters will give us?

You get it.

Less education. More entertainment.

Journalism is straying into entertainment. The lines between serious news segments, news entertainment, and news comedy are blurring ~ Drew Curtis

I’ve been working on a subject recently, and it’s about identifying the detrimental effects of consuming news daily. Here are a few of them:

1. News induces fear & negative thinking

The rule of thumb in journalism is that “if it bleeds, it leads”.

Open any daily newspaper, look at the headlines of any category, and you’ll see what I mean.

Just the headlines, please, save you the possibility of ruining a beautiful day of yours.

How can we remain confident about our well-being, and trust that the safety of our relatives and children are placed in the right hand, when talks about the Florida shooting and gun debates dominate most news columns?

It’s hard to remain positive and optimistic, right?

By the way, only one shooting is enough to flood all the news.

So, it seems almost impossible not to be aware of such horrible event.

One might argue that we can’t read only the positive, feel-good stuff, nor stay forever in the holy, happy land. We must face the “reality” out there and be informed of problems our society has.

Question:

  • How many problems out there have you solved already?

None!

  • How many are you solving right now?

None!

  • Are you lazy or just incompetent?*

!!!!

Well, my answer for the last one is “None of my business!”

More questions:

  • How many of the reported problems are happening to you right now?

For me, none!

  • If something bad did happen to you, what good would you get by reading more reports about it?

None!

You see.

We’re not trying to attain world peace, prevent nuclear war, stop global warming, end school shooting, nor win the war on drugs,

NOT because we don’t give a damn,

But because we have very little control (or nothing at all) over such issues, so our concerns make no difference.

The most practical thing we can do is to find ways to ensure our safety, and the safety of our loved ones, should another shooting occur.

Besides, news reporters spend 90% of their time on describing these problems with vivid details, without giving us proper solutions.

Question:

  • Are they paranoid or just incompetent?

Well, that’s why we call them reporters, not problem-solvers. What else do you expect them to do?

Solving problem is “none of their business”.

And why do they keep dumbing garbage (and I think the word “garbage” isn’t too strong here) into our heads?

Because they know we always welcome sensationalized facts to entertain our minds,

and thrilling stories to fulfill our endless cravings to seek an answer for evil actions,

no matter how rare they are, as long as they make sense.

Again, once left unchecked,

curiosity always ignites a burning desire to know more,

to demand an explanation for anything,

especially the “unthinkables”.

2. News is addictive 

Like other kinds of entertainment, news is addictive, especially for those suffering from the disease of FoMO. These people always feel there’s a lack inside of them, and news gives them precisely that, something to fill in the void.

And, unlike other entertainment, it’s easy to convince people that they need news daily to stay informed. Nobody wants to be labeled ignorant.

To make matters worse, news is available, and accessible everywhere,

online or offline,

on hand or over the air,

in writing, audio, or visual,

for a fee or for free.

Free!

How do you resist something free?

Really hard, indeed.

Until we learn its hidden costs – our attention, our time,

our misconception, for taking a piece of truth to be the truth,

our mental energy, for adding one. more. thing. into the already long list of things that we worry about.

3. News distracts us & distorts reality 

If news does little to help us solve direct problems we face in our lives, then more news would distract us from pursuing what really matters to us.

One advice from productive experts we often get is keeping our office desk 100% clutter-free.

But what about having a mind full of junks?

We live in a time when everything is reaching out for our attention. News is just another form of attention vampire, who sucks ours away from what’s truly important.

Even worse, consuming news daily pushes readers further into a reality distortion field, in which disasters, murders, rapes, lies…are the common themes.

People say that they read news but don’t give much thought about it, and before long, most will be tossed out of their brains anyway.

Yeah right!

Do you know what’s remained after the news is gone?

The details gone. Sure! But the drama stays.

The stories forgotten. But the fear lingers on.

Old scandals replaced by newer ones. But the trust’s lost and remains broken.

The lone-wolf shooters detained and faced justice. But their followers magically appear everywhere.

The mass murderers immobilized. But not their modi operandi, which have already become mainstream.

IV. How to Get Rid of the Habit

I’ve learned that consuming news daily is an expensive (in terms of what it costs me to consume it) and unhealthy (for the mind) habit.

For over a year, I’ve taken proactive steps to replace the habit for more conscious reading.

This might sound contradicting to what I’ve said so far, but yes, I do read news. I appreciate high-quality writings, as well as investigative journalism. The world needs more passionate journalists, who care and want to contribute to humanity.

I spend about 15 minutes daily on Mon-Sat (1 hour on Sunday) on Flipboard, which tailors to my interests.

You can save at least 8 hours a week by following ANY of the below steps:

1. Plan your week

Planning ahead avoids falling into the trap of mindless consumption.

Open your calendar, mark the times when your favorite TV shows broadcast during the week, so that you can turn the TV on to watch only those shows, and turn it off the moment they are over.

Do that, and you’ll get ahead of the pack, who spends about 2 hours and 22 minutes daily watching just local news, according to Nielsen’s Local Watch Report (2) in 2017.

2. Be mindful of the habit

Record the amount of time you’re spending to consume news each day. Realizing how much time you’ve wasted will ignite the desire to stop consuming news mindlessly.

3. Consume news deliberately

Before dwelling on any news, ask yourself this question:

“Does what’s being reported here allow me to make better informed decision(s) regarding my life, my career/business, not in the future, but now?”

If the answer is “No” or “Maybe”, skip the trash. Like Jim Rohn said, you might find something valuable by going over the trash, but I wouldn’t do it.

4. Consume news proactively     

Stop getting news from TV & radio.

Why?

Because you don’t have control over what being broadcast.

All you can do is switching channels, and more often than not, end up consuming something else that adds little real value to your life.

And that save you roughly 3 hours from 8-11 pm, so you’d better plan alternative activities for the time freed up.

Perhaps a more healthy hobby of yours;

use it as study time, developing your skills;

or build a part-time business.

5. Control online media consumption

Ditch the TV, use social online media instead. But consume it intelligently.

  • Use a personalized news reader app that provides only topics that you care about (I use Flipboard, available both on iOS & Android; or you may try News on iOS or Google Play Newsstand on Android).
  • Schedule 15 minutes each workday for “news” time.

Don’t say “Well, I’ll just read whenever I have time to kill”. We have a lot more time to kill than we’re aware of. 15’ is enough to cover the real “new” issues, more time just make you read the repetitive.

Besides, the filtering question in step iii. will cut off 90% of the irrelevant stuff already.

  • For long articles that seem to take longer than 15 minutes to read, save them using Read-it-later apps (Instapaper, Pocket), or the Reading List feature on Safari for iOS and Chrome for Android.

Then, you’ll have 1 hour on Sat/Sun to finish them.

6. Focus on self-education, instead

So what about those waiting times, travel times, etc.?

These periods are reserved for real educational reading.

You know what I mean:

books,

audiobooks,

professional articles,

personal development stuff (like this site).

Whatever you’re interested, there’s a book for that.

These sources provide much more in-depth and reliable knowledge compared to daily news.

Having them stored in your phone reduces the possibility of checking up the news during free time.

7. Eliminate the need to check up social media 

Unsubscribe/Unfollow social media pages that you liked. Most of the news is either fake, sensational, or marketing-biased.

8. Reread the old stuff

Instead of reading more of the “new” stuff, consider revisiting the old stuff, the ones that you’ve found really useful.

Repetition is mother of all skills (From someone wise)

Repetition also allows you to ponder about the good things one more time, give them deeper thoughts.

For example, I saved this beautifully-written article from The New York Times by John Herrman (3) for later review to improve my writing.

V. Stop being a Consumer, Become a Creator 

Instead of consuming, try to create. Now, before you start whining, please hear me out.

It’s taken me 6 days to have this conversation carried on so far. And I’m not done yet.

It means, for me, it’s not another damn thing on the to-do list that I’ve got to do to keep you guys on EnjoyYrJourney.

It’s something I care, I believe.

Now, how many of you will I get through, of that I do not know.

But you won’t believe the joy and satisfaction I’m getting out of this painstaking work. And the pride I have for my creation is equal to that a mother has for her baby.

For consumers, this article is just one of the many that they’ve stumbled upon, a piece of information to be digested.

But for your friend, it’s a belief,

a contribution, and influence (hopefully),

a piece of my dream,

my learning,

my experience,

a piece of me.

Now, my friend, tell me, which side would you like to be?

What are your hobbies?

What are you passionate about?

What do you dream of?

What is something you’ve always wanted to do but never done before?

Are you afraid of being judged for letting that madness inside of you out?

Give it a try, you don’t have to show it to the world. But the joy, and the fruit, of working on something that matters to you is far more than the entertainment you get from passively consuming news, day. after. day.

Perhaps you’ve been hesitated to try because of fear of failure. You’re right. Mistakes and failures are inevitable on any journey to pursue what we want. 

But fear not! For I’ve a comprehensive guide to deal with this issue. I call it the Art of becoming an Awakened Dream-walker. The art shows you how to take advantage of all the challenges and obstacles on your journey, so that failure no longer frustrates, but inspires and enlightens you on your path.

Head here for the guide.

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. When somebody shares, everybody wins!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!

 

* My favorite “motivating” question from Jeff Bezos, reported in Brad Stone’s book (4), which excerpt published by Bloomberg.

 

References

(1) Perse, E. M. (1996). Sensation seeking and the use of television for arousal. Communication Reports, 9(1), 37-48. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/08934219609367633

(2) Nielsen (2017). Q1 2017 Local Watch Report: TV Trends in Our Cities. Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2017/q1-2017-local-watch-report-tv-trends-in-our-cities.html

(3) Herrman, J. (2018). What I Learned from Watching My iPad’s Slow Death. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/magazine/what-i-learned-from-watching-my-ipads-slow-death.html

(4) Stone, B. (2013). Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon: Excerpt From ‘The Everything Store’ by Brad Stone. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-10-10/jeff-bezos-and-the-age-of-amazon-excerpt-from-the-everything-store-by-brad-stone#p1

My First-Month Blogging Experience & What it Means to You

The unexamined life is not worth living ~ Socrates

Sometimes we need to stop the mantra “go, go, go” in our busy lives, in order to look around,

and back,

To ponder,

and reflect,

on what happened,

And wonder what went right, what wasn’t right…

Maybe something,

or someone out there,

are crying out for our attention,

To see that human emotions are so fragile,

like the seesaw,

moving up and down…

 

It’s been over a month since EnjoyYrJourney.com went live. I decide to write this post to reflect upon my blog journey.

One month seems, well, like nothing, especially when you compare against the average career life of 20, or 30 years.

But, somehow, the word “first” makes this period so special, this experience so unique for me.

You’ve experienced so many things in life up until now,

How many “first” times have you got for those things or activities that you involved?

Only one.

How many “first” loves have you got?

Only one.

How many “first” kisses have you given/received?

Only one.

How many “first” days at your dream job have you got?

Still one.

And yet those first times, in some way, we will never forget,

Won’t we?

That’s why, I want to write about it.

I want to seize the experience, this moment,

Zoom it in,

And reflect on it,

When the ideas, the emotions, and the feelings are still fresh,

Before they gather dust because of daily worries and trivialities,

and before the light gets dim.

And, since I started EnjoyYrJourney.com to fulfill my passions for writing and personal development, I plan to keep this work for as long as I live.

Thus, I want to capture this month, put into my journal, so I can go back and review it after 1 year, 

or 10 years, 

or whenever seems to be the “right” time for review and reminiscence (you know those times, mostly when we’re about to quit something, give up trying).

(Credits: Photo by Dương Trn Quc on Unsplash; Fofer font by Angie Von Slaughter)

Anyway, enough rambling.

I don’t know about you, but as for me, this first month was truly scary. So, please forgive the whining.

I. My First-Month Blogging Experience

Before starting EnjoyYrJourney, I thought that,

writing a-few-thousand-word articles was hard,

that finding interesting ideas to write was hard,

that writing 5 hours every day was hard.

Strange, I’ve found none of those things hard.

Of course, they aren’t easy. However, they are not that difficult as I’d imagined.

Ironically, the one thing I find it hard is the development of the blog.

i. The technical part

Which WordPress theme should I use

How to set up security, email, newsletter, etc.

What plugin/widget/… to install

How to hide/display certain features on the site

How to add a drop-down list (I still haven’t figured it out)

Which page should I create for EnjoyYrJourney, and how (Still learning, though)

What’s difference between tag vs category, and which one should I use

Should I spend a month or so to learn CSS, PHP (Well, it seems to take at least that much time before I can understand what the heck other developers/bloggers are talking about in WordPress forums)

ii. The business development part

What’s my content strategy (philosophy, style, areas to focus, how articles link together and support my philosophy)

How to get traffic (honestly, up until now, I’ve been mostly talking to myself. You wanna join me?)

Whether to have comment or not (Comment is turned off here but feel free to discuss on Facebook or Twitter)

What is SEO and do I really need it

How to guest post

Which social media network should I focus on

Should I use my personal page or set up a business page on Facebook

What type of monetization do I plan to use

and many more that I’m not yet aware

I knew from the beginning that there are lots of things need to be done in addition to hosting and bringing EnjoyYrJourney live, but I didn’t expect that many.

Moreover, as I intend to be in the blogging business for as long as I live, I want to know as much as I can from the inside out. Thus, I refrain from hiring any freelancers or using paid services in the design and setup, unless they are absolutely necessary. That means I’m on my own, I have to do every single thing by myself.

What’s worse? I don’t know anyone in the industry,  who could at least show me briefly about the things I’m heading to, and what to expect beforehand.

Even worse, the internet is flooded with tips/tricks/hacks, rather than comprehensive guides that are tailored to my situation.

You know the type.

5 must-have plugins…

6 Strategies to launching a blog…

32 Tips that got me 1 million views…

The ultimate 57 point checklist before…

10 Most common mistakes bloggers make…

Honestly, they are all good advice,

Just not for me,

Or whether they’re suitable for EnjoyYrJourney, that I’m unsure.

Unfortunately, the way people market those articles, make them seem like “can’t miss/must read” advice. One issue led me to several articles to skim go through.

Well, the result was that, instead of following the planned daily timetable, in which I reserved 1 hour daily for studying the art of writing, I buried my head over dozens of articles about blogging and WordPress design.

Perhaps you might notice a disturbance in my posting schedule last month. Up until mid Jan, I spent most of the time on writing. But after that, I devoted considerably more time to reading about WordPress and site development.

I thought that the more I read, the more confident I would feel about this area. 

Ironically, I felt totally incompetent, and overwhelmed.

Let say someone inspires you to live a successful life. So you’re in search for guidance (I hope it’s me you’re looking for).

And if you google “how to be great”, you’ll be flooded with 519 million results. Thus you’re understandably enthused, turned on, and excited.

And if you devour article after article, tip after tip.

You’ll understand how I felt.

You get it.

Truly incompetent. Totally overwhelmed.

Then,

What would I do?

Nothing!

If I’d listened to the prophet of the doomed, by letting those “10 mistakes to avoid” articles scare the hell out of me;

Nothing!

If I’d wanted to do every. single. damn. thing of the “10 things that successful bloggers do”.

Actually, I did do a few things, but they were less than what I’d expected.

Before I knew it, I suffered from “paralysis by analysis”, by falling in love with those “Do this & Beware that” guides.

My friend, if you’re venturing into an area that is totally new to you, suppress the desire to learn everything about the subject.

Beware that, on your search for the best advice or guidance, you become a philosopher yourself. Becoming a philosopher is fine, if giving advice is your day job. But becoming an idle philosopher will also prevent you from making any progress on your journey.

Adopt the attitude “Learn as you go” instead.

Now, after hindsight, I realize that, behind my tendency to seek too much advice from the experts in the field was fear.

F!

E!

A!

R!

I’m afraid that EnjoyYrJourney may not amount to anything;

I’m afraid that you guys may treat all the ramblings on this site, to be nothing more than bullshits, or, at best, the murmurs of a psycho, living a dream inside his own head;

I’m afraid that I can’t earn sufficient income from blogging;

I’m afraid that I don’t gather enough confidence, to tell people the truth of what I do for a living,

and then not be able to stand the “sympathizing” look, the understanding nod, that they give me back as a response for their assumption that, blogging is my fancy way of saying that I’m unemployed, and that all I have is a hobby.

But those things, they’re no big deals, for me. I’ve been familiar with them. I can handle that.

But I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand the disappointment that my family may have about the journey I took, if this thing doesn’t take off.

My friend, it’s always sexy to read about how wonderful life would be like,

and imagine how happy you are,

once you start following your passion, pursuing your dream.

But the romance won’t last long, after you lose sight of the shore.

Soon, self-doubt and fear will set in.

If we want to speed up our journey and reach the destination, we must learn to deal with our fear.

How?

Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway (Susan Jeffers)

I love this quote by Susan Jeffers, who made a great audiobook with the same name. That’s exactly what I did.

But how to do it despite of our fear?

Well, unless you listen to the audio (and no, no commission for me here), the answer’s gonna be the topic for another post.

All I can say is that, I knew far in advance that fear would become an inevitable companion early on in my journey, and since I didn’t want its company renders me so nervous that it urges me to make a U-turn, I decided to “burn the bridge” by quitting my job for blogging full-time.

The “I’m afraid of this, I fear that” and the overwhelm-ness did paralyze me some time, made me procrastinate, and delay doing what I was supposed to do.

But since I had no way out, I kept going forward, did whatever I was capable of doing, and fixed my mistakes along the way.

Most businesses stay in survivor mode during the first year.

Well!

And what condition do you expect during their first month?

Suffocating!

From fear,

self-doubt,

and information overload.

That’s the main theme in my first month blogging experience.

What’s more? Another manifestation of self-doubt is jealousy.

I felt jealous anytime I dropped by a new blog of another fellow just like mine. Somehow, I always found better things compared to EnjoyYrJourney.

I felt incompetent each time I visited a popular blog, and wondered how long it would take me to reach their level.

Instead of using those examples as a source of inspiration to affirm my future success, that if they could make it, I can, too; somehow, it appeared to me that their success would mean less room for my success, that the only way for me to go up is to put others down.

I don’t know where I got that idea. For a while, I really felt ashamed of that.

II. What My Experience has to do with YOU

So, I’ve just outlined the main issues that I encountered last month. The first month was very emotional for me.

Mind you, I haven’t truly overcome all of them.

In fact, some, like self-doubt, I believe every blogger, or people in other fields, will have to face occasionally, no matter how far they journey.

I’m only one month in, so I still have a long long way to go.

How to avoid feeling overwhelmed?

How to avoid the fear?

The self-doubt?

And jealousy?

Again, a wrong question doesn’t have a right answer!

How to avoid falling down,

when a baby learns to stand?

You get it.

Besides, a one-month experience doesn’t qualify me to offer any suggestion to overcome those issues (I do in fact have a few useful things, but let keep them for another occasion 😉).

Instead, what you get, are these:

1. You chose this, so stop whining!

The moment you stepped out pursuing your dream, you’re on your own. Nobody asked you to do this.

In fact, up until then,

We’d lived our whole lives taking suggestions, suggestions that were really commands in disguise.

We’d been used to conformity, and slavery, in exchange for what we thought we really wanted.

We’d worked hard trying to become somebody, finally realized it’s a “strange” buddy, residing inside our physical selves.

We’d been buying into the wrong dream, the “someday dream”, when we finally quit work & start enjoying life.

We’d been following the wrong plan, whosever the f!#k plan it is, we don’t care, as long as it’s not ours.

We’d been sick and tired, 

of working on a job that we neither hate, nor love; 

of not giving a damn about the everyday things that we do, which weren’t our passions, nor our dreams, yet must pretend that we did.

2. You’re on your own, yet you’re not alone

To take the road less traveled,

To charge your own path,

You’re alone, and you’re not alone.

Yes, strange as it may sound.

You heard my story. And my story isn’t unique.

We’d stayed too long in our comfort zone, and our outdated education system has f!#ked us all up.

We hope that, on our way out, 

somebody will hold our hands and gently show us the way;

or at least someone, who had been there before, left a step-by-step guide, so that we can follow.

You know, pretty much like the way we studied in schools: Module 1 – Elementary, Chapter 1 – Introduction to…

The truth is, none of those are available (if you’re in doubt, feel free to continue my search 😘).

And so, we must get used to trials and errors.

You see,

Fear,

Self-doubt,

Ignorance,

and Mistakes

are NOT special gifts reserved for us the common folks.

The talented, the genius, the successful, and self-made, own them, too.

So, if you are in pain, then honey, welcome aboard!

3. Learn to embrace the experience, instead

As I’ve said, there’s no sense to try to avoid the fear, the self-doubt, the overwhelmed-ness.

Because if you do, you will never learn, what it’s like

to stand on your own two feet,

to step out into the unknown,

because you never truly lived.

Whatever happened,

However you felt,

Whenever you’re tempted to give up,

DON’T,

Persevere.

 

And so,

embrace it,

have sex with it,

enjoy the moment,

.time first your it’s ‘cause

P.S: There’s no sense to try to avoid failures, because mistakes and problems are inevitable in life. But don’t fret! Learn to become an awakened dream-walker, so that you can make such things work in your favor. Here’s how.

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. When somebody shares, everybody wins!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!

The True Meaning of Gratitude & How to Harness its Power to Transform Life

Last Updated: May.10.18

Gratitude Journal

I’m grateful for the food I eat…

I’m grateful for my friend…

I’m grateful for my partner, who…

 

So, in your quest for finding out how to cultivate gratitude habit, you stumble upon this page. Dear friend! We’re on the same side! But first, let’s talk about what motivate people to practice gratitude and its true meaning.

I’ve been seeking for ways to practice gratitude. So, it must mean that I’m an ingrate, thoughtless kind of guy, who blankly denies all the blessings that my country, the people, and the good Lord have bestowed upon me, right?

Not quite. I’m aware all those. But I’m on the path toward personal transformation, and since I’ve heard all kinds of good stuff about gratitude, so I’m eager to learn more.

Sounds like you?

And to save you the research time, let me hand you my list of all the benefits that people have attributed to gratitude habit. The list is very impressive, indeed. Here it is:

Top 10 Reasons You Should Practice Gratitude

1.Better Health – Improved Sleep, Strengthened Immune System, to

2.Work Harder on Personal Goals, which lead to

3.Better You @ Work

4.and @ Home/Social Relationships, which means

5.Higher Self-esteem & More Acceptance of Others

6.Mind Massage to make the Past/Tragedy more Bearable, in order to

7.Overcome Stress, Loss & Crisis

8.More Contentment

9.Less Depressed & Happier

10.Become more Forgiving & Spiritual

 

But then later, I saw something phony about this list. Well, the problem with this list is that they all end up benefiting ME.

ME!

ME!

ME!

So what, you ask? Suppose you’re trying to cultivate a grateful attitude toward your mom and her unconditional love, appreciate everything she has done so far, all the things that she did FOR you, and BECAUSE OF you…

…so that you will have better health?

……will work harder on yourself and your goals??

………will become happier and more spiritual???

See the phony here? I wonder, isn’t this one of the reasons contributing to the fact that the young become less and less enthusiastic about having babies these days, perhaps because we have first-hand experience of knowing what a bunch of selfish children we are.

Now, let’s take a different approach. Think about someone, whom you regard to be the most grateful person on Earth.

What is he like?

How does he live?

What sort of work does he perform?

Do you think for a moment that he’s practicing gratitude routine daily, asking himself what should he be grateful for, then writing them down in a journal?

Yeah, right, unless he’s a spiritual guru, making a living by teaching the rest of us how to be grateful.

No, the most grateful person on Earth is not busy making a better life for himself. He’s busy with helping other people make better lives for themselves.

The definition of gratefulness, according to Collins dictionary is:

If you are grateful for something that someone has given you or done for you, you have warm, friendly feelings towards them and wish to thank them

To me, the “thanking” part is the real motivation behind gratitude. It’s the one that gives true meaning to being grateful.

~o~

Now, what about the how-to part? I must confess that, I’m super good in this respect. It was easy to be thankful for all the blessings in life. Don’t believe me? I give you 2 examples.

1. Open any local newspapers, at anytime of the year, and read the headlines. In Florida people have been struggling with Hurricane Irma. In Santa Rosa wildfire survivors have no place to live. In Boston, people are struggling with frostbite and extreme weathers. Just last week, 20 people were killed by mudslides in Santa Barbara…A quick look through and all I can say are 4 words: “Thank God, not me!”

2. Every year, we’d like to travel to faraway lands, to under-developed or developing countries, NOT in order to stand in awe of how people could survive with such a low income and under poor living conditions, but to remind ourselves how fortunate we’re, to reside in a rich, developed, and civilized country.

How easy it is, to be thankful for all the blessings in life! In the old days, I used to be guilty of such pervert way of “cultivating” gratitude.

How about this common approach? Often people said to me: “Be thankful because you have something to eat!”, or something like that, whenever I was playing ignorant or showing ingratitude.

I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet (From someone wise)

You might have heard of this Power of Words (YouTube) story about a beggar with this sign:

  

Frankly, I’ve grown irritated about the be-thankful-because-you-have-something-to-eat mentality. That’s not gratitude, but, to paraphrase Paulo Coelho, a sick way to find consolation for our despicable situation, by comparing ours to others’, who are not as fortunate as us.

The flaw in such kind of thinking is that, on our way to make peace with the problems in life, make sure we look down a lot! We need to stop looking up at those who achieve more than us, who are more successful, and seem to be happier (or should I say, stop checking out those vain, self-satisfied selfies flooded on Facebook and other social media networks).

Because if we don’t, our comparison would backfire. How can you be thankful and content with what you have by comparing against others, who are more beautiful, healthier, wealthier, basically more everything, than you?

I. The True Meaning of Gratitude

I’ve learned that:

  • Gratitude isn’t another emotional bandage.
  • Ultimately, cultivating gratitude doesn’t end with having a better life.
  • Cultivating gratitude isn’t about comparing the cards that life has handed me to others’.

Instead,

Gratitude is the highest form of Positive Thinking

The essence of positive thinking is looking for the gems hidden inside every life event we encounter, so that we make the best use of it. When you say “The glass is half full”, you’re not just cheering yourself up by affirming the fact that you still have a half glass of water, but you also focus your mind on looking for ways to make the best use of the remaining water.

And if you practice positive thinking long enough, you would come to an inevitable conclusion that everything happens for a reason, and that reason is bound to move you toward achieving your goal.

Now, gratitude goes much further than that.

You realize not only that life is your ultimate teacher (which means you remain forever a student), but also that you’re obligated to make the best use of the lessons to repay life’s favors

Dear friend, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. Life is the ultimate teacher, forever waiting for our arrival. The thing is, we only recognize this fact, when we have a clear set of problem and go in search of a solution.

And that means we must have goals. With our goals in mind, everything/everyone we encounter is our teacher, whose mission of showing up in our lives is to teach us valuable lessons to reach our goals.

Trust me. With such philosophy, you won’t have to crack your brain days and nights wondering “I’m so miserable, what am I grateful for, anyway?”.

I’m a student of life. Every day I try to see:

  • Every bad deed as a test of endurance, if being done to me; or as a warning of a bad example not to follow, if being done to others.
  • Every good deed as a good example to follow.
  • Every failure as a test of patience and a lesson.
  • Every success as a test of contentment and a warning against greediness.

And so,

  • Thank you, my friend, for giving a damn, about my thoughts & feelings, my lessons & failures, my dreams & obsessions, my inspirations & diversions, my ramblings & psychosis.
  • Thank you, for not giving a damn, about, but you wouldn’t give a damn, anyway.
  • Thank you, for loving me unconditionally, so that I learned that, after all, I’m still lovable, and curable.
  • Thank you for making me love you, so that I learned, after all, I’m still capable of love.
  • Thank you, for turning my love into hatred, so that I learned, that there’s such a thin line between love & hatred; because, after all, they’re two sides of the same thing called selfishness.
  • Thank you, for not loving me, so that I learned, after all, you aren’t the only love of my life.
  • Thank you, honey, welcome to my life. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy your stay.
  • Thank you, friend, for leaving my life in such a hurry, as your departure inspired me to part ways with my miserable old-self, too.
  • Thank you, those who challenged my decisions, as this forced me to question the things that I thought I were passionate about, and reinforced the desire to pursue my dreams.
  • Thank you, those who, despite not choosing it, yet being affected by it, still allowed and supported me on this path.
  • Thank you, those motherfuckers, for giving me one more reason to succeed.
  • Thank you, those who turned my life “upside down, so that I could learn, how to live, right side up”*.
  • Thank you, Rumi the Past, for everything that you did/did not do, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today; every sins you committed, and suffered subsequently, so that I won’t have to repeat them; every mistakes & stupidities you made, in order to teach Rumi the Present & Rumi the Future the proper way to say “Yes Ma’am/Sir” to whomever calling him “Rumi The Fool”.
  • Thank you, teachers, for enlightening the path behind, around, and ahead of me.

Now, there’s no bad teacher, only poor student! And the best way I can thank my teachers is to live their teachings, become an example of their teachings, and spread them as far as I can.

I believe this “student of life” attitude is a more “genuine” and “human” way to cultivate gratitude habit. If we’re truly grateful for whatever blessing that life has bestowed upon us, we wouldn’t let it go to waste. We’d want to make the best use of the gift given to us, and one day pay it back.

That way, success, failure, good luck, or bad luck…all now have deeper meanings, because they teach us valuable lessons to reach our goals. We need to cultivate such attitude, if we want to become an awakened dream-walker.

And for those who are still not convinced of the “pay back” part, then perhaps “enlightened self-interest” is worth considering.

If you light a lamp for someone else it will also brighten your path ~ Buddha

II. Tips to Apply the Student Philosophy to Cultivate Gratitude

Here’re some tips that I’ve used:

1. STOP making yourself sound like a hypocrite and thus ruin your day by NOT:

  • starting/ending your day by being thankful that you’re alive & feeling grateful for all the good things in your life; nor
  • pausing a moment before you eat, or throughout your day, to count the miracles and blessings given to you.

2. DO these instead:

i. Start your day by feeling grateful to your past self for one decision/action/endeavor that you made, after writing down your goal statement (Why? Please refer to goal-setting guide part 2). If succeeded, contemplate on its impact on your life; if failed, its lesson.

Then, appreciate the fact that you have one more day to do the work that you love,or to make a new start, this time much wiser (if you’ve already started taking the path). Otherwise, be grateful for one aspect of your current job that allows you to move closer to your goals. Ex: It could be the technical know-how that enables you to find freelance work in the future.

(Use a note app to record these thoughts if you have time, but it’s not a must)

ii. Set a reminder to pause during the day and review one specific incident that has occurred. Ask yourself:

  • In what way does this event help me move closer to my goals?
  • What lesson do I learn here? How to apply this lesson to become a better me?

(Write your notes in a note app, call it a Gratitude Journal)

iii. At night, after writing down your goal statement, end your day by recalling one bad deed/offense/injustice/indignity that had been done TO you in the past, ask yourself:

a. If I were the other party, who committed the offense, what excuse could I give myself to explain for such act? (If you can’t think of any possible excuse, or if you start by accusing how wrong the deed was, stop this incident right now, recall another one instead)

b. With regard to the way I reacted/responded/my emotion/thoughts, what did the event teach me about myself?

c. How differently would I respond, if the incident happened today?

d. What lesson have I learned from this event? How have I applied/How do I plan to apply the lesson to become a better me?

(Record these notes in your Gratitude Journal)

Regarding those incidents that you stop, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do the gratitude exercise on them. It simply means they are still “fresh” in your mind. I’ve found that it’s easier to do this exercise on old events. In fact, the older the better, after trauma had passed, and anger subsided. Besides, time heals all wounds. Sure! But if you fail to give them cosmetic surgery once in a while, you risk having your heart and soul full of bitter scars for the rest of your life.

iv. Review & update your Gratitude Journal weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually.

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. Everybody wins, when somebody shares!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!

 

* Correct me if I’m wrong, it seems to me this quote was taken from the movie Not Easily Broken?

Deep-breathing Meditation – How to Practice & Incorporate into Daily Life

Last Updated: May.10.18

I have a few interesting questions I love to ask you:

1. Are you aware that you’re breathing, right now?

2. Are you aware that you’re thinking, while listening to me, right now?

3. Are you aware that you’re talking to yourself, right now? (I imagine someone would respond like “What the heck does that mean? This guy is a weirdo. Am I talking to myself? I’m not talking to myself. Wait a second…”)

So, you’re all breathing, thinking, and talking to yourself. Me too. We all are. Now,

Who/What is the entity that is aware of such activities?

You know that you’re breathing, thinking, talking. So that means we are two entities here: 1. You 2. The breather/The thinker/The talker.

And such acknowledgment, we call it mindfulness. By dictionary, mindfulness is, and I quote:

A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique

Today I want to share with you one way to nurture mindfulness – Deep-breathing Meditation.

For me, meditation is not simply a technique, nor a strategy. It’s my way of life. It’s my way of being, living, working, and playing.

Meditation. Now, people tend to have a vision of a saint, very peaceful and serene, sitting quietly on a cushion, meditates. And then they imagine themselves, sitting on their asses, on a bed, rarely a cushion, pretending to be quiet outside, and chaotic inside, striving to be miserably happy, and awake. And because the two imaginary scenes contradict each other too much, they just shake their head, decide that meditation is not for them.

What if I tell you that, you can practice deep-breathing meditation while running, eating, even working?

What if I tell you that, you can meditate, pretty much the same way like you’re breathing, thinking, talking to yourself, all day long, even when you’re not aware of it?

What if I tell you that, meditation has been the key that unlocked my transformation, allowed me to quit smoking, gather the courage to pursue my dreams, and develop all the good habits that have dramatically altered my life?

I don’t exaggerate one bit. Meditation is the savior of my life. In fact, if there’s one activity/hobby/habit that I would do from now on for the rest of my life, it’d be this one.

I used to be in awe and perplexed of all those great saints and spiritual masters of the world, who are enlightened, who seem so calm and serene, who seem to be immune, not affected, nor moved by any disturbance in life, and wonder:

What’s the point of living a life with blank emotion?

What’s the point of being human, yet possessing a heart of stone?

What’s the joy of living an emotionless life?

Doesn’t that make us become like a brainless zombie (I’d been watching too much of Resident Evil and the walking dead series you know)?

So, my curiosity led me to study what enlightenment is all about, and what I’ve found is that: these masters do have emotions like the rest of us. They do have fear, anger, sadness, joy, etc.

However, they are not attached to these emotions. Likewise, they are not attached to their thoughts, nor suppress them. They know that thoughts and emotions are products of the mind’s judgments, whether something is good or bad; whereas they themselves (or the eternal soul if you will) are separate from the thinking mind. An analogy is seeing the thinking mind as a wild horse, and these saints have mastered the art of taming their horse.

It all starts with being aware of, and detached from their own thoughts, becoming an observer.

This is truly an art of living. Words are limited in the ability to express meditation experience, you have to try it to see for yourself. I’m only a beginner on this journey. And with deep sincerity, I invite you to take this path.

Learning and incorporating deep-breathing into daily life is a long journey. Don’t let that discourage you. You’ll see for yourself that, it is not simply a tactic, a hack, a shortcut, a mind trick, etc. that we’d like to put on, as a means to achieve something that we want, and then take off, once we’re done.

No.

Deep-breathing meditation is a way to foster mindfulness, so we can focus on the present moment in a non-judgmental way. By focusing on our deep and rhythmic breaths, the mind remains calm and tranquil.

How?

Well, I give you TWO analogies. It’s extremely hard to keep calm and (ok, not THAT calm 😶!) remain a dead fish while listening to that dance and EDM playlist in your favorite nightclub. In the same vein, it’s extremely hard to get turned on while attending a funeral.

And once you have a taste of its benefits, you wouldn’t believe how you’d lived your life without it.

I. Deep-breathing Meditation    

For starters, aim just 2 minutes for each session. Make it easy, no pressure. Increase the time once you get the hang of it. Go through the following steps:

A. The “Simplified” Version

Basically, find a quiet place, you either sit on a chair or a cushion. Make yourself comfortable. Place one hand (doesn’t matter right or left)  in the other with palms upwards. Keep the tips of the thumbs slightly raised and gently touching. Close your eyes.

Clear your mind. Now, slowly inhale through your nose for 3 seconds. Hold your breath, silently count to 2. Then, slowly exhale through your nose for 4 seconds. Pay attention to your breaths. Repeat.

Whenever you notice your thinking mind wanders somewhere else, gently direct your thought back to the breathing.

Do NOT “try” to keep your attention fixated upon the breathing. Instead, do try to direct your thought back to the activity as soon as you become aware of your mind stray. Make it a goal to get back to the exercise as soon as you can.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how many times your mind wanders off, what matters is how soon you become aware of it and get back to your meditation.

B. The “Full” Version

i. The Preparation

Find a quiet place, where no one disturbs you. Sit on a chair or a cushion. Stay away from your bed, or it might seduce you into sleeping.

Keep your back straight, don’t lean forward or backward, don’t slouch. Personally, I like leaning against a wall, or putting a pillow/lumbar support pad behind my back if I sit on a chair to force myself sit up straight.

Follow the points below to get the right posture:

  • Keep your head up and look straight, not leaning backward or forward. One way to ensure this is to check the angle behind your back, from neck to head, is it vertical, almost 90 degrees to your shoulder? Make sure it isn’t tilted forward or backward. Keep your chin slightly tucked in, so that your eyes look a bit downward. You don’t want your eyes casting straight or upward, as that may stir imagination and mental excitement. Looking down makes turning the mind inward easier.
  • Keep your shoulders open, back, and down; open your chest. You can do this by lifting the top portion of your sternum up, keeping it straight, not falling down forward, nor backward. If the top of your sternum is falling forward, that means your upper body is also falling forward, and shoulders are not rolling back. If it’s backward, that means you’re over exaggerating your leaning back (the tips here, which I learned from ATHLEAN-X*, not only ensure comfort over long breathing sessions, but also correct bad postures we don’t know that we have – ex: head forward, round & compressed shoulders, chest).
  • Lean your back against the wall or the back of your chair (or your pillow, if your chair is reclining like mine).
  • If on chair, place your feet comfortably on the floor. If on cushion, cross your legs. Make sure you can sit still and stable.
  • Place one hand (doesn’t matter right or left)  in the other with palms upwards. Keep the tips of the thumbs slightly raised and gently touching.
  • Close your eyes. You can practice with your eyes open, but for starters, closing eyes helps you concentrate.

ii. The Meditation

Relax your body and your mind. Breathe normally with your mouth closed.

After you relax your body and clear your mind, now, slowly inhale through your nose for 3 seconds. Notice how you breathe in, how the air flow into your body, to your chest (or down your abdomen if you practice “stomach breathing”), notice how your chest/belly expand.

Now, hold your breath, silently count to 2. Do count in your mind, so that you keep the mind busy, rather than wandering around.

Now, slowly exhale through your nose for 4 seconds. Again, notice how you breathe out, how the air goes out, notice how your chest/belly contract. That finishes a cycle of deep breathing.

Keep your breathe-ins & breathe-outs naturally, don’t exaggerate, neither force the breathing.

After you breathe out completely, make a mental note that the cycle just finished being number 1. Do NOT count “1” in your mind as this will distract your focus on the breathing; just use your mind to remember which cycle you’ve just completed. Make a mental note from 1-5, then go back to cycle number 1 and repeat.

I’ve found that by forcing myself to remember which cycle I’ve just completed, my mind has less residual mental capacity to wander around.

Now, feel free to adjust the breath-in and breath-out durations as you like, except the holding 2 second duration. Also, take it easy while timing your breath. You don’t have to get the exact durations, because the purpose is to keep your mind focus on the activity.

Soon, a thought will pop up. That’s normal. As soon as you catch yourself straying, gently direct your thought back to the breathing.

Again, remember we’ve agreed that you and the thinking mind are separate entities right? The problem is because we have, for a long time, forgot this fact, we’ve habitually become identified with, and attached to the mind. Therefore, it’s expected to be drifted away from the exercise and get lost in thought. Your goal is NOT to hold your mind constantly fixated upon the breathing. That’s impossible. Instead, make a goal to get back to the exercise as soon as your mind wander around.

However, make your “come back” as calmly and serenely as you can. Don’t criticize, nor scold yourself, don’t indulge in self-pity. Treat random thoughts the way you’d treat unwelcome and persistent salesmen, who keep coming back. Don’t show any interest, nor dwell upon them, nor listen to their reasons. Simply ignore them.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how many unwanted thoughts you possess, what matters is how soon you become aware of them and get back to your meditation.

II. Practice & Incorporate Deep-breathing into Daily Life

The beauty of deep breathing is that it’s so simple, yet so relaxing to perform. In fact, to say that it can reduce stress** is underestimating its potential. From my experience, it gives me bliss and joy. Once you master the technique, you can do it anywhere, anytime you like.

From a modest beginning of only 2 minutes per session, increase the duration over time.

Now, when should I increase?

It depends, on the feedback you get. It might take 1 week, or 3 months. Beware of aiming for a specific number of days before you start learning to meditate.

I know some people swear about the idea that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Not that easy, if that’s the case, I didn’t have to waste 10 years to quit smoking. There’re lots of unseen assumptions there. My experience tell me that it takes around 5 months to build a good foundation for a simple habit.

Anyway, that’s an interesting topic for another post. Now, back to our topic, use your own insight to guide you. Once you feel comfortable doing the exercise, when you feel less resistant to the idea of sitting on your ass trying to act saintly, you are ready. Raise the time of each session slowly, until you get 15 minutes.

Then, you can incorporate deep breathing into all aspects of daily life. As a Buddhist practitioner, although my meditation is different, its concept is very similar to deep breathing. Here’re the steps that I did:

1. Perform 5 minutes meditation between major daily activities   

I believe each of us needs to take periodical retreats during the day, into a quiet room inside our own mind. I’m deeply grateful to Dr. Maxwell Maltz and his classic book, Psycho-Cybernetics, for this concept.

Just 5 minutes, between major activities, find a quiet place and practice deep breathing. This restores your mood to its neutral condition, cleanse your mind from whatever kind of stress/worry that had happened previously.

2. Practice outside

Bring the practice outside. Practice with your eyes open. Start meditating while doing the simplest activity, like walking. You can drop the counting for now, as it might distract your activity.

Initially, I tried this while walking, then jogging and running. If you do this, modify your breathing pattern so that it becomes harmonized with the activity.

For example, I chant Amitābha (pronounce [əmiˈt̪aːbʱə]) silently when I jog, so I try to keep the rhyme of my chanting to correspond with my right foot’s strike. I start chanting “A” when I step with my right foot. Then, depending on my jogging speed, the next sound “Mi” may be continued on the 2nd, or 3rd right foot’s strike. And so on.

So, find your own rhyme. It’ll take some time to get used to practice deep breathing with your eyes open and incorporate it into your movement.

Remember, we don’t plan to learn and practice deep breathing for a month in order to cure ___ [feel free to insert whatever kind of despicable/miserable/stressful condition you’re contemplating right now], and be done with it. No! We plan to learn and turn it into our way of life, from now on. So, we have a whole life to try.

3. Practice while performing simple/mindless/repetitive/routine tasks 

You know the types. Dishwashing, tidying up the room, cleaning, cooking, etc. Those chores that we do every day, and we hate that.

Now, it’s time to turn that around. Just don’t open music, as that would distract your attention. Slow instrumental music is fine.

4. Perform periodical 5 minutes meditations during the day

Being self-employed, I dictate my own schedule. I work in 25-minute blocks (Why? learn how I enjoy my life, either work or play, at intervals here). I take 5 minutes break to meditate between each block. I don’t have to sit still, I can meditate while walking around the house as a way to stretch my body, cleaning the dishes, or having a snack.

If you work with a computer, I strongly advise you to work and take break in blocks. Find the interval that suits you. This recharges your energy, clears your mind, and stretches your body.

5. Incorporate into your work 

Again, select really simple, mindless tasks to practice deep breathing. Try my rule of thumb. If you have to think while doing an activity, it’s not the right one.

I’m talking about data entry, double-checking, carrying stuff, running errands, etc. These tasks do not consume much attention, at most they may involve using short-term memory, like the cases of data entry or double-checking.

And, of course, while pretending to listen to your co-workers’ chitchats (it’s my favorite). But open your eyes and act normal, please, save you the trouble of having to explain why you’re acting silly.

6. Handle stress & emotional turbulence

Keep practicing, and once deep breathing becomes a second nature of yours, you’d possess a powerful tool to handle stress and take disciplined actions toward personal growth.

Why? I’ve found that people take actions based on emotion, not logic. Essentially, meditation allows us to keep our emotion in check.

Even though I’m just a beginner, I’ve used meditation to overcome nicotine addiction; put negative thinking in the right perspective, which is an alert to potential danger; discipline myself to perform good habits daily; gather up courage to move out of my comfort zone; confront difficult situations…to name just a few.

How? Uh, sorry, I’m running out of time. That’d be the topic for future posts. But the main key is to use meditation to be aware of our thought patterns, and take control of our minds to stay in the present, rather than letting them drag us to wherever they want. That’s the essence of the art of becoming an awakened dream-walker.

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. When somebody shares, everybody wins!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!

 

* Disclaimer: Unless specifically stated, otherwise I am not associated with any of the recommended products/services/websites on EnjoyYrJourney.com 

** Disclaimer: This blog is intended to provide general information, which do not constitute medical or professional advice. The blog expresses my experience, which is not tailored to your own specific circumstance. Please seek professional help if you believe you have a condition.

How To Set Powerful Goals That Are Inspiring & Achievable (Part II)

Last Updated: May.02.18

II. Figure out the How

A goal serves as the inspiration that gets us start; whereas daily actions are what get us finish. Follow these steps to set a plan for each of your goal.

1. Write it down on paper. Make a statement to describe your goal in a clear, specific and measurable manner 

Use this sentence format “I + now + verb…”. Make your statement positive, assertive, and in present time. For example, if your goal is to quit smoking by Jun.30.2018, write “I now enjoy my life without cigarette”.

2. Set a definite start date, and, if possible, a flexible due date (if it’s a character or improvement goal, no due date)  

Don’t say “Ok,  I’m so exciting, let’s start tomorrow right away”. No. That won’t do. You must take time to physically, mentally, and spiritually get yourself ready. A long journey, however inspiring, needs preparation. So, set a start date, say a few days from now.

But why “flexible” due date? Because by giving it a fixed/absolute/rigid due date, you invariably defeat the other major purpose of embarking on a journey, which is to enjoy the trip.

Remember the last time you were rushing to finish that report for your boss? It’s stressful, it’s physically, mentally, and spiritually drained, not mentioning that you might cut corners and make lots of mistakes. Anyway, you met the deadline. But you abhor the process. The good (I’m not that sure) thing is that because it’s our job, it’s pretty close to a do-or-die situation, and so under that circumstance, we’ll find a way to make it happen.

Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of pressure on most of our personal goals. Without joy, it’s hard to stay motivated day after day, no matter how much wonderful the finish end is.

Besides, if you set a deadline for your goal, beware. Beware that, on your journey, you might treat everything you do and everyone you meet to be nothing more than a means to achieve your goal. Beware that, from that day going forward, the only value that is worth considering in all things you encounter, might be whether it will take you closer to your goal, everything else is secondary.

So, treat the due date as a rough estimate, and if you can’t make it, you’d simply create another due date.

3. Break your goal down into milestones

On your mind map, from the final destination, work backward, find out the major milestones that must be achieved to reach that end. Identify potential obstacles, what stand between you and your goal. Again, be flexible on these deadlines.

4. Brainstorm doable action-oriented steps to complete each milestone

You can do some research to help you brainstorm the necessary steps to reach each milestone, overcome the obstacles. In fact, if you have no idea what are required, research is the first step you can take.

However, research so that you know just enough to get started.  Don’t waste time learning everything about the subject. And for those who love to seek advice/suggestions/words of wisdom (you know the term, “the best way to…”), beware.

Beware that, on your search for the best line of thought/philosophy of life, you yourself become a philosopher. Becoming a philosopher is fine, if giving advice (I wouldn’t say wisdom) is your day job. But becoming an idle philosopher will also guarantee you never reach your goal.

Make sure the steps you lay out here are doable. Depending on your confidence, you can stretch yourself a bit. By the way, confidence, in my definition, includes two elements: 1. You THINK you can do it. 2. You KNOW you can do it.

5. Perform what-if analysis for each of the above steps

Now, come back to the plan you’ve just completed. For each of the above steps, brainstorm at least 2 extra actions that you can take, in case something goes wrong.  

Basically, you’re projecting 3 scenarios here: best, normal, and worst. The action you planned during the first brainstorm is the step that you’ll take if the best scenario occurs, where most things go right. Under the normal scenario, in which you make a few mistakes, or there’re some wrong assumptions, you then take the next planned action. And so on for the worst scenario. Depending on each situation, a worst-case scenario might mean a failure or a major lost occurred. Be specific here by setting parameters and providing details for each scenario.   

Whatever scenario you come up with, remember to treat it like that – a projection – and no more. You project different scenarios and plan proper responses for each scenario. Please don’t confuse such prediction, about what might happen, to be a statement of truth.

Now, why didn’t I tell you to brainstorm 3 actions in the last step? Because I wanted to let our imagination run freely! You’re dreaming your dream, so don’t wake yourself up with the “but what if…”. Dream lofty dreams, yearn for the faraway lands, “look (up) at the stars”, like Oscar Wilde said.

And then come back to your plan, but this time you shift gear, to be pragmatic.

6. Set a specific time and duration on your calendar to tackle each of the above steps

I can’t stress this enough, a goal with a deadline without a list of daily actions is as good as a dead dream. A goal serves as the inspiration that gets us start; whereas daily actions are what get us finish. Ideally, I prefer to work on my goals every day including weekend. If not possible, I’d schedule the activity as often as I can.

A note on the duration – think about your journey as a marathon, not a series of interrupted 100m sprints. Do not try too hard too soon. In fact, I would recommend that you deliberately perform at only 65% (or 2/3) of your ability. Reserve willpower only for challenges and obstacles, and for the late part of the journey, when the going gets tough.

So, suppose in the mid of excitement to build your dream body, you plan to exercise 30 minutes daily (by the way, that’s another sub-goal, isn’t it?). If so, set a goal of exercising 10’ daily starting next week. That’s right, just 10 minutes.

If after you reach the 10 minutes goal, and you’re positive you can go much further, then continue until you reach 20 minutes (20 over 30 is 2/3 of your plan). Otherwise, feel free to stop. Then, increase the duration up by 2 minutes weekly, if you exercise consistently for at least 5 days (~ 80%) that week.

7. Keep a daily detailed accountability

Use a note app with a calendar to record the day you miss (I use Way Of Life app*). You know, we sow the seed to bring our dream into reality by planning daily actions, but shits happen. That’s life. Some days, because of my laziness, procrastination, negative friends, cynical relatives, unexpected events, or whatever reasons I couldn’t understand why…without such record, there’s no way I can track my performance and progress.

8. Make a daily commitment to yourself and others

Every day, after waking up and before going to bed, write the statement that you made for your goal in your notebook. Write in a slow, clear, and deliberate manner. Write, as if you were writing to your sweetheart. It is my conviction that “We become what we think about”, as Earl Nightingale said. The act of rewriting the statement daily serves 2 purposes:

1. Remind, and make a promise to ourselves of our goal. If someone suddenly asks you what your goals are, you must be able to respond quickly and clearly without a second of hesitation.

2. Make an impression on our subconscious mind. The stronger the impression, the greater its impact on changing our self-image, beliefs, thought patterns, actions, and finally, our reality.

With regard to sharing goals, do share your give-up goals to everyone. Sharing your progress on these goals hold yourself accountable. However, be selective in sharing your dreams, or goals of similar nature. Make sure to tell only people whom you know will inspire and encourage you to achieve them.

III. Execution

You know what you want, you’ve already scheduled daily actions for it, now is the time to execute your plan. Remember the rule we’ve agreed upon at the beginning? Don’t expect to create a perfect game plan. And because your plan isn’t perfect, what you do during the execution phase is equally important in reaching your goal.

1. Turn your goal into an obsession

Over the course of our lives, we have many ambitions, but we turn very few of them into reality. It’s because daily busy-ness has consumed most of our attention, leaving no room for us to nourish our interests. Without attention, those desires vanish quickly. And after a year or two, they can’t be found. Jim Rohn called this “The Law of Diminishing Intent”.

I’ve learned that once I’d turned an initial interest into an obsession, like in the case of quitting cigarette, I could almost always guarantee success.

To do this, you need to invest time, energy, and emotion. If the topic of interest is new to you, you can study, research, discuss with others more about it. Build up the interest over time, make it become your obsession.

2. Start

When the alarm goes off, start your planned action. Well, I said “start”, not “finish”, didn’t I? And I mean that, literally. You start your scheduled activity. Don’t worry about how far you can go. Even if you just take the first step, consider that as one step progress toward your goal.

Although I wouldn’t say it’s an achievement, I still aim for consistent starts during the beginning of any venture. I learned this from Zig Ziglar. Many people don’t do something because they don’t feel motivated enough to do it. Zig got it backward, he said that you do the something, and then motivation will set in, motivation creates energy to carry you forward.

So, at the beginning, aim to develop a habit to start your planned activity as soon as its time arrives. Increase the weekly duration over time, until you reach the desired outcome.

Now, there’re situations, where it’s not appropriate to use duration. For example, the activity involves many steps. Modify your plan accordingly. You might aim to begin just the first step, but if you get inspired, don’t stop there please, continue the process until you complete the planned activity. Basically, we want to build a habit of starting the planned activity initially. Make this process easy, no pressure. Motivation and momentum will carry us forward.

3. Deliberately perform at 65% (or 2/3) of your ability

Again, do not get too pumped up and stretch yourself too much. Life is not a series of nonstop all-you-can-eat buffets you know. I find that the mantra “Do your best!” rarely works for me. Consistent performance over a long period has carried me much further than uninterrupted bursts of hyper energy.

Even if you’re confident you can do more, stop yourself when you’re just above comfortable. Now, how do you know when you’re just above comfortable level? It’s a subjective question that involves trials-and-errors.

Let me give you my example. I always wear an iWatch to measure my heart-rate whenever I go running (any runner here? Greeting!). My maximum age-related heart rate is 186. My comfortable level is around 145. On those days when I don’t shoot for a personal record, I would aim to maintain my rate around this level.

4. Shape up physically, mentally & spiritually   

Physically – Having enough fuel makes your cruise smoother. Some people don’t work well simply because they don’t feel well.

Mentally – Be sure to set time to take a break. But use your break strategically, not habitually. Select the kind of break that is in different (opposite, I’d rather say) nature from the preceding activity. If you’ve just finished working 8 hours, your mental energy would be depleted. And if your job involves hugging a computer just like me, your eyes, your brain would also be exhausted; your body would love a stretch. So, heading to the gym after work is a great idea.

Spiritually – Take time,  even if only 5 minutes, to meditate (if you belong to a religion); or, if meditation sounds so New Age to you, practice deep-breathing (look forward to my next post). Meditation cultivates our mindfulness, reduces stress, and neutralizes our mood, so that we can focus on the next activity without being bothered by what’d happened previously.

Now it’s easy to cite countless benefits of meditating. But how to grasp such benefits? It’s simple. If you meditate, direct your attention to perform each step in your meditation. If you practice deep-breathing, concentrate your thought on inhaling slowly, then hold for a while (you can silently count 1-2), then exhale slowly.

The mind can only hold one thought at a time, and yes, even if it never seems to stand still. So, whatever you’re thinking about, you can direct your thought toward your meditation. Of course, very soon, another thought will pop up. That’s expected. Your goal is NOT to hold your mind constantly fixated upon the meditation. That’s impossible. Your goal is to gently direct your attention to go back to the meditation as soon as another thought pops up.

If you do that, your mind will temporarily take a break during your meditation, rather than continuing to busy itself with calculating/thinking/wondering/analyzing/worrying/projecting/remembering past/present/future events.

5. Nourish positive thinking 

Beware of negative thinking. Why positive thinking? Because our lives are already full of problems, worries, crises (don’t believe me? Just confer with newswriters), and positive thinking is one way we can balance that. Positive thinking doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand and affirming “No problem! No problem!”. No, that’s ignorant. Positive thinking means that although we acknowledge the problem, we also keep an eye out for the gem(s) hidden inside of each problem.

A positive thinker is a diligent student of life, he knows that everything he encounters, whether good or bad, carries a lesson. Each bad deed serves as a warning. Each good deed sets an example to follow. Each defeat trains him to become stronger, better, and wiser. Each triumph teaches him to be content with what he has, and warns against giving in to greed.

Such attitude will give you a whole new way of seeing, a new way of being. You will become serene and at ease with whatever outcome your trial turns out to be. You will stop hurrying yourself up to speed up the process in the pursuit of your goal. Instead, you will enjoy the journey, enjoy taking the required actions, become less resistant to the idea that “you have to do whatever it takes to reach your goal”, and become less attached to the destination.

There is more to life than increasing its speed. – Mahatma Gandhi

6. Have many reminders

Besides of rewriting the goals morning and night, during the day, create lots of reminders:

  • Timed reminder on your phone repeated at specific interval (I use “Alarmed ~ Reminders + Timers” app for iPhone. The beauty of this app is that I can make the reminder to run at whatever interval, and for however long as I please).
  • Post-it note, like a slogan, to post it anywhere in your room, or in front of your computer.

7. Journal at night about your progress

Every night, after you’ve rewritten the statement, spend 5’ to record your progress.

In case you have no idea what statement I’m talking about, please stop reading, go back the beginning and perform the steps. I’ve already told you upfront, I’m a shameless copier. I merely repeat the teachings of the wises who came before me. So, don’t expect to “scan“ this blog for anything new, nor any “best-kept secret to [enter whatever you’re searching here]”.

So, what to journal, then? 4 things only:

1. What I did today that move me forward toward my goals;

2. What went wrong (don’t write excuses or try to rationalize, you’d feel bad when you review it later; simply what went wrong);

3. How I can fix/improve the situation;

4. What I am grateful for (why? Review step 5).

8. Don’t skip two days in a row 

This wise advice I learn from Leo Babauta’s book (his blog is also great). Skip a day if you must, but not two, because this will break the habit chain that you’re developing.

9. See the reaching 

See what it’s like to reach the finish line. After all, the reward after attaining your goal is what inspires you to start this quest, right? So, keep that desire burning. You get to see, touch, smell, feel it vividly, even if only through your mind’s eye, so that your desire has the power to pull you through unavoidable letdowns and detours.

See the finish line, but don’t glue your eyes on it. Otherwise, the huge gap between reality and your dream might make you impatient, thus it’s tough to enjoy the journey. The impatient are among the first people who abandon the pursuit of their dreams.

10. Review your plan regularly

A fixed plan is a dead plan. Nobody knows what’s behind the corner. There’re gonna be lots of course corrections and detours. That’s a fact. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, let that fact be your best friend. Maybe the journey isn’t that challenging. Maybe taking the path invites many unseen opportunities. Maybe you are much more capable than what you thought. Maybe you will find out a way, when there seems to be no way.

So, review your plan regularly. It could be daily, weekly, but NEVER let a month goes by without reviewing your plan. Be prepared to make many changes. However, resolve that, whatever happen, do not change the decision to reach your goal.

~o~

What a long post! Goal-setting is indeed time-consuming. But for me, the time spent to design my life, to make my dreams come true, is totally worth it, because:

1. As a gamer, there’s nothing more exciting than projecting how my current self will turn into my ideal hero in the game of life.

2. It’s much more exciting to work hard on my own plan than someone else’s plan for me; or even worse, working to fulfill goals that belong to others.

Final notes: 

Don’t expect your plan to be perfect, leading you all the way from beginning till the end. Do expect to have goals/plans that:

1. Inspire you to get moving

2. Are good enough so you have sufficient day-to-day guidance to work on

The best plan isn’t the perfect plan. No. The best plan is the plan you execute and stick with it till the end. Mike Tyson said: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face”. I’d say that, if you lack the courage to “get punched in the face”, your dreams will never see a gleam of daylight.

I want to close with my favorite line by Earl Nightingale: “Start today. You have nothing to lose but you have your whole life to win”.

Above all, I wish you a turbulent and exciting journey 😉!

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. When somebody shares, everybody wins!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!

* Disclaimer: Unless specifically stated, otherwise I am not associated with any of the recommended products/services/websites on EnjoyYrJourney.com

How To Set Powerful Goals That Are Inspiring & Achievable (Part I)

Last Updated: May.02.18

How to set goals that turn nothing into something?

How to set powerful goals that inspire us?

How to set goals that are achievable?

How to set goals that produce the best outcomes?

Whether we buy into personal development, we all get inspired whenever we think about goal-setting, don’t we? I’m not familiar with your personalities and circumstances, so I talk from my own experience. Even during the dark time of my life, I’ve always been fascinated by goal-setting, planning for the future, fascinated to imagine how my life’s gonna be tomorrow, in 1 year, 3 years, 10 years. Imagination kept me trying one more time, trying another way, trying until. Some say I’m a dreamer, perhaps because on the surface they see nothing accomplished, yet here this guy always talks about things that are unrealistic, impractical.

What’s the major difference between a child’s dream vs a matured man’s? A child dreams of nonexistent things during daytime, and then continues dreaming at night. A man dreams the same things at night, but wakes and goes to work to make his dreams come true. T. E. Lawrence says it best:

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.

I’m a dreamer. I don’t doubt there’s a lot of truth in that. But all those years, I’ve left the kindergarten. I’ve been planning, trying, and failing.

Who can guarantee you that the next lotto ticket you buy will win? Likewise, no matter how great our plan is, there’s no guarantee we will achieve our goals the next time we try. But this I will guarantee you, even if you fail to reach your goal, you’d win the experience instead. And that, I solemnly believe, 100 times more valuable than achieving your goals.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

First, let’s set a goal. This goal requires you to sit still, remain quiet, and demands 100% of your attention.

The goal is this:

For the next 2 hours, you will sit on your chair, open the TV, and watch your favorite show. Or, if you play computer game like me (any gamer here?), play your favorite game for the next 2 hours.

I suppose that would cover 80% of the population of readers of EnjoyYrJourney.com, but if it’s YOU that I miss, please make yourself comfortable by selecting your favorite activity in this goal (Ex: surfing web, Face, online shopping, reading novel, etc.).

Remember, the rule is that for the next 2 hours, do something that is both entertaining and consuming 100% of your attention.

So are you done? Common, just bookmark this page, stop reading and do the damn thing. If it’s inconvenient for you to do that right now, then set a reminder to perform the activity later, and we’ll continue after you finish. I’m not intending to make this guide enjoyable to read. I’m not in entertainment business you know. If you want success, and seek to follow others’ guidance, you must trust the advice, do the steps.

Now that you’re done. Did you achieve your goal? I imagine you’d say “Stupid!”, and because I’m a positive guy, I’d interpret that to be a positive “Yes”. Of course! It’s a dumb question whether we can do that. In fact, we’ve done that every. single. day. for the past ___ years (feel free to fill in the void). Wanna play Witcher 3 during the next 2 hours? Sure, I can go ahead and do it now. Actually, I can play 16/7, 365 days. And what’s best? No need for me to plan at all.

And here goes your “Aha” moment. So if this one is the goal we set for ourselves, we’re 90% guaranteed to succeed, even before we set up any plan right? But why is that the case? It’s because:

1. It’s enjoyable and fun to do

2. We’ve been doing it every day so far, so no problem to continue

3. Whether intentional or not, we’ve already reserved 2 hours daily specifically for this activity (Admit it, I did)

4. It’s simple and easy. We can do it.

Do that every day for 1 year, and we would accomplish an even bigger “goal” – Wasting 2/16 or 1/8 of our waking life. Assuming we live till 80, that would be 10 years devoted to a meaningless hobby.

That’s what I did the last 10 years, messed up my life for 10 years. So, you never know a failure like me could give you such an inspiring lecture on success, right?!

Don’t you see it, there’re some major principles of effective goal-setting up there. Let’s recap. For any goal to be achievable, it must be:

1. Enjoyable & Fun to do

2. Simple & Easy. I can do it

3. Scheduled a specific time to work on it, and

4. Worked on, on a daily basis.

Inspiration is what gets us started, but Momentum is what gets us finish. 

And those 4 principles are the essentials of my philosophy – To reach a destination, we must enjoy our journey.

Rules for the Game

Before getting into the goal-setting process, let’s have some rules for the game:

1. Remember the wise saying: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” 

That’s the promise that the Saints and the Sages gave us. The problem is that these seers didn’t tell us “when”. So keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking.

2. Don’t trust your memory 

Use a notebook, note app, or whatever that you always keep by your side, to dump all ideas/thoughts/inspiration relating to your goal in there.

3. Write your goal down on paper

Do NOT type it out. Write your goal down on paper. Write it, as if it’s the first time you wrote a love-letter to your high primary school’s sweetheart (yes, I’m THAT romantic and naive, in case you’re wondering). Write it, not in a rush to get it done because Rumi told you so; but in a slow, conscious, and deliberate way, so that your mind has enough time to absorb the idea, so that, in case if you “feel” inside any unease and rebellious thought, you might spend time to think your goal over, whether it’s what you really want.

4. Don’t trust your willpower

Your willpower is limited. Your self-discipline is not everything. How do I know? The day when you graduate from this class and no longer need to read this stuff you will have the answer.

5. Have goals in all major aspects of life

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth to repeat here. It’s critical to set goals in all major areas of life, which are:

Career

Finance

Health

Personal development

Social

Spiritual

Each of these aspects stands like a column supporting a building; and if neglected, would wreak havoc on the rest of the structure. And that’s exactly what happened to me in the past (read my story here).

6. Have 1 goal only for each major aspect of life

This helps us prioritize our time/energy to work on those goals that bring the most impact on our lives.

7. Break it down

A goal serves as the inspiration that gets us started; whereas daily actions are what get us finish. How do you finish a journey of 1,000 steps? By taking one step at a time. Without a daily action plan, it’s much less intimidating, while more titillating, to drift along in our dream, rather than stepping outside to realize it.

8. Be extra cautious about relying on external help to assist you reaching the finish line, if it’s a character goal, or a personal growth goal 

When I struggled to quit smoking, I knew deep inside that the challenge wasn’t solely overcoming nicotine addiction. It’s easy to remove nicotine from my body. Research (1) show that it takes around 4 days to clear the body of nicotine. The challenge was changing my self-image, my self-beliefs, my habits, my lifestyle, etc. Thus, no matter how many times I failed, I stubbornly refused (and I’m 100% honest on this) to use outside help (ex: nicotine gum/cessation drugs/chewing gum/nicotine-free cigarette/vaporizer). After all, smoking is just one kind of emotional bandages that I, and others, use. Unless I could get my shit together, there’s no way I would quit smoking for good, without falling in love with another addictive type of emotional bandage.

9. Don’t expect to create a perfect game plan 

Are you in search of a perfect plan/strategy/time? Good luck on your quest! You’ll be forever searching/waiting, and never arriving. There’s no perfect game plan. My humble (and stumble, if you will) experience tell me that the only time I could use the word “perfect” is while looking backward, rarely forward. You update/refine your plan along the way.

Ok, you know the rules, let’s start. Goal-setting is time-consuming. Don’t expect to finish setting your goals in one session. Give yourself several days to complete all the steps below.

There are 3 phases of the process:

I. Figure out the What & Why

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Basically, you find out:

1. What do you really want to achieve this year, next 3, 5, 10 years?

2. Why do you want to achieve this? 

This first question involves a lot of dreaming, reflecting, imagination, and what-if scenarios. Let your imagination run free. Don’t let your past limits what you think you’re capable of. Don’t worry about the “how”. Brainstorm your answers on a mind map. Below are some questions to help you get started:

  • Looking forward, what do you want to achieve long-term regarding your Career? Finance? Health? Personal development? Social? Spiritual?
  • Looking backward, what did you do that make you regret? Which of these do you want to see change?
  • What change do you want to see in the next 6 months? 1 year? 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
  • What was your childhood dream/s? Which one do you want to turn into reality?
  • What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What can you do that help make this world a better place?

After you’ve brainstormed, now we need to be certain that the goals are what you really want, by filtering them through this question:

3. If you failed to reach this goal, on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being no more trying and 5 being keep trying until you succeed, to what extent would you be willing to try again?

Get rid of anything less than 5, because you don’t want to waste your limited time on trivial matters. Keep asking this question frequently, so that you can notice any change on the journey of working toward your goal.

But, if you ignore this advice, it doesn’t matter anyway. Because you will fail a few times before reaching your goal. Failure and setback are inevitable on any dream-walker’s journey. And I believe that: 

Failure is a great way of testing to see whether the goal that we’re after, after all, is what we really want. A windy day will make any smoke vanish without a trace, but can enkindle a real fire, turn it into an inferno.

Right, after you’ve done that, go back to your list, for each goal, ask yourself:

4. Does achieving this goal cause harm to others?

If yes, cross it out. My mantra is “Do no harm”. If I can’t bring happiness to others, then I at least try not to cause them misery. Although we have the right to pursue the lives we want, we must be responsible for our actions in this civilized society. My philosophy is that the best way to achieve our goal is to enjoy our journey. And we won’t enjoy the trip, if our accomplishment causes pain to others. It might be a pleasure to taste our success, but at the back of our minds, and for the rest of our lives, we’d be secretly disgusted with ourselves for what we have done.

5. Now, review your list, select only 1 goal for Career, Finance, Health, Personal development, Social, and Spiritual. Be sure that the 6 goals you select must be congruent with each other.

II. Figure out the How

(To be continued here)

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. When somebody shares, everybody wins!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!

 

Reference

(1) Raja, M., Garg, A., Yadav, P., Jha, K., & Handa, S. (2016). Diagnostic Methods for Detection of Cotinine Level in Tobacco Users: A Review. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR, 10(3), ZE04–ZE06. http://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2016/17360.7423

2017 Best Year Ever – New Year Resolutions for 2018

Year-end is a great time to review what we have done during the whole period. It’s time to reflect, ponder about what we have/have not accomplished so far, so that we can see whether we’re on the right track, or off track, whether there should be some course correction; or, better or worse, depending on how you look at it, we need to tear off and re-write the whole script completely, like what I did 6 months ago.

How often do you think a company should review its plan?

Every week?

Every month?

Every quarter?

Semi-annually?

Annually?

And how often an employee gets performance evaluation? Too bad we rarely see the need to review our own plan. I believe that if we all treat ourselves, and our lives, as if they were Fortune 500 companies, our lives would be much better on Earth.

Anyway, too much rambling, 2017 is a strange year for me. If someone had told me how my life would turn out like this after one year, I would have laughed in their face. See, I used to live with broken dreams and promises. Each day in life floated away the same way. Each night I laid down trying to sleep at night…feeling disappointed and unhappy with myself. You know what’s the worst kind of unhappiness? It’s self-unhappiness. I was in constant depression, because of knowing that so far I’d just wasted another day accomplishing nothing, and so tomorrow would continue to be dark & confusing for me. Then I would soothe myself by happy pills promising that tomorrow I will try quitting cigarette another time, and this time I will succeed…Below are two of the many depressing entries I wrote in DayOne app during that period. Forgive me for the broken English. (If you’re currently in bad mood, then consider jumping to the next section)

Journal Jan/25/17

“Reflection on the difficulty of quitting cigarette:

You want to get rid of it, and the moment you decide to leave it for good, you feel relieved, you feel good to be free at last. Yet, the next days finding yourself yearning for it, depending on it, seeking it, and yet you feel secretly disappointed when you smoke it. Such is the feeling, on the one hand, you want to be free, you know it’s harmful; on the other hand, you can’t break free completely. Imagine having a wife with the same situation. You want to leave, yet you can’t, for one reason or another. It’d be miserable if that’s the case.

That’s why i vow not to ever let myself into such situation, getting married with such a lady. I’d rather be alone, than to be with somebody, whom I later regret to get married, who would never let me go.”

Journal Jan/26/17

“Reflection on the day before New Year Eve:

Another boring day goes by and I’m feeling more boring. I dont know what to do during the day, except reading PS Tinh Khong, sitting idly in coffee shop, and doing shows. I must find something meaningful to do. How can I fall into such a life? Because of my cowardice, my impatience, my lack of discipline, my laziness, my timidity.

I wonder when will I finally change, since I don’t even know to what I would change into? I don’t want to repeat ky days like this nothing to do, always failure and disappointment. What the f.c.u.k!

Ok so if I can’t quit by going cold turkey, then I’ll try the gradual way. Currently I don’t often smoke during daytime, only after sunset.

So, I’ll try from tomorrow until Sunday, to only smoke after sunset, max 3 cigarette daily, unless I have a party or something big happening.

Then, during the next week, I’ll smoke max 2 cigarette after sunset.

And the week after, I’ll smoke only 1 cigarette after sunset.

And then the week after that, I’ll smoke 1 cigarette every 2 days.

And then afterward, I’ll smoke 1 cigarette every 3 days.

Then, 1 cigarette every 4 days.

And so on, until I complete the week during week I only smoke 1 cigarette during those 7 days. Finally, I will break free from smoking.

A week considered to be successful, if I only blunder 1 time. For example, next week, during which I’m supposed to smoke only 2 cigarette after sunset, it would be successful if I fail only 1 time, meaning I can smoke more than 2 cigarette in any one given day, but no more days other than that particular day.”

So, a year went by, and things changed swiftly, so fast that I still think I am dreaming right now. I made 3 big achievements:

1. Quit smoking;

2. Become a vegetarian;

3. Start this blog.

Below is a full list of things I’m proud of:

1. Quit smoking since Jun 10, 2017 – This is not simply a goal, it’s my obsession. Every daytime I thought about it, planned for it, struggled with it; every night I dreamed about it. Even now, after 6 months going smoke-free, I still have nightmares about it sometimes, that I deliberately smoke back, and secretly enjoy the taste!

2. Stop reading trashy news (Internet, Facebook, YouTube)

3. Exercise daily, including weekend

4. Practice Muay Thai 2, 3 times a week

5. Meditate at least 1 hour daily including weekend – I’m a Buddhist practitioner, and my meditation involves chanting Amitābha (pronounce [əmiˈt̪aːbʱə])

6. Run 15 kms (9.3 miles) non-stop (total time 1h34’; avg pace 10’09” per mile) – I know it’s nothing compared to YOUR record, so I’d be pleased if you will look at it from the perspective of a guy, who’s never exercised a single day during the past 10 years

(Updated on May.3.18 – Run 32 kms (19.9 miles) non-stop (total time 3h44’; avg pace 11’15” per mile)

7. Become a vegetarian – I don’t eat meat, fish, or anything involve killing animals. I do consume eggs and dairy products

8. Wake up @ 4:30 am & Go to bed @ 9:00 pm daily including weekend

9. Adopt positive thinking mindset (find out more on this blog)

10. Have a place for everything, both physically and mentally

11. Start this blog

13. Develop over 10 good habits to turn my life around

And that’s why I call 2017 the best year ever in my life, so far, I hope. Apparently, I haven’t become financially independent, nor built a successful business, nor saved the world. But I’ve kept my own promises, started doing something that I’m passionate about, headed a new direction, turned my life around, and redeemed myself in the process.

2018 Goals

Some people hold an opinion that New Year Resolutions do not work. There is a lot of truth in it. One reason is an ironic fact that very often we go great length to keep promises made to someone else, but not to ourselves. We’re all incurable failures at keeping our own promises.

Now is the time we reverse that trend. 2018 is the year that we turn our lives around.

On goal setting, I strongly believe that, a goal with a deadline without a list of daily actions is as good as a dead dream. A goal serves as the inspiration that gets us start; whereas daily actions are what get us finish.

Suppose you want to run a marathon in one year, your plan may involve daily running, controlling your diet, doing strength and cardio training NOW.

Or you dream of becoming a freelance writer by Jun 2018, your daily actions include, obviously, writing EVERY DAY FROM NOW (no? You’re kidding yourself, right?); learning what a normal life of a typical writer would be like; researching what sources of writing income are available, and which one you want to earn, and how to get that, etc.

Or you have a creative idea and want to build a successful business in 5 years, your daily action plan could be refining the product and attracting more customers.

So, I prefer goals that have: specific start date, flexible due date, and clearly-defined daily actions.

Besides, it’s critical to set goals in all major areas of life, which are: career, finance, health, personal development, social, spiritual. Each of these aspects stands like a column supporting a building; and if neglected, would wreak havoc on the rest of the structure.

And that’s exactly what happened to me in the past (read my story here). So, do not neglect any of these, one neglect leads to another. Do not pursue one goal at the expense of the others.

Moreover, having goals in all major facets of life allow us to switch our attention from one goal to another, depending on the scheduled activities of our days, so that we’re always working on our goals.

For example, at work, you’re working on your career goal. After heading home, you continue working on your social/ family/ relationship goals. Then, during your free time, you can start working on your health, personal development, finance, or spiritual goals.

Having goals in all aspects of life doesn’t mean we’re multi-tasking. It simply means we know exactly where we are heading to in life, and consciously choose the course of our life, rather than letting someone else, or the circumstance, dictates for us.

On the other hand, each area shouldn’t have more than one goal. Otherwise, we would spread our attention too thin. Focus on one thing at a time.

You will get a step-by-step guidance on setting goals that are not only inspiring, but also achievable in my next post. From my experience, whether we will achieve our goals in the next trial depend on 4 things:

1. First and foremost, we must try!

2. Outside help

3. Self help

4. Luck.

Outside help is merely auxiliary. Helping ourselves, with a bit of luck are decisive factors.

Having said that, here are the major things that I will work on in 2018:

1. Meditate 1.5 hours on Mon-Sat, and 2 hours on Sun

This is to be done in 3 sessions. 1.5 hours is the time I’m planning. Yet, due to writing commitment, I might trim it down to 1 hour every workday and 1.5 hours on Sunday.

2. Earn at least $313 weekly from blogging (or $15,000 annually before tax) from Jun.30.18

I’m working full-time building EnjoyYrJourney.com. Right now I’m living on my saving. I know that following this path is much more challenging than working for paychecks. Even worse, I have no experience in writing and blogging. So, I aim to earn this much as a minimum to support the very basic living costs, so that I can continue working full-time to develop this blog without the need to find freelance work elsewhere.

Note that, in addition to meditating, this is my main focus in 2018. In fact, this is the only major goal that I have for 2018, namely, to create a sustainable income from EnjoyYrJourney.com.

However, this doesn’t mean I focus only on work and ignore all the remaining aspects of life. Actually, I’ve set some sub-goals to ensure the accomplishment of this goal, and these sub-goals cover the other areas: health, personal development, social, and spiritual.

3. Develop good habits

Habits dictate over 90% of our behavior. Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny

Right now I’m sowing the desire to build certain habits on paper. Then day-by-day I keep the list, perform the habits daily, and I update the list often.

And the rest remains to be seen.

4. Everyday living my dream life

I’ve laid out a set of daily activities for my dream life. Every single day I try to follow the schedule faithfully. This one certainly needs clarification. A dream life I’ve been longing for comprises 4 elements: freedom, challenge, self-expression, and contribution.

  • A free life is when everything I do, I do it because it is an end in itself, not being a means to achieve the desired end. Ultimately, we all want happiness, yet not everything we do will bring us happiness. For example, we may work on a contemptible job to get money, then use the money as a means to pursue happiness. My dream is to be able to do the work that I love, no matter how much money I earn from it.
  • My dream life must be challenging enough, so that it forces me stepping out of my comfort zone, not 24/7, but often enough so that my soul won’t die from boredom and routine.

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal ~ Paulo Coelho

  • Thirdly, I strongly believe that although everyone originates from the same life source, it’s our desire, and duty to express this sameness in a unique way. EnjoyYrJourney.com is my way of sharing this similarity. My story will be totally different from yours. Yet, you would find pieces of your own while listening to my struggles.
  • Lastly, without meaningful contribution, we won’t be happy no matter how much productive we are. In a rush to climb the success ladder, people work hard to care for themselves and nothing else. Well, all by myself it’s a lonely life. We’ve all heard countless stories, of the successful, and depressed; of the rich, and self-indulgent; of the having-too-much-to-live-by, and nothing-to-live-for.

5. Finish reading 10 books below to improve writing skill

  1. Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande
  2. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser
  3. Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder
  4. Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing, by Larry Brooks
  5. Naked, Drunk and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay, by Adair Lara
  6. How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling, by James N. Frey
  7. CA$HVERTISING: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone, by Drew Eric Whitman
  8. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
  9. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott
  10. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg

I’ve set aside 1 hour daily dedicated to study and practice writing, of which 30’ spent on reading these books.

Note that I plan to “study” them carefully, not just read for entertainment. So, that may involve re-reading several times and practicing the concepts/exercises suggested in the books.

Thus, I don’t make a big deal that I must complete the 10 books by 2019, but I will study them from now on. For how long? As long as it takes, until I’m satisfied with my writing skill.

I don’t kid myself that my writing is perfect, and I treat writing just like any other profession; no longer a hobby, where I’d been on and off whenever inspiration struck me.

6. Gain basic blogging knowledge

I’ll spend 15’ daily studying blogging’s technical aspects. Actually, 15’ is minimum. I created EnjoyYrJourney.com on Dec.26.17, following exactly this guide. Surprise, surprise! It turned out, bringing the blog live is ONLY the first step on the journey of ??? steps, because there’re numerous other things I need to do (well, you can see for yourself by looking at this blog right?).

Yet, I don’t care however longer the heck it’ll take, I will work on refining it on daily basis.

7. Build sufficient audience

It’s hard to quantify an amount here. Readers are the lifeblood of a blog.

So, dear friend, I need you!

This means networking. However, this doesn’t mean I will spam everyone on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It means I will be more active on social media, rather than passively consuming news without interacting/commenting.

I will also try doing guest posts on popular blogs/sites/magazines. Will send them at least once weekly.

Next, will join freelance/writing/blogging communities to interact with the like-minded in the field.

Likewise, I will attend social events, seminars, local meet-ups, etc.

What Kind Of 2018 Would You Like?

Now it’s your turn. What kind of year would you like 2018 to be?

You want 2018 to be the year, when everything stays the same but better? Perhaps you yearn to take a diversion? Or you are in a slump and wish to turn your life around, like I did?

Think about it. Whatever we do, 2018 will pass by anyway, and we’ll all be 1 year older, but still have nothing better to show up on our cards. How many 2018 do we have? Only one.

Are you forever waiting and never arriving? For those who say “I’ll wait until…”, time won’t wait, time flies swiftly by. And there won’t be another better time to start.

The best time to start was yesterday, the next best is now.

And the third best, well, is the time you wish you would have started, when you sit there tiredly, exhaustedly, boringly, and regretfully reviewing your life, and it dawns on you that you’ve just wasted a lifetime of un-productivity, or idleness, or meaningless and passionate-less pursuits.

Perhaps you would moan, “Ahh, nothing hurts as much as life!” (My favorite line in Witcher 3 game). Well, it’s better to get hurt fighting for something that you want, rather than dying from the boredom and regret of a life not lived.

So, suppose you’re turned on, suppose you buy my idea, you may be unsure of what to do after you start your journey.

Don’t worry. Start the journey boldly, stay on the path, and tune in to this blog.

Here you will find inspiration and ideas to not only reach your destination, but also enjoy your endeavor.

In fact, I will show you how to set goals that are not only inspiring, but also achievable in the next post. I will be on your side.

Together let’s do something marvelous! Let the journey begin!

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. When somebody shares, everybody wins!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!