The Art of Becoming an Awakened Dream-walker – How to Make Fate Work in your Favor

Last Updated: May.02.18

M: “Wise One, she’s gone. Why?! After all we’d been through?”*  

In my world, nothing ever goes wrong ~ Nisargadatta Mahara

(Credit: Image by Josephine Wall – a talented artist whose work I love. Check out her art gallery here)

Fate! How many tears have been shed…how much suffering have we endured, because of this word, on the journey to pursue our dreams?

The ambitious and arrogant believe their hands can cover the whole sky, their little sky.“Only dead fishes flow with the flow”, they said. 

The gullible and superstitious entrust their whole life to it. “Que sera, sera” (Whatever will be, will be) is their motto.

And what about us, the dream-walkers?

(I define a dream-walker to be someone, who decides to walk toward his dream. A dreamer dreams of nonexistent things during daytime, and then continues dreaming at night; whereas a dream-walker goes to work to make the thing that he dreams every night become a reality)

Have you ever heard the proverb: “Man proposes, God disposes”? Let me tell you a story that illustrates it beautifully.

During the Chinese Three Kingdom period (AD 184-280), Zhuge Liang (wiki), who has been compared to Sun Tzu, the author of The Art of War, was the Prime Minister of Shu Han. He plotted a trap to kill Sima Yi, a military general of Wei, one of Liang’s greatest enemies. At the time, the Wei army was many times larger thanShu army. After several moves with careful calculation, Zhuge Liang lured Sima Yi and his troops into a dead-end valley, where a Shu general set fire using straws and fire-arrows to block the entrance. Covered in smoke and flame with no way out, Sima Yi thought that his end was near. Not so, the wind changed direction abruptly, dark clouds gathered up. Soon, rain poured down in torrents, which ended the fire. Thus, Sima Yi and the Wei army walked away from their doom. Seeing his whole plan destroyed by the pouring rain, Zhuge Liang sighed: “Man proposes, God disposes!”

Has something similar happened to you? You thought you’d got everything figured out, you’d tried your best, you’d been 100% sure this time you’d make it. Then the unexpected showed up in the end that upset the whole plan.

I’ve got quite a few. 

On the journey to our dreams, there’s no guarantee our next move will turn out exactly according to plan. In fact, if you were like me, failure would be the default outcome.

No matter who you are, the good guy or the bad guy. No matter how you do, whether you play it fair or you cheat. No matter what you rely on, whether it’s a tried and true method, experience, or logical reasoning. 

Some believe that the wicked always win. I believe in the law of sowing and reaping, that good deeds bring good results. But neither of us are happy with what we get. Why is that?      

We have different names for this unexpected factor. Some call it fate, others luck, or karma. Let’s call it fate.

Because of fate, we might fail the next time we try. If so, how can we benefit from this fact? How to make fate work in our favor, so that there are less suffering and frustration on the journey to our goals? 

Dream-walkers, who have this ability, are said to be “awakened”. An awakened dream-walker knows what he can control, what he can’t control, and how to use such knowledge to enjoy the journey to pursue his dream.

Today I will show you the art of becoming an awakened dream-walker.

We have 4 parts:

I. Why we fail

II. How the law of Cause & Effect, not fate, explains why we fail

III. The art of becoming an awakened dream-walker

IV. Final thoughts

I. Why We Fail

If you read my story, you’d know that I’m an ultimate failure.  I’d started out to do many things, and failed on most of them. In fact, starting-over is my specialty. 

It took me 10 years to quit smoking for good. Before that, I’d tried almost every way a quitter could imagine, without lasting result. And, after each rebound, I often questioned myself why I failed. 

You know how risky such decision is, to question ourselves why we failed, 

because if you’re not careful, you might fall for the more insidious one, 

to question ourselves, why we failed, despite all the good things that happened in our lives 🙃.

Anyway, let me hand you some of the most “enlightening” answers I came up with. 

1. It’s Fate

Instead of cracking our brains days and nights seeking answers for the unanswerables, there’s one ready-made: Man proposes, God disposes.

Take a look at the case of Dongfang Bubai, a novel character in Swordsman, the 2013 Chinese television series (1). Swordsman is the most provocative adaptation of Jin Yong’s (Louis Cha) famous wuxia novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.

Dongfang Bubai is the main female protagonist, who is an invincible martial artist and the cunning leader of the Sun Moon Holy Cult. In her obsessive quest to dominate the wulin (Chinese martial artists’ community), Dongfang kills anyone who stands in her way, and uses poison pills to force subordinates to submit to her will. 

Dongfang Bubai has tremendous fame, power, and wealth; but she never experiences true love, until she meets Linghu Chong, the main male happy-go-lucky protagonist. 

Linghu Chong is the love of her life, because, in Dongfang’s own words, with him by her side, then “having supreme power, or becoming master of the wulin, is no longer important”. 

And she does sacrifice everything, even her own life, for him; but in the end, fate still refuses to give her a happy ending.

Now, why did this lady try every possible way, from the sweetest trick to the most wicked plot, yet failed to win the man’s heart?  

And why did she, after sacrificing her wealth, power and fame, even her own life, for the love of her life, yet still die lonely in the end?

If neither trickery, nor sincerity work, then what else other than fate could be used to explain her case?

Most Gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don’t find out til too late that he’s been playing with two queens all along ~ Terry Pratchett

Although Dongfang Bubai is a novel character, I’m sure you can find many similar cases. 

When we came to this world, many things have already been predestined. The families we were born into, the natural talents we possess, the environment in which we grew up, the people who cross(ed) our paths…

Some people we liked/disliked the first time we met. Some arrived and helped us tremendously, then departed forever. Others showed up and turned our lives upside down, then vanished before we plan any payback. And we hardly know why.

Sound familiar to you?  

Walking on this human life is like walking in a foggy night, nobody knows for sure what’s going to happen next.

That’s why under such condition, the idea that “It’s God’s will”, or “Everything depends on fate”, seems understandably comforting. 

Comfort from what? From fear of the unknown. We fear what we can’t understand. So, it’s better to place the unknowns in God’s hands, rather than being paralyzed by our fear.  

In fact, you can find similar sayings in both Western and Eastern cultures, and religions (ex: the Bible) as well.       

What about Buddhism? I’m an amateur on this, but let me give you my best explanation. Fate is taken to be the results we receive during this lifetime for the actions we conducted in the past and in past lives. So, in this sense, there is no Buddha/God that controls our fates. Things have been predestined because of our past deeds, which were performed via minds, body, and mouth. They include thoughts, actions, words, and diets.         

For example, the wealth you have during this lifetime have already been set and stored in a wealth account. The size of your account depends on how much you donated in the past and in past lives. Suppose your lifespan is 80 years. So, during that time, money from the account will flow into your life via various means. But if you committed bad deeds (bank robbery, frauds, etc.) to get the money quickly, then you could have withdrawn all the wealth that you’re entitled to within the first 40 years. So, during the last 40 years, you won’t have anything left from the account.

Now, of course, nobody can prove this, and point out that “There it is, that’s you in the previous life. This was what you did”. It’s purely a matter of whether you believe or you don’t. 

I’m not asking you to become a believer. 

I am a believer. 

Anyway, although Buddhism’s philosophy doesn’t support the notion of God’s will, it still agrees that things have been prearranged.

2. What you think is right could be wrong     

More realistic than “Everything depends on fate” is to question our assumptions. Perhaps what we thought is right, could be wrong. 

Suppose you want to grow an apple tree, but all you have are orange seeds, then no matter what you do, when harvest time comes, all you get are oranges. 

Likewise, my passion is running. But since I’m 30 something, no matter what I do, I won’t be able to dominate 100m races like Usain Bolt. The required ingredient(s) simply isn’t there.   

And sometimes, it’s not a matter of do or die. It’d be foolish to keep banging our heads against a wall until we break a hole to get through. Sometimes, it’d be wiser to take a step back, analyze the situation, prearrange the whole deal, change our direction, to find a way around the current obstacle. Just don’t change your decision to reach your goal, though.

That’s why I think my countless failures to quit smoking are actually blessings in disguise, to bend my ego a little, teach me to be more flexible, more willing to change my way of seeing the world, and harden the desire to stop smoking and turn it into an obsession.

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.     

Besides, there’s no shame to admit that we’ve changed our minds. For that’s the way most popular theories, our ways of explaining this world, operate. One theory dominates, until someone with a different theory shows up.

I believe that, waging a debate to find out whose idea is right, is pointless. People of different philosophies simply can’t communicate. Everything is possible, if the right conditions exist. 

You may think that a diamond stone is worth a fortune. But, for your child, it’s nothing more than a toy used to play marbles (my favorite game in elementary school). So, whose opinion is right? Well, it depends on the circumstance and our experience in life. 

Now, what if you saw your child using the stone to play marbles, and you punished it? 

You see, everything is relative, but suffering comes the moment someone becomes dogged in his own opinion.       

3. Every cloud has a silver lining

This idea is basically positive thinking in action. 

Today’s success could be a failure in disguise. Failure could be the seed for tomorrow’s success.

Many times things taste sweet at the beginning but turn bitter later on. You must experience this first hand (I’m not talking about understanding it intellectually – through logical reasoning; nor intuitively – through the sixth sense; I mean having empirical knowledge on the subject) to realize that,

Everything has two sides, like flipping a coin. And no matter it’s a head or tail, the more you are curious about the other side, the less you suffer, now or later.    

Everything has two sides. For every action, there is a reaction. We define something to be good, because we want to separate it from the bad, the evil. For someone to be a teacher, there must be a student. A strength could be a weakness in another situation.

For every winner, there’s a loser. Thus, if someone is laughing, it probably means someone else is crying. But it also means that the former won’t be able to keep his laughter forever, just like the latter won’t cry long.  

A success ceases to be success, if it’s impossible to fail. The first time your baby stands up on its two feet, you call its ability to stand on its own a success. You stop calling it a success, however, after the child learns how to run. Now, standing up becomes normal, something expected and routine. 

Likewise, a success today used to be a failure somewhere. That’s why, when I was applying for work experience after graduation, I found it amusing whenever I heard an owner of an accounting practice told me: “We don’t hire people with no work experience here”. I wondered who had hired them in the first place. 

Again, everything is relative, high/low, up/down, in/out. Nothing is absolute and permanent. And so, the search for such perfection is naive.

II. How the Law of Cause & Effect, Not Fate, Explains Why We Fail

1. The law of Cause & Effect & the missing component

It sounds strange that the law of cause and effect has anything to do with fate. After all, if A causes B, and if we get C, then it must mean that fate plays a role in it, and the law is wrong, right? 

Not quite. 

The law states that for every effect there is a definite cause. So, we naturally assume that a desired effect (a goal) is caused by one and only factor, a specific cause. But, there are actually 3 elements in the law of cause and effect: 

causeconditioneffect.png

The real law of cause and effect states that:

Every effect has a cause and a condition.

A cause and a condition combine to make an effect.

All effects have a cause. All effects have a condition. There are no exceptions ~ Jodo Shinshu Shinrankai (2)

A condition (sometimes referred to as circumstantial, contributory, or secondary cause, in contrast with the direct cause) could be any external factor that affects the whole process. For example, planting an apple seed (cause) gives us an apple (effect). But, due to various conditions, none of the apples are alike, even though they come from that same seed. 

To grow a tree, we need water, soil, fertilizer, sunlight, labor, etc. Some people argue that even with all these stuff, a tree wouldn’t grow if it had no life source within it. And I agree.

These are conditions. Different conditions result in different outcomes. That’s why the same seed may give us apples with different qualities, sizes, or no apple at all.

So, the law of cause and effect should be called the law of cause, condition, and effect (CCE). 

This model of CCE explains everything that happens in this world.

Thanks to conditions that we have variety in life. We look different, even though we have the same parents. People of the same background and education end up in different places. Even twins born with the same DNA, through different lifestyles, end up with different DNA (study by Stewart et al. (3)), and different destinies, too.    

And because of conditions, we have successes and failures in life. The guy said: “Look, this is what I’d done. I used this technique and got great results. You could do the same. If it works for me, it’ll surely work for you!”. I followed the advice to the letter. Sure enough, nothing showed up. 

Why was that? I didn’t know.

Now, I have some clues. It’s the conditions that gave me results that were different from what I’d expected.    

It’s easy to figure out how to do something, whether it’s developing a habit, learning a skill, or building a successful business. The best way is to copy what others had done. One Google search gives us lots of results. 

Replicating the same success, or at least “good enough” outcome, is another story. It’s because we mortals can never foresee which condition will influence the next outcome, nor how much contribution a condition will make. 

For that reason, I believe that searching for the best advice is a waste of time. The best advice must allow all factors, which affect the outcome, orchestrate well with each other. And that remains unknown until after the fact.    

Failure to understand this will lead to pointless suffering and frustration for any of us, the dream-walkers, who journey to pursue what we want. 

And that’s what had happened to me. Before I learned CCE, I’d thought I wasted 10 years, and suffered greatly, to finally quit smoking for good (my story here). Now, things seem to make perfect sense. 

So, combining with the first part, my answers to the question: “Why do I fail?”, my search for the X factors, are because of fate, wrong assumptions, immature and uninformed judgments, or the search for the impossible ideal.

With regard to CCE, these factors could be the cause, or the condition, or both, that lead to the next outcome. A (wrong) cause, combined with a (unfavorable) condition, won’t give us the desired effect. 

So, fate is simply a word we use to account for the unknowns. 

Sadly, what we know is very tiny compared to what we don’t know, or worse, what we don’t know that we don’t know. If so, should we give up trying?         

2. Why our actions matter

Despite uncertainties, our actions are essential in making our dreams come true, because they are the causes that set CCE into motion. 

Let’s take an extreme example. Suppose I want to win a lotto (since the topic is about fate, I want to make it clear that I NEVER think winning a lotto, nor gambling, is a good way to get rich. I just use the example to make a point). What is the cause, then? It’s simple, buy a lottery ticket. But, buying a lotto doesn’t guarantee me to win, if the right condition isn’t there. However, not buying a lotto means I’ll never win. So, my action still matters, because it gives me a chance to win. 

Another example, suppose I want to grow an apple tree. I have all that are required: apple seed, water, soil, fertilizer, etc. One may say that the seed is the cause, and the rest are conditions. However, instead of planting the seed to the ground, I place it into an empty cup. You see, no matter how long I leave it there, the seed will never grow. 

So, the seed, and those conditions, by themselves, do not produce anything. Only when I plant the seed into the ground, water it regularly, give it enough fertilizer, and give it time, I will have an apple tree. Without me doing the labor, there will be no effect. 

You see, everything that comes our way is like the seed, the water, the soil, the fertilizer, etc. These conditions that life gives us, by themselves, rarely produce anything worthwhile. To get the desired outcome, we need to take action. And with the right actions, we can make those conditions to work in our favor.

CCE dictates that for every action and condition, there is an outcome (effect). Under a favorable condition, we will get the desired outcome. While we have little control over what will happen, the number of conditions, and how each condition might affect the result, but we can control the cause and change the circumstance by our actions. So, we shouldn’t yield to fate, or whatever life hands us, because we have the power to influence more than one of the input. That’s why twins living under the same roofs end up having different destinies.       

And if what we do matter despite of fate, what should we do, then? In the next section, I’ll show you step-by-step strategy to take advantage of CCE, so that fate works in our favor rather than against us. 

III. The Art of Becoming an Awakened Dream-walker

The purpose of this section is to outline a strategy so that dream-walkers can apply to pursue what they want, and serenely accept the fact that on their journeys many things won’t go as planned.

As I’ve said, CCE dictates that a cause, combined with a condition, gives us an effect. Plus, we have the power to influence more than one of the input. So, before talking about the strategy, it’s worthwhile to point out what we can control, and what we cannot control.

1. Control vs No Control

Control is an important issue, because it’s the quality that separates a helpless child from a mature adult. We want to control many things. We want to control our thoughts, emotions (and thus our feelings), and behavior. We want to exert control over other people, things, and events. Our modern world seems to hold an impression that the more control one has, the more power and prestige one seems to possess.  

More control not only gives us a sense of security, but also enhances our health and longevity (study by Mallers, Claver, & Lares (4)). In that sense, losing control causes a feeling of helplessness, which is a sure sign of decay. I guess that not many of us are willing to go into prison, handing the control of our lifestyles and many important decisions for our well-being over to other people.      

We can control the inner world, our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. We can also control our responses to events that occur in our lives. Even in the mid of greatest struggles, we still have the power to attribute deeper meaning to our experience, and decide what to do.     

But we can’t control how the outer world responds to our behavior. We can’t bend the outer world to our will. We can put people in a situation to follow us, but we cannot take away their ability to choose their own destinies. Likewise, there’re many things and events in this vast world that lie beyond our control. I can’t foresee, nor control an earthquake, the weather, nor diseases like cancer. To me, these things don’t occur, they just happen. 

So, putting control into the context of CCE, below are a few points that you need to know:  

  • Firstly, we have full control of the cause via our actions. Spiritually speaking, the mind, its thoughts and intention, governs all actions of the body. So in this sense, we control the cause via our minds. 
  • Secondly, we have some control over the second element, the condition. 

Using the example of planting a tree, planting the seed is the cause, while water, soil, fertilizer, wind, and sunlight are necessary conditions for the tree to grow properly. We can decide the quality of the water, the soil, the fertilizer, but we have no control over how the weather turns out to be.    

  • Thirdly, what we know that we know, we can control. That means what we know that we don’t know, we cannot control. But, it also means what we don’t know that we don’t know, we can’t control, either. This might sound confusing. Let me give you an example. 

Suppose I want to plant an apple tree. I know that I’ll need an apple seed. I’m also aware that I don’t know what an apple seed looks like, so I need to find out. This is what we know that we don’t know. 

Now, let say instead of planting the seed into the ground, I put it into a pot indoors, and wait. Obviously, without water and fertilizer, and enough sunlight, even if the seed does germinate, the seedling can’t grow. But since I don’t know about this, I might wrongly conclude that the seed I used was no good. This is an example of things that we don’t know that we don’t know.     

  • Fourthly, since we can’t fully control the condition, we can’t control the outcome, either. This is perhaps one of the hardest things to accept. With so many of the X factors, the unknown factors, it’s naive to expect that things must turn out exactly the way we planned.  

To know what we have control over and what we don’t have control over is wise. Education and experience can help us that. Here’s what’s even wiser: To be willing to accept what comes our way, after realizing that we don’t have control over something. I think very few people can do that.    

And that’s the essence of the art of becoming an awakened dream-walker: Focus your attention and energy on those factors that you can control, and learn to accept and work with what you cannot control. 

2. Focus on the cause

For each effect, there’s a cause. If we sow an action, we’ll reap a result. What we do comes back to us, one way or another. Not to think so, is foolish. 

Now, as for when we reap what we sow, that depends on the condition. The effect will come under the right condition.   

To know the cause in the past, look at the present. To know what will happen in the future, look at the present. While we can’t go back and undo past mistakes, we have the power to make our future better and more meaningful.

We exert this power via our behavior. More specifically, via our thoughts and conduct. Because the mind controls the whole body, it follows that what we think determine what we do, which cause future outcomes, which eventually shape our destinies.

Good thoughts cause good actions, which cause good results. Bad thoughts cause bad actions, which cause bad results. Simple, right?

So, if you want to know what your future looks like, study yourself closely. 

What do you think regularly? 

What do you do regularly?

What do you eat regularly? 

What do you say to others? 

What do you say when you talk to yourself?

What’s your routine?

What do you do before work, at work, and after work?

What do you do in your free time?

Spend a few weeks to take notes of these questions, and you’ll have a good estimate of how your future turns out to be. 

Conversely, want to know what brought you here? Go back in time and ask yourself the same questions.

Likewise, a dream-walker needs to focus on what causes his desired outcome, then directs his thoughts toward that cause, and away from the negative.        

The steps below show you how to apply this concept: 

i. Study the real cause and work on it

You need to find out the root cause of the desired effect. This is easy to say than to do, because there might be several factors (ex: conditions or secondary causes) that affect the final result. Thus, this step requires knowledge, education, and careful planning.

You acquire knowledge by reading (books, articles, or biographies/autobiographies), listening (audiobooks, podcasts) or learning tutorial videos and online courses (sites like Udemy, Coursera, Lynda, etc.). 

You get educated either by experimenting (trial-and-error), or observing and imitating. Trial-and-error takes up lots of valuable time and energy, whereas observation and imitation are much easier. You can observe how successful people work, read their stories, study their pasts, and follow the trails that they left behind. You don’t have to follow their paths all the way to the end, though. You just need their guidance, as a teacher or a mentor, to lay the foundation in the beginning.    

A complex goal may require reaching several milestones before you can arrive at the final destination. If so, you need to apply reverse engineering to make a plan of how to get there. Reverse engineering is a technique often used in business to outline steps to reach a goal by working backward from the end all the way back to the present (I discuss the entire goal-setting & planning process here).   

Once you’ve already found out the real cause, you need to work on it. That means hard-work and labor. The more time and effort invested, the faster the result shows up. There’s no way around this. 

Sadly, in this instant, fast-food world, patience is a rare commodity. Some people even try to harvest the fruits without planting the trees. If we don’t sow the seeds, then come harvest time our hands will be empty. Even if we do get anything, they’re merely stolen goods, which will then activate CCE to bring ill consequences later on. An entrepreneur dreams of becoming financial independence one day. So does a bank-robber. But each has a very different ending.    

Getting something for nothing only happens in the dream world. The moment a dreamer becomes a dream-walker, he ceases living in his dream, and stumbles into the real world. This means everything stops revolving around me, everything now revolves around us. Everything I do now does not affect only me, but also affects the others. 

People want to live a long and healthy life, yet they smoke cigarettes, eat junk foods, and don’t exercise. They want to have good friends, yet they refuse to be nice and respect others. They want to get good skills, yet they spend all of their free time watching television and playing computer games.      

I can hear many saying that my examples are just common sense. Everybody knows that. I certainly hope so! 

And yet I’m amazed at the number of people that are fooled by advertisers to believe that certain magic pills, like vitamins, diet pills, supplements, or protein powders, will take the hard work out of quitting smoking and losing weight (or gaining muscle). 

I’m also familiar with (because I’m guilty of it 🤭) the thinking that kindness and respect should be reserved for a selected few; and that we should be friendly to only those who act friendly and welcome us. 

And we never stop searching for the shortest route to success (you know the type – “5 easy steps to X”). 

Getting something for nothing rarely happens in the real world. And when it does, it might be a curse rather than a blessing. Everything has two sides, so remember to check the other side of the coin.  

Therefore, what we receive in the end is a reflection of what we put in during the process. If you don’t like what you get, then change what you do in the beginning. This is called focusing on the cause.

Points to consider:

  • Find out the root cause of the desired outcome by:
    • Acquiring knowledge by reading (books, articles, or biographies/autobiographies), listening (audiobooks, podcasts), or learning tutorial videos and online courses
    • Getting educated by experimenting (trial-and-error), or observing and imitating
    • Applying reverse engineering to make a plan of how to get there
  • Work hard on the cause
  • Remember that getting something for nothing rarely happens in the real world

ii. Prepare for opportunity 

Knowing the cause of our desired outcome is one thing. We need the right condition as well. Such favorable condition is called opportunity. But since opportunity doesn’t show up often, we need to be well-prepared.   

Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity ~ Lucius Seneca

And that means instead of staying idly while waiting for the next opportunity, we should spend time honing our skills, refining our products, and business philosophy. 

Learn to become the kind of person, whom opportunity will notice the next time it crosses your path.

Below are a few suggestions:

  • Focus on your strengths
  • Invest in self-education
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a positive appearance
  • Be kind to others
  • Be more tolerant & less critical of mistakes of others and your own 

Another way to prepare for tomorrow success is to act as if you were already a success. Success and happiness are elusive, people rarely have them by chasing after them. Instead, learn to become a magnet that attracts them wherever you go. 

To do that, you need to know how successful people live their lives, then act accordingly. This requires the knowledge, which you’ve acquired in the previous step, about an expert that you admire in your field.

What sort of man is he? 

What’s his daily routine? 

How does he work? 

What would your hero do while facing adversity?

So, begin with that end, even if you feel like a phony. Keep acting, and you’ll begin to become more like that person. It might take some time. But don’t wait until you have proof to act, because that’s like waiting for the effect to show up before you start working on the cause.     

That’s why, in the goal-setting process, I ask you to state your goal in a positive, assertive, and present manner; then rewrite your statement daily. Doing this repeatedly creates a deep impression on our subconscious mind, as if you’d already reached your goal. This allows your faking to feel more natural.         

Suppose I want to be a successful writer, so how can I pretend to act like one? That requires writing to take up a major part of my workday. That also means spending lots of time refining my ideas, my writings, both current and old posts. Plus, as a well-known writer, I write because I care, the topic is my passion; and because I have something to contribute, not because I have to fill my blog with something. Also, as a successful writer, I need to write daily regardless of inspiration (honestly, this one is hard).   

Now, an experienced writer can bust out 1,000 words an hour, does that mean I have to do the same thing? No! The difference between a pro and a novice is skill. We’re not talking about faking the result. We’re talking about having the same mindset and attitude. 

In the beginning, what’s important is not the result but the plan and the attitude that a beginner brings into the field. So, be careful when you compare yourself to your hero.

Points to consider:

  • Be well-prepared while waiting for the next opportunity by:
    • Practicing your skills
    • Refining your products/ideas/business philosophies
    • Focusing on your strengths
    • Investing in self-education
    • Exercising regularly
    • Maintaining a positive appearance
    • Being kind to others
    • Being more tolerant & less critical of mistakes of others and your own 
  • Act as if you were already a success by:
    • Adopting the same mindset and attitude as your heroes
    • Reminding yourself that in the beginning, what’s important is not the result, but the plan and the attitude  

iii. Beware of the bad causes

Equally important as focusing on the real cause is staying away from the bad causes. Bad causes are those that may stop or prevent the desired outcome from coming into reality. 

Once you find out what really causes the desired effect, you must cut yourself off of all the other causes that contribute nothing to the result.

We’ve discussed that the mind controls the whole body, which includes our actions. So our thoughts have the power to shape our destinies. Thoughts are the seeds that dream-walkers sow in order to bring something from their dreams, the invisible world, into reality, the visible world. 

Thus, sowing unhappy thoughts brings us unhappy results. The same thing applies to negative and hostile thinking.  

All spiritual teachers agree that we become what we think about. We also become how we think all day long, said Wayne Dyer.

If you want to find success, but all you think about are your mistakes and failures, then you are a failure yourself. If you want to be happy, but you keep thinking about all the things that make you miserable, then you’ll remain a miserable. If you want to find peace, but “accumulating more” and “keeping up with the Jones” are your dominant thoughts, then you’ll continue being restless, no matter how many stress-relief activities you take part.

See the way thinking might prevent us from achieving our dreams? It’s hard to move forward by looking backward. It’s hard to find abundance when scarcity is all you look at. Beware of what you think, because it might expand into your life. 

Plus, it’s also important to stop doing those things that slow your progress. An easy way to become a success is to stop doing things that make you a failure. You won’t believe how much faster you can reach your destination, once you accelerate your speed by dropping these bad causes.       

For a journey from point A to point B, taking a diversion, or taking too many breaks are the bad causes. If you want to be a pianist, practicing a violin is a wrong cause, and a bad one. If you exercise to lose weight, yet sugary foods and combo meals are your go-to, then these are the bad causes that stall your progress. If you go out chasing two butterflies at the same time, you catch none. 

Our time and energy are limited. We don’t have enough time to do all the things that we want to do. But we have more time than enough to do the one thing that we really want to accomplish. So, beware of spreading your limited resources over multiple directions. Spreading resources over multiple directions is a formula for disaster, to become a wandering generality. It makes the total much less than the sum of the parts.

According to Steve Jobs, focus doesn’t simply mean saying “yes” to the one thing that you’re working on. Focus means “saying no to 1,000 things”. Steve attributed this idea to the success of his career and Apple.     

Success requires intense focus. Your dream must be your top priority. This is one of the things that allow someone with average ability to achieve much more than the talented. 

And that’s the moral of the story of the turtle and the rabbit. Slow and steady wins the race. So, now you know why I put the turtle in EnjoyYrJourney logo 😉!

If you want to get to mount Olympus, make sure every step you take is in that direction ~ Socrates

Points to consider:

  • Stay away from the bad causes that may stop or prevent the desired outcome from coming, like NOT:
    • Attending to things that contribute nothing to your goals
    • Taking too many breaks
    • Pursuing two goals at the same time – Multitasking
  • Beware of negative and hostile thinking, because they might expand into your life
  • Focus – Make your dream the top priority
    • Remember Steve Job’s saying that focus means “saying no to 1,000 things”

iv. Balance your thoughts with the desire to achieve what you want

The idea here isn’t about focusing our thoughts on our goals like the third step. It’s about aligning our thoughts so that they harmonize with our desire to attain our goals. 

Why is that? Although an awakened dream-walker journeys out to pursue his dream, he does so gently, gracefully, and serenely. It’s only in such manner that he can find happiness while going after what he wants. 

My philosophy is that happiness is the juice that we must squeeze, from the everyday things that we do on our journey, rather than something being postponed until after we reach the destination.       

Sounds great? But how could we do that? 

This is perhaps one of the challenges in life: Learn to enjoy all wonderful things on the journey, while not forgetting your goal. Don’t let all the miracles of this world pass you by unnoticed. Don’t miss anything. 

I’m not telling you to take a diversion to check things out, or take more vacations to travel around the world (although some of you, the workaholics, should!). I’m telling you to slow down, to stop trying. 

Your need to achieve, to arrive, isn’t that important. Don’t be like one of those overly ambitious, whose philosophy is achieving at all costs. 

Being ambitious, or not; either way is fine. Because even if one reached the top of the world, in the end, wouldn’t we all end up nothing more than a bunch of ashes underlying the ground?  

That doesn’t mean we should give up chasing our dreams. It means we should put death into perspective (don’t keep it in front of you, please!). With death coming suddenly, life’s so fragile, and all our money can’t buy an extra minute. Under such perspective, wealth, fame, power, all external achievements aren’t that important. 

Remembering the fragility of this life forces me to drop all the meaningless pursuits to follow my dream, yet at the same time enjoy my journey and all the wonders of this world.   

Therefore, do the work that you’re required to do. But take your time. Relax. Good things take time. Only by this way that you grasp what Mahatma Gandhi means when he says: “There is more to life than increasing its speed”.  

That’s one of the reasons I’m against setting fixed deadlines for your goals, because they put pressure on you, and force you to speed up.

Moreover, it’s critical to have goals in all major areas of life (career, finance, health, personal development, social, spiritual). That way, we can achieve work-life balance by not pursuing one goal at the expense of the others.    

Working hard is good. Working ALL the time is bad. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to become a workaholic, especially for those who have just started a new business or working as self-employed.

Points to consider:

  • Balance your thoughts so that they harmonize with the desire to achieve your goal
  • Remember that happiness must lie in the things you do every day on your journey, not something being postponed until after you reach the destination
  • Learn to enjoy all wonderful things on the journey, while not forgetting your goal by:
    • Slowing down. Take your time
    • Putting death into perspective (don’t keep it in front)
    • Giving flexible deadlines for your goal
  • Have goals in all major areas of life (career, finance, health, personal development, social, spiritual)

~o~

To sum up, you find out the root cause of the desired effect. Set your mind firmly on your goal. You stay away from the bad causes that prevent you from achieving your goal. You go to work and prepare yourself for the next opportunity. And you do all these in a relaxed, peaceful, and serene manner. This is how an awakened dream-walker focuses on the cause, the thing that he has control.  

Remember, CCE governs everything in this world. There’s no cause that gives no effect. Just like in physics, energy never vanishes, it merely changes form. The same applies to actions. All actions, whether in physical, mental, or spiritual form, will be transformed to return effects, soon or later. 

Control your actions, and soon or later, the odds are, more often than not, you will control your destinies.  

Unfortunately, in the meantime, there’s no guarantee that the next outcome turns out exactly like what we want. Therefore, we need to learn how to…   

3. Detach from the result

If you were like me, failure would be a default outcome. And when you know that you have to deal with failure fairly frequently, wouldn’t it make more sense to prepare yourself for the bad news? 

It’s not about preventing, nor avoiding, failure, it’s about having the right attitude to face it when it comes. People spend enormous time looking for ways to succeed, yet they neglect this aspect. Thus, many give up way too soon before any result starts showing up.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Although one can control the cause and part of the condition, such influence is limited by knowledge, education, and experience. So, what we can control are just a tiny fraction compared to what we cannot control. This insight makes us less anxious for demanding specific results and more willing to accept whatever is coming up. 

Now, allow me to make myself clear about this point. I’m NOT suggesting that we should stop planning and leave everything to the future. Planning is fine, provided we treat it like that – a plan, a projection – and no more. We project different scenarios and plan proper responses for each scenario. The problem comes when one confuses such prediction, about what might happen, to be a statement of truth.

The purpose of planning is not to find out whether what we expect to happen, will in fact happen in the future; but to design our responses should any of those things happen. Trying to find out what will happen in the future is like betting on the throw of a dice. The overly-confident, the “expert”, and the “novice”, all have the same odds of winning – 1/6.   

So, plan for the future, focus on the cause, but take life as it comes. We’ve already dealt with the first two parts. What about the last one? 

One might say: “Stop worrying about the result, because you can’t control it anyway!”. 

Well, things aren’t that simple. Focusing on the cause, doing the best you can do doesn’t automatically give you the peace of mind to take life as it comes.     

So, to accept things as they come, one needs to learn how to detach from the result.    

Detachment involves observing our behavior as if we were an entity outside of ourselves. It means we take one step back and observe our actions, so that there’s some space between the performer and the performance. Such space allows us to keep emotions neutral. 

It’s pretty much like an audience is watching a movie. The audience can see and understand clearly how the main actor behaves and how the ending turns out. Being separated from what’s happening on screen, he can sit back and observe how others react to the main actor’s actions, enjoy scene after scene, and see how the story unfolds. He wants to know the ending, but he doesn’t try to guess what will happen in the end. He doesn’t identify with the experience. 

Note: Detachment doesn’t mean cutting yourself off from others. It doesn’t mean we don’t give a damn about the result. It doesn’t mean we run away from trouble, or deny responsibility for our actions. Detachment means we see ourselves separate from the events. It is the absence of a desire for things to happen in a certain way. This way of thinking grants us the freedom to flow with life. 

The steps below show you how to practice detachment from the outcome:

i. Nurture mindfulness to be present

Being mindful is a synonym to being present. Let me tell you this zen story, which illustrates the essence of mindfulness:

Two zen students were about to cross a river. A young, beautiful lady asked if they could help her cross the river because its current was too strong. The students had a dilemma, because zen practice prohibits them to touch any women. 

Then, the older student picked the lady up and carried her on his back across the river. The younger was so taken aback by what his brother had done that he remained silent for the rest of their journey.

Finally, when the two arrived at their temple, the younger couldn’t bear the silence any longer, he questioned his brother:     

“Don’t you know zen students are forbidden to touch any woman? How could you carry that lady?”

The older gave him a smile back:

“I dropped her there at the river. Brother, are you carrying her all the way here?” (From someone wise)

Whenever you are, be there. That’s the essence of mindfulness. 

Mindfulness allows us to be more conscious of our thinking, so that we can catch ourselves whenever we fall into the habit of thinking excessively about what happened, or what’s going to happen. 

Besides, our thinking is responsible for the way we feel. What we think about an event makes us feel a certain way. Notice that I didn’t say that the event causes us to feel a specific way. I said that because we think in a certain way, we feel in a certain way. Suppose that my flight to LA is delayed by 3 hours. That’s a neutral fact. But thoughts such as “I can’t get there on time”,  or“I’m stuck at the airport for another 3 hours with nothing to do”, etc. make me upset. So, being mindful of our thinking gives insight into our emotions.     

Being aware of our thinking patterns also lets we take back control of the mind, so that we can: 

  • keep our thoughts (and emotions) away from negative thinking, or the kind of thinking that doesn’t contribute to our performance (ex: Thoughts of self-pity, victim mentality, helplessness, resentment towards others, etc…Such thoughts lead to fear, hatred, hostility, frustration, disappointment, shame, apathy, etc…) and
  • direct our focus toward the present moment, and remain objective when we study the result (we still need to see the result to evaluate our performance, right?).     

One thing to remember is that we must keep a ‘take-it-easy attitude’ while practicing mindfulness. We observe our thoughts and emotions, but we don’t analyze why we think or feel that way. Don’t judge your thoughts and emotions. The purpose of being mindful is that we can direct our focus back to the present moment, the current task, or toward constructive thinking that’s useful to improve our performance. Don’t criticize or scold yourself for thinking negative. If a thought isn’t right, let it go, and direct your mind back to what is.

It’s like I’m following a route guided by a GPS. Anytime the device realizes that I take a wrong turn, it doesn’t complain/blame/criticize/scold me for being a failure/loser. It simply recalculates the route and shows me correction steps to get back on track. Act like the GPS.   

Points to consider:

  • The essence of mindfulness is: “Whenever you are, be there”
  • Nurture mindfulness to be aware of your thinking patterns, so that you can:
    • Keep your thoughts (and emotions) away from negative thinking, or the kind of thinking that doesn’t contribute to your performance; and
    • Direct your focus toward the present moment, and remain objective when you study the result of your action
  • Keep a ‘take-it-easy attitude’ while practicing mindfulness by:
    • Simply observing your thoughts and emotions,
    • Not analyzing or judging them
    • Not criticizing or scolding yourself for thinking negative
  • If a thought isn’t right, let it go, and direct your mind back to what is
  • Act as if you were a GPS, and your mind the driver

Meditation is the best way I’ve found to develop mindfulness. 

ii. Use meditation to nurture mindfulness 

This is the best idea that I’ve got, that will give you great results, if you ignore the rest.

It’s often said that an average person has about 70,000 thoughts a day (but please don’t ask me to cite studies as proof. To me, “70,000” is not a number, but stands for “countless”). Meditation raises your awareness. You become more receptive to your thoughts. Your mind in a typical day is like a sheet of paper with full of scattered thoughts written all over the place. And when you meditate, you replace that paper with a blank sheet of paper, so that when a thought is registered in the mind, you’ll notice it right away.

And since meditation raises awareness of our thoughts, it also helps us keep our emotions in check. I’ve found that people take actions based on emotion, not logic. So, meditation is a powerful tool to handle stress and take disciplined actions toward personal growth.

The good news is that you don’t have to drop everything, sit quietly in a corner and chant mantras, in order to meditate. I discuss how to practice and incorporate deep-breathing meditation into daily life here. You can practice this technique while running, eating, even working. And once you get the hang of it, you can meditate while performing simple activities that do not need much attention. It’s pretty much the same way like you’re breathing, thinking, talking to yourself, all day long, even when you’re not aware of it.

But why would we want to meditate all day long, anyway? It’s because we want to maintain self-awareness all day long. Thanks to all the paranoid news reporters (I discuss what’s wrong with consuming news daily and how to kick the habit here), who spend 90% of their time on describing world problems with vivid details, without giving us proper solutions, most of our thoughts are negative. 

And since we attract what we think all day long, it’s no surprise to see many problems coming our way, and everyone else seems to be fine, except us. Some suggest that we need positive thinking to counter this mentality. I don’t deny the benefit of positive thinking, but thinking positive isn’t simple like reading those pick-me-up, feel-good stuff that flood the web. 

The best way to counter this issue is to be aware of our thoughts. By being aware, we take back control of our minds, rather than letting them drag us to wherever they please. Being in charge, we have the power to choose one thought over another. We don’t have to kill our thoughts. I don’t believe it’s possible to not think at all.    

We don’t need to do anything dramatic. Whenever an unwanted thought emerges, we acknowledge it, then move back to our breathing, or other kinds of meditation that you practice. 

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

Thus, deep-breathing meditation is a simple, yet powerful way to maintain self-awareness, so that we can observe everything happening around us, yet not letting ourselves be dragged into its dramas.

Points to consider:

  • Meditation makes you more receptive to your thoughts and emotions. It’s a powerful tool to handle stress and take disciplined actions toward personal growth
  • Practice deep-breathing meditation, a technique that can be practiced and incorporated into daily life:
    • You can practice this technique while running, eating, even working,
    • or while performing simple activities that do not need much attention
  • Use meditation to counter perpetual negative thinking:
    • Remember that you have the power to choose one thought over another
    • Whenever an unwanted thought emerges, you acknowledge it, then move back to your breathing, or other kinds of meditation that you practice
    • It doesn’t matter how many negative thoughts you possess, what matters is how soon you become aware of them and get back to your meditation

iii. Cultivate the witness

This is a wise advice offered by Ram Dass, an American spiritual teacher, who’s widely known for his book Be Here Now. In his own words:

The witness is your awareness of your own thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Witnessing is like waking up in the morning and then looking in the mirror and noticing yourself – not judging or criticizing, just neutrally observing the quality of being awake. That process of stepping back takes you out of being submerged in your experiences and thoughts and sensory input and into self-awareness.  

In other words, cultivating the witness means being conscious and alert of your own thoughts, your self-talk. The opposite of this is getting lost in thoughts.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? You start reading what looks like an interesting article. You see the title, you know the topic. You scan through the intro to get to the main content. After 15 minutes, you finish the piece, but you can’t recall what the main points of that article! Been there before? That’s what I mean by getting lost in thoughts.

Initially, you can practice observing your thoughts while being alone. Stay quiet. Turn off the music. Remind yourself that the witness and the mind are separate entities that occupy the same body. 

I give the witness a name different from the thinking mind. I treat him as a wise, divine, awakened being, an ideal, future self that I strive to be. You can do the same. You may call the thinking mind your own name, and give the witness a different name; or the other way around.    

Watch your thoughts come and go, as if they were clouds in the sky. Don’t inquire where they come from, or where they’re going. Surrender your control. Don’t try to hold on to a thought or emotion. Don’t suppress it either. 

Keep reminding yourself that your thoughts do not identify you. You’re an observant of thought, not an analyzer, nor a criticizer.

Points to consider:

  • Cultivating the witness means observing your own thoughts
  • The witness & the thinking mind are separate entities occupying the same body:
    • Give the witness a different name from yours
    • Treat him as a wise, divine, awakened being, your ideal, future self
  • Watch your thoughts come and go
  • Don’t analyze, inquire, or control your thoughts   

iv. Let each thing have its own place

The mind can focus on only one thing at a time. Imagine you’re a worker on an assembly line, working on semi-finished products that are being lined up and run mechanically, waiting to be attended. After one is completed, you need to move to the next one. You can’t look back and forth, you have to concentrate on the current product.   

Likewise, unless it’s time to reflect, don’t occupy your mind with past activities. When you finish doing something, put it down, leave it alone, stop carrying it mentally, so that you can focus on the next thing. Don’t let your past performance drag you down. Don’t replay the tape. 

Because if you do, you’ll unavoidably let one mistake start a downward spiral, in which the first blunder erases your confidence, which leads to another error, and another, and eventually you have no more confidence to continue your journey.

Perhaps this is one of the few qualities that I can brag about, beside too many flaws that embarrass me. You see, I tried to quit smoking, and failed. It’s disappointing the moment I yielded to the urge to smoke back. And the blending of many negative feelings afterward, like sadness, frustration, humiliation, and distress…gave me an experience that’s hard to put into words. Perhaps because such experience feels so bad that many people, after failing a few times, refuse to give it another try.  

But then I went to sleep at night, and the next day I was back to normal, full of hope, that today would be the day that I quit for good. Although it took a long time for that day to finally become a reality, I kept trying one more time. I didn’t dwell on past failures. So, I didn’t let them discourage me.

The same thing happened when I tried to develop the habit of exercising daily. For a person, who didn’t play any kind of sport, nor exercise a single day after high school, you can imagine how hard it was, to get educated about training and running, to go to the gym, and work out daily. 

I put “going to the gym” and exercising apart, because at first, there were many days I went to the gym, but didn’t exercise at all 🤭. And you know what I mean, don’t you? But I didn’t let one lazy and embarrassing day linger on my mind long.   

Don’t stumble over something behind you ~ Seneca      

Therefore, learn to reserve a mental place for each type of activity, so that after you finish an activity, put it back to its own place. It’s like the way an office worker closes one client’s file, clears up his desk after completing the job, before starting another. 

Clear your mind from the last thing you worked on to bring it back to the neutral state. That way, the worry, the stress, or whatever challenge and error from the prior activity stop bothering you, and you can focus fully on the next item. 

A simple and effective way to achieve this is performing a 5-minute meditation, as mentioned in my deep-breathing meditation post, between major daily activities, or whenever you feel moody.  

 The beauty of this technique is that once you master it, you can perform it during your work and play, from simple and mindless tasks like cleaning and cooking to more complex ones, as long as they don’t need much attention.

Points to consider:

  • Focus on only one thing at a time:
    • When you finish doing something, put it down, stop carrying it mentally, so that you can focus on the next thing
    • Unless it’s time to reflect, don’t occupy your mind with past activities
  • Don’t dwell on past failures
  • Let all things (both physically and mentally) have their own places, so that after you finish an activity, put it back to its own place
  • Clear your mind from the last thing you worked on to bring it back to the neutral state by:
    • Performing a 5-minute meditation between major daily activities, or whenever you feel moody

v. Stop comparing yourself to others

I’ve found it insidious to compare my results against others’. 

Why? 

Because comparing leads to jealousy, the thinking that, someone else’s success means there’s less room for my success. So the only way for me to go up is to put others down. Compare yourself to another, and the two of you will never be the same again.    

Because life isn’t fair! Each of us is widely different in terms of talent, ability, education, and experience. Besides, sometimes, one stroke of luck is worth more than nine parts effort.

Because we never know the price others have paid (and/or will pay) to achieve that level of success. And, many times, if we knew that price, we wouldn’t be willing to pay. 

Points to consider:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others, because:
    • Comparing leads to jealousy
    • Otherwise, no matter how close the two of you are, your relationship will never be the same again
    • Life isn’t fair! No one holds the same cards and nobody knows for sure who really gets the favor
    • You never know the price others have paid (and/or will pay) to achieve that level of success     

vi. Be solution-oriented & focus on trends while evaluating performance 

With regard to the last point, if you do compare, then compare your own performance against industry standards or market performance. Instead of comparing to others, compete against yourself. Use your past performance as a benchmark. Such benchmarks allow us to measure our progress.

And when you evaluate your work, spend only 20% of the time on the result and the problem. Invest 80% of your time looking for ways to improve future performance. 

Besides, don’t expect your progress to be a straight-line. It’s gonna have lots of ups and downs, and many times we have to lower ourselves deeply before we can make the jump. That happens frequently in sport (like broad jump) and in life.

Working as a self-employed for 10 years has made me become time conscious obsessed. I live by my calendar. I put everything, both personal and work related matters, on the list. And I track time spent on all activities daily. But, I’d become forever miserable, if I expected myself to follow the calendar strictly every day. Some days I’m productive, whereas others I just want to sit around being lazy and procrastinating. So, I try for a relatively good average, instead.    

You should do the same. Strive for an upward trend and a relatively good average. Ignore all the peaks and the troughs.

Points to consider:

  • Compare your own performance against industry standards or market performance
  • Compete against yourself. Use your past performance as a benchmark
  • Spend only 20% of your time on the result and the problem, 80% of the time looking for ways to improve future performance
  • Don’t expect your progress to be a straight-line
  • Focus on trends, not isolated performance
    • Strive for an upward trend and a relatively good average 
    • Ignore all the peaks and the troughs   

vii. Cultivate gratitude habit

By gratitude, I don’t mean the be-thankful-because-you-have-something-to-eat mentality. That’s no gratitude. Rather, it’s a sick way to seek comfort in hard times by comparing ourselves to others, who are less fortunate than us. 

I discuss the true meaning of gratitude and how to cultivate it by adopting a “student of life” attitude here. 

As a student, I realize not only that life is the ultimate teacher, but also that I’m obligated to make the best use of the lessons to repay life’s favors. And so 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.

Looking at the result from this perspective, we’ll be grateful for whatever shows up for our effort. Success, failure, good luck, or bad luck…all are meaningful to us, because they teach us valuable lessons to reach our goals. Thus, our gratefulness would replace sadness, frustration, disappointment, etc., if there’s any.  

Points to consider:

  • Gratitude is different from the be-thankful-because-you-have-something-to-eat mentality
  • Find the true meaning of gratitude by adopting a “student of life” attitude:
    • Life is the ultimate teacher, and 
    • We’re obligated to make the best use of the lessons to repay life’s favors
    • Adopt such attitude while treating your result
  • Check out my post for steps to cultivate gratitude 

viii. Stop expecting success

It doesn’t make sense to tell a committed dream-walker to stop expecting his dream to become a reality. If we’re not expecting to reach our goals, then why even try?   

It’s because we have no control over the outcome. We can influence only part of the cause and the condition, based on what we know. As long as there’s an unknown, the X factor, we’re unsure about the result. 

So, expecting the result to show up, wanting things to happen in a certain way guarantees to bring us more suffering than joy. 

Let’s turn this around. Instead of expecting for the best, expect that we will work hard, work smart, work consistently. These factors are within our control. Work on the cause, and the result will eventually come under the right condition. It cannot not coming, because it’s a law. If you sow apple seeds, soon or later, you’ll reap apples. Suffering comes the moment we want to get them ASAP.         

This is the attitude that I believe we dream-walkers should take on our journeys. 

Do that, and you will grasp the wisdom behind this saying:

Pain is certain, suffering is optional ~ Siddhartha Gautama

Points to consider:

  • Remember that we have no control over the outcome
  • Instead of expecting success, expect that you will work hard, work smart, work consistently
  • Trust CCE that the result will eventually come under the right condition
  • Wanting to reap the result ASAP only invites suffering

ix. Re-define success

The last point leads to a need to re-define success. For me, success has nothing to do with money, power, or getting the result that I want.

Why not?

Perhaps because there’s such a huge gap between how much of these things that I want compared to how much I currently get, so I decide to re-define success, to save my ego a bit (Just kidding 😉! But there’s a lot of truth in it).

Anyway, my definition of success is this:

Success is having a proper use for all the gifts that life offers in the pursuit of what we want.

With regard to CCE, this definition sums up what we’ve discussed so far. I have a dream, to one day become a source of inspiration to boost courage and confidence in others to follow their dreams. And EnjoyYrJourney is my journey to realize this dream. 

I’m trying to exploit all the things that I have (talents, knowledge, skills, wealth, relationships, networks, etc.) or all the stuff that fate throws at my face (opportunities, accidents, random events, external circumstances, environmental conditions, etc.) to make my dream come true. 

As long as I’m doing that, I’m successful. It doesn’t matter much as when that day comes. My dream doesn’t have a deadline. 

My friend, if you set a deadline for your dream, 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 dream. 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 dream, everything else is secondary.   

Points to consider:

  • Re-define your success:
    • Success is having a proper use for all the gifts that life offers in the pursuit of what you want
  • Beware of setting a deadline for your dream, because then you might treat everything you encounter to be nothing more than a means to achieve your dream 

~o~

In summary, to detach from the outcome, first, always remember that what we can control are just a tiny fraction compared to what we cannot control. Detachment involves creating some space between the performer and the performance, as if we’re watching ourselves performing on stage. Such distance allows us to calmly observe what’s happening and how others react to our actions. 

Remember, detachment from the result doesn’t mean we don’t give a damn about the result. Rather, it is the absence of a desire for things to happen in a certain way.

You practice detachment by: 

i. nurture mindfulness to be present, 

ii. practice meditation, 

iii. cultivate the witness and observe your thoughts, 

iv. clear your mind after finishing a major activity, 

v. stop comparing yourself to others, 

vi. be solution-oriented and focus on trends while evaluating your performance, 

vii. cultivate gratitude habit by adopting a “student of life” attitude, 

viii. stop expecting the result to show up or things to happen in a certain way, 

ix. and re-define success to focus on finding a proper use for all the gifts that life offers in the pursuit of what you want.  

Remember, CCE governs everything in this world. There’s no cause that gives no effect. You’ve done your job. Now, relax and let the rest take care of itself. All of your efforts won’t be in vain. All your actions, whether in physical, mental, or spiritual form, will bear fruit, soon or later, under the right condition. 

But then, what would we do if the wrong condition shows up? What if we become victims of the Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”? What if somebody takes the wrong turn? What if someone else gives up?

My friend, when it comes to blaming, most of us are a pro. And sometimes it’s much easier to point the finger and blame others or random lucks for our failures, than to blame ourselves. 

Practicing detachment using the above steps helps wiping off the self-blame, by creating some space between the performer and the performance. But it doesn’t remove other items on our blame list, and the bitterness attached to them.

Therefore, an awakened dream-walker needs to learn how to…

4. Go with the flow

We have limited control over the condition. Using the previous example of planting a tree, for a seed to bear fruit, we need soil, water, fertilizer, sunlight, etc. We have control over the quality of the water, the soil, and the fertilizer. So, we should take great care of these factors. 

But we have no control over how the weather (the rain, the wind, the sunlight) turns out to be. 

Likewise, there are zillions of random events that we have no influence.

Thus, learn to accept the things we can’t control with serenity. It means accepting whatever fate has decided without resistance.

When I was young (my translation: being cocky), I used to sense a smell of complacency in the air whenever I heard someone said “Go with the flow”. It sounded to me like a bitter sigh a person gave before surrendering to fate. Why be so weak and submissive?…Why not take charge and create the life we want to live?…I wondered.    

Well, many things happened that have made me realize how foolish I was.  

You see, we learn to let go only when we face problems we can’t deal with. Now I know that it takes strength to accept things as they are. It’s pretty much like the way of the water: weak and submissive to all forces; yet the harder you grasp it, the less you can hold it in your hand.  

So, going with the flow means we accept the cards that fate hands us peacefully and calmly. Instead of trying to change any of those things, we use them to help us move forward toward our goals. We deal with unexpected changes by being flexible enough to alter our priorities, without abandoning our dreams.     

Therefore, going with the flow is a mindset, rather than a skill. But we can develop it by following the steps below.

i. Seek the path of least resistance

Instead of trying to change the unfavorable conditions that come our ways, start looking for opportunities that are aligned with our dreams.

This means we go to places where favorable conditions are present. These conditions are circumstances or events that let us move closer to our goals.

Suppose you want to become a public speaker. Favorable conditions could be a public speaking class, a local Toastmaster club, having a friend working as an MC, or a friend who is a good listener that is willing to correct your speech.

It would be a lot easier to plant seeds in spring rather than winter. I didn’t say it’s impossible. I’m saying it’s easy.

So, be like water, follow the path of least resistance. Learn to follow the course of nature in the pursuit of your dream. Seek a path with favorable conditions that allow us to get better results with much less effort. 

Of course, getting the answer is not easy, but it’s out there. Sometimes we recognize opportunities around us easily, once we have a goal in mind. Other times, we need to seek them out. And you know that saying from the Bible: “Seek, and ye shall find”. 

Be smart to make educated guesses on your search, though. It’s like when we study the cause. Explore the environment around you. Observe and experience things.

And if something you try doesn’t seem to be right for you, don’t linger there too long, move. Don’t waste too much time investigating the “why” and the “how” it doesn’t fit in. I learn this from Eugene the Poet (I discuss here). Eugene didn’t bother to defend himself when Piers, one judge, pressed the X button. He continued doing what he’d dreamed to do on stage, which was sharing his poem for all those who want to listen. 

Thus, it’s fine if some people don’t share your passion. Continue doing what you love. And if you do it long enough, eventually your effort will land on someone else, who does.

One way I use to check whether the current path that I’m approaching is right for me, is applying the incremental analysis technique in accounting. Basically, I want to know the extra costs (in terms of things we value in life – money, energy, time, health, relationship, lost opportunity, etc.) that it takes me to get the extra benefits. If the incremental cost seems to be less than the incremental benefit, it might be worthwhile to explore this path further. 

Now, people value different sorts of things in life, I understand that. And that’s fine because we don’t expect different people to make the same decision under the same circumstance. However, this strategy is useful in helping us consider the price we have to pay for something that we want. You can also use incremental analysis to compare various options, by selecting the best cost-to-benefit ratio.

Do that, and we’ll achieve better results with much less effort.      

Points to consider:

  • Don’t try to change the unfavorable conditions. Instead, start looking for opportunities that are aligned with your dreams
  • Be like water, follow the path of least resistance that lets you get better results with much less effort
  • Searching for a path with favorable conditions isn’t always easy, but it’s out there. So,
    • Be proactive in your search
    • Be smart to make educated guesses, like the way you’d study the cause – Explore, observe, and experience things
    • If something you try doesn’t seem to be right for you, don’t linger there too long, move
  • Use incremental analysis – compare the incremental cost against the incremental benefit – to check whether the path you’re approaching is right
    • Costs include things you value in life – money, energy, time, health, relationship, lost opportunity, etc.
    • Use the analysis to compare various options, by selecting the best cost-to-benefit ratio

ii. Don’t force a condition to happen

Be proactive in the seeking of favorable conditions, but do NOT overdo it. 

What do I mean by that? 

Overdoing means we try to “force” a condition to happen, when it’s not yet ready. Successful people don’t force things to happen. Here’s what they actually do, if they can’t find a favorable circumstance: they try to make an opportunity more likely to happen.

People mistakenly believe that successful people try to create opportunities rather than waiting for them. Such confidence is dangerous, because success breeds more confidence, and eventually, these people will attempt something beyond their reach. When that happens, sacrifice and compromise would be unavoidable. But these acts will then become bad conditions for their (or others’) later actions, which will bring adverse effects. So, their successes won’t be complete and long-lasting. 

Since that’s not my definition of success, I instead prefer working on myself, refining my skills while waiting for opportunities to cross my path. As a dream-walker, you should do the same, my friend.

Wanting something, and yet being able to take your desire lightly at the same time, allows you to lead a carefree life. Wanting something and expecting one’s desire to be fulfilled at once, is the birth of suffering. 

Suffering from what?

From wishes that are unfulfilled. 

From prayers that are unheard. 

From hopes that seem like hopeless.

From dreams that seem forever to come true.    

That’s why I’ve told you to slow down, to stop trying and expecting success or demanding things to happen in a certain way. The more you try, the more you become attached to the work. And the more you are attached to the work, the more you want to control the result, or impose your expectation upon it. 

So, do the work, but do it effortlessly, without trying, like the way of the water, flowing gently with (not against) the stream.  

I think that’s what Lao Tzu means when he suggests that “a sage acts, by doing nothing”. 

Doing nothing doesn’t mean we stop acting. It means we act without striving, nor expecting certain outcomes. We only can do this if we trust CCE fully, that our actions will bring the desired effects. The law works regardless of our opinions. 

And in this way, this idea is like another of Lao Tzu’s saying: 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step 

The sage finishes the journey by taking one step at a time, without being hurry, nor being effortful.     

If the light is green (NOT all the lights, mind you), then we work to move forward on our journey. But if a favorable condition isn’t coming our way yet, work in preparation instead. 

That way, we can nurture our dreams and not become victims of “The Law of Diminishing Intent”, while waiting for their times to shine. This is truly what it means to go with the flow.        

That way, we gradually learn how to let go of the need to go faster, to achieve more, to stop competing or comparing ourselves to others. 

Remember: don’t flow against the stream. Some people fight really hard to flow against the stream! If you buy that philosophy, you’d be restless. Your life would be an eternal battle, forever fighting and being fought. 

People fight for more, we contend with less. People move forward, we take one step back. This is the way of an awakened dream-walker: to enjoy the journey to pursue his dream, by letting things take their own course. 

Points to consider:

  • Forcing things to happen leave unseen adverse effects
  • Work on yourself, refine your skills while waiting for opportunities to cross your path
  • Wanting something, and yet being able to take your desire lightly at the same time, allows you to lead a carefree life
  • Do the work effortlessly, without trying, like the way of the water, flowing gently with the stream
  • Don’t flow against the stream:
    • People fight for more, you contend with less;
    • People move forward, you take one step back;
    • so that you can enjoy the journey to pursue your dream, by letting things take their own course 

iii. Learn to let go

Isn’t it ironic? We wish to speed things up on our way to the future, yet demand things that are passing by to move in slooooooooooow motion. 

People try to cling to toxic relationships long after the romance had gone. 

Others refuse to give up old habits, even when they realize the behavior contradict to what they want to become. It’s hard to be a heathy smoker or drinker, a fit overeater, a stress-free workaholic, an active couch-potato, a happy whiner, a positive naysayer…

And all of us, sometimes in our lives, are victims of the past. We attach to past stories, whether they were successes or failures, good or bad memories, as if what happened in the past would define us.

That might sound ironic, but it’s much easier to hold on than to let go. Letting go isn’t simple like opening your hand to drop a ball you hold in your hand. 

It’s like you’re clinging to a tree at the top of a cliff for your dear life. So, letting go could mean a painful fall into the deep valley. It could mean a fall into the void, where you’d be a stranger to everything around you (or the other way around). It means a fall out of the familiar territory, into something you’ve never known before (and never wish to know).

No exaggeration here! If you’ve attached to something for so long that you care to remember…like me, started smoking since 17 years old, you’d know what I mean. 

For me, lightening up a cigarette felt so easy, so normal, so refreshing and relaxing. It meant easing up a little bit, taking the world off my shoulder. It meant seeking comfort for my problems and loneliness from a trusty friend. It was a can’t-miss ritual to complete any kind of activities, working, thinking, playing, eating, etc. It meant to be me. I’d long forgotten what it felt like, to live life as a normal person, someone smoke-free.    

In that context, letting go of something we’ve been clinging to feels like tearing something inside of us. The resulting emptiness is scary.   

But, isn’t it true that whatever has a beginning must have an end? (I’ve heard somebody says “except the sausage!”). If so, does that mean all the good things will eventually leave us for good?   

That’s why I believe that we come to this life NOT to learn how to love. Not loving. Loving is one of humans’ most basic instincts. I strongly believe that we come to this life to learn how to let go.  

And letting go would become easier, if we’ve done well in the preceding step – not forcing a condition to happen when it’s not yet ready. Because then we could take it lightly when the condition does show up, or when it’s time for it to leave. 

Deep-breathing meditating and cultivating gratefulnes are great ways to practice letting go. Be sure to check them out. 

Another way is to experience our own deaths, metaphorically speaking. It’s no accident that you can find the idea that “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” in every culture. To become wiser, we need to experience our own deaths.

At night, after you complete the Gratitude exercise, while lying on bed to sleep, imagine you’re clinging to a tree branch at the top of a cliff for your dear life. You try your best to climb up to the top. But when you nearly get there, the branch can no longer support your weight and breaks. You fall into the valley. While falling, you look back and see the tree moving further and further away from you. The tree stands for whatever you’ve been holding on, whatever gives meaning to your life or journey. 

Imagine we’re dying makes us realize that, on our way to or back the graveyard (depending on how you look at it), we’re always alone and naked. Everything we thought we have is just an illusion, that includes our possessions, titles, accomplishments, relationships and our loves.  

And when you wake up the next morning, imagine that you’ve just miraculously survived the fall. You come back to life empty-handed, and now continue your journey. But, having experienced your own death and the impermanence of all things, you’d now make your come-back with a whole new way of living.         

I thought about this technique while watching the Swordsman 2013 series that I’ve mentioned before. There’s a similar scene, in which Dongfang Bubai is clinging to Linghu Chong’s hand, who’s also holding on to a tree at the top of a cliff in an attempt to save her. His action moves her, and especially after he admits that Miss Dongfang will always be in his heart. The joy is swift! For Linghu Chong asks her what poison she forced Yingying (Linghu Chong’s current lover) to drink, right after that. Suddenly, heaven turns to hell. Dongfang Bubai seems lost, her gaze turns down, for a second. When Dongfang regains her conscious, her pupils get darker and smaller, the kind one often gets after making a grim decision. With her dark eyes, now narrow and contain an abyss with an endless depth of sorrow, Dongfang forces a half smile with tightened lips and a muffled breath of air through her noses, that fades so fast no one realizes it, and gives the answer in a monotonous voice, then lets go of Linghu Chong’s hand to fall into the valley.

So, practice the technique, imagine that you’ve already died when you wake up the next morning, and now on your way back the graveyard. That way, during the day, you’ll experience a whole new way of being: welcome every chance encounter, yet keep calm when it’s time to say farewell.

Points to consider:

  • Remember whatever has a beginning must have an end
    • We come to this life NOT to learn how to love, but to learn how to let go
    • Don’t become a victim of your past. What happened in the past no longer define us 
  • Practice letting go by:
    • Not forcing things to happen when they’re not yet ready
    • Practicing deep-breathing meditation and doing gratefulness exercise
    • Performing exercise to experience your own death 

iv. Going with the flow doesn’t mean giving up our control or our dreams 

Now, I’d like to clarify this point: “going with the flow”, “letting things take their own course” should be taken within the context of CCE. Going with the flow doesn’t mean letting ourselves be swept away by the river of life, or leaving everything to fate.  

It doesn’t mean saying “yes” to everything. It doesn’t mean being lazy. It doesn’t mean stop paying attention to all things and conditions around us. It doesn’t mean stop responding to things. It doesn’t mean stop doing, acting, working, or walking toward our dreams. It doesn’t mean sitting idly, waiting for things to happen.

“Stop trying” doesn’t mean you give up controlling the steering wheel and let your car run itself into a ditch. No! You still hold your hand firmly on the wheel to control the car, direct it toward your destination. But you do not drive over the speed limit, cut people off, or accelerate before yellow lights in order to get ahead of the traffic and arrive 5 minutes faster.

Letting go doesn’t mean giving up your dream. It doesn’t mean cutting yourself off from the others. It doesn’t mean you run away from trouble, or deny responsibility for your actions.

It means we accept the cards that life hands us serenely, and try to work with them, rather than trying to change them. It means that in case of bad lucks, we’re flexible enough to alter our priorities, without abandoning our dreams. Thus, we need knowledge and experience to go with the flow.  

It means we’re content with life’s offers in the present and keep calm while waiting for the convergence of the right conditions. But we need to take action the moment the right condition(s) show up. 

It means we practice Lao Tzu’s wisdom “Act without action” in everything we do. By “acting”, it means we pay attention to work hard on the job. By “not acting”, it means we don’t expect success in everything we do. That doesn’t mean we expect failure, though. It just means we’re content with the outcome.

And I’d like to close with this example. I believe that, one reason why Thomas Edison could keep trying, after failing 1,000 times to find a cheaper and more durable material to light the light bulb, was because the condition(s) at the time allowed him to continue his experiment. 

Applying CCE, Mr. Edison understood the cause. He knew the theory of how to make the light bulb work. He just needed to find out the right material to keep the light on as long and as cheap as possible. So he went to work on the cause, experimenting various materials.

Secondly, he detached from the result. He didn’t let 1,000 bad outcomes discouraged him. In fact, he was grateful for every single one of them. Each result educated him about what’s not working, so he could start the next test a little wiser. 

And the conditions at the time seemed to favor him also, so that he could continue the experiment for as long as it took. Of course, due to lack of facts, I wouldn’t say that everything was favorable, but we have to admit that he got (or managed to get) enough support from relevant stockholders.

Question: Why the dog keeps barking? 

Answer: Because he can. 

Yeah right! 

But here’s another that’s worth considering: Because no one tries to stop him! 

Imagine what would have happened if Mr. Edison had run out of money? Or what if all his staffs had given up and refused to carry on his experiment?

Under such unfavorable conditions, I imagine that an awakened dream-walker wouldn’t let all the skeptics and the critics bring him down. He might seek support from outside the company, or let others continue his experiment. But if all that’s not possible, he’d accept that now may not be the right time to finish the work, and wait for the next opportunity to resume his experiment.

On the other hand, a person, who’s determined to do whatever it takes to make things happen, might use unethical means, bend the rules, or take shortcuts to get the work done. He might achieve his goal, but soon or later, he’d have to deal with the results of such acts during fateful times.         

Points to consider:

  • If you haven’t practiced ALL of the previous steps in this guide, don’t bother to try to “go with the flow”,
  • for “going with the flow” doesn’t mean “going with the flow”   

IV. Final Thoughts

My friend, many years ago Oscar Wilde said:

There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

As a dreamer, be wary the moment you become a dream-walker by making a decision to walk toward your dream, because you’re walking into a curse. I believe the tragedy lies not in the “getting” or “not getting” what we want, but in the manner of our pursuit. The fool leave everything to fate. The arrogant fight really hard to resist the flow, to swim up the stream. Both suffer in the end. 

Trust the law of cause, condition and effect. Follow the art of becoming an awakened dream-walker. 

And you will turn the curse into a blessing to enjoy the ride toward your destination.

Of all the steps we’ve gone through so far, you may notice that there’s one theme I keep repeating over and over, that we need 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.

Well, because that’s the essence of this art, to become an awakened dream-walker. The word “awakened”, spiritually speaking, refers to people, who realize that they aren’t their thoughts, their thoughts do not define them, and that they control their thoughts, rather than letting external events or the actions of others control their thoughts. 

Thus, awakening isn’t about changing what they do daily. It’s about changing what they think about what they do. They still take necessary actions to pursue their dreams and face obstacles on their journey, but they do these with a whole different attitude. 

People do the things that count, then count how much has been done. They choose to forget. People attach to the results. They let the results take care of themselves. People run away from the now by darting back and forth to the past and the future. They stay in the present. People “try” to arrive. They take one step at a time. People hold countless ideas about how things should be. They know things are exactly where they are supposed to be. People feel frustrated because some days, nothing seems to go right. They know that some days, nothing seems to go right, and yet it’s alright. People read this guide, and think there’re lots of things to do. They read and see there’s nothing to do. Just be.

The bad guy believes that trickery is the key to win. The good guy believes that sincerity is the key to win. The awakened know that there’s no key to search for, because the door is locked inside. All that they can do is knock, and wait. 

Instead of focusing on the negative, what went wrong, or will go wrong, they know that in this world, “nothing ever goes wrong”, as Nisargadatta Mahara said. So, they focus on finding out what blessings and learning the lessons that those events bring them, and being in the present. Thus, the awakened still experience the pain, but they don’t suffer.

They don’t suffer, because they no longer identify themselves with the actions. They are now the witness, observing the writer writing an article, or a speaker speaking on stage. Thus, things and tragedies no longer happen to them. Rather, they are events that happen in that scene. Such state of mind lets them choose proper thoughts and actions to respond to the events.   

~o~

I’m just a novice in this art. Throughout my life, I’ve seen incomprehensible things that happened to many people, rich and poor alike. I’ve often wondered how some could manage to stay happy and lead a carefree life; whereas others suffer.  

I want to be like the former. This guide is my attempt to learn how to apply the principles on my journey toward my dreams. My aim is not to get there as soon as possible, but to enjoy the road all along. 

So that if any of my dreams come true, 

Great! 

If not,    

Well, that isn’t my concern! 

For things are exactly where they are supposed to be.

And knowing this, I can now be at peace, because I learn to turn miseries and hatreds into blessings to those dreams and loves that are lost.   

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!

*W: “If you truly love her, where else would she be, other than in your heart?”

Inspired by:

  • Swordsman, the 2013 Chinese television series.
  • Jodo Shinshu Shinrankai (2012). The teachings of Buddha And The Law of Cause and Effect.

References

(1) Swordsman, the 2013 Chinese television series (wiki, YouTube episode)

(2) Jodo Shinshu Shinrankai (2012). The teachings of Buddha And The Law of Cause and Effect. Retrieved from http://www.lifespurpose.info/buddha/causeandeffect/lawofcauseandeffect01.html

(3): Stewart, L., Evans, N., Bexon, K. J., van der Meer, D. J., Williams, G. A. (2015). Differentiating between monozygotic twins through DNA methylation-specific high-resolution melt curve analysis. Analytical Biochemistry, 476, 36-39. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ab.2015.02.001

(4): Mallers, M. H., Claver, M., Lares, L. A. (2014). Perceived Control in the Lives of Older Adults: The Influence of Langer and Rodin’s Work on Gerontological Theory, Policy, and Practice. The Gerontologist, 54(1), 67-74. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnt051

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!

Pomodoro Technique – The New Way to Enjoy Work & Play

Good day, my friend. You should know by now that my philosophy in life is that the best way to ensure reaching a destination is to enjoy the journey. Today, I’d like to show you one method you can use to put such philosophy into action: Pomodoro Technique – How to enjoy your life at intervals.

People have praised Pomodoro for bringing positive impact on areas such as time management, efficiency and effectiveness, self-discipline, and physical and mental burnout/fatigue.

I. My Encounter with Pomodoro Technique

I came across this technique while searching for one way to fix a health issue caused by computer work. If your job requires hugging a computer like me, you should be familiar with this.

Very often after a long period working continuously on my laptop, I get eye strain. My eyes are sore and blurry, the muscles feel really tired, to the point of making me want to shut them down and go to sleep sometimes.

On some occasions, it might get serious, I’d have a headache, the pain comes from my forehead to the back of my head, and down to my neck.

What’s worse? The condition made me dread the idea of repeating another 8 hours tomorrow. Mind you, I love writing. But when this happens, working on the thing I love still feels like hard work. The eye strain makes me afraid of working long hours. Three hours non-stop is fine, but more than that and I start to have a headache.

So I went in search of a solution. I mean, when it comes to something that I’ve already made up my mind to do, I’m a stubborn kid who refuses to grow up. I’d try every trick I can think of to make it work out. For instance:

I adjusted my sitting posture (sitting with back straight, not hunching over) and the space between me and the screen.

I adjusted ambient lighting in my room. I changed closing drapes, adjusted shades. I reduced interior lighting, made sure it not too bright, not too dark (I switched from overhead fluorescent tubes to floor lamps to light the room and make the ambient lighting just dark enough compared to my laptop screen).

I used artificial tears (its effect is very limited)

I considered changing my laptop, I wondered whether it’s because of the screen that causes the eye strain. But it’s already the best in the industry (Retina MacBook Pro).

I adjust my laptop display settings (reduce brightness, increase text size & fonts, turn on Night Shift 24/7)

I apply dark themes on most of the regular applications (Scrivener, Safari (reader mode), Firefox, OmniOutliner)

And a few more.

Well, they’re all nice helpers, none are definite problem solvers.

Ever heard this conversation between a patient and his doc?

P: It hurts when I do this!

D: Then don’t do that!

Simple right? Exactly what I need! But since I couldn’t stop the doing, the solution I came up with was a bit more complicated.

That was when I first applied the idea of taking frequent breaks to ease my eye strain. Then I heard about Pomodoro technique, I thought that 25 minutes seem like a great length, and I gave it a try.

Result? Big discovery in my life!

II. Pomodoro Technique

This technique is a time management method pioneered by Francesco Cirillo (1). Basically, we break our work down into 25 minute intervals, which are then separated by 5 minute breaks.

  1. First, define what you want to work on.
  2. Then, set a timer of 25’ and start working.
  3. You keep working non-stop (translation: no daydreaming, no diversions, no minor tasks – check/answer emails/messages/tweets/Face comments, coffee-making, etc.) until the 25’ is up.
  4. Then you take a break for 5’ and repeat the cycle again.
  5. After 4-6 cycles, take a long break, and repeat the whole process.

In brief, by breaking down a typical 8 hour workday into small chunks, we become more aware of the passage of time. This forces us to focus on the task at hand and avoid distractions.

Plus, we’d all agree that single-tasking is certainly more productive than multi-tasking.

And that’s how Pomodoro technique works. But there’s no fun to stop here, isn’t it?

So, let me tell you how I’ve benefited from Pomodoro, and how I’ve used the technique in my work and life, and how you can, too.

III. What Pomodoro can Do for Me & You

1. Ease eye strain & back pain

My initial encounter with Pomodoro was due to my motivation to look for a way to ease the eye strain. I’ve found that taking 5’ breaks greatly diminishes the eye strain after each work day.

What’s more? I use the breaks to stretch my body, or perform tasks of different nature (Why? I explained it here). Such activities really help my brain, my back, not just my eyes.

I no longer feel physically burned after work, nor dread working long hours. For those who are working with computers, I highly recommend it.

2. Accomplish more with less

What about productivity? To be honest, at first, I didn’t believe I would do more by taking short breaks IN ADDITION TO the normal breaks.

Suppose a day has 7.5 working hours plus 30 minutes paid lunchtime, then the 7.5 hours give us up to 14 pomodoros, which mean we need to invest 14 x 5 = 70 minutes for the breaks (I said “invest” because it seems to me no employer would allow that).

How are we supposed to get more done in one hour less?

Boy! I was wrong. Paradoxically, I was able to not only write more, but also tackle more challenging tasks, instead of procrastinating by running low-value, low-priority errands.

Now, understand that I have no record to prove my point here. And no, I won’t do the analysis for the sake of comparison. You must try the technique to see for yourself.

This is just one of the many cases showing time and again that, we’ll achieve much more simply because we focus all our might on one single task and avoid interruption.

I’m not the one who said this. Orison Swett Marden (wiki) said that in “Pushing to the Front”. Don’t know who he is? He’s the guy who left an orphan house to establish Success magazine. Think about that!

The world does not demand that you be a physician, a lawyer, a farmer, or a merchant; but it does demand that whatever you do undertake, you will do it right, will do it with all your might and with all the ability you possess ~ Orison Swett Marden

The fact that I must decide what I’ll work on during the next 25’ minimizes my tendency to multitask. And should the need occur, I would defer it until after the break.

What about trivial tasks like returning a message/phone call, or filing documents, I can easily save them for the break.

So, that means better time management, doesn’t it?

3. Prevent daydreaming/mind-wandering/mindless surfing

And I can’t tell you how many times the notification sound dragged my mind back to the present task, if I happened to be lost in the rabbit hole of Facebook/Web/YouTube surfing.

What if I didn’t set the timer? Well, as long as love still lives, my drift is always deep. That’s a fact of life that I can’t remove.

So we need a reminder to drag us back down to Earth at times, don’t you think?

4. More discipline, less procrastination

I have to confess that, I have a weak will, I’m lazy, I consistently search for the path of least resistance to do anything.

I remember a typical part of my university life, which centered around rushing on big assignments and studying for final exams. And like other students, I work better under pressure (ok, I believe that). That means my uni life revolved around two things: procrastinating the whole semester and finally working like a bloody tiger to meet the deadlines.

Even now, after some modest successes, I still feel incompetent in this area.

How do you write a 5,000-word Goal-setting guide?

A wrong question can’t have a right answer!

If I’d asked myself that, I’d never made it. 5,000 words are too much for the subject “you” in that question.

In fact, all I did, I repeat, all I did, was cruising myself over my draft, enjoying the work at intervals of 25 minutes, block after block.

I asked myself different questions:

Ok, remember the time when…what did I do to achieve that goal?

After I mind-mapped my plan in iThought, what did I do?

But at that time why didn’t I give up? What happened beforehand?

Remember that thing that Mahatma Gandhi said that taught me the art of slowing down, where should I put it so that the plan makes sense?

I didn’t plan to write a certain range of word count. I didn’t have a deadline either.

The fact that I set a timer before starting to work during the next 25 minutes naturally nudges me to break the current project down into doable pieces, pretty much like the way we plan steps to reach our goals.

No discipline required. No more procrastination.

5. Harmonize with my Philosophy – Enjoy the Journey

The last point is the main reason motivating me to adopt Pomodoro into my life.

It’s my conviction that

The best way to ensure reaching a destination is to enjoy the journey

Whenever I set out to achieve something, I deliberately design my game plan in such a way that the execution requires as little discipline as possible.

I have a strong belief that discipline or willpower is of limited supply, so I plan to reserve it only for tough occasions.

In fact, I resist the temptation to try too hard too soon. Why? This deserves another post, so stay tuned.

Pomodoro allows this to happen.

At work, I don’t look ahead at the coming hours. I don’t even look forward to the coming break (more on that later). The only thing I care is that I need to work for the next 25’.

If I feel pain (pronounced “bored/lazy/procrastinate”), “oh, I’ll survive, somehow” (another favorite line from Witcher 3), it’s gonna be over soon, and the 5’ break is my savior.

On the other hand, at play, Pomodoro allows me to live the philosophy “Everything in moderation” (I explained it here).

IV. How I’ve used Pomodoro to make Work & Life more Enjoyable

1. When to use Pomodoro

Pomodoro works best with activities that

  • Last long hours, and/or
  • Require discipline/willpower, and/or
  • Require effort, and/or
  • Repeat regularly, and/or
  • You wish to spend less time, and/or
  • [Feel free to add to this list]

2. Select a Timer & Notes regarding its Usage

You can use the timer function in Clock app on iPhone or Android phone.

If you wear a smartwatch or Apple Watch, it’s super convenient to use the timer there by moving the app to the watch home screen.

Note: Do NOT use a kitchen timer, nor a Tomato shape timer like below, nor any kind of clock timer that you can put “in your face” on your desk.

 

Why?

Because it defeats our purpose of making work more enjoyable.

Would you like to have your boss watching over your shoulder CONSTANTLY over 8 hours/5 workdays???

Ok, I did exaggerate it a bit. But think! If you put the timer where you can see it, it would constantly nag you that you’re on the 25-minute countdown.

Now, how fun that is!

Having the timer constantly reminding me that the time is running out makes me anxious. Sure, it helps to boil the adrenaline. But not every time I’m at work. Being constantly on fire will eventually lead to being burned out, right?

Even worse, some people suggest using a kitchen timer, so that you can hear the sound of its clock ticking.

This “clock is ticking” idea is like setting an extra deadline for yourself, in addition to the deadline you already have to deal with on your job.

This clearly goes against my philosophy.

I don’t plan to use Pomodoro to instill a sense of urgency, nor to give me the impression that I must hurry up to get the thing done within this 25’.

No.

I aim at making my hard-working days look a LOT less like hard work, by dividing the lengthy working time into short sessions, and more breathable, by knowing that I’ll have multiple breaks in between.

The enhanced productivity resulting from applying Pomodoro technique should be treated as an added bonus.

However, if you’re all turned on listening to the ticking sound of the countdown, pretty much as being showcased in The Final Countdown song by Joey Tempest, lead singer of Europe rock band, you might be heading for trouble.

Why?

Because you might be using the ticking clock as a countdown to the upcoming break.

This, obviously defeats the purpose of using Pomodoro to getting things done, because we should be losing ourselves in the work, not looking forward to the break.

So, did I make my point clear enough? Don’t let the timer bother you throughout the 25’ duration.

In fact, I prefer a “set it and forget it” approach. I would set the timer on my phone or my watch, then go to work.

Time flies. And bam! Time’s up.

No pressure, no hassle.

Yes, people would argue that no pressure would probably mean slacking off. And what if I daydreamed, or got lost in web surfing?

And they’re absolutely right.

However, my experience tells me that, after a week or two, I got used to the rhyme and became more often aware of my driftings.

In case where I’m totally lost, no big deal! It must be that I’m up to something that means greatly to me, so a simple reminder would hardly make me stop (and so would you, admit it!). By the way, the alarm’s gonna sound off after 25 minutes and my dream will soon be over.

And here’s what you probably want also, to have someone (which is ourselves) to kindly, and occasionally, remind us that we’re at work, not to have a feeling that THAT someone who’s “here watching you kid!” 🤒.

Besides, productivity isn’t my primary motivation here. The most important thing is that I can enjoy my work and life at intervals, not “endure” it at intervals like the way people’ve been applying this technique 😉.

The way people use Pomodoro, in my opinion, seems to be similar to HIIT (High-intensity interval training – check out a comprehensive HIIT training here), a popular method of fitness. It’s a training technique, in which one performs short bursts of high-intensity exercises, followed by low-intensity exercises.

Again, HIIT worked wonder for me, for 2, 3 times a week. However, applying it every day is a different story.

3. How to use the Timer

After deciding the activity, set the timer for 25’, and start working.

If unexpected tasks occur, or if someone interrupts you, unless they’re urgent, either you schedule a proper time to address them, or leave them until the coming break.

Explain to them that you’re in the middle of something urgent, and tell them WHEN you will get back to them. Schedule this to your calendar.

When the alarm goes off, stop working, set the timer for 5’ break.

Now, many times I’m speeding up on the highway, and the timer goes off. I’d admit that it’s hard to take the exit, get out of the flow, then come back later and wonder how to take off again. Moreover, I fear I might forget an important idea I have in mind.

If you’re like me, feel free to finish what you’re doing before taking the break.

I’m fairly relaxed in this respect.

Also, I don’t take notes of how many Pomodoro sessions I complete per day, nor specific things that I did per session. It’s because my work is quite simple, where every day revolves around writing, editing, and developing/fixing EnjoyYrJourney blog.

If you work for clients, maybe it’s worthwhile to jot downs a few notes on the timesheet. Feel free to bend the rules.

Bonus: If you listen to music (any music lover here? I’m in love with instrumental) while working, you can set the timer to turn off the music on your devices.

Without music life would be a mistake ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Instead of getting the same boring reminder when the 25’ is over, the sudden stop of the music playback would kick you out of the zone.

Here I can show you how to do it on iPhone, iPad, or iTunes on your Mac (sorry Windows and Android users, I do have these devices, but I’m an Apple enthusiast).

So, for iPhone/iPad, you can turn off the music by using the Timer function in your Clock app. After setting the timer for 25’, click on “When Timer Ends” option, which opens a list of various ringtones. Scroll down to the bottom, select the option “Stop Playing”, then click “Set” at the top right of your device.

For iTunes on any Mac, we don’t have similar function ready, unfortunately. So, we’ll create a smart playlist, which contains all the songs we want, which duration lasts 25 minutes, so that our Mac stops playing music after running through all the songs in that list. I learn this setup from Alleny Gavin (2).

Please follow steps below:

i. Create a favorite playlist

Create a playlist that contains all the songs you’d like listening to.

In Music category of iTunes, right-click on the “All Playlists” on the left-hand side of iTunes window, select “New Playlist”.

Rename the list. I named it “Songs for Writing”.

To add songs, drag them to your list on the right side of the iTunes window.

ii. Create a smart playlist

Follow the same step above, right-click on the “All Playlists” and select “New Smart Playlist”.

This opens a new “Smart Playlist” window.

iii. Set the rules for your smart playlist

Tick the check-box “Match music (select “music” from the drop-down list) for the following rules”.

In the first box, change the option “Artist” to “Playlist” from the drop-down list.

In the third box, click on whatever shows up there and select [Name of the playlist you made in step i.]. For example, I have “Songs for Writing”.

Tick the check-box “Limit to”. Leave “25” in the fill-in box beside as is, and change the option “items” to “minutes” from the drop-down list. Leave the option “random” in the box next to “selected by” as is.

Your window should look like this

Click ok.

iv. Confirm duration of your smart playlist

Now, if your favorite playlist contains few songs for the Mac to choose, you might end up with a list that has duration UNDER 25 minutes, like me

If so, go back the rule-setting window (by clicking on “Edit Rules”) and increase the duration box 1, or 2 minutes. Try a few times. For me, I get the exact 25’ when limiting to 27’.

v. Ensure the “Repeat” option unticked

Now, the last step is to make sure the “Repeat” option unticked, so that your Mac stops playing as soon as it finishes the list.

Done! Enjoy the music.

You can change the songs by editing the rules to re-create a new list.

4. Take your break strategically, not habitually

A break is meant to give our brain and body time to refresh. So, during your break, it’s best to do something very different from what you’re working on.

I’m writing on my laptop, so if during my break I search web, watch YouTube, or check news on Facebook, etc., it would be taking a break from the work, but it wouldn’t be a break to the brain, nor the body.

Also, refrain from thinking/planning/finding ideas about whatever you’re working on. If you do that, your 5 minutes are not breaks, but rather pauses from your work.

During my breaks, I often meditate while walking around the house, doing housework, or while eating an apple (learn how to incorporate deep-breathing meditation into daily life in my post here). Such activities recharge my energy, clear my mind, and stretch my body.

You can’t believe how many things/activities you can do in just 5 minutes, if you give it some thoughts. Here’re some more to get you start: practice yoga posing, do a quick body massage, drink water, play with your pet/loved ones.

5. Working with colleagues/clients

This one is tricky. If your relationship is close enough, you may explain the technique and its benefits to others, and encourage them to try.

By the way, if you have poor salesmanship, like me, you can always point them to this post (I appreciate it!).

What’s more, everybody wins, when somebody shares (Jim Rohn). The others might consider that you treat them close enough to share something you believe, so that enhances your relationship, too.

Moreover, it’ll give the two of you something interesting (of course, otherwise I wouldn’t bother writing 4,000 words about it) to talk about (other than the “Looks like it’s about to rain today, don’t you think?”).

Plus, it’ll also give you two something to work together with. Working together is a great way to bond a relationship.

6. Use Pomodoro to Enjoy Your Playtime even more

Now, the idea of making playtime more enjoyable by timing and interrupting the activity seems absurd, right?

Well, head to this post to see if I can win you round.

We’ve all heard the saying: “Work hard, play hard”. Although we don’t spend as much time at play as we do at work, the physical and mental energy, emotion, and effort that we spend on our leisure activities and hobbies are equally intense, if not more, compared to our work.

If you don’t believe me, try playing computer game for 8 hours straight like the way you’d spend your time at work, and you’ll see what I mean.

So, for those meaningless harmful vices, entertainment and hobbies, set a timer of 25’ and prepare to stop when your need is 2/3 (65%) fulfilled.

When the time’s up, ask yourself this question

“Am I still feeling blue/hungry/thirsty/drowsy/lonely?”

If you honestly need more, set a new timer for another 25’ or less and repeat the process.

7. Be flexible, set your own rules

By now you’ve already got the main ideas of how Pomodoro works and how to apply it to your life.

Try it out my way.

I’ve got great results applying this technique. It doesn’t work every time though, yet I try to improve the technique along the way.

Once you’ve tried it out my way, feel free to break the rules in any way that works for you.

  • You can vary the duration. Some freelancers prefer 30’ blocks, as they charge clients that way; while others might settle in 10’ blocks. Or you might have only 15 minutes left before jumping to another appointment, then set a timer of 15’.
  • You can set different durations for different kinds of activities, as long as they are not too long so you don’t exert yourself too much, and not too short so you don’t ruin the fun. Practice moderation in all things.
  • You may change the ringtone to be more uplifting and inspiring.

=> Don’t rigidly follow the rules. The technique exists to help you enjoy your work and play, it’s not meant to control you. You control the technique, you master the technique, then bend it to make it work for you, no matter who told you you must do such and such to make it work. Rules are meant to be broken. So, feel free to break MY RULES (I’m happy with that, because you prove that you’re a student, not a follower).

This technique is a major tool that helps me enjoy my journey.

Suppose you buy my philosophy, why not give it a try?

And let me know your twist, and how it works out for you.

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

and until I see you again, be a student, not a follower!

 

References

(1) Cirillo, F. (2016). The Pomodoro Technique: Do more and have fun with time management. Cirillo Consulting GMBH. Retrieved from https://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique/book/

(2) Gavin, A. (2016). All You Will Ever Need to Know About iTunes Sleep Timer. MobiKin. Retrieved from https://www.mobikin.com/idevice/itunes-sleep-timer.html

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?

How To Have Better Sex With Those You Love – Too Much of a Good Thing could be Too Much & What to Do about It

M: “Wise One, have you ever hated the thing you love?”*

Before you start, let me clarify this. First, I thought the word “those” in the title should be “the things” (no, not THOSE things 🤭!).

But on my second thought, since the former appears to be a better “bait”, I decided to leave it there. The title should have been “Too Much of a Good Thing could be Too Much & What to Do about It”.

I had a dream, not noble nor great like the one that Martin Luther King had. My dream was to play Witcher 3 game on PC, when it was released 2 years ago. Playing computer game has always been my passion since I was a child.

And to make my dream come true, I even invested about 3,300 USD to get a top-of-the-line Alienware laptop, a significant amount compared to my income back then.

Actually, $1,500 could play the game just fine. But you know, when it comes to things that you love, “fine” is a shameful compromise. You want only the best.

So, I got the laptop, installed the game, gathered as much time as I could, got myself ready, and enjoyed Geralt’s adventures.

Only for a while!

As best as I could remember, after about a month or so, I lost my desire to play. Although I hadn’t finished the game, I no longer felt that much enthusiastic. Sure, it’s still fun to play. But, besides, I started to feel guilty about playing the game excessively.

I’d fallen into the trap of having too much of a good thing. The same thing might have happened to you. Let me play another scene.

You go shopping. And after turning into a corner, you smell of XYZ, your favorite food. The store is nearby, and you happen to feel hungry (Oh boy! How come such coincidence happens that often!). And so, it’s the nth time, which you’ve lost count, that you bought so much more food than you could eat. You sit there, scold yourself for being too piggy while struggling to finish whatever left, because 

1. Mom told you that it’s bad to throw away food, and 

2. This one’s your favorite. 

Hang on a second. Did you just say that it’s your favorite food? No, I lied about that. It’s my favorite food WHEN I’m hungry.

Sometime, somehow or other, we all are victims of such trap, “desire too much of a good thing”, to quote William Shakespeare.

There’re many meanings regarding what is considered to be “good”, but I’m not gonna start a philosophical debate here. My definition is simple, “good” in this sense refers to something desirable. Now whether such desirable things are beneficial or harmful, that’s another question of our intelligence. So,

You’ve landed that dream job.

You’ve planned lots of things to do and places to visit for the next vacation in that favorite country.

You’ve just discovered your life purpose, and that you have a passion for writing (sounds trouble to me!).

You’ve just quit your day job, and dreamed of having all the time you can get to do the ONE thing that you love. Why? Because “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”, a cliche that I’ve “heard” many people, too many that I care to remember, who said that it’s the one thing that made many OTHER people successful (sorry for the sarcasm!).

So what?

It’s tough luck trying to enjoy 16-hours days on your dream job, or to blissfully rush around to checkmark your to-play list during your holiday.

High hopes are often accompanied by great despairs!

I’ve found out that, unfortunately, no matter how much fun that I have, staying on top of my love is still hard labor to me. And after 8 hours, I’m exhausted.

I’ve learned the lesson. Sometimes, having too much of a good thing is too much.

~o~

These days, I try to practice Socrates’s advice:

Everything in moderation. Nothing in excess

My translation: Don’t overindulge in things that we desire.

Again, whether the things that we desire add to our well-being, or satisfy our vices, it is another question. So, please, don’t twist my words for this.

A common misunderstanding of this wise quote is to take it to be that we can have everything, as long as it is in moderation. No! If the thing is a poison, should you have it in moderation? Of course no! Only a fool would do that! You said?

Yeah right. But you’re wising off on the wrong man, let me show you many others, who had done, are doing, and will be doing so. In fact, there’s one you might be familiar with, Rumi The Fool! If you suffer an ingrained addiction, you should have first-hand experience that any amount is NEVER okay.

So, I think it’s worthwhile to remind you of Oscar Wilde, who said: “Everything in moderation…including moderation”. Take the middle way, practice being moderate in all things.

By moderation, for me, it means 65%, or 2/3, of what would normally give me full satisfaction. Where do I get such idea? From economics, the “law of diminishing return”, which states that:

“…in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production, while holding all others constant (“ceteris paribus”), will at some point yield lower incremental per-unit returns. The law of diminishing returns does not imply that adding more of a factor will decrease the total production…” (wiki)

Suppose I’m bored to death, the law states that I’d get a lot more fun (my return) during my first 30’ of playing Witcher game (my investment) than the next 30’. Keep playing, and my satisfaction goes up slower and slower (hence lower incremental return on time invested), until exhaustion and guilt set in.

So I’d be better off stopping the game after one hour to get the best value from my time. Note that I don’t necessarily need to be fully satisfied, as reaching that level requires much more time due to the diminishing return.

Besides, I’d rather leave my need unfulfilled to retain my interest, thus ensure high return on my time investment in the next session. Thus,

Stop when you’re 2/3 of the way 

Below is the strategy I use to apply this idea in daily life:

A. For Basic Needs

If it’s a need (or a vice, I should say), stop at 2/3 before your need is fulfilled. Now I know that there’re exceptions, for example, sleep.

One problem with “full” or “2/3” is that they are subjective measurements. And due to my tendency to crave for more with regard to the things I want, I wouldn’t trust myself when I say “My need hasn’t been fully satisfied, I need to have more”.

So, I use this question to know whether it’s time to stop an activity:

“Am I still feeling blue/hungry/thirsty/drowsy/lonely?”

I learned this question from Dan Buettner (1), who promotes the idea of stop eating when we are 80% full, or “hara hachi bu”.

With regard to eating, Gemma Sampson (2), a dietitian specializing in performance nutrition for endurance sports, advises to consume your meal slowly, so that your brain has time to register how full your stomach is. That means for those who have a habit of having lunch at your desk, you need to consciously plan a reasonable amount of time.

Now, how much is 65%? It depends. “Know thyself”. If you do eat your meal slowly, after a while, you will get a good idea of the amount.

Back to the topic, set a timer (use your phone; or, if you wear Apple Watch or a smartwatch, it’s super convenient to use the timer there by moving the app to the watch home screen) of 25 minutes.

When the time’s up, ask yourself the question “Am I still feeling blue/hungry/thirsty/drowsy/lonely?”. If you honestly need more, set a new timer for another 25 minutes or less and repeat the process.

B. For Things that Contribute to Well-being

For those things that are beneficial to us, no matter whether you like them or not, such as working, exercising, moving out of comfort zone, developing good habits, spending time with family/friends, etc., use a different question.

When your 25 minutes is up, ask yourself:

“Am I still comfortable continuing this?”

If the answer is “Kind of”, consider it’s time to stop. Even if you’re confident you can do more, stop yourself when you’re just above comfortable. Move out of your comfort zone, yet not too far. Don’t stretch yourself too much.

Now, how do you know when you’re merely above comfortable level? It’s a subjective question that involves trials-and-errors.

However, if an activity requires continuing for a long time, like working, instead of stopping, you take a 5 minutes break, and repeat the process.

~o~

Follow this strategy, and you will enjoy those things you love, without one day finding yourself, like I used to be, hating the loves of your life.

And what’s more? You can apply this philosophy in sex as well, don’t overdo it.

Uh, I mean the philosophy only, not the “2/3” formula, save me the trouble of having to explain to your partner afterward.

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!

 

* W: “Yes, whenever I’m mistaken it to be the only thing that I have”.

 

References

(1) Buettner, D. (2011). Enjoy Food and Lose Weight with One Simple Phrase. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/thrive/201101/enjoy-food-and-lose-weight-one-simple-phrase

(2) Sampson, G. (2014). What does everything in moderation really mean?. Retrieved from http://dietitianwithoutborders.com/what-does-everything-in-moderation-really-mean/

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!