Addictions

I’ve had some strong addictions in my life: TV. Internet (YouTube, Facebook, and mindless browsing). Food (specifically overeating and eating out of boredom). Thrifting.

In the last year, I’ve actively worked on most of these. I moved out of my parents’ house and into an apartment where I specifically and intentionally didn’t get a tv nor an internet connection. I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly and easily I overcame those, and didn’t even miss them. In my journey into minimalism, I’ve kicked my addiction to thrift store shopping. I credit Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to this. It literally changed my life and I am so incredibly grateful, my words cannot even do justice to the relief and gratitude I feel.

I am still working on overcoming my food addiction. This is by far the strongest and most difficult to break.

But today I wanted to talk about how being in certain environments and around certain people, who share your addictions, is so enabling and such a step backwards.

When I go to my parents’ house, there is junk food everywhere. I literally have no self control when I’m over there. Luckily I am full of self control at the grocery store, and never ever even once buy crappy food to bring into my home. It’s almost as if I see it as bringing in some dark, sinful, morally wrong thing that I would never allow into my home. But, once there is bad food in front of me, all control is lost.

The way I bond with my parents is through watching tv. I go over every Sunday night for dinner – but it’s not a sit-down “family dinner”. We all sit in front of the tv and [over]eat while watching some inconsequential show. And then again on Monday night I go over to watch The Bachelor/ette with my mom. This is truly how we bond. The last few seasons I told myself (and others) that I wasn’t going to watch it. But yet here I am again.

I know very well that going to my parents’ house is a bad place for me. It tempts me with my tv and food addictions. But I feel like a bad daughter if I don’t go hang out with my parents. Or I would feel ungrateful if I refused a dinner invitation.

The last addiction I mentioned above is thrifting, which my mom also shares. Her house is full of clutter and I genuinely feel emotionally uncomfortable being in her house and being around all of that stuff.

What I’ve realized, basically, is that I am uncomfortable and tempted when I go to their house. I want to stop. One big reason I just quit my job was because I can’t mentally afford to keep bringing my dog over to my mom to babysit during the day. Because it means that I have to go over there. And to get tempted every day. I know I’m not strong enough to handle it.

I think I know what I need to do. I need to just stop going over there. Find a different babysitter for the dog. And maybe feel like a crappy daughter but I need to take care of myself. This isn’t about a lack of care for my parents. It’s about how its been a lack of care for myself for so long. And I think I finally want that to stop.

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Just be glad to be here

Just be glad to be here

As I usually do while shopping online, I listened to Pandora radio tonight. One of my favorite stations is Buddha Bar, and a song that often plays is called Hayling and it’s by FC Kahuna.

I’ve heard this song many times but tonight the words struck me as more than just words, but actually something of meaning:

Don’t think about all those things you feel

Just be glad to be here

If you’re stressed out right now about money, or about that person who’s under-appreciating you, or about family drama, or your messy house, or whatever else it may be — stop thinking about it for awhile, and just be glad to be here. Be glad to be alive.

Remember what Carl Sagan said and reprioritize those things which are bringing you stress.

Tomorrow is another day. You can think about your stuff then.

Or you can listen to this song again.

Conditional kindness isn’t good enough

Conditional kindness isn’t good enough

In light of the recent shootings and various acts of violence going on in our country and around the world, there’s been a lot of posts on social media about how we need to love each other and stop tolerating hate, etc. This is of course great and I completely agree.

But here’s something I saw shared recently:

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Now while it’s clear the intention here is to be another one of those lovey-dovey “I’m helpful” and “I’m a decent member of society” posts, the reality of this message is no better than the violence it’s presumably against.

When kindness is conditional

The caveat “if you’re nice to me” is really quite dangerous. What happens when someone isn’t nice to you? How will you react? Will you act out in violence? Or maybe withhold kindness and call it fair? Because if so, your heart is in the same place as those whom I refuse to name.

We need to love people. That’s it. Love people. Which people? All people.

But what if they’re not nice to me? ALL people.

Even the people who are jerks. They’re the ones who are most vulnerable and most in need of love. And your acts of kindness towards them will likely make a bigger impact on them than on the nice people who share your religious and political views.

Whether you want to take a page out of Jesus’ book or Buddha’s, there’s a lot to learn about unconditional kindness that I for one would love to see implemented in our society on a much larger scale than it is now.

Us vs. them

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When we see people as separate from ourselves — whether they are different because they are “black, which, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, rich, or poor” or any plethora of other differences we can have —we feel less inclined to help them. They aren’t family; they aren’t friends. They “don’t even go here“. So when they’re in trouble, why should we come to their rescue? In fact why should we even be that friendly towards them unless they are friendly to us first?

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A better alternative

How would the world be if everyone took a proactive approach to kindness? If we all reached out with love for one another, regardless of the response we might get, or not get. What if we gave kindness without conditions or expectations?

Imagine that’s how you lived your life every day. How would you then feel if someone suggested to you that you be nice to someone if they were nice to you?

That would require you to now decrease your kindness. You’d go from being kind to everybody, to now only those who are kind to you. This idea would likely sound odd to you, and feel very unnatural.

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If being kind to everyone without conditions or expectations is our natural state, then we will indeed grow to find anything else unnatural and uncomfortable. The person I aspire to be creates positive change by being a light in a world of darkness. I aspire to give kindness to those who need it most, to those who need it least, and to everyone in between. And I hope the kindness they receive will inspire them to pass it on to the next person. But if not, I will accept that. I can’t control how people react or what they do with my kindness. I can only control myself.

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Who do you aspire to be?

How to pronounce התנ״ך (Tanakh in Hebrew)

How to pronounce התנ״ך (Tanakh in Hebrew)

So I started learning Hebrew.

In my excitement I installed an assortment of apps from which to learn and practice.  One of them is the Bible in Hebrew (as it’s ultimately my goal in learning Hebrew to be able to read the Bible in its original language.)  The app is called Hebrew Bible but on my phone it appears as התנ״ך.

As of earlier this afternoon, my Hebrew skills allowed me to sound out ha-ta-na-[something that looks like quotation marks]-kha.  For some odd reason it was driving me absolutely crazy that I didn’t know what those two quotation marks meant.  I had just started learning the letters within the last few days and hadn’t bothered learning all the vowel marks.  Were they two י (yodh)s??  Two “ee” sounds??  Did that turn it into an “ai” then??  So now it’s ha-ta-nai-kha??

After googling “hatanaikha hebrew” and as many spelling variations as I could to no avail, google was finally like, Did you mean: tanakh hebrew?

I hadn’t heard the word “tanakh” before so I checked into it and it turns out it is the canon of the Hebrew Bible.  Fun fact: it is actually an acronym for its three books: the Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim.  I was also able to confirm that somehow התנ״ך is pronounced tanakh.  But what’s with the ה in front?  (Hebrew is read right to left for anyone extremely confused right now.)  And how do the quotation marks make an “ah” sound?  Couldn’t they be done without?

More googling.  “Hebrew quotation marks” and variations thereof eventually led me to this amazing discovery:

The gershayim״⟩, is a Hebrew symbol symbolizing that a sequence of characters is an acronym, and is placed before the last character of the word.

I instantly remembered that fun fact I had discovered earlier and this sentence gave me all the rest I needed to know.

Except there’s still a “ha” in the front!  What is this??  Oh well, I gave up.

A few hours later I was going through some hebrew lessons on youtube and I got to this lesson which answered the remaining question!

Mystery solved!  But gosh, it was difficult to come to this answer.  I imagine there must be other people who decide to learn Hebrew, happen to install the same app, see the title, and are confused.  Only to google it and find nothing.  So, friends, I decided to write the answer here in my very own little corner of the internet.

If you are someone who happened to google this question and came across this blog post, please let me know in the comments!

Silent but deadly

Silent but deadly

Wow.  This post just woke me up.

Its called Silent Approval and its written by Steve Pavlina.

“Suppose your child misbehaves right in front of you, but you say nothing.  Or suppose you manage people at work, and you notice one of your underlings making a serious mistake, but you don’t bother to bring it to his/her attention.  That’s silent approval.”

At this point, most can agree that this silent approval thing isn’t good.  But then Pavlina blew my mind by asking this:

“What problems in your life do you witness often, but instead of consciously dealing with them, you turn away from them?”

To which I answered, “Wow.  Everything.”

Oh my goodness.  I am suddenly so aware of what a total joke my life is.  How many times do I sit around doing the same things, and then complain about them later?

As some like to say, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  It was Einstein who coined it, so I guess we can trust him.

The areas of my life which are bringing me dissatisfaction are piling up more and more as time goes by, and very few of them have I actually consciously tried to remedy.  What’s wrong with me?  Why have I been silently approving these things all this time?

I think I somehow thought that they would change on their own.

“If you want to change the results you’re getting, you cannot use silent approval.  You have to begin dictating a new standard for yourself.  Whenever you notice your new standards being violated, you must bring it to conscious awareness.  Interrupt your old pattern of silent approval with noisy disapproval.”

This is like what T. Harv Eker suggests in Secrets of the Millionaire Mind (one of my all-time favorite books).  He says that whenever you find yourself thinking a negative thought, think “CANCEL” and cut off the thought then and there.

So often we let ourselves carry on with negative thoughts or negative behaviors that aren’t getting us anywhere – or worse, are moving us backward – without so much as taking notice.  They’ve become routine.  “It is the way it is” and so on.

But I’m going to actively stay more alert to what I am doing (and thinking) and whether or not it is helping me or making me unhappy.  Afterall, as Pavlina says, “Silent approval makes your problems impossible to solve.  You cannot solve what you refuse to identify.”

“Silent approval is one of fear’s best friends” – and Fear has outstayed his welcome as it is.  He’s years late on his rent and he’s an unfriendly roommate  to begin with.  I’ve had enough.

Now that you’ve read this post, are you more aware of some things you’ve been silently approving that have outstayed their welcome?

Teachings from Steve Pavlina and Jesus, and what it means to be lucky

Teachings from Steve Pavlina and Jesus, and what it means to be lucky

Its been awhile since I last posted about something cool I found on the internet.  (Which is unfortunate, since that’s really why I started this blog.)

This morning I found myself reading Noah Kagan’s blog (which I have just recently found and subscribed to), which then led me back to a popular favorite: Steve Pavlina’s blog.  I don’t even know how many tabs I have open right now.

I just finished an article by Pavlina aptly called The Parable of Talents.  For those who are unfamiliar, The Parable of Talents is a story told by Jesus in Matthew 25  of the Bible (Matthew 25:14-30.)

Its about a master who gives his servants different sums of money (aka talents).  One gets 5, one gets 2, and one gets 1.  The one who gets 5 goes off, invests it, and returns with 5 more, totaling 10.  The one with 2 does the same, doubling his to 4.  But the one who had only 1 chooses instead to keep what he has and bury it, rendering it ultimately useless.  The master is very pleased with his first two servants and shares his joy with them.  But he is disappointed in the third servant and casts him away.

Pavlina gives a commentary on this story in the broader context of personal development.  The first thing that struck me about his article is how he notes that each servant was given a different starting position, and how this parallels our own lives.  Some of us are blessed with more talents than others (whether we’re talking here about money or the more colloquial meaning of talent).  But its what we do with what we’re given that matters.

“Jesus acknowledges the unfairness of life, but he also suggests that our starting conditions are irrelevant.  One person earns five talents, another earns only two, but both are congratulated equally.”

This concept is something that I’ve really been noticing lately, and trying to remember.  Having the understanding and acceptance that everyone has their own story, their own journey – complete with a unique starting point – really helps me keep things in a realistic and appropriate perspective.

Its so easy to look at someone who is more successful, more fit, or more giving, and feel down about oneself.  We see where they are right now, and we compare it to where we are right now.  But we don’t consider that we may be at our starting point while they are nearer completion; or perhaps we have spent equal time travelling, yet our starting point was farther back than theirs.

And really, its those times when we overcome a difficult starting point, and achieve something great, that is noteworthy.  Even if our achievement is only that we’ve come as far as we are now, its still quite impressive when you consider the obstacles we’ve overcome.  Now compare that to that “lucky” person who had everything at the start!

In a few areas of my life, I feel that I have been blessed with a good starting point.  I haven’t had to work as hard as some other people to achieve the same things.  In these areas, I’ve always considered myself “lucky”.  But take note of this point Steve Pavlina makes:

“If you happen to be one of those who receives five talents, don’t pat yourself on the back that you’re already above average.  If you have abundant talents, you should expect even more from yourself.”

For too long now, I have overvalued my starting point.  For example, my family has never really struggled with money, so that’s a reality I’ve been “lucky” enough to avoid.  As such, it was always assumed that I would go to school, make something of myself, and be successful in return.  I didn’t have to work as hard to prove myself, because I was born into a situation where it was already proven.  (In a sense.)

Similarly, I was able to pass my classes without too much effort.  So, naturally, I used that to my advantage, rarely studied or did my homework, and somehow ended up with a high school diploma.

Okay, so now that we know my starting point, let’s take a look at where I am now:

…Kind of nowhere.

I have such a high standard for myself, that I don’t want to do a lot of things most people do.  Like graduate college, get a “real job”, etc.  I’ve been fortunate enough to live with my parents and not have to pay rent (which is especially convenient considering the no degree and no job bit).  Because of this, I still consider myself to be “lucky”.  Hey, I don’t have to work or go to school, and I can live for free!

So why have I put “lucky” in quotes every time I’ve mentioned it?  Because taking a look at me, blessed with the great starting point, coasting through school and life up until this point, and now looking at what I’ve made of myself – and then comparing that to someone who may have had a much worse starting point, who may have had to put in many long hours studying and working and doing things that weren’t enjoyable, and now they have a successful career and a fulfilling life – which one is really “lucky”?

“What matters isn’t what we’re given — it’s what we do with it that matters.”

Reading Steve Pavlina’s post is yet another reminder to prioritize where I am vs. where I should be; to realistically evaluate myself not on where I’ve started but on where I’ve gotten myself and continue to get myself.

So – why have I let myself coast and sit around, and not take advantage of the great start life gave me?

Pavlina brings up another point from the Parable: the reason the third servant chose to hide his money instead of use it, was out of fear.  He only had 1, and didn’t want to risk losing it.  But in so doing, the money really didn’t serve him at all, as if he had none to begin with.  So basically, he was living as though his worst fear was his reality.

That’s pretty much my life to a T.  I worked hard at a minimum wage coffee house job for a year, saving up money so that I could go travel or move somewhere exciting, or do something with my life.  But, I ended up not going, and now those savings have been sitting in the bank, useless, dwindling away slowly over the last 6 months.  I’m not using them for the fun they were meant to buy.  So I might as well not even have them.

But the worst part is, having that money gives me another [false sense of a] good starting point.  I think, “hey, I have these savings – I could go places [if I wanted]!”  Its really just giving me a false sense of security, and a false sense of accomplishment.  Because in all practical terms, I have nothing.  Money just sitting in the bank, is nothing.

So how does one brush off these unrealistic self-perceptions, these lies we tell ourselves to feel better about ourselves when we haven’t done anything?

I think perhaps the key is in the next point Pavlina draws, when he poses the question, “What would have happened if one of the servants who invested the money realized a loss instead of a gain?” – i.e., if your worst-case scenario comes true and you utterly fail, then what?

Pavlina conjectures that the master would have praised the servant for trying and failing, because any action is better than inaction.  The third servant was reprimanded for inaction.  The first two servants were praised – but for their action, or “faithfulness”, not their results.

“However, given that Jesus doesn’t directly address this condition in the parable, he may also be suggesting that faith itself is the path to success — a common theme in his other teachings.  So perhaps if you use your talents faithfully, you aren’t really going to lose.”

And finally, Pavlina points out that the servants’ ultimate reward isn’t the money itself (as it was their master’s money and investments, not theirs).  What they receive is to share in the happiness.  The happiness of helping their master, of taking action, of doing well.

I hope you’ve taken something away from this post.  What I took away from Pavlina’s was a reminder that action is always better than inaction – and that even failure is a better result than inaction.  And that all the things I consider myself “lucky” to have, are really not giving me any real benefit at all.  Sure, they give me some baseline happiness and temporary life-support; but if anything, they are inhibiting my development.  And its really high time I stop being so dependent on them.

Do you consider yourself to be lucky?  Have you had a good start or a more challenging one?  What action have you taken since?

Tim Ferriss and my depleted ego

My friend Heath shared this Tim Ferris blog post with me the other day, called Understanding the Dangers of “Ego-Depletion”.  Its actually a guest post written by Dan Ariely, who is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics.

Ariely presents the idea that, basically, we can only make good decisions so many times, before we are too mentally exhausted to continue.  These “good decisions” are things that require will power, like skipping dessert or working on a less-than-exciting project.  Each decision requires a certain amount of effort, and when our lives are such that we are constantly making these often challenging or personally limiting decisions, after awhile our ego just gets depleted, and we fall flat on our face.

“Here’s the reason we make bad decisions: we use our self-control every time we force ourselves to make the good, reasonable decision, and that self-control, like other human capacities, is limited.”

Consider the typical dieter: He might make some rules for himself (or maybe his doctor made them) such as no sugar, no carbs, etc.  So for each meal of the day, he has to consciously try and make a good decision about what to eat.  Depending on how stressful his day was, he might be running on empty by dinner time and end up making a bad decision.  Or, maybe he’s done well for a week but is starting to lose momentum.  Consider Ariely’s question:

“From your own experience, are you more likely to finish half a pizza by yourself on a) Friday night after a long work week or b) Sunday evening after a restful weekend? The answer that most people will give, of course, is “a”. And in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s on stressful days that many of us give in to temptation and choose unhealthy options. The connection between exhaustion and the consumption of junk food is not just a figment of your imagination.”

Ariely then gives 6 easy rules to avoid caving under pressure (as well as a pretty realistic mock internal debate about food that I’m sure we’ve all had!)  He also sites some interesting studies that demonstrate participants’ wilting ability to focus, remember, and succeed at given tasks as their stress or distraction escalates.

Reading this article made me consider the things I do, and whether or not they are due to ego depletion.  I make a number of “bad decisions” on a daily basis (eating junk food, staying up late, procrastinating, etc), but I do these things so often that I have to wonder if they’re due the ego depletion or just a lack of motivation.  But then, what’s causing my lack of motivation?  Chances are, its ego depletion.  My day-to-day life isn’t particularly stressful – in fact, its pretty cushy – but I have underlying stresses that are with me at all times (student loans, getting a job, deciding if I want to move) which definitely put a tinted shade on the rest of my life.  Perhaps if I didn’t have those stresses, I would choose to eat salads more often, or get back into a routine of working out every day?  Ariely acknowledges that one can’t completely avoid stress and potential ego depletion, but calls upon the common saying “knowing is half the battle”.  And I for one am glad to have this new perspective on what might be causing the lack of motivation I’ve settled quite [un]comfortably into for the last few years.

Do you suffer from ego depletion?  Have you found ways to overcome it?