Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Strongest Chains Are The Ones You Forge Yourself

Life is a journey, and along the way it's possible to lose sight of the path. Over time, as I've worked on self improvement I've shed negativity and misdirected anger like a snake shedding its skin.

With one notable exception. I chose to harbor negative feelings on one subject and express them frequently. All of us have a pet subject or two that we're unwilling to relinquish. Like heavy boozing, being mean for its own sake can be fun and entertaining. However, like heavy drinking, it takes a toll, albeit a psychological rather than a physical one.

Over time, the cumulative effect of hanging on to that bitterness added up. I began to notice it tarnishing my psyche in other aspects of my life. Opportunity, previously abundant, declined. Good decisions were replaced by bad ones. By nurturing bad feelings on one single subject, I was harming myself in many other ways. Much like probing an abscess or a sore tooth brings brief satisfaction, leaving it unhealed only spread the sickness further.

Sometimes the obvious lessons are so obvious, and so right in front of you that it's hard to see them. Once I realized the damage I had done to myself, and begun to heal, the positive changes began to add up almost instantly, on every level of my life. Now that I've found the path again, it's so obvious I can't believe that I didn't see it before.

Now that I've set myself free from shackles that I created for myself, I can look back and recognize how badly I had limited myself by holding on to bad feelings that didn't benefit me in any way. Now it's time to make up for time wasted on unfruitful pursuits, and keep moving forward.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Time To Start Listening To The Universe

My earlier post entitled "Find A Way Or Make One" caused me to meditate on aphorisms, and how they get restated or reiterated. Oftentimes, they endure, because the underlying truth is there, regardless of semantic differences.

One aphorism that resonated with me when I first heard it is, "The universe will keep sending you the same message until you finally get it."

It's coherent advice, whether you believe in a God, gods, a higher power, the wheel of karma or that we live in a Newtonian world of apparently stochastic events.

Even if you eschew the idea of a Higher Power, you probably still believe in cause and effect. Regardless of what your particular demons are, the consequences of being ruled by them are going to keep happening to you until you get over them.

You're going to keep receiving the same message, and it's telling you that "this isn't working" until you finally clue in and realize that if want a different result, you need a different process. Unhappy with the outcome? Change what you've been doing to get there.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Find A Way Or Make One

"We will either find a way, or make one!"
-- Hannibal

You don't have to be a bloody-handed warlord seeking to sack the capital of an empire to find useful meaning in Hannibal's famous quote.

In fact, it mirrors my favorite aphorism, which is "If you want to do something you'll find a way, if you don't you'll find an excuse."

If you look around, the underlying principle has been reiterated over and over again, one way or another. Pablo Picasso once said "Everything is either easy or impossible." And martial artist James Williams explains it thusly:

One of the core principles of Nami Ryu is that every problem comes with its own solution. Problems are not presented that do not have solutions. It's the way the universe works. Our task becomes to recognize the existing solution instead of trying to solve the problem from a preconceived technical or philosophical framework.

Without further belaboring the point, look at your own life with your eyes wide open. Many of the things you perceive as threats or barriers are magnified by your fears, and less daunting once you start actively working to achieve the solutions you need.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Aim Between The Trees

When I lived in the mountains, I had the good fortune to ski with people who were far better skiers than me; professional instructors, ski patrollers and mountain guides. Few things encourage skill development more than having to keep up with people who are better at something than you are (which is a whole other blog post in itself).

In addition to skiing with people who raised the bar for me, another benefit of skiing with pro instructors was free ski lessons worth thousands of dollars. You see, good ski instructors are natural educators; they love to teach, it's in their blood, and even when they're off the clock, they can't stop. Those on-piste and backcountry days with my new friends were liberally sprinkled with friendly advice. I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut, smile and nod, and apply what they were teaching me.

One of the most obvious yet important tips was that when you're moving downhill at high speed, don't fixate on the obstacles like rocks and trees, look between them. Where you look is where you steer. If you stare at an immovable object, your brain will steer you towards it. Look at the space between the trees, and that's where you brain will steer you.

Simple advice, and it's true whether you're skiing, biking, driving a car, or even living your life.

The temptation to fixate on the perils of daily life is almost irresistible: losing your job, breaking up a relationship, or whatever. When a big scary iceberg is looming in front of you, it's hard not to focus on it.

Yet you must not. You need to be aware of it, and you have to be prepared to deal with it, but staring at it and obsessing over it is no more effective than a deer's strategy of staring at the oncoming headlights.

If anything, fixating on your obstacles to the exclusion of any thoughtful problem solving is a self-sabotaging behavior. If you obsess over it and worry yourself sick over it, you risk steering yourself towards exactly that outcome: the one you didn't want in the first place.

If you fear losing your job, and you subconsciously decide that it's a predetermined outcome, guess what? You're going to push yourself over the brink, maybe without even knowing that you're doing it.

The space between the trees is the positive outcome you want to have happen. Focus on it, plan for it, and take the steps you need to make in order to reach it. The trees and rocks are still going to be there, that's the way life is, but steer between them, not straight at them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Now Say Something Positive

The fact that negativity is rewarded in society is self-evident to anyone who can turn on a television or read a gossip website. It's pervasive, and we're all encouraged to be that way, pretty much all the time.

It's pervasive, because society rewards it, by and large. From Perez Hilton, to the unprivate woes of the Jon and Kate Plus 8 couple, it seems like we all love to hate.

I know personally, the blog posts I've made at LeeDistad.com that say snide things about business issues get far more traction than the ones that don't. Like the food critic in Ratatouille said, it's often fun to be negative and mean for it's own sake.

Don't forget that a little cynicism is healthy. Certainly, it doesn't hurt to be unafraid to point out to someone that they're pissing on your leg and trying to tell you it's raining.

But how much is enough? If you're a bottomless pit of cynicism, how are you going to enjoy life at all? Who even wants to spend time with you if everything out of your mouth is a critique?

Like all guilty pleasures, negativity is something that you have to enjoy in moderation. If, like booze, you feel powerless over it, maybe the best thing you can do for yourself is abstain.

Another alternative, is that if you indulge in negative commentary, follow it with something positive. Say to yourself, "Now say something positive." Much like a palette-cleanser between courses, refocusing on positivity will help get the taste out of your mouth.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Making Changes

After some reflection, I'm doing some housekeeping, and adjusting the focus of Audacious Thinking.

First, I've replaced the Quotes Of The Day with a widget on the right-hand side. I felt that the daily quotes were drowning out the posts that I (infrequently) make on happiness and self-improvement. Since this blog is an exercise in practicing my own voice (in first-person positive, no less), I'm sure that it's the right call.

Second, I'll see about adding content a little more frequently. There's no reason why I haven't been consistently writing for Audacious Thinking that isn't just an excuse. I'm working on it.

Other than that, I'm monkeying with the fonts and colours, but that's pretty ephemeral to the overall message I'm trying to get across here.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 12, 2009

There's A Fine Line Between Goals And Barriers

While setting goals is critical, you need to achieve them. That's the whole point, after all.

Oddly enough, goals can become barriers. You set them, but never reach them. Or if you do reach them, it took an unusual amount of time and effort to do so.

Self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors come in a lot of different guises, and can have many different underlying motivations.

Making a conscious effort to change and progress can be one of the scariest things a person can undertake. Even in the most motivated individual, deep down you'll find kernels of doubt and worry.

Often, when faced with a goal, there's a feeling of existential dread, of worrying "what then?" Other times, you lack a deep-seated belief that you can do it. Wanting it, and wanting to do it are two different things. Lots of people "want" things, but lack the resolve to take the steps on the path to get there.

Set goals. Achieve them. Once you're there, set some new goals and set about achieving them.