Five Things That Wont Change Who You Are (but will improve your experience)
May 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
In an era of information overload, lists are conveniently condensed pockets of information. We scroll through the points, nod to ourselves, and our guilt is temporarily relieved by our two minute browse. But do we ever really apply the advice? Information is important, well and true, but taking action is essential. What, you might ask, is the bridge between these two stages? It’s both the simplest and most difficult element of change: motivation. Your motive for any changes in your life has to be strong enough to spark the fuel (information and knowledge) into action. In the following, I’ll be addressing five things that will improve your experience, and how to combat the difficulty of motivation.
1. (Eins / Uno / Yī) – Beauty and Inspiration
Fill your life with beauty, art and ingenuity. If you’re a creative type, gain a deep understanding of the work of your role models and fill your physical spaces with it (art, books, music, etcetera). For those more technically minded, beauty (importantly, beautiful spaces) have a direct correlation with happiness. With 80% of us living in cities, we don’t quite realise the benefits of nature in our lives. Be inspired by the stillness of the wild, and apply it to your life. Wander into a forest and just sit and listen; the total immersion you’ll experience will be so unusual but so anciently familiar. It’s rather difficult to feel depressed when you are continually reminded of the beauty that exists in the world. Here’s a list of outdoorsy cities to live in. Make an effort to fill your life with beautiful and inspiring creations, and give yourself a regular dose of nature, you’ll surely be happier for it.
2. (Zwei / Dos / Èr) – Consistency
Consistency is boring. Consistency is predictable. Consistency, when put against intelligence and creativity and all of those wonderful ‘special snowflake’ traits, wins outright when it comes to achieving anything in life. You’ll find some incredibly dull, unimaginative people in some very high up positions in society, simply because they turned up, again and again. For any of your endeavours in life, you need boring old consistency. Why is it that we struggle to be consistent, even with our passions?
We simply get more instant gratification from cycling through movies, facebook and checking emails. But what effect does these behavioural patterns have on our lives, our self-esteem and importantly, our long term happiness? The effect, I’m sure you’ll all agree, can only be negative. If you’ve struggled with this throughout your life, it is unlikely that you’ll become a paragon of self-discipline, but you can deal with the problem intuitively:
Marli Huijer, a Dutch psychologist, proposed that for those of us who lack discipline, we need to rely on the external. Create a network of discipline and obligation around you. Make yourself and your goals accountable by sharing them with friends/colleagues. Secondly, break your goals down into weekly and daily tasks, which can reduce the terror of daunting dreams like ‘make a living from art’. Instead, perhaps, say to yourself that you’ll do ‘one watercolour and one digital painting by the end of the day’. Give yourself manageable baby steps. Technology makes delegating very convenient; Toggl is nifty in that you can measure how long you’re spending on activities (productive or procrastinating).
3. (Drei / Tres / Sān) – Challenging People
Every single interaction you have with people has the potential to teach you something. Why, then, do we squander this potential throughout our lives? Because we’re too immersed in our own stories. In communication, especially those of conflict / dissent, try to look at the situation objectively rather than subjectively. Your angry, ‘slave-driver’ boss might seem tyrannical and unfair to you, but they simply function differently. If you value depth of thought, for example, imagine how infuriating it’d be if someone said ‘reading and art are for bozos’. Now, say your boss (seems to be a recurring if clichéd example!) values accuracy and time-keeping, and you fail to follow through. Your actions not only make his job more difficult, they also go against his very values as a person. It’s exactly the same, it’s just that you have different values.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
Instead of feeling angry or sorry for yourself, reflect on the idea that his values are a necessity. A good manager is not always a nice manager, and that’s an unfortunate truth. You might say “but Whitemowgli, some people are just assholes!”. To this, I beseech you to understand why. Look to the source of the problem; is it simply insecurity? Ignorance? Understanding the bigger picture when it comes to people’s stories will benefit your interactions immeasurably. Similarly, change the way you think about critical friends. I often offer my unbiased opinion to people and, depending on their personality, they react differently. Some are unaffected, some intrigued, and some enraged. In a world filled with deceivingly positive affirmations and feedback, many of us don’t experience the benefits of cut-the-bullshit objective advice.
Lastly, look into personality typology, notably the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) inspired by the work of Carl Jung. Taking the test, along with getting friends and colleagues to do so too, has provided me with so much perspective, as well as cultivated in me acceptance of people’s differences.
4. (Vier / Quattro / Sì) – Being Vulnerable
“To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself.”
To many of us, to be vulnerable is to be weak. Exposing yourself makes you more susceptible to risk, of all shapes and sizes. Little do we realise, then, that the very thing we’re hiding from is essential to our human experience. From our work to our relationships, being in a place of vulnerable open-mindedness is so vital, so necessary, that a life lived without it is one of regret. The artist must be able to put a bit of herself into each creation, reveal herself to the world, and say ‘this is mine, I created this, it may be imperfect, but it is mine‘. In business and entrepreneurship, vulnerability is also essential. Gay Gaddis, owner of the T3 Think Tank, said “When you shut down vulnerability, you shut down opportunity.” Ego preservation works both ways; you might risk less, but you almost certainly gain less, too. Take a moment to watch the TedTalk video below. Brené Brown has gained a profound insight on the subjects of human connections, happiness and vulnerability:
5. (Fünf / Cinco / Wǔ) – Stop Reading Self-help Lists!
Okay, that might be a bit of ironic hyperbole, but we (yes, we, I’m struggling with this too!) need to realise something very important. In trying to change who we are, we’re coming from a place of lack. We’re attempting to demolish solid foundations (who we are) with tiny chisels; it’s an exercise in painful futility.
“The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”
Instead, come from a place of abundance. When you consider the abundance of intelligence, empathy, experience, love and joy our foundations are built out of, you’ll realise ‘damn, I really am enough’ and cultivating growth will be a complete breeze. Put yourself wholeheartedly, unabashedly, unashamed, out into the world. Trust me, people, including yourself, will love you for it.