Welcome to Zoe Meditations, where every week, I will summarize a few ideas that will help you live greater, love better and laugh more.
It’s still another week of social distancing here in Indonesia. In my hometown, Semarang, the roads felt a little emptier and various public places like restaurants and malls are closed for two weeks. If there’s one meme that described Indonesia situation, it would be this:
Self Leadership: If you don’t lead yourself, eventually someone or something else will lead you around like a lifeless puppet. Robin Sharma in his book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari suggested these few tips to lead yourself:
- Questions are the beginning of wisdom, so learn to ask good questions. This applies to other people and more importantly to yourself. (The most simple application is asking yourself “why” a couple of times before making an important decision).
- Aim to improve your body, mind, and soul everyday. Don’t be ashamed of the size of your improvement. What matters is the growth.
- Continually go out of your comfort zone. The only way you can improve is to extend yourself. Remember the most successful people are the ones who took risks that many others don’t.
Self Kindness: Learn to be kind and gentle to yourself. According to Kristin Neff, “instead of condemning our failures, we should stop being judgmental at our flaws and respond in kind.”
A good way to practice self kindness is to re frame our dialogue. Ask yourself: What am I feeling? What am I needing right now? Do I need help from someone else?
We are all imperfect creatures, please don’t be too harsh on your failures, screw ups, and mistakes. Everyone has made them before.
Routine! Routine! Routine!: One tool that I found very helpful in improving my productivity is having a daily routine. Basically, it means scheduling a time where you are most focused to do your most important work. Here are some useful tips I found in 99u’s book, Manage Your Day to Day:
– Schedule your time in that you will do your creative work first, reactive second. (creative work: thinking, planning, innovating; reactive: answering email, following up, etc).
– Notice when you have the most energy during the day and schedule your routine during that time.
– Stick to the same tools, surroundings, and environment.
– Limit your daily to do list to a 3×3 post it note. If you have more tasks than that, you are not overworked.
– Set a clear start time and finish time for your work.
Advice to a young person: If there’s one young man who has managed to go somewhere and made a name for himself, that guy is Ryan Holiday. After apprenticing under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power. He had a successful marketing career at American Apparel and went on to found a creative agency called Brass Check, which has advised clients like Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as many prominent bestselling authors, including Neil Strauss, Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss. He is also the author of ten books which have sold more than 2 million copies in thirty languages and have a following among NFL coaches, world-class athletes, TV personalities, political leaders, and others around the world.
Here are three useful tips that he gave to any young people who want to go somewhere:
- Assess the terrain: The first thing you should do when you enter a new workplace is to sit and observe. Figure out who the dominant personality types are, what makes them tick, and how things really work. Try to understand the company culture. Don’t act, don’t give your opinion, don’t do anything until this has been done.
- Always say less than necessary. Your college education ain’t worth much in the workplace. So keep your eyes and ears open; embrace the beginner’s mind.
- Get shit done. Nobody cares what it will take, what problems this causes for you, what personal stuff you have going on… just get it done. You can tell others what you went through after.
Wounded creatures: In his book Mastery of Love, Don Miguel Ruiz admonished that “All humans are mentally sick with the same disease.” That disease is called fear and it stemmed from the various emotional wounds we accumulated through life.
In order to protect our emotional wounds, and because of our fear of being hurt, humans create something very sophisticated in the mind: a big denial system. In that denial system we become the perfect liars. We lie so perfectly that we lie to ourselves and we even believe our own lies.
We started wearing a ‘social mask’ because it’s too painful to see ourselves or to let others see us as we really are. And the denial system lets us pretend that everyone believes what we want them to believe about us. We put up these barriers for protection, to keep other people away, but those barriers also keep us inside, restricting our freedom.
Fortunately, Ruiz reminded that, “you have the power to create… You create yourself, whatever you believe you are. You are the way you are because that is what you believe about yourself. Your whole reality, everything you believe, is your creation.”
That means you can choose to take off your social mask and choose to be yourself. To be your authentic self. What is an authentic self you might ask? It is the best possible version of yourself.
On bearing suffering: During his time in concentration camp, psychiatrist Victor Frankl observed, “A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.'”
So if you feel that your life is a mess and you are suffering, a good question to ask is not “why me?” but rather “what does this pain/suffering/problem means to me?”
When you find a meaning behind your suffering, you will find the means to endure it with dignity, persistence, and even compassion.
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