June 15, 2016
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I am not your mother. I could never be. It is physically impossible for me because I am a man. Still for the sake of this article allow me to pretend like I was and suggest to you that you make your bed. But I will not just say that so your room looks tidy. I will give you proper and tangible reasons. Reasons that will shock you, astonish you and make you feel eager every day to make your bed as soon as you get up in the morning. You will be jumping out of bed only to make it!
- Reason 1: Making your bed in the morning is a little success – a single doable task – and you did it! When I’ve made my bed in the morning I pat myself on the shoulder and smile: “well done!”. Maybe ridiculous but it cheers me up and motivates me! This feeling of success carries over into your day. One little success leading to another and before you know it your whole day will have felt like a big sucess. This. Changes. Your. Neurochemistry.
- Reason 2: Habits give you familiarity. Stability. If you are having an intense or rough morning (maybe something has happened the day before or the day ahead is going to be very challenging) – this routine will give you something to hold onto. Stability. Peace of mind. A predictable little part of your morning. A ritual.
- Reason 3: Doing this communicates to your subconscious:”Order is importan to me. Order is good.” This can help you become and be more structured and organized in other areas of your life as well. It seems simple but do not underestimate this habits’ power!
- Reason 4: This is like dry-humping. It’s a harmless exercise for the real thing. Learning this habit you can experience yourself in the process of learning a new habit. You are learning how to adopt a new habit by adopting a really simple behaviour. Plus when adopting the next positive habit you will think: “I can do that. Remember how I successfully trained myself to make my bed? *glances at made bed*”. Notice how good building a new habit feels and how easy it can be. Amazing, isen’t it?
- Reason 5: The feeling you get when you go to bed in the evening – to a made bed! You can’t help but feel like a VIP.
- Reason 6: Making your bed daily because you believe in the aforementioned reasons helps you build a success identity. One easy step that makes you feel more successful every day. You begin thinking about yourself as a person who optimizes, who is constantly improving and learning. As a consequence you are more likely to do other things that are in alignment with this identity – it becomes easier and easier for you to succeed. It reshapes how you view yourself. Research has shown that behaviour is always in alignment with and heavily influenced by identity (who we think we are). This reminds me of a quote by the Buddha: “Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.”
I started consistently making my bed on my own when I was on my first Vipassana course in October 2015. Since then I have barely missed a day. I do it everywhere: I do it when I sleep at a friend’s place, when I sleep at my girlfriend’s place – even when I sleep at hotels. It just feels amazing to start my day like this. I love it. Give it a go and let me know!
April 21, 2016
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Over the last few years I have started many fascinating projects that were very complex and really well-thought out.
There was always a strong initial phase of excitement and motivation. After this peak had waned I then regularily reached a point of frustration and action stalled. For quite some time now I have kept asking myself: „Why is this happening?“. Am I not motivated enough? Were my ideas not good enough to be worthy of full and proper execution?
So today afternoon I was working on a project, reading through a few emails detailing steps for something I wanted to do and execute on in a practical way.
It so happened that before I got some important things done and felt very victorious and in a good flow. Then I gradually noticed something happening when I was confronted with that more complex task that had no proper end defined, or at least I couldn’t see it at that point because it was too far in the future. Working through those endlessly long Emails I noticed that, because I didn’t have a clear structure and goal defined my motivation was suffering. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was winning any more – I felt like I was wasting time, not making progress and getting stuck (even though I was progressing through the reading material and putting in my best effort). Uff. What was going wrong?
Then it suddenly dawned on my: I didn’t experience success because I hadn’t planned for it. What I needed was a clear and simple goal-definition. A simple road to follow. This and small-chunking. So I finished reading the Email I was currently engrossed in, then I got up and gave myself a big pat on the shoulder for working so far and being super-concentrated all the time (seperating the process of work at that moment and giving myself a much-needed reward). Then I got an overview of what I was going to read and cut off all mental branches that were not relevant for achieving the simple goal that I now had defined for my work session. Thus simplifying the whole thing and making it more achievable and measurable. Then I got through the rest of the reading material (which worked fine because I had an overview of the reading in front of me and a renewed sense of direction and clarity). After finishing I went straight into taking action on the actual goal for which the reading was a preparation. Which I finished. Very satisfying. If I hadn’t done that tweak of self-reflective course-correction then I’m pretty sure the whole thing would have fallen apart and I would not have gotten it done today. Simple self-awareness really is where it starts for me.
So what I learned from having this experience is the following:
- It is very good to reward myself for smaller part-goals
- It is very very important to reward myself for effort! while still measuring efficiency in a gentle self-loving way. This keeps me going.
- It is absolutely essential for me to make the goal SIMPLE and CLEAR and ATTAINABLE
- while over-complication might look very reasonable and beautiful in theory and sometimes feel inspiring it leads to the land of unfinished projects
-> when it comes to execution simplicity has great power and thus has priority
- It is very important for me to know the road ahead when working (so that I can properly small-chunk and give myself little rewards throughout the process)
- It’s extremely helpful to measure my levels of motivation and engagement while I am working and to immediately take corrective action in case I see them drop
So this concise post is my re-entry to blogging about useful and constructive stuff that’s on my mind. Setting the bar lower this time and making it attainable.
Making it clear, simple and attainable ;)… and then rewarding myself for getting it done. Because simple is effective and pleasurable and because simple produces results.
April 2, 2013
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Earlier today I was sitting at my desk in front of the computer:
I had a long list of things on my mind (and on paper). Things I felt I HAD to get done by the end of the day. I felt torn apart by the sheer amount. Thoughts about prioritization rushed through my head. But there was something a lot deeper going on. Something that took my breath and joy away. It would be a ridiculous understatement to say that I “did not feel good”. One of the things was taking time to meditate. Funnily enough the very thing that should help with this kind of condition I had placed in the future as well. The goddamn meditation was actually making my suffering worse. It just became another thing that I had to get done. All the plans were towering around me and shouting at me why I wasn’t making any progress. I felt full of anger and disappointment. It was just enough.
I then managed to get up, away from the computer (turning the damn thing off). Always a great first step. Still my emotions did not change. I felt like my whole life was at stake. Everything depended on me being productive – NOW. Being productive like five people all on my own. Then it suddenly came to me.
I said “F*ck it all. I don’t give a sh*t about *insert your outcome and goal here*”. I let it all go. I just let go in that very moment…
Suddenly a feeling of deep calmness came over me. That moment I realized that it in fact on a deeper level it did not matter at all if I achieved my goals. If things went a certain way or not. If “I” was a certain person with certain skills and so on. All that was really important was that I was here now. Who- or whatever “I” was. That did not mean that I stopped caring about my goals. But by pushing them away harshly they somehow returned to their proper place. It became clear to me that I “wanted” those things, outcomes, skills, experiences and so on – but I did not “need” them. Because needing them equaled suffering.
Just by letting go of needing to have it happen in a certain way – all the pressure was alleviated. It suddenly felt ridiculously good. All that outcome-dependancy had shown me how ridiculous it is to be outcome dependent. Not enjoying the doing itself. I had lost connection with the present and with my emotions. Because I did not want to feel them: they were hurtful and not pleasant. The peculiar thing about this kind of emotional state is that by pushing the emotion away – one can not transcend the state. One has to go through the unpleasantness to arrive at peace and breath yet again. Fully taking in the irritation and suffering as part of what is at that moment. Observing it without judgement. If you start doing that – amazing things will happen.
It’s great to be really driven and motivated. Next: being independent of the outcome while still believing in it. Working at it. This combination then makes the whole experience even more enjoyable!
PS: Writing a blog post was on my list as well 🙂