I’m really hoping for it to be come pretty big – I have really high expectations for my blog’s success, because I know I’ll be producing some quality content.
There’s not much else I can do besides link over there, so I hope to see you all there!
I had to make it a video one:
Enjoy guys, and I look forward to seeing you on the new blog.
One of my biggest sticking points in my daily life is that I happen to get stuck in cycles of thought and procrastination that pull me out of the present moment. When I do that, I essentially deny reality: the physical world becomes subjected to the sterilizing nature of my mind, with its words and labels. The physical reality perceived by my senses takes a backseat to the whims of my mind, and, as such, I waste time staying in my head and am not present, leading to bouts of anxiety, lowered energy levels, and, most of all, a feeling of neutrality in my body. The last symptom is the worst, as my goal is to be flying high and feeling good all the time, and being stuck in my headspace instead of absorbing reality and expressing without thought hampers me incredibly. This is such a huge problem for me, I think; I can say all I want about my lack of discipline, but that’s improving and only hurts me minimally. My biggest problem (though it has improved significantly over the past couple of months) is my lack of presence during my everyday life. It’s relatively easy to get in the present during meditation, for example, but during my everyday life I notice my constant thinking and I realize how useless most of it is.
This is why I created this challenge – the Sensory Focus Challenge. This challenge will force me to be live in the present and drink up reality. This will potentially create a bevy of benefits for me, including:
- More consistent good feelings
- Increased expression (being outside my head leads to free-flowing expression)
- Increased productivity due to increased focus on task at hand rather than externalities and decreased procrastination
- More decisiveness and conviction in speech and action (less thinking before action)
- Better memory and quality of work due to focus
The two rules are pretty simple:
1) My focus must be on something my senses can perceive at all times.
Reality is defined by its ability to be perceived by my senses. That is, the physical reality that I deny throughout my life through excessive thought is the “reality” I want to be present in all the time. The needless thoughts in my mind do not constitute reality and thus can be ignored. The sensory perception rule is, at its core, another way to say “be present” – though it is easier to define when I am or am not only focusing on my senses rather than define when I am or am not being present. Before, I could ask myself, “Am I being present?” and my mind could make up a million rationalizations to support that I was being present – even if I wasn’t present at all. This time, I can ask myself, “Am I focusing on what my senses are perceiving?” and I’ll get a clear-cut answer whether I’m being present or not. This will totally eliminate distractions and keep me focused in the present, leading to full-on expression, more decisiveness, better focus, and overall warm, fuzzy good feelings. It’s like getting in touch with your core self. That’s presence.
2) I can only think the thoughts I want to think.
Obviously, I’m going to have to think plenty of times throughout the day – it’s not like presence negates the use of our mind. Rather, it negates the overuse of the mind. I like to think of it this way: when I’m just drinking up my surroundings and my senses, my mind is in standby mode, waiting to be put into action. When I need my mind – to do some math, to do homework, or to write my blog post – it kicks into action, but I can be present and think at the same time. How? I still maintain some concentration on my senses while I’m thinking and devote my FULL attention to whatever the thought is, but let go when I no longer need to think. That way, I stay present with my thought process, but let go as soon as it’s over. While writing this post, I’m trying as hard as I can to concentrate on the feeling of warmth that is my own body and my breathing while also devoting my full intellectual capacity to the post I’m writing here. There is literally nothing else going on in my head right now – just focus on this post and the feeling in my body. Nothing about school, chemistry, or my future plans for this blog. When involuntary thought starts to creep in, I just pull the plug completely on my mind and start again. But with full focus on necessary thoughts, there is literally no space where these involuntary, recursive thoughts can invade. They have no room in my currently full headspace.
The challenge is, of course, living by these things for all my waking hours. I’m shooting for this challenge to last 11 days. Why 11? I don’t know. It seems like a good, unique number to me, and is neither too long nor too short. That puts the final report for the challenge at Tuesday, November 17. Stay tuned, guys, and wish me luck.
New video post up for you guys, illustrating one important quote…
This may seem like a strange topic to talk about, but it’s been proven (to me at least) to help in any and all situations.
It’s extremely simple, but the simple can help us a lot in many situations – as we tend to overcomplicate our lives by bending over backwards to fulfill little productivity quotas with techniques. Sometimes the projects pile up, and we are left with the stress weighing us down. But we can just dissolve into the moment and snap ourselves back to reality with one simple thing that you do nearly every moment of the day: breathe.
When you’re doing anything, and you start to feel your mind wander, just pull your attention back to your breath. When you feel the pressure of a deadline coming down on you, pull your attention back to your breath. When you are faced with a task that you really don’t feel like doing, just pull your attention back to your breath. When you just want to relax, just pull your attention back to your breath.
It’s like a fool’s mate – in any and every situation, pulling your attention back to your breath helps pull you back to reality and clears your mind of any unnecessary thoughts. It creates a feeling of peace and harmony within you, and cuts away all other distractions that you have going on. It keeps you focused on what you’re doing and not what’s going on inside your head. Even if it didn’t have any of those benefits, it’s still good to do because it feels good. And aren’t we all chasing good emotions one way or another? Just breathing doesn’t cost you anything and can be done in any moment at any time during your day, unless you happen to be submerged underwater. In that case, breathing is potentially harmful and it is strongly recommended that you not breathe. But when you’re in an area where breathing air is possible, focusing on breathing is exceptionally helpful and it just feels good! How could you not breathe!
There is a technique to proper breathing, however. You can’t just tell yourself that you feel good all the time because you breathe all the time – this is about the focus on breathing, not just the act of breathing itself. Focusing on it is what matters, since that creates the feeling of peace and presence (ergo, not being stuck in your head and focus on physical reality) that makes this so effective. After you’ve focused on your breath, make sure you take relaxed, deep breaths – you should try to inhale into your stomach, not your chest. Breathing into your chest is shallow and creates tension in your body. When you exhale, it should be relaxed and slow, devoid of any effort.
Another way to think of it is how it’s expressed in David Deida’s Way of the Superior Man. He says you should imagine inhaling as cycling energy from your head to your stomach area, and exhaling is like cycling that energy up your spine and back to your head. With each breath, the energy is cycled throughout your body. This still uses the same basic technique from above, just more spiritual. Personally, I like using this method, as it pulls me out of my head even more and makes me much more present and relaxed. But for some, especially those who haven’t meditated, it may be difficult at first.
Here’s my mission for you guys:
Right now, focus on your breath for 5 breath cycles (inhalation/exhalation).
After that, grab a clock, and put it next to your workplace.
Do whatever you feel like, but every 10 minutes, just pull your attention back to your breath. Observe how it feels and try to do it as long as you can. Don’t worry if you can only focus for a few cycles.
Report back in the comments section or just take this knowledge and apply it in your everyday life.
Everything ever told about self-improvment is the same thing, just expressed in different ways.
Self-improvement is really simple. Too simple.
To break it down better and to make it easier to understand, let me put it this way: what is self-improvement?
Self-improvement is the art of improving the quality of everything in our lives. Self-improvement is the larger whole that encompasses improving various, smaller things about yourself, whether it’s your mindset, your productivity, your organizational skills, your ability to express yourself, your eating habits, your fitness, anything you can think of that you think benefits you as a human being. Since self-improvement lies with your progression in any of those areas, you need to improve in those areas in order to “improve”, overall, as a human being. You can only improve if those “target” parts of your life are improving – you set out to improve these areas or skills, you go out and meet your goals, and you can say you’ve “improved”. This is blindingly obvious, but it’s often the unsaid obvious that goes overlooked.
But how do we improve in these small target areas, these skills or habits that we wish to improve or get better at?
In order to improve, two things need to happen: practice (action) and learning. These are critical to improvement, and one cannot improve without both happening at the same time. Acting on its own may give you a sense of accomplishment, since you’re acting, but if you do not take the time to learn, you’ll just do the same thing over and over again, without getting results (or maximum results). You’ll just be a robot, going through the same old motions, never achieving anything – or, at the very least, you’ll be shortchanging yourself. This is why many have defined insanity as “doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results”. You’ll be insane if you expect to just act, not try to learn anything from your actions, and improve in any way. You won’t. On the other hand, if you do nothing but learn, and not act, you won’t get anywhere either. All you’ll do is read 30 different blog posts on self-development each day, and nod your head, but you won’t become more productive, happier, or anything, since you’re not applying what you read. Again, this is all extremely obvious, but it’s often the unsaid obvious that is overlooked.
When you put acting and learning together, however, you have an unstoppable combination. You’ll go out, adopt the Pomodoro technique (or whatever it is you’re working on) since you’re trying to improve your productivity, and after about 3 weeks or so of steadfast adherence to it, you’ll probably have become more productive. This is action applying learning, since you learned the Pomodoro technique from Oscar over at Freestyle Mind (or wherever you read it).
But what happens if your productivity (somehow) dips during your use of the Pomodoro technique? Well, then you conclude that maybe boxing things off like that didn’t work for you, and you may go off and find another productivity system like GTD. When you adopt GTD (or even Zen to Done), you productivity skyrockets – you made a breakthrough. This is learning applying action, followed by action applying learning since you took your own experiences and learned from them, then tailored your next set of actions with the knowledge you had learned in mind. If you had never acted and TRIED the Pomodoro technique for a week, you would never have discovered GTD and boosted your productivty. At the same time, if you hadn’t learned from your experience with the Pomodoro technique and learned about GTD, you wouldn’t have ever gotten that same boost in productivity, either. Action and learning were both critical to improvement.
I’ve left something really important out, however.
Learning after action is pretty much automatic. Practice makes perfect because we are hardwired to learn in order to improve after our actions. My hypothetical example of all action and no learning could not exist, because it is literally impossible to not learn after taking action many times. Sure, maybe after two or three times you might not have learned much, since you don’t have enough reference experiences to learn from. But if you’re taking tons of action, you’ll have no trouble learning, as you’ll (relatively) quickly find out which actions bring the desired results and which don’t. And then you’ll perform more of the right actions and less of the wrong ones, thus improving the skill/trait and yourself.
You have to trust the process in order for this to work. You have to go out and take tons of action, just keep practicing and trying to progress at anything you’d like to improve at. Want to express happiness more often? Try to smile all day, every day. After awhile you’ll be showing positivity. You have to throw yourself at these things with reckless abandon, because all your work will pay off, whether it looks like you’re getting results or not. If you’re taking action and nothing seems to be happening, push harder – you’re at a plateau, and plateaus can only be broken through by action. Eventually, the day will come where you’ll have that glorious breakthrough and reap the rewards. But, in the process, you have to trust that that day will come. I liken it to anything you did as a toddler. You couldn’t walk, but you crawled and tried to stand up and walk, holding one of your parents’ hands, and you fell down too many times to count. But you kept trying over and over to walk, falling down over and over again. But, one day, your mom let go of your hand and lo and behold, you could walk. You unconsciously trusted the process, because you kept taking action over and over with seemingly no result, and that one day, you learned and improved. This goes for learning how to talk and how to read. How many times did you spout incomprehensible syllables from your mouth, imitating the people around you with futility? Of course, you ended up forming your first word all the same, since you had tried to thousands of times before. That was trusting the process. With reading, you probably learned your ABC’s, but you stared at collections of these letters of pages your parents read to you thousands of times without understanding it. However, one day, you picked up a book and could read the words on the page. All those times you did the small action of just looking at the page helped you eventually learn the skill of reading. You trusted the process.
Since learning can be taken care of itself with action, there’s only one thing that’s left: action.
Action is what every single person who deals with improvement of any kind wants you to do. Just act. That is the number one way to improve yourself. Everything that is said on self-improvement are just different ways to get you to act.
Just do it. Act constantly and consistently. Don’t sit here reading blog posts all day. Make waves in life – go out and act. Do anything except sit in front of the TV or your computer (unless you’re getting paid to do so). Whatever you do, don’t stop acting, and trust yourself and the process to improve you when you come out on the other side. Sure, you may run into a plateau, and if you get frustrated with your lack of progress, take a step back, and say, “I trust in the process to improve.” Just let instinct and intuition run from there, followed by truckloads of action. Keep acting until you can’t act anymore, then go out and do something bigger than anything else you’ve ever done.
Here’s an action plan for you.
After you finish reading this post, turn off your computer.
After you turn off your computer, you’ll grab the nearest thing with words on it (literature). If it’s a book, read the first 10 pages. If it’s a newspaper or magazine, read the first article.
After you’re done reading, find another human being. Communicate with them anyway you wish. Just talk with them for however long you feel like, and give them a kind gesture like a handshake or hug or kiss when you part with them.
After you’re done talking to them, smile. Just try to smile for as long as you can.
After you’ve first cracked a smile, find a piece of paper (you can use the literature you read and write in the margins) and a pen, and write 1 thing that you want to do right now that is not passive (watching TV/surfing the net).
After you’ve written it down, go do it.
You are now on the path of action. Let your momentum carry you through, always, and realize that there is no substitute for action.
Just act. Go now.
One small step for man, one giant leap for my personal development.
First time I’ve shown my face here? You bet.
Topics covered include: who I am, my aspirations for my blog, my aspirations for my life, and the idea of journey driven self-development.
I apologize for the crappy quality, as I’m using my Mac’s iSight camera and had to have the video compressed for youtube. I’ll try to get a better camera for tomorrow’s post, but I have no guarantees.
Enjoy, guys, and I really appreciate your feedback.