PJK's Blog

Philosophy, the Internet, the World, and I

Menu Close

Category: Lifestyle (page 1 of 3)

Small Improvements

We overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we do in a year.  This is because we are creatures of instant gratification.  That is to say, when we do something, we want to see the result shortly after.  The problem is that many things in life don’t have quick results, so we need to driven by enjoying the process or trusting the process is working.  In fact, most of the good things in life don’t have quick results – being healthy is a lifestyle over longer periods of time, saving money to retire happens over a lifetime, and building good relationships take experiences over time.  Delayed gratification, or delayed results from current action, is an important piece of life worth recognizing.

As defined, “”Delayed gratification, or deferred gratification, describes the process that the subject undergoes when the subject resists the temptation of an immediate reward in preference for a later reward. Generally, delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later. A growing body of literature has linked the ability to delay gratification to a host of other positive outcomes, including academic success, physical health, psychological health, and social competence.”

Delayed gratification, that is putting time and effort into something where the results won’t show for a period of time, is a positive trait of the human condition.  It means foregoing the instant gratification for a more longer term satisfaction.  It means passing on the donut and its instant gratification to live a longer, more healthy life.  It means saving more money now than buying a new car today.  It means being physically active today even if you don’t feel like it. Some more examples…

  • Going to to the gym once may make you feel great that day, but if you only go once the results are minute.  However, going daily for 2 months adds up to a lot.  20 pullups a day isn’t much, but in a month that is 600 pullups which is a lot and has an effect.  Going to the gym daily for the delayed gratification of a lifetime of good health is a huge benefit.
  • Writing 1 paragraph a day isn’t much, but consistently writing a paragraph each day for a month adds up to a 30 paragraph piece.  The delayed gratification of writing daily but after months seeing all your work and improvement in writing is gratifying.
  • Reading 30 minutes a day isn’t much, be amounts to between 20-40 books a year, which can have a drastic impact on your understanding, and therefore the outcome of your life.

Putting in the daily repetition is arguably one of the most life changing things you can do, because you are what you repeat (you are your habits), and a lifetime of repetition of anything will greatly change the outcome.

In the infamous “Marshmallow Experiment” in the late 1960’s, psychologists at Stanford performed various studies on delayed gratification…

In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. (The reward was sometimes a marshmallow, but often a cookie or a pretzel.) In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores,[2] educational attainment,[3] body mass index (BMI),[4] and other life measures.[5]

Source: Wikipedia

James Clear wrote an excellent article “40 Years of Stanford Research Found That People With This One Quality Are More Likely to Succeed“, which goes into more detail on delayed gratification and the Marshmallow Experiment.

Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction. And that’s exactly what delayed gratification is all about.

In his article he further says…

The studies above do make one thing clear: if you want to succeed at something, at some point you will need to find the ability to be disciplined and take action instead of becoming distracted and doing what’s easy. Success in nearly every field requires you to ignore doing something easier (delaying gratification) in favor of doing something harder (doing the work and putting in your reps).

But the key takeaway here is that even if you don’t feel like you’re good at delaying gratification now, you can train yourself to become better simply by making a few small improvements. In the case of the children in the study, this meant being exposed to a reliable environment where the researcher promised something and then delivered it.

You and I can do the same thing. We can train our ability to delay gratification, just like we can train our muscles in the gym. And you can do it in the same way as the child and the researcher: by promising something small and then delivering. Over and over again until your brain says, 1) yes, it’s worth it to wait and 2) yes, I have the capability to do this.

Over the years I’ve come to realize one of the best skills in life is time management. Managing time enables you to consistently make small gains, daily.  Small improvements make huge gains.  Time passes whether we make small improvements or not, hence why it’s important to manage time now and continuously.  Building habits enables us to spend our time more effectively, and live better lives.

Because we can’t predict the future or change the past, all we can do is focus on the moment and the day to day activities that makeup our lives.  Striving to be better than yesterday adds up to many small improvements each day which compound day after day, month after month, years after year.  We didn’t evolve to understand compound interest, but we can use reason to know it is incredibly powerful.  As James Clear says, “habits are the compound interest of self improvement.” The aggregation of marginal gains – small improvements add up to dramatic changes.  On the same token, small bad habits can add up to a massive decline in well being.

Aristotle once said “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.” Let’s make each day a better day than the last.

If you liked this post, I’d recommend checking out Jame Clear’s new book “Atomic Habits“, and watching his talk, 1% Better Each Day.  You may also enjoy reading “The Power of Habit“.

Optimism and Pessimism

People like being around other happy people.  People don’t like being around negative people.  This is because we all seek well being, one where we feel good, feel like we have a purpose, and live meaningful lives.  Happy people, by definition, are successful because they are leading happy lives, and being around happy people increases your chances of being happy.  Being around people laughing increases your chances of laughing, and laughing is good.

Pessimism, as defined on Google is “a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future.” Considering all the great there is in the world, and all the progress we’ve made in the last couple hundreds years, the question is why are so many people pessimistic?

I’ve written before about how the media affects the mood and feeling of the people who consume it.  Even though by almost every metric we live in a better, healthier, happier, wealthier world than at any other time in human history, many people think the world is more dangerous and worse than ever before.  This is driven in large part by the news, which in modern day enables worldwide catastrophes to be broadcasted in real time to people all over the world.  This is a new trend, and it wasn’t always possible to see news like it is today.  The media is incentivized to broadcast sad, tragic, graphic, and scary news because scary news captures human attention, and they make money by capturing our attention, not by telling us what we should or need to know about how amazing the world actually is (?).

Without knowing how the media and modern technology works, pessimism makes sense.  It feels like the world could be worse off.  But as I’ve written about before, overcoming our default state – our innate human intuitions – is what leads to us becoming conscious people, and better conscious people.  Knowing that our intuitions can often misguide us is important, and overcoming them can lead us to be more realistic when we realize that our intuitions are misguided.  It enables us to become optimistic when we’d otherwise be pessimistic.

So why be optimistic? To start, being optimistic feels good.  It makes you excited about the future, grateful for the moment, and privileged to exist today. But there are other benefits than just feeling good…
– Optimists are healthier and tend to live longer (?)
– Optimistics are less likely to get sick (?)
– Optimists make better partners (?)
– Optimists are perform better at their jobs (?)
– Optimists get more promotions and job offers (?)
– Optimists handle stress better than pessimists (?)

All of this shouldn’t come as a surprise, if you’re optimistic and you feel good, you’re more likely to take care of yourself, treat others better, be a positive person, and that attracts a better social circle, which is a key indicator and perhaps the most valuable aspect of living a good life (the longest study on happiness at Harvard ranked it as the #1 most important metric).

There is evidence that optimistic people present a higher quality of life compared to those with low levels of optimism or even pessimists. Optimism may significantly influence mental and physical well-being by the promotion of a healthy lifestyle as well as by adaptive behaviours and cognitive responses, associated with greater flexibility, problem-solving capacity and a more efficient elaboration of negative information.
US National Library of Health

And…

Optimists tend to view anything adverse as temporary, specific and external whilst pessimists will view an adverse situation as permanent, pervasive and personal.  These two styles produce very different outcomes.  Source: Psychology Today

What about the unknowns of the world? What about the daunting challenges we face as a society? Should we remain optimistic when things look cloudy? Yes. In situations where we don’t know what an outcome will be or we’re missing too many details to draw a fair conclusion, optimism is almost always better.  This is two-fold – if you’re optimistic and see problems as solvable (Beginning of Infinity), you’re far more likely to solve them than if you see problems as impossible to overcome and give up.  Secondly, optimism has tremendous benefits, so why not side on more beneficial end? Kant had a theory in philosophy: since many philosophical discussions don’t have a “right” answer, he argues to choose the side with most utility. That is to say to choose the most useful side during the unknown. Since so many things in life we don’t know, striving for optimism makes the most rational sense.

You find what you’re looking for.  If you look for all the negatives in the world, you’ll find them.  If you look for all the positives, you’ll find them.  And expectations influence outcomes.  They influence not only your perception, but very likely the outcome because your perceptions affect your actions.  Being optimistic and positive far increases your chances of finding the good in the world, whether it be good people, good places, or just a good feeling.  Optimism is key.

So in todays world what and how much should we be optimist about? The answer….nearly everything.

I recently finished reading Enlightenment Now, which is an excellent book written by the incredible Steven Pinker of Harvard.  He puts forward a sound perspective on science and reason which has created progress.  Progress at what? Progress at maximizing human flourishing, maximizing well being, reducing suffering, all core values of a humanistic view.  It is well worth the time to read, and if for no other reason, it will lead to be more optimistic about the state of the world, even if you already are optimistic.

Subjective Feeling vs Objective Truth

One of the big fallacies I think many people make in modern day is that they take their subjective view of reality and then assume it’s how the rest of the society or the rest of the world is.  For example, imagine you live in a town of 200,000 people and you notice most of your friends are chronically depressed, and a large amount of strangers you meet throughout your town express their concern about depression and how they also feel depressed.  A common conclusion to therefore draw is that society is broken and depression is a major issue.  The fallacy with this is that you’re relying on your intuitions about the state of society and using your subjective experience to therefore conclude that objectively society is broken.  However, you can easily look up various stats and studies to see objectively what the actual state of affairs is, and it is more often than not quite different than you subjectively may feel.  The world is diverse, and we can learn a lot by studying other cultures, places, and people.

This is why a book like Enlightenment Now is well worth your time, because it objectively looks at many aspects of society to see how it is performing, progressing, and changing, regardless of anyones specific subjective feelings. Pinker looks at worldwide data to show how collectively society is improving in almost every metric we care about – human flourishing, well being, reduced suffering, scientific progress, knowledge, education, etc.  The only way to make rational conclusions and decisions about life is to objectively understand what is working and what isn’t, and learn from the studies and data we have at our disposal.  If subjectively things feel pessimistic, a simple environmental change could change ones perspective, and lead to optimism.

How to be more optimistic

Changing from a pessimistic mindset to an optimistic one isn’t easy. Start with these tips:

  • Educate yourself about the problems we face, and the progress we’ve made (Enlightenment Now is a start).
  • Proactively work on solving some of the world’s challenges.  Seeing progress made is important, but actively helping solve the issues we face is more important.
  • Reframe how you define events – try to find the good in every situation, even at difficult moments. Look for the good in the world, not the bad.  Life is all about perspective and you see what you think/believe.
  • Understand that problems are solvable, and for each problem we solve, more will come. Read “Beginning of Infinity”.

  • Meditate, be mindful – focus on the here and now.
  • Notice negative self talk or complaints you make.  Set a timer, and each time you notice yourself complain (or get called out about complaining), reset the timer.   See how many hours you can go.
  • Focus on what you can control in life. Recognize when something isn’t within your control, and avoid letting it affect you (see meditation point above). Read “A Guide to a Good Life” on Stoic philosophy.
  • Pursue self-growth, work on improving everyday.  Small steps each day add up to a lot, it’s compound interest of the mind/body.  Help others, benefit society.  Strive to be better each day and solve the challenges we face as a society.
  • Strive to have positive experiences.  Seek things you enjoy and find joy in others.
  •  Be healthy.  Sleep well, eat well, and stay active.  The better you feel, the more positive outlook you’ll have in life.

Life is a string of the stories we tell ourselves.  It’s better to tell great stories.  Be optimistic.


Other Notes/Links:

Optimists Get Jobs More Easily — and Get Promoted More, Researchers Find

Can Optimism Make a Difference in Your Life?

How Optimism Boosts Productivity and Work-Life Balance

Optimism and your health

Thinking about Work Differently

I grew up rural America, knowing not much more than what I saw and experienced with the people around me. By sheer luck, I gained access to the internet at the age of 9 and my curiosity led me to the world outside of just rural America.  I traded baseball cards online, learned the basics of economics, used my dad’s credit card to open an eBay account, and shared a bank account with my brother.  Through enjoying the hobby of baseball card trading, combined with the power of the internet in connecting people, I learned the basics of money, business, and economics.

As time went on, I went through traditional school as assumed like any other kid from rural America.  Go to school, do well enough to get into college, and graduate and get a good job, meaning a job that pays the bills and interests you.  I didn’t particular enjoy school, though I understood it’s value and had parental pressure to succeed.  Again by sheer luck, I had the mindset that if I’m going to wake bright an early every morning to take a bus to school, spend most of my day at the school, and then bus back, I might as well make it worth it.  As a result, along with parental and sibling pressure, I tried quite hard to do well, meaning get good grades.

Naturally, after graduating high school and following the cultural and societal pressures of Western society, I went to college.  It was fun and challenging and met a lot of great people, but the big downside was the hefty bill it came with.  At the age of 18, it’s very easy to sign a loan for $20,000 with little understanding of what it really is, and with the feeling that it is totally normal.  Don’t get me wrong, having the loan enabled me to attend college and without it I wouldn’t have been able to go.  Because of this fact, most people in the world never get the chance to attend college.  As I write this in 2018, there is $1.48 trillion in student loan debt in the US, held by 44.2 million Americans (?).  Consumer debt is at an all time high, even though the US stock market is at an all time high.  The US government is in debt is over $21 trillion.  Even with the economy soaring over the last few years and wars have winded down, the US government has only gone further into debt.  How is this possible you may ask?

What I’ve seen regarding higher education in America is this: in the past, say 40 years ago, a college education was very valuable, meaning you gained a big advantage on society by having the degree, and at the same time, the cost was relatively cheap.  Fast forward to today, the value of a college education has dropped (meaning it doesn’t give you a big advantage on the rest of the society), and the cost has skyrocketed.  This has resulted in two key general trends: 1) students are graduating after going massively into debt and not being able to get a job (ie. society doesn’t value the degree) and 2) because of this, people begin to question whether going to college is worth it since going into debt and not being able to get a job is risky.

One of the reasons I think we’ve come to this point in history is due to the way we look at work.  Instead of looking at work as getting a nice resume and applying to various companies who like the resume you have, the question should be asked: what can I do to benefit society? What skills do I have or can I acquire which will benefit society? If people asked these questions, and then followed through in acquiring these skills, I’d argue society would not only be better off but far less people would be struggling to find work.

With all of these stats about record high student loan debt, record high credit card debt, record highs in consumer debt, there is perhaps more opportunity than ever to create wealth in the world today.  And not just create wealth, but acquire the skills needed to benefit the world in whatever way you see fit.  I feel for the people who are struggling to find work, but it is important to look at a society more objectively.  As I heard recently, if it feels like the world is fucked up, maybe it’s not the world that’s fucked up but you that’s fucked up.  Not to say there is bad luck, and bad timing which leads to these situations, but the world is what you perceive of it.  To think that the world is awful is purely an illusion in our own heads, as in another’s mind it is absolute bliss.  The key takeaway here is to be careful how to interpret the world, because it becomes your world.  And in times of crisis in life it’s easy to misinterpret the world you’re living in.

There was a guy I came across maybe 4 years ago who just graduated from college and was traveling around Asia building websites on the internet, learning as many skills as possible along the way.  He decided to build a site about connecting digital nomads and finding the best places to live and work in the world.  Today, just a few years later, the site is making $30,000+/month passively.   People pay to use his site because it’s valuable to them – it connects like-minded people traveling outside their home countries. He also decided to build out a single index.php site for people to post remote jobs, and that site at present is making nearly $20,000+/month, again passively.  And this story is becoming a common one. The point of this isn’t to cherry pick a success, but to demonstrate the sheer amount of opportunity and potential in the world today, just on the internet alone.  While so many struggle in the West to get work, others are creating incredible websites, pieces of software, and movements which benefit society, and in turn make a lot of money.

Sure, I’m biased towards the internet as it’s what I’ve spent most of my life studying and working on, but it is something that is available in many places in the world, has more collective human knowledge than human kind has ever seen, and enables anyone in the world interested or motivated enough to acquire skills, create movements, to build things that benefit society, and to share their voices.  The opportunity is without a doubt there, it’s just a matter of seizing it.

The point being is that instead of looking at work as a resume and applying to companies, look at work as acquiring skills and building things that society values.  This way you’re a valuable asset to society and in turn will be rewarded for it.

Don’t Create Goals

People often talk about creating goals as a means of progress. A challenge.  Challenging ourselves to move forward, setting deadlines to avoid taking too much time, and feeling satisfaction of reaching milestones. With each new milestone, another one comes about, a new goal is created.

I long believed in goals.  I enjoyed seeing myself accomplishing goals. It was fulfilling, enlightening, and challenging.  But what I’ve found is that by focusing on the result and not the process, it makes things less sustainable, less fun, and less likely to succeed.  I was focusing on the shiny object at the end, not in the day to day actions and time I spent getting there.  As a result, I’d often fail.

Instead, build processes and systems.  Again, don’t create goals, create systems.

A few examples:

  • Goal may be: Squat 500 lbs
    System: Go to the gym everyday and squat a tiny bit more each day than you did before.
  • Goal may be: Make $10,000/month
    System: Work on improving skills, making connections, and providing more value to society each day.
  • Goal may be: Lose 25 lbs
    System: Improve diet each day and reduce caloric intake, go for a run each day, eat vegetables every meal
  • Goal may be: Read 40 books this year
    System: Focus on reading 30 minutes each day consistently.

The big point here is that a goal is a milestone, but it doesn’t have a strategy of how to reach the goal.  Because big goals are hard to reach, coming up with a strategy can save you time, energy, money, and willpower, and make you far more likely to reach the goal.

A goal without a path to the goal is a goal that is typically not reached.  Systems are daily routines and habits you build which move you in the direction of your goal, which enables you to build habits that last long after you’ve reached your goal.  Remember, for each goal you reach, another goal then awaits.  It is never ending.

In Scott Adams’ book “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big”, the brilliant Adams talks about systems and processes.  A system or process that steers you in the direction of where you want to go is never ending.  As you continually refine your processes and systems, you build habits, enjoy the journey each day, and inevitably reach the would-be goals.

As the Stoics found out 2,000 years ago, for each thing you think you want, once you get it, you may realize it wasn’t what you wanted/expected, or if it was what you expected, you inevitably get used to it and long for someone more, or something different – a new goal.

Goals focus on the end result.  They say nothing about how to get there.  Systems are the processes that can lead to a result. Fall in love with the process, not the result.

Life is a journey, enjoy the ride.

If you enjoy this way of thinking, you’ll probably enjoy James Clear’s article Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. 

2017 Year in Review

It’s already that time of the year again where we look back on the last year of our lives and look forward to the next.  It is useful because it allows us to review what we did right, and what we can improve on in the future. You can see my previous years here: 201020112012201320142015, 2016 . Here’s a look back in what I did in 2017.

Summary

  • I rang in the new year in Pai in northern Thailand at a music festival.  After Pai I visited by friend Vy in Chiang Rai for a few days. Later in January attended a small Art Festival on Onnut road.
  • In February I completed a 10 day water fast.
  • In March drove to Cambodia, flew my drone, and attended a wedding in Sa Kaeo.   Also celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Bangkok with some friends.
  • In April celebrated Song Kran Water Festival in Bangkok.  A few days later I flew to Nepal for a month to hike the Himalayas, climbing the Dhaulagiri Circuit, bungee pumping, and paragliding which were all firsts for me.
  • I arrived back into Bangkok from Nepal on May 17th, had a goodbye party for a friend, and a going away party for Kemji and I at Y Spa.
  • In June I headed to Colorado to visit family and friends, went camping near Gunnison at the Kelly campout, attended the Renaissance Festival, and relaxed with family and friends.  In the later part of June my girlfriend Kemji flew to the US to meetup with me.
  • We celebrated July 4th in Lakewood at a relatives house.  On July 6th we drove up to Mt. Evans with my uncle, which is the highest paved road in North America.  In early July we went to a Colorado Rapids game, and a Colorado Rockies game, as well as up to a friends cabin in the mountains for the night.  On July 14th, we flew to Medellin, Colombia to begin our 5 month trip around South America.  We visited Medellin and Cartagena in July (future trip writeup coming).
  • In August we went to Bogota, Colombia and spent several days there exploring, working, and relaxing.  We met a lot of interesting people and had many interesting AirBNB experiences.  In mid-August we flew to Lima, Peru to begin exploring Peru, and to meet with a Peruvian friend Luis who was also there. In the later part of Peru we took a bus south to Ica, explored the sand dunes, then went to Nazca for a night, then took an overnight 18 hour bus ride to Cusco, Peru, arriving at the end of August.
  • In September we did a day trip and climbed Rainbow Mountain at 16,000ft, and visited Machu Picchu via a night in Ollantaytambo.  We ended up spending over 2 weeks in the Cusco area and loved it. In the later half of September we flew north to Iquitos, Peru, the largest city in the world without roads to it, along the Amazon River and Amazon jungle.  It was a fascinating experience spending 2 weeks there and in the jungle.  I did 2 ayuhasca ceremonies.
  • In early October we flew back to Lima and bussed north to Trujuilo, then to Piura, and into Ecuador to Cuenca over the course of several days. We spent several days in Cuenca, and from Cuenca we took a bus to Banos for the hot springs.  From there we bussed to Latacunga for a couple nights to visit the infamous Quilotoa volcano and lake.  It was a fascinating experience. We continued north to Quito, the capital of Ecuador where we explored until the end of October when we flew to Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
  • Early November we spent in Zihuatanejo, and then to Ixtapa nearby for a friends wedding, which was a lot of fun and beautiful.  From there we headed back to Zihuatanejo for another week, then flew east to Cancun.  We immediately headed south to Playa Del Carmen with the idea that we’d explore Cancun later before we fly out of there.  We spent a week in Playa Del Carmen, and did a trip west to Piste to explore Chichen Itza, the famous Mayan archeological sight. We then headed back to Playa Del Carmen in late November.
  • Early December we went to Cancun for a few days, relaxing on the beach and in the pool, getting some work done throughout.  We flew out December 9th to Tampa Bay, Florida to meet my mom and brother to embark on a 7 day cruise back south to Key West, FL > Cozumel, MX> Belize City, Belize > Costa Maya, MX > Tampa Bay, FL.  It was a fun and interesting experience seeing such a massive object moving around the ocean.  We got back to Colorado late on Dec 17th, and celebrated Christmas and New Years with my family in Colorado.

WHAT WENT WELL THIS YEAR?

It was an adventurous year.  About 7 months of the year were spent on the road, starting with a month in Nepal in April/May, a month in the US, and 5 months in South America.  This made routine tough to follow, though I was able to keep my 5 tasks each day for most of it: meditate, read, study Spanish, work, and exercise.  Work-wise, I made a lot of progress and setup quite a few processes, learning a lot along the way.  I spent a lot of time and money learning the modern FB Advertising game, and several sites I’ve had setup for years were expanded.  Health-wise, it was a neutral year.  I feel I’m in better shape than I was a year ago but definitely have a lot of room for improvement here.  Knowledge-wise, I read around 30 books, and have learned a lot this year.  A few of the top books that stick out are: Sapiens, The Beginning of Infinity, Tribes, and Homo Deus.

WHAT DIDN’T GO SO WELL THIS YEAR?

I don’t have a lot of complaints this year.  I felt like this year was overall a huge step forward in my life in all the aspects that I’ve been working on. I can definitely improve my health and routines, but I’m quite satisfied with that considering how sporadic my schedule was in 2017.

WHAT AM I WORKING TOWARD?

Next year I have a few goals: read more pages than I did this year, spend a lot more time working on flexibility and mobility and simply spend more time working on my health. Travel wise, not sure yet, but Australia and Japan are on the radar, as well as perhaps hiking the Colorado Trail. I signed up for a 10 day meditation retreat in late March, 2018 in Thailand which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I also want to do a few more 30 day challenges, firstly being a 30 day vegetarian diet.

ALL TOGETHER

As stated every year, 2017 was the fastest year of my life, and perhaps one of the best.  In all the aspects of my life that I’ve focused on: health, business, knowledge, connection, I’ve made progress.

You can see all of my posts from 2017 herehttp://www.patjk.com/posts/2017/

Thanks for reading. Happy New year, see you in 2018!

Note: You can follow what I’m reading and things I find interesting daily on my G+Twitter and/or Facebook page.

Lost in Thought

In “The Power of Now“, Eckhart Tolle discusses how the present moment is all there is.  And how, fundamentally, time is an illusion.  The past and the present exist only through our thought happening in the present moment.

What is the present moment, the now? It’s often hard to see.  Let’s say you’re sitting at a table having a conversation with your friend, but as your friend is talking you’re gazing off into the distance thinking of something unrelated.  Sure, your present moment is just that, but in a sense it is completely distracted by thought.  Instead of paying full attention and being fully mindful of your friend talking, you’re mind is adrift elsewhere, most likely unaware of it.  As soon as you become aware that you’re drifting off, that is mindfulness, bringing you to the present moment – observing your thoughts as they arise out of consciousness.

The example above is how our minds, more often than not, function – we’re often lost in thought without knowing it.  The idea of mindfulness meditation is 2 fold:

  1.  It gives you a point to focus on, a reference point – the breath for example – so that when your mind is distracted, you actually notice it.  See my post on Mindfulness here.
  2. With practice, you naturally become more mindful of the moment, more present, more in the now. You truly begin to see thoughts as exactly what they are, simply thoughts, nothing else.

So why is being in the now important? Why does it matter? Well, that is all there is.  Like the Stoics came to conclude 2,000 years ago, all there is to being is the now.  Studies also show that being in the now is also the place with the highest wellbeing (Source).  A wandering mind is not a happy mind.

So when one says that most people spend their entire lives lost in thought, it is true.  A thought is just a thought.  It is so obvious that most people don’t know it.  But with mindfulness practice, it becomes obvious.  And when you’re angry, sad, stressed, or anxious, you can stop, become present, and recognize it is simply a temporary sensation (or thought) that will pass, and not react to it.  Or at the very least, if you do react to it, know that you’re reacting to it and ensure you’re mindful of your reaction.  If thoughts get out of control, they cause unnecessary emotions and reactions that cause unnecessary suffering. It happens all the time to most people, unnecessarily.

You can become the observer of thoughts rather than simply laying victim to them which causes unnecessary suffering.  This is the idea behind meditation – simply observing thoughts as they arise out of consciousness, seeing them for exactly what they are, thoughts.

I’d highly recommend reading “The Power of Now” or listening to the audiobook, it is useful to truly becoming a more aware, useful, and joyous person.

STAY UPDATED

Get my NEW posts delivered to your email.  Make it easy to stay connected.

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.