Life-Changing Moments

loading new life

I’M WAITING.

Your life isn’t going to change in one big, glorious, epic moment. Your life will change in a million tiny ways in the million tiny moments, based on the million tiny decisions you make each day, week, month, and year.

Of course there will be big moments, and big choices, but those are all just the consequences of the little moments and little choices you’ve made before. The big moments never come without an avalanche of little moments to lead up to them.

Can one moment just suddenly pop up and change everything? Sure. But far, far more common is the build-up. What looks like a “big singular moment”, but is really just a compilation of a million tiny moments.

Most people only talk about the big moments. They don’t get into all the little moments, simply because getting into the details would take way too long. Some people don’t even realize there were little moments–they don’t connect all the dots that led them to wherever they wound up. Others just don’t mention it as much, because small stuff seems less relevant. But it’s there. It’s always there, for all of us.

So don’t get caught up and overwhelmed in big-picture thinking. Have your big picture in mind, but then treat questions like, “What should I have for breakfast?” with the same care and consideration you give choices that clearly impact your destiny. Because they ALL impact your destiny.

Every choice you make trains your brain how to respond to choices. If it’s always “whatever’s easiest” or “whatever someone else wants” then that’s the path you start going down.

And the math here is pretty simple.

Giving minimal effort = Getting minimal reward. 

Doing what everyone else does = Getting what everyone else gets.

If you want to get a lot out of life–and live your dreams, whatever they may be–then you have to put a lot into it. Give it your all, and life will give a lot back. And learning to do this isn’t some mystical birthright bestowed on a lucky few; it’s up for grabs to anyone who wants it.

Becoming decisive and knowing how to make good choices is a skill anyone can learn. And, in fact, we all have to learn it.

Start small. Everything starts small. It’s not shameful, it’s nature. Little by little, it’ll become your habit, and that will become your life.

Make one tiny decision today in a manner that makes you feel powerful and in control. Do one little baby thing that moved you toward what you REALTY WANT, instead of what you want RIGHT NOW.

Tomorrow, do it again. If you can do two, do two. If not, be proud of your one awesome decision. You earned it.

Then build, slowly but surely.

And then, keep working toward your goals. Every day, in whatever way you can, move toward your dreams, because they aren’t going anywhere, so you might as well go to them.

One day, you’ll look up from your one-step-after-another and find you’ve arrived.

That’s a pretty life changing moment (and there will be plenty more along the way).

P.S.
Making decisions–no matter how big or small–uses up your willpower. You can save yourself a lot of trouble by learning to ration your willpower effectively. Click here!

The Most Ignored Limited Resource on Earth

Forget fuels, water, air, and time for a moment–I mean, they’re important, but we’ll set them aside for this. There is one resource we’re all wasting every day, and it’s costing us more than we can possibly imagine.

That resource is willpower.

No, seriously, it is.

Because the fact is willpower, self-discipline, those are limited resources. We wake up each morning with a certain amount, and we run out through the day.

Ever notice how it’s easier to eat healthy, or do assignments, or be at all productive when you’re alert and awake? That’s you having your highest levels of willpower.

This would be handy to have irl.

This would be handy to have irl.

Ever notice how, when you’re tired, you snack endlessly, or watch too much TV, or putter around aimlessly online? That’s you running out of willpower. We can’t bring ourselves to finish reports or exercise or do much of anything when we’re low on willpower.

The real problem here is that we’re not really taught about this personal resource, or how to use it the way we want, instead of as a kind of involuntary spasm at random times throughout the day.

So I’d like to share what I’ve learned, so you can get more of what you want, less of what you don’t want, and enjoy your life a lot more.

Here are a few things that can drain willpower:

– lack of sleep
– poor nutrition
– worry/stress
– lack of training
– making too many decisions

(I know that last one sounds weird. I’ll get to that.)

Here’s what replenishes willpower (bet you can guess a few):

– getting enough (good) sleep
– eating better
– relaxation and fun
– deliberate willpower exercises
– making decisions strategically

(Remember when I said I’d address the weird last item? That’s happening now.)

The first few items on each if those lists are pretty self-explanatory. I’ll discuss them in another post, but right now, let’s talk about how decisions impact your decision-making abilities.

Decisions area a direct drain on the willpower reserves in our bodies. Willpower is like the gasoline that fuels choices.

That means every decision you make takes a toll on your willpower. And weirdly, it doesn’t matter how big or small the decision is–choices are like a switch: It’s either on or off. A decision is either made, or it’s not. There aren’t really shades of grey or varying degrees of intensity here. No scale of one to ten–just “YES” or “NO”.

So everything you decide to do eats up your precious, limited willpower.

Here are a few choices that unnecessarily use willpower through the day:

– What to wear
– What to eat
– When to do certain tasks
– Whether or not to go out tonight/tomorrow/this weekend
– When to go to sleep/wake up
– What to do in your free time
– What to watch on Netflix
– Which route to take to go somewhere

Believe it or not, these stupidly simple tasks take a huge chunk of your willpower for the day, leaving you weak to defend against threats or to seize opportunities.

This makes it hard to do big-picture stuff. That book you want to write, the album you want to record, any skill you want to learn, or trophy you want to win become vague wishes, rather than laser-focused goals, when you’re low or flat out of willpower.

How do I combat this in my own life? How do I save up enough willpower through the day to still be making sound decisions at night?

Planning ahead.

Much like the president, I make sure I make as few decisions in the moment as I have to. What will I wear today? I laid that out last night. What will I eat? I made a meal plan for the week. Will I go out with my friends? Not until Thursday–I’m booked until then.

Unlike the president, I don’t have anyone to do this for me, so I have to be smart about it. I might have to make all these choices myself, but I don’t have to do it randomly as things come up through the day. I can make these decisions for myself ahead of time, when I’m in a good frame of mind. With the decision made, all I have to do later is follow the path I’ve laid out for myself.

Now, does this mean my life is effortless? No, and definitely not at first. Getting to this point took a lot of work. There were times when I didn’t even have enough willpower to follow the pre-set plan I’d made before. I mean, how hard is that? But as I said: It takes effort. It takes practice. It takes time to replace old habits with new ones, but it’s worth it.

Start making plans for yourself. The fun thing about this is it’s entirely up to you. What are you going to wear? You decide. What are you going to eat? Whatever you want. When do you go to bed and wake up? That’s your call.

You still get to make the decision, you just make it in a way that leaves you with more willpower throughout the day.

If you start doing this, you’ll begin to find that you have more decision-juice for the big stuff. You’ll have the willpower to put at least a little energy toward your big, life-changing, dream-making goals.

Another thing you can do is exercise your willpower muscle. You do this by being conscious of the decisions you’re making (which I talk about in this post), and deliberately choosing what’s “right” for you (whatever “right for you” means–no one else can tell you what that is, but if you learn to listen to your instincts, you’ll find it every time).

Just little things, like doing some exercises (a few push ups each morning is a solid start), or practicing something you wouldn’t normally do (like writing with your non-dominant hand). Also, try slowing yourself down on certain tasks. Eating, washing dishes, feeding the dog…slow down and really get into the process, experience each step, be conscious of it, and you’ll be exercising your willpower little by little, day by day.

The more often and more consistently you make conscious, positive choices for yourself, the more willpower you develop. So not only will you be saving willpower, you’ll actually have more of it to use.

The other tactic? Rest. You know that schedule I suggested? Give yourself some downtime. Remember: Willpower runs out. You need to replenish it, and the best way is with rest. I’ve noticed that for me, personally, I have the most willpower on Monday morning. It dwindles through the day, but also through the week. I’m all but done by Friday–in fact, if I’ve been highly productive that week, I’ll often give myself Friday off, since some weeks, it seems pretty clear that I’m not gonna get a damn thing done, anyway.

And that’s the power of knowing yourself, knowing your limits, and knowing strategies to help you get where you want to go.

Imagine what you can do, create, or accomplish with more willpower and better practice using it?

Anything you want.

“There Are Two Kinds Of People In The World”

Yup.

Exhibit A.

We’ve all heard the phrase “There are two kinds of people in the world.” That’s the first part of a common saying, which is usually followed by the second part: two options that relate to whatever point the speaker wants to prove.

It can be deep and meaningful (“Those who follow the rules and those who make the rules”)…

It can be funny (and, if your on Tumblr, a bit serial-killer-y)…

two kinds of people

Two kinds of people, folks.

It can be oddly specific (“People who understand football, and Manchester United fans”)…

Or even downright meta (“Those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t”).

Then there’s “There are 10 kinds of people in the world: Those who understand binary and those who don’t.”

And so on and so forth.

But here’s the thing that everyone–everyone–forgets, and that is the third part of this line:

You get to choose which group you’re in.

Hell, I’d go so far as to say you get to choose if you stay in those two options or pick door number three, but that’s a post for another day.

So if you stumble across this:

tear you down build you up

And you think, “Oh god, which one am I? Am I the kind of person who tears others down??”

Or even, “Well. I know I certainly don’t build anyone up…”

You get to pick.

No part of your past has control over your present. If you’re going through life–a follower, a take-no-actioner, a sit-back-and-let-life-happener, and you realize that you don’t like that path…switch lanes.

Life is a series of choices. And everyone is going to tell you what to choose, or how to choose, but only you can actually make the decision.

"I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it." ~Morpheus, The Matrix

“I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.” ~Morpheus, The Matrix

There is nothing keeping you where you are but you. Your environment, upbringing, and past might have influence, but they do not have control. The people around you might be more this or less that, but they are not the captain of your ship.

We’re not taught to see the world this way, but the simple reality is that we are the only ones who ultimately make our choices. Everyone around you, all your life, has simply been showing you doors. They might make it sound like you have no choice, but it’s a trick. It’s a lie. The choice is yours. It always has been. And part of “waking up” is realizing this.

At the end of your life–and in every moment before then–you and you alone will have to bear the full burden of your choices. The only way to make sure this isn’t a burden is to make choices that align with who you aspire to be. That is the one and only path to happiness: Choices that are true to you. It might sound selfish, but it’s actually the most loving thing you can do. The only way for you to contribute positively to the world around you is to let that inner light shine.

So whatever kind of person you are, and whatever kind of person you want to be, just remember that the choice is yours, and no one can tell you which option (if any) is right or wrong for you.

Choose the path that calls to you.

And keep your own personal brand of crazy in-tact.

Stay classy, internet.

Stay classy, internet.

 

Millennials, Digital Natives, & The Unstoppable Human Spirit: Part II

Last post, I talked about what the “entrepreneurial spirit” means to me, and how it’s not just about owning a business. It’s so much more than that, and honestly, it’s so much cooler than just that.

See, I love entrepreneurs. I love the mindset, and the outlook. I think it’s a fantastic way to be, and I think the increase in entrepreneurial individuals in our world is the sign of a global shift, a change in awareness and a change in our direction as a species. A good one!

If you’ve resonated at all with what I’ve written here, it’s very possible you have an entrepreneurial spirit, even if yours is, as of yet, underdeveloped.

Here are some characteristics of entrepreneurs:

  • Easily bored by routine
  • Rebellious
  • Eager to learn (but completely unwilling to do tasks that don’t light them up)
  • Stubborn
  • Curious
  • Prone to depression, frustration, and emotional distress when feeling trapped and powerless
  • Wants to do things their own way (even if sometimes it’s harder)
  • Has a strong desire to contribute something meaningful to the world
  • Possesses a great sense of purpose (even if that purpose is completely unclear to them)
  • Incredibly creative in areas where they have interest
  • Often diagnosed with things like ADD or ADHD

(This is not to say that just because you’re moody and rebellious that you’re an entrepreneur. I dislike when people use high intellect or unique personalities to excuse rudeness or actual laziness—there are some genuinely lazy people who don’t contribute to the world, and that’s not where you want to be.)

Though I might or might not be guilty of this…

Though I might or might not be guilty of this…

It took me until I was in my twenties to realize that I was an entrepreneur, even though, when I looked back, it was painfully obvious that I’d always done things my own way.

Entrepreneurs want different things from life than most others. “Freedom” has a different definition for them, and they’ll brave all manner of unusual and uncomfortable circumstances to get what they want.

They’ll work incredibly hard on what they believe in.

They’ll go without things others wouldn’t dream of going without if it’s in service of their dreams.

They’ll make sacrifices that seem impossible to others, because they know what they want.

An entrepreneur who isn’t in touch with their passions and desires suffers. They can be morose, lost, and unfocused. This often looks like flakiness, lack of motivation, lack of goals, and general patheticness.

This was me for a few years. After college, I just kind of hung around for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I worked hard. I just felt like I was stuck in the mud, spinning my tires at full throttle, but going nowhere. I was working non-stop, but I found I had nothing to show for it, and I was quickly sinking into depression and a general disdain toward life.

I felt like this dog.

I felt like this dog.

 

I knew who and what I wanted to be, but getting there felt impossible. Even starting felt impossible. I’m a big picture person, so while I can see things from a detached perspective and keep my goal in sight, I also have a bad habit of becoming overwhelmed by everything I need to do. This can be paralyzing, and for a few years, I was. I let fear and doubt keep me frozen in place, not knowing how to even begin.

The good thing about that time was that, while I didn’t feel like I was moving forward, I was still trying things. I wrote books, I freelanced, I read and read and read, devouring everything I could about making money, or publishing, or spirituality and finding inner peace, or even things like inventing and law. I read and watched and learned everything I could find that struck a chord with that hollow place inside of me that was eating me alive.

And I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t have one of those stories where I had a big “AHA!” moment that fixed my whole life in one fell swoop. I certainly did have a lot of “aha!” and “Oooh, I GET IT!” moments over the years, and I continue to have them now, but those kinds of things don’t change your life alone. It’s everything together that alters the trajectory of your future.

I used to seek out those defining moments, those singular days that would stand as a turning point for my entire existence.

But the truth, for me, at least, is that life is just a collection of ordinary, run-of-the-mill Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays, spiced up by a few Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

We have to take out the trash and clean the kitchen. We have to do laundry and finish assignments. We have to run errands and write emails, and it’s all awfully boring.

And we have to work really, really hard. A lot. Sometimes for a very, very long time with virtually no return on our overwhelming investment whatsoever.

We have to do all this, all this Normal Life and Dream Life stuff, all mixed together, while being told over and over by people on all sides, whether they live in our house or in our screens, that we can’t ever do it.

They tell us we can’t have what we want. We can’t be that person. We can’t do those things. We can’t change this life. We’re stuck. They’re stuck. Everyone’s stuck. They tell us to give up and live a Normal Life full time, and let the Dream Life be just that—a dream. They tell us that’s normal and healthy and right.

And the only real difference between the entrepreneurial spirit and the ordinary soul is this: The little voice, sometimes so quiet we can barely hear it, that whispers, “But I want this.”

It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. And for people with a dream, with a purpose, there’s really no other option.

There will be big moments, but they’re rarely game changers all on their own. Much more powerful and important are the millions upon millions of little moments. Little, ordinary moments, where you choose to be big and extraordinary. Start adding those up, and you’ll start to see some remarkable results.

Everyone has this potential in them, but not everyone listens to the little voice. Not everyone holds fast to those dreams. Most people let life steer them, rather than steering their lives.

And the truth is that it’s not actually harder or easier to do it one way or another. Life is hard, period. It’s just a matter of what kind of “difficult” you’re willing to put up with: Working hard to get what you want, or regretting your decisions and wishing you had more.

So if you know what you want, don’t ever let it go. I’m going to talk a lot more about this in the future, so stick around. There’s a lot to cover on this topic.

If you don’t know what you want, still stick around. One of the purposes of my life is to ensure that others find their passion, so I’m going to be talking a lot about that, too.

But more than anything, keep being you. You can improve you, and be the best you, but make sure that no matter what, you’re always you. As they say: Everyone else is taken.

 

So, would you classify yourself as an entrepreneurial spirit? You can be broke, businessless, and completely at a loss for what you want to do in life—that doesn’t mean you aren’t an entrepreneur!

Millennials, Digital Natives, & The Unstoppable Human Spirit: Part I

While it’s pretty clear that the world is nowhere near perfect, the fact of the matter is we’re basically living in the best time period in recorded history. Nostalgia aside, there has never been a time (that we know of) where there was so much possibility, and while that “possibility” might be “annihilation of the human race” it might also be “awesome good things that don’t end up blowing us all up.”

:D

“Yay, we didn’t kill everyone!”

Even with all our faults and imperfections, we’re still more open-minded, accepting of others, compassionate, conscious of our actions, connected with life (human and otherwise), and motivated toward freedom than ever before.

I’m not talking a little improvement, either. We are light years ahead of where we were just a century ago. It’s amazing how drastically or cultural, societal, and personal beliefs and outlooks have changed over the last hundred years, even the last fifty years. Attitudes towards people of different races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, and other personal distinctions is unrecognizable if you go back just a few decades. Most of us today can’t even comprehend the disdain for others based on what, to us, seems like completely irrelevant details.

There’s much, much more to do, yes, but I have to say that I’m pretty impressed by how far humanity has come. It gives me hope that we can make it so much further, and do so much better, probably within just a few more decades.

I’m discussing this today because we’re living in such interesting times right now. We’re connected to one another, able to share knowledge and insights instantaneously with people all around the world, and I want to talk about what that means, both for the individual and for humanity as a whole.

This is the era or the independent spirit.

This is the time of questions and wonderment.

This is the generation of the entrepreneur.

You might see the word “entrepreneur” and think, “Yeah, I’m no business owner.” But I am taking to you.

Being an entrepreneur is about so much more than owning a business. In fact, owing a business is actually just a side effect of entrepreneurship; it’s not the cause.

Because when you’re an entrepreneur, you HAVE to own your own business, or do your own thing, or work for yourself in some capacity. It’s a mindset. It’s a lifestyle. And it’s more common than ever in today’s world.

This shift, which to me is a wonderful blessing, is not being met with such enthusiasm elsewhere, though.

Many call the most recent generations “lazy” or “entitled”, and I’ll admit that these behaviours do run rampant in some people. However, I’ve noticed that “lazy” and “entitled” are often misattributed, slapped onto the wrong group, who simply get caught in the wake of the more disappointing members of their age group.

Because a lot of us are really smart. We’re hard workers. We’re passionate and driven and eager to contribute.

But…we’re not sure how.

I’m from the Millennial generation. Some of you probably are, too. A lot of you likely fall into the next group, which I like to call “Digital Natives” (I didn’t come up with that on my own—I got that term from my friend, Dawn Elyzabeth). The lines aren’t exactly perfectly defined, though this little graphic from Dawn’s site explains it pretty well:

Generational-Workforce-Graphic

Dawn is awesome. You should say hi.

These younger generations—preceded by the also-rebellious Gen X—are…well…a little different. We’re finding that a lot of us don’t belong behind desks, pushing paper and doing mindless busywork. We’ve seen the consequences of working at a job you hate to support a lifestyle you feel no desire for, and we’ve responded with a resounding, “HELL no.”

And the generations who came before us—and even a few of our own who believe in that method—the ones who built the world we’re currently living in, well, they dislike that. They want us to accept the way they think, but, well…

*heads off to blow something up*

We don’t.

So there’s friction. Our outlook makes no sense to them, so they respond by labeling it in a way that does make sense to them: They say that we’re lazy, entitled, self-obsessed, oversized children who were spoiled when we were young and elect to continue being spoiled as adults.

Now, before we go on, I want to clarify that there’s nothing wrong with wanting a desk job. Working in an office isn’t abject torture to some. To me, it is, but I’m fully aware that it’s quite enjoyable to others, and I don’t begrudge them that, nor do I judge them for their choices. The world is full of different kinds of people, and that’s not an accident. We need every type, so if you fall into the, “I like having a 9-5 job,” category, then enjoy it! It’s by no means an invalid way to live.

I ask only that people who fit comfortably with the more “accepted” life choices recognize that there is more than one way to be a mature, useful, productive, contributing member of society.

The entrepreneurial spirit has always existed. It’s an integral part of humanity, and while it’s gotten us into plenty of trouble in the past, it’s given us out greatest advancements. We owe or current lifestyle to entrepreneurs and their passion.

We’re seeing an influx of this tendency in the younger generations, in large part because it’s easier than ever to tap into that energy. Anyone can start a website, write a book, record an album, share their knowledge, or work on scientific breakthroughs from the comfort of their own homes.

To some, this is a problem. To me, it’s our greatest blessing.

And THAT is what I’m going to be talking about in my next post.

Natural Ability vs. Making Conscious Effort

Everyone has things that come naturally to them, while other things seem completely insurmountable.

Some examples from my own life: I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was almost 21, I didn’t go on a single date until I was in my 20s, and probably the scariest thing I ever did was starting a business, because the entire time I felt like I was failing miserably at every step of it (and on more than one occasion, this was true, which made it even scarier). Selling feels like the weirdest, most unnatural thing in the world to me, and I am the actual worst at delegation.

Alternately, some things I’m naturally gifted in are writing, music, organization, and remembering movie quotes.

monty python tis but a scratch

“What are you going to do, bleed on me?!”

Plus, I pretty much made it through the entirety of my school years—including college—without having to study.

But in all seriousness, we’ve all got strengths and weaknesses, and while our strengths are fun to play up, our weaknesses is they make us feel…well…weak. We also tend to fixate on what we’re bad at more than what we’re good at. It’s an affliction our entire society suffers from.

I hated my weaknesses for the longest time. I thought they were my limitations—my barriers.

What it took me a while to realize was that they were actually one of my greatest assets.

Here’s how it works out, at least to me:

When things come easily to us, we don’t think much about them. This is fine—it can be a lot of fun and a nice break from the things we stress out about.

But the things that don’t come naturally? They push us. They challenge us. They demand we become more.

You have to think about those things, and that’s what makes us conscious. That’s what makes us actively think about and consider our actions. “Oh, hey. I need to do this thing and I can’t…why? How do I fix this? What do I do now?”

The things I’m not automatically good at have turned out to be my greatest gifts. They challenged me, they pushed me, they taught me how to overcome things and make myself into something greater. Life is boring when things are easy. I may have a college degree, but the fact that I barely had to work to get it means that it didn’t teach me half as much as my failed business ventures did.

The only way we grow is when we do something that pushes us out of our comfort zone, and makes us approach a problem from a new angle.

Our “weak” points also make us carefully evaluate our priorities. What’s the most important thing for us to do? To learn? Our time on this earth is limited, so we’d better make sure that, with the time we have, we’re focusing on the things that matter most to us.

So maybe you’re not good at sports, and maybe you don’t care. But maybe you’re struggling with music, which is something you very much want to be good at. Let the sports slide—let the music flow.

And the fact is, regardless of however talented (or untalented) you are at something, it’s going to take a lot of work to master it. There’s a level of dedication required in just about anything, and if you’re going to achieve any level of mastery, you’re going to have to commit for the long-haul.

This is probably discouraging. I know it always was for me. I knew where I wanted to be and I wanted to be there YESTERDAY, so hearing that I wouldn’t get where I wanted to go for a few years was just agonizing.

But I was lucky enough to get this piece of advice early in my life, and I cling to it in times of self-doubt and fear:

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”

– Earl Nightingale

I was given this quote by my mother when I was a child, and I hold on to it like a rock in the middle of a storm at sea. Anytime I want to quit on something because I’m not getting the results fast enough, I remind myself that I can’t actually give up on my dreams. Not the real ones. They’ll claw their way out of me. They’ll eat me alive if I don’t give them the space to breathe.

So I press on. I try new things. I reassess the situation and form a new plan of attack. And I let go of the things that don’t serve me—the things I don’t really care about—so that I can focus on what I do love.

Will I ever be a pro basketball player? No. I don’t want to, so it’s pretty easy to know that I won’t put that effort in. But I will also probably never be a world-class violinist. I’m good at music, I have fun with it, and I might even be able to do something with it, but it’s not my focus. It’s a hobby.

Writing, though? That’s where my soul spills out. That’s where I put my energy. Even though it’s hard, I keep at it, because in this case, the struggle and pain are worth it. Writing isn’t a hobby, it’s my purpose.

A lot of things won’t feel worth the effort to you, and that’s fine; you don’t need to put your heart and soul into everything. Dabble, feel around, find the areas you love, and throw yourself into those with everything you have. Let other pursuits either be relaxing pastimes, or let them go completely. Only you can determine where your time is best spent, and where those creative energies need to go.

And one final note: “Finding your purpose” doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll always be easy. It’ll be damn hard work—you’ll know you’re in the right place when, even at its absolute worst, you know you can’t quite. You won’t want to, not really. You might stop for a while, but it’ll always draw you back in. Keep at it; what you’ll produce will amaze you.

Perspectives: What Dressgate Can Teach Us About How We See The World

We’ve all seen the dress by now. A couple weeks ago, Dressgate took the internet by storm, as only ridiculous, nonsensical things with no real bearing on anything meaningful seem to be able to do.

I’m not knocking the internet here, by the way. I love all the madness on here–it’s a good time.

But seriously. We were (and in some cases, still are) debating the colors of a dress.

#thedress

The source of all the trouble.

The thing is, I actually found this whole debate fascinating. A lot of people were getting into heated debates, while many others just seemed really upset about how stupid and pointless it was, but I kind of loved it. Here’s why:

We learn best by experience. Humans do a great job of internalizing things once we’ve actually lived them. Especially when they’re memorable. Memorable like, say…something silly and a ridiculous, maybe?  Yes, indeed.

And now, we’ve basically all lived a really clear, vivid, and kind of hilarious example of a simple principle that rules or lives:


We all perceive our own reality.

That’s it. That’s my resounding truth.

But isn’t this the perfect example of it? The dress is, technically, blue and black. But though filters, screen resolutions, eyesight, and other variables, we’ve all basically seen a different dress. It’s not just “white and gold” vs “blue and black”—there were claims of purple, brown, bronze, and arguments over what specific shade of blue it is.

There are as many ways to see this dress as there are people in the world.

We know that the dress gives off the wavelengths of blue and black, but that doesn’t change the fact that we see what we see.

But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that this kind of personalized viewpoint is limited to pictures on Instagram. This is happening every day, to everyone. CONSTANTLY.

This is why we fight, get our feelings hurt, resent one another, envy people, ridicule others, reject opinions, and get into stupid arguments with the people we love. Because they’re not seeing what we’re seeing. And we’re not seeing what they’re seeing. It’s so simple, we completely overlook it.

Duty Calls!

UNACCEPTABLE.

If you can internalize this one idea, it’ll completely change your life: Even the idea that another person is wrong is your perception of the situation, not the truth.

Truth is a tricky concept. It’s hard to get out of our own heads because we’ve never BEEN outside of our own heads. The entirety of our existence has been as ourselves—there’s really not much any of us can do about that, either. We’re all locked into our own viewpoint. It’s part of the human condition.

So just like or eyes, screens, and prior influences help determine how we see the dress, so too do things like our gender, race, family, culture, and a million other things impact how we see life.

What makes it more complicated is that, in life, there’s very rarely an actual “right” or “wrong” answer. Right and wrong themselves are ideas conjured up by other human beings, so the determination of what’s right or wrong is so subjective, it’s almost impossible to get everyone agreeing on one thing.
 

“…there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

– Shakespeare, Hamlet Act II, Scene II

 
I know this isn’t even a new concept for most people—it’s likely you’ve heard some variation of this before—it’s just that the dress made it so apparent. When I really started looking at the debate, I got so intrigued. Leave it to me to turn internet silliness into something philosophical.

Back to my point, though: What should we do with this knowledge? What kind of action should we take regarding the whole “everyone sees things in their own way” realization?

For now, nothing, really. At least, nothing overt and outward. It is enough, at the beginning, to simply recognize what’s going on, and do your best to respect others’ viewpoints. I say “do your best” because I know some viewpoints are almost impossible to stomach. How can we accept the viewpoints of rapists, or murderers, or racists, or terrorists?

We’re not going to. Not right now, anyway. That’s like, enlightened-monk-living-in-a-temple-meditating-sixteen-hours-a-day level Zen, and I’m definitely not there yet, so I’m not going to tell you that you have to be.

But look at the people in your life. Friends, family, teachers, bosses…see how they have conflicting viewpoints with you, and how maybe just understanding that they see a situation differently than you do can impact their outlook, and thus make them act in a way that seems, to you, strange.

The worst that can happen is you don’t quite get it yet, and things stay the same. You might just find yourself relating to the people in your life (who you already have to put up with, so why not make it easier on yourself?) in a healthier, happier, more peaceful way.

Here’s an example from my own life: My father is still very protective of me, and worries about me going out by myself or doing things on my own. This happens in his mind, despite years of me proving myself to be capable of going out and not dying, because he’s still stuck on me as a little girl. Someone who meets me today will see an adult woman who’s capable of all kinds of cool stuff. My dad, though? He’s still seeing toddler-Eve, not knowing how to safely cross a street.

Can this get a little tiring? Yeah, kind of. It used to bug me, but since I made a perspective-shift and started respecting his outlooks, as well as my own, I became a lot more understanding of, and thus less concerned with, his view of me.

How he sees me doesn’t determine who I am, I do. So I don’t let his worry get to me. I respect his concern, I recognize it as loving, I calmly acknowledge his fears in a way that will put his mind at ease, and then I get on with my day.

Is it always that simple? Hell no. Especially not at first. And there are still going to be some people who you’re probably better off just letting go of. But it’s a great start, and it can change your life for the better. If nothing else, it’s a fun little mental game to play with yourself when you encounter people who think differently from you.

Art & Depression – Is Being Sad the Only Way to Create?

NOTE: I am not talking about clinical depression here, I’m talking about regular, run-of-the-mill bummed-outness. Clinical depression is a whole ‘nother ball game, and I recognize that.

 

There’s a question—a fear—I hear a lot about when it comes to creating art. I’ve even felt it myself; it’s the very worrying question: “Do I have to be depressed to make great art?”

Anyone doing creative work has noticed that they seem to come up with some really amazing stuff when we’re sad. It’s when we’re down that the amazing work seems to flow. We’ve also noticed that there’s something about success that sometimes seems to suck the soul out of our favorite artists’ work.

And for anyone who wants to make creative pursuits a big part of their life…that’s a pretty depressing idea, isn’t it? It basically says, “To make worthwhile contributions to the world, you’re going to have to be discontented and mopey for the rest of your life.”

It’s a pretty widespread idea in our culture, and you’ll hear it from creators of all sorts.

So…is it true?

No. And here’s my theory:

Positive emotions are socially acceptable. It’s comfortable to express those emotions in public—it’s encouraged, even. So we do! Openly! It’s easy to smile, to laugh, to celebrate and have fun and spend time with the people you love.

Yaaaaaaaay~

:D

On the other hand, negative emotions aren’t met so warmly. But we feel them, just the same as we feel positive emotions, so what are we supposed to do with them? We can’t just let them fester. That’ll kill you. So it seeps out. It finds an outlet. Art becomes the pressure valve, without which we’ll explode.

So we write, or draw, or paint, or sing. We make music, we play sports, we dance…because if we don’t do something like that, we’ll end up fighting, or drinking, or just keeling over, one day, worn out by trying to contain it all.

D: D: D: D: D:

Or crying all alone, which in all fairness can be kind of cathartic.

Circling back to the original point, though, does this really mean that the only way to be creative is to channel negative emotions into creativity?

No. Let’s break it down like this:

All emotions generate the energy necessary to be creative. In terms of energy, positive emotions actually make more energy than negative ones.

The reason that it doesn’t seem like “creativity fuel” is because, as I said before, positive emotions tend to get filtered into other things. They get used up, like gasoline in a NASCAR race. It doesn’t need to find and outlet because it has an automatic, natural one in joy responses.

Don’t get me wrong—this definitely doesn’t mean you have to stop celebrating and expressing happiness in order to channel that energy into creativity. You just have to become more conscious and intentional about where your energy goes and how.

And remember, positive energy generates more power than negative energy, so you’ll have enough to celebrate and create.

What happens to people who experience success and seem to lose that spark is simply that a different kind of pain takes over—the fear of failure, and the fear of failing their fans, the fear of not being able to keep to producing a product people like. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: They’re scared they can’t create great art anymore, and that fear becomes so intense, they end up paralyzed by their terror and unable to create the kind of art used to.

It’s not about success blocking them, it’s about fear of failure blocking them. Before they were famous, there were no real expectations of their art—they were free to create whatever spoke to them. Once they gained notoriety, though, they felt expectations placed on them, by their managers and producers, by agents and investors, and of course, by fans (even though fans usually don’t mean to create this kind of stress).

It’s natural, and once you know what it is, it’s completely avoidable.

The point is, a person can create just as easily from joy as they can from sorrow, it’s just a matter of knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing, and figuring out how to direct that energy into something of your choosing.

Someone who creates something beautiful from their pain isn’t fueled by the pain–they are a creative person who chose to do something great instead of wallow.

And even if you’re a happy person in a great mood, you can also choose to do something great.

As with most things in life, the power is in your hands. You just have to recognize it.

The question, of course, is how do I channel energy? I have another post about that (because this post is long enough as-is, and that’s a topic all its own), and you can find it right over here! 😀