That glass with water in it to a 50% capacity mark

There is almost always an opportunity to be unhappy. Life can be brilliantly beautiful and yet an individual can still choose to find how horrible things are or will become. I’m not talking about depression, but rather the poor cognitive habit that people can develop that turns them into pessimists.

Often, pessimists might claim they are not pessimists but realists. They understand the risks that may come in a particular situation and want to be cautious. They might feel that optimism is for the young, naive, and delusional. However, being realistic is an interesting claim to make, because optimism and pessimism aren’t about the facts but the interpretation and desire behind those facts.

If we were being realistic, the glass that’s either half full or half empty exists in a context. Maybe you filled it up to the top and have drunk half of it. If you want more of the drink, you’d be more inclined to call it half empty. If you wanted less of it, you’d be more inclined to call it half full.

There’s also social convention at play; how many people legitimately refer to a cup as half full? The statement may or may not actually reflect the optimism/pessimism of the individual who says it.

In order to be ‘realistic’, one has to acknowledge both the opportunities and risks with a course of action. A pessimist might miss the opportunity, an optimist might miss the risks. It’s rarely a boon to be on the extreme either way in the long run.

In some ways, the question of glass-half-full or half-empty is a question of trust. It’s an indication of how a person feels the world around them is worthy of their trust. Do they want to blindly trust others or shut themselves off? Like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

However, my focus is on pessimism because people are rarely consistently too optimistic. It’s good to be careful, but fear can go overboard very easily. Gratitude is the best way to help temper our habits of becoming too shut down. Of course, things can go wrong. At least one thing always will, life is unpredictable. The truth of the matter is that we need to be careful in watching why we’re being careful.

Are assuming the worst because you are afraid? Are you assuming the worst because you’ve been hurt before? For those who claim to be realistic, are you actually taking probability into account, or are you making an interpretation separate from the stats?

 

not just a work bod

There is so much more to life than work. There is so much more to life than looking a certain way and achieving some ideal you aren’t actually happy with. There is so much more, and yet we still get stuck on these basic things of loving ourselves and being content with where we are.

We fundamentally feel empty when we reach grand milestones without the backing of social support. If we aren’t making a difference, if we aren’t paying attention to the people around us, it’s just hard to have any motivation at all. We can strive after money, freedom, success, all of that, but we are nothing if we are alone.

Granted, money, freedom, and success are all nice. But we feel like we are using our money wisely when we can support ourselves and those around us. We feel free when our bonds to others are healthy instead of constricting. We feel successful when we are able to feel secure financially and are connected to others. Sitting alone in a pile of gold has a similar feel to sitting on a pile of rocks alone.

We struggle with motivation at times because we’re often going about it the wrong way. We try to use fear, but fear wears away. We try to use logic, but logic isn’t very inspiring. We try to use self-discipline but that’s something we need to build up over time and for the right reasons.

It’s true, we need money to survive. This shouldn’t be a spot of shame on us. We might not love what we do– that’s okay. If we are miserable, over time we can work to see if there is a better path. It’s easy to fear getting stuck. Midlife crises are unfortunately common. There’s that terrifying idea that we will blink and our life will have passed us by. But if that is your fear, then act. Take charge of your decisions. Whatever you chose in life, chose it willingly. Chose it without regrets. We are forced into all sorts of situations, but we take responsibility for who we are, we are empowered.

Life will be difficult in some way, no matter what. There will always be boring situations. The key to being okay with that is realizing that even the boring moments are moments of our lives. There is a beauty in everywhere if we look for it. There is always something interesting, and when we open our minds to it in the little moments, we can begin to trust oursleves that we’ll find it in the important moments.

a radical pact

A poem about nerves and fear:

The thing about fear is that drives you down to your stomach in Now

Now is here, there, and living like a wild monkey on your shoulder, playing with your chest like it’s strumming a harp

And the drive is to forget, to distract, to just get away to a place with unfamiliar bridges in shadowy nights

But what do we have, if we do not appreciate this moment?

Every moment we have is a moment of our lives, a moment of time, limited edition feat. You and yourself and all the rest of you

Maybe it’s radical, but even if it is our fear making us hold Time in the forefront of our minds, we are still holding Time

And as we shift towards gratitude, an absurdity, we make a pact of peace

Why should we be ashamed of our fear? We didn’t cast Fear as the starring role in the film, all we can do is deal with the diva

And we handle it,

as we have in the past, as others have done, and as we will do in the future, as other future selves will do

little weights and balance

There is a balance between being patient with yourself, and encouraging yourself to actually get things done.

Oftentimes we have to treat ourselves like small children. We have to reward ourselves with snacks, set time apart for naps, make sure our schedule is in line. Things become messy when we realize the person who will reward us is usually us. It’s easy to be our child-self, far more difficult to convince ourselves to be adults.

Being an adult seems like its own world when you’re a child. It is a set of concepts we associate with responsibility and personal power: opening accounts, setting a budget, going grocery shopping, going to work, etc. It seems foreign to those who haven’t done it, terrifying, really.

But it’s a challenge like every other we face. We learn things one by one. We walk to a place, we fill out a form, and we ask questions when we aren’t sure.

Being “adult” is more or less scary to different individuals, but the same idea holds for a lot of things. Fundamentally, we build things up in our head. We make mole hills into mountains and that makes the prospect of climbing them far more difficult. No matter how complicated a task, we break it down into simpler steps. No matter how important a decision is, the moments leading up help give us the necessary information.

So be patient with yourself on the little things, but get those little things done. All of the huge weights we create are an accumulation of little bits we can handle.

the “but what if” worries that are haunting your heels

Worrying about the future seems ingrained in some people. Others may care not for what comes, they just integrate themselves into wherever they are and trust the flow of the universe to bring them to where they need to be. The worriers, however, can’t. It’s a matter of control, what if I’m not prepared and I lose what matters most to me?

We do what we can to prepare for the future, and we want to be reasonably ready for any situation. Some people are where they need to be already, and just need to learn how to let go. They need to trust that things will work out, trust themselves that their work is enough. Their efforts are enough, and their worry serves no good. It’s a reminder that some of us need to hear: there can always be more work done, but if you’ve put in the work you can, you need to trust that that is all you can do.

However, not everyone has that luxury. Sometimes people are below a certain financial line and know they can never be reasonably ready. That’s the problem with telling people to, “Just don’t worry about it”, because the same situation could ruin one family and be barely a dent for another. It’s the privilege of the rich, for good or ill.

But how do we live, knowing we aren’t ready? How do we live, knowing that we aren’t safe if something goes wrong? How do we trust things will be okay when we know if one thing goes wrong, it won’t be?

Poorer people have lower IQ. This is not a cause to their poverty, but rather a symptom of it. When put into demanding situations, our ability to see the larger patterns are limited, and for good reason. The stress forces us to focus on right now, to get through the day. It’s survival, and we can’t to sit back and luxuriously view the options without care. The issue is that sometimes we need to be able to see the larger pattern, the bigger picture. Our minds need to rest a bit so they can understand the context.

It is not wrong to worry. For some people, it’s the driving force that keeps them on top of their crazy life. It’s the grounding factor that keeps people from making reckless decisions. We shouldn’t be angry with ourselves for worrying because it is an action that makes sense in a lot of situations, and a coping mechanism for handling the variables of living.

As with most things, the issue is in how much we engage with it. If we can’t get out of bed, if it takes up most of our thoughts, that’s when our concern becomes concerning. If it’s lowering our IQ, that’s a problem. Yet, with the financial aspect, how can we get out of it?

That’s the issue right there. We shouldn’t see worry as something to “get out of”. We are the things that worry. It is our choice. Even though habits may take our will out of the equation, we can take that will back, slowly but surely. There is a line between using our worry to make our lives more productive and prepared versus letting it overwhelm us. That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves 1. what we can control and 2. what we cannot.

If we can control it, we do our best. Then step two is the difficult part, we try to let it go. We let it be. Maybe the world will fall apart. Maybe the worst will happen. Take that outcome in mind, truly face it: if it happens, life will still go on. Or it won’t, and there’s nothing we can do about that either.

Those who worry are used to the face of their fears. We know their enemy. We’ve imagined its face a thousand times and then some. If something happens we weren’t expecting, we necessarily never would have been able to expect it. If the worst happens, that’s not the end, because as long as we are alive, we can take steps to make things better. It will be different, but it can still always be better, and that’s something to cling to.

Your worry is not your enemy. You are in control of what you can control, and everything else is irrelevant to your headspace. Things will turn out. They may not turn out how you want, but they will always turn out some way, and you are more ready than you know if you’re considering it in the first place.

the unknown and her demons

It’s hard to trust. By it’s nature, when we don’t know how things will turn out, it puts us on edge. Yet we need to somehow trust ourselves enough to be able to handle the unknown as it comes. But it’s unknown, maybe you’ve never experienced it before, so how can you trust you’ll be able to handle it?

Part of dealing with the uncertainty of the future is realizing that we are going to have to deal with it one way or another. We can’t control the future and completely eliminate the chances of something unexpected, and even if we could, that sort of boring life would drive us crazy. Not knowing is natural. Maybe we don’t know what’s coming down the road of life to greet us, but we know other people and can see how they’ve turned out. Sometimes they turn out alright, and sometimes they don’t. Much of the difference is in how people handle their stress and troubles.

You will be stressed in the future. You will have troubles. These are natural and can even be good for us in the long run! But most importantly, you can change how you’ll handle these difficulties! It is hard to trust yourself, but take the risk. Trust yourself, the alternative is boring. Here’s a little list of things to remember to help you through tense times:

  • Communicate with people about how you’re feeling. Be honest, but tactful if needed.
  • Don’t take too much on! Assume you will only accomplish half of your to-do list, and give yourself time to rest.
  • You can still do amazing things, just realize that the best things take time! Be consistent and let your little efforts build up.
  • Take care of yourself! Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s making sure you’re the best person you can be for others.
  • You are loved, and it’s never too late to change for the better, so start as soon as possible!

where are you looking

When we are in a good mood, we automatically see the silver lining. When we are in a bad mood, we seek out the storm clouds. Sometimes there are things that are unavoidably terrible and miserable, but those things are rare. Most times, we can fight our tendency to look at the negative bits of life.

Life is ambiguous and relative in many ways. We are dependent on context and what we’re comparing things too. It’s hard to not compare because in many ways, we’re comparing machines. In order to be adaptable and problem solve, we think in ways that compare our situation to past situation. We need to look at our choices and make the best ones. We need to look between people and decide who we want to be around. All of these comparisons are driven around a negative bias, this extra emphasis to be wary of what’s going to hurt us and make us feel terrible. We might not be looking for the Best solution, just one that isn’t going to cut off our heads. But that wariness that we need, it can make us hone in on the negative aspects of our lives in unnecessary ways.

We need to compare in order to exist effectively. It’s not a curse, its just a handy tool that we sometimes end up using too much and on situations that don’t need it. If you sit there and tell yourself that everything sucks, how can you expect to be able to he see anything but that? We can’t just stop our thinking habits on the drop of a hat, but we can start making the change little by little. Force yourself to look at the big picture. Give yourself something else to do that isn’t misery-making. Remember that we look for what we want to see.

shivering in me timbers

Out of our raw emotions, fear is one of the most potent feelings to deal with. It’s easy to be afraid, and even the smallest things can make us shake in our boots. We can be afraid of irrational, rational, abstract, or physical possibilities. There really is no limit on how many different things that can terrify us.

We have fear because it makes sense. If there’s a bear, we should not bother it or aggravate it. Our fear in that instance makes sense and helps us survive. Even the more abstract things like losing our job make sense. We fear it because it’s our safety net, its what we do every day, and losing it means we’ll be at risk of not being able to support ourselves. Not all fears are rational, but a good many of them are, and there is reason to be afraid.

That concept might not seem too inspiring, but think about this: you realize there is risk in a dangerous situation and are afraid. If you’re afraid, that means you’re alert and wary. If you are on your toes, it can help you focus on solving that situation. If the fear is irrational, acknowledging our fear is still an important step to getting over it. No matter the state of the cause of our terror, if we know the cause, we can do something about it.

Fear is natural. Fear may even be good in some instances. Being afraid doesn’t mean that that’s our only option, and it most certainly doesn’t mean that we have to stay that way. It may be difficult to move on from such a powerful emotion, but we can do it. We always can.

the known and unknown

Being positive means one of two things: (1) facing the known and trying to find something worthwhile in it, and (2) facing the unknown and trying to look ahead to the good possibilities instead of the bad ones. Both of these tend to be incredibly difficult because our fears like to overcome our hopes. In terms of strength, negative emotions just stick around better! It makes sense to be prepared for the worst outcome, after all. The problem is that, as humans, we tend to ruminate on those negative emotions and it can paralyze us.

So what can we do to find the good in both the known and the unknown? The first step is to look at what we know. “Looking at what we know” may sound a little silly, but we don’t do it that often. We look at what we want to, and ignore other relevant information. So, make an effort to look at that relevant information! Things might go wrong, but you have things. One aspect of your life may be tremendously difficult, but that doesn’t make the rest of it unimportant. Acknowledging these parts of your life doesn’t mean that suddenly everything is easy or that you don’t have a right to complain, it just reminds you that this one problem isn’t the full picture. We are not the center of the universe, and that’s a good thing.

The second part of being positive is looking into the unknown with hope. This becomes more and more difficult depending on the life you’ve had to this point. Someone who has had their trust betrayed multiple times is likely going to have trust issues with their partners in the future because their experience is telling them their hope will not be rewarded. However, while experience impacts us significantly, there is still that unknown factor. That factor could be both positive or negative, but we want to focus on the negative because we’re not sure if we can handle it.

However, we can handle a lot more than we think. Mentally, we want to hold back because of all of those negative emotions. But we shouldn’t! We have situations that likely will turn out poorly, but we also have situations that will likely turn out amazing! Knowing or not knowing, the future is still something we haven’t experienced yet. All we can do is the best we can in our present, so leave the future to its own devices. You can do this.

when you don’t know what you don’t know

The most problematic aspect of uncertainty is that it doesn’t go away even after you acknowledge it. For most other problems, once you recognize and diagnose it, you can begin to solve it. If you’re tired, get more and more consistent sleep. If you know you aren’t healthy, the next step is usually pretty straight forward: drink water, exercise, get a good amount of sleep, eat a balanced diet, etc. If you aren’t doing well on a project, you assess why. Maybe you look up youtube videos or read a book to learn what you don’t know, or try to communicate better with your group. Realizing you aren’t sure? How do you “fix” that, where’s the solution?

The initial intuitive key is to learn more. If you don’t know what you don’t know, then you can find out by trying to “know” more. But where do you begin? If you are trying to learn about a new subject, it’s good to try and get an overview of things first. You can read articles and watch videos that sum it up, then look at what famous people in the area say about it, and from there start using key words to find out about more of the details. What if it’s more than that, however? What if it’s an emotional, relational situation? Things get messier when you start throwing humans into the mix. You have to respect others and their experiences. Still, just because they think a certain way and have a line of opinions to tell you doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them. We have to balance respect and self-respect, communicating tactfully while completely and truly listening to what they have to say. However, the uncertainty question comes back again: How? How do you be assertive and yet respectful when you aren’t ever 100% sure of how the other person thinks? Or sometimes, how do you just be respectful when you find their opinions despicable?

Sure, you can realize that you are uncertain, but when the next step isn’t clear, things are plain difficult. And the most terrifying but realistic answer is that we don’t ever truly know the next step. We will always have to deal with some level of uncertainty. What we can do is try to move past it. You don’t know what you’re doing, or even what questions to ask? Tell someone you don’t know what questions to ask. Wing things if you need to just get them down. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you’ll know for certain at least that that particular route doesn’t work. Diagnosing the fact you are uncertain doesn’t feel like a huge step compared to diagnosing other things, but it actually is a bigger step than we realize. If we think we know and we don’t, we can’t have the opportunity to fail, and if we don’t have the opportunity to fail, we can never learn. The next step may be foggy, but that’s okay. Just take that step anyways and try to learn what places to avoid.

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