making a good plan

It is good to have a plan. It’s helpful when that plan is well thought out. However, the most effective plans are the ones you’ve both thought through and carried out. If you say that you want to be more healthy and make a plan to run every day, you should run every day. If you say you’re going to do something far in the future, like be a programmer, you should start learning right now. The bottom line is that if you don’t do what you need to right now, how are all the other “right now”s going to be different?

When we look at our lives and want something different or better or both, that is the first step. We need to look and be honest with ourselves about what we want to change. This can be open and vague at first, but put your finger on what’s causing your dissatisfaction. Then, get specific. What about this is making you feel unhappy and frustrated with your state in life? Is this worth changing to you? Then the big one: this problem, whatever it is, matters to you, so how are you going to fix it? Research people with similar problems and see what seems to be the best solution for them. Look at your resources and what you can reasonably expect yourself to do. Then assume you’ll do about half of what you think you’ll reasonably do.

With the plan in place, there’s no more excuses you can give that will ring sincere. Perhaps extraordinary life events will get in the way, but these sorts of things are rare. You know what you have to do. Whatever it is, there will be reservations. Being human, we question things. We want to make sure we’re spending our time wisely. This is a good instinct, and can be extremely helpful! However! Before you shirk out, stick to your plan. Commit to it for at least a month. If you hate it, it’ll be a practice in self control. Yet look at your life and honestly evaluate if it’s making it better, if it’s making you into a better person.

Plans are wonderful, but we have to stick to them. If we change our minds suddenly before we get anything done, all we’ve accomplished is wasting our time. Even if you’re unsure, stay with it and teach yourself to commit. You can do this.

finding the right words

We can say all the words we want, but communication requires something extra: the right words. If you don’t explain what you want to say in the language the other person understands, their understanding is going to be limited. By “language”, I mean the broad languages like English, Mandarin, French, etc., but also the smaller subgroupings within each of those.

Region could affect accent, the field of interest could affect terminology, the relationship the speakers have to each other could effect meaning and expression, but there’s even more than that! When we express ourselves, we need to be able to express an idea that they will be able to interpret as the same thing we mean. We need to speak clearly.

However, speaking clearly isn’t an easy skill to master. There’s a temptation to stick to the groups we know and are comfortable with because we are fluent in that group’s patois. In those settings, we know how to express ourselves and we know that when we are sarcastic, they’ll understand it as sarcasm. We can be funny, and they’ll understand the joke. But the problem with that is that people are different from each other. If we only stick to our little friendly groups, we deny oursleves. Talking to someone from a different culture is difficult. If you have similar cultures, or either of you are familiar with how to communicate, it becomes easier. It can range from semi-easy to incredibly difficult.

Yet if we push ourselves, talk to people we might be socially awkward around at first, we’ll get there. It might take months. It will probably take a lot of frustration for everyone involved. But that frustration will be worth it, because at the end of the day, you’ll be able to understand someone else just a little better. You’ll be able to see inside their head just a little easier, and that look may transform how you yourself see things. It’s difficult, but how many people could you learn from and have a wonderful time with, if you just put in a little more effort to understand them?

worth and the human’s work

We live in a society where oftentimes our worth is associated with our productivity. Yet in the broad spectrum of life, productivity for each individual means something different. If someone has to work extra hard to do task A, and another barely has to lift a finger to do both A and B, who is more productive? Externally, we’d day the second person, who did two tasks. However, the first person is more productive in that they’ve put in more effort. The question becomes, what kind of focus should we have, praising those who put in the effort, or praising those who get things done?

Theoretically, those we admire the most are those who work hard and get a lot done. However, psychologically, if we focus too much on the ends, we can end up with some very unhealthy situations. If someone doesn’t need to work hard, they won’t know how to work when the true obstacles come. If someone does things only to get them done, quality can go down. Yet, if only effort matters, what’s the motivation to actually bring things to a conclusion? Besides, wasteful effort isn’t helpful for anyone. The answer is that both effort and accomplishment are important parts of productivity, which makes judgement that only reflects accomplishment lopsided in perspective.

Yet, should we even be comparing worth to productivity in the first place? It’s certainly effective for businesses and schools. Still, is this the whole of life, what our education and career says of us? No! Productivity is a single measure of success, meaning there are other measurements and factors to it. Working hard is important for our well being! But let’s remember that productivity is one part of ourselves, and that even that isn’t so clear cut. Putting in effort counts for something.

is it me you’re looking for?

Being forgetful can be amazing. Not forgetful of responsibility or items, but forgetting the self. When we are faced with duty and desire, we can become obsessed with how much we are or are not getting done. When we are perfectionistic, we become so caught up in our own negative emotions, we forget to check on others who might also be suffering. When we stop focusing so much on ourselves, it’s much easier to be ourselves, a kinder version of ourselves.

Often times, we think that in order to be humble and selfless, we somehow should hate the self. If selfish people think they are great, after all, mustn’t that mean that selfless people think they are horrible? Yet selfishness doesn’t necessarily mean that one loves themselves. It is very possible and very common for someone to seemingly hate themselves and still be incredibly self-centered. Hate takes a lot of energy. It takes effort to exert that sort of emotional force. Strictly in terms of physical endurance, it takes a lot out of you, and with other dimensions upon that, it’s safe to say that hate is an expensive habit. That great cost makes it so that limited cognitive resources just don’t have time to think about something else. Even if that hatred is a self-loathing!

Of course, all of this operates on a premise: selfishness is bad, selflessness is good. If people argue against this, it’s usually because their idea of selflessness is letting someone walk all over you, or overworking yourself without a decent level of care for our own well being. When I say “forgetting yourself”, I mean forgetting all the extra stuff. We all do basic things to care for ourselves. We also have things we desire and work for. Forgetting means all that icing on top of that, the overthinking, the dwelling too long, etc. So how do we do that? How do we become selfless?

Simply? We focus on something else. We focus outward instead of in. When we want to complain and think about our own state, we first consider others. We don’t take things lying down, but we don’t fight everyone who crosses our path either. It’s a long term sort of project, and a long term sort of goal that we have to learn how to do on our own, but it’s worth it.

“for the aesthetic!” We cry

You can do things simply because it sounds cool that you did them. You can go to a fashion show, hate it, and still brag about it simply because you went. You can paint something not because it has some deep meaning, but just because you wanted it to look pretty. You can do whatever you please, not for some grand reason, but because you feel like it.

This concept comes easy to some people, and brilliantly hard to others. Of course you can do what you want! However, it doesn’t often feel like that because things get in our way. Obligations, ethics, even physical things at times, they all can form a mental prison. However, most times we do not decide things rationally, but decide emotionally, and then justify it with logic afterwards. Emotions shouldn’t drive everything, and hopefully we are well practiced in disciplining our feelings. And yet, there is a power in knowing that we are naturally rather irrational creatures.

We do things that don’t really make sense. We have subconscious drives and biased perceptions! So of course, our behaviors aren’t precisely clean when it comes to why we do certain things. However, if we know we are operating on emotion, we can either let go or reign ourselves in a bit more. We can more honestly gauge our decisions for what they are! We can see how we need to regulate ourselves more or less. Being honest is a journey, but it’s worthwhile. Sometimes you need to do things for the aesthetic.

fighting off fantasy

I’ve loved L. Frank Baum’s work for a long time. Part of that journey and experience, however, was the illustrations that came with those books. The drawings are wonderful, a 20s remix of art nouveau and traditional fairytale illustration, full of beautiful youthful people with clear skin, long flowing hair, flowers, and long loose robes. The power of both the books and art was that it transcended the groan and dull of reality. Only beautiful things exist within those creations, with a golden luxury of youth and sense of immorality. It’s the sort of work that makes you forget about all the gritty, ugly details of existence. It’s fantasy, pure and simple.

But why do we care? Why do humans find things beautiful? Why do we long for beauty, and in the end, what is it, really? These are all questions philosophers and scientists debate. It’s okay to desire beauty. Desiring and wanting the attractive things of life is a primary human complusion, it’s not necessarily wrong. However, beauty is important as an extra layer of the cake. Fantasy isn’t inherently wrong, many wonderful things and experiences can come from it.

However, we need to remind ourselves what is fantasy and what is reality. Don’t give up your life for fantasy. Don’t get so caught up in the what-ifs you give up on it ever becoming more than that! Let it be the motivation, not the primary activity of your day.

“only the boring get bored”

“Only the boring get bored”, the phrase seems designed for annoying youth. It reminds me of children saying “I’m bored” and bothering adults who say the phrase because they want them to go away. It bothered me when I first heard it because everyone has been bored before. Even the most excitable child becomes uninterested from time to time, simply as the nature of existence. Furthermore, boring people can have very interesting lives. One might argue that some individuals use their fun actions and activities to account for their being dull in personality; they might in fact be boring but interested.

Being bored, however, seems inevitable. After all, waiting in line isn’t exactly a scintillating, edge of the seat drama. And yet, there is still that core thought: can’t we find passion and meaning in every situation, if we try hard enough? The phrase seems to get at some core belief: if we want to get something done, we need to do it ourselves. It inspires bored people to become better people. But there’s the rub: if we try hard enough. It’s hard to try. We care about a few things, and the rest of the life we become exhausted with it. Trying to care about everything like trying to furiously spoon the entire ocean into the sahara desert.

There’s another important aspect too. Does life have to be interesting? If we are safe and loved and provided for, what does our interest level matter? Obviously it does matter to the human psyche, which is why we have put so much time and effort into entertainment. But you don’t have to be entertained every second of the day. It’s okay to put down the phone and be bored.

By being bored, we come up with some of our most creative ideas. Feel bored, and then use that boredom to motivate beautiful, big things. Being bored doesn’t make you boring, it makes you thirsty for something of more substance. So remain thirsty! Keep searching and working for something more.

understanding the self

There are entire worlds we know nothing about. That includes possible life on other planets, but mostly I mean the experiences of different people on Earth. Watching documentaries can show a lot of that. Even watching reality tv shows about individuals from a certain culture can seem so strange to us because it is strange. It varies from what we normally expect. Part of what makes technology such a game changer is that is allows us to see the lives of people from different races, circumstances, professions, ethnicities, physical wellbeing, personality, and social group interactions! Everyone has troubles, but the flavours vary an amazing, frightening amount.

When we experience emotions, we experience them for a reason. Even our irrational bursts, there is always an emotionally rational reason beneath it, even if that reasoning isn’t fair or logical. Humans are emotional beings. We can’t act as if all emotions are good and healthy, but what we must do is deal with our emotions, all of them.

Feelings are defined as fleeting things. You feel them, and then it’s gone. The more logical side of you kicks in and suppresses the urge. That’s a good, healthy thing for your mind to do; it’s a sign of self control. But there are also deep rooted issues that keep coming back up because we keep pushing them down, and in that situation, we are ignoring instead of solving the problem.

When we want to improve ourselves, we have to put ourselves into context a bit. Like we watch and read about other cultures and people, we have to understand ourselves and our own people. We also have to put context over our emotions: is this just some fad I can push away, or is this a sign of something deeper? And the answers aren’t clear. However, just as other people live in worlds so different from our own, we can make our future a world that is different for the better. To get there, we have to know who we are first, and it’s not going to come all at once. But you can do this! You are stronger than you know. Keep fighting for a better world.

from love to life

People genuinely love different things, it’s truly a fascinating thing. A conversation about cells can either be thrilling or utterly boring, depending on the person. Furthermore, so are talents; an athletic person might actually desire to go out and commit exercise? It’s stunning, frankly.

And yet there is this argument within ourselves: do we pursue what’s easy and fun for us or what’s challenging and grow? There’s a philosophy that if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. However, not everyone has a passion that directly translates into money, and even if it could translate into money, that person might value a more safe option. It’s great to have a purpose and mission, but if you only want to work a dream job, you’ll most likely find yourself poor and out of luck. There has to be a balance between what we love, what we value, and reality.

Humans are lazy. There’s a reason sloth is included in the seven deadly sins; we like to do nothing! I think in our hearts, we know when we are giving up too easily. We need to fill our days with something that has meaning to us, that hopefully is enjoyable and fun. However, we need to pick among the activities we enjoy and pick the ones with “meat”, the ones that we can do a lot with and will impact our lives for the better. We should pick though. We should pick what we want to accomplish in a concrete manner and actually commit to achieving them. Pick something you love, that challenging, meaty thing, and go for it! You’ve got this.

what we require

Light is one of those phenomena that seems harmless. People can claim it’s power for acne treatment or pyschological help, but it almost seems ridiculous. Most people know how dangerous UV light is, and on those burning hot days of summer, might be careful to put on sunscreen. Yet normal light? You can’t touch it or hold it, it goes the nature of most physical matter we encounter. Light is not only physically astounding, but pyschologically stunning as well because it can affect mood and atmosphere; Compare the lightning in the movie The Matrix to an Applebees and the result is quite amazing.

Light is truly incredible, has all these features, but still we underestimate it. For most, light is something that surrounds us, accompanies us from day to day. Unless you’re blind, most people come to accept it as something we deserve and need. It’s importance to us is because of its consistency. If we all were in the dark, we would learn how to do without and it would remain some sort of novel thing, intriguing perhaps, but unessential. As it is, since it’s there, we begin to think we need it as much as water.

Everyone needs vitamin D from the sun to survive, but symbolically and without too much scientific depth, we don’t really need light. In our lives, we begin to think a lot of things are essential. We begin to think that these things that surround us are somehow integral to survival. However, really, most of what we have, if not all, is a gift. We are given so many things, and yet we pretend as if we deserve them and require them. Obviously being able to barely survive shouldn’t be the standard of living; however, reminding ourselves of this can keep us grateful for everything we have. If we see ourselves as lucky rather than wanting, we can live with a better context in mind.