Wanting little is the key to a good life. We were watching Seven Year Switch on TV with a wife who did not work berating her husband for not being ambitious and for being too childish. She wanted money to buy a car to go and do nice things. They have a small child and he is amazing with her, running around enthusiastically on the playground whilst the wife was tense and worried about getting the child home to be changed or fed. He also loves his job. He does bar work so not likely to have a substantial increase in salary, but he loves it.
It was really interesting to see the reasons they cited for being unhappy. For another couple, the same things could be what they dream about. Living in the UK, not under a dictatorship, not in a war zone, not in famine or disease or high crime. Having a child when this is so precious to those that cannot have children. Having a loving husband who wants to help out with the cleaning, cooking, childcare and makes enough time to do this.
There is so much to be grateful for and to enjoy, yet all the wife could focus on was a lack of material things. If she did have a husband that worked fourteen hours a day to earn money to buy them things they did not need, I suggest that she still would not be happy either. I think that what she is really worried about is how she comes across to her friends and parents.
Worrying what other people think can lead to a lifetime of unhappiness. This is the first thing to consciously let go of and then keep practicing and reminding yourself every day.
In my day job, we have a project to replace an IT system. We have the opportunity to take all the good parts from the old one and fix the bad bits. We can do this in life too.
Physically moving to a different climate, moving to a different partner, moving to a different job. But the new thing will also have other bad bits that you were not aware of at the time.
In our IT system example, we have managed to fix some of the annoyances of the past but things that we thought were going to be amazing have fallen short of the sales pitch and now have become annoyances themselves. Some of them are because the new system is worse than the old one in some areas and one because although it has gotten better, the benchmarks of expectation have moved on.
The same is true of our other examples. Moving to a different country? Now you complain it is too hot rather than too cold. Moving to a different partner? Now you complain they smother you with too much attention rather than being too aloof. Moving to a different job? Now you complain about the hours required rather than the salary.
There is a way, however, of taking all the good parts of life and leaving the bad bits. You just need to cultivate two habits: gratitude and not complaining. Realise that the only thing in your control is your mind, then you may take a second through before taking physical action.
Gratitude and not complaining sound like the same thing, but in practice, they are subtly different. Gratitude is being grateful for what you already have in the past and in the present. Not complaining is the ability to catch yourself in the moment. Gratitude is a proactive practice. Not complaining is reactive practice - the last defence - but still in your control.
Whatever happens is the best thing. What is the alternative? When things happen that are outside of our control then the best thing is to just think that this is the best thing. If you cannot think this is the best thing then think of three other good things to come out of the situation.
This is not being blind to reality - quite the opposite. It is understanding that our reality is made in our perceptions and our thinking. Just because something did not play out the way we wanted, it is no reason to assume it is bad. It has happened. This is all the reality of the situation. Nothing that happens is good or bad. It just has been. If it has happened, then you cannot change it. You cannot go back, only forwards, only now. Any appropriation of emotion, any labelling of good or bad is all in our minds.
What is the point of thinking something is bad? You cannot change it and it is your thinking that it is bad that is making you feel the way you feel. Rather than trying to change the world around you, try focusing on your own thinking, your own emotions, your own philosophy.
If you do not already think like this, that whatever happens is the best thing, then do not wait for something big and unexpected to happen. Start practicing now, whilst things are good, while you do not need it.
Ignore the bad things, focus on the good. And, of course, the bad things are also the good things. What is the alternative? To make yourself miserable? Thinking that everything is bad, that the world is against you, that you cannot do anything about it?
Let go of outcomes. You are not in control of these. Inputs are out of your control, but you could still get stopped from physical actions today. Thinking is the only thing that is in your control. Treat it with the special attention it deserves and train this muscle.
It is not until you are ill that you value your health. It is not until you are injured that you consider being able to do exercise as a privilege and not a chore. It is not until we run out of time that we value it.
Is there a better way of realising these things ahead of time? Writing in a journal every day helps. A practice of gratitude helps. Meditation helps.
In a world where we can get anything we want at the touch of a button, creating habits that cultivate mindfulness is key to cutting through the bullshit, so you can "see the matrix: of what is actually important to you.
Think about what you would miss if it were gone. Are you doing any actions today that will make the most of it or anything that will prolong it?
If you are likely to regret your health deteriorating, are you going to have the burger or the salad for lunch? Are you going to take the stairs or the lift? Are you running today?
Likely to regret your wealth? How much are you saving? Do you know where your money is going? Have you researched the best passive investments? Could you get a second or third stream of income?
Likely to regret love leaving your life? Have you told your wife or kids that you love them today? Do your actions back up your words? Are you spending enough time with them?
Onto the biggest regret of them all - running out of time. Are you spending your time how you want to spend it today? Are you stuck in a meeting instead of playing with your kids? Did the meeting run over so you cancel your workout and have a fast food lunch?
Make time for the important, not the urgent. This is a keystone to all other areas of your life. Regret nothing, use every minute.
"Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now." This got stuck in my head after listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. I'm sure it means lucky to be alive rather than dead on a battlefield - it is relatively hard to follow having not seen the show, as well as competing with a five-month-old finding his own voice whilst driving in the car - but I do love this quote.
It is amazing to be living right now. So many things we take for granted growing up and so many more things the next generation will take for granted. How many hours of our teen years were wasted feeling sorry for ourselves despite having more than most humans in history before us? It is amazing that we have electricity, that we can make light at the flick of a switch, let alone that we carry around a pocket-sized device every day that can instantly connect us to anyone else in the world in any format we want: text, voice, video. We can talk to computers and they understand some of what we are saying - that is amazing.
But how easy is it to take for granted? Cursing when the lightbulb goes pop or when there is a power cut for a few hours. Cursing at Siri when she thinks you said "plum" rather than "mom." Cursing the crappy Wi-Fi when a Skype call drops for work.
Look around - how lucky we are to be alive right now. Right now, in this age, before all the dead dinosaur juice is depleted and there is a massive power shift in global politics and monetary policy. Before the water levels rise and we live on smaller and smaller islands. Before our food loses all nutrition from people chasing short-term profit targets.
This is the best time to be alive right now. We do not know if it is going to get better than this. Do you really want to be the person that did not try to follow their dreams during the best time to be alive? Take action today.
Why don't we make the best use of our time? Why is it so easy to procrastinate? To stay in bed for that little bit longer. Even the emperor of Rome struggled with this:
"I have to go to work - as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I'm going to do what I was born for - the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?" - Marcus Aurelius
It is funny how nothing much has changed over the years. Even in Ancient Rome, they were worries about excesses. Today, all of us have access to more than the Emperor of Rome.
He did not have electricity, a phone, a TV, a car. He had slaves, but so do we. We just call it capitalism. We have outsourced our lives to technology or cheaper labour - building our phones, preparing our food, connecting across the ether.
Perspective is a needed jolt sometimes. With all the luxuries at your fingertips today, what is really stopping you.
âGet out of bed and do something.
I use the 5-minute journal daily, morning and night. In the nighttime entry, it makes you ask yourself, "how could I have made today even better?" I seem to interpret this as "what did I regret doing or not doing today?" In these micro regrets, as all other regrets, I find that it is always something I did not do rather than something I did do
Rather than waiting until the end of your life to find out what you wished you had done, you can do this in advance or at least react quicker than waiting until your deathbed.
If you think about what you would have done differently each day, using the 5-minute journal or otherwise, after a year you have 365 micro regrets. If you analyse them I bet there is a pattern. Use this to not have the same regrets the next year.
Of course, you can do this even faster. Review the last month. The last week. Make sure you put something into action today from yesterday's micro regret.
Why wait until the end of your life, when you cannot change anything? Use micro regrets to ensure you don't have any later. Live in the present.
Lately, I am making decisions based on imagining whether my future self is more likely to regret doing something or more likely to regret not doing it.
If your phone already works fine, are you more likely to regret buying an iPhone X or more likely to regret not buying one? Imagining spending over $1000 and then realising it only does the same tasks as your existing phone once you get it. It is easy to imagine that if you knew nothing of the iPhone X, you would not regret not having one.
If your phone is old and tired, suppose that the next time the battery runs out on you at a critical moment, it is easier to imagine regretting not buying the new phone earlier.
Unless it's broke, don't spend money fixing it.
I have a couple of times in my life got buyers remorse from a new phone or a new car when I replaced them and the old one was fine.
With "stuff" it is relatively easy - a rough rule of thumb is that you would regret having it more than not.
This type of decision making broadly aligns with what is already known about happiness - better to spend money on experiences rather than things.
If you are invited somewhere, even if you are not sure you are going to like it, better to go and regret doing it than to regret not doing it - it could be the best thing you ever did, after all?
Would you regret going out in your 20s versus staying home and not meeting anyone? Pretty easy to imagine you'll regret something you haven't done more than something you have done in this example.
What about if you regret spending your 20s working to build a business and never going out but then you have all the money you ever need and can retire at 30? More difficult to imagine - but is this the real decision you are making?
You have time. Do both.
When I am at my most productive, I follow the life S.A.V.E.R.S mnemonic from Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning book. Then I write morning pages to get blog ideas. And finally, catch up with my developers for any issues or test the latest build of my app. All before leaving for my day job at 0730.
What this looks like for me is:
S. Silence. I use Headspace app for 10 minutes of meditation first thing after I get up to start the day calmly.
A. Affirmations. These were really difficult to start with but have built up over time and now also include lots of quotes - mainly ones to stop procrastination
V. Visualisation. I use a visualisation board. Which contains a visual split of Tim Ferriss’ dreamline: things I want to have, things I want to do, and who I want to be.
E. Exercise. I don’t use weights as I want to avoid injury and want to be in proportion. So I do pull-ups, chin-ups, pushups and air squats. I also do 10 mins of Yoga Studio app on the Apple TV or iPhone to stretch out and increase flexibility. This also reinforces the mediation as there is lots of deliberate breathing.
R. Reading. I used to hate reading at school and I still hate reading fiction. But reading non-fiction in the morning really starts to get my creative juices flowing and ready for action.
S. Scribing. I use the 5-minute journal to practice gratitude and also just to get in the habit of writing things done and out of my head. When I started my blog I also then started practising morning pages…
This is basically just starting writing. It does not matter if you do not know what to write, you just write for three pages every morning. I thought this would be hard, but I find it incredibly therapeutic. Most of the time when I cannot think of a blog post, if I start this one just materialises out of my subconscious. If not, then it gets everything off my chest ready for the day ahead.
As I referenced, I also write a daily blog to make me get in the habit of shipping things that are not perfect. This is a good habit to cultivate, especially for a person like me who is more prone to procrastinating over perfection.
A couple of tips for those that feel like you can’t get up early, but want to start. Firstly, you can do it! I used to be a complete night owl and would not get going until after 5 pm. And I would be the last one in the bar at night. Realise that there is no natural morning or evening person, you are just a reflection of your habits. Also, realise that there is no race, you can start slowly and improve.
A great tip is to first, just get in the habit of sitting up when your alarm goes off. If you cannot even get up without snoozing for an hour, then no point setting your alarm for any earlier. Do this for a week then, once you can literally get up on the alarm start to set your alarm 10mins earlier each day until you manage to get to your desired wake up time. I like to still get 8hours sleep a night so this means going to bed earlier. This might be a deal breaker for some, but how much do you really want to be more productive? 8pm-11pm I know that I am not going to be doing any work anyway, I will be watching Netflix. So better to cut that out, go to bed and do something productive in the morning. It is a lot harder to waste your time-consuming content after you have just woken yourself up to do it.
Once you can get up on the alarm and at the time you want, you may still feel a little groggy. Try reading on an iPad or tablet - the light will ease you awake. For more abrupt wake-up, try brushing your teeth straight away, splash cold water on your face or just go straight to a cold shower.
1. No one comes to work trying to do a bad job and they are likely better than your immediate impression of them. But they might also not come to work prepared to give their all or be very good in their current position. How can you help them either way?
2. Be incredibly grateful for what you have. Know that you can always do better. Continually work on both.
3. Enjoy yourself in the present and prepare for the future.
4. Realise you can be frugal and extravagant.
5. Focus… and do both. Realise that they are only one thing. Reframe them into one.
6. Give all of yourself to those closest to you… by looking after yourself first.