Avoid the Self-Focused Mindset

Dr. Laura Schlessinger continues in her letter of advice to James Harmon for Harmon’s book, Take My Advice, and writes, “Life is not about personal aggrandizement, acquisition, and self-fulfillment.  In other words, man cannot live by “me, me, me,” alone.”  In this passage Dr. Schlessinger is writing about having a full and meaningful life, and she explains that a life focused on ones own personal existence, having lots of things, or always having fun does not translate into a meaningful life.  It is difficult, but once you begin to understand that life does not have to be a competition to show how successful one can become, you start to feel more attached to the things that you do every day, and you begin to appreciate where you are each moment.
As I have entered the working world out of college, I have had a struggle with trying to identify my goals and understand what success really looks like.  On the last episode of the Mindful Creator Podcast host Brett Henley talked to a guest about being confident with oneself and where you are in your journey at whatever point of your journey you find yourself.  The guest brought up the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”, and argued that a happier life is one where you give yourself permission to not want the lifestyle that is projected in movies, television shows, and advertisements.  The two talked about how liberating, both mentally and economically, freeing yourself from materialistic desires can be.
I think that Dr. Schlessinger would agree with everything the two talked about on the podcast.  It is important to be self aware and recognize when you are focusing only on yourself and doing things only for your own personal and materialistic gain.  Understanding that you have desires for things and certain lifestyles because you have seen them projected through mass media or across your friend’s Facebook is an important step in realizing how to live a better life.  Being continually focused on impressing others with your lifestyle and possessions will place an unfair amount of stress on yourself, and will alienate you from people who you could otherwise share a deep connection with.  Learning to be happy with who you are, where you are on your journey, and to drop the pressures from visions of what your life should be will open you up to become a more compassionate person. Beyond that point you become a person who can share more meaningful moments with people around you.
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Your Posture, Your Surroundings, & Your Creativity

In episode 1 of the Mindful Creator Podcast host Brett Henley speaks with a good friend of his about yoga, mindfulness, and productivity. One of the things that he and his guest discuss is having the ability to refocus our minds through awareness and small changes in our lives. For the guest he was speaking with, changing their posture and bringing their mind back to how they were sitting or standing to adjust to proper form, helped them refocus their mind. In one way she explained that good posture allowed her to relax and open her lungs to allow her to take deep breaths and find a state of mental clarity.  Henley himself talked about times where his productivity wanes and he feels as though he needs to move and allow his mind to recharge. For Henley, going on walks helps to fuel his creativity by getting his body moving, and allowing his mind to tumble through ideas in open space.
The two thoughts from the Mindful Creator align perfectly with an idea that Dave Birss lays out in his book, A Users Guide to the Creative Mind. Birss writes, “Changing location also changes your emotional state and gives you a new perspective on things.” What he is saying in this sentence is that finding a new place to work from, think from, or just observe the world from, will open up your mind in new ways. When Birss begins to feel stuck with an idea he will move his physical location or change his orientation in the place where he is. Much like Henley who uses walks to see something different and allow his mind to move, Birss’ writing reflects the importance of change and movement for creative people. Also, the idea of the guest from episode 1 of the Mindful Creator is supported in the sentence when Birss mentioned how important your emotional state can be for creating.  By opening up ones lungs and finding better posture, you can feel better about yourself and take deep breaths to supply the brain with plenty of oxygen for high powered thinking.

Giving Ourselves Permission

Ever since I reached the halfway point in my college career, when I began to feel pressure to decide what I wanted to do to earn a living after graduation. Many times along my journey, I have been overwhelmed with the fear of not choosing to do the right thing. I want to put myself in a position where I can live comfortably, enjoy my work, and have time to do thing I am interested in, such as running, hiking, writing, producing the Blue Pulse Podcast and spending time with friends and family.  In order to get to this point, I feel like I have had to practice a lot of self awareness to help me understand what exactly I desire, why I desire what I do, and whether or not those things should be a priority in my life.  Adjusting what I considered a comfortable lifestyle and enough money to reach that lifestyle has been difficult, but striving for greater self awareness has helped me realize what expectations for a comfortable lifestyle are unrealistic. In the same way, improving my self awareness has helped me see how much of a roll my own ego plays into my desires to be active and healthy, and my desire to have a good career/title.
For me, self awareness has helped me understand and recognize the barriers to my own happiness, but has not completely solved my internal questions, anxieties, and doubts.  However, a quote from Allison Vesterfelt in her book Packing Light, has helped me begin to reach a better place. “Here’s permission to live your life, not dictated by fear of what might happen.” This quote was recently echoed to me in a podcast by Brett Henley. In episode 6 of the Mindful Creator Podcast he sat down with Berni Xiang who spoke about giving ourselves permission to be the person we want to be now.
I can take Vesterfelt’s quote and combine it with Xiang’s idea to create a new mindset for myself. Instead of allowing my self-doubt and fears for the future to take over and shape the decisions I make, I can give myself the freedom to be the person I am now, and also the person I want to be in the future.  By sitting down and telling myself that I do not have to live my daily life worrying about what I may have in the future, I can combine permission with self awareness to see that no one is holding me back from applying my talents and abilities.  This means that starting right now, I can be the person I want to be in the future.

Jealousy

In Packing Light, Allison Vesterfelt speaks very honestly about feelings towards her friend in the middle of their 50 state road trip. At a point where the trip was beginning to feel long and beginning to wear on the two companions, Vesterfelt writes, “I watched her, and I wanted to be like her. But I hated her for being someone I couldn’t be. And I hated myself for not being who I wanted to be. Such is the paradox of jealousy.”
I love this quote and the ideas that Vesterfelt digs into with this quote. There have been so many times in my life where I have felt overcome with the emotions that accompany jealousy, but I have never been able to sort through and honestly articulate those feelings to myself.
Recently while listening to a podcast called The Mindful Creator, hosted by Brett Henley, a guest on his show named Berni Xiong spoke about giving oneself permission to be the person they want to be.  This idea is powerful, and I think an excellent way to overcome the jealousy one feels when they see somebody who has become something they are not. I have this feeling often when I see people who have gotten a job that I did not get, or who studied something in college I did not think to study, or who simply seem to be living a life that I would like.  By taking Berni’s advice, I can look inside at who I am, what I desire that another person seems to have, and why I desire that thing. I can sort through it all and analyze what prevents me from attaining that thing, personality trait, or lifestyle, and eventually decide that there is no gatekeeper, and that I can attain what I want.  Berni’s advice is to recognize that you are the first person holding you back from what you want, and that you can simply allow yourself to believe that you already have permission to be what you want.
Later on in her novel Allison finds this same conclusion with help from her friend. She opens up and allows herself to tell people that she is a write, her big desire, and new opportunities seem to find her. Recognizing what you want in the life of another person can be a poisonous thing when it drives you into jealousy, however, if you are strong enough and self aware enough to recognize those feelings and understand those desires, you can make a positive change. It requires that you be honest with yourself, and then recognize what you can do to reach your goals, because sometimes the only thing that holds us back is that we have not given ourselves permission to be something different.

The Life We Want

During her 50 state road trip, Vesterfelt reflected on the life she was living before the 6 month voyage, the life she had to give up, and the life she hoped for following the trip. As she continued along and had time to think about who she was becoming, and what she wanted from her life, she wrote, “what I really wanted all along, which was to live a life that meant something and lasted longer than me.” In this quote I think that Vesterfelt sums up a fear that I have dealt with since my first day of college.  I have never wanted to have a job where I felt stuck or as if my only contributions went towards making the company and myself more money.
I am not sure how to take Vesterfelt’s quote and actualize it into a majestic journey or new opportunities that will open the doors for me to also find a life that is rich in meaning and will make an impact that goes beyond the years that I have on this planet.  Vesterfelt overcame these troubles by giving herself permission to be the person she wanted to be, and to tell people who she was (even though in her mind she was not yet the person she wanted to be).  This parallel’s the advice in the last episode of the Mindful Creator podcast that I listened to. In episode 6 Brett Henley and his guest talked about allowing yourself to be the person you want to be without waiting for others to give you permission to be that thing.  I think that is a great first step to finding meaning in your life, but it needs more direction. The podcast continued to say that once you have given yourself permission to be who you want, you have to show up. To them showing up is the part where you put in the effort, and practice your craft to develop the skills you need to be the person who lives a life of meaning.
I find all of these ideas very inspirational, but the ideas alone do not help overcome the fear of acting or putting in hard work for something that may not provide the rewards you are searching for. I think that with this fear, one must buy in completely to the idea of practice and showing up, but only if one can be honest with themselves and recognize what they truly desire, and the reason/motivation behind their goals and desires.

Chaos and the Unknown vs the Mundane and Predictable

A constant tension in my life is summed up by Allison Vesterfelt in her book Packing Light, “As scared as  I was of chaos and the unknown, I was equally scared of the mundane and predictable.” Since about half way through college, I have had serious fears when looking  into my future. One of the principal fears is the fear of boredom. I do not want to live a life with a routine that does not excite me. I have always been afraid of being stuck in front of the television each night watching sitcoms or sports. I am afraid of doing the same thing every day. Afraid of not exploring the world, and missing the chance to truly live. At the same time that I find myself wrapped up in fears of not having a life that I enjoyed, I want nothing more than to be comfortable in a predictable world with a nice house, a nice job, a nice salary, and no stress.
In college I was not sure what I needed to do to find a way to live a life that fell in them middle of my two fears.  As a sophomore I was active with coaching cross country and some basketball, and I was getting great grades in school, but I was not a complete person, and I was not sure what direction I wanted my life to move in.  I began to question my desires, and worry about the importance of material things, especially if I did not have real relationships and fun people to share my imagined success with.  I eventually began to take more chances and I got involved with clubs and organizations. I started as a member of the Spanish Club and eventually grew to start my own podcast where I interviewed student leaders to highlight the cool things that students at the University of Nevada did beyond the classroom. This taught me about how important it was to take chances and put yourself in situations that are new and scary. All of the guests of my podcast found a way to go beyond the comfortable success they wanted in college to do things that were difficult, not always clear, and so often rich with relationships and new connections.
As I have moved forwards in life, graduating from college and entering the world of the 40 hour work week, I am still working on understanding how to live a life that balances the chaos of the unknown with the mundane and familiar.  I have turned to podcasts to help me explore new areas, and have put myself in positions that will provide me with opportunities to explore. The real lesson that I have learned is that it is ok to allow myself to build a safe place and a home that can be predictable, so that when I do begin to branch out and explore,  there is a safe place I can return to, allowing the world to slow down around me.