We’ve got to ditch the scarcity mindset, the belief that there’s not enough to go around.
Of course, we’re right: there’s not enough extreme material wealth to go around. If everyone’s path involved an SUV, a 16 bedroom house, and a tennis court, we’d be in trouble. Our planet does not, in fact, have the resources to provide such a lifestyle for each of the billions of humans on the planet.
So how do we reconcile the fact that there’s not enough wealth to go around with an abundance mindset?
We redefine what our society calls wealth.
Your abundance may not be financial or material at all. In fact, when you have what your heart really desires, money and possessions and fame are nothing but potential and often unnecessarily cumbersome accessories.
Abundance is found in the pursuit of your particular path. And your path won’t look exactly like anyone else’s. It will be unique and custom-tailored to you.
Let’s be done with the one-size-fits-all malarkey. Like Daniel Quinn says, “There is no one right way for people to live.”
But there is one right way for you to live.
Follow your heart.
You’ll find it.
Posting a meme isn’t being the change. Neither is hashtagging. No matter how relevant and important the cause, you’re not changing the world with a hashtag; you’re just making yourself feel better. If you’re unwilling to actually work toward a solution, stop fueling anger and separation in the minds of our youth by reposting digital mini-rants devoid of context.
Seriously, please stop.
Posting an opinionated meme is safe…for you, but it often leads to divisiveness and thus a counter-meme. No honest, heartfelt conversation. No action. No change. Only resistance.
Our police force obviously has need for improvement. So does our education system. So does our media, which incidentally is an enormous part of the problem with the first two. Healthcare. Our overall values as a nation. You name it. Change is needed.
But the most impactful change that is needed is the way we go about promoting that change in the first place.
It’s easy to comment and/or criticize from the sidelines while sitting back and expecting someone else to do the dirty work of bringing about the much needed change. Theodore Roosevelt’s oft repeated words speak perfectly to this idea:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Be the Change
Stop pointing fingers at “the other”. If we want to see change, we have to be that change.
Don’t be the cold, timid critic; be the stumbling doer of deeds. Taste the dust and sweat and blood on your lip. Screw up.
Choose the issue that keeps you up at night and actually join in creating the solution. Make it your life’s work. Create a positive vision of the future and work towards it with real, physical steps. I’m not talking about mounting a protest either. I mean literally join the field of law enforcement, the field of education, or the particular part of the system that you deem in most need of improvement. Bring your gifts and your positive vision to the arena.
Show us how to do better. Lead by example.
Our values are most apparent in our actions, in how we spend the bulk of our time, not in the memes that we post.
The Most Impactful Communication Happens in the Arena
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” Today, we think we’re communicating, but really we’re just throwing passive-aggressive memes and hashtags at one another.
Your perspective and ideas and time and talent are sorely needed in the real world where the real action happens. It’s time to propose and embody solutions, real ones that address the core of the issues. It’s time to think and discuss holistically about the values our society is perpetuating and especially about our own personal part in the matter.
Enter the arena. Get some dirt on your hands. Then let’s have a conversation about our positive vision of the future–and, of course, the real, concrete steps we’re taking right now to get there.
Then post about that.
I occasionally have a dream of being in Rome, Italy, where I grew up, and not being able to find my car. I don’t know why anyone would want to drive in Rome. I mean, the Romans are known for their traffic and their crazy driving. But I have the dream nonetheless. In the dream, I run in circles all over town feeling a sense of panic at the idea that I will never find my car and get moving again.
It’s not one my more cryptic dreams; the metaphor is obvious. The city is overwhelm, the car a sense of direction and ability to move forward. The dream is a clear indicator that I’m not living in alignment with my goals and values.
Fortunately, over the years, I’ve picked up some strategies to not only cope with the overwhelm, but to get back into alignment with my best self. Here are my top 7 strategies.
1. Stop and Breathe
“There is peace in just letting your body breathe, without having to do anything about it.” — Leo Babauta
During a bout of overwhelm, we often mistakenly believe that the faster we move, the sooner we will experience relief. But when those tires are spinning, the most effective solution is to stop. Then breathe.
A few minutes of sitting and consciously breathing works wonders for calming the monkey mind.
2. Clear the Chaos
Clutter in your space leads to clutter in your mind. You know this, but as soon as you think about cleaning, you’re reminded of all of the cleaning that needs to happen. Just the thought of tackling that to-clean list is overwhelming. Clean or binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy? It’s not even a contest.
If your apartment is a mess but you also want to indulge in some GA, use the Three Minute Rooms Strategy to forgo your perfectionist tendency to do all or nothing and still achieve some order. Simply set the timer on your phone for three minutes and go ham in one room for those three minutes.
Clear the most visible clutter first, no digging in drawers or closets! Pick up the magazines, the dirty dishes, the laundry, the trash and quickly throw them where they belong. Straighten pillows and cushions. Place the books in a neat pile or on a bookshelf. You get the idea. When the timer rings, move to the next room and repeat the process.
I suggested this strategy in a previous article, and one of my readers wrote back about her experience. She said that she cleans for hours every day and her husband has never — ever — mentioned the cleanliness of the house. After she used the Three Minute Room Strategy for the first time, her husband walked in from work, looked around, and asked, “Wow! Did you clean?”
3. Claim a Space of Your Own
Once you’ve achieved a basic sense of order in your surroundings, take a look around you. Does your living space reflect who you want to be?
Winston Churchill wrote, “We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” How is your environment shaping you? Is it helping you feel relaxed and in control, or is it contributing to your overwhelm? If your space is not in alignment with your highest aims, it’s time to start claiming it, piece by piece.
You don’t have to hire a decorator or a personal organizer to make your place more congruent with your goals and personality. This isn’t about pleasing your neighbors or your mom. It’s about alignment. If you love to paint, claim a space, a corner of a room even, to set up an easel and a chest for art supplies. Mason jar on the chest with some cute paintbrushes, and voila: alignment.
Simply choose a priority — yours, not someone else’s — and align a space with it. If you’re prioritizing career advancement right now, set up a killer organization system at your desk for when you bring work home. If relaxation is your focus, claim a space for that.
It’s amazing how a supportive environment can put your mind at ease.
4. Create Rituals
Like with your space, it’s important to start claiming blocks of your day that are for you as your best self. Rituals are an excellent way to do just that.
What do Benjamin Franklin, Twyla Tharpe, and Tim Ferriss have in common? Two things actually: being wildly successful at their respective callings and consistently engaging in morning rituals. In fact, many of the most productive and influential people in history have sworn by the practice.
Rituals are so effective because they take away decision paralysis. You know exactly what you’re going to do, so you start. You don’t have to decide to work out; you just put on your yoga pants and move to the next step in the ritual. Same with writing, meditation, or planning-the-day rituals. There’s no stress because you know exactly what to do next, and you know that it’s in line with your goals and values because you designed it that way.
With early work hours and long commutes, morning hours are sacred. Every extra moment spent in bed is another happy moment, so the ritual needs to be more attractive than the snooze button. One of the ways to achieve this is by positively engaging as many of the senses as possible. Plan ahead for the taste, the smell, the feel of the ritual. How will it look? How will it sound? The more visceral the experience, the more your body and mind will learn to not only expect it but to crave it.
5. Make a Reset List
You can think of the reset list as the when-in-doubt ritual. When you feel like you’re chasing your own tail, you simply look at the list and perform one task at a time in order until the list is done — or until you stop feeling overwhelmed.
So, you ask, what goes on this magical list? Well, basically anything that brings you back to the launch pad. Nothing is too small, too simple or too mundane to go on the list. The only set-in-stone rule is that you don’t write what should work; write things that actually make you feel more composed and are realistic in your current context. For example, don’t write “go on a three mile run” unless you will do that next Tuesday at 4:00 pm when you’re feeling overwhelmed and you will actually feel more with-it as a result.
Try having one list for home and one for work. Here’s my home list:
1) take a shower
2) clean off desk
3) do a brain dump
4) set the timer for 10–30 minutes (depending on the time available)
5) work on current top priority until the timer rings
By the time I complete the items on the list, I’ve nipped overwhelm in the bud, and I’m ready to take on the rest of the day.
6. Trust Your Intuition
One of the most prevalent causes of overwhelm is valuing other people’s opinions over your own intuition. You know this is the case when the wordshould takes over your mind.
“You should do the project later and come out with us!”
“You should apply for that job, you know.”
“You should try the gluten-free diet I’m on!”
“You should dump that guy….”
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking a friend’s advice. But when your head is filled with someone else’s shoulds, you’re not going to be able to hear that quiet little voice inside that knows what’s best for you. Take the suggestion into consideration, make a decision that feels right and let it be over. Don’t let someone else’s expectations clutter your mind.
7. Go on a Word Fast
According to a study at the University of California, the average American consumes roughly 100,000 words per day. Clearly, our society is addicted to input. One way to counteract the overwhelm that comes with the resultant information overload is to engage in a word fast.
A word fast can last for any amount of time, but an hour is perfect to start. For the allotted amount of time, do not interact with words in written or spoken form. No speaking. No reading. No writing. No Facebook. No listening to music (other than instrumental). No words in, no words out.
What can you do? You can paint, dance, meditate, go on a walk in a park, or even just sit silently. Anything that does not involve words. At all.
I know what you’re thinking…. Is sex allowed? Of course. But not every time, because then we’ll have to rename this strategy to something hotter than word fast.
The beauty of a word fast is that it allows your subconscious self, the root of your best self, to have the run of the roost for a while. As much as I love words in all of their many expressions, when I do my weekly word fast consistently, I find that my thinking is much more clear and my creativity soars. I get more ideas and inspiration right after that 1–3 hours of no words than I do for the rest of the week combined.
By applying some or all of these strategies, you may find that you don’t run into overwhelm nearly as often. And if that dreaded feeling does rear its ugly head again, you’ll have a plan in place to stop it at the outset.
By the way, I haven’t had the lost-car-in-the-city dream in a while, but I’ll keep you posted. Next time, I’m hoping for Paris.
The surface changes like refined to-do lists, decluttered closets, or pay increases are fine, but they don’t do the real job. Many times we need a complete overhaul, not just of the physical things, but of ourselves and who we are being in the world.
Strip away all the stories you’re telling yourself.
All of them.
If you were starting again, with a completely blank slate, who would you be in the world? Where would you place yourself?
Start being that.
Some of your current physical realities might need to be adjusted to accommodate the new you, but often the only thing that was making you miserable was the way you were showing up.
Allowing is about letting the action that you took to have its quantum way. You took path-aligned action; now allow its fruition.
Action shows that you really mean business, that ya ain’t backin’ down.
Allowing (letting go) shows that you trust in powers higher than your self and the visible world to deliver the effect.
We’ve got to balance the path-aligned action and the allowing if we’re going to manifest change in our lives. Maybe you don’t quite believe in magic, but you definitely believe in the automagical, right?
Remember that you’re not working to change into your best self. You’re looking to unveil your best self.
The difference sounds subtle, but it’s monumental.
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E. B. White
The balance between doing and being is like breathing. Which is more important: inhaling or exhaling? Clearly, they are both important, literally vital. You can choose to take a particularly long breath–sometimes your body needs it–but you can’t choose to inhale forever. Similarly, you can’t continue striving ad infinitum. Neither can you stay at rest forever.
Sometimes, it’s time to do. Sometimes, it’s time to be.
The cues to switch from one to the other are more subtle than the signals to breathe in or out, and they are not automatic, until pushed far past healthy zones. Our bodies will eventually rebel against too much of either doing or being, but this kind of crash and burn is easily avoided by being aware and switching at the optimal time.
When it’s time for doing, push. Produce. Create. Achieve. Change. Ideate. Expand. Build. Design. Read non-fiction. Learn. Organize. Pursue. Lift heavy. Optimize. Work. Practice. Give. Improve the world.
Early, positive signals to switch to being are a sense of completion, the end of a productive day, that tug that your body gives at the end of a deep satisfying inhale. Listen to these cues.
You’ll know you’re doing too much when your efforts become ineffective. The law of diminishing returns kicks in and you find yourself spinning your wheels. Exhaustion sets in. You can’t keep your eyes open or your mind clear. You might be grumpy or feel like a martyr. You might reach for the addiction to give you relief. The goal of course is to avoid this state as often as possible.
Switch to being with the early, positive signals instead
When it’s time for being, let go. Do the things you love to do. Caress. Touch. Make love. Meditate. Go on an easy walk in nature. Cry. Laugh. Play. Dance. Read a novel for fun. Appreciate. Nap. Cuddle. Rest. Rejuvenate. Bask. Allow. Receive. Enjoy the world.
Early, positive signals to switch to doing are inspirations, ideas, the intrinsic motivation to do work that matters. Heed these signals.
When you’re being too much, it starts to feel sloppy. Like when napping too long, instead of waking up rested, you just feel groggy. Too much being ends in lack of motivation to do anything, a vague sense of laziness and lack of concern for the work that matters. You might fall into your addictions or just feel bored. Obviously, this state is to be avoided as often as possible.
Switch to doing with the early, positive signals instead.
Flow is the intersection, the intertwining of the two, doing and being together. We move naturally–without conscious thought–from one to the other just like we breathe.
Someone once pointed out that we are human beings, not human doings. Agreed (semantically, at least). However, the dichotomy of being or doing is unnecessary, and, frankly, ridiculous. As with most aspects of living your best life, it’s all about balance.
Doing. Being. Doing. Being. It’s as easy as breathing–and almost as important.