Energy vs. Time

Some of us are just better than others

This one will make me very unpopular, but the truth is: I am not as productive as Elon Musk. I am not as athletic as Letesenbet Gidey. And I am not as smart as Stephen Hawking. All these people are in some way, shape or form better than me. That does not mean that I am not good. But it does mean that there are people who are better than me. Many people. We are not all the same. Which does not mean we should start treating each other with disrespect. The opposite is true. To respect someone we also need to respect how they are different from us.

And then there are also things that many humans have in common. Many of us have passion projects or other things they would be doing if only they had enough time. This is a common pattern, but if you think about it, it is also ridiculous. Why is it that some people have these perfect productive days, while most of us just spend our time and energy on the same things day after day without making actual progress? The first realization we need to make is that there are people who are just better than us. More disciplined, better organized, more focused. We often feel that someone who spends an hour a day exercising must have more time at their hands, than us, because after all we would exercise if only we had the time for it. In reality however people who exercise make the time to do so. People who are better than us, are not just magically so, or had a fairy godmother come along and turn their lives into this perfect story, we see. No. 80% of the time the people who achieve something we did not achieve are just willing to do the thing we are not willing to do.

Time vs. Energy

An important factor to how good we are at anything is how energetic we are. In athletes this turns out to be most obvious: Athletes make it a point to sleep and eat well, such that they have the most possible energy to perform their best. But many of us treat our bodies badly. I am not saying, we should be following a strict diet, but I am saying that we should have the basics covered in order to feel our most energetic. If you would like some guidance I have a post on it, too.

My theory is that when we say “I don’t have the time to exercise.” what we really mean is “When I do have time to exercise I don’t have the energy for it.” And it is okay to be tired at times. We all are, but if we are so tired that we end up watching TV, despite not enjoying it and having other things to do that we don’t have the energy to do them, that is when we are in desperate need for an evaluation.

Doing what it takes: Honesty

This does not mean, that we can never become someone who is willing to do what it takes, but that will always involve some trade off. The very first step is to be very critical with the statement “I don’t have time.”, because for most of us it is a lovely excuse and it really just means, that we would rather watch TV for a few hours than work on a project or exercise, let’s be honest. And then there is even nice excuses, like “But I have to eat at some point, why not while watching TV?”. There is a few things wrong with that. Firstly this is multitasking and that means we can’t quite enjoy our food nor whatever it is we are watching. Secondly studies have shown that food doesn’t quite satisfy us the same when we eat it while watching TV making overeating, cravings and weight gain more likely. And lastly and most importantly: We don’t usually need an hour to eat if we are not at a restaurant. I know I eat in 5-10 minutes and while that is not healthy taking 20-30 minutes to eat is.

These are just some excuses we find and the most important thing we can do is to start being honest with ourselves. But sometimes, we just need to gather some data. I suggest two things for this: One being to set timers for different apps and websites on our laptops and computers and tracking just how much time we spend mindlessly scrolling. And secondly calendar blocking. This is not the most fun thing, but doing this for around two weeks, will give us a clear indication of how much time we spend on what. Start by blocking out chuncks of time on your calendar for different things. Then as you go about your day, adjust the blocks as you actually spent your time. This way you will end up with a more or less representation of how you spend your time and you get good at estimating how long something will take you. But most importantly it forces you to face the facts.

Doing what it takes: Some easy steps

Now we need to know what it is, we want to be working on. Be it exercise or spending time with someone close to you, petting the dog, or some other project. From there we need to make time for the thing we want to be doing. Look at your calendar, what thing that you do is not adding a lot of value to your days? For many people that is going to be watching TV or the time we spend on social media.

Sometimes substituting an hour of social media after work for an hour of perusing your goal won’t work for you, because you don’t have the energy. In that case it will make sense, to shift your schedule around a little. Try keeping your evening routine, but cut the social media time short by an hour and go to bed. Then get up an hour earlier and peruse your goal as part of your morning routine.

These kinds of shifts require dedication and usually some trial and error to figure out what works best for you, but it will pay off, so stick with it and don’t let life discourage you. Always remember that if you don’t do this, you will have to live with the fact, that you decided you are not willing to do it. It is that simple. Most things we don’t achieve we don’t achieve, because we are not willing to put in the work and make the necessary changes. We are grown ups. It’s on us. And us only. No fairy godmothers. Just us. We have to choose the habits we want to implement. We have to choose which life we want to live. And then do what is necessary, to get that life.

It is possible. There are so many success stories out there. Stories of people who overcame the biggest of obstacles, because they were dedicated enough. I can only speak for myself, but I want to be the kind of person who is dedicated enough to build the life, I want. The life I dream of. I want to become the kind of person who lives the life I want to live. That requires effort. But I am willing to put in the effort. Because I am not satisfied with having dreamed of something but not gotten it, not because it was not a priority, but because I didn’t make the time.

The waiting room and the nagging voice

Waiting. Sometimes it feels like we are stuck in a giant waiting room. We wait for all sorts of things. We wait to make the next step in our relationship, for that promotion, to finish our education, to move out from our parents. We wait until we have a new gadget, car, house. And sometimes we wait for ourselves to change, we wait to have more muscle, less fat, be confident, be smarter, more attractive.

There is almost always something we are waiting for and I personally often feel like nothing is improving. It’s always the same. But then there are two question that we have to ask ourselves: Firstly: will my life really be that much better, when I have a better car? And secondly: What am I doing on a day to day basis to move the needle. To get a little bit closer to what I want? What did I do today, to achieve that goal? The underlying issue that both of these questions target is that we often don’t quite know why we feel discontent. We often want stuff to cover up for emotional issues and inner work that needs to be done. And we often just wait until we magically become better people over night, without actually doing anything to get there. It is important to be honest with ourselves.

I found myself feeling stuck in a waiting room, because instead of moving towards the door, I found myself a comfortable chair to sit in. The translation of that analogy being: instead of studying to finish my studies, I find myself gaming and waiting until I am not a student anymore.

There is a few more indicators for waiting room mentality: Feeling dissatisfied, being annoyed or angry all the time, and the most obvious one is probably addiction and substance abuse. These all happen when we try to avoid.

There is this nagging voice inside our heads telling us that we should do more. And we will not feel confident until that voice shuts up, because it knows that we worked hard and we moved towards our goals. I am not advocating busy work here. Because busy work is when that voice does not shut up, despite the ridiculously long hours that we put in.

This means we get a very simple and straight forward plan to grow our confidence and get out of the waiting room:

  1. Set Goals
  2. Find daily and weekly habits, that will make you achieve those goals
  3. Put those habits into practice
  4. Track your progress and reevaluate regularly

Setting goals is not an easy process. There is a ton of emotions involved and it can be difficult to see through all of them and really understand what we want and why we want it. It is important here to set goals because of what we want, rather than what we want to avoid. In other words: go to work, because you want do your work, rather than because you don’t want to be homeless. Be in a relationship, because you want to be with that person, not because you are afraid of being alone.
To set your goals and really nail down what you want, I suggest taking time. Write down what you think and feel and don’t judge yourself. Don’t take into account what you think others will think of you. Instead be truly honest. You can burn the paper you wrote these things on if you want to. No one but you needs to know. And finally: remember that goals can change and evolve over time as you change and evolve. And there is no shame in that. I used to have the goal of publishing a novel. Now I am writing this blog instead. I still kind of would like to get back into writing. But clearly I don’t want it enough. And that’s okay.

Finding daily and weekly habits for each one of your goals can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. When you write these down for each goal, don’t think about implementing all these. But rather think about giving advice to a friend who said he wanted to achieve a certain goal and write down all the things that you would suggest he try. There is one more very important thing to remember: there is a lot you can do to achieve a single goal. You don’t need to go to a gym every day to build muscle. You can do HIIT workouts or body weight workouts or Pilates instead. And there are also many way less traditional ways of working out, that may take longer, but are more enjoyable. Like horseback riding, dancing or climbing. Compile a loooong list. Don’t filter. Just put everything you can think of onto that list.

Now it is time to actually move the needle. It is tempting here to go all out, but resist the temptation. Don’t try to implement it all at once. Take only 1-2 goals to work on, but pick the ones, that you think will make the biggest impact. Then there are two options: You can either pick one habit that you want to implement and use the rest of the list as a fall back in case you don’t feel like doing the habit you picked, or you can give yourself a set of options from the get go. This does one thing: it makes you a lot more likely to actually implement the habit of moving the needle towards your goal, doesn’t matter what technique you use to move that needle.

Tracking and reevaluation aren’t the most fun. It requires us to be honest with ourselves once more. It forces us to face the facts. But the reality is: That little nagging voice telling us to work harder already knows the facts. We don’t. But it does. Which is why we need to get clear on the facts. It’s how we gain some grounds in that battle against the nagging voice. It is how we make sure, we don’t end up right where we started.
There are a multitude of ways out there to habit track. You can use a digital app like notion, create a spreadsheet for each month or tick off the days on a calendar. You can stick 50 little post-it flags on a mirror and remove one each day that you complete a habit, then when you remove the last one, treat yourself. There is lots of ways to gamify habits. Habitica is an app that lets you do that. With these options as with which habit to pick to begin with: there is a ton of options and you will likely need to try a few and see which one suits you best.
After all: Habit-tracking is just another habit.
The reevaluation part is important as well and I suggest doing it at least every 4 weeks, but my recommendation would be to check-in once a week. That way we prevent endless grinding, even though it is important to keep in mind, that habit building will include some level of discomfort just because as humans we resist change. But it can be worth trying to adjust different variables of our habits. Such as: do we track them right after we did them, or rather do that before bed? When do we want to do those habits? How frequently do we want to do them? Do these habits actually still contribute to achieving our goals or has it turned into mere busy work?

The waiting room is what happens when we don’t move the needle. A lack of confidence is the result of the nagging voice being right. The only way to change this effectively that will not cause psychological damage like avoiding and addiction would, is to be honest with ourselves and actually start taking responsibility and acting accordingly. I wish there was a magic pill, but as with -I believe- everything in life, there is not, but it is not actually as difficult as you may fear. But it is a process and it takes some time. It is not a linear process either. But it is very doable if you stick to it. The process, not a single habit or goal, just stick to the process and adjust as needed.

This is the single most important process to gaining confidence and become a mature adult. But the fun thing is: by the time we reach confidence and maturity, we will have reached happiness, because that is when we know that while we may not have reached all our goals, we are making progress in the right direction. Which is exactly what we want to be doing. It’s not about reaching the goals. It’s not about not being in the waiting room. It’s about turning off the nagging voice and about walking to the exit of the waiting room. Or crawl, or roll, but by whatever means, move towards the exit.

“Can’t hurt me” going to make me hurt myself instead?

I have over the past few months read roughly the first part of “Can’t hurt me” by David Goggins. I would like to dissect how he approaches self-improvement and what I think about it.

Short Book Summary

«Can’t hurt me» is basically David Goggins telling his story coupled with him sharing the lessons he learned with his readers. The big message he has, is that there is so much more in us, than we deem possible. But the story he tells is at the same time heart breaking and inspiring. He uses rather aggressive language telling the same kind of aggressive stories. Stories he tells include running on broken legs and running ultra races with little to no preparation, while some methods he presents to become stronger are remembering the obstacles, we have overcome, embracing the pain and making ourselves aware of the fact that we may think that we can’t go on, but we still have 60% of our potential untouched.

What I loved about this book

It is inspiring. Goggins goes all out. He is no fake. He lives what he preaches. And that means he lives a life that seems impossible to live. And yet he does it. The book often left me with a newly ignited drive. I wanted to become better and stronger. The best version of myself. If he could do it, why not me, too? I also share his anger with the fact, that many people are blind to their own laziness, and it makes me furious that sometimes that includes me. The book clearly demands we take responsibility for our own lives and it points out victim thinking.

Problematic points about the book

Running on broken legs? Really? Athletes already have a tendency to keep training despite injuries. And even if they did not, I do not think that we should celebrate reckless behavior like that. In addition to that Goggins makes it sound like the only way to live properly is to grind like a crazy person. To disregard any common sense.

How this fits into our society

Goggins’ call to get off our lazy asses is justified. How many of us actually have the basics of our lives figured out? How many of us don’t have a long list with things that we ought to be doing, but instead we’re simply binging another TV show? In this regard the book is awesome. It calls us out on our bullshit. Our excuses. Our ignorance.

The real problem is the way he suggests we get off those asses. He did not take care of himself. Which means that anyone can simply say “my goal is not to run on broken legs” and disregard anything Goggins says.

In essence I think the most important part is that the book lacks balance. It is not a good example of how to take our lives into our own hands, even though I strongly believe the techniques presented are highly valuable. I understand how Goggins became a legend. And I will not claim I don’t admire him, but I also think that while his way may have uncovered many helpful tools to taking control of our lives imitating his path is not going to be helpful for most people.

I think the main take away of the book is that we can be whatever we want. But I think the way Goggins describes to get there is too extreme and unbalanced, making it very unhealthy. Which does not change the fact, that most of us are lazy. As intelligent beings we should not disregard every part of the message, but look at it in a more differentiated way. But in the end it is always all about balance. Everything is about whether or not you do it mindfully and cleverly. A scientist with a gun will always win against the brute who is trying to win with pure physical strength.

There is a difference between working ourselves to death and not being lazy. In the productivity world this is equivalent to the difference between being productive and being busy. You can work yourself to death being busy and never actually accomplish anything or you can do the right things in a good balance and get more done in a day while putting in less hours and being happier. There is not only two options: Being lazy or not. There is three options: Being lazy, being strategic or brute forcing our ways through life. Goggins opted for the last one, while I try to fall into the second category. But most of us could do a little more than we are doing, just don’t let it be brute force, do it cleverly. Think about the damages you might do to yourself if you go for that extra run, or put in another hour at work. If we however fall into the first category we need to find a sustainable way to get our of our laziness.

Most new years resolutions fail by the end of January. Not because the people who set them weren’t determined, but because their approach was not smart. They demanded too much too soon, or the way they distributed their habits of their time didn’t fit them. Or they need a different way to achieve the goal they want to achieve. David Goggins would say to just keep grinding. And while that is one way, most people cannot actually do that. And it’s not necessary either. While some discipline is needed, we don’t need the determination to run on broken legs. We need the determination to do a couch to 5k training to begin with. Goggins hard-core mindset does not work unless you have a set time frame to achieve a goal. And even then, if the time frame is too long, we will most likely end up failing. Most of the good habits we are trying to finally implement are open ended. And hence sustainability is key, not hard-coreness.

The Thoughts Never Left Me

I was out today and I found myself searching for a razor-blade in my bag. I used to have one on me at all times. Used to. I have no idea when I stopped. To be honest I am doing quite well. I am exercising regularly, am trying to get back into a proper sleep rhythm and I am reading, playing the piano and consuming self-improvement content. But this does not change the fact that I would like to cut myself.

I don’t even know if I could put a blade against my skin anymore. Press down until the blood starts filling up the cut. The smell of rubbing alcohol. Feeling guilty for only that one thing: hurting myself. Feeling emotions only about that one thing. Rendering myself psychologically unstable and hence not responsible for anything. I could do it. Or could I?

I have not cut myself for about 16 months. Some might want to celebrate that. I definitely don’t. I do not feel like that is progress. I know it is. But it does not feel like it. Why have I not cut? I don’t know. In part probably because in these 16 months I have become a runner. And I do not want to turn against my legs. They are what keep me running. And concealing cuts on your forearms is quite unpractical in summer. But in winter? Why did I not cut then? I do not know the answer to that. I do know however that there has always been a temptation. I wanted to cut. I don’t know how often. Sometimes it is worse than others. Some nights I feel “only” bad, without wanting to hurt myself. Others I want to hurt myself without any particular reason.

I do still feel that way. And it seems more and more likely that it will never change. There is a good reason I am still taking natural anti-depressants. Sometimes I wonder if my self-harm was just another sign of my immaturity, because I have not practiced it in such a long time. And then I go on thinking I should proof that it wasn’t, by just hurt myself some more.

This whole kind of thinking is not something that shows. I doubt there is more than one person who might have a remote idea of what is going on. And I was not aware of it for a long time as well. I always had my down nights. I always had times when I felt like hurting myself. But the fact that I had not been acting on it probably made me think I was okay. And made everyone else think the same. I am considering going into full self-destruction mode and hiding it. Just to see if anyone notices. Obviously I won’t do that. I do not have the strength, the gut or the will to do it. See? For either way I choose I cannot win.

Some might say it is time for some therapy. But then again: according to my last therapist I am a “perfectly healthy young woman, with some issues getting used to things”. And I haven’t hurt myself, so it cannot be too bad, can it? And when everything else fails there is one critical fact that will keep me out of therapy: I do not want to get into therapy. And we all know that someone who doesn’t want to see a therapist will likely not benefit from it either. So I will not be doing that.

I do not have a plan on how to move on. When it comes to self-harm, I do not have a goal. I don’t want to make it through this year without hurting myself. I do not want to reduce how much I think about it. And I do not plan on fighting it in any way. I will take it as it comes. And when I get overwhelmed by the desire to hurt myself I will. Unwelcome thoughts have a tendency to only gain more power the more we fight them. So I don’t fight them. I am also considering hurting myself just to get it over with. But cutting is an addiction. There is a good chance that it will not be just that one time.

I always say I want to be happy, healthy and energetic. But sometimes, especially at night the darkness takes over. And the best thing I can do in these situations is to get myself and my darkness into bed. No one knows. And all of us have some darkness to fight. So what does it matter? What does it matter if I hurt myself? What does it matter if I don’t?

Back to Basics

We often find ourselves trapped in how we feel. We wonder why we feel sad or depressed and while there is nothing wrong with how we feel, we still would like to not feel sad or depressed. On our journey to feeling better, while fighting those negative feelings we try to find the newest and best secret to “curing” how we feel. Hardly ever do we consider the basics, after all, we are grown ups who have their basics all figured out. Or at least that’s how we would think, if ever we thought about it, because truth be told, we tend to forget the basics.

There are a assumptions that I think aren’t true. The basics aren’t so basic. There is quite a few aspects to the basics. And there are some individual aspects that no one but ourselves can put a finger on. In addition to that, the basics may be the foundation of our lives, but it is not so easy to lay a good foundation. The basics are habits and implementing good habits is quite tough. So tough in fact, that most people do not have all the basics covered. But why look for the silver bullet, when the way to feeling better is so trivial? Because it is hard. And we aren’t even aware of the benefits that getting the basics straight could yield for us. And even if we do, we struggle with the implementation or we are going the way of least resistance and are hardly trying at all. I will not sugarcoat anything, we are either willing to put in the work, or we will continue suffering. It’s up to us to choose. With this in mind: Behold: The Basics.

Sleep

It is well known that the way we sleep affects everything in our lives. And there is many factors to consider from our bed time to the duration we sleep to our environment, to the rituals that precede our going to sleep. Changing my sleeping habit was quite difficult. I used to sleep up until 11am and switched to around 7am. But I clearly avoided the headaches that came with staying in bed for so long and I spent the time that I didn’t stay up and watch some more TV at night, reading and exercising in the morning. But what helped me was knowing how much sleep I need and having stable nighttime and morning routines.

The most important thing when getting our sleep back on track is to not make excuses. I often would get to bed on time and then not sleep so well and use that as an excuse to stay in bed. It is true: we need our sleep, but when I changed my habits I had actually been sleeping too much and I would be fine with a few nights of not so good sleep. Especially since there was one more thing that was the most important aspect. I needed to train my brain to fall asleep on time. Getting up earlier than usual consistently and hence making getting up early my new normal did this. Because when we sleep too much our brain doesn’t really get to sleep and the quality of our sleep deteriorates. But when we sleep only how much we need to, our brain knows that it needs to sleep properly and on time in order to get enough sleep. This makes the whole sleeping experience much more pleasant, because it stops becoming a drag and starts being a habit.

A few things that help getting to bed are a consistent sleeping schedule and a nighttime routine, that tells our brains that it is time to wind down. For tips on how to wake up more easily I recommend reading The Miracle Morning, for me the most effective is putting my alarm across the room and walking into the kitchen to grab a coffee as well as not returning to my bedroom, to avoid the temptation of slipping back into bed.

Exercise

I love running. Most of the time at least. But the reason I run is not primarily the physical aspects. It is the mental aspects. Running has reduced my stress levels, increases my confidence. It allows me to tune in with my body, become more mindful and breath more deeply. I notice how much happier I am when I am running consistently. And then of course there are the physical aspects of it being good for cardiac health and overall health. Not to mention all the happiness hormones it releases and how proud we get to be of ourselves after completing a workout.

It does not need to be running, it can be anything that you enjoy. I have a friend who likes doing hula-hoop. And I know that people like to go on long walks. Others like hiking, going to the gym or dancing. Others are in a volleyball or basketball team. Anything that gets you moving is a great way to stay healthy and have those feel-good chemicals released in our brains making us feel happier, helping us fighting depression.

If we don’t know yet, what sport it is you would enjoy practicing, it helps to try a few different things. Try all of them for 3 weeks (if you don’t do them daily, if you do them daily 2 weeks should suffice) then see which you liked best. You don’t even have to choose only one, you can do a number of 2-4 different things, depending on what these things are. When we run for instance it is actually very important to do cross training, be it a different kind of cardio or something to build our strength. Generally speaking having one main sport and then some supporting sports of the other kind (such that we do both cardio and strength training) is optimal. The mixing allows us to strike a healthy balance on a physical level and having a main sport is helpful for forming an identity.

I would advise to get moving at least twice a week. It doesn’t need to be your main sport each time, but everything less than that is not consistent enough, to actually yield the lifestyle benefits we are trying to achieve. And this advice is targeting people in active jobs or people who move around a lot in general and do two intense workouts throughout the week. A general rule of thumb is to work out more often the easier the exercise form we choose.

Nutrition & Hydration

These two make sense to mention as one basic when talking about it, but it also makes sense to track them separately (more on tracking later). This is also the section where I will talk about quitting negative habits, because many things to stop are related to nutrition and hydration. However always remember that it is a lot easier to replace a bad habit, than to just quit it without replacement.

They say you are what you put into yourself. And Hydration really is a no-brainer. Drink plenty of water and unsweetened teas. I tend to find my water quite boring, which is why I like to add lemon juice, fruits or cucumbers to my water to give it some flavor. Just make sure to not add sugar, as sugar will draw liquids out of your body. Another tip on hydration is to always have water (or tea) accessible easily, since reducing the friction that comes with having better hydration habits, will make it more likely that you will successfully build those habits (this is obviously a general concept, which is always worth mentioning and applies to every good habit, we try to build).

Things worth considering when trying to improve nutrition and hydration include the intake of alcohol and caffeine. It is well known that alcohol damages the liver and can cause addiction. Whereas caffeine can have an impact on our sleep, bloodpressure and our stress levels in addition to that many people say, they need caffeine to wake up, but when we have the basics of sleep down, we don’t actually need it anymore.

As for nutrition, I myself find it really hard to stick to a healthy diet. I am aware of how important it is, since obviously it affects our brains/minds and our bodies, but there is so much to consider when it comes to nutrition. The easiest thing is probably to not over- or undereat. This is crucial to stay healthy. Neither obesity nor anorexia are states that help us feel happy. Aside from that there is the generic advice to eat fruits and vegetables. I personally would advice to develop an awareness of “good” and “bad” foods. But before I get into that, let me say one more thing. Every diet out there claims to be the one and only. Therefore every diet out there should generally be taken with a grain of salt. I am not saying that if a vegan diet works for you, you should change your diet, but let’s be real, if you are on a vegan diet you are probably skipping this section anyways. But as with everything balance is important and it is important that we get all the macro- and micro nutrients that our bodies need to be healthy and functioning.

As a general rule of thumb we would like to consume complex carbohydrates such as quinoa and potatoes and fiber-dense foods rather than calorie-dense foods. In other words: avoid empty calories, and this may come as a shock, but rice and pasta are actually quite calorie-dense.

Some things to be aware of include sugar, maltodextrose, glutamate, yeast extract, the quality of fats and anything highly processed. Sugar, glutamate and maltodextrose make something taste quite good, therefore they are contained in countless spice mixes and convenience foods. Maltodextrose is really just another name for sugar. The thing with sugar is, that it makes very tired, by throwing off blood sugar level. It also draws liquid out of our bodies and contains no nutrients whatsoever. It also throws off the bodies PH which then needs to be restored. Glutamate has another name as well: yeast extract. It changes the brain chemistry and is suspected to be related to heart disease, diabetese and obesity. In order to consume healthy fats, we should try to focus on taking in unsaturated fatty acids (most plant based fats, fish and nuts) instead of saturated fatty acids (palm fat and coconut fats as well as animal based fats). Now, one of the worst things for a well balanced nutrition, is highly processed foods, not only do those often contain low quality fast, but they also lost most micro nutrients when they were treated to be conserved. So in the end they really only contain calories.

Personal Hygiene

Now we come into the territory where the needs vary massively from person to person. Still it is fair to say that clean clothes and brushed teeth go a long way in helping us feel more in charge and ultimately make us feel better. Taking regular showers, washing our hair and brushing our teeth before going to bed seem obvious to some, but who hasn’t skipped brushing their teeth after drinking a little too much? What woman hasn’t faced the decision of going to bed or taking her make up off first and struggled making the decision to take an extra 5 minutes to wash that make up off?

Some people may consider personal grooming to be part of personal hygiene. But the line is blurry. Do I really need to cut my nails today, to have the basics covered, or can I wait another day? I would suggest however to start building better habits around personal hygiene at the more obvious ones and once those are firmly in place tackle the things that are on the line between personal grooming and personal hygiene.

Tidiness and Organization

No one likes to live in a dirty place. No one likes to live in a place where non of the stuff is in its place. Again how tidy your space needs to be for you to feel at peace, is up to you. I like my space very tidy. A messy space can stress us out and can amplify the negative emotion we have. And it can make building new positive habits even harder. To make maintaining a tidy space easier it can be helpful to declutter and give the things we end up keeping a fixed place a “home” where they get put into. Tidying in and of itself isn’t usually the problem. the problem occurs, when we try to put the clothes that had been on the chair for a while back into the wardrobe and the whole pile of T-Shirts is falling out.

For me a planner and a to do list (be it physical or digital) belong into this category as well. While it may be daunting to see all the stuff we wanted to be doing, it is also very rewarding to tick things off that list and it is calming to know that everything we ever need to do is on a list and will not get forgotten. Just like every physical item I own needs to have its place so does ever to do that pops into my mind and every thought that I might want to retain.

Progress and Tracking

First of all: do not attempt to fix everything all at once. This will likely not work and fail. Some of these habits might domino, which is very nice, so finding the right first habit to build can be a great idea. But if we don’t have a habit that dominos, that’s fine. We can just take one or two habits to focus on for a while and once they feel like second nature, we can go off find the next one to implement.

Tracking is crucial. We often only notice how bad we eat, sleep and do other basic things in our lives when we are faced with raw data. That can be disheartening to see at first. But really all this means is that there is something to work on. I usually need those wake up calls. I need some data telling me I am lazy, unproductive and unhealthy. But even if you don’t need those wake up calls, you need the data, in order to track your progress. Sure, we see progress after a month, but that is often not enough. We can see progress after only a week or even just a few days. And in the beginning the goal should be to make winning streaks that are as long as possible and then start beating our own personal bests. This way tracking becomes like a mini game. And since it keeps us accountable, it also makes it less likely for us to slack off and loose the good habits again.

And finally: be patient and compassionate with yourself. I know that is hard. I know we want instant progress. But nothing that is really good, will come instantly. It takes a while. And that’s okay.

Some final Words

There are more areas in our lives that are important that could have been added to this list. Such as relationships, downtime, growing and challenging our minds and I am sure we could think of many more. It’s the same here as in the organization point: the line between what is truly basic and what is also important for a good life is blurred. I suggest starting to work on the obvious things and then make our way to the less obviously basic ones. Clearly without saying: “don’t see anyone until you have fixed your sleep rhythm” In the end we need to be sensible as well. Rash choices will have us yo-yo back exactly where we are now in a week or less.

These are the basics. And they are hard to master, because inevitable life is hard to master. And while they are important sometimes it is all about giving ourselves some space and backing off for a day or two to allow ourselves to be lazy for a little. Leading a perfect life starts by with mastering the basics, but even a perfect life is not made up of only perfect days and it is just as important to respect that as striving for a solid base and building the life of our dreams.

And with all that said: Thank you for reading aaaaall the way through to the end. I hope you found some value and I am happy to take questions and comments in the comment section. I wish you all the best for your journey.

On Relevance

I am certain I have talked about this in the past, but it is a fundamental concept, that I would like to reiterate. Mostly because I have forgotten about it myself.

I want you to think about who in your life is truly relevant. Usually that is only going to be a handful. Now think about why they are relevant. Why do you consider them relevant?

We may be social creatures, but we tend to hand out with people who are convenient a lot. We go for a drink with our coworkers. We talk to that random person at a family gathering. Many relationships are based on a mutual fear to be alone. No, this is not pretty. It’s not sunshine and rainbows, but does that make it less true? In the end we need to be honest with ourselves.

Why am I talking about this? Because we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. But even more importantly and closely related: We need to stop acting so darn entitled. I am going to exaggerate the truth: No one really cares about you. Yes, we have friends and family who do care about us as part of their tribe. They want us to be well, because we add company and fun to their lives. Maybe we also add cultivation and spirit to their lives. But really we stick with people who add value to our lives. That’s what it takes to be considered relevant. That is why most people are replaceable.

Understand that friends and family aren’t calculating the value we add to their lives. And yet that is how we end up being relevant in someone’s life. Yes, not all value is measurable, but in the end there is always some way to decide if someone is worth our time. What I am trying to get at is that we all see the world and our lives from a first person perspective. Of course we think we are the most important person in our lives. Because to us we are. We are the one person we cannot replace. We are stuck with ourselves. And hence it is up to us to build a life that we consider to be worth living. Which is why we choose to only keep the people in our lives who add value.

And with that we are at the entitlement problem that I mentioned: Because our lives are presented to us in first person perspective there is one thing we can easily slip into: We feel (not explicitly) that if we don’t do a certain thing, say eat our vegetables, someone will care. This is part because our mothers used to care and in part because we live in first person perspective. But no one cares about what we eat. And no one cares if we exercise. The only life we mess up that way is our own. We also tend to feel like someone will have to come and safe us, if we get into trouble. But guess what: no one cares. You miss the deadline for that project? Sorry, no late hand-ins!

As a default we are relevant only to our own lives. That is good news and bad news. On one hand, no one will come safe us. But also if we decide to live a better life we can, because no one cares about what we do enough to hold us back.

We tend to have this attitude, that we are the only good person in this world and everyone else is trying to harm us. Newsflash: people don’t care enough to go out of their way to harm us. We might get harmed by accident, because again: no one cares. But that is not evil intent. It might be ignorance, sure, but only because who ever did the hurting was busy living their own lives.

And that really is the take home message: We should all start taking ownership for our own lives. Because no one else will.

Now let me re-iterate the “no one” part of no one cares. There is people who do care. And I know there are few people we do care about. I do not advocate for hurting people by ignorance. Nor do I advocate for not caring for people. But I have found that not assuming ill-intent reduces the hurt, hate and anger that I personally feel. I think educating and developing ourselves to be the best version we can be is not only great for adding value to other people’s lives, but also for living the best live we possibly can.

Of course this whole topic may have been a hit to the ego. And we might feel just a little more insecure now. There is one surefire way to deal with that insecurity: Our value does not come from other people deeming us valuable. It does come from other people caring about us. It comes from us caring about other people. Let me repeat: Our value is independent of whether or not other people care about us, it is about us caring for other people.

Here’s the intrinsic problem with that: We tend to not care so much for other people, because we are the most important person to ourselves, because of the perspective. So the easiest way to start caring for other people is to find ways to care for other people and us at the same time. And the most awesome way to do that is by “simple” honesty.

Doing what we said we are going to do is the obvious, even though not that simple. But what is even more important is being honest with ourselves. And hopefully that honesty means we end up taking responsibility for our lives and the relationships we have in our lives. We need to understand that we tend to like people who take responsibility. Who are more than just talk. People who take action. Reliable people who follow up on their word. People who when they say something they believe it. Because they know they don’t lie. No full on lie. No little white lie. Just no bullshit. People who say they are going to do something and then end up doing it, not just because they said they are going to do it, but because they said it out of conviction in the first place.

People who burn up with real passion. People who have real knowledge backing their claims. People with the discipline and enthusiasm to take control of their own lives. These people are the ones we consider inspiring. And the one thing they understood is that they are on their own. They are the ones in charge of their lives. People who understand that no one cares enough about them, to hand them what they want. People who understand that the only person their day-to-day habits impact is themselves and a select few in their inner circle.

Let’s become that person. Let’s look to other people for inspiration. And then let’s stop comparing, stop trying to seek attention and finally do the things we know we should be doing. Build the lives we dreamed of living and finally once we reached all that give back. Give back to the community for all the inspiration and support we received on our journey to the best versions of ourselves.

That my friends is how we become truly magnetic. It starts with ourselves. And what we do with the time that is given to us. Which is really the only choice we ever have to make. We have to understand our place and cut the bullshit. And from there we can look to having a positive impact on the people around us.

Or we just hop on the internet and write lengthy blog-posts about something that we have not yet achieved ourselves, just to remind ourselves of where we want to be going. Hehe. Thank you for reading this and caring a little. You are making the world around you a better place.

Beginnings

There are two concepts about beginnings that I would like to present. These aren’t new ideas. As with most things on this blog, I am merely re-framing things that I find important enough that I think they should be thought about every now and then.

Never skip a Monday. There is a number of ways to express this, but the essential point to make is that starting out right, can be an incredible boost of motivation. Not skipping the Monday ends up making it a lot more likely that we stick to our good habits for the rest of the week. But it is not only about Mondays. It is about mornings as well. I would be willing to bet, this is why Morning Routines have been hyped so much. It is about starting the day, week or month right. Where “right” means whatever you are trying to work on. If you want to become more fit, you step on the scale in the morning and hit the gym on Mondays. If you want to become a better student, you get up early and get in an extra hour of studying before the first lecture.

Restart anytime. If you had a bad first half of the week, do not say “well, it was a bad week, I will do better next week.” That way you are setting up the second half of the week to end up just as bad as the first half, before the second half has even started. Yes, the “starting right” principle can be tremendously helpful. But this is life and that means things will not be going perfect all the time. Don’t give up on a part of your life (like the second half of a week or even day) just because you need a restart. Don’t wait for a Monday or new day to roll around to give you permission to restart. It’s your life. Claim your time. Start over. And do it well.

Outer Appearance and its limitations

Looks matter a great deal. But that is only half the story. I noticed this when watching a video titled something like “looking like a Victoria’s Secret Model”. The woman in the video did do her make up and hair and I didn’t particularly like either, but when she did the final shots, to totally bought that she might be a model. It was not her hair or make up, it was her vibes, her aura and ultimately her confidence in the person she is.

They say that the prettiest thing a woman can wear is her smile (or confidence, the opinions differ). But it is not about appearance. It is about happiness affecting a woman’s appearance. The thing is: When we are looking good, we feel more confident and when we feel more confident we look better. It is a cycle.

How do we break that cycle? We dress for both who we are and who we want to be, because that is what makes us come across as the most authentic and it is what will make us the happiest and most magnetic in the long run. This starts with taking stock of who we are and what we want.

We can dress like a runner all day, but if we don’t start running, we are fooling ourselves, but the thing is: we will not be fooling others. People notice very quickly if our appearance does not match our personality and character. It definitely is a good idea to use appearance to remind ourselves of who we want to be, but not only that. It should also be a reminder for us to do what it takes in order for us to become who we want to be.

When our characters match our appearance and we are at peace with who we are, that is when we are the most handsome or beautiful. The most magnetic. Happiest. This is not something that is achieved over night. It requires a lot of emotional and psychological work first to figure out who we want to be. And after that it requires further work either emotional, psychological or physiological to transform ourselves.

The beauty of it all is, that once we figure out who we want to be and start working on becoming that person our confidence rises and dressing the part does not feel fake anymore either. Most humans on this earth never get to that point, and therefore with every day that we spend working ourselves we become more extraordinary.

Being in a bad headspace. Being in a rut.

Understanding

As with anything understanding a rut can help us, deal with it more effectively.

What causes ruts?

Ruts are normal. Human beings experience them. No one is always perfectly on point, even though, we all wish we were. There are numerous causes to being in a bad headspace. Sometimes it has to do with the basics like sleep and hydration not being taken care of. And sometimes, it is a game that we lost, that tips us off, or a fight with a loved one. This may sound funny, but the weather can play a huge roll, as well hormones. We are incredibly complex beings, and everything that we are exposed to has an effect on us, therefore also everything we are exposed to might cause a rut. Sometimes a rut is caused by overwhelm. We have a lot to do and start avoiding it, which ends up getting us into a rut.

Our mindset in and of itself, will (most likely) not cause a rut, but if we tend to think negatively we are more prone to ruts and if we tend to overdo the positive thinking, we might overwhelm ourselves causing a rut as well.

How do ruts make us feel and act?

To be clear: A rut is NOT depression. While we can feel a little “depressed” when we are in a rut, this is still very different from actually being depressed. If you feel as if your rut is more than just a rut and seems to be more like an actual depression, seek professional help!

How a rut makes us feel depends on the person. Feelings of sadness, a lack of motivation, constantly being annoyed or very irritable are quite usual. It is also common to engage in some form of avoidance. I personally tend to sleep in and play Age of Empires all day long. We do tend to reach for our addiction of choice when we are avoiding. It helps to explicitly know that in order to be able to counteract it. We might also feel worthless, lazy and ugly.

How to get out of a rut?

I am sorry, I do not have a magic pill to cure a rut. Getting out of a rut can feel like very hard work. And there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I would even argue, that getting out of a rut, heavily depends on the cause of the rut.

Do a refresh/reset

Sometimes all it takes is a little change. This can be achieved a number of different ways. I would advice to try, what feels right for you in any given moment:

Physical

  • Change your environment -move furniture, change decorations-
  • Clean
  • Declutter
  • Wear different clothes
  • Shower
  • Have a new experience

Mental

  • Try getting into a different mindset
  • change up your routine

Remember the Goal/Make a plan

This is very closely related to a mindset refresh and it is highly effective. Remember who we want to be. Reevaluate our lives. Set a plan for the next 3 months. Maybe make a new habit tracker. But remember where we want to be going.

Sometimes, we just need to take a little action. I am not talking about moving mountains. I am talking about taking a shower, taking out the trash or writing the first paragraph of that essay that we have been putting off. Make a plan. But do not stop there, take action on the first item!

Opposite Action

This is a skill that is actually taught in DBT. It suggests that we do the exact opposite of what we feel like doing. That way, we conquer our inner demons and actually make meaningful progress. And therefore we end up with a positive memory.

Practice Self-Compassion

This is probably the most important of them all. Because ruts tend to make us feel worthless, it is very easy to be down on ourselves. And that will only get us down even more. Always remember that regret is only fruitful, if we manage to improve in the future. It is merely detrimental, if we use regret to self-loath. Try to assess your emotions rationally. They probably have some sort of reason. And they are valid. The trick is to not give power to sadness and self-loathing. Which is a lot easier said then done, but nevertheless, maybe there is something, that would make us feel better, and no matter if the emotion “makes perfect sense ” or not, we should definitely do the thing that makes us feel better. Sometimes taking a break is the only right course of action.

Start Small

This is especially effective, if part of why we are in a rut is that we feel overwhelmed. Learn to take your to do list one step at a time. Learn to prioritize. Understand that it is never big deeds that make us as a person. It is the small daily things that we do. They compound over time and turn us into the person we are. One run, does not make me an athlete. Nor does one glass of wine make me an alcoholic.

In Conclusion

Ruts are part of being human. They suck. But they are not the end of our lives. Taking a break, taking care of the basics, refreshing and tackling our to-do lists one piece at a time are incredibly powerful tools in handling a rut. And always remember: Our value as a person, does not depend on our emotion, nor on our current level of energy or on how good we think we are. Our value as a person is intrinsic. That means no matter what we do, or how we feel, we are still incredibly valuable

Just another excuse

We often think to ourselves: “I am not as good, as that other person, because I don’t really like the thing I need to do, to achieve my goal.” or “I am just not as talented.” We allow those excuses to hold us back. And while I do think that everyone has at least one passion, and I also think that we all should pursue that passion, there is one thing, we tend to overlook. Even with talent and passion no road is going to be entirely easy. We always try to make ourselves believe that for people other than us, achieving greatness is so easy and effortless. That is probably because they make it look easy and effortless, as well as the fact that in this social media world we only share our personal highlights, rather than the tough journey. But really the truth is: When we want to excel at anything. And even if we only want to be good at it, we will need to put a lot of hard work into it.

Talent may have an impact on how big or small the hurdles are and passion impacts, how easily we can overcome those, but there always comes a point, where things turn hard. Even if you are a talented runner and you love running, after a few kilometers, you will start to feel tired, you will feel like giving up. That is normal. And it applies to anything. No good habit will always be easy to execute. Regardless of whether we study or work or are in training, there will come a point, where it feels hard and we will have to make the choice of either pushing through or give up. But when we make that choice, we can not let our current levels of passion and talent decide for us. Because when things get hard, our passion often drops.

We should always remember that anyone who achieved anything did so by working hard. Yes, the result can be incredibly inspiring, when we see it on social media. But we need to realize that we can do it as well, we don’t have to be on the side-lines. We put ourselves there, by making excuses for not going out and working on getting, what we really want.

This especially applies to our own happiness. We see countless happy people online. And we get jealous, because they are so happy and we even struggle with getting out of bed in the morning. But how did these people become happy? Well first of all: they might not be, since social media only contains this perfectly curated picture of them. But if they truly are happy, then it is because they put in the work. Because they payed attention and figured out, what activities make them happy. The figured out, what the version of themselves they would like to be and figured out what habits will help them get there.

But they did not stop there. Once they knew all the steps they need to take, they started taking control of their life. Their time, their bodies and their minds as well as their priorities and their physical world. By adjusting their surroundings, their mindsets and the way they spend their time. In short they curated both their physical and mental world to be closer to the ideal that they are trying to achieve.

Anyone who has ever tried to implement a new habit knows how tough this is. We all have asked ourselves who we are and struggled to find an answer. That is what I mean, when I say that being happy requires a lot of work, just like anything else that is above average. We find out who we are by raising our awareness. For how we feel. But it does not stop there, since we can control who we are by setting priorities and habits. But of course, these things have to be implemented and adjusted. Which takes time. A lot of time. And it takes a lot of self-compassion. Because we are not going to get it right right away. Maybe that is the toughest part of them all.

There are two key take-aways: Respect and honor those who made it, because no one is born great and it took them a lot of work to get there. As well as: We can all make it, we just have to put in the work. Let’s stop making excuses. Let’s stop comparing ourselves. Let’s start being inspired by the success of others and start changing the way how we behave (and think) such that we become a little more successful ourselves, today.