Getting Away

Over the long weekend, I had the chance to go up to a cottage. It was 2 hours away from the city, surrounded by trees, surrounded by farmland. In essence, it was in the middle of nowhere. And that was a great thing.

The drive up there was very relaxing a half hour out of the city. There were green and yellow pastures as far as the eye could see, gorgeous white puffy clouds against a backdrop of sky blue, and the air just kept getting crisper and cleaner as I went.

Having the chance to sit at the cottage outside, things were different compared to my time in my backyard. The air flowing through many trees created the perfect white noise, a calm hiss like waves against a beach. When it began to rain, you could hear the rain approaching as the drops on the leaves would get louder and louder. Sitting and reading for several hours in this area, with its clean air, surrounded by nature, was nothing short of refreshing.

Then, driving back late at night, I found myself becoming even more relaxed. There was hardly any civilization to worry about. It was just me, my car, the moon, and the silent whir of the motor. It was a fundamentally different experience driving up at night than in the city. No distractions. No lights. Just calm, tranquility. The solitude provides an excellent opportunity to get to know yourself.

I hope you had a chance to get away from it all. If you haven’t, you should. You may find parts of yourself that you lost.

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Why so Frustrated?

Just yesterday I had received a nasty email from a lawyer. As I read through it, I could feel my blood boiling. I wanted to hit “REPLY” and give them a piece of my mind. But since I started writing again, whenever I find myself getting emotionally reactive, I am curious to find out “WHY?”. It has served me well so far.

Why ask “WHY?”? There are a few benefits I can think of:

  1. It immediately places a bit of distance between you and reacting. The process of thinking about this could very well give you enough time to cool down a bit.
  2. Emotions are natural. Anger, frustration, hurt, these are all normal. Trying to understand them can help us uncover the reasons why we do things, which can help us react better in the future.
  3. Looking for the reasons why we do things triggers our pre-frontal cortex. Rather than looking at things as simply ‘just the way they are’, we treat it like a problem that should be solved. It’s a puzzle, and there’s a bigger picture that needs uncovering. This too could give the necessary space from the problem and the emotion allowing us to deal with it with grace.
  4. By shining the spotlight on yourself, instead of the subject of your anger, you give yourself the chance to grow and to improve. There is no limit to how much we can improve, and the only person we need to best is the person we were yesterday.

So the next time you feel yourself growing angry, or frustrated, and want to lash out, pause and ask “WHY?” to try to uncover the reason why something triggered that reaction within you. Responding to these situations with calm, grace, self-awareness, and self-love/care not only makes the situation better, but it makes us better humans overall.

Solitude

When was the last time you sat in complete solitude? In our day and age, everyone is constantly connected. Connectivity is great: it is convenient, it helps us keep in touch, and it gives us a sense of something greater than ourselves. But in excess, it has its downsides too: we become dependent, or addicted to constant connectivity, we are forced to remain plugged in, and we don’t get a chance to slow down in our lives.

I had the opportunity to sit in solitude yesterday. My bag was torn so I decided to sew it back together. In the half hour I was trying to do this, I sat alone in my living room. There was no social media, there was no music. Just me and the world around me. Sewing became a form of mindful meditation, each thread of the needle, each poke of the bag, each pull of the needle.

Emerging from the other side, I had a repaired bag, but also a newfound appreciation for the value of solitude. I’m an extrovert and so I value connections and find myself energized by interactions with people…but there was something wonderful being energized by the simple act of being in my own presence, doing something.

Many think that solitude can be lonely. Like many things, in excess its not a good thing. Solitude can be an opportunity to find yourself.

Give it a shot. Set some time aside to just be by yourself, with no distractions.

Not to worry. The world will still be there when you choose to connect again.

Overcoming Writer’s Block – Talking it Out

Last night I was sitting at my desk, wanting to create. There had been plenty of time for Netflix, for work, for social media, and relaxing. Now I wanted to produce. The creative process was calling out to me. But when I sat down to write something, I hit a complete blank. I stared at the screen, nothing coming to me.

After a few moments, I realized that I wasn’t having a dialogue the way I normally do with my ideas. So I started asking questions. What do I want to write about? Something about humans? Sci-fi? Philosophy? When I settled on writing something sci-fi, I started asking myself some basic questions:

  1. What is the world in this story like?
  2. Who are the key players? Why are they the way they are?
  3. What are the rules of this world?
  4. What is the major conflict or problem that needs resolving?

Those questions got the creative juices flowing.

An hour later, I was talking to my partner about some of the ideas. Telling her about them helped me flesh out this world even more. Then she started asking some questions I hadn’t even thought of. This was perfect. Answering those questions helped flesh this world out even more.

And then she and I started talking about the world, about the characters, and the more we talked, the more excited I became, the more inspired I was. Talking it out with her had sparked the creative energy that may have been missing. We had a great exchange of ideas, and her questions helped fill in the blanks perfectly. Our dialogue was exactly what I needed.

My point in writing this is that sometimes throughout the creative process, the roadblocks we face are created by ourselves. Sometimes we’re able to break through them by asking ourselves questions but the creative energy still doesn’t come back in full force.

During these moments, I’ve learned to talk out some ideas with someone. The exchange of information, being able to explain to them what it is I am writing about, and answering their questions can help spark the creative process yet again.

This isn’t surprising. I’ve found that some of my best ideas didn’t happen in a vacuum, but when I was interacting with someone. Having an outside voice can help trigger the internal elements that result in the creative flow of ideas.

What are your experiences with writer’s block?

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Step Out Into Nature

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There is definitely something about nature that brings calm to us all. Maybe it’s because we live in concrete jungles, where we grow used to shades of grey, where we are bombarded by artificial sounds, and artificial air, and artificial light…or maybe there’s an ancient part of us which despite all of our technological development longs for simplicity from a time when having food, water, shelter, and family were all we needed to be truly happy.

Whatever it is, stepping out into nature once in a while is immensely rewarding.

I had the opportunity to do this early this morning when I stepped outside and looked out my backyard to the large trees that surround it. The sun was gently poking through the green leaves, the air was crisp and cool, and the faintest sound of young birds chirping, or squirrels starting their day, could be heard.

If you haven’t already done so, take a walk somewhere GREEN today. Let your lungs fill with the air around you. Do this every day until you have the opportunity to go somewhere away from the city, where you can allow your lungs the even better opportunity of non-city air.

Stepping out into nature can remind us of the things we have to be grateful for. Or at least provide us with a connection to the natural world around us.

For many of us, this little shift is exactly what we need to shake up the routine of the normal, and add a little mindfulness or gratefulness in our lives.

 

Your Turn: I’d love to hear about what your thoughts are on stepping out into nature. Do you find it relaxing? Calming? Does it make you think? Or do the many thoughts quiet down a bit? What are some of your favourite natural settings?

40 Profound Life Rules from Jordan Peterson Everyone Should Know | High Existence

One of the wisest men on the planet shares his 40 greatest insights.

Many of you reading this will know and love Dr. Jordan B Peterson.

For those who don’t, I’m going to show you why you should.

Jordan Peterson is an award-winning lecturer at the University of Toronto, a practicing clinical psychologist, and the author of the revolutionary book on the psychology of religion Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief.

He is most famous, however, for his YouTube channel, which has 270,000+ subscribers. An insane amount considering most of his videos are over an hour long and cover very deep topics such as philosophy, mythology, psychology, and religion.

He is a man worth paying attention too.

On Quora, Jordan Peterson was asked this question:

“What are the most valuable things everyone should know?”

Instead of answering in a long essay, he wrote 40 maxims that I’ve presented below.

Before you read, keep in mind that these maxims are not your ordinary list of self-help tips.

They are simple. They are short. But they contain within each of them decades of study and thought.

Source: 40 Profound Life Rules from Jordan Peterson Everyone Should Know | High Existence

This Is The Best Morning Ritual: 3 Secrets From Research – Barking Up The Wrong Tree

So what does a morning ritual need to contain to put you in the right frame of mind to be productive? And happy? (Yeah, happy is important. This is a “morning ritual”, not a “mourning ritual.”) Just remember PCO:

  • Purpose
  • Control
  • Optimism

Why these three? What do they do? How do you turn these three nouns into a Tyrannosaur of a morning ritual that will make the Earth tremble at your approach?

What does the research say the best morning ritual consists of? Here’s what studies and experts conclude about starting a productive, happy day.

Source: This Is The Best Morning Ritual: 3 Secrets From Research – Barking Up The Wrong Tree

“All By My Selfie”

There’s just so much to relate to in Tiny Buddha Productions’ first short film (about 10 minutes long), All by Myselfie, which I encourage everyone to check out here.

The film is about a young woman who has just moved to Los Angeles, and finds herself struggling to connect with new friends, through a series of missed opportunities. As someone who has moved several times, this hit home, and offers a very accurate cautionary tale about ‘missed opportunities’.

I wanted to briefly touch on this theme because of its relevance in an ever-connected world. For many of us, the screen is our primary means of connection and contact with the outside world. We text friends, we like items on Facebook as a declaration of ‘Hey, I’m alive and I like this!’…but we sometimes place greater emphasis on this, than on picking up the phone to make a call, or meeting with a friend face to face.

We’ve sacrificed connection and quality for convenience and quantity.

And I wonder if this has had an adverse effect when it comes to our ability to forge new connections. After all, when you’re so accustomed to reinforcing the connections you already have online, new connections in person can seem daunting. And it seems like more and more people are struggling with anxiety, often in a social setting.

I’ve been there, the protagonist in the film has, and I’m sure many of you have as well. We see a person we want to connect with – but don’t. Why? Here are just some of the thoughts that bounce around in our minds, feeding into our anxiety:

  • They look busy.
  • What if they don’t like me?
  • What if we run out of things to say?
  • What if they think I’m a creep?
  • I don’t want to intrude.

 

In a mixed attempt at being courteous, afraid, or shy, all at once, we often refrain from making the connection. And then we’re left with a kind of relentless regret (some of us who are harder on ourselves anyway). Over time, more and more connections are missed and we all lose out on the opportunity to create new and meaningful connections with the people around us.

Having experienced that regret first hand several years ago, I vowed to fight back against all those thoughts, replacing them with other ones. Here’s what I mean: take each of the above thoughts, and push back.

They look busy/I don’t want to intrude – I can always ask if they have time to chat just to be sure. And if they look distracted, just wish them well and be on your way.

What if they don’t like me?/What if they think I’m a creep? – What if they do like you? What if you get along wonderfully? You won’t know until you try. Most people are generally polite anyway, even if they don’t like you.

What if we run out of things to say? – Awkward silences, the big boss of social anxiety (at least it is for me). Silence has been something that I’ve had to grow accustomed to. We often try to fill silence with small talk just to keep the conversation going. But it’s not a bad idea to let the silence linger just a moment. Odds are, the other party (who likely also hates silence) will say something. But beyond this, the best way to combat running out of things to say is to ask open ended questions and show genuine interest. Don’t ask simple questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Ask about their thoughts, their hopes, their dreams, their favourite ________, and WHY. Be curious!

As a general rule, and speaking from my own experience, we always exaggerate the worst that can happen. We amplify how horrible a silence can be, or how embarrassed we may become, or how rude a person may be in reply. We also downplay people’s desire to be civil and non-confrontational. I’ve found that as long as you’re civil and kind to people, they’ll likely be civil and kind back.

So what is the worst that can happen? You realize that a connection cannot be made, you part ways, and you never see each other again. Compare that with the lingering sense of regret that will follow you. Fear, like any other emotion, can be experienced and used in a positive way. It could be an excellent motivator. Try overcoming a fear of making a connection, with the fear of regret that could haunt you forever! In a strange and unexpected way, it worked very well for me.

And anyway, if they’re really a jerk, odds are you don’t want to connect with them anyway! That’s the most likely worst case scenario.

But what about the best case scenario? What if you find someone you connect with or make a new friend? Isn’t that worth the risk of awkward silences, or interrupting someone briefly with good intention? The potential long term gain is massive…but the short term loss (if any) is minimal!

Every single friendship likely started with a connection. Maybe it was a “Hello”, or a question. But these are the seeds that could lead to something truly wonderful.

Why be all by your selfie, when you can be all by your selfie…with friends?

All By My Selfie” teaches us all of these things, and so much more. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s so human. It’s all of us. Check it out. You won’t regret it.

The Daily Teacher Podcast – Episode 3 – Unplugged

In this podcast, I talk about unplugging in a constantly connected world, and how doing nothing may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done!

Listen to the podcast in mp3:

Listen to the podcast in ogg:

Stay tuned for a new podcast every week!

Follow me (and then UNPLUG):

Twitter: @thedailyteacher
Blog: www.thedailyteacher.com

 

Some important stuff:

Intro Music: “Take a Chance” from Royalty Free by Kevin MacLeod. Released: 2013.

Outro Music: “DarxieLand” from Royalty Free by Kevin MacLeod. Released: 2013.

Check out Kevin’s other music at http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/collections.php

The Daily Teacher Podcast – Episode 2 – Fish Out of Water

In this podcast, I talk about resilience and perseverance with a story inspired by my goldfish, Admiral Akbar’s brush with death…

 

Listen to the podcast in mp3:

Listen to the podcast in ogg:

Stay tuned for a new podcast every week!

Follow me:

Twitter: @thedailyteacher
Blog: www.thedailyteacher.com

 

Some important stuff:

Intro Music: “Take a Chance” from Royalty Free by Kevin MacLeod. Released: 2013.

Outro Music: “DarxieLand” from Royalty Free by Kevin MacLeod. Released: 2013.

Check out Kevin’s other music at http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/collections.php