It’s hard to interrupt these autopilot cycles because, well, that’s the whole point of autopilot. We don’t think about what we’re doing. We drift along in life, floating on the wake of past choices, and it’s easy to forget that we have the ability to change direction.
One solution to this is to bundle our decisions with “tripwires,” signals that would snap us awake at exactly the right moment, compelling us to reconsider a decision or to make a new one.
Chances are you know someone who has been stuck on autopilot too long. Sometimes autopilot causes people to neglect opportunities; maybe you have a friend who has talked about writing a novel for years but never seems to make any progress. Other times, autopilot leads people to persist at efforts that seem doomed, like a couple whose relationship makes them both miserable, or a relative with a naive dream of making a living as a landscape painter, or an executive who refuses to recognize that her pet project has failed. At some point, the virtue of being persistent turns into the vice of denying reality. When that transformation happens, how can you snap someone out of it?
One option is to set a deadline, the most familiar form of a tripwire.
Some deadlines are natural, such as the deadline for filing stories at a daily newspaper—the printing press has to roll at a certain time, whether the story is ready or not. But it’s easy to forget that most of the deadlines we encounter in life are simply made up. They are artificially created tripwires to force an action or a decision.
Deadlines focus our mental spotlight on a choice. They grab us by the collar and say, If you’re gonna do this, you have to do it now.
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
Each day, I meditate for seven minutes. Why seven minutes? Because I put on a piece of music that I like.
Each day, I meditate for seven minutes. Why seven minutes? Because I put on a piece of music that I like, one that is soothing and calm, piano and flute, one that I associate good feelings with, and it happens to be seven minutes long.
I sit with my back against a wall, put on my headphones, listen to the music, and imagine galaxies and stars and the Universe above, and I imagine all the light from space flowing into my head and down into my body, going wherever it needs to go. I breathe slowly, naturally. As I inhale, I think, I love myself. Then I exhale and let out whatever the response in my mind and body is, whether there is one or not. That's it. Simple.
Instructions Step 1: Put on music. Something soothing, gentle, preferably instrumental. A piece you have positive associations with. Step 2: Sit with back against wall or window. Cross legs or stretch them out, whatever feels natural. Step 3: Close eyes. Smile slowly. Imagine a beam of light pouring into your head from above. Step 4: Breathe in, say to yourself in your mind, I love myself. Slowly. Be gentle with yourself. Step 5: Breathe out and along with it, anything that arises. Any thoughts, emotions, feelings, memories, fears, hopes, desires. Or nothing. Breathe it out. No judgment, no attachment to anything. Be kind to yourself. Step 6: Repeat 4 and 5 until the music ends.
(When your attention wanders, notice it and smile. Smile at it as if it's a child doing what a child does. And with that smile, return to your breath. Step 4, step 5. Mind wanders, notice, smile kindly, return to step 4, step 5). Step 7: When music ends, open your eyes slowly. Smile. Do it from the inside out. This is your time. This is purely yours. Why music? Since I listen to the same piece each time, it now acts as an anchor, easily pulling me into a meditative state. A crutch perhaps, but a nice one. Do this meditation consistently.
Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It
To interrupt this cycle, some organizational leaders urge their employees to “assume positive intent,” that is, to imagine that the behavior or words of your colleagues are motivated by good intentions, even when their actions seem objectionable at first glance. This “filter” can be extremely powerful. Indra Nooyi, the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, cited it to Fortune as the best advice she ever received. (She learned it from her father.)
She said, “When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed.… You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, ‘Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.
This simple technique of considering the opposite has been shown, across multiple studies, to reduce many otherwise thorny cognitive biases.
That’s why we are advocating so strongly in this book for the use of a process, something that becomes habitual.
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
If that’s you—if you have too many passions and don’t know which one to focus on—here’s what you do:
If you’ve got a pile of possibilities in front of you right now and the idea of editing is overwhelming, step up into the observatory tower and gaze into the land of Harvesting. Which destination feels like success? Which one feels good, but not great? Which one feels okay, but not awesome? When I did this exercise, it forced me to realize that to progress as a copywriter in the company I worked for, I would probably need to become a creative director. I would manage projects and people, which would mean I’d spend less time actually writing. That pretty quickly became a destination I wasn’t eager to arrive at. If you’ve got ten paths, this simple exercise will help you eliminate a few pretty quickly. Especially the ones you’re just good at. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean it’s the road to awesome for you.
If that’s you—if you have too many passions and don’t know which one to focus on—here’s what you do: Pick one and start. Don’t try to prioritize your list. I used to tell people to do this, and it was a mistake on my part. I would say, “Make a list of all your passions, from most interesting to least interesting. Then start working on the one you are most interested in.” This seemed like good advice, but it’s not.
The list is miserable. It’s a crippling waste of time. Instead, just pick one and start. If they’re all passions, then what is the worst thing that can happen? You spend time doing something you enjoy and realize along the way it’s not what you enjoy the most? How is that a fail? That’s called an edit. If you wait to create a perfect prioritized list or just simply wait because you don’t know where to start, you are guaranteed zero percent joy because you’ve worked on zero percent of your passions. I’m horrible at math, but even I know some is better than none. Start on something. Edit it if it’s not your awesome. Move on to the next thing.
Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters
The Time-Travel Meditation
This is one of my favorite meditation exercises, and I think you’ll really enjoy it, too. First, go to a place where you can physically relax. Lie down or sit comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe deeply for a few minutes. Imagine a special room in your mind’s eye, one with two comfortable chairs facing each other. You’re sitting in one chair, and in the other chair is your future self—the person you’ll become five years from now. Your future self knows everything you know, as well as everything that will happen to you during the next five years. Now imagine having a conversation with this person. Ask anything you want, and listen for the answers.
When you’re ready, ask your future self to get up and leave the room, and imagine that your past self from five years ago walks in and sits down. You are this person’s future self. Take a moment to recall what your past self has been going through. What was your life like exactly five years ago? Imagine your past self asking you questions about how your life turned out; and see yourself answering with empathy, understanding, and reassurance. Tell your past self about some of the challenges that will be coming up in the years ahead, challenges that you’ve already faced.
When you’re finished connecting with your past self, imagine that your future self reenters the room and all three of you stand up. Your bodies begin to glow and become translucent. You float toward each other and merge into a single being of light. When this happens, you may experience an intense release of emotion. The three of you are now an integrated whole, a single being who exists outside of time. This being is the real you. I encourage you to try this meditation at least once, even if you’ve never meditated before. It will help you recognize that there’s a time-less nature to your existence, that you’re more than just a physical being moving forward through time. In the presence of this aware-ness, your momentary worries will shrink, replaced by feelings of expansiveness and connectedness.
Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth
Experiment. That’s it. That’s the action you have to embrace in the land of Learning. Because scientists don’t fail; they experiment. They blow things up. They burn things down. They tinker. They smash. They mix. And when an experiment doesn’t go the right way, they don’t call it a failure. They say, “Look what we learned. We thought it would go one way and it went the opposite! What can we take away from this that will help us with our next experiment?” That’s why James Dyson had 5,126 prototypes before completing his industry-changing vacuum cleaner. It’s why Angry Birds, the wildly popular app, was Rovio’s fifty-second attempt at a game. It’s why WD-40 had thirty-nine other formulas that came before it. Everyone who succeeds learns through experimentation.4
Start today, regardless of your age. Turn off the fog machine. Acting on the dreams you learned about in your previous destination is not complicated. Walking deeper into the land of Editing is not as complex as fear and doubt are trying to tell you it is. In fact, it starts with just one question. examples. Those are real people I know who all dared to ask that question, “What gives me the most joy?” I dare you to ask it too.
Be brave enough to have fun with whatever you whittle down in your life.
Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters by Jon Acuff
You don’t need to go back in time to be awesome; you just have to start right now. Regretting that you didn’t start earlier is a great distraction from moving on your dream today, and the reality is that today is earlier than tomorrow. As far as having a mom or dad who showed you the ropes, or a giant in your life, that’s fixable too. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find a giant, someone who is farther down the path than you. People who are awesome are usually surprisingly willing to share their wisdom if you ask humbly. You may not be able to skip stages, but you’d be amazed what a difference hustle, hard work, and the steps we’ll discuss in this book can make in your ability to shorten them. Just make sure that while you’re hustling you don’t start thinking you deserve more than you really do.
Whatever words you want to use, rescue thirty minutes to walk down your path to awesome. If you can’t—if the idea of setting your alarm thirty minutes earlier sounds horrible to you—then you may not be ready for awesome.
If your dream isn’t worth thirty minutes, you’ve either got the wrong dream or you’re just pretending you have one. If the minimum you’re willing to pay in order to be awesome is less than thirty minutes, you’d better go back to average. Nobody gets up early on the road to average. Nobody stays up late on the road to average. You can sleep in to your heart’s content or watch late-night TV until the infomercials begin to make perfect sense. Either way, you’re safe on the average road.
Don’t start getting up earlier on your road to awesome just because it worked in my life. Get up earlier because you want the best shot at success. Get up earlier because you want access to your best willpower. Get up earlier because you want the way your brain works and the way your physiology reacts to be your friend, not your foe.
I’d received a postcard from awesome, and it had two questions on it:
1. If I died today, what would I regret not being able to do?
2. Are those the things I’m spending time doing right now?
Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters by Jon Acuff
Journaling is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to discover new truths. By getting your thoughts out of your head and putting them down in writing, you’ll gain insights you’d otherwise miss. While some people use journaling merely to record their thoughts and experiences in a “Dear Diary” fashion, the real power of journaling lies in its ability to help you move beyond sequential thinking and examine your thoughts from a holistic, bird’s-eye view. Use this tool to solve tricky problems, brainstorm new ideas, bring clarity to fuzzy situations, and evaluate progress toward your goals. Instead of a mere record-keeping tool, your journal can vastly accelerate your personal development if you devote it to that purpose.
Many people use paper journals, others prefer a word processor, and some like special journaling software. I used paper journals for many years, but in 2002 I switched to journaling software and never went back. The advantages are numerous. Typing is faster than writing; your entries are stored in a secure, private database; you can use the built-in search feature to instantly find old entries; you can assign entries to categories for better organization; and you can easily make secure backups. The more robust programs even allow you to insert images, audio recordings, videos, spreadsheets, files, Web links, and more. Once you try journaling software, you’ll never want to go back to pen and paper.
Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth by Steve Pavlina
Picasso proves that the more times you do something, the better the odds of making something interesting
Listening to one of Michael Covel's podcasts the other day, I was fascinated to learn that Picasso had created between 50,000 and 100,000 pieces of art. That is a staggering number, but it shows clearly an example showing that the more time you spend at something, the better the odds of it being great.
Picasso did not create 100,000 great pieces of art, I have seen several that were not that great in my opinion, the pieces I saw were rough, mean spirited.
We all know that some experiments that don't work, and so did Picasso, but he knew that the more times he created, the better the odds that he would create something interesting, and that because it was interesting, it might last. The man was a machine, and worked hard at his art constantly. It wasn't a job, it was his life.
How does it apply to you?
The more actions you do, the more times you create, that you get up and try, the better the odds of success and greatness. If you think one idea is all you need, you are wrong.
You need hundreds of ideas, and then you try them out with small bets or experiments, and then push hard on the concepts that work.
The real key is to have hundreds of ideas, and then actually execute part of it in a small way to see if it works.
Over and over.
An idea withoout an action is worth nothing.
Picasso didn't know which pieces would be lasting pieces of art, he just knew what interested him, and he tried what he thought about, learned from those around him, and then pushed hard on those ideas that worked the best.
You shouldn't limit your options out of the gate.
We often unconsciously limit our possible outcomes by how we phrase a question at the beginning of a project, or in believing unproven assumptions, and doing something as obvious as not leaving all options on the table until we have looked at all the facts, and examined all the possible details.
Think on this phrase; I can do this job, or I can do that job.
It automatically eliminates one of the options, doesn't it? You are assuming you can only do one. How often have you assumed that you couldn't do more, that there were assumed limits? Why is that true? Is it?
Now let's try something else, and say, I can do this job, and I can do that job, I know I can do both, and I just need to see how I can do it.
That changes the entire dynamic, and now many more things are possible, as you have widened your focus.
Instead of saying either or, we are saying both, and that means that we then start thinking on how can we do both, and we begin get creative, and we start finding ways to make what we want to actually happen. we look for more options.
Instead of not really thinking and just mechanically picking and choosing between two choices, you now get creative trying to find the different ways to make possibly it all work.
Changing your outlook so that you consider doing multiple items instead of fixating on one makes you see the world differently.
What you find is that often, you can do it all, or at least some variation of what you wanted to go do
The world will be full of ways to make things difficult for you. It is full of people who will tell you what they believe cannot be done, and maybe sometimes it cannot be done, but make them prove it, don't do the work for them.
You can do it, you just have to decide how.
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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