We Have All That We Have

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We do not have anything more than the present. We do not have our past and certainly not our future.

Suffering is created by clinging either to the past or the future.

If we go to past or the future we are distancing ourselves from the present. This in turn creates a vicious cycle of suffering, because if we are going to past or the future, we will lose present again.

All that we have is now, the present. Present includes everything. Buddha understood this very well and he also understood about the thinking and action which leads to these results.

In addition to the present, our present mindfulness or our thinking is all that we have. In fact we are not our thinking, because we can observe our thinking. Yet only few of us consciously exercise this human superpower called ‘thinking critically what we are thinking.’

We shouldn’t let our thinking taint our present experience, because present is all that we have. We should come to accept what we have and be happy with that 🙂

15 Thought Provoking Quotes and Book Recommendations

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Line taken from its original context may be surprisingly curiosity arousing, thought provoking or even misleading. Fifteen lines from some of my favorite books:

  1. Sugar is cancer” – Tom Rath, Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes
  2. Everybody is in sales.” – Daniel Pink, To Sell Is Human
  3. Everybody works on straight commission.” – Brian Tracy, The Science of Money: How to Increase Your Income and Become Wealthy
  4. There are leaders and there are those who lead.” – Simon Sinek, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action
  5. Ask no more or less of anyone than you would of your own child.” – Bob Chapman,  Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family
  6. What if optimism is a learned skill, one that can be permanently acquired?” – Martin Seligman, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
  7. Spend your free time the way you like , not the way you think you’re supposed to .” – Susan Cain Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  8. There’s a common belief that creativity flourishes when criticism is withheld, but this turns out to be false.” – Adam Grant, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
  9. You can’t extinguish a bad habit , you can only change it.” Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change
  10. Once a person stops searching for information and self-knowledge, ignorance sets in” –  Robert Kiyosaki, Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money – That The Poor And Middle Class Do Not!
  11. We give too many fucks when our coworkers don’t bother asking us about our awesome weekend.” – Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
  12. Your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship in your life.” – Neil Pasricha, The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything
  13. One word, one action, or one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring him joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
  14. People often experience big breakthroughs… and then find a way to avoid relishing their achievement.” – Gay Hendricks, The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level
  15. Stop asking what’s in it for you and start giving gifts that change people.” – Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? How to drive your career and create a remarkable future

Year 2017 Expectations, Outcomes and Summary

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Life is ongoing change project, whatever we want it or not. Consciously we might have several ideas what to change, yet consciously we can only live a moment by moment, doing one thing at a time.

To reflect this, I took a peek into my journals and now offer the same chance to you to see how the expectations turned out.

My 2017 expectations and outcomes:

  • Keep writing and publishing every day. I later adjusted to 330 published posts. With this I’ve been successful and happy with. Important lesson right of the bat: do not be afraid to adjust your goals because the long run matters.

    As I wrote in habit combinations recently, writing somehow links so many important habits for me. Although I’ve recognized that it’s not writing per se what drives me, it’s more about the clarifying thinking, learning and then to be able to share that. Writing is medium for that, however the daily habit of writing ensures all these habits do progress to the currently desired direction.

    Outcome: 337 posts published in my English blog. In addition I started writing in Finnish to Posinkautta blog where I published five a bit more invested posts. To reflect back even further back in 2016 the growth from 261 posts to 337 or 29%! Next year the gains in publishing quantity are marginal, so therefore I’ve to write even better quality 🙂

  • Read 40 books. This I exceed by 42 as of present, audiobooks banzai! As a side note on 2016 I struggled with my reading goal of 36 books, however then I didn’t listen any audiobooks compared to this year 20.
  • Meditate at least 5 minutes every day. Meditation is my refuge even if it’s just as short while. However, especially when I am feeling upbeat I tend to forget about this which is sad. I still have to remind me that meditating does lead to my ultimate goal which is the good karma.
  • Exercise at least 5 minutes per day. While this may sound silly and little on a week level, my idea was more to kick start my morning routine or the jog, my logic went like this: if I’ve minimum standard for starting, keeping going is more interesting and many times I would indeed.

    Exercise goal has changed dramatically during the 2017. In the second half of the year I started Salsa, which I enjoy a lot and I’ve to make time to practice this in the upcoming year.

    Another thing that changed was my birthday gift, a polar watch which allows me to track my activity levels more accurately. Now I’ve daily goal of 10 000 steps which I try to keep on 7000 minimum. This has become rather attainable everyday if I just keep on moving right from the morning. Starting the exercise still feels like a chore so I’ve to work on to make it perhaps more social and through that meaningful.

  • Travel 2-3 times. I’ve tried to follow Dalai Lama’s advice to travel twice a year. During 2017 I felt I succeeded in this especially since I spent most of my summer traveling in Croatia, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. From my previous travels I had also noted that I should allow more freedom during the travel so I decided to try with no fixed come back date and went to solo travel with only one way ticket. That worked wonders! #learning
  • Form a mastermind group around investing. This idea I didn’t manage to further. On the positive side I did meet and befriend several people who are into different forms of investing and I’ve had great conversations about the topic. My network around the topic grew. Actually now looking at this idea, I think it would be more rewarding to over line the investing part of the mastermind group and just to have a group who has ambitious life goals and then to work on attainment of those. Finances are big part of the life, however there is much more as well. I’ll keep this idea in mind.

    Mastermind requires commitment because it’s a regular meeting format around once a month would be ideal. It’s more purposeful and intentional than just the interesting conversations I am at the moment having.

Summary

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Planning is preparing and preparing is everything in succeeding. Yet once the moment is at hand, we must be prepared to discard the plan, because something greater is at hand. Life is constant prioritization if I were to do similar reflection on the other past 29 years of my life, I would be proud and say that the 2017 has been the greatest experience of my life.

Past can be either a prison or a library, source of learning. Therefore we shouldn’t attach too much ourselves to the past. We should learn from our past and then keep on going. Greatest experiences today come when you understand your mistakes before and decide to find or create a new path today.

I started the year with a piece of wisdom from Mark Manson: “Focus to what truly fucking matters.” By now, at the end of the year I’ve forgotten this advice, a failure? My suffering for example yesterday was cured by simply remembering this phrase. Letters and words put together create what we call magic. As a writer I am a wizard.

Life is full of uncertainty of and consciously unexpected events. In 2017 year biggest this kind of change was in my relationship status back to single life in the summer.

Life is too complicated to comprehend and control, yet we are in control of our fates no matter what happens. We are the captains of our own souls and fates. Plans are the blueprints for our fates, and what we do each day towards those plans are the tiny manifestations of that fate.

Human mind tends to overestimate what we can achieve in short time and underestimate what is possible in a longer time frame. Therefore do not think your life only in terms of year, find a bigger perhaps three year plan! Year is a good measure to see some results, yet do not attach or condemn yourself too much because you did not achieve your goals, life is greater than that! Most important thing is to keep doing, keep doing, keep raising up and doing what you want to become!

On the following days I am going to follow Mark Manson’s advice and focus on what matters. And I am also going to follow the advice that I sometimes do not enough: trust my own judgement on this.

What’s your focus for the upcoming year and for your life? What do you want to achieve? What are you going to do about it today?

Janne

Living Meaningful Life

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Living full life to me means much of the time and energy is focused to action, movement, doing something meaningful and then taking care that there is enough energy in both short and long term.

In between the action and movement, I’ve inbuilt moments for quiet pause as well. These pauses can be either meditation, just stopping in front of mirror and dropping the worries of the life for a moment or taking a short walk. Often the sacred time is the mornings and evenings, when I am with my journals.

Through every day experiences I try to record as much what I am going through as possible. If I’ve particular concern, I might use my previous journals and knowledge to reflect upon the issue as I’ve already dealt with similar situations, there is often a lot of buried wisdom that I’ve forgotten.

If nothing else, when the weekend when I don’t have any particular plans comes up, I get super excited. There is mountains full of information on my computer that I am ready to reflect and contemplate upon. Often time this contemplation reads to further study and research and compiling of the already learned wisdom into a new kinds of formats.

Today was Sunday, and I had a day for my favorite reflection. There is nothing like revisiting my current goals and purpose to question their relevance. Today I found out that many of my priorities have changed since the past year and a half. I clarified my current priorities in satisfying manner.

As we never have time for everything, yet we have always time for the most important things. It’s alright to revisit the priorities and goals as well. For priorities I recommend a three category system critical, big, small, which I use.

  • Critical priorities are things worth sacrificing for, virtues and values that are not up for negotiating.
  • Big categories are the important things in my life.
  • Small category is the things that are nice, they come last after the big categories are done each day.

I realized that our purpose should be at the top of the critical category, because our purpose makes us immortal in a sense. When we are living our purpose, we do not fear death. My second priority is good health, so that I may live up to the purpose. As third I list metta (loving kindness), which again guides how I do things.

Big categories are more every day, where I’ve again prioritized learning and results over people and selfless service over positive cashflow. Final item on the list is a reminder to love myself too, which is a tendency that although should be included in metta, is easily forgotten.

Small category has things I enjoy: salsa, games and red wine.

To my surprise overall number of items on my list has gotten smaller. Above all it means I managed to combine many of the qualities I appreciate. I think that having less priorities is better if we consider focus and focus is good for the results. I’ve more time for the most important things and I feel like I am progressing more.

And I think you should clarify your most important things too: think what really matters in your life and what do you feel meaningful. You have only one lifetime to live, so cut out things that do not further your purpose.

Best Parts of Life Are Unknown Before They Are Known

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This phrase keeps coming to my mind. Whatever it is growth, learning or leadership, we often need to have the courage to face the unknown, a life without any assurances.

By unknown I mean that something that is unknown to us. Meaning we do not have personally experience with that. If we do not personally experience something we cannot really know what is anything like, no matter how hard we try.

Try simulating weightlessness (microgravity) for example? In a pool we might get pretty close, yet that is pretty far away from the actual experience.

Only way really to know is to see ourselves, to experience by ourselves. Only by getting to know the unknown for as long as we live, we can have more accurate sense of reality. We need to go towards the unknown to know what life has in for us.

Ability to Find Positive in Daily Experiences Increases Positive Experiences

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Ability to find the positive in what happens increases the likelihood of future positive experiences. This is because our mind has a sort of lense through which we look, if we look positive we shall also find it. When finding positive becomes a habit we tend to find the positive experiences more easily and thus we experience more positive experiences.

About six years ago I started writing to my journal the at least three positive things from each day. At first it was a bit challenging, however in few weeks I could find effortlessly several positive things from the day. Now years later days are filled with positive things and half-dozen positive things come effortlessly and dozen with a bit of thinking.

This habit of training myself to find the positive has also rippled in many ways to the everyday life. I’ve learned to apply it to whatever happens and I try see most events from many perspectives and finding the value of the experience.

Value of positivity is such as:

  • Seeing challenges as chance to get stronger
  • Seeing past as a treasure trove of learning
  • Not being something yet, is call to adventure

By being more positive means merely focusing on what is good with the world, rather than what is wrong. It is constructive approach to the strengths and possibilities.

Learning Begins With Ignorance

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Life is a learning experience, about the world and about ourselves. About ourselves, not everything is not revealed even during lifetime. Thinking about this: even though we are with ourselves, yet we barely can comprehend this.

If we cannot know ourselves fully through lifetime, how can we expect to do so about others, or about our environment?

Learning begins when we acknowledge our ignorance or the lack of understanding. It’s often about the things we take pride in, that we have to admit that we do now know much at all. If we can do this in healthy manner we can rise to a higher level, where again eventually we will face the place where we have to admit to our own ignorance.

Where ever there is ignorance, there is also potential for learning.

Learning to admit our own ignorance is one really useful skill to have and to recognize.  Ignorance is often focusing on one kind of thinking and shutting down the other possibilities. Total openness and awareness about the possibilities could be at the other end of the spectrum.

For the word ignorance, antonyms are for example understanding, intelligence, education or wisdom.

More important than absolute states I think is the direction which we are going to: is it opening or closing. Enabling possibilities or shutting down possibilities.

Learning means progress and thus increasing liberties. Ignorance means satisfying what is and shutting off possibilities.

However, we learn the quickest when we recognize the ignorant thought patterns in our lives, accept them and then we can start to notice that over there is actually a lot to learn!

Smile Your Way Through

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Smile has power to change negative to positive in our own experience, we can counteract the effects of pessimistic thinking by forcing a smile for example. Even a forced smile makes our brains and bodies to re-evaluate the situation: “is this really so bad?”

Eventually smile can rewire our experience, and the fake smile can become a real one.

Fake it till you make it, William James said and so does positive psychology.

Smile manifests positive emotions, which in turn create cycle of positive emotions. Emotions are contagious so why not spread some smile?

With smile action can be more fun, pleasant and thus also productive.

Be You With Your Strengths

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The lesson that has taken me to about thirty years to internalize has been the “it’s okay to be me.”

My unique tendencies, such as introversion, combined with my keen curiousness towards learning about a bit about everything had me to think that such preferences are “too out of the normal.”

Yet what is normal anyway? Watching TV? Parties?

As I’ve grown older I’ve bit by bit understood to embrace these tendencies, as they’ve made me wiser in the process.

Normal, or ordinary people do not put much effort to their personal growth at all. They say they do not have “time to read”, or even “interest.”

Yet in the world, there is a lot of people who are interested in such intellectual pursuits and use all their time and energy very carefully around both learning and action. Gradually as I’ve learned that it’s these people that are far more interesting to me in any way, that my life has been filled more with meaning and purpose.

A breakthrough for me has been to understand what thoughts or feelings to follow, and what not. Most of the thoughts and feelings that are really just about instant gratification, I should not relate much with. This reflects very well what majority of people do. Therefore it makes it very challenging to resist desserts, or caffeine for example. Following these thoughts is not therefore very advantageous for me, therefore this is something I would rather be not, even though these thoughts might be once in a while in my head.

The thoughts and feelings about delayed gratification might sometimes be almost as strong as the impulses about instant gratification. Often these are battling against the consensus of the group for example, even in mundane situations such as “should we take a stairs or the elevator” – for example. In these cases I would feel inclined to take the stairs (in Finland there is not many tall buildings ) to keep up my daily step goals and above all my health.

Socially explaining some of these inclinations has been the awkward part for me. This is because the delayed gratification feelings might be and feel obvious to me, yet verbalizing them might take time and I might not even specifically remember how was it. I would need to consult some sort of memory aid and all of the sudden the situation has gone past already. So what has been in the background has been that I’ve felt the desire to do the right things, yet haven’t felt secure to do so previously in my life. Presently I don’t feel such pressures as I’ve learned to handle the social situations.

In my case the major block to utilize my strengths has been mainly psychological inability to articulate and then go to a feeling of shame instead of some more productive feeling. Basis of overcoming these disadvantageous moments that I’ve had has been the self-acceptance thought.

I wish to see the strengths and above all the potential in everyone, so therefore I hope you can learn something from this example.

From Suffering to Exhilaration

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I’ve figured out that suffering is relative; that if I am suffering now then I just need to remember something more awful in comparison and I am suddenly alright.

During the days there is thin line between the joy and suffering. Often as long as we focus to what happens to us or who said what, we are probably suffering, because we are focusing too much on the external that is outside our control.

We should pay more attention to what is in our control, do that and then learn to find some positives from the present moment. With enough training our minds will find always some positives.

To me one of these positives is often that “things could be worse.” It’s comforting thought, although not very constructive. “Things could be better” is as much right or wrong, and yet it does not help to relieve the mental anguish that often grips me.

Last month I wrote the blog about Hell Yes. It’s about focusing to those things that truly interest us and we are willing to pay the price, the hell yes. If it’s not hell yes it’s no.

I’ve noticed that when I need to resort to the “things could be worse card” I am not really playing into my own hell yes. So something should be done? I don’t think life should be just being grateful just for being here either, although that’s great. Life should be exhilarating, because this experience makes it worth living.

Getting to exhilarating means saying more no to the mediocre. Working harder, and saying yes to the opportunities that really matter to us.