From Present Towards Utopia

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We live life forward, from the present moment onwards. I remember browsing some strategy book at my friends place, where I took one idea: that we should live 70% in present, 20% in the future and 10% in the past.

By these portions of course that the includes preparing and planning, and then 10 of the past % reflection and learning. While giving absolute portions for life is difficult, as a guideline I like the idea.

Good questions to ask:

  • how does future look and feel like? I think it should be more like an utopia, that makes life worth living for.
  • is the past a prison or building ground for your future endeavors? We can learn a lot from our past, but as the 10% suggest we shouldn’t spend too much there. Just to take what we need and then get back to living.

With this, living in the present is easier. We can proceed from the present towards our goals and ambitions if we know exactly where we are. Sometimes even when we think we know where we are, we do not, because of some sort of error. Therefore remember to figure out first where you really are, then check if you really are there and then start to think which direction you would like to go.

Use the past experiences as a source of learning, however do not attach to them too much, because that information may not be valid any longer.

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

Values in Action

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Values are wonderful. However, if they are not put in action they are nothing real. Values in action are called virtues.

I’ve thought quite a bit what do I value and so far I’ve been rather satisfied with these seven:

Value Virtue (value in action)
Love Kindness, compassion, metta, forgiveness, mercy
Aspiration Excellence, purpose, openness, curiosity, courage
Responsibility Sustainability, effort, courage
Courage Positive action despite of fear, growth, rightfulness, effort
Truth Seeing the world as it is, open mind and learning.
Gratitude Awareness, meditation, metta
Humility Service, gratitude

 

It’s not perfect, yet it shows what I value the most. While these I review every day, it’s not really the same as thoroughly reflecting and deepening the bond with these values and virtues.

When I read Frank Bettger How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling and Dale Carnegies How to Win Friends and Influence People, I picked up an idea from there that they picked up from Benjamin Franklin about the virtue list. A theme virtue for every week.

First six days are now in behind with the love theme. What the theme does, is forces me to contemplate further how do I practice each day and what could I do more. I’ve found it to work like magic.

What are your values? What do they mean in action? What are you willing to do and on the other hand what are you not willing to sacrifice?

Become the Programmer of Your Life by Reflecting on Your Stress Responses

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When we are born into this world and grow up, we cannot choose the environment much at all where we are brought up. From the environment where we grow up, we inherit, learn and copy models for responding to stress. Let’s call these learned models scripts from now on.

Script is essentially a sequence of thoughts, emotions and actions that happen automatically and effortlessly in mostly unconscious mind.

Stress should be defined as influence that alters an existent equilibrium. Therefore inherently stress is not good or bad, it’s merely a sign that something should be done and thus triggers thoughts and emotions in us.

So when we grow up, and a stressor enters our world we automatically take actions according to the learned scripts. If we get hungry, we may go to the fridge and grab whatever we would like to eat at the time.

Since life is complicated, these scripts that are drilled into unconscious mind save a lot of time and energy for us. Yet to live a happy and productive life, scripts we have inherited, learned and copied may not always be optimal. The reason is simply that we are the very first version of ourselves the moment we become aware of this. Before we are aware of this, we are a product, not a programmer.

When we become aware, we become the programmer of our lives. Conscious time and space for reflection is one way to be aware. I write journal every day and try to meditate as well. From these activities I write down all thoughts I can get.

Best of all habits is to have time during weekend for such reflection, because then we can contemplate more deeply on what actions we have taken and have they been optimal.

As an example today I had such a reflective day which I spent mostly in quiet long walk. It’s during this walk I happened to go upon sea where I rested a bit and start my mobile phone and entered upon the realm of social media where I saw an update by a friend.

My reaction then and there was rather negative since the emotions like  uncertainty, inadequacy and jealousy a rose. I caught myself a few minutes afterwards thinking, why would I choose an emotional response to that?

I had to accept that I had a script that lead to rather unskillful stress response. Now that I had become aware of such unskillful script and accepted its existence, I could do something about it. Since I knew, I could choose the way I respond to stressors, I began to think what would be mature way to respond to this? I quickly found more positive things such as happiness for others, belonging and acceptance.

Actually it is through this reflection that changed the whole lense I am looking now at the happiness of others that is shared often through social media. I have to admit my ignorance: it’s a bit scary that I haven’t noticed this earlier in myself.

During the walk, I also decided to start practicing and deepening my bond with the virtues even more. In 2013 I used the virtue list, an idea from Benjamin Franklin. Yet now in 2017 since I’ve put more thought into my values and virtues as well, I thought I need to start practicing these in the same way, one virtue each week. Humility is on that list too.

Remember as long as we live, we are never the final versions, we are always under development. Are you a code produced by the chance and the environment or are you the coder of your own life?

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.

Be Prepared to Give Up Small Picture That Does Not Serve Big Picture

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Today morning I had to accept that I wouldn’t be much of an asset today at my work community. I considered my options for a minute and had to admit that I probably serve everyone the best if I just do the necessary things from home office and rest for the day.

In the big picture I felt this was common sense and a right thing to do.

Still somehow in the smaller picture, I felt the need to show up and push through.

With quiet observation and reflection I came to conclusion that these small picture thoughts might be right if it were some sort of crucial key moment in my life. Yet there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do by telecommuting, so it was just rather outdated way of thinking and feeling working inside of me.

We are not that important in the big picture of all things. Where we can make a small dent in the universe is in our own big picture, our own purpose. We should focus on fulfilling that, whatever that may be. That will take all we’ve got.

Identifying Needs

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Today I learned interesting things about needs and wants. I.e. that wants are indeed expression of needs, although they are not really that accurate. We even may be unaware of the underlying needs, even though the particular want may point direction (or not).

Next question is indeed, how to identify the needs in self and others with higher accuracy.

First thing to do would be to define a need.

Merriam Webster has several definitions, but the psychological definition would be a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism.

To put it more simply: need is the feeling of lacking something (in order to feel happy).

We are always expressing our needs. This helps ourselves to understand our own and the needs of others better.

Learning Should Be Lean

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Keystone habit as described by Charles Duhigg in Power of Habits, is the habit that changes the game. The one thing that snowballs in to the other areas of life or organizations.

Learning is something we all do, in more or less successful fashion. Yet few of us have a system of learning, a model which we could talk about.

However, now there is no need to know the model of learning to learn faster, and better. Because one such habit can have tremendous impacts.

What has been a game changer, a keystone habit in my learning is the quality of information paired with immediate application and action.

As simple as it sounds I challenge you to really think about all things you do during a day, or let’s take your tomorrow for example. All actions and motions you go through the day, are you saying that you could not do anything in such way that would better result for you?

Learning should be lean, continuous process of improvement paired quality information and action. Without the understanding and the bond that comes by doing, no amount of learning will result to anything. With just action, without reflection and quality ideas, we will just remain so so. Everything together is brilliance.

We do not need that MUCH new information, we need to spread the information evenly with the action.

Reflections on Responsibility

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As I’ve spend time on thinking, reflecting, questioning my life this weekend, I’ve made realizations as well as managed to connect some dots through my life. I am about to hit thirty years of age in September, so this kind of thinking practice has allowed me to finally put some fragments of my experience together and make sense for the next actions.

What I am happy and grateful in my life at the moment is that I am willing to take calculated risks, and I am willing to endure short term pain in order to achieve long term goals. What’s more is my ability to take responsibility of really hard things and deliver results at least over some period of time.

It wasn’t always like this:

  • In 2006 I was about to fail in vocational school, because of depression and attempt to fulfill the void in my life with World of Warcraft.
  • Later on after some intervention and help, in the second half of 2007 I reached so far highest high, took serious responsibility and completed one years’ work in six months.
  • 2008 offered state provided mission and purpose for my life called military service. I crawled to the pipe somewhat motivated, however after two weeks I had lost my internal drive due to meaninglessness and just seek out easiest way to get it done. I had real trouble adjusting after the six months of compulsory military service to the civilian life and depression hit me again.
  • In the first quarter of 2009 I had had my space again and I made the attempt to take responsibility of my life once again. Bit by bit I decided to take full responsibility of my life, first on the agenda was my health and second most important to thing to me was to carry my own weight in the society. By the August 2009 I was well on track both as I had found employment, quit several bad habits and on track to better health.

I find the time about 11 years ago very crucial to turning point in my life. I’ve often mentioned that in April 2009 I started writing journal every day, which has been with me ever since. Now it is inseparable part of me and my life, so since then I’ve been able to keep more closely track on my progress.

From before that the time and memories seem to be ever fading.

I’ve strived and changed because of that. As most important characteristic in that change has been my openness to take on responsibility. As I’ve marched on with that eagerness to take on responsibility, I’ve noticed that many people do avoid that. I was doing good job, until I had taken on too much an my ability to go on began to be burdened.

What felt right, was to create space and to reflect the priorities. I am still in the process of prioritizing and figuring everything out, however one thing I’ve realized: if it’s not hell yes then it is no. Using this simple question, I can find what parts are in fact crucial and what are not.

Reflecting about past failures and successes is kind of soothing experience. Looking eleven years back, I can in the present feel the weight of my decisions upon another 11 years forward.

 

We maybe outcomes of our past,

Time is running out fast,

The pressure to cast the die is vast,

With cunning, we surpass the time at last.

 

What Is Your Stress Response?

 

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Before you answer, let me define stress first. As I looked up definitions of stress in first few online dictionaries they didn’t seem right. Fourth choice on Merriam-Webster seems to describe stress in the context I am talking about:  “a state resulting from a stress; especially:  one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium <job-related stress>.”

So stress is something that comes from outside, to alter existing equilibrium or balance, as simple as that. When I was looking up the many of the other definitions of stress, I am not surprised people are suffering from stress, because if they are operating with that kind of definitions.

With this definition, stress is merely something that comes and it is our own choice to choose how we react. This is definition is in harmony with the circle of control – thinking I’ve been writing about, so we may choose our stress response.

If you now, suddenly get rushed by surge of internal excuses by your inner voice, write all of it down, on a paper, word or any other noting tool of a choice. By writing down your internal dialogue, when faced with a “novel” idea, you’ll start to process your internal resistance and just by doing that you’ll be able to uncover the path which allows you to get ahead in life.

Alright, so we may choose our stress response. Why don’t we and what does prevent us from doing that? We may choose our response, however that action takes place after the feeling of our emotions, unless we are in charge of our emotions: i.e. unless we can feel the emotion through and let it go, we cannot choose the response. To put it in other words: if we let emotion or feeling take over and act upon the impulse without thinking, we are not choosing, we are reacting.

On the other hand, if we have put considerable thought and training into our lives and life situations, we are able to effortlessly act on the right stress responses. Yes, I mentioned training, because we can train on the proper stress responses, and through training the proper responses become automatic and effortless. During first time, the proper conscious response takes a lot of effort in compared to responding impulsively. Therefore, if we think that we can consciously modify or change our responses to all stressors, we are wrong: our mental energy is limited, and if we have poor stress responses, our capacity to maximize our mental energy is also less than optimal.

Be in the game of optimizing your stress response for the long run, for all the good things happen through persistent training. With right habits, good things are guaranteed to happen and they keep on happening.