Life, an Incredible Opportunity

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Life is an opportunity that over 108 billion people before us have had and then as lost as is the nature of life: there is a beginning and an end. Therefore to be alive is wonderful opportunity to do something!

In addition to biological evolution, there is also the evolution of culture and spirit. Spiritual evolution means becoming more human. As G.K. Chesterton put it: “a dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” We are blessed with brains that create the human mind, which allows not only to go with the flow, but to go upstream or any other direction we wish.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

The difference and human blessing of life lies in our brain, which allows us not only to live, but to learn and live better as well. This means we are no longer bound only to progress through the biological evolution, but through cultural evolution.

Other animals certainly are social and therefore have the ability for cultural evolution as well. However, very few of them are able to stop and contemplate on life on such level as humans can. We learn comparatively fast and therefore our culture, way of doing things evolves as well.

On individual level, it’s our own decision to exercise this superpower of choice each day. Well actually thinking and deciding something new for each day would be possible, but not very convenient. Although we have the ability to contemplate, it is rather energy intensive. Therefore it’s useful to use both of the abilities, the ability to contemplate and the ability to do in a harmonious way.

Contemplate and discover your values and goals. Then work on these goals every day habitually.

Do not dream of life without work. Work is the opportunity, ability to create something greater than what you were given. What will then happen? According to the law of karma, if you do good things, good things will happen to you.

Put your priorities straight using the priority category method and then live your purpose and plan.

In life you will get more things done, if you are really good at prioritizing and deciding what is important and where you can add the most value. You will be able to create more value and well-being to your environment, which then again means that you will also receive more and then we all flourish.

* * *

I’ve taken it as my mission to help other people to realize the love for life. This comes from my personal experience with the meaninglessness of life, which led to depression and sickness.

Have a great evening!

Janne

Small Steps Taken Daily  

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Wishful thinking about big changes is easy, yet not very realistic fantasy. At the same time human mind tends to underestimate the change that is capable by doing small things every day.

List your most important priorities. Okay now go through the list, what are you doing today for:

Health

Loved ones

Financial status

Purpose / career / dream..?

You need to know what is it you want to achieve, and then ask yourself what it is you can do for it today. Then simply start building the discipline to do it. Eventually that discipline becomes habit, your identity and your identity is the biggest leverage you can get. You’ll start doing things because you are the action, you are the verb, you are your own doing.

You are the master of your fate.

It’s not the achievement that matters, but the journey. It’s the sense of progress that brings lasting satisfaction, not the single achievement. Even when you happen to achieve the object of your desire, you do not last very long satisfied. At best it is about five seconds.

However, nothing expect yourself can take away the sense of progress and that you get from taking a step each day towards the grander horizons.

Only by trying out how far you can get, you’ll know how far you will get. You might surprise yourself, or the world might surprise you. However what won’t change is the satisfaction you’ll get from the journey and from each step.

Start valuing the small steps and the journey. Start walking now, because present is the only moment we really have control of.  Every day is like a new life, we can remember some of the lessons of yesterday and we do not know yet if we can make it until tomorrow. Place emphasis on the journey today and take the step!

Virtue is the Purpose of Life

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Doing good, doing the right thing in whatever position you are in life is the purpose of life according to the Stoics. Take responsibility of your soul, of what you can do, because that’s all you can do.

Do not judge, writes Marcus Aurelius.

Do not judge, always seek to praise were Abraham Lincolns words according to Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Virtue is doing the right thing when we have the freedom to choose otherwise. Marcus Aurelius is fascinating example of this, because he was the emperor of the known world, ruler with absolute power. Yet he was living in virtue.

Trying to put this to the scope of personal life: should I discard all my desires I ask myself again? Then I remember the difference between a desire, lust and a positive desire.

What causes us to be virtuous? What causes positive desires?

Sigmund Freud suggests that it may be sublimation. Something negative we have done earlier in life may cause to turn into something major positive later in life.

Reflecting on my own past, I certainly feel that the reason I contemplate so much on the virtues, what is right and best for everyone is because I feel that when I was younger I wasn’t very good example. Due to that earlier experience I certainly want to go to the opposite direction as fast as I can, which is a very positive.

We want to progress and above all we want to be something more than we were before. As stoics put it, at least we should try to be better than animals. And the way to do that is through civilizing ourselves and taking responsibility of our souls. By putting our values to work and working from where we are now.

 

Further info

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius on Wikipedia

Marcus Aurelius Lecture on Stoicism

Freud on: Sublimation

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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?

What’s Worth Sacrificing For?

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The more ambitious we the more our life becomes a process consisting of planning, prioritization and doing.

With this this process good question to asks are such as:

  • What is the most important thing I can be doing now?
  • What is worth sacrificing for?

If we are not satisfied with our lives, is mostly because we have wasted a much of it. Ask anyone who feels like they are living a fulfilling life and the reason they are there, because they have made choices to do this specific thing instead of couple, or hundred others. They’ve chosen and sacrificed the alternatives to be doing what they do.

Life is in fact constant prioritization: during a day, week, month or year.

There are several priorities, yet we choose to do some and not to do others, on what basis?

Something has to be sacrificed, what are you willing to sacrifice?

Relating to yesterday’s post about investments, are you sacrificing to invest something, or just to degenerate?

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?

Influencing with an Impact

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Life feels meaningful when we have a purpose in mind and we are progressing towards the fulfillment of that purpose. On the way to the fulfillment, we already have to make choices: what to do and what not to do. If we do whatever we want to achieve that purpose, then it might feel meaningless, because we haven’t worked to sacrifice for it.

To have something so important, that we are willing to sacrifice something else for that purpose. Fulfillment of purpose feels meaningful because of our values and because we are willing to pay the price for our values both in emotional and real cost.

Meaningful life is despite of these costs, we are progressing towards our purpose. It’s our own choice.

Once we have thought of our values, we start to make these choices, and sacrificing other choices. We become a person of virtue. We should focus to our own doing, in that way we become the shining example for others, the greatest way to influence others is through prime example.

Your Emotional State is in Your Control

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Human beings are emotional creatures, emotions are contagious. In the Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor there was the two minute rule: the dominant emotion after two minutes will prevail in a group.

Because nothing worthwhile can be achieved by our own, we take part in social groups. It’s in these groups that emotions are more contagious than ever. In life business the emotional states affect the much desired results of a business and this of course isn’t good for the business.

These things being said, we are human & emotional creatures. We cannot turn off our emotions, so we have to accept that what we are and work from there. It turns out, as I have many times written we cannot choose how we feel, however we can choose how do we respond to it. Our total emotional life is dictated by our responses to different feelings.

Annoyances in life will occur. How we react depends on our own values, self-awareness, imagination, free will and conscience. We can identify our values, we can improve our self-awareness, we can use our imagination to explore alternative options, we have free will to decide otherwise…

When we are with others, we can choose what we bring to the table. We can choose the attitude with which we partake in the common effort. Use your imagination a bit, and think that you have a task to get completed, then you ask two different colleagues for help:

A reluctantly accept the job.

B enthusiastically accepts: “I do this and…

Try it yourself. Instead of just doing your work you add “and…”, you take the work further without asking. If you do this consistently and thus challenge yourself and raise the bar you’ll get really good. The difficult becomes easy. Attitude matters.

We are all in service profession.

Why to bother with any of this? Love.

“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”
― M. Scott Peck

Takeaway from Bhagavad Gita: World is Us

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Arjuna – pic by Ilussion – Own work, CC BY 3.0

Bhagavad Gita is a book that is little known in western world. It’s called the holy book of Hinduism, however it’s actually just a part of greater epic. Bhagavad Gita or Gita just in short is rather practical guidebook to living a life.

Gita is written in the form of dialogue between an Indian Prince Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna. Krishna represents selfless servant, who gives advice to the prince who struggles with the questions of life: love and war.

The themes in the book are very practical. As example, Arjuna is in a difficult position where war seems inevitable and yet he wouldn’t want to go into a war where he would have to face his relatives and in the end he wouldn’t be happy even if he would go to war and win, so he is struggling with the fact that should he then just accept defeat and be done with the life?

Krishna teaches and clarifies Arjuna’s thinking through giving Arjuna a better understanding what really matters. As Krishan is representation of something greater, his advice has perspective about purpose of life.

Krishna helps Arjuna to see his life as part of something greater as well and therefore helps Arjuna to see purpose.  Basic message is that there is a greater self beyond what we can see. A self, that is interconnected.

World Is Us

World is us, even though we live ourselves in the illusion of separateness.

Also because we can observe ourselves, it means we are greater than merely our thoughts, emotions and our bodies. While this concept is a bit difficult for me, it could be either the greater self, or soul in more Christian way thinking. The greater self or soul is indestructible unlike the body.

Because of this indestructible part, our purpose is longer term than just this life. This life is wonderful opportunity do take this longer term perspective and start doing the good and right things for the whole interconnected system we are part of.

This concept could be described best as the middle way saying no the bad options, yet being courageous about values and virtues. From this kind of thinking, the greatness has risen, as example the non-violent movement: people remain courageous while still withholding their human rights and not succumbing to the oppression.

Because world is ourselves, it would be foolish to hurt ourselves purposefully. When we hurt another, we hurt ourselves. Therefore the suffering we cause the others is also suffering caused upon ourselves. Cycle of suffering continues and increases. This was communicated in such clarity that I decided to go vegetarian.

Values are Worth Sacrificing for

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Unless you are willing to pay a price, either actual or emotional for something, you do not have any values. Having values means to have suffer the consequences.

Usually having to make a choice, involves a consequence and suffering. Because choosing also means not choosing something else, and it is saying no to something, in order to say yes for something.

You have chosen something in hopes that it will lead to a change in circumstance or outcome. Making a choice, means that the destiny has been set. If you change it, then the destiny has been changed again. If you stick to it, you might eventually might manifest something out of it.

Put your values to work. Virtues are values in action. When it comes to virtues, usually most highly esteemed are the ones that put the collective good before the individual. We arrive at selfless service and purpose of life.

What is your purpose? How does your values reflect that? What are your values in action?

If the purpose is worth striving for, so are the values worth actualizing for. You are choosing to go through the jungle without hurting a thing, it might require tremendous effort from your part, but will make a better person out of you in the end.

Values are worth sacrificing for, because through them you will become what you are capable of becoming.