Month: October 2010

Forgotten Secrets: Have To Do vs Get To Do

There is a simple way to tell whether a day is going to be a good day, almost from the moment that you wake up.

It is so simple that anyone can do it, and it only takes a moment.  All you have to do is think about the day that’s coming up, and what you’re going to do.  If you come up with a list of things that you have to do, it’s going to be an unpleasant day.  If you come up with a list of things you get to do, it’s going to be a good one.

There are obviously exceptions to this rule… if you win the lottery, it may turn out to be a good day regardless of how you started out looking at it, and if you get in a wreck, it may turn out to be a bad day.  The vast majority of days, however, don’t have momentous events like that.

For all of those other, more ordinary days, it really isn’t what events happen in your day, it’s how you look at them.  The same event can be a have to do for one person, and a get to do for another.

Take fishing, for example.  Fishing definitely falls into the get to do category for me.  My mom, on the other hand, would definitely consider fishing a have to do.

The question of have to do vs get to do is most interesting when it comes to the things you do in your every day life.  Take the above example, fishing, and apply it to a professional fisherman.  Does the fisherman consider fishing something he has to do, or something he gets to do?

If the things that you do in your every day life are things that you get to do, you are almost certain to have a happy life, and very likely to be successful, too.  We do, after all, put far more of ourselves into things we get to do than things we have to do.

It doesn’t have to be your job that makes the difference in a happy life vs one full of frustration and negativity, though.  It just matters what you focus on, and how you feel about those things.  If you have to do your work, you might think that would hurt your happiness.  It doesn’t, though, if what you think of when you think about the day is what you get to do afterwards… spend time with your family, go out with your friends, read, watch a movie, or yes, go fishing.

So… think about today.  Think about what’s coming up… does what you have to do come first, or what you get to do?

P. S. – This is one of the reasons why taking action helps your emotional energy so much… all of those things that you avoid, or procrastinate, get added to the have to do list, tipping the balance away from get to do.

Forgotten Secrets – Inner Quiet

Many of the secrets of a life of joy and peace are forgotten in the midst of the constant input and distractions of modern life, drowned out by all the noise.

The joy of making things is one of those secrets, perhaps the most forgotten of them all.  Perhaps the biggest cause of the joy of making things is that the focus you give the act of creating something causes you to tune out most of the noise, and keeps you from creating your own.

That lack of noise, the quiet inside your head, is another forgotten secret.  Oh, people talk about it from time to time, but when is the last time that you truly achieved inner quiet?  When is the last time that you were silent, and truly listened?

It’s easy to let it slide… there are so many demands for our time and attention.  Work demands it, family requires it, the sounds of traffic and television and a thousand other sources try to force themselves into our mind in a constant bombardment.

None of the things above are negative by nature, and some of them are actually positive, like time with your family.  Even the positive ones can become negative, though, if you never have quiet inside, never get a break from all that is going on around you.

The constant overflowing of input and distractions drains you, emotionally, physically, and mentally.  It interferes with your ability to get quality sleep, and your ability to get quality time with the ones you love.  It can get so bad that the lack of quiet makes you do things to actively, though not necessarily consciously, to drive people away… your subconscious knows you need less input, even if your conscious mind doesn’t.

The Semi-Conscious Mind

Strangely, your semi-conscious mind (the place where your conscious mind and subconscious mind meet) gets so used to the constant input that when you finally do have a chance for quiet, it often will desperately search about for yet more input, causing you to become restless, bored, and often irritable.  This will usually continue until your truly conscious mind essentially stands up and yells “Silence!”

It is amazing how much quiet can be around you, without it penetrating, too.  This is perhaps where the semi-conscious mind becomes the most desperate, knowing that you are close to the inner quiet that you need.  If you start achieving that quiet, though, issues that you have been avoiding are going to come up, and your semi-conscious mind knows that.

Those issues are things that you need to deal with, often by simply allowing the intense feelings associated with them to play themselves out, whether that is guilt, or grief, or some other form of emotional pain and uncertainty.  Each thing you deal with lessens your inner burden, making it easier and easier to achieve peace… and quiet.  Each thing that you don’t deal with, as time goes by, makes it harder, increasing the constant noise.

It can be amazing how fast your emotional burden can be lightened by inner quiet, and how much that lessened emotional burden can affect your physical and mental health and energy.  Fifteen minutes of truly accepting internal silence can feel like you have shed a hundred pounds of junk built up over weeks, months, and years.  An hour of quiet can leave you feeling like you have been renewed.

Inner quiet can be achieved anywhere, but it’s easiest when you’re alone.  Other people have mostly also forgotten the secret, and so when they see you achieving it, their semi-conscious mind reacts, and tries to bring you back to where they are, in the midst of noise.

Try It Today

If you want to see how much difference it can make, try this… When you first get home today, before you launch into anything else, go take 15-30 minutes in a room by yourself, with no TV, no radio, no anything but you.  If you live with others, let them know that you need the time, and that you will come see them afterwards.

In that 15-30 minutes, keep it in your conscious mind that you are seeking quiet.  Things will come up, and your semi-conscious mind will fight you, but as long as you keep it in your mind that you are actively pursuing silence, those other things will start to drop away.  So will stress, anxiety, emotional pain, and a lot of other non-physical burdens.  Your physical body will start to relax, and likely start to heal, if there is anything that needs healing.  That 30 minutes can be as refreshing as a few hours of sleep.

I, personally, used to do this most days, but it has been nearly three years since then.  That’s a lot of noise that has built up.  I plan on making it a cornerstone of my day again.

How about you?  Can you spend 15-30 minutes a day to feel immensely better?

The Joy Of Making Things

The Joy Of Making Things

A lot of people today have forgotten the joy of making things.

The world today is filled with more and more means of consumption.  Social networks allow you to connect with your friends and family, and even meet new people from time to time.  News flows to you in a dozen or more different ways every day, and entertainment comes knocking on your door from hundreds of sources.

A lot of these things require maintenance, as well.  You feel an obligation to respond to posts on Facebook, to clear your email inbox, go through your subscriptions, and answer any text messages you may receive.  You may also be “required” to look at the latest picture, post, or other content from your friends.

All of the consumption of inbound information and entertainment combines with all of the “maintenance” to shadow and conceal one of the things that is most likely to bring true happiness and satisfaction… making something.

Three Kinds Of Energy – Physical, Mental, And Emotional

Emotional energy is the fire inside of you… your drive, your motivation, your passion.  When your emotional energy is high you feel satisfied, maybe even happy… like you can handle anything.  When it is low, you feel stressed, drained, depressed, and overwhelmed.

Emotional energy is different than the other two kinds of energy, physical and mental.  Emotional energy isn’t used directly… it’s consumed or produced as a result of using physical and mental energy, both of which are used directly, and can be used either actively or passively.

  • Physical EnergyPhysical energy is the energy that you use to physically do things.  That can be anything from simply being awake to running a marathon.
  • Mental Energy

    Mental energy is a little less clear cut, but it is what you use to process things mentally.  It is what you use to figure out solutions to problems, learn new things, and any other sort of work that is not directly physical.

Active use of energy is when you are actually focused on output of that energy in order to yield a desired result, whether mental or physical.  Passive use of energy is more like a leak… energy drains away, but there is no real desired result.  Active use of energy yields more emotional energy than you started with, particularly if you achieve your desired result, while passive use of energy ends with less emotional energy than the starting point.

How Using Mental And Physical Energy Affects Your Emotional Energy

There are basically three different “modes” of directly using energy:  consumption, maintenance, and creation.  Each one tends to have a certain profile of physical and mental energy use, active or passive, and therefore affects your emotional energy differently.

  • Consumption Consumption is input… when you watch television, or eat, or read the news, you are using energy in the consumption mode.  You are accepting things inward, which uses mostly passive mental energy and mostly passive physical energy.  This passive use has a negative effect on your emotional energy, which in turn has a negative effect on your total limit of physical and mental energy.The drain on emotional energy is directly related to the amount of consumption.  An easy example of this is the difference you feel after eating (consuming) a large meal, versus a light meal… the more you eat, the more “drained” you feel.  This can lead to a particularly vicious circle, too, as many people turn to eating to deal with the feelings that result from low emotional energy, causing an even greater drain, leading to more eating.Life in the developed world today tends to center more and more around consumption, particularly the digital kind, whether it’s news (either traditional or Facebook “news”), entertainment, or something else.   There is a corresponding growing drain on emotional energy, leaving people less and less happy.

    Consumption can turn into an act of creation  if it is done with a specific goal… that may be a chef coming up with a new dish while eating something, a sports player watching television to learn the upcoming opponents tactics and strategy (and use this to come up with a strategy to beat them), or anything else where something comes out of it, rather than just consumption.

  • MaintenanceMaintenance is the middle ground between input and output, usually involving a little of each.  Maintenance includes things like exercising to maintain your health (exercising to lose weight or build muscle CAN be creative), sleeping for a normal six to eight hours, or, for someone like me, fixing bugs in programming.  There are a ton of different things that can be maintenance, depending on what you do… if it falls between consuming and creating, it’s maintenance.Maintenance generally uses passive energy of one form, and active of the other.  Exercising to maintain health, for example, uses active physical energy, but passive mental energy.  Fixing bugs uses active mental energy, but passive physical energy.The imbalance of active and passive energy basically cancels out the impact on your emotional energy, but still uses up some of the limited amount of physical and mental energy that you have, meaning that you won’t get ahead.

    Like consumption, maintenance can  become an act of creation when done with a specific goal… reaching a goal in exercising, for instance (losing 10 pounds, increasing the weight you can lift by 20 pounds, etc.) or fixing a bug that is actually keeping things from moving ahead.

  • CreationCreation is all about output.  It always uses active mental energy (otherwise it’s maintenance), and nearly certainly uses active mental energy… look at someone when they are making something, and you can see the focus in their body.Creation can be nearly anything… and something can be consumption or maintenance for one person, and creation for someone else (see the chef example above, for instance).  Creation generates emotional energy, and the more closely it aligns with what you love to do, the more energy it creates.For me, for example, creating something out of wood or creating a new program generates a lot of emotional energy.  Creating a new page on an existing web site doesn’t produce the same amount of energy, nor does creating an article produce as much energy as creating a story (I’m still waiting on creating a book… I have to find more free time to finish it).

    Creation can also become maintenance, if you do the same creation over and over, like adding the adding of a page to a website that I mentioned earlier.  When this happens, the act loses its ability to generate emotional energy.

The Joy Of Making Things

The amount of maintenance in the world is not going down, while the amount of consumption is going up.  That leaves less and less time and energy for creating.  The process is so gradual, though, that it’s very hard to notice, even for people who are more self aware than the general population.

As you spend more and more time and energy consuming and maintaining things, your emotional energy keeps dropping further and further.  This has a double impact, because not only do you feel worse, but your level of emotional energy is directly related to what sort of activities you look for, with low emotional energy focusing you on consumption, draining yet more of your energy.

This reminds me of a quote from the Bible:  ”For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

There are two ways that you can turn this around… you can reduce your consumption, and you can increase your creation.  While either one by itself will certainly have an effect, when you do both the effect is not just added, it is multiplied.

And then you will rediscover the joy of making things.