helpgrowchange

Gain vs Loss

Thus, one gains by losing, and loses by gaining.
Lao Tzu

When I first read this paradoxical quote from the Tao Te Ching, it didn’t make sense to me at all. As I thought about it more and more, I realised…we gain when we lose, and lose when we gain. The beauty of this one line is that we gain and lose at the same time. It is the natural order of things.

Bear with me a moment…picture a glass half-filled with water. As more water is poured in (gain), it reaches the brim of the glass and the excess overflows (loss). Similarly, when water is poured out (loss), this allows more water to fill the glass (gain).

As with the glass of water, we need to be more aware of how much is in our lives (friends, hobbies, social media accounts, money) and really contemplate whether we have too much, too little, or if we’re ‘just right’.

When we take on more tasks or responsibilities at work, are we lessening the quality of work we produce? When we begin a new regular activity like a hobby or gym, are we taking time away from our partner or family? If you gain more income from your investments, are your stress levels decreasing? What about new friends (losing old ones), more clothes (less value), or a bigger house (less income)?

The list can go on and on.

Here’s a little challenge for you today, consciously think about what you’re gaining and losing. Really think about what you’re gaining and what your loss could be. It can be minuscule or life changing, either way you are gaining or losing. What are you losing when you gain that second (or third) cupcake? What are you gaining when you lose your cool with the person in front of you?

It’s hard to decide what is right or wrong here. What’s right for you might be wrong for me, so I can’t answer any of the questions I’ve asked you today. It’s up to you to ask yourself the tough questions and determine whether what you’re gaining or losing is worth it.

Stop striving and start doing

Stop trying to be a good parent, and parent your children.
Stop trying to eat healthy, and just eat healthily.
Stop trying to learn coding, and code.

Just. Stop. Striving.

And start doing.

It sounds so simple doesn’t it?

Yes. Yes, it is that simple.

Easy? Hell no. But simple nonetheless.

Every day we are striving and trying to be this or that. But we get so focussed on the trying that we don’t actually do anything.

I know it’s hard. Trust me, I feel you. I fail daily. But that’s ok because I know I’m doing what actions I can and working towards being better.

Are you ready to stop trying and start doing?

Go on, you’ll be great. 🙂

See the constant in everything

There is no discrimination when it comes to the cycles of nature. The Sun still rises every day, Winter still arrives in an icy chill, and the tide still wades in and out to its perfect timetable.

Ever notice how events seem to come in waves? There are periods of time where very little is happening, then it feels like everything is happening at the same time.

"Why is that?"

It is the constant in everything.

Everything, and I mean everything, is in a cycle of some sort. The planet is orbiting the Sun, water is constantly making its way to the ocean only to be evaporated and taken back to the mountains, we are waking up in the morning – every morning – starting a new day. We breathe in, we breathe out. Life itself is but a cycle. From the day we are born we are already on our way back to where we came from.

Within these cycles are more cycles. Constant cycles within cycles. It's all around us, constantly working.

"So life is happening. What's the big deal?"

Once we realise this and learn to accept that we're in a cycle and everything around is in constant motion, we can grasp a very important concept. No matter what we are doing or where we are, it is only temporary, and things will never stay the same.

If we're happy, sadness will come. If we're sad, happiness will find a way back. If you're sick, you will get well (unless of course your cycle of life is returning to the beginning). After your shower, you will get dirty. The fully-charged battery on your phone will run flat.

No matter what we do, we cannot stop this continuous motion, these constant cycles in our lives. We can influence and delay them, but the completion of the cycle is inevitable. It is the Way of things.

"How does this help me?"

Learn to accept that the situation you're in is only temporary. You can't control what will happen. Yes, you can adapt to certain conditions and control your own emotions and thoughts to the situation. But you cannot control the outcome – it is inevitable.

Remind yourself constantly that your situation will pass (both good and bad). Rather than try control the situation, why not live it? Be in the moment and take comfort that change is around the corner.

The effect we have

As I walked through some secondhand cigarette smoke on the way to a train station this morning, the cold air kept the smoke visible for ages after this person had exhaled. I watched as it drifted and floated. How it rolled and swerved as I moved through it.

Normally, cigarette smoke dissipates pretty quickly. This was the first time I could physically see the smoke for any decent length of time. Other than how I feel about secondhand smoke, this got me thinking about how we, as individuals, impact our environment.

We go through our lives not realising the physical effect we impress on this world because we don’t see what happens. We are so self-centered, focused on ourselves and our future that we don’t think there is a problem.

Our trash gets picked up every week, we flush our toilets, we drive our cars, we exhale cigarette smoke. All of these are examples of how we use things, then once we’re done with them, they disappear ‘somewhere’. We don’t see it anymore so it’s not our problem.

I’m guilty of this. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. It’s (mostly) not our fault as we’ve only been doing what we’ve been taught.

Maybe it’s time we started to see and understand the bigger picture. Where does your rubbish end up? What’s happens to all that shit you’re flushing away (pun intended)? What effect is your secondhand smoke having on the people around you, bearing in mind you are one of hundreds of millions of other smokers exhaling their smoke into the air?

Climate Change is a massive problem and humanity has to face it otherwise we’re in big trouble. The issue is too vast to overcome with expansive agreements and contracts. Governments have been trying that for decades – with no success. This isn’t ‘somebody else’s’ problem. It’s your problem and it’s my problem.

Change begins with the smallest step, and that means each of us individually. If you make a change now and influence at least one other person, that is magnificent. Imagine if they influence one other person, and that person influences the next, and so on. Eventually, we will find ourselves in the majority, all helping each other save our planet.

What can we do about this? Well, you can start off by separating your recyclable trash, really think about your power and water usage at home – I mean really think about it. Do you need to leave the T.V. on while you’re on the other side of the house for 2 hours? Do you need to run a hot bath every night? Maybe switch to short showers on alternate days. Switch lights off if you’re not in the room. It makes a difference. Seriously.

If you’re already doing that, then try moving to compost bins for your food waste. Or look into more eco-friendly products (cleaning, hygiene, you name it, it’s out there). Think about packaging. How much of it is recyclable or reusable. It can take a bit of effort, but it’s well worth it. The more people are living environmentally friendly, the more mainstream it will become.

Remember this is our only home, and if we run it into ruin, we are fucked. What are you doing today to help humankind survive?

Ask yourself these 3 questions before stepping into the unknown

Stepping into the unknown is extremely daunting. Every one of us, at some point in time, has hesitated when crossing the threshold into some unknown. It’s only natural for us to feel this way. What matters is how we react in these situations, and how we convince ourselves to continue moving forward.

This very blog was a daunting unknown for me. Before I started, I was deliberating whether I should even start it. I was afraid of being ridiculed. I wasn’t convinced anyone would want to know what I thought. My wife is working meticulously in building her business, yet just a few months ago she was also debating the merits of starting it – afraid of the complaints she might get, the quality of her goods, or even no buyers at all.

It constantly amazes me how we build these false illusions in our heads. Illusions which serve as barriers, obstructing us from taking risks (which aren’t really risks in the first place). It’s probably due to some ‘keep safe’ mechanism in our brains. We perceive a certain situation as ‘risky’ (such as starting a business or blog), and so our minds build these internal barriers in order for us to stay protected. We have to convince ourselves that it is ok, and the danger is not as apparent as it appears to be.

While trying to convince myself about starting a blog years ago, and discussing with my wife about starting her business, we asked a few questions of ourselves which considerably helped in giving us courage to cross the line.

We took our first steps into the unknown. And the rest, they say, is history.

The heart says one thing, the mind says another.

There are many conversations we have with ourselves when we’re determining the merits of taking risks. Different sides of our inner self want different things, and it’s quite funny how there can be such differing of opinions with oneself.

To battle through this and gain some sort of clarity, I’ve found these 3 questions will guide you forward (I’ve put in some handy answers too).

Question: What have you got to lose?
Answer: Almost always there is nothing to lose except a bit time and money

Question: In 6 months time, what would you be doing if you didn’t take this step now?
Answer: Probably the same thing you’re busy with now – no better than before. The time would be summed up as ‘All talk and no action’.

Question: Could this open other opportunities?
Answer: Almost always this is a resounding yes. Unless, of course, it’s a complete deadend. Even then, you’ve learnt from the experience and only lost a bit of time and money.

Move forward, no matter how slow.

Regardless of how small a step you might be taking – it is a movement in a forward direction. You are not where you were before. This is a powerful place to be.

What are you currently afraid to step into? Is it to publish your book, start a blog, learn a new skill? Ask yourself the questions above, contemplate some more ideas, and let’s see how you get on.

Improve your decisions with one simple mind trick

We make decisions in everything we do. In the way we brush our teeth in the morning, when we decide to buy coffee, or where to sit on the train. Every single one of these decisions impacts our lives in ways we cannot imagine. Each decision moves us towards a destination we may, or may not, have set for ourselves. We need to make our decisions count.

So often, I see myself and others faltering on their decision making. Some folk make rash decisions (I’m guilty of this), while others find it difficult to make a decision on much of anything. We go about our lives rueing the decisions we’ve made – or not made.

So how do we change this? How do we become better decision makers? Well, there isn’t much we can do, really. Yes, there are a plethora of options available, ranging from gut feeling to the Kepner Tregoe Decision Making process, but the trouble is we can’t go about performing a problem analysis for every decision we make – especially if it a subconscious, sub-second one made in the spur of the moment. Neither can we simply go on gut feeling when the decision requires more thought. The trick is to find balance between the two.

One method that has worked for me is to focus only on the object of the decision. For example, I’m trying to make better decisions when I’m thirsty, specifically drinking water instead of Coca-Cola. I focus only on the area I want to change – drink water. I consciously bring that decision to the front of my mind when I’m thirsty, or every time it crosses my mind. I replace the thought with the object, like ‘Water, water, water‘, ‘drink 2 litres of water a day‘, or ‘drink water now before you want something else, you lazy bastard!‘. I find the next time I am thirsty, I choose water instead of Coca-Cola.

This method has worked for me in other things too, such as;
– exercising each morning (saying ‘Drop and give me 20!‘, instead of ‘I’m tired‘),
– focussing on tasks (saying ‘Another one knocked off‘, instead of ‘I have so much to do!‘),
– and even showing my family appreciation (saying ‘These people are my foundation‘, instead of ‘Where is my time going?‘).

Many decisions we make are due to habits we instil in ourselves. We’ve made these habits consistent enough to move to our sub-conscious. Once there, most of the decisions we make are automatic. Because we’ve made similar decisions before, our brains move the mental processing out of the way so that we can make these decisions quicker.

Changing these auto-decisions requires you to fuse new thought patterns and habits into your sub-conscious. No easy feat, but certainly possible. And it is easier than you think. It all starts with a little focus, and some habit forming.

What will you change about your decision making process today?

[Featured image Ashley Batz via unsplash.com]

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