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ExplorationTools and Systems

Weekend Reads: Articles that Challenge my Thinking

November 20, 2015 — by Matt

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” – Albert Einstein

Anyone who tells you they’ve figured it all out is lying or delusional. Even if we get some aspects of life, love, ambition, passion, or whatever “figured out” to the level we’re happy and energetic, it’s still in our best interests to always be exploring other approaches.

Just like everyone else, I’m trying to figure everything out. I try things, I do experiments, I read the stories of others, I find things that work or don’t work for me and I adjust. So when I stumble across an approach that flies completely in the face of my own assumptions or preconceptions, I’m elated. I get to explore another alternative! There’s the potential to find something in there that works for me!

Even if I don’t end up agreeing with or adopting any part of the advice or approach, seeing an issue from another angle is always beneficial. But more often than not, as long as I can keep an open mind, I’m likely to find something of value in there.

The following two articles really challenged my ideas on two topics about which I’ve recently posted – the value of writing every day, and defining the type of person you want to be.

Maybe there’s a better thing to write down each day?

One Research-Backed Way to Effectively Manage Your Stressful and Busy Schedule – by James Clear

A few weeks ago I wrote about how writing down on positive occurrence each day helped break me out of a funk and reframe my thinking toward positivity. I then wrote about how being challenged on that approach made me reconsider whether there were other equally effective methods more making a habit of positive thinking.

Well, leave it up to one of my favorite bloggers James Clear to challenge my thinking yet again and use a research-backed approach to take the idea further. In this article James highlights a study in which students tied their own personal values to their daily journal entries and saw a marked improvement in health, attitude, and energy.

It makes a ton of sense. Just like you’ll make a more emotional connection with your goals by focusing on the type of person you want to be (an idea that was, admittedly, heavily influenced by James’ writing), tying your underlying values to your journaling should make those journals more impactful in the long run. My approach changes your mood for the day or week; James’ sets the stage for fundamental changes in your attitude and approach.

Do you really need to “find” your passion?

Screw Finding Your Passion by Mark Manson

A friend sent me this article. She said she thought I’d enjoy it and that it fit into the themes about which I was writing. Boy, was she right.

I love so much about this article. Without spoiling it, the article posits that most of us trying to find “our passion” are really overcomplicating it. We know what we enjoy doing and what we’d spend our time doing if we had no commitments or expenses. So… is there much more to it than that? I’m trying to figure it out myself, so I’m not sure – but I loved the approach Mark Manson took in his post.

More than just challenging my thinking, this article challenged my approach to this blog. This article does what I originally wanted to do with this blog – pointing out how adult complacency can hamstring our growth and how sometimes a more child-like approach will identify what’s important to us faster. I did it in my intro article but looking back, I haven’t highlighted that concept a whole lot – and I think it’s a compelling one. So I’ll make more of an effort to take that angle in future articles.


 

Got any article that have shook up your opinions or thinking lately? Post them in the comments below!

CreativityTools and Systems

Is writing down your thoughts actually important?

October 26, 2015 — by Matt

A few weeks ago I published an article about a bad week I had, and how the simple habit of writing down one good thing that happened during the day had completely changed my attitude and set me up to tackle the rest of my week with renewed vigor.

Before I published the post I was telling my incredibly supportive girlfriend (who helped spark me to actually start this blog) about the concept of the article and how writing these thoughts down was important. After my too-lengthy explanation, she asked a question I hadn’t asked myself – “why is the writing important – can’t you just think about and reflect on the good things that happened in your day for the same effect?”

I started to launch into all the reasons why writing down your thoughts is so powerful, but then I stopped myself. Is writing inherently more powerful than other methods? I had assumed writing was better because it worked best for me. But is it really more impactful in cementing your goals or personal pillars than other methods? Why not meditate on them? Why not draw a picture?

So I decided to do some reading.

There are plenty of people out there who share my opinion on the power of writing. This article identifies writing as a tool to combat stress. This one claims it can “change your life”. And this article (which I’ve featured on the blog before) espouses the cognitive and creative benefits of writing.

I agreed with all of it. I mean, writing works for me, so of course I did. But that could just be a confirmation bias – seeking out and identifying with information in a way that confirms my own preconceptions and opinions.

I still believe writing really, truly works. Even without a purpose or a specific goal, free-writing can be incredibly therapeutic and I’d recommend to anyone to open a notebook or Evernote and start writing during times of stress, reflection, or indecisiveness. But promoting a one-size-fits-all solution in any scenario is at best arrogant and dismissive of individuality and at worst dangerous and overbearingly dogmatic.

What I realized while exploring my own relationship with writing was that the benefit was in the intent, not in the act itself. By purposefully sitting down, opening a notebook, and setting my mind to a task I was telling myself “this is important”. Taking action to write and going through the ritual itself made the writing meaningful rather than accidental, and I was more likely to write with depth and meaning. But that same concept can be applied to many types of reflection and introspection. Setting up a place to sit and think, putting on some soothing music for meditation, or opening your voice recorder to get something off your chest can be just as useful to really connecting with the thoughts, problems, conundrums, and even the gratitude that needs to be brought to the surface.

So is the actual writing part important? To me, yes – but it’s largely because that’s what works for me. My method is not the “best” method, and it might not even be the best method for me at any given time, so it’d be impossible for me to say it’s what everyone should be doing.

The writing itself isn’t the important part – the intent is. Whatever your preferred method – creative visualization, meditation, writing, or voice recording – as long as the intent is clear and you can take lessons from your practice, it’s effective.


Does writing work for you, or do you find other methods of getting your thoughts out more effective? Leave a comment below!

CreativityExplorationTools and Systems

One Positive Reminder Each Day

October 1, 2015 — by Matt

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Today I've just got a short story. It happened to me early this week, and made my whole week brighter. Hopefully, a habit like this can help motivate your week this week and into the future.

We all have bad days. Days that we can’t wait to end, days in which our frustration or despair boils over. Days that, by midday, we just want to dive into bed and sleep away the remainder. I was having one of those days on Tuesday.

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It wasn’t anything especially bad – no life-altering news, no super tense situations. Just a bubbling level of stress, small frustrating events, minor annoyances that compounded into a sour mood. I got home from work and begrudgingly made dinner, then got ready to sit in front of my computer, mindlessly surf the web, and finish it off with some Netflix. It was the perfect medicine – passive, not terribly self-sabotaging but also not super helpful or productive – and one I had taken many times before.

Before I started my time-wasting, I checked my daily habits in HabitRPG, a tool I use to track items I need to do every day. I’ve been wanting to start a daily journal habit, so rather than commit to a full page or a large commitment right away, I had recently added “Write down one good thing that happened to you today” as my “just show up” first step. Of course, the last thing you want to do when wallowing in a bad mood is try to look on the positive side, but it was on my list, so I opened up my Evernote and started typing. I started with something I had accomplished ahead of schedule at work and then… I just kept typing. Soon the day’s events were flowing out of me, stream-of-consciousness.
A difficult conversation I had initiated that I’d normally shy away from.
Progress I had made on a particularly difficult task.
Some new music I had discovered that I was looking forward to exploring.
A rare momentum of financial restraint where I didn’t buy an item I wanted, but didn’t truly need.

By the end of my now two-paragraph-long entry, I was smiling. Hey… today had been pretty good! In reality I had just shifted my focus away from the negative and focused on the positive – but it was enough. I now felt motivated and energized, and my plans of “netflix and chill” melted into “start writing a new song”.

You don’t have to do a lot to change your attitude about your day. Most situations are not inherently bad or good – they are whatever you project onto them. Writing just one sentence was enough for me to start thinking differently about my situation. In fact, I’ve found that writing in general, with no purpose other than to jot down your thoughts, is an amazing way to show yourself what you’re really thinking – and others have found the same. I’ve also used random yammering into my phone’s voice recorder to the same effect. You’ll be surprised where it takes you – it’s like self therapy.

So next time you’re having a bad day, force yourself to write down just one good thing that happened, or one thing you’re thankful for. It might just be enough to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

I’ll be posting more on writing in general, journaling specifically, and how I use HabitRPG to build habits in the near future! If you’ve used this successfully or have some other habit that helps turn your day around, leave a comment below!

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