I find myself blurting out I don’t know as an instant answer to questions I don’t have immediate answers for. Lately, I’ve been noting how these simple words made me feel, and I’m starting to take notice that on some level, these casual words are effecting my emotions and self-esteem.
Saying I don’t know, I’m sorry, I can’t and “I don’t want to but have to” are slowly changing my mindset. Through my observations, I’ve noticed how common it is to use these popular phrases without giving them a second thought.
Do you find yourself saying the words I’m sorry or I don’t know often? Did you know that this over-sighted language pattern is actually limiting our potential to happiness and ultimately getting what we want?
Let’s have a closer look at each one and notice their effect in our internal mental space. Let’s, also, consider some alternative phrases we can use in their place, which are more conducive to our personal growth.
Before diving in, let’s point out a few things about our unconscious mind.
Is there an area of your life that you would like to change? Is there an area of your life you’ve tried changing, made some progress but somehow ended up in the same spot you started in?
Maybe you want to lose weight; you want to improve your temper; you want to control your web browsing addictions; to be a better parent; or in my case, to wake up early and to exercise regularly. Often, I’ve found myself struggling when revisiting the subject.
I came across a google talk of Professor Srikumar Rao. His mission is to help highly intelligent people find meaning in their lives. His talk deeply moved me and I knew instantly that I had to share with you. The following are part one of my notes, along with what I learned from this talk.
Coming back from India, I feel like a different person. Not because of India, or that this is the cliché thing to say, but because I’ve been so out of touch with my old reality that I see my old life with a drastically different perspective. On top of being away for 3 months, I’m starting a new job and we are planning to move to another country later this year. Sitting here amongst all my things packed in 50 boxes retrieved from storage, it feels as if someone had pressed the “restart” button on my life.
It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s surreal, and it’s so damn liberating. Gosh, it’s good to be home!
I’ve learned so many life lessons in the past few months, and I’ll start to share them with you over time. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how little we actually need. How little we need in order to be happy.
After traveling for several months in one bag: two pairs of pants, a few shirts, a jacket, several books, and my iPod (which I used once)…. Coming home to 50 boxes full of Stuff, it felt like my world was once again being weighed down by things I didn’t need. It felt as if the things will consume more of me than I will ever consume of it. Thus, my new project: to simplify my life… starting with Stuff.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.~Confucius
Don’t you just love the excitement you feel after coming home with a new TV? Driving home in a new car? Opening the box on a new pair of shoes?
I sure do. But, from watching the behavior of myself and my friends I’ve found that the new quickly becomes just another item. The excitement of novelty passes quickly.
As we become wealthier, people seem to be adding more and more things to our homes. We then use our homes, and our treasures, to justify that we have won the game of life. Growing up in a family of pack-rats, I spent many years in my teens and early twenties accumulating stuff. During this time, much of my self-worth was unconsciously associated with the amount of stuff I owned; the brand names, and the latest trends. I spent a lot of money on clothes and stuff that made me feel ‘superior’. They gave me a sense of identity. If I just removed these things without awareness, my ego would have suffered. I had grown so attached to that definition of myself, that my loss would have been much deeper than just the cute sweater.
Not only did I not find myself in all this, I’ve also accumulated a lot of clutter in my living space and my inner space. Ironically, the piles of stuff actually held me back from understanding and inner peace with myself.
We are so eager to fill our homes, yet so disinterested in cleaning it out. As a result, we now require larger spaces, more storage space, and more clutter for the mind. Did you know that there are more self-storage facilities in North America than there are McDonald’s restaurants? We find it difficult to reduce the amount of stuff we own is due to our attachment to these things.
Is Less Really More?
The joy and art of having less while enjoying more of life can be summed up, as follows.
There are many reasons why we don’t always get what we want. One of these reasons is because we focus on the opposite of what we want. Sometimes, we just can’t help it. But, if we are conscious of our thoughts, we can intercept these thoughts and shift our frame of mind towards our desired goals.
Have you ever been particularly annoyed by a person or situation? The more we complain about it, the more we notice it. The more we notice it, the worse it becomes. The next time we interact with that person or situation, we almost expect to be annoyed and thus subconsciously look for those small triggers that’ll make us annoyed.
In a similar example of an opposite scenario: Have you ever shopped for a particular kind of car which you’ve never noticed before? For example, a black SmartCar or a silver Toyota Prius. And suddenly, you see them everywhere? Similarly, have you shopped for a particular piece of clothing, let’s say a blazer style jacket for the spring, and suddenly you notice them everywhere?
Whether we focus on things we want or do not want, the truth is that What we focus on expands.
From my experience, dreams do come true, for the sole reason that the more you focus on something, the more of it you’ll notice and you’ll be particularly sensitive to opportunities that’ll come your way which will allow your dreams to become your reality.
Over the holiday break, I traveled back to Canada to visit my parents. Since I don’t watch TV at home, I decided I would indulge my senses and watch a little. “Hey, it’s the break. Relax, let it loose and watch all those shows I miss out on.” At the end of two weeks, I was an addict. I sat and watched so many random shows that I’m embarrassed just thinking about it.
Coming from a life where the TV never gets used, I found that the change in me was swift and noticeable. My holiday daily routine went something like this: sleep in, lazily walk into the kitchen looking for food, turn on the TV to see what’s on while I eat, watch TV for several hours, spend some time with my family, eventually return to the TV and watch for several more hours.
At the end, I felt so drained and tired. Even with knowing how it made me feel, I continued to repeat this each day until the day I left. Like I was under a magical spell. What’s worst, after coming home, I downloaded all the missed episodes of Tila Tequila’s ‘Shot at Love’ and watched them. Even knowing that it was trash for my mind, I did it anyway.
Have you ever justified your lack of success towards a goal with the excuse that you lacked the experience? Or that you lacked the resources: money and time? Did you give up before you even tried?
Have you ever looked at a competition in your field and justified their success to something trivial like:
She’s successful, because she’s got better computer skills.
He’s successful because he knows the right people.
They are successful because they’ve been doing this for many years.
John did it, because he’s loaded, he has more money than I’ll ever see.
Maggie has always been luckier than me.
We’ve missed the real work behind the scene. We’ve robbed them of the real reason why they are successful. Plus, we have spent extra energy justifying our lack of success and missed real opportunities to learn from their excellence.
How do you feel when sitting at home? Calm and peaceful, nestled in your neatly kept place? Or could your space use some love, organization and cleaning? If you fall into the former category, that’s awesome, skip the article and please share tips on how you keep such a tidy place in the comments. If you can barely type over the pile of stuff on your desk, then hopefully you’ll find inspiration in the words below.
I used to be quite a pack rat. I seldom threw anything away. I loved to take home everything I could get for free, such as promotional items from work, or odds-and-ends donated from friends. At one point, I discover that I had stuffed more than 20 techie t-shirts from various University recruiting events at the back of my closet. Yikes!
Perhaps I formed this habit during my poor, uncared-for university days. Maybe I was influenced having grown up in a communist country, where everything was limited and nothing was thrown away. Basically, I had accumulated A TON of stuff from years past.
Not only was it difficult to find things, but my mind was constantly filled with thoughts about what to do with all my stuff. Each time a closet was opened, I was reminded of the stuff I had, and the endless organizing I still needed to do (maybe I need a hoarding treatment). Even if we claim that our messy environment doesn’t bother us, each piece of clutter still takes up mental energy in our minds.
We live in a world ruled by information. Much of our lives are involved with the consumption of information. We read the newspaper in the morning. We sit in meetings at work. We check our email every hour. We read billboards on the highway while driving home. We watch the news on television. We surf the internet and check blogs. Our minds become so full of information that the words become noise. We feel tired from the constant demand on our attention; at work, at home, on weekends. More is not less. Less is more. Clarity is more. Personally, when I am hit with a lot of information, my mind shuts-off and I move on to the next thing. To be heard and understood, it is vital to keep things simple.
The ability to simplify any concept is an incredibly valuable skill in this information rich society. Not only is conciseness a vital skill in business, but in any and all communication. It demonstrates clarity of thought. It allows you to communicate information and ideas to be easily digested and understood.
But how do we distill information down to just the most important parts? My dear friend David Margolis is an expert at simplifying information. I recently asked him, “What are your suggestions to becoming a master at distilling information?” Here are the most important points from that conversation: