Practicing with the Fear & Pain of Missing Out on Opportunities

I have a friend who is working on a meaningful project that he wants to focus on … and so he said no to some exciting opportunities.

These were projects where people he highly respects want him to work with them. How can you say no to that?!

Understandably, he felt difficulty after saying no to these amazing opportunities — the pain and fear of missing out. I think a lot of us can relate to that.

The fear and pain of missing out (actually, any fear or pain) can be an amazing opportunity to practice, to open our hearts, to deal with our deep feelings of inadequacy.

It’s a transformative practice.

Saying No is Saying Yes to Focus & Space

Let’s say you’re missing out on important opportunities by saying no. You don’t normally say no — you say yes to too much, and are constantly overloaded. You are constantly too busy, stressed about getting everything done, overworked and prone to burnout, missing deadlines and not doing as well as you could on projects because you’ve got too much going on.

So saying no to these opportunities is a big shift. It means:

  • You are going to give priority to what’s on your plate. Finally!

  • You are going to create space for sanity, for self-care, for not burning out.

  • You are going to give full focus to the work that’s most meaningful to you, that you are most committed to doing.

These are amazing things. These are loving actions to yourself and the people you care about.

And yet, the fear and pain of missing incredible opportunities arises.

Practicing with the Fear & Pain

So you notice yourself struggling with this fear and pain. It’s an incredible doorway to practice and transformation.

Here’s how you might practice:

  • Stop and notice that you are feeling either fear or pain (or both) of missing something important. Pain of not being able to do what you’d like to do. Fear of missing what you should be doing.

  • Pause and let yourself feel the pain and fear. We don’t let ourselves feel it, and run from it, avoid it, fear feeling. But we have the capacity to feel more than we let ourselves fear. We have the courage. Pause and actually feel it — not the thoughts about what you’re missing, but the physical feeling of fear and pain.

  • Ask yourself if there is anything on your plate right now that is less important than what you’ve said no to. Is there anything on your plate you’d remove to make room for this opportunity? If not, you are clear on your priorities (even if there’s never going to be any real certainty that it’s the right choice).

  • Remind yourself that you’ve said yes to your priorities and to having focus and space. That this fear and pain come with this amazingly loving act of saying yes to focus, space and priorities. It’s a part of the experience, and you will feel it many more times. And that’s OK!

  • Remind yourself that you would have felt even greater pain if you had said yes. The pain of being overloaded, too busy, overcommitted, never having time. The pain of burnout, of missing deadlines, of doing worse than you can on each project. The pain you’re feeling now isn’t as bad.

  • Feel the love in saying yes to your biggest priorities. Feel the love in saying yes to focus and space. Appreciate how amazing that is.

  • Fearing missing out is also a kind of “greed” (in a nonjudgmental sense) — we always want more, and want to pile our plates high with everything. Instead, can we be grateful for what we’ve put on our plates? Can we see how amazing the things we’ve chosen are? Can we see that they are enough, and we don’t need more?

  • At the heart of the fear of missing out is our deep feeling of inadequacy. We fear that if we miss out on something important, somehow we won’t be OK. Let yourself face the pain of your feelings of inadequacy, and make friends with this. Can you be friendly and kind to these feelings of inadequacy?

  • Feel the goodness in yourself for the acts you’ve taken. You are a beautiful, courageous person with a good heart. You can handle things if they don’t turn out as well as you like. You have made it through much worse.

Learn to trust yourself by seeing the goodness in yourself. Learn to validate yourself. Learn to make friends with yourself. Learn to have the courage to feel everything, and be OK with what you feel.

In the end, you will always miss out on something important. It’s unavoidable. But what you are gaining is worth being grateful for.

-AG

THE LIFE YUNG LB FT. LIL NACCASSO, GBLUE & SANGA LOCCO

My Toko YUNG LB is killing the rap/cannabis game right now. Go check out his shiiiiiiiit and see what he’s been up to lately, and RUNTZ YO LIFE UP P!

LB and I linked up back in 2013’ish through a mutual friend and ever since then he’s been on the grind to success. (Video below) is the first video I cameo’d from one of his music videos, and now he’s on tour with Playboi Carti, Lil Baby, Berner (Cookies Clothing) and more!

-AG

The Simplicity Cycle: Returning to Paring Down to Find Your True Needs

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

Simplifying your life isn’t a single project that you can finish and be done with — it’s actually a cycle.

At least, that’s what I’ve found in my decade plus of simple living … I’ve downsized numerous times, in all areas of my life, and I keep finding myself coming back to the process of simplifying.

The Simplicity Cycle goes something like this (it’s a little different each time):

  1. Inspiration phase: You find something that sparks an interest, and you start exploring it (reading about a new topic, diving into learning a new subject, exploring a new activity or hobby, creating a new project or venture, etc.). This is the inspiration phase.

  2. Addition phase: This leads you to more complexity, as you explore, buy things, read more and more, find new inspirations and ideas. This is the addition phase.

  3. Contemplation phase: At some point, you might pause to consider the bigger picture of what you’re doing. Is this the best way? Is this really important? If it is, what’s the most essential part of it? Can you pare down? Many people skip this phase (and the next) and just keep doing the first two phases.

  4. Paring Down phase: If you decided that you want to pare down, this is where you start to let go of things. You figure out what’s essential to what you have been doing and learning, and if you don’t scrap the entire thing completely (which can happen), you might just keep a few key things. For example, if you start learning about chess, you might buy a set (or two) and a bunch of books and apps and go on a bunch of websites. But in the paring down phase, you might decide that chess isn’t important enough to keep in your life, or if it is, you only need one chess set, two really key books, and one website or app. The rest you let go of. Again, many people skip this step.

If you’re into simplifying and figuring out what’s essential, you’ll do the last two steps. If you’re like most people, you’ll just keep doing one and two, which leads to a growing amount of clutter and complexity.

What I’ve Learned from the Cycle

As you might guess, I find the last two phases really important. But I also think the first two are important, because they’re about continual learning, curiosity, growth, exploration, creativity and more. I haven’t been able to stop myself from doing the first two phases, at least a few times each year. So I continue to repeat this Simplicity Cycle, several times a year.

The first two phases are where you get excited about something, where you get motivated and you’re moved to find out as much as you can. This is an essential human drive, and I would never want to suppress it.

But here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I have to hold myself back from acquiring in the Addition phase. I do this by reminding myself of how much I wasted in the last few Addition phases, when I bought too many things. It’s really hard to hold back when you’re excited. But it’s important to remember that following your every urge isn’t necessarily a helpful thing.

  • The Inspiration phase can be a wonderful thing, but sometimes it’s just a fantasy that grips hold of us (like wanting to become a black belt at something) when we see a photo or read an inspiring story of someone doing something cool. There’s nothing wrong with these photos or inspiring stories. There’s nothing wrong with the fantasy that forms in our heads. But when it grips us, and brings us to the Addition phase, then it can lead us to spend too much time or money or effort on something that’s not really that important — it’s just a fantasy that’s taken hold. The reality will be quite different once we dive into it — becoming a black belt will take years of hard work, and the payoff won’t be exactly what you dream it will be. That’s not to say we shouldn’t go after it, but we should realize it will be very different than how we picture, and probably not as exciting.

  • Often the Inspiration phase is started when we think we really want something, even need it. But it’s not a true need. We rarely explore how to get our true needs met without the Addition phase, and it’s something worth considering as we think about the big picture of our lives. What are true needs? More on that in the next section.

  • The Contemplation phase can come at any time — maybe even before you start the Addition phase! Maybe right after you start it and you pause to think about whether this is something you should be doing. Basically, you take a step back and look at the big picture — why are you bothering to do this? Is it just a fantasy or is it meaningful to you? Is the reality going to be anywhere close to the fantasy? Is there a more purposeful way you might be living? What are your true needs here? What can you get rid of, and what’s truly essential?

  • The Paring Down phase can be very liberating! Once you’ve had a realization that you want to simplify, it can be a huge burden to let go of things that you’ve been holding onto. At the same time, it can be difficult to let go if you’re still holding on to hope. And there’s the regret of buying too much or acquiring too much, the regret of being wasteful. But it’s not wasteful if you got something out of it, if you learned something from it. So give thanks to whatever gave you something, learn from the experience, and let go.

In this whole process, I find the real learning is about true needs. It’s hard to understand true needs until you’ve gone through this process a few times. Let’s take a look.

Finding Your True Needs

Going through this cycle helps you see that you can let go of things you don’t really need. They might actually be giving you a burden you don’t want, and letting go is liberating. You free yourself of it, and you’re even happier — you didn’t need it in the first place!

Going through the cycle a second time, and then a third, is just more learning about figuring out what you don’t need. And learning to let go of what you don’t really need.

If you go through the cycle a bunch of times, with consciousness, you can start to figure out the kinds of things you crave for and that excite you that aren’t really true needs. They seem cool, they’re shiny, but they don’t really satisfy anything deep within you.

In the end, going through the process helped me to realize what I really needed. And to let go of the things I thought were needs.

Some things I now think are true needs:

  1. Food, water, clothing, heat, shelter, and basic safety, of course.

  2. Love and connection.

  3. Learning, exploration.

  4. Play, inspiration & creative outlets.

  5. Getting outdoors, being active, being present with nature.

  6. Stillness & peace.

There might be more. Beyond the basic needs of the items at the top of the list, the others are about love and nourishment in some way.

And when I remember these needs, I can remember that these needs can be met in a variety of ways. Not only in the way I’m fantasizing about. I can meet my needs by simply going outside and going for a walk. Talking with a loved one or an interesting stranger. Reading something online. Meditating and finding stillness.

Simple things, that cost nothing. Simple things, that nourish me, and require no additions to what I already have. Simple things, that allow me to let go of the rest.

Simple things, that are available all around us in beautiful abundance.

-AG

The Stories That Stop Us From Being Present & Taking Action

Most of us have spent our lives caught up in plans, expectations, ambitions for the future; in regrets, guilt or shame about the past. To come into the present is to stop the war.” ~Jack Kornfield

I get emails all the time from people who are struggling with very common difficulties:

  • Wanting to overcome anger

  • Wanting to deal more calmly with stress

  • Hurt by other people’s inconsiderate actions

  • Getting stuck in resentment and thinking about how others have wronged you

  • Struggling with change because it’s hard

  • Struggling with letting go of clutter because of various emotional attachments

  • Finding all kinds of obstacles to taking on a project, side hustle, new business, writing a book/blog, etc.

And I completely understand these difficulties, because I struggle with them too. Here’s the thing — there are just two things stopping us from being present or taking the action we want to take:

  1. The stories we have in our heads about other people, what’s happening, and ourselves

  2. Our habitual pattern of staying in those stories instead of being present or taking action

It’s really one thing: our mental habit of staying stuck in the stories in our heads.

When I say “stories,” this isn’t a judgment about whether what we’re saying in our heads is true or not. It’s just what our minds do — they make up a narrative about the world, including other people and ourselves. Our minds are narrative machines. You could see the narrative as true or not, but that’s not the point — the narrative is getting in the way of being present and taking action.

What kind of stories do I mean? I mean things that we make up and spin around in our heads (true or not):

  • They shouldn’t act that way

  • If they loved me they wouldn’t be so inconsiderate

  • This is too hard, I don’t want to do this

  • I suck, I keep failing, I am inadequate

  • They keep doing this, I don’t know why they keep doing that to me

  • They hurt me, they are not a good person

  • I can’t start my business/blog/project until I learn this, or get to this place in my life, or have perfect peace in my day and am in a good mood

  • This shouldn’t be happening to me! This sucks!

These stories have some truth to them, which is why we cling to them so much. But these stories block us from being present. They are not helpful.

What would it be like if we didn’t cling to them so much? What if we could develop a mind that clings to nothing?

Dropping the Stories & Becoming Present

We can’t stop the mind from coming up with the stories, as it is a narrative machine. However, that doesn’t mean we have to cling to the stories and keep them spinning around in our heads.

Notice when you’re stuck in a story. Hint: if you’re angry, stressed, frustrated, disappointed, feeling shame or fear, dreaming about the future, thinking about something that happened … you’re stuck in a story.

Notice that the story is causing you to be stressed, angry, afraid, whatever. Notice that you are spinning it around in your head, and it is occupying your attention.

Now see if you can drop out of the story and into the present moment. Become curious: What is happening right now, in front of you? What sensations can you notice in your body? What is the light like? What sounds can you notice?

When you go back to your story (you will), try coming back to the present moment. Stay longer. Come back gently, without judgment.

What can you appreciate in this moment? A feeling of appreciating the sacredness of this moment can counteract the story, and change your way of being.

Dealing with Stress & Anger Without the Story

Stress and anger can be difficult things, because we have such a hard time letting them go.

But what if you could drop out of the stories that are causing the stress and anger (or frustration, resentment, complaining) and just be present with whatever you’re feeling?

Drop into your body and notice what sensations are there.

If you have difficult sensations in your body, see if you can be curious about them and stay with them, rather than spinning around a story about them. Stay with them longer (they might be located in your chest area), as you would try to stay with the sensations of your breath during a breath meditation.

Again, when your mind wanders back to the story, just come back gently. Stay with the sensations. Be present with them.

Touching the sensations in your body, of stress or anger, is a way to transform yourself. It doesn’t necessarily get rid of the feelings — but it changes your relationship to them. You no longer need to get rid of them, because you are fine just being with them. You develop a trust that you can stay present with them, without running or hiding or needing to do anything about them.

Each time you get stressed, each time you feel anger or frustration or resentment … this is an opportunity to practice and develop trust in yourself. Every spike of fear or stress is an opportunity to transform, to open, to stay and be present.

In this way, every stress is making you more mindful, less attached, and more open to life.

Taking Action Without the Story

The stories in our heads also stop us from taking the action we want to take in our lives — from changing habits to eating better to getting rid of clutter to tackling that difficult project.

Some examples:

  • I don’t feel like exercising, I feel lazy, it’s too hard

  • I don’t know how to tackle this big project, it’s too complicated

  • I don’t know how to blog, there is so much I don’t know, I have to learn it all before I can start

  • There’s too much clutter, and I don’t know what to do with it all, I can’t tackle all of that

  • Maybe I should do something else, I don’t really like this kind of work, I think I would be better trying one of the other options I like

There is some truth to each of the stories, but the fact is, they are getting in the way of action. They aren’t helpful.

What would happen if we just dropped the stories and took action, staying in the present as we did so?

Imagine dropping into your body when you have a story about why you shouldn’t exercise … and getting present. Then putting on your workout clothes and shoes, staying present without the story. Then doing some pushups or starting to run.

You don’t need the story to take action. Drop into the present, and just act. Stay present as you act. Be curious about what it’s like, rather than thinking you know what it will be like ahead of time. Take a “don’t know” mindset, and find out!

Don’t have any clarity about a project? Start doing it, and clarity will come as you discover what it’s like.

Afraid you’re not good enough to do the project? Only one way to truly know — take action on it and see!

Feeling overwhelmed because there’s too much clutter to tackle? Declutter one thing. Take action on one spot on your counter. There’s no need for the story about it being too much.

The truth is, even if we can’t avoid generating these stories, we don’t have to get stuck in them, especially if they are unhelpful. Sometimes it’s good to have a narrative that helps us plan and figure things out, but often it’s better just to find out by being present and taking action.

And you can do that very simply: just drop into the sensations of your body and surroundings. Notice. Get curious. Stay. Come back gently. Appreciate the sacredness of this moment.

-AG

SIMPLIFY "YOU!"

As we begin this journey, we want to start by explaining why we are calling it Simplified-U.

Our intent is to grow this community into an environment where we will examine and give instructions on different areas that people deal with on a daily basis. We want to be a full service community where you can learn about finances, relationships, building a business and other areas important to your knowledge base. Most important is to “Simplify” these areas.

Most things are presented in a complicated manner. They are designed to seem confusing because your lack of knowledge benefits those that you believe are there to serve you. We want to give people the wisdom and power over their life. This way you make decisions based on awareness and not what makes the most profit for those offering their services.

We will structure topics where we will offer quizzes and examines to make sure you have a clear understanding of the subjects. The same way you would if you were attending school.

The ultimate goal will be to build an environment that is so respected throughout the world, that we will be able to offer a degree program that will hold higher value than a traditional college.

We will accomplish this by bringing in others with the same vision and mission of serving.

So we ask that you be patient with us as we turn this vision into a reality.

Aside from the knowledge that is being hidden, we know people are depressed, unhappy, living unproductive lives and settling inside of miserable relationships.

You are probably aware, all the stats and conversations about people in their life (relationships, work, daily life, etc.) say that most are not happy about their life.

An article from 2017 in Time Health said that 33% of people were happy overall. This means that 67% are unhappy overall.  http://time.com/4871720/how-happy-are-americans/

We will do our part to help people “Globally” rewrite the stories in their life that are keeping them in this unhappy state. The rewriting will allow people to attract the things they desire and to regain their joy.

The bottom line for this creation (project) is “We came to the conclusion that if most are not living their dreams, then maybe the problem is not the “Students”, but the “Teachers”.

We know this new understanding will reduce or eliminate the stress, worries, depression and allow people to be “FREE”.

So thanks again for visiting and enjoy the journey.

Your Uplifting Life Partner
Ron Simplified Myers

“It ain’t right. It ain’t wrong. It’s my opinion. – RSM

"OUR MISSION IS TO INSPIRE BELIEF IN ONESELF, BY
ENABLING INDIVIDUALS, TO CREATE A PATHWAY THAT ENCOURAGES
PURSUIT OF THEIR PASSIONS AND DESIRES”

- Ron “Simplified” Myers

What It’s Like to Be Truly Committed to Something

Most of my life, I’ve struggled with being half-committed.

Not always, but more than I’d usually like to admit. I say I’m going to stick to something, and I actually believe it … but then a week later (sometimes sooner, sometimes longer), I falter. I justify it. I feel guilty. I try not to think about it. I resolve to do better.

Repeat, for life.

Recently I read a post by a coach and teacher I respect, Kendra Cunov, on Getting Clear on Commitment. It was thought-provoking, as always, and made me sit down and re-examine what I’m truly committed to. Not “I’m committed, but …” What I’m truly committed to.

I’ve done this before, notably last December when I was doing an annual re-examination of my life and commitments. It’s always useful to re-examine what you’re committed to, and to re-commit. But as the year has progressed, it’s become clear that I’m only truly committed to some of the things on my list.

So I’ve been spending some time looking at what makes me truly committed in one area (my family, for example), and not so committed in another (reading books).

What I’ve found is that when I’m truly committed, there is a deeper feeling, in my gut, that there is no way I’m going to fail at the commitment.

It’s not, “I really want to fulfill this commitment” … instead, it’s, “There is no question in my mind I’m going to fulfill it.”

When I feel discomfort and have an urge to put off the commitment, if I’m not really committed, I’ll justify putting it off. If I’m truly committed, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll make it happen.

To paraphrase a teacher of mine, if I’m committed, I become a man who would walk through walls to make it happen.

What are you truly committed to? Are you willing to walk through walls for it? Is there no question in your mind that you’ll do it?

If you’re not fully committed, you have three choices:

  1. Keep being half-committed. This is what most of us do. I don’t recommend this at all. It saps you of energy. It makes you feel like committing to something isn’t really important. It makes others trust you less. It makes you trust yourself less. Instead, do one of the two next options.

  2. Let go of the commitment. This is the best option in many cases. Let go without judgment. It’s OK to not be committed to everything — in fact, it’s impossible to be committed to every single thing you want to do. It’s better to be committed to fewer things, but more deeply. So examine a half-commitment, and ask whether you want to make this one of your few commitments, or whether it’s worth letting go. If you don’t feel you’d walk through walls for this, let it go without guilt. Like you’re letting go of a caged bird.

  3. Deepen your commitment. For only a small number of things (maybe 4-6), you want to be truly committed. There is no question in your mind that these things will happen. If you are only partly there, don’t fret. You can deepen. We’ll look at that in the next section.

So let go of the habit of being half-committed, and either let go of a half-commitment (best option, usually), or deepen to true commitment.

How to Deepen

For me, the process of deepening commitments this year has looked something like this:

  • Commit to it, including committing to other people that I’ll do it.

  • Create a structure to hold me in that commitment even when things get tough. (This includes a “Sacred Council” who I email every week.)

  • Things go well, I’m on track, I feel great. I report weekly to my Sacred Council, things are awesome.

  • Then I get busy and some of the commitments fall off or are put temporarily on hold. I justify it to myself.

  • I re-examine my commitment — from how things have gone, it becomes apparent that I’m not as committed as I thought. I get clear on how I’m showing up and where I need to deepen my commitment.

  • Then I spend some time reflecting on this commitment. I deepen it inside of my heart.

At this point, I spend some time deliberating and meditating. My deepening session goes a bit like this:

  1. Go for a walk in nature. I’ve found that solitude in nature, especially while moving, is ideal. I also will find a rock or log to sit on and find stillness. But first I like to walk, to get the blood circulating. The solitude creates space to more deeply deliberate. No phone.

  2. Ask myself, “Am I truly committed to this? Would I do just about anything possible to make this happen?” This is a gut check. Feeling deep inside myself to understand how much I care about this.

  3. Ask myself, “Why do I care deeply about this?” Is it because of my love for my family? Love for the people I serve? Compassion for others’ pain? If it’s a self-centered reason, I’m less likely to walk through walls to stroke my ego. If it’s to serve the world or people I love, I’m much more likely to walk through walls. I’d do anything for my kids. And my discomfort is so much less important than the people I care about.

  4. Firm my resolve. If I’m truly committed, I need to feel it in my gut. Even more, I need to feel it in my heart. This is a matter of feeling into my heart for the love that I feel deeply. And how much more important this is than my self-concern.

  5. Ask what I need to do to make this happen. Now that I’m resolved, I ask what steps need to happen to make this a reality. If I’m committed to impeccable structure for my family’s finances, what actions need to happen?

This isn’t an exact science, but I’m hoping you can see through this example that it’s a process of searching your heart for what you care most deeply about, and what your heart’s priorities are.

Deepen your commitments for the sake of the people you love most.

-AG

The First Rule of Simplifying: Identify the Essential

“Our lives are frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify” – Henry David Thoreau

We talk a lot about simplifying your life here on my blog from the past few years from simplifying your possessions and clutter to simplifying the stuff you need to do. But recently I had a comment from a reader who said that the problem is that he doesn’t know what to do with himself after cutting out television and other time-wasters from his life.

The simple answer: Do what you love.

His comment, while understandable, illustrates a common misunderstanding of simplification, and it’s a good point that I thought is worth discussing. The misunderstanding: that simplifying is basically just cutting stuff out, leaving an emptiness or void. People think that it leaves you with a boring life, and nothing fun. They couldn’t be more wrong.

The real goal of simplifying, and the First Rule, is to first identify what is essential, what you love, what is important to you — and then cut out all the rest that distracts you and keeps you from doing what’s important.

We have so much stuff in our lives, from possessions to things we need to do to information coming in to visual and emotional clutter, that we are overloaded. The result? We end up doing a lot of things that aren’t really important to us, because we have so much other stuff to do that has crept into our lives and that we leave in our lives, unexamined.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Well, Socrates must have been an excellent simplifier — as evidenced by the fact that he just wore a robe and sandals. In any case, in order to simplify our lives, we must first examine our lives. What is important, and do all the things in our lives give us value? These are the questions to ask, and if you find the answers, simplifying is extremely easy.

Let’s look at how finding what is essential, what we love, and what is important to us, can help us simplify, and what it leaves in our lives:

  1. The first question: What is most important to me? What do I love to do? The answer is different to every person. For me, it’s simple: I love my wife and kids, I love writing, I love reading, and I love helping others. For others, it may be hiking or mountain biking or creating music or anything, really. Answer this question first.

  2. The second question: what are the things going on in my life, the things I do every day and every week and month, and how are they related to what is important to me? If you are going out drinking with the guys, and it’s not really important to you, and it’s stopping you from doing what is important, that’s a candidate for simplifying. Examine all your commitments, and ask yourself if they are really important to you, if they give you great value for your time, and if they are related to what is truly important.

  3. Possessions: The same questions can be asked of all the stuff you own — do you really love them? Are they truly essential? Another question you can ask, to clarify your thinking: If my house burned down, which few things would I want to replace? Get rid of all the rest. They leave clutter and stress and keep you from enjoying the stuff you really love.

  4. Everything else: This same concept can be applied to anything else in your life — your work, the information you read every day, the television programs you watch, the people in your life. Know what’s essential, what you love, what’s important … and get rid of the rest.

  5. What you’re left with: If you get rid of the extraneous stuff, the stuff that’s not related to what’s important to you, what do you have left? Just the important stuff. Just the stuff you really love to do. When you get rid of the other stuff, when you cut, let’s say, television and hours of Internet surfing and beer drinking from your life, don’t just cut it out — remember what’s important and what you love to do, and do that instead. For me, that means spending time with my family instead of working, that means writing or reading instead of watching TV, that means helping others instead of going to the mall (something I want to do more of).

Simplifying isn’t meant to leave your life empty — it’s meant to leave space in your life for what you really want to do. Know what those things are before you start simplifying.

-AG

Mindfully Letting Go of Shame

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” 

Pema Chodron

I was talking with a friend yesterday who is going through a very hard time, and of all the emotions that have come up for them during this struggle (anger, despair, etc.), shame has been the most challenging emotion of all.

We all feel shame, and it’s perfect OK to feel it. There’s nothing wrong with us if we feel shame — it’s a very human emotion.

But it isn’t very helpful in most situations, and so we can bring mindfulness to bear on the shame. And practice letting it go.

Before we can let go, it’s worthwhile to mindfully work with our shame.

What Shame Shows Us

When I said shame isn’t very helpful, I didn’t tell the full truth — actually, it’s very useful, in showing us what we think about ourselves.

When we feel shame, it usually is because we’ve done something that we think says something shameful about us. And so it shows us where we believe there is something wrong about us, something inadequate, ugly, unworthy of love.

Of course, that believe is not true. But in order to let go of that ingrained belief, we have to see it first. Shame shows us where that belief lies hidden.

I’ll give some examples from my own life:

  • I’ve been overeating lately (an old habit of mine), which has led me to feeling overweight and not sexy. This has brought up feelings of shame about my body and lack of discipline. The shame says that I believe I’m ugly and undisciplined, and therefore inadequate and unworthy of love.

  • I went through a very busy period lately where I dropped all of my cherished habits for a few weeks, like exercise and meditation and accountability. This brought up shame for not (again) being disciplined, but also not practicing what I preach. The shame says that I believe I’m undisciplined, an imposter, inadequate.

  • I felt a lot of shame when I fell into debt. This brought up shame that showed my belief of being bad at finances, bad at taking care of my family, bad at being a father and provider. And again, inadequacy and unworthiness of being loved. In the end, the core belief is that we are inadequate and unworthy of being loved. But the reason we believe those is that we believe we haven’t lived up to some expectation: being successful, being lean, being disciplined, being generous, being a contributor to society, being environmentally conscious, etc. The expectations are in our minds, but they were given to us by society’s messaging, since birth. These expectations and beliefs are not so solid as we believe. Once we can see them, we can bring mindfulness practices to work with them. Mindfully Working with the Beliefs That Cause Shame It can be helpful to write down the beliefs that are causing us to feel shame, or to speak them aloud (perhaps to another person, like a trusted friend or therapist). Getting them out of our heads helps us to get clear on them. And sometimes saying them out loud can make them feel a little silly. I’ve found that true for myself — saying a belief out loud to another person takes away some of its power, maybe shows me how hard I am on myself. So once we’ve said it out loud or written it down, let’s look at how to bring mindfulness practices into the equation:

  • Let yourself feel the shame. We don’t often let ourselves actually feel this emotion, because we don’t like it. Instead, open your heart and actually feel the shame in your body. Be curious about it: what does it feel like? Where is it located in your body? What temperature, texture, flavor does it have? See it with brand new eyes, with beginner’s mind.

  • Ask yourself whether the belief is true. If you believe you’re undisciplined, ask youself, “Is it true that I’m undisciplined?” It might feel very true and solid, but in asking this question, let there be space for the possibility that it’s not true at all, or at least not completely true. Have you ever been a little disciplined? Are there examples you can point to where the belief wasn’t entirely true? Let the belief feel less solid.

  • See your basic goodness. If at the heart of our shame is the belief that we’re somehow inadequate, not good enough … then it’s worthwhile to see that actually we are good. We have a basic goodness at our core. Do this meditation on your basic goodness, and start to trust that this goodness is there all the time.

  • Give yourself compassion & love. If you have a belief that you are unworthy of love … you can immediately disprove that by giving yourself love. First, practice the muscle of love & compassion by feeling it for someone else. Imagine someone you love dearly, and picture them having difficulty — send them compassion, a genuine wish for their suffering to end, a genuine wish for their happiness. Feel what this feels like, and where it’s coming from in your heart. Next, try it for yourself: pour out the same feelings of love & compassion from the same place in your heart, but towards yourself. You are suffering as well, and deserve your own love & compassion. Feel how it feels, and let this be proof that you are worthy of love. If you practice in this way, you might start to loosen your beliefs that cause shame, and let yourself feel trust in your basic goodness and worthiness of love. And if you do that, the shame might start to drift away, not needed any longer. What would you be left with if you didn’t have the shame?

-AG

The Best Goal Is No Goal

“With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The idea of having concrete, achievable goals seem to be deeply ingrained in our culture. I know I lived with goals for many years, and in fact a big part of my writings here on my blog are about how to set and achieve goals.

These days, however, I live without goals, for the most part. It’s absolutely liberating, and contrary to what you might have been taught, it absolutely doesn’t mean you stop achieving things.

It means you stop letting yourself be limited by goals.

Consider this common belief: “You’ll never get anywhere unless you know where you’re going.” This seems so common sensical, and yet it’s obviously not true if you stop to think about it. Conduct a simple experiment: go outside and walk in a random direction, and feel free to change directions randomly. After 20 minutes, an hour … you’ll be somewhere! It’s just that you didn’t know you were going to end up there.

And there’s the rub: you have to open your mind to going places you never expected to go. If you live without goals, you’ll explore new territory. You’ll learn some unexpected things. You’ll end up in surprising places. That’s the beauty of this philosophy, but it’s also a difficult transition.

Today, I live mostly without goals. Now and then I start coming up with a goal, but I’m letting them go. Living without goals hasn’t ever been an actual goal of mine … it’s just something I’m learning that I enjoy more, that is incredibly freeing, that works with the lifestyle of following my passion that I’ve developed.

The problem with goals

In the past, I’d set a goal or three for the year, and then sub-goals for each month. Then I’d figure out what action steps to take each week and each day, and try to focus my day on those steps.

Unfortunately, it never, ever works out this neatly. You all know this. You know you need to work on an action step, and you try to keep the end goal in mind to motivate yourself. But this action step might be something you dread, and so you procrastinate. You do other work, or you check email or Facebook, or you goof off.

And so your weekly goals and monthly goals get pushed back or side-tracked, and you get discouraged because you have no discipline. And goals are too hard to achieve. So now what? Well, you review your goals and reset them. You create a new set of sub-goals and action plans. You know where you’re going, because you have goals!

Of course, you don’t actually end up getting there. Sometimes you achieve the goal and then you feel amazing. But most of the time you don’t achieve them and you blame it on yourself.

Here’s the secret: the problem isn’t you, it’s the system! Goals as a system are set up for failure.

Even when you do things exactly right, it’s not ideal. Here’s why: you are extremely limited in your actions. When you don’t feel like doing something, you have to force yourself to do it. Your path is chosen, so you don’t have room to explore new territory. You have to follow the plan, even when you’re passionate about something else.

Some goal systems are more flexible, but nothing is as flexible as having no goals.

How it works

So what does a life without goals look like? In practice, it’s very different than one with goals.

You don’t set a goal for the year, nor for the month, nor for the week or day. You don’t obsess about tracking, or actionable steps. You don’t even need a to-do list, though it doesn’t hurt to write down reminders if you like.

What do you do, then? Lay around on the couch all day, sleeping and watching TV and eating Ho-Hos? No, you simply do. You find something you’re passionate about, and do it. Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing — you can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion.

And in practice, this is a wonderful thing: you wake up and do what you’re passionate about. For me, that’s usually blogging, but it can be writing a novel or an ebook or my next book or creating a course to help others or connecting with incredible people or spending time with my wife or playing with my kids. There’s no limit, because I’m free.

In the end, I usually end up achieving more than if I had goals, because I’m always doing something I’m excited about. But whether I achieve or not isn’t the point at all: all that matters is that I’m doing what I love, always.

I end up in places that are wonderful, surprising, great. I just didn’t know I would get there when I started.

Quick questions

Question from a reader: Isn’t having no goals a goal?

Quick answer: It can be a goal, or you can learn to do it along the journey, by exploring new methods. I’m always learning new things (like having no goals) without setting out to learn them in the first place.

Another question from a reader: So how do you make a living?

Answer: Passionately! Again, not having goals doesn’t mean you stop doing things. In fact, I do many things, all the time, but I do them because I love doing them.

Tips for living without goals

I am not going to give you a how-to manual for living without goals — that would be absurd. I can’t teach you what to do — you need to find your own path.

But I can share some things I’ve learned, in hopes that it will help you:

  • Start small. You don’t need to drastically overhaul your life in order to learn to live without goals. Just go a few hours without predetermined goals or actions. Follow your passion for those hours. Even an hour will do.

  • Grow. As you get better at this, start allowing yourself to be free for longer periods — half a day or a whole day or several days. Eventually you’ll feel confident enough to give up on certain goals and just do what you love.

  • Not just work. Giving up goals works in any area of your life. Take health and fitness: I used to have specific fitness goals, from losing weight or bodyfat to running a marathon to increasing my squat. Not anymore: now I just do it because I love it, and I have no idea where that will take me. It works brilliantly, because I always enjoy myself.

  • Let go of plans. Plans are not really different than goals. They set you on a predetermined path. But it’s incredibly difficult to let go of living with plans, especially if you’re a meticulous planner like I am. So allow yourself to plan, when you feel you need to, but slowly feel free to let go of this habit.

  • Don’t worry about mistakes. If you start setting goals, that’s OK. There are no mistakes on this journey — it’s just a learning experience. If you live without goals and end up failing, ask yourself if it’s really a failure. You only fail if you don’t get to where you wanted to go — but if you don’t have a destination in mind, there’s no failure.

  • It’s all good. No matter what path you find, no matter where you end up, it’s beautiful. There is no bad path, no bad destination. It’s only different, and different is wonderful. Don’t judge, but experience.

And finally

Always remember: the journey is all. The destination is beside the point.

‘A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.’ ~Lao Tzu