Wealthy Minds

Retraining Deeply Ingrained Habits of Mindlessness

It’s hard enough to change a habit that you can physically see: going for a daily walk, sitting down to write, having a salad for lunch each day. These are easily seen, but can still be quite a challenge to instill in your life.

But what about habits of mindlessness, that you don’t even know you’re doing? Maybe you notice it later, maybe you never notice. How do you change those kinds of habits?

For myself, I have a number of mindless habits that I could focus on:

  • Judging other people

  • Sitting too long and getting distracted online

  • Comparing myself to others or judging myself

  • Shutting down into self-concern when someone is unhappy with me

  • Hiding things from others because I’m ashamed or afraid for them to know

Of course, these are just a handful that stand out. They’re deeply ingrained or established, because I’ve had them for a while now.

They are not a reason to beat myself up, or judge myself. There is nothing wrong with me for having these habits. And yet I can see how they’re unhelpful to my happiness, to my relationships, to the work I want to do in the world.

So it would be helpful to retrain these mindless habits.

How do we go about that?

LOCATION: Crystal Cove - Newport Beach, CA

What to Know About Changing Mindless Habits

Before we start, it’s important to know that there are two big obstacles to changing these kinds of habits:

  1. They are deeply ingrained. You’ve been doing them for years — reinforcing them for years — and so you won’t just be able to flip a switch and change them in a day or a week. It could take months to retrain, and in some cases, longer — depending on how much focus you give this retraining, and how consistent you’re able to be.

  2. They are unconscious. If you don’t know you’re doing it, you can’t retrain it. It just keeps happening without you being able to do it. Without awareness, you’re powerless.

So it will likely be a messy process, with starts and stops, lots of “failures” that aren’t really failures if you’re using them to learn and grow your awareness. It can get discouraging, unless you look at every failure in this way, as a necessary step to becoming more aware, a necessary stepping stone to crossing this river.

A Retraining Method for Mindless Habits

With the above ideas in mind, here’s how we might retrain these mindless habits:

  1. Focus on just one habit. Look at my list of mindless habits above — these all seem like great candidates to take on immediately. So why not do them all at once, right? But it’s hard enough to be aware of just one of these habits — trying to be aware of several habits at once is like trying to pay attention to 5 televisions at once. I’d say it’s impossible. Pick just one — you can get to all of them eventually.

  2. Recognize the habit’s effects on you. Before you get started, reflect on how this habit affects you. Maybe just watch it for a few days and see how it affects your happiness, relationships, and the meaningful work you’re doing in the world. Start to get very clear on exactly what this habit does to your life, and all of the ripples it has on all parts of your life. Then get clear that you don’t want to keep doing this to yourself and others around you. You can’t afford it.

  3. Create a practice container to give it focus and create awareness. With focus on one habit and clarity about what it does, you can now set up your retraining practice dojo. Here’s the key: create a space where you become as aware as possible of the habit. For example, if I wanted to work on the “being judgmental of others” habit, I might have a practice hour each day where I walk around in public looking at people and noticing when I have the tendency to judge them. I’m actively watching for the habit. Maybe it’s just 30 minutes, or 5 minutes, depending on the habit. But it has a defined start and end, and I’m very deliberately practicing during this time. I can slowly expand it over time, or have multiple practice sessions a day, but it shouldn’t be all day long. Sometimes I might shrink it. The key is to try to be as aware as possible during this practice container.

  4. Imagine an alternative habit that would be more helpful. What would be a more helpful habit to do instead? For example, instead of judging people, I might try to look at them with compassionate eyes. Instead of eating mindlessly, I might try to fully savor each bite, pausing in between to ask if taking another bite would be a loving act or just mindless satisfying of cravings. Instead of sitting too long, I might have focused work sessions for 15 minutes, getting up and exercising or stretching in between. Instead of comparing myself or judging myself, I might see myself with loving eyes. Instead of shutting down when someone is unhappy with me, I might try to see their pain and what they’re going through. Instead of hiding things from others, I might be open and vulnerable about what I’ve been hiding. These are only examples — take a little time to imagine the habit you’d rather have.

  5. When you notice yourself doing the old habit, practice the new one instead. This one is obvious — during your practice session, if you notice yourself starting to do the old habit, do the new one instead, as deliberately and consciously as you can. Every single time, as consistently as possible. If you don’t do it consistently, just notice when you don’t, just increase awareness.

  6. Repeat many times. This one is obvious too — repeat it often, until it becomes easier and more natural and more and more automatic. Reinforce each time you do it by giving yourself a mental pat on the back — feeling good about this success, even if it’s not perfect. Take a moment to feel grateful for your effort.

  7. Then learn to do the new habit earlier. With some practice, you can learn to do the new habit much earlier in the process. For example, instead of judging someone and then switching to seeing them with compassion … I might look at someone and immediately try to see them with compassion, as soon as I see them. This takes a lot of awareness and practice, but it gets easier with time. You’re cutting out the old habit completely, so that the new one gets reinforced.

  8. Repeat many more times. Again, repeat this method as many times as it takes to become more and more automatic. You might add additional practice sessions. You can even try to catch yourself outside of the practice sessions, until it becomes really easy to be aware of this during the day.

  9. Important: see every mistake as a stepping stone to greater awareness. Remember that you’re not going to be perfect at this. It’s going to be messy. The old habit has been strengthened over years. Develop patience with yourself, understanding, compassion. Learn to encourage yourself when things are hard. And see every failure as information to use to get better and better.

This is the method. It works, I promise — I’ve changed some difficult habits this way, even if it took me longer than I’d care to admit. I’m still working with this method, in spurts and starts, in a very messy way. But shift happens. It can for you as well! I BELIEVE IN YOU!

-AG

Are We Headed in The Same Direction?

The story that he’s going to be talking about from this video was actually my story. I was the 19 y/o boy that was searching for answers on “why people do what they do?” and what can I do to understand their world instead of changing others my way.

ENJOY THIS VIDEO OF MY MENTOR!

-AG

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The Practice of Listening to Find Purpose

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” ~Rumi

Very often, our lives are so filled with busyness and distraction that we have no space to actually listen to what life is calling us to do.

Think about your day so far, and your day yesterday: how much of it was spent in busywork and distraction? Messaging, social media, videos and news, reading favorite websites, answering emails and doing errands, replying and reacting.

In the middle of this craziness, do we ever have space for silence? For creation, contemplation, reflection? And for a practice that I think we do too little of much of the time: listening.

The practice of listening is about creating a little space for silence, and then listening to what you need to do right now:

  • What have you committed to doing that you’re not doing?

  • Why is what you’re doing now important?

  • What do you need?

  • What do the people you care about need?

  • What are you being called on to do?

  • What would be the most impactful or meaningful thing you could do right now?

  • How do you want to spend the next month of your life?

  • What do you care most deeply about? Are you willing to commit yourself to it?

These are the kinds of questions to ask in this purposeful listening practice. But more important than the questions is how you listen:

  1. Create some space by taking a break from devices and busyness. Stop and get somewhere where you can have stillness — a walk in nature, dropping into sitting meditation, dropping into child’s pose on the floor, having a cup of tea, sitting out on your porch, finding a bench in a park.

  2. Now just find silence and stillness and ask a question. You can ask any of the questions above, or whatever feels important for you right now. One of my favorites is, “What am I being called to do right now?”

  3. Keep yourself in that stillness and silence, and listen for the answer. Breathe deeply. Feel how your body feels right now. And then listen to the answer that comes up for you. Your gut has an answer. Maybe it’s not the perfect answer, but it’s something to start with. Listen until you have clarity.

It’s that simple. Pause in a moment of stillness and silence. Ask a question. Listen for the answer. See, achieving goals is not what you get from it, it’s who you’ve become of the process of it. Fall in love with taking care of yourself. Fall in love with the path of deep healing. Fall in love with becoming the best version of yourself but with patience, with compassion and respect to your own journey. 

This can be used in all areas of your life: your relationships, your health, your finances, your work, your meaningful contribution to the world.

-AG

Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For

We all long for genuine human connections, and even in a busy life with lots of people around us, these genuine connections can be hard to find.

In the last year or two, I’ve made it a point to have fewer friendships, but with deeper connections … while also being open to the miracle of a random encounter with another human being. This philosophy has paid off in more genuine connections with my family and friends, but less busy-ness.

Today I’ll share a few reasons for creating genuine connections, and my strategies for creating them.

Why Genuine Connections Are Important

There are many reasons, but these are the ones that strike me as important:

  1. We need it to be happy and fulfilled. All the money in the world, and the best job in the world, and all the material possessions in the world … won’t matter much if you’re alone and have no genuine human connections. We have a human need for this kind of connection, and there’s no doubt that it makes us happier, even if it complicates our lives a bit.

  2. It boosts creativity. I find that working in solitude is the best way to create, and having some time for solitude is important for reflecting on ideas … but having a genuine discussion with someone is really important for expanding on those ideas. When I get together with a friend, or with a family I inevitably walk away with several new (or reinvigorated) ideas that excite me.

Life is better when you make genuine connections. You are happier, less isolated, more creative, with new opportunities.

Let’s look at how to make these important connections.

LOCATION: Huntington Beach, CA

How to Make Genuine Connections

Here’s the thing … you can’t just force a connection to be what you want it to be. Many people make this mistake in different ways: they try to create a connection with someone who doesn’t want it, or hope the person responds in a certain way, or want the other person to be something they’re not, and so on. The key to an unforced, genuine connection is openness.

So here’s what works for me:

  1. Be open to random connections. While I accept fewer invitations these days than I did a couple years ago, when I randomly meet someone, I try not to be closed to them. This means opening up, wondering who they are and setting aside any prejudgements that happen, sharing who I am openly and with a smile. I don’t know if this will be a connection to last a lifetime, but it can be one to brighten a moment.

  2. Make time for the important relationships. While work is important, it’s important to me to make time each day for them. Even just reading a book, or taking a walk, or sitting down and talking about something — if the relationship is important, I’ll make time most days for it. But it also extends to a small circle of friends who I might not see every day, or even every week — if I can, I’ll make time for them.

  3. Be open to who they are. Try to notice your expectations of the other person, and let them go. Don’t pigeon-hole them, don’t try to make them someone they’re not … just explore who they are without knowing what you’ll find. Be curious. You’ll find the real them this way, and it’s much better than finding what you hoped to find.

  4. Be open to what happens. Many people go into a meeting with someone else with an agenda, and try to get that done. Like it’s a task that needs to be accomplished. But it’s not — a connection with someone else isn’t about productivity or goals. It’s about connection. It’s two very different human beings spending time together and merging their random personality traits into one experience. That’s true even if it’s a business meeting. Let your personality come out, and allow theirs to come out, and see what happens. It could be talking about a project, but it could be random topics and ideas, it could be a discussion of what’s been going on in your lives and what you have in common, it could be helping one or the other of you with a problem that you have, it could be a debate of ideas, and so on. Don’t try to force it.

  5. Be open about yourself. Often we try to present a certain good side of ourselves. We try to come across as competent, knowledgeable, interesting, accomplished, funny, smart, etc. But that’s a front. It’s only a part of who we are — the good part. If it’s true at all. Why bother trying to connect with someone when we’re just going to give them a false identity, just a façade? Might as well stay home. Much better is to open yourself up, to show the real you. This is scary. It means being vulnerable, and being willing to be embarrassed. That’s a huge amount of trust to put into a human being, especially if it’s not someone you know well. But it’s totally worth it. When you become vulnerable, you risk a lot, but you also get much, much more. You get trust from the other person. You get a deeper connection. You get a better friendship. They open up more too. And when you’ve done this a few times, you realize — there isn’t that much risk, because it never really ends up in a bad way. It’s pretty much all upside.

Guidelines for Making Friends

In my experience, people (generally) want to be friends with other people who follow these general guidelines:

  • Be positive, not negative. While it’s OK to share your struggles with people (I recommend it), if you’re complaining all the time, and are generally negative about other people and life in general, then people get tired of the complaining and negativity. We have enough trouble in life without having friends who are negative all the time. That said, a good friend will always listen when you’re in need, so don’t take this as “never complain.” Instead, just generally try to be a positive person, and if you have struggles, also try to show how you’re tackling those struggles with a positive outlook.

  • Be interested & a good listener. Be interested in other people! Don’t make the mistake of only wanting to talk about your stuff, and being bored and unimpressed with what other people are doing. I try to find the interesting in everyone, even if they lead a relatively uneventful life, there’s something fascinating about them. When someone wants to talk, listen. If they only talk about themselves all day and don’t want to hear your stuff, then they probably aren’t going to be a great friend, but still give them a chance and be interested for as long as you can.

  • Be excited about life, have energy. We generally don’t want a friend who is bored all the time. Someone who is excited about life, interested in things, has good energy … that’s someone you’d by hyped to be around. Not super hyper, necessarily, but just containing a positive energy.

  • Do interesting things. If you’re excited about life, you manifest that by doing new things, learning, creating, exploring, trying out new experiences, meeting new people. If you are this kind of person, you’ll be interesting. If you shut out life, people might not be as interested.

  • Tell good stories. No one wants to listen to someone who tells long boring stories. After the first two such stories, people generally start tuning you out. So try to keep your stories shorter, unless you can tell people are interested. Find something interesting to hook their curiosity, and then draw them in with that curiosity until you satisfy it with a good ending. Practice your storytelling when you meet people, and try to get better at it. It’s not one of my strong points, to be honest, but I recognize that and am trying to be better.

  • Smile. I’m not saying you should have a fake smile, but a smile puts you in a friendly mood, versus frowning at someone. Don’t smile all the time, or at inappropriate times. Just generally have a smiling disposition, as it signals that you like the person (also try to genuinely like the person, moving away from tendencies to judge them or complain about them).

  • Put yourself out there, be willing to try things. Sing in public even if that scares you. Try new food, new experiences, new ideas. This open-mindedness attracts others who are looking to get the most out of life.

  • Be calm, not overly dramatic. While it’s great to have a lot of energy, people who are overly dramatic about little things can be a turn-off. So learn to react to most problems as if they’re not a big deal (because they usually aren’t), and handle them with calmness instead of overreacting.

  • Be authentic, don’t try to show off. All of the above recommendations might seem like I’m recommending that you be someone you’re not. I’m not recommending that at all. Instead, I want you to be an authentic version of yourself (there are lots of versions of ourselves) — but choose the version that is more in the directions recommended above, in general. If there is a positive and negative version of you, generally choose the positive version. But most importantly, don’t try to impress people all the time — if you’re confident in yourself, you don’t need to impress. Instead, be a genuine person, not just the “best you.” When this recommendation is in conflict with any of the above recommendations, choose this one.

  • Be happy with yourself & confident. This is just something that’s good to do for yourself. Be happy with who you are, even the flaws. If you are, you can be confident that you’re good enough when you meet someone else. People generally don’t respect someone who is constantly harsh on themselves. How can you learn to be happy with yourself? That’s a whole other post, but in general, become aware of any tendency to be harsh and critical of yourself, and don’t let yourself stew in those kinds of thoughts. Start to see the good in yourself, the genuine heart and caring nature, and let that be the story you tell yourself about yourself.

-AG

Does Attraction Deserve Your Time & Energy?

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The Magical Power of Focus

“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” – Qui-Gon to Anakin, Star Wars Episode I

The quote above, as cheesy as George Lucas’ writing often is, contains a nugget of Jedi wisdom that I’ve repeatedly found to be true.

Your focus determines your reality.

It’s something we don’t think about much of the time, but give it some consideration now:

  • If you wake up in the morning and think about the miserable things you need to do later in the day, you’ll have a miserable day. If you wake up and focus instead on what a wonderful gift your life is, you’ll have a great day.

  • If we let our attention jump from one thing to another, we will have a busy, fractured and probably unproductive day. If we focus entirely on one job, we may lose ourselves in that job, and it will not only be the most productive thing we do all day, but it’ll be very enjoyable.

  • If we focus on being tired and wanting to veg out in front of the TV, we will get a lot of television watching done. If, however, we focus on being healthy and fit, we will become healthy and fit through exercise and good eating.

This may seem simplistic, but it’s completely true. This is the magical power of focus.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can use focus to improve different aspects of your life.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” – Buddha

LOCATION: Little Tokyo - Los Angeles, CA

Focus on a Goal
In my experience, focus is the most important determination of whether you’ll achieve a goal or stick to creating a new habit. Not self-discipline, not rewards, not sheer willpower, not even motivation (also an important ingredient, however). If you can maintain your focus on a goal or habit, you will more often than not achieve that goal or create that habit.

If you can’t maintain your focus, you won’t achieve the goal, unless it’s such an easy goal that it would have happened anyway. It’s that simple.

Why does focus matter so much? Let’s say you decide you want to declutter your house — that’s your goal for this month. So the first day, you’re completely focused on this goal, and you get boxes and trash bags and fill them up with junk. The second day, you’re still focused, and you fill up a bunch more boxes and you’ve cleared most of two rooms with progress on another. This goes on for a few more days, with your focus being on this goal, and lots of progress made.

This is why I am constantly advocating focusing on only one goal at a time. Having multiple goals spreads out your focus, and makes it less likely that you’ll complete any of the goals. It’s possible, but with a diffused focus, it’s much more difficult.

Even with only one goal, maintaining focus can be difficult. You need to find ways to keep your focus on that goal. Some good examples that work for me:

  • Read about your goal as much as possible, on websites and blogs and in books and magazines.

  • Post up reminders on your wall, refrigerator, and computer desktop.

  • Send yourself reminders using an online calendar or reminder service.

  • Tell as many people as possible about it, and post your progress on your blog.

  • Have a time each day to work on the goal, with a reminder in your schedule each day.

Maintain your focus on your goal, and you’ve won half the battle in achieving it.

Focus on Now
I’ve written about this before, but focusing on the present can do a lot for you. It helps reduce stress, it helps you enjoy life to the fullest, and it can increase your effectiveness.

Focus on the Task at Hand
Have you ever completely lost yourself in a task, so that the world around you disappears? You lose track of time and are completely caught up in what you’re doing. That’s the popular concept of Flow, and it’s an important ingredient to finding happiness.

Having work and leisure that gets you in this state of flow will almost undoubtedly lead to happiness. People find greatest enjoyment not when they’re passively mindless, but when they’re absorbed in a mindful challenge.

How do you get into flow? Well, it takes a bit of practice, but the first step is to find work that you’re passionate about. Seriously — this is an extremely important step. Find hobbies that you’re passionate about. Turn off the TV — this is the opposite of flow — and get outside and do something that truly engages you.

Next, you need to clear away distractions and focus completely on the task you set before yourself. This is the part that takes a lot of practice. I’ll write more about this later.

Focus on the Positive
One of the key skills I’ve learned is how to be aware of my negative thoughts, and to replace them with positive thoughts. I learned this through quitting smoking and running — there are many times when you feel like giving up, and if you don’t catch these negative thoughts in time, they’ll fester and grow until you actually do give up.

Instead, learn to focus on the positive. Think about how great you feel. Think about how other people have done this, and so can you. Think about how good it will feel when you accomplish what you’re trying to do.

Also learn to see the positive in just about any situation. This results in happiness, in my experience, as you don’t focus on the bad parts of your life, but on the good things. Be thankful for what you’ve been given.

“We are what we think; as we desire so do we become! By our thoughts, desires, and habits, we either ascend to the full divine dignity of our nature, or we descend to suffer and learn.” – J. Todd Ferrier

-AG

Day Dreamers

Having big dreams and living it in your mind is the best feeling to have while you’re day dreaming during a random day. But what does it really takes to fulfill your dreams? Dreams only works when you follow through it and make the right decisions for it and also taking the actions to fulfill your dreams and goals. The ability to learn is a really great component of being a human being. But there are different ways to learn. In my case I tend to learn faster if it’s a hands on training course. I’m a visual learner as well; I like to look at things such as images and etc. Being happy with life on whatever is going on is the greatest thing you could feel. But in my own life I think that my soul card image really matches it.

In life, humans are naturally born to dream about the things that they want to do in the future and for the rest of their lives. Dreaming about the things you want in life is the greatest feeling you could ask for, but in order to accomplish these goals that you are trying to aim for, you will have to envision what you want in life. But in this journey that we call life we need to learn things in order for us to get where we want to go. One of the biggest reasons why I’m working hard to accomplish my dreams and goals is because of my family. My family is motivation in life, I just want my parents to stop working and relax and just travel all around the world.

Being an extrovert person is great, because in the industry that I’m in right now you have to be an outgoing person in order for you to network with people. I’m the type of person that is always loud and always having fun on any situation in life. In conclusion, in life there are always options to make, dreaming and envisioning is not bad, you just need to follow through it and do whatever you can to fulfill that dream and goals. Just always remember, it is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.

 -AG

The Most Neglected & Powerful Act of Self-Care

Many of us are (rightfully) focused on taking care of our health, eating nourishing whole foods and trying to be active … while meditating and flossing and taking some time of disconnection, away from devices.

These are wonderful acts of self-care, and they are necessary and important.

But there’s one act of self-care that is very often neglected, and it might be even more important than all the others: the practice of loving yourself.

In fact, this is so often neglected that when I mention “loving yourself,” many people don’t know what that means. Many of us have never consciously done it. If we have, it’s so rare as to be a forgotten memory.

But it’s my belief that we should do it throughout the day, like trying to drink 8 glasses of water. We should give ourselves at least 8 doses of loving ourselves every day.

What is this “self-love” (not in the sexual sense)? Imagine pouring out love in your heart to someone you love dearly — what would that feel like? Now try doing the same thing for yourself. That’s self-love, and it’s a completely foreign concept for the vast majority of people.

Why It’s So Important

I give advices 1-on-1 and in small or sometimes large groups — and pretty much everyone I meet is hard on themselves in some way. In some kind of stress and pain. Disappointed in themselves, angry at themselves, constantly feeling inadequate.

Do you relate to this? I think most of us can find a good chunk of this in ourselves.

This is the basic problem that most of us face, every single day. We don’t love big portions of ourselves. We beat ourselves up, all day long. We stress out about uncertainty because we don’t think we’re good enough to deal with it. We don’t trust ourselves to stick to something, because we’ve formed a really bad picture of ourselves over the years. We get angry at ourselves for eating too much, drinking too much alcohol, messing up in a social situation, getting distracted and watching videos or playing video games, and so on and so on. We are harsh on ourselves, and don’t like how we look or who we are, in many ways.

This affects everything in our lives. It makes us more stressed, less happy, anxious, depressed, stuck, procrastinating, less happy in relationships, less focused, more likely to reach for comfort foods or distraction or shopping to comfort ourselves from the stress and pain of being who we are.

But if we could give ourselves love, it would start to heal all of this. Everything could shift. We could deal with uncertainty and chaos and difficulty in a much more resilient way.

Giving ourselves love is such an important act of self-care, and yet is rarely ever done.

How to Give Ourselves Love Regularly

Set reminders for yourself, everywhere you go. Put reminders on your fridge, on your computer, on your phone, on your bathroom mirror, in your car, at your desk, near your TV.

The reminders only need to be two words: “Love yourself.”

When you see the reminder, the act is very simple (even if it doesn’t feel natural to most people yet — give it time):

  1. Pause and feel any stress, pain, self-doubt, anger, frustration, anxiety you might be feeling. Let yourself actually feel it, physically in your body, for just a few moments. It’s OK to feel this.

  2. Now give yourself the balm of love. As weird or silly as it feels, just try it. Imagine first that you are sending love to someone you love very much — your child, your parent, your best friend. Imagine them going through difficulty, and send love from your hear to theirs, hoping to make them better. Notice how that feels in your heart. Now try it for yourself, generating the same feeling in your heart, but sending it to yourself instead.

  3. Feel the love as a healing balm. No matter how little you’re able to generate, feel it wash over your stress, pain, anger, doubt … like a thick, syrupy liquid soothing the pain. Let yourself receive this love like the love you’ve been craving.

It’s that simple. It only takes a few moments — feel your stress and pain, send yourself love, let yourself feel it.

Do it 8 times a day. Or a dozen, if you can.

You need this care. Don’t hold it back from yourself any longer.

-AG

What Would You Do If You Only Had a Short Time to Live?

A teary Isaac Luna (my uncle) while watching the casket of his mother being cleaned up before going to the burial ground.

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”

– Eric Fromm

The recent death of my uncle’s mother Auntie Jackie put me in a state of mind that I think we all go through at different times in our lives: the feeling of utter isolation, of complete loneliness.

There are times when we feel that even if we are surrounded by other people in our lives, we are alone. We must go through this difficult journey called “life” by ourselves, no matter if we’re married or if we have children or close friends. And that’s a very lonesome prospect.

How do we overcome these feelings of loneliness and despair? While common, these feelings can be dangerous if we let them go too far — they can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, or just a slump in our lives.

The answer is in connecting with other human beings.

When we connect with other humans, we are no longer alone. We share our suffering, our experiences, our common trials. The misery we face is no longer insurmountable when we have someone to face it with us.

“Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.”

– Michael Leunig

It’s hard, from within the storm of every day life, to see things with real perspective, to know what’s important and what’s simply pressing on our consciousness right now, demanding attention.

We have people emailing us for information and requesting action, we have phone calls and visitors and a long to-do list and a million chores and errands to run and all of the slings and arrows of our daily reality … and yet, what is important?

Ask yourself this: if you suddenly found out you only had 6 months to live (for whatever reason), would the thing in front of you matter to you?

Would those 20 emails waiting for a response matter? Would the paperwork waiting to be processed matter? Would the work you’re doing matter? Would the meetings you’re supposed to have matter? Would a big car and nice house and high-paying job and cool computer and mobile device and nice shoes and clothes matter?

I’m not saying they wouldn’t matter … but it’s important to ask yourself if they would.

What would matter to you?

For many of us, it’s the loved ones in our lives. If we don’t have loved ones … maybe it’s time we started figuring out why, and addressing that. Maybe we haven’t made time for others, for getting out and meeting others and helping others and being compassionate and passionate about others. Maybe we have shut ourselves in somehow. Or maybe we do have loved ones in our lives, but we don’t seem to have the time we want to spend with them.

When was the last time you told your loved ones you loved them? Spent good quality time with them, being in the moment?

For many of us, doing work that matters … would matter. That might mean helping others, or making a vital contribution to society, or creating something brilliant and inspiring, or expressing ourselves somehow. It’s not the money that matters, but the impact of the work. Are you doing work that matters?

For many of us, experiencing life would matter — really being in the moment, finding passion in our lives, seeing the world and traveling, or just seeing the world that’s around us right now, being with great people, doing amazing things, eating amazing food, playing.

These are just a few ideas … but what would matter to you?

I highly recommend that you spend at least a little time now, and regularly, thinking about this question … figuring out what really matters … and living a life that shows this.

How do you live a life that puts a great emphasis on what matters? Start by figuring out what matters, and what doesn’t. Then eliminate as much as you can of the stuff that doesn’t matter, or at least minimize it to the extent possible. Make room for what does matter.

Make the time for what does matter … today. Put it on your schedule, and don’t miss that appointment. Make those tough decisions — because choosing to live a life that is filled with the important stuff means making choices, and they’re not always easy choices. But it matters.

Spend time with your significant other, show them how important they are. Take the time to cuddle with your child, to read with her, to play with her, to have good conversations with her, to take walks with her. Take time to be in nature, to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. Take time to savor the little pleasures in life.

Because while you might not have only 6 months to live, I’m here to break the news to you: you really do only have a short time to live. Whether that’s 6 months, 6 years or 60 … it’s but the blink of an eye.

The life you have left is a gift, so enjoy the present. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.

-AG

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