Being authentic

Being authentic

A year and a half ago, when I was in India, every evening I sat outside and discussed deep subjects with my friends. One night, the topic of cheerfulness came up. The prevailing opinion in the group was that we have a duty to be positive towards others. That even when we are having a bad day, we should make an effort to be nice towards others, making them feel good.

My reaction was that… it’s bullshit. I thought it’s a dishonest approach. I thought that by not expressing my feelings at a given moment, I am disregarding what is best for me and doing something to my detriment. At the time, I liked the idea that to take care of others. I need to take care of myself first and what’s a better way to take care of myself than being an honest person and expressing how I feel?

I recently discovered that I was completely wrong.

It comes down to this. When we feel bad, it’s usually because our emotions tell us that. That’s why it’s called “feeling bad”, not “thinking bad”. Since our emotions tell us how to feel, how we feel is not directly in our control. And so giving into our feelings and letting them make us act in a given way is surrounding to our weak, irrational self.

I think the much better approach is to take control of our actions, be above what our emotions dictate us and instead, base actions on values and principles. Act like the people that we are striving to become. Because only if we act like our ideals tell us, we are moving towards those ideals.

And for me, possibly the most important of those ideals, is trying to have the best impact I can on others. Not surrounding to my weak, emotional self.

Small Actions, Big Results

Small Actions, Big Results

When it comes to success, a lot of people have the idea of the big break. That all we have to do is wait patiently, do what we are doing, and then one day, success will arrive. This is why lottery tickets are so popular, in general people like the idea of getting to a place they want to be in quickly.

The truth is that even though that view of the world is very attractive, it’s not realistic. Of course, some people were lucky and got rich, but the number of them is low compared to the amount people who were in that position and didn’t achieve what they wanted to.

I first understood this when preparing for my Leaving Cert (exams before college). About three months before the exams, I realised that the better approach to achieving something is focusing on the small things that on their own don’t change much but accumulated over time, produce great results.

So in the months leading up to the exams, I would, among other things, get up early in the morning to spend half hour on revising all of my subjects. Of course, half an hour spent on this on its own didn’t make a huge difference, but the impact of this relatively simple habit was immense over time. For example, I found that just by repeating definitions every day, I was able to memorise over one hundred Physics definitions in about four weeks. And this is coming from a person who has a pretty bad memory and was never good at memorising things.

In the end, I ended up improving my results from Ds and low Cs to high Bs and As in the space of three months. This is the power of small actions done consistently over a period of time!

Ego and pride

Ego and pride

Last weekend, I had a plan to start learning a new skill that can significantly benefit my career, app development. But I couldn’t get myself to do it. I knew that learning the skill will be very good for me, possibly opening up new opportunities, but something was blocking me. In fact, this has been happening for the past few months, and I had no idea why.

That was until I was sitting in the car going to the gym and listening to a great audiobook, “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday. I finally realised what the problem is. Part of the answer turned out to be the fact that I wanted to learn the skill for the wrong reasons. I realised I wanted to learn this skill not to improve myself but to impress someone. Playing in my head the scenarios of someone appraising me for acquiring this skill.

It was ego and pride at work.

Paradoxically, having that picture in my head of already achieving my goal moved me away from working towards the goal because, in my head, I already got a chance to experience how achieving it feels. This approach was killing my drive and replacing it with the need for recognition which was manifested in my life in other ways. I would, for example, look up videos of cars on YouTube and picture myself driving them. This is not a good place to be.

When we are taken over by ego, by the need for recognition, by self-delusion, by the voice in our heads telling us we are the best; we are destroying ourselves.

A person who believes he is the best has no capacity for change and improvement, because why improve if I’m the best? Afterwards, stagnation begins. This person loses authenticity and integrity because of defending this inauthentic picture of the amazingness of self that’s continuously guiding one’s decisions and thoughts.

What’s the alternative to all this?

Simply making our actions speak instead of our words. Being quiet and putting the head down to work hard. Only allowing a healthy dose of pride when we actually achieve something. It’s also important to realise we are human, we are not perfect, and we never will be, in any characteristic or skill. There’s always room for improvement, and we can always learn more from someone.

I want to strive towards this approach, becoming better and better person every week. Leaving my ego and pride behind.

Overcoming the routine

Overcoming the routine

When routine takes over, days all look the same. Life becomes dull and flies by. At some point, you can’t even remember what happened two or three weekends ago. You start making excuses that you will do something exciting, travel somewhere, one day because now is not a good time. This day often doesn’t come because as you’re stuck in this dullness of repetition, curiosity slowly dies and eventually, you lose motivation to do exciting and new things.

I think the above scenario is something that everyone experiences to some extent, I know that I have, quite recently. This is what helped me to get over it.

The important realisation for me was that if I’m saying that I will do something tomorrow, I practice that way of thinking. Then tomorrow, I’m likely to say the same thing, and the day after, and the day after. By realising that if I put something off, I’m probably not going to do it, I am motivating myself to take action today.

The next challenge is knowing what to do. What helped me is just setting a time for myself where I sit down and write down things to do that pop into my head, sky being the limit. Here are some examples:
– Driving to a lake for a breakfast-picnic
– Going to an abandoned city (Pstraze, Poland) and surviving a night there
– Finding a roof of a tall building which is open and having wine there

I’m always surprised at the number of things I can come up with. I found that it’s good to pick things which don’t require a lot of time as it’s easier to do them on weekdays and weekends and keep the excitement in life!

From Chaos to Order

From Chaos to Order

How easy is it to get lost? How easy is it for the order of our lives to turn to chaos?

Extremely easy. We might think that we sorted, that our life is sorted but something can easily come up which will shake this “truth”.

That happened to me a couple of months ago, I had a bad day, I had another bad day, and then another and I found myself forgetting all the good things that I learned that have kept my life in order and kept me heading in the right direction.

Value of being honest with myself, the value of passion, the value of goals, all gone. After that, I lived day to day just fine, went to a job that I enjoyed and for which I got paid, I travelled to some places, I met up with friends and things were grand. However, underneath that, there was a feeling of being lost, a feeling of lack of direction. There was no more doing extra, no more going beyond the minimum effort necessary, no more pursuit of passions and improvement.

Eventually, after a few months, I realised this. At that time, when I looked back on things I’ve written a few months back, I wondered “how can I go from having life sorted to the opposite in a space of a few weeks?”. It doesn’t make sense. I worked hard on figuring my life out and I got quite far but then just stopped?

Eventually, I got it!

It’s not about how good or “sorted” you feel at a given time. And it’s definitely not about how much cash you have, or friends or travel destinations under your belt.

It’s about knowing the process and having things in place that, even when you get lost, will guide you back on track and set you your way towards self-improvement and life becoming better.

These things are unique for every person. For me, these include, writing in a journal every day, daily affirmations, going to the gym regularly, and spending a few hours each week on a personal project which will benefit me in the future. All these things don’t take long, an average of an hour to two hours each day, but it’s enough to keep me going in the right direction.

The Most Important Thing

The Most Important Thing

The last few weeks have been very eye-opening for me.

I think it’s like that with every period of intense changes. When we are stuck in the comfort of routines and things are not changing, it’s difficult to get a good perspective on our lives.

In the last weeks, I got out of my comfort zone and rediscovered something that I have forgotten in the last year. The power of progress and growth.

When studying for the most important exams in my life (those before college) in the first half of 2015, I was very much focused on growth. Learning and improving everyday was my life purpose. I even reminded myself of that every morning through affirmations. “I will no longer settle for less than the levels of success and fulfillment that I am truly capable of and deserve”.

Then as I finished my exams, I felt I can relax during the summer. I moved away from progress and growth and focused more on short term pleasures. This continued through the summer, first semester, Christmas, second semester and yet another summer. Of course, I was doing great things and having a great time in that year! However, it wasn’t the same as before, progress and growth was not my purpose in life.

The changed in the last few weeks and subsequent loss of comfort have showed me that progress is the most important thing. Main reason for this is that outside circumstances could always change for the worse, you might loose some things in life but the one thing you can’t loose is what you learned through progressing. Really, the thing that’s more important than outside circumstances is the person you are because you attract the outside circumstances by who you are.

In addition, if a person is not progressing, he is stuck in one place or even worse, he is degenerating. I choose the path of progress and growth. I will not settle for less than I’m capable of.

India: Small Things I Came to Appraciate

India: Small Things I Came to Appraciate

Not having to worry about washing hands. At home, we are used to the germs that surround us so we don’t have to wash and disinfect our hands throughout the day. In exotic locations however, even the most common germs can cause us to be sick.

Not having to think on the road. In Ireland, the traffic is predictable and it’s easy to be a pedestrian or driver. In India, rules of the road are constantly broken and even crossing at lights can be dangerous.

Having clean tap water. Rinsing our mouths with water after we brush our teeth is something we take for granted. It’s handy to not have to use a water bottle for that.

Modern education system. After we spent three weeks teaching in an orphanage, a young boy told us that he appreciates that we didn’t beat him.

Being born with a greater freedom to do anything. In India, the class system is strong. How people are treated often depends on the wealth of the family. This is especially true in schools where the poorer children are often bullied.

India: The Key to Happiness

India: The Key to Happiness

After a few days in India, we decided to see the coastal area of Mumbai. On our way there, we walked through a very high class area. Entire 10-storey apartment blocks were owned by individuals with tens of luxury cars around them. As we got closer to the coast this scenery changed. The homes of millionaires and billionaires were replaced by slums. Slums with dirt roads and houses made from corrugated iron. It was raining heavily since it was the middle of the monsoon – the rainy season. As I was walking through the slum, at one point on my left there was little courtyard and in it about ten young boys playing football. Despite the heavy rain and a life in what we would call appalling conditions, they had big smiles on their faces. They were happy.

This was a breakthrough moment for me. I heard many times in my life that all I need is myself to be happy but never before has it been so clear to me.

Living in a materialistic world, we think that we need favorable conditions in the outside world in order to be happy. You often hear people say “Once I get a new phone, I will be happy” or “Once I get my dream job, I will be happy”. The truth is different. If you are not happy now, you will not be happy when you add a phone to your life or change your job or make any other external change.

Unhappiness is having a habit of not appreciating what you have and focusing on what you don’t have. The only way to be happy is getting rid of that bad habit. One of the best ways of doing that is appreciation. Sit down once a day and appreciate how good your life is, thank for your family, friends, health, intelligence, life experiences. This will take you one step closer to being happy.

India: You’re One of Many

India: You’re One of Many

There is over one thousand two hundred million people living in India. The city I stayed in is alone a home to four times more people than the country I live in, Ireland. This sheer number of people means that the life of a single person is quite insignificant relative to the society as a whole. The same applies to every country. Whether you succeed or not doesn’t matter. Whether you are happy or not doesn’t matter. The society will survive either way, you’re just one of many. Stalin understood this perfectly. Sending millions of individuals into certain death was not a problem for him because he knew that in 20 years time, the current generation of dead young men will be replaced by a new generation of living young men.

This truth has two implications.

First. Noone is responsible for your life so you have to be. This is empowering. Take action because noone is going to take it for you. Realise that the world doesn’t owe you anything.

Second. It doesn’t really matter what you do so you can do what you want to do. Find your passion and then follow it. Lead a life full of meaning because this is what will make you happy.

India: The Way to Freedom

India: The Way to Freedom

The three weeks I spent in India were freeing.

When we are in our comfortable homes, most of us are so attached to the things around us, material objects, lifestyle, people, that it seems we cannot live without these things. This attachment ultimately leads to dependency. We try to protect our comfortable lives to the point where we do and say things against ourselves and our innermost realisations, this ends up harming us. A popular example of this is pleasing other people in order to continue receiving approval from them.

The three weeks in a different world had shown me that I don’t need to be in my comfort zone, clinging onto the things around me. I can thrive and be happy regardless of the outside world. As a human being, I can adapt to any situation outside of my comfort zone and through that, grow.