2017 resolution: presence

On past NYEs, I’ve made lists and written down ambitious resolutions to utterly change who I am in the upcoming 12 months. I think the idea of taking time for reflection is great, but the way I have gone about it has me unsettled. So I’m not going to do it this year. Here’s how I’m going about it:

Take change one step at a time

When I reflect, I usually write down the things I want to change and then try and do them all at once. This leads to starting a bunch of initiatives and then inevitably abandoning them unfinished. I’d rather pick a project and focus on it, complete it or at least call it complete, and then move on to the next one.

This is reminiscent of Derek Sivers’ Don’t Be A Donkey:

Buridan’s donkey is standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. It keeps looking left and right, trying to decide between hay and water. Unable to decide, it eventually falls over and dies of hunger and thirst. A donkey can’t think of the future. If he could, he’d clearly realize he could first drink the water, then go eat the hay.

plan stuff out, but only to a point

Things change, so I don’t want to plan things out any longer than I need to. It’s a waste of time. That said, some things need to be planned out. Vacations, plane tickets, family and friend time, reflection time, etc… get that stuff on the calendar and protect it.

Reflect more often

Making resolutions means bringing into focus the things I want to change about my life. It makes no sense to do this just once per year. Reflection should be built into everyday life.


So for my resolution, right now, I want to practice presence. Don’t obsess over what has happened in the past or lose myself in visions of the future. Focus on what is right here, right in front of me. Make the most of it, and enjoy myself. 

adding a narrative

Many of the events in our lives that stress us out are, in reality, neutral. They are neither good nor bad. They just are. It is each of us who add the narrative, the story in our heads, that tells us the many ways each neutral event is not feeling so neutral.

One of the lessons of meditation is that the narrative is extra. It’s not mandatory to associate with it. We can notice as it arises in the mind, watch it pass away, and return to the present reality. Easier said than done, but that’s the practice.

gratefulness layups (cont…)

A few weeks back I shared some bare minimum ideas we can all be grateful for. This week I came across a similar list in Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. Tim uses these four categories to catalyze his mind for his morning gratitude journaling:

An old relationship that really helped you, or that you valued highly.

An opportunity you have today. Perhaps that’s just an opportunity to call one of your parents, or an opportunity to go to work. It doesn’t have to be something large.

Something great that happened yesterday, whether you experienced or witnessed it.

Something simple near you or within sight. This was a recommendation from Tony Robbins. The gratitude points shouldn’t all be “my career” and other abstract items. Temper those with something simple and concrete.

saying no

Becoming good at what you do requires you to say yes a lot. Becoming great requires you to say no a lot.

Tim Ferriss on the James Altucher show

Say no to the trivial many so you can focus on the vital few. I’ve come across this idea many, many times in the last few years. Here are just a few quotes I’ve saved over that time from some of my favorite books and thought leaders on this concept.

Greg McKeown

Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?”
― Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Seth Godin

The best way to build a brand that matters, a story that spreads, an impact that we remember, is to understand a simple but painful trade-off:

If you want to stand for something, You can’t stand for everything.

“Anyone can be our customer and we will get you what you want…” is almost impossible to pull off. So is, “we are the cheapest and the most convenient and the best.”

It didn’t work for Sears, or for Chevrolet or for Radio Shack. It definitely doesn’t work for the local freelancer, eager to do whatever is asked.

Relentlessly trimming what’s on offer, combined with a resolute willingness to say, “no,” are two characteristics of great brands. And linchpins, too.

Seth Godin

Derek Sivers

Use this rule if you’re often over-committed or too scattered.

If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”.

When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.”

When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”

Every event you get invited to. Every request to start a new project. If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about it, say “no.”

We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.

Derek Sivers

Here’s the problem: I suck at the execution of this beautiful idea. I over-committ myself and end up giving everything an equal, mediocre level of attention. In the Tim Ferriss version of the idea above, I’m stuck between good and great.

Here’s some hope: Recently we decided to trim our list of potential clients – we will no longer pursue any prospects whose potential revenue is below a certain threshold. This will free us up to focus on our more fruitful, long term clients. Then, a few days later, one of these clients that we “cut” called and wanted us to do a very small project. After some discussion, we said no!

Now… where else can this be applied?

habits and mindsets I’m working on

This week I’ve been putting together a business plan for 2017 and it has me thinking about 2016 progress and future aspirations.

This New Year’s mindset has spilled over into my personal life too, apparently, because this morning I started pondering what I’ve learned this year. These ideas have changed me for the better. Actually, in most cases, they represent habits and mindsets that I’m working on rather than those that I’ve already integrated into my life, which tends to take me a long time.

Continue reading habits and mindsets I’m working on

practice and detachment

Last week I learned the yogic concept of setting an intention and noticing changes – one of the many lessons I’ve learned on the mat that apply to life off the mat.

Another piece of yogi wisdom lies in the balance between the companion practices of abhyasa and vairagya. Put simply, these are the yin and yang of doing your best and letting go of the results.

Continue reading practice and detachment

Luck

Success awaits people who have everything in order – luck, people call it.

– Roald Amundsen

I’m slowly making my way through a second reading of Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. While I often have a hard time convincing myself to read a book twice given all the great books out there I’ll never have time for, this one is different.

Continue reading Luck

intentions and reflections

Often, in yoga, we’re instructed to start and end class in the same pose – usually some sort of seated posture.

At the beginning, this pose may come with the invitation to set an intention for class – perhaps we hope to remain present or practice resilience or gratitude. Something to bring your mind back towards as it wanders or something to get you through a tough sequence.

At the end, this pose usually comes with the invitation to pause and notice anything that has changed since the beginning of class – maybe your hips feel more open, you’re hot and sweaty, your mood has changed, your mind is clear.

set an intention

pause and notice

 

There are many, many important lessons to be learned on the yoga mat that have real world applications off the mat. But I think these are two of the most important.