As the balance of power in America (undoubtedly) shifts into the hands of a new governmental team (despite the best efforts of the president's unlawful coterie), I think it is worthwhile to reflect on an important, if somewhat superficial, truth.
In politics, the state changes at a glacial pace. But in psychology, states change all the time. And, a lot of the time, you can make them change through action.
The other day, I woke up grumpy. I realized that I would, at some point, have to get out of bed. I was also filled with worry at the innumerable things happening in the world that were out of my control.
I decided to go for a run. I ended up going farther on my run than I thought I would. Things got sweaty.
When I came back home, I didn't just feel like a completely different person. I was a completely different person. My state of mind was no longer one best characterized by grumbling concern; I was clearheaded and almost giddy with contentment.
So if you are ready (or want to be), go ahead.
Run. Laugh. Dance. Stretch. Breathe. Lift. Move. Do something with your body that shakes you out from under the invisible blanket of a passive state.
Do it for 5 minutes any time you feel a negative state coming on or, better yet, every day.
Change your state often enough, and it becomes automatic.
Once it becomes automatic, that state becomes part of your identity. Just like that. Never underestimate the power of a state change.
I've had this nagging, negative internal monologue since I can remember. It has always loved to intrude on peaceful moments and offer unwanted self-criticism.
But, I've vanquished that voice recently, and I think I know why.
I've been journaling: two pages a night, intentionally and consistently, for the past few weeks.
I've discovered that the blank page is the greatest listener. I can spill my problems, concerns, frustrations, celebrations and aspirations onto the paper, and feel a deep sense of clarity and inner stillness afterwards.
I often don't even read what I have written. It is the act of writing, of conjuring up the right words to express what is on my mind, that is important.
And writing by hand seems important, too. It is visceral, embodied, real.
Paper, Ryan Holiday claims, is the best technology ever invented. If that is true, then sorting out your thoughts by journalling is surely one of the most effective forms of therapy.
It is virtually free, can be done almost anywhere, and doesn't require anyone else.
I already feel like I am communicating better, thinking more clearly, and dwelling less on unresolved problems and worries.
I am intent on making journaling one of my cornerstone habits. I wish I had started years ago. But I will settle for weeks ago.
If you don't journal, try it. Try it for a few weeks, like I did.
The downsides are nominal. The upside is that it can change your life.
There are lots of journals out there with different formats and additional features, but so far I am opting for simplicity.
If you are already a convert and appreciate the power of journalling, consider these questions for your next journaling session:
How might I be able to journal better? What questions can I prompt myself with to add novelty to my journaling experience?
Yesterday, I finally got to see Zappa. The recent documentary, directed by Alex Winter (of Bill and Ted fame), chronicles the life and rise to notoriety of a truly brilliant (and bizarre) musician/composer.
I have been an ardent fan of Frank Zappa ever since I encountered a vinyl copy of Overnite Sensation when I was 12 or 13, and heard a track entitled Dynamo Hum. It was loud. It was strange. It was lurid. And I loved it.
I developed an unwavering obsession with his music. I snatched up every CD and vinyl I could find/afford. His music was pure sonic rebellion, and represented the total annihilation of convention. I was hooked.
Young me was onto something. Frank Zappa fought against mediocrity, bullshit and the tyranny and ignorance of the music industry. He was a hero, and music was his sword.
While watching the documentary(almost 20 years after discovering Zappa's music), I realized that I am still highly appreciative of Zappa's genius, but for slightly different reasons.
He had tremendous vision, but he also worked incessantly. He was courageous and unapologetically himself. While his aloofness and lack of warmth earned him some criticism, he was just too caught up in bringing his vision to life to give a damn.
He created impeccable music, not so that he could meet some outwardly imposed definition of success, but so that he could listen to and enjoy it. And share it with others, with anyone who might appreciate something a little different — a little peculiar.
If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be this: Zappa's talent didn't just come from being an oddball. It came from industriousness and persistence. He was so passionate about music that he even taught himself music theory in high school.
Despite his unconventional approach to music and life, he dedicated himself to the mastery of one thing. He wasn't dabbling and switching disciplines, looking for the right one and never finding it. He picked music, worked on it for 35+ years, and produced a staggering amount of recordings in the process: 62 albums while he was alive, and 54 posthumously.
Some may disagree with my definition, but here it is anyway: a genius is just someone who picks one thing and runs with it, finds the right people, and never stops learning.
2021 is one of them, but then again, each and every day is one of them.
For me, the start of 2021 is a time to reflect on the lessons of 2020 (of which there are almost too many to count).
It is a time to start new creative projects, think bigger than ever before, and stand in awe of the achievements of others.
I made lots of mistakes in 2020. I committed to a teaching position in a remote First Nations community that stretched me in both healthy and unhealthy ways. That commitment completely changed my understanding of what success looks like for me.
It made me realize that I had been aiming at and hitting (with some degree of success) the wrong target.
I was living a deferred life plan. The projects, missions and habits that I wanted to work were being ignored, and my unconscious, intuitive voice spoke up in a very real way.
2021, and each glorious new day that it brings is a chance to listen to your inner voice and intuition. It is a chance to live a life that is aligned with your values and your purpose.
You can start today.
What wrong targets are you aiming toward and hitting, giving you a false feeling of success?
What new target(s) can you aim for that might put a fiery gleam of meaning in your eye and a jolt of excitement in your step?
One of the best books I read in 2020 was Peter Thiel's Zero to One, which is serendipitous as we move from 2020 to 2021.
At the core of the book is the idea that the world is ripe for innovation. Copying something or making more of something that already exists is important. But, making something completely new is an act of almost divine creation, and takes the world from zero to one.
You have immense gifts to offer the world. Let's make 2021 the year that that we all move from 0 to 1.