December 8th is observed in the west as "Boddhi day" - the day that celebrates the waking up of the Buddha. On that day I wrote a short description of what Buddhism is and what "waking up" is for my friends on Facebook. It came out quite nice so I thought I'd share it here as well.
In this post I don't want to convince you that you need to meditate. I want to explain what creating a habit of meditation can do for you, and you can decide for yourself whether it's something you value enough in order to give it a shot or not. If this post was titled "Why lift weights", I would be saying that lifting weights increases your strength and/or muscle mass, and will probably make your body look nicer. If that's something you want and value, obviously lifting weights is one way to go about it.
If you want to increase your capacity to exercise conscious control over the content of your own mind, or in other words to be more the influencer of your thoughts rather than to be influenced by them, you should practice meditation. Specifically, you should start with single pointed focus meditation.
Officially, Broken Windows theory refers to a behavioral pattern on a societal level, where environments that tolerate little 'glitches', like a broken window or uncollected litter, will tend to slide towards the direction of more and more glitches. Throwing a piece of trash on the floor is perceived as a worse offense when the streets are trash free, yet it can be perceived as barely an offense at all when the streets are filthy. This is, in part, a mental bias: The action done is the same (throwing trash in public space), the end result is the same (an equal amount of trash is added to the environment), but we perceive the severity entirely different.
I often see people who seek self improvement come up with a resolution that consists of a scary list of boundary pushing commitments. Something along the lines of "Starting tomorrow, every day I'll wake up every day at 5 am, jog 10 kms, study 2 hours and clean a room in my apartment". This is not even a hyperbole.
There are a bunch of things that will make this type of resolution an almost guaranteed fail. One of them I've already touched before, the concept of adopting one habit at a time.
This time I want to touch on another, which is committing to more than you can chew.
As habits and personal commitments build up it becomes increasingly difficult to fit in new ones. Despite our best efforts, some commitments that we know are good for us can fail to become automatic habits that require no willpower or attention to execute. Yet, since we recognize the importance, we remain committed, at the cost of some willpower and attention.
The mental carrot is a reward I give myself for completing a task. But there are two ways to complete a task: You can either treat it as an obstacle and get it out of the way as soon as possible, or you can treat the task as the center of your existence for the time you're performing it.
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This subject is extremely close to my heart. I've had a morning routine of some sort for about 2 years now, and I can't imagine how far behind where I am now I'd be without one.
In a sentence, a morning routine is a ritual you perform every day, first thing after getting up. Its content and length is entirely personalized, and its goals are to help you kick start your day, and move you towards your goal, steadily and consistently.
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One of the my favorite strategies towards being productive and undistracted is tunnel visioning on a well defined task and making its completion the focus of my existence. This has been working great to keep my focus on the task at hand and not be tempted by distractions. But once the task is completed, I tend to experience a kind of energy drop that allowed procrastination and laziness to creep in. I knew what my next task is, but having exhausted my attention and energies on completing the current one, I just didn't feel like getting on straight to the next.
What we do is important, otherwise we wouldn't be doing it, right? But sometimes our subconscious is not on board with this, and the goal behind the tunnel visioning technique is to convince every part of your brain that what you're doing IS important. But there's a missing component - if this task is so important to get done, why is your reward for completing it is just.. Another task?
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