Tag Archives: personal development

Get rid of your self-destruct buttons

One of the most annoying things about life is that it is littered with self-destruct buttons. In many cases, months of good work can be undone in the blink of an eye. When it comes to building a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life, this is a serious problem.

As a simple example, you can maintain a healthy diet for several weeks, but then undo most of this good work in an intense 30 minute snacking binge in front of the TV. The same goes for personal finances. Many people are penny-wise and pound-foolish: painfully stingy with the small stuff, but real suckers for flashy-but-unnecessary big ticket items.

Given how quickly a human being can self-destruct, it is critical to know what your personal self-destruct buttons look like. Once they have been identified, you can start to consciously devise dedicated button-avoidance strategies.

The best way is of course to completely remove that self-destruct button from your life. For example, if you have a constant source of emotional trauma in your life that drives you to regular self-destructive behavior, it may be time to bite the bullet and end whatever relationship, job or activity is causing this trauma.

In most cases though, you will just need to learn how to sidestep your self-destruct buttons. For me, I know that, if I allow myself to plop down in front of YouTube with an unhealthy snack after a challenging day at the office, it’s not going to end well. I therefore go out for a brisk walk whenever I feel this button-pressing urge.

Naturally, everyone’s self-destruct buttons are different and you’ll have to invest some introspection to properly ID yours. Once you know them though, you can avoid them much more effectively. This button-avoidance is critical to ensure that all the good positive work you do every day does not go to waste.

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

How evolved are you?

One of the big challenges faced by our modern society is that our world is evolving much faster than we are. The enormous fossil fuel binge of the past century has changed everything – mostly for the better – but our brains have not managed to keep up.

In general, we are still stuck with our primitive mindset of scarcity, even though technological progress has created abundance all around us. This mindset triggers a primitive urge to grab and consume our slice of the global pie at almost any cost.

In the future, we will gradually evolve to a mindset of abundance. This more enlightened society will realize that we have enough pie for a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life. We will also find that the global pie becomes much bigger if we stop squabbling over the pieces and, instead, focus on baking more pie.

From this line of thought, I believe that our mental evolution can be directly traced to our consumption patterns. Particularly, whether we consume more or less than we produce and whether we consume more or less than our planet can produce. This gives four kinds of people in the world today:

Currently, that lovely green box in the top-left corner is a rather lonely place – especially in the developed world. We definitely need more people to migrate in that direction.

Speaking of migration, the box in which you find yourself at the moment is not so important. The important part is the direction in which you are moving. As long as you are heading to the green, you are on the right track 🙂

 PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

Objective reality

Planning a journey requires two pieces of information: where you are and where you want to go. Most people have at least a rough idea of where they want to go (your personal constitution can help a lot in this regard), but few people ever acknowledge the objective reality of where they are at the moment.

For example, have you ever used a lifestyle calculator like those linked on the top left of this blog? For a mere hour of your precious time, these calculators can give a pretty good idea of where you stand on the subject of a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life.

Determining your true objective reality can be an awkward exercise. Ignorance is bliss, especially when it comes to long-term things like building wealth for retirement, maintaining a healthy lifestyle to avoid degenerative disease, and shrinking your environmental footprint to preserve our planet for future generations.

But anyone reading these words is certainly capable of evolving beyond such primitive denial. So, be brutally honest and find out just how happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable your life really is. How far are you from the ideal version of yourself? What needs to change for you to start moving towards that ideal?

Once you have this vital intel, the journey can commence. And trust me, the destination may be lovely, but the journey is even more so.

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

My constitution

The previous post raised this curious idea of drawing up your own constitution.  As a simple example, this post will outline the constitution that has served me very well for several years.

Here goes…

I grant myself sole responsibility over this body-mind that I have been dealt. This responsibility includes protection, nurturing and development and shall be carried out within the confines of planet Earth.

We all owe it to ourselves and to society to look after ourselves. As an added bonus, taking good care of yourself invariably reduces your environmental footprint.

I grant myself authority over the labour of my body-mind. This labour shall be carried out from a clean and effortless mental state and there shall be no unjustified delays or unhealthy excesses.

One of the saddest things in our modern world is that most people are conditioned to chase happiness through consumption rather than creation. Getting control over your creative powers is key to living a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life.

I will maximize the quality of my human interactions, while controlling the quantity. Every interaction must fill the other person’s bucket, even if it is just a drop.

The bucket analogy comes from a simple little book by Tom Rath. It simply states that we should strive to impart goodness on everyone we interact with. This is a very good general rule for life.

I will employ a strict zero waste policy to cut out the self-destructive misuse of mental capacity. Every self-destructive mindset shall immediately be quashed with a WTF thought.

We only get a finite amount of mental processing power over the course of our lives. Using this processing power to generate valuable new ideas is optimal, spending it on stuff like routine tasks and entertainment is neutral, but wasting it on self-destructive thought processes is just idiotic. Such a waste of our finite mental capacity truly qualifies as a WTF moment and can be dismissed with a somewhat embarrassed smile and a shake of the head.

I will continuously accelerate my evolution towards the fully rational emotional being. Performance and experience enhancing emotions are strongly encouraged, but primitive self-defeating emotions will be gradually starved out.

Humans are undoubtedly emotional creatures. Unfortunately, several emotional responses that served us well over the vast majority of our evolution have become totally out of date in our modern world. If we are to live happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable lives, we need to eradicate the primitive emotional responses that make us depressed, self-destructive, financially irresponsible and environmentally unsustainable.

So, that’s it. Five simple points that keep me on the straight and narrow. What would your constitution look like?

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

Who are you?

Imagine that someone randomly stops you on the street and demands to know who you really are. Not simple stuff like your name and occupation, but serious stuff like what you stand for and the principles by which you live your life. Would you be able to give a confident answer? Or just a blank stare?

During the busy day-to-day of the modern homo sapiens, few of us ever stop to consider such fundamental questions. This is a shame… Defining who you truly are and who you aspire to be can be the difference between being a ship on a steady course or a piece of driftwood randomly tossed around by the tides of life.

The best way I’ve found to answer these questions is to draw up your own constitution. A constitution is formally defined along these lines: “A body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.” It might not be self-evident, but a body of fundamental principles is a very cool thing to have in your life.

Why not give it a go? Take a piece of paper and write down about five fundamental principles according to which the ideal version of you would be governed. If this exercise really makes you think, you might even want to commit these principles to heart so that they are always at hand to keep you on track to the best version of you.

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

Lifechanging information sources

The sources I list below have changed many millions of lives for the better (including my own). They contain timeless wisdom that everyone can benefit from – whether the information is new to you or you just need a refresher.

Three categories are presented (also the three cornerstones of this blog): health, personal finances and mental control.

Health

Healthy at 100 – John Robbins. This book convinced me shift to a much more plant-based diet – very impressive considering that I was a born and bred carnivore. It is a bit long, but definitely remains a worthwhile read. The accounts of the lifestyles of the world’s longest living communities were especially interesting.

50 secrets of the world’s longest living people – Sally Beare. Here we have a much more punchy and easy to read version of Healthy at 100. It also has interesting accounts of the lifestyles of communities enjoying extraordinarily long and healthy lives. In particular, this book got me to incorporate lots of nuts, seeds and berries into my diet.

The world’s healthiest foods – George Mateljan. This resource contains a number of interesting healthy recipes, but the most valuable aspect of it is the detailed nutritional information about the world healthiest foods. The information in this book is so powerful that it convinced me to eat spinach every day – something I would have seen as flatly impossible 5 years ago.

Personal finances

The automatic millionaire – David Bach and The millionaire next door – Thomas Stanley. These two books pretty much give the same message: Live within your means and automate your investments. It is very simple advice which clearly illustrates how people can become rich even on a modest income. Everybody knows this stuff, but reading these books will convince you to such a degree that you might actually start doing it.

The richest man in Babylon – George Clason. The message in this classic is much the same as that in the two millionaire books listed above. It is conveyed in a much more entertaining manner though – mostly through interesting stories from Ancient Babylon told in a wonderfully classic linguistic style. If you don’t have millionaire ambitions, but still want healthy personal finances, this is the only book you need to read.

How an economy grows and why it crashes – Peter Schiff. This is another book with a rather obvious message: saving and investment is good, excessive debt is bad. However, the very interesting way in which the message is conveyed makes it a thoroughly entertaining and convincing read. It also gives you a very nice understanding about the workings of a modern economy.

Mental control

Psycho Cybernetics – Maxwell Maltz. Many people call this the only self-help book you ever need to read. It is a true classic that has changed millions of lives for the better through practical teachings on how to control your own mind. Thought habits and self-esteem are key elements in this timeless masterpiece.

177 mental toughness secrets of the world class – Steve Siebolt. Despite the rather corny title, this book is a great quick reference for the best mental control strategies. Each “mental toughness secret” is only one page long and simple to digest. I’d especially recommend the audio version where Siebolt and his co-presenter expand a bit more on each secret in a fun conversational style.

The “21 great ways” series – Brian Tracy. Although I sometimes find Tracy’s approach to mental control a bit too mechanical, his extensive 21 great ways series contains information that anyone can benefit from. The information is communicated in a punchy manner and you can select from a wide range of titles to suit your needs.

Filed under: Consumption patterns – Consume information

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

Mythical utopia manipulation: Shifting up – Part II

do what you love what you doNote: In order to make sense of this weird heading, please check out Part I of this post.

OK then, let’s continue the discussion on how we can tap into the brain’s most fundamental drivers in order to gain the productivity needed to make truly meaningful contributions to society. As discussed in the previous post, this is best achieved by gaining something called a “healthy obsession” – a state where your mind automatically returns time and time again to some important idea that can add great value to society if further developed.

In order to gain access to this magical and extremely productive state, we have to utilize the fact that free creative expression is one of the most direct routes to happiness and fulfillment. And in order to do that, we first have to understand the distinction between creation and labor.

In simple terms, labor is production for the primary purpose of earning a living while creation is production for the primary purpose of personal growth and fulfillment. Labor is typically incentivized by a financial reward such as a salary or a commission, while creation is typically incentivized by the desire to know more, do more and be more.

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It is important to clarify right away that you will never be able to develop a healthy obsession about work that qualifies as labor. Indeed, you will only be able to develop a healthy obsession about an idea or problem that you care about very deeply – something that you would be willing to work on for minimum wage if need be. In other words; you have to be willing to trade the happiness to be gained from consumption for the happiness to be gained from free creative expression (which is an excellent trade of course).

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people living in our modern society would choose consumption over free creative expression any day of the week. That is why the vast majority of people are laborers and not creators. But anyone who is willing to make the initial material sacrifices needed to start building a healthy obsession will be rewarded with much happiness and fulfillment and, eventually, also the great financial rewards that must come to anyone who makes a great contribution to society.

einstein-learningSetting up an environment where you are free to start building on your healthy obsession can be practically very challenging and will be discussed in more detail in a future post. For now, however, it is only important to emphasize that a healthy obsession works as a self-strengthening spiral – a number of self-strengthening spirals actually: The more you learn, the more you want to learn. The more knowledge and ideas you have, the more building blocks you have from which to construct new knowledge and ideas. The more skilled you become, the more joyous the process of practicing this skill becomes.  The more value you add to society, the more motivation for further value creation you will receive from others. 

Once these compounding self-strengthening spirals build up a head of steam, there will be no stopping you. But, just like a train, your healthy obsession will probably require quite a lot of time and effort to get going. This process can be quite challenging and will be discussed in more detail in two posts’ time as promised above.

Before we get to that, however, we will look at the other option for mythical utopia manipulation: shifting down – a process with its own set of challenges and rewards.

Filed under: Mental control – Intermediate control