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Embracing Change and Impermanence

 

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”
~Karen Kaiser Clark

Life can be a persistent teacher.

When we fail to learn life’s lessons the first time around, life has a way of repeating them to foster understanding.

Over the last few years, my life was shaken up by dramatic circumstances. I resisted the impermanence of these events in my life and struggled with embracing change. When I resisted the lessons that change brought, a roller coaster of changes continued to materialize.

When I was seventeen years old, my immigrant parents’ small import-export business failed.  From a comfortable life in Northern California, they uprooted themselves and my two younger brothers and moved back to Asia.

The move was sudden and unexpected, catching us all by surprise. I was in my last months of high school, so I remained in California with a family friend to finish my degree.

I spent the summer abroad with my family, and then relocated to Southern California to start college upon my return. Alone in a new environment, I found myself without many friends or family members close by.

Life was moving much faster than I was able to handle, and I was shell-shocked by my family’s sudden move, my new surroundings, and college. Their relocation and college brought dramatic changes, along with fear, loneliness, and anxiety.

I felt overwhelmed by my new university campus and its vastness; alone, even though I sat in classes of 300 students; and challenged by the responsibilities of independence and adulthood.

Everything I had known had changed in a very short period of time. I tried to cope the best I could, but I resisted the changes by isolating myself even more from my new university and surroundings. It was the first and only time in my life I had contemplated suicide.

Several years after college, having achieved my career goals in the legal field, I started a legal services business. I helped immigrants, refugees, and people escaping persecution who’d come to the U.S. to navigate the hurdles to residency and citizenship.

I invested money, time, and my being into my law office. Not only was I preoccupied with the dire legal situations of my clients, but I also confronted the ups and downs of running a business.

Starting and running a new company is not easy, and mine was losing more money every month. While I found the nearly three-year venture immensely gratifying because of the lives I was able to help, it was time for me to move on.

It was a difficult decision, because I thought I’d found my career path. My life became engulfed with changes once again as I tried to close the doors to my office, close my clients’ cases, pay off my debt, and seek employment.

In between university and my business venture, I married a beautiful, gifted girl in India after an international romance. We were married for ten years and endured many of life’s personal and professional ups and downs together. Despite our problems, we both struggled to keep our marriage together.

When the tears dried, the counseling sessions did more harm than good, and our communication ended, we separated and then divorced last year. The ending of our marriage felt like the shattering of an exquisite glass vase into a million pieces.

I met the closure of our marriage first with strong resistance and then with profound sadness and loss. How could something that I valued so much and believed to be forever, cease to exist?

As much as I fought back and resisted each of these events in my life, I’ve since learned to embrace the impermanency of my life and the changes that come my way.

 

resilliance

 

Here are lessons life has taught me on embracing change:

1. Reduce expectations.
In each of my life’s circumstances, I had high expectations for my family, my business, and my marriage. I had expected each to remain constant and to last forever. But I’ve learned that nothing lasts forever. Nothing.

You can have reasonable expectations of how you’d like something to turn out, but you can’t marry yourself to that result. Reducing or having no expectations about a relationship, a business, or a situation can help you accept whatever may come from it.

When you set reasonable expectations, and don’t expect or demand a particular outcome, you’re better able to manage any changes that do come your way. Unreasonable expectations of life, however, will likely be met with loss, disappointment, and pain.

2. Acknowledge change.
For the longest time, I refused to believe that change was in the realm of possibility in a situation. I’ve since learned that change can happen quickly and at any point.

Be aware that change can happen in your life. This means understanding that things can and will be different from how they are now. Acknowledging change is allowing it to happen when it unfolds instead of approaching change from a place of denial and resistance.

3. Accept change.
I desperately tried to prevent and stop change from happening in my business and marriage by trying to forge ahead even in futile situations.

Instead of resisting, allow change to unfold and try to understand what’s transforming and why.

Circumstances will not turn out the way you want them to, and it’s perfectly all right. Embracing the situation can help you deal with the change effectively, make the necessary shifts in your life to embrace the change, and help you move forward after the event.

4. Learn from the experience.
If you accept and embrace change, you will start looking for and finding lessons in it.

When dramatic changes were happening in my life, I refused to acknowledge them at first, so change left me distraught and without meaning. Once I reflected back and finally accepted the changes, the lessons I started absorbing were profound.

Change becomes your greatest teacher, but only if you give yourself permission to learn from it.

5. Recognize you’re growing stronger.
When you accept, embrace, and learn from change, you inevitably grow stronger. The ability to continuously accept change allows you to become as solid as a rock in the midst of violent storms all around you—even if you feel afraid.

6. Embrace the wisdom.
The more I permitted change and impermanence in my life, the more I grew as a person. Embracing change has brought newfound strength into my life and surprisingly, more inner peace.

When you proactively embrace change and learn to accept it as a part of life, you are filled with more calmness, peace, and courage. When life fails to shake you up with its twists and turns, you realize that changes can’t break you.

You’ve reached a level of understanding in life that some might even call wisdom.

While by no means have I reached that place called wisdom, I’m working through my aversions to change. I now openly welcome and embrace it.

When we can accept change, learn from it, and become all the better for experiencing it, change is no longer our enemy. It becomes our teacher.

About  the author Vishnu
Vishnu is a writer and coach who helps people overcome breakups to rebuild their lives and live with purpose.  


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The Practice of Letting Go

There are a number of times when our mind clings to something tightly, and it is rarely helpful:

  • I am right, the other person is wrong
  • That person is living their life in the wrong way, they should change
  • My preference is the best way, others are wrong
  • This is the thing I want, I don’t want anything else
  • I really don’t like that, it sucks
  • I should have that person in my life, loving me
  • I shouldn’t be alone, shouldn’t be overweight, shouldn’t be however I am, shouldn’t have this life

In all of these cases, and more, our minds are fixed in a certain viewpoint, and we often judge others. We complain. We are attached to what we want and what we don’t want.

It leads to stress. Unhappiness. Anger. Righteousness. Being judgmental. Distancing ourselves from others. Closed-offedness.

And it leads to being closed off to the beauty of this moment, as it is, full of openness and possibilities.

If you’d like to work on letting go, I would like to offer a simple practice.

mind

 

The Practice of Letting Go

You can actually practice this all day long, because even if we don’t realize it, we’re clinging and hardening and fixing upon viewpoints all day long.

Here’s how to practice:

  1. Start by realizing that you’re hardened. Notice that you are stressed, upset at someone, feeling like you’re right, complaining about someone or a situation, not open to other viewpoints, putting something off, avoiding, tensed. These are good signs that you are holding on, hardened in your viewpoint, fixed, attached, clinging. Get good at noticing this.
  2. Notice the tension in your body. It’s a tightening that happens from your stomach muscles, through your chest, into your throat, up to your forehead. Think of this as your central column, and it tightens up when you think you’re right, or someone else is wrong, or you really want something or don’t want something.
  3. Start to relax those tightened muscles. This is the heart of changing from holding on to letting go. Whatever is tight in your central column, relax. Try it right now. What is tight? Relax that. Soften.
  4. Open your awareness beyond yourself. Once you’ve done this (and you might have to repeat the relaxing, multiple times), you can open your awareness from just your own body and your self-concern, to the world around you. Become aware of the space around you, the people and objects, the light and sound. Open your awareness to the neighborhood around you.
  5. Become aware of openness & possibilities. With your mind opening, you can start to feel more open. Your mind is no longer closed, but has made space for possibilities. You are not fixated on one right way, but are open to everything. This is the beauty of not-knowing.
  6. Open to the beauty that is before you. Now that you are not fixated on rightness or your way or the way things should or shouldn’t be … you can take in the actual moment before you. You’ve emptied your cup, and made room for seeing things as they actually are, and appreciating the beauty of this moment, the beauty of other people, and of yourself.
  7. Step forward with a not-knowing openness. From this place of relaxing your fixed mind, of opening up … take the next step with a stance of not-knowing. You don’t know how things should be, let’s find out! You don’t know if you’re right or wrong, let’s explore! You don’t know the answers, you just hold the questions in your heart, and move into open possibilities.

It’s that simple. And of course, it takes a lot of practice. You can do this at any moment, but it’s helpful to have a short time of day when you set a reminder and then take a few moments to sit still and practice with whatever you’ve been clinging to today.

When we practice like this, we are shifting from our habitual patterns of self-concern and shutting out all possibilities, to openness and not-knowing, to unlimited possibilities and seeing the breath-taking beauty of the world in front of us.

BY LEO BABAUTA     FEBRUARY 4, 2019

zenhabits.net

Obstacles That Stop Us from Decluttering
—And How to Overcome Them

Years ago, Cas Aarssen would spend hours looking for lost items, cleaning and tidying, and dusting items she didn’t even like.
Sound familiar?
Sometimes, we get so entrenched in our routines that we don’t see the belongings that no longer belong in our homes. Or we feel too busy, too overwhelmed, too exhausted to tackle a big project such as decluttering. We think it’ll require energy and effort we just don’t have.
Another obstacle to decluttering is actually letting items go. “We are especially reluctant to declutter things that were expensive, have sentimental value, or things that we perceive as being useful ‘someday,’” said Aarssen, an author and professional organizer. “Unfortunately, almost everything can land in one of these categories and by holding onto too many ‘useful’ items, we are making the spaces in our homes ‘useless.’”
We also don’t get rid of items because our stuff starts to represent different possibilities. And that stuff ends up replacing our actual habits. For instance, professional organizer and ADHD coach Debra Michaud, M.A., worked with a client who had a growing yoga DVD collection, which she didn’t use. “What she really wanted was the habit, but she found herself instead buying more and more DVDs.”
Basically, our clutter can personify the people we want to be. The person who lifts weights and runs on the treadmill. The person who always looks put together in fancy (and uncomfortable) shoes. The person who uses cookbooks to make elaborate dinners for their family. The person who does arts and crafts and makes beautiful things.
“Unfinished projects are a very common cause of clutter,” Michaud said. You might be surrounded by broken things you’re planning on fixing one day and piles of magazines you’ll read next week or the week after that or the week after that or….
“People often hang on to [these items] as some sort of albatross, almost a punishment for not getting everything done.”
All of these are super-common obstacles—which you can absolutely overcome. These tips will help.
clutter
Have a clear vision
“The best motivator to declutter is to have a clear vision of what is beyond it,” Michaud said. She suggested asking yourself: What do you really want? What would you really miss?
Remind yourself regularly why you’re decluttering. For instance, clutter robs us of our time and causes a lot of needless stress, said Aarssen, bestselling author of Real Life Organizing and Cluttered Mess to Organized Success. It also zaps our energy, makes us inefficient, and prevents us from living in the present, Michaud said.
Start small
So overwhelm doesn’t stop you from starting, Michaud always suggests tackling clutter in small chunks. Really small. For instance, you might identify one item per day you’re going to donate.
Michaud also recommended using a timer, and starting with five-minute sessions. “Five minutes of focused decision-making is more productive than two hours of wheel-spinning and moving things around.” In fact, she defines clutter as “the interest we pay for deferred decisions (or projects).”
And because of the decision-making required, pick a time when you can focus, Michaud said. “At the end of a tiring workday, for example, will probably yield a frustrating and inefficient organizing session.”
Start with garbage
Aarssen suggested grabbing a garbage bag and filling it as quickly as possible with things you can throw away without any hesitation. For instance, this might include old receipts, expired medications, stale food, empty boxes, and old magazines.
Address your guilt
Michaud always tells her clients “wouldn’t you rather [an item] go to someone who needs it and uses it, than have it sitting in the back of your closet?” She also asks them if the giver would really want them to feel burdened by their gift. And, of course, they wouldn’t.
When it comes to unfinished projects, remind yourself that no one gets to everything. “In a way, letting go of clutter is…coming to terms with the finiteness of life,” Michaud said. However, “ironically, it’s when we let go that we start to feel in control.”
Self-reflect
If your stuff represents different possibilities, wishes and people, consider if those are still true for you. Consider if you even want to do these things, if you’d even enjoy them. Do you want to lift weights and run on the treadmill? Maybe you don’t—and that’s OK. Maybe you love to take walks. Maybe you actually prefer to cook quick meals, and don’t like cooking from recipes.
Either way, you’ll feel so much lighter once you let go of the stuff that represents your unrealized and unwanted dreams—along with those no longer-relevant dreams.
Donate 21 items
“I love this decluttering technique because it is a big enough number that you need to push yourself, but small enough that it isn’t overwhelming and won’t take you more than a few minutes to accomplish,” Aarssen said. Again, the key is to go quickly, and make it into a game.
Create a time capsule
According to Aarssen, when you’re really struggling to relinquish certain items, pack them in a box and write an expiration date on it: “If Not Used By September 2018, DONATE This Box.” Keep your box somewhere in your home. When that date arrives, if you haven’t missed or needed anything in the box, donate its contents, she said.
Get help
“Sometimes the biggest impediment to decluttering is just knowing when to reach out for help,” Michaud said. She suggested hiring a professional organizer or finding a neutral “clutter buddy.” This might be a close friend or a member of Clutterers Anonymous.
Whoever you pick, it’s important that they’re not judgmental and can ask you thoughtful questions, such as: “Do you love it? Do you use it? Realistically will you use it in the next 2 years? Would you buy it again today? Would you miss it?”
Decluttering does take time and energy and effort—but it’s time and energy and effort that aren’t a waste. It’s worthwhile, and it’s absolutely freeing. As Michaud said, “We often don’t even realize how much clutter is weighing on us until it’s gone.”
By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. 
Associate Editor        8 Jul 2018


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The Neuroscience of Bad Habits and Why It’s Not About Will Power

Why are bad habits so hard to break? What if the bumper sticker “Just Say No!” actually works against us? If willpower were the answer to breaking bad habits then we  decisionswouldn’t have drug addiction or obesity. There’s something going on in our brains where we literally lose the ability for self-control, but all hope isn’t lost.

Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse calls the phrase “Just Say No!” “magical thinking.”

It appears that dopamine is one of the main chemicals regulating the pleasure center of the brain. At the most basic level, it regulates motivation — it sends signals to receptors in the brain saying, “This feels good!”

Whether you’re a heroin addict and you see an association to heroin, you’re a caffeine addict and you see a cup of coffee, you’re a Smartphone addict and you see another person pick up their phone, or if you’re hungry and you see some good-looking food, your brain rushes with dopamine and that is now caught on brain-scanning machines.

The fascinating thing is that Volkow has found that  the images alone affect the rise of dopamine in our brains. So if we pass a McDonald’s and see the arches, our brain associates that with a tasty hamburger (for some) and shoots up dopamine. That good feeling will unconsciously drive the motivation to go in and get a Big Mac. It’s a conditioned response. The same goes for anything including most likely our relationships to our phones.

A blue button with the word Change on it

What can we do?

It makes sense why more and more addiction centers are integrating mindfulness into their curriculum. Mindfulness practice has been shown to activate the prefrontal cortex and cool down the amygdala. This gives us the ability to widen the space between stimulus and response where choice lies and access possibilities and opportunities we didn’t know were there before. This is crucial when it comes to our addictive behaviors to take a step back, “think through the drink” and recognize the various options that lie before us.

We can learn to step into the pause, notice the sensation of the urge that’s there and as the late Alan Marlatt, Ph.D. said, “surf the urge” as it peaks, crests and falls back down like a wave in the ocean.

One place to start is to just get curious about the pull you feel to whatever you think you’re compulsive with. An easy one besides some of the arguably more destructive habits (drugs, alcohol) is our phones.

Today, be on the lookout for what cues you to check your app. Do you see someone else doing it? Are you waiting somewhere and there’s something uncomfortable about waiting? Is it a certain time of day or place?

Training your brain to recognize this cue can help you get some space from it to ask, “What do I really want to pay attention to right now? What matters?” As we get better at recognizing that space between stimulus and response and making the choices that run alongside our values, like riding a bike, it will start to come more naturally.

Just because our brains have been altered by our compulsive behaviors, doesn’t mean we’re destined to fall into the same habits. With the right skills, community and support we can learn how to break out of routine and into a life worth living.

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. 
 


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Why ‘2-minute Mornings’ Might Be More Effective Than New Year’s Resolutions

A fool-proof way of sticking to your New Year’s resolution

Author Neil Pasricha takes us through new ways to cultivate happiness and success in 2018.

Neil Pasricha would like to see the end of New Year’s resolutions.

The motivational speaker and bestselling author of “The Book of Awesome” and “The Happiness Equation” says the problem with resolutions is that they tend to be vague and are thus doomed to fail.

“I don’t think resolutions work. I know they don’t work from the research, and I don’t think they’re doing us much good because if you start a resolution and you fail, you just feel worse about yourself,” he told CTV’s Your Morning Wednesday.

The reason that most New Year’s resolutions fail is that they are just goals, not specific plans of action, Pasricha believes. What we need instead are systems that will force us to change our bad behaviours and create new habits.

“Systems beat goals every time,” Pasricha said, and added that if we truly want change, we have to force ourselves to change.

“So if you want to lose 10 pounds, maybe sell your car and walk to work. Now you have no car, so the system is, how will you get to work?” he explained. Any plan that regiments us into new habits will eventually force a shift in behaviour, he said.

One change in habits that Pasricha recently developed for himself is what he calls “two-minute mornings.” Every morning, Pasricha forces himself to take two minutes and “invest” them into reflection and planning out the rest of his day.

“The way I look at it is we are awake for about 1,000 minutes a day. My challenge for myself is to take two minutes to make the other 998 more effective, more productive and more positive,” he explained.

During those two minutes, he forces himself to write out the answers to three prompts: one for looking back; one for being mindful of the right now; and one to look ahead to what’s next. They are:

“I will let go of…”
“I am grateful for…”
“I will focus on…”

The first prompt is a time for some unloading of stress and guilt and a little self-forgiveness– not unlike what Catholics engage in when they step into a confessional.

“We all carry around anxieties and stresses. All of us do. If you think you don’t, you’re lying,” Pasricha said.

By reflecting on what needs to be let go, we can unload some of the stress we needlessly place on ourselves, and perhaps stop comparing ourselves to unfair standards.

The next prompt is designed to move away from guilt, stress and negativity and place the focus on all the things that are good about our lives right now.

Even though we live in a time of great abundance, with longer lifespans than ever, more technology, advanced health care, and less warfare, we’re more stressed and anxious than ever, Pasricha said. By focusing on what we’re grateful for, we can remind ourselves how lucky we are.

“If you focus on the positive, you’ll keep looking for it every day,” Pasricha said.

Finally, he said it’s important to set three small, achievable goals a day. Things such as: calling or emailing a friend; going for an evening walk; being friendly with cashiers and asking them about their day.

The aim is to create bite-sized goals that you then check off as accomplishments at the end of the day

“Take the endless list of things you could do, and narrow it down to three things you will do that day,” Pasricha advised.

Angela Mulholland, Staff writer   @AngeMulholland     December 27, 2017
 


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How to Change Your Life at Any Age

At some point during your adult life, it’s normal to find yourself feeling like you’re in a bit of a rut. Big changes may need to happen at any age — whether you’re dealing with a quarterlife crisis, a midlife crisis or even a big adjustment to retired life.

Life is a journey that’s constantly flowing, regardless of the number of candles that will be on your next birthday cake. For you to stay in the same place forever would mean to resist growth. And that’s what we’re all here to do anyway — we’re here to grow.

Big life changes don’t happen overnight, and making too big of a change too fast can backfire. So here are a few small changes you can incorporate into your current daily routine. Within as little as a few weeks, you’ll start seeing hints of change — and within a couple months to a year, it will really pay off.

Avoid distracting yourself for at least 20 to 30 minutes first thing in the morning.

The first half hour or so after waking up is when many people are in their most vulnerable state. Sticking to a habit out of going from still half asleep to immediately checking email, turning on the morning news, wrangling the kids out of bed or even just thinking about everything that gets done that day is a surefire way to keep yourself in a reactive state of mind rather than an intentional state of mind all day, every day.

Research has shown that as people age, their brains become better at functioning best in the morning. By taking as little as 20 minutes to do nothing more than maybe grab your coffee/tea and jump in the shower, you can use those initial moments of wakefulness to mindfully tune into yourself so you can decide exactly what you want to be intentional about that day.

Start meditating daily.

If you want, you can use your distraction-free morning period to meditate. Meditation has been shown to change both the brain and body over time — so much so that it can have anti-aging effects.

Imagine how your life could change if you could free yourself from what already happened in the past and what you’re worried about happening in the future. Meditation facilitates this by helping you ground yourself in your physical body as well as in the present moment. If you’re hesitant about starting a daily meditation practice, check out these five easy ways to meditate if meditation scares you.

A blue button with the word Change on it

Organize your thoughts and feelings by writing in a daily journal.

You can learn a heck of a lot about yourself just by doing a big mind-dump on paper. Never mind proper spelling or grammar — just put pen to paper and let your hand write whatever comes to mind.

Handwriting has been scientifically proven to be more beneficial than typing. Consider writing in the morning to help you be more intentional about your day, or do it at night to reflect on what you achieved and what you learned that day.

Shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

Stanford University researchers Carol Dweck teaches us that there are typically two types of mindsets. An individual who has a fixed mindset believes that their potential is only as good as the traits they were born with while an individual who has a growth mindset believes that their potential can be developed through learning and effort.

After we finish school and become adults, many of us unconsciously commit to a life without as much learning because we’re so busy with our adult responsibilities. And yet, learning is how we grow. Commit to a growth mindset to get back on track with learning new things, which will help to inspire change.

Spend time around people who possess the qualities that you want for yourself.

Motivational speaker and self-help expert Jim Rohn has a famous quote that says: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If you feel like you’re in a rut and having a hard time making significant change, perhaps it would be worth taking a look at whose energy is rubbing off on you and contributing to your subconscious “stuck” feeling.

You don’t have to stop hanging around those people, but it wouldn’t hurt to connect with new people who have the personality traits, skills, knowledge, experience and interests that you want to embody as well. Consider getting a mentor, getting involved with a club or even doing something as simple as joining a Facebook group to find people whose energy you want to match.

Don’t worry too much about getting it wrong. Your newly adopted growth mindset will help you see that there are no wrong changes to make and that every change has a lesson to teach you in a valuable way that will help you grow.

By: Elise Moreau           September 1, 2016         Follow Elise at @elisem0reau
source: www.care2.com


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How To Let Go Of Unneeded Attachments And Experience True Freedom

August 2, 2015   Steven Bancarz

              “Attachment is the root of all suffering” – Buddha

We all want to be free and feel free, but what does this really look like?  Most people imagine it looks like something along the lines of being your own boss, not living by the alarm clock, or leaving the ratrace.  The truth is, freedom is more of a mental state than anything else, and you can be working a 9-5 job and be absolutely free.  You can also be your own boss and be totally enslaved.

It all comes down to your intentions, your desires, and your level of attachment to particular outcomes.  Are you resisting your heart and resisting life, or are you flowing with them both and embracing each moment?  For the last year and a half, I have been my own boss.  I have also been more of a slave than ever before up until recently, not because of my lifestyle, but because of my mentality.

Here are 5 attachments we need to let go of to experience true freedom in life:

1) Societies expectations

Your dad wants you to get a good education.  Your mom wants you to find a nice girl or guy to marry.  Your teachers want to see you land a 9-5 job.  The media forces down your throat what the “ideal” life is and wants you to spend your life chasing after the “American dream”.  All of these outside influences keep you trapped in a state of mind that is plagued by the constant need to impress someone or live up to expectations that have nothing to do with what YOU really want to do as a person.

Maybe you want to drop out of school and start your own business.  Maybe you want to be single, and you are content without having very much money or material items.  The world around you is constantly trying to make you into someone you are not by imposing their expectations on to your life.  This creates a program in your psychology that keeps you constantly trying fulfill these expectations to feel like you are “successful”, when in reality you are spending your energy trying to make a mark in someone else’s consciousness to gain their approval.  To be free is to live for yourself.

2) Your past

Your past doesn’t define who you are.  Contrary to what people around you may tell you, you are not defined by your sins, achievements, mistakes, successes, or failures.  Anything you have done in your past, whether it is good or bad, will prevent you from evolving if you are attached to it.  If it is bad and you are attached to it, you are going to cause yourself depression and self-hate over something that no longer even exists.  If it is good and you are attached to it, you are projecting yourself out of the present moment and into a memory-stream.

Your past is meant to act as a guide and a compass to serve you, but we are told by the world that we are the sum of our history.  When we apply for a job, we are expected to provide a resume.  We are also expected to provide a kind of resume to the world when we are discussing who we are as a person.  When we see an old friend we haven’t seen in a while, the first thing that often comes up is “What have you been up to?”.

This translates into “What have you done or accomplished within your recent past?”, which keeps us attached to the past and reliant on it for our sense of identity and worth in the world.  Whatever you have or haven’t done in your past, it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t define you.  The only thing that matters is what you choose to do with this moment moving forward.

change can be hard

3) The need to impress others

The need to impress others ultimately comes from our egos, which are products of millions of years of evolution.  It has created a spirit of competition within us that keeps us enslaved to the constant need to outshine other members of our species. The species that are fastest, strongest, and most adaptable are the ones that carry over into the next generation and reproduce, and this is the purpose the ego has served us in our past.

This is not needed in a modern society of rational human beings, but the sense of needing to compete with one another ultimately stems from an archaic part of our brains that is still wired through millions of years of evolution.  This translates into competing for “likes” with other people on Facebook, comparing cars, bank accounts, or physical fitness levels. It manifests in the need to be recognized, the instinct to compare ourselves with others, the need to make impressions on others, and so forth.

Being free from your ego is the key to being free from feeling like you have to outshine other people.  Live for yourself, and be true to what you want in life.  A lot of people work at jobs they hate to buy things they can’t afford to impress people they don’t even know, and this all boils down to being identified with the ego.

4) Fear of the future

Fear of the future stems from us projecting our attention away from the present moment and into an undesirable hypothetical moment that doesn’t even exist.  Because our attention is consumed with that undesirable hypothetical moment, emotions begin to generate within our energy field that correspond to those thoughts.

There is nothing scary about the future.  The future is only scary of we anticipate failure and pain, and we would only anticipate failure of pain if we lack confidence or self-esteem in the present moment.  The key to overcoming fear of the future comes in two parts.  First, we have to keep our mind and attention concentrated on what is happening within the present moment.  Secondly, we have to overcome any feelings of disbelief we have in ourselves.

The future is nothing to fear. It is just another present moment just like this one.  If we can learn how to tap into the present moment and make it as awesome as possible, our future is guaranteed to be as awesome as possible since the future is just an extension of the present moment.

5) Relationships that aren’t worth it

Relationships come in all shapes and sizes.  Romantic partnerships, friends, family members, co-workers.  Sometimes, we remain in relationships we know we don’t want to be in simply because we don’t want to hurt another person.  In other words, we maintain relationships and friendships with people out of a feeling a guilt.

If you are staying in a relationship that isn’t worth it because of guilt, then you are attaching yourself to an unhealthy situation out of fear.  So many people put up with unhappy marriages and relationships out of fear, forgetting that life is too short to do anything but follow your heart.  Let go of fear and give yourself permission to follow your heart.  Being free means being free to expressive yourself, say what you mean, and feel what you feel, even if it means it may make someone else unhappy.

You are not free in life until you are free from all attachment.  You can still work hard, be ambitious, and be in relationships without being attached and dependent upon a particular outcome to rectify your existence.  Just as much as we pursue money, education, and health we should pursue freedom.   Am I following my heart?  Am I living for myself or for my parents? Am I being true to what I feel each moment?


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The Psychology Of Habit: Why We Become What We Repeatedly Do

BY BRIANNA WIEST

Understanding whether or not our personalities are fixed or malleable – and to what degree – has been the question philosophers and neuroscientists alike have spent years trying to understand. It’s comforting to attribute our most debilitating qualities to just being “who we are.” It lets us off the hook, it helps procrastinate change. Yet, when we remain unconscious of the fact that we can change our natural inclinations to the point that we can actually change the way our brains fire off response signals, we will simply be continually living out patterns that we developed in youth, and never grew out of.

“Neurons that fire together, wire together” is the single sentence that can sum up Hebbian theory, Donald Hebb’s idea that with repeated activation, neurons connect themselves to be engrams, or permanent restructures of the brain. The modern term is neuroplasticity, and the idea is that the brain can create new neural pathways to adapt to its “comfort zones” is likely one of the most crucial and underutilized concepts for self-actualization.

In other words, what you do, you become. You end up where you’re headed. If your life ultimately amounts to what you do each day, then real change lies in the adjustment of small habits. This isn’t always instinctive, though. It’s a common belief that habitualness is born of monotony and lack of character. Many philosophers even idealize a habit-free existence. Alva Noë at NPR believes this is a mistake. She argues:

Goethe said that architecture is frozen music. Actually, architecture is frozen habit. A habit-free existence would be a robotic existence; it would be one in which nothing could be taken for granted. But if nothing can be taken for granted, you can’t get started on anything. How could you talk, if you couldn’t take your own fluency, that is to say, your own habitual mastery of words, meanings, and ways of talking, for granted? How could you read the newspaper? Imagine that you had to think about and decide where to put your feet in the morning! Without habits nothing recognizable as a human or even animal form of life would be possible. To have a mind like ours, you need habits like ours.

Essentially, it’s not about trying to eliminate our habits and inclinations, but structuring them to serve our ultimate goals.

If you want to be a creative, you must train yourself to be comfortable with creating. If you no longer want to play out your relationship to your parents in your relationship to your spouse, you must train yourself not to. If you want to more easily release negative thoughts or care less about what people think,  you have to choose to do so until it becomes second nature.

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Our deepest internal battles, it seems, may simply be our conscious choice-making riding up against our current neurological structure.

Psychologist and philosopher William James wrote Habit in 1887, and was one of the first  to explain how behavioral patterns shape what we refer to as character and personality more than we think. In one of the most beautiful passages, he explains the gift of habit like this:

Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor. It alone prevents the hardest and most repulsive walks of life from being deserted by those brought up to tread therein. It keeps the fisherman and the deck-hand at sea through the winter; it holds the miner in his darkness, and nails the countryman to his log cabin and his lonely farm through all the months of snow; it protects us from invasion by the natives of the desert and the frozen zone. It dooms us all to fight out the battle of life upon the lines of our nurture or our early choice, and to make the best of a pursuit that disagrees, because there is no other for which we are fitted, and it is too late to begin again. It keeps different social strata from mixing. Already at the age of twenty-five you see the professional mannerism settling down on the young commercial traveller, on the young doctor, on the young minister, on the young counsellor-at-law. You see the little lines of cleavage running through the character, the tricks of thought, the prejudices, the ways of the ‘shop,’ in a word, from which the man can by-and-by no more escape than his coat-sleeve can suddenly fall into a new set of folds. On the whole, it is best he should not escape. It is well for the world that in most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again.

Yet, despite all of this, there is something inherently appealing about making profound, sweeping change. We imagine how happy we want to be, yet cannot fathom how writing down one thing we’re happy for each day could possibly create that much change. Yet, it’s essentially a momentum effect. It’s the same concept of why decluttering is important, or why subconscious biases control your life more than your conscious choices do: what you expose yourself to repeatedly shapes who you are. Here, B.J. Fogg explains exactly how that happens.

You have more control over your life than you think you do. Often, it’s not about struggling to discern what you can’t control – but actually wanting to take control of it. When we assume that we’re treading uphill against our inclinations, it makes adapting to new ways an almost impossible feat. When we recognize that our responses will build and physically regulate themselves, we realize that it’s not a matter of whether or not we can, but whether or not we will have the discipline to do.

Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible. – Marcus Aurelius