In each new maxim, I am exploring a psychological concept and talking about the implications that it has on our own growth and wellbeing. You can find each maxim as a full episode on my podcast, Morning Coffee. If you are interested in following along or using each maxim as a journaling prompt or thought experiment, check back here daily through the end of November.
Additionally, if you are new to journaling or want to learn more, click here.
Note - Not all maxims have journaling prompts. Some have exercises and some are simply contemplations.
- According to Socrates, the worst harm we can do ourselves is to go against our own soul.
- He described the soul as the ethical part of one’s own mind.
- We can compromise on external matters but if we make internal compromises, it will tear us apart.
- In order to understand what not compromising means to us, we have to be clear on our definition of success as well as on our needs.
- Often we lie to ourselves to protect the image that we have of ourselves. We must be honest with ourselves however, if we want to change a situation that is not serving us. We cannot make real change from delusion.
- Carl Rogers said, “The curious paradox is that once I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
- Even if the answers are uncomfortable… for you and maybe for others involved, honesty far outweighs marching toward a future that you don’t actually want to be a part of.
Journaling prompt: What parts of your life will tear you apart if you continue to compromise on them? What have you accepted in the past that you realize now is simply lying to yourself? Where do you need to improve; as a partner, as a friend, as a co-worker, as a human being?
- What most people want more of in life is happiness. But we should ask ourselves, what do our lives look like if happiness is the goal we organize everything around? Is that even a life that we want?
- We are contentious creatures, meaning that we have the necessity to contend with our lives. We contend with things and in doing so we manifest our potential.
- We are fundamentally wired for servitude.
- If we serve our highest values, that will infuse the rest of our lives with meaning. Happiness and joy will then be a byproduct of that meaning.
- The true problem with serving ourselves in the immediacy of the moment is that it reaches the law of diminishing returns rather quickly.
Journaling Prompt: Where have you patterned yourself to serve happiness instead of something you value more? What parts of your life could you renegotiate so that you are serving a worthy goal or ideal? Where has serving happiness in the past caused you long term discomfort?
- When making a tough decision in life, the five most important words you could know are: pivot toward your value set.
- Values aren’t just your internal road map to find meaning, they are actually affecting our perception of the world.
- Our values are hierarchical - this is the only way we are able to make any decisions. This means we value some things over other things. If we get clear on the order, we will find less stress in making tough decisions.
- With a difference in our value systems, the actual world that we live in is going to present differently to each of us.
- We’re not interpreting the same set of facts differently, we are interpreting a different set of facts based on what we value and who we are.
- Changing perspective is not about looking at the world differently to ignore our problems, rather it is about finding a productive way to face our problems.
- If we want to understand others, we actually have to see the world as they do, which means understanding what they value.
- The most we can do to affect positive change in the world is to understand where both ourselves as well as others are coming from and to begin working from that place of understanding.
Journaling Prompt: What experiences have you not moved past yet? I would suggest writing them down carefully and completely until you have thoroughly gone through them. Write the experience down from multiple angles. At the end, because we are visual creatures, it can be helpful to burn the paper afterward in a safe place. (If you burn it, take a pic & tag me!)
A second journaling prompt: How do your values affect the world you live in? Where have you made judgements about things that are actually neutral?
- Let us begin with the cliche, “The mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master.”
- We live in a world full of people that have learned to deny what their hearts want and have convinced themselves that doing so makes them rational.
- Living emotionally is also not what I am referring to when I talk about following the heart.
- Finish lines, hustle, and accolades won’t replace our human needs for love and connection.
- Emotion must be felt, otherwise they get bound up inside of us and actually keep us FROM accessing the heart space.
- Heart is informed by reason, intellect, emotions, and desires. It is the totality of who we are.
- It is learning to live with ALL of who we are. We are not a brain on a stick and our bodies aren’t machines that we can direct to do whatever we want.
- We are not free to be whatever we want. We have an internal roadmap and some parts of the world will simply be intolerable to us. For example, though I could be an accountant, the price of betraying my internal constitution will be my wellbeing. You have similar examples that would be applicable to who you are as well.
Journaling Prompt: Where do you hold back out of fear? Have you lived in a one-sided way; either all out of your mind OR treating your body as if it were only a machine? What would your life look like if you were to live with the totality of who you are? Journal for 15-30 minutes on what your life would look like if you were to live out of your center? What projects would you want to take on? What prospects would you go after?
- The body sends information both north and south. Our bodies are not machines under the control of our minds. Rather, neurons run both to and from the body.
- Don't seek to tell your body what to do but seek to listen to it for what it needs.
- The body has been forged by evolution far longer than the mind has. It’s intelligence is far greater but we must learn to listen to it.
- We are not solely thinking creatures but rather living creatures.
- We must live our way out of our problems which is a combination of both thinking and acting.
- Only thinking about our problems attracts more thought about problems and rarely does that breed a solution.
- We also cannot tell our mind’s what not to think about. Rather we have to redirect our mind. We can tell them what to think about.
- When the body feels something, the mind often adds a narrative to that feeling which then creates emotion. Solving every emotion is far more difficult than dropping into the body and redirecting our mind’s narrative about the problem.
- You cannot conclude that you’ve had a bad day until you’ve worked out.
Maxim #7: Be > Do
- No single word, diagnosis, or label can describe all of who you are.
- When we need a label modeled after what we do in order to support our identity, we start to put far too much pressure on ourselves and it makes it difficult to manifest our gifts in the world.
- Instead, consider who you want to be. (what attributes do you want to exhibit?) If you solve that problem first, it won’t matter what you do or where you end up because everything will get the best version of you. For example, someone with good boundaries doesn’t end up staying in a relationship that invalidates their worth.
- If we solve higher quality problems, we get higher quality solutions.
- Think character, disposition, and qualities when forming a picture of who you want to be.
Maxim #8: The Process has to matter
Journaling Prompt: Come up with 10 new habits that you’ve never heard of before. If followed, each of these habits would help form you into the person that you want to be. Remember above guidance on goals. This has a twofold reason: 1- to practice thinking in solutions. 2 -To practice thinking about how you can intentionally align your actions with your values.
Maxim #9: The past only has the authority that you give it
- Let’s begin by understanding that the past doesn’t exist anywhere in reality, it is only us who can bring it into the future.
- Also, when we remember something, we are NOT actually remembering that thing. Rather, we are remembering the last time we remembered it.
- This means that often we are acting off of misinformation.
- Our physiology is continuing to act off of this bad information when we continue to live in the past.
- If you could arrive in the present moment, without the story about what the past says about you, you would find that this does most of the heavy lifting in your growth work.
- Most of our troubles stem from times that have already happened or times that are yet to happen; the secret is, the moment is almost always perfect.
- The Buddha understood that every new moment presents a new moment to act but that we are so conditioned by our past that so few rarely understand the freedom they have.
Exercise: The exercise today is to set an alarm for each day of the week at a random time throughout the day. When it goes off, spend 2 minutes reflecting on who and where you are. Reflect on what time it is and what your life looks like at this very moment. Root yourself in the moment without the story about how you got here. Lean into appreciation and gratitude for what you have and who you are.
Maxim #10: It’s not about you.
- There is a great freedom in realizing that not everything around you is about you or says something about who you are.
- Self coaching comes down to being able to draw a line between your behavior and the result that you are getting.
- Insight happens when we are able to let go of the analytical mind and create space in our psyche’s. This is why we often have insight while we are in the shower.
- We are not required to hold the projection of other people. When someone exhibits negative behavior around us, it can be helpful to understand that it has absolutely nothing to do with you. As cliche as it sounds, it is a reflection of who they are and what they have going on.
- If someone can say something or act a certain way and get a reaction out of you, you’ve now given the world the ability to decide what kind of day you are going to have.
- We want to create a relationship with our lives that breeds resilience. That requires boundaries around the aspects of our lives that we have no control over. It further requires us to cultivate internal authority.
Journaling Prompt: Sit down for 20-30 minutes and write down the events of a time where you outsourced your internal power to the world around you. Further, try to meditate on what that feels like in your body. Where did that show up and what does it feel like? Try to hold onto this feeling so that you can begin to notice it in other places.
Maxim #11: The antidote always begins with consciousness
- Consciousness in terms of this podcast is analogous to awareness.
- The more you are aware of, the more expanded your consciousness becomes.
- While we all have biological mechanisms that leave us blind to how we show up, we can learn a lot about ourselves if we are willing to listen to others describe their experience of us.
- The goal of consciousness is to become more aware of the problems that we are trying to solve. For example, we might think we need to make money to support our lifestyle but perhaps we need to find a bigger problem to solve. If we were to solve the problem of how to harness our unique gifts for the world, we might find that our money problem is solved as a byproduct of solving a better problem.
- When we exhibit negative behavior or something that we don’t like about ourselves, we often find that we create separate worlds in an attempt to keep things hidden from our loved ones or friends. The antidote to this is to drag everything into the light where it can be examined.
Journaling Prompt: Where have you been reluctant to learn something about yourself? Where have you discarded truth in an attempt to protect your own image of yourself?
Maxim #12: Their doubt has nothing to do with your result
- The modern mind is inundated with marketing. Some estimates say that the average person is marketed to up to 11,000 times per day. Most of this is telling us that we need something or that we won’t be complete until we get something. This perpetuates the cycle of people looking outside of themselves for answers about their own lives. If we habitualize this mode of being in the world, it makes us very vulnerable to the uncalculated perspectives of others.
- We live in a world that has lowered the barrier of entry for almost anyone to say or do anything. And while there are many positive benefits to this democratization of power, it also means that as individuals we are going to be exposed to a lot of bad opinions.
- When other people have any opinion at all, we must remember that their opinion is a reflection of the world they’ve traveled through, not OUR ability. Thus, the opinions of others are not an accurate gauge or value statement when it comes to judging our work.
- Our work is a reflection of our subjective experience. We have dreams, desires, and perspectives that are uniquely our own. It is a mistake to think that those two things are somehow correlated.
Journaling Prompt: Where have you outsourced your authority in life? Where have you let the opinions/words/judgements of others dictate the way that you feel about yourself or even whether or not you allow yourself to pursue something that you feel drawn to? What has been the effect of this on your life? (Be detailed here - what could be different? What could your life look like if you learned to take that power back?)
Maxim #13: If we transcend, we must also include
- Pivoting in life and transcending the stage of life that we are in are two different things.
- If we transcend, we include, which means that we own all of the past versions of who we used to be. Doing this keeps us humble and grounded when others are not up to our “standards”. It also helps us empathize with a world that sees things differently than we do. After all, you also used to see things differently, did you not?
- If we pivot, we simply embody different characteristics of our personality because we have deemed they are better. When we do this, we strengthen our shadow and have less control over other aspects of ourselves which we have deemed less worthy.
Maxim #14: Letting go is not optional
- There is only one real question that we are ever asking: How should I be here now?
- In order to answer that question accurately, we have to understand the context, i.e. the qualities of the world we are in.
- The most undeniable quality of our world is impermanence. We are fundamentally always on borrowed time. Denying this truth does not change it. Consider what it is like to have a handful of sand. The tighter we squeeze, the less we have. Now imagine that each grain of sand represents a moment in your life. If that were so, it would make more sense to hold on loosely. And so it does.
- Rather than convince yourself that you own things or that you have control over things or that your identity could actually ever be held in a title, job, or relationship; consider the possibility that it might be a far better use of your time to improve your relationship with the ending of things.
- Maybe instead of getting something stolen, you could give it away. It is after all, gone anyway.
- Giving is such a strong practice because we live in a world where it will all be taken anyway.
Note: There is no journaling prompt for today, just a reminder that we always have the opportunity to go with the natural flow of things.
Maxim #15: Inspiration is nonnegotiable
- To be inspired is to be quite literally filled with life.
- Meaning is the quickest and most authentic path to high performance.
- We now live in a time where we are free to look for inspiration and meaning.
- The responsibility of the individual is to pursue meaning and inspiration, mine these things for gifts, and then give them back to the collective.
- The modern person is in a dangerous situation. We live to people please and we’re low on inspiration. This means that we are always pouring from an empty cup.
Journaling Prompt: Create a life giving list. Divide it into people, places, and things, and then write down everything that inspires you (i.e. literally gives energy back to you, regardless of what you spend.)
Maxim #16: Don’t let fear make you less human
- Ground yourself first in the understanding that things are not to be feared but rather, they are to be understood.
- If you don’t learn to grapple with your fears, you’ll notice that over time they will get bigger and you will get smaller.
- When we are unaware of how we feel fear, it tends to control our lives like a puppet master. This is almost impossible to notice because it is happening outside of our awareness.
- Over time, you’ll find that the fear constricts your ability to move freely. For this reason, scared humans have a very difficult time becoming good humans.
Exercise: Next time you feel scared: First remind yourself that it is perfectly safe to be scared. It is only information, and you can handle it. Second, begin to feel what the fear feels like in your body. (Stay with the fear until you’ve fully felt it in your body.) Finally, begin to notice when that same feeling subtly creeps into your body throughout your day. When you tune into what the fear feels like, you will start to notice that it is being injected into your life from many angles and many sources. Once we become aware of all the small ways fear creeps into our psyche and body, we are prime to begin leaning into it and changing our patterns of living.