21 Maxims To Maximize Your Life.
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.
Maxim #18: It’s not alright. And that’s ok.
- We’ve learned a lot this year. Both about ourselves and about the world.
- We learned that stability can turn into chaos overnight.
- We learned that certain people still harbor massive amounts of hate.
- We learned that physical health is useless without mental health.
- We learned that grocery store workers and mailmen were infinitely more important than celebrities.
- We’ve also learned that our contentment is our responsibility.
- The world is inviting us to learn how to be ok when everything is wrong. It’s teaching us that wellbeing can exist separate from circumstance and that seasons of depression can be fruitful.
- The only thing worse than learning through pain is going through pain without having learned anything at all.
Journal exercise: Mine your difficulties for gold. Start listing the adverse situations that you’ve been exposed to and begin to look through them for what you’ve learned. List all of the things that have come out of your darkest moments. Then turn that list into a gratitude practice. If you can engage in this activity earnestly, it will begin to create perspective and empowerment.
Maxim #19: Your old thoughts won’t work in your new life
- We must learn to release old stories about who we are and what we are capable of or we will have no choice but to continue to live them out.
- If we live out past stories, it is unlikely that our future will look any differently than what has already transpired.
- Our adaptive unconscious is set up so that we can perform different functions automatically, without having to think about every little thing that we do.
- This adaptive unconscious works through pattern recognition. It tracks our physical patterns as well as our mental patterns.
- Think about these automatic mental patterns as the way you normally engage with yourself. What do you say to yourself when you screw something up? However you dialogue with yourself is almost assuredly patterned. For this reason, it can be helpful to become aware of your patterns and then ask questions about where they are leading you.
- The quality of your life is in direct relation to the patterns you live out through thought and action.
Exercise: Write down all of the old stories that you continue to tell yourself. After you write them down carefully and completely, consciously release them. You can burn the paper or even crumple it up and throw it away. As visual creatures we get a lot from watching symbolism take place!
Maxim #20: Do your inner work. Because you can’t out hustle a bad self image
- When we experience something that we can’t make sense of, part of our psyche tends to get stuck in that moment while our conscious self is moving on through time.
- The further we get from that moment, the deeper into the unconscious we banish the memory. This is particularly true if the memory is painful or we disassociated from it.
- As a result, part of us is being left at different places throughout our life and we are making future decisions without being in harmony with our world.
- Over a long period of time, these memories can create their own neurosis.
- The result is that we are not fully in charge of how we show up. Other experiences are pulling the puppet strings from outside of our conscious awareness.
- Ambition is a good engine but it makes a lousy aim.
- It is tempting to throw ourselves into endless hustle when we can’t make sense of our experience but what we eventually find is that moving on must include moving through!
There is no exercise today, just a reminder to invest in your own mental wellness, because you won’t ever be able to out hustle it.
Maxim #21: Success and struggle imply each other.
- Struggle is the investment that success requires of us.
- One can only love to the degree in which they are willing to suffer.
- If we ever want to solve our problems instead of blaming them on someone else or scapegoating them on other people, we should strive to recognize the darkness in ourselves that is AS dark, as the enemy that we hate. Only then will we collectively start owning our problems enough to fix them.
Journaling exercise: Where are you struggling the most in life right now? Is it to understand something? Is it to accept something? Journal a bit about that struggle and begin to look for where it might be leading you. How are you contributing to that struggle?
\/ Below are the notes from the 2019 21 Maxims series \/
Maxim #1: Undefined intentions create the space for mediocrity to exist.
- Intentions that aren’t thought out may set us in a direction but they don’t tell us how to act in the meantime. If you want to actually achieve something, you need a goal that is pointed enough to direct your actions in pursuit of what you want.
- lots of professionals that have every intention of being successful but because they haven’t defined what success actually looks like, aren’t quite sure where they are heading. And if you don’t know where you are heading, how could you possibly know what to do in order to get there?
- Without a clearly defined behavior, you won’t know how to always conduct yourself.
- As you travel down your path you will be exposed to numerous opportunities, if you clearly define what you are after (either with a goal or even a mission statement) than you will know what you should agree to and what you should pass on.
- With "good intentions" the temptation is to take every opportunity possible. The danger is that you won't know if the opportunity is taking you further or moving you closer to the life that you actually want.
- Success metrics are the antidote to poorly defined intentions.
- Journaling prompt: How do you define success? The way that you define success is what creates the problem that you are solving. For example, if success to you looks like a six figure job, that creates a host of possible solutions. If success to you looks like a six figure job where you work three days per week and have challenging intellectual endeavours to work on (these are some of my own success metrics) than you now have a new creative problem to solve with fewer options. The more pointed your metrics can become, the more you will know how to act and what to do in order to get there. In addition, you're more likely to enjoy it if you can actually attain it. With as much detail as possible, describe all of the facets of your life where you would like to achieve something. This is the beginning of your personal playbook.
Maxim #2: The past only becomes useful when you let it go.
- We have the ability to remember the past so that we can architect the future.
- The problem is that if you are looking at what has transpired through a lense that is tainted by your emotion, then what you are looking at can't be trusted. You won't see it clearly.
- Information without objectivity isn't clear enough to be counted on. You don't know if you are seeing what's happened or only what's happened in context to you.
- Understand there are many views for the same situation. You need to find the one that allows you to look at what has happened, learn from it and move on.
- If you don't have that objectivity, there's a chance you will be learning the wrong lesson which will leave you in a position to possibly repeat the lesson.
- All of the personal development help in the world would fall short of what you could learn from your past if you could learn from it properly.
- Since emotions simply need to be felt, learn to feel them as they happen so that you can move through them, let what's happened go and begin to move on.
- Who you are going to be is far better than who you've been: Only you have the power to make that statement true.
- Journaling prompt: What's transpired in your past that you still aren't free to learn from? If you've been stuck on the past currently, write it down carefully and completely, allow yourself to feel what's transpired completely so that you can free yourself up to move forward. Learn to release what you are holding onto so that that you can reclaim all of you for what's here and now.
Maxim #3: Everyone has a right to their own story
- You aren’t mad because someone was an asshole and cut you off. You are mad because you expected them to hold up your world view and standard for right and wrong.
- The only person that you can truly expect you from, is you.
- It’s ludacris for you to expect that someone else should be on your path considering their world is formed by their unique history.
- For this reason your answers couldn’t possibly be theres and likewise, no one else's answers are guaranteed to work for you.
- Journaling Prompt: Where have you given your personal contentment away because you've held people to your standard for living? Understanding that everyone has their own view and that their view is influenced by what they've personally gone through.
Maxim 4: Expectations should be reserved only for oneself.
- You are solely responsible for giving yourself exactly what you need. No more and no less. No one else should or could.
- When you place expectations on others, you hand your wellbeing off to someone else to hold which creates the space for resentment to exist.
- In school we’re not taught that we are the ones that are responsible for saving us or giving us exactly what we need. As adults, we need to learn to embody that knowledge because it won't be our default setting.
- It’s our job to come through for ourselves regularly and if we learn to then we can actually enjoy the company of the people we are with and we don't NEED something from them.
- Remember that expectation is the root of resentment. We have to ensure that we aren’t creating the space for resentment to exist because we are expecting a certain validation from our friends, family or siblings.
- Journaling Prompt: Where have you placed expectations on other people to give you something that you need? Whether that’s validation, belonging or club soda, it can only be you that will ever truly give it to you. The beauty is that if you learn to rely on yourself for what you truly need, then you are in a position to choose your life and your company, freely and completely.
Maxim 5: We fear the idea of the thing, far more than the thing itself.
- Most people are scared of what failure means more than what it says which positions them to experience that thing again. To be clear, failure doesn't mean anything about you. It simply says that you made an error.
- This is one of the literal thoughts that contributes to performance anxiety - We put our focus on ourselves and as a result are no longer focused on the task at hand. Hence we begin to feel inferior in the face of what we are doing.
- The deeper we go into metacognition “thinking about thinking” the more we restrict our ability to act in the moment. This is because thought by itself does not technically exist in reality.
- When we fear the idea of something, we tend to run ourselves in these metacognition loops that can be difficult to get out of. When you find yourself in one of these loops, what you need is an action step to help pull you out of it.
- While metacognition is what gives you the ability to make new choices in the first place, the best performers in the world get really good at discerning whether the current moment requires deliberation or action and they further minimize the time they spend in indecision.
- Understand that failure from a performance perspective is actually a good thing. But you aren't free to see that when you believe that the failure says something about you outside of that performance. There is too much emotion involved.
- If you face your fears, you will see what they have to tell you and then can move on. They are almost never what we make them out to be in our heads.
- Journaling prompt: What is the thing that you are not willing to face? If you can stand in your truth and face whatever that thing is, it will hold the key to your liberation.
Maxim 6: Being good for someone else is good for you.
- Meditate on the fact that existence itself is a matter of relationships.
- The quality of our relationships then becomes the quality of our lives.
- Romantic and personal relationships often create a container for personal realization and improvement.
- If we don’t analyze our relationships enough, we begin to believe that proximity is a quality that defines a good relationship. Simply being together becomes a picture of success regardless of how stifled each person might be.
- The truth is that lots of people are addicted to things that are bad for them and it’s extremely easy to let your chaos become someone else's drug. In this case, we are more apt to find wound mates than soul mates.
- The outer world is holding up a mirror to your inner world. Which is why being the partner that you want to be with actually works for you as well.
- Journaling prompt: Where in your relationships could you become a better version of yourself? This could be platonic, personal or romantic. In most cases, each party's just waiting for the other person to step up and be a catalyst toward love. Take this time to identify all of the areas that you could improve your relationships by just showing up as the person that you want to be with.
Maxim 7: In an abundant world, opportunity is a matter of selection.
- We have this idea about life that in order to get the right opportunities, we must work hard for them and they will present themselves.
- In an abundant world however, all possibilities already exist.
- This is technically true. If you think about where you are right now, there are an almost unlimited number of things that could happen next. That number only increases as you step forward into the world. What this means is that the potential for the opportunities that you need already exists.
- When it comes to finding the right things, what you need to do is tune your selecting mechanism. This is the role of the Reticular activating system. This is the part of your brain that is used when you notice something that you’ve just become aware of.
- You often hear it referred to when talking about how you seem to see the same color car that you just bought but it’s also going to happen with concepts and words quite often. And concepts can actually change your life if they are realized in reality.
- Journaling prompt: What are you currently tuned into finding? Said another way, what do you deeply believe to be true. That is what you will live out and those are the opportunities that you will find. If you can get to your core beliefs around what you want, you’ll actually stand a chance at changing it.
Maxim 8: You will live out what you believe to be true.
- Opening story: Pygmalion was a Cypriot sculptor who carved a woman out of ivory. According to Ovid, after seeing the Propoetides prostituting themselves, Pygmalion declared that he was "not interested in women", but then found his statue was so beautiful and realistic that he fell in love with it. In time, Venus's festival day came, and Pygmalion made offerings at the altar of Aphrodite. There, too scared to admit his desire, he quietly wished for a bride who would be "the living likeness of my ivory girl." When he returned home, he kissed his ivory statue, and found that its lips felt warm. He kissed it again, and found that the ivory had lost its hardness. Venus had granted Pygmalion's wish. Pygmalion married the ivory sculpture which changed to a woman under Venus's blessing.
- The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, is the phenomenon whereby others' expectations of a target person affect the target person's performance.
- A corollary of the Pygmalion effect is the golem effect, in which low expectations lead to a decrease in performance
- When you expect something to happen and then it does, is that a self fulfilling prophecy or did you correctly predict the future? This is something that many people wrestle with on a day to day basis.
- Luckily it’s not something that requires speculation as researchers are continuing to find that a performers expectations of performance is one of the largest determining factors in that performance.
- The best performers in the world don’t wait until they are mid performance to try turning their narrative around, they go into it with an expectation of how they will conduct themselves and what they tell themselves while they are in it.
- Journaling Prompt: what do you deeply believe to be true about how you’ll perform when you step up to the plate?
Maxim 9: Making the right choice is about objectifying the subjective world.
- We make our choices until our choices make us.
- Values are the one thing that we can scientifically say gives us a sense of meaning in our lives. Values are a subjective psychological experience meaning that what your values are and what mine are tend to be very different things.
- When it comes to making difficult decisions, you want to have a familiarity with your values so that you can recognize how they will be lived out in different decisions.
- Thus you want to objectify i.e. take emotion out of the equation when it comes to giving yourself what you want. Your values are what you want but often we have a narrative in our head about something that doesn’t allow us to actually live it out. Like perhaps we value agency over our lives but we are so used to allowing one of our parents to dictate what’s right and wrong in life through their validation that we can never exhibit that agency.
- If validation causes you to live differently from your own intrinsic values, than you are living smaller than you have to and allowing your temporary emotions to stand in the way of what you want.
- This will never change if you don’t. In many cases it’s a matter of pulling ourselves out of the roles that we are currently in or have known but in any case, it’s important to remember that not every decision you make says something about someone else. It can just be about you and what you need.
- This is why we must also understand what it is that we need in order to feel centered or feel good about what we’re doing. This is subjective because obviously we don’t all need the same things in order to feel good about ourselves. The quicker you figure out your needs, the quicker you can learn how to use your voice and stand up for them.
- Often when we say yes or no to people, we have a hard time standing on that decision or even using our voice to vocalize it. The truth is that sometimes we have to say no in order to protect our bandwidth, not because we don’t want to hang out with someone.
- Journaling Prompt: Where could you rescue more of your bandwidth back by making different decisions? You can turn that decision into a boundary and then turn that boundary into a standard for life, thus freeing you up to use more of our effort on things that we actually want to be focusing on.
Maxim 10: When progress becomes the goal, meaning becomes a right.
- The truth is that authenticity is the quickest path to high performance.
- Otherwise, there won’t be enough reason to keep moving forward amidst the pain and hardship if you don’t.
- Even if you don’t think about what you are doing as a career as shouldering an extreme amount of risk, times are still going to get tough because you’re still doing the human thing. You still need something strong enough to push amidst the heartache and loss that you’re going to deal with in life.
- The reason we should seek to see the pursuit of meaning in life as an inalienable right is because when someone has a sense of meaning, they are constantly pushed to show up as something approximating the best version of themselves. Or to at least put their best foot forward.
- When it comes to architecting a society, what else could you ask for than a group of citizens who are all doing their absolute best to play their part, whatever that is? This is one of the true responsibilities that society should actually push in my opinion.
- The thinking that gave us our current construct is that we should train people to play a part without ever stopping to ask if it’s the part they want to play. How much different, happier and more effective might the world be if we were taught to find meaning in what we do?
- Journaling prompt: Where in your current lifestyle could you seek more meaning? Whether that is taking a class or playing a sport; the activity is somewhat inconsequential as long as it affects a value.
Maxim 11: In regards to failure, you certainly can be.
- “In order for a tree to reach its branches to heaven it must first reach its roots to hell.” -Carl Jung
- One of my most often recited messages is that as a human being you are everything. You contain the full spectrum of human emotion, characteristics and attributes.
- When it comes to beating ourselves up or dealing with imposter syndrome, one of the narratives that we tell ourselves is that we are a failure, or stupid or incompetent.
- This usually comes out when we mess something up or begin to think about stepping into a new role or a position that we perceive as bigger.
- This is often a method that our subconscious mind uses in order to keep us small and comfortable.
- The truth is that when it comes to failure or incompetence, you definitely can be, but what else is true?
- Journaling prompt: Where have you succeeded in the past? No one has a single quality without also exhibiting its inverse quality. That’s why you can only truly love someone, only to the depth at which you are willing to suffer. This is life and life is everything that makes it up.
Maxim 12: Always assume the rug that you’re standing on will be gone soon.
Nan-in, a Japanese zen master in the late nineteenth century, received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
- Zen Buddhism (originating in China) is an interesting religious practice in that it deemphasizes knowledge of doctrine and emphasizes direct understanding of truth. - Which in many cases makes us relinquish what we previously knew. And because life is fluid and not static, it requires our beliefs to mold and evolve as we do in many cases.
- The point of the koan is to exhaust the analytic and egoic mind in order to reveal the more intuitive “no-mind”. They are not about arriving at an answer, but to see for ourselves that our intellections can never provide us with a completely satisfying answer.
- The goal is to reveal some sort of deep truth in the untangling of the mystery.
- This is why zen Buddhism is often spoken in riddles. As people we become attached to our beliefs and if we aren’t careful we become an arbotor or puppet of our beliefs and they are no longer serving us. Actually, it’s the other way around.
- This is why the only true expectation you can have is that what you know is incorrect.
- The strength in this message actually comes from simply relinquishing your grip on life. The nature of it can’t be grasped and when we try to, we are no longer talking about life but an idea.
- This is also why you have the saying, be hard on principles and soft on methods, because you want to make sure that you leave room for what you don’t understand.
- Life isn’t somewhere to get, it’s something to experience. When we treat it like it’s somewhere to arrive, we end up clinging far too tightly to things that aren’t serving us or what we want for ourselves.
- Journaling Prompt: What belief are you holding on to that is keeping you from pursuing the life that you want?
Maxim 13: The more you believe it matters, the more it generally does.
- There are an unlimited number of lenses that you can view life through. Understand that not all of them are helpful.
- One of the axioms you here spouted off quite frequently is that “the universe doesn’t give a fuck about you.” The only way you get to this belief is by zooming out far enough. Let’s say to the cosmic level.
- The thing to understand about your life is that you aren’t at the cosmic level so that POV is actually useless to you. It provides you nothing to make your life better.
- What’s more is that the inverse actually seems to be true.
- The world you live in actually rewards people that believe the opposite. The highest performers we know tend to elevate the mundane and treat even the most simplest actions with reverence.
- Reverence for life becomes a super power in that way.
- Apathy becomes a depressing agent in our lives. It’s like we’re here to feel and experience in a very real way. Forcing ourselves not to doesn't work out well in the long term.
- Journaling prompt - How does your current view of humanity serve you?
Maxim 14: If you don’t, you’ll wish you did.
- “Never delay kissing a pretty girl or opening a bottle of whiskey” - Hemingway
- Regardless how you conceptualize the meaning of life, you can find great meaning in life if you prioritize astounding meaningful experiences. This means that you have to say yes to things in your life that might intrigue you.
- It also means that you don’t get to use what keeps you comfortable as a way of deciding what you should and shouldn't do.
- It means that you have to make the decision to put physical fears in their actual right place. Which is below desire for experience.
- Tactically, that means you have to actually learn the skills that will help eek you out of your comfort zone. You might not be used to talking publicly, booking the ticket or committing to the adventure in some way. All this actually means is that you aren’t used to it. And that’s ok. People do things that they aren’t used to all the time.
- Psychologically speaking it is gradual exposure to the things that you’re afraid of that will actually allow you to contend with them. You want to increase courage NOT decrease fear.
- In order to get out of our comfort zone, you have to decide that you want to. Or rather, just tell yourself a different story about your own capabilities.
- Life reveals its mystery in the depth of experience, not thought.
- Journaling Prompt: What would your life look like if you never allowed another “what if” to go unanswered? How would it change if you allowed yourself to step into your greatest suspicions for what your life could be about.
Maxim 15: We’re all united in at least one common struggle.
- The common human struggle is to navigate a world of infinite complexities with a finite mind.
- As humans we have a lot of ways of talking about really big ideas in terms that people can grapple with. Religions for example are how we take the infinite and add a particular to it. It gives us something we can get our minds around and a playbook for working through it.
- Last month in a talk Mark Groves gave at a conference, he was talking about this moment where he was thinking about the cosmos and how we got here and how his thinking will tend to go into loops after a while and you will either land at mental fracture or complete surrender.
- In light of the overwhelming complexities, we still know a lot about how to be here. This is the reason behind my emphasis on principles. Rules tend to keep you boxed into a certain behavior but maxims or principles for example, tend to give you guidance and you can choose to do with that guidance, whatever it is that you want.
- We can learn a lot about how to be here just from this common struggle. For example, just think back to the absolutely fucked up situations that you’ve found yourself in. Now understand that each of us are shouldering these regularly. The person that you stand next to in Starbucks is literally dealing with something that you couldn’t begin to imagine. And that they are ill equipped to deal with.
- See the struggles that you have in others. It will make both you and them more human.
- The fact that we know so little about the complexities means that we are free to come up with a narrative that is actually helpful. One that sees the universe as being FOR you and not indifferent to you. With most mindsets, it will become more true, the more that you believe it.
- Journaling Prompt: What have you been grappling with endlessly? Where has your thinking diverged into endless loops of thought without providing you an answer? Is it possible to surrender to this scenario?
Maxim 16: You have been set up to succeed in a world that you don’t live in.
- You’re actually the end product of billions of things. And while all of those things are no doubt incredible, they don’t necessarily all serve you.
- We are the end product of our biology (evolution), our patterning (how we were raised) and our personality. All of these things come together to form who we are.
- It’s been my experience that if you can get your hands around what has contributed to your makeup, you’re less likely to feel like you are a victim of circumstances that you don’t understand.
- Just think about how many times you’ve tried to “change” in the past and had it not really stick. It’s not that change is impossible, people do it all the time. It’s that we often don’t know what it is that we are trying to change. We don’t know what we’re up against.
- With each level of analysis, you get a different picture of what’s going on. What many pictures will reveal is that we live in a world that our internal wiring hasn’t caught up to.
- First of all - We can look at our biology . A product of evolution. - We evolved to find survival but now if we simply survive, we find that we feel “stuck” quite quickly. We must learn to thrive.
- Second - we can look at the psychological conditioning. We’re raised for a world that we aren’t necessarily in. An older generation put nobility into the idea of working hard for a retirement and the American Dream but our world doesn’t require that you mortgage your time to retire later.
- When you were forming, your parents were the arbiters of your world and so whatever their view on things, it is what you most likely had deeply ingrained into your own belief system.
- Regardless of how they conditioned you however, you can rest assured that you have something to overcome. My first psychology professor said that “we all screw our kids up, we just don’t get to know how.” An easy example of this is when you see someone that needs to cause chaos to get attention. That may have been the world they WERE in but now as adults they have the responsibility to decide how to move through the world in a way that serves them.
- Technology has free’d us up to work less but as a society we’re slow to change with it.
- It’s not really what you learned that’s important, it’s THAT you learned. Which means it can be unlearned.
- The human skill to move through the world is now discernment. We have so many options for what our life could look like but we need to learn to choose the ones that work for us.
- Journaling Prompt: What beliefs do you have that are no longer working in your world today? What rules have you dragged along with you that are keeping you stuck? Building out a new map to navigate the world based on what YOU want it to look like is where your real work lies.
Maxim 17: Where you are, offers you far more information than where you aren’t.
- As humans we are constantly at the mercy of our thoughts about what’s transpired and what’s to come. We often do this, regardless of the fact that the present moment almost always contains everything that we need to know.
- I always find it striking that we are the one part of nature that constantly doesn’t understand that all it needs to be is itself. Right where it is.
- If you think that’s untrue, than experiment by living your life with the goal of being the absolute best at where you are at. Consider consciously giving everything you have to where you are (this means showing up in full effort) and see how that works out.
- When you live this way, you see how odd yet also tragic it is that we would ever wish for anything other than the moment.
- Be all of this as it is, we still have this thinking brain and it’s hell bent on analyzing and worrying. I suppose this is why we can say a million times that life is about the moment and after each one, someone will say “what about… the future. What about… your plans. What about… your goals.”
- What I would say is that if you fully maximize the moment, like really consciously choose to be where your feet are, the future takes care of itself as it becomes the present.
- This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use our brains to plan for the future. I’m saying that we shouldn’t use our brains for about half of the shit that we actually use it for. Your incessant loops of worry don’t necessarily count as planning for the future.
- As a rule, we should only worry once we can be sure that we’ve done everything that we can now. Do the people you are interacting with know that you love them? Does your partner know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he or she is the most appreciated thing in your life? Are they? Does your work get the best from you?
- What you find when you begin to live more presently is that living in a way that you don’t want to is damn near unbearable because you are present to every moment.
- You are left to either enjoy it by taking ownership over it or enjoy it by letting it go and pivoting.
- I know that personally i’ve been in a few relationships where we were both worried about the future and chose to let that get the best of our present.
- Journaling Prompt: Are you actually doing all that you can right now? If things are wrong in any area of life, instead of spiraling into loops of worry and metacognition, start doing what you can now. It’s far more useful to clean out your cabinets in this moment than to worry about whether or not you will be able to stick to your diet. Maximizing the moment always maximizes your life.
Maxim 18: Feeling broken is no more permanent than feeling complete.
- This too shall pass is said in times of heartache but to be accurate, it could also be said about the best moment of your life.
- Life is a mix of everything. Everything that can happen, will happen. This means that we are bound to pass through moments of both good and bad and we should hold space for their inevitably.
- We spend our lives clinging to what we like and rejecting what we don’t like and for all of our clinging and rejecting, what we get is that time passes anyway. Good times come and go. Who you are, is the person that experiences all of it.
- We often want to identify ourselves with what we’ve accomplished and distance yourselves from where we’ve failed at, but again, what’s true is that you are both. Our identification with any of these things can only be true for a moment.
- Everything you go through represents a season and if you can figure out what that season is teaching you, it will be over sooner, but more importantly, you won’t have to repeat it.
- Understand that when you are in these tough times and it feels like you can’t do anything about it, you don’t actually have to. It will pass as time carries you further from it and if nothing else, gives you room to breath and to see a bit more clearly.
- Understand that the tough times don't last and neither will the good. Instead, the human experience is made better as we learn to navigate both of them with grace, clarity and poise.
- Journaling Prompt: What would life look like for you if instead of trying to get through things, you began to embrace all things? What if you changed your success metric from ‘being happy’ to learning what this current season of life is trying to teach you?
Maxim 19: The conditions in which humans thrive aren’t found in utopia.
- Due to the movies that we watch, many of us have this picture in our heads that we are striving toward our happy ending.
- It’s important that we don’t allow that to be our picture of reality or we set ourselves up for continuous disappointment.
- Many of you have heard me say that there’s nowhere to actually get in life. And while that is definitely true, I would say that even if there were, you wouldn’t actually want to be there because as a human, you really don’t function optimally in that environment.
- You actually need the optimal amount of uncertainty and risk in order to thrive.
- You need safety where you are but beyond that, you need the freedom to roam and step into the unknown.
- In order for humans to really feel like they are progressing in life they need one foot in the campsite and the other in the wild.
- To put it simply we need only enough safety to be safe. Beyond that, it does nothing for us or our psyches.
- Build your life in a way that keeps you on the cuff of not enough and far too much adventure. Learn to straddle that line and your life will look much differently.
- Journaling Prompt: What is your current conception of a successful life? If you actually get what you’re after, what does life look like? What adjustments could you make so that if you get what you want, your life leads you to somewhere that doesn’t leave you wanting more?
Maxim 20: Creation is the only offensive position in a world of impermanence.
- The world is ever shifting, ever evolving and ever caught in what the buddhist call sunserra; the endless cycles of death and rebirth.
- Because impermanence is the end state of everything, atrophy is the current condition of everything that isn’t being constructed. One of the ways that we learn to fight entropy is by creating.
- Earnest Becker in the denial of death said that we deal with our own mortality in one of three ways.
- 1. Religion 2. Sex. 3 works of art and creation - We create something that will live on beyond ourselves. Perhaps that’s why we feel the desire to procreate more and more as we get older. We feel the impermanence beginning to breathe on us.
- One of the easiest ways to understand this is true is by looking at health and fitness. Gravity will assist you with entropy and all that you have to fight such a thing is actively creating yourself into something else. Something stronger, faster or better in some way.
- If we stay where we are for too long, we feel like we are getting more and more stuck. In those moments we are far more susceptible to existential dread. It is only when we go out and create the world in which we want to be a part that we are actually delivered from the mental worry brought about by our current sedentary state.
- Everyday with your words and your thoughts, you are creating the world that you are a part of. It’s how you are personally pushing back against your own expiration date.
- Journaling Prompt: All humans have some level of innate creativity. Some of us show more of a proclivity toward it than others however it is an intelligence that separates us from almost all other living things. Use these questions to begin identifying the role of creativity in your life currently; What are you creating in your life right now? What opportunities are you creating? What works of art are you creating? What might you create in your life as a means of getting unstuck?
Maxim 21: Knowledge requires utility in order to become power.
- Knowledge without the right utility, is powerless. You need a route to application for what you know.
- Most of us are reciting information instead of actually learning how a concept works.
- When you understand a concept and how it applies to your life, you are actually able to use it to change your life.
- This means that one of the things that you are looking for as you gain knowledge is actually the perspective that allows you to apply that knowledge to your life.
- Journaling Prompt: Of the final 21 maxims, what is one action step that you can take in order to begin utilizing this information in order to see if will actually change your life?