Friday, November 17, 2017

Wait! I don’t need to get pissed off?

“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all”— Marcus Aurelius

The above quote is taken from the book Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.  Yep, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.  Aurelius never wrote this or any of the other nuggets of wisdom found in the book with the intent of having it available for public consumption.  Aurelius didn’t even set out to write a book.  The book is made up of personal writings that he had completed during different periods of his life.  Basically we’re reading the great and powerful man’s journal.  The book Meditations now serves as a roadmap for something called Stoic philosophy.  Stoicism, as it’s called, is something that we’ll be talking about more and more going forward.  I’ve been reading about it quite a bit, it’s early philosophers, thoughts, and impacts on how I live today.  In short Stoicism helps put the Serenity prayer to use.  Understand and take action on those things that are within your control, and let go and don’t waste your energy or emotional capital on those things that are out of your control.  It’s a very logical and straight forward mindset.  I think that’s what is most appealing about it to me. 
Now to this quote specifically.  Don’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger.  Think about that for a second.  I know that at least for myself I’d probably need both hands and both feet to count the times during the last week when I got at least more than mildly irritated by some circumstance.  Perfect example, just the other day I’m on my way to pick the kids up from school.  There’s construction on a main road, and traffic needs to go from 2 lanes down to one.  There are plenty of cones and flashing arrows to tell all the drivers this is happening.  I work my way toward the spot where the lanes merge and everybody is in the proper lane.  You can guess what happens here.  A car comes speeding up on the right, cuts in front of all these people that have been waiting their turn and gets ahead of all of us.  I hate this!  What makes this person think their time is so much more valuable than anybody else’s?  Where does this person get off thinking they are more important than any of us?  I allowed this circumstance or event to get me really mad!  Mad to the point where I had visions of following this car and saying something so profound that they’d see the error of their ways, and vow to never do anything like that again!  Of course that’s a foolish thought, confronting them with words or more anger surely wouldn’t solve anything, but in the moment it would have made me feel oh so much better!  I mean that person needed to know that their little stunt cost me a precious 20 to 25 seconds!!  The outrage!  Anyway, this event happens, I get mad, and I start thinking about the quote at the top.  That person definitely didn’t care about what they did, and maybe they had a valid need to get a few seconds ahead.  The rest of the world didn’t care about what happened, hell the only other people that know are you guys reading this, and much to my surprise the Sun indeed did rise the next morning without so much as an ounce of concern for what had happened yesterday.  The more I think about this, the only person affected by this was me, and that’s because I let my emotions drag me around by the nose.  I didn’t need to allow that to happen.  The only reason that did happen is because I allowed it.  I could have just as easily felt that anger come up, noticed it, and dismissed it as being foolish and not worth my time, as there was nothing to be done to change the circumstance.  I’d have been much better off.  Reviewing pretty much every other circumstance where I was annoyed, irritated or generally angered over the last week, I was able to pretty much come to the same type solution.  It turns out I didn’t need to get pissed off.  Getting pissed off helped me absolutely zero percent.  There were definitely scenarios where there was action available for me to take, and when I take that action, suddenly circumstances aren’t so bad.  Then there were others where I could be mad as I wanted to be, and nothing was to be changed.  No sense in wasting perfectly good frustration there right?

Next time you get mad/angry/frustrated, sit with that feeling for a minute.  Ask yourself if the circumstance actually warrants it, or if you’re just getting pissed because that’s the default and easy thing to do.  Hopefully you find yourself with a lot more calm and peace.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Hello Again….

Hi everybody, I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I’ve left something here for you to chew on.  Part of that has been by design.  I didn’t want to write without having anything  meaningful to say.  I wanted to have a few life experiences to share.  I definitely accomplished that.  Since we last talked I got married, spent two weeks in India, and did all the other things a dad does.  I’ll be talking a lot more about the whole getting married thing, and the India trip, but today I want to talk about those things I haven’t really been doing over the past year.  I obviously haven’t been writing, at least here.  I haven’t been exercising like I should have been and I haven’t been spending the time I should on outside interests.  Sure, I can point to everything I HAVE been doing as a reason or excuse for those things I haven’t done, but those things would be just that, excuses.  I’m interested in accomplishing more and being more productive with my time.  With that said, why haven’t I done the things I know I should and in most cases want to be doing?  I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about this from different angles in other posts, and I guess you could argue that I haven’t really gotten anywhere, or I stink at taking my own advice regarding this subject.  I couldn’t really say you’re wrong. I would just say this is my latest attempt to wrap my hands around getting to where I want to be.  So what’s the answer?  What’s keeping any of us from eating the way we should?  or exercising as regularly as we should?  Pick your version of procrastination, what holds a person up from doing what’s best for them?   My thought is that it comes down to our aversion to discomfort.  Maybe better said, it comes down to how convenient it is to do what we should be doing.  I know that speaking for myself I can get in a frame of mind where I can come up with 45 different things I “should” get done before I go for that run I know should happen.  I can come up with a bunch of twitter articles I should read before I sit down with a thought of my own and write about that, and don’t get me started on who would save my clash of clans village if I wasn’t around to check on it for the 10th time today.

When it comes down to it, doing what you should is incredibly easy.  If you were to sit down with a 5 year old and have them ask you questions, the answers would be easy.  5 year old Bobby asks:  Should I eat this broccoli or this hershey bar more often?  Should I sit on the couch and watch a TV show or should I go for a walk or a run?   Should I bury my head in my phone and give in to another distraction or should I get something done off my to-do list?  You get the idea.  Answering these questions when it doesn’t mean you are taking immediate action is easy.  What holds us back is when answering those questions results in you having to act in accordance with the answer.  That adds a degree of difficulty for some reason.  It shouldn’t, but it does.  Over the last year I’ve spent some time listening to a man named Jocko Willink.  He’s got a great podcast and some interesting books out.  One of the main things he says is that “Discipline equals Freedom.”  Discipline is acting in accordance with how you’d answer those questions from the 5 year old.  Discipline means putting comfort and convenience on the shelf and doing what you know you should do.  Discipline takes care of that question of whether you “feel like” doing something or not.  Think how fit, healthy, and ahead of the game we’d all be if we quit asking ourselves if we felt like something or not, and just acted how we’d answer the 5 year old?