New Year, New Habits, New Goals, Old Goals, Old Habits – 2015 in review and plans for 2016

As I write this, it’s been around six months since I wrote anything for this blog, or anywhere/anyone else. I never made a conscious decision to quit, but between my full time job, new relationship, new friends and new habits, the time and mind space needed for writing seemed to slowly slip away. This hasn’t been all bad, however, as the past year has probably been the best of my life. For the first time, I’ve been able to consistently stay more positive and enjoy myself for the vast majority of the whole year. Sure, sometimes bad things would happen, and it would cross my mind that the universe conspired against me and that I needed to pity myself – old habits die hard, right? – but they never became more than moments. There were no weeks.

The most negative period of last year was perhaps a few weeks after I stopped writing in which I sometimes felt guilty about it. In hindsight this might have been the last straw that actually caused me to stop writing for a time, as guilt adds another barrier between you and actually getting things done.

 

New Habits Acquired Over The Past Year

As far as new habits go, there are two main ones that I added to my day to day life. I started practicing martial arts, not any one in particular, but an unusual mix of JKD, Shooto, FMA, etc. Other than randomly starting to shadow box at any given point during the day, I’ve been going to martial arts practice for the last few months (2-3 times a week, 3 hour sessions).

I started hanging out with friends doing actual things (not just playing video games or drinking/eating.) This wasn’t an entirely new habit, as I had started doing this 2 years ago after I started my new job, but after I moved to a new office at school and made new friends, it became a bigger part of my life I guess.  Although a lot of this took place during weekends, or breaks, it still played a big part in the past year, making me healthier(getting me out and about and moving, and even was what got me started with martial arts) and happier. Instead of ending most weekends feeling like I did a whole lotta nothing, many ended with a feeling of time well spent, having gone to a new place or done new things. Again, not a new concept or experience to me, but a much more regular occurrence than before.

I Enjoy Life

Between these two things the way I fundamentally feel about life seems to have changed. I’m generally enjoying myself, and I know it. Sure, I may not look forward to work on some Mondays (or other days), but that no longer seems like some sort of overwhelming significant thing that is part of a larger pattern of ‘everything sucks’. I’m more confident in general, I feel more grounded in myself and my own habits rather than outside opinions and influences.

Old Habits To Revisit

First and foremost, writing. Not just for the sake of the innate benefits of writing, but I also intend to rekindle my freelance writing efforts – slowly but surely this time (as to not overwhelm myself again). Writing (and sharing that writing online) is what finally got me out of a 1 year rut after I came back from my exchange studies and graduated. I was unemployed, had 1-2 friends in the country that I rarely saw, and my thoughts about my life and future generally involved self-pity and despair. This is not an old habit to revisit, just something to remember, as good a reason as any to restart my writing efforts.

Secondly, restart learning about Web Development and WordPress other CMS. While teaching English here has been an enjoyable learning experience, I feel like I’m gradually approaching a time for me to move on to a new stage in my life, and having valuable, marketable skills will surely help me in getting there.

Thirdly, meditation. Although I do yoga at the end of every martial arts practice, and there seem to be some meditative moments interspersed throughout, over the coming weeks and months, I want to take up meditation again. Not only for the many general cognitive and emotional benefits, but to maintain the brainspace needed for writing consistently.

Old Goals

After all this I still have the same goals. The freedom of body to go and do what I want. The financial freedom to be able to afford to do what I want (not talking millions of dollars or even hundreds of thousands, just a buffer of a few thousand that means I can afford to quit my job or move to a new country without any real risk) and the freedom of mind to enjoy day to day life.

So here I am, back to writing again. It feels good.

 

 

 

What To Do When You Get Tonsillitis And Your Blog Gets Hacked In The Same Week

hackedDon’t get caught up in thinking about what happened. Forget if ‘it’s fair’ or if ‘it’s not a good time’. In fact, forget about what happened, focus on how you react to it. Focus on what you can do to minimize the damage, and if applicable, what you can do to stop similar things from happening again.

It sounds simple, but it is hard. Very hard. To do this, you must first understand and internalize a crucial idea. The idea that a lot of your suffering is self-inflicted after the fact. That your choices and interpretations of something leads to suffering, not what happens itself.

This is not a new idea. It dates back thousands of years. In fact, it is one of the key ideas/concepts of the ancient Stoics.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – Marcus Aurelius

But it is a hard one to internalize. It doesn’t help that it sounds maybe a little too good to be true. How could you choose not to suffer? I mean the negative stuff has already happened right? Suffering is only the natural consequence of the negative stuff happening right? I’m not so sure. Continue reading

Trying to Bridge The Disconnect Between Small, Day-to-day Choices, And Their Consequences (AKA: Avoiding Future Toothaches)

Two days ago, on Tuesday, a problematic wisdom tooth that I should have removed several years ago, started aching. In the beginning it was not too bad, but then it slowly escalated to the point where I felt pain not only from the tooth itself, but emanating from the surrounding area of my face, until I could somehow feel a bad headache on top of it all.

Thankfully, Wednesday was quite a convenient day for having the tooth removed, and getting dental work done in Thailand is rather affordable, so it’s not too big of a deal. (Actually, the discomfort of two teeth suddenly not being there anymore seems to have motivated me to stay busy, which has led to me actually writing quite a bit more than I did last week.)

But there is also an(other) upside to all of this. Something I realized Tuesday night, is that this toothache, is a great metaphor for something incredibly common. An inability, or unwillingness, to fully comprehend the long-term repercussions of your daily actions, until you encounter a ‘rude awakening’.

Like when you’re aware your poor spending habits might very well land you in trouble should you lose your job, and when it finally happens, you have to deal with not only finding a new job, but doing so on a very strict deadline, living on a very strict budget.

Or when you’re aware you’ve been slowly putting on weight ever since you couldn’t quite bounce back after an awesome cheat day, and you don’t REALLY notice until the bathroom weight tells you you’ve gained 20+ pounds.

Or when you’ve had ample opportunities for years to remove two lower wisdom teeth that are slowly disintegrating the lovely structure of your teeth in your lower jaw, and you decide to just assume that something bad won’t happen, until you get a terrible toothache on a Tuesday in the third week of trying to re-implement self-growth efforts after finding yourself in your first long term full-time job. (Or maybe that only applies to me?)

Analyze Your Behavior And ‘Predict’ Their Outcomes

And not just the awesome habits you’ve managed to build up over the last years.

For example, ever since I started working, I have “harmlessly” been surfing imgur, a website that is as much about as ‘instant reward’ as any website can be. It’s a website that basically shows you random funny or interesting pictures and all you have to do is click next to see a new one.

Which is a little funny, because on one hand, I’ve been trying to reclaim my attention space. To improve my ability to focus for longer periods of time by focusing on things like meditation, working to the same combination of white noise every time to help make it a trigger. But now I realize I’ve probably been undoing most of the positive effects, by surfing imgur.

The wisdom tooth thing is also rooted(no pun intended) in a long-lasting habit to put seemingly insignificant things off until the last minute. This habit means that sometimes, I get in trouble for no real reason. Things just get put off and then when I notice it’s too late to avoid a problem.

Realize You Are Constantly Creating The Reality Of Your Future Self

Just as an example, if you have a goal of writing 30,000 words per month, you would have to write an average of 1000 words per day to meet that goal. But if you wrote 0 words one day because you ‘didn’t quite feel like it’, your daily average would have to jump up to 1034. If you miss another day, 1071,  and if you keep missing days or failing to meet the required daily average, the required daily average will skyrocket until it all becomes an unreachable goal. (This is probably one of the reasons why consistency is so valuable.) On the other hand, you could do a great job today, and knock the required daily average effort down by a bit. Giving your future self a bit of leeway to miss the daily quota when it’s completely unavoidable.

But sometimes, using this kind of argument on myself doesn’t seem to be very effective. In the past I’ve been great at running philosophical/semantic laps around an issue until I suddenly realize I’ve procrastinated for a good amount of time. But perhaps recognizing this as an excuse to procrastinate will help me choose to avoid getting stuck arguing circles in the future? At the very least it seems like a good first step in the right direction.

Have you ever had a bad wake up call caused by this disconnect? If so, what did you do to deal with it?

I Have A ‘Day Job’ And I Like It

Long time no see. It’s been a very long time since the last time I wrote anything on this blog, and quite a long time since I’ve written anything in general.(When I first wrote this, it was still true, but since, I’ve restarted my daily writing habits, and started doing some freelance writing again.) If you’re seeing this in your inbox, you’ve probably forgotten about me and my little blog. Which is okay. Just to summarize I’m that guy that used to write a blog about things I struggle with and what I’m doing to overcome them. About my dreams and how I’m working towards them. About my failures and trying (but sometimes failing) to learn from them. Anyway, I’m back, with at least one more post, so if you want to read it, feel free to do so.

One of the main reasons for my ‘hiatus’, is that a couple of months ago, I decided to find a ‘day job’. Specifically, I decided to try to find a job as an English teacher in Chiang Mai in Thailand, where I’d started to, almost by accident, lay down some roots. (I like this city a lot. But also, I realized last year, that fast paced travelling wasn’t right for me, or my wallet, at the time.)

I decided to take a TEFL(teaching English as a foreign language) course in September, and by the middle of October, I had gotten offered a position at a private school very close to where I live.

Good things:

  • I’m no longer stressed about money.
  • I no longer feel as much guilt about not having a job (worrying my parents, etc.)
  • Very strong external motivation to actually do the work. (I will have to stand in front of the kids anyway, so it’s better to prepare properly.)
  • Very strong external motivation to wake up early.
  • Very strong external motivation to socialize on a daily basis.
  • Quite strong external motivation to meditate. (During assembly every morning there is a period set aside for the kids to meditate.)
  • I like working with kids (to my great surprise).

Downsides:

  • The work hours are inflexible, and make up most of the hours when the day is still bright. Which affects my ability to do stuff and go places on weekdays, although I don’t always take advantage of that freedom when I have it, it is a nice freedom to have.
  • The commute(although I’m lucky considering it’s just about 10-15 minutes) usually involves a LOT of scary traffic and is quite stressful.
  • I’m often quite tired after work. (Which often means I don’t get a lot done, or seek out new experiences. I’m currently working on slowly changing my diet, and adding in some light exercise to get a bigger energy pool, which will hopefully give me the necessary energy to restart my writing efforts.)

Things I’ve Learned:

I’ve learned, like many others before me, how easy it is to let your efforts for a better self, a better life, slip once you’re struggling from ‘within the confines of a 9-5 existence.

That I don’t necessarily have to write for a living to be content. The fact that I’m not writing for a living doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Rather than feeling like I quit or gave up, I am discovering that what is most important to me is doing work that aligns with my personal values. A job that allows me to try to make a small difference, rather than just writing being the be-all end-all. Although I have started taking some small steps towards a future where it’s possible for my work to include both.

I am quite good at compartmentalizing, which is weird because when there are no reminders of the other parts of my life, they can stay ‘semi-forgotten’ until something finally does remind me. Instead of missing home, I barely remember to think about home, and the same goes for my family, and most of my friends… not because I don’t care, it just doesn’t seem to come up, somehow.

I have also come appreciate why one reader, who emailed me looking for guidance, seemed completely uninterested in anything I had to say after I told him I wasn’t working a full time job at the same time as ‘pursuing my dreams’.

I’ve learned that I like challenging myself. I long held onto the idea that I was very effort and challenge averse. And while I sometimes let some bad habits lead me astray, like when I get caught unaware by the treacherous anti-muse known as procrastinata, I am able to enjoy putting in more work than the bare minimum when I feel like there is a development going on.

I’ve re-learned that partying really isn’t my cup of tea. I make enough questionable decisions in a day without the assistance of alcohol thank you very much! If I’m in exactly the right kind of, light-hearted mood, then dancing can be fun without being wasted, but that takes the right crowd(of friends) + other factors that I’m not 100% clear on. Going to a club in the wrong mood with a less than ideal crowd just kind of feels like torture. Going out drinking also just feels too expensive for what it is. At least now my tolerance has probably dropped so if because of some emergency, medical or non-medical in nature, I should need to be shitfaced, that would be easier to achieve than it used to be in the past.

But I’ve also discovered, that it’s possible to become a little better, for your life to become a little better, through work and the interactions you have there.

What My Days Are Like:

I teach 4 classes of mostly good 6-7 year-olds English. Because of their age and level, most of the time my job is to teach them vocabulary, and more importantly, how to correctly pronounce the words, and maybe to understand an accompanying sentence or two. While this sounds droll and monotonous, the challenge of engaging as many of the kids as possible, not for the sake of their grades, but to teach some kids something, and hopefully inspire them to learn some more English in their free time. Something that could play open doors for them in the future. (Since it’s a private school, the majority of the students are probably not that ill off anyway, but there are some from families of moderate or quite minimal means that send their kids here as well.)

Most days I finish work and I feel good. Other days I might feel like I’ve dropped the ball, if my lessons weren’t engaging enough.

I’m still not exactly sure where I’m going, or what I want to do ‘for the rest of my life’ but I’m finding it a little bit easier to enjoy my days. And that means a lot to me. Maybe learning to let go of the dream first and just focus on doing now is what will end up getting me there.