When Coincidence Seems To Conspire Against You

Sound familiar?

You’ve been planning something for a long time. You’re right at the edge where it’s absolutely crucial that you’re at 100%. Where faltering for a moment can start an unstoppable avalanche of crap you’ll need to deal with in the near future.

Maybe you’d be working towards a promotion, and you get a serious case of the flue and you’re unable to show up for work in the last crucial week. Or you get a bad cold before a speech contest, your cough effectively rendering you unable to compete. Or maybe just before you leave for a long, awesome trip, you get a 1 in 10,000 reaction to a cholera vaccine.

Does that last example sound a little specific? That’s simply because… that’s happening to me right now. Yesterday was a pretty good day. I was feeling unusually energetic, I got to talk to some friends for an extended period of time, and I made some significant progress.  But as I’m typing this, I’m having to struggle to maintain focus. Abdominal pain, nausea, a throbbing headache, complete absence of energy, the distraction of not being able to trust my bowels.

In the past I would take this as a sign. As a reminder of or as an indicator of a larger, downward trend. But not today.

Coincidences happen. Like my friend Vincent reminded me a few weeks back, we simply can’t control everything. But what I can do, what we can all do, is choose how we react to said coincidences.

I am going to interpret my “misfortune” simply as the first of many hurdles to overcome over the course of an UPWARD trend in my life. It would be meaningless to worry about why I took the vaccine in the past. I can honestly say that if this is only showing some milder symptoms of cholera, it’s more than worth it if it helps reduce my chances of getting afflicted when I’m traveling. Hopefully this means that I traded a miserable couple of days while travelling, for some uncomfortable days before liftoff. I will probably enjoy myself more because I was sick before I left. And hey, maybe my inability to properly absorb food means I’ll lose some weight before I leave. Could be worse right?

Haha.

I didn’t write this to get your pity or even solidarity(although the latter would be appreciated), I just wanted to give an example that shows that it is possible to escape a negative mindset. To overcome the sort of victim mentality that stops you from taking risks and doing what you want or even need to do.

Don’t invent a fate for yourself just to give into it. Most of the time it’s just a collection of unfortunate coincidences.

Good health to you all!

Regarding last week’s experiment, my main insight is this: It’s not really rigid enough to propel a relatively undisciplined person to do all the work required within a specific time frame. BUT. It is a great framework for getting more productive things done in your free time. For example, one of the things I consistently dream of is being more organized. And with that shift in mindset, I was propelled to actually take steps to become more organized. Writing detailed to-do-lists, putting ideas into specific notes in Evernote, focusing on habits to solidify a familiar routine.

But if you want to avoid confusion and wasting your time on things you won’t commit to in the long term, getting clear on what’s important and what’s not important to you in the immediate future. It works best if there’s something that you continually think you should be doing, and you use equivalent amounts of mental energy for postponing said thing, as you would to simply go ahead and get it out of your head.

 

 

A Time To Relax, Remember and Refocus

snow buddhaHappy holidays everyone! Even if you don’t celebrate anything, hopefully you’re having a slightly better time than usual.

Relax
This time of year has a tendency to become anything BUT relaxing for some of you. I know my mother used to get into a fit over just about any small mishap this close to Christmas, but in the later years she has become a lot more cheerful. Maybe it’s the fact that us kids are not really kids anymore, and we pitch in wherever we can. I only regret that I can’t make more dinners during the Christmas period, because cooking is probably my one saving grace as a family member.

I wrote a post about positivity and negativity over at pick the brain, and I suggest that it’s a matter of focus. And I feel like holiday stress is often caused by the same thing. Focusing on the negative. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, take a moment to just appreciate everything you are doing right. Then think about how you can quickly and calmly resolve any of the larger problems. Even if there are some kinks, accept it. Don’t waste this opportunity to relax on being hard on yourself.

Remember

Remember what you did right, and what you did wrong. Where you can improve, and what you can learn from your greatest successes. Remember where you wanted to go, and where you now want to.

Refocus

As time goes on, it’s a good idea to start preparing yourself for getting back in the saddle. And try to refocus on the things that matter the most to you. Perfect your daily checklist, and your weekly ones or even think of one new habit to start in 2014. Whether you’re making a resolution or not, it’s easy to get a bit carried away at the beginning of the new year, so it’s not a bad idea to get a head start!

Hope you have all have a great time!

Picture by: Akuppa John Wigham

Surprisingly Effective Time Savers: The Optimal Default Meal

time saver optimal default meal

Ever caught yourself spending more than 10 minutes doing nothing in particular, just wondering what you should have for lunch or dinner? Well the default meal is a way to solve this problem yourself, so you end up rarely wasting time on the same issue again.

The idea behind the default meal came from realizing that I defaulted back to the same 2 or 3 meals after long consideration several times every month. Of course the next step was to find the optimal 2-3 meals, so there was always a perfect and obvious option to choose from.

An Optimal Default Meal Should Be:

  • Quick and easy to make(includes easily accessible ingredients).
  • Cheap
  • Tasty
  • Flexible (As in seasoning or even main ingredients can be changed for different and equally delicious flavors.)
  • (Optional?) Be Healthy

How It Saves More Time Than You Think:

Unless you’re arranging a dinner party, or you’re preparing a treat for yourself or trying a new dish in preparation, you should never specifically think about what to have for dinner for more than 5 minutes. Or enter a grocery store without knowing perfectly well what you’re going to get. This way you can easily save 20-30 minutes of indecision about dinner per week, and if you’re anything like me, up to 1-2 hour of aimless grocery store wobbling.

Then there’s the time you save in the making of the food. Now this depends on a few factors. If you usually order takeout to your place, and you use the time while waiting for takeout effectively and not just sitting around rendering the time saved redundant, then there is little doubt that you spend some more time. But if you usually cook your own meals anyway, then having a small selection of dishes that you can whip up in a few minutes is usually a pretty significant time-saver. When I try to make new dishes I have never done before I will use anywhere between 10-30 minutes extra on dinner, and 3-7 minutes extra on lunch. Both from the insecurity and recipe checking, as well as them often not being as quick as the easier alternative.

Next there’s the money aspect. You save however much money would have been spent on takeout food vs how much you spent on the meal you made. Saving money you used your time to make could be interpreted as saving time in the long run.

Then there’s the fitness aspect. If you eat healthy compared to an unideal alternative, you could be saving some workout time, if you’re trying to lose weight or getting more out of your workout if you’re trying to bulk up.

I talk a lot about trying new things, and I believe that should also be the case for food. But when the choice is between ordering takeout and making something quick and easy, it’s a lot better to have a default option that is walk in the park to make.

Some Extra Time Saving Cooking Tricks:

  • Flatten chicken breasts/other meat or divide in half lengthwise. Will cook through in half the time or less. Flattening can be done while in the pack and doesn’t make any dishes to clean.)
  • Use noodles or couscous instead of pasta/rice/potatoes. (Could use quick rice, or preboiled potatoes but I’m not a big fan myself.)
  • Always start with what takes longest to cook, then you have time to prepare the other ingredients while it’s already cooking. So always cut the meat first if you’re cutting meat for cooking and also fresh vegetables for salad. ( If you only have one knife and cutting board you would have to wash them, but it would still be quicker. Remember to stir as to not burn.)
  • Improve your knife skills.

My Current Default Dinners:

Stir fried chicken breast or pork, sometimes beef with a simple salad. The trick to making this an actually delicious dish is the garnish for the salad, and the seasoning for the meat. I vary between simple flavors like: soy sauce and heavy heavy garlic, soy sauce garlic and ginger, chili, cumin and garlic, honey and soy sauce for the meat. For the salad, lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, with salt and pepper and olive oil to taste. You can also drop the lemon juice and add some fruit to the salad. Like apples, or tangerines. Use different seasonal vegetables and lettuces for the salad. You can also add things like couscous, croutons, feta cheese or turn it into a pasta salad for variety.

Wholewheat(optional) simple pasta bolognese. With minced meat and canned tomatoes there is minimal chopping/cutting. If you have a hand mixer with a mini food processor attachment, you can blaze some onion and garlic, and carrots if you have, to add some extra flavor. Or you can grate, chop the vegetables and add to taste.

Super simple stir fry, with wholewheat noodles. Sometimes I cheat and use a frozen wok mix, of course defrosted first for shorter cook time, but it just isn’t the same. If you use broccoli or cauliflower, make sure to split them into really small pieces, otherwise they get done really unevenly. Suggested vegetables: bean sprouts, bamboo shoot, water chestnuts, broccoli, onion and cucumber. Make some easy wok sauce with oyster sauce, soy sauce and honey. Or a spicy tomato sauce by adding either tomato paste, water and chiliflakes, or some canned crushed tomatoes and chiliflakes/chili spice. For the latter option could add some corn starch mixed in a tablespoon of water for thickness.

My Current Default Lunches

Plain yogurt with seasonal fruits, and ryvita with cheese or ham. Pretty straight forward.
Oatmeal with banana/apple I like to add the fruits fresh after the oatmeal is done, but some like to add it along with the oatmeal.
Super simple stir fried meat + salad(smaller serving) same stuff.

When you get really sick of your choices, you could always switch to a couple of others. If you need some ideas check out: Recipe Roulette

If anyone wants pictures and more comprehensive recipes, ask and I will oblige.

Do you know of any other seemingly small but surprisingly effective time savers?

Picture by Andrew Dyson

 

How You Should React To Common Sense Advice.

commonsenseI’ve been starting to see this a lot lately. Someone offers a piece of advice, and it gets shot down because it’s too much of good ol’ common sense. Instead of going off on a tirade, here’s a thing to consider. A lot of advise is really sensible when explained properly(surprise!), so it’s easy to shoot it down as common sense. But even if it is 100% common sense, how much of it do you really follow?

The next time you read a piece of advice that you feel is just common sense.. ask yourself: Do I Truly Follow And Live By This?

Interpret It As A Reminder

I found that a lot of the time the answer was no. Common sense isn’t all that common. I guess being aware of it is common, but actually staying true to common sense isn’t that common. And sure, sometimes you’ll come across something that’s bland and uninspiring, or you feel like you’ve read it many times before, just take it as a reminder. That’s how I feel every time I read about not putting yourself down, or taking action, or other subjects that tend to come up a lot on the blogs that I read.. they’re reminders… not a reason to get upset, angry or disappointed.

For that matter, this whole post might be more common sense than not, but apparently a lot of people have forgotten. How do you feel about common sensical advice? Does it annoy you, or do you interpret it as a reminder, or react in a completely different way entirely? (leave a comment)

Picture: Obviously by. Quotes Everlasting