Pandemic life has taught many of us to appreciate moments in life that might otherwise pass us by. I've been trying to pause and take note of how I feel at the end of the day, often as I walk in the park or one of my nearby neighborhoods.
With that in mind, here's a tip inspired by The Art of Stopping Time, a book by Pedram Shojai: whenever you visit a place that's new to you, consider the sense that you might never be there again.
Just imagine: this might be it! Your only opportunity in one lifetime to visit this particular place. How might this make you feel?
What, you say you aren't traveling much now? That's okay.
This "new place" could be anywhere: a part of the woods you've never seen on your next nature hike, for example, or even a street in your neighborhood you've never driven before. The point is to create awareness and appreciation.
Every December for the past fifteen years, I've completed an exercise I call the Annual Review.
This year is different in some ways, but then again, so is every year for one reason or another. In fact, that's one of the things that's so beneficial about the Review: in the midst of whatever craziness is happening, it helps to ground your attention and give you something to work on over the next year.
This post contains an overview of the process, along with links that might be helpful for your own review. If you'd like to go waaaaay back to the original post from 2008, you can do that too. Enjoy!
I started writing this note by trying to take stock of a few things about this year that were good.
The process was easier than I expected. Sure, 2020 has been a dumpster fire year in many ways. But when I really stopped to think about it, it wasn't hard to identify several things in my life that wouldn't have happened were it not for the world coming to a stop.
It's always possible to find silver linings, and in a brief examination I found several.
Welcome to the beginning of the strangest year the modern world has ever known. You don't realize it now, but life as you know it is about to change drastically.
Remember how you've been talking to everyone about "working from anywhere" for the past decade? Well, now the entire workforce will be leaving their offices and telecommuting. One problem: they can't actually go anywhere. Working remotely usually implies freedom, but in this case it points to constraint. Simply put, the workforce is working remotely because it's not safe to work together.
Most of the world's borders will have closed, though if you want to visit the Maldives, you can buy an unlimited pass to a luxury hotel for all of 2021.
Friends and readers, we did it. It actually happened!
I'm reminded of the quote that's attributed to Winston Churchill: "You can always count on America to do the right thing, after it has exhausted all other options."
The monumental U.S. election results won't change everything, but they do send a clear signal of most Americans' wish for change. We have slain the dragon, for now.
When I wrote about the election a few weeks ago, I got more response than anything I've shared in years. In fact, in ten years of writing online, I don't think I've ever had more negative comments (though, fortunately, the positives outnumbered the negatives 3-to-1). Well, here we are now, and the world is a very different place.
I’d like to speak to any of my readers who have supported the current U.S. president in the past, or who are planning to do so again this year. There aren’t a lot of you, but you tend to be very vocal—and believe it or not, I’ve been trying to understand where you’re coming from.
I wrote and rewrote this post at least three times before figuring out what I wanted to say. I knew that if I insulted you, you wouldn’t listen—which is fair, because I don’t tend to listen to people who insult me either.
One of you wrote to me recently to say that I must think everyone who supports Trump is a moron. But that’s not true, I replied. I think a lot of them know exactly what they’re getting with their candidate.
When we all went into this thing in March, I tried to remain as positive as possible. I still believe everything I said before, about how I want to come out of this time better than I was when it started, etc. We can only worry about what’s within our control. And of course, let’s try to be kind to one another.
But then the spring turned to summer, and the summer to fall (at least in my part of the world). And nothing really got better! Quite the opposite, in fact.
Now we’re all setting low expectations for standards of wellbeing. “Hope you’re hanging in there” is the new “Hope you’re doing well.” And let’s face it, lots of people aren’t doing well.
So, finally, I’ve come to the point of feeling defeated about the whole year—and I know it’s not just me.
“Our greatest fear should not be failure but succeeding at things in life that don't really matter.”
Last year, pre-pandemic, I went to a three-day yoga retreat in Arizona. I'd never done such a thing before and was thinking of signing up for a longer one, so this seemed like a safe introduction.
The yoga itself was good. I enjoyed the classes and met a few nice people.
Among the group of one-hundred or so attendees, I noticed that several of them spent a lot of time working on their selfie game. Some even had a pro photographer in tow, who documented their poses, attempts at acro yoga, and bikini collections.
If you try to tackle a big project and end up getting stuck somewhere along the way, it might mean that some steps are missing.
Imagine trying to complete a difficult, 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Even though it has a thousand pieces, finishing the puzzle requires to complete more than a thousand steps.
You need to spend time sorting, grouping, and looking for edge pieces. You also might have to undo some parts of your work as you go along—which adds more steps, since now you need to override previous tasks that you thought had been completed.
This is all logical enough, but a) it takes time, and b) if you haven’t ever done a large puzzle before, you might get frustrated. You might give up along the way, leaving your puzzle half-finished and sitting on the kitchen table for weeks. Finally, you push the pieces back into the box, swearing off puzzles until the next family holiday gathering or global pandemic.
Here's a helpful filter to know when to worry: does something sound too good to be true, or does it sound so bad that people give up and stop thinking for themselves?
Either way, when everyone around you agrees, it's worth asking some questions. Questions like: "What’s really going on here—and who is threatened by disagreement?"
Consider it an opportunity! When it comes to Coronavirus life, an astounding amount of groupthink is currently taking place. It’s as though everyone is taking the collective temperature (no pun intended...) before deciding what they believe and how they should act.
You know the feeling you get when an appointment approaches on your calendar and you’re not looking forward to it? Maybe you’re even dreading it?
Ugh. I totally forgot about that, you think. But I guess I need to to do it, since I agreed long ago.
We've all been there. Some of us find ourselves there all the time. The good news is, there’s a trick to make that happen less and less.
It comes from understanding that when someone asks you to do something you don't really want to do, you’re more willing to agree if it takes place far into the future. You tend to think, “Oh, that’s a long time from now. I’m not thrilled about the idea, but sure, I can do that.”
What holds people back from making a bold choice or following a dream?
When you ask, often they’ll point to the lack of knowledge. They simply aren’t sure what to do, so they wait for someone to give them a step-by-step plan.
Other times, they mention a lack of resources or some kind of access—perhaps they need money, or maybe they're holding out on a specific connection or certification.
After writing and sharing online for more than a decade, however, I’m pretty sure that these cases are the minority. Instead, the thing that stops more people than anything else is internal resistance.
First up, thank you so much for your support of THE MONEY TREE! Despite the numerous challenges of current events, the book is getting out to lots of people.
Now that it's out, a number of readers have asked me to explain more about a big change I made. Specifically, my new book is unlike any of my six others: it’s fiction. I created an imaginary world of characters, and did my best to bring them to life.
It started partly because I wanted to do something new. The more I thought about it, the more nervous I felt ... which of course is often a good sign. A sense of nervousness and even feeling a little afraid can be helpful in showing you what you need to do next.
Wondering what to do during this time of chaos? I have a proposal.
First, the best thing you can do is what you already know about: keep people safe by washing your hands, refraining from gatherings, etc.
But unless you’re on the front lines (THANK YOU to everyone who is), most of those actions are passive. When you’re sitting at home with clean hands, what can you do besides turn on Netflix?
This is my proposal: the best thing you can do is be safe, but the second best thing is to be productive.
I hope you’re holding up okay in the new world order. Instead of talking to you about social distancing (I’m guessing you’ve heard about that already), today I’ll just give you a personal observation: Since I've started trying to worry only about things I can influence or change, I’ve been a lot less anxious.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t worrisome circumstances out there. It just means that, aside from what you’ve already heard about, there isn’t a lot you can do to change them.
Meanwhile, unnecessary worrying has a cost, without providing any benefit. Worrying about something you can’t control doesn’t make that thing any better.