Moving Away from Self-Reflection

Ever since I started this blog my writing has been primarily focused on analyzing the contents and workings of my mind, all with the end goal of becoming a happier and more fulfilled human being. I tried to explore all manner of concepts related to self-improvement, both in an attempt to share ideas that had helped me along my journey and to increase my own understanding of those concepts.

There has been a shift inside of me recently. For the first time since I started my journey of self-improvement 4 years ago, I’m no longer preoccupied with “fixing” myself. It’s not that I’ve all of sudden become the happy and fulfilled person I want to be. I still have plenty of things I want to change about myself, but spending my time thinking and writing about those things no longer feels useful. The truth of the matter is that I spent more time during the past four years talking about different ways to become a happier person than actually doing the things that would have made me happy.

Now I find myself motivated to simply do more of the things I love. I love to read. I love to write. I love to take and edit photos. I love to travel. So those are the things I’m going to start focusing on in this blog. Those are the things I’m going to document and describe. Sure, there will still be some self-reflection in my writing, but I want that reflection to be based on my actions and experiences, not just ideas I read in a book.

Narrowing My Focus

Before coming to Spain this year I took a step outside my comfort zone and started a Youtube channel. I made about 40 videos in 7 months, and I really enjoyed it for the most part. However, my desire to create new videos has pretty much disappeared over the past two months. I thought it might just be a temporary motivational slump, and that maybe doing some filming during my recent trips to Prague and Bucharest would help renew my motivation. No such luck.

So after giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided to stop making videos for the moment and focus more on my writing.

Writing has been one of my biggest passions for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never devoted a serious amount of time to it. Trying to film and edit videos every week made that even more of a challenge, and I think this decision will allow me to really turn pro in the one area of my life that means the most to me, something I’ve avoided for most of my life. My hope is that I can now start putting out a few well-written blog posts each week. I also want to push myself to explore different types of writing, like travel articles and even short stories.

Of course, I do have some doubts about this decision. Will I regret not continuing on this path? Am I just giving up because it’s getting hard? I can’t say for sure that those doubts are unfounded, but there’s something inside telling me that this will be the best thing for me. And if I’ve learned anything during the past few years, it’s to have a little faith in my own intuition.

 

 

 

 

Quote of the Week #44

We can’t change anything in our lives unless we bring awareness to the areas we want to change. However, change doesn’t happen by resisting what that awareness shows us. It’s paradoxical, but only by accepting where we are in the moment can we begin to move forward in a positive way.

Moving Forward

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Last week I had my first painful breakup in almost three years. Circumstances made the split inevitable, but it was shitty nonetheless.

I decided from the start that I would give myself one week to wallow in my emotions, and wallow is what it I did. It sucked. It hurt. Sleep didn’t come easy for me. But as the days went by, I could feel the worst of the emotions start to subside. My anger was replaced with sadness. Then my sadness started to feel more hollow, a sense of acceptance setting in underneath it.

Now a week has passed and the time for wallowing has ended. I’m still sad, of course, but I realize that this ending represents a new opportunity for me. Not necessarily an opportunity for new romance (that’s not even a thought in my head at this point), but for self-discovery and growth.

I guess the biggest mindfuck for me is that, throughout the relationship I maintained the belief that who I was hadn’t changed, that I was still that ultra-independent person, only to realize I was dead-wrong. And that’s the crazy thing about relationships: how they change you as a person. The way you think about the world shifts from an individual perspective to one that always includes the other person. No matter how independent you try to stay, making yourself vulnerable to someone for a long period of time eventually makes them an integral part of your reality. And when it ends, you’re left feeling like a part of you is gone.

The challenge I face now is not only one of accepting the reality of the situation, but also rebuilding myself. It’s relearning how to view the world from the lense of an individual instead of a part of a relationship. It’s figuring out how to incorporate all the ways I’ve changed during the relationship into a new, independent version of myself.

I’m fortunate in that this relationship changed me in a lot of positive ways. It helped me discover and embrace my creativity. It opened my mind to new ways of looking at the world. And, even though it hurts to think about, it brought me face to face with a lot of the unpleasant parts of myself, parts that I know I need to change if I want to be a happier person in the future.

So I sit here now, feeling as though I’m at the edge of a giant cliff. Past the edge is a whole lot of unknowns. It’s dark and frightening. But going back is not an option. What’s done is done, and trying to live in the past will only lead to pain and bitterness. My only choice is to jump into the unknown and have faith that everything will be alright.

It’s a scary situation, but I’m comforted by this quote from Joseph Campbell:

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

Now it’s time to find my treasure.

 

 

 

 

One Focus, Seven Goals

Photo: San Sebastian, Spain

Happy New Year everyone!

I’m writing this on January 1st  which means it’s time for an obligatory New Year’s resolution post.

I don’t have a great history with New Year’s resolutions. It’s well known that the majority of people don’t stick to the resolutions they make, and I’ve been a part of that majority pretty much every year that I’ve made one.

That’s why I decided a few weeks ago that, instead of making a typical New Year’s resolution, I would pick a “focus” instead; something I can practice throughout the year without the pressure of having to accomplish anything. That focus will be mindfulness.

Still, the progress I made in 2016 left me with a drive to really push myself this year. So while mindfulness will be my top priority, there are still some concrete things I’m going to try to accomplish as well. Here are the most important ones for me:

  1. Learn HTML and design my own website
  2. Put out multiple blog posts and vlogs each week
  3. Travel to at least 5 new countries
  4. Save up to buy a new camera and video editing software
  5. Read 50 books
  6. Make meditation a consistent habit
  7. Improve my Spanish

I already know that accomplishing these will be quite the challenge. Consistency is something I’ve always struggled with, and most of them will require a lot of discipline and consistent effort. Yet, for what might be the first time in my life, I’m filled with more excitement than dread at the thought of pursuing these goals. I know that just working towards them will create a lot of positive change in my life.

Maybe it’s the momentum from this past year talking, but I truly believe I’m going to crush it in 2017.

 

 

 

 

2017: The Year of NOW

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As we near the end of 2016, I can look back on the past 12 months with a smile. I made more progress in my personal development this year than in any year prior.

One of my main focuses throughout the year was changing the way I think. I used strategies such as repeating thought loops, positively reframing my negative thoughts, and cultivating gratitude and self-love. These efforts weren’t without reward; maintaining a positive mindset throughout the day has become much easier.

New Year, New Strategy

If I’m being truly honest with myself I have to admit that focusing on my thinking will only get me so far on my journey. No matter how many of these thought-strategies I use, trying to change my thoughts only offers me temporary relief from negativity. I may be better at editing my thoughts as they come up, but my default thoughts are still mostly negative. Plus the constant effort to think positive thoughts can be exhausting at times, and when my negative thoughts can’t be reframed or overcome by positivity, I often end up even more frustrated than before.

This doesn’t mean that becoming a significantly happier person is a pipe dream for me though. I just need to change my strategy. Fortunately, I’ve known the correct strategy for quite some time now: being present to the moment.

My most life-changing moment was reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle back in 2013. Before reading it, I had always completely identified with each and every negative thought I had. So Tolle’s assertion that “you are not your thoughts” was revolutionary for me. By following his advice to observe my thoughts and place my attention on the present moment, I was able to experience a sense of peace that was completely foreign to me at the time.

“To realize that you are not your thoughts is when you begin to awaken spiritually.”

– Eckhart Tolle

Despite experiencing the literal power of “now,” I continued to only return to it in my darkest moments. Being present to the moment was nice, but I wanted to actually change the quality of the thoughts I was having. In a way, avoiding the challenge of actually changing my thoughts almost seemed like taking the easy way out. So presence took a backseat to my focus on positive thinking.

Fast-forward three years and here I am, a lot happier but still struggling daily to change my thoughts. So I’m forced to ask myself….

Why am I exerting so much energy trying to change my thoughts when I could find peace through being present to the moment?

The irony of it all is that “the easy way out” is actually a huge challenge in itself. Living in the NOW may alleviate the need to change my thoughts, but it requires just as much effort and discipline.

“The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not “the thinker.” The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.”

– Eckhart Tolle

So as 2017 approaches, I feel it’s time to make a change. Instead of spending so much time trying to think more positively, I’m going to make being present to the moment my main focus.

Over the years I’ve noticed that I’m a more effective person when operating from a place of presence. I’m more creative, more charismatic, and more energetic. I can think more clearly and I’m better able to focus on whatever task I’m working on. More so than positive thinking, being present to the moment is starting to show itself as the key to my happiness and success.

I still plan on exploring new ways to improve my thoughts and emotions, and I’ll still pursue my goals. But I want presence to be the foundation from which all of my actions spring.