“Show up on time. It is the basis of everything.” Anthony Bourdain
Lifehacker published an interesting piece on How to avoid a life of regret:
According to psychologist Tom Gilovich, lead author on “The Ideal Road Not Taken,” published in the journal Emotion, our regrets that bother us the most involve failing to live up to our “ideal selves.” Basically, we’re not as bothered by the mistakes we’ve made or the things we ought to have done as we are bothered by never becoming the person we truly wanted to be. Gilovich explains:
“When we evaluate our lives, we think about whether we’re heading toward our ideal selves, becoming the person we’d like to be. Those are the regrets that are going to stick with you, because they are what you look at through the windshield of life. The ‘ought’ regrets are potholes on the road. Those were problems, but now they’re behind you.”
The author delineates the actual self, ideal self, and the ought self in what’s called the self-discrepancy theory:
The actual self is what a person believes themselves to be now, based on current attributes and abilities. The ideal self is comprised of the attributes and abilities they’d like to possess one day—in essence, their goals, hopes, and aspirations. The ought self is who someone believes they should have been according to their obligations and responsibilities. In terms of regrets, the failure of the ought self is more “I could have done that better,” and the failure of the ideal self is more “I never became that person I wanted to become.”
So, chase your ideal self – not what you think you are, not what your peers want you to be, but what you aspire to be. You’re going to have to make the leap if you want to avoid the worst kind of regret: not trying at all.
According to German critical theorist Hartmut Rosa, accelerated technological developments have driven the acceleration in the pace of change in social institutions.
Noticeable acceleration began more than two centuries ago, during the Industrial Revolution. But this acceleration has itself accelerated. Guided by neither logical objectives nor agreed-upon rationale, propelled by its own momentum, and encountering little resistance, acceleration seems to have begotten more acceleration, for the sake of acceleration.
To Rosa, this acceleration eerily mimics the criteria of a totalitarian power: 1) it exerts pressure on the wills and actions of subjects; 2) it is inescapable; 3) it is all-pervasive; and 4) it is hard or almost impossible to criticize and fight.
“Impatience with actions, patience with results.” — Naval
Inspiration is not a prerequisite for action. You don’t need emotional fuel, just as you don’t need a cup of coffee to start your day.
The mystical spark inside you thinks that placebos fuel motion. But they’re the excuse.
Excellence is the next five minutes. Small efforts drip over time. Little actions create waves.
Now if you could only never get tired of waiting…
We all hit the wall. Stuck in inanition, we get frustrated with a lack of progress.
But all blocks are temporary. Our neurons continue searching for one another to talk to without forcing them to connect.
When the well runs dry, quitting to do something else should always be an option. The activity doesn’t always have to be active nor stimulating. It could be laying down on the couch doing nothing at all, letting the unconscious mind go to work.
Think of rest as deliberate postponement
Sitting upright in a chair all day is draining.
Standing on our feet all day is also exhausting.
Admiring our own words without proper interrogation is damaging.
Persistence, sticktuitiveness, building up confidence — everything that comes from deliberate practice matters.
But the answers seem to come when we put the task aside and rest on automatic, letting go as the best possible course. As Aldous Huxley wrote in Island:
It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.
Humans are too flawed to push it 100% of the time. Our best works happens in stops and starts.
Time is moving at warp speed.
But is it time or our habits that permit time to slip into the future?
Today’s perception is irreality. We spend more time looking into our devices than we do looking up at the world. What seems like 2 minutes pecking at the phone turns into 20 minutes of squandered time.
Meanwhile, the child just lives in the moment. They are driven by novelty instead of worrying about tomorrow.
Adults mull over the possibility of death and permit regret to poison their hopes. They also have the responsibility — for work, kids, their health etc. — that constricts their freedom of play in the present.
Time holds steady, adherent to each tick. It is humans who panic.
“It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.
There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
— Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays
Time is constant. And it keeps on moving with more and more rapidity, driven by technology.
Said painter Fredericka Foster in her interview with composer Philip Glass:
Time is speeding up in a real way. Younger people’s sense of time is completely different than mine; they have been working on screen time since they were tiny. Perhaps the reason why summer went by so fast for your son is that he has never experienced the slowdown in time, or boredom.
We have food, we enjoy our electronic screens, yet boredom seems to harder to find. It is scarce.
We’ve learned to pursue distraction as a replacement for letting our minds wander. Entertainment fills the void: it introduces new and shiny objects in the form of YouTube videos and shiny Instagrams.
But we can still freeze time, at least in our heads when we look at something like a painting. Says Phillip Glass:
When I look at a painting, time always seems to be in the present. In music, things happen in measured time. When a painter looks at a canvas, time is irrelevant. I was visiting Jasper Johns once, looking at one of his number paintings from 10 years before. He said, “I am still working on that painting.” When I look at your paintings, for you a day of work may go by fast or slow, but the painting is the painting, and looking, I can jump in and get to zero time easily.
When in the midst of creativity, time also seems to slow down. We dance, play an instrument, write, or paint to the rhythm of each tick-tock.
Once I get the composition down, I can begin to pay attention to the rhythm of the painting. I put on music (for example, your Satyagraha) and enter into a dance with the painting, changing the composition to exaggerate the rhythm. Time disappears. I become a verb, seeing, painting. That time cannot be measured. With this kind of focused attention, time has no boundaries. That’s the kind of time you find in love, in creativity, in the life of the spirit, the kind of time I live for.
Time is elapsing now, yet there are still ways to grasp it.
Every advance reveals a new shortcoming. Your job is to endure the lows and optimize the highs to achieve a positive slope within the jaggedness of the messy middle — so that, on average, every low is less low than the one before it, and every subsequent high is a little higher.
Whether it’s in life, a creative endeavor, or in business, the ‘messy middle’ can also be portrayed as a sine wave. Some people surf the wave, others drown.
Life is not linear. Here’s to the emotional journey of anything great.
Things are never perfect the first time around, a bit better than second, and mind a few tweaks, they seem be just about right in the third and fourth efforts.
The fear of failure is good quality control. It ensures that in the process of disrupting ourselves, we appreciate the challenge of ascendancy.
Riding the wave of uncertainty
The attempt to blaze our own trail is never easy. Being misunderstood for long periods of time dampens the mood. But there will always be more guilt in not trying.
Dreams require a ceaseless imperative of movement, the confidence to tread into unknown territory regardless of faith and doubt.
We suffer from a surfeit of choice. Stuck in indecision, we end up doing nothing at all. Perhaps intertia is the best solution in these dizzying times. Instead of forcing the issue, we let nature take its course.
But more often than not, life doesn’t move unless we do. It begs for action and a subsequent reaction. Even more, in doing, we realize how much more is invisible.
Passivity and dynamism coexist
Surrounded by a morass of distraction machines, it’s no wonder we permit the frustration of ‘what’s next’ chip away at our patience. “Patience is the key to joy,” wrote Rumi.
Staring into nature’s green space may not solve our problem, but it will help us think expansively. We can assume that the best answer lies beyond us. That is until we realize that the answer cramped inside us all along.
The wait never means never if we never get tired of waiting it out right now.
The search continues.
Each individual reduces danger to itself by moving to the center of the group. The herd appears as a unit, but its function emerges from the uncoordinated behavior of self-serving individuals.
We copy others out of safety, thinking that it’s better to conform rather than be ostracized. So like lemmings, we do whatever else is doing, including following the same people like everyone else.
But the center of normality, the standard, is flattening. There’s no longer one size fits all. The internet leveled the playing field for all niche creators and interests while perpetuating the mass.
So while Beyonce trends across the world after dropping a new track, the bedroom musician who makes ambient music strikes a chord for his or her 1,000 devoted fans.
A purple cow is too interesting to ignore. So were Darwin’s finches which thrived on their own uniqueness.
The rest of us can continue to jump through hoops. But then who’s in charge?
Sitting is the new smoking. While that claim may be a bit exaggerated, it is an effective reminder to remind ourselves to take our body for a walk.
The more than 360 joints inside our bodies are also ample evidence that we are built to stand up and move. And while more offices are including stand up desks and other mobility devices, the sedentary lifestyle still dominates.
Sitting for long periods of time reduces overall blood flow, particularly the oxygen that gets pushed via bloodstream through the lungs to the brain.
So, set yourself a reminder to get up every half hour and move around. But beware of text neck.