By Leo Babauta, Creator of Zen Habits. Vegan, dad, husband.
For the last dozen years, I’ve been living a (relatively) simple life. At times, the complexity of my life grows, and I renew my commitment to living simply.
Living a simple life is about paring back, so that you have space to breathe. It’s about doing more with less, because you realize that having more and doing more doesn’t lead to happiness. It’s about finding joys in the simple things, and being content with solitude, quiet, contemplation and savoring the moment.
I’ve learned some key lessons for living a simple life, and I thought I’d share a few with you. ...
by Zat Rana
Before dying at the age of 39, Blaise Pascal made huge contributions to both physics and mathematics, notably in fluids, geometry, and probability.
This work, however, would influence more than just the realm of the natural sciences. Many fields that we now classify under the heading of social science did, in fact, also grow out of the foundation he helped lay.
Interestingly enough, much of this was done in his teen years, with some of it coming in his twenties. As an adult, inspired by a religious experience, he actually started to move towards philosophy and theology.
Right before his death, he was hashing out fragments of private thoughts that would later be released as a collection by the name of Pensées.
While the book is mostly a mathematician’s case for choosing a life of faith and belief, the more curious thing about it is its clear and lucid ruminations on what it means to be human. It’s a blueprint of our psychology long before psychology was deemed a formal discipline.
There is enough thought-provoking material in it to quote, and it attacks human nature from a variety of different angles, but one of its most famous thoughts aptly sums up the core of his argument:
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
According to Pascal, we fear the silence of existence, we dread boredom and instead choose aimless distraction, and we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind.
The issue at the root, essentially, is that we never learn the art of solitude.
The perils of being connectedToday, more than ever, Pascal’s message rings true. If there is one word to describe the progress made in the last 100 years, it’s connectedness.
Information technologies have dominated our cultural direction. From the telephone to the radio to the TV to the internet, we have found ways to bring us all closer together, enabling constant worldly access.
I can sit in my office in Canada and transport myself to practically anywhere I want through Skype. I can be on the other side of the world and still know what is going on at home with a quick browse.
I don’t think I need to highlight the benefits of all this. But the downsides are also beginning to show. Beyond the current talk about privacy and data collection, there is perhaps an even more detrimental side-effect here.
We now live in a world where we’re connected to everything except ourselves.
If Pascal’s observation about our inability to sit quietly in a room by ourselves is true of the human condition in general, then the issue has certainly been augmented by an order of magnitude due to the options available today.
The logic is, of course, seductive. Why be alone when you never have to?
Well, the answer is that never being alone is not the same thing as never feeling alone. Worse yet, the less comfortable you are with solitude, the more likely it is that you won’t know yourself. And then, you’ll spend even more time avoiding it to focus elsewhere. In the process, you’ll become addicted to the same technologies that were meant to set you free.
Just because we can use the noise of the world to block out the discomfort of dealing with ourselves doesn’t mean that this discomfort goes away.
Almost everybody thinks of themselves as self-aware. They think they know how they feel and what they want and what their problems are. But the truth is that very few people really do. And those that do will be the first to tell how fickle self-awareness is and how much alone time it takes to get there.
In today’s world, people can go their whole lives without truly digging beyond the surface-level masks they wear; in fact, many do.
We are increasingly out of touch with who we are, and that’s a problem.
Boredom as a mode of stimulationIf we take it back to the fundamentals—and this is something Pascal touches on, too—our aversion to solitude is really an aversion to boredom.
At its core, it’s not necessarily that we are addicted to a TV set because there is something uniquely satisfying about it, just like we are not addicted to most stimulants because the benefits outweigh the downsides. Rather, what we are really addicted to is a state of not-being-bored.
Almost anything else that controls our life in an unhealthy way finds its root in our realization that we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs.
We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious in spite of being so intimately connected to everything else around us.
Fortunately, there is a solution. The only way to avoid being ruined by this fear—like any fear—is to face it. It’s to let the boredom take you where it wants so you can deal with whatever it is that is really going on with your sense of self. That’s when you’ll hear yourself think, and that’s when you’ll learn to engage the parts of you that are masked by distraction.
The beauty of this is that, once you cross that initial barrier, you realize that being alone isn’t so bad. Boredom can provide its own stimulation.
When you surround yourself with moments of solitude and stillness, you become intimately familiar with your environment in a way that forced stimulation doesn’t allow. The world becomes richer, the layers start to peel back, and you see things for what they really are, in all their wholeness, in all their contradictions, and in all their unfamiliarity.
You learn that there are other things you are capable of paying attention to than just what makes the most noise on the surface. Just because a quiet room doesn’t scream with excitement like the idea of immersing yourself in a movie or a TV show doesn’t mean that there isn’t depth to explore there.
Sometimes, the direction that this solitude leads you in can be unpleasant, especially when it comes to introspection—your thoughts and your feelings, your doubts and your hopes—but in the long-term, it’s far more pleasant than running away from it all without even realizing that you are.
Embracing boredom allows you to discover novelty in things you didn’t know were novel; it’s like being an unconditioned child seeing the world for the first time. It also resolves the majority of internal conflicts.
The more the world advances, the more stimulation it will provide as an incentive for us to get outside of our own mind to engage with it.
While Pascal’s generalization that a lack of comfort with solitude is the root of all our problems may be an exaggeration, it’s isn’t an entirely unmerited one.
Everything that has done so much to connect us has simultaneously isolated us. We are so busy being distracted that we are forgetting to tend to ourselves, which is consequently making us feel more and more alone.
Interestingly, the main culprit isn’t our obsession with any particular worldly stimulation. It’s the fear of nothingness—our addiction to a state of not-being-bored. We have an instinctive aversion to simply being.
Without realizing the value of solitude, we are overlooking the fact that, once the fear of boredom is faced, it can actually provide its own stimulation. And the only way to face it is to make time, whether every day or every week, to just sit—with our thoughts, our feelings, with a moment of stillness.
The oldest philosophical wisdom in the world has one piece of advice for us: know yourself. And there is a good reason why that is.
Without knowing ourselves, it’s almost impossible to find a healthy way to interact with the world around us. Without taking time to figure it out, we don’t have a foundation to built the rest of our lives on.
Being alone and connecting inwardly is a skill nobody ever teaches us. That’s ironic because it’s more important than most of the ones they do.
Solitude may not be the solution to everything, but it certainly is a start.
By Rebecca Muller, Assistant Editor at Thrive Global
As much as we’d love to leave our work at work, letting our to-do list follow us home on the weekends is a trap that many of us fall into. With the rise of hustle culture, our always-online tendencies, and our trouble setting boundaries, it’s all too easy to let work time spill into personal time. “Many people feel like they can’t afford to turn off work for the weekend,” says Elana Feldman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management at UMass Lowell’s Manning School of Business.
Here’s the rub:
When we don’t disconnect, we risk sabotaging our own weekends, Traci Stein, Ph.D., M.P.H., a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor at Columbia University, tells Thrive. “The problem with bringing your work home with you is that doing so means you can’t fully engage with family, friends, or make time for self-care.” On the flip side, a work-free weekend not only allows you to enjoy your time off, but also helps you start your week on Monday feeling truly recharged. “When people allow themselves to experience a true break, they generally return to work feeling less tired, more positive, and better able to expend the effort required to be effective in their jobs,” says Feldman. “What’s more, research shows that downtime can help prevent burnout over time.”
Of course, completely separating from work is easier said than done — but these tips can make it easier:
by Suzie Doscher, Executive Coach and Life Coaching focusing on Personal Development, Self-Help Author: Balance - A Practical Handbook for Life's Difficult Moments
Coaching your team? Add this skill to your coaching style – being non-judgmental.
There is an abundance of articles on being a coach to your people. I enjoy reading the quality information provided by the Harvard Business Review.
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The article in the HBR: Most Managers Don’t Know How to Coach. But They Can Learn, offers wonderful insights on what coaching is all about and aims to achieve.
Your responsibilities include leading, motivating, inspiring and with your coaching you hope to further their growth, development and enhance their skills.
'Balance - A Practical Handbook and Workbook for Life's Difficult Moments' by Suzie Doscher supports you improve the quality of your life, supports you in difficult moments and overcome life’s challenging every-day situations.
'Balance' is about change and learning the necessary everyday skills required for life = life skills.
Read or listen to it when you feel vulnerable, unsure of yourself, or ineffective in difficult and stressful moments.
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The goal of this book is to help you create new opportunities, learn new behaviors, and become the best version of yourself. It is all about practical action oriented insights, steps and behavior change.
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By Brie Schwartz
In Oprah Winfrey's latest book, The Path Made Clear (available March 26) she explores the power of setting intentions and accepting your calling. Through her inspirational words, we're reminded to follow our intuition—something she explains has been instrumental in her career. Her upcoming work compiles the key lessons she's learned on her journey to self-discovery, combined with wisdom and personal stories from those she admires—including Brené Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Eckhart Tolle.
by Benjamin P. Hardy, Author, husband, father
According to the British philosopher, Alain de Botton, “Anyone who isn’t embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn’t learning enough.” How different is your life, right now, from where you were 12 months ago? If it’s quite similar, then you haven’t been learning very much.
To learn, by nature, is to change and evolve. In order to change and evolve, you need to regularly create peak experiences — those moments which create deep awe, gratitude, and a shift in how you see yourself and the world. When was your last peak experience? What was the last time you flexed your courage muscles? When was the last time you tried something that might not work?
If you’re ready to make wild progress during 2019, you need to make some tweaks. This isn’t anything to be upset, distraught, or frustrated about. Life is, inherently, a learning experience. Life is beautiful. You get to have fun with it. One thing that is really beautiful about moving forward intensely in your future is that, simultaneously, you change your memory about the past. The past, regardless of what it has been — great or disappointing — will change in meaning as you make new decisions in your future. Your future is flexible. Your past is also flexible. What you have is now. You get to decide what you’re going to do. You get to decide how you’re going to live. Look around… No one is stopping you. Want to make a shift? Here are 30 behaviors to get you started:
1. Wake Up Earlier
“You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling, than feeling yourself into action.” —
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