I always adore anything related to mindset

Im not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s an election going on. Seems like a pretty dull affair, to be honest. Not much to discuss. In a country that is the shining example for governmental efficiency and democratic representation for the rest of the world, I expect nothing but continued solidarity between political parties, not to mention widespread approval of the country’s leadership. So…

…congratulations New Zealand! 

You did it, kiwis. As usual, you were so functional and reasonable that we almost forgot you were there at all. Kia ora. 

All right, who’s next? Let’s see—*checks notes*—Ah, yes, the United States. Okay, this one should be pretty straightfor— 

(10 minutes later…) 

“Holy fucking Christ. Make it stop! MAKE IT STAHP!!!”

*Crawls under the bed sobbing*

If you were to ask anyone in the US, it feels as though something imperceptible is either broken or is in the process of breaking. This brokenness gets blamed on a lot of things. People on the left predictably blame Trump, his incompetence, and his complete lack of ethics. People on the right generally point to the growing movement of “woke” social justice activists, their revolutionary rhetoric, and complete lack of sanity. Both make strong points. 

Yet, I believe something more fundamental and worrying is happening. Fundamental, because I believe it’s driving the radicalization and hostility on both sides of the political spectrum. Worrying, because I don’t see how it gets resolved by any single election result. 

You would never guess by looking at the news headlines, but the American people by and large agree on most issues. Three-quarters believe the government should expand its coverage of health care. Two-thirds believe there should be stricter gun laws. 79% think abortion should be legal. 76% support investing more in education. A staggering 96% support infrastructure improvements. 75% say it’s somewhat/very important to promote more racial and ethnic diversity. 76% say racism continues to be a big problem. Two-thirds see China as a threat and 83% believe the US should remain the world’s major military power. 

Yet, despite all of this agreement, polarization between the two major parties is at an all-time high. 

This polarization is that ineffable-yet-fundamentally-broken “something” that I think we all feel. Despite most of the country being in accord on its biggest issues—the politicians and media continue to escalate their incessant squabbling to a fever pitch that is now beginning to justify violence. In a recent survey, roughly one-third of both Republican and Democrat supporters said that if their party loses next week, they believe that violence would be justified. 

Clearly, there is a major disconnect going on between perception and reality. The question is “Why?” 

The Story of Institutional Decay

In 2014, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote an essay titled, “America in Decay.” In political science, institutional decay occurs when governments and other important organizations cease to respond adequately to the population’s needs. The causes of decay can be both malicious—rampant corruption, dickhead leaders, etc.—or they can be benign—i.e., the institutions can simply become rigid and fail to adapt to new realities. 

Fukuyama, after tracing the history of American institutions and their incentive structures over the past 200 years, came to a downright depressing conclusion. I will quote him at length and hope he doesn’t sue me (my italics): 

“The U.S. political system has decayed over time because its traditional system of checks and balances has deepened and become increasingly rigid. In an environment of sharp political polarization, this decentralized system is less and less able to represent majority interests and gives excessive representation to the views of interest groups and activist organizations that collectively do not add up to a sovereign American people.


[T]he United States is trapped by its political institutions. Because Americans distrust government, they are generally unwilling to delegate to it the authority to make decisions, as happens in other democracies. Instead, Congress mandates complex rules that reduce the government’s autonomy and cause decision-making to be slow and expensive. The government then doesn’t perform well, which confirms people’s lack of trust in it. Under these circumstances, they are reluctant to pay higher taxes, which they feel the government will simply waste. But without appropriate resources, the government can’t function properly, again creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What Fukuyama describes is a kind of downward spiral of political dysfunction. Crappy institutions generate crappier outcomes, which then generate resentment and distrust and polarization within the population, which generates worse leaders and worse policies and weaker institutions, and down the shit-spiral we all go. 

In their book, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, economists Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson describe these institutional spirals as self-reinforcing in both directions. Countries with well-performing institutions generate economic growth and trust within the population. This then generates more support and solidarity in government, which then generates better leaders and better policies, which then creates more economic growth and social trust and so on. Run that cycle enough times and you get New Zealand. Run the cycle in the other direction long enough and you get Afghanistan. 

Most developed, western nations are spiralling upward and have been since World War II. The United States, Fukuyama argues, is in many ways, no longer spiralling up, but beginning to spiral down. What’s worse, he concludes depressingly that we are unlikely to summon the courage and political capital to reverse these trends ourselves. Instead, it will require some sort of cataclysmic event to wake the country from its gridlock and stupor. He writes: 

“The depressing bottom line is that given how self-reinforcing the country’s political malaise is, and how unlikely the prospects for constructive incremental reform are, the decay of American politics will probably continue until some external shock comes along to catalyze a true reform coalition and galvanize it into action.”

Government is Best which Governs Boring

What’s perhaps most frustrating is that the American people do not even seem to be aware of these dynamics taking place under their feet. We’re too busy fighting the people we mostly agree with. 

Last week, I wrote an article about the Law of Unintended Consequences—how scary-looking bullshit often distracts us from highly abstract, slow-moving, but very real, dangers. The American obsession with 24-hour news and day-to-day hit pieces about Facebook ads and random laptops left in Delaware repair shops is a perfect example of this. We are participating in a slow-moving car crash, yet everyone is too busy passionately arguing about what’s on the radio to look up and take heed. 

That’s because the business of driving and steering well (i.e., good governance) is a dull and quotidian affair. It doesn’t grab headlines. And it shouldn’t inspire millions to take the streets. In the absence of a long history and binding heritage, I worry that the American addiction to entertainment has become our Achilles’ Heel. Our politics resemble Wrestlemania more than they do actual governance. Red vs Blue has become the new national pastime—a never-ending resolution-free Super Bowl. 

Ronald Reagan was fond of saying, “Government is best which governs least.” Instead, I submit that “Government is best which governs boring.” If changes in the tax code seem scandalous or thrilling—you’re doing it wrong. If healthcare policy has you more upset than the last season of Game of Thrones—you’re doing it wrong. If a new finance regulation has you up in arms and ready to take to the streets—you’re doing it wrong.  

By the time you read this, I will have already voted for Biden. Not because I’m particularly enthusiastic about the guy or enthusiastic about a system that consistently produces two bad options every four years. But rather, because there is nothing enthusiastic about him. He’s boring. And unlike Trump, he’s willing to do boring things, like listen to scientists and experts, like sit through the complexities of policymaking, like respect the opposition’s humanity. 

He conjures less of an emotional reaction. And in this day and age, I submit that this is a good thing. 

Note: This originally appeared as a Mindf*ck Monday Newsletter. You can sign up to receive it each Monday morning. It’s free, and usually not about politics.

Cool this is really good more on self-improvement please

With quarantine limitations still in order here in the US, spending so much time at home has brought up some interesting challenges.

Even though I’ve worked from home for two years, this period of time has taught me that working from home can easily blur the lines between work and self-care.

When your home is also your office, bringing work into your self-care space can create some hazy boundaries. This makes it hard to a) find the motivation to work and/or b) switch off from work.

Working from home can blur the lines between productivity and self-care. Here's how to balance work and self-care when you work from home.

When I was working in an office, I found it easy to mentally check out from work as soon as I left the office at 5pm. But now, I’ll catch myself making dinner at 5 then going back to my computer while I eat (so bad, I know).

Working from home means the same place where you eat, relax, and socialize becomes associated with work.

If you’re on regular Zoom calls, your work meetings are now in your sacred space. It’s almost like inviting your co-workers into your living room for a meeting.

To add to this, your typical forms of escape from work might not be available with quarantine limitations still in effect. For example, the yoga studio, the gym, your local pool, and the coffee shop where you would catch up with a friend.

The places and activities that you associate with self-care aren’t available right now. This can make it hard to disengage from work while simultaneously making you feel like you’re resting too much.

In this post, I’m sharing a few tips that have been helping me to set boundaries so I can better balance work and rest from home.

How To Balance Work & Self-Care When You Work From Home

Working from home can blur the lines between productivity and self-care. Here's how to balance work and self-care when you work from home.

1. Create a ritual to bookmark the start and end of the day

When working in an office, your commute might have been your signal that the workday was starting or ending. Working from home makes it a little harder to keep a similar structure.

A friend of mine said during the first few weeks of working from home, she would roll out of bed at 7:55am to check in on her computer at 8am. She was enjoying getting the extra sleep knowing she didn’t have to commute.  After doing this for a while, she started to crave some time to herself before work. She began getting up around 7 instead to make time for a cup of tea and journaling, which gives her a chance to get ready for the day ahead.

Be intentional with how you want to start and end your day. Think of the time before and after work like your wind-up and wind-down time.

At the end of the day, do whatever you can to get out of the work mentality. Turn off your computer screen, close your laptop, and get away from your desk. I also find that going for a walk around the block at the end of the workday helps to decompress, and it almost feels like a mini-commute (but much more enjoyable). 

2. Set a time to stop working and checking notifications

When you’re spending most of your time at home, it’s tempting to check your phone or computer after hours. Since they’re always in close proximity, you might find it hard to resist checking in if you find yourself with nothing to do. 

Create a boundary to help you maintain this separation between work and rest time. That might look like not checking emails before 8am or after 5pm, or setting app limits from 6pm until 8am the next day.

On the weekends, it can be tempting to work when you have the resources right in front of you. If you want a work-free weekend, try putting your laptop out of sight, keep your office door closed (if you have an office), and delete your email app from your phone until Monday.

The thing is that you have to set these boundaries for yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.

3. Separate your spaces for work and self-care

Try to create separate spaces, even if they’re small, to separate your work and self-care areas. For example, I have a corner in my living room that I’ve dedicated as my workout spot (which just means it’s where I put my workout mat). It’s not very big, but it’s enough space to do what I need to do.

Another example is sticking to doing work from a dedicated area. If you’ve been using your couch or bed for both work and relaxation, it might be sending confusing signals to your brain. I find that when I work on the couch, I’m less productive and it’s harder to concentrate (even if I’m not watching anything on TV). My back and legs also tend to hurt more because my coffee table isn’t tall enough to work from. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working from these spots sometimes, but it’s better to have a desk and chair set-up that you use exclusively for work.

If you don’t have the space to separate your work and non-work life, try to create different moods in your home.

For example, you can use scents, sounds, and textures (from clothing) for different times of the day. You could use one essential oil during work and another one for after work. Or you can wear form-fitting (but still comfy) clothes during work and change into your comfiest, loose clothing afterward. Subtle changes like this can create the illusion of separation when you don’t have much space to work with.

More Tips to Balance Work and Rest

If you feel like you’re working too much and not getting enough rest, check out these posts:

If you feel like you’re resting too much and not being productive at home, check out these posts: 

Share your thoughts! How have you been maintaining boundaries while working from home?

The post How To Balance Productivity and Rest When You Work From Home appeared first on The Blissful Mind.