More info on method ok? who agrees?

The Opportunity in Adversity

By Eckhart Tolle

Life unfolds between the polarities of order and chaos. It is important at this time to recognize these two fundamental opposites, without which the world could not even be. Another word for disorder is “adversity.” When it becomes more extreme, we might call it “chaos.”

We would prefer, of course, to have order in our lives, which means to have things going well. We would like relative harmony in our lives. Yet, that very often is marred by the eruption of some form of disorder. And, usually, we resent that—we get angry, or despondent, or sad.

Disorder comes in many, many forms, big and small. When disorder comes it usually creates a kind of havoc in our lives, accompanied by strong underlying beliefs. “There’s something very wrong, this should not be happening, maybe God is against me,” and so on. Again, we need to understand that disorder, or adversity, is inevitable and is an essential part of a higher order.

 From a higher perspective, a higher level, the existence of order and disorder, or order and chaos, is a necessary part of the evolution of life.

 Many people have found that they experience a deepening, or a deeper sense of self or beingness, immediately after and as a result of having endured a period of disorder or chaos. This is sometimes called “the dark night of the soul,” a term from medieval Christianity used to describe the mental breakdown that many mystics experienced prior to awakening spiritually. There was an eruption of disorder, of destruction. Then, out of that, a deeper realization arose.

 And although that can be very painful, the strange thing is, it’s precisely there that many humans experience a transcendence. A strange fact is that it almost never happens that people awaken spiritually while they’re in their comfort zone. Or that they become deeper as human beings, which would be a partial awakening. It almost never happens. The place where the evolutionary shift happens, or the evolutionary leap, is usually the experience of disorder in a person’s life.

And so your life then moves between order and disorder. You have both, and they’re both necessary. There’s no guarantee that when disorder erupts this will bring about an awakening or a deepening, but there’s always the possibility. It is an opportunity, but often, it is missed.

 So here we are at this time, and our mission is the same: to align with the present moment, with whatever is happening here and now. The upheaval that we’re experiencing at the present time probably will not be the last upheaval that’s going to come on a collective level. However, it is an opportunity—because although this is a time for upheavals, it is also a time for awakening. The two go together. Just as in an individual life, you need adversity to awaken. It’s an opportunity but not a guarantee. And so what looks tragic and unpleasant on a conventional level is actually perfectly fine and as it should be on a higher level; it would not be happening otherwise. It’s all part of the awakening of human beings and of planetary awakening.

To learn more about Eckhart’s teachings on Conscious Manifestation, click here.

Join for free and receive upcoming articles, teachings, special announcements, and more.

The post The Opportunity in Adversity appeared first on Eckhart Tolle | Official Site – Spiritual Teachings and Tools For Personal Growth and Happiness.

anyone else love self-improvement as much as i do

The Opportunity in Adversity

By Eckhart Tolle

Life unfolds between the polarities of order and chaos. It is important at this time to recognize these two fundamental opposites, without which the world could not even be. Another word for disorder is “adversity.” When it becomes more extreme, we might call it “chaos.”

We would prefer, of course, to have order in our lives, which means to have things going well. We would like relative harmony in our lives. Yet, that very often is marred by the eruption of some form of disorder. And, usually, we resent that—we get angry, or despondent, or sad.

Disorder comes in many, many forms, big and small. When disorder comes it usually creates a kind of havoc in our lives, accompanied by strong underlying beliefs. “There’s something very wrong, this should not be happening, maybe God is against me,” and so on. Again, we need to understand that disorder, or adversity, is inevitable and is an essential part of a higher order.

 From a higher perspective, a higher level, the existence of order and disorder, or order and chaos, is a necessary part of the evolution of life.

 Many people have found that they experience a deepening, or a deeper sense of self or beingness, immediately after and as a result of having endured a period of disorder or chaos. This is sometimes called “the dark night of the soul,” a term from medieval Christianity used to describe the mental breakdown that many mystics experienced prior to awakening spiritually. There was an eruption of disorder, of destruction. Then, out of that, a deeper realization arose.

 And although that can be very painful, the strange thing is, it’s precisely there that many humans experience a transcendence. A strange fact is that it almost never happens that people awaken spiritually while they’re in their comfort zone. Or that they become deeper as human beings, which would be a partial awakening. It almost never happens. The place where the evolutionary shift happens, or the evolutionary leap, is usually the experience of disorder in a person’s life.

And so your life then moves between order and disorder. You have both, and they’re both necessary. There’s no guarantee that when disorder erupts this will bring about an awakening or a deepening, but there’s always the possibility. It is an opportunity, but often, it is missed.

 So here we are at this time, and our mission is the same: to align with the present moment, with whatever is happening here and now. The upheaval that we’re experiencing at the present time probably will not be the last upheaval that’s going to come on a collective level. However, it is an opportunity—because although this is a time for upheavals, it is also a time for awakening. The two go together. Just as in an individual life, you need adversity to awaken. It’s an opportunity but not a guarantee. And so what looks tragic and unpleasant on a conventional level is actually perfectly fine and as it should be on a higher level; it would not be happening otherwise. It’s all part of the awakening of human beings and of planetary awakening.

To learn more about Eckhart’s teachings on Conscious Manifestation, click here.

Join for free and receive upcoming articles, teachings, special announcements, and more.

The post The Opportunity in Adversity appeared first on Eckhart Tolle | Official Site – Spiritual Teachings and Tools For Personal Growth and Happiness.

IMO anything about self-improvement are fantastic

Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.

Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) There are many different paths to happiness

Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden. At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it may simply be better to remain childless, rather than having kids just to fit in or to fit societal expectations, and then set their lives up for unhappiness. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, but has instead dedicated herself to her personal life purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including some people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and politican activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei (the actress for Peter Parker’s aunt in Tom Holland’s Spider Man film series), Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting this narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and people need to realize that.

2) You may well cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

Important Post !

Hope

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.

Coming Soon to a Streaming Service Near You: A Normal, Boring Presidency

Hearing Biden speak on Saturday night was almost disorienting. Wait, I thought, we have a president (-elect) who doesn’t actively disparage his enemies? Who says he will work just as hard for the people who didn’t vote for him? Who goes out of his way to acknowledge his debt to Black voters, while promising to work with his opponents wherever possible?

SO WEIRD, right???

I kept waiting for him to say we should inject bleach to cure COVID, or call John McCain a loser. But then he said that we should listen to science, and then I remembered that John McCain’s widow and daughter both endorsed him.

Here’s the thing: given all the constraints he’ll be operating under, I’m not sure if Biden will be a transformative president—and I’m okay with that. I do think he is competent, honest, and kind, three qualities that have been in desperately short supply.

In short: this was the empathy election. The speech on Saturday was well done, but I have no doubt that many future Biden speeches will be boring and dry. That’s fine by me, too. Maybe we need that.

*And of course, let’s not forget Kamala Harris, achieving many “firsts” at the same time. This too matters a great deal.

What Does the Rest of the World Think?

Over the past month I’ve heard from hundreds of people from all over the world. The interesting thing is that while I’ve received plenty of complaints from close to home, there is much more uniformity of opinion around the world.

What’s clear is this: the collective trauma of four years of gaslighting is not confined to citizens of the United States.

You know what’s good, though? Since the results were announced, we aren’t the only ones breathing a sigh of relief.

This tweet from the mayor of Paris is a good example:

Or consider the cover of Der Spiegel, an influential magazine in Germany. Compare the two versions from 2016 (left) to 2020 (right):

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 8.29.42 AM

The world wants America to succeed! At least the world apart from governments like Russia and Saudi Arabia. What kind of friends do you want to have?

So that too is good. But to be fair, let’s take up the issue of everyone else.

I’m very aware of the other 70 million people who looked at the past four years and said, “Yep, that’s great, give us more of that.” Here’s what I think about that.

I have never been a member of any political party—in fact, I’m skeptical of political institutions in general. The problem is that even if you’re “not a racist,” if you voted for Trump, the regime you supported was built on racism and xenophobia. Its leader had no ideology aside from advancing his own ego at any cost.

At a certain point, when you “vote for policy and not the person,” you have to consider the consequences of your actions as well as your beliefs.

To the outgoing president’s supporters, my suggestion would be: if you don’t love Biden or the Democrats in general, do what you can to build a better alternative.

Do something to create positive change! Don’t just rally against imaginary socialism or fight oppression by not wearing a mask.

Alternatively, if it turns out that reforming your party isn’t possible, walk away from it. Some things are more important, and one of them is human decency.

***

This whole year has been full of tests and trials. I’ve been depressed throughout parts of it, like so many others. I’m trying to find my way out, perhaps like you are. No doubt next year will prove challenging as well.

But for now, take a deep breath, everyone! There are many challenges to come, but sometimes America does the right thing. Let’s move forward and consider how we can all be the change we want to see.

###

Image: Traworld

Who else thinks self-improvement is cool ?

john-silliman-yoZWr8iQ93o-unsplash

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. 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.

And that, to me, is the greatest problem and what I find the scariest of all.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, however. As I said, I’ve been trying to understand why so many people would support someone with the clear intention of destabilizing the world. So first, I thought I’d try to take a step back and think about it more. To start, I went back four years and what seems like a lifetime ago.​

Why Vote for Trump in 2016? A Few Actual Reasons

What, I wondered, would cause a version of myself to be attracted to such a candidate—could there be anything?

In fact, I realized there could be several things. One, there was a destructive approach to his strategy as a first-time candidate that I respected. He came into a traditional party structure and refused to follow its rules, somehow managing to impose his own and getting everyone else to follow along. There’s no doubt about it: this was a remarkable feat.

Under the right circumstances, being an outsider can convey power and status, especially when the insider choices are so undesirable. If you’re frustrated with the political process in America (and there are many good reasons to be), then I can see why it’s attractive to encounter a successful candidate who disregards nearly all of it.

Similarly, I tend to admire people who question norms and protocol. Should the U.S. president have to spend his time hosting state dinners and welcoming sports teams? Must he pretend to respect his opponents in the primary, even if everyone knows they all hate each other?

Clearly, there’s a line between bravado and carnage. But on the surface level, someone who says “Screw this, I’m going to do it my way” has a certain appeal.

So I get it! At least some of it.

Furthermore, if you believed that things “aren’t the way they used to be” and along comes a candidate who makes a direct appeal to the past instead of the future, then I understand how some of those pieces clicked into place for you. Mitt Romney was honest when he told Michigan that its auto manufacturing jobs weren’t going to come back—and he lost the election. Trump promised them otherwise, even though he had no ability to make it happen—and he won.

Lastly, perhaps you supported him four years ago as a protest vote of sorts. You didn’t like Hillary, for whatever reason, so you thought “I’ll just add to the number of votes for the other side, even though we all know he won’t actually win.”

Voting for Hillary was the obvious choice for me, but if I a) didn’t like her, and b) thought she was going to win no matter what I did, then I understand the protest vote logic.

Of course, much to everyone’s surprise—including the president himself, it seems—he actually won! Russia helped, and so did James Comey, but I don’t deny the fact that a lot of people in the right swing states truly believed in him. The phenomenon was real.​

What We’ve Learned in Four Years

But now it’s time for the reality check. That was then, and now here we are four years later. For everyone who said, “Let’s give him a chance,” ask yourself: how did that turn out? For anyone who thought he would grow to be presidential and stop bullying people online all day, what happened?

Again, you need to acknowledge reality. This is an administration that has separated families and put immigrants in cages. On a daily basis, the president uses a social network to insult not only his enemies, but eventually every single person or group he encounters. No one is safe, not military veterans, the disabled, or even his own revolving cabinet of advisers.

Above all, this is an administration that refuses to acknowledge facts or tell the truth. Over and over, the president and his allies lie directly, and his supporters (maybe you?) don’t seem to mind.

As the saying goes, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

If you have children or grandchildren, how do you explain to them that the president of the United States makes payoffs to porn stars? (And do you remember that the greatest moral controversy of Obama’s eight years in power was when he wore a tan suit to a press conference?)

ThinkAgain

Making America Worse Than Anyone Thought Possible

One of the great ironies of the president’s agenda—if such a thing exists, since so much of it is driven by personality instead of ideology—is that the promise to “make America great again” has actually made America much worse off.

Back in 2016, Trump campaigned with rhetoric about how the world was laughing at the U.S. because we were “weak.” I travel a lot, or at least I did before the pandemic—and I can assure you that the world thinks very differently about American leadership now than it did four years ago.

It’s not a positive change. Our allies are shaken, and our enemies are emboldened. Why do you think Russia has invested so much in trying to destabilize the U.S.? They achieved a tremendous victory four years ago, and they’re on the verge of doing so again.​

It’s Time to Correct a Big Mistake

So here’s what it comes down to: if you voted to support Trump last time, you made a big mistake.

Sorry, but it’s true. The consequences of the 2016 election have been severe and enduring. The pandemic was always going to happen, but it didn’t have to be this bad. Conflict in society is inevitable, but we don’t need to reach the point of complete collapse.

Still, here we are. We all make mistakes. No one can change the outcome of the last election, but so much more is at stake for the next four years. No matter what you thought about this president until now, there’s still time—a very short amount of time—to redeem yourself and walk away.

For my readers who are more progressive, it’s important for you to show up too. Don’t give in to the lie that this election doesn’t matter, or that because Bernie Sanders (or whoever you preferred) didn’t win the nomination, it’s not worth it. You need to do your part!

But I’m not writing this letter to you, because you don’t need my encouragement.

Instead, I’m writing to anyone who is thinking of supporting the president’s reelection, whether you’ve followed my work for a while or have just stumbled upon this communication.

Here’s what I would say to you, as strongly as I can: please don’t vote for Trump this time. You need to reconsider, and change course while you still can.

If you’ve never voted for a Democrat before, this is the time to jump ship.

If you have to go against the wishes of your family, so be it. Now is the time to be courageous.

I’m not asking you to donate to the Biden campaign or join a political party (I’ve never belonged to one myself). What I’m saying is that his candidacy is the only path forward to prevent further breakdown of civil society.

One candidate in this election is a decent, competent person. His biggest weaknesses are that he seems a little out of touch and he talks too much. The other candidate is a sexual predator who has encouraged armed militias to support him if he doesn’t win the election. He has deployed the National Guard to tear gas peaceful citizens for the sake of a photo op. Why is this a hard choice?

MaskVote

So for anyone who’s ever thought, “America should be better than this,” here’s what you need to do. First, register to vote (there’s still time in most states) and request a mail-in ballot if you can.

Second, talk to your parents and grandparents who support Trump. If they’re getting their news from Facebook, that’s half the problem—tell them what’s really going on, show them the evidence from actual news sources, and encourage them to change their minds.

International readers, I haven’t forgotten about you. Most of you know that the whole world is watching this election, and the outcome will affect your lives in many ways. Far-right governments are on the rise worldwide, and they gain strength when they see that a leader in the richest country in the world can get away with this.

So if you’re not in the U.S., encourage your American friends to do the right thing—tell them that you don’t hate them if they voted differently (or didn’t vote at all) before, but now’s the time for them to step up and make a change.

Last but not least, for anyone who says “Wow, Chris, I like your other work, but I don’t like you being so political”—the reality is that our lives are always political. I have been writing about things that matter since I started my blog in 2008, and if anything ever mattered, this is it.

I don’t care if you unsubscribe from my newsletter or stop reading my blog (and there’s no need to send me a message letting me know), but I do care that you decide where you stand in this critical time of history.

Simply put, you need to choose a side. Please choose the right one this time.​​

Yours in democracy,

Chris Guillebeau

P.S. To my fellow artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and creators: guess what? You need to take a side, too. Attempting to be neutral in this situation is another mistake. Be brave and speak up!

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Images: 1, 2, 3

Planets best self-improvement super fan !

Here’s the tricky thing with beliefs: we all think ours are correct. When actually, almost everything we believe, at some point in our lives, will eventually be at least partially wrong. Yet, we never think about this. After all, if we didn’t think our ideas were right, we wouldn’t believe in them!

But our beliefs are never completely correct. In fact, psychologically speaking, we’re highly fallible, emotionally-driven, self-contradictory meat robots who are occasionally so dysfunctional it’s kind of amazing we can wipe our own asses in the morning.

So, if we accept this as our starting point:

  1. “I believe my beliefs are correct—that’s why I have them.”
  2. “Some of my beliefs are probably incorrect.”

The next question becomes, “What’s the best way to determine which of my beliefs are incorrect?”

What’s a process we can develop for questioning ourselves and spotting our erroneous beliefs before they royally screw us over?

Well, a logical starting point would be to name many of the most common mistaken beliefs we tend to hold onto. That’s right, there are basic beliefs and assumptions that you and I regularly buy into with little basis in reality.

The goal of this article is to help you begin to question these basic beliefs and assumptions. Then, ideally, that ability to self-question will extend to other beliefs you hold as well.

Belief #1: “I Know Exactly What To Do”

On the surface, this seems like it would be an empowering belief. The reasoning goes that if you believe you know what you’re doing, you’ll have more confidence in what you’re doing, and if you have more confidence in what you’re doing, you’ll do it better.

But this is just another version of the classic self-help “just believe in yourself” trope—sounds nice on the surface, but doesn’t actually do much. Just think about all of the people you know in your life who are complete fucking idiots, yet they seem convinced that they know what they are doing.1

These guys seem to think they know what they’re doing.
These guys seem to think they know what they’re doing.

See? In the wrong hands, confidence can be a problem.

Research shows that if you have overly strong convictions about what you’re doing, you will justify a lot of your own bullshit. You’ll be less open to constructive feedback. And you’ll likely ignore a lot of good ideas and other, better options.2

In other words, there’s a fine line between “knowing what you’re doing” and ego.

The antidote to this ego is simply accepting the fact that you might not know what you’re doing.3 There’s an old saying that the difference between an expert and an amateur is that the expert is aware of what they don’t know. There’s a lot to be said for that.

bow and arrow accidents
Uhhh, definitely not experts.

Ironically, it’s an expert’s ability to know what they don’t know that allows them to learn more in the first place. Again, research shows that the ability to adapt to change is a much better predictor of competence in pretty much every area of life.4 But in order to adapt to change, you have to be open to being wrong in the first place.5

Sounds simple, but it’s not easy for most of us.

Belief #2: “It’s not Fair”

You know how when you were a kid and you’d want to do something and your parents said you couldn’t and you’d say, “It’s not fair!” to which they’d reply, “Life isn’t fair.”

Yeah, I hated that shit, too. But then you grow up and you start to see that Mom and Dad were kinda right. Life isn’t fair. In fact, you couldn’t even conceive of all of the dimensions in which life indiscriminately gives good things to some and bad things to others.

life isn't fair - Calvin and Hobbes cartoon

OK, so you’ve heard that before. But allow me to propose something that might blow your mind.

What if the issue isn’t life’s unfairness? What if the issue is our definition of “fair?” 

Obviously, every decent, thinking human being believes that people are morally equal—i.e., no individual’s life is inherently more valuable or more important than anyone else’s.

But then, from that, many of us extrapolate the assumption that we should therefore all experience the same pleasures and suffer the same pains.

And that simply doesn’t make sense.

After all, how do we know how much one person suffers and whether it’s more or less than ourselves? How do we know whether something horrible today isn’t life’s greatest gift ten years from now? Or that what we love today will completely screw us over a year in the future?

Leave the “fairness” argument for the court of law. In our day-to-day lives, this whole idea of “fairness”—like life is “unfair” because the economy crashed right as my career was getting started, or life is “unfair” because my brother got accepted to Yale and I didn’t—it likely causes more problems than it solves.

Look, it’s not “fair” that I’m not as handsome as Brad Pitt or that I grew up in a place that was really into tractors or that I have a rare genetic blood condition that could kill me by the time I’m 60.

But I’m still gonna do shit, anyway. Hell, I’m going to do it even harder and faster because of those drawbacks. And that’s what matters.

There are things in life we control. And there are things in life we do not control. Put your time and energy towards the things you can control and fuck the rest.6

Belief #3: “More is Better”

I’ve written a lot about the the whole “make more, buy more, fuck more” beliefs in our culture and how they’re basically killing us slowly.

I think on some level, perhaps, most people understand that materialism and conspicuous consumption are ultimately hollow pursuits. And yet, we all still fall into the “more is better” trap in one way or another.

too much mustard on a hotdog
More is not always better.

That’s because even when we reject one type of consumerism, we almost always replace it with another.

For example, a lot of millennials rejected the goal of having a big house with a big lawn and two big cars in a big garage in their big suburban neighborhood like their parents had.7

But many of these same people have simply replaced material consumption with experiential consumption. They want to travel more, see more, do more—have more fun, more friends, more options, more, more, more.

Whether we’re chasing material wealth or a wealth of experiences, we’re almost always doing it for the same reason: to fill that empty void we feel inside of ourselves.

And yet, having more options at our disposal tends to make us more miserable instead of happier.8 Chasing more experiences tends to leave us scattered and wandering instead of focused and committed. As Seneca put it, “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

Don’t get me wrong, new experiences and new people and new places are all great teachers in life. It’s just that, at a certain point, there’s a diminishing return on “more, more, more.”

So, I’ve argued that in order to find meaning and purpose in our lives, we almost always have to do the opposite. We have to focus on simplifying. We have to cut out what’s not necessary, to end the addictive cycle of more consumption and more experiences. To pick a handful of pursuits and people and commit to them passionately.

Belief #4: “If I Can Just Have X, then I’ll Be Happy”

Look, goals are great. I’m a fan. Everyone should have some goals in life. You will be aimless without them. But goals also have some subtle dangers. One of those dangers is that we can end up identifying too strongly with them.

Goals are supposed to be a means to an end. But sometimes when we become so committed to achieving them, they become an end themselves. We decide to lose 15 pounds because we think it will make us happy. But we get so caught up in the goal emotionally that we base our self-esteem on the goal and nothing but the goal. This presents two risks:

  1. You’ll fall short of your goals and you’ll be miserable.
  2. You’ll achieve your goals, but it won’t make you feel all that different—and you’ll be miserable.

In the first case, sometimes our failure to achieve goals makes us feel more hopeless and desperate. Sometimes our goals cause us to do shady shit that we’re not proud of later.9 Sometimes we become obsessed with our goals and needlessly sacrifice other healthy parts of our life.

Similarly, even when we achieve our goals, if we’re too invested in them, we feel empty afterwards. There’s a brief high, a sort of ecstasy of, “Fuck yeah, I did it!” followed by a bewilderment and, “Oh shit, what do I do now?”

There’s a saying in Silicon Valley: “Strong opinions, held loosely.”

Well, I say, “Bold goals, held loosely.” The point of goals is not necessarily to accomplish them. Most of the value in them is that they give you direction. They give you something to work towards and ways to improve yourself. The exact quantity of that improvement is less important.

Speaking of self-improvement…

Belief #5: “If It Doesn’t Help Me, Then Screw It”

Beware: self-improvement can become a low-level addiction.

I see it all the time. People get into self-improvement—usually to work on a real problem in their lives—and they get hooked on that feeling of progress, that sense that they’re accomplishing something. They spend a lot of time tinkering with their work schedules, maximizing daily routines, seeking opportunities for financial arbitrage, new productivity hacks, networking tips, all while taking twenty-eight nootropic supplements.

Anything to give them an “edge.”

This sort of self-obsession can maximize productivity, but it absolutely guts your emotional life. The dangers of becoming an obsessive self-help addict are many:

  1. You become self-absorbed and struggle to empathize with anybody not directly involved with your goals or pursuits.
  2. You objectify your life until the point that you no longer enjoy anything, even the accomplishments.
  3. You begin to feel trapped by your own goals—feeling as though doing anything outside of them is somehow wasteful and a failure.
  4. You’re a total drag at parties.

To improve something, you must objectify it. And once you objectify something, you take away much of the inherent pleasure, intimacy, or trust that comes with it.10

The most meaningful moments in life do not show up on your calendar or to-do list. There is often value in doing something that provides no value. Sometimes you should do something for the simple sake of doing it.

It’s important to develop an interest and capacity for self-improvement. But it’s also important to develop an interest and capacity in non-improvement. Ironically, every once in a while, the most useful thing you can do is not useful. It’s to just sit and play a video game, drink a beer, laugh with a friend, talk to your kid, read a book, fart and laugh about it. Then sleep a little too late and do it again.

Learning to Update Your Beliefs

Our beliefs help us make sense of our chaotic, messy world. They help us act on incomplete information.11 Without beliefs, we’d be little more than stimulus-response machines, just reacting to whatever life throws at us on a moment-to-moment basis.

If your dating life is one disaster after the next, what are your beliefs about relationships and how might they be factoring into said disasters? For example, if you believe people are only interested in getting their own needs taken care of, is it really any wonder why you only end up with selfish people?

If you’re constantly overspending, unable to save money, and always feel like you’re behind on bills, what beliefs about money do you have that might be influencing your finances?

You have to be skeptical of your own beliefs, of your bullshit. There’s a skill to observing, questioning, and then updating your beliefs. It’s a skill we must develop and get good at.

Ultimately, every belief will inevitably be flawed. That’s because it’s impossible for us to ever be 100% right about anything. There is always room for improvement, always room for correction, always room for updating our manual.

Therefore, it’s not so much about adopting the correct beliefs, as much as adopting the process of being able to update our beliefs.

Beliefs give us a mental manual on how to operate in the world. And if you keep running into the same problems over and over again in your life, it’s probably time to update your manual.

Footnotes

  1. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect in psychology, where people underperform in a given task, despite wildly overestimating their own abilities. It means people are wildly unaware of how bad they are at certain things, and it happens to all of us. Even you. Even me. See: Dunning, D. (2011). Chapter five – The Dunning–Kruger Effect: On Being Ignorant of One’s Own Ignorance. In J. M. Olson & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 44, pp. 247–296). Academic Press.
  2. Ehrlinger, J., Johnson, K., Banner, M., Dunning, D., & Kruger, J. (2008). Why the Unskilled Are Unaware: Further Explorations of (Absent) Self-Insight Among the Incompetent. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 105(1), 98–121.
  3. While still an under-researched area, humility has deep roots in religion and philosophy and is a growing area of interest in psychology and social science. Humility can be broken down into various components, some of which include “accurate assessment of abilities and accomplishments; ability to acknowledge mistakes, imperfections, and limitations; openness to new ideas and advice; keeping abilities and accomplishments in perspective; understanding that one is part of something larger; and appreciation of others’ contributions.” See: Webster, N. J., Ajrouch, K. J., & Antonucci, T. C. (2018). Sociodemographic Differences in Humility: The Role of Social Relations. Research in Human Development, 15(1), 50–71. Also: Tangney, J. P. (2000). Humility: Theoretical Perspectives, Empirical Findings and Directions for Future Research. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19(1), 70–82.
  4. This flexibility is embodied by a ‘growth mindset’, popularized by psychologist Carol Dweck, and essentially believes that “your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” See: Dweck, C.S. (2008), Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, New York, NY: Ballantine Books. While not without some debate within academia, the ‘growth mindset’ has been linked with improved performance at school and in the workplace.
  5. Some of the tools (detached mindfulness, motivational interviewing, and others) of cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to first create ‘openness’ which includes building acceptance, awareness, and emotional regulation. A key part of this openness is reducing the emotional intensity of our thoughts and feelings, as that ‘defensiveness’ makes it difficult to make any changes. See: Hayes, SC, Villatte, M, Levin, M & Hildebrandt, M. (2011.) Open, Aware, and Active: Contextual Approaches as an Emerging Trend in the Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 7(1), pp. 141–168.
  6. This is often referred to in psychology as developing an “internal locus of control.” Having an internal locus of control—i.e., focusing on what you’re able to control — generally produces better outcomes in life. See: Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 80(1), 1–28. Also: Kormanik, M. B., & Rocco, T. S. (2009). Internal Versus External Control of Reinforcement: A Review of the Locus of Control Construct. Human Resource Development Review, 8(4), 463–483.
  7. Though many still do, by the way. Surveys have just shown that, on average, millennials—and even boomers—are spending more on experiences over material goods.
  8. This is known as the “paradox of choice” that was made famous in a book by the same name by author Barry Scwharz. Also see Chapter 8 of Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope.
  9. Schweitzer, M. E., Ordóñez, L., & Douma, B. (2004). Goal setting as a motivator of unethical behavior. Academy of Management Journal, 47(3), 422–432.
  10. This comes from research on intrinsic (i.e., internal) motivation. Studies have shown that once you attach external rewards to activities you find enjoyable in and of themselves, you stop enjoying them as much. Ryan, RM & Deci, EL 2020, ‘Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-determination theory perspective: Definitions, theory, practices, and future directions’, Contemporary Educationnal Psychology, vol. 61, p. 101860.
  11. Pacuit, E., & Roy, O. (2017). Epistemic Foundations of Game Theory. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.