anyone else like method as much as me

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! 🙂

Who else thinks mindset is cool

By Leo Babauta

This year, I’m doing a series of 40-day discomfort challenges, as a way to continue my training in falling in love with discomfort and uncertainty.

It’s a training I’ve been doing for 1 1/2 decades now, but I’ve been deepening into it even more in the last 5 years. And now I train others in it, in my Fearless Training Program — the uncertainty & discomfort of doing your meaningful work.

This year is going to be a further deepening into that training. I’m going to swim in the deep waters, out of love for life and those who I serve.

I’ll tell you more about my challenges, but first, let’s talk about what hard challenges can do for us.

The Benefits of Hard Challenges

Why do this at all? Someone asked me that on Twitter yesterday: “What are you trying to prove, and who are you trying to prove it to?” I love that question!

With these hard challenges, I’m trying to prove that difficulty, discomfort, uncertainty, resistance and fear are nothing to fear. That we don’t have to run from things because they are hard or scary, or because we feel resistance.

Even further, I’m trying to prove that we can fall in love with discomfort and challenge, bring play and curiosity in the middle of uncertainty and fear, find joy in the middle of chaos and groundlessness.

Who am I trying to prove it to? Myself. And all of you. In service of doing something meaningful in the world.

Imagine that you have some meaningful work you’d like to do — write a book, grow a community, give a voice to others, support those in need, inspire, teach, serve. But with meaningful work comes uncertainty and discomfort, and these can hold us back, because we run from them. Why not just enjoy life and forget about my meaningful work? You can do that, and it would be great, but you can also do your meaningful work, and it can be awesome as well.

In addition to that … hard challenges are incredible! They can:

  • Teach us that we can adapt to discomfort
  • Show us the beauty of uncertainty and not knowing
  • Help us find growth in failure and loss
  • Prove that we have the courage to do what we fear
  • Give ourselves evidence of our resilience, grit, determination, commitment
  • Help us to grow in new and unexpected ways
  • Show us what our patterns are when we feel discomfort & uncertainty — if we don’t challenge ourselves to do hard things, it’s almost impossible to see what our patterns are, except of course the avoidance of doing hard things

Each of you has done something hard, maybe many hard things: run a marathon, given birth, raised kids, completed hard projects, dealt with relationship or health difficulties, and much more. These are some of the most meaningful things we can do, and they teach us so much!

Our growth and learning is greatest when the comfort zone ends, and it can also be the most meaningful and joyful parts of our lives as well.

My Year of Hard Challenges

So I’m going to prove all of that with a series of 40-day challenges where I face my own discomfort and fear.

The first challenge, which I started January 1, is jumping into a cold pool everyday with two of my sons. We do some Wim Hof-style breathing before we dive in, then count 3-2-1 and jump into the air! It has shown us that we can do hard things every day, and has been a meaningful bonding experience for us.

I’m still forming the other challenges (vote for what I should do in this quick survey) … but here are some others I have in mind, 40 days each:

  • Zen sewing (sew a rakusu)
  • Write a book in 40 days (in public)
  • Record a podcast a day for 40 days
  • Meditation retreat in silence
  • Learn a language (probably Chamoru)
  • Launch something every day for 40 days
  • Sleep outside
  • Martial arts
  • Fasting
  • Ego eradicator (hold a difficult pose)
  • Eat only lentils & kale
  • No Internet except creation & calls
  • Public speaking
  • Navy SEAL-style physical training

I’m going to pick 8 of these to do after my cold swimming challenge — again, you can help me pick with this quick survey.

I’ll keep a log of how these go, and post about it periodically here on Zen Habits!

The Challenges of Hard Challenges

Of course, we have to acknowledge that these don’t come without a cost. All of the following challenges can be overcome — and I’ll be sharing how to do that — but there are difficulties that we should be aware of:

  • We’ll come up with reasons not to do it
  • Resistance is real, and can be hard to work with!
  • The ego will get in the way — not wanting to look bad in public, for example, or not wanting to not know how to do something
  • We can get tired and want to give up after awhile
  • We can white knuckle it and force our way through it, but not enjoy it
  • Completing it can be about the ego as well, wanting to look good is a real danger
  • On the other hand, the feeling of not being good enough can also be triggered
  • When we get hit in the face by discomfort, we’ll get a strong urge to collapse
  • We’ll find a lot of other activity to do instead
  • Perfectionism can often come up and get in the way
  • Our minds will complain a lot about it!
  • We can also get to overwork, exhaustion, overdoing it

These are some of the main challenges. And they are real. And they are wonderful teachers.

An Invitation to You

This year, I invite you to do your own version of hard challenges. That can be whatever it means for you — training for a 5K or half marathon, meditating every day for 5 minutes, learning something, doing the meaningful work you’ve been avoiding.

Do these challenges in small doses — don’t try to overdo it. Give yourself compassion with whatever comes up. Get support, do it with others, and have fun with it.

I invite you also to encourage me along the way — I’ll post to my log regularly, and post updates here on Zen Habits. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook if you’d like to see photos or vids once in awhile.

And if you’d like to train in the uncertainty and discomfort of your meaningful work, join me more than 100 others in the Fearless Training Program!

The post The Challenge of Doing Hard Challenges appeared first on zen habits.

anyone like mindset as much as me

By Leo Babauta

This year, I’m doing a series of 40-day discomfort challenges, as a way to continue my training in falling in love with discomfort and uncertainty.

It’s a training I’ve been doing for 1 1/2 decades now, but I’ve been deepening into it even more in the last 5 years. And now I train others in it, in my Fearless Training Program — the uncertainty & discomfort of doing your meaningful work.

This year is going to be a further deepening into that training. I’m going to swim in the deep waters, out of love for life and those who I serve.

I’ll tell you more about my challenges, but first, let’s talk about what hard challenges can do for us.

The Benefits of Hard Challenges

Why do this at all? Someone asked me that on Twitter yesterday: “What are you trying to prove, and who are you trying to prove it to?” I love that question!

With these hard challenges, I’m trying to prove that difficulty, discomfort, uncertainty, resistance and fear are nothing to fear. That we don’t have to run from things because they are hard or scary, or because we feel resistance.

Even further, I’m trying to prove that we can fall in love with discomfort and challenge, bring play and curiosity in the middle of uncertainty and fear, find joy in the middle of chaos and groundlessness.

Who am I trying to prove it to? Myself. And all of you. In service of doing something meaningful in the world.

Imagine that you have some meaningful work you’d like to do — write a book, grow a community, give a voice to others, support those in need, inspire, teach, serve. But with meaningful work comes uncertainty and discomfort, and these can hold us back, because we run from them. Why not just enjoy life and forget about my meaningful work? You can do that, and it would be great, but you can also do your meaningful work, and it can be awesome as well.

In addition to that … hard challenges are incredible! They can:

  • Teach us that we can adapt to discomfort
  • Show us the beauty of uncertainty and not knowing
  • Help us find growth in failure and loss
  • Prove that we have the courage to do what we fear
  • Give ourselves evidence of our resilience, grit, determination, commitment
  • Help us to grow in new and unexpected ways
  • Show us what our patterns are when we feel discomfort & uncertainty — if we don’t challenge ourselves to do hard things, it’s almost impossible to see what our patterns are, except of course the avoidance of doing hard things

Each of you has done something hard, maybe many hard things: run a marathon, given birth, raised kids, completed hard projects, dealt with relationship or health difficulties, and much more. These are some of the most meaningful things we can do, and they teach us so much!

Our growth and learning is greatest when the comfort zone ends, and it can also be the most meaningful and joyful parts of our lives as well.

My Year of Hard Challenges

So I’m going to prove all of that with a series of 40-day challenges where I face my own discomfort and fear.

The first challenge, which I started January 1, is jumping into a cold pool everyday with two of my sons. We do some Wim Hof-style breathing before we dive in, then count 3-2-1 and jump into the air! It has shown us that we can do hard things every day, and has been a meaningful bonding experience for us.

I’m still forming the other challenges (vote for what I should do in this quick survey) … but here are some others I have in mind, 40 days each:

  • Zen sewing (sew a rakusu)
  • Write a book in 40 days (in public)
  • Record a podcast a day for 40 days
  • Meditation retreat in silence
  • Learn a language (probably Chamoru)
  • Launch something every day for 40 days
  • Sleep outside
  • Martial arts
  • Fasting
  • Ego eradicator (hold a difficult pose)
  • Eat only lentils & kale
  • No Internet except creation & calls
  • Public speaking
  • Navy SEAL-style physical training

I’m going to pick 8 of these to do after my cold swimming challenge — again, you can help me pick with this quick survey.

I’ll keep a log of how these go, and post about it periodically here on Zen Habits!

The Challenges of Hard Challenges

Of course, we have to acknowledge that these don’t come without a cost. All of the following challenges can be overcome — and I’ll be sharing how to do that — but there are difficulties that we should be aware of:

  • We’ll come up with reasons not to do it
  • Resistance is real, and can be hard to work with!
  • The ego will get in the way — not wanting to look bad in public, for example, or not wanting to not know how to do something
  • We can get tired and want to give up after awhile
  • We can white knuckle it and force our way through it, but not enjoy it
  • Completing it can be about the ego as well, wanting to look good is a real danger
  • On the other hand, the feeling of not being good enough can also be triggered
  • When we get hit in the face by discomfort, we’ll get a strong urge to collapse
  • We’ll find a lot of other activity to do instead
  • Perfectionism can often come up and get in the way
  • Our minds will complain a lot about it!
  • We can also get to overwork, exhaustion, overdoing it

These are some of the main challenges. And they are real. And they are wonderful teachers.

An Invitation to You

This year, I invite you to do your own version of hard challenges. That can be whatever it means for you — training for a 5K or half marathon, meditating every day for 5 minutes, learning something, doing the meaningful work you’ve been avoiding.

Do these challenges in small doses — don’t try to overdo it. Give yourself compassion with whatever comes up. Get support, do it with others, and have fun with it.

I invite you also to encourage me along the way — I’ll post to my log regularly, and post updates here on Zen Habits. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook if you’d like to see photos or vids once in awhile.

And if you’d like to train in the uncertainty and discomfort of your meaningful work, join me more than 100 others in the Fearless Training Program!

The post The Challenge of Doing Hard Challenges appeared first on zen habits.

posts like this are why everyone likes your page

Have you ever thought about whether you have a strong inner foundation that helps to guide your life choices? When I say foundation, I mean the inner structure that helps you live your life with less stress and overwhelm.

Having a strong inner foundation is an important part of intentional living because it helps you make decisions that shape your future for the better. If your foundation isn’t solid, you might feel like life is constantly knocking you down just when things seem to be getting back on track.

Do you have a strong inner foundation to help you stay grounded? Here’s how to build a solid foundation that helps you stay strong when life gets tough.

Even if you already have a sturdy inner foundation, that doesn’t mean it can’t sway from side to side sometimes. Our strength is constantly tested by the pressures of the world, and it can take a lot of effort to stay upright.

With a strong inner foundation, you‘ll be better able to hand the winds of change. You can grow more when you’re in a secure space and rooted in what you need and want. In this post, I’m exploring the idea of creating an inner foundation so you can stay grounded and reduce the stress of daily life.

Foundation is what keeps you grounded


Do you have a strong inner foundation to help you stay grounded? Here’s how to build a solid foundation that helps you stay strong when life gets tough.

There’s a lot of pressure in our daily lives (put on us by others and ourselves), which means we need a sense of structure to help us stay strong. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and unable to make any real changes in your life, it may be that you need to work on building your inner foundation.

Your foundation is whatever you need it to be. Imagine your foundation at the very core of your being. Your foundation keeps you grounded and plants you where you are as you make tiny steps to nourish yourself and prioritize your own needs.

Without a solid foundation to build your life upon, it’s easy to bend and break under pressure. Sometimes it’s necessary to bend a little, but you don’t want to break.

Think of your inner foundation in terms of what supports you and gives you strength. You can build your inner foundation upon your:

  • Mindset: the quality of your thoughts
  • Values: what’s important to you
  • Habits: daily routines that keep you grounded
  • Strengths: the things you’re naturally good at
  • Relationships: people who make you feel secure and supported

If you’re constantly trying to make changes in your life but nothing seems to stick, consider first whether you have the foundation necessary to support you.

“Building your foundation isn’t a one-time event. Habits will slip and you will need to rebuild them periodically. Your goals may change, forcing you to change your foundation to suit them. But if you’ve spent the time investing in a foundation initially, these changes are maintenance, not a complete reconstruction.”

Scott H. Young

Building a solid foundation in life


Do you have a strong inner foundation to help you stay grounded? Here’s how to build a solid foundation that helps you stay strong when life gets tough.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to your own foundation in life:

Mindset

  • What thoughts do you need to believe about yourself to feel supported?
  • How can you be more mindful of your own feelings and behaviors?
  • How can you focus on the current moment more than the past/future?

Values

  • What do you value in friendships and relationships? (e.g. a sense of humor, empathy, willingness to challenge you when necessary)
  • What do you value in your work? (e.g. flexibility, reliable co-workers, independence)
  • What are the top 3 values you want to uphold in your own life? (think about how you want others to describe you)

Habits

  • What are your current daily habits?
  • Are your habits self-supporting or self-defeating?
  • What habits would help make your life feel more balanced? (here are some examples)

Strengths

  • What are your biggest strengths?
  • How do these strengths help support you in life?
  • How can you make better use of your strengths in your daily life?

Relationships

  • What makes you feel most supported in a relationship/friendship?
  • Who are the people in your life who make you feel grounded?
  • Are there any relationships you need to let go of to feel more stable?

Ultimately, a strong inner foundation is what keeps you balanced, stable, and secure. Come back to this concept whenever you notice yourself feeling unsteady.

Related Post: 5 Steps To A More Balanced Life


What could you achieve if you prioritized inner stability and security?

I hope this post has encouraged you to become mindful of your own foundation. Think of how you can use your thoughts, values, habits, strengths, and relationships to keep you grounded and reduce the pressure of daily life.

If you want to explore this topic further, check out this post about how to build a vision for your future.

The post How To Build A Strong Inner Foundation For Your Life appeared first on The Blissful Mind.

Tremendous post

An astronaut is probably the most difficult job to land on the planet. Of tens of thousands of applications, NASA selects roughly half a dozen each decade. The application process is rigorous and highly demanding. You have to be a total badass to qualify. You have to have deep expertise in science and engineering. You need at least 1,000 hours of piloting experience. You have to be physically fit and strong. And, most of all, you have to be a smart motherfucker.

Lisa Nowak was all of these things. She had a masters degree in aeronautical engineering and had studied postgraduate astrophysics at the U.S. Naval Academy. She flew air missions for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific for over five years. And in 1996, she was one of the fortunate few to be selected to become an astronaut.

Clearly, she was smart as hell. But in 2007, after discovering that her lover was seeing another woman, Lisa drove 15 hours straight, in a diaper, from Houston to Orlando, in order to confront her boyfriend’s new squeeze in an airport parking lot. Lisa packed zip ties, pepper spray, and large garbage bags and had some vague-but-not-really-thought-through plan to kidnap the woman. But before she could even get the woman out of her car, Lisa had an emotional breakdown, resulting in her quickly being arrested.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a concept researchers came up with in the 1980s and 90s to explain why intelligent people like Lisa often do really, really stupid things.1 The argument went that the same way your general intelligence (IQ) is a measurement of your ability to process information and come to sound decisions, your emotional intelligence (EQ) is your ability to process emotions—both others’ and your own—and come to sound decisions.

Some people have an incredibly high IQ but low EQ—think your nutty professor who can’t match his socks or doesn’t see the purpose in showering. Other people have incredibly high EQ but low IQ—think the street hustler who can’t even spell his own name but somehow talks you into giving him the shirt off your back.2

Emotional Intelligence Defined

Emotional intelligence consists of 5 key elements:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. (Good) values

The way to become emotionally intelligent is basically to find or create these five elements in yourself, hence the five skills (more on that in a bit).

If this is all a little vague and abstract, and if you’ve never met a street hustler who convinced you to strip half naked on the streets (aren’t you lucky?), think of someone in your life who:

  • Seems calm yet in control in stressful situations
  • Takes responsibility for their actions instead of blaming every mishap on others
  • Expresses—rather than offloads—their emotions
  • Listens to you and makes you feel heard
  • Genuinely cares about the world and tries in their own way to make it a better place

That is an emotionally intelligent person. And if you’re not there yet, you can become one too.

The thing with emotional intelligence is, it permeates every aspect of your life. Being emotionally intelligent is associated with academic3 and professional4,5,6 success, financial stability,7,8 fulfilling relationships,9 life satisfaction,10 as well as better physical and mental health.11,12 

Every endeavor in life requires you to make decisions. And if you let your emotions consistently ruin your decisions, you likely won’t get very far. Hell, even one emotional mess-up—cue Lisa and her 15-hour kidnapping crusade—can wreck your entire career. So get your shit together. Developing emotional intelligence comes down to not being a fucknut like Lisa was.

Here are five ways to start doing it.

Practice Self-Awareness

Like with most things emotional, you can’t get better at them until you know what the fuck they are. When you lack self-awareness, trying to manage your emotions is like sitting in a tiny boat without a sail on top of the sea of your own emotions, completely at the whim of the currents of whatever is happening moment by moment. You have no idea where you’re going or how to get there. And all you can do is scream and yell for help.

Emotional intelligence - girl under water

Self-awareness involves understanding yourself and your behavior on three levels: 1) what you’re doing, 2) how you feel about it, and 3) the hardest part, figuring out what you don’t know about yourself.

Knowing What You’re Doing

You would think this would be pretty simple and straightforward, but the truth is that in the 21st century, most of us don’t even know what the fuck we’re doing half the time. We’re on auto-pilot—check email, text BFF, check Instagram, watch YouTube, check email, text BFF, etc., etc.

Removing distractions from your life—like, you know, turning off your damn phone every now and then and engaging with the world around you is a nice first step to self-awareness. Finding spaces of silence and solitude, while potentially scary, are necessary for our mental health.

Other forms of distraction include work, TV, drugs/alcohol, video games, cross-stitching, arguing with people on the internet, etc. Schedule time in your day to get away from them. Do your morning commute with no music or podcast. Just think about your life. Think about how you’re feeling. Set aside 10 minutes in the morning to meditate. Delete social media off your phone for a week. You’ll often be surprised by what happens to you.

We use these distractions to avoid a lot of uncomfortable emotions, and so removing distractions and focusing on how you feel without them can reveal some kind of scary shit sometimes. But removing distractions is critical because it gets us to the next level.

Knowing What You’re Feeling

At first, once you actually pay attention to how you feel, it might freak you out. You might come to realize you’re often actually pretty sad or that you’re kind of an angry asshole to a lot of people in your life. You might realize that there’s a lot of anxiety going on, and that whole “phone addiction” thing is really just a way to constantly numb and distract yourself from that anxiety. It’s important at this point to not judge the emotions that arise.

You’ll be tempted to say something like, “Ick! Anxiety! What the fuck is wrong with me!” But that just makes it worse. Whatever emotion is there has a good reason to be there, even if you don’t remember what that reason is. So don’t be too hard on yourself.

Knowing Your Own Emotional Bullshit

Once you see all the icky, uncomfortable stuff you’re feeling, you’ll begin to get a sense of where your own little crazy resides.

For instance, I get really touchy about being interrupted. I get irrationally angry when I’m trying to speak and the person I’m speaking to is distracted. I take it personally. And while sometimes it is just them being rude, sometimes shit happens and I end up looking like a total dickface because I can’t stand going two seconds without every word I speak being respected. That’s some of my emotional bullshit. And it’s only by being aware of it that I can ever react against it.

Now, just being self-aware is not sufficient in and of itself. One must be able to manage their emotions too.

Channel Your Emotions Well

People who believe that emotions are the be-all-end-all of life often seek ways to “control” their emotions. You can’t. You can only react to them.

Emotions are merely the signals that tell us to pay attention to something. We can then decide whether or not that “something” is important and choose the best course of action in addressing it—or not.13

Anger can be a destructive emotion if you misdirect it and hurt others or yourself in the process. But it can be a good emotion if you use it to correct injustices and/or protect yourself or others.

Joy can be a wonderful emotion when shared with people you love when something good happens. But it can be a horrifying emotion if it’s derived from hurting others.

Such is the act of managing your emotions: recognizing what you’re feeling, deciding whether or not that’s an appropriate emotion for the situation, and acting accordingly.

The whole point of this is to be able to channel your emotions into what psychologists call “goal-directed behavior”14—or what I prefer to call “getting your shit together.”

Learn to Motivate Yourself

Have you ever lost yourself completely in an activity? Like, you start doing something and get immersed in it and when you snap out of the quasi-hypnotic state you’ve somehow induced in yourself, you realize three hours have passed but it felt like fifteen minutes?15

This happens to me when I write sometimes. I lose my sense of time and I get this cascade of subtly-layered feelings when I’m fleshing out ideas in my head and putting them into words. It’s like a feeling of fascination mixed with slightly frustrated intrigue mixed with little bursts of dopamine when I feel like I just came up with a great line or funny poop joke or somehow got my point across without cursing.

I love this feeling, and when I achieve it, it motivates me to keep writing.

Notice something important here, though: I don’t wait for that feeling to arise before I start writing.

I start writing and then that feeling starts to build, which motivates me to keep writing, and the feeling builds a little more, and on and on.

This is what I call the “Do Something Principle” and it’s probably one of the simplest yet most magical “hacks” I’ve ever come across. The Do Something Principle states that taking action is not just the effect of motivation, but also the cause of it.

Emotional intelligence - motivation

Most people try to look for inspiration first so they can take some momentous action and change everything about themselves and their situation. They try to pump themselves up with whatever flavor of mental masturbation is in style that week so they can finally take action. But by next week, they’ve run out of steam and they’re back at it again, jerking off to another “method” of motivation.

But I like to turn this on its head completely. When I need to be motivated, I just do something that’s even remotely related to what I want to accomplish and then, action begets motivation begets action, etc.

When I don’t feel like writing, I tell myself I’ll just work on the outline for now. Once I do that, it often makes me think of something interesting I hadn’t thought of yet that I want to include and so I write that down and maybe flesh it out a little.

Before I know it, I’m halfway through a draft and I haven’t even put on pants yet.

(NOTE: This is just because I never wear pants.)

The point is that in order to use your emotions effectively to get your shit together, you have to do something.

If you don’t feel like anything motivates you, do something. Draw a doodle, find a free online coding class, talk to a stranger, learn a musical instrument, learn something about a really hard subject, volunteer in your community, go salsa dancing, build a bookshelf, write a poem. Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after whatever it is you’re doing and use those emotions to guide your future behavior.

And know that it’s not always “good” feelings that will motivate you, too. Sometimes I’m frustrated and really fucking annoyed that I can’t quite say exactly what I want to say. Sometimes I’m anxious that what I’m writing won’t resonate with people. But for whatever reason, these feelings often only make me want to write more. I love the challenge of wrestling with something that’s just a little bit out of my reach.

Recognize Emotions in Others to Create Healthier Relationships

Everything we’ve covered so far deals with handling and directing emotions within yourself. But the whole point of developing emotional intelligence should ultimately be to foster healthier relationships in your life.

And healthy relationships—romantic relationships, familial relationships, friendships, whatever—begin with recognition and respect of one another’s emotional needs.

You do this by connecting and empathizing with others.16 By both listening to others and sharing yourself honestly with others—that is, through vulnerability.

Emotional intelligence - healthy relationships

To empathize with someone doesn’t necessarily mean to completely understand them, but rather to accept them as they are, even when you don’t understand them. You learn to value their existence and treat them as their own end rather than a means for something else. You acknowledge their pain as your pain—as our collective pain.

Relationships are where emotional rubber hits the proverbial pavement. They get us out of our heads and into the world around us. They make us realize we’re a part of something much larger and much more complex than just ourselves.

And relationships are, ultimately, the way we define our values.

Infuse Your Emotions With Values

When Daniel Goleman’s book came out in the 90s, “emotional intelligence” became the big buzzword in psychology. CEOs and managers read workbooks and went to retreats on emotional intelligence to motivate their workforces. Therapists tried to instill more emotional awareness in their clients to help them get a handle on their lives. Parents were admonished to cultivate emotional intelligence in their children with the aim of preparing them for a changing, emotionally-oriented world.17

A lot of this sort of thinking misses the point, however. And that is that emotional intelligence is meaningless without orienting your values.

You might have the most emotionally intelligent CEO on the planet, but if she’s using her skills to motivate her employees to sell products made by exploiting poor people or destroying the planet, how is being emotionally intelligent a virtue here?

A father might teach his son the tenets of emotional intelligence, but without also teaching him the values of honesty and respect, he could turn into a ruthless, lying little prick—but an emotionally intelligent one!

Conmen are highly emotionally intelligent. They understand emotions quite well, both in themselves and especially in others. But they end up using that information to manipulate people for their own personal gain. They value themselves above all else and at the expense of all others. And things get ugly when you value little outside of yourself.18

Lisa Nowak, for all of her brilliance and expertise, couldn’t handle her own emotions and valued the wrong things. Therefore, she let her emotions drive her off the proverbial cliff, going from outer space to incarcerated space.

Ultimately, we’re always choosing what we value, whether we know it or not. And our emotions will carry out those values through motivating our behavior in some way.

So in order to live the life you truly want to live, you have to first be clear about what you truly value because that’s where your emotional energy will be directed.

And knowing what you truly value—not just what you say you value—is probably the most emotionally intelligent skill you can develop.

Footnotes

  1. The framework for “emotional intelligence” was first presented in this seminal 1990 paper by the same name.
  2. Some psychologists say that EQ is more important than IQ, like Daniel Goleman in his seminal 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Matters More than IQ. I take issue with this view because EQ is incredibly difficult to measure, unlike IQ, plus it’s far easier to change, which is why we’re all here. For more on the difficulties of measuring EQ, see: Maul, A. (2012). The Validity of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) as a Measure of Emotional Intelligence. Emotion Review, 4, 394–402.
  3. Petrides, K. V., Frederickson, N., & Furnham, A. (2004). The role of trait emotional intelligence in academic performance and deviant behavior at school. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(2), 277–293.
  4. Romanelli, F., Cain, J., & Smith, K. M. (2006). Emotional Intelligence as a Predictor of Academic and/or Professional Success. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 70(3).
  5. McFarland, R. G., Rode, J. C., & Shervani, T. A. (2016). A contingency model of emotional intelligence in professional selling. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 44(1), 108–118.
  6. Carmeli, A. (2003). The relationship between emotional intelligence and work attitudes, behavior and outcomes: An examination among senior managers. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 18(8), 788–813.
  7. Bouzguenda, K. (2018). Emotional intelligence and financial decision making: Are we talking about a paradigmatic shift or a change in practices? Research in International Business and Finance, 44, 273–284.
  8. Engelberg, E., & Sjöberg, L. (2006). Money Attitudes and Emotional Intelligence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36(8), 2027–2047.
  9. Schutte, N. S., Malouff, J. M., Bobik, C., Coston, T. D., Greeson, C., Jedlicka, C., Rhodes, E., & Wendorf, G. (2001). Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal Relations. The Journal of Social Psychology, 141(4), 523–536.
  10. Palmer, B., Donaldson, C., & Stough, C. (2002). Emotional intelligence and life satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 33(7), 1091–1100.
  11. Schutte, N. S., Malouff, J. M., Thorsteinsson, E. B., Bhullar, N., & Rooke, S. E. (2007). A meta-analytic investigation of the relationship between emotional intelligence and health. Personality and Individual Differences, 42(6), 921–933.
  12. Tsaousis, I., & Nikolaou, I. (2005). Exploring the relationship of emotional intelligence with physical and psychological health functioning. Stress and Health, 21(2), 77–86.
  13. Gendolla, G. H. E. (2000). On the Impact of Mood on Behavior: An Integrative Theory and a Review. Review of General Psychology, 4(4), 378–408.
  14. Bagozzi, R.P., Baumgartner, H., Pieters, R. & Zeelenberg, M. (2000). The role of emotions in goal-directed behavior. In S. Ratneshwar, D. G. Mick & C. Huffman (Eds.), The Why of Consumption (pp. 36–58). Routledge Publishing.
  15. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalhi coined the term “flow” to describe this state. He also wrote a book about it.
  16. The effect of empathy has been documented in both everyday and romantic relationships.
  17. Curiously, it’s almost always about kids’ future as adults and rarely about helping them to just be kids.
  18. I wrote another article about how Hitler was actually an incredibly motivated man who understood emotions better than the vast majority of people, but he obviously had terrible values. Of course, some people misconstrued that and called me a Nazi because… this is the internet. And when you think about it, the internet is basically just a reflection of our collective emotional unintelligence—or immaturity—at the moment. But I digress.

I think posts about self-improvement are great who agrees?

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Pandemic life has taught many of us to appreciate moments in life that might otherwise pass us by. I’ve been trying to pause and take note of how I feel at the end of the day, often as I walk in the park or one of my nearby neighborhoods.

With that in mind, here’s a tip inspired by The Art of Stopping Time, a book by Pedram Shojai: whenever you visit a place that’s new to you, consider the sense that you might never be there again.

Just imagine: this might be it! Your one and only opportunity in a lifetime to visit this particular place. How might this realization make you feel?

What, you say you aren’t traveling much now? That’s okay.

This “new place” could be anywhere: a part of the woods you’ve never seen on your next nature hike, for example, or even a street in your neighborhood you’ve never driven down before. The point is to create awareness and appreciation.

I wish I’d had this concept in mind many years ago when I was traveling to several new countries every month. Looking back now, I can remember dozens of highlights that might fit the category of “never returning.”

In Somaliland, I rode several hours in a crowded minibus, listening to people chatter away. We stopped for food (goat stew! I’m a vegetarian, but it was interesting to observe) and drank from a shared bottle of Coca-Cola. Those were the days…

In Bosnia, a totally different part of the world, I traveled overland (this time on a full-sized bus) from Sarajevo to Herceg Novi. The city itself was magical. It felt like one of those “Land Before Time” moments.

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As interesting as those experiences were, I don’t know if I’ll ever repeat them. In fact, almost certainly I won’t. Even when I return to traveling more often, Montenegro and Somaliland aren’t that easy to jet off to.

Not only that, even though I can remember dozens of highlights from my adventures, I’m sure there are hundreds—thousands even—that I’ve forgotten or simply don’t come to mind when I think about this concept.

That’s why it’s good to consider the concept while you’re in a new place. It might help you remember it later, but even if not, you’ll have the moment of appreciation while you’re there.

Oh, and I like thinking about this idea for travel, but technically I suppose you could apply it to anything, even not something related to being in a particular place.

Whatever you’re doing or experiencing today, you might never do or experience it again. Let it sink in and consider how it feels.

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Image: Ender