In Search For Balance

@antoszek

Alex Antoszek. Student, artist, writer & tutor. This is my weekly newsletter about finding balance in life. Out every Sunday. Contact me: hello@[my last name].eu

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Without The Rythm

Issue 16

This week I fully realized how important a daily rhythm is.

Since January, after finishing Atomic Habits I slowly started working on my habits. Not that they were terribly bad, but I had very little control over them. Felt the need to eat a cookie? I was immediately going downstairs to the kitchen. The autopilot turned on. Zero self-control. Felt anxious? I was on the doorstep of a fast-food restaurant in minutes (yes, that was what I did when I felt anxious).

The book presented me with a very solid system of breaking bad habits and building good ones. Something that seemed impossible before was suddenly manageable. Of course, I knew that it wouldn't be easy, but at least there was a way I could approach it. Slowly, I started creating new habits - some designed with overwriting the old, bad ones in mind, some just completely new. It wasn't an easy journey. Mostly because the effects were very much delayed in time. Impatience grew. While after ~3 months the system was somewhat working - there were a few (3-5) habits that "got encoded" into my brain. While I still had to be reminded about the rest, there was some progress.

But then everything crashed in May. Due to an overwhelming amount of work, which generated a lot of stress & anxiety, I just couldn't keep up. And just like that, my whole system fell apart. One by one.

In all honesty, it took me almost two months to rebuild the thing. But this time, I had a more relaxed approach to building new habits. Instead of trying to crank 14 habits every day, I chose just 3 that I wanted to focus on during a single month. Of course, usually, I only managed to "encode" just one habit per month. In June/July it was writing a blog post every single day, in late July/August it was meditation, and then at the end of August I threw journaling into the mix. Thanks to this approach, the habits actually stuck with me.

The best aspect of building a daily rhythm is the simple rule that one habit leads to another. The only thing that you need to consciously do is the first habit in the chain. And if that habit is as simple as, for example, waking up, then you're unstoppable.

Here's my morning habit chain - a routine, as some may call it:

Wake up -> Get out of bed to turn off the alarm, which is on the other side of the room -> Turn off alarm -> Make my bed -> Sit down on armchair -> Read the bible -> Pray -> Go to the bathroom -> Toilet stuff -> Go downstairs -> Enter kitchen -> Take meds (they're a whole another chain) -> Go to bathroom again -> Shower -> Kitchen again -> Prepare 2nd breakfast & lunch for the day (it's usually already prepared) -> Prepare breakfast -> Go upstairs to my desk, where my Bullet Journal is open -> Eat breakfast -> Review the plan for the day -> Think about my daily "motto" -> Pack BuJo -> Make sure that the bag is packed -> Go to bathroom -> Brush teeth -> Style hair -> Open wardrobe -> Dress up -> Double check pockets for phone, wallet & keys -> Leave my room -> Leave the house

While all of this may sound like a lot, I never think about it. After more than 30 repetitions, the process is 100% automatic. I never think about it. This is what makes my days actually work. All of this is like a runway that helps me start my day.

--

During the past few days I didn't do it. I felt a bit bad, headaches and stuff. I swear, every single day that I didn't begin with this ritual was much, much worse. I cannot live without the rhythm, it has become a part of me.

You should try building your own daily groove too.

Late Night Musings

Issue #15

Oh, there's just so much going on...

So many projects all at once...

Yet, I still need to grow. It'd be very easy to say no to reading, writing, exercising, spending time with family, meditating etc. I could just say yes to all work, focusing all my time and effort on completing these pretty damn important things. But I'm not giving up. There are things that seem important at first, but they're essentially just urgent. Urgency (in work) is the enemy of balance. Period.

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I wonder what would happen if all people started being honest. Imagine if we managed, as a society, to decrease lying by at least 50%. Gosh, the world would be much, much better. Lies are quick & easy "patches" to problems. But after some time they fall off. And the wound is not healed.

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Habits are incredibly powerful. I recently bought a paper version of Atomic Habits by James Clear - it's an amazing book. Since January, I started to really care about the small actions of everyday - something I've never done before. Every single habit compounds into a better life.

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The Night has come. You can't see with your eyes, only with your heart.

Encouraging Curiosity

Issue 14

I consider myself a naturally curious person. I read quite a lot, have hundreds of books in my house, listen to different podcasts, discuss & debate a lot, both with myself and with others. Of course, there are times when I'd like to be even more curious than I actually am.

I've been thinking a lot about the current state of the world recently. Not politically, but knowledge-wise. The world, and especially my country (Poland) have improved drastically in the past couple of decades. People think about which high-paying job should they take, not about what they'll eat for dinner that day (in the sense that food is not an issue for most now). HDI, GDP PPP & other metrics are the highest they've ever been. We're always better than we've been last year. Poland was the only major EU country not to take a hit in the 2008 crash.

Yet people are becoming less curious. We are reading less books. In fact, reading has been steadily declining during the last twenty-five years. We prefer to spend hours and hours on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok & others instead of gaining powerful knowledge.

My primary goal in life is helping others. One of the ways I'm trying to contribute to that goal is encouraging people to be more curious. Participating in discussions, recommending & giving books, asking provocative questions are some of the amazing ways in which we can try to "move" folks around us.

Almost no one has to spend their entire day thinking about pure survival. So why not use that free time to make the world a better, wiser place?

Creating In Peace

Issue #13

Today's issue is going to be short. Right now I'm in a car, driving through southeastern Poland, not really having the energy to write anything. But, here I am.

Usually, it's pretty easy for me to write these issues every single Sunday. I consider taking time off a very important thing, and so, Sundays are free from work. I wake up around 7 am (instead of the usual 5am), start the day with a slow-paced run, sit down with my family for breakfast, and then take time to prepare and then consume delightful coffee. Later on, depending of the time of the year, there's usually some stuff do to in the garden. So I go and work physically for around three hours. Then comes lunchtime, and after that I'm free to do whatever I want. So, I grab my notebook & pen and find a quiet, cosy place to write. Usually it's my terrace. If the weather is good I go to the forest and lay on the ground. Surrounded by peace & beautiful nature, thoughts flow easily. Whatever it is that I'm writing, this newsletter or something else, it's always very pleasing.

That's what makes me enjoy creating. Getting into that state of mind, where thoughts start to become so undoubtedly clear, is just beautiful. And the best part is that it pushes you to write more next time.

Cutting Down on Stuff

Issue #12

Hi, welcome to this week's issue of In Search For Balance. This is my weekly newsletter where I share my reflections about living a more conscious life. I've been doing this semi-consistently since late July, but this week I'm really getting back into it. I've decided to cut down on the length of my daily blog posts, and so I'll have more time to write something more in-depth every Sunday. I've also decided to move away from Revue, the platform I'm currently using to distribute this newsletter. From now on, I'll be posting new issues on my blog.antoszek.eu where you can easily subscribe by entering your email in the top-right box. (My blog is currently hosted on Listed, a very simple yet powerful blogging platform with email functionality. It's much simpler and hassle-free than a dedicated service like Revue. Also, emails from Listed are free from nasty pixel-tracking). 

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So, today's "headline" is Cutting Down on Stuff and I really mean it. I even dare to say that I've become a minimalist, whatever that means.

A sudden realization that most of the tools, techniques, mindsets & things I do really don't matter came to me two weeks ago. Just as I was finishing up my regular weekly review (which includes writing this newsletter) I finally decided: I'm cutting away all that's not necessary. 

I've been "practicing" Digital Minimalism as well as "regular" minimalism for some time. In January I went off social media for 60 days, to never fully come back. Later in May I got into Standard Notes, the simplest, but at the same time the most powerful app that I've ever used. I still use and love Standard every single day.

After trying out every, and I mean every productivity app that works on my Windows computer and doesn't cost billions, I was really damn lost. I thought I had built a good system with Todoist. But then came Notion. And later TickTick, and Nozbe. 

While the system I built was making me more productive - in the doing more stuff sense, the system itself required more and more time to update, clean, process and improve every single day. 

I couldn't plan ahead. Managing the system every day drained all my energy and mental sharpness, and so thinking about the future became impossible. But heck, I was really confident that I'm doing things the right way

My head felt heavy. 70% of the time I had to postpone tasks for tomorrow. There were days when I was grinding so much that I got all the stuff done, but then came a slump. A slump of burnout & mental clutter. In June, when work was coming to an end, I felt horrible. Incredibly exhausted. 

But during the summer things started to make sense. I realized that, truly, less is more. 

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Now, I use just a bullet journal for tasks, events & journaling, and Standard Notes for important info, long-form writing, storing ideas & project reference material. And I feel the best I've ever felt. I can look into the future. I'm not anxious. Even a little bit.

Maybe that was the road that I had to go through. Maybe only through deep experimentation I could've arrived at this conclusion, about what is right and what is not. 

Have you tried cutting stuff away? If not, try it. It's the antidote to feeling bad.

Valuable Commitments

Issue #11

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Hi! Welcome to In Search For Balance! 

Yea, I'm back after a two-week break. It's great to be able to share some thoughts and stories with you again. Hope you'll enjoy this one. 

Was the break a good one though? 

In the past few issues I've been complaining a bit. Not much, but still more than usual. During the break I've tried to answer the question; how have the past few months been? Did I grow? Did I fulfill my mission? Or was I doing too much?

I did eventually find an answer. So... yes, it was a good break.

I also wondered; what am I committing toAre my commitments good?

Turns out I'm committing to a lot of different things. I write a daily blog, a weekly newsletter, run a productivity website with a fortnightly podcast & blog & many, many more different things. 

When I say it out loud, it sounds like a lot even to myself. 


What surprises me the most in all of this, is that I'm actually handling all of those commitments quite well. Doing so many different things seemed more than impossible four years ago.

Even when this notion started becoming slightly imaginable, I could've never thought that I'd have so much spare time!

I think that the key element to "managing" various things we do in life is simply being confident in the things one commits to. 

P.S. My daily blog switched from Polish to English for October. If you like the things I write about here, go check it out!

All the best,

and see you next Sunday.

Go With The Flow

Issue #10

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Last week I wrote about Just Being. Simply living, not trying to overthink every decision and thought every single time. I’m still learning how to do it well.

But there’s another concept, very interwoven with the previous one: Going with the flow As life happens, we have to adapt. Change our opinions, assumptions etc. Those that cannot change intrinsically will be left behind. That’s just how it is. To change, one needs to have an open mind. They have to be flexible, as some say.

I cannot agree more with that idea. People that don’t change at all (in a conscious way) quite often harm themselves, and others. We’ll dive deeper into the concept of change next week.

But how flexible can one be?

Doesn’t too flexible equal too uncertain?

The word flow is used in a myriad of different ways. Books have been written about this particular concept. But, I have my own interpretation;

Flow - state of of open-mindedness, acceptance, but designed with solid principles in mind.

For me, Going with the flow basically means living a balanced life, living by a few concrete principles, but at the same time absorbing things as they happen.

It’s The Day-to-day Balance.

I think I’ve found it. Not in a infinite sense. There’ll be more hard things to face. But for now, in my current situation, going with the flow has become the default. I don’t know how long it’ll last. Maybe no more than a month. Maybe the next ten years.

I’ll be taking a break from writing this newsletter for the next two weeks. Hope that you’ve enjoyed what I’ve presented you with every single Sunday.

The Search will continue. The Balance is a finite resource, to live like that, one must constantly change and adapt their mind. That's why I'll continue writing this thing after the break.

Peace

Just Being

Issue #9

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Just Being

Ok, I admit, I admit...

I am overthinking stuff a little bit.

While I did get rid of many anxieties (caused by overthinking), that plagued and ruined my daily life, there's still some stuff left.

I like the concept of a conscious life, and that's what I'm striving for. That's why I'm writing this newsletter every week, trying to reflect on what I've done, why, and how. 

But, maybe, I'm just trying too hard sometimes.

There have been many moments in my life, where I've felt not present, alone in a distant world of thought and consideration. Many important events and moments simply slipped by. Catching up to reality took time. 

While I had time to consider many very important life topics, create a thorough worldview, define my strengths and weaknesses, I didn't have time to experience, to live

In the past year, I've been really trying (and somewhat succeeding) to be simply present. To just be

I still deeply enjoy time for focus & reflection, give myself at least 30mins daily to "deep-think", and debate on important topics, daily life is just easier now.

Just Being.

The Balance is powerful.

The Second Rule

Issue #8

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I'll be honest with you;

this past week has been crazy. Like, really, really crazy. 

The week before, I've been working in my school cleaning, painting, assembling furniture and helping with a few different tasks. While I enjoyed that type of work, it was incredibly exhausting physically. I even worked all through Saturday. 

Unfortunately, all the paints & chemicals that we used didn't really work well with my many, many allergies, so late Saturday evening I got a really bad allergic reaction, had to go to the ER. 

Then, on Sunday, one of my teachers called me, and asked; Could you help us prepare the inaugurational lecture? (On the first day of school, we always have a big lecture about our values, history etc). So I helped. In less than 24 hours I prepared a one-hour lecture. Then co-presented it with 12 other people. It went well. 

As you may assume, the first of week of school is always intense, but this one was different. See, a few years ago, our government changed how our education system works;

It used to be:

6 years of elementary school

3 years of middle school

3 years of high school

But now, it looks like this:

8 years of elementary school

4 years of high school

Thanks to that change, this year we have twice as many 1st year students, half from the old system (6+3), half from the new one (8). Eventually, all will complete high school after 12 years of education total, but for now, we have to deal with "two different 1st-year systems" simultanesously. Sigh.

I held four different 90 minute workshops, setup & configured 12 different computers, assembled 38 stools, all while meeting new teachers & trying to organize work for the next year. Sigh.

Not once did I sleep more than 6 hours a night. 

Yesterday, I got robbed. Someone opened my backpack and stole my laptop charger while I was waiting to cross a road. Thanks God it was only a charger. Sigh. 

The worst thing is, that I couldn't complete my Most Important Task for the week: publish episode one of a podcast I'm producing. Long story short, my podcast publisher messed up. Sigh.

I'm tired. Exhausted. 

It's easy to look at all those things that have happened and complain. It's incredibly easy to go around, and tell all the people around me how tired I am.

Always look at the bright side of life.


That's my second rule. Whatever happens, I will always look at the positives. 

Start with yourself

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There's a book I'm currently exploring called The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. While it's title definitely does sound very "self-help-y" it is truly a magnificent piece of writing.

One of the greatest truths about life has been reinforced in me while I'm reading this book:

You control you.

You control your response to outside events. You decide how you'll respond to one's attack. 

We like to blame our misfortunes on events, people, the overall universe. 

Oh, my husband is so greedy!

The weather is prohibiting me from exercising today!

Susan is making me stressed out!

Let's try to reverse that logic:

My husband never got anything first. Always,  the kids come first, then I, he's always last. And he's the one who's working all day long to get us here. never think of giving him what he deserves.

don't want to get very sweaty.

am stressed out, because Susan wants to get the job done.

See, it's not about blaming yourself for the bad situations that occur. It's about realizing that control my responses. It's easy to be stressed out, anxious, simply angry. But is it justified? 

I've been meditating every single day for the past 44 days, and, so far, I've learned that crafting more peaceful responses to misfortunes is the way to go. Through deep reflection and proper spiritual guidance, one can truly live stress-free. 

The First Rule

Issue #5

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Right, time for the real meat. Time to stop rambling about the duality and imperfectness of rules. Time to create something so incredibly smart and forward-thinking. Time to build the First Rule of My Life.

But it ain't anything new. Or groundbreaking.

My first rule is:

Treat yourself at the same time as your greatest friend and your greatest enemy.


It is hard to determine how should you react to your own unconcious decision and actions. Should you be hard on yourself for eating those cookies last night? You didn't really want to eat them. It was a habit. An action that has not been processed by the thinking mind before it was executed. Our life is made up of hundreds of these little actions. 

But, really, should I punish myself for that? I theoretically could stop that action, could I?

Or, a few weeks ago, I was babysitting my sister. We were playing on the porch, and she fell. I could've caught her, I was just behind her. But I didn't. In a normal situation, I would've. But, that day, I didn't sleep well, and my reflex was way slower than normal. Should I punish myself for that?

did let my sister fall and hurt herself. I was there. Was I?

I should treat myself as my greatest friend, because love and confidence move us forward.

I should treat myself as my greatest enemy, because laziness and complaning meep us behind.

Projections of failure

Issue #4

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Do you want to fail?

I suppose you probably don't. If not outright scaring, failure definitely isn't something you're enthusiastic to encounter, right?

This is the wrong approach. 

First of all, you will fail. Everyone does sometimes, and that's just how it is.

Second, being scared of failure will make you only incredibly stressed out, and you will loose focus in the long run.

Isn't loosing focus exactly what you want to avoid? When you loose focus, don't you fail?

Project the worst

When starting a project, ask this VIQ (Very Important Question);

What happens if I fail?

Will I really lose something? (losing is what we usually associate with failure).

Will I gain anything?

I can already answer this one for ya:

Yes, you will. You will gain new, fresh, powerful insights into life.

I'm not afraid of failure.

I'm afraid of success without reason.

The Breaking Point

It was terribly hot. Even though it was just early May, temperatures were reaching I'm kinda meltin' levels. Doing anything, heck, thinking, was hard. Nonetheless I had work to do. A lot of work, and I mean a lot

May is the second to last working month for high school students in Poland. In all honesty, it is the working month for most students. 

The problem with me that year was that I wasn't working for most of the working months. Ok, maybe I was working, but not on the things I was supposed to be working on.

Ideas flowed through my head like crazy. I deliberated life a lot. I don't consider that time necessarily wasted, but I now definitely know that it could be used in a better way. All those ideas never got written down, processed, managed. They just stayed in my head, and after some time I forgot them. So, maybe that time was essentially wasted? I don't know.

Snap

After some time, I snapped. I couldn't handle it anymore. The sheer amount of work that I was supposed to do, the anxiety it induced, was just unbearable. So, I asked the question:

Is there a better way?

I didn't want to loose my creativity, nor did I want to become the perfect student. But I had to change something. I knew, that if something doesn't change in the near future, I will crash. In all honesty, that possibility of crashing, that very tactile projection of ruining my life terrified me even more than radical change. 

So I broke. Snapped. Flipped. I found my ultimate Breaking Point. The place where radical change is the only solution.

Gradual vs. sudden change

After learning a lot about change, both through changing myself, and observing change in others, I see no type of change is better than the other. 

Gradual

It may as well be called "lighter" change. Not in it's effect, but in the amount of work it requires at once. It's spread out through time. It takes more time to see and understand the results. Gradual change can either happen completely without us noticing it, or be planned, desired. 

Let's look at two examples:

  • Unnoticed - eating habits. They shift & change depending on our environment, the food we can eat. We usually don't question or notice that. 
  • Planned - loosing weight. We desire a certain outcome, plan concrete steps (exercise), supplement the process with extra tools (workout gear, gym memberships).

Gradual change in it's essence is more safe, less risk involved, but at the same time the results will be delayed in time.

Sudden

Sudden change on the other hand happens very often in the thinking mind. When there's no requirement for environmental change, and there's a lot of pressure, sudden mindset changes are prone to happen.

There are certain benefits of sudden change such as; almost immediate results, the possibility of a Change-wave (see here)[link], and incredible amounts of further motivation.

Of course, such sudden change has also it's downsides; it's results may have a bigger chance of being undesired, it may really annoy and distress others around you, and of course, huge amounts of sudden change are simply unhealthy, they kill balance

Reaching The Breaking Point

I reached it. I changed. 

I was relieved, happy, and optimistic. I finally got rid of the notdoing bug from my head. My mental & physical health improved. The people around me liked me more. I found a purpose in life.

That very sudden change had clearly all the right results for me. Also, it did create a whole Change-wave that I'm still riding on.

So, my question is:

Do you have to reach The Breaking Point to change in the best way possible?

Or is it possible to change in the best way possible gradually?

I haven't found an answer yet, but this next school year may hold an answer.

Perils Of Non-activity

One of the most important values in life is the difference between action and motion. One of my favorite books, Atomic Habits by James Clear talks about that a lot. While I dive into the world of productivity more and more every single day, I start to realize productivity’s ultimate goal.

First of all, we have to debunk one of the most common myths about productivity. It’s not about doing more in a lesser amount of time, but about doing the right things. To be honest, this asks more questions than it answers. Yes, maximizing your efficiency is not a simple task, but doing the right things can be even harder.

What is right?

This is the most obvious question. For people without a sturdy moral life compass this question looks almost unanswerable. Building a true moral compass is something we should teach at school by the way. Okay, back to the right things.

What is right? How can I be 100% that what I’m doing is right? How can I predict the future? Plan and project every single possibility? Truly know that I’m not making a mistake?

These questions arose during my first confrontation with the thesis. It’s obviously almost impossible to answer all of them, yet it seems necessary to reach the goal of doing the right things. I think that the answer is much simpler than that.

Non-activity vs activity

What are you doing right now? Why? What are the benefits of it? Are you enjoying it? Is it helping others?

Doing the right things is as simple as defining activity. Because every activity is right.

Activity

1. Engages your brain fully (or almost fully)
2. Makes you enjoy it and life overall (doesn’t have to be immediate)
3. Gives you an opportunity to fail
4. Gives you an opportunity to succeed
5. Includes challenges that will expand your abilities
6. Directly or indirectly helps someone (might be you)
7. Moves you (no matter in which direction)

Activity is always good. Even if you fail, it’ll give you an opportunity to learn. Thus, if you’re able to define what is an activity, you know what is right.

Non-activity

Is the exact opposite of activity.
1. Doesn’t engage your brain
2. Doesn’t spark any true joy
3. Doesn’t give you an opportunity to fail
4. Doesn’t give you an opportunity to succeed
5. Doesn’t challenge you
6. Isn’t helping anyone
7. Leaves you in the same place you were in before

Non-activities are not right. Always. But we like them. We crave them. And that’s the hardest thing about productivity.

How they interchange

I’ll go over a few examples: (from my point of view)

– Checking email twice a day is an activity. I usually learn about something new or interesting through the various newsletters I’m a subscriber of, or I receive the opportunity to do another activity (requests, questions etc).
– Checking email more than twice a day is a non-activity, because I spend too much time mindlessly reading through non-important emails instead of dumping them. I work with Inbox Zero for that matter.
– Reading a scientific book/paper for an hour a day is an activity. By breaking it up into two 25min sessions, I can easily focus and take notes while reading.
– Reading a scientific book/paper for more than an hour a day is a non-activity. It’s just harder to focus and I loose context much more easily. Reading starts becoming a chore instead of a challenge.
– Exercising for less than 15 minutes a day is a non-activity. I don’t get to the point where I’m pushing my body to it’s limits. I don’t get as active as I should be to really benefit from the workout.
– Exercising for more than 15 minutes a day is an activity.

And so on, and so forth.

Dump your non-activities

The point I’m trying to make is:

To truly reach ultimate productivity, you have to do two things: define what is activity and non-activity, and then dump all your non-activities. It’s that simple.

But please, don’t be mad when some non-activities sneak into your life, it’s included in the human condition.

Addicted To Change

Addictions are bad. It doesn’t matter what you are addicted to. Being addicted to something means not having control. You should be able to control yourself, shouldn’t you?

Everyone is addicted to something; it’s either good or bad, maybe both, but it’s always there.

To break an addiction, you need to change. That’s the simple answer. Change is not always easy, but it might be.

Change-wave

This past year has been an incredible period of my life. A lot has changed; my mind, my body, my surroundings. Change itself is good. Yes, sometimes it may result in worse things, but without change there wouldn’t be anything. Our species wouldn’t exist. Our culture wouldn’t exist. Change is a necessary element of our universe. That’s why we should rather embrace it than escape from it.

Throughout the last year, I’ve learned more and more about how humans change. We change mostly because of other change. Imagine change as a constant, never ending chain of events. One small change always leads to another. Sometimes it moves between people, cultures, societies, but it always happens. That’s the beauty of it. Embracing that change-wave makes our life better.

Addicted to change

I think that there’s one exception to the addiction rule: the addiction to change. As we’ve established, change is always good. So, not having to press yourself into changing, but just being addicted to it can have tremendous results.

I’m observing this on myself. Everyday, I think about things that I could change for the better. I’m addicted to it. I crave change. Of course, there’s always time to reconsider your next actions, but with this internal drive everything happens smoother.

Change is powerful

Don’t underestimate your ability to change. Never. Because that way you’ll never change. Even if sometimes you change for the worse, you’ll learn a lot. Learning from your own mistakes is the best way to learn. Thus, change is always good.

Change + reflection = stability + openness.

How To Establish Powerful Relations

Two weeks ago I wrote about why relations are the most important aspect of school. Now, I’ll try to help you establish new, powerful relations, and improve the existing ones. It certainly is not an easy task, but I think that there are some basic principles that apply to all scenarios.

Start with respect

The first principle of powerful relations is undoubtedly respect. Being respectful to others (especially teachers) should not be important just because it’s appropriate, but because it makes you a better person. Through respect we can learn patience, tolerance, gratitude, and virtue. It also obviously makes the people that surround us more thankful for our existence. Isn’t it a win-win situation? Being respectful is also surprisingly easy. Yes, sometimes when we feel a very negative emotion to someone it can be hard, but it always pays off. Be respectful to be respected – it always happens. No matter how much the other person dislikes you, they’ll always, at some point or another start to respect you more. When your relations are establish with full respect, your life becomes peaceful. Even negative emotions seem to be meaningful doubts instead of dramatic cries. Do not expect to be respected by others. If you spend your whole life expecting, you wont be flourishing. Start with respect on your side, they’ll switch at some point.

Honesty helps in tough times

The next principle is honesty. Honesty cannot exist without mutual respect, because without respect, in hard times, honesty can be misunderstood. Misunderstood honesty only deepens the problem. The person that has opened up feels vulnerable and left out, and the other almost always cannot comprehend the honesty. Be honest not just when “it’s appropriate”, but whenever there’s a chance. Honesty makes the world a better place. I cannot tell you how much have my relations improved after I stopped lying. We often don’t think of small lies as bad things, and maybe they aren’t very bad, but when your relations are full of little lies, they stop feeling real and important. I felt really bad when I was lying. Even though it saved my honor a couple of times, it has never lead to a better life. Tell the truth, at first it’ll hurt, but after some time it’ll give you unimaginable amounts of inner power.

Gratitude strengthens bonds

You certainly have been told to be grateful many times. Expressing gratitude can be hard, but if done with good faith, it can fill you up with immense joy. Being grateful for the people that surround you makes your life more colorful. Gratitude is connected with respect, but can be expressed without it. But gratitude without respect, in my opinion doesn’t have as much power, and often is simply fake. Respect someone and be grateful for their presence. It is very important to not just be grateful for the good actions of the other person, but also for their general existence.

To establish powerful relations, fill the people around you with the greatest good.

P.S.
I’m experimenting with shorter, more concrete blog posts. I’ll try to publish them twice a week. You can follow me on Twitter, Medium, or subscribe to my RSS feed or newsletter to get info about new posts. Thank you for being a reader of my thoughts.

Relations: The Most Important Aspect Of School

A simple question: Have you ever felt bad when going to school?

I suspect that every person will answer yes. Everyone remembers those moments when school was the worst. It usually happens before an important exam or when your best friend or favorite teacher disagrees with you. We all have those stories. Most schools are quite unpleasant places to be. The buildings are large, hard to manage, painted with dull colors, and of course every single room looks almost the same. Most schools look and feel like some kind of a factory, not a place where science and art flourish.

But there’s one thing that makes schools alive: the people.

You may say: Of course! That’s obvious! Schools wouldn’t exist without people!
Yes, this is obvious, but not for everyone.
When you listen to politicians, school principals and everyone else, they always talk about funding, exam results, new curriculum and a whole plethora of lower-level importance topics. Yes, those things are important, and they definitely help improve the quality of education, but they’re not the most important. Of course, a state representative won’t be talking at a press briefing about the relation between Mrs. Jackson and Cody from fifth grade (Maybe he should?). Still, there’s not enough people in education focusing on improving relations in school. While student-to-student relations are more often cared about, and programs focusing on improving student mental health, among other things are certainly great and necessary, student-to-teacher relations are generally bad and unhealthy. Think about it like this: Have you ever had a teacher that you could call a friend?

Usually the primary goal of a teacher is simply to teach you new stuff, and while that’s of course great and essential, many lack the ability to establish meaningful relations with their students. A few days ago I was invited by my class teacher for an overnight sleepover in his house – the whole class was invited. The best part about this is the fact that it was actually our third time in his house! For some it may sound normal, but I bet that for most of you it sounds like something that would never happen in your school. Ever.

Building meaningful and thorough relations based on trust, kindness, and common interests changes what school is. Suddenly, this uninspiring, depressing, uninviting place turns into something where creativity and kindness prevail.
Let’s build a better future.

Note: Today’s post is shorter because I’m traveling. Next week I’ll come back with something much longer.

How To Create a Non-distractive Study Environment

Let’s face it. You don’t really know why you can’t focus. Wherever you go, something, maybe small, maybe big distracts you. It happens to all of us all the time. And it truly is annoying, but you already know that. You just want to start doing the things you’re supposed to do without major distractions. Is it achievable? Definitely. Before you start to train your brain (I’m going to write about that in the near future) you need to clean up your surroundings. Not the tools you use like your computer or notebook, but the place where you work. Your environment.
1 Get rid of the unnecessaryFollowing the philosophy conveyed in Greg McKeown’s Essentialism, which is an amazing piece of literature and ranks high on my book recommendation list, we must focus on the essentials. What does this mean? When you want to design a better workplace, the first step is to evaluate the necessity of all the tools you have in your current one. For example; look at your desk and evaluate the items you have on it using my process:

  1. What is this thing? (Tool, decoration, maintenance, useless shit, etc.)
  2. How much value does it hold? (especially personal stuff such as souvenirs or decorations, not material value)
  3. How often do I actually use it? (be honest)
  4. Does it actually help me achieve my goals?
  5. If it’s not directly contributing to my goals, is it inspirational but not distractive?

If the item isn’t satisfying you, simply get rid of it. Seriously.2 Create empty spaceNow that you’ve got rid of all the unimportant things, you probably have more space. If not, you need to get rid of more stuff. Empty space is crucial because it creates a breathing space for your brain. When you’re tired or demotivated your brain has space to relax. But now that space is not stuffed with more tiring things, it’s relaxing. Check out Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin: https://amzn.to/2C0uGex. You’ll suddenly feel more creative and decompressed.3 Clean everythingYou just got rid of all the things that distracted you and created breathing space. The last step is to simply clean it up. Wipe your desk. Vacuum the floor. Clean your window. Now that you have all that empty space, even one breadcrumb will be incredibly annoying. Keeping your space clean is one of the simplest yet most important work-related habits.4 Equip the space with a few very useful and non-distractive toolsThis part is maybe not for you, as you might already have all those things, but if not, then here are some of the things I couldn’t live without:

  1. A bin. It’ll make cleaning and throwing stuff out way easier.
  2. A paper tray. If you’re a student, you’ll always have to deal with paper, no matter how much you like/dislike it. Having a simple, three-level paper tray will make less overwhelmed by it. Label the top level To-do, the middle one doing, and the lowest one done.

5 Add something that motivates youI know, I know. Every single boring corporate office is full of shitty motivational posters. I’m not trying to convince you to them. But maybe there’s a piece of art, a math equation or something else that simply motivates you. Don’t over-stuff your room with too many inspirational paintings by Picasso because at that point they’ll become distractive. Keep it simple yet powerful.

You’ll immediately see the benefits of a non-distractive, symbiotic study environment. While it’s only the first step achieving total focus or Deep Work, it’s already relieving.

If you want to focus, revise your surroundings.

Stuck? Move.

Are you stuck?
By stuck, I mean not able to grow.
If yes, then below you may find an answer.

It happens to all of us. Everyone gets stuck sometimes. Of course, that can happen in many ways, for example:

  • You’re working on a very important project, and you can’t move forward either because of your tiredness, lack of motivation or the thoughtlessness of others.
  • You feel somewhat dissatisfied with your life.
  • You’re at odds with another person.
  • You’re often uncertain about the decisions you make.
  • You have significant amounts of physical or mental burnout (or both).
  • You find it very hard to do demanding tasks.
  • You feel stuck in your physical environment

One very important note: you’re only stuck when you want to overcome the things above, but can’t. If you’re accepting them, then it’s much more complicated and requires a thorough change to your mindset.

Being stuck is incredibly frustrating, and often sucks out all the energy you have. Whenever we’re stuck, it means that the combination of our feelings, ideas, thoughts, and the outside world is just not working. Then the only option is to move. Because that combination is not working, you need to change at least one element of it. Many people react to being stuck by blaming other people, their current projects, the weather or something else mostly not dependent on their decisions. Blaming that on the outside doesn’t help, it only deepens the problem. The condition simply becomes more and more tense and may lead to chronic depression or a mental meltdown. The easiest (but often invisible) way is to move. Change your approach to the situation, your part of the combination.

Whenever I get stuck, I try to move. When I find it hard to focus in my room, I move the furniture around. When I feel stuck when doing a task, I try to do it in a different way or in a different environment. When I’m at odds with someone, I try to apologize first, and then change my approach, as it didn’t work the first time.

Moving doesn’t just make you unstuck, it also makes you grow. You try different approaches to different situations in life. Isn’t this a win-win process? The best thing about moving, in my opinion, is the fact that in 99% it depends only on you. You don’t have to wait for others and spend time convincing them to change.
Of course, in many situations, the other side (people, environment, or heck, even the weather) also has a fair share of making you stuck. Understanding that and not completely ignoring the other factors is also very important.

I wonder, how would the world look, if everyone moved when stuck… Wouldn’t we be less stressed, more open to new ideas and overall just better? I know that not acknowledging your own wrongdoings is a very prominent part of the human condition, but I truly believe we can start overcoming that.

If you’re stuck, move.

How To Clear Your Mind Before An Exam

The vast majority of all end-the-of-year school exams take place in April, May, and June. They’re very often accompanied by stress, uncertainty, and extrinsic pressure. Throughout your educational journey you probably already encountered a few and are going to face many more. That’s just how life is. Someday I’ll definitely share with you what I think are the biggest pros and cons of exams, and why I think most exams today are completely useless.

No matter how useless and stress-producing they are, 90% of them are mandatory. There’s no escape from hell. Of course, I don’t believe that exams are hellishly bad, just mostly bad, but when approached wisely by both the teacher and the student, they’re a powerful tool, but as I said, that’s a whole another topic for another time. Even though I haven’t written many exams in my life (blame Maria Montessori ;), I designed a simple process that’ll hopefully help you prepare well, reduce (or even completely kill) stress, clear your mind and just ace the exam. It has worked well for me but might not work for you.

Section 1: Plan ahead

1. Ask

Whenever you start a new class, join a foreign language club or dance class, ask the question: Will there be an end of the year exam? If the answer is yes, then you’re going to need to learn as much as possible about it. When? Where? How? What area/subject will it focus on? Being prepared is never a bad thing. Write down the date, location and any other specific info you need. Try writing down only the most important info, don’t go as deep as “The chair I’ll be sitting during the exam has the following dimensions…”. Yea, I know people who do that.

2. The textbook

Almost always there is an official, well-prepared textbook containing all the basic information that you might need on the exam. Of course, if there isn’t one, don’t stress out. Try learning at least all the topics that might be included on the exam, and look for the info in other sources.

3. Assign

Assign all the main topics to every month in the year. Have an overarching “theme” during the month. When you finish studying your current topic, revise last month’s one. Schedule at least 15 minutes every day just to think about that particular topic.

Section 2: Before the exam

1. Last two weeks

When the exam is approaching, schedule two weeks of work just for the exam. Of course, that time should depend on the importance and length of the exam. Clear all the distractions. Revise all the most important and difficult topics.

2. Recap

Try preparing your own “Most important info” list. There are a lot of already prepared recaps, but making your own will also help you focus on the most important and the most difficult. Ask your friend to do one herself/himself and then compare both. You might consider different topics and information as the most important.

3. Clean your mind

This is the actual mind cleaning part, and probably the most important of all. If you have done all the steps above and mindfully prepared for the exam, then you need a break before the exam takes place. Schedule two-three days before the date for your hobbies, time with family or friends, etc. Anything that you like and is not mindless (TV, social, lying on the couch) will do. Don’t shut off your brain completely, just let it flow. Go on a hike, to a museum, visit your grandparents. Relax.

I can tell you from my own experience that if you follow all of these steps, then you truly won’t be stressed out and you’ll just ace the exam. No matter how important or grandiose it’ll be.

If you want to just do it well, clean your mind.