Using a Journal to Appreciate the Small Things in Life

There are times where I get so focused on the day-to-day mundane tasks that I think to myself, “man my life is boring.” Other times, when things are slow, we can tend to lean towards the same thought of, “I never do anything”. When it’s super busy, our brains will often tell us, “You used to do a ton of fun activities, now there isn’t time for anything.” Etc.

In 2012 I started keeping a notebook; aptly titled “2012 Experiences”. Each month is labeled in bold type with a brief bulleted list of what new experiences I’ve had each month. A recent example:

February

  • Went to the theater after work and saw the movie, Black Panther. 2/15
  • Got a new haircut in a different style. 2/16
  • Woke up with news that my cousin had a baby boy last night! 2/20
  • UX Happy Hour with co-workers. Met new people as well as old friends. 2/21
  • Glad that Rachel mentioned OverDrive today. Was able to send library ebooks to my Kindle. 2/27

For those slow moments when the lizard brain just won’t let up, I look back on the previous months and think to myself, “Wow! my life is one adventure after the other.” This pushes me to reflect on the good that has happened recently and look forward to new experiences.

Life is about choices. The routine parts of life can be a bit boring but consistency always wins over time. Making a list creates a feeling of gratitude, points your mind in the right direction, and keeps your outlook positive. It’s been 6 years now since I first started journaling this way. It really made all the difference in the world.

Enjoy the adventures; one at a time. Savor life.

Be Misunderstood

I remember the first time I ever went to MoMa to explore with the intent of leaving inspired. Upon stepping foot into the first exhibit, a flood of emotion hit me. It was everything I could do to not break down and cry.

What could have caused such an unexpected rush?

Searching myself as I wandered down the halls, I came to the realization that I finally felt validated. Those times where I felt misunderstood and isolated in my art were an expected reaction to creating something different. The impact on me of the work of others that embrace the beat of a different drummer was profound, in a very tangible form.

In fact, our whole lives, from school and beyond, are spent being taught to conform. fit in, and all will be well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance writes:

“Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

Those that make an impact disrupt the status quo.

Be misunderstood. Be Weird. Society needs you.

Tribe Reading

Shortcut to Your Tribe

Your tribe, that group of people that you connect with, is important for growth. Push each other forward.

One of the best ways to grow is to read what others in your tribe have read as well. Find an author that really resonates with you, read everything they have written, and then read everything they have read.

In the same way, that word of mouth spreads exponentially, your reading list will grow by leaps and bounds.

Thanks to the wonderful age that we live in, there is a tool to help you seek out and visually map out a web of connections: Yasiv.

Simply type in your favorite book and press “Go”. Boom. When I did research on this for an example, I searched for Do the Work by Steven Pressfield and got 86 results! At the time of this writing, it’s over 386 products. The amazing thing is I have either purchased, added to a wish list, or read over 23 of the original results. Beyond that, it found books that I’ve never been exposed to that really fit what I want to read.

Screenshot of Yasiv

Amazing.

Paralyzed

Too many choices can be paralyzing. This really stood out to me in a piece about President Obama by Vanity Fair. They touch on the concept by stating:

“One of my most important tasks,” he’d said, “is making sure I stay open to people, and the meaning of what I’m doing, but not to get so overwhelmed by it that it’s paralyzing. Option one is to go through the motions. That I think is a disaster for a president…”

By making sure the small decisions are taken care of, he can focus on the bigger decisions. It reminds me of the story of Buridan’s donkey:

Buridan’s donkey is standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. It keeps looking left and right, trying to decide between hay and water. Unable to decide, it eventually falls over and dies of hunger and thirst.

When one’s willpower gets depleted of the ability to make a quality choice, then we tend to make no choice at all or default to the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, that can result in bad quality choices over the long term. We get paralyzed and simply do nothing.

Make a choice. Adjust your course. Choose again.

Just don’t stop.

I Don’t Feel Like It!

In The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, he tells the story of his disciplined dad who was a coach. There were no excuses at home. What struck a chord with me, in particular, was the following:

“We weren’t ever allowed to stay home from school sick unless we were actually puking, bleeding, or “showing bone”.

Many times on the treadmill, when my muscles are screaming at me, I have to remember to push it further. Am I “showing bone?” No. Then go. Faster. And tack on an extra 15-30 seconds past what I think I can do per interval jog.

“I don’t feel like it” is one of the worst excuses ever.

When I was younger, I used it all the time: throughout school and early adulthood. Finally, I realized that this was a weakness. I set out to correct it. Due to the nature of life being a series of choices, it took keeping this at the forefront of my mind to consciously keep working on it. Habitually.

Any disciplined person knows, you never feel like it. The doing or starting of the task that you do not want to do will create momentum to finish. Just jump into it. Do it anyway.