What To Tell Yourself During A Tough Time.

Image Credit: Dan Evans

We all go through tough times.

A few examples of mine are:

  • Multiple consecutive breakups
  • Walking away from a business that could have made me a lot of money
  • Having my career come to a grinding halt
  • Dealing with mental illness

The list is very long and I’m sure yours is similar. It’s not about the tough times we go through though because they are guaranteed and you already knew that before you clicked this article.

What matters during tough times is what you tell yourself.

This is what I say to myself during tough times — well there’s actually four things I say to myself depending on the tough time I’m facing:


“This will pass”

No event in your life lasts forever. Today may be a really tough day, but that won’t last forever. We delude ourselves at times by saying in our head “I’m always going to be like this.”

“Why does this always happen to me?”

“Here we go again.”

These negative phrases tell our brain that things are never going to get better. When we say these phrases to ourselves enough, we start to believe them. During a difficult period in your life, in that moment, things will suck.

Image Credit: OIVIND HOVLAND/IKON IMAGES/CORBIS

The way to get out of your head is to see the truth: this will pass. In one day, one month, or one year this tough situation will have passed and you’ll be onto the next part of your life.

Nothing lasts forever unless you allow your mind to trap you in the moment and believe a lie which is that this moment won’t pass. It will. You will come out the other side.


“I’ll be stronger having dealt with this situation”

Woman Lying on Blanket Under Man on Her Legs Holding Hands during Golden Hour

When you reframe your tough times into strength building exercises, they take a whole new meaning.

All of a sudden, your current situation that may be wearing you down becomes like reps at the gym. The reps are a struggle and it hurts, but if you keep moving forward, you end up with mental toughness and strength.

“Exchange your tough times for mental toughness”

See this challenging situation for what it is. It’s the chance to come out the other end stronger.

Stack your tough times up like gold medals.

Free stock photo of city, sky, art, landmark

Have you dealt with cancer? Good, then you won’t take your health for granted ever again.

Have you lost a loved one? Then you’ll never take the rest of your family for granted and care for them more than you did before.

Did you lose your job? Amazing! Now you can work somewhere else and discover more of your hidden talents!

Without tough times, you won’t have the strategies you need to deal with the impossible. Your heroes are your heroes because they’ve used their tough times to become stronger.

Failure and rejection are the building blocks to whatever your definition of success is. Tough times make you hungry and that’s a good thing.


“Keep taking baby steps forward”

Tough times can feel like quicksand sometimes.

If you don’t keep moving forward though, you’ll eventually sink into the quicksand. The best thing you can do during the toughest of challenges is take baby steps.

Image Credit: François Coutu

When I battled severe anxiety, I took baby steps such as these:

  • Walked 15 minutes a day
  • Drank an extra glass of water each day to hydrate my body
  • Read one book a month on anxiety
  • Exposed myself to one small fear each day. It started with going two levels in a lift (something I couldn’t do before). Then I’d go three levels the next day and so on.

That last dot point is critical. Overcoming tough times requires you to take baby steps in the form of being uncomfortable. When you’re growing each day, you don’t have time to be too concerned about a particular tough time.

My battle with anxiety eventually led me to flying long distances (another thing I couldn’t do before) and then speaking on stages in front of a lot of people.

As you can see, the first few steps — like going two floors in a lift — are quite small. Then the steps get bigger and bigger until what used to seem impossible becomes a piece of cake.

Take baby steps.


“It only takes one person”

Two Woman Sitting on Bench Near the Table

Tough times often require someone to believe in you. From my experience, you only need one person.

One person to believe in your idea.
One person to love you.
One person who has gone through the same tough times as you.

This one person exists. You have to go out there and find them. That one person for me was a team leader when I was working in a call center. He believed in me enough to take me aside and coach me one on one.

He believed I was going to go on and change the world through personal development. He was right and I did!

Don’t give up. Your one person exists as well.

<<<>>>

These four things are what I tell myself during a tough time. One of these phrases will always be the right one depending on the circumstance.

Believe that there is a way out and you’ll find one. It’s during the tough times that you’ll develop the skills and experience to help others.

Image Credit: The Atlantic

What I’ve learned is that to get through the tough times, one of the best hacks is to focus on helping others. When you’re focusing on how you can serve, your own selfish problems become insignificant.

Seek out people who have even bigger problems than you do and listen to them. See if you can help them.

That’s how you deal with the tough times.

Tell yourself the truth. You deserve to hear it.

LIFE – Laws of Power

My 10 Favourite Laws of Power

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Since the book was first released in 1998, it has sold over 2 million copies worldwide, and has influenced many successful people, from Will Smith to Kanye West, Jay-Z and 50 Cent, who later co-wrote a New York Times’ bestseller with Greene.

It is also the most highly requested book in U.S. prisons, due to the easy to understand synthesis of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu and other famous writers key prescriptions for effectively managing power struggles in difficult environments.

Some of the 48 laws do seem contradictory, and others seem a little repetitive, but there are some truly great bits of advice for effectively managing situations where power may play a role. This might be a corporate environment, a difficult but smaller workplace, a large social group, to really anywhere where there is a power imbalance between people or a formal or informal hierarchy.

Here are my 10 favourite laws, including a description of each law from the following website. The parts that I especially like are bolded. Enjoy!

Law 4: Always Say Less than Necessary

When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control… Powerful people impress by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.

Similar to the Danish proverb that says “deep rivers move with silent majesty, shallow brooks are noisy”, law 4 reminds me to only say things that I believe will be of value. It also helps me to try to stay within my circle of competence, and not give advice on things that I do not know much about.

Law 9: Win through your Actions, Never through Argument

Any momentary triumph you think gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.

A parent who smokes but tells their children not to is unlikely to be successful at persuading their children because “actions speak louder than words”. The better option is to not smoke or quit if you want to set a good example. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world”.

Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to their Mercy or Gratitude

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasise it… He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

As sad as this may appear, most people are self-motivated, and want to do the right thing if it makes them look good. For example, a hybrid car such as a Toyota Prius sells well because it is known as a hybrid car. It screams out “I care about the environment” in a way that the Toyota Camry Hybrid does not, because the hybrid version of the Camry looks almost identical to the regular Camry. The 2014 sales in the US of each car highlights this point:  Prius: 194,000; Toyota Camry Hybrid: 39,500; Toyota Camry (non-hybrid): 428,600. Figure out how what you want will benefit the other person or help them to look good before you ask for a favour, and you are much more likely to get them onboard.

Law 18: Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous

The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere – everyone has to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from – it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people, find allies, mingle.

A lot of people that I see try to protect themselves at the cost of a real sense of connection and belonging with others. This law helps by reminding me of the dangers and costs of not opening up to people who are honest and can be trusted.

Law 23: Concentrate Your Forces

Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point.You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another – intensity defeats extensiveness every time. 

This reminds me of the quote “jack of all trades; master of none”. If you want to make progress in anything, it is important to prioritise, and put your energy into the activities and thought patterns that are going to give you the best results. Law 23 also helps me to  build upon my strengths rather than worrying too much about my weaknesses.

Law 25: Re-Create Yourself

Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define if for you.

I often encourage my clients to clarify their most important values, and to see how these differ from what their family, friends, culture or society may want for them. The idea of working hard and not enjoying life until retirement is not a role that I want to accept, even though this is considered normal in many respects by society. It’s much better to create and live a sustainable life for myself, whatever that may look like. Then it won’t matter if and when I retire, especially if I keep loving what I do for work.

Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness

If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honours the timid.

Law 28 reminds me to not doubt myself once I have settled on a course of action, and to fully commit myself to it for a set period of time instead of continuing to remain uncertain or indecisive. Once a decision is made, it is much better to give it 100% until the next decision needs to be made. Uncertainty only leads to more stress and anxiety, and less satisfaction in the long run.

Law 29: Plan All the Way to the End

The ending is everything. Plan all the way to it, taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that might reverse your hard work… By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.

This reminds me of the benefits of thinking into the future, and clarifying how I would want my life to look. If I had a 50th birthday and someone close to me stood up and spoke about the person I had been for the past 18 years, what would I want to hear them say? Based on my response to this, it is then important to see if my 1-, 5- or 10-year plan is helping me to head in that direction. If not, more planning and some big changes may be required, as long as my plans are also flexible enough to change as I continue to grow with time.

Law 35: Master the Art of Timing

Never be in a hurry – hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself, and over time. Always (be) patient, as if you know that everything will come to you eventually. Become a detective of the right moment; sniff out the spirit of the times, the trends that will carry you to power. Learn to stand back when the time is not yet ripe, and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition.

Patience is a massively underrated value, especially in today’s society. How often do you see people multitasking, or telling you how busy they are? I know I sometimes do. But slowing things down, and really making sure that my attention is 100% on what is most important in any given moment is a great recipe for long-term happiness and well-being. While it is important to “strike while the iron is hot”, I think it is also important to not be too reactive, and make sure that the decisions you make are really consistent with your values and long-term plans. Knowing how to say no to the wrong things in life is also a crucial element of success.

Law 45: Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once

Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt. If you are new to a position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it a gentle improvement on the past.

Trying to change my eating habits has taught me this law better than anything else recently. As soon as I try to be too restrictive, I do rebel against any prescriptions. Long-term sustainable changes are again much better than short-term dramatic changes. The 20-minute walk that you manage to do is also better than the 10km run that you do not, so start small, and try to build up slowly. If you can do this, changes are much more likely to stick.

Curve in the road

If you want to see the remaining 38 laws, please click here or purchase the book. Some of the laws do seem pretty ruthless, but pretending that they don’t exist in power dynamics is much more dangerous than learning how they work.

I also recommend checking out my dealing with toxic people article for more information on how to successfully manage and survive difficult interactions.

Dr Damon Ashworth

Clinical Psychologist

Life – Increase Your Satisfaction and Contentment

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

How to Increase Your Satisfaction and Contentment (upgrade from “worried” to peaceful)

“You can accomplish tremendous things in your remaining years if you will design them before you live them.” -Jim Rohn

I only have 17,374 days left to live.

After calculating the average life span of men from my country, with all available medical history of my genetics, my approximate “last day” is around 17,374 days from now.

Then I’ll die.

This “death clock” idea has become popularized in recent years; some individuals have even placed their countdown on their computer screens, to remind them that life is short. This reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest by the character Prospero: “Every third thought shall be my grave.”

That might be a bit much. But contemplating my eventual demise hasn’t felt like a disturbing, morbid cloak that suffocates me; it’s made me feel bright and spritzy. I feel lighter than ever.

Here’s the first thing I’ve realized:

Most of What We Do Doesn’t Matter

“I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.” -Tim Ferriss

Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby ($100 million dollars in sales), once described an important lesson he learned riding his bike in Los Angeles:

I lived right on the beach in Santa Monica, where there’s this great bike path that for 25 miles. I’d go onto the bike path and push it — just red-faced huffing, all the way, pushing it as hard as I could, and I’d set my timer. I noticed it was always 43 minutes.

“But then I thought, ‘Why don’t I just chill? For once, I’ll go at half my normal pace.’ I went on the same bike ride, and I noticed that I was standing up, looking around more. I looked into the ocean. I noticed a pelican flying above me. It was purely pleasant. There was no red face, there was no huffing. And when I got back to my usual stopping place, I looked at my watch, and it said 45 minutes. And I thought, ‘There’s no way.’”

“All that huffing and puffing and all that red face was only for an extra 2 minutes. It was basically for nothing.

Photo by Jonny Kennaugh on Unsplash

Most of your frantic commutes through traffic, yelling into your phone, and breathless rushes between appointments are for things that, frankly, don’t really matter.

The truth is, most of what we do in modern society doesn’t truly matter. Not that our lives are pointless; it’s that we rarely create truly beautiful things, or practice our art in its purest, cleanest form.

No — more likely we’re meeting marketing deadlines so we can sell more stuff. Most of us aren’t inventing the cure for Lupus, we’re editing our email to our boss. We’re not hyper-focused on our lover’s opal-colored eyes over dinner, we’re posting another picture of our food.

All this red-faced huffing is basically for nothing. Want to increase your contentment and joy? Be be kinder to yourself. It might sounds silly, but relax more. Giggle at your partner’s sexy nose crinkle when she smells something funky. Try to figure out if there’s any object in the world with precisely the same orange hue as tonight’s sunset.

Eminem had a lyric that always resonated with me: “I bully myself, cause I make me do what I put my mind to,” he snarled. Amen, I’d say with a clenched fist in the car. If I want results, I can’t afford to take breaks.

In the past year, I’ve changed my mind. There’s a season for work-hard-all-day, I get it. I’ve been there. But I can achieve almost my goals and still be kind to myself, and increase my joy and peace instead of running on 100% adrenaline as I imagine my darkest fears coming true.

Most of what we do doesn’t matter. Focus on what does, and stop taking yourself so seriously.

“Busyness” is a Disease That Needs to Be Cured

“Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness: Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” -Tim Krieder

Whenever I talk to an old friend or colleague and ask them how they’ve been, the answer is almost always some form of, “So busy.” “Really busy.” “Crazy-busy.”

As Tim Krieder wrote in his essay “The Busy Trap,” this answer is pretty obviously a boast disguised as a complaint. We like being busy. It makes us feel important, needed. We can’t have an empty life if we’re busy, right?

Actually, we can. Busyness consumes your remaining days and years, leaving you with nothing but the sinking feeling that it’s all going by too fast. It’s busyness that makes us think, “Wasn’t my daughter just learning to talk yesterday?” at her 10-year birthday party. It’s busyness that makes you dread your own 40th birthday party.

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Often times, we’re busy to avoid the very thing we most need to do. If I’m caught up in email replies, I have a small reprieve from the anxiety about an upcoming meeting with an intimidating person. Same goes for checking my bank account that I know needs looking at or having a hard conversation with my wife.

Busyness is not a badge of honor (though most people treat it like one). It’s not proof you’re important; it’s proof you’re lazy. Busyness is a type of laziness; it means you didn’t set boundaries for your time and couldn’t say “no” when you should’ve.

Busyness is a disease. It distracts you from what’s really important and gives you an excuse to avoid the real work.

The most successful performers in the world aren’t “busy,” they’re focused. The busy person performs many tasks with minimal results; the focused person performs few tasks with incredible results.

When I was teaching English in South Korea with my wife, I had made the commitment to focus solely on my writing. Once I did, I was assailed by a sudden influx of (lucrative) opportunities — private tutoring, basketball coaching, freelance gigs, drumming at a local church, etc. I could’ve become “very busy” very quickly.

But I said no to all of them. I committed to my writing. By the end of the year, I had started a viable personal business making thousands of dollars, seeing tens of thousands of subscribers and hundreds of thousands of views.

This is the result of being focused.

Busyness is simply a type of laziness. If you do not set boundaries for your time, the endless stream of requests and chores to do will own you.

Design Your Environment or Become a Victim of It

“If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us.” -Marshall Goldsmith

Even the most effective, elite performers in the world have a hard time doing what they need to do if they’re in a bad environment.

Our environment enables (or disables) you to do what you’re trying to do. It’s practically impossible to be disciplined and consistent in an environment that actively encourages you not to.

This was another huge lesson I learned after moving to South Korea. Back in California, I had gotten nowhere with my writing. I was fat, lazy, bored, and instead of staying home writing, my wife and I were growing our beer bellys and breweries and burger joints. There was always something to do (besides work).

In Korea, there were no craft beer bars. We weren’t invited out to dinner and drinks anymore. It was school during the day and chicken breast with bell peppers at night.

The environment enabled massive growth for my writing. I started posting every day, and in a 6 month period, I gained 20,000+ new email subscribers. My writing quality increased mightily. I started selling an online course that made me thousands of dollars. I launched another one making me thousands more.

In the words of national best-selling author and financial guru Dave Ramsey:

“I had to quit telling myself that I had innate discipline and fabulous natural self-control. That is a lie. I have to put systems and programs in place that make me do smart things.”

I’m not a paragon of grit and discipline; even if I was, it would help only minimally. Even the most talented and disciplined people in the world have a hard time following their own advice.

That’s why your environment is so important. It enables even the most inexperienced amateur to achieve consistency and enormous, never-before-seen results.

You don’t need to travel overseas to enter a better environment. But you do need to change your current one if you want more satisfaction and less worry.

In Conclusion

I suppose it’s possible that I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting I hadn’t written more, didn’t wake up early enough, or worked harder and made more money.

But I think what I’ll really wish is that I played just one more round of Halo Reach with Drew, played one more pick-up basketball game with Jeff and Grant, one last belly-laugh with Rebecca.

Life is too short to be busy.

“The largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose.” Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

Life – Right Way to Restore a Relationship

The Right Way to Restore a Relationship (lessons from 15 years of burning bridges)

I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

I’ve done a lot of hurtful things, said hurtful stuff, and was a complete asshole to many people I loved, who loved me back and deserved better. I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

At times, I still marvel at how stupid I was. How conceited and profoundly self-absorbed I was. And how I didn’t even see it.

But in the process, I’ve learned how to restore those relationships (some of them, at least. Some people still won’t talk to me).

Years of a severe pornography addiction left me frozen as an immature, whiny brat who would never take responsibility for his actions. It took 5 years of gut-wrenching therapy and brutally honest sponsors in 12-step programs to learn how to truly apologize and restore relationships I broke.

That’s what this post is about: how to restore broken relationships that were broken by you.

Because whether I like it or not, I have major experience with that.

It’s Your Fault. Shut Up and Admit It.

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” -Harriet Beecher Stowe

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you want them to).

A lot of people have shallow, even ruined relationships. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize. This is a pride thing; it’s a weakness, and it destroys relationships.

If you want to restore a broken relationship into an incredible one…make the first move.

Photo by Joshua Sazon on Unsplash

I can’t forget a certain day in 3rd grade. It was during recess.

There was this girl Sandra in my class. She was nice. Both of us were trying to grab one of the few soccer balls from the ball barrel, and I remember accidentally tripping her as I grabbed one.

She fell on the floor. Angry tears welled up in her eyes. I can still remember the look of shock and humiliation on her face.

I should’ve said I was sorry.

I should’ve helped her up. I probably should’ve given her the ball, too.

But I didn’t. I just ran off, leaving her on the floor.

After recess, Mrs. Salinas pulled me and Sandra outside.

Anthony, did you push Sandra onto the floor at recess?” she demanded in disbelief.

I denied it. It wasn’t my fault, I reasoned. It was an “accident.” I didn’t meanto! I wasn’t willing to take responsibility.

Mrs. Salinas forced me to apologize.

Sandra never talked to me again.

Here’s a lesson that took several dozen times to finally stick:

If you did something wrong, shut up and admit it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame someone else. Even if it was an accident — even if you didn’t mean to — that doesn’t matter. If you want to restore a broken relationships, be the first to own what you did.

Otherwise, your relationships will always be strained and mediocre.

The Most Important Lesson About Relationships I Learned From a 12-Step Program

The day after I quit my corporate job before I left to teach English overseas, I published an article that would eventually destroy every relationship I had with all my old colleagues.

It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. Frankly, it still haunts me sometimes, because many people are still hurt by what I said. Some people still aren’t willing to speak to me.

Basically, I wrote an article condemning 9–5 jobs and essentially called all my old coworkers a bunch of cowards for wasting their life in corporate America. In efforts to be “gritty” and authentic, I was actually just an asshole.

I wouldn’t find out until months later that my entire department read it (what did I think would happen?). I naively emailed my old boss one day from overseas saying hello. I was shocked at her scathing response, informing me neither her nor anyone else wanted anything to do with me, and how much I had hurt them with my words.

There is only one response you can make in this situation. And this still doesn’t guarantee anything.

Make amends.

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

I’d never used that phrase until I got into recovery and counseling. Essentially, making amends is a way to take ownership for wrong you’ve done in hopes of reconciliation.

Making amends has a few parts:

1. Write down exactly what you did wrong, and to whom

2. Write down why it was wrong (be specific)

3. Take complete ownership for the hurt you caused

4. Tell the hurt person everything you wrote down in a sincere apology (if appropriate)

The only way I was ever going to hope to restore anything with my old coworkers was to make individual, direct amends with anyone still willing to listen (some still aren’t).

So that’s what I did. I told my boss how awful my article was, and why (it was demeaning, hurtful, and profoundly ungrateful). I didn’t make any excuses — I owned the entire screwup.

Miraculously, months later she ended up forgiving me.

Of course, things can never go back to the way they were. There’s still a divide of hurt that probably won’t ever go away.

When you hurt someone like this, you have to “take care of your side of the street.” Do everything you can to make things right.

Making Amends is the Single Best Way to Restore a Broken Relationship

I’ve gone through the process of making amends more times than I can remember:

  • To my childhood friends for gossiping about them
  • To my old writing hero for accidental plagiarizing their work
  • To my best friend for not giving him credit for his ideas
  • To my old girlfriend for liking another girl while I was still dating her
  • To my cousin for constantly ditching him for my friends

I could write dozens more. Goes to show all the hurt I’ve caused, even if it was unintentional.

But miraculously, I’ve restored many of these relationships, through making amends.

Making amends is the single best way to restore broken relationships. It’s one of the most mature, adult actions you can possibly take.

I know I’m going to hurt people down the road, however unintentional. I’m not perfect.

But I can always make proper amends: realize what I did, why it was wrong, and communicate how sorry I am.

In Conclusion

“We can never flee the misery that is within us.” -Arthur Golden

The simple truth is, most people won’t have great relationships.

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you don’t want to).

Many people have several strained, even broken relationships with family and friends. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize.

If you want to restore a relationship and experience a deep, meaningful bond with that person, make the first move — even if it should be them. Be the first to:

  • Initiate the conversation
  • Send the first text
  • Say you miss them
  • Say you love them
  • Apologize and ask for forgiveness
  • Organize a hangout
  • Compliment them
  • Thank them
  • Tell them you appreciate what they did

There’s no reason to not restore a broken relationship if it’s in your power to do so.

Things You Can Do to Change Your Life

7 Easy Things You Can Do to Change Your Life in 2 Months

Making big changes in your life isn’t about moving across the country, or storming into your office and quitting your job.

Big changes are the result of small tweaks.

Whether your goal is to finish a project, change your friend group, make more time for passion projects, or improve upon a bad habit, here are 7 easy things you can do to change your life in the next 2 months:

1. You said you wanted to explore more of the city.

You’ve been saying that you want to go to more new places, to see things you haven’t seen before — so why don’t you do it?

This week, pick a different part of town, a new coffee shop, a museum, a restaurant, and go there. Put it on the calendar. Invite a friend. Make it happen.

2. You said you wanted to finish that big project.

Well, you can’t finish a big project until you finish a small project.

When was the last time you started and finished something in a weekend, or even a day? This week, pick one small thing you can finish and then finish it.

Then, next week, pick a slightly larger project (but not too much larger). Finish that.

Before you know it, you’ll be finishing big projects left and right.

3. You said you wanted to go to the gym more.

Ok, so when? When are you going to go?

“I’m going to go, I swear,” isn’t an answer anymore.

Tomorrow, don’t just make that loose promise to yourself that you’ll get there. Set a time and block off everything else. Then, before you go to bed, set what time you’re going to go to the gym again the next day, and the next day.

It’s just a habit. That’s all.

4. You said you wanted to eat healthier.

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

Is there healthy food in your fridge? Do you already know what you want to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

People eat unhealthfully, and live unhealthy lives, primarily out of a bad habit of failing to prepare. But if you had healthy food around, and if it was more of an option, chances are you’d probably eat better.

That’s pretty easy to solve for, isn’t it?

5. You said you wanted to stop scrolling through Instagram so often.

Well, is the app on the home screen of your smartphone?

That sort of easy access makes it difficult to break a bad habit.

Instead, move it to the last page. Maybe even delete it altogether. If you want to break a bad habit, you have to break your relationship to the activity — not forever, but for the time being.

6. You said you wanted to surround yourself with more positive people.

Ok, so what are you doing back at that dumpy bar with those same five friends you know aren’t going anywhere in life?

“You are a reflection of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I’m all for having friends with all sorts of different interests and backgrounds and aspirations. But if you have a goal, and if you want to improve something about yourself, and the people you’re always with make that process more difficult, then you need to reassess.

So, the next time they invite you out, say “No.”

Instead, give that other friend of yours a call. Maybe you two have never hung out. Cool, then dive in. Go grab a coffee. Change the dynamic and see where things go.

7. You said you wanted to work on yourself.

Let me guess: Netflix before bed?

Look, there is nothing wrong with watching a little TV every now and then. But working on yourself is, well, it’s work. And if you don’t prioritize things like self-reflection, journaling, meditation, etc., then you’re never going to grow into the person you know you’re capable of becoming.

Self-development is a practice. You can’t think about it like this big mountain you’re one day going to wake up having conquered. It doesn’t work like that.

Instead, focus on what you can do today that will quiet your mind down and allow you to really sit with yourself.

Before you go to bed, write a page in your journal.

You’ll be amazed at what you find out about yourself.

This article originally appeared on Inc. Magazine.

Travel – Do You Really Love To Travel

I Don’t Really Love To Travel

But not because of the usual reasons

I’m in France right now. Not Paris, but rather a few hours due west, where land meets water; where the ocean licks salt along the mossy rocks and the gray air smells like the sea.

We landed on Saturday, and it’s been lovely. We’ve had a few crêpes, somefrites and fruits, and more than our fair share of pain au chocolat, though for the most part it’s been bière de Bretagne, baguettes, brown-bagged blocks of cheese, and the best butter I’ve ever had in my life — Jean Yves Bordier lives up to his acclaim, and we indulged in his life’s work by shamelessly hacking little pats with the tiny metal coffee spoons in our hotel room, as this was all we had when the moment of need came upon us. We had oysters along the ocean, chucking the shells into piles on the beach as we watched the jade green tide pull itself in, and we walked hand in hand until darkness, which we were surprised to find out isn’t until nearly midnight this time of year.

Again, as I said, it’s been lovely. And yet even as I’m here I’m also not here, because the whole thing feels sort of silly — sort of over-indulgent; an escape to nowhere, with nothing, where all of this exists for real for the people who are here, but exists only in experience for us, a sort of fantasy moment where we both are and yet are not, half of us taking from it what we want because the other half of us knows we don’t actually belong. This is not our real life. This is fabrication — perhaps not for those living here, but certainly for us.

When it comes to travel, there are a few types of people

  • Those who hate to travel
  • Those who like (or love) to travel
  • Those who have to travel
  • And then there are those who simply don’t get much out of travel; who don’t feel compelled to do it and, once they do, don’t “do it well”

My particular affliction is in the last category — and we’ll get to that. But first, let’s cover our bases:

People who hate traveling

We already know most of the reasons, but most commonly, they are people who simply prefer what’s familiar (“normal”) or comfortable. They just want customs and culture and language and food that doesn’t differ from their own. (That, or maybe they hate the logistics part of travel — the planes, the currency exchange, finding someone to water their gardenias, whatever.)

If you were looking for any of these reasons, I’m sorry to report, but this post is not that post. And these reasons are not my reasons.

I don’t hate to travel. I’ll hack my way through a language barrier, learning some basic phrases and hobbling them together, hoping not to butcher them so much that they aren’t still passable. I don’t mind when things don’t go according to “the plan” — I don’t even mind not having a plan at all. I do fine with jet lag and can make great use of a layover. I’ll happily eat the local specialty — I’ll even drink the water and — knock on wood — haven’t gotten sick so far.

My reason for “not traveling well” is something else entirely — and I’m sure there are others out there who experience my particular affliction. We’ll get to that.

People who love traveling

Most commonly, people in this group are well-adjusted individuals who are fully functional members of society, working and living in more or less “normal” ways. They enjoy taking a few vacations a year (sometimes international if it can be afforded), equal parts relaxing or fun or in the interest of seeing or doing “something new” or, in the very least, the sort of “something” we’re supposed to see.

As Jenna Woginrich wrote,

“Good, self-actualized people travel. If they don’t, they want to.”

They like new experiences — on occasion. They like to mix it up with travel a few times a year, see something outside their normal routine. Meaning: they build their lives to support their travel, not the other way around…

People who MUST travel

Those who live and breathe for “new experiences.” Not just “travel” but “everything” and “everyone” “everywhere,” who wither or rage or come altogether undone if “tethered” in any way. People for whom travel and movement and change and experience is a lifeblood — the sort of thing that’s as non-negotiable as breathing or thinking. They’re the people who would liveon the road or out of a backpack if they could, who would hop from spot to spot periodically. (And, often, the people who really do.)

The first group of people travels fine. The second group, ironically enough, does not. Not deep down.

Because, as Annika Ziehen wrote, the other side of wanting “everything” and to go “everywhere” also means “always wanting more:”

“You would think that I couldn’t dislike something that makes me so unbelievably happy, gives me butterflies like no guy ever has, and turns me into a better version of myself with each step I take out into the world. But I do.

Oh, how I wish I could have been content with what I had when I was little, alas I wasn’t… Now I have the daily dilemma of wanting more. More to see, to explore, more new, more same same but different, less ordinary and more ordinary away from home. I hate it, but I can’t help it.

My mind doesn’t stand still and quite frankly it is exhausting. I dream of Bangkok when I’m in Cape Town and wish I was in Marrakech, oh no, rather Essaouira when in Florence. I get a plate of Pad Thai and I want Japanese, I find a great Mexican restaurant at home and wish I was back in New York for Venezuelan arepas. It’s not about the grass always being greener elsewhere, I don’t care for the grass, but it is about the sky being bluer, the horizon wider, and the smells more exotic.”

It is, effectively, a broader and deeper “fear of missing out” — a yearning for endless times and places when we can only have one at once, and the heartbreak at this shorthanded reconciliation that never leaves us with enough. They hunger in their own way.

People who just don’t get much out of traveling

This one. This is me.

I’m not really sure how to describe it, other than: it feels… empty.

And I say this not as a cynic or elitist, but rather softly and a little sad, like the slow lapping of a calm tide against a weathered wall.

And the whole reason I included the previous type of traveler — the person who lives and breathes new experiences to the point of wanting “everything” and finding themselves heartbroken at never quite having it — is to point out: this is simply the opposite. Equally sad, just in the other direction.

Where one heart aches over wanting “everything,” another aches over wanting “nothing.”

Tout. Rien.

La même chose, mais différente.

Travel often feels a bit empty

Far from an achievement or enlightenment, it’s often more indulgent and fun — and, sure, perhaps you learn a thing or two and become a little less narrow-minded. But money aside, it is truly one of the easiest things in the world to do — you simply make it a priority, book the tickets, and go. And then, you’re just kind of… there.

We sweep into these places as though they’re check-boxes, as though the answer to our lives will be found in the bottom of un café au lait in France, the fish markets of Thailand, or anywhere in between. As though spending 2 nights and 3 days anywhere will mean anything to us other than coming back to report: it was lovely.

And it is.

But also: what difference does it all make?

Every time I travel, I can’t help but think “but what is the point of this?”

like cultures — and I like new experience. As I said. I’ll “play the game” when I travel, eating the local foods and drinking the local drinks and speaking, best I can, in the local language. And I enjoy this, but I don’t really get it — not in the way that it’s sold. I know that travel is supposed to be life-changing and perspective-broadening but, over the course of just a few days, frankly, I don’t think it really can be. (Unless, of course, our “perspective” is regarding “the best cheese we’ve ever had;” our “broadening” of it dependent on — and always locked away in — our mental categorization after the fact.)

But other than that, I’m not sure I get it. And if what you’re looking for is “something new” or even open-mindedness, it can be done much more cheaply and closer to home.

And I like relaxation, too — sure — but, similarly, you can do so without using a passport.

And so it leaves me with these questions of “why though?” Is it truly to check boxes? I have a hard time believing it isn’t. Is it the satisfaction of just knowing we can? Sure — there’s no shame in that. Or maybe most people don’t look to travel for any of this. I have a hard time believing that, but even if it is true, I have an even harder time doing it myself.

At the end of the day, I often find myself traveling only to wonder, “why am I here? What am I doing?” I usually think to myself that “I’d rather be working,” but I often slip so far away that it’s not the literal “work” so much as it is the theoretical idea of work, because “work” — and at least producing something of value for others — has therefore more value and meaning for me then… whatever it is I’m doing here, while traveling.

As Jenna Woginrich, a woman who runs a homestead on a hillside and goes hunting by horseback with her hawks, wrote regarding travel,

“I see these pictures and feel no sense of envy or desire. I always saw travel as something anyone can do with enough money, time, and the wits to book a flight. By its nature travel is flirting. There is no commitment to the destination, only pleasure.

I don’t want to work a job I tolerate just to afford two weeks of entertained distraction from the previous fifty… I chose commitment over flirtation.”

I feel ya on that, sister.

I know that I struggle with this. I know that, as a person, I am wont to reject a good many real and tangible things as “meaningless;” I’m working on appreciation. But I also think you can “gain appreciation” without traveling halfway around the world.

If not travel, then what?

This is my question — the big one that weighs on me. I want meaning in the way other people want “new experiences” or “self expression” or anything else that drives us and makes us human.

What has meaning? And how to balance “meaningful” with… well, everything else.

If travel has no meaning and “meaning” is what I want, then what does? The answer, of course, is exceedingly simple: good relationships, good work, and a good attitude (all of which (and especially the last) are incredibly nebulous, but okay.)

And as Jenna Woginrich wrote,

“The truth is you can’t buy enlightenment from a travel agent or harvest it from vegetables in your own backyard. We grow slowly over time. It doesn’t matter if you’re in an Ashram or Akron ― becoming a better person is putting in the work of getting older. For some it’s raising babies. For others it’s taking up politics, art, athletic endeavor or public service. Finding what you want out of life and working to keep it is the trick, without being sold any fantasy as salvation. You can’t speed up life lessons by changing your coordinates or refusing to chart them in the first place. But you can feel happiness if you learn how to eventually read your own damn compass.”

And, until then, there are always the simple life pleasures to enjoy —a little more bière and butter, s’il vous plaît.

The Real Key to Success


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We need to understand how we can present ourselves to the best advantage and to know what role the ego plays in our life. Your unknown is God, and the self is otherwise considered to be the known. But when you want to know what you have yourself, do you really know your self? Do you want to know your self? Have you worked to know your self? My self is very important to me. Yet this is the only thing which I ignore in my life. I want to be known as a doctor, as an attorney, or I want to be known as a business manager. Because I have never worked on my self. I have never introduced my self. I have never cared to represent my self. I do not identify with my self. I do not proportionately appropriate my self. I do not proportionately understand and distribute my self.  And still, I want to be very successful, myself.

I’ll tell you the mystery of life: life is not a mystery at all. It is a simple mastery of the Self. For example, if a problem comes to me, then I look at that problem with these guidelines: I have to work through this problem, I don’t have to confront it. I have to solve it. Then I ask myself – how will I solve it as the Siri Singh Sahib? How will I solve it as Yogi Bhajan? How will I solve it as Har­bhajan Singh? From which area has the problem come from? If it is a problem of Dharma, I don’t have to care whether I benefit or I lose. I have to solve that problem as the Siri Singh Sahib.

If it is a problem in the emo­tional or mental realms, I have to solve it as Yogi Bhajan. I don’t have to solve it with Dharma. Dharma is a path of the human. Those with emotional or mental problems are not yet human. A person does not know what the path is. I have to make a person human and then deal with the human. Therefore I have to deal with it as Yogi Bhajan.

If someone has a relationship with me as a father, then I am Harbhajan Singh. But, I am using the same ego to solve these different kinds of problems.

The other alternative is that a problem comes to you and you con­front it. The moment you confront the problem, either you win or you lose. That is called self-destruction. You don’t need to confront anything. It is not worthwhile, because every­thing moves. The problem will move. (You won’t move because your ego gets hung up.) But you can’t solve a problem by confronting the problem. Then it becomes a hassle and the neighbors will know about it and people will hear about it.

realkey1 (1)What is the secret of success? OPI OPM: Other People’s Intelligence and Other People’s Money. Your own intelligence cannot solve every problem. Your own intelligence is how you employ and successfully deploy the environment, the sur­roundings. That is OPI. Employ and deploy the surroundings. When you employ the surroundings, don’t involve yourself in it. Because it is not you in the problem, rather it is your interest in the problem. You should see that you get the high­est rate of interest, but it is not you.

Once I was asked if I wanted to have a certain inspector working under me or not. I questioned why I was being given an additional in­spector. I was told that nobody wanted to have him working under them. I agreed that I would take him, but I asked that inspector why the other officers did not want to have him working under them. He told me that other officers were threatened be­cause he was so sharp and efficient that they felt that their own jobs might be taken over by him. I decided to take him. I just outlined to him my area of responsi­bility. I told him that I would give him a specific area of my duty and he could take total charge of that area and do whatever he wanted to do with it. I can tell you that I never bothered with that work at all, and he came out perfect. Because he was very intelligent, very righteous, very honest and very sincere. You may get a good worker but it is rare to get a sincere worker.

Another example I want to share with you. I had a pesonal servant named Ramu. His job was just to serve me and personally attend to me. One day while I was eating with my friends he just came and picked up my plate. Then he brought me some other kind of food and served me. I understood his habits, but after a while I just called him to explain to these people why he made me eat something different? He said:

“Baba, you are not to eat this food because yesterday you worked very hard and this food is very delicious and you would definitely overeat. You are to go on duty in half an hour and you won’t be in a position to digest it, therefore, I am sorry, I couldn’t give you that food.” I said, “But, you never gave it to me, someone else gave it to me!” He added, “Another person is another person. I am responsible for what you eat.”

Now, as Americans you cannot tol­erate this kind of situation. Whereas, I have been trained that when we give somebody a duty or a responsi­bility and we find that person is loyal and honest, we totally do not inter­fere with that person. That is the way to use other people’s intelli­gence. But if you insist on playing it according to your ego, then you’ll be stabbed in the back. It doesn’t matter who you are. Because there is no security for that person. When he gives all of his intelligence to you, puts all of his loyalty at stake, is will­ing to devote himself to you and you still have the ego to limit him, that means that you can turn him upside down right in the middle of his work.

No human mind can tolerate this. The way you Westerners have been trained, you have learned to achieve something, but you can never maintain that thing. You can learn to maintain the same situation with a simple attitude. You can discuss with your ego and then begin to consider when this person is giving you trouble or when this staff is giv­ing you trouble. How can you use them trouble-free? That is what your ego is for. Whereas those who live by a hire and fire policy, they always get fired in the end.

realkey3The mind can go through a lot of changes. And the last and worst of all changes is when you deny your teacher the privilege to poke you. It is the worst of all because when your ego is inflated like an elephant, you need that needle in you. When you throw it away, you go astray and when an elephant goes astray it meets death

You should keep your ego to serve you. You should use your ego and direct it to just behave as if it is a servant. Ego is the biggest disease! But it also has the solution in it. In India, it is a common practice to take mercury (which is known to be a deadly poison if you take it raw into your system) and in the science of Ayurvedic medicine, to use it in al­most 80% to 90% of the cures. It is very effective, and very well recog­nized. In this way, poison becomes the cure. In the same way, you can go out and burn your skin in the sun and you can have skin cancer, or you can tan yourself and look healthy. How you use your ego is a technol­ogy. When you start living in your ego, then you will not grow.

I was reading the life of a person who started his professional life with one thousand dollars. He was a sur­geon and today he is a person worth forty million dollars. He was asked how he became so successful, and he said that he believed in benefit sharing. He would offer his employ­ees the opportunity to work out a situation for him and whatever in­come that would bring, he would offer to give them one-third of it. He never signed any contract because his people knew his word was a con­tract. The result was that he gave one-third but they gave it to him totally. He earned 66% more!

How rich you are has to be considered from the expense point of view. Richness is not considered from the income point of view. If your monthly expense is a thousand dollars but my expense is fifteen thousand dollars, you are fourteen thousand dollars richer than me. An economic fool is a person who measures his richness from income. An economic wise man, or economic wizard is one who measures his rich­ness from expenses. That is what rich people do. They go on a fixed income expense and then they kill them­selves. They become victims of heart attacks and no doctor can cure them. Because what should they do, if they have to maintain a standard of thirty thousand per month?

realkey4I know of one organization where for the last nine years it has made three hundred to four hundred mil­lion dollars in a year. Their bud­get was fixed at seven hundred mil­lion a year. Then for the last two years, they were making only two hundred million a year. So there is a budget difference of five hundred million a year and they do not know what to do. They are selling their equipment, they are selling their land, selling this, selling that and they’re in bad shape. One of their employees who is my student called me and asked me how to man­age himself. I told him that it is very simple. If I make ten cents, I spend one. If I make one dollar, I spend ten cents. When I have ten dollars in my pocket, I only know that I have a dollar. I consider the other nine dol­lars as OPM, Other People’s Money. Out of every ten dollars, one dollar is mine, and nine dollars are to main­tain what is mine. For every one dol­lar you require nine dollar to main­tain the grace of one dollar. Do you know this law of economic expansion?

If you represent yourself with the image that you are ten dollars rich, somebody will ask to use it for one hour, and you’ll give it, and then you’ll stand at a bus stand and the driver will not let you on because you don’t have a penny. It’s called “showing off.”

In India, in economics we call it “balloon-talk”. Balloon talk is a con­versation where you present your account multiplied or exact. Even suppose you speak the truth, that you earn fifty thousand dollars a year. The fact is that you don’t make fifty thousand dollar a year, because in America, if you make one hundred thousand in California, you earn ex­actly thirty-nine thousand. Exactly.

realkey5Now you can wangle it, you can multiply it, you can play around, but when you’re dead, your estate will be found in the estate shop on Beverly Blvd. Why does that happen? Because the children are asked to pay the Estate Tax, and they don’t have it. So, they sell the estate and get rid of it. Or, they make a founda­tion. Paul Getty’s family cannot take a statue from his estate. You can in­vest in your self, or you can invest in your name. Paul Getty would have been very fine, if he had in­vested and made his own body a museum where at least he would have gone running on the beach once a week.

Just decide. Sit down and ask your self what you want to be. Do you want to be a healer? If you want to be a healer, let God heal through you. If you want to be a dealer, then go on, pushing this, pushing that, trying this button, trying that button. Every profession has buttons.

Your presentation, your art of presentation, your secret of presen­tation, lies in one fact: you must not confront the energy, you must circu­late the energy. What is God? Every­thing is circulated. Earth revolves. It revolves on its axis. The whole galaxy, the other stars, the sun moves around other suns. It’s far out and it’s nothing but movement! It keeps going! And your success is, keep going! Don’t stop anywhere, for any reason. Don’t say good-bye. The only good thing is to don’t say “good­bye.” Just say “bye.” Perhaps some­day you’ll need that person. Because what will keep the energy going? It is the movement of your thought form, and the movement of your mind and thought and the move­ment of your solving the problems, and your movement penetrating through the problem. How can you do it? If you know that you HAVE to do it.

Anything and everything, logical­ly, psychologically, socially, commo­tionally, emotionally, personally, collectively, individually, is nothing but you completing the circuit.

realkey6What is required to be learned by you is the Self. Because the Self is the solution of your environment. It’s the hub. It is the axle. It is everything. The fact is that you have to understand that you can’t fall in love with a girl, you can’t fall for anything, before knowing yourself, and knowing what you are fall­ing for! If you do not know how to swim, yourself, and you jump in eighteen feet of water, you will drown. But if you get into four feet of water and you are two feet above the water, you can make it. To become commotional, emo­tional, get into turmoil, and not care for things, not to listen to advice, and not to wait for truth, though it is bitter and it hurts, is to cause a problem. Multiple prob­lems are like multiple sclerosis. There’s no solution for it.

The law of diminishing return is that you can handle X amount of problems. There’s a relationship between play and work. Work and play have a relationship which is propor­tionate. For X amount of work, you need X amount of play. For X amount of play, you need X amount of work. If they are out of balance, then you are out of balance and you’ll never be a successful person.

Please remember that without Self consciousness you cannot properly present yourself. And without Self knowledge you cannot have Self consciousness.

Copyright The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan 

Why Silence is the Think Tank of the Soul

Why Silence is the Think Tank of the Soul

Mental noise is destroying your mind

Silence is an endangered species — Pic by Kalen Emsley

Upon meeting a Zen master at a social event, a psychiatrist decided to ask him a question that had been on his mind for a long time.

“Exactly how do you help people?” — the man inquired.

“I get them where they can’t ask any more questions.” — the master replied.

Mental noise is hurting our minds — we are continually asking questions that create busyness, not knowledge. We are in ‘reacting mode,’ leaving no room for reflection. To regain perspective in life, you need to pause. Silence is fertile ground.

When was the last time you push the pause button in your life?

Silence is not just lack of noise. It’s an empty space for your mind to recover clarity. And to protect it from mental noise.

Many people believe silence is isolation. However, it’s busyness what detaches us from reality. You need to take distance and reflect. As Lao-Tzu said: “Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there.”

Silence is not about the absence of sound — it invites the presence of everything else.

Silence is an endangered species

“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.” — G.K. Chesterton

Noise keeps us busy.

Our brain is continually exposed to internal and external stimuli. Silence feels impossible, like emptying our spirit.

What creates noise in your life?

Social media notifications, Netflix binging, overthinking, constantly being surrounded by others, and overloading our calendars are just many of the infinite ways to avoid silence. We’ve turned noise into entertainment — it provides a temporary distraction so you can’t pay attention.

Gordon Hempton believes that silence is an endangered species.

He’s an acoustic ecologist — a collector of sound all over the world. For Hempton, real quietness is being present — silence is not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth is a ‘solar-powered jukebox.’ He believes that we take in the world through its ears.

Noise is contaminating our minds.

The World Health Organization in a 2011 report called noise pollution a “modern plague,” concluding that “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.”

Noise is not just a modern disease. It has been hurting our minds since the 19th century. Back then, a British nurse and social activist, Florence Nightingale, wrote that “Unnecessary noise is the cruelest absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well.” Nightingale argued that needless sounds could cause distress, sleep loss and alarm for recovering patients.

Permanent silence is not always good either. Animals must listen to survive — that’s how we anticipate danger before it happens.

The problem is when noise becomes escapism.

Psychologist Carl Jung noted that we naturally seek out noise because it suggests human company — we used to need the comfort and safety of the group to survive. Nonetheless, our lives are not under constant attack as they were many centuries ago. Detaching from our environment for a couple of hours won’t put your life in danger.

When you step back from an issue, you can spend more time on solving the right problem.

The paradox of sound

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.” — Elbert Hubbard

Silence is not about the absence of sound but the presence of something else. Your mind is like a canvas — if it’s full of noise, you can’t paint anything new on it. When we are in silence, we make room for everything else.

Gordon Hempton wants your help in recovering the value of silence. “Not too long ago it was assumed that clean water’s not important, that seeing the stars is not that important. But now it is. I think we’re realizing quiet is important, and we need silence. That silence is not a luxury, but it’s essential.” — the acoustic ecologist said.

When you remove the noise, the essential speaks up. However, though it’s a magnificent revelatory experience, it can backfire if you don’t prepare adequately. The voices we hear in silence can create worrying noises.

Our constant social connectivity keeps us busy. What’s even worse, we let our social identity to speak louder than our true-self. The fear of missing out keeps you away from your reality — you stop paying attention. Without self-reflection, there’s no understanding. Silence lets your inner voice become present.

If the brain is actively processing noise it can’t turn off — it’s impossible to rest and reset when you are always asking questions or reacting to external stimuli.

Getting rid of the noise is more an aspiration than a reality. That’s the paradox of silence: we wish we could have quiet time, but it’s not easy to pull off. Removing other voices means we need to start listening to our true thoughts and words.

Being in front of white canvas or blank page can be intimidating. That’s why most of us run away from silence.

Silence has many meanings

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Is silence just the absence of noise? Or is there a deeper reason for you to invite sound into your life?

Silence is cultural. For the Japanese, silence is more positive than it is for other populations.

Japanese people highly value silence as an essential form of non-verbal communication — it conveys information, emotions and it’s a sign of respect and personal distance.

In his 2007 paper “The Cultural Significance of Silence in Japanese Communication,” Takie Sugiyama Lebra identifies four dimensions of silence: Truthfulness, Social Discretion, Embarrassment, and Defiance. The first three dimensions are helpful to maintain positive relations while the last one has a negative connotation.

In the Western world, silence is associated with doubt, loneliness or pain. If you tell your friends that you need silence, they might understand the feeling. But if you don’t answer their messages for 12 hours because you opted to stay silent, they will assume something is wrong with you.

Silence is always ambiguous. It’s difficult to understand its true meaning.

Rather than trying to define silence, think of it as an experience. Silence is the real sound of music. Empty spaces play a meaningful role in building the right atmosphere in architecture and space design. The white space is the most crucial element in visual design.

There are two types of silence: outer and inner. Getting rid of external distractions is not enough; you want to avoid your thoughts from eating you alive.

Why silence is the think tank of the mind

When you pause, you don’t just stop talking. You also choose not to listen to external distractions. Everything is within you.

Silence enables something else to emerge. Perspective, reflection, distance, ideas, and solutions, all show up unexpectedly when you silence the mind. It’s a whole ‘team’ that comes to help you. Gordon Hempton said: “Quiet is a think tank of the soul. We take the world through its ears.”

Lao-Tzu believed that “Silence is the great revelation.” He said that we turn to books for revelation, but their authors found the interlude of silence as their source of inspiration. Silence can bring you directly to the original source of knowledge.

Silence adds intentionality and rhythm to your life.

The same happens with music. Without silence, the various notes would all feel the same. Utilizing silence for very brief — less than a few beats — or for longer periods, creates a different impact on the listener.

Silence is more than a beautiful state of mind; it positively benefits your health:

  • It helps grow new brain cells. A 2013 study found that two hours of silence could create new cells in the hippocampus region, a brain area linked to learning, remembering, and emotions.
  • It decreases stress by lowering blood cortisol levels and adrenaline. A 2006 study in Heart, showed that two minutes of silence relieves tension in the body and brain — it’s more relaxing than listening to music.

How to recover the power of silence

Practicing silence is not easy.

Going for a walk outside in nature, taking a deliberate break or practicing deep breathing exercises are easy ways to get you started.

Try the following exercises and see which works best for you. Start in small doses. Being silent can backfire at the beginning. It takes time to enjoy the benefits of not being distracted by noise.

1. The Silence Exercise

David Swartz, a history professor, uses this exercise as a transition after one of his courses. He invites students to write a short paper on silence. During 90 minutes, everyone focuses on the task without speaking.

Students are instructed to put away their smartphones and leave the presence of other people. The paper is a reflection on the experience and includes a historical perspective too. What does it feel like to be silent? What happens when we don’t have constant access to a smartphone? How is our lifestyle different to premodern times ones?

2. Beyond the word

This exercise is based on an ancient Indian prescription: if you read for one hour, write for two hours and meditate for three hours. The purpose of such proportion is to avoid being blind recorders of other people’s words or ideas. You can stick to the ratio but start with a shorter duration for each part.

The exercise encourages a personal dialogue and self-reflection. It’s a nice transition: from being in the company of someone else’s words to being surrounded by your ideas as you write, and, finally, focusing on silencing your mind.

3. The Silence Game

This Montessori Exercise builds on the concept that, deeper awareness and sensitivity to noise, help us get into a “more refined and subtle world.” Constant noise can create irritability, frustration, confusion, and even sleepiness.

The purpose of this exercise is to make silence collectively. A board with the word “silence” and a picture of a tranquil place, reminds that every child might do its part. The silence is not only a positive outcome but is the byproduct of everyone’s effort.

4. The sound of one hand clapping

Our logic says that we need two hands to clap. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” is a Zen challenge that has several interpretations. Some say that it’s a way to help you listen to other sounds — your heart, the rhythm of your breathing or the awareness of your mind. Others believe it’s a metaphor how we see life with a dualistic approach: cause and effect.

I use this question when coaching teams to invite them to reflect on the power of silence. Sometimes to inspire creative ways to make sound with just one hand. Other times, simply to challenge logical thinking; by putting our rationality aside, we let the think tank of the mind show up.

5. Meditation: The Silence That is Listening

This guided meditation by Tara Brach emphasizes the anchor of listening; it guides us to relax through our body and let sounds wash our thoughts out. You don’t need any previous meditation experience to benefit from it.

Listening to sounds is powerful to quiet the thinking mind. It will help you connect with the natural openness of awareness. By becoming more receptive, you can welcome your full presence and the peace of quietness.

6. Building a tower with a constraint

Imposing constraints challenges individuals and those who interact with them alike — everyone must adjust their behaviors. A set of teams are challenged to build the tallest tower using Jenga blocks. It seems simple until most team members are assigned a specific constraint: one cannot speak, another is blindfolded, one cannot use the hands, etc.

Not being able to speak reframes the interaction. The person who’s silent pays more attention. The rest of the team becomes more attentive to the quiet person’s feedback. It dramatically increases both collaboration and self-awareness.

7. Become silent for a day

This exercise is about cutting the chord literally and metaphorically without attending a silent retreat. You can define what ‘a day’ means for you. I would suggest that you aim for, at least, 4–6 hours. And then gradually increase it.

Becoming silence is about unplugging from social media, emails, phone calls, and every other form of communication — including face-to-face dialogue. You need to set up some grounding rules to those close to you.

The Toxic Ego That Will Ruin Your Life

The artist Marina Abramović has said that the moment we begin to believe in our own greatness, that we kill our ability to be truly creative. What she is talking about is ego — the way that self-absorption ruins the very thing it celebrates.

So how do we keep this toxic ego and selfishness at bay? How do we prevent ego from “sucking us down like the law of gravity?” The primary answer is simple: awareness. But after that, it’s a matter of hard work.

In the course of researching Ego is the Enemy I was exposed to many strategies for combatting our arrogant and selfish impulses. Here are 25 proven exercises from successful men and women throughout history that will help you stay sober, clear-headed, creative and humble. They work if you work them.

1. Adopt the beginner’s mindset. “It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows,” Epictetus says. When we let ego tell us that we have arrived and figured it all out, it prevents us from learning. Pick up a bookon a subject you know next to nothing about. Walk through a library or a bookstore — remind yourself how much you don’t know.

2. Focus on the effort — not the outcome. With any creative endeavour at some point what we made leaves our hands. We can’t let what happens after that point have any sway over us. We need to remember famous coach John Wooden’s advice: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” Doing your best is what matters. Focus on that. External rewards are just extra.

3. Choose purpose over passion. Passion runs hot and burns out, while people with purpose — think of it as passion combined with reason — are more dedicated and have control over their direction. Christopher McCandless was passionate when he went “into the wild” but it didn’t work well, right? The inventor of the Segway was passionate. Better to have clear-headed purpose.

4. Shun the comfort of talking and face the work. “Void,” Marlon Brando once said, “is terrifying to most people.” We talk endlessly on social media getting validation and attention with fake internet points avoiding the uncertainty of doing the difficult and frightening work required of any creative endeavour. As creatives we need to shut up and get to work. To face the void — despite the pain of doing so.

5. Kill your pride before you lose your head. “Whom the gods wish to destroy,” Cyril Connolly wrote, “they first call promising.” You cannot let early pride lead you astray. You must remind yourself every day how much work is left to be done, not how much you have done. You must remember that humility is the antidote to pride.

6. Stop telling yourself a story — there is no grand narrative. When you achieve any sort of success you might think that success in the future is just the natural and expected next part of the story. This is a straightforward path to failure — by getting too cocky and overconfident. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, reminds himself that there was “no aha moment” for his billion-dollar behemoth, no matter what he might read in his own press clippings. Focus on the present moment, not the story.

7. Learn to manage (yourself and others). John DeLorean was a brilliant engineer but a poor manager (of people and himself). One executive described his management style as “chasing colored balloons” — he was constantly distracted and abandoning one project for another. It’s just not enough to be smart or right or a genius. It’s gratifying to be the micromanaging egotistical boss at the center of everything — but that’s not how organizations grow and succeed. That’s not how you can grow as a person either.

8. Know what matters to you and ruthlessly say no to everything else.Pursue what the philosopher Seneca refers to as euthymia — the tranquility of knowing what you are after and not being distracted by others. We accomplish this by having an honest conversation with ourselves and understanding our priorities. And rejecting all the rest. Learning how to say no. First, by saying no to ego which wants it all.

9. Forget credit and recognition. Before Bill Belichick became the four-time Super Bowl–winning head coach of the New England Patriots, he made his way up the ranks of the NFL by doing grunt work and making his superiors look good without getting any credit. When we are starting out in our pursuits we need to make an effort to trade short-term gratification for a long-term payoff. Submit under people who are already successful and learn and absorb everything you can. Forget credit.

10. Connect with nature and the universe at large. Going into nature is a powerful feeling and we need to tap into it as often as possible. Nothing draws us away from it more than material success. Go out there and reconnect with the world. Realize how small you are in relation to everything else. It’s what the French philosopher Pierre Hadot has referred to as the “oceanic feeling.” There is no ego standing beneath the giant redwoods or on the edge of a cliff or next to the crashing waves of the ocean.

11. Choose alive time over dead time. According to author Robert Greene, there are two types of time in our lives: dead time, when people are passive and waiting, and alive time, when people are learning and acting and utilizing every second. During failure, ego picks dead time. It fights back: I don’t want this. I want ______. I want it my way. It indulges in being angry, aggrieved, heartbroken. Don’t let it — choose alive time instead.

12. Get out of your own head. Writer Anne Lamott knows the dangers of the soundtrack we can play in our heads: “The endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is.” That’s what you could be hearing right now. Cut through that haze with courage and live with the tangible and real, no matter how uncomfortable.

13. Let go of control. The poisonous need to control everything and micromanage is usually revealed with success. Ego starts saying: it all must be done my way — even little things, even inconsequential things. The solution is straightforward. A smart man or woman must regularly remind themselves of the limits of their power and reach. It’s simple, but not easy.

14. Place the mission and purpose above you. During World War II, General George Marshall, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for the Marshall Plan, was practically offered the command of the troops on D-Day. Yet he told President Roosevelt: “The decision is yours, Mr. President; my wishes have nothing to do with the matter.” It came to be that Eisenhower led the invasion and performed with excellence. Marshall put the mission and purpose above himself — an act of selflessness we need to remind ourselves of.

15. When you find yourself in a hole — stop digging. “Act with fortitude and honor,” Alexander Hamilton wrote to a distraught friend in serious trouble of the man’s own making. “If you cannot reasonably hope for a favorable extrication, do not plunge deeper. Have the courage to make a full stop.” Our ego screams and rattles when it is wounded. We will then do anything to get out of trouble. Stop. Don’t make things worse. Don’t dig yourself further. Make a plan.

16. Don’t be deceived by recognition, money and success — stay sober.Success, money and power can intoxicate. What is required in those moments is sobriety and a refusal to indulge. One look at Angela Merkel, one of the most powerful women on the planet is revealing. She is plain and modest — one writer said that unpretentiousness is Merkel’s main weapon — unlike most world leaders intoxicated with position. Leave self-absorption and obsessing over one’s image for the egotists.

17. Leave your entitlement at the door. Right before he destroyed his own billion-dollar company, Ty Warner, creator of Beanie Babies, overrode the objections of one of his employees and bragged, “I could put the Ty heart on manure and they’d buy it!” You can see how this manifestation of ego can lead you to success — and how it can lead to downright failure.

18. Choose love. Martin Luther King understood that hate is like an “eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life.” Hatred is when ego turns a minor insult into a massive sore and it lashes out. But pause and ask: has hatred and lashing out ever helped anyone with anything? Don’t let it eat at you — choose love. Yes, love. See how much better you feel.

19. Pursue mastery in your chosen craft. When you are pursuing a craft you realize that the better you get, the humbler you are. Because you understand there’s always something you can learn and you are inherently humbled by this fascinating craft or career you’re after. It is hard to get a big head or become egotistical when you’ve decided on that path.

20. Keep an inner scorecard. Just because you won doesn’t mean you deservedto. We need to forget other people’s validation and external markers of success. Warren Buffett has advised keeping an inner scorecard versus the external one. Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of — that’s the metric to measure yourself against.

21. Paranoia creates things to be paranoid about. “He who indulges empty fears earns himself real fears,” wrote Seneca, who as a political adviser witnessed destructive paranoia at the highest levels. If you let ego think that everyone is out to get you you will seem weak…and then people will really try to take advantage of you. Be strong, confident and forgiving.

22. Always stay a student. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person. Observe and learn. That uncomfortable feeling, that defensiveness that you feel when your most deeply held assumptions are challenged? Do it deliberately. Let it humble you. Remember how the physicist John Wheeler put it, “As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”

23. No one can degrade you — they degrade themselves. Ego is sensitive about slights, insults and not getting their due. This is a waste of time. After Frederick Douglass was asked to ride in a baggage car because of his race, someone rushed to apologize for this mistreatment. Frederick’s reply? “They cannot degrade Frederick Douglass. The soul that is within me no man can degrade. I am not the one that is being degraded on account of this treatment, but those who are inflicting it upon me.”

24. Stop playing the image game — focus on a higher purpose. One of the best strategists of the last century, John Boyd, would ask the promising young acolytes under him: “To be or to do? Which way will you go?” That is, will you choose to fall in love with the image of how success looks like or will you focus on a higher purpose? Will you pick obsessing over your title, number of fans, size of paycheck or on real, tangible accomplishment? You know which way ego wants to go.

25. Focus on the effort — not the results. This is so important it is appearing twice. If you can accept that you control only the effort that goes in and not the results which come out, you will be mastering your ego. All work leaves our hands at some point. Ego wants to control everything — but it cannot control other people or their reactions. Focus on your end of the equation, leave them to theirs. Remember Goethe’s line: “What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him.”

How To Be Mindful Of The Ego’s Control

Attention To The Darkness

“It is the nature of the ego to take, and the nature of the spirit to share.” — Proverb

Being mindful of the ego’s control could be the single factor that leads to your salvation.

Alternative medicine advocate and author Deepak Chopra affirmed, “If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It’s very important to be aware of them every time they come up.”

Many people are asleep to the vice-like grip the ego has and fall victim to it because they are unaware of its influence.

The ego is the wounded and scorned child that poses a threat to a person’s self-esteem. It manipulates you into the belief of separation, which is nothing more than an impulse intended to reinforce its position.

The ego thrives on dividing you from the wholeness of your authentic self and conspires to lure you into its ways.

It is the splintered part of the soul serving to admonish you of your limitations.

The ego takes its power from identifying with the “I” of your being. Every time you affirm, “I am lazy”, “I am hopeless/incompetent”, etc., it reinforces its influence.

When this voice becomes overwhelming, it leads you further away from your soul nature.

The ego undertakes to prove your unworthiness by bringing attention to the damaged aspects of your character.

“All ego really is, is our opinions, which we take to be solid, real, and the absolute truth about how things are,” states Buddhist nun Pema Chodron.

You are complete beings, embodied in the duality of light and dark — yin and yang. The ego, however, prefers to bring attention to the darkness by reminding you of the concealed self, replete with faults and vulnerabilities. However, this is not who you are but merely a snapshot of your being.

It seeks to be heard to ensure its survival, since focusing attention on your soul nature diminishes the ego.

The Authentic Self

“Give up all bad qualities in you, banish the ego and develop the spirit of surrender. You will then experience Bliss.” — Sri Sathya Sai Baba

To find harmony, acknowledge your unconscious or suppressed thoughts and transform them into empowering states.

Author Mario Martinez states in The MindBody Code, “The solution to all your impasses and suffering is not to kill your ego or detach from your negative emotions. You need your ego to deal with the practical aspects of life, and all emotions are essential biological information that tells you how your body is responding to the interpretations you make about your circumstances.”

To draw attention to your authentic self, realise that underneath your tangled story lies your core essence which is love and light. For the ego is merely a facade masquerading as a Venetian mask to conceal the real self.

Consider this, why do you identify with the egoic voice instead of the expression of the soul? Maybe it reminds you of the parent who criticised you, in contrast to the nurturing parent. Naturally, you are drawn to the negative parent to appease them and justify your self-worth.

The ego is the worn-out script that plays out in your head to convince you of your unworthiness. This is coupled with recalling negative thoughts that have you believe you are less than perfect.

To transform the voice of the ego, become conscious of your limiting self-talk and examine your hurt and pain for what it actually is — a smoke screen.

Undertake this by going into silence which allows you to connect with the stillness of the inner self. Meditation practice is an effective means to connect with your soul, because it drowns out the mental chatter in place of connecting with your authentic self.

“The authentic self will never lead you to believe that you have anything to defend, prove, or be puffed up about, because your true identity is not determined by what your ego or the world has to say about you,” affirms author Dennis Merritt Jones.

Regretfully, many people distract themselves with extraneous noise that isolates them from associating with their core self. If they retreat into silence long enough, they discover beneath their thoughts is someone they don’t like.

The Principle Of Wholeness

“Enlightenment is ego’s ultimate disappointment.” ― Chögyam Trungpa

There is a vast undercurrent of longing to be noticed within. This pure awareness is known when you shift your attention away from incessant thoughts and focus on the stillness.

It was during meditation practice one day that I reached deep into my being and experienced this breath-taking stillness. I sensed returning home and yearned to associate with this pure silence. The clue to developing a relationship with this aspect of your being is to turn down the narrative of the egoic voice.

You shouldn’t try to destroy the ego, rather integrate it into the wholeness of your being so you are not a servant to it.

Meditation teacher and psychotherapist Loch Kelly validates this position in his book, Shift into Freedom: The Science and Practice of Open-Hearted Awareness. “What we let go of is our ego-identification. Our ego functions and ego personality become less stressed, defensive, and constricted; ego-identification is no longer experienced as the centre of who we are.”

Avoid supporting the ego’s view of separateness, and instead highlight the principle of wholeness.

Disempowering thoughts linked to fear is your soul calling you to reconnect with your authentic nature. Accordingly, fear is a signpost pointing you to the quietness within.

So, when a disempowering thought appears, simply notice it through pure awareness. I am reminded of the phrase my six-year-old nephew learned at kindergarten — “stop, look and listen.”

So, stop what you are doing, look within and listen attentively to the voice calling your attention. As you practice this, the less the ego will reinforce its control, so in time it rescinds into the background.

Afterall, if you seek to attain a state of bliss as Deepak Chopra affirms, you must reach beyond the ego while being attentive to its control.