Finding Your Place of Zen

“What do I mean by finding your place of Zen? Well, I am glad that you asked. A place of Zen is your own little corner of the Earth where you can relax, think to yourself, listen to the birds or the trees or the whistling of the wind.”

In an increasingly fast-paced and tumultuous world, it can be quite difficult to find a place of calm, quiet, and serenity. You may find you are in a big city or a large town and can’t have a moment’s worth of peace.

You are also being constantly bombarded by visual stimuli through the forms of advertisement, phone pings, car honks, and loud talking. You can’t seem to think through all the noise that you are constantly surrounded by without a needed pause. It can be almost impossible to get away from it all unless you are actively looking for a place of Zen.

What do I mean by finding your place of Zen? Well, I am glad that you asked. A place of Zen is your own little corner of the Earth where you can relax, think to yourself, listen to the birds or the trees or the whistling of the wind. Only you and you alone know about it, and you only decide to share it with those people closest to you, if anyone at all. It can be a pond or a lake or a bay dock. It can be a mountain overlook or a nearby stream. It can even be a field of grass tucked away from sight and for which you only know how to reach. If you are really being creative, even going up in a tall tree or taking some time out in the desert sands may be your own place of Zen.

The key word to keep in mind here is the ‘Zen’ involved. Does your own place that you can seek out serenity or calm or quiet give you a bit of inner peace? Does it quell your anxieties, your fears, or your doubts? Does it allow you to think deeply about your past, your present, or your future or generally whatever is on your mind?

If the answer to all these questions is a strong ‘Yes’, then you have found your place of Zen. Just 5-10 minutes there will improve your day in my view. I believe that we all need some time alone to recharge, to destress, and to come back better than ever after taking a break in our place of Zen. If you have a few minutes per week or ideally each day to visit this place of Zen, you will be better off for having been able to go there.

‘Zen’ involves total concentration, total awareness, and a dedication to come back there again and again. If you are not consistently able to go there and is out of reach for you, then you should consider finding a new place. To maintain that Zen beyond your own special place and to stay calm, cool, and collected when you are not actually there, you must be able to visit there at least once a week. I do not think it is enough to only go there once a month or once every other week, you should be able to take the time and the effort to go there at least once a week to get the various positive results out of your visits.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to keep your place of Zen a secret to others. The world can be a crowded place sometimes and we all need our own little space to think, to relax, to observe, and to reflect without anyone joining us. It’s important to have our own secret space to come back to and find if anything has changed there besides you as you go through the years of your life.

I have written before about how ‘a walk in the woods’ has been beneficial to my life and how it has calmed me, kept me centered, and allowed me to reflect. I have found my own place of Zen that I hope to have for many years to come. You can have more than once place of Zen if you’re lucky but if you find other people constantly there or intruding on your time spent there; it may be best to find a new place to find that brings you Zen-like relief. The good thing is that if you’re reading this article, you already crave to have that special place to call your own where you can be more Zen-like and improve your life at the same time. Zen does not come to those who do not seek it out to begin with.

While the world is likely to get more chaotic, more unpredictable, and perhaps more crowded as well, having our own place of quiet, serenity, and peace that only you know and appreciate will become even more important. The world can be a rough and tumble place where it is not easy to catch your breath, to refocus yourself, to be at ease, and to relax fully in the quiet around you but I believe it is vital to do your best to find your own place of Zen. It may not be easy to do so but I think the journey to find that place of Zen will be worth the effort you put into it. Good luck.

Sedona

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Sedona, Arizona, United States

The Fruits of One’s Labor

“The song is called ‘Victory Dance’ by My Morning Jacket and whose lyrics directly address the earned happiness and contentedness after a day of struggle through a hard day’s work.”

One of my favorite song lyrics deals with the satisfaction of another day worked and to see the fruits of one’s labor enjoyed at the end of the day. The song is called ‘Victory Dance’ by My Morning Jacket and whose lyrics directly address the earned happiness and contentedness after a day of struggle through a hard day’s work.

“Hope to watch the victory dance after the days’ work is done
Hope to watch the victory dance in the evenings setting sun…
Hope to watch the victory dance over many lives to come…
Hope to watch the victory dance in the evenings setting sun.”

The ‘victory dance’ could be interpreted as a metaphor for a celebration or a relaxation or a general happiness that comes over you at the end of the working day. Regardless of the work involved, at the end of the day or the week or even the year, you can be able to look back with pride and satisfaction in your ability to ‘dance’ or enjoy the fruits of your labor in the evening or night or whenever your work is done.

The key lyric I can relate to is that the work may be done for the day, but it will continue for many ‘lives’ or ‘years’ to come. While the work you did today was hopefully meaningful or valuable, your progress will need to continue in the future so you can keep enjoying the ‘victory dance’ in whatever form you celebrate or take stock of what you were able to do.

Fruit takes time to grow and to be at its most ripe for eating and the same goes for our labor. While labor or work can be evaluated on a day-to-day basis, real progress in our labor whether it’s a business, a corporation, or a conglomerate, that kind of work can take years, decades, or even generations to build. You can enjoy a ‘victory dance’ for any kind of daily labor you can put in because of the progress made, but a key point as highlighted in this song by My Morning Jacket is that you really should try to enjoy the ‘victory dance’ for “many lives to come”, which I interpret as years to come or even over the generations from one family member to another.

Long-term progress requires ‘lives’ or ‘workers’ to build over the years or decades so it’s important to not celebrate too early or to ‘dance’ too early because the fruits of your labor should not be enjoyed too prematurely but rather when the moment is right or when the fruit is all ripe. Fruit, like one’s labor, takes time to enjoy so it’s best to be patient and work hard over time rather than to try to rush the process to enjoy ‘the fruits’ prematurely rather than when things have progressed to a finished point and even then, there is always room for further progress and improving in one’s work.

Another few of the lyrics from ‘Victory Dance’ that I really enjoy is the emphasis on trying out whatever labor may be best for you to thrive, or for which is done out of necessity to survive. It is key to adapt to the labor required of you or which is most available at the time since the ‘fruits’ will be just as enjoyable at the end of it. If you are committing yourself to ‘labor’, which inevitably involves struggle, either mentally or physically, the rewards or ‘fruits’ will likely be worth it because of that same ‘struggle’ involved.

“But you should work, for the self and the family
Should I hit the water or stay on dry land, even though I never swam?
Take machete into the brush, though at first there is no path
Taste the warpaint on my tongue as it’s drippin’ with my sweat
Place my gaze in the futures path, seein’ things that aint come yet.”

Your labor or work is not just for your own fruits as the lyrics state above. It’s also for your family or for the people who depend on your labor. They must share in the ‘fruits’ as well beyond your own needs and desires. Needing labor to survive and enjoy the fruits of life’s necessities such as food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. will sometimes force us to get out of our comfort zone as well. As the lyric above suggests, we often must test our limits to secure labor to have the ‘fruits’ in life. We may have to swim even when we have never swum before, but labor will require learning both new abilities and skills to be good at what we do.

You may have to learn those new skills to secure labor to do or to have work for the future. You should leave your comfort zone such as learning to swim, or to hike, or to hunt, or to lift heavy things or to use your mind to solve problems.

Whether it is a machete or a screwdriver or a keyboard, you are going to have to ‘clear a path’ with your labor even as the song says, nothing was there before. Creating something or making something out of nothing is a key part of being able to enjoy those fruits later by the work of sound mind or a good body.

Lastly, you may be physically challenged in your labor especially if there happens to be conflict as the song alleges. You may not know it, but you may be asked for labor of national importance or survival such as in times of peace but also in warfare, and you may have to provide service as part of your labor not for yourself but for community or for country as well. The final lyric in particular sums up why we labor for our fruits to begin with to plan for an uncertain or unknown future.

We may not have planned to do certain types of labor or work but regardless of if you’re an engineer, a blacksmith, or a doctor, you may be asked to do other types of work that you will have to both learn and then be proficient at. One must always be prepared to do other kinds of work to stay agile, be flexible, and plan for the unexpected such as a war or conflict that you did not see coming but you may be forced into fighting as the reluctant warrior in the song lyrics.

To secure the fruits now and for later as well will help to make sure that our collective labor will not have been for nothing. When your secure labor for yourself to do, you cannot work forever so it is important to think of the future and how to plan to have those ‘fruits’ not just for today, next year, but for the rest of your life too.

The Power of Saying ‘No’

“As much as we like to say ‘yes’, it’s important to know that saying ‘no’ is just as important and even just as powerful.”

There is nothing wrong with saying ‘No’ to someone else. Saying ‘No’ has a negative connotation but it can be worth its weight as much as saying ‘Yes.’ There is a main reason why we have both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in English language vocabulary. There are times in our life when we can say ‘yes’ but we also have to moderate our impulse to say, ‘yes’ to things, people, and other commitments by balancing it out with the ‘no’s.’ As much as we like to say ‘yes’, it’s important to know that saying ‘no’ is just as important and even just as powerful.

When it comes to saying ‘no’, you do not want to overdo it either but it’s best to moderate your ‘no’s and to pick when and where to use that word. As you get older in life, the ‘no’ should be more often and the key hump to get over is to have any shame or remorse for saying ‘no.’ Psychologically, it’s much easier to say, ‘yes’ than it is to say ‘no’, but I would argue the ‘no’ needed to happen rather than a false ‘yes.’ Often, a truthful ‘no’ will be much better for you and other people than a fake ‘yes’, which could do much more harm. People don’t like to hear ‘no’s’ but rather than to embellish people with false yes’s, you must be firm with them and make the ‘no’ part of your vocabulary with them, even if they are friends or family of yours.

While others would not like to hear ‘no’, it is best not to lead them on when you’re not interested in anything related to business to doing favors to getting into a relationship. Honesty is part of the power of saying ‘no’ and if that person truly values you, they won’t be bothered by hearing the ‘no.’ A good litmus test for knowing how much someone cares about you is their reaction when you are bound to tell them ‘no’ at some point for one reason or another. If they give you a hard time in giving them a sincere ‘no’, it may be best to not be around them as much. The person(s) you say ‘no’ to, even if they are family or friends, should be mature and responsible enough to take the ‘no’ well and to understand that the ‘no’ itself is not a reflection of them as people but what they may be asking or telling you to do. If you disagree, have reservations about, don’t find it appealing, or don’t have time for it, it is best to say ‘no.’

When you tell other people ‘no’, you should always be firm but also do be as gentle as possible. It does not have to lead into a confrontation or an argument either. A good ‘no’ can be followed up with ‘that’s the way I feel’ or ‘sorry but it’s not possible, or ‘that is not something I’m interested in.’ Saying ‘no’ should never be seen as being disrespectful, rude, or condescending because it does not need to be as such. If you want to still be on good terms with someone like a friend or family, you can express your regret or disappointment on having to say ‘no’ depending on the ask or request. You don’t have to do that, but it can soften the blow, which may be important in salvaging the relationship or friendship for the long-term. In that relation to the other person or people, if the ‘yes’s outweigh the ‘no’s, the ‘no’ won’t be as big of a deal too. They should balance each other out but it is good to mix them up in order to have no ‘no’s at all or too many ‘yes’s back to back.

Most importantly, having the power to say ‘no’ not just every now and then but whenever you feel like it is crucial. You should not feel nervous or anxious about saying ‘no’ and to be ready to do so at any time. As we get older, we must be prepared to say ‘no’ more and more often. Time is limited as well as the chance to foster relationships, friendships, or job / business opportunities. If something does not sound that appealing to you at first, it’s best to have a firm ‘no’ for it rather to waste either your time or your money.

It’s likely in life that you’ll regret the ‘no’s you didn’t say rather than the ones that you did say ‘no’ too. There are plenty of charlatans, liars, scammers, fakers, and crooks out there and you need to be ready to say ‘no’ to them. Instead of saying ‘yes’ too many times, be more comfortable in saying ‘no’ especially if your heart, mind, or body are not into the idea. Unless you are enthusiastic or thrilled by the idea, thing, or even the person, a preemptive ‘no’ will make you better off in the long run. There is a power in saying ‘yes’ but there is also an equal if not more important power of saying ‘no’ especially if you are worried about losing precious time or valuable money or other resources.

Most of all, you should do your best to think deeply or weigh the ‘yes or no’ decisions as much as possible. Lose the impulse to give either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ quickly unless you do not have the time or place to think it through first. Not controlling your impulses when it comes to saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can cost you both in the short-term or in the long-run. Be sure to have the power to say ‘no’ but remember to think it through carefully first before giving the ‘no’ to someone or something. Also, as I mentioned before, please be sure to phrase the ‘no’ in a polite or respectful manner. It’s not so much that you said ‘no’ at all but if you do it in the wrong way or with the wrong tone, you may risk losing that person or thing you care about forever.

The Importance of the Heart-to-Heart Conversation

“Heart to heart conversations is called just that in English because they come from a good place…”

It can be hard these days to have a genuine one-on-one conversation with someone else. With all the distractions in our daily lives, our rush to get things done, our need to have instant gratification, it can be increasingly harder and harder to take a step back to take stock of what’s important in your life including the family and the friends closest to you. I believe this cheapens the kind of conversations we can have with those closest to us due to our other pressing concerns in life, but it is important to prevent those relationships from being shallow by engaging in those heart-to-heart conversations. While difficult and not easy to do, they are often the most rewarding.

Real conversations are different in the sense that they are go over topics that may be uncomfortable yet gratifying, ones that may sting a little but whose honesty cut through the fake compliments or the trivial topics that so often guide our discourse with others. Heart to heart conversations is called just that in English because they come from a good place and while those kinds of topics addressed are not all sunshine and rainbows, these conversations are vital in their importance and can often help the people involved to feel better about their lives or at least their current circumstances.

Shallow and often fake conversations focus on the trivial and inconsequential. They often don’t get to the ‘heart’ or who someone is, where they are in life, or where they plan on going. It’s good at times to have light conversations about the weather, sports, or the latest fashion trend. However, those kinds of conversations do not really drive a relationship forward and are often built on a foundation of sand. I say this because friendships that focus on those kinds of topics don’t really address important matters and thus cannot really create a strong relationship of mutual trust and understanding.

You may have a friend who is a big sports fan such as yourself and you enjoy going to basketball games together and like to talk about who your favorite players are but if you never actually broach other topics that touch upon that person’s life, then they aren’t really a true friend in my view. If you can’t have a heart-to-heart beyond a few shared interests, then that is not a strong relationship that is going to last a while. It may be good to start with basketball as a primary part of one’s friendship but the longer you get to know someone, you should discuss other things with them such as talking about where they grew up, what their family is like, what they enjoy doing for their profession or for fun, what their goals or dreams may be, and even what they worry about or what they want to improve upon in their lives.

Those kinds of conversations really build a much more solid kind of foundation of a friendship or a relationship and will last a lot longer than just talking about the same topic repeatedly. In these heart-to-heart talks, it may be awkward at first as most people are shy and wary about letting their personal barriers down but once you can with their permission, you can really build up a positive relationship especially if you both are open and vulnerable to each other. In a heart-to-heart, you should not be sarcastic or dismissive but rather to listen intently, ask questions, let the other person express themselves and while you can be honest with them in response, don’t try to judge them too much but rather as the popular saying goes, try to think of what you would do in their shoes.

I believe it is also important to be direct with that person once you start to open up with one another and to not simply ‘beat around the bush.’ Express your true point of view and tell them how you would approach the situation whether it’s trying to accomplish a goal, or sorting out a personal manner, or trying something new that is stressing the other person out. Always listen first, ask good questions, and then give your most honest response back, which even if they disagree, the person you’re having the heart-to-heart with should value your feedback and be appreciative that you listened to them on a serious topic.

In my view, Heart-to-heart conversations are so utterly lacking in our culture that when they do happen, it is a shock for most people because they never have received that kind of candid or honest feedback that’s been missing from their lives. It allows those who engage in the conversation to evaluate their options more, weigh the advice or feedback given, and perhaps make a wiser or better decision from having good counsel from a serious friend or family member who is doing their best to look out for your interests.

It is beneficial to seek out people in your life who are acquaintances and look to see if they are capable of a heart-to-heart conversation. If you prefer to have talks on trivial topics only, you can do so but I think you truly only grow as an individual when you spend time with people where you can broach serious topics with and not be rebuffed for doing so. It is a sign of a true friendship or a good family relation when you can let your guard down to discuss something that happened to you, either good or bad, and that person will not judge you right way or shut you down without hearing all that it is that you have to say to them.

Having mature and responsible friends and family members around to talk about serious topics including even politics, religion, philosophy on life, finances, etc. are vital to helping to make you a much more well-rounded person too. These topics are not easy to discuss but ignoring them entirely or not having anyone to reach out to discuss them from time to time can be detrimental to a person’s well-being in terms of their own growth or cause them to seek out advice from people they don’t know or worse who would try to take advantage of them instead.

It goes without saying that a mature adult should be responsible for forming those serious friendships and relationships with their own initiative, but they should also get the same back from that person who is open to having heart-to-heart talks. You may not like to hear what they say to you or like the advice being given but at least you are getting that kind of feedback in the first place on a serious topic beyond sports, reality TV, or celebrity gossip. It is a good feeling to have someone who can be relied upon when you have a major decision to make and want some counsel, or when you are going through a hard time and have someone to reach out to. Those kinds of conversations are increasingly rare in our society, but they are perhaps the most important kinds of conversations to have and for which you’ll often be better off for having had them in the first place.

Do yourself a favor and start to think of those people in your life who you’ve only had shallow conversations with and begin to probe a little bit to see if you can discuss more serious or personal topics with. It is likely to be a slow-moving process and that’s okay. However, the more you get to know someone, the easier it should be to form a real friendship based on mutual trust and respect and for which heart-to-heart conversations should be a natural result. I think your mental health will also be much better off knowing that you really have someone like a friend or a family member who you can talk honestly with and have a real conversation on life, love, failure, success, goals, happiness, etc., which you would not discuss with the average acquaintance or new contact.

The Heart-to-Heart conversation is the toughest one that you can have in life, but it is also the most important to have with someone else. If you neglect it, I believe you are likely to be worse off than before but if you start having them from time to time with someone who you value, there is no reason to think why you wouldn’t have a better life from having had them.

The Utility of Making Lists

“A key productivity hack that really works wonders in our fast-paced, modern era, which involves both discipline and consistency is to make a list. It is also an excellent habit to build upon and one that only requires your laptop and a ‘notes’ application or just a simple pen and piece of paper.”

A key productivity hack that really works wonders in our fast-paced, modern era, which involves both discipline and consistency is to make a list. It is also an excellent habit to build upon and one that only requires your laptop and a ‘notes’ application or just a simple pen and piece of paper. Lists have a reputation of being tedious and time-consuming, but what is actually more time-consuming is spending minutes or even hours trying to remind yourself what tasks or items you actually have to do.

List making is a good habit to build upon for a number of reasons. You hold yourself accountable and there is no shirking away from what you have set for yourself. The biggest misconception when it comes to lists is that they are all the same and focused on a to-do list. You can make lists for other reasons ranging from your progress at the gym with different weights you’ve lifted and what you hope to accomplish next to your future goals in life and what you hope to do in your ‘bucket list.’ Lists not only involve things you have to do whether its grocery shopping, what bills you have to pay, or what errands you have to run but also what career / business goals you have, what your exercise regimen looks like or where you hope to travel to in terms of next destinations.

Making lists is part of exercising that daily discipline that you need to have in order to put yourself on a path to success. It’s easier to accomplish your goals or your tasks when you remember what they are. You may have an amazing memory and feel you don’t need to have any lists at all but having that reminder especially if you have a due date for a pending school assignment or a work task can really help you especially if your memory fails you, which is always possible.

The impact of technology in our lives has made our attention spans that much more limited or distracted so I believe that the utility of lists has increased in response. There are many more things on our plate that we have to pay attention to that we may not have time to remember them all. Lists can help us organize these tasks from most urgent to least urgent and give us some peace of mind since you would likely have these lists stored in a place such as in an application on a computer or in a folder if you’re more traditional with pen and paper.

Not only do lists help to organize our lives, our goals, and our tasks, but lists also hold us accountable just by the fact that they make clear what you have done or what you have not done. There is no arguing with a list because you have either done it or not done it. You can indicate in a list your progress towards the goal or the task but it’s better to simplify it to be blunt to ask of you whether the item is completed or not. If it isn’t done yet, you can go back to it to see how much you have left to do, whether it’s been started yet, or how much you have left to finish. That kind of blunt accountability, which can be lacking in our society, is going to be staring you right in the face, so there is really no hiding from a list because it does not sugarcoat anything or try to come up with an excuse.

I also would like to point out that making too many lists can hinder you from achieving all you would like to get done each day, each week, or beyond. You should be careful not to make too many lists or have too many notes where you start to forget what actually is most vital to get done. I would recommend instead to make one list only for a specific part of your life such as one for exercise, one for work, one for business, one for errands, and perhaps one for future goals. That’s five lists right there on a specific subject so not to become too cluttered or difficult to implement. Lists can help you out a lot up to a point but can become burdensome when you have a dozen lists for ten different parts of your life.

In any list you make, focus on a main goal you wish to achieve for the day and then start to branch out to include weekly tasks and then long-term goals that may take months. Organizing an individual list around immediate, medium-term, and long-term tasks is an effective way to stay on top of each part of your life that will need attention. Having five lists, for example, can be helpful too where you might start the day looking at your exercise task(s) to complete, then move on to work/school, then see about errands, and then see what future goals you are working towards that you can start on. Organizing lists is about as important as making lists to begin with and it’s very important not to make too many lists where you feel like you can’t keep track of them all or have too long of a list where it distracts from your other lists that you’re working on.

You may be thinking to yourself right now, why do you care about making lists so much and why have lists at all? Having list(s) is about building structure in one’s life. You can create good habits from following your lists and you can organize your life in a meaningful and productive way. Also, you alone can hold yourself accountable with lists as it’s only you who knows about the list and is responsible for completing the goals and the tasks that you set up for yourself. No one else is going to hold your hand so it’s up to you alone to be reliable, responsible, and solely in charge of ultimately crossing those important items off your list(s) to help make your life a better, happier, and healthier one.

What We Need vs. What We Want

Understanding that you must be able to divide up the two categories fairly and also be able to balance them healthily with our seemingly limitless desires at times is key to being a fully formed individual.

A key part of adulthood is being able to know the differences between knowing ‘what we want’ vs. knowing ‘what we need.’ Understanding that you must be able to divide up the two categories fairly and also be able to balance them healthily with our seemingly limitless desires at times is key to being a fully formed individual. As children, we are taught to temper our desires to manageable levels and to remember to not be selfish especially when it conflicts with the needs of others.

We are flawed as humans in that we often let our wants overtake our immediate needs and that we cannot distinguish the two in terms of actual importance. I may want a new suit but if I only have so much money, do I really need it? Am I being selfish by buying a suit when I already have a perfectly good one at you? These questions are especially important to pose when you have limited money or time to contribute towards either your needs or wants. What we focus on each day shows us if we care more about ‘needs’ or ‘wants.’

It has to be non-negotiable in your own life how your needs come first and will always come first. Your wants have to be considered in terms of whether you actually need them and how much they will actually add that much to your life. When it comes to your wants, you should not only be thinking about their utility in the short-term but also in the long-term. Will you be that much better off not just a day later, a week later, or a year later when you satisfy those wants? A short-term want will be fleeting and may end up not even be worth it whereas a long-term want like starting a business, getting your degree, or moving overseas are often worthwhile investments and satisfactory wants that will put you ahead in your life. If you do want to fulfill your wants, they should be in the interest of you moving forward, learning new things, and developing your interests.

Short-term wants are good every now and then like a new bicycle, a nice meal out with friends, or a trip to a day spa, but the gratification will be short-term, and you can’t rely on those wants to fulfill you in the long-term. Long-term wants are harder to achieve but they often have higher levels of satisfaction. These wants aren’t automatically given to you and you have to work for them but it’s often worth the effort more so than just things being handed to you automatically. Your wants have to be kept in moderation too because if you let your wants overwhelm your needs, you may be left with less than you had before. An adult keeps their wants in check and prioritizes their needs first to make sure that their life is headed in the right direction. Long-term gains have to always take priority over short-term gratification, which may give you happiness but won’t give you fulfillment in the long run.

Your needs in daily life should always come first in terms of securing them. Whether it is water to drink, clean air to breathe, food to eat, and a roof over your head; they are all part of the equation to keep you in good spirits and in good health. Do not let your wants take away from your immediate needs because when it comes down to it, your wants may come and go but your needs are your needs and that never really changes. Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ was pretty much on the money in terms of distinguishing what are most urgent needs are and beyond that, what could be considered wants. We have the physical needs of eating, drinking, sleeping, maintaining homeostasis (not too warm or too cold) but beyond that, we start to go into the wants territory of seeking out self-actualization as well as having a steady purpose in life.

We all need human connection along with friends and family who care about us but that is not given to everybody and that kind of need is something that you have to work for and what you have to ‘want’ in a way. We all need safety and security to carry out our lives but that is something that we have to work towards to and that is not guaranteed when we are born. What we need may not been given to us like friends and family or the security of a place we live in and we may have to take action to turn those needs into a reality by wanting them badly enough.

In Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, our basic needs must be taken care of first as the pyramid shows us but then you have our psychological needs such as love, relationships, friendships, and feelings of accomplishment and goal-setting. As you go up the pyramid, you get into the ‘self-fulfillment’ needs category of achieving our potential, reaching our set goals, and becoming the best version of ourselves through self-actualization. This category is tricky, but we may feel that we need to be fulfilled that way; how hard are you willing to work to achieve that and how much do you really want to achieve it?

I would argue that our basic needs of food, drink, shelter, warmth, etc. are real needs but our psychological or self-fulfillment needs are different in that while each of us need them in our life, they are really ‘wants’ that you have to earn and to work for. Our basic needs are not given to us either, but they are of such urgency that we will do almost anything to have them guaranteed and it often subsumes our other ‘needs’ like love, friendship, or career goals.

What we need to live is our number one priority. Everything after that is supplementary in life. What we want Is important but it’s clear that our wants are endless at times and we need to prioritize with our limited time and/or money what matters to us most to achieve or to have. Being able to prioritize while understanding this internal battle is key to being a fully formed individual capable of holding our wants at bay while getting our needs taken care of.

Lastly, it is important to distinguish between short-term needs and long-term needs. Short-term needs should always take priority over long-term needs, but you can work towards both at the same time. You can hunt for food and still have companionship with a loved one at the same time. You can watch your vegetables grow while you’re studying for your next course exam or replying to emails. However, if your immediate needs are unmet or neglected, your long-term needs will have to take a backseat because they are just not as critical as what short-term needs are in terms of daily occurrence. You need to eat and drink water a lot more than you need to see your family and friends as an adult. I’m sure you would love to see them every day but it’s more likely you would see them once a week or a month or maybe less if you’re really busy.

Your immediate needs can be balanced with long-term needs, however, if you can’t cook for yourself, make money to support yourself, or be able to clean and take care of yourself physically, not many or very few of your long-term needs can be met after. As an adult, you need to take care of the daily details before you can reach your lifelong dreams and goals. What we need vs. what we want is a constant battle taking place in our mind. If we don’t pay attention to how to win this battle by trusting in our innate knowledge of what we are capable of doing to achieve them one by one and what are healthy priorities to focus on, you won’t be able to get very far in life with either your needs or your wants.

The Value of Self-Awareness

“Having self-awareness shows that you also have the right personal values that will make it easier for you to get ahead in life in terms of your character.”

Self-awareness is a key character trait that will improve your relationships with others and also improve your relationship with yourself. Having self-awareness shows that you also have the right personal values that will make it easier for you to get ahead in life in terms of your character. Achieving self-awareness takes a number of traits to embody such as showing wisdom by working to understand yourself and your own actions. You have to understand how your actions affect others, both positively and negatively, and to also take responsibility for those actions in both cases.

Beyond wisdom, you have to be honest about what you are capable of and what you need help with including your abilities at work or at school. You want to be able to keep your ego in check and to know your own limits but to be able to work on pushing those limits. This is also a key part of having self-awareness. There are key differences between being confident and being cocky and a self-aware person knows the differences between the two traits. You should show confidence but know how that confidence is coming across to others and to be open to receive feedback even when it can be critical at times.

A confident person knows their strengths but also knows their weaknesses and will make those traits aware so that others know what you can do and what you cannot do. Being aware of those strengths and weaknesses will make you humbler and more open to learn from others. Admitting to others that you have weaknesses and that you have strengths openly will garner respect and help from people who will know that you are not perfect and that you always have things to work on to be better and to do better.

Humility and self-awareness go hand in hand too. Being self-aware means owning up to your failures and shortcomings and not blaming others for them. Taking responsibility for yourself and your actions is a key part of being self-aware. You applaud and recognize other people and do not take all of the credit yourself, which is what happens most often in life that you cannot take sole credit for an accomplishment, but with which is achieved through the mentorship and support of others. Showing humility and being humble are key parts of being self-aware and having that personality trait be made known to others through your actions and your words.

A self-aware person can exercise wisdom, be honest, show confidence without being cocky, and displaying humble actions and words to get others to support you and be a friend to you. Arrogance, dismissiveness, immaturity, and dishonesty all show a lack of self-awareness and I would argue that not being straightforward and direct with people will often hurt you in the long run because they will not know where you stand. Being able to self-reflect and look inward to what you did and why you did it will help you to become more self-aware in retrospect even if you do not practice self-awareness in the moment. Ideally, you would like to be self-aware at all times but if you are not self-aware at the present moment, at the least, you should try to be self-aware about the past for better or for worse.

Self-awareness and self-reflection go hand in hand so you must be able to so some self-reflection in order to be fully self-aware. Actions speak louder than words, so you need to make sure that the actions you take offer some space for some self-reflection afterwards. It’s critical that you know how to practice self-awareness in your actions, and I would like to give a few examples below.

Self-awareness in practice means also knowing how to apologize and being aware of your actions when they have caused harm or anguish. If you do not say ‘sorry’ or give an apology, it means you have a lack of self-awareness and other people may not want to be around you knowing that you do not take accountability for your actions. On the other hand, you do not want to react with anger or other strong emotions in order to get what you want. Remaining calm, cool, and collected is much needed as well when dealing with others. You should not ever be insulting them when they give you some feedback that you may not want to hear but it’s in your best interest to take it into consideration.

As mentioned earlier, you should not pretend to be a know-it-all and you should be self-aware to know the limits of your knowledge as well as your skillset. In life, you should not be afraid to reach out to others for advice, counsel, mentorship, or for them to teach you things whether that is a new language, a job skill, or a sport. You will never be the expert on everything, and it is not wise to pretend you know everything as that will cause other people to see that you are arrogant and too egotistical.

Being honest and direct with others should be done politely and tactfully. It is better for others to know where you stand than for them to be guessing where your head and heart are at a lot of the time. The feedback that you give should be genuine and the feedback that you receive from others should be taken into consideration even if you don’t agree with it. Being defensive, attacking the person who criticized you, or getting too emotional about it will look bad in the eyes of others and hurt your ability to work with other people.

A self-aware person knows where and when they need help, how they can become a better person, or always striving to be as empathetic as possible. You should want to put others in your shoes and vice versa to be emotionally in tune with other people (related to having a high level of emotional intelligence). Above all else, you want to stay true to yourself, to your family and friends, as well as knowing what your core values and principles are in life. You should always put yourself on the path to succeed while not stepping over anyone to get there.

Being self-aware will make you an emotionally healthier person, allow you to form healthier relationships, and also be able to form better friendships at work, at school, or elsewhere. You want to value other people and not ignore how they feel but to recognize their emotions and understand where they are coming from without dismissing their views outright. Self-awareness is not an innate trait in the sense that we all have it equally. It has to be worked on, fostered, and built up over our lives.

You need to be consistently aware of your behavior, your emotions, and how they play off on other people. It comes down to having respect for others, being humble in your demeanor and your abilities, and also knowing how to behave responsibly and without letting your emotions control how you act all the time without regulating them. Self-awareness is a really important personal trait and has so much value that you must be willing to work on it day-in and day-out to become a better human being.

Get Your Own House In Order

“Before you can set an example to others in your house, or others in your community, or others in an overall society, you first need to show that you can ‘get your own house in order.’ You need to be able to handle yourself and your own day-to-day problems first before you can lead others to do the same in their own lives.”

There’s an old adage I have been thinking about lately about how it is primarily important to take care of oneself first and not just in one way but in every part of your life. Before you can set an example to others in your house, or others in your community, or others in an overall society, you first need to show that you can ‘get your own house in order.’ You need to be able to handle yourself and your own day-to-day problems first before you can lead others to do the same in their own lives.

It can be hard for other people to take you seriously when you don’t take yourself seriously in the first place. How will you be able to lead a team or an organization or a company if you are not able to master your own tasks and your own desires? Self-development isn’t just about making sure you are able to create a good life for yourself but it’s also about setting a positive example for others who would look up to you as a result. You cannot be a mentor or a role model for others without first putting yourself out there and doing what needs to be done to make yourself successful.

When you have not struggled, when have not persevered, when you have not done what it takes to reach your goals, how can you give advice to other people on what they should do to have the same kind of success? “Getting your own house in order” means taking care of yourself first and doing so consistently before you can use those same pieces of advice and examples for others to follow. Firstly, your own house in order starts with your mental and physical health.

Your body is your own house so it must be taken care of first and foremost in terms of getting good sleep, eating properly, not indulging in vices like alcohol or tobacco to excess, and knowing how to exercise as well to keep yourself in shape. It also extends to being able to relax, de-stress, handle anxiety, and be mentally sharp by challenging yourself but also relaxing your mind so as to not exhaust it entirely. Your body and your mind are their own little houses and they must be maintained thoroughly so that other people will know that you are capable enough to handle other demands in life.

Another house we don’t think of is appearance and grooming. Your own house in this case means maintaining a good appearance and practicing good hygiene. These practices are necessary also on a daily basis and to show to the world that you care about yourself and want to be taken seriously. For a job, an internship, a presentation, a seminar, a lecture, etc., your personal dress should indicate that you are a serious person for the role or for the opportunity and that others will know that they can respect your house because you respect it yourself. They will not respect your house when you show up to an interview in shorts or when you wear Yoga pants to a college lecture. Physical appearance and grooming are another ‘house’ that we all must take seriously and to do so primarily before we can give advice to others on how to maintain their own ‘houses’ in good order.

Lastly, the last ‘house’ on a personal level that I would like to focus on is where you live regardless if it is a small studio apartment or a huge mansion. Maintaining your own physical shape in the world is crucial if you want to tackle bigger and better problems. If you can’t make your bed, clean your bathroom, or keep your kitchen clean, how can you tackle any major issue in your community or in your society? At the end of the day, this kind of ‘house’ maintenance comes down to self-respect and putting your own ego aside to do the work that we all must do.

The chances are good that at the end of the work to maintain this ‘house’ that you will feel a lot better for having done the work needed to keep up a clean and orderly home. It is not easy to do this consistently but it is necessary and if you plan on having guests over, having friends over for a get-together, or want to be romantically involved with someone, a clean ‘house’ will go a long way to making you respectable and responsible in the eyes of others. Being able to maintain care not just of yourself but your own physical space means that people will know that they can trust you with other tasks and matters of importance that extend beyond your ‘house’ and to the ‘houses’ of others in the community and in the society.

Thinking about a community as a whole, their ‘houses’ include making sure that the schools are meeting the needs of the students, that the community is safe and protected for all of its residents, that the roads and bridges are maintained and do not have potholes or faulty beams, and to make sure that each and every person has access to utilities including water, electricity, and yes, an Internet connection too. If a community does not have those necessities for a high quality of life, then that ‘house’ is not in order and those people who have their own ‘houses’ in order need to step up to do their part to help others get the community in good shape.

If you have your own ‘house’ in order, you can set the standard for the rest of the community and be able to use your ideas to help others especially if you gain their respect and their trust. With how you act and how you behave in addition to your own appearance, ideas, and personal goals, you can make the community better and it’s important for you to get in there and show that you can make a difference there.

When a community can all of its necessities in order, that one community can definitely have an impact on the larger society within a country and even the world. A community where everyone has equal access to a good education, where health care is not a privilege but a right to all in that society, and when kindness, honesty, and virtue are rewarded rather than chastised. That is an overall society that is getting its own house in order and can serve as an example to other societies in other parts of the world.

Being able to provide a high quality of life and a chance to succeed to all of the people in a society should be the goal of society with its own ‘home’ in order. I am not talking about a social utopia per say but rather an ideal place where people know that they can succeed if given a fair shot in life. It’s also about providing the basic tools of any society to all of its people without discrimination and without corruption. Whether that is no homelessness, enough healthy food for everyone, and an economy where inequality is minimalized, that is what a society should be focusing on and using as an example to other societies.

When a society prioritizes the needs of the few over the many based on wealth or another privilege, that society does not have its own house in order. If there are people out there hungry, homeless, or without health care, then that society is not in order. A society cannot be an example for other societies when it lacks the courage to invest in its most vulnerable populations or to provide a higher quality of life for all people.

Without that kind of an example, a society will lose its influence or example setting and will turn inward and often tear itself apart without good leadership or good values. A society that gets its own house in order prioritizes the right social needs and finds the investments, funding necessary to maintain these necessities of its people will automatically become an example to other societies whether they are near or far. A society that doesn’t does not have a moral ground to stand on and will lose the example it could set by practicing bad ‘house’ manners in different ways.

“Getting Your Own House in Order” does not just apply to one individual but it also applies to a community and a society as a whole. We all are human and fallible and sometimes, we will fall short but if we strive to do better in our homes, in our lives, and in our examples we set for others, that kind of ‘Ripple Effect’ of positive values will improve the larger community and society as a result. How we treat ourselves (mind and body), our homes, our way of life has a direct effect on the community we share, and, on the society,  we find ourselves a part of. This kind of example setting starts at home, but it can ripple throughout to the rest of the world and it all begins with ourselves and our own actions.

Don’t Rest on Your Laurels

“One of my favorite expressions in the English language: “Don’t rest on your laurels” means to not be complacent with what you have done and to keep moving forward.”

Complacency is the killer of any sustained success. What you have done in the past is in the past. Unfortunately, you cannot rest on your laurels for very long. One of my favorite expressions in the English language: “Don’t rest on your laurels” means to not be complacent with what you have done and to keep moving forward. Success is only temporary and while it can be lasting, if you don’t sustain what you’ve done to accomplish more, you may find yourself back at square one. You can be satisfied with your achievements and recognize them, but it is not wise to continue relying upon them when you need to be aware of what you have to do in the present and in the future.

With the current pandemic not going away anytime soon, it can be difficult to resign yourself to going with the flow, staying housebound, and waiting for things to become somewhat normal again. However, it should not be used as an excuse for you to let yourself go mentally or physically. Even if the first half of the year was a total wash for you and you put your own goals on hold, you still have a good chunk of the second half to make progress in whatever you set your mind to. Even though you may not be able to have fun as much as you like, this is a great time to reassess what is truly important to you, who truly matters to you, and how you want to be into the future. We all have extra time to think now and while that may feel like an undue burden, there is an opportunity in there to seek out what you are hoping to accomplish and will keep moving you forward during this unprecedented and difficult time.

Not resting on your laurels may sound difficult right now but it may be the perfect chance for you to move forward, to accomplish personal tasks that you’ve been putting off, and to pick up learning something new that you’ve been meaning to but never had the time before quarantine began or before you were resigned to staying at home more than you would have liked.

Each person is going to have their own set of goals and hopes but the main thing to keep in mind is that you have at least one thing that you want to accomplish that you didn’t have time for before the pandemic hit. Use your extra time even if it is just an hour or so each day to work towards a personal goal. With just one hour, you can accomplish a lot over the next five months. I would recommend setting a mental goal to hit like practicing meditation each day for 10 to 15 minutes or doing daily language practice for a new language that you would like to learn. You should also have one physical goal in mind like doing 50 pushups each day or 20 sprints or just being able to get in a form of exercise when you are not working or studying.

You cannot have just good physical health but poor mental health or vice versa. You need to work on both forms of health as they complement each other quite a bit. I truly believe that if you are making progress in both forms of health than you will be better able to confront the challenges of your day and your week. With this extra time at home, you can hit on both your mental and physical health in ways that you might not even be aware of.

If the gym is closed, go ahead and use your workout equipment at home. There are dozens of videos on how to do these kinds of exercises without needing very fancy equipment. You can also likely find stretch bands, jump rope, barbells, dumbbells, pull-up bars online to help you create that good 30-minute workout that can hit on different parts of the body. If you don’t have an outdoor space, look to your nearest park or public outdoor area to do sprints, go for a walk, go for a jog, or even do Yoga if you so desire to get a workout in.

Daily exercise is not only good for your body but it’s good for your mind as well. I think the pandemic has personally shown me as well the importance of staying fit and healthy and how it can get neglected when you are running around all the time, commuting to school or to work, and not making enough time for yourself to take care of your body. Now, with a little extra time, hopefully, we can collectively prioritize our physical health even if it’s just a simple home workout of 30 minutes.

Challenging yourself mentally on at least a weekly basis but preferably daily means learning something new to keep your mind sharp. If you are looking for work or haven’t been to school in a while, online learning opportunities are abundant from Coursera to LinkedIn Learning to Duolingo, which can challenge you to learn new skills to not only help you with your mental dexterity but can help you find a job depending on the type of industry you’re focusing on. Online learning is often less expensive than traditional means of education and since you are likely spending a lot more time in your apartment or your house, giving yourself thirty minutes to an hour per day of self-study can help you learn new skills while we are all living in this age of pandemic.

Keeping both your mental health and your physical health in mind during this trying time is very important. Not resting on your laurels even when life is influx and so many things are uncertain is not an excuse for your letting your mental and physical abilities go to waste. You are not only keeping yourself sharp to face ongoing challenges but you’re also getting out of your own head and letting your worries fall away for a little while. Wear a mask, socially distance, and wash your hands are all necessary in this current time but what’s also not being said is make sure you are taking care of both your mental and physical health too.

Whether it is a walk in the park, learning a new skill, doing home workouts, improving your cooking, trying to keep your routine even when homeward bound is very key to coming out of this pandemic better and more resilient. It’s something I have to work on myself but it’s key to keeping up a positive and forward-looking spirit. If you have more free time on your hands, that’s natural right now. Don’t become a sloth though and look to just vegetate out in front of the television. You have to do your best to stay active, stay positive, and keep moving forward.

It can be easy to rest on your laurels when much of our lives have been upended but you have to keep making progress towards your goals in ways that are possible right now. Hopefully, you have had time to think about which goals you want to achieve in the past few months and how you want to make the most of these remaining months of 2020. It’s been a hard year for everyone around the world, but you can still make it a fulfilling one for your own development by focusing on what you can control and how you make the most of these remaining months too.

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