Named your fear must be

Sometimes, our heads won’t stop thinking about something. Our thoughts will spin around and around, not willing to let go, obsessing. It might be about another person, a big event coming up, or about ourselves. It might be overthinking a decision, big or small.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/obsess/

I read this the other day after its being queued for ages. It was eerily apropos of a really bad mood that I was in. Except I read it just after I had deployed Babauta’s “face the fear” strategy that he describes. It definitely works. And for some reason, Yoda’s admonishment that, “named your fear must be, before banish it you can,” sprung to mind.

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What would make it amazing?

This process starts with identifying the things you want in your day, as if you were curating a small but thoughtful collection. What handful of things would make your day amazing?

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/simplify5/

Sometimes I’ve not the least interest, let alone hope, of getting to “amazing.” Sometimes my days are all spiders, paper-cuts, stubbed toes, and sepsis. And then I think: well, actually, what would it take to get to “amazing?” The answer is invariably two-fold: I would need to cut loose from something-or-other, and doing that would burn a bridge, (money, relationships, etc.) Then I waiver. Usually, I decide not to strike the match. But sometimes… I just want to strike the match and watch my world burn.

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Never how it actually goes

This is one of the main obstacles to forming habits. Our hopeful idea of how it will go, and then our disappointment and frustration with ourselves when it doesn’t go that way.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/perfectionism/

Nerd alert: I’ve always appreciated that Babauta takes the time to craft the URL paths (often called the “slug”) by hand. They’re not simply auto-generated from the titles of the posts. I love that this particular one, about perfectionism, has a single-word slug that contains the word “perfect”.

While writing this post I spun off to discover Grammar Monster. Yikes! Driven by my perfectionism, that’s the sort of thing that I could spend hours in. I backed away from it very slowly.

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Always a good reminder

We often turn it into something bad: I suck for not being disciplined, I suck for not being able to focus, I’m not strong enough, etc etc. But it’s just a part of being human — we all have fear, uncertainty, doubt, resistance built into our survival instincts.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/resistless/

My “I suck” dialog has different vocabulary, and I have a penchant for petulance. Nonetheless, it’s always a good reminder to be aware of it. I can sabotage myself, without fail, by setting expectations—any expectations—for anything I’m working on. The only way I can stay balanced on the narrow, mountaintop spine of rock that is sanity is to pay attention to the next steps. There’s not really much option about where the path along the ridge leads. In recent months I’ve been tinkering on a new project creating something I’ve been curious to try for a long time. It’s interesting, but not particularly difficult work. It’s definitely creative, and I’ve repeatedly found interesting little twists in the path. Am I going somewhere in particular with the project? …not really. I have ideas of what might be farther along the path, but that’s more an interesting additional possibility, rather than the reason for doing the work.

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Or soon every day will have gone by

… and soon the day has gone by and we wonder what we did with the day.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/interstitial/

I marked this for “read later” back in December 2021, and am just getting around to reading it. I know that many—most? all?—of the amazing coincidences I find in my life arise from my innate, monkey-brain drive to see patterns and causation where none actually exists. I don’t care. It’s a nice coincidence that I’ve just gotten around to reading this, while in the past couple of weeks I’ve been simplifying and focusing on a small number of things that I want to be working on.

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Expansive

Normally, we think of these difficulties and frustrations as something wrong with us, the other person, or the world. With this kind of view, every failure is another reason to feel bad about ourselves. Every frustration with someone else is a reason to shut down to them or lash out at them. Everything wrong with the world is another reason to feel discouraged.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/practiceground/

I recently read a discription of one’s mindset that used the term “expansive.” Having a “growth mindset,” or a “positive attitude,” are other turns of phrase in the same vein. Thinking expansively leads you to find opportunities. For 6+ years I’ve been tinkering on the Movers Mindset project, and a legitimate question comes up: What is the mindset of a mover?

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Create a space

Today I’d like to share an idea for getting things in order: just as I recommend for decluttering your house, create a place for everything that matters to you.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/place/

When you first hear this idea—for physical things and for the things “in” your life—it sounds insanely hard. If you manage to push through that initial resistance you find out that the problem isn’t the things in, or “in”, your life. The problem is that you let them in. And then you realize, that you didn’t actually let them in, you invited them in.

For me, solving the problem is not about my ruthlessly removing things. (And to be clear, thoughts this post I’m talking about physical things that are around me, people around me, ideas around me… everything.) Solving the problem is not about my ruthlessly trying to keep things away. No. The real problem is to identify and then resolve the urge. The urge to want more. The urge to collect. The urge to—I think—try to fill some sense of need.

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What actually is the problem

Every obstacle that we normally think of as a problem to be fixed … every “flaw” in ourselves or others that we judge as something to be fixed … what if we can pause, find stillness, and get curious instead of trying to fix?

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/explore/

Any day that Babauta gets me thinking is a good day. (If that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.) I’ve gotten pretty durn good at the “pause”, and the “find stillness”, parts. I also believe I have the “wait but why” curiosity bit figured out, since it has always been with me. It’s that “trying to fix” part upon which I’m perpetually stuck. And I get “particularly stuck”— “particularly stuck” aren’t the right words… if I could find the right words or word, I would use it instead. “Ensnared” is close. Or, have you ever gotten caught by a single thorn while out walking or hiking? That one thorn isn’t going to do too much damage if you stop quickly. In an instant, that one thorn becomes the laser focus of all of my attention. I really feel like I should be able to find the right word to fix that sentence.

Well, that’s curious.

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If only

The day is actually quite spacious, if we don’t try to overfill it.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/unrushed/

It took me far too long to learn this lesson. Or, perhaps I should practice improving my self-talk: I’m so glad I understand this now. For a couple months early in 2022 I had a sticky-note about “urgency?” on my monitor. That had a profound effect on me. Is the house on fire? …okay, then where is the urgency coming from? Hint, Craig: You brought the urgency to the situation.

But, why? Why does the urgency creep in for me? I make long (long loong) arguments out in my mind about how each of the things that I’m doing, represents an intentional choice. At one time, I used to allow other people to choose for me. (I know, right… That’s nuts.) But these days, I’m working out the lesson that just because I choose, that doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. One choice, two choices, three choices, four, five, six… and the day is over-full. Quick! All these things need to be done—I chose them. Hello, urgency.

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Two things

This sudden loss has gotten me to face my own death this week. I know it is coming, just not when. I rarely think about it, because life is so in-my-face, but it’s there, waiting. Tyler’s death is such a stark reminder that we never know how much time we have left.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/liberation/

There are exactly two things about my life of which I am certain. I was born, and I will die. I spend a lot of time contemplating my end; Not in a fatalistic, “come at me bro’!” way, but rather with the intention of reminding myself to make the most out of every moment.

There are many moments where I’m unconscious—quite a few of those moments are while I’m sleeping, but also there are mindless moments aplenty throughout my days. But there are increasingly more mindful moments every day.

An extremely fast way to get to mindfulness—this is the fastest way I’ve found so far—is to think: This may well be the last time I do this. The last walk. The last boulder I scramble upon. The last conversation with this person. The last conversation ever. The last word I type. The last sentence I jauntily scribble with a pen. The last time I drive a car. The last time I ride a bicycle. The last time I wrench my back shoveling snow. The last time something scares the crap out of me. The last time I laugh until I lose control of my bladder. The last time I’m stuck as part of the traffic. The last time I’m part of the solution. The last time I’m the source of the problem. The last time I smash the hell out of my toe on something.

In every one of those cases, I can now enjoy it… if I can manage to remember: This could be the last time I get to experience this.

I’ve even decided that if I can manage it, my last words will be: “Well, if that wasn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” (And just maybe with a literal hat tip to Vonnegut.)

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