Don’t try so hard

If you talk to someone about “relaxing,” they will usually think of that as the opposite of “trying hard.” They think of lying on the couch, muscles relaxed, not doing anything. “Relaxing” is equated with “laziness” for a lot of people. So “trying hard” and “relaxing” are seen as two opposite things. What would it be like to try hard while relaxing?

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

I’ve long known I have a bias to action. So trying hard used to always look like activity—often physically strenuous activity. Eventually I came to refer to that as my “bashing” mode. Imagine the Hulk working on anything; Bashing. But this leaves a trail of destruction more often than not. As I’ve worked to value recovery, rest, and relaxation—because, hey, why couldn’t one’s life be mostly peaceful relaxation?—I’ve gravitated towards “work” that can be done in a relaxed state. If any of this is news to you, as always, Babauta does a great job suggesting ways to get into it.

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Balance

Once we feel like we’re a little good at something, we cling to that. We cling to wanting others to think we know things and are good at things. We cling to the feeling of knowing what we’re doing.

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

Balancing continuing to work on what I know, and single mindedly focusing on something new, is the challenge I can never seem to resolve. Destroy all the things I know? …that doesn’t end well. Destroy some of the things I know? …sure, but which ones.

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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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