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Archive for December, 2009

How to avoid the holiday madness and enjoy yourself Dec 08

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One big clue that we live in a strange world is for me the fact we even have expressions like “holiday madness” and articles like this one. What in the world is that? Aren’t holidays about rest, relaxation, fun? Have I missed some important lesson in school?

Left and right, I hear people talking about the upcoming holidays like they’re talking about a job they hate, about work they accepted by manipulation and actually wanna avoid.

Remember when you were a child? A holiday was simple: less school, more play, which equaled more fun. Then you grow up and something happens (other than the fact you find out Santa does not exist). You start turning a holiday into one big to do list, filled with things you must do, and you must get them right.

Here are just some of these things:

  • I must buy presents for everybody;
  • I must send emails, messages and postcards to everybody;
  • I must decorate the tree and the entire house;
  • I must prepare a big and lovely holiday dinner;
  • I must make sure all the right people are invited;
  • I must do charity and help others;
  • I must make a new year’s resolution.

And as if all of these are not pain provoking enough, you add the ultimate holidays’ expectations:

  • I must make the holidays special for me;
  • I must make the holidays special for the people around me;
  • I must enjoy the holidays;
  • I must make sure the people around me enjoy the holidays.

With all these “musts”, the concept of “holiday madness” is starting to make sense. You create it; in your head. You take holiday traditions and turn them into obligations; you take holiday wishes and turn them into desperate wants. After a holiday like this, you can’t wait to get back to work!

By this point, I’m positive you already have a good understanding of what the primary way to avoid holiday madness is: letting go of the imperative expectations about what you must do and what must happen during the holidays.

It’s a process. Like most personal development journeys, it starts in your head. This one with asking yourself what would happen if you would drop some of these tasks and expectations. What would happen if you stopped buying gifts to everybody? Would they really stop loving you? If they would, do you really want a type of love which is this fragile? What would happen if you skipped on the Christmas tree this year? Is this plant the main source of your potential holiday joy?

Once your shift in thinking is happening, you can start doing a behavior change. Do more of what you like, instead of what you used to think was required, and keep things simple. When you can avoid the holiday madness and actually enjoy yourself, you are going places.

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Category: Attitude, Lifestyle  | Tags: , , , ,  | 12 Comments
Personal development ideas I can do without Dec 02

I am going to hit the next person who gives one of the following personal development ideas (this is bad, considering I’m an otherwise peaceful person):

  • Just be more confident;
  • Just be yourself;
  • Just be more positive;
  • Just be calmer.

Just, just, just. It just doesn’t work that way. There is a tone of personal development advice out there staring with the word “just” and then suggesting some pretty dramatic personal change, as if it’s like going to the supermarket.

With most of these ideas, we are addressing something which is more than just a behavior. We are addressing an attitude. Being confident is not just a way you act, talk and look. It’s a habitual way of thinking and reacting emotionally to various life situations, which is ingrained in your personality. To use some big and resonating words, it’s a complex psychological structure.

What does it take to change these psychological structures? Over time, I came to believe there is no magic pill. What works is consciously, gradually and systemically replacing old thinking patterns with new thinking patterns, old associations with new associations and thus old emotions with new emotions. Plus, using the right tools and methods to do it. Then, you can act confident cause you can are confident.

The fact that these personal development ideas do not work isn’t half as bad as the treatment some of the people who talk about them will give you. I’m starting to call them personal development assholes. They have at least one of two traits:

  1. They naturally have these ways of being they give advice on. So for them, “just be confident” seems like solid advice. Because already having the right internal setup, they can do it just like that.
  2. They have a superficial understanding of how human learning happens and the qualities personal development ideas require to be applied effectively.

When you try to put their advice to practice but you don’t seem to be able to and you don’t get results, they just start accusing you using advanced personal development jargon: of not wanting it bad enough, of having secondary gains or of lacking willpower. So now, you don’t improve and you feel guilty about it.

Trust me: when for example, every time you go to a party you feel miserable because you’re too shy to talk to anyone and have some fun, you want nothing more on the planet than to “just be more confident”. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. I’m sure a lot of the people giving this advice mean well, but they often do more harm than good.

The answer is not out there. It’s within. Personal development ideas that work take into account not just the external, but also the internal, to create deep and lasting self growth.

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