“Circumstance has no value. It is how one relates to a situation that has value. All true meaning resides in the personal relationship to a phenomenon, what it means to you.” Christopher McCandless
I was introduced to the story of Christopher McCandless by the movie “Into the Wild”. It was an amazing real story. It was like getting introduced to a new framework of life. I think the key learning I took from the life of Christopher McCandless was that “Life is not a goal driven experience, its the experience itself without the goal”(especially keeping the concept of “time” and “money” out of life).
After a hectic week, we all get some time off probably on a Saturday or a Sunday. We look back to how the week went, and we see a massive rollercoaster of activities, actions, emotions and so much more. One thing which I assume everyone reflects upon is the fact that we could have acted or reacted differently to a situation or a comment or an email/phone call. We all are also smart enough to know, that our reaction was not the best, since we were mentally drained out, and were involved in multiple activities at the same. We were also working in our top gear and things were happening really fast.
We tell ourselves “Hey, this coming week, I am going to do better, I am going to be in control far more than before.” But it does not work out, again we get into our super fast mode and multiple things are happening at the same. Then the next weekend, again look back and the same commitment to oneself, that I will be better the next week. It just goes on and on.
The issue is, most of us have moved into a hyper-schedule. We are in a constant rush, for everything, right from putting up a social media update, to the most important meeting and even going out to a movie with the family. Everything is done in a rush, with a reasonable amount of anxiety – and it’s not necessarily meaning “stress”. We are constantly excited, reactive, emotional, stressed, happy, amazed by something or the other. Even excitement can drain out a person, yes positive excitement can drain out person. The issue is not with excitement, the speed at which things are moving, we never slow down!
The office hours are the easiest way to understand this. As soon as you reach the office, the activity around you is high. Within 30–90 minutes, you are in top gear, there is action happening at a fast pace. If action is not happening you are creating action, and the constant feeling that not enough has been done, and one needs to do more. Office hours are just an example, slowly this has crept up in our 24 hours. There is too much excitement, action, anxiety, stress, emotions happening all the time. You have to do something every moment, which you describe in your social media updates as “feeling loved”, “getting inspired”, “feeling lucky”, “feeling blessed” and many other emotions. There is no problem if this is happening every month, but this is happening every few hours.
We need to slow down! If we do not, we will completely burn out!
This is the first fear we may get and this may be true for a very short time. If you decide that I am going to slow, the first few thoughts are about losing efficiency. But are we in efficiency business? Is getting more mundane work done is lesser time, the objective of the organisation? Is that going to increase sales or get more audiences for my business? The answer is probably NO!
In this competitive world, differentiation, innovation in terms of products and services is going to make the difference. So please be rest assured, nothing is going to go radically wrong if you spend a little more time doing the same work.
Each activity you used to do and for example, if the time you were taking was 15 minutes for one activity, now give it 20 minutes or 25 minutes. You may notice that you still finished the activity in 15 minutes, but it was far more relaxed. I had heard a quote “Mind cannot be disciplined, it can only be tricked”. This is a small trick which has helped me.
You may have heard the famous quote of Keynes “In the long term, we are all dead”. It has been interpreted in multiple ways, but I think the best meaning out of it, is to keep thinking about short term, in terms of time. At any point in time in the day in office, if the stress and anxiety starts, please notice that it has to do with something, which is not immediate. Do not think beyond, one day or maximum one week. Stick to short term tasks and that way you will stay focussed on work at hand.
You have to trust me, what tires people down is not work, its thinking about work, especially the hard work involved and the worry about results. Do not think much, I mean, do your one or two levels of thinking — but too much planning is too much anxiety. If you start the project, the anxiety will go as the action will begin. Be open to failure, that takes most of stress away. Not being open to failure causes a lot of focus on the result rather than the action at hand. Be open to failure, keep thinking this quote from Tony Robbins “There are no successes or failures, there are only results”. I read this quote 14 years back and it has helped me ever since.
Everyday for an hour drop the technology, I mean no TV, no music, no screen(mobile phone or anything else). That can be your morning park hour, just drop your fitness band and stop calculating calorie burns etc. It may be your evening one hour of family time or book reading time. Make sure you stay away from gadgets and technology.
Most of us will say, we have no ego, but that’s not the fact. Ego comes from our social image, ego comes from the goals we have set for ourselves, ego comes from creating an ideal state, which may be different from the current state. The only way to remove ego is actually being in love. “Being in love” here does not mean love between man and woman. Love someone, something and spend time with that person or doing that activity. Go to your parents, share your love with them, go to your best friends, give them your love, go to your spouse, give your love or get a pet! Bring love to your life, get into an activity which you love to do and make sure you do it everyday. Now you may ask, what has love got to do with ego? This is something I cannot explain, this has to be experienced, as when you are in love, ego disappears.
Now, this is a tough one to explain. It took me a long time to comprehend this. It may be just a trick, but it totally works. The problem with thinking about goals is that it takes us in the future. Thinking about future creates stress and anxiety and you start racing again. Just “drop the goals”. Tell yourself, it does not matter what happens in the future, I cannot think too much about goals, I have this moment, let me try my best. Every Time you think about goals, there is worry and there is movement into the future. Just take the action and drop the goals. Tell yourself, I can do this now and cannot think of future right now. This has really helped me reduce anxiety to achieve goals, and overall slowing down.
Now here is the biggest benefit of slowing down, you become intuitive and innovative. The thoughts are flowing better, you are more in control, there are ideas popping up and you have more action points coming in your mind. If you follow the simple steps I have mentioned above, you may feel better within a week. The biggest sign of change will be intuitive and innovative thinking, you will get new ideas and new action points, which you never thought about before.
This intuition and innovation, will make you far more effective than in a high anxiety scenario.
I hope with these action point we are able to comprehend the learning from Christopher McCandless, “experience life, do not make life a goal drive experience”.
Please do try these action points and I hope it helps. Thanks.
Originally published at medium.com