Another year, just like that. Time is running at it’s own speed regardless of my various nostalgic attempts to slow it down. Coming to almost a year and a half in Japan. Yet it still feels just as new as it did when I was in college. Such a weird feeling…I’m equal parts used to + amazed at my surroundings daily. I guess it’s a way of reminding myself that one day, far from now, this land may no longer be my home.
Taking a detour from the Enlightenment of ECMB, and going back to something I did last year, this article is a round-up of what 2014 taught me. The Things Learned. Let’s get to it.
1. I Am Not My Thoughts
This is a phrase I’ve heard in the past. But I didn’t get the meaning of it until very recently. Up until this time I truly believed that my most powerful thoughts were the essence of my identity. These powerful thoughts hovered like the cliché angel/devil versions of myself (but not that simplistic) around my major life decisions. They really took a hold of my mind at times. I had gotten much better at quieting the head chatter up until this point. But these thoughts were so, volatile. One stray idea could pop into my mind and seconds later: “You should be doing this in Life!” “So you lost your passion for this now?” “Why do you keep flip-flopping?!”
Late into the year this inner dialogue really put my identity into question, and paralyzed any positive momentum I had accumulated up until that moment. I was really in a rut.
One day, after going to Oprah for help, I asked that inner rambling voice, “Who are you?” And just like that, I heard quiet. It never was really there to begin with, I realized.
I became so attached to past ideas, goals, thoughts, and identities of my self. There were things that kept interfering, chattering, and questioning the new me. Yet when I confronted those thoughts, they disappeared. Just as the past disappears forever with each coming present moment.
We are much more than the peanut-sized section in our brain responsible for keeping the story going in our headspace. Yet we seem to attach our entire identity to the very thoughts we think. The thoughts become our story. Go Beyond. The story is much more grand.
*Eckhart Tolle and Jill Bolte Taylor are much better at describing this than I am. So check these videos out.
2. Can’t Put a Date on Happiness
We all have expectations in our everyday lives. I expect the sun to rise, my heater to work, and my bike to be outside waiting for me when it’s time to head to work. We also have expectations of the people we encounter: clerks, waiters, coworkers, etc. Yet I have come to realize that you can’t expect an unfolding future event to also bring with it, the emotion of happiness. I relearned this lesson the hard way after experiencing a break up. Before we separated, we had made previous plans to do something really exciting together. I was so excited about this future date that I went around telling everyone about it. I knew in my mind that this day would be nothing but happiness. Yet before we could ever go on that date, we found ourselves not together anymore.
When that day came, I found happiness in other ways. There was no point in replaying possibilities of what that day could have been in my mind. I didn’t have the time to feel down. I was ALIVE! Life was going to keep on going on whether I wanted to move on or not.
Life is going to keep on going on regardless of your emotional state. So try the best to contentedly take it all in, rather than waiting for Life to inspire happiness within you.
3. 30 Days to Make a Habit, 30 More to Make it Unconscious
I spent two-thirds of the year trying to add at least one small habit to my daily routine each month. For a while it worked. I was seeing the power of habits. My life changing for the better. Then it suddenly began to breakdown. All those little habits I learned in the beginning were phasing out of my memory. Instead of trying to finish out the year adding a new habit each month, I focused on honing a few core ones. As a result, those habits which I spent more than 30 days on have now been written into my brain’s programming. I now do these activities without even recognizing it.
So if you do something for 30 days, you definitely make it a habit. Provided it’s not a fairly difficult activity, it will stay a part of your routine for some time. But if you want habits that are ingrained in your neurons, positive things that you almost do unconsciously, you’re gonna need 30 more days. And maybe a few more after that.
Well, that’s 2014. Check out my next post, For the Record Part 3, where I’ll be giving an honest evaluation of my performance over the past year. Until then, what did 2014 teach you?