The Forward Mind

A thinking man's guide to mastery

Month: July, 2014

Spark

Have you ever had your car battery die on you? It always seems to happen at the worst of times. Batteries never just die in your driveway. They always seem to die when you’re late to a meeting, or on a date, or on a road trip with friends. Luckily, jumping a car is a fairly simple process. You just need someone with a running car and jumper cables, and you’re all set. And yet, asking a stranger for a jump seems a lot harder than that, doesn’t it? The thought of asking a stranger to donate their time to you can be very daunting for many people. Why is that? Think about the role reversal. If someone asked you to help them jump their car, most of you would be happy to do it. It feels good to help others. We want the feeling of helping, but never the feeling of needing help.

Obviously, I’m not just talking about cars. Sometimes in life you get stuck in a rut. You’re having a bad day, or maybe even a bad month, but you refuse to ask for help. All you need is a quick pick-me-up, a few minutes of time from a close friend, but you refuse to ask and so you just keep sinking lower and lower. Remember this. That good feeling that you get from helping others, your loved ones will get from helping you. It’s OK to ask for a leg up once in a while. Conversely, if you know someone who seems like they’re trudging through something on their own, offer a helping hand. Sometimes all people need is a quick jump to get back on track.

Amnesia

Whether we like it or not, most of us are masters of routine. We wake up around the same time, eat the same things for breakfast, work the same job, exercise the same way (or not at all), see the same few people, and go to sleep around the same time. We drive the same routes, listen to the same stations, and at the end of the day, we generally complain about the same things. I’m not here to tell you this is a bad thing or that every day is supposed to be some wild new adventure of different foods and taking the road less traveled. Most of our routines are good because they give us one less thing to think about every day. It would get exhausting trying to find new routes to drive or new stations to listen to all the time.

However, it does give us something to think about. Imagine what it would be like to wake up today, with zero recollection of your past. Let’s pretend that you woke up this morning in your body, in your house, with your things and your life, but you had no way of knowing anything up to this point. Suddenly somebody is telling you what your job is, who your friends are, and what you like to eat so that you can go about your day. My questions is this: Would you be happy with that?

Sometimes you need to ask yourself hard questions. Are all of your friends really good for you, or are they fueling an addiction, holding you down, bringing negativity into your life? Are you on the right career path, or did you take the first job that came along and stuck with it because it was comfortable? I guess the real question is “what would you do if you didn’t know what you were supposed to do”. I’m not telling you to run off and join the Peace Corps. We all have to eat, pay bills, and take care of our loved ones. What I’m saying is that most of us identify so strongly with our past that we don’t think about what’s best for our present. We hang out with our friends because, well, those are the people we’ve always hung out with. We’ve had the same job for 20 years so we’ve never thought to question it.

For the next few days, pay attention to your routines. Think about whether you want to be doing the same thing next year, or 5 years from now. Maybe you made choices based on what was best for you in the past. Are those choices what’s best for you today?