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Daily Ritual – Creating Routines That Help Manage Energy and Performance

There has been a lot written here, here, and here about the value of having a daily ritual. The benefits of daily rituals range from increased productivity, stress-relief, higher energy, career, family life and more.

I’ve had a decent morning routine for a while now that has included meditation, morning pages, affirmations and more. I recently finished reading the excellent Power of Full Engagement by Loehr which has opened my eyes to a critical insight I had totally missed up until now.

Energy is our most precious resource

According to Loehr, energy is our most precious resource because everything stems from having enough positive energy to get things done. It makes sense. The book talks a lot about how athletes strategically use recovery to gain energy and rituals to stay focused during stressful times of performance. For us non-professional athletes, these principals apply, perhaps even more because unlike sports, corporate drones don’t get months of recovery during an off-season.

After reading the book and dutifully doing all the exercises (what’s do you value, what are your strengths, who do you admire and why), I revisited my own daily rituals which now include a morning and evening component along with a handy Google Doc to help me track my progress.

My Morning Ritual (20 minutes)

  • Get out of bed and eat a handful of peanuts or a banana
  • Meditate for 10 minutes (I’m currently addicted to this app)
  • Read my vision, values & affirmations
  • Morning Pages (Include what I am grateful for)
  • Daily Stoic daily exercise
  • Note: No email until I finish!

My Evening ritual

  • Before bed, do the following…
  • Daily Stoic evening reflection
  • Be grateful for 1 minute
  • Enter data in ritual tracker 

Do you have a daily ritual you use? How has it evolved over time?

Hell yes! or no F_cking way!

Hell yes, or no way. Essentialism to the rescue!

I’ve read the incredible book “Essentialism” by Greg Mckeown 3 times now, and each time, my (digital) copy gets more and more highlighted. It’s a great read, and one with an incredible amount of wisdom, great ideas, and perspective. Reading it has enriched my life immensely. My biggest and most challenging takeaway is the idea of “Hell yes, or no way.”

Essentialism

If you haven’t read it, I recommend you watch any of the excellent videos that outline the basic concepts including hearing it right from Greg’s mouth in a Google talk:

“No more yes, it’s either a ‘Hell, Yeah!” or no.” #Essentialism— Greg McKeown (@GregoryMcKeown) January 15, 2016

Essentialism, for me works great for small, simple decisions such as:

  • should I work out?
  • should eat that 3rd slice of pizza?
  • should I read this book or that book

But it breaks down for me when I try to apply it to big decisions such as:

  • should I invest in becoming a better or published writer?
  • should I change careers, go back to school or keep doing what I’m doing
  • am living my best life, and if not, what’s that even mean?

I think a big part of the problem is that I’ve been unwilling to be completely honest with myself. Saying hell yea to something life-changing has ramifications that go far beyond my own personal impact.

As an example, I’ve written two books (one a YA-Sci Fi thing, the other a memoir), and I’m stuck inside my head. Do I try to improve them with the help of an editor and finish that journey, or do I leave writing as a hobby and a fun creative pursuit? I honestly don’t know.

The truth is, part of me is scared.

Shit. Even as I wrote that sentence I sort of figured out something important. Trite as it is, that saying “do what scares you most” may very well apply here.

Hell yes, or no way. Eh?

It just doesn’t matter.

“It just doesn’t matter”

I went on vacation last week to a Caribbean island. It was glorious. While away, I managed to find time away from the beach to watch the awesome documentary “The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man.” If you haven’t seen it yet, hop to it. What you might learn, as I did, is “It just doesn’t matter” is more than a slogan or a bromide. It’s a bona fide life philosophy.

Like many, I’m a huge fan of Bill Murray’s work. In particular, the films Stripes, Lost in Translation and Groundhog Day have a special place in my heart. To this day, the line “Don’t call me Francis” makes me laugh. And Murray’s chemistry with Scarlett in Lost in Translation is not something you see on film every day. But it’s Groundhog Day that stays with me.

Say it with me… “It just doesn’t matter!”

Groundhog Day reminds me, every time I see it, to try to atone for my inability to stay present and mindful and to keep searching for the best version of me. To let that best version out of the cage and let him roam. To let him play (that’s a sort of reference to a different, non-Bill Murray movie, Bad News Bears.) Any way you cut it, despite my love for his films, I missed connecting the dots between the man, the actor, the roles and this remarkable, wonderful way of being.

Meanwhile, Murry continues to meander in the world, showing up in random places, and inserting himself into regular people’s days and moments. He is the apparent embodiment of being present and understanding how to embrace the “It just doesn’t matter” philosophy. And me? I wonder how in the world anyone can live this way.

After finishing the film, I’ve journaled nearly daily about the idea of “It just doesn’t matter.” Rooted in stoicism, the idea of impermanence has been a constant theme in my own journey. Despite the simplicity of the idea, I can’t quite work out how to do it on a regular basis. Sure, intellectually, I get that we’re all going to be dust one day anyway. And yet emotionally I can’t seem to get over the hump.

Frankly, I am still really struggling with practicing being present. I can do it in flashes, but I seem to fail the real world test, getting caught up in this issue or that, or living somewhere in my head. This despite nearly 3 years of regular meditation and a current 50+ day streak. I refuse to give up though. I’ve found the path, I just can’t seem to stay on it for very long.

Perhaps if like in the video, I simply start chanting “It just doesn’t matter” repeatedly, I can make some of my own movie magic. I don’t’ know, but it may be worth giving it a shot. We’ll see.

One last note. Like Bill Murray himself, this blog seems to show up when it wants to, unannounced, uninvited in my life. I had decided to shut it down a while ago but never got around to it and so it languished. My hosting company alerted me to a WordPress update and some PHP errors which I couldn’t let stand. And so as fate would have it, as I fixed the site I started to re-read some of my old posts. It felt comforting somehow. I guess Bill brought me back.

Cure imposter syndrome by ignoring it

Pushing Past Imposter Syndrome – What Makes You Think You Can Do That?

Like a lot of people, I suffer from imposter syndrome. It’s that thing where you feel like you are a total fraud and at any moment will be called out on the carpet and be humiliated, destroyed. Wrecked. It’s when you don’t even bother starting something because seriously, what the fuck makes you think you can do that anyway?

Warning: this post contains foul language.

Imposter Syndrome is Real

This is a very real condition. According to Wikipedia (I’m sure it’s fully sourced, I didn’t check but feel free), two out of five successful people consider themselves frauds and studies have shown that 70 percent of us feel like impostors at one time or another.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

It’s not for me to debate or argue one way or another for anyone but myself, but I can tell you that feeling like a fraud is something I struggle with each and every day. I feel it in my professional life, even when doing tasks that I’ve been doing for 10, 15 or 20 years. I feel it when I make a romantic gesture to my beloved. I feel it when I try to coach or mentor my children. I feel it when I try to draw something or write something. I feel it when  I cook. I feel it when I breathe. I feel it right now as write this post.

For illustrative purposes, here’s a screenplay version:

Fade in…

Middle age white dude on his couch. Josh Radin music playing on an Alexa device.

MY IMPOSTER SYNDROME

Dude, what the fuck. You are writing a blog post about imposter syndrome. Who are you to tell anyone about.. oh, wait.

ME

Hold up. I just wrote about how I feel like a fraud each and every day. Did you not read what I wrote?  If I don’t know about feeling like a fraud, I don’t know anything.

MY IMPOSTER SYNDROME

That’s what I’m saying. You don’t know anything.

Fade out…

I’ve written about this before in a post I called “Lying to Myself (or How this Blog is Total Bullshit)” where I made a compelling argument that I lie to myself regularly and how this blog is crap and you should not read it. I re-read the post just now and wow, it’s a masterful piece of imposter syndrome!

The good news is that once you understand that you are in the grips of the syndrome, you can start to do something about it. I’ve blogged a lot about meditation and being present, both of which are both effective tools to help fight fraudulent feelings.

Fight Imposter Syndrome by Ignoring It

What I’ve learned is that while there are a few things you can do about imposter syndrome, there is no cure. I say there is no cure, because I’ve become obsessed with listening to interviews with very successful people in all walks of life. And surprise, surprise, they often talk about imposter syndrome either directly or indirectly. They  talk about how even at the height of their success they sometimes feel like a fake.

It’s hard to believe that someone like Tom Hanks, who is clearly a master at his craft feel like a fraud. I mean, how many fucking accolades does one human being need before he doesn’t feel like a fraud?

And yet, read what he says. Despite having won two Academy Awards and appearing in more than 70 films and TV shows, Hanks says he still finds himself doubting his own abilities.

“It’s a high-wire act that we all walk”

So clearly, this imposter syndrome thing isn’t going away. Antibiotics can’t cure it, and neither will butter,.

One popular solution I’ve used over the years is the old “fake it til you make it” bit. Sometimes it does help get through times of self-doubt. But lately, faking it feels more and more trite and incomplete.

My latest antidote for imposter syndrome is similarly trite and definitely related to faking it. And yet, this new solution feels more robust somehow.

My new solution is that I choose to ignore feeling like a fraud. I literally ignore the feeling. Sometimes I even tell myself to fuck off. I think I’ll call it the Beginner’s Mind Antidote. If you aren’t familiar with Beginner’s Mind, it’s having an open attitude when learning something new – and even as a master or expert, looking at a thing as if you were still a beginner.

How to Apply the Beginner’s Mind Antidote to Imposter Syndrome

So I’m writing a novel. It’s a sci-fi sort of thing. I’ve never written one before. I doubt it’s good (oh, hello you fraud, you silly idiot. I bet your book sucks!). I’ve been working on it for almost 3 years. It’s in draft #3 and I’m about ready to share it with some close friends and family for the first time. I’m terrified. I’m clearly a fraud. Who do I think I am, writing a novel? A fraud, that’s who!

I doubt it’s good (I bet it sucks). I’ve been working on it for almost 3 years. It’s in draft #3 and I’m about ready to share it with close friends and family for the first time. I’m terrified because clearly, I’m a fraud. I mean, who the hell do I think I am, writing a novel? A fraud, that’s who!

My imposter syndrome flairs up every time I start to work on a  new chapter. It flares up every time I think about letting anyone read it. It flares up like a hemorrhoid when I see a book on a shelf. When I see a library. When I see words. Because I’m a fraud. A big old fake.

And yet.

And yet I’ve got 59,298 words that say otherwise. I’ve got characters with names, personalities, and problems to solve.  There is a plot, dialogue, and action. I’ve even got a title.

The only way I’ve been able to get this far is by ignoring that fucking horrible, stupid, annoying imposter syndrome. Because if you let it in, if you let it tell you you’re a fraud, you might listen. And then you’ve got problems. So instead, just ignore it.

Here’s how it works (for me).

I’m feeling good and my thoughts turn to something I want to do. It could be writing, working or anything really. Suddenly, I start to feel like a fraud and a total fake. It comes out of nowhere.  For example, when thinking about my novel, I’ll probably tell myself I’m not qualified to write a Pennysaver ad let alone a novel.

For example, when thinking about my novel, it will become abundantly clear that I have no business or skill to do such a thing. I’m not qualified to write a Pennysaver ad let alone a novel.

And then if I’m lucky, I remember my meditation practice and I take a breath. And in that breath, I decide. I decide to ignore that fucking motherfucker and start to write. It doesn’t work all the time. But when it does work I get a little get stronger, which makes it that much easier to ignore it the next time.

Your mileage may vary. Good luck, you can do it. You can do anything. We all can.

Reconnect, wake up

Waking up isn’t something that happens once

Sorry for the long delay between posts. I’ve been very focused on myself (I’m so selfish!) and have been diligently practicing being present, meditating and making mindful life decisions. Waking up is harder than I thought.

Waking up isn’t a singular event.

In my guided meditation practice (Tara Brach), something that comes up often is the idea that when you brain drifts into thoughts, all you need to do is “come back” and that act is in fact, “waking up.” What’s incredible about that is that it means that the act of waking up isn’t a singular, massive, black and white event.

Waking up isn’t binary.

Waking up is a constant battle. It’s a war that is waged in micro-moments, minute by minute. Day by day.

I journaled recently that “being present is a verb” and that it requires energy and focus. It’s not a natural act. For some it may be easier, but not for me. My natural tendency is to zone out, live in virtual reality, tune the world out and retreat into my own thoughts.

I think I see where I got off track. I had been looking to attain a sort of “god-like” presence, some moment in time when I can proclaim that I am “living in the moment!” And in that fantasy I would leave my present, unhappy existence and enter my dream world. A dream world where I get to sing and dance and skip off into the future a happy, fulfilled human being.

But it’s not like that at all.

Waking up is more like slogging through the Fire Swamp in the Princess Bride. It’s a step by step realization that I am either present or not. Awake or asleep. In control or on auto-pilot.

Waking up and being present is a battle, waged every second of every day – in every big and little moment of our lives.