To be better...
I want to be a better person.
I don't want to be lazy anymore.
I want to fully enjoy the ride that is life.
I feel that for the past few years I've sacrified the present for the future.
I can't just code, work, try new startup ideas and read business books every moment of every day. I need to work out, have fun, and explore to fully live. I hope, by reintroducing more fun and creative exploration in life, my goals will come together with less stress and more zen.
Identity and Actions
I've recently been deciding among my self identities, which ones I want to throw away and which ones I will be.
Everyone has an aspirational identity of who they want to become. The problem every New Years is that people setup New Year resolutions with the goal of learning something, losing something, or gaining something. They haven't resolved to be someone different, they've just decided to put some effort into trying something.
How many people decide to lose weight, and sign up for a gym membership for that dopamine hit? You go to the gym for a couple weeks, maybe lose a few pounds, and then you bring back the old habits and you go back to where you were before.
You can't trick yourself. Do the things that match who you decided to be. Or decide that that's not who you want to be.
Once you decide, stick to the identity and make it who you are, not something you try to change.
I don't drink. Not I'm trying to quit drinking.
I workout and I eat healthy. Not I'm trying to lose weight.
I am a coffee shop photographer and part time food critic. Not I'm trying enjoy this city.
I'm a world traveler. Not I'm trying to travel more.
I'm a standup comedian. Not I'm trying a standup comedy class.
The people I've met in my life I've been most suprised by, are those who are new to a hobby and identify themselves as someone serious about it. The new Chinese speaker whose Chinese vocabulary became 20X mine in 4 years. The kid who chose to be a Go player, and went from someone I beat easily to being in the top 10 in the US. The coworker I sat next to who decided to be an entrepreneur, and built a 150 person company three years later. The business guy who decided to be an engineer, and got an engineering salary higher than mine 4 months later.
The funny thing about doing the things according to a new identity, is that in a short time, you will actually become one of the people you originally aspired to be.
When you don't do things that match your identity, its like when you have a daily planner and don't complete your top priorities. You start to feel extremely motivated to stop writing in the planner when you realize you are writing down the same priorities for the third day straight. You are compelled as more time passes to choose to discard that identity.
Exploration as a tool to find your best self & a 5 minute AI (& life) lesson
At the risk of sounding nerdy, a lot of AI techniques are based off psychology and attempt to codify how human thinking works. If we take a look at these algorithms, which is a simplification of how we think we work, we can get some simple ideas on how to improve ourselves.
In certain branches of AI, there's a local maximum and an absolute maximum and a suboptimal AI model often gets stuck on in a local maximum.
What's the difference between reaching the local max and absolute max? Usually you need to add enough entropy (change) so that the algorithm gets past the hump and tries out maximizing the reward value (whether that is happiness, money, status or something else) in a new space.
Basically it comes down to — optimize for where you are at, but if your current life won't bring you to where you want to be, you need to explore and try making big changes in your life to find what makes you fulfilled. (And if you've reached a local maximum and you are satisfied, it's totally fine to stay there.)
How does this affect me?
I need to try more things in life and see where life takes me. I need to experiment with my lifestyle, my closely held beliefs, my hobbies, and my work.
Being deliberate about what I'm doing in a given moment
For someone who is a believer and employee of a startup built around the idea of experiencing life fully, it's quite strange that I haven't been living life in the moment for the past few years.
Did I agree to hangout with someone? Did I choose to do an activity? Then I should be fully present in the moment.
I am very guilty of my mind being elsewhere, even as I am on vacation. Only island beaches, I've thought about taxes, code, and worked while at a resort hotel. I've held conference calls and meetings on anniversaries. It's not all work related though, during meals with family, sometimes I'll go read in the bathroom or pull my grandpa's favorite tactic of going to read the newspaper in the bathroom.
Setting boundaries on what I'm doing in a given moment during my tests this month has really improved the quality of my journey through each day. It makes me feel more alive as I feel and remember the details of each experience rather than missing the details by thinking about the next mortgage payment or work assignment while walking through a museum or while taking a cooking class.
A big thing here though is also learning to say "No". If I can't commit to being present in the activity, I should refuse and work out the timing or plan so that I can be present. Consciously decide what I am going to spend my time doing.
It still bothers me when others are on their phone or not present in the moment as it makes me feel like checking out too by pulling out my phone or doing something else. But hey... you can't control what others do — only what you do in response.
Miracle Mornings & how constraints improve your life
Starting my mornings with a variation of the "Miracle Morning" by Hal Elrod has been amazing for me. Although I'm not waking up at 5AM, starting my day a few hours earlier and getting a couple important things done has done wonders for my outlook on each day.
The biggest benefit is actually not from the Miracle Morning concept itself but rather, a shift I had to make to be able to do the morning routine. The shift in mindset which has cascaded into multiple areas of my life is the idea that instead of staying up until I've finished everything I need to do, I've decided that I must sleep by midnight.
When you stay up to finish things, it's easy to procrastinate and think that you can keep going and add more things your plate. After not getting to a few items on my personal to-do list for few days in a row due to bedtime, you start to feel the effects of procratination and overcommitting. We all know to ruthlessly prioritize and to not-procrastinate hypothetically (I know I did), but when you are physically committed to a bedtime, you start to actually adapt and see your thinking change.
For example, there's been many times this month where I know if I don't exercise now, it's not going to happen. If I stay up an extra hour, my schedule tomorrow loses an hour. Committing to a deadline to go to sleep, gives you constraints in which you decide what you can and can't accomplish instead of allowing yourself to just think "Ah I can just do this later" since you think you can just stay up longer.
Believe me — this was tough for me, as since high school, I've had this strange notion that staying up gives you more time since I have to wake up anyways at the same time for school (now work). But deciding to choose my schedule provides a nice set of constraints for making decisions.
Working within the constraints of a bedtime, you naturally start planning out your time better and you realize, "if I don't do this at this time, I will literally not". I no longer overcommit myself as much, and I have a better sense of what I can and cannot accomplish within a day.
For the actual "Miracle Morning" routine
- I get ready in the morning and take care of my appearance, hydrate, and whip up coffee/breakfast
- Do several 5 minute routines that reinforce the identities I'd like to build. Eg. 20 pushups in the morning or a short 8 minute no-flow yoga routine just so I can mentally identify with being a person who exercises.
- Plan my day out with my highest priorities of what needs to get done. And if I anticipate not being able to finish, mitigating the anticipated problems (not great at this yet)
- Affirmations. This is where my thoughts around identity came from. It's pretty cheesy and I cringe when I do this, but basically you proclaim yourself as something everyday.
- Vision board + others suggested routines. I'm still figuring out how to work some other ideas into my routine in a way that's meaningful to me. I can't work them in, I'm ok with that.
I'm now better at actually finishing the things I plan to do. I stress less about what I didn't do because I actively decided what I will finish and won't finish and feel satisifed I did the best I could without burning myself out.
I'll write about what I've been up to in the next post as I have about a month of changes to reflect on (or 2 months depending on the specific change).
I thought I'd write down a quote so if I become lost once more, I can find my way again:
To find the meaning of life, enjoy the journey, the beauty of the nature, the glint of a dew drop, the warmth of the morning sun, the songs of the wind, and smiles of flowers. These are all there to make your journey worthwhile and make your life meaningful.