Negative Vizualization

I read a book recently called A Guide to the Good Life, which is a practical guide to Stoic philosophy. The entire point of the book is to give you tools and strategies for living a happier and more tranquil life. It introduced me to several techniques I’d never thought of and quickly became one of my all time favorite books.

 

My favorite technique from the book is called “negative visualization.” To explain the technique, I have to first give a little context.

 

It is human nature to always want more. More money, more food, more fun, etc. Consider the man who decides he wants a new car, an Accord. He thinks to himself that once he has that car, then he can be happy. So he works his ass off to earn enough money to buy the car. At first he’s ecstatic. After he’s had the car for about 6 months he starts to take the car for granted. He doesn’t appreciate it like he used to. It doesn’t go as fast as he thought it would, and the seats aren’t actually that comfortable. So what does he do? He decides he wants an Audi, and so the cycle continues.

 

You may not be able to relate to the car analogy, but I can almost guarantee every one reading this can see this phenomenon play out in their lives in one place or another.

 

Negative visualization is the practice of wanting what you already have.

 

Here’s how you do it:

 

Take the things that mean the most to you. Your mom, your husband, your kids, your career, etc.   Periodically, you should imagine your life without those things. Imagine your husband leaves you or passes away. Imagine you get fired. Etc. Imagine with as much detail as possible your life without these things you love most.

 

By doing this, and then realizing you still have those people and things, you can start to appreciate what we already have more.

 

The way I do this most often is while I journal. I use the 5 Minute Journal, and during the gratitude section is where I practice negative visualization.

The 1-10 Rule

Sometimes it amazes me how complex we are as human beings. The number of emotions we feel and the depths to those emotions is mind boggling. What I find most intriguing is that what you feel is entirely different than what I feel even if its in reference to the same thing or event. I might get frustrated when someone is late to a meeting where you might not think its that big of a deal.

How many times have you been annoyed, frustrated, or irritated by something and your partner (boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, lover) didn’t think it was that big of a deal? You thought in your head, “how can you not be mad about this?” “how can you be okay with this?” Their reaction to the issue at hand is not what you wanted, their level of attention does not match the magnitude in which the situation matters to you, and all of a sudden you’re in an argument.

We see our partners as extensions of ourselves and expect them to feel the exact same way we do but that’s just not the case. This is why I love the 1 – 10 rule. If you can quantify the level of feeling you are going through, the person you are talking to now has a frame of reference. The way this rule works is that when you are feeling something you need to literally verbalize the level, out of 10, that you are feeling it. I am 7/10 annoyed, I am 3/10 stressed, I am 9/10 jealous. It is important to be honest with your assessment so that the other person can learn which situations bring you closer to the breaking point and which don’t. If you have a hard time choosing an exact number out of 10, try starting with I am over 5 or under 5 [insert emotion here]. Michael and I use this for even the littlest things like hunger, and level of tiredness.

Now all of a sudden you can show exactly how much something matters to you or is affecting you. The other person in the situation will then have a better idea of the kind of reaction and attention you are looking for. Once you start putting this into action you’ll realize so much about each other. Something that is 9/10 for you could be 2/10 for them and that explains so much!

For example –

Michael loves to go with the flow, I on the other hand get excited about plans. Not that I like to plan things (I am not that organized) but when there is a plan in motion already (ex. we are going camping, seeing a movie) I get fired up in my head about it and think about how to time my day, what I’m going to wear, and anything else I think would add to the experience. Once in a while Michael will just completely change the plan last minute and let me know that it’s changed literally in the car on the way. This is 7/10 annoying for me and 1/10 annoying for him. Before we knew that about each other he just didn’t think it was that big of a deal so he would expect me to just go along with the plan and not need to talk about it where I would become upset thinking he was being inconsiderate of my feelings. From using the 1-10 rule I know that Michael will probably do this again because its not something he cares too much about but he also knows I might get upset because it really matters to me. Naturally, I will be more understanding when it happens, and he will be more apologetic and aware so it happens less frequently.

–       Start by telling your partner that you want to try this rule. Talk about it, get on the same page.

–       Begin quantifying things other than emotions – hunger, boredom, humour. Yes, it will be uncomfortable at first, laugh about it!

–       If you have a hard time picking an exact number use “I am over/under 5”

–       Start seeing your love grow deeper!

Do ONE Thing

There are a million different things you can do to become more self-aware, successful, peaceful, etc. Self- help shit.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel very motivated by something and want to do them all at the same time.

After talking to my buddy Chris Powell about building integrity with his clients that need to lose 200 lbs in a year, he suggests doing ONE thing at a time. Because what happens when you start doing all of them at the same time and then, because you are human, miss one thing on one day? If you’re like me and think in terms of black and white, all or nothing, you lose motivation and eventually quit.

So let’s just start with ONE thing. Pick one thing that you can stick to every single day. When you accomplish your goal of doing the same thing every single day, you start to build trust in yourself, or integrity with yourself. This is incredibly powerful. It builds confidence for you to start implementing more things in your life and to take bigger and bigger risks.

So rather than set ourselves up for failure, let’s do ONE thing at a time. What’s the one thing you want to implement in your life?

The Zentangle Method

Seated meditation has always been a struggle for me. I know countless people who have struggled to “see the point” and are immediately turned off the idea of meditation all together. To sit there, in silence, with my own thoughts racing, it is so easy for me to feel like it’s a waste of time or just fall asleep. Even though I know that is so far from the truth. I have read all about it, I understand the benefits, and I even see first hand through Michael daily. It still is so hard for me to motivate myself to get into the routine of meditating.

A couple weeks ago I decided I just wasn’t going to force it. I know deep down that one day I will want to practice seated meditation because I believe wholeheartedly in its benefits. The problem is that right now I am getting wrapped up in the frustrations that comes from feeling “bad” at it which defeats the purpose. Mindfulness is about acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. So I was on a mission to find something else to practice in the interim.

Recently I was hanging out with one of my good friends Jorden Woodworth (@jswould) who is an amazingly talented artist. He was using these pens called Micron and was teaching me some cool techniques. I went home and took to the trusty internet to buy myself a set when I stumbled upon The Zentangle Method. Zentangle is simple, structured patterns that almost anyone can use to create beautiful images. They are the kind of designs you can’t help but stare at.

The coolest part about this is that I get so excited to grab my sketchbook, pens, and focus on nothing but the designs I am creating. My heart rate slows, and I become completely present in that moment. It is by far the most satisfying experience I have found for myself to promote mindfulness to date. For me practicing The Zentangle Method increases my focus and creativity, fulfills my craving for artistic expression along with increasing my sense of personal well being.

I could probably draw all day, so I have found a system where I make sure I complete the 3 most important tasks for the day and reward myself with some drawing time!

Try it and let me know what you think!

Find more on The Zentangle Method here

Buy Micron Pens here

Here are a few of the Zentangle creations I have been working on. I usually go to Google and search in Images for “Simple drawing of (insert thing you want to draw here)” so I can copy the outline of something and then fill it in with my own tangles! Remember, you cannot make any mistakes and the cool think about tangles is the less perfect the better!

Zen4

Zen2

Zen1

 

Vulnerability 101

What blocks us from that deep human connection we are searching for whether it be in a new or existing relationship? Fear and shame.

What keeps us from starting to write the book we said we would start 8 years ago? Fear and shame.

What keeps us from quitting the job that we absolutely hate? Fear and shame.

Ask the girl/boy out?

Learn a new language?

Start a new training/diet program?

Finish or maintain a training/diet program?

You guessed it. The ultimate killer of our ultimate purpose, biggest goals, and deepest intimate relationships is FEAR AND SHAME.

We feel unworthy of the love of our companion and/or afraid they will leave us.

We have started and quit the book writing process 50x and no longer believe in ourselves to ever finish it. “It’s such a HUGE project, and I’m already so far behind the plan I set for myself. I’ll just never do it.”

“If I quit this job, I may never find another job. Even though I hate it, at least it’s safe.”

We are afraid of rejection so we ask people out that we think are “safe” choices, or we “wait for them to come to us” and are dissatisfied with the results.

We are afraid we don’t have what it takes to stick to learning a new language, so rather than attempt and fail, we just don’t do it at all.

We don’t start a new training or diet program for the same reasons we don’t start the book or any big new undertaking. We are afraid of failing and don’t trust ourselves to follow through.

We start new programs, do really well, and then self-destruct because we are still ashamed of ourselves. We tell ourselves things like “I don’t deserve this” and “I could never maintain this.” So instead we just give up.

The key to all of these problems, and something that we will talk A LOT about here, is vulnerability.

If you can relate to any of the examples above, even just one, check out this Ted Talk of Brene Brown to learn about the Power of Vulnerability. If you dig it and want to learn more, buy her book “Daring Greatly. We will reference it often.

Hello From the Other Side

Arguing in relationships is natural and I like to think of it as an opportunity for growth.  This is a moment where you get to learn about the other person and what they need to be happy.

Take a moment and think back to your most recent argument – what were you really arguing about? Was it that someone didn’t return your call fast enough? Your partner didn’t do the dishes? What is really going on? The root of the problem probably lies in one or both of you not feeling love and acceptance. Could be that you don’t feel love from them, someone else, or yourself. You can tell each other from now until tomorrow that you love them but neither of you can hear it – you’re not speaking the same language.

Two people come from different families, different backgrounds, and have lived separate lives where they have learned (differently than you) how to love and accept love – this is your love language. The moment we begin speaking in our own love languages we literally cannot understand each other. No one wants to hurt the other, you love each other, but there is a struggle to be understood.

There are very few (pretty much zero) situations in life where you absolutely cannot see the other person’s perspective. For so long I used to think of issues in my relationships as something they needed to change, something they had to work on, and then we would be happy. But if you put your ego aside and take the time to actually listen to what your partner is upset about you might realize they have a point. Whoever it is, they love you and are arguing because you matter to them, the things they are upset about are often rooted in our own ignorance, not spite, and self-reflection can help us see that.

This is one of the biggest lessons I have learned this year. Whenever I find myself in a fight with someone I love it is a practice to take a moment before I react and reflect on what part I am playing in the scenario. Take a deep breath (a.k.a Get Zen) and remember, no matter what you are telling yourself in your head, they love you and are arguing because they want to find a solution. This is a chance for you to learn how to speak their love language.

For example –

Michael and I have pretty much the same job. We spend a lot of our time focusing on work and physically working side by side. I like to talk about it a lot more than he does – a lot more. He wants to be excited about my job and all that I have going on but there have been many moments where I talk about something and he just brushes it off unenthusiastically. For so long this crushed me. I created this story in my head: “He doesn’t care about my work, he doesn’t love me and want me to be successful.” In reality I was just invading his space when he didn’t have room to hear me. I needed to respect that his head is full of his own projects, thoughts and worries.

After some self-reflection and help from our wonderful coach Annie Lalla I realized I had a huge role in that reaction. I would constantly blurt out things I wanted to say about work rather than ask Michael if he had the space or energy to listen. If I began the conversation with “Hey, I have something I want to share with you about work do you have a second?” he then has the opportunity to prepare himself or let me know if another time would be better (and he actually says no sometimes).  This is something I can control.  

Rather than trying to change someone else’s behaviour there is almost always something you can do yourself that will help lead to a different result. You can’t change them, but you can control your own behaviours which will in turn change theirs.

  • Take a deep breath and some time before you react
  • Really try and see the other side
  • Identify the role you played (even if you don’t agree with it)
  • React with kindness and love (that’s all they want to feel)
  • If you’re trying to win, you’ve already lost

The Zen Before the Juice

We train in a gym to train our bodies. We read books and take classes to train our intellect. What about our thoughts and emotions? The things that drive our entire lives… Most people don’t do anything until there is a serious psychological problem. Like me.

Two of my biggest passions are emotional development and training the mind. I am always searching and practicing how to experience more tranquility in my own head as well as love and connection in my relationships. I also want to increase my ability to focus and get into a state of flow. That’s why I meditate.

I’ve gone to Buddhist temples, Zen centers, and meditation circles for 8 years. In my experience, NOTHING trumps consistency. You can have the best tiny beanbag to sit on, a $300 gong, incense, etc. But if you don’t actually meditate, you don’t actually meditate. The best experiences for me have been consistently sitting down in a chair in my house. Nothing fancy.

I’ll go through periods where I meditate daily and periods where I’ll meditate weekly. This stuff is dose effective. The effect of training your mind is just like training your body. You get out of it what you put in.

Adee and I use this the term “lead domino” a lot. Something we got from Tim Ferris. A “lead domino” is something that affects everything else. One action that affects everything in your life. Training your mind, finding tranquility, etc. is the lead domino in life. Take care of that, and everything becomes easier. We become more efficient AND effective. That’s why we put the Zen before the juice.

I’ve got two recommendations:

  1. Download and use the app Headspace for 10 days or
  2. Listen to Sam Harris explain meditation and practice it on your own for 10 days.

If you hate it, you can have all of your daily stress back immediately.

NOW or NEVER

My best friend Bryce is one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet. Recovered heroin addict, recovered Mormon (just kidding relax), ultra marathoner, entrepreneur, yogi, world traveler. He’s a doer. He is willing to be vulnerable in order to learn and experience things fully. The fear of losing him recently has inspired me to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but have been too afraid of what people would think. You guessed it – start a fucking blog. It was literally as simple as saying WWBD or What Would Bryce Do?

I enjoy writing about uplifting things, about love, and about pushing outside of my/your comfort zone. I haven’t had a great place to do that, and have given myself so many excuses. One thing I’ve been reminded of through this experience with Bryce is that life is really, really short and that there is no better time to do the things we want to do than RIGHT NOW. Whether it be traveling, asking for a promotion, taking up dancing, or starting a blog, start doing them now.  There will rarely ever be a time when the stars align and it becomes easy, comfortable or convenient.  We have to get used to doing things when we are scared or uncomfortable and when they are inconvenient and hard.

I’m scared of what people will think of the words I write. I’m scared of what people will think of me for even starting a blog. “Who does he think he is?” I know that that feeling will probably always be there and may even get worse at some point. But those are just feelings. I know that fulfillment, excitement, and growth all happen when I’m at least a little bit afraid.

Fighting for People’s Comfort

In 2009, after I had been through over a year of different rehabs and AA meetings, I relapsed. It was worse than ever within the first day, and I was smoking crack and heroin within 12 hours.

After one week like this I was a few thousand dollars in debt, and my friend Zach that I’d avoided all week found me. I told him what had happened, and he told me he was going to turn me in to our treatment center and my parents. I literally cried and begged him not to because I didn’t want to disappoint them, and I absolutely didn’t want to stop. He looked at me and said, “I don’t give a fuck about your feelings. I just care about your life.”

Once he turned me in to everyone I got clean again quickly. It was still early enough on that I had the sense to quit and get back on track.   Had that friend been worried about me sobbing and keeping me from being “sad” I might still be using.

Today those words have a much different meaning to me. Our friend Annie articulated it better than I’ve ever heard. To paraphrase her she said “Rather than fighting for people’s comfort, fight for their excellence; fight for the highest version of themselves.”

What it means to me is that we should hold people to the highest standard possible. Support them in growing in every aspect of their lives.

To be totally cliché, since I’ve met Adee I feel like I’ve made as much or more personal growth as any point in my life. Yeah “she makes me a better person.” It has to do with that idea I just mentioned. She knows my biggest dreams and passions, and I’m clear with her about the man I want to be. So when I do things that are not in line with those dreams, or I’m NOT being the person I said I wanted to be she calls me out (in many different ways). She holds me to the highest standard possible. Some moments I absolutely hate it because it’s uncomfortable, but it’s always worth it.

I have two goals related to this that I highly recommend to anyone reading:

  1. Always hold people to the highest standard possible. If I see them “hiding out” from growth in one area of their life (physically, emotionally, career, etc), I make them aware of it and support them through it, even if it makes them mad at me or even hate me for some time.
  2. Surround myself with people that do that for me. Rather than just befriending people that make me “feel good,” spend a significant amount of time with ones that challenge me, argue with me and make me a better person.

Learn to embrace the discomfort. It’s just a sign of growth.