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November 2017

Developing Extraordinary Resilience

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By Leo Babauta

We’re all beset with difficulties, obstacles, pain, tiredness, and a thousand other setbacks, small and large.

What determines whether we take these setbacks in stride, or let them bring us down, is something that psychologists call “resilience.” It’s an ability to come back from setbacks, adapt, learn, but not be dragged down by these setbacks.

I’ve found resilience to be an important factor in my own journey, from struggling through finances and health changes over the years, to navigating the scary and uncertain waters of running my own business.

Resilience has allowed me to:

  • Run several marathons and an ultramarathon (among other physical challenges) despite injuries and other training setbacks.
  • Write numerous books and courses, even in the middle of personal challenges, fears, delays due to procrastination, and more.
  • Face challenges such as debt or declining income with a positive attitude, and deal with the challenges as they come.
  • Raise six kids (with perhaps a little help from my wife) no matter what difficulties they face, or what personal baggage I’m bringing as a father.
  • Deal with deaths in the family with an open heart, not only finding compassion for my own grief but helping my family members in the midst of theirs.

None of this is to brag, but it’s to show the power of simple resilience. I’m not greater than any other human, but resilience has helped me deal with these difficulties, as I’m sure it has for many of you.

It’s such a powerful thing, resilience … but how do you develop it? Because make no mistake: it’s a set of skills, a set of capacities, that can be developed over time. Some people might be born with greater tendencies toward resiliency, but we can all get better at it.

I’m going to offer a set of practices that you can work on, if you want to develop extraordinary resiliency. I hope you find them useful.

The Resiliency Practices

Whenever you face stress, difficulty, grief, pain, struggle, setbacks, failure, disappointment, frustration, anger, uncertainty (big ones or little ones, throughout the day) … see it as an opportunity to practice.

Here are some practices you can try:

  1. Notice what you’re not seeing. When you’re frustrated, disappointed, bored, etc. … it’s because you’re only seeing the lack. Or the “bad” side of things. That means you’re blinding yourself to the whole picture — in this moment of someone being rude to you, do you notice that they are in pain, that they have a tender and loving heart inside of them, that they are in fact a gift? Do you notice your own aliveness, the sunlight around you, the wonderful sounds of the day that surround you? In each moment, there are amazing things to notice, and when we’re focused only on the parts we don’t like, we’re stuck in tunnel vision, and therefore missing out on the greatness of life. What is the amazingness you’re not seeing?
  2. Tap into something bigger than yourself. As a father, it’s amazing what I’ll go through to help my kids. I’ll put myself through incredible discomfort, if it means protecting them, helping them somehow — and it doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice. Anyone who serves others knows this feeling: when you are doing something for others, the discomfort is just an afterthought. So when you’re facing difficulty, if you can connect your task to the something bigger than yourself, serving others and not just yourself … the diffiulty becomes much more insignificant. In this way, every difficulty can be seen as “no big deal.”
  3. Practice compassion (for yourself & others). When you’re in pain, just notice that. Wish yourself peace and happiness, as you would wish peace from the pain for a loved one. If someone in front of you is angry, irritated … wish them peace from the anger as well. Every difficult interaction is an opportunity to practice this key skill.
  4. See it as a part of growth. When you face a setback, it’s not the end of the road … it’s a part of it. No journey worth traveling is free of discomfort and setbacks. If we want to grow, we have to go through challenges. So each challenge you face — instead of thinking negatively about it, see the beauty of it being a part of your personal growth.
  5. Practice flexibility & adapting. Rigidity only brings about frustration. If we can learn to be flexible, and adapt to any changing situation, we’ll not only be happier, we’ll be more successful at whatever we’re trying to do. So when you’re in the middle of a challenging situation, ask yourself how you can practice being more flexible. When you’ve been hit with a failure, ask yourself how you can adapt and get better so that you’re more likely to succeed in the next attempt. See it as an opportunity to get better, to become more flexible in your thinking, to be ever-adaptable and never-extinguishable.
  6. Find the deliciousness, delight, joy. Every uncerain situation, every discomfort and difficulty … contains within it some kind of wonder, some kind of deliciousness, some kind of delight and joy. We just need to find it. Open our hearts up to it. Stop trying to reject it, and instead see it for the first time, as a small child might, and see the wonder that is this moment in life.
  7. See everything as a teacher. Every single thing that comes before you is your teacher. You can reject the lesson and see it as something you don’t want, or you can open your mind to it and figure out how this situation, this person, this setback, is your teacher. Which of the above lessons is it teaching you? Which of the above practices is it giving you a opportunity to get better at? Figure that out, and you’ve unlocked a chance to get better at resilience.

In each moment, you have a choice. Do you want to succumb to your difficulties, or wish they would all evaporate … or do you want to be made stronger by them, learn from them, open up to their brilliant lessons and delightful experiences?

In each moment, you have the opportunity to practice. It’s not easy. But it’s the path of resilience and love.

Gratitude to Overcome Boredom, Difficulties, Complaining, & Feeling Overwhelmed

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By Leo Babauta

As many give thanks for what’s in their lives this week, we might look at how to go deeper with gratitude.

“Gratitude” seems like a trite and even perhaps boring topic to many — we all know we should be grateful.

And yet, there are ways that we aren’t cultivating gratitude … and our lives could be much easier, even richer, if we did use gratitude in these deeper ways.

Let’s take a few examples.

Boredom

I was talking to a friend recently about how she doesn’t like to stay in stillness and quiet, because it feels boring. She realizes this probably isn’t good for her, as she often feels the need to move, to keep busy. And she’d like to learn to be more present, slow down at times.

The answer to boredom is gratitude.

Let’s think about a situation: you turn off your phone, get away from the computer, and go sit outside with no book, no device, no one to talk to, nothing to do.

You just sit there.

How useful is that? How interesting? How productive? You might answer “not at all” to these questions, and it might seem boring. But I believe that’s because we’re not 1) paying close enough attention, and 2) appreciating the gift of that moment.

If I’m sitting alone with nothing to do, I might have the urge to get up and go do something, or reach for my phone. But what if, instead, I could pay attention to how my body feels, the texture of my breath, the light all around me, the nature sitting right in front of my face, the sounds of the world busy in activity. The vibrant colors, the life that’s struggling to survive and thrive. The feeling of just being alive.

The closer I pay attention, the more I might realize what a gift this is. The more I might appreciate the preciousness of it all.

Gratitude trumps boredom, if we let it.

Difficulties

We usually think of difficulties as something we don’t like, and they cause us unhappiness: a difficult person we’re dealing with, the loss of a job, struggling with a health issue, losing a loved one.

And it’s true, these are not things we normally think of as “good.” I’m not claiming we should rejoice at having these problems.

But is there a way we can find gratitude for them, nonetheless? Is there a way to see them as a gift?

Gratitude can be found even in our struggles:

  1. When we’re dealing with a difficult person, we can be grateful for having other people in our lives, for being alive in the first place, for having someone to practice being in a relationship with (including coworker and family relationships), for having a way to practice being better at patience and communication. We can think of this person as our teacher, who is unwittingly helping us to get stronger and to grow as a person.
  2. If we lose our job, this can be very difficult … but we can also find gratitude that we had a job in the first place, even if only for awhile. We can be grateful that we have some savings and/or a network of family to help us (or perhaps we can lean on strangers to help). We can find gratitude for the opportunity to start afresh, to reinvent ourselves, to push into the discomfort of getting good at interviewing and learning new skills and starting a new career. We can find gratitude for the opportunity to grow, even in the midst of pain.
  3. Struggles with health are never fun, and can often be very painful and debilitating. I’m not claiming this is good. But perhaps the pain can be mediated by a sense of gratitude of being alive. Of having loved ones who might help us. Of being able to feel pain, perhaps of having hearing and sight and the ability to taste. We take these other things for granted because we’re focusing on the part we don’t like. We might even find gratitude for the chance to get good at meditating on pain, which is a powerful way to grow.
  4. Losing a loved one is painful, of course. But can we be grateful we had the gift of this person in our lives at all? My father, for example, was a real pain in the ass sometimes, but I’m so grateful to have had his inappropriate jokes, his passion for life, his art, his loving heart, his music, his smiling face, in my life. I got 40+ years of him, and that was an absolute gift. His death also reminds me not to take my other loved ones for granted, and each time I find gratitude for my other family members, and my good friends, and all of you … I have his death to thank for that.

Difficulties are not easy to find gratitude for … but they can become incredible paths of growth and learning, if we see the lesson in them. If we start to see everything as our teacher, especially the pain and struggle.

Complaining

Many of us have the mental habit of complaining — about a situation, about another person. We might not even realize we’re doing it, but everytime we feel a bit of resentment, this is a form of complaining. And it’s a good way to waste our lives.

Gratitude is the antidote for resentment, irritation, frustration and complaining.

Each time you notice yourself feeling resentment, or complaining, notice that you have a story in your head that’s causing the feeling of resentment. Notice that you’re letting this storyline fill your head. And then find a way to be grateful.

Drop the habit of resentment and complaining each time you notice it. Choose the gratitude habit instead. See what a difference it can make.

Feeling Overwhelmed

Many days we can feel stressed and overwhelmed, especially in the holiday season when we add social events, shopping, family gatherings, cooking and decorating to our already busy lives.

How can we deal with this feeling of overwhelm?

By being grateful for everything in our lives that’s overwhelming us. By cherishing each thing in our todo list, each person making a request by text or email, each event that’s stressing us out. Each of these is an absolute gift, and to be overwhelmed is to complain about these gifts. To find appreciation for each one of the gifts is to let go of the stress and to find the love in the chaos instead.

How to Form the Decisiveness Habit

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By Leo Babauta

I’ve had several people ask me lately about what they can do about indecisiveness, and it made me realize that this is actually something I’m pretty good at: being decisive.

Making decisions can be difficult, especially when there’s no clear choice. But being indecisive, when you’re at the cusp of one of these tough decisions, can come at high costs:

  • Not taking action can cost you an opportunity, or cost money and time as you delay.
  • People waiting on you to make a decision can get frustrated.
  • You can feel stress about your indecisiveness, and stress about how you’re making people wait.

People who are plagued with indecisiveness generally know they don’t want to be that way, so I won’t belabor the point. It’s not fun, and I feel compassion for those who have this difficulty.

So how can we form the habit of being decisive instead?

It’s about recognizing what’s going on when you’re stuck with a decision, as it’s happening. And then deciding to go with a new set of habits around your decision-making.

Recognizing What’s Going On

Why do we get stuck making decisions? It’s one of our mind’s most common habitual reactions around uncertainty.

Let’s say we have a choice to make, about hiring Contractor A or Contractor B. It can be very tough, because we honestly don’t know which one will perform better, is more trustworthy, or who might screw things up for us.

So we have a lot of uncertainty. Our minds don’t like this uncertainty, so there are some things we might do to get away from it:

  • Do a bunch of research. This is one of the most common things we do when we feel uncertainty. We do an online search, read all about it, try to gain more certainty by gaining more information. There’s nothing wrong with this — in fact, in this decision, it’s probably a good idea — but it’s still important to recognize that we’re trying to get more certainty because we’re feeling uncertainty. At the end, we might have more information, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty.
  • Write out a pros and cons list. Or a cost-benefits analysis. Or some other kind of rational decision-making tool. I’ve made spreadsheets where I list different factors/criteria, then give a score for each one, and weight the factors so I can come up with an overall score. It was great. I still had uncertainty. These tools are helpful, but just recognize that they are a way to get away from uncertainty, and at the end, you’ll still have uncertainty.
  • Ask a bunch of people about their opinion. Or read a bunch of reviews. Again, this is not a bad idea. Just recognize that at the end of the day, you’ll still have uncertainty.
  • Put off the decision. This is the classic response to uncertainty — get away from the uncertainty, don’t think about it, delay. This often comes after some of the above strategies. And it doesn’t get you away from the uncertainty, because it stays with you, giving you stress.

These are some of the common ways we habitually deal with the uncertainty of a decision. But none of them solve the problem for us (even if the first few can be helpful tactics).

We are uncertain about:

  • What the best choice might be
  • Whether there will be negative consequences of the choice
  • Whether we’ll look dumb to others if we make the wrong choice
  • Whether we’ll feel dumb, or ripped off, and regret it for years to come
  • Whether we’ll be OK if we make the wrong choice

This last bit is the real heart of the matter. There is no “right” choice, but we worry that if we make the wrong choice, things won’t be OK. We might dream up disaster scenarios, and then get a lot of anxiety about those possibilities. But the truth is, for most choices, we’ll be perfectly OK. Let’s talk about how we might see that, and what new set of habits might be more helpful.

Creating a New Set of Habits

As we saw in the last section, we can’t get rid of the uncertainty around making a decision. We can do everything we can to research, delay, come up with a decision-making system … and we’ll still be unsure of what choice we should make. We’ll still feel anxious about it.

So we might just learn to be OK with that uncertainty, and get into the habit of making decisive decisions.

Yes, there will likely be a cost to whatever choice we make. That’s true if we make no choice as well — that’s a choice, and it has costs. Over the long run, the cost of indecision is usually worse than the cost of making a wrong choice, because we stress out about the indecision for a long time. The stress doesn’t make the choice easier, it doesn’t make us happy, it affects our health, it affects our relationships.

Instead, let’s just make a decision, and move on. Let go of the stress about whether it’s the right choice (there’s no such thing) and instead deal with whatever consequences we face. And learn to trust that we’ll be OK.

Here’s a possible set of habits around decision-making that will lead to greater decisiveness:

  1. Recognize that you’re feeling uncertainty. As you start feeling your habitual indecisiveness, notice that you’re feeling uncertainty , and that you’re chomping at the bit to get away from it. You want to get some certainty, or failing that, put off making the decision. You’re feeling some stress from this as well. The earlier you can recognize this, the better.
  2. Deal with the uncertainty with curiosity. Once you notice you’re feeling uncertainty, drop from your head into your body — notice the physical sensations of uncertainty in your body. Where is it located, and what is the texture of the sensation? Often it’s a tightness in the chest. Stay with this feeling for a moment or two, not worrying about the decision you have to make, but instead being curious about the physical feeling. Does it change? Does it move? Is it unbearable, or can you stay with it for a bit? Can you relax around the physical feeling?
  3. Get the info & evaluate as best you can. Now that you realize the uncertainty isn’t something you need to run from, you can just make the best decision you’re able to make. That might mean doing some research, gathering information, even asking for others’ opinions if you have time. Don’t let this delay your decision, but a bit of information doesn’t hurt. Just don’t procrastinate by trying to gather every single bit of info you can. Sometimes it’s just 5 minutes of research, or a bit more for a bigger decision. Evaluate the costs and benefits — what are the possible costs of making the decision? Are the potential benefits worth it? In the worst-case scenario, is it the end of the world? Can you deal with these consequences? Again, don’t take forever evaluating all of this, just give these things some consideration. Again, it could just be 5 minutes of weighing risks and benefits.
  4. Just dive in. Instead of staying at the edge of the water, wringing your hands and fretting about the uncertainty — dive in! You’ve already given it enough thought — make the decision, and take action. Pull the trigger. Let loose the bowstring. Get in the habit of saying, “Enough thinking, time for action!”
  5. Don’t look back — deal with what comes up. Now that you’ve made the decision, get out of the habit of second-guessing yourself, worrying that you made the wrong decision. Just follow through with it, until you can see the consequences — both negative and positive. Cherish the positive consequences, and take the negative consequences in stride. It’s no big deal — you can deal with it. It’s like surfing: are you going to bemoan the fact that the wave didn’t break exactly as you’d hoped, or are you just going to flow with the wave?
  6. See that you’re OK. Whatever happens, ask yourself, “Am I OK?” The answer is almost invariably “Yes.” With time, you’ll see that this habit of decisiveness isn’t so bad, that things generally turn out OK, and letting go of the worry is actually a relief.

That might seem like a lot of steps, but actually it’s just recognizing the uncertainty, dropping into your body and staying with the feeling in curiosity, gathering info and making the best decision you can, and then taking action and dealing with what comes up. And seeing that in the end, everything is just fine.

How do you build the habit?

By keeping this habit at the forefront of your mind for a month. Noticing as often as you can when your old habit of indecisiveness comes up, and then putting this into action as best you can each time. Replace the old habit with the new one. With joy.

And in the end, notice that you’re moving faster, you’re learning to trust your gut, you’re becoming more trustworthy to yourself and to others, you’re learning that you can deal with whatever consequences come up. That’s worth putting in some extra effort to form this new habit.

Resting in the Open Nature of Life

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By Leo Babauta

So much of our days are filled with an underlying feeling of difficulty:

  • Procrastinating when things seem difficult or overwhelming
  • Distracting ourselves and doing small tasks
  • Feeling like we’re doing things wrong, and searching for the right answers
  • Trying to get things under control when they feel chaotic
  • Trying to comfort ourselves when we feel tired or stressed

And so many more examples, I can’t even list them all. Underneath most things we do is a feeling that we should be doing more, that we should be doing things differently, that we don’t want to be doing what we should be doing, that we’re failing in small ways.

It’s stress, worry, anxiety, frustration, dissatisfaction.

But it’s all unnecessary. We can come to rest in the basic, open nature of our lives.

Why We Feel Stress & Anxiety

The thing that we don’t like is that everything feels unstable. Everything feels uncertain, shifting, not solid. Everything feels unsettled. And this is completely true, and it makes us feel nervous, angry, dissatisfied. We don’t like the unsettled nature of life.

We want certainty, control, plans, a system. Order. Unfortunately, we don’t get that, because that’s not how life works.

Life is unsettled, always shifting, like the waters of the wide open ocean. And that is both scary and beautiful.

Scary because we want order and want to know how things are going to turn out, and we don’t get that, not even a little bit.

But beautiful because open waters are fluid, not fixed. Surprising, not boring. Completely undetermined, which means so much amazingness can emerge.

Coming to Rest

Life’s basic nature is to be open and fluid, like the blue sky. We can either try to box in the blue sky, or we can rest in its openness.

Imagine if you could learn to rest in the open, fluid nature of life — you’d no longer need to get everything under control. You could learn to trust in life, be less anxious or worried, find beauty in each open moment.

It’s possible, if you practice mindfulness.

Try this:

  1. Notice the sensations of this moment. Place your attention on the way your body feels. On the light and colors of the room. On sounds all around you. Without judgment, without needing to reject any particular sensation, just soak them in. Stay with these sensations for a few moments.
  2. Notice that life is open, fluid, shifting. Nothing stays the same. Nothing is fixed. We can try to create order by creating thoughts about things, a narrative, a mental construct about the reality around us. But in truth, life doesn’t need order. It is inherently shifting, open, dynamic. Just notice this fluid nature of all that surrounds you — and include yourself in that.
  3. Allow your mind to come to rest. If you don’t reject things, don’t cling to any one sensation, just allow sensations to come to you, one moment after another … you can actually just come to rest with the open nature of the sensations in this moment. Just rest in the vast openness of the moment.

It can take some practice, as it’s easy to have your mind be very active, or reject certain parts of the experience, or get caught up in a chain of thoughts. That’s OK. Just notice that happening, and think of this as a part of the experience. Just keep practicing.

If you do find yourself able to rest in the openness, this is something you can access at any time. Notice yourself feeling uncertainty, notice yourself getting worked up about the instability of life … and then come to rest in the open nature of the moment, finding trust in it. I wish you nothing less than the deliciousness of that experience.

How We Lose Sight of the Profound Awesomeness of Life

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By Leo Babauta

There are moments when we are able to soak in the incredible beauty of life, the preciousness of it, the awe-inspiring power of the world around us.

It is breath-taking, gorgeous, deeply moving.

But most of the time, we forget.

We move through our days like we’re in a daze, checking email and messages, saying hi to our fellow human beings without love in our hearts, jumping from one task to another, one distraction to another.

It’s like we’re in a dream, not fully aware of the life in front of us. Not fully awake to it’s immense beauty.

How do we lose sight of the awesomeness of what’s right in front of us?

It’s simple: we become acclimatized to our lives. Accustomed to our world. It becomes our “normal,” the background noise that we tune out.

When we see things every day — sunlight, trees, beautiful faces — we start to think we know it already. It’s normal, even boring. Nothing to be noted.

We walk by the deep blue flowers, the bright yellow leaves, the fresh green grass, the honeylike sunlight, and don’t even notice that it’s there.

We take for granted things that are truly magic: flying in a plane, the miracle of electricity, the instantaneous communication of the Internet, the unlimited knowledge at our fingertips, the loved ones in our life, chocolate.

We become accustomed, and then walk through life as in a dream.

This process of becoming acclimatized is normal. We all do it. As toddlers, we find wonder and delight in everyday things — have you ever seen a child chase after a bubble or butterfly, or laugh in delight at a bouncing ball? Then we get used to it, and ignore it all in favor of our phones.

I’m not criticizing any of us — we all do it, and it’s natural. But it’s good to know that we’re taking our world for granted. And then take actions to reverse it when we can.

Here’s how:

  • Develop a practice of looking all around you with childlike eyes, seeing everything afresh, as if you’ve never seen it before. See the wonder in the everyday.
  • Look around you, several times a day, and find small things that you’re grateful you have in your life. A cereal bowl to hold your oats and berries. A podcast. A window that gives you a beautiful view.
  • Try to look at one person a day as if they were the most beautiful being on Earth. As if they were worthy of your love, of looking into their soul and understanding the depths of their being. As if they have a gift to offer the world, and your gift is to witness it. As if they have a tender heart that wants to be loved, as if they have pain worthy of your compassion.

Open your heart to the world around you, and behold its truly magnificent nature. We have been given a powerful gift, of being alive and witnessing this world. Let’s not forget it.

Zen Productivity: SF, LA, San Diego

Hey guys, I have a few spots left in my San Francisco workshop this weekend, as well as for L.A. and San Diego next month.

I would love to have you come and work with me.

Zen Productivity Workshops

I just did my first one in NYC this past weekend, with a group of fantastic human beings. It was life-changing, for me. I really look forward to having my life changed by all of you. Come play with me.

The Key Mental Habit of Simplicity

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By Leo Babauta

I’ve written a lot about simplifying your life, from the philosophy behind it to the tactical steps to getting to simplicity.

But the true key isn’t in the steps, it’s in our mental habits.

For example, I could get rid of my physical clutter and simplify my day so that I have more space in my life … but until I address the mental habits that got me to a cluttered life, it will just keep coming back.

So here’s what I’ve learned is the key mental habit of simplicity: noticing the mind’s tendency to want more, and don’t believe it.

The mind always wants more. And at the same time, it wants less — there’s a polarity in the mind that craves simplicity and craves more.

Why does the mind want both? The mind wants more because it thinks that more will make it happy, it sees possibility in acquiring more, and it thinks that acquiring things will help relieve the uncertainty it feels.

The mind wants less when it is feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and just wants relief from that difficult feeling. It thinks that if it gets rid of stuff, there will be peace.

Both are wrong, but they come from a good-hearted place.

Why the Desire for More, & Less, are Both Wrong

The desire for more is wrong because, as we’ve all seen, you can get a bump of joy when you receive your new package in the mail … but it doesn’t even last a day, usually. Certainly not a few days. That dopamine hit of acquiring more is very temporary … and it doesn’t make us happier over the long term. It doesn’t actually give us what we’re hoping for in life, nor does it relieve any uncertainty.

Think about it:

  • If you are worried about an upcoming trip, you’ll research the destination, buy some new clothes or equipment to help you feel more prepared, make plans and have everything set in place. The uncertainty doesn’t go away, you’ve just kept yourself busy trying to get control as a way of coping with the stress of uncertainty.
  • You got into a new hobby, excited by the awesome possibilities of it. Of course you had to buy more things to enable the hobby, but that’s OK, because it’s going to give you this amazing new life, right? Actually, your life might change, but it won’t ever be what you were fantasizing about. Your mind just tricks you.
  • You got that beautiful new (outfit, bag, gadget, tool, whatever) and you think, “Oh, isn’t life grand?” But then your life returns to normal, and it’s not any better, except now you’re a little poorer and you have a cool new thing in it to clutter up your space.

So when the mind wants more, it is simply trying to find happiness or relief from stress. Neither actually results from having more, but that doesn’t stop the mind from trying.

On the other hand, the mind’s desire for less is just a desire for peace. And that’s not a bad thing. You get some peace, I think, when you reduce your possessions or commitments. Creating space is nice. But in the end, your mind still will find something to complain about — if it’s not having too many things, or too much to do, it will be boredom or tiredness or irritating people who have too much clutter in their lives.

The key is to change the mental habits.

Changing the Mental Habits

Changing mental habits is pretty tough (though we do show you how in my Habit Mastery Course, check it out!). You have to be hyper aware of your thoughts in order to change them.

Still, none of us ever let a tough challenge stop us from taking action, right?

The process is simple:

  • develop awareness of your mental habits over time
  • see what their harmful effects might be
  • stop believing the thoughts
  • make a loving effort to change them
  • and don’t expect perfection

So with the mental habit of wanting more, you might just notice when you’re online and researching something new to buy, or on Amazon or another shopping site ready to hit the “order” button. This is a good signal that your mind is wanting more in order to become happier and/or relieve uncertainty.

When you notice this, ask yourself (with credit to Byron Katie):

  1. What do I believe I’ll get if I buy this? More happiness? Less uncertainty?
  2. Is that belief true?
  3. What effect does it have on me? Is it helpful to believe this, or harmful?
  4. What would I be like if I didn’t believe it?

So if I’m trying to buy some new travel gear, I might notice that I believe it will give me less uncertainty to get this gear. When I ask if it’s true, I will answer, “No, I know from experience that it isn’t true. I’ll still feel uncertainty.”

I’ll also notice that this belief is harmful, because it’s filling my life with more stuff and emptying my bank account, and it’s certainly not helpful.

What would I be like if I didn’t believe it? I would be less intent on acquiring, more able to open up to my uncertainty and find peace by not needing to relieve it.

So I try to change it by saying to myself:

  • You don’t need this new gear
  • You know it won’t relieve your uncertainty
  • Opening to your uncertainty with a loving heart is the way to go

Then I try to fully feel the uncertainty, loving it as much as I love chocolate or laughter, and feel the awesome beauty of life in the midst of the uncertainty.

This is how we can change our mental habits. With awareness, with honesty, with an open heart, and with appreciation for the immense joy of life in the midst of chaos.

In Love with the Heartbreaking Beauty of the Discomfort

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By Leo Babauta

With my body in pain, I looked up at the sunlight and kept my heart open.

And I took in the heartbreaking beauty of life.

I witnessed it, and found it to be miraculous, pain and struggle and discomfort and all. It wasn’t beautiful in spite of the pain — the pain was a part of its total beauty. The struggle and discomfort itself was heart-renderingly gorgeous, as was everything else in the moment.

This weekend I took part in a workshop on relationships and intimacy called the Art of Fearless Intimacy, by John Wineland and Kendra Cunov. There’s a lot I could write about the weekend, which was life-changing, but I want to speak to just one moment.

The moment:

I was in a standing pose, doing about a quarter squat, with my arms raised in the air. For what seemed like an eternity.

I was looking deeply into another man’s eyes, a complete stranger, and also a brother and fellow warrior. We held each other’s eyes, and matched each other’s breath, for more than half an hour.

We came to be in deep discomfort, holding ourselves in stillness in that pose. My shoulders ached, screamed for mercy, wanted nothing more or less than rest from the work. My mind wanted to get away from the discomfort.

And in this moment, I could see my mental habit: reject discomfort and pain, shut it down, get away from it, find peace from it. This is a pattern that has held me in sway since boyhood.

In this moment, I found a place where I was devoted to this brother, and wouldn’t let him down. I wanted to show him, through my gaze, my deepest soul, my devotion to those I loved, my fierce heart ready to go to battle for him, for my family, for all of you.

In this moment, I soaked in the beauty of the light around us, the sound of other men roaring, the beauty of this fellow soul right in front of me, showing me his courage.

In this moment, I fell in love with all of it.

With life, in its total grandeur.

With pain and discomfort, as part of the divinity and magic of that moment.

With my own heart, which I often shut down in fear. No longer would I allow myself to shut down. I kept it open, and saw the absolute pristineness of my glorious heart.

I fell in love with life, and had my heart broken. And I loved the pain of that heartbreak, completely.

Thank you to my brother who held me in that space. Thank you to John and Kendra, who led me there.

And thank you to my wife, my kids, my other loved ones, and all of you, who give me a powerful reason to keep my heart open to the heartbreaking awe-inspiring discomfort of being alive.

Simplifying Your Digital Life

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By Leo Babauta

It’s a simple fact of our modern lives that we live, play, learn and connect online. But our digital lives can become overwhelming, distracting, addicting.

With so much complexity and distraction, how do we find focus? How do we live with mindfulness?

How do we find stillness, simplicity, quiet?

The answer lies in simplifying our digital lives.

When I asked you guys on Twitter about what you’d like to simplify, you responded with problems like:

  • Information overload
    • Too many apps/social media
    • Too many WhatsApp groups
    • The need to work online, but wanting to sever the digital connection
    • Too much email
    • Saving things “just in case”
    • Part of me wants to be disconnected, the other part wants to connect
    • Wanting disconnected hours
    • Wangint less usage, more time for people that matter
    • Saving too many digital reading material, falling behind & feeling overwhelmed
    • Having too much online data, too many identities
    • Having to use social network or chat apps to conenct to teams, and being constantly distracted
    • Not being sure about the best way to store photos, digital memories, passwords
    • Needing to check Twitter/Facebook (FOMO)
    • Hating email

Do any of these sound familiar?

I’ve decided to create a new course, called Simplifying Your Digital Life, for my Sea Change Program this month.

In this course, we’ll look at 5 principles for creating a simpler online life, and how to set up simple systems for keeping things under control.

Here are the lessons:

  1. Five Principles for a Simple Digital Life
  2. Creating Organized Digital Systems
  3. A Method for Processing Your Inbox
  4. Getting Todos Under Control
  5. Social Media & Online Reading, Simplified
  6. A Minimalist Computer & Phone
  7. Photos & Digitizing Memories
  8. Security & Backups, Simplified

I’m really excited to work on this with you guys!

I’ll be publishing two video lessons a week (starting today), doing a live video webinar on Nov. 17, and offering a challenge to work on one area of your digital life at a time as we work through the month.

Join Sea Change today to start the course.