Tag Archives: self

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Everyone Functions Differently

  • I am the son of Chinese families. The first half of my childhood I lived in China, and the other half in the United States.
  • I am an introvert. I enjoy staying in more often than going out.
  • I am probably somewhere between an ectomorph and a mesomorph. It takes more effort to gain any muscle mass.
  • I care a lot about my health. I listen to my body, I eat as cleanly as I can, I make time for exercise, and I make sure I get enough sleep.
  • I am a visual person, definitely more so than verbal or auditory. I enjoy watching a movie more than reading a book or attending a concert.
  • I consider myself a mix of left- and right-brained. I love when things are organized, logical, and methodical, but I also enjoy being different, innovative, and expressive.
  • I probably have color-graphemic synesthesia, where I associate each number and letter to a color. For example, the letter E is solid brown, and the number 2 is a warm yellow.
  • I am fascinated by languages, their history and grammar. I’d love to learn and be fluent in as many as I can.
  • I am a man of science. It comforts me to have something I can absolutely depend on in life: the objective laws of physics and math.
  • I am fascinated by new technologies and I embrace it for how it can improve the world. I am still waiting for a mind-powered virtual assistant.
  • I save as much as I can for retirement. But I also make sure I can live happily now.
  • I am an optimist. I believe that living with a positive attitude has a higher chance of success and happiness.

The specific combination of these things (and more) make up who I am. One change would mean a slightly different approach to life, would lead to different decisions and consequences, and would therefore create a different person. There are a lot of combinations possible, and more than seven billions of them (unique ones) exist in the world.

Everyone has their story, their motivations, and their philosophies. They often do what they think is right for them, but it may be perceived by others as wrong. While the concept of right and wrong is a much larger philosophical discussion, the fact remains that everyone functions differently. The more of us who can understand and become conscious of this, the more peaceful, I believe, and less conflicts our world would get.

But then again, that’s only what I think; that’s how I function.

See

4, 10, 18, 21, 25, 28, 29

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The Serenity Prayer is For Everyone

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” –A version of the Serenity Prayer

I’m not religious, nor am I in AA, but I find this quote very valuable in my life.

Serenity

Before I discovered this quote, I thought I could do everything, and that I should do everything. I thought that I could make the world a better place if I solve everyone’s problems for them and give them advice before they had to ask. I thought that if I could dissect past incidents of rejections, failures, and embarrassment enough times and replay them in my head in different ways, I could suddenly find a nugget of validation that would turn the story around in my favor and vindicate me. I thought that if I was more skilled, more hard-working, with the proper tools and correct time estimates, I could always complete everything perfectly and on time.

But over time, I realized many things:

  • Because I know how to solve my problems better than other people do, other people would likewise know how to solve their problems better than I do. Therefore, it would be intrusive to get in other people’s business without them asking.
  • Until a time machine is invented, the past is permanent; whatever happened happened. I can either dwell on it and feel helpless, or learn from it and do better next time. And experience proves that doing the latter is more productive and more healthy.
  • Since 1) some things in life matter more to me than others, 2) some things require a higher standard of quality than others, and 3) the amount of time that I have left in life is less than the time it takes to do these things at the same high standard of quality, logic and math would prove that I simply cannot do it all. Therefore, I must choose and prioritize by what is important to me and what needs to be done well. Everything else, I will only give enough attention to get the job done to keep things going.

In addition to other people, the past, and limitations of everyday circumstances, I also realized that I cannot change biology and genetics, the weather (short term), laws of physics, time, and death.

Courage

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, the combination of becoming more independent as a young adult and soaking up all the empowering messages from successful people like Oprah led me to take more control of my life. From my mind to my body, I examined every part of my life that I could improve so I could increase my chances for success: my attitude (always try to find the positive in situations), my emotions (identity the root causes of my feelings and neutralize them if they’re hindering me or recreate them if they’re helping me), my health (eliminate as much processed foods as possible, isolate foods that upset my body, and make time for exercise), and my actions (be aware that I, and only I, always have the power to decide what I do next). In just a few years, all of these realizations physically and psychologically transformed my life.

I used to be very rigid and stubborn, but since it dawned on me that the only thing I can change and have control over is myself, I actually became more flexible and forgiving when responding to any external force in the universe, including and especially other people.

Wisdom

At the same time, I admit that there still remain parts of the stubbornness (or “determination” depending on how you want to put it) that makes me me. I’m still figuring out where to draw the line between things that I can and cannot change. My exercise routine, for example, has evolved over the years as I learned more about the science and techniques on fitness. But even with the best routine, how likely will I reach my goals? Are my goals aligned to what I’m physiologically capable of? Are their limitations to my body type and genetics that make it more difficult?

Also, I am aware that I cannot change time, but I still have the tendency to underestimate how much of it I need to get things done. I often have a backlog of things I wanted to complete, if only I had enough time. But whenever I do have a chunk of time to myself, I often procrastinate and put it off, especially if the tasks seem difficult. What sort of mental and behavioral changes do I need to make so I can feel like I am doing everything I’m supposed to without feeling behind? Should I improve my working habits to minimize procrastination? Should I make peace with the fact that many of my backlog items will forever stay in the backlog, and that I should drop them?

Finally, I still want to make an impact in the world by changing everyone’s lives for the better, but I want to avoid intruding into other people’s business. When I see someone having a difficult time, regardless that they’re a friend or stranger, I quickly think of ways to help them, or at least how I would like to be helped in that situation. But who am I to judge someone’s state of being or their story based on the few seconds that I’ve witnessed, even if it’s someone I know? I know there is a right time and a wrong time to offer help, but I’d like to be better at knowing when exactly that is. It depends on the person, as well; some people readily welcome help, while others are more sensitive to being perceived as weak or would prefer to figure things out on their own.

I suppose I could initiate a dialogue and begin a relationship with the person, get a better understanding of their situation, and then offer help as necessary. That is probably where I need to improve my interpersonal communication skills. Maybe then would I know how to tell the difference between people learning to be self-sufficient and people needing help.

See

6, 7, 8, 9, 17, 18, 21, 22, 24, 26.

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What I Do Reflects My Priorities

In my final quarter of college, I took a general exercise biology class taught by two professors. A lot of the material went over my head, but one of the things that I actually retained was the advice to make time to exercise. This simple tip actually shifted my thinking about exercise and goals in general that I eventually adapted it to apply to other areas of my life.

An A-ha Moment

The professors explained: we often tell ourselves or say in conversations that we should or want to exercise but we have yet to do it because we “don’t have time.” They argued, however, that instead of “having” time to do something, the problem is in “making” time; we don’t make time for it. We make time to watch TV or go out with friends, but we fail to make time to exercise, and yet we say or know that it’s important to us. If it’s really important to us, instead of just talking about it, we would find a way to make it happen. How we spend our time shows what’s important to us; what we do reflects our priorities.

Once I realized that, I became very conscious every time I started thinking and using the phrase, “I don’t have time.” Soon after, I stopped thinking that way altogether and shifted my energy to examine why I have yet to exercise and what’s holding me back. Even though it still took me a series of mental and physical hurdles to get back to the gym on a regular basis, knowing that my priorities control my behavior allowed me to start being more responsible for my life and make changes.

Applying the Mindset

When I first started regularly going to the gym, I would only go if I completed that workday’s tasks. On days when things at work ran a little long, I would still try to go to the gym a little later, but it would either delay the rest of my evening’s routine or shorten my workout session to stay on schedule. Either way, I would be bummed. And if I kept my regular gym schedule and put off work until after the gym or the next day, I would feel guilty for putting my personal goals before my work.

What I realized over time is that there will always be work to do, and most of it can wait until the following day, therefore I should head to the gym at my “mentally scheduled” time. Sticking to that schedule, I found, is important to me.

I also realized that exercise actually benefits my work. First, exercise is a great stress reliever. Second, I often come up with solutions to work problems at the gym, when I am away from the desk and my mind has a chance to take a break and get unstuck. Realizing this made it easier to justify sticking to my personal schedule at work and take time out of the day to work on myself. While work is important, I must place more value on my mental, physical, and spiritual health. “I don’t have time for exercise.” just says the opposite. The only acceptable solution in my mind is to make time.

Beyond Exercise

Using the same strategy, I have since been reevaluating everything I do in life. I removed habits that contribute little to my goals, and I added ones that are vital to them. For example, even though I’m a bit of a night owl and I get a surge of energy after I get home from work, I set a goal to go to bed earlier so I can get a full night’s sleep and help improve my body, mind, and spirit. Socially, I learned to be more selective with attending events and gatherings to achieve a better balance between developing valuable relationships and getting enough personal time for myself. At work, I customized my environment using software to help minimize distractions by receiving only notifications that I need and to work on my health at work with reminders to take regular breaks from the computer.

These habits will change and adapt in the future. They may be small adjustments or major overhauls, but the fundamental philosophy driving them will be the same: I will make time for things that are important to me.

See

5, 6, 17, 22, 23.