The Beans of Overanalysis

My psychologist tells me I tend to overanalyze things. She is not the first loved-one to do this.

I finally asked her, “Do you mean compared to other people?”

“Well, yes.”

This surprised me. What do others do during the quiet stretches of mental solitude? What do people talk about?

Years ago I might have taken Carole’s comment as a badge of honor, but not anymore.

Overanalyzing doesn’t lead to answers, it leads to the illusion of answers. It’s like stirring a pot of beans and expecting them to become something other than beans. They only become more mushy.

Analysis has it’s benefits. It gives us space and time to empathize, strategize, and creativit-ize.

But analysis is also an excuse for inertia. Analyze instead of act.

Or a way to feel an [often false] sense of control over current situations or outcomes that don’t yet exist and may never come to be.


I forgot to write a blog post last week. Since October, I’ve written at least one weekly, but suddenly–poof— the habit disappeared. Realizing this, I began to catastrophize:

“What’s going on with me? How could I forget? Where is my mind? Do I still care? Am I losing heart? Am I letting love distract me too much? Am I weak? Emotionally detached? Hiding from myself?”

These thoughts have been visiting me now for five days. I finally sat down to write about it, and lookie here, I’m writing a post. I’m not coming apart at the seams.

Failing to do something I love didn’t mean I don’t love it anymore.

In fact, maybe last week’s issue was that my family was visiting while I was simultaneously preparing for an open-ended trip to Asia and Africa that would last at least two months.

Maybe it was just that.

Analysis often has little to do with the plans life actually has in store. But the living continues.

I’m going to just try to live.

meggan feeding a monkey in bali


On that note, what do you think about most of the time? I have a feeling a lot of my readers are fellow over-analyzers. But what else? How do you deal? Leave a comment!

 

photocred: photopin.com & my friend in Bali

Now, When All the Moments are for You

You didn’t make the wrong decision.

There is no wrong decision.

It doesn’t exist behind you, nor in the minds of yourself or others. It doesn’t exist anywhere.

There was never any outcome with judgment attached to it. There was just an outcome. That’s all.

We exist rather negligibly in a gargantuan universe. Applying a subjective human judgment system to the outcomes we think we’ve created is a bit…grandiose.

Every moment leading to now has simply been a stepping stone. Every moment has served one singular purpose: to get you to now, and now, and (wait for it)…now.

Lucky for you, the now decisions are the only ones that matter. Not because they will procure “good” or “bad” results, but because with every “now” moment, you are given a choice to start over: move toward fulfillment or move away from it.

It sounds simple—painfully so. Shouldn’t life be more difficult? More complex and exacting?

a river with stepping stones

So the question is this:

Is now moving you toward where you want to be?

Not where you want to be in ten years or forty, but where you want to be in the next moment. We’re not living for a future life. We’re living for this life. Now.

Do you feel the nudge of instinct pushing you toward fulfillment? Do you follow?

Or—

Are you going through the motions? Letting a blueprint embossed upon your brain from schooling, culture, and/or familial norms make the decisions for you?

It’s not about knowing where the stepping stones lead—we can’t know.

It’s about enjoying what’s under your feet.

Now.

 


 

I write something like this to myself because I need to remember how I can’t control everything. My decisions are only decisions; when I look back at all the times I think I’ve screwed up or gotten it right, it all just seems to equal out.

It all has gotten me to here. “Here” is a place I enjoy…but I’d enjoy it more if I could stop worrying about whether or not I’m doing the right thing.

Here’s to now, at any rate!

I’d love to hear from you—leave a comment or subscribe to follow!

What Are You When You Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Don’t answer that.

You can spend a lifetime chasing after that question. Landing on something, asking if it’s right…wondering if you’ve made a mistake. Deciding to wait, stay, or try something else.

The five-year-old son of a friend came home the other day distressed.

My friend said, “What’s wrong?”

The crestfallen child admitted, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”

As kids and teenagers, we hear things like:

You’re so great at that—you should be a [salesman, pilot, singer, investor, etc.] when you grow up!

The implicit message is that we should strive to make a living off what we’re good at. But we humans can be good at a lot of things. And there are a lot of things to be good at.

It’s easy to be good, less easy to be fulfilled.

kid hiding behind a gate

When we commit to certain paths, we are committing to eschew infinite others.

Most of us don’t get a good idea of who we are until we’re at least into our twenties. But beliefs we have about ourselves often take shape before then. The decisions we’ve made based on those early-formed beliefs should be inspected often to see if they still hold true.

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, sung by Baz Luhrmann in Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

In my youth, I was told I should pursue singing because I was a good singer. This advice lodged itself in my mind as truth, probably because adults were saying it. For years I half-heartedly pursued music thinking I was “supposed” to make use of the gift.

Since I’d been told I was great on stage, I also gave acting a try. I’m great at talking about food, so I was a foodie for a few years.

I finally accepted I just didn’t love those things enough. I liked them, but not enough. I would still be doing one of them if so.

Nobody ever told me I should be a writer and I never thought it was possible. Eventually, I reconsidered–I was lucky. Most people think it’s too late to pivot when they’re 30. Many people think it’s too late when they’re 20.

It’s never too late.

man in middle of four diverging paths

Angela Duckworth advises not to ask “What do I want to be when I grow up?” but instead, “In what way do I wish the world were different? What problem can I help solve?”

Essentially: “How can I be of service?” But that’s missing something. The question should be:

How can I be of service while enjoying myself?

Life is too short not to enjoy the way you spend time. More importantly, if you don’t enjoy yourself, you’re probably not being very useful.

I’m not being kumbaya, it’s true: being of service will make you feel good. It makes us feel valuable, powerful, and useful. It gives meaning to our actions; we all know how empty it feels to spend hours (or lifetimes) on something where the end goal is profit.

Think of life as a bank that deals in good and bad feelings. You are the investor and the currency. When you contribute to good, you are part of the resulting growth, and you feel bigger. When you take away from good, you are part of the loss, and you feel smaller.

Or maybe you sit in limbo adding and taking nothing. Maybe that’s worse.

Aim to be a net-addition. You don’t have to save the earth. You don’t have to rescue orphans. I’ve never felt so valuable as when someone says “thank you for writing that.”

There is no when you grow up. You are what you are right now.

Is it worth it?

two paths in a forest pivot to take one

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What did you want to be when you grew up? Did it change? Did you stick with it? How do you feel now?

Leave a comment!

photocred:photopin.com

Big Goals and Nesting Dolls

The past month hasn’t felt very productive.

How can I write about creativity or goals if I’m not doing things? 

In an attempt to inspect that feeling, I made a list:

When did the non-productivity begin?

-Launched Indiegogo campaign for my book (early May)

-Got stuck in LA dealing with life-logistics for a few days

-Met a man (as promised, it wasn’t through dating; rather, it crept up on me like the best kind of unpreventable, lasting cold)

-Literally got stuck in LA and took an all-night, brain-draining train to Santa Fe after missed flights. (mid-May)

-Went to a week-long writing workshop with Natalie Goldberg and Bill Addison in Santa Fe. I loved Bill! (late-May)

-Helped the Workshop create a promotional video

-Went across the world to visit “the man” (early June)

-Flew back to LA (now)

 

Two things jump out at me here:

1. Travel seems to lose me around six productivity days per round trip. I’m mentally scattered the day before and after, and generally distracted with movement on the actual day.

I’ve made two trips, so that’s 12 days. With more discipline, it probably could have been closer to four. People with “real” jobs do this all the time out of necessity. Ugh!

2. Since I’m a vagabond without fixed scheduling, I often rationalize reasons not to work on big goals

(brain too groggy->wouldn’t be effective->more optimal to work on minor/easier goals instead).

Rationalizing enables me to put off more difficult things that actually matter to me long-term in order to accomplish the simpler things that only matter short-term. What’s left in the end?

I assure you it’s not long-term satisfaction.

looking up a tree through branches from ground up

Yes, I would prefer a life where I had all the necessary resources to work only on my big goals. The rest of my mental energy would go to reading, cooking, relationship maintenance, and fitness.

A current meaningful goal is to get my book published, but since I don’t have all the resources I need, I do things like launch funding campaigns. Campaigns take effort and check-ins along the way, little minor maintenance “goals” on the to-do list that don’t feel important.

 

We can’t get to the top of a tree by jumping.

 

We have to climb. To deal with scratchy branches, unstable footing, secret spiderwebs.

I have to stop bemoaning the routes I choose to take. It’s like resenting an orange for having a peel.

Big goals have little “must-do” goals nestled within. It’s a nesting doll; there’s a system at play.

My resistance toward the little guys also causes me not to register when they’ve been accomplished. Some days I do no direct work on my favorite projects; then, I’m angry at myself and angry at the tasks and errands I did get done.

I’d like to try to be more accepting of my minor must-do goals. To count them wholeheartedly as valid steps toward ideal goals. I’m not going to draw causal relationships, I’m just going to accept the day’s to-do list and aim to give myself kudos over resentment.

All that being said, I still plan on reinstating a fixed study/work schedule.

…But attempting to welcome [valid] distractions along the way.

russian nesting dolls to represent goals

If you relate, leave a comment—it means the world!

photocred:photopin.com

 

All Those Natural Colors Between Black and White

One of my favorite minds is that of Derek Sivers.

He has a way of cutting to the heart-center of things, making a point in the most concise manner imaginable.

If you’ve been following this blog, you may realize this is not my style. I’d love it if it were (at least more so), but wonder if the way we write is simply one of those things like handwriting; it is changeable, but is the changed thing really ours?

Derek’s writing inspires me—I’ve never seen someone with such a knack for both creating and distilling brilliant ideas and philosophy.

In my most recent post, I didn’t feel like I hit the mark in expressing what I was trying to say. I reached out to him for advice on how he would have done it.

The Sivers rework, of course, is amazing. I wish someone would write a computer program for an automatic Derek-Distillation-izer.

I’m going to refrain from saying it’s “better,” because what is better or worse when it comes to expressing thoughts? What it is, though, is a way of reframing the words so many more readers can connect with them.

Derek has a huge following primarily due to the inspiring way he thinks, but also because he is able to relate his thoughts to nearly anybody. My writing, with its flowery words and drifting thoughts, is probably more suited to a smaller audience (which I love very dearly).

I write for me, at any rate, and I can’t explain the delight I feel when you tell me you relate.

So, without further ado and with Derek’s permission, I am posting below his rework of Continuum: What Do We Say When Things Are Okay?

All Those Natural Colors Between Black and White

by Derek Sivers

 

We tend to think in black-or-white: putting all actions, things, or thoughts into a binary good-or-bad category.

It simplifies. It helps make quick decisions, though not good decisions.  It over-simplifies.

It starts in school, when we’re praised for doing good or bad, passing or failing, praise or condemnation.

It continues in the working world, where the only time we hear feedback on our work is when we do extremely well or badly.

But what about all those times when we’re just chugging along, doing our work, doing okay?

And forget work, what about relationships?  Are we often over-simplifying our friendships and romances into “it’s going great” or “it’s not going great, therefore it’s going bad”!

But life is a continuum.  All of the wonderful colors of the world exist in that spectrum between black and white.

If you notice your natural thoughts, they’re all over the place, nuanced, conflicting and co-existing, without needing to be pushed into a good or bad box.

When we leave the school and corporate world and become self-directed, we need to deliberately stop the black-or-white tendency.

If our work is making progress, but not finished yet, we don’t need to kick ourselves.  If our relationships are normal and healthy, we we don’t need to create drama that pushes it into good or bad.

We need to be okay with things being okay, and enjoy all those natural colors between black and white.

ripples on water continuum


I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment!

And if you don’t know who Derek is, do yourself a favor and check out more of his writing.

photocred:photopin.com

 

Can We Master Anything?

We write and we believe through the act of writing we are being honest.

The paper, to the pen, to the hand, the arm, the head, the brain.

A straight line. Connected. Mind to output.

But there are no straight lines in this floating space of existence.

No full clarity, no open view of ourself. Not through anything, and not through writing.

Still, with whatever concept of mind we do have, we do our best to create, and that’s the best we can do.

I want to tell you that we can only write and write and in the practice of writing hope to distract ourselves from ourselves and therein discover some form of truth. The salamander caught lounging under a rock.

The repetition of writing brings us to ourselves. It is not the connection of pen, paper, mind, but the meditation, the recurrence of the act which takes us out of our mind to a place not quite within our own boundaries.

Why do we write? Because in the habit of doing so, the writingitself an entity unearthed—begins to take over.

When we learn something new—horseback riding, let’s say—all thoughts must be about technique, procedure, maintaining one’s fears, ensuring the safety of both one’s self and the horse…

With enough practice and repetition comes an intuitive ability to ride that transcends any outline of the idea of what learning horseback riding once meant to you.

Then, it was you on a horse. Two disparate beings learning to cooperate enough that an enjoyable experience could be had.

horseback riding saddle art

One might even say that your focus was centered on control. Control + discipline = mastery.

Yet somehow it happens that the idea of control mixes with the art of riding and begins morphing into an occurrence of symbiosis.

A point is reached (with the right kind of practice) where the horse understands your desires not with reins or clicks or one-word-utterances, but with seeming intuition. It senses your gaze or feels the vague pressure of your inner thigh against its broadly ribbed stomach.

Now you’ve reached a place far beyond the idea of mastering the art of horseback riding; instead you’ve arrived to the place where the art of horseback riding has mastered you.

Think of an art or skill you’ve mastered.

Is it you who really feels so powerful over it, or have you relinquished yourself to a holistic understanding, one that enables you—not itto be overcome?

A professional basketballer is not thinking consciously during the game; he is in a state of flow. 

In the flow state, mental chatter, sense of time, doubts, distractions, and anything outside the utterly-present moment all fall to the wayside. The created spirit of years of effort takes control, and conscious thinking becomes unnecessary.

A chessmaster, though years have been spent practicing moves and variations, does not win a set of 40 simultaneously-played games by meticulously analyzing each move to be made; instead, he lets his long-earned knowledge overtake him, dunking him into a state of flow.  

Though effort was made to nurture the knowledge, the work, in truth, was only to turn oneself into fertile grounds from which the skill itself could grow strong enough to stand on two feet.

We write not to master writing, but to feed the fledgling art within us. Only when strong enough can it allow us to relinquish, if only briefly, the misplaced duty we’ve placed upon ourselves to remain conscious and in-control.

We cannot master an art, we can only hope that it is able to master us.

 


Want to know more about this flow business? Watch Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Ted talk on the state of flow, and maybe even find out the answer to “What makes a life worth living?”

 

 

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photocred: photopin.com