May – Daily Meditation

Recently, I had this really original idea that I absolutely wanted to share with you:

How about I try something new for a month? How about I call it a 30-day experiment?

Now, I know that your first reaction to this might be “oh god, another one of those?” and that is totally understandable. Challenges of all kinds have been the jazz lately, so let me explain…

30-Day Experiments – but why?

Firstly, you might ask why I chose the name “experiment” instead of challenge?

The main reason is an episode on The Ground Up Show I’ve listened to a few months back about experimenting with new habits and ideas regularly. I still like this idea and think that this name fits much better than “challenge”. This is mainly because we can try different things and instead of placing expectations on ourselves that can sabotage our efforts, even before we have begun, we simply try new and reintroduce old habits and see if we want to stick to them. “Experiment” fits that idea a lot better, than challenge.

“I would say conduct experiments rather than making lifelong commitment. So, if there’s something that you want to try out say: ‘I’m gonna commit to this way of doing it for 30 days.’
So, when you get 15 days in and you feel like giving up you’re like: ‘I don’t know if this is working out for me’, you can tell yourself: ‘I only got 15 more days let’s go ahead and follow through and finish!’ Instead of feeling like a flake when you’re done, you get to feel proud of yourself for keeping your word and committing to something. And if you want to switch it up, then you can recalibrate or if you want to keep it going you can say: ‘let’s do it for another another 30 days!'”

T.K. Coleman, “Dreams Don’t COme True, Decisions do

Now, the basic idea is still the same: we either pick a new thing that we haven’t tried before, or we try to integrate an old habit back into our daily schedule and stick with it for a month. Afterwards, we see how we feel and what we’ve learned and then decide if we want to continue or stop. Pretty simple, right?

There are many things that this practice can help you with on a very basic level: you can discover new things that you like, that make you more productive, that help you gain new perspectives and that help you learn something new. One of the best-case scenarios is that you find something that you stick with for life, or that you discover a new hobby, passion or even career path – who knows? Finally, if you have a slight feeling of aversion to any of these experiments, doing can be a very beneficial experience in learning to step in and deal with uncomfortable situations. This experiment is also a great way to get back to old beneficial habits that you have been putting off for too long. Finally, if you don’t like this month’s experiment you can quit at any time.

With these general benefits in mind let’s get into this month’s experiment.

This Month’s Experiment

This month is about a daily meditation practice.

Now, before you close this page hear me out: I also thought that meditation was a woo-woo thingy that was way to spiritual and not practical for me. Yet, when I’ve read the high praises in Tim Ferriss’ “Tools of Titans” in 2017 for the first time, I reconsidered and thought to myself: “Well, what do I have to lose?”. As it turned out not much and even though I tried out a lot of different new tings and experiences, meditation turned out to be the most beneficial and useful habit I adopted that year. I became less reactive to external events and stimuli, I increased my self-discipline, became calmer in conversations and increased my focus at work and while studying. I’ve since used meditation almost daily until late 2018, when I slacked off and consequently stopped doing it all together in 2019. But, as I’ve faced increased stress over the last two weeks and am in the last, long stretch of my master’s thesis, I want to reintroduce meditation in my routines this month.

“More than 80% of the world-class performers I’ve interviewed have some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice.
It is a “meta-skill” that improves everything else.”

Tim Ferris, “Tools of TITANS”

You are Invited to Join me!

Now, here is the cool part!

As I’ve planned on doing this anyways, I thought: “why not make it a monthly community-event?” and here I am. I don’t challenge you to meditate this month. Instead I invite you to come on this journey with me.

To this end I’ve set up the hashtag #ItsMeMonthly (Update, use: #MeaningfulPath) on Instagram and Twitter where you can share your progress, positive effects, questions and difficulties as well as your results at the end of each month. We can also hold each other accountable and stay on this meaningful path together.

Ok, how exactly do I meditate?

I am working on a blog post about the benefits of meditation that should be helpful as we speak but beginning something new shouldn’t necessarily be difficult, rather fun and simple.

There are more meditation-methods on the internet than I can count or even present here, so I keep it simple as well: Pick a certain time a day and sit down in a comfortable but upright position, set a timer for 10+ minutes, close your eyes, and pay attention to your breath. Notice how you breath in and out. Do that for 10 minutes! HURRAY! That seems easy, right? Well… you’ll see that it is harder than you think and that your attention will wander all the time, especially as a beginner. Overtime you will become better at paying attention and your mind will wander less and less. As I said, I’ll go more in depth on this in one of my upcoming articles!

I will meditate 20 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each evening, but your mileage may vary – keep in mind that this should be simple and fun, not hard and frustrating!


That’s it for this month! Again, use the hashtag #ItsMeMonthly (Use “#meaningfulpath” instead) on IG and Twitter to connect with me and others and to stay on track with a new habit every month.

Meanwhile… stay on the meaningful path.

Jordan Petersons April Q&A

If you just want the gist of Peterson’s Q&A, you should be good to go with the „News“ section. For additional inspiration, I recommend skimming the quotes and I highly encourage you to check out his detailed response to one of the questions in this Q&A. Whether you are new to finding meaning in life or improving yourself – or if you have been in the game for a while already, it’s a really good read.

News

In terms of content you can expect quite a lot over the next few months. Besides the Zizek vs. Peterson debate that happened yesterday, there are three changes to Peterson’s content.

First, the second season of his podcast is live and should enter a weekly regularity of one new episode a week as a “top priority.” Second, his next Q&A episode won’t probably be recorded until June, because Peterson will travel a lot. Finally, there will be multiple 10 to 15 minute clips of Peterson talking with Dr. Oz released in the future (either on Oz’s or Peterson’s YouTube-Channel, or both).

Here is the full Q&A:

QUOTES

Next up are some of the most valuable quotes and thought’s I found worth sharing.

Why developing a plan for your life is important

“It’s really a good thing to have a plan for your life. You’re not going to get what you need and want unless you aim at it. You’re not going to aim at it, unless you know what it is. You’re not going to know what it is, unless you think about what it is.”

Where values come from

“Values aren’t created, they’re discovered – and they are discovered through a consultation with the parts of yourself that you aren’t fully conscious of, that aren’t fully articulated elements of your primary personality.”

Why dark forces help you live through catastrophe

“People live through catastrophe – and they do that in no small part by discovering that there are darker and stronger forces within them that they might be willing to appreciate. One of the consequences of integrating those forces is that you have the strengths and the cruelty in some strange sense to endure, to dare to continue to live, even if the unthinkable happens.”

Why you should learn something about evil

“You have to learn something about evil and you have to learn something about how it possesses people. You have to learn something about how it possesses ordinary people. That’ll mean you’ll have to learn something about how it might possess you.”

Finally, Peterson replied to a question in such a way, that I found it worth to transcribe and edit his reply for better readability as a whole. I hope you enjoy this rather long but incredibly important read about, what I think, is self-awareness and self-realization. The bold headlines were inserted by me.

Q: How do we come to know ourselves in terms of our personalities and more importantly potential?

First: Understand that you don’t know yourself.

One of the first ways to come to know yourself is to understand that you don’t.

You can learn to watch yourself like you’re watching a stranger, but you have to adopt a position of radical humility.

Humility in two senses: in one sense the humility of recognizing your ignorance. You have to understand that you don’t know who you are. That’s not easy to understand because you think you know. But then, you remember you can’t control yourself very well, you’re not very disciplined, you’re full of flaws. Maybe you don’t know yourself as well as you think.

But it’s hard to get low enough to understand how deeply it is the case. That you are ignorant about who you are.

Now, there’s an upside to that too which also is that you’re also ignorant about who you could be. So, the discovery of that is some reward for the horror of determining who you actually are.

Second: Watch yourself and attend to your conscience.

Then, watch yourself and attend to your conscience. Watch yourself like you’re watching a stranger; watch what you say and listen.

You think “what sort of person would say that?” and “how do I react emotionally when I’m communicating in that manner? Is that making me feel stronger or weaker? Is it filling me with shame? Is it helping my confidence? Am I laying out a lie? Am I deceiving myself and other people? Am I adopting this personality at parties that is designed to impress and to amuse and that comes across as nothing but like self-centered narcissism? What are my dark fantasies? What are my aggressive fantasies? What is it that I’m willing to do? What am I interested in, so that I’ll spontaneously pursue it? What do I procrastinate about? And why am I unwilling to do what I think is good? What do I congratulate myself for accomplishing and what do I berate myself for failing to confront?

Those are all incredibly complicated questions and you don’t know the answers to them.

So, that’s a start.

About your potential

Then, in terms of potential, you’ll discover a little bit more about your potential as you discover who you are.

Especially the darker parts of yourself. Because, then you discover your potential for mayhem. There’s some real utility in that. The discovery that you’re dangerous is such a useful discovery. It’s actually something that strengthens you, because the first thing that a realization like that can produce, is the ambition to incorporate that dangerousness into a higher order personality and that can make you implacable. It can make you someone who can say no when you need to say no. That can make you someone who won’t avoid necessary conflict. So, that’s unbelievably useful.

The other thing you do to discover your potential is that you challenge yourself – like rule 4 in my book 12 Rules for Life: comparing yourself to who you were yesterday and not to who someone else is today.

Take a bit of a look at yourself and think about what’s not so good that you could improve that you should improve – by your own standards – and that you would improve. Set yourself a little goal.

Maybe you’re not studying at all at your university, or maybe you’re at work and you’ve got this stack of paper there and you haven’t looked at that damn stack for a month and you know that you should and you’re bothering yourself at night because you’re avoiding that.

Maybe think: “Well, I’ve avoided that stack of paper completely for one month. I’m quite a coward when it comes to whatever snakes might be hidden in that stack of paper. How about tomorrow I just put that stack of paper in front of me on my desk and I glance through it for 15 seconds. See if I can do that.

You set yourself a goal of improvement.

It’s a humble goal because – really? Are you such a coward that the best that you can bloody well manage after a month of avoidance is 15 seconds of exposure to a stack of paper?

It could easily be.

You’ve been avoiding it, so you’re obviously afraid of it. So, the situation could be that dismal and dire. You might think: “well geez! It’s no bomb to my ego it’s not fostering the strength of my ego to recognize myself as someone who could only withstand 15 seconds of exposure to that thing I’m afraid of.”

That’s a form of humility, too.

It’s like there’s things you could do to improve and you know what they are. There are small steps that you could take that you might take that would put you in that direction. Then the question is: are you big enough to take those small steps you know you are capable of? Grappling with the fact that you’re fundamentally flawed to the point where you have to break things down in almost childlike steps in order to manage them.

The answer to that is: “yeah you are.”

That’s a lot. Most people have things they avoid and they’re afraid of. So, I would say to some degree it’s a lot for everyone. People vary in the degree to which they’ve conquered them and you do meet people from time to time who are extraordinarily disciplined but most of the time they’ve got disciplined and exactly this manner. It’s through slow, incremental improvement.

About personal growth

Then, you challenge yourself.

It’s like “well could I do this? That would be better.” Then you find out. Then you think “well is there something slightly larger and more challenging that I can do that would be better?” You try it and as you try it, you find out you get better at it. You can take on larger and larger challenges.

That’s why I suggested that you take responsibility for yourself. That’s part of standing up straight with your shoulders back. It’s like “take on the world man!” But, only at the level that you can manage. You know when you’re ignorant and biased and deeply flawed and immature. It’s where everyone starts. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. But it doesn’t mean that you can wrestle with its part of reality; some part that’s small enough so that you have a good shot at victory. Then you attain victory over some small part of the chaos and then you’re the person who’s victorious over chaos.

You’re just a beginner but that’s who you are.

On continual improvement

Then, maybe you can get unbelievably good at that, maybe you can ally to that the ability to recast tyrannical order into chaos and restructured into something deeper, more profound and more suitable for human habitation. That’s the other half of the hero myth. Half to overcome chaos itself. Half to confront tyranny where it needs to be confronted. That can allow the chaos to emerge in place of the tyranny and then to recast that into the order that’s proper. You do that by challenging yourself humbly at the level that you’re able to function.

It’s easier to understand if you think about a child that you’re trying to rear properly and you want to help that child reveal their highest potential whatever that is whatever that means. You don’t set them a series of impossible tasks in the hope of undermining their self-confidence. You form a relationship with them that is predicated on your interest in their highest mode of being. Then, you offer them challenges that are precisely optimized to their ability. So, they can do them, but they have to stretch.

The two elements of their ability would be what they can do at and how much they’re capable of that transforming what they can do. An optimal challenge stretches you to the end of what you can do and then into the domain of how you can transform. So, if you love a child then you set them tasks of that nature and maybe they have a reasonable chance of success 70% chance of success or an 80% chance of success might depend on how sensitive your child is.

On Humility and the Willingness to be a Fool

You do the same thing for yourself but you have to be humble and wise enough to understand that you might have to aim pretty damn low – especially in those places where you’re not functioning well. It might be so embarrassing that you can’t bring yourself to fathom that that’s actually who you are.

But, Jung described the fool – the archetypal figure of the trickster and the fool – as the precursor to the savior to the Redeemer. And that’s an unbelievable bit of wisdom. Because, what Jung meant was that to put yourself together which is to follow the path of redemption, to follow the Redeemer – if the Redeemer is a type of personality that you could in fact be inhabited by our manifest – then this first step towards that is to allow yourself to be a fool.

It’s because you don’t know what you’re doing, you have to admit that. There’s going to be a destruction of arrogant ego that necessarily accompanies that. But you need the loss of that arrogant ego because it’s precisely what’s interfering with your movement forward. It’s part of the adversarial process, mythologically speaking, that stops moral progress. You’re too proud of who you think you are to notice what you’re like so that you could change properly. You don’t want to sacrifice that part of yourself. It’s probably associated with some delusion that helps you maintain a positive, although very fragile, self-image, in the absence of genuine effort. It’s not to be recommended.

Conclusion

So, you know yourself by watching and paying attention.

That’s why the Egyptians worshiped Horus, the eye, as a god. They knew that attention was important and the Mesopotamians did the same thing with their God Marduk. It’s not thinking exactly, it’s not imagination, it’s just it’s watching like you’re a snake. A snake is a symbol of wisdom. A snake is a symbol of many things but wisdom is one of them. I suppose it’s because encounters with snakes, if they’re not fatal, make you wise. Because a snake watches cold-bloodedly with no emotional reaction, just to see what’s there and doesn’t allow, symbolically speaking, what is wanted or desired to interfere with what is observed

So, you watch yourself like that, as if you don’t know who you are. That’s the beginning.

Then you challenge yourself continually to see how far past yesterday you can push today, and tomorrow and to continually experiment with expanding that domain not only of your competence, but of your ability to increase that competence. The upper limit to that is proportional to the moral effort that you put into it. The more that’s guided by the highest of all possible visions – the alliance with the highest of all possible conceivable good -, and the more it’s accompanied by truth in speech and action, the more you will develop your potential. And I believe that potential to be more unlimited in the upward direction, than it is unlimited in the direction that brings people to the political and social hells that so often characterize the world that we inhabit.

So, you also, I suppose, have to be willing to undertake that as an adventurer. Because it’s a hell of a thing to bear that kind of responsibility. It takes a person out of the ordinary. It takes them out of themselves.

There’s an alienation and isolation that goes along with that and a great sorrow all of that together. But there’s deep meaning to be had in it and there isn’t anything better that you can do.


That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this little blog post. Over eastern I’ll further my understanding of how this project will develop in the future and take a break from my thesis to recharge for the final effort. I’ll keep you posted.

Stay on the Meaningful Path.

Pursuit of Direction

I’ve recently flipped through my copy of The Daily Stoic and came across this quote:

“Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in view. It’s not activity that disturbs people, but false conceptions of things that drive them mad.”

Seneca, “On Tranquility of Mind, 12.5”

In essence what Seneca writes is, that we need a direction in life, so that what we do every day makes sense to us.

To understand why that is the case, we can have a quick look at what it feels like to have no clear direction.

The Lack of Direction

If you do not have a direction or a purpose in life, it usually feels like you are bored and unsatisfied without being able to tell exactly why that is. In some cases it can feel like everything is boring. In others it can feel like you are overwhelmed or lost. This feeling isn’t always there. It mostly surfaces when we are alone with ourselves in silence with nothing to do. In these increasingly rare moments, we can feel a latent and deep feeling of directionlessness and nihilism.

Where does this come from?

It comes from the lack of a direction in life, or more specifically from a lack of certainty that your day to day actions contribute to something that feels important to you.

Without the certainty that what you do matters because it contributes to something meaningful, not many things will seem worth doing.

As theoretical as this sounds so far, this void of direction also has practical negative consequences:

You won’t know what is more important than something else in the long term. You will feel like you “have to do” many things that you wouldn’t “want to do, if you had the choice.” You won’t feel a steady sense of progression and reward that comes as a byproduct of the pursuit of something meaningful.

In that sense, you’ll work against yourself.

The Meaning in Direction

Now, many people “solve” this feeling by overriding it mostly with one of two things: Discipline and Pleasure.

Both of these tactics don’t solve the core problem and won’t be sustainable. Sure, you can deploy the power of discipline to force yourself to do the things you don’t feel like doing. You can also avoid the uncomfortable feeling of directionlessness by drowning your conscience in shallow pleasures like Netflix, gaming or partying. Yet, you’ll still have this nagging feeling of doubt and uncertainty that you can’t seem to escape.

So, what is the alternative?

The alternative is to orient yourself towards an ideal which gives your life a direction.

This is also the precursor of prioritizing. A direction helps you determine what to say no to and what to say yes to. It helps to determine what you value, what is important and what can and should be ignored.

Direction gives order to chaos.

Once you pursue an ideal and orient yourself towards it, you have a high likelihood of feeling a constant sense of progression – which can be rewarding in itself.

Ultimately, you could orient your whole life – instead of single actions – towards an ideal and give it direction.

This gives everything meaning.

That way you won’t feel lost, uncertain or doubtful.

Instead you’ll feel an increasing sense of clarity and purpose.

I don’t have time…

We often tell ourselves a simple lie:

“I don’t have time.”

Are you sure? What would happen if an emergency needed your attention for 7 hours this week – would you “find” time? Chances are you would.

So, instead of telling ourselves that we “don’t have time”, we could start telling ourselves more precisely “It’s not a priority.”

In the end, it all comes down to this. What we don’t do is simply not a priority.

This doesn’t mean that everything has to be a priority. Because it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, we don’t “have time” for a coffee or a party with friends, because we need to study, work or exercise. That’s fine. These activities are simply not a priority at that point in time. It’s also totally appropriate to tell others that meeting them is not a priority. If they are friends who want the best for you, they will understand and even support you if they can.

But, there are other, less obvious parts of our lives where we let ourselves off the hook for “not having time” way too often.

How does it feel if you’re honest to yourself and instead of saying that you don’t have time, you say “it’s not a priority”?

“It’s not a priority to eat healthy.”

“It’s not a priority to care for my body and exercise.”

“It’s not a priority to think about what I want to do with my life.”

“It’s not a priority to get enough quality and quantity of sleep.”

How does that feel?

Lastly, Laura Vanderkam goes into more detail about this topic in her TEDTalk:

In Tools of Titans, there’s a related quote that fits this different way of thinking very well:

“Lack of time is lack of priorities.”

Tim Ferris, “Tools of Titans”

Since I’ve realized this about the common excuse of “not having time”, I stopped using this phrase and replaced it with “it’s not a priority.”

Try it for 6 days and let me know what you think!

Pursue what is Meaningful

I wrote about Rule 1-5 of 12 Rules for Life already. Originally, I wanted to put Rules 6-12 in one post, but in the light of the content of Rule 7 I decided against that. Because, I believe this topic to be extraordinarily important. We live in a world in which we are bombarded by distractions and promises of expedience hundreds and thousand of times per day. Also, it has never been easier to attain, consume, and even live for expedience – increasingly so for young people.

Yet there are many things seriously wrong with the pursuit of expediency and, beyond that, living a meaningful life is indefinitely more fulfilling than anything that expediency can and will ever provide.

Let’s unpack this.

What is expedient?

To start things off, we need to define what expediency is. Peterson explains it as following:

“Expedience means hiding all the skeletons in the closet and avoiding responsibility. … Expedience is the following of blind impulse. It’s short-term gain. It’s narrow, and selfish. It lies to get its way. It takes nothing into account. It’s immature and irresponsible. … It’s cowardly, and shallow, and wrong. ”

Jordan Peterson, “12 Rules For Life”

In essence, expediency means to put your short-term impulses and desires of the moment first, and deciding against doing something meaningful instead.

What is meaningful?

“Meaning is its [expediency’s] mature replacement. Meaning emerges when impulses are regulated, organized and unified. Meaning emerges from the interplay between the possibilities of the world and the value structure operating within that world. If the value structure is aimed at the betterment of Being, the meaning revealed will be life-sustaining.”

Jordan Peterson, “12 Rules For Life”

Peterson often uses music, especially  the description of a symphony as a metaphor for a meaningful life. If you live meaningfully, everything you do is like a note that you play in your very own symphony of life. It’s part of a whole. It’s something that you can be proud of in the future and something that improves Being itself, as well as the future.

The Attractiveness of Expediency

Now, with these two explanations of expediency and meaning established, let us take a look at why the pursuit of expediency is often a top priority for people.

One reason, without a doubt, is that life is suffering. You encounter failure, you encounter anxiety, pain, death and hardships. So much is certain for everyone. Because we are self-conscious, we also know that all of this is waiting for us in the more or less distant future. This suffering, or the thoughts about future suffering, motivates the desire for expedience in the moment. It feels good and we can drown our problems in today’s pleasures. We can watch hours upon hours of movies on Netflix, sleep until noon, party till the sun comes up or play video games all day long. Nothing of this feels truly bad for the vast majority of people – in fact, many claim to see this as the perfect life, if they only wouldn’t have to work to make all of that possible.

The pleasures of expediency are things that can be stacked up against the pain of existence. It’s easy, too. You just sit down on your couch, order some fast food and watch some episodes of Game of Thrones or Lost. So, why is this not a good way to spend the majority of your time, or even aspire to do nothing else?

The Hidden Evils of Expediency

First, expediency only works now and not in the future. Watching 8 hours of Netflix makes those 8 hours feel fun, but it doesn’t help you with the suffering that you experience right now and tomorrow and in a year from now. In fact, not only doesn’t it help you, it makes the future worse. Because instead of watching Netflix, you could have done something to improve the future. You could have studied for your exams, you could have volunteered to help others, worked to improve your financial situation, or spent time with your family and improved your relationship with them. You could have done a lot of things to make your future (and that of others) better. But you chose to play video games instead – those are the kinds of actions that Peterson defines as “selfish.”

As selfish as it is to waste opportunities that could make the world a better place, there are even worse consequences from pursuing expedience. We also sabotaged our own efforts for a better future. We have problems. If we’re brutally honest with ourselves we also know what these problems are, but instead of addressing and fixing them, we turn a blind eye and become willfully blind to them. We drown the problems of tomorrow in the pleasures of today – and generally speaking, we make them worse.

Making things better in the future demands sacrifice. If you’re wasting a lot of time on expediency, then it most likely means sacrificing expediency first. Yet, if you already pursue a lot of meaning, you might need to sacrifice the less meaningful things in order to increase the available time to spent on the most meaningful things.

There’s a problem here, because if you put “more expediency” on top or near the top of your value-structure, then you undertake many sacrifices reluctantly. You “have” to work, you “have” to study and you “have” to clean your room. This can often lead to half-heartedly undertaken sacrifices that are more likely to fail than genuine attempts. If your sacrifices fail, you have not only lost the present, but also the future. You have sacrificed pointlessly.

In this way we can become angry, resentful and, even worse, evil – which in this context means consciously making things worse.

“In that manner, a truly vicious circle takes hold: begrudging sacrifice, half-heartedly undertaken; rejection of that sacrifice by God or by reality (take your pick); angry resentment, generated by that rejection; descent into bitterness and the desire for revenge; sacrifice undertaken even more begrudgingly, or refused altogether. And it’s Hell itself that serves as the destination place of that downward spiral.
This means that the central problem of life—the dealing with its brute facts—is not merely what and how to sacrifice to diminish suffering, but what and how to sacrifice to diminish suffering and evil—the conscious and voluntary and vengeful source of the worst suffering.”

Jordan Peterson, “12 Rules for Life”

If you pursue expediency, you gratify your selfish impulses for pleasures in the present but consciously decide against doing something to improve the future. Thus, you make it worse. You fail to do something that could improve your life tomorrow and next week and a year from now. But it doesn’t stop there. You also decide against improving the quality of your relationship with your partner or your family and you decide against alleviating suffering in the world. That’s pretty selfish and really bad for your future and the future of the world,  is it not?

Sacrifices for Meaning

Thus, it is better to pursue something meaningful. A core concept to understand in this regard is that we can sacrifice something of value in the present to improve the future. Small sacrifices can solve small problems, but large sacrifices can solve a lot of problems at the same time. Larger sacrifices are harder but may be better. If things aren’t going well, it can mean that we must sacrifice what we currently value the most, in order to improve things. Thus, letting go of who we are and of what we do might be necessary to become who we want to be.

“Once we can see the future, we must prepare for it, or live in denial and terror. We therefore sacrifice the pleasures of today for the sake of a better tomorrow.”

Jordan Peterson, “12 Rules for Life”

The Pursuit of Meaning

How, then, do we pursue meaning?

First, by rejecting immediate desires, no matter how powerful, convincing and realistic you perceive them to be.

Then, by aiming for the Betterment of Being as discussed in my previous article. This is because we may not understand precisely what is good, but we understand what is evil, evil – in this context – is the producing of suffering, merely for the sake of suffering. Thus, good is whatever stops that from happening. So, we aim at good and away from evil.

We also need to be humble, because pride leads to intolerance, resentment and hatred. We need to consider what we can fix and fix it, before trying to change the world. We need to reflect on when we fell short or missed the mark and improve our efforts. With all of our insufficiencies we contribute to the suffering in the world. If we could have done something to improve the world and we didn’t do it and selfishly pursued pleasure instead, we are also to blame.

Hence, we need to aim at the alleviation of unnecessary pain and suffering to the best of our abilities. We need to aim at the “Betterment of Being” as our highest moral goal. We can start by asking ourselves how we could use our time today, to make things better instead of worse. We can start small and with ourselves. We can study instead of watching Netflix. We can clean our room instead of partying. We can stop doing things that we know to be evil.

This way, if we live properly and fully, we can discover meaning so profound that it protects us from suffering.

“Meaning trumps expedience. Meaning gratifies all impulses, now and forever. That’s why we can detect it. … If you act properly, your actions allow you to be psychologically integrated now, and tomorrow, and into the future, while you benefit yourself, your family, and the broader world around you. Everything will stack up and align along a single axis. Everything will come together. This produces maximal meaning. Meaning signifies that you are in the right place, at the right time, properly balanced between order and chaos, where everything lines up as best it can at that moment.”

Jordan Peterson, “12 Rules for Life”

Conclusion

The next time you decide to binge-watch Netflix or waste countless hours on other forms of expediency, consider how hurtful this is for you. Not in that particular moment, or that particular day, but for the future – for your future. Consider how much good you could have done instead. Good for your future self tomorrow, a week from now, and in a year from now – but also, for everyone around you and in consequence for the world.

Take a few seconds before you press “play” on a video that will consume multiple hours of your life just to satisfy your primal impulses and maybe, just maybe, decide to do something – anything – meaningful instead.

Diet, Exercise, Sleep

Way too many people (and I have been guilty of this as well) focus on efficiency, much before they are executing consistently. We worry about efficiency a lot more than about consistency.

There are a lot more important parts to becoming consistent than I could possibly write about in one or more blog posts. So, in this blog post, I focus on four important fundamentals:

Diet, Exercise, Sleep and Meaning.

Let’s get into it!

Clean Diet

What is a clean diet exactly?

For me, it is one that gives me consistent daily energy, no crashes. It keeps me healthy or improves my health, it’s beneficial for me in the long run and enables me to stay alert, focused and consistent without the need for external substances.

Unfortunately, in today’s culture it is very easy, cheap and popular to consume stuff that results in the opposite: sugar is in almost anything – and in larger quantities, it’s truly bad for you. For me personally, a lot of different carbohydrates have very negative effects on my mind and body. Also, fast food is tremendously popular and easier to get than cooking. Finally, quasi-depending on caffeine, getting drunk and (even though it’s declining) smoking, are all wildly accepted and too often encouraged, consumed, and depended on.

Too few people know, that especially sugary foods and drinks as well as some carbohydrates often cause a feeling of tiredness, “brain fog”, decrease concentration and lead to the feeling of “crashes” and low levels of energy during the day. If you notice inability to focus or tiredness despite proper sleep (in length and quality), your diet could be a cause.

Instead of consuming junk food, sugary foods and drinks – and worsening all of that with alcohol consumption or putting a band-aid on it with daily caffeine-intake – it’s a lot more important and advantageous to fix these problems at the core.

This means cutting sugar out of your diet (you’ll be fine after a few weeks of withdrawal symptoms), cooking your own fresh food, instead of grabbing fast food when it is inconvenient to cook yourself and to – at least temporary – stop relying on band aids like caffeine to keep your system going. It could also mean to replace some carbohydrates in your diet with more vegetables and get your calories and energy mainly from fat and protein, instead of carbohydrates. Oh yeah, and maybe stop making it worse by drinking alcohol (which worsens sleep quality and has too many harmful influences on your body to count).

So, to sum it all up:
If you’re having any of the problems mentioned above what could help is to quit sugar, fast food, alcohol and smoking (and maybe caffeine, too) and replace carbs with vegetables, cook fresh and healthy food and get the majority of your calories from fat and protein.

Disclaimer: This has worked extraordinarily well for me and I’ve dug deeper into some of these topics to further my understanding. Yet, I’m definitely not an expert on any of these, even though a lot could be called “common knowledge”. Before you implement this advice in your life, however, it could be very beneficial to read more about these different topics yourself or speak to an expert.

Regular Exercise

For many people, exercise is something they finally start doing, when they see no alternative to it. Either they have some health problem that needs exercise for it to be improved and enable them to “return to their normal life”, or they are sick and tired of how out of shape they are, or that they can’t even perform menial tasks throughout the day, like walking up two sets of stairs, or carrying a box of water home.

This image of exercise is really, too bad, as it is incredibly beneficial to everything you do, but don’t take my word for it:

“If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.”

Mark Tarnopolsky, “The New Science of Exercise

So, what does exercise do for our health exactly?

First, contrary to a widely spread believes, exercise doesn’t seem to be linked as strongly to weight loss as many people believe – if you want to lose weight, you are unbelievably better off by adjusting your diet. What exercise does do though can be summed up like this:
Exercise leads to a lot more efficient learning, helps you to deal with stress better, can reduce anxiety to the point of lifting people out of depression and can strengthen ones focus to the point that some ADHD patients elect to throw out their prescriptions. Exercising can give you more willpower and focus to do the little things that don’t usually feel rewarding and boosts motivation.

For a look at why this is happening (as well as many sources for these claims) have a look at this video (also, this is a brilliant YouTube-Channel to follow for sure):

So, with all of these benefits being clear, the question isn’t “why would you exercise?” but “why would you NOT exercise?”

If you don’t exercise, you, now, consciously say “nah, I don’t need all these benefits in my life” and I challenge you to think again. Whatever it is you are striving for, you benefit from exercise. Start small and slowly, but stay consistent and then increase the intensity of your exercises as you go.

For all of you, who already exercise: think about making it a daily habit, but most importantly: keep getting after it.

Enough & Quality Sleep

AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH!

Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious.

Are you interested?

Of course, the ad is not describing some miracle new tincture or a cure-all wonder drug, but rather the proven benefits of a full night of sleep.”

Matthew Walker, “Why We Sleep”

I’ve recently read “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker and if there’s one book about sleep that everyone should read, this is it.

“A balanced diet and exercise are of vital importance, yes. But we now see sleep as the preeminent force in this health trinity.”

Matthew Walker, “Why we Sleep”

Sadly, too many people do not get the recommended amount or quality of sleep to attain these benefits. But, worse, not only do they miss out on these benefits, but experience all kind of detriments to their day-to-day life.

These detriments are a less effective immune system, making you more prone to illness. An increased risk for cancer and dementia, as well as increased troubles to stay emotionally calm and stable, or perform at peak physical performance; just to name a few.

I took over 50 pages of notes from Walker’s book and will write more blog posts about the benefits of enough quality sleep, as well as the detriments of not enough (in quality or quantity of) sleep. But for now let’s focus on a few ways to improve sleep, having established how vitally important it is for us.

First and foremost:
If you want to only make one single adjustment to improve your sleep, it should be waking up at the same time every single day – yes, that includes weekends.

Furthermore, here’s a list of things that help you fall asleep:
Relaxation before bed, limited if any time on devices that emit blue light (e.g. smartphones, tablets, laptops etc.), a hot bath, daily exposure to sunlight for at least 30 minutes and a pitch black and cool (18,5° C / 65,3° F) bedroom.

And here’s a list of things to avoid, that make it harder to fall asleep:
Exercising late in the day, consuming caffeine or nicotine (as well as certain teas or chocolates) 8 hours before you want to sleep, drinking alcohol, eating large meals and drinking beverages late at night, taking medicine that might delay or disrupt your sleep and naping or sleeping after 3 pm.

The Pursuit of Something Meaningful

This is more a teaser for a future blog post, because this topic is way to complex to explain as part of this post.

Many people go through life thinking that they “have” to do things. They “have” to work, the “have” to get up early, they “have” to study and they “have” to earn more money. This attitude often goes hand in hand with the pursuit of shallow pleasures and expediency – often called living for the weekends and vacations.

While a minority of people in the west definitely have to live that way, at least for a time, many of us don’t.

It’s too complex of a topic to discuss here fully, but in short a solution can be to orient your life towards the pursuit of something meaningful. If you pursue something meaningful it will ignite your daily actions with meaning and make them worthwhile, or even exciting. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be happy – which isn’t what meaningful means – all the time, but what you do on a daily basis will contribute to something more important further down the line.

The simplest and most basic way to go about creating meaning in your life, is to set yourself realistic goals that are good for you. Good for you isn’t what makes you happy, or what you like – candy makes a kid happy, but you don’t let it eat candy all day. Thus, you can ask yourself what would be good for you, create a goal or vision around that and make it part of your daily life. Even though this form of meaning pales in comparison to a life-long pursuit of meaning it’s a start. Imagine what would make your life better now, today, tomorrow, in a month, in a year and in 10 years. Then do that. Start small and stay consistent.

Again, this is a way too complex topic for this blog post, but it is incredibly important and a topic I will return to in the future.


Well, that’s it for now!

These are four fundamentals that, once consistently implemented, can give you as many benefits, as almost nothing else can, especially in the long run. So, before you try to squeeze out an extra 2% more focus, or half an hour of time here or there, focus your efforts and attention on creating meaningful, healthy and beneficial cornerstones for your life first.

Focus on the fundamentals.

Thank you so much for reading! As always, I’m open to constructive feedback: so, if you have any feedback please let me know (most efficiently through social media).

If you want to implement anything that I’ve suggested, I’m excited to hear or read from you! Let me know how it goes!