There’s a bunch of people I’ve followed online over the years, in hopes of learning about all sorts of stuff. From personal development weirdoes like Steve Pavlina (not a recommendation, unless you’re into polyamory and believe that the universe is a conscious thing that listens to your wishes) and David Deida (also not a recommendation, unless you want to read about how to ‘orgasm down the spine’ and how ‘the difference between rape and ravishment is love’… whatever all that is supposed to mean) to no-nonsense strength coaches like Mark Rippetoe and Jim Wendler. A recurring concept that I found very interesting was to have a list of rules or guidelines for how you want to live your life. It’s not about making up some arbitrary rules that sound cool, but about being conscious of what you really want and unapologetically sticking to it.
I first learned about the principle of congruence in psychology class in my freshman year of college. The opposite, incongruence, is usually described as a discrepancy between what you think, feel and do. I believe that not being conscious of what you really want (or not accepting it) can create a strong tendency to fall into a state of incongruence. The result? Unhappiness, ennui, boredom, less self esteem, shame, regret, confusion, loss of direction in life and a host of other situations and feelings no one wants to have. A few examples;
- Your passion is in the field of cultural development, but you work an IT job because everybody told you it’s easier to find work there. After 15 years, you’re tired of IT and very unhappy with your job.
- You’re a total fucking nerd and absolutely love geeky videogames and anime, but you hide it from your peers because they’ll ridicule you. You feel shame.
- You’re raised in a conservative family but find out you’re gay. You start feeling self-disgust as well as fear towards your family.
- You despise a person but pretend to like him/her because you want to be liked by mutual friends.
Those are just a few random examples of what can happen when your thoughts, feelings and actions are not congruent. I’ve been taught a lot of things over the years that I have added into a personal set of rules that would hopefully prevent me getting into situations like that. Rules like that may vastly differ among people, but a few of them would probably benefit the majority of people, so I listed a bunch here. Read them, open up notepad and take 5 minutes to brainstorm a few ‘rules’ for yourself and how you WANT to live your life. Then take another 5 minutes and critically assess whether you do it or not.
Be conscious of and honest about your priorities. This is where the misery starts with people. We judge and criticize each other so much that we end up behaving more and more in socially acceptable ways rather than the ways we really want. We bitch on someone for “being so stupid that they’d spend 200$ on a pair of earrings.” We tell people who work out and skip getting wasted every weekend to “live a little”. Instead, we should encourage people to do what they really want, provided that they take responsibility for their own actions. I know how it’s sociologically normal to exert peer pressure on people around us, but that just creates the situations I mentioned before. If you choose to hang out with your friends instead of your boyfriend, if you choose to go to a club all night instead of working out the next morning, if you choose to follow an education with meagre chances on the job market, it’s all fine. But be honest about it, accept the fact that you want this or that. Don’t let yourself get caught up in lying to yourself because you’re supposed to stick to what’s socially most acceptable. Just remember that you do have a responsibility to not be a total asshole to your surroundings and honesty should never become a retarded excuse to hurt people’s feelings.
Never forget to say you care. Sometimes at parties, I need to get out of the crowd for a bit because I can’t always take the liveliness for too long. I did so last saturday at a party, going outside and sitting there by myself for a bit. A friend came up to me, extremely worried that I was sad, even though I repeatedly told her I wasn’t. She sat by me for a while, unconvinced that I was doing fine. At some point I gave her a hug and thanked her, telling her that I appreciated the worry, even if it was unnecessary. Small things like that do matter for the recipient of the kind gesture or words, in this case both my friend’s gesture and me showing my appreciation. (well… in this case, not really since she was drunk and didn’t even remember it the next day, but you get the point)
Strengthen your body. Get into the habit of jumping higher, lifting more, running faster and eating well most of the time. Get this right 80% of the time and save the other 20% for things that may not be good for your body, but will help your relationships. Social outings can be an occasional exception to taking good care of your body (like hanging out at clubs until the early morning or eating junk food together at parties). Laziness or lack of respect for your own body however, shouldn’t be. Body and mind influence each other all the time. Don’t neglect your body.
Be playful. Stress is incredibly destructive, mentally and physically. Make room in your life to laugh and play, both by yourself and in the company of people that make you genuinely happy. Find your own definition of playing and don’t worry too much about people thinking that it’s immature.
Memento Mori. Remember your mortality. Every day you waste on being unhappy with the road you’re on is one you will never, ever get back. Nate Green mentioned this in his ‘Hero Handbook’. That’s also where he wrote about his views on the rules you set for your own life. (On a side note: he mentions that your own rules should never, ever budge, not even when the world is falling apart. That is one thing I do not agree on. The first rule about priorities is the reason for that. If there’s a zombie apocalypse and I’m left to take care of my little siblings, I’ll sure as hell cheat, lie and steal to feed them if I have to, even if that goes against every single rule I’ve ever made for myself. Priorities can change depending on the circumstances.)
Live unapologetically. Don’t apologize for who you are. Apologize for doing something that goes against who you are and want to be.
Live with an open heart, even if it hurts. Isolation and cynicism are fine in mild doses, but putting up walls everywhere is very risky in many ways. Learn who you can trust, pick your friends with quality over quantity in mind. A bit of hurt is sure to come along, and that’s fine.
Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make your mom proud. (This is from one H. Jackson Brown. I have no idea who that man is and I don’t ever recall reading the book that this quote is supposedly from but… it was in my list.)
Oh, about that: I apologize to my parents in advance in case I ever do something stupid to disappoint them like eating adjuma until my nose bleeds, hitting myself in the face with a barbell, falling on my face when attempting a handstand and having other bouts of stupidity that I am prone to.
“One of the most universal causes of self-doubt and depression: trying to impress people you don’t like. Stressing to impress is fine, but do it for the right people — those whom you want to emulate.” – Timothy Ferris