Life is Hard — Part II

Life is Hard — Part II

If you’ve missed my introduction on the subject, you can read it here: Life is Hard — An Introduction.

Part I is there: Life is Hard — Part I.

If you’re up to date, let’s keep going with a list of behaviors that bring back life to what it is supposed to be: simple. (But still hard!)

4. Making conscious choices

To live consciously means to seek to be aware of everything that bears on our actions, purposes, values, and goals—to the best of our ability, whatever that ability may be—and to behave in accordance with that which we see and know. — Nathaniel Branden

Why Simple

Making conscious choices is the way to bring you closer to the life you want. If you don’t make conscious choices, choices will be made for you and you’ll be drifting all along.

When you make conscious choices, you are choosing yourself. You are choosing what you care about, what you value, what you think is right. You feel in control of your life.

Why Hard

To make conscious choices you need to think, you need to reflect. You need to use your brain power and you need to look at yourself straightforwardly in a mirror. You need again to decide what you want, who you are, who you want to be, and you need to expose yourself out there and act accordingly. It requires courage. It requires authenticity. It requires being OK with who we are, warts and all. It requires not caring too much about what others think, and not longing for people’s approval.

How we want it easy and make things complicated

We want to be happy and not suffer, and we believe that outside things are what matter and what will help us achieve those states. We don’t want to get hurt by standing outside the crow so we follow the flock. But then we get depressed, bored. We feel that life is not exciting, but we try to convince ourselves (and others) that, well, it’s just the way it is. We feel lost.

TL;DR

Think. Get your own opinions on anything and everything. Apply to your own life. See how you feel. Repeat.

5. Questioning your thoughts and feelings

A moment or two of serious self-scrutiny, and you might observe that you no more decide the next thought you think than the next thought I write. — Sam Harris

Why Simple

When you don’t listen and follow every single thought or feeling you have, you can then begin to filter which of them are useful and which of them are not.

By choosing carefully, you carry out actions that are more rational, respectful, and thoughtful. You are able to acknowledge and accept negative thoughts and emotions quickly and easily, and let them go. You not only act better, but also feel better.

Why Hard

By nature we tend to fusion with our thoughts and feelings. We deeply believe we are them; our thoughts and feelings are who we are as people.

But a lot of our thoughts are actually not our thoughts. They are just repetitions of messages that have been hammered into our heads through childhood, parenting, school, society, etc., at a time when we were too young to defend ourselves and question assumptions.

Studies in neuroscience confirmed that thoughts just permanently pop up in our heads, most of them without any of our control.

How we want it easy and make things complicated

We want to only have great thoughts and good feelings, but that’s unfortunately not how life works. No one has ever had only positive thoughts, or never felt like shit. But it’s hard work to take a few steps back from our own thoughts and feelings. We need enough awareness, enough concentration to not let ourselves be carried away but instead acknowledging, accepting, and letting go.

TL;DR

Be aware of what’s happening inside you. Question, filter. Choose what’s useful, and act on it.

6. Doing the right thing

When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor. — Elon Musk

Why Simple

Doing the right thing will bring you closer to what you believe is right! Duh. As a consequence, confidence and self-esteem rise.

But be not afraid! If you find later on that what you did was not as right as you thought, you can then reflect about it and change your course of action accordingly.

Why Hard

Because of two things.

First, doing the right thing asks you to know what is the right thing. You have to think, get knowledgable, reflect, ponder the pros and cons.

Second, doing the right thing means you will sometimes hurt others, and we—well, most of us at least—don’t like hurting others. Doing the right thing requires you to put something bigger than yourself on top of you and others, and that may make you and others suffer in the short term, for (hopefully) better in the long term.

How we want it easy and make things complicated

We primarily and unconsciously want to avoid pain and gain pleasure, so we make a lot of short term decisions. We stay in broken relationships because a separation would be painful, even if it’s the right thing to do. We’re afraid of putting ourselves out there, so we hide. We don’t want to hurt people, so we lie, we do things behind their back, we’re not straight, we pretend.

TL;DR

Decide strongly what is the right thing to do according to the current you, with the current knowledge you have, and whatever your current emotion is. Put your emotions aside, and take the correct action.

Don’t go away!—bis

The 3 behaviors described in part I required your courage. The 3 ideas presented in this part require your brain power: focus and reflection.

They demand you to be aware of your thoughts and feelings, to think deeply and rationally before making a choice, and to make choices that are right, but not easy.

That’s the level 2 of living a hard, but simple and fulfilled life. Final level coming in part III.

And as usual, don’t hesitate to let me know what you think in the comments below.

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