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The Struggle to be Still

Two days ago, I got food poisoning.

Up all night, the next day was a haze of discomfort and utter boredom.

I couldn’t even read.

Yet, even in mandated stillness, quiet was the last thing that I found.

For a while, I did what felt “natural and easy” — I watched netflix, I surfed pinterest, I occasionally dozed. Yet the day was dragging on. Slower than molasses.

Finally, I closed my computer, closed my eyes and allowed myself to feel what my body was going through.

I felt my dry mouth, my uncertain stomach, sharp muscle pains in my legs. I felt the desire for this sickness to be over, the desire to read, the desire to run, jump and play. I felt exhaustion and lethargy.

Nothing felt uplifting… yet somehow, I felt uplifted.

I was able to drink a little more water. I was able to pick up a coffee table book, if only to look at pictures.

And suddenly, my day started going by at normal pace… quickly even.

It was such a struggle to slow down. Nothing was pleasant. Slowing down felt crappy.

But the outcome of getting still was a price worth paying.

The Bell Curve of Choice

I think that we can all agree that having no choice sucks. A lack of self determination is no good, no question.

And yet, on the other hand, science shows that the more choices you have, the less satisfied you are with the outcome. Period.

I call it the Bell Curve of Choice:
Bell Curve of ChoiceBut, what to do with this information?

Especially if you, like me, are “blessed” with incredible amounts of choice and freedom?

The answer is simple: Commit.

Until you commit, you can’t move forward.

Here are four ideas to help you commit without paralyzing FOMO:

  1. Ask yourself: Is this choice a burden or a luxury?
    Luxuriate where choice feels good. When in doubt, simplify. Commit.
  2. Reduce your choices with habits, routine and structure.
    Habits are testament to the truth that removing decision making can be freeing. A couple ideas: simplify your wardrobe, eat the same thing for breakfast, work in the same place. Commit to practices that help you feel good.
  3. Identify your deal breakers and non-negotiables.
    Don’t bend. Commit to yourself.
  4. Relish closing doors, even if it feels bittersweet.
    What can you decide NOT to pursue? Commit to your closed doors.
  5. Do a trial.
    Commit — and commit fully — for a set period of time. Let yourself off the hook for choosing for a while. Reevaluate at the end.

Don’t let yourself drown at the far end of the bell curve. You have to commit to move forward.

 

This post was inspired by a brunch filled with delightfully delicious food & conversation with this lovely lady.

 

Pleasure requires attention

It’s hardly news that our attention is become ever more fragmented and fleeting.

And, in response, everything is getting louder, brighter and more addictive.

The same mechanism is happening in the arena of pleasure: its getting louder and louder… while reducing in quality.

Pleasure has transformed to attention seeking. After all, you can’t have pleasure without attention.

Flavors are louder & bolder than ever, increasing not for the purpose of pleasure, but for the purpose of getting your attention. You’ll find that if you eat many of these attention seeking foods (candy, soda, fast food) with your full attention, they don’t even taste good! They only taste good when used as a method of getting attention, of distracting us.

Mainstream movies and TV do the same thing for human relationships. They turn up the volume, simplify and dramatize.

The simple pleasures of knowing those around you and feeling seen as yourself have been traded for the drama and wit of writers coupled with the unthinkable beauty and poise of actors.

Its not that turning up the volume is inherently bad, rather that we have, as a society forgotten how to turn the volume down.

How to bask in the sweetness of an apple
How to enjoy the simple company of neighbors.

We’ve forgotten about the pleasures that don’t call for our attention, but rather unfold once our attention is gifted.

There is no pleasure without attention.
There is no love without attention.

Attention is the most valuable asset you can offer. Gift it mindfully.