self-improvement

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Small victories

I don’t really like weekends. I mean, yes I do like weekends and I like to just relax and enjoy life but I generally don’t feel good about myself at the end of Sunday if I just kicked back and did nothing for two days – whereas I feel really great after a Tuesday of good work. That’s my thing, I need to get stuff done.

I started my company more than a year ago and working for myself is probably one of the hardest thing I did in my life (but it’s also one of the most enjoyable!). I can’t count the number of times I failed. Actually I noticed that it’s quite easy to think of all these failures and just spiral down an endless state of pessimistic laziness. My brain is wired like that: if I don’t make an effort it focusses on all the crap that I get into instead of moving forward. I hate being in that state… It’s worst than just failing, it feels like another layer of failure bullshit on top of what I’m already dealing with… You know what I mean?

There is only one way to go around that: focus on your successes. “Oh really, that’s it? Well, since you’re so smart Manuel, why don’t you tell us how to do this? Because it’s easy to say to focus on your successes but you don’t know my life and everything went wrong today…“. Ok… First, let’s redefine the term “success”. Success is not a goal, it’s not a state you will attain at some point, it’s a process. Let’s say you want to become one of the best iphone app programmers around (which is one thing I’m working on), well, it won’t happen in one day. But perhaps you can read 30 minutes about app development and practice for an hour today. If you consistently do that, you’ll make progress. But you can’t expect to become one of the best and just kick back. The more you progress, the more you have to work on how to continuously evolve. See what I mean? There is no big success but just an accumulation of little successes. So when I say “success” I mean the process or the little steps of this process.

Even if you work on your big life project every day, some days will just be plain shitty. It’s normal to fail and deal with crap, that’s how we learn, right? The simplest way to increase your chances of keeping a successful state of mind is to multiply your activities (the multipotentialites can help you with that). This is why I’m working on becoming one of the greatest app developer but also on growing my company, working on my client projects, writing on this blog, studying to become a yoga teacher and generally hacking/improving my everyday life. With more activities, I just can’t expect to fail at everything everyday (or that would be a very shitty day, but even in that case I’m pretty sure there would be something positive aspects in all that mess). So every night, when I go to bed, I have at least one (if not many) small victory(ies) to focus on.

I use these pieces of software (Things, Re.Minder and Lift) to remind me to do things… Because I can’t rely on my brain to remind me what I have to do and also I don’t want to clog my thoughts with stuff that can be automated. For example: if I don’t practice my handstand every day I tend to forget how to do it well and I go backward. That’s why I have a reminder to practice handstands at least once a day… It doesn’t have to be long, it just takes me 30 seconds in the morning, then I check it on Lift and I already told my brain “See, one victory!”. Here are examples of other activities I told myself to do every day… (some are work related, some concern more my personal development, other are just habits I’m trying to build…)

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(alternatively, you can also play this song every time you succeed at one of your everyday task)

It’s really that simple: make a list of small steps you have to work on every day and get as much small victories you can. Pretend it’s a game, just focus on that. If you just get one done, that’s already great… It will keep your success momentum going.

Do you already have a list of small steps you work on? Are you planning to make one? Share some of these steps in the comment section… It might inspire others.

Deciphering the world

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For long I thought I was respecting myself but I was just wasting my time. I was just doing what I wanted to do. This is not respecting yourself, this is listening to your lizard brain who only wants to survive and get lazy. This is not what I truly want to be: I have no desire to be remembered as lazy. And as I keep reminding myself: I’m probably the laziest guy I know. This is quite embarrassing actually. All this time I have wasted just because I did “what I wanted to do”.

“What do I want?” is probably not the right question… “Who do I want to be?” seems more appropriate.

I would like to decipher the code of this world. I have the feeling that most people wear distorsion glasses. Perhaps if you are a Zen master or a Swami you have found a way to take these glasses off. I’m still wearing them and all this time I thought I was living in the world, I was just blindly being carried by something I didn’t even see. It takes a lot of humility to accept it that your vision is probably false. And at the same time it’s easy to accept and have a glimpse at this real world.

Letting go is a way of not making your distorsion glasses worse. That’s why many people tell you to let go and this is great… But it doesn’t make your glasses clearer either. Observing the way you appreciate your experiences is much more useful if you want to advance in deciphering the world. Quite often I find myself judging instead of observing. Do you think scientists who study Cancer judge this disease? Probably not… They would get too depressed. They observe it, they observe the way it works, the way it infects tissues. I’m pretty sure they can be fascinated even! In the end they find a way to understand the disease and they realize that their vision was just distorted the whole time… But without these countless days of observing they would not be able to figure out shit.

I love science and I believe scientists are probably the best philosophers. And I’m seriously quite surprised that most Swamis have a really good knowledge of physics and science in general. I wouldn’t have thought of that before studying more of their writings. We should act like them and use a scientific approach. However most people (including me) are so confident that their own bullshit is so “right” that they don’t take time to observe what is going on in their lives. It’s easy to judge and say others are wrong but you are probably as wrong as many. Judging is faster. But how can you judge if you know when you realize that you are probably not seeing things clearly? Judging is probably the worst form of disrespect you can give yourself.

This is why I’m observing more. I want to adopt the scientist mind in all situations.

  • I’m facing a problem: How can I analyze it and make it easier to solve?
  • I’m having a good time with friends: What are the sensations? How does it change my perception of the world?
  • Someone giving me some bad news: What process do I enter in? Am I in control or am I letting my feelings take over?
  • I’m bored: What is going inside me? How deep is this feeling of emptiness?

When you stop judging the situations you are living things become lighter and distorsions fade off a bit. Most situations are much simpler when you don’t let your emotions making you spiral out of control. This is what I think of when I start doing “what I want to do”. Am I doing it as a reaction to escape a situation or am I truly respecting myself and observing what is happening?

Just try to observe what is going on in your daily life, it doesn’t need to be extraordinary to start with. Most “insignificant” situations can often tell you more about yourself and the world than the emotion charged ones.

And when you consciously observe what happens and respect yourself, you become a better part of this world. It’s probably the best way to start deciphering the world, don’t you think?

 

 

 

Reprogramming your diet (an experiment)

These are becoming my favorite kind of food right now

These are becoming my favorite kind of food right now

Today I am starting a 4 week vegan diet experiment. And by experiment, I mean that I intend to experiment with new kind of foods, not that I will give up after 2 days if it’s hard. I know that it’s not that big of a deal for a lot of people (who are already following this diet) but for the rest of people who have always eaten “normal” food like everybody, it’s kind of a big deal.

Lately I had the feeling that was eating too much junk. Christmas is probably one cause, but in general I often end up eating processed food when fixing a salad would be as fast and generally better.Let’s make things clear: I’m omnivore. I eat pretty much all kind of food. I like almost everything (with the exception of andouillette, a french sausage that smells like poop… And I mean poop like when you are sick). I have never followed any diet. I’ve paid a little more attention to what I ate in the past two years but I never went crazy and stop completely to eat one kind of food. I also don’t intend to be a vegan for the rest of my life. That may happen, but right now, all I want is to experiment with the way I eat.

So what are the rules of this diet?

Well… it’s pretty simple. Eat only non processed fruits and vegetables. With the exceptions of organic almond milk, decaffeinated tea, spices and any dehydrated fruits or vegetable. I consider those as processed since they have been dehydrated. I have  document that a friend gave me with all the rules for this diet… And it says it’s good for beginners to have some cooked vegetables for supper. I will also allow myself to have some home made soups or to warm up vegetables since it’s Winter, it’s Canada and it’s fucking freezing. I don’t intend to overcook anything either, I just want something warm from time to time.

Also, no coffee, no tea, no alcohol, no candies, no chocolates, no bread, no Lucky Charms…

The goal here is not to suffer. I don’t want go through this diet and decide I will never do it again because it was to difficult. No, the main goal is to reprogram my diet. The whole idea came from some of my yoga teaching training partners. This is some kind of detox thing. And since one of the main aspect of yoga is the concept of non attachment, I think it’s a good idea to experiment with food, since, you know, you are made from the food you eat (e.g. there are some beef originated atoms in your brain). Also food has a great emotional impact. It’s more than just nutrients, it’s a way to satisfy our senses and to socialize (one quick french reference: one possible translation for “friend” is “copain” and that means “the person I share my bread with”… see what I mean?). All our great rituals (like family meetings, parties, religious related events…) involve food at some point. That’s why I think it’s interesting to be a little more detached from food and actually start to have an objective point of view on the way I am eating.

Problems that I may encounter

I already tried this diet for a couple of days in December just to know what I am getting into. I’ve also started to eat only fruits for breakfast for the past week. So I kind of have some feelings about it. Three things worry me a little:

1. Being hungry

When I experimented with it, I had this feeling of being hungry at some times of the day, generally during the afternoon. The thing is that my stomach is used to feel some weight when I eat. This is what happens when you eat a lot of cereals, sweets or meat. When you only eat fruits an vegetables, you don’t get this weight. That does not mean that you don’t get enough food, it’s just that it travels a little faster. I believe that my brain gets satisfaction from food because it feels this weight and not because it feels that my body is full of energy. Think of it this way: if you eat a burger and french fries, you feel satisfied but you also feel kind of tired and floppy. So the feeling in your stomach is not really related to the level of energy the food is bringing to you. I know this is kind of “duh… I know that” and yes everybody knows how they would feel after eating rich food but evidently we try to ignore it or we don’t consider food as a premium fuel for our bodies. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many fast foods around. So this is the whole point actually: I want to reprogram the way I feel satisfied by food. I’ve been raised thinking that rich food is something that gives you energy but in fact I never really felt it that way. So there is probably going to have some difficult times but I think in the end I will be more conscious of what is good for me.

2. Lacking energy

This is related to the previous point but I’m really afraid of being tired faster because I don’t have as much food. For some reason I have this feeling that meals including pastas, meat, rice gives me a more reserves. It’s probably not completely false. In fact I don’t know a lot on this subject. It seems that you can be raw vegan and still have a lot of energy (many of my yoga friends are and they seem all right). Also,  you can take a lot of energy just from breathing. Again that’s what yoga is about. I’ve never tried this for several days so I don’t have a clear idea of where I am going but I believe I have the tools to deal with this. I really want to work on my pranayama (which I could quickly describe as “energy management through breathing”, if you have no idea of what I am talking about) and I think this diet will probably push me to.

3. Social interactions

I mostly eat at home but sometime I eat outside with friends. A little more than a year ago I stopped alcohol for three months. And believe me, when you don’t drink alcohol you feel kind of stupid when you are having a crazy night out with your pals. I don’t know if it will be the same with food. I already planned to meet some clients and know some of these meeting will end in a restaurant. I have no idea if I can find a salad without bread, cheese, chicken that will satisfy my appetite in any restaurant. I don’t want want me a party pooper either so I guess I will find a way to adapt. There are a couple of good vegan restaurants in Montreal. I hope I will be able to incite my friends and/or clients to go there with me.

Finally this whole thing is supposed to be enjoyable. I don’t want to eat boring salads every day. No, I want to learn to make new kind of meals, I want to feel better and be generally more efficient. Also, I recently started to experiment with sprouting. It’s easy, it’s cheap and it gives you food full of excellent nutrients. I’m still no specialist in sprouting but just google it, you’ll find tons of references. Watch it, it’s addicting… Now every time I go to the grocery store I wonder what kind of new seeds or grains I could sprout. My kitchen is turning into a sprouting laboratory. So far my favorites are green lentils spouts. I could eat tons of them.

So there, I think , I’m accountable now, that’s exactly what I wanted. I may write again about this during the process… And I will definitely write about it when it’s over (or perhaps I will never stop… who knows?)

Did you do similar diets? If yes, please share your experience. I want to extend my knowledge on this subject and I’m sure other readers would be interested. Thanks!

Inside fear

This one of the posts you read 14825 times about facing your fears, except this one is different. Because fear is a big deal for me so I tried to understand more about it and I found that

actually there is something quite comfortable in fear.

Fear is like a headstand

First, let me talk about headstands. This is something I’m continually working on because I’m not naturally good with inversions. (By the way, I always feel like shit when I see new yoga students who are able to perform a headstand two weeks after discovering yoga, when I spent 2 years and my headstand is not quite perfect yet). So yeah, this thing about being upside down, it scares the hell out of me. I don’t like it. Sometime, I think about it and I’m like “why the fuck I am doing this?”. But I see the psychological and physiological effects it has on me so that’s why I want to continue.

When you are on your head, it’s hard to find a balance. But somewhere there is tiny area where everything falls into place. When you begin, you don’t even really feel this area, you just navigate around it. Sometime you feel it for just an instant but you have already passed it and you fall. But when you are able to stay in this zone something mag

ic happens and the headstand becomes not more difficult than staying on your feet (well… still a little more challenging though). And the more you go to this area, the easier it is to find and the bigger it gets (that’s what she said).

So, you see, fear is like the frigging headstand. When you enter fear everything seems difficult, you think you will fall every moment. But after a while you find this little zone where you can play inside your fear. And the more you get there, the more this zone grows with you.

Fear does not exist

What? Yes… This is actually what you realize when you are in the eye of the fear storm. You can start to explore from inside your fear and this is a totally different point of view than watching it form far away. Fear is just a projection of your mind into the real world. This is something you imagine will happen (perhaps) in the future. But you are living now and the future does not exist. And since fear resides in the future it does not exist either.

Going to the comfort zone inside fear is like going to the bathroom at 3am without turning any lights on (bonus points if you’ve watched The Shining the evening before that). You are being careful but lights or no lights, you know the path. Eventually you can do this without opening your eyes either. Because it’s not because it’s 3am and you watch the Shining that things are different. It’s just fear right… and when you walk to your bathroom you realize that Jack Nicholson is not in you hallway.

So just go inside your fear. Say yes to projects that you think are impossible for you. Try to take a little risk and observe what happens. Observation is the key when you are inside your fear. Because this will show you that your safe zone extends farther than you think and there is much more to explore than what you think.

If you liked this post, you will probably be interested in these ones:

Also my friend Chase, released his latest story Holden. I really like his style. And since you are cool people, I’m sure you will enjoy this story. You can get it on his website.

And finally… I have just opened a facebook page for this blog! You can like it to show your support and/or follow what is happening here.

Thank you! Have a great day!!

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You are lucky (and you have no excuse)

Life is hard, isn’t it? I mean, look at all the shit we have to take care about: washing dishes,  shopping for groceries, commuting in overpopulated buses, waking up early to get more stuff done, budgeting, shovelling snow, getting your credit card hacked… And all this is just surrounding the work we are doing. It’s hard, it’s tiring and worst: it never seems to end. So it’s quite easy to feel like life sucks. And actually I think life can really suck… but only if you decide that it can.

Being Grateful

I have been practicing gratitude lately (no it’s not because Thanksgiving is coming, but yes I publish this post during Thanksgiving week and I realize I will fall in this trend of grateful posts). Actually, it is part of my yoga teacher’s training. Everyday I answer a list of questions about what I did during the days and I observe how my life evolves (for those who are interested: it follows Yamas and Niyamas). One of the questions is “What are you grateful for today?” I think this is the question that resonates the most with me. Because I’m not perfect and I have this tendency, like many, to get frustrated by what life throws at me.

An exemple of ranting

“Of course the metro was stopped because some idiot tried to force a door open… And it made me late for a meeting. I ran, I was sweaty, I looked like shit. So it didn’t help looking serious in front of my client,etc…” I can rant like that for hours, but in the end it does not solve any problem. Actually it makes things worse. I’m sure you are also used to experiment frustrating events like this one, right?

What if instead I was just grateful because of the time I had to read more in the metro? What if I was just actually happy to have a meeting in the first place and be able to interact with people I respect. Oh yeah I was a little late, but whatever… Or maybe just laugh at how ridiculous my mind is when ranting. I mean, it was really not that bad, right?

You are lucky

It’s easy to take this world for granted. I’m not sure that we realize how lucky we are to just live on a planet that sustain life. Lately, I have been grateful to just be human. For all I know I could be a fly and eat shit, can you imagine that? How lucky you are that your soul was sent somehow into a human body… I’m even grateful to have this ability to experience pain, frustration and anger and all these complex emotions. And the more I’m grateful, the more good opportunities seem to come to me. Is it a consequence or a cause? I don’t really know… The world is too complex to really understand what is going on.

If you can read this. You are flipping lucky. Perhaps you are on the other side of the world, but we can communicate together, how cool is that? That means that you canconnect with the entire world. You can access knowledge, you can create a business. Go tell about internet to Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein or Henry Ford. Imagine how they would have been grateful to have a tool like this one… You can actually change the world. It has never been so easy.

Really, there is no excuse for worries. No excuse for thinking of how life can be hard. There is no excuse to not live as a superhero. There is no excuse to complaints. We are lucky, its about time to act like it. And more, it’s actually our duty to make the most of it.

So I’m asking this question: What are you grateful for today?