Reduce the Stress of Too Many Choices

>> Friday

WE HAVE SO many opportunties available to us in the developed world, and we are bombarded by so much information, and the world is full of so many worthy causes that most of us are overwhelmed by the opportunities and choices we have. It's really a wonderful problem to have (compared to someone living in a time or place with very little information and almost no choices about how to spend their time).

But while it may be wonderful, it doesn't feel wonderful, does it? It is a major source of bad moods. You have so many things you want to do, and so many things you feel you should to do, it can be depressing. You have more worthy goals than you will ever accomplish if you worked in a feverish frenzy every moment of your life. It is overwhelming.

There is only one answer: You must prune your goals.

There is only one problem with this: Complexity will keep creeping in. You will naturally drift toward greater complexity.

I’m referring to this as “pruning” goals rather than “dropping some goals” because the process has to be continual. Just as tree branches keep growing, your list of goals will keep growing. You don’t prune once and for all — you can’t. You have to keep doing it.

Goals tend to increase and accumulate, weighing you down and slowing progress, until you are overwhelmed with too much to do. This can be demoralizing. The way to prevent it or cure it is to sit down and list your goals, and then try your best to prune some of them. Either give them up, or put them in a file to be accomplished later (a someday-maybe file).

This is hard to do. And it’s hard for the same reason it’s hard to throw away something you own, even if you haven’t used it in years. After all, you may still want to use it in the future, right? In effect, that object represents a goal. It might be an old tennis racket you haven’t used, but it represents a goal to play tennis “some day.”

There is a certain degree of built-in greed we all have. We want to own, we want to accumulate, not just physical possessions but also future accomplishments. That’s why giving up a goal is difficult. But it has to be done if you want to live in peace. You have to throw away perfectly good and desirable goals.

You can curb your natural greed by practicing the virtue of simplicity. Learn to appreciate simplicity and focus, and appreciate them so much you are willing to suffer the pruning.

And I’m not just talking about your stated goals. Someone might spend three hours a day watching television and yet not think of it as a goal. They might spend more actual uninterrupted time watching television than any other activity, and not ever consider it one of their goals. But it is functioning as a goal, and a very important one, given how much time they spend on it. Relaxation or entertainment or escape must be an important goal of theirs.

If the amount of time you spend on something doesn't match how important you feel it is, the time has come to prune that goal. You don’t have to go overboard. Everyone needs a certain amount of downtime. But you can prune until it reflects your true values.

The fewer your goals, the more focused you are. The more focused you are, the faster your progress, and fast progress prevents the feeling of overwhelm. It is enlivening and motivating, spuring you on to more and more accomplishment and peace of mind. To help make this happen, keep your goals pruned.

This is one of seven principles of Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation High.

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You Are a Star (In More Ways Than One)

>> Monday

THE MOLECULES you're made of were made in a sun. That sun (or star) lived a full sun life — a billion, two billion, maybe five billion years — and then at the end of its life it went supernova and exploded, creating a huge cloud of stardust. We know this because the heavy elements existing in such abundance on earth are created in the nuclear furnace of a star.

The dust accumulated, pieces drawn together by their own gravity, and eventually settled into our solar system as we know it.

Not only is all life on earth star stuff, but you are solar powered. The energy from the sun is captured by plants and then converted by you into energy.

And the evolutionary path that led to us was further helped by another star's supernova explosion which created another vast dust cloud filled with radiation. Our solar system passed through that radiation cloud and it caused massive mutations in the early life forms on earth, leading life into new directions, one of which led to you.

You are made up of an old star. You are fueled by a star. Your genetic evolution was crucially influenced by a star.

And when you die, you will become star dust.

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A Few Of Your Favorite Things

>> Saturday

CONSIDERED A HOLIDAY song, My Favorite Things is a song about a method to improve your mood. And the method actually works. If you remember a few of your favorite things, then you really won't feel so bad.

Try it today. You don't have to write them down or make a project out of it. Just think of some of your favorite things — not things you want but things you already have and love. It's a good technique.

Click here if you'd like to listen to a clip of the song right now (free).

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What Is Bringing You Down Right Now?

>> Thursday

THINK OF SOMETHING bringing you down today. Just pick one thing interfering with you being in a great mood right now. If you're feeling great today, think of something that put you in a bad mood several times in the past.

Just pick one thing. Do this now... You have time (this is a short article).

Okay, now see if you can think of one thing you believe about it. What do you think is true about it?

Now ask yourself throughout the day today, "Am I SURE that's true?"

For example, John has a pain in his knee and it is bringing him down today. He believes it's a sign he's getting old. So he spends the day asking himself, "Am I SURE it is a sign I'm getting old?"

Try this today. It's a simple technique. You can do it while doing other things, so it doesn't need to take much of your time.

It is possible asking yourself if you're SURE it's true will make you feel uncertain about your belief. This is a good thing. The uncertainty will make you feel better. You might be surprised by that, but part of what's bringing you down is a negative assumption you're making, and when you put that assumption into question, the depressing effect of the assumption is eased and lightened, so you feel better.

Even if you think you're sure about your assumption to begin with, keep wondering, "Am I really sure that's true?"

Just wonder. Don't try to think positive. Don't try to make yourself believe something. Just wonder about it in a curious, interested way. I think you'll be surprised at how effective this very gentle technique is at improving your mood.

Learn more about this technique: Antivirus For Your Mind

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