There’s a place that I find myself at times where I have a series of choices to make that can heavily influence my levels of energy. I see this as something that many other people struggle with as well. No amount of coffee can persuade this energy because this energy is not like the bright eyed feeling we may get from coffee. The energy I am speaking about is the energy that excites us and animates us beyond any feeling that caffeine can provide. I liken this energetic spark to the feeling of new love. You take risks to see this person. You go to great lengths to have them near you. You feel ecstasy overflowing from your insides as if you were about to explode with pure joy. Everyone around you can feel your radiating energy. You are unstoppable. You are invincible.
I know this feeling. It’s an amazing feeling. I also get it when I discover doorways to new movements or meet someone who is as excited by the potential of movement as I am. I also know what it feels like to be on the complete opposite of this feeling. To feel so upside down and outside of myself that it feels fraudulent to merely exist. I feel terrified and my breath shortens at the thought of beginning my practice. Even the things I love can not coax me off the floor or out of bed. It’s a doom-full feeling that no amount of passion, even obsession, can seem to override. Society tries to convince me that these passions and obsessions will carry me through the hard times but the depression I feel doesn’t seem to care about these one size fits all cliches.
So if passion (i.e. obsession) can not fuel me on off days, I need to resort to a system, routine, method or whatever you may want to call it that can keep me on track towards my goals while mitigating the damage of depressive feelings and thoughts. The systems allow us to stick to a plan and then evaluate what did and did not work at specified intervals. This approach is much like physical training. When you stick to a method and track your progress, you will see results. Check in every 4-6 weeks, adjust properly, and continue to progress. For simplicity sake, we can call this mental programming. I’m certainly not the first to take this approach nor coin it as such and I thank all of those who have laid the groundwork and documented there experiences so I could benefit without all of the pains of failure. Yet, failure will be imminent and must be experienced in order to better the systems we create. Also, do not take this post as gospel. Systems should have a strong fundamental base but should be open to improvisation and exploration by the individual. Systems will also be open to the scrutiny of others. These will be moments for learning as you will discover the holes and flaws in your approach, whether pointed out by others or yourself. Lastly, the system should be self discovered and self appointed. Often we can take others systems too literally and blindly follow their approach.
Here are some ideas for creating your own system:
Non Zero Days
This idea was initially presented to me as a child when my parents would tell me to read or go play outside when I would complain about being bored. That idea was to general though and finding a Reddit thread gave more substance to this concept. It has become a daily guide for me and keeps me away falling victim to a depressive state of mind. The idea is simple yet powerful: don’t let your day end without accomplishing anything, no matter how small it is, that your future self will thank you for. As these non zero days build up, you build discipline and open the door for new possibilities that are not available to you through stagnation. The reddit post expands upon this and dives even deeper to provide a 4 prong approach with non zero days being the first rule.
Mind Emptying Practice
Mindfulness and meditation seem to be the in buzzwords we hear about everyday for a happier life. As cliche as it may be, taking time out of your day to meditate has long lasting effects beyond the 5 minutes you may dedicate to it everyday. A key here is the everyday component. Studies show that meditating consistently has the power to change your perceptions of your environment and situation. There are 2 things that meditation has specifically provided me: 1) reclaim my time and feel power over my life and 2) provide stillness to an always connected and busy day. Observing my busy mind allows me to approach the complexities of my day as an observer instead of a victim. I am able to approach difficult people and situations as simply moments in a reality that I get to experience as the subject of a great journey. The bad times don’t seem so bad and the good times feel that much sweeter. If sitting still isn’t your thing, walking meditation might be for you. Also, remember that there is nothing to accomplish here. Meditation can take many forms and does not have to be only what you see or here in the media. Emptying the mind versus filling the mind might be a better way to visualize and implement this practice. I believe the key here is taking the time for stillness and reminding yourself that being here right now, in whatever form that might be, is ok.
Remember, you may feel frustration the first time you do and the 1,000th time. The point is to observe that frustration and understand that you are NOT the frustration but merely EXPERIENCING it.
Everyday we must move. We have no other choice. We move to eat. We move to sleep. We move to get to work. We move to meet our family and friends. But what happens when we consciously choose to move for moving sake, simply because we can? Movement then becomes more than just a chore for preventing weight gain but rather a means to explore our human potential. Too often, I hear people say how they partied over the weekend so now they need to go to the gym to rectify their sins. When this mindset is taken to our physicality, we run the risk of consistently fall short of the totality of what movement can provide us. If we approach movement as a practice, we can build upon the capabilities of our bodies and open up new levels of expression. Movement is a privilege that we often take for granted as merely a means of getting from place to place. Taking the practice mentality allows us to open up doors within our own structures. Physical play with our friends and families can become a reclamation of what was given to us originally and what many of us have lost along the way. Movement is an essential component to any system and should be explored everyday. What’s another way to describe movement? PLAY! Kids do this naturally and their brains and bodies benefit. The idea that this changes as adults is misguided and we should approach the building of our systems with a strong focus on play. Movement is an innate way for us to get there.
Moving Mind Matter
Whether you like to journal or not, writing your thoughts down on paper can be powerful. Thoughts go from abstract to concrete, at least momentarily. On paper is where we can see our thoughts from a different lense. Over time, I’ve found that my thoughts don’t mean much unless I can express them with others. Writing is the first step to pulling that information out and morphing it into something more than mental material. As I document my thoughts over time, I can see the patterns and biases I hold in my mind. I can see where I expect myself to be through goals and what steps I took to achieve them. I can see where I fall short and where I succeed. As I check in with myself on paper, I can refine my approach to the system I create. As a saying goes, what get’s measured gets done.
It’s important to remember that these suggestions above aren’t the only ways to create this routined approach to living. They are observations of what has worked for me. It is important to note, however, that there is one consistent truth I have found in my life; Having a system/routine keeps starves depression of its vital life force and helps me accomplish more of what I want in my life. I’ve learned these approaches from those I consider more successful when I was seeking a way out of depression. It may not work for you but it works for me. If you are seeking answers, I hope you find some clarity within your own system. For more information from the wiser ones out there, I recommend checking out Tim Ferriss, Ido Portal, Seth Godin, Stephen Jepson