Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Waiting on Pet Peeves

I think most of us probably have at least a few "pet peeves." You know, those things that...just...get...under...your...skin and drive you up a wall.

One of my pet peeves is when I have to wait because of technology. It drives me nuts. For example, I get really annoyed when a computer I'm working on suddenly freezes up, even if it's only for five or ten seconds. Or, if my phone crashes, or is simply unresponsive for a few seconds. Or, if the batteries run out of my cordless mouse at work.

Those things might seem petty. Actually, they ARE petty -- none of those things is a Big Deal, but they annoy the crap out of me nonetheless.

On one hand, the fact that I get annoyed about certain inconsequential things is not a big deal. As I mentioned, I think most of us probably have our list of otherwise silly little things that tick us off. On the other hand, I feel like it's a pretty big waste of my energy to get all upset over these things. Aside from that, I don't do anything good for myself by letting those annoyances get the best of me: I'm pretty sure my blood pressure goes up, cortisol is released into my bloodstream, and my bad habit of getting angry gets reinforced. And to top it all off, it's really unpleasant for those around me.

Thus, I've decided it's something I can pay some attention to -- I can work to change my response to these annoyances.

My back is bothering me, and so I'm working from home today on my laptop, which is a few years old. It hadn't been booted up in a week or so, and it took some time to finish configuring, because oh yeah, I forgot it had to install those Windows updates, and then it did this weird loop back into reconfiguring itself, and then...I could feel myself getting pissed off about it: THIS IS SO ANNOYING!!

Then I noticed myself having that response, and it was like letting air out of an overly full balloon. Instant relaxation. Then, on cue, a simple thought passed through my mind: "Maybe try just sitting and waiting for the computer to finish doing what it needs to do."

So I did. I folded my hands and waited. That was it. There was no anger, no frustration...just...waiting. It was strange to feel the absence of anger in the face of such a familiar, negative stimulus, but there I was. I had freed myself from my self-imposed prison of anger.

I know I'll have to focus on letting myself out of prison over and over again before it becomes second nature, but I'll get there. And for the time being, anyway, it was progress!

And progress felt great.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It's amazing what a short walk can do for your mood

I left the office for my lunch break in one place (stressed, ruminative, negative), and returned, having taken a half-hour or so walk, in basically the opposite state (relaxed, hopeful, grounded).

Put another way, my mind-state, when I first left the office, was like a tight knot of string. During my walk, the knot loosened bit by bit, until eventually, almost without my realizing it, there was no longer a knot at all -- only string, ready and able to take whatever form came next.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What I Love to Do

Right now, at this moment, I'm struggling with the byproducts of stress. What that means for me is my mind is flooded with thoughts; after all, I'm a thinker -- it's one of the things I do well. It's natural for me, then, for my stress to manifest that way.

It's a problem, however, because when my mind is flooded with thoughts, all sorts of "bummer" side effects tend to follow. I have a harder-than-normal time staying focused on a task or conversation, which makes day-to-day interactions and duties feel extremely burdensome. As a result of that, I tend to withdraw, which, while intuitive to me, is highly counterproductive; for when I withdraw, I am left alone with -- you guessed it -- my roiling thoughts.

Even writing this is a chore. (Reading it might feel like a chore right now, too!)

At any rate, I'd been really amped up about some work stuff, and in the aftermath of said stuff, I found myself thinking about my goals and vision for my life; I also found myself thinking about my purpose. It was a very post-modern discussion with myself, which was both exhausting and counterproductive (my love-hate relationship with post-modern critical analysis is a different topic -- read: Pandora's Box -- altogether).

What I came here to write, then, was something simple, namely, to address the question: what do I LOVE to do?

-I love it when I find the tipping point in a conversation or train of thought, or when I bear witness to, or participate in, a breakthrough. It doesn't matter if they're big or small moments, incidentally -- I love 'em either way. This "what do I LOVE to do?" question was one such "ah-ha!" moment, for example.

-I love it when I identify a solid working metaphor that helps illuminate a problem, idea, theory, or process for myself or another person. For example, I've used baseball as a metaphor -- a vehicle, really -- for lots of problems, processes, etc. in my life. And it doesn't need to be a formal metaphor, incidentally -- it can really just be any instance of successfully and appropriately applying one set of rules and circumstances and ideas to another for the sake of illumination and furthered understanding.

-I love to manage money when I'm operating with a clear or semi-clear vision of what my goals and/or endgame are. I love it. I also love thinking about managing money, and, really, money in general. I love visualizing cash flow models; I love visualizing and dreaming up models for generating increased cash flow, and visualizing the factors and variables that detract from cash flow.

-I love achieving deeper understanding of things I find interesting.

-I love speaking to groups and crowds of people about ideas.

-I love facilitating conversations among people about pretty much anything.

-I love digging into new and unconventional ways of doing things -- I love moving past, through, and around conventional wisdom.

-I love the New York Mets. I love baseball. I love consuming information about the New York Mets and baseball.

-I love to sit and read.

-I love to listen to really good speeches, or conversations, or podcasts (hello, Radiolab!). Similarly, I love to watch really well-written, acted, and produced movies, TV shows, and theatrical productions.

-I love to listen to really good and interesting music. (Totally subjective, of course, but we're talking about me here.)

-Other things.

I think there's real value in articulating these sorts of things to oneself. To my way of thinking, they make up some of the most important "stuff" of personhood. And besides -- going through this list has been a huge boost. My mind is clear, my mood is lifted, and I'm "unstuck." Sweet.