We have a tendency to move fast. On our way form A to B, we like to take the shortest possible route.
When we go grocery shopping, things better be efficient. Doing stuff fast means getting onto the next thing. And then the next.
About Learning Forward
Society encourages such forward-learning behavior. The more you lean, the more time you’ll have to do something significant.
And things really do gain from leaning into them. All things but one: peace of mind.
The thing is, peace of mind is kind of a big deal. Some would even go as far as to say that peace of mind equals happiness (monks and such folks).
Leaning forward has its upside. Things will improve.
Also when we direct our attention to the future, we’re less likely to do something stupid. But occasionally, focus on the future turns into something stupid itself.
This is the case whenever we forget that life really only consists of the present moment. And then the next. And then the next. (Monks and such folks know that, too.)
As a result, we lose touch with our minds and bodies. Detached seconds turn into minutes, minutes turn into hours, into days, into years.
I like to listen to audiobooks between as well as during activities. Why not become smarter while I’m at the gym or washing the dishes?
It worked well in the beginning. But after a while I started getting irritated at the audiobook, the activity, and myself.
Both going to the gym and washing the dishes are fundamentally enjoyable activities to me. But they have something in common. They gain from undivided attention and suffer from having a cable dangling down my neck. (I know…, I’m too cheap to buy AirPods.)
Half-Hearted Means Heartless
When you pay attention to how that which is done half-heartedly makes you feel, you’ll notice emptiness (and not the Buddhist kind).
Doing things distracted is like being strapped between two magnets. You’re being pulled into different directions and don’t know where to look. You’re no longer doing things fully.
And anything that isn’t attended to fully tends to lose its value. It’s not a good deal.
A conversation, working out, even cleaning the kitchen can all be be satisfying in and of themselves. You can derive a sense of accomplishment and calm from them. Your thoughts can run free and re-organize themselves, while your body is engaged in something.
But without intentionality, a lot of things become pointless.
Math Revised: Adding Means Substracting
Whenever there’s too much addition to the moment, you lose what you’ve started with.
Wanting more is good. But sacrificing our relationship to the present to get there isn’t in our best interest.
From a cosmic perspective, life is nothing but a never-ending string of trivial events. But there can be meaning in each and every one of them. That is, if you want it.
Paying attention generates meaning. Multi-tasking destroys it.
Said my n****s don’t dance we just pull up our pantsTerror Squad
And do the rockaway, now lean back, lean back, lean back, lean back.
Lean Back, Learn Back
Slow down, learn back because your life depends on it. In the long run, the decisions you make will make you.
We tend to believe that who we are and our actions are somewhat separate. Based on that model, we can start at point A, do a bunch of stuff, and then arrive at point B–as exactly the same person.
It’s like walking through a wind tunnel and expecting that our hair won’t be messed up on the other side.
But what about the countless experiences and decisions that you’ve met on the way? What about the wind?
“I will only do this for a few years and then I will do that thing I actually wanted to do.”
It sounds reasonable. Especially we assume that our identity and our actions aren’t the same thing.
But your decision to accept and remain in a given situation changes you. The you that comes out on the other side of it simply won’t be the same person.
The longer you stay in any place that isn’t quite you, the more the place itself will subtly change your character.
Maybe your contempt for your job starts becoming a part of your personality. You become cynical, chronically forward-learning. You rush. When you lean forward like that, the end of the tunnel seem closer. But so is the end of you as you know yourself..
The Best Thing That Ever Happened To me
Sometimes your mind plays tricks on you via cognitive dissonance. If your behavior and your attitude are incronguent, one of them will change. If you stick to your career despite of how you feel about it, your mind might begin to tell you that it’s actually not that bad.
I sometimes make fun of parents that say that getting children was the best thing that has ever happened to them. Maybe it was, I don’t know.
But if it wasn’t, would your mind allow you to see the mistake?
As a thought experiment, assume that becoming a parent was the worst decision you’ve ever made. Would your mind make you feel regret for the next twenty years?
I don’t think so. So either behavior modifies attitude, or the attitude modifies behavior. If they’re in conflict, one of them has to give.
This is important to keep in mind when you’re making decisions that involve suffering while you wait to get from A to B.
Everything you do leaves a trace in your character.
If you are constantly forward-leaning, aiming for the brightest future that you can imagine, you will not only end up with a great future. You’re also likely to end up constantly forward-leaning.
Unless you later take aggressive action to reverse your conditioning, you may remain that person for the rest of your life.
That’s why the danger of doing soul-sucking stuff is bigger than we think.
“I’m just doing this for a while, so I get the money I need to retire.”
No you’re not. You will have a little more of you soul sucked out of you every single day until there’s not much left of it. Sure, once you complete your masterplan you have the money you wanted.
But what are you going to do with it without a soul?
How To Keep Your Soul
We you need to slow down as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.
Slowing down is a shield against the personality-morphing effects of always moving forward.
Moving forward is great.
But if you’re always moving forward, you become a forward-leaning person and then your whole life is about leaning-forward. There is nothing wrong with that either.
But clearly you’ll never arrive. Therefore, you must find way to anchor to yourself on the journey.
Many people follow the framework of working really hard (because they have to) until they stop working (because they finally can).
But what if you’re not like that. What if you’re so forward-leaning that you’re doing it for it’s own sake; if you keep going just so you don’t fall flat on your stomach?
What if you, like me, are the kind of person who’ll always try to be productive — for the rest of your life? Someone who will make up useful things to do long after the work is over?
If you’re someone who is that committed to to growing, to building your future, there is only way for you to ever get a sense of peace and it’s now. (It’s always now.)
It’s while you’re working on your business. It’s while you are pondering the best way to invest your money. It’s while you reject that cookie and fast because there is nothing around that fits your diet.
If you’re a person with a permanent forward-learn, you’re slightly different.
Your pleasure doesn’t come from the cookie, or the retirement, or even your ripped abs.
You live for the feeling of working towards a goal. That’s your pleasure-center.
But because it’s a rushed pleasure (the next goal is always around the corner), you need to counter-balance. Your tool: slowing down. Slowing down to take a breath, slowing down to do one thing at the time.
For those of us who will never stop, there won’t be the big relief in the end of it all. That’s why we need to seek relief continuously.
The Simple Life
Life is simple if you have that need of being productive. You have an internal locus of control. Your rewards come from inside yourself. In other words, you have control over your actions.
Productivity as the ultimate goal is independence at its best.
When you’re productivity-oriented, your happiness is moving forward. It makes life simple.
But that’s why it’s even more important that you protect the simplicity of your life. We all know what happens if productivity goes ape shit.
Remember that the simplicity of it is all you have. It’s your treasure. Guard it by slowing down, by learning back.
As we climb up the latter of our lives, we ought to enjoy even the steps that seem insignificant.
You can do it all at once. You can even listen to audiobooks while you shower and plan your day. But for what?
You’re already going above the speed limit when most people are happy riding their E-bikes.
Slow down, don’t rush. Your life depends on it.