The power of serenity

The idea for this post came to me when I was listening to “The Ballad of Serenity”, one of my favorite songs and the intro soundtrack of Firefly, one of my favorite TV-shows. I think that serenity can have a very positive impact on feeling happy and satisfied with one’s own life. It also helps accepting other people, since you will remain calm about their mistakes. Stopping to rage about stupidly acting people can save a lot of energy, which can be used for something else. But of course controlling yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds, although I think it is trainable. I consider myself as a serene person. I don’t get mad very easily (there are some situations though, where I wish that I could just get really angry about something) and I want to share with you some aspects which often help me to keep calm.

First of all, when I feel a tiny bit of rage coming up inside me, I try to take a moment to consciously feel and acknowledging it. This helps me find the source of this feeling. I always want to know why exactly I am getting mad about something. Is someone really pissing me off or am I just very stressed about everything else? Whatever it is, if you know where it comes from, it will help you to let it go quickly as well.

Also I always ask myself what I gain from being mad. By becoming aware of the benefit of being mad (or its unnecessity), it often doesn’t seem worth it and the feeling automatically fades away. We are often just getting stressed by loosing time because other people don’t act as they should, for example in traffic or in the line at the supermarket, when the one in front of you is searching for every cent to pay the exact amount. But just take a breath and quickly guess, how much time you are loosing through that. Did you ever saw someone searching for the right money longer than 30 seconds? How much faster would you be home, if you could drive those 10 km/h faster? If you’re already late, a few seconds more or less won’t matter anyway, so it’s better to arrive relaxed.

For training to relax more in such situations, I found something quite simple in here. When you have time just get into the longest lane in the supermarket. This way you will get used to waiting and handle unexpected delays more serene. Search for ways to slow yourself down when you find the time. You are scrolling through social media? Try to find a spot in your house, where the wifi is weak and continue there, waiting for every picture and video to load for a bit first. For myself I think that this is a really good training for patience, and I want to try it out in the future. The good thing is, that you can slow down almost everything. It’s up to you to find opportunities to steadily train to remain calm when something takes longer than expected.

From James Clear I got another approach on doing so. Although he actually meant it as a training to feel more confident, I think it also works fine to be more calm. He suggests to just take two minutes every day to do nothing, not watching TV, playing with the phone or talking to anybody. I actually already tried this out a long time ago and I found it pretty helpful. Sadly I didn’t manage to stick to it, but I wanna try again. It gave me some time to think about myself and reflect on how I was doing with everything.

So why always stress about every second other people cost you? Take the time to think and to relax, so you can use your powers for something more important and fun.

How to accept others

Since we live together with other people, we necessarily have to accept them if we want to live in harmony with each other. If you want someone to be a part of your life, you will have to accept their way of life. Otherwise, you keep judging this someone about something he considers normal and get upset or even get mad because of that, and we all know that this won’t lead to something good.

In the past time, I tried out different ways to accept people more easily.  I felt happy to be able to understand and accept parts of people with which I didn’t agree on. So here are a few things I wanted to share with you:

  1. Some things are neither right nor wrong. Not everything in this world can be sorted into black or white. There are many things that will never be proven or disproven (for example the existence of god). Everyone should create their own opinion about these and choose something to believe in, with which they can live the best. But also one shouldn’t forget that this is always just a belief without any real proof and that others may think otherwise about it.
  2. Before judging someone for behaving in a (from your view) wrong way, think about it again, and this time include everything you know about that person. Sometimes people seem to act unreasonable or overreact to something. I think there is nothing like that, there is always a reason behind an action. If someone seems to overreact it could be that it was just that last straw, which broke the camel’s back. It could be that they already experienced many similar situations and are just getting tired of it or not even aware of their reaction. This is why always try to follow the other’s line of reasoning and understand why they do what they do. Sometimes, of course, it’s hard, especially if you don’t know much about their past. But then I think it’s still better to keep this always in mind and maybe ask them to explain everything. If they don’t want to, one should accept that too of course, while the other one should accept the lack of understanding. I believe that this way a lot of fights could be prevented or laid down since it reduces misunderstanding. Judging someone without understanding them will only make things worse.
  3. If you can’t accept someone or they won’t accept you, walk away. Why would you bother yourself with someone, who is not willing to understand you? Everyone is better off if your are with the people who accept you as you are. You won’t be struggling to change yourself to become the person, which others want you to be, only to realize that he still don’t accept you. You will just feel less confident and happy about yourself. Sometimes walking away isn’t an option. For example, if you have to deal with that person every day and it is important to you. I think then it is better to talk directly and honestly with them, asking them why they don’t accept you and if needed explain yourself to them. Then you should try to find a solution together for how to make things work between you. But no matter what happens, never let yourself down!
  4. Try to see yourself from someone else’s point of view. How would you think of yourself as someone else? Would you understand yourself, if you don’t know parts of your thoughts and story? Try to explain yourself to you. This can often clear up your mind and help you understand how others view of yourself.
  5. Always consider feelings and emotions. I found myself being able to understand myself and others better once I started to ask about my or their feelings. In my opinion, feelings are the most important factor when it comes to making a decision or doing something. For example when you’re hungry you tend to be less patient about everything, when you’re sad you tend to laugh about fewer jokes than usual, and when you’re mad it could happen that you will get mad about the tiniest irritations. So always try to find out how people feel and hopefully it will get you closer to understand and accept them.

Overall I think it’s always important to see the whole picture of a person and not just a few actions on their own, because the reasons for these actions often lay hidden in the background. I found doing this very hard and often impossible because you can never grasp the complete background of someone else (I can’t even grasp my own complete background). But talking and listening to the other one – especially listening – always helped. Then you are not searching for the reasons on your own and everything is getting easier and more clear for both.

I hope that at least some of these points are making you think about how you see the people around you as it made me do so. I found myself understanding even myself more by trying to apply the techniques to me. I have to admit that I’m also not always following all of this but I try to steadily remind myself of it and I think I follow these more and more.

Please note that these are based on experiences and thoughts from me or the people surrounding me and don’t hesitate to add your own thoughts about this ;). I’m eager to read about them.

PS: Since it has been awhile since my last post, because I didn’t know how to write everything down, I want to thank everyone, who kept asking about my next post, and the author of this blog post, which inspired me to just write it down without thinking too much on how to write it.

Getting back on track

Happy new year! Finally I’m writing again after missing out two weeks as you might have noticed. Well, the first skip was planned because it was Christmas and I wanted to spend the time with my family, whereas last week I actually had planned to start writing again. However, something held me back, and this something will be the topic of this post. My experiences with breaking my habits in the first week of the new year.

So last week was a bit stressful for me. I had to finish a presentation for my seminar, while also working on another project for university. Somehow it all was very hard for me, I felt tired throughout all the days, being unmotivated to do these assignments, which made me only work even slower. This feeling somehow spilled over to my habits as well. I didn’t write my blog post, I didn’t go swimming nor running. Even though I often had the thought that I should at least go for a quick run now and that it will make me feel better and work better on my projects, I still didn’t go. Why? I don’t know exactly. At that moment I just felt like something heavy lying in my stomach, being tied up and making itself comfortable in there, so I just kept working very inefficiently on the assignments. Looking back I’m pretty sure I would have achieved more if I would just have gone running.

This showed me that it is extremely hard to get a rock rolling. You have to push yourself and overcome this heavy feeling inside of you. Now that I’m writing this post I can feel my motivation increasing more and more. So the feeling that stopped me from going running only existed because I didn’t go running and every time I lost, it got stronger. Today I won. I won because I didn’t let myself think too much about whether I should write this post now or later, I just forced myself to do it. And I have to say it feels very good and relieving.

I hope that next time, when I or also maybe you, feel this again, we will remember this post and just don’t let that feeling win. Afterwards, we will always feel better and more motivated for upcoming work. So now that I feel motivated again I will go swimming tomorrow, without fuss or quibble.

Subconsciously making decisions

In her book “Mastermind” Maria Konnikova writes about how our mind is influenced by our environment. This mostly doesn’t happen with our full awareness, but often by our subconsciousness. As an example she points out that universities have a higher apply-rate on sunny days than on rainy days. And of course the place looks more beautiful, feels nicer and warmer when you visit it on a sunny day and thus giving you a better feeling about it.  However it doesn’t seem very clever letting the decision of where to study depend on the weather.

This subconscious decision making is the basis of A/B-testing in the web. Obama’s campaign 2008 for example  ran this experiment with the website visitors. They tried different subscribe buttons, as well as different videos or pictures above it. It turned out that the most effective combination was a “Learn more”-button alongside a picture of Obama’s family, leading to a much higher subscribing rate than the other options. This shows that somehow a little text and one picture can already change a lot in ourselves, leading us into making a decision, which we maybe wouldn’t make if the text of the button would be different.

Seeing how such simple variations can have such an impact on us, makes me wonder how many decisions I made with the help of such little tricks. Today I’m pretty sure that we all participate in such an experiment every day (although I couldn’t find any numbers yet). But companies are always trying to find the best way to sell their products to us and persuading our subconsciousness by beautiful and friendly looking buttons and pictures that their product is the best. And this seems to achieve the wanted effect very well and efficiently, especially in this era where online shopping grows more and more, making it very easy to run these experiments and finding out what our subconsciousness likes the most.

The mean thing about this is, that the user or buyer doesn’t realize, how he is being influenced. The only thing that we can do to prevent making unwanted decisions is reflecting more about the use of one product before buying it or making a decision. Being aware that you’re probably manipulated by outer influences probably already does half of the job. Reminding yourself of this over and over again makes you think automatically more about your decisions and falling less for the nice environment.

It’s always hard to do so and keep this in mind all the time, since it’s a very hidden manipulation of our feelings and thus never falls to our eyes. We have to think about it actively. But don’t let us make stupid decisions due to our subconsciousness, especially when they are important and better rethink once again before making a final decision, which we may regret some day.

What revolution will you lead?

This is the last question of the blog challenge and I’m very happy and proud that I made it so far. It feels good to complete it and I really enjoyed this and learned a lot about myself especially. Thanks to the “Live you Legend”-team for giving the nudge to start my own blog and also to everyone, who gave me feedback on this and kept me going on. And I won’t think about stopping my blog now and will keep this appointment in my weekly schedule.

But now for today’s question: What revolution will you lead? As I already said in my last post I want to explore more than exploiting again. Open up for new ways to live and other world views and opinions. So my revolution would be to try to get other people as well to do this and help each other by exchanging our ways of thinking. I think that, when people would try to understand different points of view more and open up to new ideas, it would lead to more acceptance and tolerance. It would reduce the fights, where just both sides end up being hurt instead of staying to the topic, trying to follow the other’s argument and first think about it, why it’s wrong or true. My hope is that less fights would lead to a more peaceful world, but now I’m aiming to high again, but that is one of my dreams and I will try to follow it maybe in just the small version.

I would be already very happy and proud, if my revolution just contains myself, because it’s hard to back away a bit from one’s own opinion and consider completely different things instead. If someone joins me then it would be even more helpful and better.

In this world where borders are being closed again and a lot of often reasonless hatred wells up in social media, I think it would be helpful to just reconsider his own opinions and try to understand why other people believe what they believe. Mostly there is no right or wrong and everyone should be aware that his own opinion isn’t the only valid one. The diversity of thoughts is a precious good of human society and luckily it seems to me to be impossible that it would be gone some day. But let’s not allow these diversities to split the society, by acknowledging and accepting other beliefs and opinions.

What difference do you want to make?

This is a hard question for me and I spontaneously don’t know any answer to it. Of course I had some thoughts, like that it would be nice to give everyone in the world enough food and water, such that nobody would have to see how to survive the next day, but then I discard it again because sadly it is impossible to do so.

So I guess, I have to aim for a much smaller difference. What are the differences I can make? Well, it’s best to start small, so I’ll start by just wanting to make a difference to myself. Finding ways to get a good and content feeling with myself. But what exactly do I want to aim for? And somehow through this blog this question got a lot clearer to me. I want to think things more through. What I mean is, thinking about a decision one more time (maybe from the other point of view) before doing it, reflecting information that I get and trying to find out if it’s really correct.

Nowadays fake news are a big deal and through the Internet it got easier to spread and receive them. Algorithms are analyzing what we like to read and hear and thus giving us more of that instead of other various ideas and opinions.  I sometimes have the feeling that these algorithms form our opinion more and more. They want to keep us on their websites, so they feed us with content, which confirms us and thus making us feel better and more confident with our own thinking.

It makes us more exploiting and less exploring, which is not always good because it just keeps ways they are, without giving it the chance to get any better. So that’s the difference I want to make for myself. I want to try to keep my mind open to new things and other ways to live or points of view. I want to find ways to do that easier, since it’s not very easy to change your own opinion.

I would be very happy if you would also share your points of view and thoughts about anything here or even just in everyday’s conversation. Because I think that the difference of our thinking is what brought us so far and it wouldn’t be good if we would loose that. Every thought is worth of elaboration.

 

What is your elevator pitch?

First of all: What is an elevator pitch? Luckily the blog challenge team explains their questions always a bit more and they say that an elevator pitch is everything that you get excited about, the “fun stuff in your life” as they call it.

So far so good, so what is it now, my elevator pitch? When I think about the fun stuff in my life, one thing immediately pops up in my head (I guess that’s a good sign that I found my elevator pitch). I really like to think about statistics. Reading, Analyzing, Creating. Everything you can do with it.

As a kid I liked to play “Top Trumps” (Wikipedia) and soon wanted to find out which one is the best card, so I created a league system and let the cards play against each other by comparing every value with each other and thus the card with the most points wins. Later I used the data to draw some graphs to make the result more clear (the problem was that I drew very small and thus nobody could see a lot). These were my first experiences with statistics and drawing the results. By the way, I was very disappointed with my results, because it turned out that of all the different “Top Trumps”-games I had, there were only a few which didn’t have a card, that won all the games (pretty unfair, isn’t it?).

I got interested in analyzing and reading statistics after reading the book “Lügen mit Zahlen: Wie wir mit Statistiken manipuliert werden” by Bosbach and Korff (2011). The authors show how you can manipulate people by making statistics and changing them a little, so they don’t get wrong but also loose some of their unwanted truth. For example (I got it from the book) let’s look at two politicians fighting for your vote. The first one tells you that in the past, while he was governing, the number of teachers working in schools grew by let’s say 100. The second one tells, that during his reign the government hired 300 new teachers. Based on these information, whom would you give your vote?

Well would you change your mind, if I told you that during the reign of the second politician there were also 350 teachers loosing their jobs? As you can see by leaving out the bad numbers, one can create very beautiful numbers and thus creating a falsely positive image about something not that shiny, and one doesn’t even have to lie. There are a lot more tricks shown in the books and they made me aware of manipulative statistics in newspaper, voting campaigns, advertisement and such. I recognized the tricks of the book very often and thus believing the sources less.

Since statistics surround us everywhere in our daily life and not few of them have been made more beautiful and manipulated, I found it very helpful for me to filter out some of the wrong images and trying to get to the real information by just looking at the real numbers.

What’s one thing you’re proud of?

I’m proud of keeping up my new habits for almost three weeks now! Three weeks ago I decided to write this blog again and finally do the blog challenge. At the same time I also wanted to do sports 4 times a week, at least one time of them swimming, which I also managed to do. And I have to say that this feels good. I feel less tired and more confident because I see that I can do this. By receiving a lot of good feedback and encouragement by my girlfriend, family and friends it is easier to keep doing this. A big thanks to all of you for that! All of this motivates me more and more and I don’t feel like I ever want to stop.

It also helps me a lot to put appointments for the habits into my weekly plan. That way I always take the time to write and it feels harder not to do it, since I would have to move the appointment to somewhere else then. For sports I always plan 5 times so I can skip one time, if necessary or when I’m just too lazy. But since I still follow my habit that way I don’t feel broken down if I miss one of the 5 times and it’s easier to continue. The last times I tried to develop new habits the biggest problem was, that I felt like I had no time for them and thus stopped. By planning more time for it than needed, everything becomes suddenly more flexible and it feels like I have more time in the end. This little trick is also a huge help for me to keep on going.

What do people thank you for?

People usually thank me for every help I give them. I can’t remember any situation where I helped someone and didn’t get a quick “thank you” in return.

In some situations I really enjoy helping, especially when you get a big thanks afterwards, and in some less, like helping in the kitchen or so – which doesn’t mean I’m never doing it! But let’s focus on the nice stuff.

I really enjoy helping someone with problems of thought, like answering mathematical, logical or even philosophical questions. The great thing about these is that you really have to think yourself into the problem and try to get closer to the answer step by step by creating new ideas and trashing them again after proving them wrong. The good thing is that you can often keep some single thoughts of it and thus creating the solution out of multiple ideas. It’s somehow fascinating to see how (hopefully) all the ideas merge into one solution in the end, a big puzzle of all the small true pieces in every idea. If you can create this with someone else, it’s much nicer, because others get ideas from a complete different point of view (especially in philosophy!). That’s why I’m always very happy if someone asks me for some ideas on an interesting topic and I’m eager to help, aiming for a beautiful solution in the end. Getting a thanks afterwards fills me with a feeling of pride, that I was able to bring in some thoughts and help on the problem.

It’s somehow funny that sometimes you don’t have to create any ideas to already help. Often it’s already enough to just listen to someone, especially when it’s about something in the private life. Problems here are often very complex, so finding a solution is mostly not possible, but already listening to someone and showing him that he’s not alone on this, can already help a lot. From what I experienced you don’t really have to bring up ideas (I often found myself not being able to do so), just focusing on the story and listen to it attentively is enough to make someone feel much better. And who knows? Maybe the story also gives some inspiration for one’s own problems or view of life. So afterwards I always feel thoughtful about the talk, trying to find some ideas to solve the situation, but also having some nice feeling in my stomach which makes me comfortable with myself.

There is one thing though, which often bothers me about helping. When people start to think about help as some kind of currency, which you can only get when you give something in return. I don’t like the idea of helping someone knowing it creates an urge in him to return something in exchange. It leaves me somehow uncomfortable. Also I don’t like getting help when it’s just because someone is owing me something or expecting something from me. Personally I enjoy helping much more, when I just get a simple but honest thanks in return, without wasting a thought about any depths or so.

Why do we always have to weigh the “helps” against each other instead of simply accepting it? In my opinion you can’t really value help and thus thinking about depths doesn’t help anyone. If someone helps me I like him more and help him more, but not simply because I owe him something but because I think of him as a person who is worth it and I don’t care if I put more effort in it or whatever value you want to use to assign “help” some kind of “fair” value. It would be more helpful for everyone, if we would stop thinking about it as a currency and instead just help more.

What really makes you angry about this world?

Since I am usually a very calm guy, I seldom get angry at something, so I had to think about this question for quite some time. At first nothing really popped up in my head, only things which are bothering me but not creating real anger.

To find an answer I had to think back to the moments where I felt a little anger against someone or something. So I found one thing that is making me angry: Selfishness!

People who don’t watch out for others or show no respect to them can make me really angry. The most common situation I find myself in is, where I stand at the bus stop or train station and a smoker arrives, lighting a cigarette and placing himself right next to me or other nonsmokers. Of course there are also respectful smokers who take care that the smoke stays away from everybody and stay inside the smoking areas, but smoking right next to nonsmokers without asking if it’s okay is just selfish in my eyes.

The sad thing is that I have the feeling, that people in this world are getting more and more selfish and loosing their respect of each other. In my opinion being selfish hasn’t been thought through completely.

When we look at the climate change for example we can see that it is impossible to fight against it without working together. American’s president Trump’s withdraw of the USA out of the Paris Climate Agreement shows how selfishness can hurt the whole society. He did it because the agreement put the United States in “a very, very big economic disadvantage“, so a selfish reason. The problem is that the negative effects which will resolve out of this decision will have an effect on every human on earth, while at first it seems to be profitable for America itself to be able to spend the saved money on something else. The problem is that if everyone wants to have these advantages, the whole system would collapse (in this case the earth) and everybody looses. So to be successful in the long run it would be better for everyone to work together without thinking about his own.

But every society can bear some amount of selfishness before collapsing. If for example all the countries of the world would save some more emissions, they could make up for all the extra emissions from America and the system could still hold while America takes his advantages from the society. (I know this is very simplified, but it roughly works this way).

One could also see it as some kind of crowd funding, if everyone gives a little then a lot can be achieved. This system could be applied in many situations in daily life, for example keeping your lane in traffic jams (although the other one seems to go faster) or to use plastic bags multiple times to save some small emissions. Every little helps.

In the end everyone has to decide on ones own about how much one can or wants to give into a society and how much one takes out of it. Although one must consider that if everyone tries to maximize his gain, nobody would get anything.