9. Making Dreams Real

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same” – Carlos Castaneda

This post is inspired by Wong Fu productions’ video Which Life Will You Live?

Dreams

We all have dreams; big dreams. Some of us want fame and recognition — we chase after careers like acting, writing, or politics; some want wealth, and become business people, entrepreneurs, or CFOs; some simply want a family, and we search for love, stability, harmony. Regardless of our lots in life, we all dream of something much bigger.

What the faiths have to say

In Buddhism, the cause of suffering is attachment to the world and to our desires. The way to end suffering is to end desire. In Sikhism, there is a saying “Nanak Dukhia Sab Sansaar”, or “O Nanak, the entire world is depressed”. I am not religious by a long shot but these two points from Buddhism and Sikhism do provide us with some insight into human psychology–faiths, after all, are designed to help people in their times of need.

I have discussed this gap between our expectations and our reality in a previous post. What do we do when what we wish to attain is far from where we are?

I feel like the above two examples of religious advice are not very good at all. They tell us to relinquish worldly desires and hope for a better afterlife. Let’s for a moment assume that there is an afterlife; what guarantee do we have that it is going to fulfill our desires? Let’s assume that paradise is amazing? So why are we even wasting our time making advances in this world? If it was an established fact that the afterlife was a true fulfillment of all our desires and dreams, then how many of us would bother remaining here? How many of us have resolved to leave the world due to the promise of a better hereafter?

Here and Now

That’s the end of my afterlife rant; now let’s focus on the here and now. From this moment forward, I want you to think that this life is the only chance you will get! Empirically speaking, this is our only shot. So why not make it count? Why not go for our heart’s desires? Yes, many of us will not attain star status; mathematically speaking that is highly improbable on a planet of 7 billion plus people. But, it’s kind of like the lottery: if you don’t play you have no chance at winning. But unlike the lottery, which sucks up hard-earned cash for an unlikely promise of instant riches, chasing your dreams, however improbable that you will succeed, will be fulfilling.

Getting your ducks in order

Forget that the Buddha wants you to give your desires up; keep your desires, keep your dreams, and make it a reality for yourself! Pursue your dreams with passion, commitment and sincerity. Make time for your dreams; make them a reality. It’s not an overnight process. Sometimes it’s not even a comfortable process. Are you willing to take that step and pursue your passion? Do not leave your dreams to chance or faith. Action and the growth mindset trump both!

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8. Prioritizing Your Happiness (hint: Prioritize Yourself!)

Teacher’s Perspective

As I stated, I have worked as a high school teacher; it’s a rewarding and challenging career path. However, one of the greatest challenges that came with it was getting students to focus on what was important! They tend to focus on the immediate gratification of hanging out with friends, rather than focusing on future-oriented thinking. There is actually a lot of science to back up this point, and more can be read at How Stuff Works.

There was a speaker who had come in to one of the schools I was working at and for the life of me I cannot remember his name right now. But his speech to the kids was to prioritize their lives. He wanted them to make decisions which would be beneficial to them in the long run. I paraphrase “When your friends ask you to go to the cafeteria, but you want to go try out for the dance club… make your own decision and don’t be swayed by your peers.”

I appreciate the sentiment behind these words, and hopefully some of them did listen. But let’s face it… you don’t have to be a teenager to realize how strong social pressure can be when it comes to decision making when peer pressure is involved. Decision making can also be tough when it comes to choosing between something hard (like working out) vs something easy (staying sedentary). How can we get past these issues?

Goal Setting

An important part of making decisions is setting your goals and your purpose for achieving those goals. In Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours she talks about core competencies, things which we are inherently good at, and how to use these to establish our goals. Perhaps you are a good writer, and you wish to write a book; great! Goals and core competencies should go hand in hand if you wish for results relatively quickly. What is important to you?

However, let’s say you wish to learn Mandarin and you are now 26 years old and have never spoken a lick of any other language other than English. This is still possible. Even if language learning is not your core competency, the growth mindset, as discussed in Carol Dweck’s Mindset, is a great tool to achieve it.

I have discussed these tools and techniques in previous posts, hyperlinked in this article, but if you have not read them, please do take a moment! I have tried to scaffold my blog so as to talk about these issues in a step-by-step manner.

Ultimately, the goals you set should be meaningful to your life, putting yourself first. I discussed in my previous post the importance of making yourself a priority. In order to truly achieve a goal, you have to constantly remind yourself “Is this in MY best interest?”

How to Prioritize Happiness

Along with asking yourself if something is in your best interest, you should ask yourself another question when you make a decision. “Do I love myself enough to do this for me?”

Here’s poet Ashley Wylde, on YouTube, who did a spoken word session about how to love oneself. Her technique is to look in the mirror, and as awkwardly but meaningfully connect with yourself and say “I love you.” She explains how the exercise over the course of months became natural, meaningful, and sincere.

We should all care about ourselves, and often we think we do. But take a look at the decisions you are making. Are you really in control of them? Or are you letting yourself be controlled by those around us? Make happiness a goal!

“Do I love myself enough to do this for me?”

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7. Waves of Hubris vs. Loving Yourself (Slightly different from my usual posts)

Sometimes it feels like life is at a quiet, sedentary lull. You go about your daily routine, day by day, week by week, accepting that this is your current lot.

This was certainly me for the past 3 months. I have been keeping a relatively stable and a somewhat quiet existence. But beneath the doldrums there has been plenty of tectonic activity in my mind. Some of the activity has been my practice of what has been dubbed Rejection Therapy, whereby you seek out new experiences, failure be damned. But alongside those experiences is also my attempt at actively improving my circumstances (such as my creative venture back into writing).

My doldrums have recently ended. I am working at a job right now whose contract is set to expire by the end of this month; I am not looking forward to leaving as it has been a great gig. Even more frustrating are the interviews for new jobs and the rejections therein. I would like to think that the experiences I have gained up to date set me apart from most other candidates, but maybe that is my own hubris. I have had two job interviews and have been usurped by a better candidate for the role each time. I now have a couple of choices in front of me:

Give in to sadness and cry woe is me?

Or, keep fighting the good fight until a chance to show my quality is given to me.

I choose the latter, not because the former is pathetic, but because I love myself too much to have any other choice. If there is one thing that has kept me motivated to keep writing these blogs, keeping on working out, and keeping on keepin’ on with Rejection Therapy it’s that I am the only one who can truly look after myself. Read that sentence again. If that doesn’t spray cold water into our self-obsessed Pity Parties then nothing will! At the end of the day, we need to take care of Number 1; this isn’t to say that we have to be selfish. That is entirely distorting the message. What I mean is we are truly the masters of our own happiness; we need to treat ourselves right, and we need to ensure that we are taken care of before we can help the world or take care of others. Many of us fall into patterns of bad relationships, addictions, and other negative conducts. These are all, at the root of it, symptoms of our own lack of love for ourselves, a highlighting of the fact that we feel we are worthless unless approved by others. But if we resolve to take a stand and say “Before I help so and so with such and such, I need to do this for me” then you are on the right track for personal growth.

I had someone very special and dear to me contact me recently. She expressed this very need to better herself… to love herself before she could love others. She inspired me to write this today. So this is my early article for this week, dedicated to my friend. I want to let her know that I get where she is coming from because I am on that same journey myself. So here’s to her… and to my plethora of job interviews.

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6. Procrastination and Time Management

In my previous post, I mentioned how one of symptoms of the fixed mindset is perfectionism which can lead to procrastination. It’s one thing to tell yourself that you are now adopting a growth mindset but quite another thing to actually follow through with it. The best method of adopting a growth mindset is to allow yourself to grow into it. You need not be perfect. Rejection Therapy is an excellent way to get used to being rejected.
One of the ways in which Jason Comely recommends we practice Rejection Therapy is through the Rejection Game. The object of the game is to get rejected. That’s how you win! It doesn’t have to be huge. Check out my second blog post again if you need tips on how to go about doing this.
I know I sound like a bit of a broken record, so here are some new tips on how to beat procrastination. One of the excuses that many people make when it comes to getting stuff done is lack of time. The old “if only there were more hours in a days” cliché is a variation of this sort of thinking. In her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam, the myth of being too busy is scrutinized. Turns out many of us aren’t using our time as wisely as we could be. So that whole “who has time to hit the gym” or “I have no time for side projects, I’m way too busy” is shown to be entirely bogus. In her book, she suggests a subtle but powerful paradigm shift: instead of thinking we only have 24 hours in a day, prioritize your work week and say think that we have 168 hours in the week. It might not seem like much on the surface, but putting it into practice shows it to be quite powerful. She has activity sheets on her website, one of which records our every action every half an hour for a full week. Are you really using your time wisely? Or are internet cats taking up way too much time in your daily life?
Why am I talking about time management when all I have talked about lately is rejection? Because all those projects and hobbies that you keep putting off in your life can lead to happiness and satisfaction in life.

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5. Accepting Personal Flaws

Fixed Mindsets and bad habits

Being able to acknowledge that we are not perfect but a constant work in progress (keyword: constant) is an important step toward the adoption of a growth mindset. A friend linked me to a blog by the Harvard Business Review on a couple of ways that people react negatively toward rejection: Entitlement and Resignation. I will discuss how both of these reactions are two different but equally destructive forms of the fixed mindset. The fixed mindset, if you recall, is the belief that one is incapable of changing and growing in accordance to life’s demands.

Entitlement

Entitlement is the (arrogant) belief that one deserves a reward for a job well done. For example: a person works really hard to get an important project off the ground; they then feel entitled to a promotion. When the promotion does not arrive, or someone else gets promoted in lieu of them, they feel resentment. Even a growth mindset person can feel these sentiments; however a fixed mindset person will fixate on gap between their expectations and the reality of the situation. Their mental schema involves them being awesome, and they simply cannot understand why they would not be recognized for being awesome, whereas a growth mindset person would accept what has happened and treat the work on the project as a learning experience.

Resignation

The resignation reaction is very similar to entitlement, though behaviorally seems different; it still is a symptom of a fixed mindset. Resignation people believe that they have brilliant ideas, but don’t tell them to anyone for fear of rejection. Many perfectionists are guilty of this one for fear of churning out a less than perfect product. Resignation prevents us from achieving our full potential because we don’t put ourselves out there to make mistakes and learn from them.

Conclusion

People who recognize areas in their lives where they are exhibiting either Entitlement or Resignation thought processes should consider practicing Rejection Therapy and allow themselves to adopt the growth mindset.

Sidenote

People can have both fixed and growth mindsets about different areas in their lives. You might have a growth mindset when it comes to your athleticism, but fixed for your math skills. Really try and explore the areas where you feel you have a fixed mindset and consider putting yourself out there. Who knows? You may surprise yourself!

P.S.

In my last blog I mentioned professor Carol Dweck’s book Mindset which talks about people’s reactions toward setbacks falling under two camps: fixed mindset and growth mindset. The book is a quick, easy, and fascinating read, chock-full of researchy goodness. Here is an interview she done with the podcast cast I Like You (enjoy!)

4. Okay… Rejected! Now what?

The Point?

I feel like there will inevitably be some people who will simply fail to see the point of Rejection Therapy, or write it off as some hokey, hippie thing to do.

“I know McDonald’s won’t give me a cheeseburger refill! What’s the point of hearing ‘no’?” you might say.

The point is, my skeptical reader, to get rejected in and of itself! We are always so obsessed with succeeding and finding the quickest path to success that we often forget that setbacks are a part of that path! That’s why when we talk about success, we do it in terms of “the path to” rather than “the end goal of”; the importance of the journey is built right into the semantics of our language!

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Credit: http://thedoghousediaries.com/

The Odd Non-Rejection

Back in my second blog post, TEDTalk speaker Jian Jiang talked about his experience at Krispy Kreme and ordering Olympic coloured donuts. The wonderful thing that happened was they not only got him his order, but they placed the donuts in the Olympic logo arrangement in the box! When a complete stranger helps you out, as in this case, it can be a very moving experience; it also inspires us to take more risks and try things we otherwise would never do.

It’s All About Mindset

Taking risks is scary; every time we make ourselves vulnerable, we are risking rejection. But when we do face rejection or a setback, we are faced with a Robert Frost-like fork in the road: if at first you don’t succeed do you:

a) give up?

b) learn, improve, and try again?

In her book, Mindset, professor Carol Dweck, PhD, talks about how when faced with setbacks, people generally fall under one of two categories: either a  fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

The difference is pretty obvious:

A person of a fixed mindset generally believes that a trait or an ability is fixed or innate. “I can’t do math! It’s just not my subject,” or “I can’t play basketball. I’m no NBA player.” They believe that people who have had great success in a particular field, be it sports, academics, or love, are just inherently good in those areas of life.

Growth mindset people are the total opposite. They see something that they are not good at as a challenge to overcome. “I did horribly on that math test! Wow… I need to get extra help, and find better study strategies!” Or, “I didn’t make the team! I will workout, and practice, and retry next year!”

The difference between these two viewpoints is like night and day. One emphasizes inner lack of talent, while the other focuses on an inner building ones competence.

Okay… But what does this have to do with Rejection Therapy and donuts?

What does all this talk of mindsets have to do with rejection, then? Everything! What Rejection Therapy allows us to do is get used to the idea of failure. It should become a daily and rather bland problem in our lives. Once we can accept the idea that rejection is a normal part of life, we won’t have to fear it all that much.

I started this blog as sort of a stepping stone toward becoming a writer. I had written short stories and poems in high school and university; however, I am my own worst critic and did not think I was good enough to write. So I stopped trying. However, thanks to Rejection Therapy and the adoption of the Growth mindset, I am prepared to accept criticism and build myself on my path to success. Once we stop fearing rejection we can start pursuing our passions.

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3. Rejection Therapy

I hope you enjoyed the Sunday entry on Rejection. The TEDTalk speaker, Jia Jiang, did an eloquent job at showing the effectiveness of rejection therapy and its inspirational side-effects (putting yourself out there and breaking the chain of self-defeating regret!) You can read more about Rejection Therapy at Jason Comely’s website.

I have been practicing Rejection Therapy on my own through my own small ways. As Jia Jiang points out, you don’t have to be rejected by something huge; it can be as small as asking for a strange donut order at a restaurant.

I have done minor rejection therapy sessions for myself. These have been mostly on the small scale (save for a couple of more ambitious tasks).

I asked the security guard at my best friend’s condo if I could have some of his food; he raised an eyebrow and said in a deadpan tone “Are you serious?” It was a “no” but we all did get a chuckle out of it. One of the benefits of rejection therapy, particularly if you request ridiculous things, are moments of laughter, which funny enough lead to the OPPOSITE of the anxiety which is typically associated with rejection. Never forget that sometimes those supposedly awkward and anxiety inducing moments can lead to bonding moments and bring us joy. This was a positive outcome from this tiny interaction.

I also tried shooting for the moon a couple of times and got rejected for my writing. I had written a science poem and a political short story; I sent the science poem to a famous science magazine and the short story to a Canadian author and political figure.

I had asked the science magazine if they were interested in publishing the poem: no reply. I am sitting here, reflecting on this experience; I kind of knew that the request was completely ridiculous, but I would have regretted not sending it to them.

The author said he would look at my short story but he has yet to get back to me. I don’t think that he will get back to me, but I have gotten constructive feedback from friends on how to improve the story and where to add details.

I realized, in both instances, that I was not disheartened, but rather thankful that I did take the steps to get my writing out there. It may not have gotten anywhere yet, but even the great Dr Seuss was rejected time and time again before his manuscripts got published.

Rejection therapy is a humbling experience but also one that allows you to live your life without regrets. It is something we should all practice and preach!

That about does it for me today, but before I go:

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Tony Burkinshaw for liking my post on Rejection. Being new to this, I am grateful for any and all support. Check out his blog post on how to prioritize a to-do list, and how to have a much more relaxed Holiday season (I realize the Holiday season has just ended, but it is applicable for the entire year!)

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Picture source: https://www.facebook.com/Gav.Nascimento