I’m 19

Yesterday was my nineteenth birthday. I thought it would be worthwhile to share my thoughts on the year that’s just passed and things I have planned for the future. It probably won’t all be positive but that’s ok. Reviews are done so the future can be improved.

Looking back on the past year 

  • University

I started university last September and began studying philosophy. I’ve had to learn to become much more independent and proactive. Simple things like no longer having a structured school day could have resulted in excessive procrastination because I have so much more freedom from things. I’m no longer told to wake up at a certain time or even read relevant books. All of that is up to me now and I think it’s been more of a positive than a negative. It’s allowed me to break the basic monotony of going to school then completing homework. Now, I can travel around London whenever I want or sleep in then order pizza. The new found freedom has been nice but it does have its downsides. It requires a lot more self control since it’s much easier to travel in the right direction when there are signs everywhere but now there aren’t. I’m meant to be an adult now. I’m not. But I’m meant to be. I’ll get there eventually.

  • New Habits

I’ve also started writing and meditating regularly. These two habits have been the most beneficial things I’ve started doing and I hope to continue them with increasing volume over the next few months and years. Writing for this blog and my private journal has taught me a few important things. I know that I enjoy writing and researching articles related to personal development and similar areas. I know that I have many more ideas than I once thought I did about the world. Even if they’re based on poor information and faulty arguments, it’s something that I’ll slowly develop and work on. For the better ideas I have, writing about them is improving my ability to express myself clearly and effectively.

  • A Few Negatives 

Unfortunately, this year hasn’t gone without the bad. This year marked the 5th year of my chronic pain and leg injuries. That’s a difficult thing to say because of how normal it sounds. Over the years I’ve met a lot of new people and this means that nearly all of my friends at the moment know me as the person who is always on crutches. The pain appears quiet but it is as loud as the moment I first noticed it. Being in pain every day for over five years has started to take its toll on my mental health. My various coping mechanisms are struggling to handle just how prominent all of these medical problems are in my life. This year alone I’ve had two operations in the space of four months. It’s difficult and definitely hasn’t been the brightest part of my year but I’ll remain optimistic about there actually being an end to all of this even though the tunnel could not seem more dark.

Looking forward

I have a few simple goals for the next year. For now, they’ll be vague. I have reasons for that and I’ll say why in a future post (if I remember :D)

  • Writing 

I have a whole summer ahead of me and I hope to take writing, for this blog and possibly elsewhere, much more seriously. I say ‘seriously’ to mean I’ll dedicate more time to it, not to mean I’ll suck out all the possible fun from it in order to make it profitable or anything like that. I have been thinking about a number of posts I’m excited to write about and you should enjoy reading them too. One of the biggest posts (which will probably be a small series) is about why the world isn’t as bad as it may appear. For a long time I’ve had the desire to explain to myself and others why it’s better to put your money on the world improving as a whole rather than it getting worse. Another one is to expand on what it’s like to live with chronic pain. It will be personal to me so it won’t be a universal guide for people who haven’t experienced it but wish to learn more. Nonetheless, I still hope it’ll be useful, if not engaging, for some.

  • Personal projects 

The desire to learn everything can be infectious. However, I have narrowed that desire to a few things. Those being, computer science (mainly programming but I wish to eventually learn more about artificial intelligence) and learning languages (Polish and German). Those two areas have stood out to me the most because they are the most interesting and useful.

  • Health 

This will probably be the most ambitious of my hopes given my past track record but it’s worth a shot.

I hope to be walking normally again before I’m 20 and spend a whole week without worrying about my chronic pain. If I had to say which one was more probable, it would be the end of my chronic pain.

Overall view

This year has definitely had its difficult moment but it hasn’t all been terrible. Hopefully, there will be much better content to come and it’ll be a good year for all of us.

I’ll add that the inspiration to do this post came from Scott Young at scotthyoung.com. If you haven’t read any of his stuff, I strongly recommend it.

 

Letting Go of Judging People

We all judge people. When we engage with people, we often cast some kind of judgement on them. Whether it’s as small as thinking their hair looks bad or as big as thinking they’re probably a boring, self-centred person with no interests other than themselves.

If everyone does it, why is it a bad thing to do?

General judgements about people can be helpful and often are. However, we also fall into the trap of making quick negative judgements about people based on ignorance or lack of understanding.

This judgement closes our minds to who they could actually be. Instead, we build a faulty image of them which only harbours anger and unnecessary negativity.

Most of the time our negative judgements of people are built on some kind of ignorance about the person, the desire to put ourselves in the limelight or simply being unthoughtful.

That’s why people are surprised when they talk to someone and realise they aren’t how they thought they would be at all. They lose the previous misconceptions they’ve had about the person and realise there was no reason to jump to conclusions.

When we say negative things about other people, we’re simply harbouring negativity in our minds instead of being happy or concerning ourselves with more important things. It’s extremely useful just let go of the unnecessary dislike we have of other people. If we can’t help the person we should move on with our lives instead of keeping negativity in our minds.

You’ll harm your relationships with others if you cast premature judgements.

You’ll become frustrated for no good reason.

That frustration is easily avoided if you refrain from petty, unnecessary judgements.

Gossip less (preferably, not at all)

Conversing about how other people are annoying or do get a lot of things wrong tends to result in two different outcomes. Either, you let yourself re-live the initial anger you had towards that person or you simply begin to take pleasure in the flaws of others. Neither are great yet it seems to happen often.

When I find myself doing it, I notice that I become a much less pleasant person to talk to and generally be around. What gives me the right to talk about someone behind their back for no reason?

I feel it comes from the mistaken idea that we should vent our frustrations instead of keeping them inside. We don’t work like pressure machines. Venting our frustrations is a much easier path to follow than calming down over a longer period of time but it isn’t effective because we become far more likely to continue venting in the future.

Withhold judgement

I’ve spoken about why you shouldn’t judge people but this doesn’t mean you need to think positively about everyone that walks down the street. Of course, that would be nice but not everyone elicits positive reactions from people.

This simply means to withhold your judgement of them. How is this done?

  1. Be aware that you’re judging them.
  2. Ask yourself why you’re doing so.

At this point, you might find that you’re judging them because of a previous event that’s put you in a bad mood or your justification for doing so is poor.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes.

Trying to gain a better understanding of who they are will make you more compassionate and less likely to jump to false conclusions. Maybe there’s something about them you didn’t know about and as a result of that, they’re cast in a negative light to you.

Let go of judging people. Hopefully, you’ll feel much calmer for it.

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How to be happily unproductive

I’ve noticed that I don’t do all that much with my free time. I do mindless things like browse the internet and watch videos. I always link free time with relaxation so I disassociate myself from anything I perceive as work.

I’ve also noticed that this trend leads to more frustration that it’s meant to. I feel better when I’m making progress with work. However, it seems odd to exclaim I enjoy working instead of relaxing but that’s exactly what happens. Doing nothing constructive can be extremely boring and even tiring but I almost feel obligated to continue doing nothing with my free time because I don’t want it to become like work.

Being in the flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has produced some great research on what makes people happy. He noticed that a surprising number of people are actually happier at work than during their free time despite saying they enjoyed their free time more.  In light of this, the solution for some is to either fill up their free time with more work or do nothing about it. Neither are ideal. One just leads to burnout and a build up of resentment towards it. The other doesn’t help change your position in any way.

Csikszentmihalyi says that being in a state of flow is what makes people happy. There are a few factors present when someone is in the flow.

  1. They’re completely focused on one activity
  2. They feel in control of what they’re doing
  3. It’s intrinsically rewarding
  4. They essentially lose their sense of time

All these factors point to a situation where you’re so focused on an activity you enjoy that you don’t have time to be frustrated with yourself. You feel relaxed because you’re living in the present and very mindful of what you’re doing.

Best of all: you’re happy. 

How to be in the flow

While you’ve probably experienced this feeling before, you might not know why it happens.

This chart shows what it takes for someone to be in the state of flow.

The difficulty level of the activity should match our perceived skill set. This means  it shouldn’t be so difficult that you feel like throwing a chair through your window. Nor should it be so easy that you could fall asleep at a moments notice.

People usually feel happier while actually doing something (even if it’s at work or while studying) because of a constructive environment. You’re more likely to be completely focused on a project you want to work on, than sifting through pictures of birds with arms.

Why free time can make us unhappy 

The reason why people can feel frustrated or unhappy with their free time is mainly because they don’t do anything with it.  If you spend all day refreshing YouTube, then you’l probably feel extremely unfulfilled. Boredom will rise at an alarming rate, time will disappear and ‘damn, where did the time go?’ will be exclaimed.

Being happily unproductive 

If you don’t feel like you enjoy your free time or have even found it draining (like I have!), here’s a list of a few things you could start doing:

Learn a new skill – There’s so much out there that can help you learn things for free or a small price. Online courses offered by websites such as Coursera, edX, Codecademy and Duolingo are fun and engaging. You don’t need to put pressure on yourself to complete them by a certain date.

Read a book – If you have a list of books that you’ve been meaning to get started with, actually do it. If not, there are over 800 new books published each day in the US. You’ll find something to read! Losing yourself in a good book is a perfect example of what it feels like to be in the flow.

Create something – At least try. It’s easy to dismiss this option because you’re ‘not a creative person’ but creativity is something that can be developed as well as anything else. Write, draw, make music or even build something! It doesn’t need to be a best seller but spend a small time creating something and you’ll probably find it fun and try again.

Have a hobby – That can be anything from maintaining a blog or learning something new to marking origami turtles. If you have no idea what you could do, try a variety of things and you’ll find something you’ll want to pursue more. (Try origami, it’s a lot of fun)

Do some gaming – This isn’t an excuse to game unconditionally for hours and hours on end but the reason why we can play games for so long is because of flow!

Enjoy your free time 

After reading this, you might have realised that you don’t actually care for much of what you do in your free time. Switching through TV channels in an attempt to find something interesting is boring. Instead, do something interesting.

You don’t want it to be be mentally draining or become like work but doing next to nothing might not help you feel that relaxed either.

If you want to find out more about flow and where I got my information from, I’d recommend watching Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk on the topic and reading his book called ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience’.

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Another thing you can do, if you found this post helpful, is share it. You can follow the blog too. It’ll put you in the zone if you do. (It won’t. Sorry)

1. The ‘800 books a day’ statistic was simply found by dividing the number of books published a year in the US by 365.

2. The image came from news.cnet.com

3. Birds with arms is exactly what it sounds like.

4. I can’t say Csikszentmihalyi’s name. I just stare at it. Should I feel bad? Csikszentmihalyi if you ever read this post, hi and sorry I can’t say your name.