Notes: How to engage in lifestyle design

Vic Phillips invited me to contribute to a post he was putting together called '20 Ways to Engage in DIY Health and Lifestyle Change – Advice from Digital Thinkers'. I'm including my contribution below, but please check out the full post for lots of other great advice.

If you desire lifestyle change, envision what your life would look like today if you were already living that change. Instead of working from the outside in — instead of thinking about how much your current lifestyle needs to change to get where you want to be — work from the inside out. What would the changed you do today? How would that person act, think, and behave?

Imagine your entire life instantly transformed, all your ambitions, goals, and dreams fully realized. What might you then consider important? How would that person look back at the you of today and what advice might you offer yourself? Now using that perspective, ask yourself what you can do today to step towards that lifestyle. You might discover that what previously felt like insurmountable challenges suddenly feels almost trivial.

Notes: Living in the Land of Enough

Courtney Carver sent me a complimentary copy of her latest ebook, Living in the Land of Enough. It contains a wealth of knowledge and ideas for living more consciously and rewiring how we live in a world of plenty. Here's a sample:

Seven Ways to Live in the Land of Enough

1. Save Your Money. There is no need for credit cards or therapeutic shopping in the land of enough. There are also no overdraft fees or ATM charges. Just put your cards away for 10 days. Then, keep a list of purchases you would have made if you were using your credit card, or if you were shopping for sport, and take note of the money that you didn't spend.

2. Take Your Time. In the land of enough, you have time to breathe. Stop trying to squeeze so much in. If you are always running late, falling behind, or trying to catch up, try slowing down. Cancel a few unnecessary appointments and don't schedule any new ones if you can help it. Then, make a little time everyday for solitude.

3. Disconnect. Set a specific time to disconnect each day. In the land of enough, there is less need to be plugged in. If you can, commit to not using a computer after dinner or before lunch time. Be mindful of how much time you spend online and are virtually available. Protect your time and your mind.

4. Eat Real Food. Only eat food that you prepare. Now is the perfect time to eat fresh, seasonal. Do not eat anything from a box, restaurant or drive-thru. While you may choose to eat less when eliminating processed foods, you may find that you naturally eat just enough.

5. Make Space. Clear out some space in your home. You don't need to take on big purging projects during this time to make space. Simplify one room (or even just the corner of one room) and keep it as clean and clutter free as possible. Even if the rest of your house is cluttered, this area can be a great reminder of how you might feel living with less.

6. Entertain Yourself. Unplug your TV and plan to enjoy your friends, family, the great outdoors, or a book you have been meaning to read. Do not spend time and money on expensive shows, travel or recreational activities. While the land of plenty calls you to spend more money for entertainment, you already have enough right where you are.

7. Say Thank You. As you go through these steps, you will find enough time and space to be grateful. Through prayer, thank you cards, or a kind gesture, share your gratitude every day.

I love how she explains there's no risk involved in exploring living with enough:

There is no risk involved by visiting the land of enough. Bring your family with you and talk about what you like and don’t like about the changes you’ve made. Based on these discussions, you can decide what changes become a permanent part of your life. If you don’t enjoy living without TV, plug it back in. If saving money makes you miserable, go on a spending spree at the mall after your experiment.

You are not what you read

Now more than ever we need to stop listening to everyone else. We need to stop reading articles and books, watching videos, and listening to interviews where other people tell us what to do and what to think.

If you want to be a writer, stop reading about writing and start writing. If you want to build a business, stop looking for business advice and start failing. If you want to get in shape, stop saying you want to get in shape and start pushing your body beyond comfort.

If you want to change your life, stop reading about other life's and start taking the steps necessary to begin changing yours.

Do you think anyone could've changed themselves, or the world, if they had spent their lives snacking on social media, devouring stories of how other people changed the world, and thinking about all the things they could do?

We should all aspire to be great, not to imitate others but rather to discover what greatness exists within each of us. We should develop an insatiable appetite for empowering ourselves and exploring that vast source of untapped potential we all carry within us.

So consider this a plea from me to stop reading and start tinkering; stop talking and start being; stop dreaming and start doing; stop listening and start exploring. Yes, that includes not listening to me.

It includes ignoring people who constantly seek your attention. It includes disconnecting from being always-on and available. It includes prioritizing your life based on what is important instead of what is urgent.

Lots of stuff is urgent, but the important stuff is what makes us who we are. You must remember to do the important things first, because you are not what you read, or think, or say: you are what you do.

Notes: Inspiring Change

Lynn Fang invited me to participate in a collaborative ebook project called Inspiring Change. The free ebook contains inspiring stories from more than 25 bloggers. I'm including my contribution below:

A few weeks ago I met a friend for coffee. We knew each other online but we had never met in person. I knew she was all about sustainability, all about reusing things to avoid unnecessary waste.

Her writing and the things she shared online encouraged me to live more consciously and helped me feel more aware of the environment and the world around me.

When we arrived at the cafe, I ordered a cup of tea and received it in a paper cup. She ordered an ice coffee. But before the cashier had time to repeat her order, she handed him a glass mason jar and asked him to use that instead of a disposable cup. I smiled inside because I could feel the power of that moment. That seemingly insignificant interaction imprinted itself on me and has remained with me to this day. It has grown into a memory that acts as a tiny seed of her passion stirring within me, reminding me not to waste even a single paper cup.

The friend I met that day was Lynn Fang and I've started using mason jars.

Passion kindles passion. If you live your life passionately and fearlessly make conscious choices about how you live, others will be inspired to do the same. Passion is contagious. It spreads like an invisible wildfire through the hearts and minds of those around you, visible only through the subtle ways in which they desire to change themselves.

When you live consciously and allow your passion to shine through, others will be inspired to change with you.

In addition to having a greater respect for mason jars, I now always ask for my drinks at cafes in reusable "for here" mugs. If I'm going to be spending the day working from the cafe, why waste a paper cup every time?

With the amount of time I spend working from cafes, I calculate that I save hundreds of paper cups every year with this one habit.

Speaking of small habits, I wrote my first collaborative ebook back in 2010 on a topic similar to Inspiring Change: Small Ways to Make a Big Difference.

The Annual Placebo Effect

It happens every year. The smiles, the handshakes, and the family get-togethers. The gifts, the goal-setting, the reviews, the time made for deep reflection. We feel a sense of passage, a sense of movement, possibly even a climactic transition from one moment to another.

Sometimes it's a birthday or an anniversary or the remembrance of a historical date. Sometimes it's the transition to a new year.

But what's a date, really? It's a system for tracking time, a system that a group of people agreed to use for communication. There isn't only one system and this isn't just the year 2011.

1460 (Armenian)
6761 (Assyrian)
1418 (Bengali)
2961 (Berber)
2555 (Buddhist)
1373 (Burmese)
7520 (Byzantine)
1728 (Coptic)
2004 (Ethiopian)
5772 (Hebrew)
2068 (Hindu Vikram Samvat)
12011 (Holocene)
1390 (Iranian)
1433 (Islamic)
4344 (Korean)
100 (Minguo)
2554 (Thai solar)
2011 (Gregorian)

Many of us have agreed to use the Gregorian calendar system, but does that really mean today or tomorrow holds anything special? In another calendaring system, today could represent the middle of the year, not the end. On another planet, all of these systems would become meaningless.

One year on Mars is actually 686 days on Earth.

One year on Pluto is 247 years on Earth.

Our entire concept of time only works on this infinitesimal blue dot, in the minds of people who agree to the systems in place. And yet every year billions of people are affected. They're changed, moved, and motivated to act, think, and behave differently. 

By what? A date? A thing that is entirely arbitrary?

No. We're changed, moved, and motivated because we choose to be. The moment we choose is the moment it becomes reality. It has nothing to do with a number.

There's no need to wait for an agreed upon date. You're alive today. Let's recognize today. Let's choose to celebrate today. Let's choose to celebrate now. Seize the moment, every moment. It's new.

Leaning into the Flinch

What's the difference between the people who are remembered by history and those who make up the silent majority who simply live and die? 

I don't believe history remembers people by chance. I don't believe some people are born with better ideas or more capable skills or that it requires a unique set of circumstances to do great things.

Many of us -- perhaps most of us -- have incredible ideas, world-changing visions for how things could be better. We think many of the same thoughts that memorable people throughout history have thought. 

So why aren't we doing anything? Why are we just living out our lives, caught up in the daily grind?

I think the answer lies in our reluctance to believe in ourselves and face our self-doubt. We see the possibility in our idea and we get scared that it just might work. As Julien Smith calls it, we flinch. We see the possibility and then pull back from going any further.

I read Julien's new ebook today (it's short and free [edit: it's not free anymore, but you can easily find it for free by Googling 'the flinch']; a great read) and there were lots of things about his idea that rang true for me. For example, in one part of the book he talks about leaning into the flinch and allowing that instinctive desire to retract to point us in the direction we should push forward.

The last time I clearly remember leaning into what I would've normally pulled back from was when I wrote my first ebook, Small Ways to Make a Big Difference

The idea for the project came suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. I was sitting at my laptop in the kitchen of my hosts house, only a few days after arriving in Kathmandu, Nepal. 

It certainly wasn't the first time I'd had a spontaneous idea for an ebook, but what followed the idea this time was much different. Instead of over-thinking and considering all the reasons I shouldn't do it, I immediately sent an email to 60 people inviting them to participate in the project.

That one action, that leaning into what I normally would've pulled back from, essentially opened the door to the completion of that project. It took three weeks of obsessively working on it every single day, but there wasn't a single moment in that entire three weeks where I thought of quitting. I kept leaning into the flinch until I was done.

I think the people who are remembered by history are the ones who don't stop pushing. They see something, or have an idea, and instead of doubting themselves or the possibilities, they lean into them. 

Despite the entire world pushing the status quo onto them and doubting the usefulness of their rebellious nature, these few people push back. And they don't stop pushing. Ever.

Failure doesn't make them flinch because they're leaning into failure. They're walking in the direction they expect to fail while holding onto a belief that what lies ahead is something worth it. And they're usually right. What lies on the other side of failure is usually what helps them change the world.

You are not who you say you are

It's easy to complain. It's easy to talk. It's easy to wish, and dream, and plan for what comes next. You can wait around for things to change but waiting does nothing more than mask the fact that time is ruthlessly taking away your life, one second at a time. If you really want something to change, you need to stand up and take deliberate and intentional action. You can talk and dream all you want, but you are not who you say you are. You are what you do.

Escaping Cages

Photo: Squirrel Trapped in a Cage

The cage rattled and the creature inside gnawed and pulled at the metal bars. It was a Grey Squirrel, one of several that had chewed a nest into the side of my parents house. My dad was catching and releasing them several miles away with the hope that they would find another place to nest. The trap was designed to cage, not harm, so thankfully the creature inside wasn’t hurt.

Due to the design of the trap, tipping the cage over would cause the doors to unlock and open. The squirrel was definitely big enough to tip the cage over, but instead he paced back and forth and occasionally stopped to gnaw and pull on the metal enclosure.

That’s when I found myself wondering what a human would do if placed in the same situation. Despite there being no indication that tipping the cage over would open the doors, a human would surely try that anyway.

I realized that’s what makes us unique: When the outcome seems hopeless, we test the impossible.

Continue reading

Taking Initiative and Instigating Change

Flower amongst chaos on a wall in Hue, Vietnam

After reading my last blog post, Pemala, a Nepali friend and a regular reader, left the following note on my Facebook Wall:

Reading "The Revolution Starts Here" was very insightful. It gave me the moral support that is lacking in our community.

I have had enough with the Nepali community leaders in Boston who were fighting among each other for position. I took a stand and voiced my opinion in front of everybody. I thought, I could go home and talk about it or I could take a stand and let everybody in the community know what was happening.

I am planning to gather [the] younger generation for suggestions to improve the organization and have more youth involvement. And, I am going to propose that they help organizations like Nepal FREED who is doing something worthwhile for Nepal.

It was incredible to see how writing a blog post could help someone feel motivated to take action and possibly translate into things that would help the children I visited in a remote part of the world several months earlier.

Pemala's message caused me to really dig deep and consider the far reaching effects of our actions. It made me analyze the reasons for my own inaction and gave me the missing piece to the puzzle of why I've been feeling stagnation in my life since returning from my trip overseas.

Her message allowed me to see the role initiative plays in instigating change. Continue reading

The Revolution Starts Here

"He had an Afro and he was wearing big pink sunglasses... he said he was a Vietnam vet and that he had been stocking up on canned food in his trailer-park home for the past two years."

"I have no idea why you would be talking to a drunk guy with pink sunglasses at the bar, but anyway what was he afraid of? What was he planning for?"

"He just came up to me and started talking. He said there's a revolution coming and the whole world is going to change. He's getting ready and planning for the worst. I wasn't really taking this guy seriously, but I've heard a lot of people talking about a revolution. Rumors mostly, but lots of people seem to think something is going to happen."

"Yeah, there's a lot of messed up stuff going on and something needs to change. I don't know. A revolution might happen but I don't think people are going to be on the streets with guns shooting and robbing each other." Continue reading

Raindrops of Change

Monsoon rain shower in Hile, Nepal

Imagine a city where every resident was someone who had changed the world in a big way -- Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Alexander the Great, Mother Theresa, The Wright Brothers, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and any other famous person who has ever changed the course of history.

Now imagine you're strolling around that city and watching all those great people walk around, except that none of them know who they are; none of them realize the impact they're going to have on the future of the planet.

Right now this world is full of people like that. People who are powerhouses of potential. People with an incredible capacity for greatness but who walk around seemingly unaware of that fact, unaware that they have the power to become passionate leaders, creative innovators, magical healers, and moving motivators.

People like you and me. Continue reading

Introducing a New Collaborative Project: Small Ways to Make a Big Difference

Small Ways to Make a Big Difference Cover

Exactly three weeks ago, I started working on a collaborative project that had no name. I sent out dozens of emails requesting participation and quickly realized that I needed some way of organizing the emails so they wouldn't get lost. So, I created a tag in Gmail for this project and I named it with the first thing that came to mind: "Change the World".

Every time someone replied to an email for the project, the "Change the World" tag in my Gmail account lit up and it put a smile on my face.

Every time I got an contribution, it reminded me why I was doing this project. It reminded me that there are so many people all over the globe who genuinely care about this world and who have ideas for how to make it a better place.

In just three weeks, over 40 bloggers contributed more than 100 ways to live more sustainable, to live happier and healthier, to get more out of life, to inspire and share, to reconnect with our true selves, to be a leader, to exist more intelligently.

More than 100 ways that you can begin setting an example to be the change you wish to see in the world. More than 100 ways to make a difference in the world right now. Continue reading