Stress-Blinders

Too much stress can blind us from possibilities. It makes us falsely believe that we have no options but the crappy one in front of us.

Stress tells us we don’t have a choice.

But that’s not true. There are always options, another way of getting past, through, around something. The problem is you aren’t giving yourself any other options.

What you need to do is break the loop and get out of your normal environment. Go for a walk alone. Go sit on a park bench. Journal. Think things through slowly. Ask a friend for advice. Do something out of the ordinary.

The goal is to put yourself in a different environment so that you can take a step back from stress and see it more clearly.

Another good strategy is to imagine what you’re going through as if it wasn’t you but a family member or friend. What advice would you give to a friend if they were dealing with what you are facing?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1089

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Tools for Anxiety

“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” — Aesop

Stress and anxiety are partners in crime. They are like the joker and Harley Quinn. (Which one is which depends on the day.)

I typically experience anxiety when I haven’t slept well. When it’s allergy season, my sleep tends to nose dive. I try a lot of different sleep hacks and hygiene, but the biggest hammer for this kind of sleep anxiety is more rest.

I’ll take a short nap early in the afternoon (when I can), and (do my best to) go to bed earlier. I’m not a doctor, so don’t take my word for it. I think about it like this:

If 8 hours of sleep gets me say… 5 hours of quality sleep and 3 hours of poor sleep (guesstimating), then 9 or even 10 hours of sleep will help increase the number of quality hours I get. (Again—still not a doctor.) That means going to bed a little earlier and sleeping in a smidge.

I’m rambling. Essentially, prioritizing sleep comes first when I’m feeling anxious.

I’ll also feel anxious when I’ve got too much on my todo list. I know it. My list knows it. The day knows it. Your mother knows it. Everyone knows it but I still mentally get in my way by trying to tackle too much at one time. Obviously, the key is simplifying.

It’s helpful to think of everything around us as variables or small influences that we can manipulate towards a certain outcome. Anxiety can come from many things, but there are also factors in our lives—environment, habits, etc—that are either enabling or reducing our anxiety. By testing out certain levers, we can nudge ourselves towards a less stressful and anxiety-ridden environment.

Our two main methods of action for combating anxiety are adding and removing.

Examples of things we can add:

  • Support from doctors, therapists, and/or nutritionists.
  • Meditation
  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Play
  • Healthy food

I also find it helpful to take Onnit’s New Mood Supplements and
Calm / Magnesium to relax my muscles.

Examples of things we can remove:

  • Less, or no caffeine
  • No smoking
  • Less, or no alcohol
  • “Stress”

The last bullet “Stress” is in quotations because I can’t tell you how many countless useless articles I’ve read about anxiety that tell you to “avoid stressful situations and environments.” Yeah! No kidding! That’s why I’m reading this stupid article in the first place. That’s why I find it easier to add things to my day than remove them (which explains my todo list.) “Stress” is so vague and idealistic. We’re usually stressed for a reason and that stress isn’t going to go away magically until we resolve that reason. But that doesn’t mean we can’t shift our perspective and change things by adding helpful habits and removing unhelpful ones.

For example, it’s easier to start meditation for 10 minutes every day than it is to find a new job. And it’s easier to swear off coffee after 3 PM than to completely overhaul your life. But that’s okay because there’s magic in these small habits.

It’s all about finding a way to tip the scales in the direction you want to go, instead of the one you don’t.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1066

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Creative Crisis

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Winston Churchill

Pressure, responsibilities, and pain can ignite your creative fire. Of course, first, you need to have a creative outlet or two (or three) so that you have something to direct the pain through. All Pain goes somewhere. Sometimes it quickly leaves our mouths through anger and snide comment. Pain can also be let out gently through conversation with a close friend or therapist. The worst kind of pain takes root inside us, and cause damage on the inside.

I find it better to direct pain to create things or move them with muscles. Music, writing, and exercise are some of the habits I use to channel things I’m struggling with or experiencing (Not all bad! Any emotion can become beautiful art.)

It’s not just the pain itself. My goal isn’t to shout from the rooftops just to shout. There are timeless lessons in the mistakes and problems we face.

Too much pain, however, and you’ll dampen your creative fire. No pain and you’re a kid who thinks she/he is invincible. Too much pain and you’re a sad old man yelling at neighbors to get off your lawn. Balance is the key (in all things, really).

How much balance will likely be different for each of us. I suspect this can also be trained like a muscle, but it would be most unpleasant and perhaps unnecessary. A little heartache might make you a better artist. Too much heartache and your art won’t be the only thing you wish would bleed.

Of course, I would never wish or intentionally cause pain towards myself or others, but better to use it when it comes, rather than to let it sit and fester.

If you don’t know where to start, reconnect with your inner childlike spirit. What did you enjoy doing when we’re younger (before the world got in the way)?

Start there. There’s wisdom in being childish (…sometimes. Nobody likes an adult baby).

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1027

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A Sprinkle of Hope

“Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.”

Joseph Campbell

“Neither blame or praise yourself.”

Plutarch

This is a loud and confusing time we are going through. In a general sense, we are dealing with a lot of stress and pressure. Most of us are going through our own unique struggles as well. It’s easy to mistake problems we are dealing with as personal attacks, but the honest truth is our individual problems are not very distinct.

Plenty of people today and across history have dealt with job loss, plague, injury, illness, financial issues, loss and loneliness. Plenty of people struggle with negative thoughts and-or vagueness of purpose.

This doesn’t diminish the importance of what we are dealing with. Rather, highlights how connected we are and how our story can inspire or help others going through similar experiences.

Good and bad things we experience become connection points to people like us. Resilience is about choosing hope instead of moping around, blaming other and wishing things were different.

Resilience is choosing hope.

Resilience is changing when change is necessary.

What does blame get us? Nothing good. Nothing different. We just end up digging a deeper hole where we feel stuck.

Hope is a choice we have to make everyday. It’s not easy. But it’s the better option.

Things work out how you want them to – or they don’t. Either way, the sun still rises in the morning.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1023

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Planning to Fail

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

Lao Tzu

Whenever I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it’s usually because either A) I’m trying too many things at once, B) I’ve said ‘yes’ to something I should have said ‘no’ to, C) My intention/direction is vague and-or D) All the above.

A. Doing too many things at once is something I’m constantly rebalancing. Curiosity can lead you down to thousands of wonderful (and occasionally bizarre) places. This can spark a countless number of ideas and opportunities, but if you let curiosity run on a rampage all the time, you’ll wake up a week later after being lost in a deep Reddit or YouTube rabbit hole.

The important thing is to have a firm grasp on the few major things that are important to you, so you can pare back when you become aware that you’re a few hundred pounds over your elevator capacity, so to speak.

B. This one is similar to A. Saying yes is easy. It’s nice when someone asks you to do something for you. But too many of these, and you’ll end up doing everyone’s work except your own. It’s hard to say no, but it’s essential if you want to still have the time and energy to focus on what’s most important to you.

C. If there’s a centralized theme to this observation, it’s that only having a vague idea of what you want can easily lead you off into a direction you may or may not have wanted to go.

Sometimes vagueness is what you want. You want the surprise and spontaneity that an unknown direction will bring. Traveling (remember traveling?) to a new place, for example. It’s a delight when you can discover an unknown (to you) restaurant that is divine in a city you’ve never been to before. Movie spoilers is another one. If there’s a movie or tv show I’m interested in seeing, I don’t want to know anything about it. Don’t give me the plot. I don’t want any details. I want to be surprised (and hopefully delighted) which I wouldn’t be if I knew what was going to happen beforehand.

But what about when you’ve got a problem you need to fix or when hazy ideas are holding you back?

When in doubt, make a plan.

The method can be simple. Grab some paper and a pen and start writing. Make a todo list. Ask yourself questions. Get specific. Dig. Come up with some potential action steps.

The true benefit of planning is clarity. We’ll rarely actually reach the exact goal we set out to achieve, but taking time to understand our next steps will move us in the right direction.

If we only have a vague sense of what we’re after, how can we possibly know what we can do to get there?

Planning gives us specific actions to take. No—it gives the next action we need to take. Our destination might be completely different after we finish that action, but by then we are ready for the next one.

Planning is about playing the chessboard. The next move is critical, but only when combined with the next several moves and countermoves in the future. The idea isn’t just to have one fixed thing we’re after. We’re thinking about all the potential outcomes—worst-case and best-case scenarios. We’re trying to nudge the outcome in a particular direction, but if it doesn’t work at least we have an idea of what a bad scenario looks like and what we can do to handle it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1013

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Zero Motivation Part 5: Remember Why You Do What You Do

Note: You can read this motivation series in any order, but if the thought of reading something out of order makes you want to curl up into a fetal position and stare off into space here’s are links to the others in order:

Part 1: Start Small
Part 2: Use the Fear of Inaction to your Advantage
Part 3: Creating something each day.
Part 4: Change your approach

Motivation Part 5: Know Your Why.

“Know yourself to improve yourself.”

Auguste Comte

It’s difficult to muster up the energy to do anything if your heart isn’t in it. No amount of trickery or cajoling will motivate you to do something you ultimately don’t want to do. At least without consequences.

The problem is sometimes we don’t know that our hearts are not in it. Or even worse, someone else does everything they can to convince us this is what we should be doing — despite how we feel.

You see this all the time with parents forcing their kid(s) into a particular job, like being a lawyer or engineer, when the kid(s) clearly would rather focus on dancing, music or running.

I don’t blame the parents. 98% of the time a parent is doing because they want the best for their kid(s). The parent is older and more experienced in the hardships of life than the bright-eyed kid who thinks (s)he’s invincible.

There’s much more to it, but I think it comes down to a difference of strategy. The parent wants their child to be happy and they know that safety and security is the best way for them to do that. The kid wants to be happy and they know that creative expression and pursuing their passions is the best way for them to do that.

Happiness likely is the balance between just enough safety and security and just enough passion and challenge.

Too much safety and you boredom yourself into conformity. Too much challenge and you are stressed out of your gourd. And both conformity and too much stress lead to unhappy campers.

First, we must know what we are passionate about. otherwise, we’ll try everything wastes our energy or let others dictate our lives for us. Then, we can begin to find a way to pursue our passions while also figure out how to live, save money and eat.

That could mean our passion is our job or we find a way to support our passion through selling our work or find patrons. Or it could mean our passion is what we do in our free time. By day, we are accountants, by night, we are YouTubers!

Once we have a good idea of what we like, finding out why we like it is a whole other matter. There’s some great work out there on this, particularly Simon Sinek’s writing.

Knowing why you create is slippery. Maybe it’s because you like to express yourself and the way you’ve found to do that is through design. Maybe a goal is driving you, like to be one of the best or to be admired. Maybe curiosity it’s what drives you. You can’t help but ask another question and figure out what’s behind the metaphorical mountain in front of you.

Whatever it is that drives you, make sure it comes from within. Don’t let external drives like fame, fortune, and power be your only motivator. Each one of those can take you far, but I hear they can leave a bad taste in your mouth if that’s all you care about. Fame, fortune, and power are side effects to impactful work, not the ultimate goal.

Once you know your why, you can remind yourself every day what you must do.

Knowing yourself also allows you to avoid any pitfalls or temptations you know will trip you up. If you want to avoid eating ice-cream, then having it in the house and serenading your name every time 10 PM rolls around. Get it out of the house! The same with anything that is taking you away from your craft. If Netflix is distracting you from creating, then unsubscribe. Don’t think of it as a permanent decision. You can always resubscribe next month. Think of it as an experiment to improve your practice.

One of my big goals is to be someone worthy of the title “Renaissance Man”. I want to be a true multi-disciplinary — a master of many skills. That drives me to always keep learning and challenging myself. This is one reason why I write. This is why I can create and learn all day, and never get tired. My body and mind may fatigue, but my spirit doesn’t.

What’s your driving goal?
Why do you feel called to your craft?

If you want to be an incredible guitarist, what’s stopping you?
If you want to be a regarded programmer, then start coding.

Knowing yourself also allows you to avoid any pitfalls or temptations you know will trip you up. If you want to avoid eating ice-cream, then having it in the house and serenading your

Always remember why you do what you do.

And then get to work practicing it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #899

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“What’s Stress?”

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”

Bruce Lee

I was talking on the phone the other day with my grandmother (gran, is what we’ve always called her). I don’t remember exactly what we were chatting about, but at one point I brought of the fact that I was feeling over-stressed. And then she floored me with this question —

“What’s stress?”

I… huh? I did a double-take. I then spent the next couple minutes fumbling for how to define what stress is. She didn’t know. (or maybe she didn’t hear me.) If you hear stories of her childhood, it’s not like she had it easy growing up—far. from it. There was plenty of ‘stress’ in her life. Plus she’s always on the move. Always doing something. Never idle. Stress wasn’t in her vocabulary. She just did what she had to do.

Maybe she misheard me. It was early, so I likely still had my deep Barry White morning voice.

Regardless, it got me thinking, what is stress anyway?

Is it real? Is it transmittable?

Don’t get me wrong, stress is real. But our idea of it is made up. It’s a label we ascribe.

According to Stress.org, Hans Selye borrowed the concept of stress from physics and applied it to his medical patients as a force that produces strain on the body. The interesting thing is this occurred in the 1920s, a hundred+ years ago.

You can feel it. You can see it on the face and body of others. You can taste its bittersweetness. You can hear its heavy sigh and breath. It’s specific, and generally. And it can own you if you aren’t careful.

Stress is a lot of things —

Stress is when we overdo it (and know we are overworking but do it anyway).

Stress is doing things that go against our values and character.

Stress choosing immediacy and gratification over freedom.

Stress is living above your means.

Stress is doing things that are detrimental to your health (like not enough sleep, too much work, or too many daily cookies).

A little stress is a part of life. Too much stress is a choice. Sometimes we need it to get better. Most of the time it’s a limitation, not a benefit. We should never let it control us (or make us into something we don’t want to be).

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #892

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Pressure is Necessary

“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise.”

Kobe Bryant

Unless you happen to be an Astronaut and you are reading this blog from space, you are experiencing the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere is around 60 miles thick. It’s a relatively thin sheet of air, but it keeps us warm and alive. Atmospheric Pressure is due to gravity and the thickness and density of atmospheric gas. How much pressure depends on where you are standing. At sea-level, the standard amount of pressure is around 14.70 pounds (per square inch) which—for you lovely math nerds out there—is 101.325 kilopascals.

It’s interesting that we hardly notice the pressure we are under. Unless you traveled to higher altitudes like Denver or Nepal (or Mars—610 pascals give or take, less than 1% of the Earth’s value) or experience the pressurized cabin of an airplane, you’d likely never notice.

(Or maybe you keenly familiar with pressure because you are a super-nerd like me and remember those Gravity Chamber’s Goku and Vegeta trained in to get stronger in Dragon Ball Z 😉.)

Gravity isn’t the only type of pressure we face in life.

Finding a mate, figuring out what you want to do in life, doing your taxes, making money and the day to day stresses of pursuing creativity and living are all pressures we face.

Pressure is necessary for creativity and growth.

Not too much or you’ll be crushed under the weight.
Not too little or you might not feel the need to act or even fall complacent.
What we need is pasta “al dente”—not too soft; firm to bite.

The question is how to find a good balance of pressure and what to do when we feel too over-pressured?

Too much pressure for too long and we over-cook our broccoli.

When you are under a tremendous amount of stress, for example, financial stress, it’s difficult to think about anything other than that need/pressure. The problem is when we are under too much stress—and how much depends on your personal tolerance level— we focus too much on the problem instead of finding a clear solution. We’re like a person panicking in the water who can’t swim. Panic is what’s drowning us, not our lack of swimming skills. (I don’t mean to take this scenario lightly. In the moment it’s difficult to see how our panic is causing us harm and losing ourselves to fear can happen to any of us.) What we need is a way to kick us out of our stress so we can take a breath and think objectively.

We need a lifeboat. Something or someone that can save us from ourselves. Maybe for you, that’s your daily meditation or yoga practice. Or perhaps journaling in the morning clears your mind off any worries or fears that are bothering you. Whatever we choose, as long as we stick to it and double down whenever we are under lots of pressure, we can make it through.

Creatively we need to challenge ourselves to get better at what we do. Writing the same type of story or headline over and over again isn’t going to make you a better writer. Taking the same style of photos—the ones you are most comfortable with—isn’t going to make you a better photographer. Playing the same three chords—G…D…C— the same way isn’t going to make you a better guitarist.

But pushing your boundaries, seeking out knowledge, trying new things, experimenting with discomfort will make you better.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #888

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References:

I’m Taking a Learning Vacation — You Should Too

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”  — Walt Disney

Jan 18th

I could feel the stress flowing down my back,

like a waterfall too powerful to sit under without breaking you eventually.

I was zapped, emotionally and physically. And doing my damnedest to not tear up because of my current set of obstacles. 

There’s was a physical heaviness weighing down my mind. Pessimistic thoughts were attacking me at all angles. It took all of my effort to not let the negative thoughts take control of the driver’s seat, but their barrage was paralyzing me. When things get bad, my mind cops by going numbI refuse to let it.

The difficultly of finding new clients and work, plus the lack of physical energy to do so and the pain of an old injury was doing a number on me. A one, two, three knockout of setbacks that were feeding each other.

I didn’t want ‘tired, broke, and empty’ to be the title of my autobiography.

Something has to change!, I screamed within.


Jan 19th

My mind is more clear than it’s been for months.

I’m not making enough, but that shouldn’t stop me from creating and pursuing what’s important to me.

I’m still tired, but I feel good.

My neck hurts, but I can help it by moving more.

Why the sudden change? What gives Josh?!

 

I’ve decided to focus on the possibilities and benefits of my setbacks, instead of dwelling on the downsides.

I’ve decided to choose health first.

I’ve decided to take a learning vacation.

And I’ve the liberty of taking a vacation from myself. I’m free.

I’ve let myself out of the cage that I helped build.

Because believe it or not, I was holding the key.

Just as you might be with your own cage.

Often times, the only thing holding you back from opportunity is yourself.

We get in our own way.

Q: How are you holding yourself back?

FEAR of Failure? ha no problem. I’m on vacation, you can’t scare me.

Feeling Stressed? not anymore. Vacation baby!

Feeling Stuck? you’ve got plenty of time to unstuck yourself now!

 

Okay okay, sure — I’m basically tricking myself — I’m still working. Still looking for clients. Still connecting, writing, design and a bucket-load of other things.

But my mindset has completely changed.

I’m looking up instead of looking down.

I’m not looking at the problems, I’m looking around them.

The only thing that’s changed is my perspective.

I’m still doing the work. I’m not slothing around. I’m not just doing whatever the wind tells me. But there’s a massive difference in my mindset.

Now that I’m out of my own way, I can do what I do, but better and more effectively.

 

My Learning Vacation Itinerary

  • Hone my design & developer skills.
  • Mastery the Art of the Interviewing for my podcasts.
  • Redesign renaissancemanlife.com      (Jan 28th: check!)
  • Start a Mastermind circle organization: Avants.
  • Learn about money, selling, online business
  • Find new clients, and have fun doing it.
  • Connect with interesting people in my city (Chattanooga) and online. Be a part of something bigger

 

Set sail on the S. S. Learning Vacation. Are you on board?

Tell me what you think in the comments below

related wisdom

Life is not waiting for the storm to pass, its dancing in the rain.

— Vivian Greene

You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.

— Michelle Obama

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Setbacks

 

Life gives us lemons all the time —

usually, at the most inconvenient time possible.

It’s where every problem and frustration hits you at once (each, on their own, not a big deal, but together adds up to an overwhelming sense of anxiety and lack of control)

‘I got sick and lost my consistency with blogging..’

‘I missed one workout, now weeks have gone by without exercise’

‘Things have been crazy, I’ll get back to it once everything slows down..’

How we see and handle our lemons (aka setbacks) is what separates us from

being brilliant or not.

The hardest thing to accept is

setbacks are inevitable.

Somethings are just out of our control.

Once I accepted that, it was easy to focus on what I can do, rather than pushing against what I can’t.

So how can we take setbacks and use them to push forward?

The best solution for setbacks is just do something.

If you fall off the wagon, just get back on.

Break it down to one small task at a time.

You’ll be well on your way to where you were and beyond.

You have the power to turn trials into triumphs.

no lemonade analogies allowed.

related wisdom:

The Bounce Back Book: How to Thrive in the Face of Adversity, Setbacks, and Losses

“Anytime you suffer a setback or disappointment, put your head down and plow ahead” — Les Brown

 

#KeepPursuing,

~ Josh Waggoner.

‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’  Email me (josh@renaissancemanlife.com) your thoughts on this post. Can you reduce the essential idea further?