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Why choosing stressful meaning is better than avoiding discomfort

The corporate world is being haunted by a specter called “stress”. No matter if we’re working 9am to 5pm in an apparently laid-back job or in a 24/7 sleeping under the desk start-up environment. Stress seems to be an ubiquitous yet highly subjective phenomenon. Hence, let’s take a closer look in an ExperienceZone manner.

When lives turn into rocket chairs

Many of us spin our wheels but never go anywhere. I witness this when I step into the social network trap. Trying to stay in touch with everyone usually results in loosing connection with myself. Superficiality is the price for the desire to not miss out on anything. Modern technology seduces us to do it all at the same time. Multitasking leads to inefficiencies, stress and eventually dissatisfaction. If we take a shot-gun rather than sniper-rifle approach to our lives, we experience a lot. But: If we lack focus on the things that really matter, life leads us astray into distraction and ultimately depression.

What does really matter?

Those activities, which make you happy and you invest most time in. Assuming you’re neither an aristocratic heir nor a downshifter, society requires you to work at least eight hours of your day. Imagine you spend a third of your day and half of your wake time in your job. This very fact justifies to think twice about your profession. For many decades the social axiom was “Get good grades, study something meaningful and you’ll be just fine being employed to take care of your family”. Those days are over. Asia, automation and abundance made job security a myth as Daniel Pink states in “A whole new mind – why right brainers will rule the future”.

So, what’s the bottom-line?

Let me come full circle here: I argue that people are stressed since they avoid discomfort by working in a job, which doesn’t build up on their passions and thus strengths but gives them the illusion of job security. They think they can take the way of least resistance. Yet, if you neither define your raison d’etre nor think and act big, you’ll never get a healthy stretch and experience the feeling of remarkable accomplishments. Instead, you’ll feel severely underutilized, bored and thus stressed. Reason being, you don’t find meaning or purpose in getting up in the morning.

What is your game plan?

  1. Stay in bed: I’m not kidding! Keep on lying in bed if you feel that your job doesn’t provide any meaning to your life or the ones of others. This is the best use of your time. Call sick or request a PTO. Go on a trip or at least a day hike. Fresh aur and physical exercise will get your mind in motion.
  2. Define your mission: Either in bed, on a walk or at your desk: Contemplate why you’re here and what you really want to do with your life. You’re only a few decades on this planet and it’s your damn duty to bring the best of you to the world. If you don’t, you’ll waste your life by finding creative excuses why you shouldn’t make a move (e.g. your financial obligations, the job security myth, you name it).
  3. Follow through: Once you know what you want to do, you’ve got to do it. This might sound like stating the obvious. Yet, many never bridge the knowing-doing-gap. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. At most, they put the best foot forward and then drag the other one behind. Bear in mind: The safest way to success  and contentment is to play on your passions and thus strengths.

Our search for meaning

Last night I finished up the bestselling book “Man’s search for meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl. It inspired me to write this article. I felt that I stumbled over something very profound. Meaning seems to be a buzzword and highlighting its importance for our lives like stating the obvious. However, diving into the “why” and “how” can open minds.

Meaning as our main driver

Frankl was born into a Jewish family and locked for years in Nazi death camps. During this time he discovered that the daily struggle for survival can be won by finding and focusing on meaning in life. No matter the circumstances, we are always in control of our attitudes. We can give meaning to the hardships in our lives if we want to. No one can take this freedom to think and act away from us.

Upon his release, Frankl founded logotherapy. A science, which is based on the concept of meaning (logos) as the main driver for human survival and design of life. Unlike the will to pleasure (on which the Freudian psychoanalysis is centered) and the will to power (which the Adlerian psychology is based on), the “will to meaning” seems to be a sustainable concept that doesn’t kick in once the Maslow’s basic needs are satisfied but already in the beginning. In fact we pursue our search for meaning in parallel to all other ones and it seems to be superior to power and pleasure. In fact, latter are shadows or side-effects of meaning but can never substitute it.

How do you find meaning?

At ExperienceZone, we translate meaning with mission. Our mission is our individual and unique reason for existence. We believe that there’s no subordinate or superior missions. Founding a family is equally important as colonizing Mars (as Elon Musk strives to do). Only one rule applies: Your mission needs to contribute to humanity and/or planet earth. Why’s that? Our actual desire is to be connected. Neurologically we’re wired to contribute, feel part of a larger means and want to be appreciated for what we do. So, there’re three steps:

  1. Initiation: You need to feel the need to define your mission first. Frankl says this either happens through a) suffering, like in his case. Once you’re existence is stripped to its bare bones, we recognize what is really important. Nowadays, we’re swamped by external stimulus (mind media), which distracted and ultimately detached from our natural desires as human beings. Another way to find meaning is through b) other people. In particular: Love. Love is way more that physical attraction or emotional attachment. It’s seeing a potential in someone, which didn’t actualize yet. It results in admiration and unconditional giving. Last year, I met someone, who opened my heart and thus helped me to shape my mission “use my energy and enthusiasm to inspire others and support them in unfolding their own talents in meaningful and harmonic ways”. The third trigger to discover you mission is via c) doing a meaningful work or deed. This is especially important for those who focus on the area career & financials in their lives.
  2. Definition: You need to write down your mission and best case paint it in bright colors. Vision is our most important sense. Vaguely knowing what you want to do with the few decades you’ve been granted on this planet is not enough. Make is explicit. Commit to it. Place your mission statement at prominent places in your living area. This way, you’ll always be reminded and thus win over your subconscious to support its manifestation.
  3. Execution: Strategy is nothing without action. Come up with a plan. What do you need to do to make your mission come true. I founded ExperienceZone. The first stepping stone towards materializing my dream. Just to be clear: There will be stumbling blocks along the way. People might not support you but laugh at or turn their backs on you. That’s totally fine. You’re not on this planet to please others but to fulfill your mission. Stay true to yourself and your individual reason for existence. Let others inspire your change but never kill your dreams. The means you’re putting in place might be suboptimal. Feel free to listen to others’ advises to become better in executing against your strategy but stay authentic and listen to your heart.

The more you do, the more you can do

Ten years ago, I discovered a truism that became one of my axioms in life: The more stuff I do, the more capable I become in learning new things plus get them done efficiently. Why’s that? Let’s check it out the ExperienceZone way.

Action is golden

I’ve got a deep believe: One reason why we’re on this planet is to express ourselves. This might by the quality of our gender specific energies more apply to men than to women. However, even latter find fulfillment in outgoing recreational activities and career development since the start of their emancipation.

Expression requires you to create an intention. This usually starts with emotions, i.e. the inner processes that move you internally and eventually cause external exhibition. There’re only two emotions: Love and fear. Both will trigger action. Former let’s you go after the things you want and latter step back from those you don’t want. Emotions are impregnated by thoughts. They match your perception of the outside world with your self-image. This contextualization takes place in split seconds and give birth to feelings. They’re the actual cause for external action. Hence, all inner processes are just the raw material for outer performance.

External behavior makes you change yourself and the world actively. Inner processes have an indirect impact on reality and are thus harder to control in their direction and intensity.

Generalist vs. Specialist?

Bottom line upfront: Calm down. Don’t worry about being too broad and narrow. Instead follow your heart. This might sound cheesy, yet applies to all areas of life. If you want to dig into the details and become an expert in rocket science, knock yourself out. If you feel drawn to many different things, do those! Life is a playground. There’s no one stopping you except for your fear of failure. Preferences change throughout life. So as physical attraction turns into love for your partner, fields of interests morph too. Embrace that everything changes every moment.

If you trust your heart though, you’ll never fail. Why’s that? It shows you your passions: The people you like to be with, the things you like to do or have and the places you want to go. This sparks motivation, which causes conscious outside actions and subconscious inside programming. Both ensure that your dreams become true eventually.

Bear one thing in mind: Your brain expands with every new experience. Your mind opens and your horizon widens. This enables you to take new perspectives, approaches to problem solving and decision making. So, embrace new experiences but don’t go astray your core values and plans in life.

What’s your game plan?

Let go of in- and external stressors. Make up your mind instead:

  1. What drives you? Why are you on this planet? Don’t tell me you want to eat, sleep and repeat it all over again. This way, you put yourself on par with less developed species and don’t use your divine gift as a human being. Tell me you want to be happy. Better but not sufficient though. Too fluffy. We all want to be happy. The question is: “What makes you happy?” Follow me here: Happiness is related to love and being loved. Others are only able to love you to the same extent you love yourself. Hence, you need to love your self more than anyone else first. Self-love is a function of self-confidence. Self-confidence results from knowing where you’re from, who you’re and what you want to do.
  2. Who are you? Time is a mental construct. Hard to explain and to believe alike. Change is inevitable. Your self transforms naturally. Do you want to own this process or be an observer? There’s no objective reality but only perception. Perception is in your hands. You decide every moment how you see yourself and the world. In hindsight, at present and forward looking. In other words: You can change your memories, your current self-image and future life deliberately. You can have that good childhood and live your dreams already. Again: There’s no one stopping you than your limiting beliefs. This is not esoteric pixie dust but based on recent scientific insights. The only question left is: Do you want to accept responsibility for your past, present and future?
  3. Who do you want to be? Shoot, this is about you. You’ve been granted a few decades on planet, so use them! Define your mission. Derive your aims in life. Think and act big. Let no one belittle your ambitions. Surround yourself with inspiring and empowering people. If you want to try new stuff, just do it! Most important is that you switch into action gear. Focus on your goals, yet allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone every now and then. Various experiences will make you a well rounded and thus interesting person assuming you keep your eyes on your objectives.

Take more deliberate decisions!

Life is a long sequence with highly frequent decisions. Every moment you’re making one. Large or small. Conscious or subconscious. I just decided to write about this topic (relatively large and conscious decision) and my fingers follow up on the keyboard (relatively small and subconscious decision). In other words: We’re deciding all the time. Even avoiding action is a decision. The quality of your life is a function of the quality of your decisions. So, how do you take better decisions? Let’s dive into it the ExperienceZone way.

We’re always on the run to…nowhere!

Success in our “developed” world is often the result of doing more in less time. Thus busyness can become an addiction. It means ‘having a valuable life’. We’re rewarded with money which allows us to buy stuff, which makes us feel even more valuable. No suprise that most of us engage in this rat race. Yet if we’re always down in the wheats, we’re not realigning to our mission. Also, we’re running the risk to become puppets and satisfy the expectations of others (incl. our partner, parents, children and friends) rather than living our own dreams. It’s like being on a fast-train, which destination we don’t know. We even don’t take time to look outside the window. We’re just too busy to make it run faster. The results are devastating: With the acceleration of our lives (mind that in the last 10 years our walking speed increased by 10%), burn-out rates as well as those of other stress related diseases skyrocket.

How do you escape the vicious circle?

  1. Make up your mind: Acknowledge that your’re part of the race. Admission is the first step towards change. Moreover, you want to feel an urge to shift gears. Just begin to write a no-to-do-list (documenting all activities, which you don’t want to engage in any longer) and/or craft your own eulogy (what other people should say about you when you’re dead). Those techniques enable you to take a step back and build the bridge to step #2.
  2. Define your mission: Why the heck are you on the planet? Well, you might respond that you want to become happy. Duh, everybody wants that. Yet only a few dig deeper and describe how they want to accomplish that. Countless ways lead to Rome. Lay your own path. Your unique reason for existence.
  3. Become an essentialist: A decision is a choice combined with an action plan. Once you select an alternative, you discard all others. They’re not part of your belief-system and thus reality anymore. In fact, those alternatives are only valid until you picked one. Afterwards all others vanish since reality changes with your decision. Hence you burn all bridges. This also allows you to focus on the things you want and relentlessly stop those activities, which don’t support your goals.
  4. Take a step back regularly: Our world is full of temptations. Even the smallest distraction might lead you astray. Realign to your mission every now and then. I’m reading latter daily and reviewing my aims in life on an annual basis. This brings me mentally back on track, so that I can follow up physically.
  5. Create and enjoy precious moments: Reasearch proves that accumulation of material goods don’t make us happier. Experiences do. Yet those need to be enjoyed. That requires time. Take it. You’re only a few decades on this planet. The older you get, the faster time runs. Design high-quality moments, which you’ll remember on your death bed. Everything else is just ambient noise.

 

 

 

 

A new year, a new life?

2016 is here. Reason enough to relaunch the experiencezone blog and provide you shots of insights on a regular basis. More importantly: What does a new year mean to you?

As above, so below

Hermes Trimegistus was right: Our world is made of fractal structures and processes. Those emerge when planets move around the sun and they can be found in the design of atoms. In fact, there’re a couple universal laws, which apply to us humans as part of the earthly community. Essentially, we’re knots of a gigantic net, in which every thing is connected.

Moreover, we’re powerful creators

Humans are equipped with three powerful minds: Brains, hearts and guts. Those trigger inner processes, such as emotions, thoughts and resulting feelings that impact the outside world through expectations. Likewise, the surroundings change our biochemical make-up by the experiences we make. Let’s conclude: Our inner world forms reality through expectations and vice versa via experiences.

Put this epiphany into practice

Fake it until you be it: Always think and speak big framed into an optimistic mindset. A new year is a new life. Spring (childhood), summer (early adulthood), fall (late adulthood), and winter (old age). Many overestimate what they can achieve in a day (which by the way is a 4-step-cycle as well) but underestimate what can be done in a year.

Take a step back and reflect

Then define your mission. Why the heck are you on this planet? Don’t sell yourself short by only satisfying your basic needs. You’re kings and queens, who deserve more than eating, sleeping and repeating. Take use of the few decades you’re granted to live on this planet. Derive your aims in life and follow through. Too many gyms become ghost towns in February. Too many dreams burst due to a lack of commitment. Develop new tiny habits, which twinkles merge into a shiny north star for others to follow.

What are the reasons why people change?

Everything changes every time. Yet what triggers deliberate personal transformations? Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. They can be split into away-from or to-wards drivers. Let’s investigate this one the ExperienceZone way.

From initial to structured life improvements

First things first: Terminology. Extrinsic motivation is caused by outside factors, such as the expectation of getting rewarded for a certain behavior. Mind your salary. Intrinsic motivation represents the things you do just because you want to without any outlook on external recognition. Hence, latter is usually the result of inspiration, i.e. your mind is inspired, which triggers action.

The other two motivational dimensions are away-from suffering (imagine you’re facing health problems and want to change your diet) and to-wards goals (think about a certain body weight you want to have). Interestingly, most people initially change away from discomfort.

So did I twice profoundly. At the age of 21, I propelled from my first valley of despair. I exclusively drove on the hedonistic lane. Consequently, my grades at university dropped and my first love left me. After picturing myself a loser, I finally got on my feet and changed everything big-time. Yet I turned the wheel too much too fast and got health issues. Therefore, I needed to rebuild my body and focus on food quality instead of quantity from thereon. Since then I live life dynamically, yet balanced. Meantime, cultivating new routines is like a piece of cake.

Ergo: Many people need to first fall deep before they learn to climb (away-from motivation). Once they know how to do it though, they start to design their lives like architects and change it effortlessly (to-wards motivation).

Motivation represents your readiness to act.

I don’t want you to walk through your own desert before you learn to flex your life. Instead, you can learn from my experiences. Admittedly, change is not easy but simple. Here’re the steps:

  1. Be honest to yourself. “Actually, I’m satisfied with my life.” Well, people using the term “actually” have a huge sign on their foreheads: “I’m not happy yet don’t know how or don’t want to change things.” Apparently their pain is just not big enough yet. So check yourself. Is there anything in any area of life you want to change? If yes, why don’t you do it? Do you’ve any limiting believes? Honesty leads to awareness. Awareness is the first step towards any improvement.
  2. Picture your dream life. Our common objective is to become happy. Happiness is a complex thing though. Why? It’s a state of mind. If you’re not happy at the moment, you want to change your mind, which implies changing your thoughts, feelings, emotions and underlying belief-system. Since this is difficult, I recommend you to change your words and actions first. They’ll positively impact your inner processes. Beforehand gain clarity about how your life looks like “in perfect” and what you need to do to get there. In other words: Define your mission and set aims in life.
  3. Switch into active gear. A car is useless without an engine. Strategy is nothing without execution. Your ideas are worthless without action. Once you fleshed out a plan, you need to follow through with willpower and persistence. Chunk it down into incremental steps, so that you witness small successes along the way. Latter are big enough to fire your motivation and lift you on a virtual cycle. Experience it and remember my words along the way: Change is not easy but simple.

Why we usually only charge successes on our own account

You won, you tell everyone. You loose, you blame it on the circumstances. It’s great to be proud of ourselves and celebrate successes. Yet, often they’re the result of a failure series. If we don’t embrace latter as well, we miss out on valuable learning opportunities. Be smart and follow me here in an ExperienceZone manner.

Why both are important – failures and successes

Many people experience life as an emotional roller-coaster: If everything works out as planned, they feel like life lifts them up. In case challenges creep in though, they feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick.

In fact, you’re the only one handing out sticks. There is no objective reality. There’s just your expectations of how things should work, your perception of how they actually work and your memories of how they worked. All three are highly subjective.

Consequently, it’s you who decides every minute of your life, which end of the stick you’re handing yourself. Just drop the “winning or loosing” concept. It’s about the setting the right expectations (best case positive ones or none at all). When the stuff hits the fan, its about installing the right perception filters (best case a learning attitude). Looking in the rear mirror, you better memorize past events in bright colors.

Bottom line, you’re in control: You can have a positive attitude. You can see failures as learning opportunities. You can get up and smile again. Actually, the term “failure” or “mistake” implies already negative judgement. To me, there’re no mistakes but only feedback I receive. Latter enables me to adjust my course of action to get the results I want to have next time. This is what life is all about. We’re living in a world of constant change. Why not driving it?

Put a positive spin on everything

Happiness is a choice, not a reaction. In order to become happy, you need to embrace your “failures” though. Why? Well, those offer you the greatest learning and thus growth opportunities. Don’t miss them. Did you ever look back at a situation, which you judged negatively instantly, yet in hindsight it was one of the most important events in your life? If yes,  get your recommendations:

  1. Own your life. Take a deliberate decision to be the captain of your ship going forward. The Latin rooted term “decision” means “to cut off”. You let go of any possibility to not be in control of your life. The impact of God, other people or chance doesn’t fit into your belief system anymore. Full self-determination makes you the strongest version of yourself.
  2. Fail ahead. Whatever you’re up for, you got to do it. Especially those things you fear, since they bear the largest learning opportunities. Action is magic. Don’t hesitate. Jump fear straight in its face. What do you’ve to loose? Take risks instead of tippy-toeing through life just to make it safe to your deathbed. Life is a game and the world is its playground. Don’t stand on the sideline and complain about the rules of someone not complying to them. Instead, jump onto the field and lean into the experience.
  3. Learn and grow. Change your attitudes. You’re a manifestation of everything that happened in your life. Consequently your future life will be a result of your current thoughts, feelings, words and actions. Put a positive spin on those and you’ll accomplish your mission and aims in life effortlessly.

Who really owns your career?

Why do you go to work: To earn money? To have something to do? To receive recognition? Many peoples’ careers are like rocket chairs: They keep them busy but lead to nowhere. Why’s that? Because they don’t take ownership. Instead folks just go with the flow. “Well, I became a dentist because my father was one…” Nothing against being a someone who repairs others’ teeth, yet I invite you to question the decisions in your life as well as their reversibility. You can always adjust the course. That requires you to embrace one golden ExperienceZone rule:

Only you own your career, which is as dynamic as your passions

How do you put these condensed truths into practice? First understand them and their implications. Let’s slice and dice it:

  1. You own your career. Yeah, your partner might have a stake in it. Though bear in mind that you’re tasked to do what feels right to you. Nobody else can know that and take that burden off your shoulders. Your boss might promise to support you. Yet at max she can do is open doors. You need to choose which one you want to go through.
  2. Your career is dynamic. In the 20th century, we had these “from the cradle to the grave” employment relationships. Your grandfather might worked for his company from his internship till retirement. That concept doesn’t hold water anymore. Meantime, the world became more complex and versatile. Hence, replace predictability with opportunity.
  3. Your passions guide the way. It might sound corny yet is so true: You’re designed to do what you love to do. Why’s that important? Your passions emerge from love. Love is an emotion. It makes you move. The more you move the better you become in something. One day you’ll accomplish mastery. This way passions translate into strengths. They create your contributions to the world and value to others. That’s what people are willing to pay for. Got it?

So, how do you jump on the driver seat?

Next you want to take action:

  1. Run a personality analysis to gain clarity about where you’re coming from, who you’re and where you’re going to.
  2. Decide to live a fully self-determined life going forward.
  3. Check your attitudes. Align them towards success
  4. Define your mission. The individual reason for you to be on this planet.
  5. Set at least one aim in life in each area. Pursue those relentlessly.

In terms of Career & Financials, embrace the concept of life long learning. Also, check if you’re still on track by digging down to your passions. Make sure that you build your career based on solid ground and aligned with your mission. Update your resume on a quarterly basis and go interviewing to stay in shape. The more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war.

Fun is your life compass!

Try to reminisce some moments from your childhood or teenage years: Which ones do you remember? Most likely those of excitement, joy or love. You may also recall anger, disappointment and losses. Why do you think that is? Because you tag emotions – love or fear – or derived feelings to memories. Emotions are those inner allies, which trigger actions – internally and externally. They make you experience things and turn these into memories in hindsight. That’s one of the fundamental truths we leverage to learn and grow together at ExperienceZone.

When boy meets girl…

…or thought meets emotion, they make feelings. Emotions are their mothers. They’re rooted in your gut. Your enteric nervous system (ENS) or gut-brain produces them. There are only two emotions: Love and fear. Love is focusing on what you want. Fear is focusing on what you don’t want. Both cannot coexist yet do emerge in various intensities. Thoughts are the fathers. They represent the analytical male energy, which contextualize and evaluate emotions. Once that happens, feelings arise.

Fun is a feeling caused by love and mental awareness of the very moment.

Fun, pleasure and joy represent harbingers of great experiences. The more you dive into them, the more likely you’ll remember these moments on your deathbed. At the same time, they give you feedback: “Way to go! You are on the right track”. Track to where? Towards living your mission and accomplishing your aims in life. Latter represent the milestones towards your dream future. Your mission is the north star you want to follow. Joy is the compass which confirms you the right direction. Do more of the things you love. They’re usually based on your passions. The crazier you’re about something, easier you’ll be able to truly master it and the better you use your lifetime. Always bear in mind that you’re only a few decades on this planet. Life is too short to do things you don’t love. Yet many people apparently think they live forever (or that they got a second life in their trunk).

What happens if you only seek pleasure?

Life is about balance though. Don’t only rely on your compass. It might lead you astray. Especially the outside world bears many temptations. I used to be a hedonist par excellence. Party, girls, and everything else you can imagine a big-city-boy is after in his wild years. Yet I experienced that one-sidedness leads to emptiness. Especially without having defined an individual reason for existence. So know what you want. Then go after it. Some challenges might arise. Consider them being extra weights the universe puts on your dumb bells. It only wants to make you stronger and trusts you to lift them.

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