Hi there, decision-maker,
Grab a cup of coffee or tea and let’s sit together for a few minutes.
Let’s carve out some space for ourselves this Sunday - you and me - so we can breathe a bit more deeply, so we can pause and explore a few ideas that can make a difference if you allow them to sneak into your everyday practice.
Do you feel it too?
You’ve been probably thinking about the world a lot over the last few weeks. I have too.
You know how I like to work with questions to improve my thinking and actions, so I’m no stranger to these queries:
How will the world look like going forward?
Why is it reacting the way it is?
What are the meaningful ways in which it will change?
Over the last two years, I’ve felt like the world we live in was a plane taking off and making its way to cruising altitude - constantly accelerating (aka chasing endless growth), pushing to break air resistance, tensing up from every joint. Reaching cruising altitude - when everything is calm and quiet above the clouds - never really happened. Instead, we hit an air pocket which shook us in our seats.
We went from experiencing one type of tension (an exponential growth society) to a different one that’s about survival (a world where most people are in fight or flight all the time). I’m oversimplifying, but what I wanted to emphasize is what this constant state of tension does to us.
When we experience tension, it’s in our human nature to try to relieve it. Since we’re now living in a context of high uncertainty and escalating tension that go on for months, we’re more likely to be impulsive in our actions. And that leads to bad decisions, for you and me included, even if we’ve been reading about this topic and all the biases that distort our thinking for a while now.
Here are some examples of which I’m guilty:
I’ve been working hard all day, every day, so I can allow myself to spend 10 more minutes on Twitter after I’ve reached my ScreenTime limit (15 mins).
I’m too tired and depleted to cook today, so let’s just order something good.
My brain can’t take one more ounce of new information, so I’ll just watch an episode of a show I’ve watched 3 times before instead of reading that book I started.
While these transgressions don’t look like much, taking the path of least resistance made me feel a bit numb for a week or two. Because I worked very intensely over the past 6 months with almost no breaks, I felt overwhelmed and unable to create content for my own projects (hence my skipping a newsletter two weeks ago).
These small slips contributed to that feeling instead of giving me the relaxation I thought they would. These impulsive choices were not serving me, so I had to curb them before they undermined my routine.
What are you made of?
Crises forge character.
If you’ve ever read philosophy or got friendly with the Stoic principles, you most likely know that humans learned thousands of years ago that crises reveal what we’re made of.
Having wrestled with anxiety, depression, and challenging circumstances through the past 20 years, I had my fair share of crises and I saw how they shaped my identity.
When I hit what felt like rock bottom, I discovered I’m stronger than I knew.
When I started going to therapy, I proved to myself I’m not too conceited to get help.
When I started freelancing, I showed myself that I have entrepreneurial spirit and what it takes to make it on my own.
“The first rule in decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement."
― Peter F. Drucker, The Effective Executive
Decisions are born out of conflict, like Peter Drucker observes. The conflict between the life we have and the life we want. The conflict between what we think of ourselves and what we actually do.
As humans, we’re wired for consistency. We need to align the life inside our heads with the one that’s external to us to avoid cognitive dissonance.
There are 3 ways to achieve this alignment:
- Lie to ourselves and justify our behavior, blindingly believing what we want to believe (“I can go on acting as usual because this whole thing is going to end and we’ll go back to normal.”)
- Avoid the “circumstances and contradictory information likely to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance” - not available right now
- Use introspection to understand what we’re made of, what matters to us, what we believe with our entire being to be right, fair, and worth striving and living for.
Choose your own adventure.
Stop hoarding thoughts & information
This pandemic is a BIG part of the story we’ll tell ourselves going forward. Don’t miss out on a chance to discover, mold, and improve your character.
The story we tell ourselves about our own behavior and perspective on life matters.
How we talk to ourselves in our head matters.
There’s no way we can juggle all these things if we keep them in our mind, so I encourage you to write it all down - pen on paper. Let your stream of consciousness flow in whatever form you need.
your emotions (fear, anxiety, confusion, love, kindness, vulnerability)
your physical sensations (thirsty, sleepy, rusty in the joints, tense between the shoulders)
what you see around you (blooming trees, quiet streets, birds chirping, neighbors turning up the music)
your thoughts (“the media’s approach triggers my anxiety”, “people walking around the street for no good reason are irresponsible”)
what you believe is true.
It doesn’t have to be good, structured, or even make sense. Just start by letting it all out. When you see all these loose threads on paper, you can start pulling away at them, untangling your thoughts and finding that psychological alignment that gives us peace and fortitude.
I decided I’d write a series of letters to my future self so I can remember these times and the powerful lessons they taught me even long after they’ve gone and the world has forgotten about it.
Trust the process
It’s clear to me that what got us here won’t get us where we need to go next. The sooner we realize this - individually and as a global society - the faster we can root into our own system of values and beliefs whose importance is glaringly clear right now.
For example, I’m well aware that a number of good decisions contributed to my current level of development and comfort, but I also know this is merely a foundation I’ll need to continue building on as I navigate whatever comes next. My effort was not in vain, but if I stop walking the talk, it will have been.
One of my recommendations for this navigating the next few months/years is this: stick to your practice. Whether it’s cultivating self-awareness, improving your decision-making process, or cultivating critical thinking (they’re all interdependent anyway), keep at it!
Follow through on the self-development promise you made yourself long ago, even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.
Give your future self an advantage rooted in consistency, internal alignment, and kindness. Practice these towards yourself and you’ll be better suited to help those you love as well, and even people you don’t know.
It’s plain to see that decisions are not solutions unless we follow through on them, in the short-term (staying home) and in the long-term (no harm in obsessively washing our hands for the rest of our lives).
What decisions does your world revolve around these days?
How do they affect you?
What choices can you make to find freedom within yourself when there’s nowhere to go but inwards?
I hope you’ll give answering these questions - pen on paper - a chance. They might be a good place to start.
3 resources to keep going
Listen to the latest episode of the How do you know? Podcast for a thoughtful conversation with a long-time entrepreneur who is also one of the people whose thinking (and doing) I most admire. Vladimir Oane talks about hard work, taking information consumption very seriously, and optimizing for who you are as opposed to following prescriptive “success” models.
He’ll most likely nudge you in all sorts of right directions and give you a much-needed energy boost.
Learn at least 10 different ways practicing empathy helps you through difficult times from the wonderful guests I interviewed for the Drag & Drop podcast, my first sting as a podcast host for a branded show. These women are incredible and their experiences and ideas will certainly help you gain more clarity, confidence, and strength. I promise!
Watch bears play, take a dip in the pool, and generally have a beary good time in the Libearty Bear Sanctuary near Zarnesti, in Brasov county, Romania. I love that place and I’ve been there 4 times and will return with the first chance I get. Its story ranges from heartbreak and bright hope and reminds me what we can achieve when our hearts and minds are in the right place. (Top tip: you’re most likely to see the bears around 10-11 AM EEST, when they feed them, and around 5-6 PM EEST when they gather round the pool to catch some afternoon rays.)
Before I wrap up, I wanted to say how thankful I am for the ability to connect like this, through a simple email. It’s not (just) the tech that makes it possible, but our mindsets, our intent, and our actions.
Whether you’ve been here for two years (wow!) or for two weeks, I’m thankful that we get to share this experience, these minutes spent reflecting, digging deeper, and peeling away until we find what we truly value.
I’m glad we choose to share this mindspace.
Thank you and stay safe,