Navigating Self

My attempt to have a writing habit. Writing forces me to have clarity with how I'm living my life.

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Gaining self, losing self

Gaining self

In my younger years, my goal was to be self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-made. Focused mostly on self. I want to be able to accomplish things without relying on anyone. And I was fairly becoming good at it.

The mindset I had was anyone can leave me anytime and I’ll be fine. It seemed like a nice idea at that time. However, this has limited the relationships I had to reach up to surface-level only. I was always on guard. It was very easy for me to cut people off as soon as there’s unpleasantness. There was no chance for relationships to grow.

The older I get though, the more it’s evident that self-sufficiency at a cost of relationships isn’t worth it. Okay, I can manage by myself. Now what? It turns out that dealing, facing, fixing the unpleasantness is a big part of what makes life a more meaningful experience.

Losing self

The second lie, is that I can make myself happy. That’s the lie of self-sufficiency. As anybody on their deathbed will tell you, the things that make people happy is the deep relationships of life, the losing of self-sufficiency. 

The lies our culture tells us about what matters — and a better way to live (David Brooks)

I’ve accepted that I can’t do it all. I’ve been learning how to depend on other people. I try to share my problems even if it’s not natural for me to do. I do this to let them know that they’re safe to do the same. That they can depend on me when they need to.

I also actively reach out. I intentionally keep connections open. I show up to their life events. And it’s worth the effort.

I realized that losing of self-sufficiency is actually expanding of self. There are parts of me that shows only when I’m with people I trust and depend on. I did not lose anything. It’s quite the opposite. I gained a better understanding of myself.

Age of Money

I remember getting shocked with my first credit card bill. Total amount is almost the same amount as my full-time job salary. 😅

That was 8 years ago.

Mabilis ako madala e. Soon after that, I looked up how to properly manage my money. This is when I found YNAB (You Need A Budget). It’s a budgeting software. Its value isn’t in the software itself, it’s in their methodology. It provided me structure on how I should think about money.

First phase is explicitly deciding where to put in all my money.

The goal here is to have an idea where my money is going. I can’t improve what I can’t measure right? Having a handy list of my budget, upcoming expenses, and current state of my net worth made it really easy to decide on unplanned purchases.

This also made me treat credit card spendings as money spent. It’s instantly deducted to my net worth as soon as I spent it.

Second phase is aging my money.

YNAB have this concept called “Age of Money”. It means how long your money stays with you before you use it.

I recently got to a point where my age of money reached 180 days. This gave me flexibility to plan ahead, take risks, and try new things.

Beyond YNAB

What I’m looking for to do next are investing on a business and stocks.

I’m like a sponge now absorbing information from r/phinvest. Taking action to things that’s starting to make sense to me.

Let’s see where this takes me.

Getting back on track

No matter how much I plan, I still go through a phase where I just have zero motivation to do anything at all. I find myself wasting my day away. I know what I’m supposed to do, but I can’t find any energy to do it.

I used to wait it out until I get tired of being unproductive. However, that isn’t always possible. Especially being adult and having people depend on me. I have to find a way to get around whenever I’m in that state.

I have developed a checklist I follow that helps me back on track.

Getting back on track checklist

  1. Sort out finances
    • This is one of the easiest thing to do because it’s a clear goal. Check bank accounts, credit cards, and cash. Having a clear idea where I stand financially takes a lot of anxiety out of my mind.
  2. Brain dump – Write down all that’s on top of your head. I don’t have to do it, it just needs acknowledgement that it’s there. Writing forces me to make sense things that’s running on my mind.
    • Things I need to do, want to do, don’t want to do
    • Things I’m trying to avoid thinking about
  3. Exercise – Walk, run, push up, pull up
    • I don’t even have to finish a whole routine. The only goal here is to have my heart beating fast. There are cases where the body dictates what the mind should feel. When my heart is beating too fast due to exercise, my mind thinks I’m excited and it changes my mood altogether from low-energy to excited.
  4. Eat right food
    • Unbalanced diet affects mood and how you think too. Mind and body works hand-in-hand. If I lack a critical nutrient, or eat too much junk, I will feel off.
  5. Disconnect
    • We have become such experts at being always in touch, informed, connected. Now we must relearn how to be silent, disconnected, alone. – Alain de Botton
    • Food for the body is like information for the mind. If I constantly consume anxiety-inducing news, my body can’t helped but feel anxious.
    • Pay attention to what I pay attention to.
    • Optimize on output

Working out everyday as a keystone habit

I have been consistently working out for more than 80 days because of stay-at-home orders. This has been the habit that had the most impact in the quality of my life.

Keystone habit

A keystone habit is a habit that you can “attach” other habits to. It’s one habit that triggers a set of other good habits.

For working out, what happens after I’m done are:

  1. I shower – because I stink
  2. I log my body composition (weight, body fat) – to track my progress, makes me a bit more aware with changes in my body
  3. I eat good food, drink a lot of water – to address what the body composition scale suggests to improve
  4. I take my vitamins

There’s this idea that the better you take care of yourself, the better you’ll handle life. With my body getting used to physical stress, it makes me better prepared to handle unexpected stressors that will inevitably come my way.

Recent personal milestones:

A loving kind of procrastination

I gave up on the idea of “beating” procrastination. I’ve tried all the to-do apps and all the productivity hacks. I just accepted that it’s part of my nature and I should embrace it.

Not mindlessly embrace it though.

Introducing a competing response

A competing response is a pre-decided alternative action when a specific habit triggers.

Let’s say I’m having a hard time on a specific task. My default action is to take a break and browse reddit/twitter/facebook. My competing response is to spend time with my family instead.

“I love them more than evolution required” is a phrase that I keep feeling whenever I spend time with them.

I’m still procrastinating but I’m spending it on something I enjoy and worth doing.

Two-month break of taking new projects

I’m taking a two-month break of taking in new projects. Not out of burnout, but out of desire to try a different direction. I have this itch of starting something of my own initiative. This is especially hard for me because I’m not a visionary. I’m more of the person someone would trust executing a vision.

Timing also feels right as I’m turning 30 in two months. This is the kind gift I want to give myself before starting my next decade.

My focus for the next few weeks

  • This website
    • Create structure/framework/process that makes it real easy for me to publish and share
  • Create a habit of sharing of things I’m doing and learning
    • I love to teach. Sharing my journey teaches other people too.
  • Create a habit of writing and publishing
    • Publishing is the notable change here. By publishing, I’m forced to articulate my thoughts in a way another person can understand it.
  • Optimize on producing, not on consuming

Fill your cup and let it overflow around you

I have this guilt that I’m doing so well with Coronavirus’ quarantine. The only thing that changed with my routine is I haven’t been able to go to Starbucks to work. It feels unfair and wrong that a lot of people are in a bad place.

I know that, by nature, people tends to help those in need. The problem is there’s a lot of people in need and it’s obvious that I can’t help them all. There’s this choice paralysis on how and who to give assistance to.

The strategy I adopted to workaround this is: fill your cup and let it overflow around you

First, I make sure that my family are taken care of. This means that I feel secure that we’ll be able to weather the crisis in the next few weeks despite the uncertainty. 

Then, I give away the excess I have to people around me that I’m aware needs help. Relatives, employees, coworkers, old classmates, kapitbahay, friend of a friend, kapitbahay ng friend, it doesn’t matter who. As soon as I knew about their struggle and I know how to help, I do it. I even reach out and ask about their situation.

Meritocracy doesn’t apply here. There’s no qualification if someone deserves help or not. No one deserves to be hungry.

Walking the talk: My cup is full. I already gave away more than 100% of my pay this month.

Time for introspection

The time after Christmas and before New Year is a perfect time to stop and reflect.

There’s a lot of downtime. Almost everybody stops working. There’s minimal pressure to work.

Looking back makes me relive the good stuff. It also makes me think about how could I better handled the bad stuff.

Having a plan helps when I’m lost. There are days when I wake up and I’m totally at a loss what to do. What I’ll do is review what I’ve written and check if it’s still what I wanted and if I’m on the right track.

Questions I ask myself to kick-start my introspection:

  • How was your year?
  • What are the highlights of your year?
  • Do you have any regrets?
    • What are you going to do to address those?
  • Are you heading to where you want to be?
  • What do you want to do next year?

Relative size perception

This is an optical illusion called Ebbinghaus illusion. It shows that when you put a circle around bigger circles, it looks smaller. But when you put it around smaller circles, it looks bigger despite that there’s no actual difference in size.

There’s this saying that you are the average of your friends. I think it’s the same thing, because we tend to be around people we don’t feel little in.

We are inclined to avoid uncomfortable situations.

If we want to grow, being the circle with bigger circles is a more optimal position to be in. There’s a lot of room for growth.

Unlike being the circle with smaller circles where we already feels big, there’s no incentive to grow.

The good side of being unfair

When I hear the word unfair, it usually comes from the perspective of the one being taken advantage of.

I didn’t realize that being in an unfair situation has a good side too. We can be unfair by giving more than necessary, by giving benefit of the doubt when it’s not warranted, by being the more loving when it isn’t even reciprocated.

I think this is the unfairness we should strive for. To be on the giving end. To be in a position where we have too much, we absolutely have to give without expecting anything in return.

Life isn’t fair. It’s good that we strive for fairness. It’s even better if we strive for unfairness, but on the giving end. 

2020 © Jerico Aragon