5 Great Reminders You Should Keep Throughout The Day
Pearls of wisdom to live a better life
Stoicism, Hinduism, Cynicism, Christianity, and Judaism. There are a few of the myriad philosophies that exist. While you can choose to follow one philosophy, I’ve always found multiple philosophies that attract me. I’m sure you can empathize.
For instance, Stoicism and Hinduism both are an integral part of my belief system. Although most philosophies say the same thing, it’s the way of saying that appeals to different people.
Whatever philosophy you like, it’s crucial to pick and choose what you want to believe in. The principles you choose are the anchors of your life. They are the support system that gets you through tough times. They are always there to console you at the end of a bad day.
But picking your philosophy is not enough. You want to live it. You want to feel it. And you want to experience it. The more you do this, the deeper your understanding becomes.
It is also a great way to battle-test your philosophy. Is it something that sounds good intellectually or is it practical?
To do this, you need to remind yourself every day of your core principles in life. These principles, that form your philosophy, are the guiding angels of your life as well as the stones you leave behind for future generations.
Take for instance Ryan Holiday, who has tattooed various phrases on his arms — “Obstacle is the way”, “Stillness Is The Key”, and “Ego is the enemy.” These are the names of the few books he’s written. He’s not narcissistic. Rather, it’s an attempt to internalize the principles he strongly believes in.
This is what we also have to do. No, you don’t have to get quotes tattooed on your arms.
But that being said, here are a few inspiring principles I believe in, that you can decide to follow, regardless of your own beliefs.
I’ve adopted them from different places over time and you can choose either one of them to fit in your arsenal.
Take This View to Realize Your Pettiness
We are bacteria to the universe. We’re basically monkeys on a small rock orbiting a small backwards star in a huge galaxy, which is in an absolutely staggeringly gigantic universe, which itself may be part of a gigantic multiverse. — Naval Ravikant
The universe is vast beyond imagination. We don’t have the psychological tools to grasp its nature. When you meditate on such supernal realities, you can’t help but notice the pettiness of your life and your issues.
The issues that trouble you, that seem so real you get upset about them, are just cosmic dust. Not only that, but your existence itself likely doesn’t matter.
You’re just one person on a planet of 7 billion people. Billions have died before you and billions will die after you. In fact, 1.8 humans die per second — you can check this counter right now in real-time.
The Stoics call this taking a view from the above. We all have had such experiences. When we look back on our problems, we can’t understand why we were so worried about them in the first place.
Yesterday, I lost a significant amount of money due to a stupid mistake. On top of that, it was embarrassing since I’d linked my father’s credit card with a software service. Before I could cancel the account, my free trial and credits expired. Before I knew it, $1000 was charged to his card — which is 70,000 INR (Indian Rupees).
I got anxious, worried, and stressed. My hands were shaking while I struggled to type.
The next day, thanks to my dad, I was no longer stressed. He helped me realize it wasn’t a big deal. The sense of calmness is instilled in me was extraordinary. Soon, I called the customer care service, explained my mistake to them, and got a 95% refund.
When you detach yourself from your problems and from your life, you start to understand the vastness of Creation itself. And it is a beautiful feeling.
It doesn’t matter if you’re first on the NY Times bestseller list or second. If your spouse shouted at you when it wasn’t your fault. If you’ve been cheated. If you’ve lost all you have.
Just take the view from above.
It’s a spiritual remedy. It calms your soul, and as a result, your body and mind follow. And funny enough, whatever problem you have in front of you seems to vanish.
Remember the Supreme, Uncomfortable Truth
Death is the only constant in life. We’re all going to die. You can’t escape it.
Some people may not agree. They feel science is advancing pretty quickly. They throw around facts like, “The person who lives a thousand years may be in his forties now.”
While all that is exciting, it changes nothing. On your deathbed, your life will look the same. Obviously, I can’t say for sure, but I’ve learned from those who came before me.
Whether you live a hundred or a thousand years, doesn’t really matter. What matters is how well you lived. Life should be big, not long.
Death reminds you that it’s a zero-sum game. That you don’t own this life — it’s a lease that you can’t renew after a point.
This is why I have this photo taped above my desk at eye-level:
Photo by author
It says (in French), “My arrow (I promise you) spares no one. You will all dance the ballet of which I sing.” Every time I leave or return to my desk, I’m reminded of death.
Remembering this truth may seem morbid. It can also make you think life is a waste. “The fact I’m going to die means no matter how much I achieve, it won’t matter. Why strive to do anything?”
This is flat-out wrong since it rarely happens to anyone. Look at the people who’ve lost a close relative or those who have a near-death experience. Do they emerge with a laissez-faire attitude towards life? Or do they return with a new-found zeal and enthusiasm for achieving their goals?
The sense of your own mortality gives you responsibility. Because if there’s no reason to do anything, then** there’s no reason to not do anything**.
There’s no reason to not make that call. There’s no reason to not ask that person out. There’s no reason to not start that company you wanted.
I’m not telling you to be obsessed with death. I’m telling you to be obsessed with life by being mindful of death.
The Best Way to Surrender
It is no coincidence that every philosophy or religion in the world has a name for a higher power — whether it’s God, the Universe, or Logos (as the Stoics call it).
It’s a belief that there’s a higher power than all of us. He who does not believe in the existence of a higher power than himself, cannot grow.
It is only through surrender to this higher power that we can give our lives meaning.
The second step of the 12-step addiction recovery program says, “We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” This is one of the most important steps because addiction is not only a psychological problem but also a spiritual one.
Remember that surrender is not about giving up your free will. Our will has always been free — but it has been guided by whims and fancies. The will of the “Higher Power”, i.e. whoever you associate with, is Divine.
It restores your belief in good things, gives you hope, and ultimately, gives you the consolation that you’ll have the strength to face any challenges that come in your path.
How do you actually do it? As you go through your day, let all your worries, hopes, and desires be uplifted to that Higher Power. Once you free yourself from these shackles, life becomes much better.
Every morning, my meditation and prayer ritual instills a deep sense of surrender. To add, one of the most effective ways I’ve found to maintain an attitude of surrender throughout the day is this — Whenever I’m anxious about an outcome (an interview, call, etc) I say “Let thy will be done.”
Saying this repeatedly helps me to remember that there’s something bigger at play. And I can transcend my worries, desires, and aspirations instead of being trapped by them.
Note: To understand this concept in detail I’d definitely recommend reading The Surrender Experiment, by Michael Singer. He built a multi-million dollar business while excelling spiritually at the same time with the power of surrender.
The Duo Responsible for All Bad Habits
Stress and boredom cause all bad habits. Whether it’s watching Netflix after coming home, drinking, watching porn, eating sweets, or smoking.
Most times, we’re simply trying to alleviate stress and boredom from our lives. It’s important to remind yourself of this every day.
When you catch yourself indulging in a bad habit, think about what emotion you’re going through — stress or boredom? And then find a healthier alternative for the same.
You cannot avoid bad habits altogether, you can only replace them. And your job is to find a healthier way to resolve your stress or boredom which is not toxic.
For example, watching TV to avoid boredom is better than drinking or smoking. Similarly, reading a book is a good way to avoid boredom instead of watching TV.
No matter what the habit is, there is always an alternative that can give you the same result — a habit that fires up the same chemicals in your brain.
Once you find that habit, it’s just a matter of good strategy and good old willpower to replace it.
For instance, when I’m stressed, I switch to watching Friends. It’s almost uncontrollable. But once I became aware of it, I’ve replaced it with healthier ways to release stress like taking a nap, reading, or meditating.
Do this now — think of a bad habit, why it happens (stress or boredom) and what are healthier ways to replace the bad habit with a good one.
Always Say Less Than Necessary
It is very difficult to get people to do things just by talking to them. They would react to your criticism and subvert your authority.
You can get much more done using silence.
Silence is one of the most powerful skills you can learn. It gives you peace, better relationships, more influence, and a confident personality.
I’ve resolved tons of arguments by shutting up. As I applied this tool more, the key insight was this — other people always bet at your ability to react — they expect you to get angry, justify yourself, etc. When you catch them off guard with your silence, and an occasional grin, you disarm them completely.
It is rare to find a tool which benefits you in all aspects of your life — work, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Winston Lord famously wrote a speech for Henry Kissinger. Whenever he showed his drafts to Kissinger, he got the same question — “Is this the best you can do?”
Lord wrote nine drafts before Kissinger agreed to even read the speech. The last time Kissinger asked Lord, “Lord, is this the best you can do?”, Lord said, “Damn it, yes it’s the best I can do.”
Kissinger replied, “Fine. I guess I’ll read it this time.”
You learn much more when you shut up and ask deep questions to the other person. This gives you the much-needed opportunity to read people and improve your persuasive power.
More than anything, it establishes you as a person of control and authority. Not many are able to control their tongue. And those who speak less are heard the most.
As you go about your day, remind yourself to shut up. Trust me, most situations go well in your favor if you say less than what’s required.
Final Thought: Two Small but Important Factors
While these principles are great daily reminders, you cannot solve all problems at the psychological and spiritual levels.
The body and the mind need to work too. And so I take care of what philosophy can often forget — move and breathe.
For as long as I can remember, movement has been the highlight of my day in my lowest moments. Getting a few minutes of exercise in the morning, going for a walk or even a couple of yoga postures can completely shift your state of mind if you let them.
Similarly, breathing is intimately connected to the mind and the body in ways you cannot comprehend. Here are a few breathing exercises to get started with.
And so while you pay attention to the spiritual principles, don’t forget the physiological aspect.
If you remind yourself every day:
That you’re a small dot, in the grand scheme of things,
That you’re going to die,
That there’s a higher power which can take all your worries,
That all bad habits come from stress and boredom,
That not speaking is better than speaking trash,
And finally, that movement and breath can solve most physiological problems,
…then you’re well on your way to having fantastic days. And when you have fantastic days, you have a fantastic life.
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