One Apple A Day #685 – now, here, breathe

Some days, I feel lost.
I keep reading inspiring articles about how this global crisis will change the world, on how it will change us at every level. I hear predictions and suggestions on how we should prepare for the aftermath. I’ve been asked, and I ask powerful questions. And in the meanwhile, I’ve been doing plans, creating things, having conversations on what we can do and how. I can feel the excitement for what this massive and global change will bring.
Then, some days, I just feel lost.

As if in my looking forward, in my effort to prepare for tomorrow, I’ve forgotten my today. Yet, life is happening today.
And in this today, I don’t know. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I don’t know how the world will be. I don’t know who I will be. I don’t even know when it will be tomorrow. I have no answers and maybe not even the right questions.

In these moments, I feel the need to stop and stay.
To stop asking, searching, thinking, doing, making sense.
Just stay.
Stay with what it is, with who I am.
It is not the moment for future goals, for prediction, for long term plans.
I just want to be present.
Now, here. Nowhere.
Breathe.

One Apple A Day #680 – demanding situations, choices and freedom

“I suppose the role of character is for the individual to rise to a situation. If it were not for the situation, we would never have heard of him. So that you might say that character is the product of an exceptional demand by the situation upon human ability. I think the ability of the average man could be doubled if it were demanded, if the situation demanded.” — Will Durant

Will Durant was an American historian, philosopher and writer. With his wife, he wrote The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes covering the whole story of humanity. The words opening this post are extracted from an interview in which he shared his thoughts on thoughts on the “Great Men and Women” in history. The heroes, the ones who shaped history and whose lives we study in the hope to become better.

In the same interview, he said that “the hero is a product of a situation rather than the result being a product of the hero. It is demand that brings out the exceptional qualities of man.

I love the idea of the hero as someone cut from a different cloth, with exceptional skills, wit and brilliance. 

However, I know we are all made of the same substance. I know we all have within us the potential to be heroes. And I know that hard times, like the one we are living now, can bring out the hero and the heroine from every man and woman. But it can also bring out the worst, the villain.

What makes the difference is a small choice. The choice of how we want to respond to the challenge.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor E Frankl

One Apple A Day #679 – what windows are you keeping open?

For my research, I’ve been reading about neuroplasticity in the last days. Things like a study did a few years ago showing that interacting with our smartphones, it actually changes the way our thumbs and brain work together. Dr Ghosh, the author of the study, suggests that “that cortical sensory processing in the contemporary brain is continuously shaped by personal digital technology.

More and more, we have proofs that the choice of where we put our attention, shapes who we are.

Two days ago I went to the supermarket. There was a heaviness in the air, affecting everybody. A few people moving quickly around the shelves, avoiding each other and not only physically. No eye contact, no smiles.

I talked to the lady at the till and she told me that nobody says hello or goodbye anymore. We are letting fear expand in our minds, hearts and souls. As a result, the space left for other feelings and emotions is shrinking. 

Then a dear friend sent me this powerful poem yesterday. 

The wine of divine Grace is limitless.

All limits come only

from the limitation of the cup.

Moonlight floods the whole sky

from horizon to horizon,

How much it can fill your room

depends on its windows.

Grant a great dignity, my friend,

to the cup of your life;

Love has designed it

to hold His eternal wine.

~ Rumi

The amount of love that can fill my room depends on its windows. 

I must remind myself to check every day what windows I’m keeping open. 

I must keep shut the one of fear, we all the negative news trying to flood in. And hold wide open the ones of love and connection.

One Apple A Day #674 – it’s all perfect

“The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.”

This is what Katsumoto says to Nathan Algren in a scene of “The Last Samurai”. 

The quest for perfection.

This scene came up for me yesterday in a conversation with my friend and mentor, Sujith. We were reflecting on how many things that happened in our lives in the last weeks were perfectly timed. As if they were part of an invisible but perfectly crafted plan.

That image came to my mind when I realise that the quest for perfection is not an outward hunt. It is, instead, a practice through which we learn to see the perfection in everything.

When we become aware that everything is perfect, then everything becomes an opportunity. We unleash infinite creativity and abundance.

Perfection then, it’s not a characteristic of something but rather an inner state. An elusive and fleeting one, indeed. 

That’s why the quest for perfection is a lifelong practice. But, as Katsumoto says, a worthy one.

At the end of the movie, when Katsumoto is dying, he looks a the cherry blossom floating around him, finally able to find that perfection.

“Perfect. They… are all… perfect…”

One Apple A Day #698 – a recipe for transformation

“First is an intention. 

Then a behaviour. 

Then a habit. 

Then a practice. 

Then second nature. 

Then it is simply who you are.” – Brendon Burchard

I love this recipe for transformation. It is not even a recipe, to be honest. In my experience, this is how life works. How we grow, and we become who we are. The things we love and the one we don’t. 

They all started with an intention. One that too often, we are not fully aware. And that intention triggers a behaviour that, through habit and repetition, becomes who we are. It’s a long and slow process, like a drop on a rock. When an apparently harmless and insignificant behaviour, becomes a habit, its power multiply and its effects compound.

The secret ingredient in this recipe is self-awareness. Having clarity of your intentions, observing your behaviours and deliberately choose the habits you want to cultivate. Creating the discipline to transform those habits into practices. The rest will be a natural outcome. And this is the beauty of this recipe for transformation. It’s not about making big things or incredibly disruptive actions. It’s about paying attention and being aware of the tiny things that count, and then let time do its magic.

One Apple A Day #697 – uncertainty

In the last weeks, this virus that’s disrupting our lives is the topic in most conversations, directly or indirectly. On the news, on social media, plenty of experts are doing their best to explain what’s happening. And, most importantly, what is going to happen. 

On this second aspect, I heard many different, often contradicting forecasts in a range that goes from “it’s nothing” to “we are doomed”. 

Only a few openly say that they don’t know.

“The human brain is a prediction machine. The primary reason the brain remembers the past is to better predict what will work in the future.” – James Clear

But what if the past can’t give us any clues about what is going to happen? What if even the people who are supposed to know what’s next, don’t have answers?

We are so used to know what’s happening next that this uncertainty is frightening. 

How can we make a decision today, if we don’t know what will be the scenario tomorrow?

It is a challenging time. Even more, a defining time at a global scale. 

In this chaos and uncertainty, I’m reminded of a magic formula, taught to me by a dear friend a while back.

“I don’t know.”

One Apple A Day #695 – the paradox of simplification

A few days ago, I had an inspiring conversation that made me reflect on the risks of oversimplifying reality. I’m talking about that tendency to view every situation through a binary filter. Such as “right or wrong”, “us and them”, “good and bad”, “winners and losers” and so on.
In Being At Full Potential, we call this the State of Binary Awareness. A state of awareness from which everything is reduced to a duality.
Reducing things in life to a binary perspective, it’s a way to cope with its complexity that comes from our need to belong; my tribe and the rest of the world.
Though in this increasingly connected world, I feel that this simplification makes life even more complicated. It creates tensions, conflicts and divisions.
It is a kind of paradox.
Maybe, if we accept that life is complex and that there are infinite nuances in everything, we can relax all these tensions and free ourselves from the dividing walls we built.

One Apple A Day #693 – Rhythm

Three weeks ago, my partner moved abroad for a project. She’s going to be away for a while, so we’re both dealing with the challenges that this experience brought in our lives.

Obviously, the biggest one is the distance, but there’s another one I wasn’t expecting; the loss of rhythm.

We’ve been apart before, but it was always for shorter periods. This time we’re talking months. And something happened in my head since the very first week.
My flow and productivity got disrupted like never before. Since day one, I’ve been struggling to keep my routines and habits.
It took me a while to realize what was happening.

I’ve lost my rhythm.

Over the years, we built our own unique rhythm. A rhythm on which I can improvise, create and follow the flow without getting lost. A rhythm that keeps me grounded.

I feel like I’m without my metronome.

And it is clearly affecting my energy and my flow.
Everyone is unique, but I’ve learned how important it is for me to have a basic rhythm in my life, on top of which I can improvise and move freely.

So, now my new challenge is to find a new way to keep the beat until she’s back.
Any suggestions?

One Apple A Day #688 – Inclinations

I’m surrounded by people who have a burning passion for something. Some knew who they wanted to become since they were kids. Some live their jobs as a mission and are never tired. Others have transformed a hobby into the core of their happiness and are willing to do crazy things for it. 

To witness how much their passions infuses their lives with meaning is awesome and inspiring.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been like this. I never had such a burning craving for something. I always found pleasure in doing many different things, but none of them was “the” thing.

This lack of a “driving passion” has been a burden for many years. I felt I was missing out on something. But the worst thing is that it makes it harder to make choices on how to move forward. When you don’t have a single force pulling you in one direction, options multiply, and you become engulfed in the paradox of choice.

Then one day, I can’t remember in which book, I read about the idea of “inclinations”. Each one of us has the potential to do everything at extraordinary levels, but we also have inclinations. You can think of them as the things that come more natural to do.

In my mind, I picture it as if I’m standing in the centre of a flat surface. Around me, an infinite number of paths leading in every direction. Some of those paths are flat, others go upward, and others have a downward inclination. Walking downward makes it easier to keep up with the practice and effort required to move on that path, so the possibilities to become good at it increase. Plus, you may gain momentum, and what started as an inclination can become a fulfilling passion.

If you can’t find your passion, think about all the things you are doing, or you did in the past. What came more natural for you? Maybe that’s an inclination worth exploring to see if you can gain momentum.

One Apple A Day #674 – comfort, change and curiosity

It was a rainy and misty day. One of those days when the best thing to do is to stay home, before a fire.

Instead, we were out walking in the woods. Nobody around, just us and the silence of nature. The light rain was making everything so soft that we couldn’t hear our own steps.

Not the most comfortable way of spending a morning, maybe. But undoubtedly, very inspiring. It was, then. When we were walking down a slight and slippery slope, that Andy asked one of his powerful questions.

How come that we call it comfort zone, yet so many people seem unhappy when they are there? If it’s a place of comfort, you should be happy. Or not?

By the way, I did a quick check online this morning. These are a few definitions I found. 

“The comfort zone is a safe place where you feel the most comfortable.”

“A psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person, and they are at ease and (perceive they are) in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.”

“A behavioural state where a person operates in an anxiety-neutral position.”

“Where our uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized—where we believe we’ll have access to enough love, food, talent, time, admiration. Where we feel we have some control.”

Indeed, your comfort zone should be a happy and peaceful place to be.

While we were out there, our boots deep in the mud, we came to the conclusion that the reason for that unhappiness is probably due to the assumption that the comfort zone is a fixed thing. 

Change, another word starting with C, is natural. Everything is constantly changing, moving and transforming. When you got trapped in the idea that the comfort zone is a static thing, you cling to what you have and consume all your energy resisting change. Stay in your comfort zone becomes an exhausting effort. One that drains your happiness until you feel miserable in that same space you use to feel at ease.

This morning, while I was thinking about this conversation and about the boot that I still have to clean after that walk, a third word starting with C popped up. Curiosity. Curiosity is what inspires us to make questions and to embrace challenges. It is what allows us to push, shift and reshape the boundaries of our comfort zone, so it can grow with us.