One Apple A Day #632 – outgrow your systems

I am a big fan of structures and systems. 

Maybe because willpower is not high on my list of strengths, I learned that they are vital to reaching any goal.

But there’s a caveat. 

They, systems and structures, should never become the goal.

If you want to reach a particular outcome, you can just rely on defining goals. No matter how S.M.A.R.T. your goals are, they are not enough to move you forward.

In the past, before I understood the importance of systems, I use to think that I wasn’t achieving success because my goals weren’t high, bold or smart enough.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” — James Clear

Goals are the starting point to set the direction. But it’s only when you design a system around those goals that you make real progress.

Unfortunately, it is easy to fall in love with the systems we create. In particular when they work, obviously. 

Systems and structures are very sexy for the rational mind. They are made of shapes and forms. That means that, no matter how flexible they are, they still have boundaries and limitations.

When the system becomes the goal, then we are limiting our potential to grow within the boundaries of the system itself.

The best system is one designed to support and sustain our growth, as individuals, teams or organisations. 

The ultimate purpose of a system is to become obsolete.

So, when we outgrow it, we can mould into an evolved version of ourselves.

 

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

One Apple A Day #631 – Abandon

To abandon means to give up completely something, to release any inhibition or restraint. 

There is magic in abandon. In surrendering and giving up control.

It’s liberating. It expands the boundaries of your awareness.

Unfortunately, I experienced that rarely in my life. And any time it wasn’t deliberate. It just happened.

You’re being massaged, and the masseur asks you to entirely abandon a part of your body in his hands. Like the neck or a leg, so he can apply a manoeuvre moving that part freely. 

That is something I’m not able to do. I can’t.

I can’t give up completely the control of my body. 

I can’t surrender fully to something or someone.

I don’t think it’s a matter of trust. And I don’t picture myself as someone wanting to control everything. Even if I may be blind to this.

It feels as if there is some kind of wiring in me that holds me back from surrendering, from giving up the control on what’s happening.

Yesterday evening a dear friend gave me a fascinating idea. 

I should exhaust myself out. Do something physical that burns all my energy, that wears me out and leave me empty.

Maybe at that point, where there won’t be any energy left to build resistance, I’ll be ready to surrender.

Time to plan something.

Can you surrender totally to something or someone?

One Apple A Day #630 – Being Kidful

A lot of colours and the word “kidfulness” shine on my BeTheChange card this morning.
This card is one of my favourites, so I sat down to meditate on it.

By the way, kidfulness is not even a proper word.
It’s not in the dictionary. And maybe this is why I love it even more.
The word itself is an act of kidfulness.

When I was a kid, and my vocabulary was limited, it was common to create new words and names to reference the things for which I didn’t have one.

Anyway, I picked this card. And I love it so much that I wanted to write something meaningful and exciting.

So, I thought it was a good idea to start from my childhood. I spent some time retrieving memories, but nothing exciting emerged from that exploration.
A dead end.

Then I thought that “kidfulness” is a kind of superpower. I set out to explore this direction, thinking of what would be the characteristics of a superhero with such incredible power; kidfulness.
Another dead end.

Time was running out, and I had nothing valuable to share.
Just some failed experiments.

And then it hit me. Isn’t that being kidful?
Experimenting with things.
Because for a kid, everything is new, and nothing makes sense, yet.
Everything is experience and experiments and play.

And sometimes what kids do have no sense, apparently. Their activities lead to no results from an adult point of view.
However, they are tremendously important.
And they are not scared to share what they achieved with others.
Until we, adults, bring judgments in the picture and the idea of success and failure.
So, here I am.
After fifteen minutes I haven’t reached a point, I’m not even sure there was a point to achieve, but I’m sharing what I wrote anyway.
As a kid would do.

One Apple A Day #629 – gratitude

It’s one of those cloudy mornings so typical in this part of Italy. The grey outside matches how I felt when I sat down to write. I was not feeling at my best this morning, both physically and emotionally. With my defences lowered a surge of negative thoughts was crushing my walls and seeping into my mind. I even asked if it was worth it to write anything this morning. You know, the typical questions: what’s the point? Who’s reading it? 

Bla bla bla. 

My mind was taking me down a negative spiral. But then I look forward and, there it was.

Oblivious of the grey sky and of my negative thoughts, an orange pomegranate was standing there among the leaves.

Fierce in all its extraordinary beauty. 

And I was reminded of how beautiful it is to be alive and to be able to witness the magic of nature.

So, I took five minutes to write everything I’m grateful for. And the energy of life came back. And with it, the desire to write.

A few years ago, when I was going through a tough period, I wrote a small gratitude pray. I used to read it every morning before everything else. Maybe it’s time to read it again.

One Apple A Day #628 – being wise

Every day I learn new things. Information that I acquire, process, evaluate, connect to previous ones and store in my mind. Some of them stick over time, and some got lost or forgotten. 

If and when I need the ones I retain, I dig them out from my memory.

I have the feeling that my memory is not infinite, so over the years, many things got lost, and I can’t retrieve them anymore. Anyway, this is another story.

Have you ever the feeling that you know something even if you can’t find that thing among the things you know?

It is a powerful feeling when you realise that you know something in your bones, not in your mind. As if the knowledge has slowly become part of who you are. 

From something you know to something you are.

From knowing to being.

That is my idea of wisdom. 

When something you know becomes part of who you are.

The tricky thing, in my experience, is that sometimes what you know in your mind can get in the way of what you know in your cells. Your knowledge creates resistance to your wisdom.

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” ― Lao Tzu

P.S. I just realised that yesterday post was titled “Being Silly”. In my knowledge, they seem so different, yet in my body, they are fully interwoven.

One Apple A Day #627 – being silly

Silly: having or showing a lack of common sense or judgement; absurd and foolish.

Somewhere I read that our brain is a powerful predictive machine. It is endlessly evaluating everything within and without us, looking out for cues about what will happen. All of this to reduce uncertainty, avoid pain and, when possible, achieve success and joy.

We are always predicting what will happen in the next moment.

The problem I see is that all those predictions are based on our past experiences. We predict the outcome of something in the future based on our memories of what happened in the past. 

I can sense a high risk of repeating ourselves, trapped in some kind of pleasure loop. This predictive approach makes our brain blind to everything possible but improbable.

That’s why some silliness is desperately needed. As Steven Pressfield wrote in his book “Do The Work”; “Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway.

I believe that most of the ones we celebrate as explorers, artists, pioneers, inventors, innovators are just silly people who delivered a result. But before getting there, before achieving a recognizable outcome, they were all most probably regarded as silly or foolish.

When we go for the impossible, we may find something possible but unpredictable on the way.

“A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.” — form Do The Work by Steven Pressfield

One Apple A Day #626 – discipline

“How are we to become a warrior? There are certain characteristics of the warrior that are nearly the same around the world. The warrior has awareness. That’s very important. We are aware that we are at war, and the war in our minds requires discipline. Not the discipline of a soldier, but the discipline of a warrior. Not the discipline from the outside to tell us what to do and what not to do, but the discipline to be ourselves, no matter what.” — Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements.

I’ve been struggling with presence and focus since I can remember. When I was a kid, my mind was continually wandering in a world of fantasy. I was under the sea with Captain Nemo, on a boat with Harvey Cheyne, fighting with the pirates or travelling to the centre of the Earth. Anywhere but not wherever my body was.

Even growing up, I kept being a wandered of the mind. My thoughts always floating between past, present and future. Reality and fantasy.

Over the here, this rambling mind of mine has become an invaluable tool. It helped me do some of the things I love the most; find connections, dig out ideas, change often, begin many different things.

The other side of the coin is the struggle to focus on one thing, to keep the ball rolling until the work is done, to finish what I start, to close what I open. 

Through different experiences, starting from school and going through various jobs, I’ve learned that discipline is how I can teach my wandering mind to focus. So, over the years, I’ve created different structures and systems to bring discipline in my life. However, almost every time, those systems and structures failed me. I thought it was part of the game. Then the other day, while I was going through my notes in search for something I need to write a post, I found some words I highlighted many months ago from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

They’ve been working in my head for a few days.

The discipline of a warrior.

The discipline to be ourselves, no matter what.

It’s time for me to approach discipline in a whole new way.

One Apple A Day #625 – Inhale and Exhale

Inhale and exhale.

Breathing is such a simple action. So simple most of the time we don’t pay attention to it.
Yet, it is the essence of life.
Inhale; new air is pulled within your lungs, oxygen is taken all around through your blood feeding your cells.
Exhale; the stale air that has finished its job is flushed out, the carbon dioxide is released back to air.

Inhale and exhale.

It is so easy to forget to breathe. Sometimes, while I’m doing something intense, like a physical exercise, I realise that I hold my breath.

So, this morning I was sitting in my usual place, waiting for the inspiration to come so I could start writing. But nothing was emerging from the chaos of thoughts spinning in my mind.
Then I realised that I was holding my breath again.

Inhale and exhale.

I’ve been holding my creative breathing lately. Exhaling maybe, but forgetting to inhale. Flushing out a lot of ideas and words without breathing in new inspirations through experiences, reading and conversations.

Inhale and exhale.

One Apple A Day #624 – whatever

The other day I was reading an article on what is the best way to exercise. There are so many disciplines, theories and methods out there that you can spend days trying to understand which is best for you. 

I got to the end of the article, still not knowing what the best way to exercise is. They all have pros and cons.

Then I remembered a short video interview of Arnold Schwarzenegger – yep, the terminator. They asked him what was better between kettlebell and dumbbell. To which he answers: “it’s the same because your muscle doesn’t know what you’re holding in your hand“.

These two moments made me think of how easy it is to get lost in the quest for the right way. It’s like waking up with the desire to go somewhere, and then spend the whole day analysing all the possible options to get there. Until the sun sets down, the day is gone, and you postpone the trip to another day.

How often did I spend all my time to understand what was the right or best thing to do and ended up doing nothing?

And how often, did I decide to start big because I wanted to make my effort worth it? I want to get fit so, let’s run for one hour three times a week. And then, the second week it’s only two times, then 30 minutes one time before giving up completely.

So, I found an easy trick that works, most of the time, for me.

The answer to “what should I do to get there” is “whatever I can consistently do long enough to make it stick“.

My rule of thumb is anything I can keep doing “every weekday for 3 months“. If it doesn’t stick, that’s not it, and I look for something else. If it holds, but I can’t see the results I want, I tweak it until it works. In any case, I’ll have learned something valuable.

One Apple A Day #623 – stop barking and get out

Last day of September, a foggy Monday morning outside. As usual, I pick my BeTheChange card, and it says “Integration”. What a powerful word to ponder and write on upon.

I fold in my favourite position on the sofá, I start the soft music to create the right atmosphere, I close my eyes, and I focus on my breathing. I let the word sink and move freely, so new connections can manifest and words for my morning writing emerge to the surface of my awareness.

The loud barking and snarling of my dog pull me back abruptly in the here and now. The barking spreads to the other dogs around. It looks like we are under attack. I stop the music and get up. If someone is invading us at least, I want to look them in the face.

And there they are, the scary enemies; a group of kids walking to school outside the gate. 

I don’t know if it’s common to all dogs, but mine has this funny feature. When she’s inside the garden, behind closed gates, she is incredibly alert. Anytime someone gets close to the entrance, even if they are only walking by, she goes crazy as if her kingdom is under attack.

When we take her out for a walk, she becomes just the cutest and most quiet dog. Nothing is a danger, and everything becomes something to discover. It is as if one she’s out of the boundaries of the garden, fear is replaced with curiosity.

I sit back on the couch to write this post, and this thought keeps spinning in my head. Isn’t it the same for everyone? If we close ourselves behind the gate of our own world of stories, ideas and beliefs, fear is triggered when someone approaches our gate. At least until we’re not sure they’re friends. But if we cross that threshold, if we get out, then curiosity takes over. With nothing more to protect, we open up to the infinite magic of the universe.

This small story is also a reminder that inspiration can hide in the most unexpected places, like a dog barking and disrupting your meditation.

P.S. the one in the photo is my dog.