How often have you got to the end of your weekend, feeling just as exhausted as when it started?
I think most, if not all of us would agree that time away from our ‘work’ is critical for our wellbeing.
And to use I.T. jargon…all of us need time to back-up, shut-down, restore and re-boot.
Frustratingly though for many, given our hectic lives, it’s particularly challenging to properly switch off & recover. This is especially pertinent now, due to Covid 19, that many of us are working from home or have children schooled from home, so delineation-lines between our work space and home space are now a little muddled.
What tools do we have available to us so we’re better-abled to recalibrate our time to ensure we can ‘turn-off’ and recover properly?
I love, & protect, my early mornings…
As we head towards summer here in the southern hemisphere and the days get longer and warmer, my only ‘real-world’ struggle, because I naturally wake up so early, is trying staying awake till the sun finally decides to set. And though deliciously weary after my day, I do go to bed excited about waking up the next morning.
My prized-mornings are ensconced in quietude, with the first 2-3 hours spent reading, drinking coffee, listening to music, writing & reflecting, and moving my body.
For it’s this time of the day that I back-up, shut-down, restore and re-boot.
“My-morning” is a scheduled, non-negotiable meeting that I have with myself everyday.
It’s a self-accountability session, whereby I remind myself to remember to be attentive & disciplined to all the things that I am wanting to not only maintain & achieve, but also maintain focus on the habits and behaviours that I’m working on relinquishing.
To do this as successfully as I can, I have two-tools that I find incredibly useful.
1. Psychological Detachment
Psychological detachment is defined as the ability to mentally disconnect from your work, work related issues and the distractions that keep you centred on your ‘work’ when you are away from your work.
It’s a method to maximise our time outside the confines of “what we have to do”.
Psychologist Sabine Sonnentag research indicates that being able to mentally switch off from work is more important for our ability to recover than the activity we do or how long we do it for. Dr Sonnentag’s research found that those who were able to psychologically detach outside of work experienced many benefits – less fatigue, more positive emotion, greater overall wellbeing, improved relationships outside of work, and less conflict between the demands of their work and their family.
Some effective steps to assist our detachment.
1. Identify what activities help you to detach. They are likely to be the things you find most engaging – perhaps exercise, being outdoors, time with friends or family, playing a game, cooking, or listening to music. Try to do just that one thing at a time and really absorb yourself in it.
2. Set up routines and habits that help you to disconnect from your “work”. See if writing a to-do list at the end of the day or switching off your work phone and email make a difference. You may want to develop a “transition ritual” where you do a particular activity that helps you switch gears after work every day, such as listening to music or a podcast you enjoy on your commute. If you work from home, setting up good habits is likely to be especially important as it’s even easier to drift back to work.
3. Practise checking your focus, so that you know when you are detached from work and when you aren’t. You may also want to ask the people closest to you for feedback – they will notice if you are physically present but mentally at work. Make a deliberate effort to check if you are present in what you are doing and to notice where your thoughts are. Skills like mindfulness are useful for helping to build this awareness and for bringing our attention back to the present.
[Ref: Umbrella Org.]
Another reason I adore pre-sunrise is that my brain works best first thing in the morning. For me, this time is the perfect opportunity to read and research (and retain) topics of interest that requires whatever grey-matter I may have left.
This is when I feed my mind with philosophy.
Philosophy provides me new tools and narratives to better forensically question my own thinking.
It also offers me incredibly handy, practical anecdotes that can be applied to virtually every aspect of my life.
Goldilocks and the perfect porridge…too hot, too cold….mmmm just right.
Of course not all philosophy is the same, and depending on who you are and what you like, some of it can be too academic, too political, to woo-woo, and some too religious. Like diet, exercise, training, meditation, husband, wife etc, finding the right one that suits you best does take time…but the rewards, just like your perfect diet and training regime, are HUGE
For me, I love simplicity, realism and practicality, so I tend to heavily lean into the early Greeks, The Stoics plus a handful of more modern thinkers who provide me with real world advice & tactics, that are pragmatic, actionable and quantifiable.
I like a tangible ROI
For this is my morning meditation.
This is where I can structure my internal narratives and remember the mantras that help me stay on course.
5 Reasons Why I Read Philosophy.
1. To learn how to become who I am.
To better question myself and hone the skill-sets to make better choices for myself. The reality is we’ve all got repressed ‘stuff’ accumulated into our psyche – whether we know it or not – and philosophy, when you find the one(s) that resonate with, is like holding a handheld GPS that narrows-in and shines a light on our vulnerabilities. As Charles Bukowski said ‘we must, we must bring our own light to the darkness’. This is equally confronting and rewarding, and something that can only be achieved, in my opinion, within a soberly-quiet environment that allows patient honest reflection.
Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called ‘Ego’.
– Friedrich Nietzsche
2. To adopt and live through the words and actions of these individuals who inspire me. In effect to “second-self’ myself, and spend time in the company of others – like Marcus Aurelius, Socrates, Aristotle, Nietzsche etc to help promote Self-Transformation. There’s over 2000 years of wisdom out there for you, seek the individuals who talks to your heart and mind, and your world opens up.
Watch this terrific 10min video from Academy Of Ideas on The Second Self
3. To continue to challenge and improve my mindset. The greatest gift we can afford ourselves is choosing the best problems for ourselves. Philosophy helps me sift through and identify what is important and what is not. Practicing this every morning is the only way I’m going to remember.
4. ‘Know Thyself >>> Choose Thyself’ (aka Self-Awareness) This is my daily go-to Socratic mantra, to resist, and be mindful, not to blindly respond in an emotional, distracted knee-jerk fashion…I fail everyday at this, but I am getting better, I like getting better… and that is why I do it every morning.
There are no beautiful surfaces without a terrible depth
– Friedrich Nietzsche
5. Resilience. Everyday when I head outside, off to work, to meet clients or deal with the public…this is where my morning practice is put to work. Everything that I do in the morning allows me to be the best version of myself when I am in the coliseum of life. It’s in our day to day that we’re challenged by mouthy opinionated individuals, impatient demanding customers and guests, aggressive drivers, over-emotional friends and family members – this is where my morning routine really shines – this is where my detachment and philosophy gives me to tools to reply upon and maintain some form of control…and again...not to knee-jerk react…to stay as present as possible.
When I want to understand what is happening today or
try to decide what will happen tomorrow I look back.
KNEE – CHER(K) REACTION
Friedrich Nietzsche (pronounced Knee-Cher….hows that for a segue!) believed that the central task of philosophy was to teach us how to ‘become who we are’. In other words, how to discover and be loyal to our highest potential.
The Man and the Mo
EDVARD MUNCH, Friedrich Nietzsche, 1906
And it is with Nietzsche in mind that I’m going to share four helpful lines of thought that I came across earlier this week.
[Note & Reference To: This information was copied from the highly recommended book ‘Great Thinkers’, by the School of Life]
1. Own Up To Envy
Envy is – Nietzsche recognised – a huge part of life. Yet we’re generally taught to feel ashamed of our envious feelings. So we hide them from ourselves and others, so much so that there are people who will sometimes say, with all sincerity, that they don’t envy anyone.
Nietzsche insisted that because we live in the modern world, this is logically impossible. Mass democracy and the end of the feudal-aristocratic age created a perfect breeding ground for envious feeling, because everyone was now encouraged to feel that they were equal to everyone else. In feudal times, it would of never have occurred to the serf to feel envious of a prince. But now everyone compared themselves to everyone else and was exposed to a volatile mixture of ambition and inadequacy as a result (sounds all too familiar)
However, there is nothing wrong with envy, maintains the philosopher.
What matters is how we handle it.
Greatness comes from being able to learn from our envious cries. Nietzsche thought of envy as a confused but important signal from our deeper selves about what we really want and need. Everything that makes us envious is a fragment of our true protential, which we disown at our own peril. We should learn to study our envy forensically, keeping a diary of envious moments, and then sift through episodes to discern the shape of a future-better-self.
The envy we don’t own up to will otherwise end up emitting, what Nietzsche called, ‘sulphurous odours.’ Bitterness is envy that doesn’t understand itself. He insists, which I love, that we must become conscious of our true potential, put up a heroic fight to honour it, and only then mourn failure with solemn frankness and dignified honesty.
2. Don’t Be A Christian
As you can probably guess Nietzsche wasn’t a fan… he called Christianity the one great curse, a great intrinsic depravity…going on to say the person worth respecting in the New Testament was the Roman governor; Pilate.
However Nietzsche’s true target was much more subtle and a lot more interesting; he resented Christianity for protecting people from their envy.
In Nietzsche’s account, Christianity emerged in the late Roman Empire in the minds of timid slaves who had lacked the stomach to get hold of what they really wanted (or even admit they had failed) and so had clung to a philosophy that made a virtue of their cowardice. Christians had wished to enjoy the real ingredients of fulfilment (position in the world, sex, intellect mastery, creativity) but had been too inept to get them. They had therefore fashioned a hypocritical creed denouncing what they wanted but were too weak to fight for it – while praising what they did not want but happened to have.
So, the Christian value system, sexlessness turned to ‘purity’, weakness became ‘goodness’, submission to people one hated ‘obedience’ and, in Nietzsche’s phrase, ‘not-being-able-to-take revenge’ turned into ‘forgiveness’.
And for a final boot up the arse, Nietzsche commented that Christianity amounted to a giant justification for passivity and a mechanism for draining life of its potential.
3. Never Drink Alcohol
Nietzsche only drank water, or on very special occasions, milk.
And he thought we should do likewise. He wasn’t making a small, eccentric dietary point. The idea went to the heart of his philosophy, as contained in his declaration. ‘There have been two great narcotics in European civilisation: Christianity and alcohol’.
He hated alcohol for the very same reasons that he scorned Christianity; because both numb pain, and both reassure us that things are just fine as the are, sapping us of the will to change our lives for the better.
A few drinks usher in a transient feeling os satisfaction that can get fatally in the way of taking the steps necessary to improve our lives.
It’s not that Nietzsche admired suffering for it’s own sake. But he recognised the unfortunate – but crucial – truth that growth and accomplishment have irrevocably painful aspects.
Recalibrate the meaning of suffering…
“What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other….You have a choice in life: either as little displeasure as possible, painlessness in brief…or as much displeasure as possible as the price for an abundance of subtle pleasures and joys….”
If we are finding things difficult, it is not necessary a sign of failure, it may just be evidence of the nobility and arduousness of the tasks we’ve undertaken.
‘God Is Dead’
Nietzsche’s dramatic assertion about the demise of God is not, as it’s often taken to be, some kind of a celebratory moment. Despite his reservations about Christianity, Nietzsche did not think that the end of belief was anything to celebrate.
Religious beliefs were false, he knew; but he observed that they were in some areas very beneficial to the sound functioning of society. Giving up on religion would mean that humans would be left to find new ways of supplying themselves with guidance, consolation, ethical idea and spiritual ambition. This would be tricky he predicted.
Nietzsche proposed that the gap left by religion should be ideally be filled with culture – philosophy, art, music, literature: culture should replace Scripture.
However Nietzsche was deeply suspicious of the way his own era handled culture. He believed the universities were killing the humanities, turning them into dry academic exercise, rather than using them for what they were always meant to be: guides to life.
He particularly admired the way the Greeks had used tragedy in a practical, therapeutic way, as an occasion for catharsis and moral education – and wish his own age to be comparably ambitious.
Like today, every era faces particular psychological challenges, and it’s the task of the philosopher to identify, and help solve, these.
For Nietzsche, the 19th century was reeling under the impact of two developments: mass democracy and atheism. The first threatened to unleash torrents of undigested envy and venomous resentment; the second to leave humans without guidance or morality.
Nietzsche certainly worked up some fascinating solutions – from which our own times have some highly practical things to learn, as I’m sure, he would dearly have wished.
All it takes is 3% of Your Day
How are your mornings?
How do you spend the first 30-60 minutes of your morning?
Do you actively and consciously protect your mornings by your actions, habits and behaviours of the night before?
You can fundamentally and profoundly change your life-trajectory by how your spend the first hour of your day.
Just 3% of your day
Till next time
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