Wall Street Journal Best-selling Author, Joshua Becker, joins me to discuss the ideas behind his new book Things That Matter, and catch up after a two-year Break the Twitch podcast hiatus. Pre-order his new book, coming out April 19th anywhere books are sold. Or right here.[Read more…] about Things That Matter with Joshua Becker
If your early schooling was anything like mine, it didn’t include much about identifying and managing emotions. It’s such a massive part of the way we process and respond to the world, yet there is surprisingly little focus on how it all actually works. Isn’t it strange that we study logic and ‘common core’ subjects like complex mathematics (most of which never gets used in adult life unless one enters a STEM field), yet barely scratch the surface of understanding human emotion?
Emotions comprise a huge part of how we experience the world, so if they’re ignored, we’re missing a major piece of the puzzle—especially when it comes to understanding ourselves. It starts with awareness, simply feeling and identifying what emotion is currently being experienced. From there, we can understand what that particular emotion is asking for, and find a healthy way to meet its attachment (in other words, what that emotion is asking for).
It might be helpful to think of emotions like an inner child—one who is simply expressing what they need in the only way they know how. Understanding how to interpret and meet these needs for the inner child means fewer “tantrums” that lead to twitches. Understanding the emotion being felt, what that emotion is asking for, and a healthy way to meet that need, makes day to day intentionality much easier.
Four Basic Emotions (And What They’re Asking For)
ANGER: Outrage, Hostility, Agitation, Annoyance, Irritation
Anger can be triggered by many things, but some examples of prompting events are:
- Believing you’ve been treated unfairly
- You or someone you care about being attacked or threatened
- Losing power, status, or respect
- Not having things turn out as expected
- Physical or emotional pain
Most often, anger is the result of a hurt that needs to be expressed, heard, or validated. When anger is repressed, it might not even be felt fully—which makes it even harder to know when to act on meeting the need it’s asking for.
There’s a reason that anger often turns to sadness, grief, and tears when it does get intense—hurt causes a complex array of emotions and sadness is a part of it.
FEAR: Anxiety, Nervousness, Shock, Worry
Fear is a completely natural response to perceived (and real) dangers. There are many things that can trigger fear—even if nothing happens in the actual environment we’re in.
- Being threatened
- Being in a similar situation where you’ve been hurt in the past
- Being alone, or simply in an unfamiliar situation
- Having to perform in front of others
- Flashbacks, etc
Comfort, reassurance, and validation. It’s often helpful for fear to be expressed, externalized (get it out of your head) and comforted. Sometimes we simply need reassurance that things will be okay. Other times, we need to have our fears validated and heard by others, so we don’t feel so alone with them. That can be enough to comfort the anxiety about a situation. Journaling is a way to externalize fear without requiring another person.
Remember that these emotions are your inner child expressing what they need in the only way they know how. Pushing them away, dismissing, or entirely ignoring these feelings will not solve the problem. It will only build up over time—and if you have kids you’ll know, it becomes a tantrum.
Explore ways to comfort and ground yourself in mind and body. Yoga, meditation, weighted blankets, breathing, strong pleasant scents, etc.
SADNESS: Grief, Despair, Defeat, Depression, Dejection
When dealing with loss, things going worse than you expected, or not getting something that you worked for, it’s natural to feel sadness. Every emotion fulfills a purpose, one we need to fully process the difficult events in our lives—so it’s there for a reason.
- Losing something or someone irretrievably
- Not getting what you have worked for or believe you need in life
- Being rejected, disapproved of, or excluded
- Being with someone else who is sad or in pain
- Feeling alone or isolated
Support, acknowledgement, and expression. Much of the time, sadness needs to be expressed to feel better. Expressing it to another person in an emotionally safe relationship can help provide the support we need to process and feel the sadness.
SHAME: Embarrassment, Humiliation, Self-Conscious, Shyness
Shame is one of those emotions that can be incredibly difficult to allow ourselves to feel and process. It feels awful, and can manifest in different ways, but generally is one of the few emotions that doesn’t serve much positive purpose to feel. It’s an incredibly powerful emotion, and understanding it really helps process where it’s coming from.
- Being rejected by people you care about
- Having others find out that you have done something wrong
- Being laughed at/made fun of
- Being reminded of something wrong or shameful you did in the past
Empathy, understanding, and compassion (most often, self-compassion). Mistakes are bound to happen. No one is perfect, yet the feeling of shame can be a crippling one. It’s in the moments when we think that we deserve it the least, that we need compassion and understanding the most. Few positive things come from shame without understanding, compassion, and empathy. Without them, we learn to avoid and hide from situations that have caused us shame (and have potential to cause it again).
Have you ever loved email? I have—but perhaps my experience is unique. Being born in the mid-eighties, I’m part of what is referred to as The Oregon Trail Generation. I was born into a relatively low-tech world and saw the iPhone arrive in my early 20s. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with technology and the internet in the late 90s, but social media wasn’t a concern in my day-to-day life.
I registered my first email account, and it was a beautiful thing. Every email I received was from a friend, family member, or somewhere fun. Dialing up the internet on my 14.4k modem was always something to look forward to. Those days are long since gone, and in the always-on instantly connected world, my love of email dwindled.
Instead of looking forward to seeing what might be there, I often feel like I’m opening a credit card statement to see how much I owe this month. Will I be able to pay off this email debt today? Am I overdue on any of these accounts? When we start talking about multiple email accounts, it all gets worse.
When we start talking about doing the debt reduction snowball strategy but for an email inbox, you know things have gone far beyond okay. About two months ago, I connected with the team over at Superhuman—and after giving their approach to managing email a shot, I do believe the game has finally changed.[Read more…] about My Thoughts on Superhuman — A Super Fast, Premium Email Client
This is a recording of the open discussion featuring the Wall Street Journal Best-selling author of The Year of Less, and Adventures in Opting-Out, Cait Flanders, on slow living, boundaries, and embracing stillness.
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If you’ve heard about minimalism, you probably know a big part of it is about living life with less stuff. Since embracing a more minimalist lifestyle starting in 2014, I’ve never looked back. Getting started with minimalism involves honestly assessing all the items in your life. What started as an intimidating process has now helped me become more confident, not just in a social context, but also in making decisions.
Minimalism has helped me in more ways than one. The minimalist lifestyle has also opened me to new and diverse experiences. Besides, becoming a minimalist has made my life a whole lot easier!
Let me tell you not just one, but fifteen ways minimalism makes my life better. While some of them are in good fun, hopefully they inspire you to get started on living a more minimalist lifestyle.
15 Benefits Of A Minimalist Lifestyle
1 / Tidy Fridge, Less Spoiled Food
Look at your refrigerator. I mean, look inside it. Is it easy to see everything you have in there? If you haven’t been living a minimalist lifestyle, chances are, your fridge is filled with slowly rotting vegetables or leftovers from weeks ago. This is a sign that your refrigerator needs decluttering. Having an uncluttered fridge also means easier meal prep. It’s easier to see what you have and make plans for meals, so you have less spoiled food.
2 / Less Misplaced Things
Okay, so maybe you’ll still misplace a thing or two. However, it won’t be such a chore to look for your sunglasses or car keys with minimalism. By assigning a space where you can place these small items, you know you can quickly locate them throughout your house. While you may still misplace things, at least you’ll have an easier time finding them in an uncluttered environment.
3 / Closet With Clothes You Actually Wear
“I might wear this someday.” This is the most commonly used line when people try to declutter their closets. If you can relate, perhaps you have clothes in your closet you’ve never worn or, maybe, you’ve only worn them once. Some clothes in the closet might not even fit you anymore. In comparison, a minimalist’s closet is filled with clothes that actually fit, in addition to clothes that you actually like wearing.
4 / Getting Ready Takes Less Time
Another plus of having fewer clothes and belongings with a minimalist lifestyle is getting ready takes less time! With the non-essential items decluttered, and the essential items more organized, it’s much easier to get dressed and out the door.
5 / No More Kitchen Cupboard Jenga
Let’s move to the kitchen. If you’re stacking up your kitchenware like you’re playing Jenga, you can see how that version of the game is less fun and more dangerous. By decluttering and organizing your kitchen cupboard, you create more ease and space.
6 / Clearer Workspace For Greater Focus
Keeping a clear workspace saves time and allows you to focus better on the task at hand. It’s a little bit like magic. It’s not just about clearing your workspace, but really more on the fact that by decluttering, you are allowing yourself to focus on your current priorities. This is one way that minimalism makes my work life so much easier to manage.
7 / Less Stuff, More Money
If you buy less stuff, you save more money. While this is pretty obvious, it’s not just about saving money. A minimalist lifestyle helps you realize your buying habits. It helps you question whether or not you actually need something. There are also instances where minimalism can help you make some money back. When you declutter, you can also sell certain items rather than donating or giving them away. Cha-ching!
8 / No More Storage Fees
With less stuff, there’s no need to pay for storage costs. About 1 in 10 American households use storage units, with the average rental length being 15.8 months according to Extra Space Storage (AARP Magazine, April/May 2021 issue). The cost to rent a storage unit averages $103.59 per month in New York City. With minimalism, you can say goodbye to those storage fees!
9 / Garage Space For Your Car
If you’re not paying for a storage unit, perhaps you’re parking your car in the driveway because your garage is full of stuff you don’t really use. By keeping less stuff, you can finally park your car in the garage!
10 / Lighter Laundry Days
As a minimalist, laundry days are easier. Before, I had this habit of prolonging laundry day by wearing clothes I didn’t like when I ran out of the clothes that I liked wearing. The resulting piles of laundry used to take me hours! Nowadays, laundry only takes about one to two loads every one or two weeks, and I’m done.
11 / Unexpected Guests, No Problem
Have you ever been stressed when your friends or family unexpectedly drop by to visit you? Here’s another secret. With minimalism, seeing unexpected guests is a lot less stressful! With an uncluttered living space, there is minimal to no clean-up needed when guests come by.
12 / Cheaper, Lighter Travel
Traveling light means you can carry on your luggage and save money on checked luggage fees. By taking only what you need, there’s less weight to carry, and there isn’t a struggle to fit everything inside your bag. Go minimalist with your luggage, and you’ll have more bang for your buck when you travel.
13 / All Your Pens Work
Isn’t it the worst when you pull a pen out, and it doesn’t work? A minimalist would have gotten rid of those dead pens a long time ago. By practicing minimalism, you can be sure that all the items you find in your home are ones you can actually use.
14 / Goodbye Overstuffed Drawers
Say hello to the standard household drawer. In most homes, it’s probably overstuffed with items like chargers, cables, papers, and pens that probably don’t work. With minimalism, there are no more overstuffed drawers! Drawers are tidy and organized with the things you use and need.
15 / Less Of A Visual To-do List
Finally, when you’re a minimalist, there’s less of a visual to-do list everywhere you look. Instead of seeing projects and random things that need to be done, you can actually relax or concentrate on the task at hand.
Minimalism will look different for everyone. But the small day-to-day actions and habits really do add up. As you declutter your life, you’ll find that with a more minimalist lifestyle, it becomes easier to do more of what matters every day.
Amy and I decided to make this month’s Attention Collective theme slow living and stillness, and that choice might seem a bit odd at first. “Anthony,” I hear you say. “Haven’t we just gone through the longest involuntary slow down in recent history?” You’d be making a valid point.
The last year has been vastly different for everyone, but it undoubtedly has impacted us all. For many; it brought a lot of isolation and boredom. Parents with school-aged kids I’ve spoken with actually got busier too, managing homeschooling, daycare, and more on top of everything else.
For me and Amy, the year has been one of intense introspection and personal therapy work. It’s been the first time I’ve done therapy since a stint during my initial ADHD diagnosis at eleven years old. While it was a choice to dive into that, it made for a pretty rough year. Toss in the isolation of the pandemic and that we had just moved to a new state toward the end of 2019, and more often than not, I felt like a mess trying to keep it all together.
Here’s the thing, the only reason we’ve been able to dive into this incredibly life-changing-but-painful work is because we slowed down. After deciding to take a break from video production work early in 2020 and then the pandemic sealing the deal, it was inevitable. Between that work and speaking gigs, we’d been on 17 round-trip flights that year, and it wasn’t going well. Even then, I knew we were running ourselves into the ground and something had to change.
If anyone can understand having resistance to slowing things down, I can assure you, it’s me. My brain works at 300 miles per hour, and sometimes goes that fast in seven different directions simultaneously.
When you add a constant (yet unconscious) feeling of needing to prove myself, do things the hard way, and a healthy dose of crippling perfectionism, things get… not slow.
So if you’re skeptical, I understand. I hope you’ll consider the following lessons and observations from my own journey into slowing down. Doing so is difficult work in itself, taking small changes over time, but the benefits do begin to outweigh the challenges as you go.
Slowing down increases awareness
The deeper I look, the more I find that the seemingly spontaneous actions in my life have an underlying motivator. Our attention speaks to us. A river of emotion carries us through life, and slowing down allows us to feel where we’re headed. Sitting with difficult emotions in the moment gives us the bandwidth to navigate them in mindful ways.
The faster I move, the less attention I pay to the nuances of what I’m feeling in a given moment. Without that awareness, my needs go unseen and tend to escalate, often with results that look a lot like the Twitch.
Slow living doesn’t necessarily mean doing less
An essential part of the ongoing effort to break my own twitches is to be more present in any given moment. The less present I am, the more frequently I get to a place where I need to cope with those built-up, ignored emotions. The Twitch provides a quick numbing and temporary escape from those feelings when it becomes an emergency.
It’s a desperate act from my attention to get the relief it needs once I’ve passed the “manage this in a healthy way” threshold.
For me, presence simply means feeling what I’m feeling, checking in with myself, and addressing what I need in a given moment without dismissing it. As you might imagine, the slower I move, the easier it is to do.
This presents a challenge, as there are only 24 hours in a given day. When our obligations demand more time and attention than we have available to fulfill them, going slow really isn’t an option.
I visualize this predicament as juggling balls being thrown into the air. With just one, you can toss it up and catch it consistently. You can even hold the ball for a while and take a break between throws. Add another, and the difficulty increases, but it’s still doable. At three, we’ve reached the reasonable, “most people can learn to do this” level where it still feels pretty natural. After that, things get tricky.
The more balls you add into the mix, the higher and harder you need to throw each ball to give yourself time to catch the others. The higher the throw, the higher the propensity for a small error to become a big one, making the ball harder to catch on its way back down. This follows the concept of Essentialism and its philosophy of creating margin in your life.
Slowing down doesn’t always require doing less, but it’s hard to imagine that doing so wouldn’t naturally lead to it. If slowing down allows fewer mistakes and more time to adjust to them when they do happen, why wouldn’t that be the most appealing option? Especially after trying the alternative for 20-some years, it really starts making sense.
Stillness isn’t all-or-nothing
We humans have a knack for taking things to extremes, don’t we? With our 30-day detoxes and meditation challenges, we live win or lose, pass or fail lives. Much of it is brought on by cultural norms of success, but we participate in it, too. I’m guilty of these types of initiatives myself; they’re not necessarily a bad thing.
I deeply understand the appeal; these types of lifestyle experiments can help guide us towards more intentional lives. They give us a chance to try out new things and see what works by making a commitment to sticking with it for a while. The problem arrives when this all-or-nothing mentality gets in the way of implementing important changes long term.
Stillness doesn’t need to happen on a meditation cushion, on a beach, or in a hammock. It doesn’t need weeks of planning nor a plane ticket, either. A moment of stillness can be a deep breath in and out while sitting in your car after pulling into your driveway. It can be a hug held ever-so-slightly longer than usual. Stillness can last for a single moment if it means waiting just one second longer before acting on an impulse you feel.
If you allow yourself to let go of the expectation of what slow living and stillness needs to be, you give yourself freedom to practice it in creative and helpful ways.
Moving quickly can be a way to avoid discomfort
If it has been difficult to let yourself rest, I understand. Much of my own drive to do, do, do has derived from a feeling of never being enough unless I was doing something. Even if that something wasn’t productive at all, I’d do anything to distract myself from bathing in the scalding waters of my own perceived shortcomings.
In this way, making efforts to slow down must be paired with self-compassion; it is essential to foster a non-judgmental attitude to cope with the discomfort that comes along with it. This isn’t personal development as much as it’s healing emotional trauma. It’s a long road with lots of bumps along the way, but small acts of self-compassion make these feelings more manageable as you go.
Stillness is never completely still
Another note for the “impossible expectations” category: there is no perfect level of stillness. We’re always breathing, ebbing, and flowing along with the currents of life. Our cells are constantly dying while new ones are created, with our bodies and minds in perpetual chaos at the atomic level. We are in constant motion.
Stillness can simply be something that looks like mindfulness. Focus on our breath while walking, doing chores, or choosing to do an activity in a way that decreases the pace of our lives. Stillness can be a simple decision to leave space in between meetings and activities when scheduling our day. Give your future-self some compassion and room to breathe.
Make slow living your own
No matter what, there’s no one “right” way to slow down and practice stillness in your life. Everyone is different, and how I do it might look a lot different from you. Do what you can to ask yourself, “Is this working for me?” And “How would I do this if I could work in a way that is best for me?” When life presents an option A and option B, look for your own option C.
In an upcoming article, I’ll share more ideas on how I’ve been practicing this and include some thoughts for implementing them in your own life if you’d like to explore this further. Make sure to sign up for email updates below if you haven’t already.