Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality

Each of us has a different reality. And we’re creating that reality, and can shape it in many ways.

We tend to think of reality as something external and absolute, like the sun shining down on us on a hot, lazy afternoon. That sun is really there, whether we believe it or not, right?

But as humans, our reality is shaped by what we perceive. So one person will see the sun has overwhelmingly hot and oppressive, the other sees it as an opportunity for a great tan. Another will see it as a huge cancer machine. And still another will think the sun is an angry god to be feared and served.

Those people all have very different realities, even if the sun is objectively the same for all of them.

In that light, whatever you think about and do on a regular basis shapes your reality.

And that’s mostly the Internet (and phone apps), for a lot of people.

If you’re on websites that talk about how horrible the world is, and how gays and Muslims and feminists are causing everything to go to hell … then that will be your reality.

If you’re on Facebook looking at your friends’ food pictures or vacation photos, that will shape your reality. If you’re on porn sites, that’s what your reality is. If you follow people on Twitter who complain all the time, that affects your life in a major way.

What Internet habits shape your reality? Is that the reality you want? Can you shape it?

I don’t have any answers here. Just wanted to influence your reality a tad.

Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality was first published on Zen Habits on 4/6/15.

How to Want Very Little

There’s a part of today’s consumerist world that drives us to want more, buy more, act on our impulses, hoard, spend to solve our problems, create comfort through shopping, seek thrills through travel, do more, be more.

What would happen if we broke from our addiction to wanting and buying more?

What would life be like if we didn’t need all that?

Imagine a life where we could enjoy simple, free pleasures like going for a walk in nature, meditating, reading a book, writing. By buying less we’d have less debt, less clutter, less to take care of. We’d need smaller houses, less storage. Perhaps we could even work less to support all this buying, unless the work were something we loved to do.

Now, I’m not saying we can free ourselves of all desire. I’ve certainly not learned to do that yet. But what if we could recognize our wants, and not be driven by them? What if we could let go of them when they are not helpful, and instead be happy with what we have?

I’m exploring this myself. I’ll share some things that work for me, with the acknowledgement that I’m still learning, I still fail at this all the time. I have a lot to learn, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Recognize when you have an impulse to buy, a desire to do what other people are doing, a need to solve problems or create a certain life by buying things. Learn to see this impulse, and say, “Ah, I have an urge to buy!” Just see it.
  • Recognize that the impulse isn’t a command, just a feeling that arises like any other, just temporary, like a passing cloud. Watch it, feel it, stay with it, but know that it will pass.
  • Set a limit to your stuff. I am experimenting with a limit of only having clothes that fit in one bag, but you might set an temporary limit of 33 personal things, one drawerful of clothes, etc. This limit isn’t to feel restricted, but to give you pause before you buy something, to remind you that you already have enough.
  • See this moment as enough. A desire to buy, to experience what others are experiencing, to do more … these all stem from the idea that the present isn’t enough somehow. We aren’t satisfied with what we are, what we have, what is in front of us … we want more. But I’ve been practicing with the idea that the current moment is already enough. I’m already good enough. There doesn’t need to be more. When I have an impulse to buy or do more, I think about what’s in front of me, and I try to understand that it’s enough as it is.
  • Enjoy simple things. There is already enough in front of us, right now, that we don’t need more. We can go for a walk, sit and read a book, do some pushups or yoga, sketch or write or play some music, have a conversation with someone, or do nothing and see what that’s like. We can walk barefoot on grass, drink a cup of tea, create something new, learn about something new, be curious about the life that’s in front of us. This is delightful, without needing to buy more or get more.

Finally, recognize that it’s an ongoing practice. In my experience, you don’t just get rid of desires and then you’re done. You let go of one, turn to the present moment, appreciate it, find satisfaction in what there already is … and then a little while later, another desire arises. It comes from advertising, websites, magazines, seeing what other people are doing on social media, watching the news, talking to people, walking past a cool store, seeing a new bag that your friend just bought, etc.

The desires will keep coming back, but we can develop the skill of recognizing them, letting them go, being happy with the enough-ness of now.

How to Want Very Little was first published on Zen Habits on 11/17/15.

My Most Important Productivity Method

You can read entire books on productivity, dozens of blog posts, and implement half a dozen different productivity systems. But at the end of the day, you’d have gotten nothing important done.

The truth is, productivity is fairly simple, in theory. Even if you have an overwhelming amount to do, the steps aren’t hard to figure out:

  1. Pick something important to work on (a task from your most important project, perhaps). What you pick doesn’t really matter, because you’ll get the rest soon.
  2. Focus exclusively on that task for a bit, finishing it if you can.
  3. Pick another important task after that, and repeat.

And of course, take breaks. Walk around. Do some yoga. Meditate. Eat something healthy. Socialize. But when you’re going to work, focus on something important, and try to get it done. You might think you have too much to do, but in truth, all you can really do is focus on one thing at a time.

So if it’s so simple, what’s getting in the way? Fear.

Some of the fears that get in the way of executive the productivity steps above: fear of failure, uncertainty, incompetence, discomfort, not having control control.

In fact, we fear only one thing really: not having control, certainty, security, comfort. Those are really all the same thing (certainty). All of our fears come from that.

We don’t like to feel these fears. So we avoid them, trying to seek control, certainty, comfort by going to distractions, news sites, social media, cat videos, email, text messages. We try to get control by running from the important but uncertain tasks and tidying up, doing errands, organizing, making a new productivity system. Anything to avoid the uncertainty.

So now we get down to my Most Important Productivity Method. It’s diving into the uncertainty.

  1. Start by setting yourself an important task. Any one will do. When you notice yourself getting lost in distractions or busywork, take a step back, and set yourself an important task.
  2. Focus on that task, and only that task. Try to finish it, or at least work for 10-15 uninterrupted minutes.
  3. When you notice yourself trying to go to distractions or busywork, pause. Notice the fear of uncertainty. Breathe.
  4. Explore the feeling. See how it feels in your body. Stay with this physical feeling for a minute, and learn that you are OK despite this fear of uncertainty. There is a basic goodness in your heart that will always be there, even if you don’t know how this task or any moment will turn out.
  5. Dive into the task, even with this feeling of fear in you. It’s OK to be aware of the fear, and still do your important task.

That’s it. Be aware of the fear, don’t let yourself act on it, explore it with curiosity, and do your important work anyway.

You’ll let yourself run from the fear, go to distraction, over and over. But it’s in that moment when you decide not to run that you really develop the skill that will change your life.

p.s. Read Chelsea’s post, The Single Most Important Thing to do to be Massively Productive

 

 My Most Important Productivity Method was first published on Zen Habits on 3/18/16.