Start seeing yourself as a bear
I’m pretty guilty of preferring beautiful, overreaching ambitions throughout my life over having mediocre ideas and dreams. To me, it’s better to aim super high and just miss your goals than to aim low and hit them. But because of that, I also took everything too seriously and became overzealous about perfection.
I had a conversation with my cousin about it. He told me, “You have to be happy with things and just let them go when they’re in the past”. Particularly with creating: “If it’s as good as it was meant to be, it’s as good as it’ll ever be”.
It struck me.
I’ve never been good at relaxing or switching off. I would worry about opinions and dwell on my work rate, past projects, problems or thoughts that no longer exist. Today, I barely give a toss about 99% of things (especially the news. I hate the news) to a point where people may think it’s borderline immature. But I could never have pictured myself this way. Not even a year ago. What my cousin said was the reason.
“The astounding thing about a waltzing bear is not how gracefully it waltzes but that it waltzes at all.”
— Robert A. Heinlein
So, where does the bear come in? Well, I thought of it like this: the same way a bear doesn’t care if it misses one fish or takes a small tumble while climbing a tree, I started to care less about all the small, silly mistakes I used to make. They didn’t matter. I worked hard over the past year to take myself less seriously, relax, and focus on a few vital things in my life—and it has paid off very well.
The wonderful (sometimes irritating) thing about our lives is that it isn’t perfect. Our expectations and standards should guide us—not threaten us. But we learn in today’s world to be like robots who stretch themselves too thin and overwork themselves and have a mantra of I can get everything done to its best if I just work harder. In truth, we’re just some disorganised, disgruntled but stronger-than-we-think mammal who surprisingly, despite all the affliction, keeps it together.
If you’re on the point of the spectrum where you expect to perform at some superhuman standard, it’s worth remembering that you, me, are more like bears; we don’t need to be perfect. We don’t need to be suited up, standing to attention and always on the ball. We can lower our expectations, and we can let go of whatever we want. Because doing so is what creates a happier, calmer, more consistent and higher-achieving self.
What’s on My Mind
This week I’ve been thinking about self-belief and critics.
With belief, I’m drawn to two ideas:
Growth is not linear: continuous improvement is also about staying positive during the days where you don’t feel any progress—or feel as if you’re going backwards. These are the most crucial times to learn more about yourself and optimise your day to focus on happiness.
Belief is the differentiator that sustains effort: the difference between people and people who always succeed is self-belief. Exceptional people build a ferocious sense of belief in themselves that’s almost impenetrable.
As for critics, Hemingway has a saying:
“Critics are men who watch a battle from a high place then come down and shoot the survivors.”
Critics are no braver, stronger or smarter than anyone else. What they say can be uncontrollably painful, but you and I have the power to make it mean nothing.
What I Learned This Week
Studies show that 90% of error in thinking comes from an error in perception.
If you can change your perception, you can change your emotion, leading to new ideas.
Logic rarely changes emotion or perception.
Revenge Bedtime Procrastination
We’ve all stayed up later than we should—you might be doing it as you read this.
But why do we always do it?
In 2020, Daphnee K. Lee described revenge bedtime procrastination as “a phenomenon in which people who have little control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early to regain some sense of freedom.”
Despite our tiredness, people finish their tasks and then stay up to make up for lost time. We do it because “Working hours are constantly increasing along with an emphasis on active leisure. (…) Furthermore, people tend to stretch their capacity and compromise their nightly sleep, thus becoming chronically sleep deprived.”
To fix it:
Follow a routine
Consider your metabolism
Ease into your bedtime
Keep your devices away
Thinking is hard work
Hard work includes hard thinking.
The person who wins is the one who outworks everyone else. And they do it by outsmarting you, by continuously enhancing their efficiency, and by relentlessly improving their strategies.
The hardest work is thinking of a better way to do things.
“A healthy diet, regular physical activity, extended work years and aggressive government approaches were key in helping Nagano have the longest life expectancy in Japan, which, in turn, is the longest in the world. (…) Strangely, we don’t hear about Nagano all that often, if at all. Interestingly, as recently as the 1980s, Nagano had, in fact, the highest stroke rates in Japan. Nagano was among the unhealthiest prefectures in the country; with the highest rates of salt consumption and, correspondingly, ferociously high rates of deaths from strokes and heart attacks.”
→ Nagano: From Sick to the Healthiest Place in Japan — and the World
"If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner."
— Tallulah Bankhead
My Favourite Things This Week
Study — Fitbit data found that it took over two months for people’s resting heart rate to return to normal after having Covid-19.
Article — The most heartwarming story of Raheem Sterling, the England player who practically carried the team through the Euros.
A Question for You
What are you most satisfied with?
Wishing you a creative week.
PS: there are so many new subscribers to this newsletter—it’s almost doubled! Also, I was soaked in the energy of watching the Euro 2020 and the Tour de France that I shelved last weeks email. Sorry!