A note to self before the school year begins

I know you’ve got into your dream school. It is not clear how, and you do not need to find out. It was a collaborative effort by yourself, your family and countless people online who helped you stay on track but there is no need to label anything. Yet, you need to remember that it was a collaborative effort in any case and you are not alone no matter what happens. If you do well, that is great but if you feel overwhelmed, just breathe. It is important to keep your health in check, in all scenarios. If everything fails you can always go back, although I would advise you to keep going no matter what. It is a big achievement nonetheless to come this far and you can only do better.

Here are a bunch of tips for you to live by:

  1. Study like it is the craft you know and love. Study for knowledge but also for useful skills. It is those skills that translate into action and change the world.
  2. No matter how small, a mystery is still a mystery and your mission is to solve it. Even if it is mundane, small, insignificant detail, it still completes the big picture.
  3. Science is logical. Don’t expect mercy if you put in wrong numbers.
  4. Keep yourself in check. Finish well before deadlines but submit on time (not before time).
  5. Know that the first draft always sucks and thus you need to write it no matter how much you don’t feel like it. Read Mark Manson’s Do Something Principle.
  6. Eat healthy, at least once a day.
  7. Keep only one non-fiction book at a time. You probably wouldn’t have time to read that even.
  8. Remember that your legacy should not be how many clothes/books/stationery you own but what you did with what you have.
  9. Give the benefit of doubt. Don’t jump to conclusions immediately.
  10. Keep your tongue in check, it often betrays and badmouths people.
  11. Never forget where you came from. Help and reach out to those who are still hanging in there.
  12. Build honest relationships. Those last.
  13. Help someone you know can’t/won’t pay you back.
  14. Simplify. Simplicity always helps.
  15. Keep your hobbies alive. Learn that language you find funny.
  16. Nothing is set in stone. You can always steer yourself in the direction your heart calls for.
  17. Life is dynamic. Everything changes and you do not always know why. It is better to let it go.
  18. The bigger mysteries linger in those little details. Pay attention and you might discover something you couldn’t imagine existing.
  19. There is something magical about it all. I’m not sure what, but it has something to do with a state of flow and perfect, beautiful chaos. Pasta comes close, I suppose.
  20. There is no such thing as a vacation. You just decide to do different things.
  21. There is a thing called mental peace. Calm down, take deep breaths and fall asleep watching your thoughts from a distance (maybe that is what they called meditation).
  22. Only keep current journal. Take what is necessary and brings joy from the old one and then recycle it.
  23. Use exercise as an antidepressant.
  24. Look out for love. It comes from all unexpected places and people. If you don’t find it, start radiating it.
  25. Life is an onion. Everything alive is an onion. You can either peel back the layers and get amazed or sit still and make assumptions.
  26. If something unexpected/devastating happens, yield “PLOT TWIST” and move on (quoted from the internet).
  27. It may not be a “general solution” but then again many problems are higher order differential equations that have “particular solutions” and “singular solutions”. The point is, it might be a solution that works only for your problem, but it works.
  28. Set self-imposed limits on hoarding. Be intentional.
  29. If it is made of pure matter, it won’t spoil. 
  30.  It is okay to dive into guilty pleasures. But you can choose pleasures that are “less guilty” than others.

I could ramble on, but you need to get back to work. Come back when you lose touch or just want to refresh why, how and where you are. You’ll be okay.

Favorites this week: May 22 – May 28 (anxiety special)

Every week, I share a bunch of posts from around the web/ebooks etc. that have helped me in some way on the minimalist journey, but they need not be on Minimalism. I do not take credit for any of these posts.

So last month was pretty stressful. I went to a bunch of places for job interviews and went through a series of panic attacks. I suck at handling stress. I have developed anxiety disorder over last couple of years which gets accentuated in presence of a dozen of people firing questions from all directions. Pretty typical, I know.

I knew I need help or I would collapse. I turned to meditation and did some breathing exercises. Turns out I tend to think more if I meditate in the traditional way, worsening the issue. I tried regulating my sleep which did help. I also changed my diet, included more iron. However, the thing that helped me the most was a book.

It was The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. Honestly, I loved the book. It brought about a profound change in the way I saw my situation and it rang so true. It is not a typical self-help book. To get a taste of what it is like, you can check out the article by the same title on his website. The guy is awesome:

Now, while not giving a fuck may seem simple on the surface, it’s a whole new bag of burritos under the hood. I don’t even know what that sentence means, but I don’t give a fuck. A bag of burritos sounds awesome, so let’s just go with it….

Highly recommended.

After finishing the book I realized over the span of years I have been helped immensely by a bunch of books, all at different stages of my life. I realized books help me better than meditation or sleep. This is the way I can manage my anxiety better, the best way I have found till now. Turns out, people like me have already compiled lists of books targeted at anxiety and depression and I’m gonna give you some links to them:

  1. 12 Books For Anxiety And Depression That’ll Actually Help, According To Someone Who Felt Better After Reading Them– by Isabel Bryant on bustle.com

I have not read many of the books listed here, but I plan to. I would just like to add a couple of books to the lists:

  1. How to stop worrying and start living-Dale Carnegie
  2. Short stories by Leo Tolstoy: great for people who believe in God, but keep an open mind you will find a serenity you did not know before.

More helpful articles:

  1. 6 Super Chill Life Lessons You Can Learn From The Quakers
  2. 7 Ways Worry-Warts Can Become More Chill

See previous posts in the series here

Love
~Sn.

In the praise of writing things down

In the praise of writing things down

I’ve been a big fan of planning but I was not good at executing. I’ve created countless study timetables that I didn’t stuck to, and failed to check off everything on my to do list most of the times. However, during all these years of studying and keeping track of everything has taught me that planning is an essential step, even if you end up not executing the plan completely.

If you write it down, you are more than likely to start

Let me explain. Suppose you want to study a chapter from textbook that sounds really dull(and hard). You don’t feel like it. If you’re given all control and no deadline, you are more than likely to put it off completely. Now imagine this, before going to bed(or earlier in the day) you write on a piece of paper or your journal that you will study that chapter. It creates a mental note of having the desire to complete that task. You may actually pick up the book just to look at what this chapter is actually about, not with the intention of studying but just to get an idea of what this task of studying may involve(out of curiosity). Maybe you’ll put it down after a glance but you are more likely to continue reading it even if you don’t feel like it and before you know you’ve completed the first section(or more). The act of having a written note to yourself gives you a slight push and creates a mental pressure that you should be doing it.

Guilt can be Healthy

That pressure for me goes away after a while but while it lasts, it causes me to do at least something related to the task that I’ve been meaning to do. For example, I would love to exercise everyday, in theory. Practically I almost never do. But when I write it down in my bullet journal a day before, the next morning the first thing I’m thinking is that I need to exercise. Even if I don’t exercise, I do take a walk or stretch a little, just in order to get rid of the guilt. Guilt is not healthy, but it can push you to do things you should be doing. I sometimes end up helping my mum do housework and that is exhausting and boring but that gives me a sense of doing something, something that might count as a light exercise. Sometimes, it is more than a light exercise because I end up doing all the cleaning, certainly more than I first intended but I am happy at the end because it does count as a workout in my mind.

Your Mindset will change

The mere act of writing things to do or things I need to deal with creates a chain reaction and nudges me to get started. Once you get started, you can gain momentum and finish the task or make some progress at the very least. Therefore, I always make a to do list before bed/ before a trip/ before school even if I know I may not do it because I know that I might actually get started. When I review at night, it surprises me how much I actually get done! Sometimes I end up finishing everything on the list or even more, without realizing it. But if I had not written it down, I might as well have forgotten it all. I have realized that writing things down has an effect on your mindset for the day.

Once you get started, you have finite chance of finishing the task. But if you don’t get started, you won’t finish the task, 100% of the time.

Write things you are putting off, things that you need to deal with, even if you don’t think you will.

Love
~Sn

Life is in movement

Life is in movement

 

An important characteristic of life is movement. Movement is necessary for growth. Likewise, if we wish to become a better person, we have to let go of who we currently are. Our personalities are not set in stone. We can change. We can adapt. What we experience in life are responsible for a large part on who we are. But as someone said, it is 1% what happens to you and 99% how you react to it. We ALWAYS have the choice. I am not exactly the person I was when I started this blog. Nor will I be the same a year from now. We are living beings, we acquire traits and habits. Like any living thing, we change every moment. Embrace the change, and let yourself be in this moment. It is the flow that makes us alive.

It all starts here: dreams and goals

It all starts here: dreams and goals

 

Whatever Happens, will happen; and we shall deal with it when it does.

I have always felt joy in the idea of dreams. I believe that we all have our calling(s) in life; something we really, really want to do. Some of us get to make a career out of it while others settle with a hobby. Of course, many of us don’t understand what their “calling” is and if it is but an illusion. No matter what your stand on this is, I think you would agree that we all feel different levels of enthusiasm depending on the task at hand. I call it your calling for which you feel most enthusiastic.

My Story

I chose to become an engineer because they get jobs easily. Later, I decided to go into basic sciences and study for a doctorate (It hasn’t happened yet). The first time I tried my hand at sciences was two years ago, right after completing my degree. It didn’t go well. I was heartbroken, felt stupid. Still I wanted to carry on. I analyzed the situation, found flaws in my approach, felt better. I realized I needed to work on some topics and get my problem-solving skills up.

I worked on it for a year, got selected for interviews. It was finally working out. I was sitting with the graduate students and felt a sense of belonging there. All was good in the world, and dreams were coming true. Except that I couldn’t make it through the interview. My mind went blank. Answers were lost on me. Again, I felt stupid. I felt like I made a major mistake. I should have prepared well. I should have studied well. I didn’t deserve to be there, sitting among the candidates who devoted more than 5 years of their life, while I did only one.

I came back, working harder still. I revised my basics, and focussed only on the interviews and exams. I forgot why I was doing all this. The enthusiasm was all gone, all I had was the thought that I can’t let all my preparations go in vain. I need to make it this time. People started questioning my choices and suggesting alternate routes. I felt like I needed to “prove” myself to them. I needed to study but I couldn’t. I felt like I’ve failed.

I decided to give it up. I decided to let myself breathe and think about it. I discussed everything with my folks and they were a little disappointed that I was giving up (I have been living with them since graduation so they know all I have been through), but they agreed that I needed a change. So, I gave up on science for a week and joined a class on a diploma course in finance. It was only math so I was quite comfortable. I knew that if I want to, I can succeed there. I knew it was in my capacity to make a reasonably good career out of it.

Only two days in however, I felt miserable. I was getting anxious because I was doing too well for my standards. It just didn’t feel right. It felt worse than struggling with a mechanics problem. I missed science. I couldn’t stay away from science any more. You know when you break up with someone because they have commitment issues? That’s how it felt like. I wanted to stay with science even if it didn’t turn into a career.

I dug deep and asked myself, what was the part I was missing? Did I miss the difficult problems? The math of complex integration?The agony of finding a calculation mistake after you have struggled an hour? Certainly not. Because I was solving challenging problems in finance also, and making the same stupid calculation mistakes. No, I was missing the sense of mystery. I missed the serenity you get when you finally understand that the basic laws of the universe are quite simple. I missed the joy of questioning everything and rejoicing when you finally get it.

I realized why I gave up on science. It wasn’t the frustration of exams or anxiety of interviews, but rather the lack of wonder. I had lost touch with “Science” per se, and was devoting all my time to fitting values into formulae. I had stopped dreaming and started working. It was two years since I last saw a sci-fi movie or a documentary on the life cycle of stars, the things that first brought me to science.

I realize now that all the paths in life are alike in the sense that they all have obstacles and highways. No matter what you chose to do, you’ll face a unique set of problems and have certain advantages over others. No path is easy or difficult. It depends on the person. It makes sense to do things you find joy in. I know success gurus emphasise on hard work and remind you that every path has struggles. But every path has beautiful things as well, and those are the things that keep you going.

The biggest mistake was, I had gave up on dreaming and was working for the gratification of having my shit together. I realized since that nobody has all their shit together. 

Allow yourself to enjoy your dreams, while you are working on making them a reality.

Because if you don’t, you will forget why you started and every path would look the same. Life sucks when that happens.