Spiritual Balance – Week 39: Buy Fewer Things But Things That You Really Like

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No, I’m not a monk. I possess things and I take pleasure from working with and using tools and gadgets that I really care about.

Have fewer things, but things that you really value.

What I learned and changed over time is to have fewer things, but things that I value.

When I was a boy my dad always told me to spend my money for fewer things that are higher quality and will last and give me pleasure longer. As in so many cases, I should have listened to him closer. It took me many years to re-learn the same lesson on my own.

How many different jackets do you really need versus having a few that you want to wear every day? Do you need all those different gadgets versus a phone and tablet that you really like? How many different shoes do you need to own? How much silverware do you need? How much stuff to decorate your home? How many stuffed animals? How big does your house have to be? How many cars do you really need? What are you going to do with that bigger property?

The more stuff you have, the more your mind and life get cluttered. Also, the more stuff you have, the more time, energy and money you will need to manage and maintain that stuff. The more stuff you have, the more of your time you will spend with the things that you don’t like as much or feel guilty that you don’t, and the less time you will spend with the things that give you joy.

I developed a process to deal with shopping urges. When I get excited about a new gadget, I will read all about it and then put it on my Amazon wish list. That’s already half of the gratification with nothing spent so far. I will have it sit on that wish list for a while and only if I still think after a few weeks that I really need that gadget I will buy it. In most cases, I end up deleting it from my list.

You don’t need to become a monk. However, do focus on fewer things that give you real joy. Rather spend more money on fewer high quality things that you love dearly, than the same amount on a lot of stuff that you don’t care about much.

Even better, invest in things that help you create experiences rather than things that sit on your shelf.

Also remember, that many things that create experiences can be rented rather than bought. It takes a lot of boat trips to warrant the purchase of a motor boat.

 


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Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps

By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk

ISBN 9781077278929

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Spiritual Balance – Week 38: Focus on Experiences, Not Stuff

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We’re living in the age of consumerism, in which most people see the purpose of their lives in accumulating stuff. However, instead of gathering stuff, following the latest marketing fad or competing with your neighbors, you should invest in experiences.

Invest in experiences, not stuff. Plan for experiences and then make it a point to follow-through on them. If you are too tired when it’s go-time, do them anyway.

Most stuff won’t make you happy beyond the rush of the purchase. In many cases, it’s even worse, with buyer’s remorse kicking in just a few hours later. The gadget that you so badly needed often ends up sitting in a drawer after just a few uses.

Instead invest in experiences. Preferably experiences that are shared with friends and family. Experiences create memories and memories stay with you forever.

You can always come back to memories to pick you up when you’re down. Looking at last year’s cool gadget won’t have the same effect.

The additional benefit of investing in experiences is also that the positive effect is not limited to the time when you actually have the experience.

The three phases of an experience

We enjoy the planning of an experience that we are looking forward to. We can derive fun from the excitement weeks and months before we even take off. I usually plan summer vacations in the dark months of winter. It feels good to think about upcoming adventures and helps to pass rainy days.

The actual experience is of course the fun part. At times it can be challenging and exhausting as well, but that’s ok. The more challenging an experience is and the more it pushes us to the limits of our comfort zone, the more memorable and positive it usually is. You only value something if you had to work hard for it.

The last part of an experience stays with you forever – your memories. You can relive an experience as often as you want. No one can take it away from you. You can look back at pictures, recount stories with your partners in crime, make a photo book or plan to repeat the experience at some time in the future.

Do it anyway

One last advice on experiences, from the book ‘Off the Clock’ by Laura Vanderkam: even if you’re tired and just want to sit on the couch when the time to venture off on your experience comes – do it anyway.

“Plan it in. Do it anyway.” from ‘Off the clock’ by Laura Vanderkam

While we get excited planning for an experience, once the day approaches we are often so worn down and tired that we just want to plop down and turn on the TV. Resist the urge! Go anyway. Get yourself over the hump, it will be worth it!

Plan for your experience and when it’s time to get going, go. No matter what. Plan it in. Do it anyway! You will be glad you did it.

Invest in buying time, experiences and life memories. Preferably shared with loved ones. Leave your kids with memories and experiences, not stuff that they will need to throw away later.

 


Did you like this article? Want to read more?

I will keep posting articles here and I have them lined up way into summer 2020. However if you want to get it all in one comprehensive, structured, and grammar-checked (!) view, check out our new book:

 

Put on your oxygen mask first - book cover

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps

By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk

ISBN 9781077278929

Find it on Amazon: Paperback, Kindle

 

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Spiritual Balance – Week 37: Have Dinner with Friends and Family

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We already talked about the importance of spending time with family and friends. One great and proven way to do that is by sharing meals together.

There is plenty of science, as well as just age-old experience, that sharing meals together serves a strong bonding function.

Share meals with friends and family. Talk about the day, thoughts, dreams and worries. Make it a priority every day.

Share meals with your teams, friends and family. Cook together or go out to eat together. While you’re sharing food, spend time talking and laughing. Play games, listen to the stories of the day.

Make this a priority every day.

Do NOT check your messages, play with your phone or read the news. Meal time is ‘together time’. Value the time others spend dining with you by giving them your full attention.

If you want to bond with your kids and share your values and priorities with them, it is critically important to share meals together. Those occasions allow for catching up on the day in a relaxed environment, sharing ideas, thoughts, passions and even worries that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Studies have shown, that sharing meals is critical for a healthy development of children. Leaving food in the fridge and having everyone snack at different times just doesn’t cut it.

 


Did you like this article? Want to read more?

I will keep posting articles here and I have them lined up way into summer 2020. However if you want to get it all in one comprehensive, structured, and grammar-checked (!) view, check out our new book:

 

Put on your oxygen mask first - book cover

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps

By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk

ISBN 9781077278929

Find it on Amazon: Paperback, Kindle

 

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Spiritual Balance – Week 36: Be Home When You’re Home

What is the most important part of your life? What will be the one thing that remains when everything weakens and fades away (like your career, your friends and eventually your health)?

It’s your family. Your family is the one thing that won’t go away – that is unless you screw it up.

Work hard at the office. Be home when you’re home. Disconnect. Develop a shut down routine for the transition.

Work hard at the office. Follow your hobbies and passions. But not at the expense of the time you spend with and invest in your family.

You will not be able to get back time that you have wasted. When your parents left this world they will be gone. Anything you didn’t say until then will remain unheard forever. If you don’t bind with your kids while they are young and looking up to you, chances are they will not care much about you once they are grown up and independent.

Family should be your single most important priority. Then comes health and your own wellbeing (put on your own oxygen mask first). After that follow your passions. Everything else comes after.

When you’re home be home.

Work hard at the office but then turn everything off and mentally disconnect on your way back home. When you’re home, be home! Don’t check back on messages or return phone calls. Don’t fret over your problems at work, you won’t solve them that evening anyway. Tomorrow is another day. Often problems are solved over night anyway, as we grant our subconscious brain the freedom to go where it needs to go without our interference.

Develop a shut down and transition routine

Turn everything off when you leave your office. Develop a shut down routine to help yourself disconnect from work worries. Shutdown routines can be anything from closing your books, tidying up your work desk or shutting down your computer. Make it a routine though and over time it will automatically trigger your brain into the right state.

Further the mental transition on your commute. Drop work thoughts and get into family thoughts. Do this even if it’s just from room to room for folks who work at home. Physical separation between work and family helps a lot. If you do work at home, be sure to have a place for work and a place for family. If you are a stay at home parent, don’t make the place where you gather and play in the evening the place where you do your chores.

When you’re home be home. Don’t check emails, check in with your family and friends!

 


Did you like this article? Want to read more?

I will keep posting articles here and I have them lined up way into summer 2020. However if you want to get it all in one comprehensive, structured, and grammar-checked (!) view, check out our new book:

 

Put on your oxygen mask first - book cover

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps

By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk

ISBN 9781077278929

Find it on Amazon: Paperback, Kindle

 

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Spiritual Balance – Week 35: Open Doors

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I’m a person of lists and plans. I always want to have a plan for the short and longer term. I need to be organized to feel comfortable and be in control.

However, I was also taught by my teacher early on in my martial arts training, that situations constantly change and we need to adapt to new opportunities and challenges. As they say in the military: “all plans are outdated upon first contact with the enemy”.

Have a plan and follow it. However, watch out for unexpected opportunities and be flexible enough to change your plan to embrace them.

We need to have a plan and a goal to know where we want to go to, and to make progress towards that destination, instead of wandering aimlessly around (“going nowhere fast”). However, that plan must not make us myopic and oblivious for necessary change.

Throughout my life, I always had a plan, but the best things happened when an unexpected opportunity presented itself and I reached out for it. Even though many times I was scared to my bones.

Having a plan and working towards it, prepares us to be ready for the moment when opportunities present themselves. However, if we don’t make the leap and grasp them, all the preparation was for nothing.

Have a plan, work on it. Prepare yourself, but be ready to drop your plan and adjust to the moment when needed. Don’t be scared of unexpected opportunities. They are when magic happens in life.

I recently read a very similar idea in ‘Racing Winter on the Pacific Crest Trail’, by Kyle S Rohrig. It goes like this:

There are always doors that open unexpectedly for us. Walk through them. After you walk through an open door, new doors will open up behind, eventually leading to an endless universe of open doors and opportunities. You find good thing behind open doors.

If you close the door, the opportunities end right there. That’s it, end of story, you’re stuck. Being stuck is stagnation. Stagnation is the beginning of the end.

Or in the words of Daoism:

When we are young we are flexible, we push out, we try new things and grow. When we stop being curious and flexible, we get hard. When we get hard, we break, crumble and fade away.

Be open, be flexible, see opportunities!

 


Did you like this article? Want to read more?

I will keep posting articles here and I have them lined up way into summer 2020. However if you want to get it all in one comprehensive, structured, and grammar-checked (!) view, check out our new book:

 

Put on your oxygen mask first - book cover

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps

By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk

ISBN 9781077278929

Find it on Amazon: Paperback, Kindle

 

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Spiritual Balance – Week 34: Be Part of the Solution, Not the Problem

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You have three basic options to react when you are faced with a challenge, problem or just a frustrating situation: (1) you can hide your head in the ground and hope it goes away, (2) you can complain about it and become part of the problem, making it even worse or (3) you can find ways to address and improve the situation, becoming part of the solution.

We already established that hope is a bad strategy, hence (1) is not a good path to follow. For obvious reasons, (2) is not any better, unless you are striving for a live of self-inflicted pain and misery.

Don’t be part of the problem. Be part of the solution.

So rather than dwelling in your pity, think about solutions you can bring to the table when you’re faced with a tough or frustrating problem.

This happens to me every day. I go along with my day, and then out of the blue, I get that email which makes me want to choke someone’s throat. Like everyone else, I get angry for a moment. However, I try to be conscious of that reaction, and then step back and think of other ways to react. Often I will take a few hours or even a good night sleep before I respond. That gives my subconscious mind some time to process and come up with a different perspective.

In Tai Chi we say “there is always a third way”. Usually we only think about two reactions whan confronted with an unpleasant situation: give in or fight back (fight or flight). There is always a third way through which you can turn the situation into something positive.

When faced with something that annoys you, don’t give up, look away and walk away. Be part of the solution, find a creative way to solve the problem, drive that solution. Once your mission is accomplished, look back and be proud of how you reacted and what change you drove.

When I am faced with something that makes my blood boil or makes me want to scream at someone, I give it a big pause first. Pretty much all problems can wait for a moment. A well thought through response and action plan is always better than a rushed one. Then I ask myself these three questions:

  • What is the opportunity for change?
  • How can I avoid or improve a similar situation in the future?
  • How can I help others through situations like this?

I even have a Post-It sticker with those three questions on my office desk as a reminder.

I give it a moment or two. I find the third way, do what needs to be done and then move on. In every single case I will be way more satisfied than if I had given in to my first impulses.

Whenever possible, try to identify the root cause of the initial issue and solve it so that the same situation won’t happen again.

 


Did you like this article? Want to read more?

I will keep posting articles here and I have them lined up way into summer 2020. However if you want to get it all in one comprehensive, structured, and grammar-checked (!) view, check out our new book:

 

Put on your oxygen mask first - book cover

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps

By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk

ISBN 9781077278929

Find it on Amazon: Paperback, Kindle

 

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Spiritual Balance – Week 33: Accept your Worries and Then Take Action

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We all have our personal level of being worried, it actually doesn’t change much with external circumstances. Some people are just happy-go-lucky, while others tend to constantly mull in the past and worry about the future.

Accept your worries. Then take action!

External events might push us up or down for a while, but surprisingly we all bounce back to our personal levels, no matter how dramatic an event happened to be. A death of a loved one is devastating, but usually people move back to their previous happiness level after a while. Winning the lottery is thrilling, but the glamor fades aways quickly – as does the money in most cases.

Take action

Accept and embrace your personal level of worries. It is just what it is. Work with your worries, embrace them and take them as signals for things you can either improve in your current environment or at least mitigate.

However, don’t day-dream and hope that all your worries will be magically solved if only that specific one thing would change (e.g. you get that promotion, you move to that new place, you quit that job,…).

Your worries will not change because of external events. They will only change because of actions YOU take or mindset changes YOU make.

Fix your problems here and now and take them as opportunities to learn and grow. Don’t hope for that external change, that will make everything magically better.

Hope is a bad strategy.

Be in the here and now

Most times, taking action is the right approach, but sometimes you also need to change your perspective.

Mindfulness is a proven way to reduce your worries and increase your overall happiness. Observe the small things, like the taste and heat of the cup of coffee you hold in your hands. Enjoy the moment and the current pleasures, like the sunrays dancing on your face.

Be in the here and now.

Likewise, the people we are surrounded with influence our own moods in a great way. If you surround yourself with negative people, you will likely also develop a bleak view of the world. Change it. There are no brownie points for putting up with negative or rude people. Ditch them immediately and move on to greener pastures. If they happen to be family – do the same.

There are no free rides, people need to live up to being in your inner circle.

There are also times when an external change is actually needed. In those cases, move on and let go. At times, that’s good and necessary, just don’t think that you will magically be a happier or better person if you don’t change any of your inner parameters and attitudes along with it.

 


Did you like this article? Want to read more?

I will keep posting articles here and I have them lined up way into summer 2020. However if you want to get it all in one comprehensive, structured, and grammar-checked (!) view, check out our new book:

 

Put on your oxygen mask first - book cover

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps

By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk

ISBN 9781077278929

Find it on Amazon: Paperback, Kindle

 

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.