The following is the best basic advice from my future self to my current self, I presume. This is what I’m anticipating my inner words of wisdom will be decades from now.
This also happens to be what my current self would have told my former young-adult self. And it’s also among my best advice for most people in general.
HERE IT GOES:
1. “Un-tense” as much as possible.
Relax your being.
Consistently practice releasing the tension in your body from face to feet. Consistently practice reducing the intensity of your reactive thoughts and emotions.
Preventing chronic stress should be a paramount goal.
Being untense and calm does not mean you’re being unenthusiastic, dispassionate, complacent, or lazy. In fact it’s the opposite: when you operate without tension, you create more room for spirited, constructive action.
Do not force experience. Instead, flow with experience. Think, “Flow, not force.”
It never hurts to lighten up. Generally decrease the intensity of your judgments and opinions.
Generally decrease your sense of urgency to do and to have. It’s good to do and to have, but not at the expense of significant stress or conflict.
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, or on others.
Breathe deeply. Breathe intently. Operate with ease. Keep gently recalibrating yourself back to a calm, equanimous state.
Always remember: Almost nothing should be taken personally. All events technically occur independently of your needs, preferences, and feelings. Thus, your approaches and responses to people and experiences should almost never be defensive, grim, or uptight…
Accept experience as impersonal, and watch your tension fade.
Always do your best to approach life gently, and do your best to respond to life with compassionate equanimity.
Commit to calm. Cultivate calm. And keep re-committing to calm.
2. Focus outward.
Be as non-self-oriented as possible.
Become more and more other-people-oriented and experience-oriented.
Quite simply: make it less about you.
In general, whenever you’re feeling stressed or anxious , you’re making it all about you. Remember that it’s never all about you.
Be less concerned with your internal experience and more considerate of your external world.
Focus, and keep re-focusing, on the elements of experience, not on how you’re doing or feeling.
Life is better when you’re out of your own head.
Generally reduce analysis and increase awareness.
Be less concerned with the soundness of your judgments. Focus more on the needs and interestingness of other people and environments.
At the end of the day and at the end of your life, your outer experience — your actual interactive experience — is what you will value most.
Remember: No self, no problem.
3. Believe in yourself, and remain hopeful.
Believe you can do what you set out to do. It is so simple, yet so necessary for staying engaged and reaching your potential.
Once you’ve committed to something you’ve determined is a reasonable pursuit, then believing you can do it, and keeping on believing, is the most important universal element for accomplishing goals.
Belief, especially as it pertains to accomplishing something, is rational. You wouldn’t have set out to do it if there was no way it could be done. Trust yourself on that. When any goal is mid-process, and valid reasons remain for why it can be done, then keep on believing. Always. If a reasonable belief doesn’t manifest, that’s okay.
It’s better to reasonably believe in yourself and risk a little disappointment than to doubt yourself and risk living in a state of uncertainty and constraint.
Also, believe in other people. Your sense of opportunity is due to the constructive actions of other people.
Believe in God/Life/Universe. Believe in your connection to something greater, to something beyond your mind and body. Believe in the goodness behind our conscious existence.
As you keep your reasonable beleif, also keep hope. Hope is wise. Hope only helps. It is not wishful thinking. It is reasonable optimism based in our natural sense of possibility.
Belief and hope are gifts of consciousness. They support constructive action and thus are fundamental elements of human flourishing.
Belief and hope are constants. They are always there for you.
4. Things are never as bad as they seem (and the “bad” things don’t last).
It’s amazing how many things you’ll agonize over that are truly insignificant in the grand scheme. Likewise, it’s amazing how permanent feeling down can feel. But it’s definitely not permanent! No matter how down you feel, you will feel better in due time. Don’t agonize – flow with the process.
Know that when things are going good, difficulties, discomforts, and deficiencies often seem more pronounced – they feel worse than they really are. Then you will either feel bad for letting those little things get to you when there are so many other good things around you, or you will question how good things really are. Don’t do this. Stay aware of this phenomenon and take it in stride. Ride the good times…
Don’t fall victim to a rough time. You just have to keep riding the waves with as much grace as possible and know that the rough time will be over before you know it, and that upon reflection you’ll see that it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
Don’t be fooled by a bad mood. Your psychological baseline is stronger and more stable than you realize.
Trust your baseline.
Don’t be fooled by one bad event. There are plenty of good events that outnumber that one bad event…
A bad 20 minutes is not a bad day. Choose, over and over again, to not let one bad event ruin your day.