In 2010 acclaimed film director Christopher Nolan shared with us one of the most trippy and fantastic movies to hit the big screen in a long time: Inception.
The movie is about a thief, Dom Cobb ( played by Leonardo DiCaprio) with the rare ability to enter people's dreams (yes, weird) and steal their secrets from their subconscious. His skill leads him down the manipulative and shaky path of planting ideas in people's minds and as the movie progresses, the viewer cannot tell where fact ends and dreams begin, reality starts and illusion ends.
The main theme of Inception is: process, an act of seemingly starting over and over again as one fights their way through enveloping sheets of reality and dream, reality within dreams and dreams without reality.
And hey, doesn't 2020 seem like this in an eerie way, starting over...again, in a dream-like state?
Are we not gearing to start 2021 with a new take on: career, business, customers, skills, training, relationships, health, life and death in general? And while we 'start out', are we not juggling between old ways of doing things pre-2020 and new ways in a virtual World? Basically, re-inventing ourselves over and over again as we try and stay relevant in a strange year?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is Inception and Earthlings are struggling to separate reality from fiction in 2020, whether we realise it or not. Social media users further enhance our confusion because we cannot tell fake news from real, fake lives from real experiences nor fake solutions from real ones.
Imagine a surfer on a board riding a massive liquid inferno of ocean, capped of with white angry teeth of salty foam. As her board cuts into the water, she angles it with her hand to catch the momentum and suddenly she's riding a growing wave, prompting her to unsteadily balance herself as the board goes higher against this wall of water.
Now.......will it break her? Destroy her? Or make her more resilient?
Does she manage to tame the waves? What happens next.....?
That's pretty much how I view my journey in 2020.
I have a board I am balancing on, representing stuff that has always worked for me in the past. But I am also in the midst of uncertain, sometimes violent waters that can make or break me at each point of inception, either way. These waters have no conscience or feeling. And for the sake of my health, family, customers and business I must use the most powerful tool I have at my disposal to tame these waves: my mind.
See, human beings make decisions based on how much clarity they have between their ears and whereas fear is real and normal, living in fear is self defeating.
How then do we manage this inception of things? This reality-dream state we are in?
How do we navigate the uncertain waters?
I know there are mountains of information out there. Numerous gurus, teachers, counsellors, academicians, mentors and coaches are selling as they are telling and at times one just need direct, short and quick answers. Well, here they are:
7 Ways to Quieten your Mind During Moments of Inception and Self-Doubt
1. Embrace Boredom
You do not need to be constantly entertained. You do not need to always do the traditionally accepted 'fun stuff'.
Switch of the electrical gadgets, all of them. Pause hanging out with your friends, ever briefly. In short, stop dulling yourself with entertainment as a coping mechanism to fear. For a moment.
Boredom can actually be good for your mind, imagination and productivity, if you do it right.
To tap into true boredom: a) Pick an activity that requires little or no concentration — like walking a familiar route, swimming laps or even just sitting with your eyes closed — and simply letting your mind wander, without music or stimulation to guide it. b) Unplug from electrical devices during this time. Our cultural attachment to our phones is paradoxically both destroying our ability to be bored, and preventing us from ever being truly entertained. - U.K. Mann
2. Isolate yourself
You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with. Sometimes the wave you are trying to navigate is just your group of friends. On one hand they offer you social belonging and a sense of community, but on the other hand they may indirectly feed your mind negative energy that wrongfully impacts how you think and relate to the wider World. Why? Because human beings tend to share everything, negative energy included.
Watch where your daily focus is going and with whom you share your energy and emotions with.
3. Sanitise and curate your social media feed
I covered this in great detail in my last blog post on zombies and cell phones but in a nutshell there are 2 basic levels to this:
a. Delete, block, unsubscribe, unfollow pages and people that do not move you into a positive place. You know them. This takes a lot of courage but once you do that you will start feeling the psychological burden of what you have been tolerating in your mind literally roll off.
b. Subscribe to new social media pages that collectively move you in the new direction you seek for your mind. Sites and pages that actually build you as a person and are aligned to your personal and business goals.
4. Learn new skills
One of the greatest fears we have as species is one of financial security: where will my next meal come from? Clothing? Shelter? Medical cover? Livelihood?
Any one who tells you any different is in a serious state of denial.
Money is a beautiful and powerful thing and if you are at the technological level of being able to access this post, trust me - you cannot do without money. The die has been cast.
One way of being happy and content at the same time is focusing on acquiring new skills.
It sounds quite basic but think about it: the challenge of doing something you initially thought you couldn't do and the subsequent thrill of getting better at it over time, out rightly makes you feel better and then contributes to positive self-worth. Progress is happiness.
The next step, simply put (but admittedly not as simple to follow) is to focus :
- on a skill that you love,
- that people will need,
- that you can sell.
5. Develop a strict sleeping routine.
Go to bed at the same time, daily. Religiously.
And wake up at the same time, daily. Religiously.
Think about this: You may have had a rough year littered with procrastination, failed meetings, emotional upheavals and deals gone bad. Why? Well, maybe if you followed that string of incidents down a logical path they can be linked to an inconsistent sleeping pattern.
Look, say you go to sleep inconsistently ( sometimes late, sometimes early, ranging from as early as 7pm to as late as 2am) on a weekly basis. The knock-on effect of this is you ultimately do not get enough sleep or you oversleep and thus become plain fatigued. Over time you do not have the daily energy to run an effective day since your mind and body cannot focus on an optimal level. You always seem to be running behind on schedule for everything. This is called brain fog.
The net result is you slog on from day to day, building to months and eventually a year.
A consistent sleeping pattern will greatly reverse this. Try it for a week and see.
6. Centre yourself
Even the best laid plans come loose at the seams at some point and your attempt to keep your mind steady amidst turmoil will be no different.
What do you do when your best intentions and plans fail?
I hear someone at the back saying, 'Just get back on and don't give up!'
That sounds good on paper buuuut what about that time between failing and getting back up, what does someone do during THAT time?
This is not the time to fall back on old habits and binge watch, binge eat, accept random hang outs in the name of spontaneity, oversleep, swipe through a social media dating site for cheap thrills or spend endless hours staring into space.
Instead, counter that painful feeling of failure by centering yourself: engaging in an activity that builds self worth and quietens your mind: breathing and meditation, yoga, prayer, reading a book, exercise, taking a walk, gardening, painting - that creative, calming, active and therapeutic outlet that works for you. Again, I admit this is easier said than done and I would be the last one to tell you I am a master at this but with focus and application over time, you can do it as well as any one, if not even better.
7. Take action.
The greatest destabilizer of our emotions during moments of inception will be fear.
And 99% of the stuff we fear will happen may not happen at all.
Ironically we grant power to that 1% through mental images of what we went through in the past (trauma) or imagined scenarios of what can happen to us in future (anxiety) and then, on a sub conscious level, our minds set in motion the exact things that are required to make our fears a reality! Self-fulfilling prophecy.
Where does fear grow? In idleness (which is very different from the beneficial 'boredom' I talked about earlier), in a mental state of negative meditation and an unhealthy, daily and intense focus on worst case scenarios.
The best remedy for this is action. Living your life. Doing stuff. Daring to be creative and learning and laughing, anyway. Because action eclipses fear.
So quit being frozen in your chair or paralyzed in your bed and step out a bit.
Reclaim your brain. Reclaim your mind.
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