How Less, Is More Freedom of Choice

In a recent blog, I wrote about how I noticed that when I do less, more seems to happen. In reality however, there is not really happening anything more. It is just that I have the head space to notice what is actually going on. On a similar note, the result of minor changes that I made to my daily routine recently, showed me, how reducing my freedom of choice, actually gave me more freedom to choose.

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Unlimited possibilities

I decided that I would not use my phone until midday. As a consequence, my working efficiency went through the roof. After though, I realized that it was not necessarily the phone itself that made it harder to concentrate, but rather the choices it demanded me to make.

Without fully recognizing what was going on, I had to make 20 decisions within a minute. To respond, or not to respond. Like this photo, or not. Watch the next video, yes or no. Ultimately, my mind was tired before anything constructive had taken place.

Over the previous 12.000 years our society has changed immensely. At the time, it began with Agricultural Revolution, that changed our everyday life from gathering and hunting, to making crop grow on the field.

Then, roughly 200 years ago, the Industrial Revolution provoked another major change. Factories allowed for mass production, therefore creating space for other people to specialize in fields that not directly provided food and shelter.

Finally, roughly 50 years ago with the Digital Revolution, the first computers made it’s appearance. From then until now, these computers went from hardly producing a word, the size of a bedroom, to computers that allow you to access every bit of information on the planet, the size of a chest pocket.

The world around us has at least changed a thousandfold, nevertheless, it seems that our brains are still the same as before all these developments. Some sources even argue that our brains have shrank the previous 10.000 years. The amount of decisions we had to make before however, were significantly less than now.

Scholars once proclaimed that the agricultural revolution was a great leap forward for humanity. They told a tale of progress fuelled by human brain power. Evolution gradually produced ever more intelligent people. Eventually, people were so smart that they were able to decipher nature’s secrets, enabling them to tame sheep and cultivate wheat. As soon as this happened, they cheerfully abandoned the gruelling, dangerous, and often spartan life of hunter-gatherers, settling down to enjoy the pleasant, satiated life of farmers. That tale is a fantasy. There is no evidence that people became more intelligent with time.

Harari, Yuval Noah

Our brain, weighs about 2% of our total body mass, but it consumes up to 20% of the body’s energy production. Therefore, the increased amount of decisions that are demanded to us nowadays put even more strain on our energy supplies.

All these possibilities create an illusion of freedom. What is really happening however, is that they trap the mind in a circle of consecutive decision taking processes. That make us prone to worrying about the past, and overthinking the future. Even though, the only thing we can actually influence, is now.

I realized that when I put away my phone, do not open my e-mail, or make a planning, I am far from limiting myself. The thing with restriction is, that it is subject to the values and ideas of myself and my environment. What for the one is restriction, is liberating to the other. In the west we value our “freedom” so highly, that everything that seems to reduce it, is diminishing our quality of life.

When you take a better look though, we have not only become slaves to the luxuries and the comfort we enjoy, even more so, we have become slaves to our sense of freedom. How free are you really then?

I believe freedom is not the accumulation of the amount of choices I have, rather it is the presence that I have when taking decisions.

The moment I reduce all the blur, my mind has energy to do what it is good at. The fact that I limit my physical actions, does not mean that everything that is not physical is limited as a consequence. Therefore, when I reduce the amount I use my phone, the amounts of time I turn on the TV, and the food choices I have to make, I actually create a better environment for my mind to thrive in.

Behavioral Change Step 3: Cultivating Perspective Change

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. In the first two blog posts on this subject I wrote about how I first try to cultivate and increase my awareness, where after I reach a point where I consciously aim to integrate the newly gained perspective in to my life. In this third and last blog on the subject I will explain how I try to cultivate a change of perspective.

First off, I think it is important to consider that any change I make is part of a bigger process. This is important to me because what on one day might seem like a life altering outlook can be normal the week after. If I want to optimally profit from the alternations I go through, seeing things for what they are will allow me to take appropriate steps to keep continuing the road I am on without getting lost in the moment.

Being conscious will also allow me to put setbacks in to perspective. If I am solely focusing on the present, disregarding the bigger process, a setback might really feel as a setback. Whereas, if I look at the bigger picture, a setback usually is an opportunity to learn.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to integrate anything learned directly in to all parts of my life. There were so many times I had to reinforce certain decisions after being caught by the novelty of a situation. When other parameters in my life differ from the regular, I find it hard at times to reproduce a satisfying decision based on my values. For example, going out to eat in a different country, with a different language and food culture, there might be signals that might normally make me say I do not want to eat that. Whereas, in this case there is so much new that I perceive these signals differently. The same goes for responding in a preset manner to friends or family just because there was a time specific interactions were bothering me. Having set the intention to put these interactions in to a different light does not mean I solved the issue forever. This is definitely the case with patterns within a family. Having lived together for so long, there was a lot of time for patterns to get intertwined in a lot more ways than we tend to be aware of.

On a more material level, to make any changes last, I believe it best to literally start living them. If I talk about them in my social environment they are already more real than if I would keep them to myself. Asking for support to help me maintain a certain direction can be as simple as telling me when I am off, but also conversations about obstructions can be a great way to redirect intentions.

Taking this one step further, I believe that a set of values will make life inevitably lighter to manage. It is easier to make decisions in relation to a certain context than when I am simply drifting from stimulus to stimulus. However, by this I do not advocate blindly subscribing to a religion or becoming a full blown radical left-wing supporter, nor does it need to be a fixed set of values. Rather, if I figure out what is important to me and my happiness, I can relate my decisions to that.

From my own experience I have noticed that if I stick to my values this generally gets accepted by the environment I am in. Even when the values of my environment are entirely different. I have been in a lot of situations where I deliberately had to emphasize that I do not eat any animal products, nor can you make me happy with a glass of Coca Cola. When I communicated these intentions clearly, I never had the idea people thought me unthankful, something a lot of people worry about in this regard. Nevertheless, if I would be in a less confident state of mind my intentions were bound to be received with more apprehension.

The take home message for me here is, that if I live my change, my mindset and my values, I believe people will realize that that is who I am. The form of feedback originating from this makes the cultivation of this same change more sustainable. Ultimately, strengthening the fundament any authentic life can flourish upon.

Behavioral Change Step 2: Changing Perspective

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. Last week, in the first blog on this subject, I broke down how I execute the first step in this process. I try to increase my awareness by maintaining a questioning attitude in the present, at the same time using passed experiences to better direct the already achieved mindset.

So, once I am aware of something that requires change, like the way I eat, the way I feel when somebody talks to me, or how I perceive the relationship with my friends, this is easily kept at the front of my mind. However, to actually do something with this newly acquired perspective, asks for a different plan of action.

Before I can use any of the newly acquired outlooks, I believe it is necessary to accept this new information. As things go, we have a tendency to resist change. Both our minds and bodies thrive on structure, rhythm and safety. A change of perspective however, puts all of our habits under pressure. Therefore, our first line of defense is often any form of denial.

Where it might be hard to actually keep questioning to increase awareness and change perspective, it often is not that hard to come up with alternative views just to keep our current state of mind in place. I know that next to accepting a newly perceived view I also have to accept any forms of denial that follow. Just like I try to not let fear dictate my decisions by accepting the sensation when it occurs, I know that dealing with denial is best done the same way.

The way I follow up on a change of perspective, is to consciously revalue a certain mindset. One time an increase in importance of a certain idea might be needed, whereas in another moment it’s importance should be decreased. I remember one time where I did this with a lot of purpose. There was a time when I was feeling guilty for my “laziness” (I also wrote about this in an Instagram post). I had the feeling I was not being productive and therefore should actively pursue a goal to change this. Until I realized, that this idea and the feelings resulting from it were nothing of my own creation. Instead I worked out that it was rather the way the society I grew up and worked in were making me think along these lines.

When I arrived at this point I literally had a f*ck that! moment with so much presence that it never returned. Here I succeeded in revaluing this feeling and therefore changing the way it affected me. After that, I never felt lazy again. In the beginning there were some moments where I had to reinforce this outlook, but apart from that, it stuck.

In this case the life I was living was fully supportive of the ability to change. There were no stimuli from my environment confusing my thoughts and there was sufficient support around to talk about these subjects. Before I started traveling though, this was not the case. Work, sports and day to day sucked up a lot of my energy. Even though, I was being aware that I disagreed with the reigning work ethic, I did not have any headspace, nor energy left to get to the bottom of this feeling.

The optimal state to use newly acquired awareness, seems to be one of tranquility and ease. In my last blog I actually concluded that a similar state is also where an increase of awareness is achieved. However, when we are living our everyday life this state of mind rarely occurs when we not actively seek it.

The idea that we are only doing something when we physically move or are working towards a goal is something deeply wired in our society. Not only does it discredit the value of doing “nothing”, it also seems that when we live as expected there is hardly any space to form ourselves along a trajectory that we want. Fitting in is more important than personal authentic growth.

I know that it is up to every person for themselves to ascribe the value that they think any idea is worth. What for the one person is a life altering perspective change might for the other be just another day in the life. I believe it important though, that the values should be of my own creation. Not from my parents, nor society, nor my friends.

Regardless of the value I end up giving to any idea, there is no good or bad. Also, it does not need to be forever. I am free to change my mindset any time.

Behavioral Change Step 1: Increasing Awareness

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. When I notice that something does not fit or feel right, the first step is, to become aware of it’s origin. After, there is the challenge of fully realizing this new knowledge in to an alternative mindset.

I thought it would be interesting to break down this process, that I myself have gone through so many times already. From becoming aware to integrating new views, hopefully inspiring you to do the same when you think it necessary.

In this first part I will explain how I try to increase my own awareness to make me see things I would like to view, do, or feel differently about. For me this is the first step to adjusting perspective. Without awareness I would just keep living a misty reality where everything seems devised and uncontrollable.

I believe that awareness comes with regular discomfort. Accepting that I know nothing, even when I think I do, enables me to learn new outlooks. When I go out of my way to talk to different people, trying things I never did before and saying yes to the unknown all provoke this widening of my view.

Also, I try to keep questioning the world around me. Even when things seem totally obvious it is all the more important to do so. As things go, that is the moment I get comfortable in my current reality. Even though, I recreate my reality every second. This means that when I start believing in something to be the way it is, it inhibits my capacity to adjust. I start living an irrelevant version of a past me that has nothing to do with my current state of affairs.

Where it can be hard to actively practice awareness, there are often experiences that we can use to grow up on. They can be as simple as becoming aware that it is hard to cut with the backside of a knife, or the moment that our partner is angry with us. Both of these experiences can induce a contemplative state that might change our outlook to how we use a knife or what kind of person we are in relation to somebody else.

Furthermore, reading books, travelling, changing jobs, and trying a new sport, amongst other things, might all induce a similar reflective state. I think that everything we do is actually changing our perspective continuously. However, we tend to be so stuck in our habits that we need a relatively strong stimulus to let go of our past selves. Still, if I stay present in everything I do, it is easier to realize it’s meaning.

In my own case, travelling really helped me with shifting perspective. I was definitely aware of how certain things were not making me happy or limiting my feelings and outlook. At that time though, I did not have the capacity to fully realize the cause. Upon entering a different environment there was a reduction of stimuli pulling me in different directions. This freed up space to do something with the thoughts already floating around. This calm presence with my thoughts turned out to be the missing link.

Where I summed up a couple of things that might induce a change of outlook before. There are also certain things that you can do to stay more present. I believe for me the easiest and at the same time the most underestimated one, is to literally do nothing. When there is nothing but me and my mind present, stuff already starts sorting itself out. To increase the power of these moments I sometimes use breathing exercises or meditation to calm my mind and become even more present with my thoughts.

To sum this all up I think that to increase my awareness, a questioning and accepting attitude is a prerequisite. Where it always starts with one question, usually there are a lot to follow. In the meantime there remains the challenge to not get lost in the maze that is our material life. Rather, developing awareness time and time again to get to a more fundamental level.

University or Universe-ity?

During my travels in the inside and the outside world, my thoughts often go in a variety of directions. As things go, I stay little in one place, and usually in unfamiliar environments. As a result the things that make the clock tick at home do not matter anymore. The things I used to identify with, both negative and positive, turn out to be of little importance now. As a consequence there seem to be no limits to the amount of opportunities in my life.

Nevertheless, there are moments when I am thinking that I, for example, would like to study again. I love learning and a study environment can be very motivating. The thing that used to bother me though, is that there are always parts of an education that do not interest me. However, usually we tend to nullify this with the thought of what we get after. An extra couple of letters in front of our name, or at least a paper that would give another opportunity to earn more money.

Recently I realized though, why this thought keeps returning irregularly. On the contrary to learning by doing, travelling, talking to people, and experiencing the unexperienced, with a school education you know what you will get by the end. This is easy to visualize and gives a sense of security for the future. Moreover, because you are doing what is silently expected, the road is all the more paved and ready to be followed.

Even though, it all might seem obvious and safe, it does not mean that the options more obscure are of lesser value. We measure welfare with the amount of money that is being earned, the health of an economy by how likely people will spend their money, and intelligence with the amount of people acquiring bachelor, master, and phd degrees. However, what about all the things we can not express in numbers? What about the ability to love, the ability to change perspective, the capacity to self-reflect, and what about how easily you make friends and maintain relationships?

It is impossible to express this in numbers, but to me these qualities seem way more important than the next title I could study for. Whereas, the latter might result in that increased paycheck, the former is happiness. What is a title worth when you have no ability to self-reflect or maintain a healthy relationship? The end-result is an empty life with relationships that only exist because you believe in the same fiction. Titles, money and status are all man-made inventions leading us astray from what is really important. Sounds familiar?

This mindset I realized, I also see meeting other travellers. Currently, I have been staying more than usual in places with people from Europe. The subjects of any conversation happening, usually revolve around the places visited, where to go next, how much it cost and what you like most. Mostly supported with amazing photos. However, this is exactly where this mindset of looking for the expected comes back around. Before I would visit any of the recommended places I know what it is going to be like. The views will be amazing, it will be more expensive than a non-touristic place nearby and the local people will be aiming for my wallet.

Just like studying, travelling from one to the next touristic hot-spot will exactly be as expected. Until it is not as expected. And that is precisely where the real value of travelling or studying starts. When things do not go as we thought, we start to learn the things that are really important. The aforementioned self-reflection, changing of perspective and the ability to adept to unexpected situations are all provoked in moments like these.

So I ask myself, why the hell would I visit the next best tourist spot, or study for a master degree, when all the things that really matter are not directly learned in these places. They might be learned as a consequence, but just as well I might be looking for these situations all the time. In the meantime experiencing all the unmeasurable beauty the world and the people in it have to offer. Amazing friendships are waiting in all corners of the world, just like uncomfortable situations, making us a stronger and more confident person. Aiding us in everything we will engage in after.

True, it is hard to make a photo of all of this or to express this in any statistical form. However, the gain is literally of unmeasurable value. Where a master degree might cost 20.000 euros and tell you beforehand what you get, all the other things in life do not. They are also free. Any real experience does not cost money, nor does any real relationship.

I am using my traveling to get to certain perspective changes, to meet new people and to experience the unexperienced. Though, I believe all of this can be done right at home as well. I know that getting to these places for me was more about my travel philosophy than the traveling itself. This means that when I would apply the same ideas at home the result might be similar result might be similar. Engaging in new conversations, saying yes to the unknown and building new relationships can be done anywhere.

Value and Money (2)

Last week I wrote the first part of this two part blog post. There, I wrote about how my vision on money has changed over time. In this second blog post on the subject, I will explain how I try to incorporate this vision to find the right balance between value and money in my life.

Starting off, I believe it most important that I should not be afraid to be without money. Or if I have money, to lose it. In a recent blog post on fear-based life, I wrote about how fear can corrupt my behavior and does not serve me at all except for life threatening situations. This is not the case though, when it comes to losing or not having money. Nevertheless, I am made to believe that only through money I can acquire what I need. Consequently, making me prone to be afraid of not having any, because I can not survive otherwise. However, this is not the case. The true things that seem to be allowing us to live long and happy are: purpose, social contact, physical activity and a balanced whole food diet. The question is then, for which of these do I really need money?

The more money I have though, the more afraid I tend to get. When I would barely have enough money to buy my food, I will only lose that option. But what if I have so much I can buy a Ferrari, a boat and a house? When I lose money then, it seems I am losing a lot more. That is the moment life stops right? I lost it all, or not? As soon as I start seeing that money is corrupting my worldview I can start making decisions based on value. At the same time I believe, that when I run out of money, helping hands will be extended from places I could not have imagined before.

The second thing that I think is essential, is to do something I believe is valuable. Then, if it really is, the people around me will eventually notice it’s value as well. Regardless if this is expressed in my job, the way I treat my friends or how I use my garden. I believe this mindset will eventually spread in to every part of my life. Consequently, because we created a society that expresses value in money, the things I do will eventually be payed for in some form.

Equally decisive though, in this process, is that I enjoy doing what I do. This is more true than it is cliché. If I want to live a life that is sustainable for me I should be motivated and content with what I am creating. This supports my creativity, reduces insecurity and fear, but above all attracts positivism from the world around me.

Then, another thing that is critical, is to let go of the idea of retirement. From my perspective, retirement is the biggest anticlimax built in to our working society. Not before my 65th birthday when my body starts failing me, I am “free” to do what I want. Ultimately living with the physical and mental consequences of having been enslaved to this idea all my life. However, when I disconnect my purpose from money and I am concentrating on creating value doing something I love, I see no reason to stop when I am 65. Simultaneously, when I am young and physically strong there are so many things to enjoy I can not at that time. I believe it better to use these opportunities now and to not worry about the effect this might have on my retirement. As things go, my future I am creating today.

My final point is, that I believe there is no gain above a certain living standard. Once I have a safe and comfortable place to live, hopefully in an area I love, quality food to enjoy, means of transport, and I am lucky enough to be able to acquire the usual technologies, I do not see my quality of life increasing after that. I can turn my Fiat in to a Jeep and my Huawei in to the newest Iphone, but what am I really gaining here? The amounts of money I need to spend only make me more afraid of what might happen because I spent so much in the first place.

I think everybody should find their own balance between value and money. Nevertheless, I believe it is important to take in to account the false perspective that was drawn in my life. When I break down these walls I am more free to chose my own direction. Maybe even taking in to account that all I need to live a happy healthy life is whole food, physical activity, social contact and purpose.

Value and Money (1)

The subject of value and money has been playing around my mind for a long time. How can I live without money being the main motivation in my decisions? This used to be an interesting discussion point among friends. At that time, I was already aware of how money corrupts life. Consecutively, I chose a standpoint that was more directed at denying the existence of money, than actually dealing with it the way it is. I usually ended up saying things like: “I don’t like money and our monetary system. I don’t want to think about it, and I rather have nothing to do with it”.

Where I grew up in North-Western Europe, it was easy to create convictions like these. As things go, the consequences of not having money I never experienced. Over there, I used to live in a protected society where people living on the street, still have better chances than the majority of the people living in this world.

Nevertheless, I still disagree on the value that we have given money. I do understand now though, that to live the life I want to, I have to accept at least part of the value we ascribe to it. Next, it also made me realize that I should value more what I already have. At the same time, not being afraid to seize the opportunities given to me. To live on an island alone, might solve the issue of having to deal with money. However, this would also mean that I lose the possibility on using the opportunities that result from having it. I realized that I rather try to show how to live and value money differently within society, than to live on the outside denying it as a whole.

When discussing this subject over the previous half year, people would often remind me that you have money. Even when I do not, there are friends, family and a safety net provided by the government waiting for me in the Netherlands. This means, that the lowest life standard experienced by me, will still be above what the majority of the world population currently enjoys. Now, it is not just that I am aware of these inequalities, I also was in situations where I actually experienced them. Consecutively, the aforementioned comments sometimes made me feel guilty. It is quite easy for me to be critical of the monetary system, while being on the safe side within it. Should I not be living on the street to give my ideas some real credit? I concluded in the end, that I do not need to.

The awareness of the fact that I am positively predisposed in our world, just because I grew up in North-Western Europe, has made me realize that every opportunity I get is worth twice as much. Also, it does not make sense to me to live a life where I feel sorry for the chances other people did not get. It is easy to develop depressed feelings living with this awareness. I do believe however, that by showing that I can live happy with my values, there is a higher chance that somebody else copies them. There are enough people feeling depressed and unsatisfied already. Regardless, of the amount money in their bank account. Interestingly, a lot of people feeling this way in developed countries, turn out to be in some way or another, enslaved to the idea that money holds value.

In reality though, money by itself has no value. It only holds value as long as we believe it. The 50 euro note is not worth anything by itself. I can hardly hold it up to stop the rain from dropping on my head, or to use it as paper to write an important message upon. A thick woolen sweater on the other hand, will warm my body if I believe it or not, just like a roof on top of my house will keep me dry and a banana will always be able to provide my body with energy. As long as I keep believing money holds value by itself though, it is hard to put it into perspective. Once I flip this idea, I might be able to find ways to not see money as the sole condition to acquire anything of value.

In conclusion this means, as long as I want to be part of the current world we live in, I believe that I cannot deny that money exists nor cut it out of life entirely.  However, I can change the value it holds in my own life. If everybody else still thinks it is the most important base to decide upon, does not mean it should be for me.

Next week I will continue with this topic and explain how I try to find the right balance between value and money in my life.

 

How Fear Influences Your Everyday Life (2)

This is the second post in a two part series on a how fear influences your everyday life. In the first post on fear, last week, I tried to dissect how fear is wired in to our current lives without a valid reason. In this second part, I will explore how society is actually stimulating this fear-based lifestyle at the same time offering us a solution in materialistic form instead of supporting us to deal with it internally.

Where our society has developed faster than anybody could have imagined, our bodies like plants, take a little longer. Our society requires us to behave and learn in a certain way to keep it’s materialistic parts in place. Leaving little space to actually learn to interact with ourselves. Where society stimulates us to externalize our problems, the real solution always lies within ourselves. In Buddhism for example, it is being tought that the origin and solution of our problems can be found within ourselves. This is also the case with fear-based behavior.

Fake Security

Nevertheless, we have created material constructs to give a sense of security to reduce our fears. We have insurances for health, cars, houses, belongings or even parts of our body, so that we do not have to be afraid before something happens. Still, we end up being afraid when something happens, because it might just be that the insurance will not cover the incident.

I remember sitting in a public hospital waiting room in Buenos Aires. I could barely walk, I could not stretch my left knee and I was hurting like hell. The day before I had twisted my knee provoking a sensation unfamiliar to me. The first thing my Physical Therapist brain told me, is that I injured my meniscus. This would mean long recovery and possible surgery. I wondered if my insurance would cover this, and I realized that to resolve this injury I might need to fly to Europe to do surgery.

Anyway, after waiting for three hours the doctor showed up. He assessed my knee doing two tests, and told me I might be lucky and that I probably sprained my medial colletaral ligament. Even though, the doctor did two assessments that I know to be very unreliable, my perspective changed and my fear subsided. All of a sudden everything seemed managable again. Even though, nothing about my situation had changed.

With a calm mind I realized that the doctor’s diagnosis was probably right. Nevertheless, during the 24 hours before, fear had kept me in a tunnel. Only worrying about one possible outcome even though there were more. In this process I was in touch with my travel insurance agency. They told me that I would have to pay the first 900 euros of whatever treatment would be done.

Where everybody usually takes a travel insurance, if they can, it does not prevent any accident from happening. It shows here that my organized materialistic protection did not aid me in resolving my fears after suffering my injury. It was just a monetary protection generating a false sense of security.

Everyday Worries

Furthermore, worries like: will I have enough money for next month? Will I be able to participate in the next exam? Am I strong enough to win this contest? And, can I stick to my diet change?, might provoke feelings of fear and a sense of insecurity. If we do not become conscious of the limiting effects of these feelings, we might make such feelings a foundation to decide upon. Fear seems to force our attention towards it’s origin. Therefore, it does not go well with balanced thoughts, planning capabilities and weighed decision taking.

However, a large part of our society keeps thriving on this primal emotion. A new alarm at home will make sure the thieves do not get in to the house and a new smoke alarm will prevent the house from burning down. Both of these alarms are there to protect our possessions. Interestingly, the idea that something is “ours” after we have acquired it is a human invention. Where after, a fear for losing these possessions might arise. To take this fear of losing away, we created insurances and alarms.

The Flip Side of Possession

Possession and dependence are among the most freedom undermining concepts. Where in reality we are free to begin with, these posessions actually take away our freedom after we generate the idea that we depend on them.

However, if we manage to detach from everything we have, we also lose the sensation of fear and dependence connected to it. I personally experienced this during my travels. At home, I was thinking about everything I was not taking with me in my backpack, and how this would limit me. Once I was away though, I ended up using half of what I was carrying. When I realized what this meant, a greater sense of freedom dawned on me.

Fear provokers, like possession, dependance and fear of loss are a product of society rather, than they are of me. When I realized this, it became easier to deal with them. Part of them not provoking feelings of fear anymore. Where in other situations, fear might still be present. In these situations though, I try to value it differently. In anyway, fear can and is allowed to always be a part of an emotion. It is up to us though, how we respond.

How Fear Influences Your Everyday Life (1)

This is the first post in a two part series on how fear influences your everyday life. In this first post I will try to dissect how fear is wired in to our current life without a valid reason. In the second part I will explore how society is actually stimulating this fear-based lifestyle, at the same time offering us a solution in materialistic form, instead of supporting us to deal with it internally.

Fear in Everyday Conversation

We all experience a sense of fear on a regular basis. Popping up whenever we see something happen we do not like, or when we think of something that might happen in the future. We are afraid of an exam, afraid to tell the truth or afraid to change the way we act. The feeling of being afraid is so normal that there are sentences like: “I am afraid this is not going work” or “I am afraid I am not going to make it on time”. Whereas, these sentences are used as messages, the words they contain are connected to feelings deeper rooted in our organisms.

The simplicity of these messages and the frequency with what we use them is a sign of how deeply rooted fear is in our behavior. If we do not pay attention a lot of our behavior and decisions, unknowingly will be based on fear. I for example, notice that I often feel stress and act stressed when I have to get too many things done in “too little” time. This is an example of fear-based behavior. As soon as I realize that stressing it does not support me to achieve my goal in any case, and that time is a subjective phenomenon anyway, it becomes easier to let go of these feelings.

In general though, we might be afraid to engage in new ventures, relationships or a change of life direction, all leaving us paralyzed in the present. Regardless of the probability of success of the desired choice, the result will always be the same; no change.

Origin and Consequence

Fear can be the consequence and origin of a wide variety of feelings. Fear by itself, awkwardness, shame and insecurity are definitely feelings that are connected in a lot of situations. While these feelings are usually blacklisted in our life – we do not want to feel them – they corrupt our decision making and behavior even more this way.

I for myself, can feel insecure before engaging in a conversation, definitely when I do not speak the language fluently. Another reason might be, when I have to tell somebody something I think they will not like in that moment. I experienced this both in my personal life as at work. Whereas, in the former this would be about speaking true to my feelings, in the latter it usually meant speaking the truth, and supposedly provoking a feeling of disappointment in my client. On both occasions though, these short-term “negative” effects do not mean anything when compared to what is to be gained from knowing the truth.

Essential

However, fear is probably the single most essential feeling to ensure the progression of our physical life. This sensation focuses all our attention in the present, diminishes the importance of any other feeling, heightens our essential physical abilities, and inhibits conscious decision making. Because, it is time to run away from a charging lion, safe a child from a speeding car or to steer clear of a creepy person in the night.

Nevertheless, we now connect these primal feelings with none life-threatening situations. Feelings of insecurity and lack of confidence supported by unnatural expectations from our environment constantly trigger fear(like) responses. School, work, schedules, planning, culture, social values and traffic together with constructs like time and money create an environment full of “dangers”.

Where fear might be experienced as it is, it might also develop into different behavior. This makes it harder to see where the origin of the discomfort is. Possibly, even developing in to chronic health problems. Take a look around your social environment (including yourself), and you will definitely encounter somebody that lives a fear-based life. It should be no surprise that these people look and act tense, and eventually live tense, marking their body and behavior with fear.

Acceptance

Where it is hard to block out all sensations of fear, it is the blocking of these types of emotions that actually strengthens them. To me though, it makes more sense to feel the fear and then deal with it, instead of steering clear. As soon as we get comfortable feeling fear it gets easier to deal with situations that arouse it. At the same time, allowing us to question both the situation and the feeling itself. Where after, it is possible to see this feeling for what it really is, and we might get to a point where we realize that it is actually provoked by something else.

Next week I will continue with what “something else” might be. Please come back next week to read on.

My Current Travel Philosophy

I have been travelling through South America with my particular travel philosophy for four months now. I experienced enough to write a couple of books already. During this time I had the opportunity to meet many people, listen to unique stories and experience a lot of things I could not even imagine before.

Some of these experiences still blow my mind when I think of them. Experiences like ending up in a car accident to joining family parties and a pit stop in juvenile prison. During these four months though, I always tried to travel my way, sticking to my ideas of what traveling is about.

Before I took of, I set myself the goal to try to stay with people in their homes as much as possible and to use hitchhiking as my main form of transport. At that time I had no idea how this would work out, because I had little to no experience with both of them.

Sleep and Transport

To stay with people at home I use Airbnb or Couchsurfing to get in touch with locals. Also, I have had the fortune that on several occasions people offered me to stay with their family just because I was travelling in that direction. On one occasion even, just because I was in the car with them, after they picked me up hitchhiking. Regardless if this fit my plans or not, the answer was always yes.

Why I Stay Away From Tourist Attractions

However, when I meet other travelers I sometimes get the idea I am doing something wrong. I am not running from one tourist attraction to the next one, and I do not live from photo to photo. On the contrary, my way of traveling usually takes me to places that are not pretty from a photographic perspective. At these places though, is where the people live, unbiased by tourism, and unbiased by the idea of how much money I might spent.

In these places the beauty of the experience is harder to capture in a photo. In these less scenic places I have to speak different languages, I have to continuously adjust to different life values, different daily routines, and I am confronted with a wide variety of perspectives. Where after, the reward is so much more than a pretty photo. Even though, there are times when I feel so tired of having to adjust, again, until I do.

Really, looking for discomfort rather than comfort, increases the travel experience a thousandfold. Hitchhiking is one of these “discomforts”. At times, I am standing in the burning sun, collecting layers of dust on my skin, blown up by passing cars. Where after, somebody will stop and give you another chance to learn a million things. Sometimes, taking a bus might be quicker or more convenient, it reduces the chance of getting in to unexpected situations. Getting out of these situations though, is how I become more confident in dealing with everything that comes after.

YES-philosophy

Together with the above I also try to stick to a “YES-philosophy”. Along the road plenty people have invited me in to their homes, to family parties, to the cinema, to barbecues, to dance, to sing, to play an instrument, to a friends’ house or to their work environment (where the last, on one occasion turned out to be this juvenile prison). Regardless if my plans are different, if it might complicate things or if I feel uncomfortable accepting, I will always try to say yes.

This discomfort and feeling of insecurity, is there because it is sometimes hard to see what is coming. Also, at times I am afraid to show my “weaknesses”. Nonetheless, I believe all these feelings to be natural and valuable. I try to deal with them my way. Not seeing them as a code red situation, but rather as an opportunity to learn. Handling from this perspective has made my life a lot more exciting.

However, I have certain things that are very important to me. Mainly the way I take care of my health. I aim to eat a whole foods plant based regardless if I am at a Brazilian barbecue (there will be just meat) or if somebody offers me “Dulce de Leche” while I am getting a ride from them, the answer is always no. I do not eat animal products and I stay as close to zero with the amount of processed foods I eat. This means that sometimes I say no in the midst of enjoying limitless hospitality. Even though, looking from the outside this might seem rude, people have always respected my decision.

Two-way Street

I am willing to try everything but I stick to my core values, because that is who I am. If they will not hold up anymore I trust to keep an open mind, and to replace them with different values. In general, sticking to them will show people who you are, and the beautiful thing about this is: as much as the people I meet enrich my life, I do a little something in their lives as well.