How Your Perception of Time is Limiting You and How To Change It

It’s new to me, how much politics is influencing my thinking the previous weeks. These Brazilian elections have provoked me to research more than I ever did for Dutch elections. I have been trying to understand on a more fundamental level how, from my perspective, a destructive force is helped into power by the public. In an earlier blog I explored why long term solutions in politics are unattractive, but also how our perceived discomfort in certain situations forces us in the direction of short term solutions. Politicians are well aware of this discomfort and capitalize on this to gain popularity. However, not only in politics, but also in healthcare, business, and our private lives is this a relevant topic. I realized that a common provoker of this discomfort is an inadequate perception of time.

Our perception of time is on the one side bench-marked to the world around us, how is time culturally perceived, what is early, what is late, and where is the future and where is the past (more on that below). Secondly, I personally belief the most relevant aspect of time perception; the speed of our thoughts and emotions and the intensity with which we experience them.

Cultural Perception of Time

The first one, our cultural perception of time, has one common denominator across all cultures. Every culture uses a time-in-space metaphor. this means that all over the world people describe time related to space. However, it depends on where you live, which space-metaphor is used. In western society the future is in front of us and the past behind us. In Ayrana (native people from the Andes), the passed is in front (that what can be seen) and the future behind. The Yupno people from Papua New Guinea and the Tzeltal from Mexico think of the passed as being down hill, and the future uphill.

Culture also largely defines how you behave related to time. Where in Germany and Switzerland on time, means arriving exactly at the agreed time, because they see compartmentalization as the surest route to efficiency. In the Netherlands you can be a couple of minutes later and still be on time, nevertheless the Dutch otherwise relate to time in a similar way as Germans and the Swiss. In Brazil I have come to understand time as it’s 9 o’clock until it’s 10 o’clock. Even more “creative” with the clock they are in Colombia. I was recently told by two Colombians that agreeing to meet at 2 o’clock is okay, showing up at that time is foolish. Don’t come before 4.

colombian-street

Another significant difference, is if time is perceived as linear or cyclical. In my very first post on this blog I proposed a different perspective to time, and I explained my adoption of a more cyclical view. In western society this is novel, because time is generally perceived as progressing linearly. In eastern cultures though, the Japanese and the Chinese have always perceived time as progressing cyclical.

Subjective Perception of Time

Second then, the speed of our thoughts and emotions play a significant role as well. As our perception of time on the one hand is influenced by our external environment (culture, society), it is also subject to our internal environment. Are you feeling good or bad, are you doing something you like, or something you hate. The way you experience time in these cases can be totally different. That boring school assignment seems to take ages, where watching an exciting movie can pass by in seconds. Then again, once we are in severe pain it seems like time lasts forever.

alexander-michl-724529-unsplash

Now that we are familiar with what influences our perception of time, the moment is right to become familiar with how long things objectively take. I believe this to be of essential importance because we usually adhere to our perception of time, forgetting that there is actually a lot known about the objective duration of things.

Objective Times

Underneath is a list of objective times as I have come to understand them from literature on history and medicine plus my own experience:

objective-times

When you read this list, it is important to consider that thoughts and emotions are the only things on there, that are not in someway or another limited by time and space. At the same time they are the portal through which we experience everything else.

I believe that most discomfort and hardship that we experience comes from two things. First, to be unaware of, or failing to accept how we are objectively progressing in time. This could be failing to comprehend the time that is needed for a political situation to change or a fractured bone to heal.

Cause and Effect Can Be Hard to Connect

Second, very often cause and effect are not closely related in time and space. The burger you started eating weekly at age 25 might be the initiation of the behavior that led to your diabetes at age 45. Similarly when I start eating beans instead of beef I instantly reduce my carbon footprint. This might help turn around climate change in 15 years, saving thousands of lives of people living on islands that would have run under water otherwise. It is hard to see these connections, if not impossible. However, if you accept the possibility, there is a lot in life that you can influence from this moment on.

beans

When you accept the possibility that your actions can have consequences that you have no way to experience or connect with each other – that leaves you with the challenge to accept that as long as you live on earth there are certain time frames you cannot evade. I often try to raise awareness to this fact with my clients. The mind jumps from past to future, and back again within seconds. However, our body acts more like a plant, and adheres to a slower and gradual time frame.

Where the objective time frame of the body, often with the support of a skilled healthcare practitioner, can be understood and experienced first hand, changes in environment, culture and politics are harder to experience objectively. As things go, they do not hurt us directly like a bone fracture does, and there are less people taking the time to explain this phenomena in full. Also because the systems underlying these changes are often very complex and hard to understand.

Nevertheless, in our private lives, in politics, in your business or regarding your personal health, there is a very simple thing you can do to deal with all the discomfort from the tension between how you experience time, and the time it takes for things to happen. Read all about that in the second part of this blog on SMART goals here.

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Why in Healthcare and Politics Treating The Root Cause is Not The Solution (Yet)

Yesterday I went to the cinema to watch The Invisibles. A movie about Jewish people in Berlin during the second world-war. As Hitlers’ regime declared the city “jew-free”, there were still 7000 of them underground. They basically became invisible with the help of brave fellow Germans. Unfortunately, only 1700 would see the war end. I realized the importance of the movie, as the second world war has been visualized in films time after time – but now in times where right wing politics is gaining popularity more and more it seems that the relevance of this topic is higher than ever.

One of the arguments people often bring up is that we shouldn’t forget what happened then, so we won’t repeat it now. Since most of the world-war two survivors are slowly passing away because of old age, there won’t be a lot of time left before we can only rely on history books, movies, and second hand stories for us to know what happened at the time.

The Movie Bias

What made me think though, is that all the movies about the second world war, the Vietnam war, and more recent movies about the war in Iraq, all depict the horrors and the consequences. Even though it’s important to be aware of what they were, there happened a lot before (regular) people became mass murderers.

helicopter

In comparison, 10 months ago I twisted my knee while climbing. After more or less successfully rehabilitating my knee, there was a moment during yoga class where my knee made a loud SNAP! It swelled right away and hurt like hell. A couple of days later I made an MRI, it turns out my medial meniscus was torn.

If I would make a movie about this it would be about me tearing my meniscus, all the pain I felt and how I did my rehabilitation and how I eventually resolved it, with or without surgery. Nevertheless, what happened before I injured myself? What were my thoughts, convictions, and decisions that led me to that situation in the first place?

In the case of Hitler – him writing a book explaining his philosophy is a boring movie and also speaks less to the imagination than millions of minorities killed in gas chambers. Complex belief mechanisms mixed with capitalist-communist politics and protection of interest is a lot less spectacular and hard to understand than soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder, missing limbs, helicopters shooting in the Vietnamese jungle and the napalm coming after.

Not only in movies we are biased to viewing consequences and symptoms, but also in healthcare and in politics we tend to go for short term gain instead of treating the root cause.

I believe there is a combination of two phenomena that is responsible for the fact that we end up circling through similar situations over and over.

Pain and Money

The first one is pain. In the case of our body this literal pain can be a sign of damage, but it is mostly a signal for you to pay attention. When it comes to politics there might be situations that provoke discomfort: violence, refugee crisis, lack of job opportunities and economic setbacks.

The second one, is the fact that one way provides more money and power than the other. I believe in general money leads to power and vice versa. When we look at healthcare that means that highly invasive treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and medication are usually preferred over investing money in providing knowledge, tools, and empowerment to people so that they don’t get to a place where such treatment might be indicated in the first place.

surgery-tools

Pain and Money in Politics and Healthcare

In politics the reduction of available resources (money) or lack of control (power) provoke short term solutions as well. An example is the wall that was build between Turkey and Syria, with funding from the European Union, to block the crossing of immigrants. “We cannot control the refugees, so we literally block them from coming in at all”. This will reduce the amount of immigrants entering the European Union, that’s true, but on the other hand it increases the chances that the same people will be more susceptible to be recruited for radical purposes. Interestingly, according to the Swiss Historian Daniele Ganser, the US and the UK, together with a couple of other countries want to overthrow the Assad-regime to keep the oil flowing west.Therefore, the whole fact that these refugees want to flee Syria in the first place, is our own fault. So much for treating the root-cause.

j-s-romeo-629384-unsplash

Back to money in healthcare. I believe that as soon as there is more money to be earned with preventive than curative medicine, the medical system will change radically. However, I think it is important to remember that the most natural solutions to our health, are far from lucrative. If you grow your own crop, buy products from your local village, and exchange other products with fellow inhabitants all the while moving on a continuous basis, there will be little to earn for big corporations.

As you can see money plays a big role both in health care as in political decisions. What I think is interesting though, is how is feasted on our lack of knowledge and capacity to deal with pain and discomfort. The amounts of times I have treated clients that preferred a shot of cortisone from the doctor than sustainable holistic treatment just because they wanted the pain to be gone. Equally, I have been proposed nothing but surgery by knee specialists for my meniscus even though it bothers me little in everyday life. I am in luck that I have an education that allows me to make more informed decisions in this case.

When we go return to politics, discomfort is capitalized on immensely as well. U.S. president Trump capitalized on the dissatisfaction of the public by shouting so loud, but most of all differently from what everybody else was doing, that people flocked his way. He managed to be very obviously different than the rest of the candidates. In a similar way president elect Jair Bolsonario in Brazil is about to succeed with an exact copy of Trumps strategy. He is in the final and deciding round of the election process with 18% more votes than his opponent Fernando Haddad.

As you might realize now the equation money/power x pain/discomfort is feasted upon continuously. Lack of knowledge and perspective leads people to be influenced easily. This holds true for politics as much as going to see a knee specialist. I personally always appreciated the informed client a lot. As things go they are the ones that have to live with their body, not me. When you are more informed I can help you better. However, it might not earn me the most money. Politicians would agree if they were looking to solve root-causes. So generally, it is best you are uninformed.

Alternatives and a Questioning Attitude

I think therefore, that it’s essential to increase your knowledge and be aware that there are always alternatives. Humans have a hard time comparing two (on the surface) unrelated things. Shall I buy the better TV for $700,- or the cheaper one for $500,- that’s less good? As you stand there scratching your head, mouth dry, and about to go for the more expensive one, you could also walk home, and buy two plane tickets for a weekend get-away.

In recent times there are still big powers at play, twisting information and trying to make money of the ignorance of people. Lucky for us however, we don’t have to rely on a couple of brave people sending underground news through the post like in the second world war. Today, within a minute you can share whatever with the world. This creates a lot of noise, but if you take control and look, in stead of consume, there is a lot of value available.

I believe that if you take control of your life, a questioning attitude is key. When it comes to health and healthcare as the decisions you are required to make in politics. On the surface things might look unrelated, but wars in the middle-east about oil, and walls to prevent refugees from crossing, and your personal health have a lot more in common than you think. For once, they might or might not be subject to your own ignorance. So I wonder therefore, what’s your next question going to be?

why

Why You Should Sleep Well Every Night

AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH!

Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?

Matthew Walker. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

We tend to know more about things that aren’t part of our body than the things that are. Hammers, cars, politics and economics are usually better understood than what is going on inside of us. Interestingly, there is little education and mainstream information available on the thing that every single human (hopefully) spends one third of their life on. I am wondering therefore, how much do you know about sleep?

Before I started reading Matthew Walkers´ best-seller Why We Sleep, I knew that it was important to sleep between 7.5 to 8.5 hours a night. I knew that screens from laptops, telephones, and tablets radiated blue light that mingles with your circadian rhythm (wakefulness rhythm). This is a natural part of our life that is influenced by sunlight but doesn’t depend on it. Also, I had recently come to believe that “night-owls” (late sleepers) didn’t exist. They were just people that ignored their sleep impulse earlier in the evening.

Before I bought the book I was trying to optimize my sleep for a while already. I keep my phone away at night, and I engage in little demanding activities. Preferably I eat early so that I don’t go to bed on the verge of explosion and I aim to go to bed at the same time to stay in my rhythm. Let’s see what remained of that after reading Why We Sleep?

Waking Up in the Morning

To figure that out, let’s go through a day of sleep. Are you with me? 06:00 BEEP – BEEP – BEEP. Wake up, you get out of bed after falling asleep at 23:00. Did you sleep enough? Regardless of how you feel, you didn’t. Every human being needs around 8 hours of sleep each night. After a couple of days sleeping 7 hours, only one hour less, you perform like you didn’t sleep an entire night. How crazy is that.

When you come into the kitchen you pore yourself a cup of coffee – why? Because you like it, or because you can’t wake up otherwise? If it’s the latter, you are sleeping too little. Coffee increases your wakefulness, but it doesn’t decrease your sleepiness. It also stays in your system for a long time and modifies your sleep quality, unless you are a genetic outlaw. Which you are probably not.

Time to get into the car to work. Hopefully you are awake now, because there are more car accidents happening in the U.S. as a consequence of drowsy driving, than of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs together.

Sleep is Your Solution

When you fall into your desk chair, and you login to you computer your brain starts to make weird noises. Still this issue you can’t find a solution to. Why haven’t you found a solution? First question that should follow after: did I sleep enough?

dreamcatchers

During our REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, or our dream sleep, our brain becomes highly active. It starts reorganizing, activating, and connecting neurons. New knowledge gets transferred from your short-term memory to your long-term memory and your brain integrates this new knowledge with what already was. If you sleep well, this sleep feature greatly increases your creativity and the probability that you solve that issue at work.

For lunch you eat a big sandwich and talk to some colleagues. After you feel sleepy. You always eat to much for lunch. That could be, however you are also experiencing a natural dip in wakefulness under influence of your circadian rhythm. The best thing to do right now is to lie down and do a nap. Humans are biphasic sleepers (two times per day) even though this is not recognized in today’s (western) society. From now on you never have to feel guilty again for napping during the (preferably early) afternoon.

Let’s say you did nap, and you return to your computer. All of a sudden you find the solution to that everlasting problem. I told you sleep would help you..

Getting Ready to Sleep

When you arrive home in the evening you crash into the couch and get out your phone. Finally time to binge on social media and check what your friends are up to. Don’t do that too long because the bluelight coming out there reduces your sleep quality. At the very least install Twilight on your Android and F.lux on your computer to filter this light out, if you must use them at all. Better read a book, or talk to the person(s) you live with.

If you did that well you will get sleepy. During the day the hormone adenosine has been accumulating in your brain, creating an ever bigger sleep pressure. At the same time your wakefulness has been reducing. Depending on what type of person you are, the rhythm in which this happens is different. If you are an early sleeper this would be around 21:30, when you are a late-sleeper around midnight, and if you are in between around 22:30.

Sleep-model

School Times

Interestingly, children around 15-16 years old usually get sleepy later than their parents. A significant amount of time that should be honored according to Matthew Walker, also a UC-Berkely Professor. Early school times have disastrous effects on the development of the brains of our children. Later starting times have been shown to result in an increase of SAT score of 200 on average. Finally I understand, why I would fall asleep every single time I sat down in the bus to high school.

You made it to bed. As soon as you really fall asleep your sleep pressure is going down and your brain starts doing some valuable maintenance. It cuts away what is not being used, it clears out plaque that might turn in to dementia later on and it processes emotional experiences.

The Power of Sleep

Emerging from this research renaissance is an unequivocal message: sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day—Mother Nature’s best effort yet at contra-death.

Matthew Walker. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

Why We Sleep has immensely increased my believe in the value of sleep, and how it all by itself can counter a lot of the issues thatmost of us encounter in our everyday life. Be it from feeling depressed, to diabetes to our performance on the soccer field. Sleep is the basis for everything to thrive upon. The single most important thing you can do according to the book is go to sleep at the same time and get up at the same time. Also during the weekends.

Oh and yes, read the book yourself. If you are going to read one book on health this year, or in your entire lifetime, read this one. Otherwise as well.

September in the Rear Mirror

Welcome to October! To me September now means the start of spring instead of autumn. I ticked of a year on the South American continent, and I experienced a mild winter of about 6-8 weeks. My Brazilian friends and family were clinging their teeth for 6 months. I did an online video course on sales and I read 5 books the previous weeks; Designing for Growth, The Lean Startup, Business Model Generation, The Four Hour Workweek and Why We Sleep. In between cutting through all this new newness like a samurai, I wrote four blogs. Underneath you can read a quick recap of each. Click on the title to read the entire blog.

Are You Feeling the Vibe?

wirelessspeaker

In Are You Feeling the Vibe I explore the implications of the fact that everything on earth at it’s smallest form is vibration.

This holds true for the computer or phone you are reading this blog on, your thoughts, your breath, the sound reaching your ears, and the chair you sit upon.

Now remember that time you were feeling amazing, all of a sudden more good things were happening.


man-in-water-reads-a-book

 In Is There Another Way To Live Life I reflect on reading Tim Ferris book The Four Hour Work week. The book is full of perspective, tips and tricks on creating a lifestyle where there is space for you to form it according to your desires.

He introduces the term mobility to make you aware of the importance, if you are still working a job you don´t like, to have the freedom to decide from where you work.

He also introduces mini-retirements, why not take time in between jobs instead of waiting until you are 65 to take them all. Right when your body starts deteriorating and you are to weak to lift a stone.

If you are the most satisfied person in the world at this moment, and wouldn’t wish anything else than your current situation, you could leave this book be. Otherwise, read the Four Hour Work-week.


How To Deal With Your Automatic Self When Trying To Change

steeringwheel

We humans have a lot of unconscious processes going on when we are taking decisions. One of them is the ambiguity effect. We prefer to take decision of which we know the outcome. All the while we shy away from novelty.

However, to get ahead in life it is key to enter novel situations. Still every moment you are in a situation like this there is always an unconscious pull towards the familiar.

How can you use this information to decide best in a moment when you there is an unknown outcome? Click on the title above to read the whole blog.


How Does Politics Really Work?

politics-grafitiWith the Brazilian presidential elections less than a week away at the moment of writing this, I took the opportunity to take politics under closer scrutiny.

I take a closer look at the attractiveness of long-term solutions (to politicians) for apparent problems like violence in Brazil, illegal immigration in the U.S. and refugees in the Netherlands.

Given the four year rotation of a cabinet, the way the elections work, and third-party interests, there can only be one conclusion. It doesn’t make sense to wait for decisions from higher up, you have to be the one that decides what happens in your life.

 

 

How Does Politics Really Work?

Je moet het ijzer smeden als het heet is – You should mold the iron when it’s hot

– come into action when you recognize the right moment. –

Dutch saying

With the presidential elections less than two weeks away here in Brazil, I thought it time to take – what we call – politics under closer scrutiny. More than often a topic of discourse, politics is usually treated as an influential phenomenon. We like to think so at least.

Democracy

So far the least worst system created that has held up on bigger scale is democracy. In this political construct every person has the ability to vote for the idea or person that he or she would like to see established in his or her country. However, is this really the case, that the voter has the power to express what he or she wants?

By comparison we stick to democracy because a dictatorship scares every person after we have seen so many vivid images of Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Mao Zedong, and others. Similarly we stick to capitalism because communism was (executed) way worse by comparison. This does not mean however, that democracy and capitalism are great systems.

Brazil

Currently in Brazil, there is heavy campaigning going on between 13 presidential candidates. Main topics of discussion are the treatment of minorities, abortion, and how to deal with the sustaining violence. According to Brazilian news outlet Globo, in the years 2016 and 2017 together the Brazilian police killed almost 10.000 people. Supposedly the highest amount in the world.

rafaela-biazi-680927-unsplash

Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progression) written on the Brazilian flag, far from present in everyday life however.

Now it’s definitely important that these topics get attended to, the thing is though, that they are symptoms – not origins of problems. People are more frustrated about the likelihood to be robbed in the street than the quality of education. However, when you take a moment and think, change the latter and you will alter the former. This would be a very long term plan (a lot more than 1 president can realize) and would take planning and dedication to execute.

Imagine yourself in a situation where you have to take care every time you take out your phone of your pocket, as soon as its get dark certain places are no-go-zones and you pay 40% of taxes on top of all your groceries that you never see in return in the form of quality healthcare or education (only in shiny suits, big houses, and nice cars of your politicians). In a situation like this, that is not only common in Brazil but also other Latin American Countries, nobody wants to wait 20 years before people stop robbing and assaulting.

The Candidate’s Perspective

At the same time imagine the attractiveness of this strategy as a presidential candidate who only governs for four years, and needs to explain this complex strategy to 200 million people. Conceding to shouting one-liners and emotional presentations is a lot more attractive. And that is what a lot of politicians do.

And it works! Why? Because politicians spend a lot of money understanding us, human beings, how to make our clock tick in their direction and how to tap in to our irrationality. So in this beautiful democracy, who is influencing who? Politicians know; attack is the best defense. And then, even more so: how much money and time have you recently invested in figuring out how to influence politics?

Flaws

However, this does not only apply to Brazil, but to the U.S. and the Netherlands as well. Right there, we have a couple of essential flaws to the system. A 4 year period is too short to get something done for real, and every election campaign turns into a popularity contest – not a contest of the best ideas to resolve present issues. In Brazil popularity revolves around the subject violence, in the US around Mexican immigrants and terrorism, and in the Netherlands around refugees. On top of that all, by ways of the democratic system it is impossible to take every inhabitant of a country into account for any politician, regardless of which of these countries you visit.

Democracy is so overrated.

Frank Underwood (House of Cards)

I love how the Netflix hit-series House of Cards portrays the workings of politics and of democracy in this case. An interplay between dealing in favors behind the cameras, and figuring out how to make the voter do you what you want when you are in front of the camera. Even though, large parts of the series could be perceived as exaggerated, The Guardian Australia’s Political Editor, confirms the deal-making culture that is highly influenced by third party interests. A useful thing to keep in mind: politics is influenced by third party interests.

Since we have been scared by the alternatives to democracy everyone keeps discussing left, right, and center instead of if democracy, or politics is the best way to govern a country at all.

Transcending Democracy and Political Decision Taking

Transcending this discussion of left, right, and center has direct implications for your life. Are you going to wait until the party that verbalizes your desires best before you can live the way you want? Or, are you going to turn that around?

Politics will never be a solution, and because it is a glorified popularity contest to begin with, the topics you think important are nothing more than a trigger to acquire votes. Whatever subject makes it into the debates of politicians will never be what it was before. It doesn’t matter what happens with it, as long as it gains votes.

woman-protester

Error 155: Democracy not found

Topics to consider in this case are drugs, terrorism, Islam, refugees, guns, and abortion. These topics are present in politics across the entire planet, but when being spoken about them, how much of it is about understanding the problem, and solving it thereafter, and how much is about votes and popularity?

The moment these subjects enter the realm of politicians, information gets disguised, twisted and abused all to acquire votes. Drug laws resemble political views not actual science, otherwise alcohol would have been illegal before LSD, mushrooms, weed, amphetamines, and cocaine. If laws on terrorism would be rational than they would be far less important than fighting diabetes and hearts disease. The former “only” cost around 25.000 lives in 2016 (as published on Satistica), where diabetes and hearts disease, according to the World Health Organization, takes 18.3 MILLION lives every year. Both of the diseases are preventable in 99.9% of the cases.

A small example of what happens to subjects once they become a political theme. I am by no means arguing to abandon the current systems (before we have an alternative). However, at the very least you should be aware of the real value of what is being discussed. As with all things, if you want to make a decision that works for you and not what works for somebody else; educate yourself and never stop questioning.

How To Deal With Your Automatic Self When Trying To Change

The ambiguity effect suggests that people prefer to choose an option with a known probability of a favorable outcome over an option where the probability is unknown

As I recently moved to Brazil I was confronted again and again, with what is called the Ambiguity Effect. It states that people tend to favor decisions where the odds are known. When you are unaware of this tendency it is likely that you stick to a vicious circle leading to nothing but the familiar. In my case, as everything was new, I got stuck plenty of times. In your case, if you finally have decided to change something in your life, you might still choose the non-disruptive way, not because it is the best decision, but because it feels safe. I believe it is time to enter the world of the unknown.

Cognitive Bias

Cognitive biases could be described system failures in our human reasoning. Where a rational form of reasoning is usually preferred, cognitive biases make us believe we are rational when we are not. The ambiguity effect is one of them.

This one is particularly interesting because to get anywhere in life there are plenty of moments you will need to deal with unfamiliar situations. When your mind is screaming for familiarity and comfort, you should actually go where you feel the most resistance. Even when anything from a red head to vomiting proves your hardship.

Slightly kidding there, though it is essential for any change to happen to do what you didn’t do before. Nevertheless, the world the average western citizen lives in, there seems to be so much to lose that there is always a reason to choose the familiar path.

Educate Yourself

Regardless of what you think you might lose, I know the first step to beat this paradox is to get familiar with the unknown. Educate yourself on subjects that are relevant to what you want to do different, talk or look up people online that are in similar situations like you, and start questioning everything you assume normal. All of this information will enable you to shed a little more light in the darkness ahead.

Obvious as this advice may seem, the more contradictory the decision you want to make in your life, the more paralyzing the ambiguity effect can be.

You’d better remember at this moment then, that there are 7 billion people living on this planet. It’s therefore almost impossible that what you want to do hasn’t been done before. The trick is to filter all the information that is at your disposal and you might realize that this is a non-argument.

Until the same source of information gives you arguments that justify your paralysis, and you’re back at the beginning.

Get Familiar With the Process and Fail More

The clue therefore doesn’t lie in acquiring the relevant information, but in getting familiar with the process itself.

As soon as you start trying to realize a lifestyle according to your rules you are bound to fail. And to be honest, the sooner the better. The more you fail the more you will learn, and the sooner you will get it right.

Another thing to remember is that as soon as the ambiguity effect starts strangling your existence – that even though you don’t see it right now – when you make a decision other opportunities will arise. After however, not before you have made that decision.

Dealing With Ambiguity

I recently gave up on validating my physical therapy diploma in Brazil. I had a hard time finding the right phone numbers of the person responsible in this process. My previous experiences with Brazilian bureaucracy, the unclear requirements for the necessary documentation, and the fact that every single person I reached on the phone didn’t really know what I was talking about. I gave into the ambiguity.

When I tried again later on, I knew what was coming and wasn’t set back by the chaos of not knowing as much. I found the right phone number, reached the right person in two calls and a couple of hours later I was sitting at his desk. He was kind and forthcoming, and explained exactly how and what I had to do.

On a similar note people tend to conceive my dietary choice as restricting. Since I aim to eat a whole foods plant-based diet, I avoid all animal products and if possible processed food. Go into the average kitchen and there will be little left to eat. However, as soon as you look through my eyes you will notice the abundance of food and combinations available.

Not before you have deliberately chosen a direction, you will become aware of new opportunities.

roadsign-in-snow

I believe it is essential to realize that you never know all the parts that make up a decision, and that past experiences are usually far from sufficient to provide a solid foundation for future decisions. The only way to figure out what works, is to try, fail, learn, and try again.

Is There Another Way To Live Life?

Retirement is Worst-Case-Scenario Insurance.

Tim Ferris

I read Tim Ferris’ book The Four Hour Workweek, which turned out to be a conflicting experience. Only until the very last pages I realized why this book provoked this sentiment in me. In there he provides his perspective on the regular 9-5 work structure, and the knowledge and tools to get away from that.

Mobility

The single most important tool in this process, he argues, is mobility. The ability to generate income from anywhere you want. If you are an employee this ideally means “working from home”. When you have your own business, the trick is to create a product or service that can be offered online. Finally, another fully explored option in the book is to fully automatize your company, if it’s not suitable for the internet.

Anyway, all well so far, the thing is though that mister Ferris earned 5 figures a month on the time of writing that book. Easy talking for him right?

I don’t think so. The fact that he earns a lot of money does not mean, that money is the only tool to get what you “want”. If you want to be a millionaire it’s probably not because of all the paper you can now stuff your mattress with, but the possibilities that come as a consequence.

The 80-20 Principle

It is nice therefore, that money is not the only way to get those things. When you work from 9-5, there is a high chance that what you are doing could be done in a lot less time. The 80-20 Principle, striking similarities to Matthews Law that I mentioned in another blog, was introduced by economist Vilfredo Pareto. It dictates that 80% of the output gets generated by 20% of the input.

80% of consequences result from 20% of the causes, 80% of the results from 20% of effort and time, 80% of a company’s revenue will be generated by 20% of the products and customers, and 20% of the people have 80% of the financial capacity. This list is endless and encompasses even your clothes. 80% of the time you wear 20% of what’s in your wardrobe. The division is often more extreme than it is less, 85-15 or 90-10 is not uncommon. So when we talk about your clothes for example, why would you hold on to that 80 percent? And why should you engage in that 80% of work that only generates 20% more output?

Even though, it seems counter intuitive, give it a try. Show your boss, professor, or most importantly yourself, what quality you can provide in 20% of the time. Nobody will probably notice, because the fine tuning you do for 80% of the time usually does not create anything of value.

When you redesign your life this way, you are already getting closer to living like a millionaire right? And you haven’t earned a penny more than before!

Retirement

Then, for a couple of years already I have been wondering about the value of retirement.

old-couple-on-porch
Why wait until your retirement?

Why the hell should I wait until I am 65 to have all the time in the world to do everything I have been wanting to do for 40 years?

Only if you believe that money is an end-goal and security isn’t a sensation but an externally acquirable object, retirement is for you.

I conceive money as a tool, and security as a sensation that doesn’t depend on money. Then how does retirement still make sense? Only if you don’t like your job. When you consider this information, and The Four Hour Workweek gives you plenty ideas and insights on how to do this, there are plenty possibilities to start doing the things you want now.

Those three months turned into 15, and I started to ask myself, “Why not take the usual 20-30 year retirement and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving all for the end?

Tim Ferris

To me, it doesn’t make sense to wait to go rock climbing when you are seventy, start learning a new language when you can only use it for 10 more years, or start hanging out with your family when you can’t lift your children up anymore. Why not start now?

What The Four Hour Workweek Did With Me

I find that the book does a great job putting these decisions in your face. However, it might just be that you are happy where you are, right?

If yes, that’s amazing. I wasn’t sure while reading. I was continuously imagining living in Thailand. I would take a sabbatical, find an opportunity to create some small revenue online, and take up mini-pensions every two years. I felt increasingly conflicted and unhappy with my current situation.

A day later I was walking back home after stopping by the supermarket. I was carrying two backpacks on my back and stomach, full of groceries, wearing my sunglasses even though sun was down. Overthinking the book, I realized: I already live this life. I don’t know if there was anybody watching me but it must have been funny to see a tall gringo, with two backpacks, and sunglasses, laughing like a maniac.

Where Tim Ferris calls it The Four Hour Workweek, I call it living an authentic life, true to your desires. In both cases the lifestyle design is the process to realize evermore of the way of life you want to live. I know that it helps immensely to expand your knowledge, see how others write the rules to their life, and understand your own reasons for working and motivations in life. After reading this book, I realized that that is what this blog is about. I am happy to have figured that out after 9 months!

 

 

Are You Feeling the Vibe?

The Law of Vibration states that anything that exists in our universe, whether seen or unseen, broken down into and analyzed in it’s purest and most basic form, consists of pure energy or light which resonates and exists as a vibratory frequency or pattern.

This one is for all the die-hard materialists out there. Turns out with the recent developments in quantum physics (the study of small particles) that everything in its smallest form is immaterial. Chairs, like cars, bricks, the road, noise, visual images and your thoughts, are all in its essence, vibration.

This vibration travels in waves. As waves are the direction of, for example sound, the vibration is the proof that the wave is there. When this wave reaches our ears, this input gets processed by our brain into something we could consider as music. Even though everything is fundamentally vibration, there are differences in frequencies. Because of these variations we are able to discriminate a chair from a table, and our mother from our father.

Furthermore, the brain not only processes waves, it vibrates by itself as well. The thoughts that pass through are vibration, just like the emotions and states of mind that are experienced as a consequence.

Taking this a step further, you might have noticed how when you feel good, good things happen more often. All of a sudden you find a job, meet your partner, and you lose weight. There is a law that I believe can be applied to this phenomenon. It’s called the Matthew Principle. It dictates the following: “to every one who has, will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” This quote comes from the Bible, as Matthew was one of Jesus’ disciples. The easy version of this law is “the richer get richer and the poorer get poorer.”

This law applies to economics, status, and fame. Once you have more, you get more.

stars
The bigger the star, the more matter it attracts

However, it seems that this could be a universal law. When you look at the population of

cities (a very small number have almost all the people), the frequency of words in language (90% of communication occurs using just 500 words), and the mass of heavenly bodies (the bigger the star the more matter it attracts). I wonder therefore, could this also apply to vibration?

 

I wonder therefore, could this also apply to vibration?

Negative thought processes attract more negativity. Pain feels worse, and your self image gets darker and darker. On the other hand positive thoughts, produce positive emotions, make you feel good, relax your body and increase your self image.

We measure the body according to centimeters, kilograms and things like kilo joul, even though its essential make up is made of the same things as our thoughts. Therefore, borders only exist in the reality as we create it today. It is way more subtle and sensitive than “a centimeter” or a “kilogram”. Therefore, subtle changes affect a lot more than we can perceive with our senses. Being grateful, acts of kindness, eating healthier, drinking more water and working on relaxation literally changes your vibe.

If you reinforce this pattern you will, I believe according to Matthews Principle, attract more positive vibrations, coming at a lower investment.

So, does this mean that by aligning your thoughts and drinking more water, that you will be invincible? It might, or not. However, the clue is to stop seeing cancer as something different than your thoughts, and the way you walk as something different than the way you talk. Applying this knowledge into your all day everyday would mean that you take care of your rest, sleep enough, drink enough, stress less, eat well, move often, and keep a positive mental attitude. Because, the accumulative effort will make a difference.

Even if you are skeptical about this idea, if you take care of your self in the above mentioned ways you are raising your vibe. If you are aiming for it or not. There are a million ways to address things, but you have to figure out what works for you. Nevertheless, when you feel the vibe, you might notice that everything is connected.

August in the Rear Mirror

I decided that, from now on, I will provide an overview at the end of each month of that months’ blog posts. This particular series I named “in the Rear Mirror”. For me this is an opportunity to have another look at what I put out, and for you to catch up if you missed one. August this year was the first time I celebrated my birthday in winter, also it was up to my birthday overseen by mercury retrograde, this is the time that is characterized by miscommunication. So let’s see, if I got the message across this month.


How To Tweak Your Environment To Live Longer and Healthier

nonebluezone

In the first blog post of August, I take you through the fascinating results derived from studying the Blue Zones. I already introduced them extensively in an earlier blog post. These geographical areas are where the people get the oldest and are among the happiest in the world.

Most interestingly nobody tries to get old there. They just get old, because their environment provokes healthy behavior. I show how I integrate this knowledge into my daily life, and I provide tips and tricks to change your own environment. Among them are; hanging a bar, to hang on, in an obvious place in your house, getting off the bus one stop to early to walk more, and to use the bathroom farthest away from you at work. If you want more tricks, click here.


3 Ways To Know You Are Getting Sick, and 3 Ways To Counter Them

waterfallman

In this post I gave three examples of how you can figure out you are getting sick without consulting a healthcare professional. First, your resting heart rate, a deviation of more or less than 3 from the norm should inform you that something is going on under the hood. Then, being aware of your gut is another powerful tool to check your health. Weird gut feelings, feeling full without eating, or hungry after eating a lot might indicate that your immune system is busy fighting something. Last, I think it is important to be aware of what you did the previous days, weeks, and months perhaps. This might tell you a lot about your state of being today.

To prevent you from getting sick I argue that rest is the strongest medicine, also I give a recipe for my Kill-the-Cold-Cocktail, and how you should respond to the why and not the what of you getting sick.


Why It Is Good To Feel Bad

blowingsmoke

Inspired by reading Jordan Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos I explore why I believe it is good to to feel bad.

The general perception is that feeling bad is something bad, where feeling good is something good.

This duality of things only exists as our perception of these feelings. All by themselves they are not good or bad. To feel bad is good because it allows you to learn form these experiences. Negative emotions pull you into the present and force you to deal with them.

When you run away their calling will only get stronger. It is necessary to feel bad to feel good, and labeling emotions as good or bad does not help this case. All of them are emotions, and all of them are equally valuable.

twentyseven

In this blog post that I published closely after celebrating my 27th birthday, I reflect on what I learned in all this time roaming the planet.

During this time I experienced a variety of cultures, and I lived and worked with wide ranging personalities that all left an impression on me.

The first lesson is that I laugh when I don’t understand. I elaborate on how psychological defense mechanisms are deeply wired into our system and occur, often not on purpose, in any given situation is stressful. Understanding this mechanism taught me about me, and helps me understand others.

Next up, Ilearn easily, but only under the right conditions. Without motivation there is no need for me to start. After doubling a couple of years in high-school, quitting a bachelor and partying a lot, I learned along the way what my learning style is. If you didn’t figure this out yet, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn.

Finally, I belief that bad people don’t exist. We are the accumulation of our past experiences, however, we are not these experiences themselves.


How Culture Alters Your Brain

Paintedman

In the final blog post of this month I dove into the implications culture has for the wiring of our brains.

It is paradoxical because culture is the creation of our collective brainpower. Or as Mahatma Gandhi said: “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”

How Culture Alters Your Brain

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.

Mahatma Gandhi

With it’s many aspects culture might seem like a fixed upon itself standing phenomenon. It is not what it looks like though. Culture would not exist without our collective belief. To grow up in a certain place you become part of a culture, not because you chose this, but because everybody in your environment is living this way. If you want it or not, your entire life is interconnected with this creation.

Another way to look at it, is to imagine you are a mirror and culture is a giant painting. The more you walk in front of it, the more will stick to your mirror. You become increasingly a reflection of the paining, and eventually it does not matter anymore if the painting is around or not, for you to reflect it.

However, if your parents have different values than the world around you and raise you their way, conflict can occur. I both experienced this with clients who fled their country as a consequence of political instability, but also when I was traveling myself.

In this case the way I was brought up did not fit my new environment and consequently made me question both the (new) world around me, just as much reflecting on where I come from. I remember when I went to Palestine for an internship. I found it intensely annoying when there were moments I literally had nothing to do until the moment I had to do everything at once. This felt so inefficient and did not agree with the idea of time and planning that I grew up with. Similarly, I now live in Brazil where time also has a different meaning, and to make an appointment doesn’t necessarily mean that you made it.

In the following research you can see how profoundly culture affects our brain. Researchers found fascinating differences between native Chinese, and native English speakers. They looked at what parts of the brain showed activity when native Chinese speakers solved the same mathematical formula as native English speakers. They found that when the Chinese solved the formula there was more activity in the areas connected with visual and movement information. Whereas in the case of the English speakers, there was more activity in the sound and language areas. An explanation might be that in the Chinese language there is more emphasis on images and writing, and in the English language more on language processing and verbal information.

Thus, it seems that culture literally affects the way we are programmed. Nevertheless, at the same time it cannot exist without our collective belief. This does mean then, that culture can change. Since it is the result of many people believing it, it will only change when a tipping point is reached. When one person stops believing the status quo, nothing will happen. When one fourth of the population starts perceiving it’s culture differently, things are bound to shift.

This rigidity can be found in the way women still receive less salary than man in western Europe. Even though, it is generally accepted that there is no reason for them to be payed unequally. This form of underpayment is a consequence of beliefs held tens of years ago. Nowadays, the majority of people belief differently, still the fact that this idea was a basic part of yesterdays culture makes it hard to erase within a decade. Only when the old generation of beliefs disappear, new ideas can settle in.

Another example of this are (old) taboos like having sex before marriage, or not marrying at all, even though you are together with somebody for a long time. In Bolivia for example, I was told that these are taboos, where in the Netherlands both are perceived as normal. As a consequence, somebody thinking about not marrying in Bolivia might feel ashamed or frustrated, where in the Netherlands a person contemplating the same thought might experience nothing different than when he or she thinks of coffee.

saltflats
The amazing salt flats in Uyuni, Bolivia. Also the country, where it is a taboo not to marry when you stay together with someone.

I believe it important to know that the connections between our thoughts, emotions, behavior, and culture are inevitable. Or like Mahatma Gandhi said: “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” Then, when you are aware of the subjectivity of culture, you have the opportunity to revalue any concept that is part of it.