Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled Volume 1 by Zero Dean
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Setting the table of your life.

“Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is, in fact, the reservoir of infinite possibilities.” — D.T. Suzuki

Aristotle once said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” I’d like to suggest that human nature does, too.

Isn’t it true that whenever many of us see an absence of something in our personal environment or our lives — and we have the means to fill it — we often do so reflexively?

We just see a space and decide that something needs to be there.

“That table needs a plant.” “That room needs a rug.” “That wall needs a picture.”

Not only are our outer environments filling up with more and more of the sort of “stuff” that we don’t necessarily need, our inner environments are, too.

How often — when we find ourselves without something we want in life — do we automatically (and perhaps unconsciously) fill that “void” with a sense of “lack” or “negativity”?

And sometimes that negativity manifests itself as a bad habit or a reflexive negative thought process? (At least until you’ve retrained your brain)

Have you ever witnessed or experienced something along the lines of:

“I didn’t get what I wanted! That stinks! I never get what I want — and this is just more proof of that.”

Or…

“I didn’t get what I wanted — or what I wanted didn’t happen — so it doesn’t matter what I do! I might as well just [ insert some potentially harmful or high-risk activity ]!”

Our tendency to do and think things like this has the potential to make things worse by not creating (or allowing) the type of environment where the kinds of things we want in our lives feel “welcome” (or are attracted enough) to appear.

For example, if you’ve been single for a while, you may begin to lose hope that you’ll ever find the person you’re searching for (or that they’ll find you). So perhaps you get a little bitter or it makes you sad when you see other couples together. Or maybe just frustrated.

However these negative thoughts & feelings manifest themselves in your life, it not only doesn’t solve your “problem”, it doesn’t project the kind of message that makes you attractive to whatever it is you strive for.

It’s almost like we react to things in a way that puts a sign over our head that says: “Sad, bitter, and frustrated person here! Do not approach!”

When, instead, the message we most likely want to convey with our being is: “Kind and loving individual ready for love! Welcome!”

As such, it’s important to make sure that whatever message you are projecting to the world is congruent with the message you wish to express.

If you want more positive things in your life — losing hope that you’ll ever get them and becoming bitter or negative is self-defeating. Rather than leave yourself open to infinite possibilities, filling this formerly “available space” with negativity makes it much more difficult for something positive to come along and take up residency.

Perhaps it’s time to take inventory in your life.

Are you holding onto tired old thoughts or negative feelings that are keeping other positive thoughts, feelings, and possibilities from feeling welcome?

This is old baggage and you don’t need it.

Holding onto baggage any longer than is necessary for you to “process” and learn from it means that it’s simply sitting there taking up the space that positive stuff might if it had the room.

The moment you begin to ditch the negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions in your life is the moment you begin to leave room for positive ones.

Perhaps it helps if you think of it as setting the table of your life:

Imagine you’re sitting at the head of a large table. Nearly all of the chairs are filled. You have some great “guests” — whom you adore. And this is exactly what you want!

But you’ve also got a few that you just sort of found back when you had a lot of empty seats — and so you figured it’d be better to fill your seats than leave them vacant. And now these guests just sit there at your table — gloomy and depressed.

And every now and then one of them does or says something that is completely counter to the mood and environment that you’re trying to create.

No one really wants to associate with these guests. And no one who’s sitting at your table really knows why they are there. But they’re your guests — and it’s easy enough to ignore them most of the time — so no one says anything.

You don’t particularly like these negative guests, but since you’ve always had a few empty seats, you’ve never thought about asking them to leave because who wants to have a “party” with only a few guests and a lot of empty seats.

You’d love to fill these empty seats with more of the types of guests you adore, but it becomes clear that no one else wants to join you at your table because your unwelcome guests are creating an unattractive atmosphere.

So how do you solve this problem?

Well, as Robert Tew says, “Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.”

Keep the guests you adore, but give your unwelcome guests the boot.

Retire your tired old thoughts and feelings. “Reset your table” and then resist the urge to fill the empty spaces.

In time, with your positive guests in place and your negative guests gone,  the magnetic nature of the empty seats — and your refreshed attitude — will naturally attract more of the types guests you want in your life.

In other words:

Create an environment in yourself and your life where good things feel welcome, and good things will come.

“In many a piece of music, it’s the pause or the rest that gives the piece its beauty and its shape. And I know I, as a writer, will often try to include a lot of empty space on the page so that the reader can complete my thoughts and sentences and so that her imagination has room to breathe.” — Pico Iyer

“Become totally empty. Quiet the restlessness of the mind. Only then will you witness everything unfolding from emptiness.” –Lao Tzu

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” — Rumi

Related:

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"Create an environment in yourself and your life where good things feel welcome, and good things will come."

Your voice is a choice. Always.

It is sometimes important to remember that we are not only responsible for what we say when we speak, we are also responsible for how we say it.

The volume at which one says things and the tone in which they say them are always controlled by the individual.

Your voice is always a choice.

Related:

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You may not always know what to do, but you can always choose…

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You may not always know what to do, but you can always choose the type of person you want to be.

Related:

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Don’t let what you can’t do stand in the way of what you can do.

Always remember that you may not be able to do everything, but you can always do something.

Whenever you catch yourself focusing on a problem or obstacle (which is discouraging), remember to turn your attention to possible solutions (which is encouraging).

While immediate solutions may not come to mind, you can aid yourself in the process by using the awesome power of asking yourself good questions and letting your subconscious guide you.

Don’t let what you can’t do stand in the way of what you can do.

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Goal setting and breaking the “I can’t” excuse addiction

We, as a society, are addicted to the word “can’t.”

“I can’t [change something I want to change about myself] for the better.”
“I can’t quit [this habit].”
“I tried, I just can’t.”
“I can’t. It’s just not in my nature.”
“I can’t — I’m just not good enough.”

But there is a big difference between “I can’t” and “It just isn’t a high priority”.

When a person says, “I can’t”, it means they are incapable of doing something.

It does not mean, “I don’t want to.”
It does not mean, “I just don’t have time.”
It does not mean, “I don’t want to work to accomplish something.”

What many people actually mean when they use the word “can’t” is “it just isn’t a high priority.”

Before you say, “I can’t” or resolve to tell yourself, “I tried, I just couldn’t” — consider the following…

  • How educated did you become regarding the aspect of the goal you wanted to achieve?

Sometimes all we need to achieve our goals is a bit more information about whatever it is we want to achieve.

Consider this: If someone tasked you with climbing a cliff — and you knew nothing about rock climbing — how could you possibly expect to smoothly accomplish your goal by learning from as-you-go experience alone?

  • Did you acquire the resources necessary to help you achieve your goal?

Sometimes we have all the information we need to achieve our goal, but we fail to take the steps necessary to acquire the resources necessary to do so.

Consider this: This is like having the information necessary to climb a cliff, but failing to acquire the equipment (climbing gear) necessary to make your task easier.

  • How motivated were you to meet your goal? How was this reflected in your life?
  • Was your goal a high priority?
  • If your goal was a high priority, how was this reflected in your life?
  • Did you list the upsides of meeting your goal and the downsides if you didn’t?

Without proper motivation, even the simplest tasks can feel like a burden. We tend to lower the priority of those things which we feel less motivated to do — and raise the priority of those things we want to do.

When seeking to accomplish a goal, it is important to have the motivation necessary to see you through to the end of that goal. Always be aware of the benefits of achieving your goal and the downsides if you don’t.

Consider this: If your life — or the life of a loved one — depended on you climbing a cliff, your motivation to climb the cliff would be much stronger knowing a life was in the balance than if you saw no reward or benefit for climbing a cliff. Motivation matters!

  • Did you write down your goal?

It is a fact that writing down your goals enhances goal achievement. The question is, if it’s so easy to do and has been shown to have a dramatic positive effect on goal achievement, why would you not write down your goal?

  • Was your goal measurable?
  • Did you track your progress to achieving your goal?
  • Did you focus on how much progress you made vs. how far you had to go?

If your goal isn’t measurable, then it is too abstract to be called a goal. Anything you expect to accomplish must be able to be broken down into measurable tasks.

It is a fact that those who break down their goals into achievable tasks — and then track their progress towards reaching their goals are more likely to accomplish those goals than those who don’t. So the question again is, why wouldn’t you?

  • How many attempts did you make to achieve your goal? Did you simply try once and decide you couldn’t do it?
  • How many different things did you try before you gave up?
  • How many days, months, years did you work at it?

This is self-explanatory. Making a single attempt at accomplishing a goal and then giving up, would be like telling your friends that your child will never walk because they tried once and failed.

  • Did you have a support system in place or sources of encouragement?
  • Did anyone know you were trying to make the change?

Depending on the nature of your goal, there are times that having a support system in place can greatly enhance the likelihood of you achieving your goal. Not only does this help provide motivation, but it can also make you accountable for the things you say you are going to do.

In summary:

If you didn’t put much effort into these things before you declared, “I can’t”, it’s NOT that you can’t — it’s that you didn’t want to.

Your life is a reflection of your priorities. There is a big difference, “I can’t” and “It just isn’t a high priority.”

Did you really make an effort to achieve your goal? Can you answer yes to most of the following statements?

The breaking the “I can’t” excuse addiction checklist:

  • I educated myself to the best of my ability regarding my goal.
  • I acquired the resources necessary to help me achieve my goal.
  • I was highly motivated and this was reflected in my life in a number of ways.
  • My goal was a high priority and this reflected in your life in a number of ways.
  • I wrote down my goal.
  • My goal was measurable in some way.
  • I tracked my progress towards achieving my goal.
  • I focused on the progress I made rather than on how much further I had to go.
  • I listed the upsides of achieving my goal and the downsides of not.
  • I made a number of attempts towards achieving my goal.
  • I tried everything I could think of to achieve my goal.
  • I worked at my goal for as long as it was necessary to accomplish.
  • I had a healthy support system in place and sources of encouragment.
  • People were aware of my desire to achieve this goal.

If you can’t say “yes” — with confidence and brutal honesty — to the majority of the items on this list, then you are likely using “I can’t” as an excuse.

If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it isn’t, you’ll find an excuse.

See also: What I’ve learned about achieving personal goals

Related:

Live with intention. Every day.

Live with intention. Every day.

Live with intention. Every day.

Related:

‘If Plan A doesn’t work out…’

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If “Plan A” doesn’t work, don’t worry, you still have 25 letters left.

Not helpful!

The truth is, you don’t always get a 2nd chance, let alone a 3rd. But every mistake or failure provides valuable lessons to learn from.

  • Re-think where it went wrong
  • Seek help where you need it, and
  • Take everything you learned from the experience and use it to strategize a new plan for success.

What stress is caused by and why you should give a damn

There’s a message being spread all over social networks. It sounds something like this:

“Stress is caused by giving a f*ck.” or “The less you give a damn, the happier you will be.”

These statements are misleading, at best — and, at worst, simply false.

With regard to the first:

Stress is not caused by giving a f*ck. Stress is caused by trying to have power over things that are beyond your control. There’s a difference.

The act of saying “F*ck it, I don’t care!” is simply an acceptance that you are no longer going to try to change something that you couldn’t control anyway.

It’s not the caring that’s the problem, it’s a problem with misdirected focus and an emotional attachment to an outcome you had no power over.

It’s like worrying — the mental process of worrying about something accomplishes nothing.

“We have a saying in Tibet: If a problem can be solved there is no use worrying about it. If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.” — Dalai Lama

It is the same with trying to have power over things you cannot control. If you have no power over something, there is no use trying to control it.

To encourage people to not care about things is a step in the wrong direction. The world doesn’t need more people who don’t give a f*ck — or people who sit by and do nothing when they have a chance to make a positive difference. We already have those in abundance.

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” – Steve Maraboli

The fact is that a lack of caring, a lack of focus, a lack of priorities, and a lack of positive role models are reasons why the world is in the state that it’s in.

The world needs more people who do care — and care passionately about the things that matter. But by focusing only on the things that are within our power to change.

This is done, in part, by making a concerted effort to focus on solutions and progress and not in simply sharing problems and leaving them for someone else to take care of.

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” — Kahlil Gibran

To glorify an “I don’t give a f*ck” attitude is, in a way, a declaration that you will stand idly by and not give a damn when something happens in your life — or in the life of someone you care about — and when you have the power to make a positive difference, you will choose not to because, “Hey, [you] don’t give a f*ck!”, remember?

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” — Albert Einstein

“But I don’t mean it that way”, you say. And if you don’t, great.

But I am speaking specifically to these two self-contained statements (being glorified on the Internet) which seem to imply that giving a f*ck or a damn (about anything) is the problem:

  • “Stress is caused by giving a f*ck.”
  • “The less you give a damn, the happier you will be.”

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero DeanWe should not be encouraging ourselves or others not to care or give a damn.

We should resist becoming hard or bitter or creating the expectation in our children that the world is a cold and hostile one in which to live.

We should be encouraging people to care — and educating people on how to do so effectively — and teaching our children to be the change they wish to see in the world.

“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” — L.R. Knost

We must learn to let go of those things we have no control over and focus on what we can do. Remember not let the things you can’t control stand in the way of what you can.

“Let go or be dragged.” — Zen Proverb

With regard to the second statement about not giving a damn:

It would be more accurate to say,

  • The less you fear what people think of you — or let it bother you – the happier you will be.
  • The less you compare yourself to others, the happier you will be.
  • The more you are your authentic self — and don’t seek the approval of others — the happier you will be.
  • The more you focus on the things you can control in your life (such as yourself and your emotions), and not trying to control the things you cannot (such as other people), the happier you will be.

Inner Peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.

To think that happiness comes from not caring about external factors is to confuse where happiness comes from — which is from within. As I’ve said before, don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket.

“Happiness comes from within. It is not dependent on external things or on other people. You become vulnerable and can be easily hurt when your feelings of security and happiness depend on the behavior and actions of other people. Never give your power to anyone else.” — Brian L. Weiss

Simply not giving a damn about anything is a very blah and mundane way to live life. You can’t live life to the fullest without passion — and passion is caring.

“Happiness comes from within and is found in the present moment by making peace with the past and looking forward to the future.” — Doe Zantamata

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” — Leonardo da Vinci

Related:

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I don’t like pop-ups. But the fact is, they get people’s attention. And here’s the deal, I want your email address. But rather than put a form here that 99.9% of people ignore, I want to provide you with a link that tells you exactly why I want your email address.

I promise it’s not a waste of your time. But if you suspect it is, I get it. (I’ve been tricked before, too).