The Secret Behind Your Addiction to Fitting In

addiction

It happens fast.

You don’t even realize that you are becoming addicted.  One puff at a party. “Hey bro, you sure you want to take that job? You got a good thing going.”  Another puff at the gym before changing the topic. “Why are you reading that stuff? Trust me that’s not going to get you any ladies.” Two more puffs on the court as you toss your journal into the bottom of your bag. “This? Oh, it’s nothing, some random ideas. Nothing important.”  Puff, puff, pass.

By graduation, you don’t even realize what has happened to you. “I don’t know what you’re talking about bro.  I don’t cry. That definitely wasn’t me.”

The crazy thing is, the warning signs were always there.  Some of your teachers and friends talked about it in class.  Something about fear and vulnerability.  Courage and authenticity.  But you were too busy hiding.  Too focused on appearing cool and striving for popularity.  The worst part – you never even took the time to read the “surgeon general’s warning” for yourself.

Caution: Trading in your authenticity for safety may lead to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.

And now, it feels like it’s too late.  I know.

Because it happened to me.

I was addicted to fitting in.

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3 Surprising Reasons Why You Procrastinate

procrastination

I should have sent this sooner.

Instead, I procrastinated.  I put it off for another day.  Told myself it wasn’t ready yet. Determined that I needed to conduct more research.  Procrastination is something I have struggled with again and again over the years.

While there is certainly an adrenalin rush that comes from working under a deadline, I have learned that the quality of work can suffer by waiting until the last minute.  Procrastination always rears its ugly head when you think you finally have everything under control.  It’s like a pile of laundry in the bottom of the hamper that slowly climbs to the top before hopping out onto the floor in excitement.

Maybe you have experienced it too.

You write down a list of goals for the day, but by 5 p.m. nothing has been accomplished.  You keep putting off that trip to the doctor or that repair to your bike. Another day skipping the gym won’t hurt, right?  You even put off small things, like deleting unnecessary emails or returning voice messages on your phone.

Why does this happen?

I am on a mission to figure this out, or at the very least, understand why we procrastinate and identify how to develop stronger and more lasting habits.  This will be a learning experience.

Here are some strategies I have uncovered so far.

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What I’ve Been Reading: 5 Book Recommendations for April

bookshelf

I always try to mix it up.

I enjoy non-fiction books that use behavioral science to explore why we do the things we do, how people develop good (and bad) habits, why some individuals are more creative than others and how great companies are shaped and molded.  I also love fiction.  Stories that are not only fun and exciting, but also dive into the raw human experience and allow readers to watch a character grow by navigating a challenging experience.

I typically read about 4-5 books at the same time, probably because I enjoy thinking about the interconnections between disparate stories and ideas.  It’s always refreshing to finish a few volumes at the end of the month and begin the cycle once again.  I always learn something new, both about the world and myself.

But it can be difficult to find good books.  You might feel that way too.  That is why I only recommend the very best books I have read in the past few weeks.  So, here are 5 great books to consider for April.

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Trapped in a cave with colored pencils

inside cave
1.

i have convinced myself
it’s not worth it to dream anymore,
instead i sleep walk into a heavy darkness,
each valve in this chamber pumping with visions
i dreamed long ago, shadows dancing furtively
along the walls of this cave oozing bloodstained
stories, they captivate me in this hiding place,
a cave built just for me, they say we need it
to survive, here i remain casting names
upon shadows of a me that never was,
sometime i think it’s better this way,
at least then i always know how
all the stories will end

show them what you see inside
your heart, she says

2.

but it’s lonely here,
sometimes when i am alone
i listen to my heart beat like a boy
navigating the contours of a war zone
with nothing but a drum, no wonder
these dreams feel so weak, beating hopelessly
inside these walls, a ticking time bomb stitched
inside the mouth of a caged bird who cries
sparks of inspiration, see no one hears you
when dreams explode inside like bombs,
it’s too loud outside and lights are dim,
that’s why no one sees me beating
inside this cave, no one hears me
but me

they don’t speak your language
she says, but keep hope alive

3.

i wonder sometimes if hope
beating inside my heart is crying
for help, a part of me trapped inside
caged memories wrapped in thorny words
that cut too deep, begging to be unchained
before the last glint of light in this chamber
disappears along with my inspiration
like that time Henry flushed my
drawings down the toilet

i’ll never forget what it feels like
to watch your dreams melt away

4.

hope pounds the hardest
when i get nervous, maybe
then he knows he has a chance,
when i’m shivering like the first show
and tell under the glare of cold criticism,
see you don’t learn how warm a mask can feel
until you begin peeling off the layers and strip
down to your nakedness, show the world
all the stories beating inside and flowing
through every chamber in your cave,
it’s hard to believe in shadows
until you learn to trust
tiny slivers of light

have faith, she tells me,
you can draw a new picture
tomorrow

5.

what will i wear today, i am
staring into a charcoal future, costumes
hang in this closet behind me like ghosts
of christmas past, bundles of faded memories
layered with frayed experiences rolling across
this floor like tumbleweeds in a dead place,
shirts stained with tears stumbling clumsily
onto the ground until a mixture of emotions
flood to the surface, see i still wear
these costumes from time to time,
like a drug addict with a dying
heartbeat chasing a quick high,
some call it acceptance, but
i could color in pastels
one day, you’ll see

your ideas are colorful, she says,
they just don’t know it yet

6.

mother always says
metal hangers have no place inside
a boy’s closet, those dirty remnants of ugly
costumes we try so hard to clean, but if you search
long enough you always find one tucked away deep
in the shadows, a sharp memory sagging like a prisoner
weighed down with a chain of regrets, curved sloping arms
pluck at our heart strings until the dying beat bellows
a painful tune, you never can get too comfortable
with metal hangers in your closet, they claw
their way to the surface, ripping through
fancy labels until nothing remains,
just a mangled and faded
bloody costume

be yourself, she says,
but i still like to pretend

sometimes

7.

i don’t want to listen to my heart
beating, perhaps one day it will stop
and i’ll sink gracefully into the silence like
a warm blanket shielding me from cold glares,
away from sharp words stabbing at the bloody walls
inside this cave, the silence guiding me into peaceful sleep
where i can dream like everyone else, but it keeps beating
and beating, reminding me that i am alive, begging me
to ride gracefully into unexplored worlds in
the front seat of imagination where pencils
craft songs that dance with the colors
in my art box, hidden in the corner
where the light falls gently
from my window
like rain drops

dinner is ready, she says
are you coloring in the closet again

no mom, i say quickly
just trying to get some sleep

i’m down here in my cave

- – -

Image Credit: This poem was inspired by original artwork created by Alex Mill before his time in the Monastery.  He now writes about the power of kindness at Kindnessville.

- – -

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Getting naked is scary. Do it anyway.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I know what your thinking.

What do you mean by “getting naked” and what’s in it for me?  But I’m not talking about shedding clothing, even though the changing weather is a gentle reminder that perhaps we all have some work to do (e.g. I’m heading to the gym this weekend).

No, what I’m talking about is much more frightening.  I am talking about vulnerability.  The fear of sharing your story and ideas with others.  Maybe you have felt that same fear too.

It’s hard to get past the crippling effects of perfectionism.  Difficult to expose your ideas and thoughts to the world.  Challenging to overcome the fear of public criticism and ultimately, terrifying to deal with your own self-doubt.

When you share your ideas, there will be critics.  And the negative feedback will hurt.

But there is a reason you should do it anyway.

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