On Progress: #zlotybaby’s Toolbox for Becoming a Better, Happier Person

better-person.jpegI’ve decided to share some tools with you that have helped me to become a better and happier person. Many of them refer directly to relationships, love and dating, others have indirectly affected these areas of my life by improving my general well-being.
I’m a voracious self-improver so be prepared for many different tools some of which are to be used once, others repetitively! I’m sure not all of them will be applicable to you because we all have different journeys but I hope some will.

Before I start I’d also like to share a general reflection on progress, which is that it’s not linear. We like to think about it in this way: I do A therefore B will happen. But this isn’t  true because many connections we make is nothing more than wishful thinking.
To give you an example, I will get in shape (= get a revenge body) and my boyfriend will get back with me isn’t a cause and effect relationship.
In fact, thinking that doing good things will always bring a (desired) result means you’ve stopped your progress as an adolescent. You can learn more from Mark Manson’s article “How to Grow Up” but in short, adults are supposed to do certain things just because they’re the right things to do, with no promise of a positive outcome.

Please don’t expect that any of these resources will change your life overnight because you can’t change your life in 30 days. It’ll help you make better choices, though and introduce small changes that’ll make your life, slowly but surely, better.

Here we go:

1. Why Men Love Bitches By Sherry Argov

Applicable to you if: your priority is pleasing men (in all ways, not only sexual) and not yourself. As a result, you’re often treated with no respect by your love interests.

#englishrosiee has written a lovely review for you already (link up there) but there’s a reason why I’ve given her this book. It made me realise at some point of my life, after many “bad boys” I’d dated, that all I was focusing on was for people/men to like me, instead of trying to find out who I am and what I like. It took me a while after reading this book to get some proper self-respect, understand myself better and stop being a walkover but this book was a mental breakthrough.

2. Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood

Applicable to you if: not only is your priority pleasing men but also “saving them”. You choose not even men who booty call you but those who booty call you to first have sex with you, then tell you about their mommy issues and then borrow some money from you.

You can read my review of this book, if you please but in short it’s a book for anyone who struggles with dating not so much bad boys but often problematic ones. If you feel like your mission is to save potheads or support your boyfriends and in a relationship you’re looking more for a project than a partner, it’s a great book to help you get over it.

3. Cardio and exercise

Applicable to you if: you don’t already exercise 5 times a week.

For general well-being and better mood I recommend cardio and exercise. Try to do it regularly and try to do it most days. Everyone’s busy but also everyone can squeeze some exercise in their routine. Moms do it, executives do it, moms who are executives do it, you can do it too.
The additional perk is that you look better and looking better is a confidence booster for dating. Already married? Your husband will appreciate it, when you stop complaining about your thunder thighs (true story!).
If you’re really short on time, exercise smarter not longer. Get a personal trainer if it’s within your budget or spend less money than on a gym membership by getting Kayla’s app.

4. Mark Manson’s blog

Applicable to you if: you want to improve your life and you don’t get all red when you hear the word f*ck.

I have a love and hate relationship with Mark. The hate is because of his books (“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” and “Everything is F*cked”) being too close to the content of his blog for some unkind thoughts not to come to my head.
The love is for the blog. There’s some great advice about happiness, self-knowledge, relationships and more there. He’s a clever guy who tells it as it is and writes in an easy pleasant way.

5. The Tim Ferris Show

Applicable to you if: you can absorb knowledge well just from listening. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

You’ll find everything on this podcast from The Erotic Playbook of a Top Earning Sex Worker through business advice and bio hacks to general life tips from wise, successful people. Listen to the ones you find applicable, skip the rest. I particularly recommend the episodes with Esther Perel (the author of “Mating in Captivity” and “The State of Affairs“), Susan Caine (the author of “Quiet. The Power of Introverts in the World That Can’t Stop Talking”) and Brene Brown (the author of many books but more importantly of one of my favourite TED talks).

6. Struggle for Intimacy by Janet Woititz

Applicable to you if: you’re a child of an alcoholic/alcoholics or come from a different kind of a dysfunctional family. Dysfunctional means lacking love and warmth, not necessarily physically abusive and/or extremely poor.

This book was published a year before I was born and yet I only discovered it in my 20s. It discusses problems children from abusive families have with intimacy that make them recreate the same patterns they know from childhood in their adult lives. Such children very often go for intensity and emotional rollercoasters rather than wholesome relations. Needless to say, you can’t have genuine love and a healthy relationship if you don’t allow intimacy to be a part of it.
If you’re wondering whether you have a problem, check out my post about Intensity Not Always Being a Good Thing.

7. TED 

Applicable to you if: you’re curious about stuff.

TED’s a great place to hear (and see) smart people talking about important topics. Happiness, love and relationships are big issues for us all, so you’ll find a lot of great advice and aha! moments there. You can also keep yourself updated on social issues, climate change and new findings.
Just be sure to have nothing planned for a few hours, when you’re going to visit the website for the first time. Knowledge is addictive!

8. Meditation

Applicable to you if: you’re not a zen master yet.

I discovered meditation many years ago but I only started to meditate daily a year ago or so. Two months ago I went to my first silent meditation retreat and it had a profound effect on how I see reality.
In short, meditation helps you focus on here and now, connect with people and listen to your inner guide more than to your external (often faulty) programming. It’s not easy in the beginning to just sit still and focus on your breath so a programme with guided meditations is a good idea. A month long one is perfect to make you to see the benefits but if you’re short on cash or stingy, you can do 10 days for free with Headspace or 15-day free meditation challenge with Vanessa Loder to have a lick of it.

9. Staying sober and nicotine free

Applicable to you if: if you’re a smoker/heavy drinker

First I went nicotine free and I noticed my anxiety, including social anxiety started to get less acute. Years after that I stopped drinking because I wasn’t controlling it that well (you can read more about that in my review of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober).
Do you think cigarettes make you calm? They don’t, they make you more anxious long-term but short-term it may seem like you’re getting a relief. With booze I suggest easing down on it to most people because, in excess it’s just not that great for your productivity, relationships and waistline. If you feel you have a drinking problem, quit.

10. “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)” by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson 

Applicable to you if: you’re human.

This is a book everyone should read. It discusses why people don’t like to admit that they’e wrong, what it leads to and how to catch ourselves out doing it. The examples include big-scale ones such as the Iraq War and Bush’s stand on it even towards the end as well as small-scale ones such as what it means for marriages. A really eye-opening read!

11. “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle

Applicable to you if: you spend a considerable amount of time in your head worrying about the past an/or the future.

If, like me, you need to understand things conceptually before you practise them, this book is a great introduction to why it matters to be in the moment (and by extension why you should practise meditation).
It’s an aha moment kind of book, particularly for those who struggle between feeling depressed about the past and worried about the future. It’s not the way to contentment, believe me or not.

12. “Your Erroneous Zones” by Wayne Dyer

Applicable to you if: you’re not perfect. So yes, everyone should read it.

This book is so charged with valuable content that it’s difficult to summarise it. In short, it gives you tools to be true to yourself and have better relationship with yourself and others. A lot of his tips are counter-intuitive so it takes a while to take them in but his perspective is mind-blowing.

13. Everything by Osho

Applicable to you if: you want to improve your life but also you’re open-minded and see past appearances.

Osho may have lost his way at some point and he did and said some terrifying things. Still, there’s a lot of wisdom in his writings on love, relationships, happiness, creativity and religion.

I think that’s it, Dear Rinsers. There certainly have been some other tools along the road but the shifts they brought may have not been powerful enough to remember them. If anything comes to my mind later on, I’ll just add it here.

Just a disclaimer before I go: I’m neither ecstatically happy all the time nor Mother Theresa. What I am is slowly and surely better and happier than I used to be. That’s all we can hope for 🙂

What are the most powerful books you’ve read in your life? What are the tools you use every day to stay happy(ish) and get better? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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4 comments

  1. Excellent post!

    I’ve meddled with mediation but it just doesn’t seem to work for me, I get the benefits in theory and it all makes sense. But when I’ve tried it, I mostly end up frustrated with nothing good to show for it. I get what you say about not always doing things that get you the desired result but I think it should always leave us better than before in some sense. I think I’ve tried all sorts of types of workout (p.s. I do not like Kayla) and diet and I’ve always had the intention of losing weight with these activities, but in most cases it didn’t have the desired effect. But still, you get stronger, better and find you can do things you never thought you could, so sure you may still be a fatty but at least you know you are fatty with the endurance to run a marathon. Maybe I just need to stick with meditation some more.

    I’ve just finished reading Big Magic. Elizabeth Gilbert’s attempt at self-help. I was actually pleasantly surprised, especially after our shared bad experience with committed. The basic gist of what she says is that we’ve all become a bit obsessed with being the best and being perfect – having followers and lots of likes, etc. So much so, that if we are afraid to do things we want to because we are afraid we won’t be good enough, compared to the rest of the world. I think social media also exacerbates things. Her solution is basically not to always do things for success or recognition, but because you enjoy it. And if the rest of the world likes what you produce, great and if they don’t at least you had fun doing it. She also says that if you get to a point where you lose your mojo for something its best to give it break or stop altogether before you lose your love for it entirely. It does get a bit airy fairy in parts but she is also quite real. She mainly talks in respect to creativity but basiically says you may not always get paid to do what you love and sometimes you need to need to have a bearable day job that allows you to live a financially stable life rather than following your dreams or waiting for the perfect opportunity to come along and ending up in debt because of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks!

      Meditation isn’t easy and like with most things you get better only by doing it. So unless you’re willing to give it a proper try and do it for 20 minutes ideally every day for a week or two, you’re unlikely to see massive change that would keep you going. It’s like you’re not going to love exercise if you’ve been a couch potato all your life after the first workout or two – you’ll just focus on other people in the class being better than you, how tough it is to exercise and your sore muscles afterwards. You need to keep at it to keep at it as tautological as it sounds.

      Perhaps I should have added eating better as one of the tools. I don’t think dieting works as such, at least not longterm. To me it’s all about changing eating habits and then when you eat well most of the time even a super-indulgence won’t change much in your body composition. Also, you feel good when you eat well and that’s something that’s very important but people forget about when chasing great looks. Some people even say that a cheat day is the way to boost your metabolism, others say it’s a myth. In any case, I don’t think that overindulging on one day is a great habit. I’ve tried it and I prefer indulge without going to town from time to time. Good diet certainly helps more than exercise but I guess the solution to a great looking and feeling body body we all aspire to is boring: eat well with rare indulgences, exercise a few times a week doing both cardio and toning, repeat until you die. Paradoxically, I feel meditation helped me with my eating habits because when you eat mindfully you tend to make more conscious choices most of the time.

      I didn’t like “Big Magic”, really because of the airy-fairy thing you mention. She makes some good points, though. In the part were she criticised people trying to make creativity be their income I felt she was being unkind, especially for someone who actually became a full-time writer when she was only moderately successful… Our creativity is more free when it doesn’t pay our bills, that’s for sure, but I think very few people actually just “follow their dreams” if they can’t pay their rent. Most stories I know are more like the stereotypical waitress trying to become an actress from “La La Land”. I like what Amanda Palmer is doing. She’s monthly crowdfunded by her fans and gets a monthly income from that so she doesn’t have to overly obsess over commercial success of her artistic ideas.

      Like

      • I feel like meditation will have to wait right now. There are too many good things I need to do in my life – running, hiking, yoga and I have a bike that is gathering dust, and then there are books, blogging and studying and so much else I can think off. Sometimes I think we are overwhelmed by all the potential good things we should be doing to help us progress in life but as you said at the start sometimes progress isn’t linear…you do something for a bit, then take a break and maybe come back to and maybe not. Still good things and good things, so even if you don’t stick at it forever I think it has its benefits.

        Wow. Imagine if we could find fans to finance our blog 😉 I have a hard time getting my family to follow me on instagram : P And I do feel if you are financially sorted (either born into money or having made it financially before pursuing your passions) its easier to do these things without the pressure of having to ‘succeed’. Elizabeth Gilbert does say in her early career she did do other jobs to finance her books and I think it was only after Eat, Pray, Love (possibly) that she became a full-time writer and I think that is possibly the reality for most creatives. Like the tell you at school, get yourself an good education to fall back on, if your plans for stardom don’t work out.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’d say if your heart isn’t in it then just let it not be a thing for you at the moment. If you try it half-heartedly you may just discourage yourself further and be disinclined to use it at some other point in life when perhaps it’d be of more use to you. Yoga is a form of movement meditation btw or at least can be 😉

        Haha, that ebook will make us famous! Look how many likes this post got 😉 Lots of people are in need of help and good tools!

        No, no, you remember in “Committed” she said she was supporting herself and her husband-to-be when they’re banished from the US from the advance for her next novel and that was a year or more before Eat, Pray, Love. A lot of people say how things should be but they don’t do it themselves. The author of “The Erroneous Zone”, for instance, admits that the tips in the book were great but he often didn’t listen to his own advice in life 😀

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