just Marger https://justmarger.com Learning from life Wed, 19 Oct 2011 19:45:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Becoming a relaxed driver https://justmarger.com/becoming-relaxed-driver/ Wed, 12 Oct 2011 07:26:32 +0000 http://justmarger.com/?p=89 I've been driving cars for 17 years now and I love it. I always considered myself a pretty balanced driver. I rarely break speed limits intentionally and I don't block traffic by driving way below the speed limit. I don't get too close to the bumper of the car ahead of me and I don't stay in the left lane when the right lane is empty. I sometimes stop for others politely and I never give other drivers the finger Read more

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I've been driving cars for 17 years now and I love it. I always considered myself a pretty balanced driver. I rarely break speed limits intentionally and I don't block traffic by driving way below the speed limit. I don't get too close to the bumper of the car ahead of me and I don't stay in the left lane when the right lane is empty. I sometimes stop for others politely and I never give other drivers the finger ('never' meaning exactly once in my life).

A while ago it occured to me that despite this seeming balance, I regularly had stressful moments in traffic. When I started to keep track of this, my self image of a laid back and balanced driver was shattered: there was far more aggravation in my driving than I thought! I became frustrated when:

  • cars blocked the road by going much slower than the speed limit
  • cars unnecessarily blocked the left lane
  • anything blocked my way, like people unloading vans, cattle crossing, closed bridges and railway crossings
  • people stole the parking spot I was obviously waiting for
  • people accelerated too slow at a traffic light, forcing me to wait for the green light even longer
  • several other things happened.

Basically, besides driving my own car, I tried to drive other people's cars for them (and their trains, cattle and van contents). That's some exhausting multitasking! If you are anything like this, you might want to try a new approach, like I am doing.

Why this need for control?

So I was trying to control every possible factor around me. I don't remember ever succesfully moving a car aside with sheer mind power and cows refuse to listen to reasoning. I got more and more frustrated, even during a 15 minute drive. That brings up the interesting question: why would anyone put themself through that hell instead of just relaxing while driving?

The urge to be on time

When I drive to work, I want to be there on time. Leaving extra early to take into account possible delays feels like putting extra unpaid time into my job, or into joining a traffic jam (I like driving, not waiting in my car). For other appointments, I want to arrive on time as well. Usually I do leave a margin, but that doesn't stop me from getting frustrated when that evil traffic light delays me for an extra minute (just to mess with me, I'm sure 😉 ).

Claiming my space

When I drive somewhere for an errand, I have no set time of arrival. Still I get aggravated when traffic is against me. Other cars overtaking me somehow makes me feel like I'm falling behind: hey, I was here first, why are you all trying to get ahead of me?

In slow moving traffic I get annoyed by people using the emergency lane to cut back in line far ahead, but also when I seem to be in the lane that moves slowest. AARRGH! That lane is moving faster! I need to get in on that action. Oh no, the other lane is moving again, I have to get back in there! Most of the time, this behavior doesn't effectively get me there any faster and if it does, I probably gain about 30 seconds, but it does get me all wound up.

The need for order in the traffic chaos

Seventeen years ago I learned all the traffic rules. It became clear to me why they exist and how they create order in traffic. Maybe I expected that every single soul would follow those rules. Every time I drive, however, I see several people violating several traffic rules and creating (potentially) dangerous situations for themselves and others. I struggle with that every time. I find it hard to accept that not everyone is able to keep traffic safe and even harder that some people don't care that they endanger others.

Relaxation first

Those reasons cause me a lot of frustration, so I started to make some changes in my driving behavior and intentions.

  1. I'll get there when I get there: I prefer being late and relaxed over being less late and very frustrated and angry.
  2. I've chosen to change lanes less often. Of course, to keep in line with most of the traffic there, I have to maintain a lower speed. Turns out that I drive only 10-15% slower than before. That's only 6 more minutes on a one hour drive. I rarely need to overtake other cars anymore, so the frustrations of the left lane are gone.
  3. I try to accept that external delays just happen. Bridges open, vans need to be unloaded and sometimes cows just need to pee on the other side of the road. I try to enjoy the situation and if it looks like it's going to take really long (some vans are HUGE and cows usually bring company), I try to find a way around it or ask for passage.
  4. I keep in mind that other people are NOT out to make my driving life miserable. They don't go out thinking: "Hmm, let's see how I can delay Margers drive to work". They just try to get to work themselves and some of them simply don't pay enough attention or don't realize the impact of their actions. I can't change that, so fussing about it is a waste of energy. Accept it, let it happen.
  5. I give the maniacs what they want. Yes, a very small minority in traffic consists of utter morons who know they drive way too fast or risky. Since I can't change that either, I just try to get out of their way. Staying in the right lane happens to take care of that mostly. When I do overtake, I check for speeders in the left lane first and wait for them to pass, and get my ass back in the right lane if one does close in on me. It's much more relaxing than doing my thing while a maniac is hugging my rear bumper. Maniacs far ahead of me are less dangerous to me than maniacs closing in on me from behind. Just let them go and do their thing, I'll wait till the storm is over.

My progress

I'm not exactly the Zen master of driving just yet. I've been making these changes during the past few months and some are easier than others. That's OK. Pushing myself to be super relaxed immediately is stressful as well and thus a bad idea. At this point it has become mostly a habit to keep to the right, driving a bit slower. That does take care of a large portion of the aggravation. For the other part, I usually detect my stress starting to build during a drive. In some cases it works to apply the changes mentioned above.

In other cases I still struggle. Although I keep getting better, at times it's still hard to accept all the dangerous situations happening around me or to realize that being 5 or 10 minutes late usually doesn't cause any real problems. Feeling that stress is an excellent motivator though. When I get in stress mode, I do know I'd rather feel relaxed and that my new approach can be very effective, so I keep trying to apply it. My inner cow seems to love it.

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How to revive your blog after 1.5 years https://justmarger.com/how-to-revive-your-blog-after-1-5-years/ https://justmarger.com/how-to-revive-your-blog-after-1-5-years/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2011 08:45:50 +0000 http://justmarger.com/?p=61 For this master plan to work, you need to have a blog that's already up and running. If you are regularly publishing new blog posts, you don't qualify: severe blog negligence is required. You haven't posted anything on your comatose blog in months? Great, let's get going. What's that, your blog has been dead for 1.5 years, like this one, and is starting to smell funny and walk the streets at night, moaning and looking for alive blogs to nibble Read more

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For this master plan to work, you need to have a blog that's already up and running. If you are regularly publishing new blog posts, you don't qualify: severe blog negligence is required. You haven't posted anything on your comatose blog in months? Great, let's get going. What's that, your blog has been dead for 1.5 years, like this one, and is starting to smell funny and walk the streets at night, moaning and looking for alive blogs to nibble on? Congratulations, you are the perfect candidate!

Do you want to blog?

Before you start CPR-ing your blog, there's one question you need to ask yourself: do you actually want to write on your blog? Do you find it appealing, or do you have other reasons to blog, for example to wallow in the glamour of publishing without being read, or to hit on people by showing off your fancy writings? If you don't really like to write, don't bother reviving your blog. It's doomed to die an even more horrible slow death than last time.

Step 1: stop thinking, start writing

I have held the intention to write new articles to follow up the huge quantities I already published (exactly two articles) for the last 18 months. It's been real busy, I've had hosting problems, there was a southwest wind, I got hungry and several other excuses made sure that nothing got done. Thinking about intentions got me nowhere. Now I'll just start writing, it's the only way. It's really that easy and I know you can do it too.

Step 2: Publish your crap anyway

If you start writing again, you may fear that what you write sucks. Woe is you, for what you created does not please the gods! You'll press delete and - if you're lucky - start over. That way it takes a long time to get any posts published, it's never good enough. You'll quickly become unmotivated and pull the plug on your blog again.

Good enough for who, by the way? Your blog is dead, nobody is reading it anyway, remember? So who cares if you post crap. By posting regardless the quality of your text, you allow yourself to get into the flow of writing and publishing again. You get a lot of practice and you will improve quickly, while finding the right voice for you to write in.

Incidentally, your blog will be found much easier if you generate content voor search engines to find, so you might even gather some (likely masochistic) readers. Also, your posts might give you inspiration for new posts, creating a wave of new ideas and publications. Or you could, you know, just sit there and wait for the blog to magically start writing itself. It might happen.

Why are you still reading this?

Go on, start writing, you eediot! Oh well, if you insist, here's one more tip. Make sure you publish the start of your blog revival ASAP, just like I did with this article. It will get you going and that one reader that did stick around (yes, you, hi there! :o) might come kick your ass if you dare to stop blogging again after such a passionate declaration!

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Forgetting important lessons gets them into your system https://justmarger.com/forgetting-important-lessons-gets-them-into-your-system/ Sat, 03 Apr 2010 15:30:49 +0000 http://justmarger.com/?p=51 Back in 2008 when Anna and I had just moved into our current house, amongst the stuff we bought was one particular ceiling lamp. We both liked the look of it in our hallway. Just a small issue: the lamp would have to hang down from the ceiling a tad too low for my 1m92 (6 ft 3). We decided to hang it there anyway.

Naturally I bumped my head into it quite soon. Luckily the lamp hangs from a Read more

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Back in 2008 when Anna and I had just moved into our current house, amongst the stuff we bought was one particular ceiling lamp. We both liked the look of it in our hallway. Just a small issue: the lamp would have to hang down from the ceiling a tad too low for my 1m92 (6 ft 3). We decided to hang it there anyway.

Naturally I bumped my head into it quite soon. Luckily the lamp hangs from a cord and can swing, so it doesn't cause major head wounds. A while later I passed the lamp without hitting it, because I remembered to evade it. The mighty human had tamed the humble lamp! That went really well (maybe twice), then I hit my head against the same lamp again. The first time had been unpleasant, but calculated, since I knew the lamp was hanging a bit low. I found the second collision very annoying: hadn't I learned my lesson? I thought I had learned to evade the lamp and I managed to apply that lesson a few times. No reason to hit it again, you'd say!

Lessons for the mind

Now compare this to, for example, learning to allow yourself to feel jealous. A lot of people think jealousy is a bad emotion, one that should be tucked away and ignored. I believed this for most of my life. During the first years of my personal growth path, people in my therapy group told me that feeling jealous or angry is OK and that it is better to give room to such an emotion so that you can confront it, rather than try to ignore it and let it fester deep inside you. I liked that idea, but after long years of burying my 'bad' emotions I wasn't able to just let them out. So I listened to some of the group explaining the principle and I kept agreeing, without actually experiencing it.

Then one day something changed. I heard about a new relationship between two people close to me and besides being happy for them, I was also jealous of them. I wanted a relationship myself! When I realized that I was feeling jealous, I was inclined to bury that emotion as deep as possible, since I was supposed to be happy for those two and not feel anything negative. But this time something inside me stood up and said: "O yeah, well screw this! I can be jealous all I want and still be happy for them! If I feel jealous, then that's what I feel, regardless of what I 'should'!"

That was the first time I actually experienced what people had been telling me for months: I allowed myself to feel a 'bad' emotion and gave it the room it needed. That was an important step in my life and I knew that instantly. I told myself I would never ever forget this lesson again and from now on would allow myself to feel any emotion.

As with the lamp, I succeeded a few times after that. Within two days, someone else told me about new found love. I tasted my own jealousy and that made me almost laugh mad scientist style. Eurrreka! It was a great relief and I felt the confirmation that I was on the right path there. And as with the lamp, soon I came into a situation where I seemed to have forgotten that important lesson. After those initial successes I 'hit my head' again by not allowing myself to feel angry, consequently feeling bad for a while, caused by ignoring that emotion. Fortunately, later on I realized that I was blocking an emotion again. I thought: "What the hell, I recently learned this beautiful lesson and now I forget to apply it! How can this be?" I wanted a 100% score on applying the lesson: no more tucking away of emotions. But believe me, that's not how it works.

A good lesson needs time to sink in

After those events, I regularly managed to let my emotions run freely. From time to time, I would miss an opportunity, only to find out later that I had blocked an emotion again. Even months after that, I would sometimes fall into my old habit, but it happened less and less often.

I discovered that I needed a similar process on other personal growth issues. It rarely happens that I make an interesting discovery on how to improve something and then turn things around instantly. Usually it takes time. Time for me to understand the discovery thoroughly, time to put it into practice, time to get used to it and eventually feel the truth of it in my very core. It's like jumping into a hot bath versus slowly sliding into the water: you need time and effort to adjust to the change.

Bumping your head is part of the process

Some wild kids may think otherwise, but it's not exactly enjoyable to hit your head against a lamp. However, every time you do, you get a valuable reminder of the lesson you are learning and it sinks in a little deeper (the lesson, not the lamp ;)). Eventually your system can adapt to that new lesson and your life will change accordingly. I learned to evade the lamp automatically, partly thanks to all the times I hit it.

If you find that you have made a great discovery for personal improvement, but you don't seem to be able to apply it on each occasion, there are two things you can do. You can get frustrated every time you fail to apply the lesson, like me hitting my head against the lamp, blocking an emotion. This option will cost you a lot of valuable energy and you don't gain anything with it. Your other option is to accept your less than perfect score as being part of your process of incorporating the lesson into your life. You WILL slip up from time to time and these moments are clear signals that you need those reminders to reach your goal.

Feeling the lesson instead of just believing in it

At some point you will realize: "Hey, lately I haven't been slipping up. I've been applying that lesson even without thinking!" Depending on the person and the lesson it may take days, months or years, but when you get there, you will know it. You will feel the gained insight as being a part of your intuition, instead of just believing the insight makes logical sense.

It took me a long time to get there, but it has become much more natural for me to allow for my own emotions, often without thinking. Does that mean I never ever slip up anymore? No, it doesn't. Circumstances can still arise that prevent me from accessing my real emotions for a moment. When that happens, soon afterwards I will realize that and address the issue subsequently. That is fine by me, as is bumping my head softly against the ceiling lamp once every so often. I regard those moments as gentle reminders that I did learn the lesson and did incorporate it into my life. Reminders that I am only human and don't need to get a 100% score.

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Overcoming hesitation towards new undertakings https://justmarger.com/overcoming-hesitation-towards-new-undertakings/ https://justmarger.com/overcoming-hesitation-towards-new-undertakings/#comments Fri, 19 Mar 2010 19:44:54 +0000 http://justmarger.com/?p=1 Sometimes an appealing opportunity comes along, or you get hit by an idea to start with a new project in your life. Perhaps you fall in love with someone and desire to pursue a relationship. You could get sick of your job and consider a career switch. You might want to build your own dream house. Or on a smaller scale, you could be interested in taking an interesting course to learn new skills. Maybe you plan to actually finish Read more

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Sometimes an appealing opportunity comes along, or you get hit by an idea to start with a new project in your life. Perhaps you fall in love with someone and desire to pursue a relationship. You could get sick of your job and consider a career switch. You might want to build your own dream house. Or on a smaller scale, you could be interested in taking an interesting course to learn new skills. Maybe you plan to actually finish Ulysses or to watch every episode of every Star Trek series ever made. There are countless personal projects one could be interested in. A project I became interested in was to create a personal website and publish articles with my insights and discoveries. My approach to starting such a new project may provide you with some valuable tips.

Some people jump head first into such a new project, without hesitation. They approach the person they feel attracted to, enlist in that course or start sending out job applications the very moment they realize their boss is a moron. Not everyone is like that, though. Many people need a good deal of consideration before starting something new. And of course there is the other end of the spectrum: those who rarely start anything new, even though deep inside they might wish to. They let Ulysses gather layers of dust on the bookshelf even though they could have started reading a thousand times already. They let their possible Mr. or Mrs. Right slip away. And oh, the horror, they only catch the occasional rerun of Star Trek and, even worse, its only Enterprise.

For a very long time, I was a member of that last category. Opportunities did knock and ambitious ideas did come to me, but often I ended up taking no action. I would hesitate, weigh the pros and cons, look for excuses while in fact giving in to my fears and usually ended up rejecting the idea or opportunity altogether. In the past few years I slowly moved to a more receptive state of mind and starting seeing less obstacles and more benefits. Although I am not (and I doubt I ever will be) someone who will blindly dive into everything, I am very happy with the progress I made sofar. Now I find an acceptable balance between weighing my options and taking action. That leads me to exploring new things and enjoying the process much more often than before.

One of those new projects is creating this website. The plan dates from a few years ago, but the actual creating started only this January. The process has been very enlightening to me, for instance about approaching new projects. Here's a few tips for those of you who recognize the hesitational approach described above.

Find out whether you really want it

If I find myself hesitant to start a new project or any kind of undertaking, the first thing I'll want to do is ask myself:

"Do I really want to undertake this, or not?"

Only yes or no are allowed; 'yes, but' is strictly forbidden. A 'no' means I can immediately stop considering the project and move on with my life. Instant clarity! A 'yes' gives me special weapons in the battle against hesitation: permission and motivation. Since I allow myself to pursue things I really want, a 'yes' gives me permission to put aside less important objections. A simple example: if I want to paint my living room in bright colors, that desire outweighs the concern that some visitors' eyes may hurt a bit at first. Knowing that I really want to do a personal project motivates me to work towards actually starting it by eliminating the hesitation.

Finding the answer to that simple yes-or-no question can be harder than you think for an experienced hesitator. The hesitator, likely led by unconfronted fears, will incline towards excuses even for this simple question. In the case of my website project, the simple question was: do I really wish to create a website where I will write articles sharing my insights and discoveries? It could have been tempting to consider answers like:

  • yes, but maybe I can't build a site like that
  • yes, but maybe people won't like my articles
  • yes, but maybe I won't find the necessary time

I could have made a long list like that and I'm sure some of those thoughts did cross my mind somewhere in the process. But the simple answer to the question was: yes. Yes, I want to share my findings with the world on my own website. That's why I advocate the rule that only yes and no are allowed.

Make sure that YOU really answered that

If you are considering a project, chances are that either you want it, or you feel outside pressure to do the project. In the case of pressure, choosing 'yes' will likely make you feel bad because you'll sense that the answer did not come from your own desire. Choosing 'no' will make you feel the same because you'll still feel the outside pressure towards a 'yes'. At most, making a choice based on outside pressure will give you some relief because now you don't have to keep considering the project. For me, however, it would always feel uncomfortable.

If it's really your own desire talking, choosing yes or no will feel good depending on what that true desire is. Letting your heart speak without influence from outside pressure makes it rather easy to be at peace with your choice, but it takes time to learn to listen to your heart if you are not used to that. Mastering this yes-or-no question can be an important step to overcome structural hesitation.

Start doing it!

Being able to take that step can feel great. No more reason to stall: you desire, just go ahead. Past Marger didn't do this and instead would dwell on excuses, only to lead to regular dropouts. Present Marger has tasted this quick and sweet victory over hesitation several times in the past few years. Not every time a new project comes up though: in many cases I need a little more time and a little more considering than that, like many people do. In those cases I do my best to take a clean approach to the causes of my remaining hesitation, instead of the Past Marger approach.

Don't demand perfection

"I'm only going to do this if I can achieve perfection." That's one of Past Marger's favorite excuses to not start a project. It's a silly trap people set for themselves. First of all, perfection is nearly impossible, which makes this demand an almost certain deal breaker before you start, and gives you a (very lame) excuse to bail at any time. Secondly: perfection and growing as a person don't play well together. You need to make mistakes to learn the most. Do...not...demand...perfection! Instead, realize that you can learn unthinkable things if you allow mistakes.

Creating this website was a fantastic opportunity to learn lots of things. During the weeks that I was coding and designing, I made numerous errors and faced numerous problems I couldn't solve directly. Searching and finding solutions was an educational process. I learned many lessons and now I have a website that looks and acts to my liking, but is in no way perfect. Guess what: I don't mind.

Discard silly excuses by knowing your deal breaking values

Past Marger would probably find numerous small excuses to abandon or indefinitely postpone the project. Think about the 'yes, but'-answers I listed above. All perfect nonsense of course, because the fact that I want to do this project far outweighs those excuses. Be aware however: anyone can have certain personal values that are very valid deal breakers, even for projects they really want to do. My values include for instance:

  • I do not want to harm another person intentionally, be it mentally, physically or materially.
  • I do not want to pretend to be something I am in fact not

If doing a project would violate those values, that would be a perfectly good reason for me to skip it. So for example, if the only way for me to read Ulysses would be to steal the book from someone, I would drop the project. Knowing your deal breaking values allows you to compare any excuses to your list of values. If the excuses don't match any of those values, they are no reason not to start your new project. For my website project there were no deal breakers, so I went along with it. I did encounter something else though.

Work on deal postponing obstacles

Some obstacles are no reason to drop the project, but might be a good reason not to start it just yet. Some might say that courting the subject of your love right after they get out of a relationship is bad timing. Building your dream house when you have no money might prove difficult. Postponing such a project could be a wise choice. Circumstances can change, but more importantly, you can take your time to work on most deal postponing obstacles. You might need a day to locate that copy of Ulysses, a month to gather the knowledge to build a website, or you might need to work hard for years to generate the money for your dream house. When you are working on your obstacles like this, you have already started working on your project!

When I started thinking about making this website a few years back, I realized I needed a few things before I could actually start the project.

  1. I wasn't clear on the common theme for the articles I had in mind. As I wrote before, I want to share my insights and discoveries, but I also wanted a certain focus of topics. Everyone has insights in numerous, sometimes completely unrelated areas. I felt that I didn't want to share insights in topics like solving computer problems or sports tactics.
  2. I didn't know what tone of voice I wanted to use in my articles. I do not wish to tell people how they must live their lives, nor simply ramble on about anything in my life, as some bloggers appear to like. Therefore I needed to find my own style after I decided on my theme.

That made it impossible for me to generate the website content in a way that felt right to me. I knew I had to work that out first, so I took the time to develop clear ideas on these matters. I needed to grow in a certain way before I was ready to start my project with a good feeling. Eventually I decided on a theme with a wide focus: my own growth and development as a person. The style of my articles is strongly related to that theme: personal, direct, and attempting to present the reader both an account of my personal experience and potentially useful suggestions. I feel comfortable with that theme and style as a starting point, but both may develop or vary in the future.

A long story short

I find these steps useful whenever I encounter a new personal project that I feel hesitant about. I believe that others may benefit from applying those steps as well. Do you hesitate about taking a pet, changing jobs or buying a new car? Try the steps to get yourself into action.

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