ALWAYS THINK FOR YOURSELF: You might be tempted to think it is too obvious when I say that you should think for yourself. And yes, I assume that you are already thinking for yourself and I appreciate it! What I mean by saying “think for yourself” is to even have a clearer look into how you create your opinion. You should be incredible clear what parts of your opinion is build on your own core and your own personal identity and what is build on external patterns.
We humans all have the need to feel loved and accepted by our environment. We all want to belong to a community, let it be our company, friends & family or the Sunday afternoon chess club. We all want to fit in and get along with our environment. Therefore it is so easy for all of us to just adopt to our surrounding, to not speak up your personal truth and not show our edges.
To really think for yourself, you have to have a pretty clear understanding of who you are, how your mind is working (as your mind can be tricky and even fool yourself). If your mindset is like an uncleaned kitchen, it might be difficult to think clearly for yourself. And if you cook in the kitchen by only relying on what is stated in your cooking book, you might be able to serve a nice dish for diner. But the diner will not be a meal created by you and your creativity but rather a result provided by the algorithm of your cooking book. It is exactly the same with opinions. A good friend of mine comes from a very conservative family. She adopted their way of thinking, took their value system into hers and is mainly repeating what her parents told her when she was a little girl. Another friend of mine is daily reading the same kind of journal so her opinion on the world is crucially influenced by the news source she daily digests. In both cases, their opinions on a certain topic can certainly be theirs but there is a risk that they reflect more what is said within the family or what is written in the news. Opinions are taken over if there is no other source of information available.
Therefore, it is crucial to keep a fresh and open mind by gathering as many divers sources of information as possible. Sometimes, it also helps to completely change the source of information. Sometimes, it helps to put yourself in a different social environment as taking part at the Burning Man Festival, staying in magic Ubud or joining the local tennis club. Whatever it is, diversity will keep your mindset free and open.
It comes without saying that if you want to think for yourself you not only have to have something to think about but you also have to do the thinking. This is work. You are right: following an already pathed street is the easier option. But then you will always be a follower and you miss the chance to express yourself. Do you really want that?
Picture: Es Vedra, Ibiza (Spain)
SINK DEEP INTO LIFE: One of my major guidances in life is to get involved in life as deep as I can. It does not matter where and how, important is just that I do it. I recently went back from Rome via Flixbus to Munich, slept in my car in the dark forest (I was so scared) and danced Tango for a whole night. None of those activities felt comfortable at first, neither did I really know what comes next. But this is the great big world. The great big world out there is full of the unknown, surprises, vitality, energy, drive, action and excitement. Once you get involved into the great big world, you are part of life.
Life is not what happens in your corporation job, on your sofa, in front of your laptop or TV and also not behind books and magazines. The before named are comfort zones because they are neatly, safe and comfortable. The zone out of the comfort can be cold, hard, unfair and frightening. Why should you then decide to leave your comfort zone? Simply because life is out there and simply because only there you know you are alive.
What do I mean by sinking deep into life? I mean to contribute, to cooperate, to become part of an initiative. Don’t watch from the side line as you would do when watching soccer. Go in and be the player. Get your hands dirty. Be out there, try new things, join the neighbor urban gardening initiative, talk to strangers, walk to work instead of driving with your car, volunteer, organize diners with a mix of friends and acquaintances. Life is colorful and divers. Try to learn as much as possible from the different layers life has to offer.
Best is to also nourish outside interests from which you do not earn money or get famous. I talk about things you just enjoy doing or are just helpful to others. Those activities are much more useful than to watch TV or play computer games. How about becoming a mentor or a charity worker? Maybe you want to join a theater class or an art association for a funny subject? Important is to join life and go with the flow. Sink deep into life. Laugh, cry, dance as only then you feel alive.
Picture: Ibiza (Spain)
FIND BENCHMARKS: Very often, we were told it is better not to compare oneself with others. Why? The reasoning is easy: Firstly, it is said one cannot be compared to others because each of us is so unique that a true base for the comparison is missing. Secondly, it might be that you feel demoralized if you think you were worse than them. And, thirdly, arrogant if you think you were better then them. Mh, is this really true?
We should not only set targets and milestones in our professional but also in our private lives. This should include behavior as well as personal development goals. Maybe you know a friend who is very calm and you would like to be a bid like her/him? If this person is someone you deeply respect, you can make a comparison in a positive way. Maybe this person can be your benchmark, your role model? You can see how much you have to develop your personality and how huge the delta is. Maybe you even ask your friend for advice. You surely have a different personality to her/ him but this does not prevent you to improve and to become better in what you desire to be.
At the end, what is it about? It is about seeing people around us (also) as teachers. This is natural when you are younger. As a child, you automatically adopt to your environment and you learn from the people who are close to you. When we grow older we tend to forget about it. Therefore, try to re-strengthen the sense to learn from those good and positive people you are surrounded by each day. Wouldn’t it be odd if you wouldn’t? And is there any better compliment that can be made if not to become in certain ways like your counterpart? It’s our best chance to improve in life and become once a wiser person. Take this chance!
Picture: Burning Man (US)
WHERE TO SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS: I will not reveal the secret people have been seeking for since thousands of years: where can I find true happiness?! But I will give you a little hint…
Imagine you buy a new pair of shoes and feel happy about it. Where is the happiness feeling coming from? It was definitely not built into the pair of shoes by the shoemaker. Is it possible that you have instead brought the feeling with you?
Imagine now you are terrible in love and when you see your new love, you feel overwhelmed by the butterflies that spread in your stomach area making you feel like being high and as if you could hug the whole world? Maybe you think you have the feeling because your new love is sitting next to you, holding hands with you. But can it be that you are wrongly seeing your partner as being the reason for your emotions? Maybe you are wrong because your feeling will also be there even if your partner is geographically nowhere next to you as e.g. she/ he needed to travel to the other side of the planet. Your love feeling remains the same. What if you brought also that feeling with you?
Sometimes, we people get addicted to buying new staff or falling in love because we enjoy the feeling so much. In my case, it was to travel to remote countries with my backpack, to learn to know new culture and have an exchange with new people. I felt excited, adventurous and my sense for curiosity was nourished. I also believed that I needed to have the external trigger, that is to travel as often and as far as I can, to create that feeling. For me it was long time the only mean to sate my adventure impulse. In the meantime, I know that the secret is not about finding the external triggering points but rather about finding the trigger of the feeling without anyone else or anything else being involved. No, don’t ask me how! This one you have to find for yourself 🙂 And yes, it is the one place you would have barely thought about looking … inside yourself 🙂
Picture: Komodo Islands (Indonesia)
ABOUT THE WOLF THAT WINS: An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life. A fight is going on inside me, he said to the boy. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too. The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, which wolf will win? The old chief replied “The one you feed”.
Picture: Moscow (Russia)
PEOPLE BELIEVE WHAT THEY WANT TO BELIEVE: We all interpret facts different as it is about our whole outlook on the world. This is a wild mix of our DNA, the way we were raised and the experiences we made in the past. Not only this but also how we view and judge ourselves as well as what our friends believe play a crucial role in our outlook on the world.
Tell me, have you ever had a dynamic as well as heated discussion in which your counterpart said you were right in your argumentation and that he has therefore changed his point of view? Imagine yourself discussion religious belief or politics and showing up with a strong argumentation line. Did you ever succeed to convince the other one of your opinion because of the facts you have had prepared for the talk? Or because of the long speak rich of deep words or the statistics you have worked out? Me personally not. A change of mind like this barely occurs in discussions that are emotionally touching.
The reason for this behavior is simple. We keep certain opinions, yes. But we do not maintain our views because they rely on the underlying facts. Therefore, it is not likely that the counterparts change their minds when you bring up arguments. What really happens is we form our beliefs with the help of our gut feeling. After, we rationalize our opinions and are in constant search for facts that are supporting our belief. Again, the facts are not leading us to a certain view. It is more the way around: our gut feeling is the base of our belief and we back it up with arguments.
When debating, neither your words, nor your facts or any statistics will make the other one change her or his view. She or he will always believe in what they want to believe. It is completely nonsense to insist on changing her/ his view. Actually, it is even a waste of time. And same applies for me. If someone wants to change my believe system, it will not work. I am not saying that it is impossible to change what I believe in. What I say is that it cannot be changed externally. For a change, you need – as I do – an internal experience. You and I have to live it for ourselves. You cannot do it for me. And I cannot do it for you.
Just look back in life: how often have you changed your beliefs. Whether a cold pizza is better than a warm one. Whether real love really exists. Whether you believe in god or not. When did you stop voting for the socialist party and when did you decide for divorce?
In how many cases the reason for this change was the outcome of an intense discussion with your wife or colleague? And how often did your believe change to what happened in your life as e.g the death of a close family member or the knowledge that your husband cheated on you? Maybe you were also newly surrounded by different people who live a new life ethic codex? Or you moved out of your old home town?
My point is that it is very probable that you changed your beliefs yourself. You had no one who changed the believes for you. You changed your belief system because you adopted to a fresh situation or a new environment.
So, next time you are in a heated situation in which you or your counterpart is holding on her or his view, keep in mind that most probably you will not changing the persons view. Even if you consider her or his view as dump and stupid. At the same time I am not saying you should not speak up to tell your truth. Just be aware that chances to shift your partner from one perspective to another one are realistically pretty low.
Picture: Lake Starnberg (Germany)
ALTERNATIVE LIFE MODELS: There are so many impressive life models out there. Let’s take Andrew who I already met last year. Living in a tree house during summer time, he is designing, cutting and coloring the beach wear shirts you can see in the picture. Working once as an electrician in London, he soon found out that living cost in london are so high that the majority of his income will flow into those cost whereas his free-time is scaling down. After four months he left his job, facing financial insecurity and started to travel around the world. Today and 22 years later, he is not only having a backpack full of adventurous stories but is also hand-producing those summer shirts on Ibiza. Students are selling them on the beach where they can get the double price Andrew is asking from them. In his tree house, Andrew is having a magnificent view over a calm bay in the remote east part or the island. Working became a minority activity of his time life. And yes, he is a no-consumer but nothing is really missing. In the meantime, he is even possessing a small island in Australia and consider his later stage of life with easiness: „To get a roof over my head is really not an issue. A house is easily build.“ Right he is. Always a pleasure meeting humans who go with their flow. It must not be your life model but it is his and he went for it with his full passion. Chapeau!
Picture: Hippy campsite, Ibiza (Spain)
DREAMS: Watch out for your dreams and make sure that you never let others tell you what you can or cannot do. There are many dream stealers in the world. Find your own dream by trusting your gut feeling while making use of your rational left side of the brain as well. The two work excellently well together once they are trained and then enjoy the pleasure to follow your dream to make sure you live the life you want to live.
Picture: Bali (Indonesia)
GO FOR THE GLORY: You have two options. Either you are putting your energy into the glory of humankind or you try to crash it all down into degradation. The decision is up to you and nobody else. If you are smiling to the person sitting next to you in the tram, you have voted for the glory. If you are nasty to the guy of the mobile telephone hotline, you went for degradation. Making a donation for a good cause is for the glory. Lying and cheating is for degradation. Listening to a charming jazz concert is glory, taking badly about your partner behind her/his back is degradation. Do you get what I mean?
A good way to increase the vibe of humankind is to do anything that challenges us, makes us smile and laugh, improves us, let us strive to become a better person. It all brings us into the golden light of glory.
Each of us can be the change we request for the world. You too – by simply deciding whether you go for the glory or for the degradation. I know you might say that you cannot stand this f* talk about being good anymore. But there is the law of reciprocity. You will receive in life what you have planted before. And it is true. It is the good karma principle. Being good is a pure private thing. Keep it for yourself, do not tell anybody but practice it and watch what is happening. Don’t try to change other people to become good. Don’t brag. Just be good without any words.
Picture: Bali (Indonesia)
IN THE FLOW: Some things remain unchanged. This applies also to one of my pleasures for a perfect day. Being in silence in the middle of my pencils, oil colors and wooden canvases. Since my childhood, I appreciate painting. Preferable in my parents’ home, out in the garden. Inevitable for me to keep the color just on the top of the brush. Red and blue to be spotted not only on the top of my nose. I do not view myself being extremely talented but I believe that the painting result is actually secondary. It is more about the joy of the process. It is about the – how I call it – “flow feeling” when time and surroundings become meaningless. I am sure you all know when you become “one” with your activity. It is for me one example of a complete feeling of happiness.
Picture: Bavaria (Germany)
SHOPPING MENTALITY: Tokyo is crazy. An amazing place. And so many products not known in Europe. Like a parasol holder for the bike. How practical (….and I bought it)! Consumption and options everywhere. While it is great to possess the flexibility to see chances, to be proactive rather than reactive and to be open about possibilities, it can sometimes happen that „more is less“. The benefits of „less“ are that too many options plunges us into a state sometimes called „shopping mentality“. In a famous experiment at the Columbia University, costumers at a grocery store decided what jam to buy. Of those who had a choice of 24 jams, only 3% ended up purchasing, while of those who had a choice of 6 jams a full 30% bought. The point is that with a profusion of options, we might suffer from mental overload and get lost. Often, we then get anxious about getting confused. And we fear to „miss out“ something. Disaster! hahaha 🙂 Maybe our real challenge sometimes is not how to expand possibilities but how to limit them? Because only when we reach an equilibrium of option and strong mind we can think clearly enough to make good judgment calls? Even more important when it comes to major decisions that have a much greater impact on our life than to answer which shirt to buy next.
Picture: Tokyo (Japan)
BEAUTY: In the Western world, it is “en vogue” these days to have a plastic surgeon to upgrade ones appearance. “Am I pretty enough?” Enough … enough for what?, one might ask. This lovely woman was strolling through Seoul on a cold winter day. She saw me walking by with my camera. Obviously, I felt chilly. I lifted my camera lenses, asked with my eyebrows and the rest of my face whether taking a picture of her is appropriate. She nodded and presented me her loving smile. And look how beautiful she is, how catching her charming laugh! Actually, no matter where I have been – in Bavaria or out in the world – and no matter with whom – with babies or elderly –, I recognized we are all in the peak of our beauty when we are truly smiling. In these moments, our faces reflect the joyful inner beauty of us. And, I believe, no surgery could do better.
Picture: Seoul (South Korea)
BE THE AUTHOR OF YOUR OWN LIFE STORY: One of my personal codes of life is to be the author of my own life story. To take ownership, to ask, to speak up and to dare facing new challenges. No one else is responsible for you but you alone. You have to go through pain on your own and you will die on your own. Better to become a leader for your own life than a follower of the lives of others.
Picture: Bali (Indonesia)
LEARNING NEW: Since I have been a child, I am in love with my bike(s). Through rain, storm and snow. Feeling the fresh air around the tip of my nose, watching the landscape slowly moving by and being the one who is the power body of my vehicle is a pleasure for me. Another one is learning new. Like learning to ride a unicycle, in particular when the first try is in the middle of a charming desert. Schuuuuuub – I made it (before I – inelegantly – descended)! While watching the picture now, I realize that one side effect of curiously learning new things, methods and means is daring the unknown. As sitting high in the air of a unicycle that goes forward whereas I wanted it to just remain silent. I did not (and do not yet) know how to master it but this is actually of no importance. What counts is to try it. Because with every try of the unknown, I dare one step out of the familiar, already walked paths, also called my comfort zone. With every step into courage, I train my mind and system to feel more confident and comfortable with the unknown. How lovely is this !
Picture: Negev (Israel)
AGING: Just imagine, we would not fear death anymore. How would my, your and the life of others look like? I learned to enjoy the process of aging and had time to do so as I was born in the year 1977. First of all – and from a very practical point of view – it is nothing I could avoid even if I would try really really really hard. So, I can enjoy the inevitable as well, right? Makes it much easier. Second, despite the outer shell of the „me“ changes by losing its fresh body shape with time, the inner „me“, profits from this process. And this is definitely worth it. And yes, of course, it’s a bit of a pity, that the body shell looses its strength, whereas the soul/ personality is growing. But then again, it’s yin and yang, about letting go and, at the end, maybe this tension arc between birth and death is exactly what is required to make us being so lovely human with all our evils and angels within us ? Who knows, right ?
Picture: Tegernsee (Bavaria)
LOSING DAYS: Wake up, breath in, set your day goals and get ready. We all have f*ing losing days – sometimes even in a row. In this fancy Social Media “we-are-all-so-great” world, we so easily forget that stupid moments, thoughts and actions are part of our lives. And this is okay! The search of an endless state of ultimate happiness and balanced personality is a fairy tale that creates a huge business market. You and me, we are Ok – even on a shitty day. This is us and this makes us so lovely beautiful. We are humans, no robots (yet). Another good thing about it: Not every day is a losing day. The next one can already be a winning one. Who knows what comes next. No one. Be gentle to yourself 🙂!
Picture: Negev (Israel)
DIFFERENT. We are all different but still the same. Different in our cultural behaviors and preferences but same in regard of what defines us as humans. I love India despite its particular challenges. I love watching the holy cows passing by in the busy streets of Varanasi or laying relaxed at the beaches in Kerala. They move stoically, sit down in the middle of the road or just chew repetitively. In the Western world, most of the cows are looked-in in mass-cages. Once, I experienced the crying pain of a female cow from whom the baby cow was taken away. The mother cow literally went crazy. She freaked out. Humans belong to the species of animal. Even if we do everything to distinguish us from them so that we can view ourselves being superior. But at the end, there is no demarcation line. We are different but still the same.
Picture: Kerala (India)
TAKE A CHOICE: Most people believe that the best life outcomes are created by active and informed decisions. Some believe that if we ourselves do not make those decisions, we give up the chance of those best outcomes. Others believe in randomness as a „good enough“ option once certain standards are met. Personally, I ask myself sometimes the question whether humans are really made to take as many decisions as we currently sometimes are urged to do during only one day: it starts from Glutenfree bread, goes over online partner search tools and expands up to the most individualist bank products. All is made for our individual taste – sometimes even before we become aware of our own needs. A market for individualism. How about trusting chance as one possibility on how to choose? When have you taken the chance to start chatting to someone near you on the plane and spent a delightful sweet hour even though that might not lead to any deep friendship or romance? True, coin-tossing, a belief in fate or even a random chance are risky but is it not wonderful exciting to accept uncertainty and let go of control sometimes? How comfortable are you with serendipity as one further tool in your decision-making kit?
Picture: New York (USA)
WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS: It is true. When one door closes, another opens. We tend to often look long and regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Go and let’s find it!
Picture: Bali (Indonesia)