Dead Time or Alive Time?

Robert Greene, world-renowned strategist, author of “The 48 Laws of Power”, divided time into two distinct categories: Dead Time and Alive Time.

Dead Time is when people passively wait for the events in their life to either happen or to pass; whereas Alive Time is when people are actively learning and practicing their knowledge at every possible moment.

We are constantly presented with the choice of Dead Time or Alive Time, regardless of whether we are in the situation voluntarily or not. In Ryan Holiday’s book “Ego is the Enemy”, he referenced Greene’s binary decision of time with the examples of Malcolm X and Viktor Frankl. During their imprisonment, both Malcolm and Frankl chose refused to yield their time as Dead Time and chose to use that time to learn, to refine their knowledge and understanding.

What does this mean for us? It means:

You ALWAYS Have a Choice.

Instead of viewing yourself as a victim who is rendered powerless by your circumstances and designate whichever situation you are in as Dead Time, you can make a conscious decision to pivot to Alive Time—wherein you are in control. You are in control of what you want to learn and evolve from your circumstance.

Committing to choose Alive Time isn’t always going to be easy but you are worth the hard work!

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.

Mark Twain
Our perception informs our reality. Make it an awe-inspiring one!

Emotional Agility

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

—Susan David, “Emotional Agility

I find myself anthropomorphizing Life and Universe, a lot. I know it’s not unique to me but I do often catch myself saying or thinking: Life/Universe has a strange sense of humour.

Last week I wrote about Flexibility versus Rigidity in fitness and dietary routines. Simultaneously I was also processing and learning about our emotional intelligence (EQ). I chuckled in my head when I came across Susan David’s book “Emotional Agility” after I had written my post.

“‘Agility!’ It’s that word again! Universe has a strange sense of humour.” I thought to myself. “It must be guiding me through my lessons for this season.”
(I don’t actually think the Universe lines up lessons. The same way I am not sure if everything happens for a reason. I mean, if the Law of Action-Reaction and the natural order of consequences count as “reasons”, then yes. Otherwise, I am agnostic.)

Oops, I digressed. I am still working on keeping my writing tight. Back to Emotional Agility.

How does Emotional Agility differ from Emotional Intelligence?

Succinctly summarized by Andy Brett, Emotional Intelligence is: “the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions.. [and] to shift negative patterns to more positive ones.”

Emotional Agility, on the other hand, is the ability to recognize your patterns, without necessarily changing them. It is about living in a way that allows you to align with your core values in life.

How Does One Become More Emotionally Agile?

There were quite a number of techniques that Susan David had outlined in her book, amongst them there were three that particularly stood out for me:

Continuity of Self

Continuity of Self is a term in psychology that refers to one’s connection to their past, present, and future self. You know that exercise in which you write letters to your younger self? That’s one of the common exercises you can do to strengthen your Continuity of Self.

This continuity is important in helping you examine what your core values are, how they were formulated, and how to best support and live in accordance to them. Not so surprisingly, this concept of aligning one’s behaviour to their core values is not a new one. In fact, it is similar to Viktor Frankl’s psychotherapeutic method—one that he had devised whilst trying to survive the Nazi concentration camp—to help his patients find purpose, and consequently: their meaning of life.

Emotional Granularity

Emotional Granularity is the ability to express feelings with a high degree of accuracy and precision. For example, instead of broadly categorizing your feeling as “stressed”, dissect this feeling into more detail. Are you feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do? Are you feeling anxious about not being able to complete certain task? Once you can identify the granular details of your emotional state, you can better address it. While sometimes you may just need to hold that feeling, other times you may be able to come up with a plan to alleviate it.

Self-compassion

Extend yourself the compassion you would a beloved friend, family. Understand that going through that range of emotion is part of the human experience, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with not feeling rainbows and sunshines all the time. In fact, are there anyone who only feels rainbows and sunshines?

Self-compassion also means not caving into Toxic Positivity.

  • 🚫”Positive Vibes Only!”
  • 🚫”Don’t worry, be happy!”

Toxic Positivity invalidates and negates the gravity and weight of emotions and our experience. It creates this unhealthy illusion that it is possible to have one’s life together, all the time; along with the implication that: if others have their lives together but you don’t, there must be something wrong with you.

NO. No, No, No, No, NO!
No one’s life is perfect, not even remotely close. Allow yourself to experience your emotions, hold them. Avoid minimizing and hiding them away. Bravery is holding gaze with your fear and discomfort, recognizing that life can be hard, but you soldier on anyway.

Because after all, growth happens outside of your comfort zone!

For the record, just like all the other topics I write about, I definitely do not have life all figured out. I will be the first to admit that there are still so much work to do, so much room for improvement. However, what I have figured out and committed to, is that I will tirelessly learn and grow, even if it takes a few million iterations. It all started with Andie 1.0, then Andie 2.0, and maybe one day I’ll get to Andie 5,172,321.0.

Thank you for reading! I hope it has offered you a modicum of insight.❤️

A little background about Susan and where Emotional Agility has been integrated.

Recipe for Building a Healthy Lifestyle

Discipline and Consistency, Plus a Splash of Flexibility

Some time in the last few years, “Discipline” and “Consistency” have become two High Frequency Sight Words in self-help books and motivational essays. As an ‘everyday girl’, I wholeheartedly subscribe to the significance of them both. HOWEVER, what I think is not as commonly communicated, is the Flexibility that can symbiotically coexist with Discipline and Consistency. In fact, I believe that in order to achieve lifelong Consistency, one would REQUIRE Flexibility in their practice.

So often, there is this rigidity that is associated (or even celebrated) by those who are considered to be Consistent and Disciplined. The ‘5am-club’, the ’16-8 intermittent-fasts’, the ‘keto diet’, the ‘upper-lower-recovery workout split’ — just to name a few. Don’t get me wrong. Those routines and habits are great; there is nothing inherently wrong with them. Except, how often is life neat and tidy, such that it allows you to rigidly execute those routines?

Flexibility is Paramount

The ‘All or Nothing’ mentality is one that often causes people to stay astray when your routine gets interrupted. Here’s what I mean:

  • “I need 45 minutes to finish my set and I only have 20 minutes left before I have to go. Might as well just skip it.”
  • “With all my friends visiting from out of town, I’m going to be having dinners at restaurants all week. Might as well take this week off as ‘cheat week’ and go back on my regular diet when they’re gone.”

Now, imagine adding Flexibility to your routine and execution. On the days when you are not delivering the most ideal outcome, you can still show up and move towards your goal:

  • A 20-minute workout is better than no workout at all.
  • Just because you are having dinners with friends that may not align with your dietary goals, it doesn’t mean you have to sabotage your breakfast and lunch, too.

Healthy Lifestyle is a Lifelong Endeavour

“Becoming limitless involves mental agility; the ability to quickly grasp and incorporate new ideas and concepts with confidence.”

—Lorii Myers

As we expand our minds about science, nutrition, and fitness, it is important that we consciously pivot and grow our routine. Healthy lifestyles are not built in a day. Give yourself some grace, allow some flexibility and fluidity as you intentionally and consistently move towards your goal. You will sooner reach the results that you are looking for than you would with a rigid routine!

Rigidly Disciplined – All or nothing mentality, which included uncontrollable episodes of binges, followed by punitive fasts and cardio sessions.
Flexibly Disciplined – Any opportunity towards taking care of my body and mind are cherished. I am much happier and stronger now!

Drama-free Life

Are there some people in your life that are regularly stumbling upon one drama after another, be it family drama, work drama or relationship drama?

I was one of those.

While I insisted and manifested for a drama-free life, I was constantly finding myself in complicated, dramatic situations that enervated me of my mental, emotional, and physical resources. I remember thinking: “How do these dramas keep finding me when I am desperately trying to run the other way?”

Now it was clear to me that, I, subconsciously, was orchestrating my life in a way that attracted drama. Simply put: I was a self-made drama-magnet (despite my ignorant protest and denial).

In retrospect, how could I have not known that ‘throw-caution-to-the-wind’ type of romantic relationship was synonymous with ‘drama’?

Before I proceed to share my two cents, I’d like to preface it by saying that: while I have managed to reduce most dramas in my life, I am not completely drama-free. I, too, am still learning and mastering this art with you. Perfection doesn’t exist, but it can still be an asymptote towards which we tirelessly and ceaselessly strive.

Process of Reducing (and Potentially Eliminating) Drama in Your Life

1. Identify the Telltale Signs of a Drama-thirsty Person

Start with YOURSELF. Be harrowingly honest about how much you exhibit the following behaviour:

  • Lying
  • Over-promising and underdelivering
  • Speaking in codes and not being forthcoming
  • Manipulative
  • Guilt-tripping
  • Gaslighting
  • Being hot and cold
  • Controlling
  • Craving gossip
  • Playing victim – blaming others instead of assuming responsibility

2. Identify the Telltale Signs in Those with Whom You Choose to Surround Yourself

Are you inadvertently inviting drama into your life through the people close to you? How frequently do they exhibit the aforementioned behaviour?

3. Cost-benefit Analysis

This may sound absurdly insensitive and cold but your energy, time, and emotional bandwidth are unfortunately finite. This means that if you are not careful in your resource allocation, you may not have enough to accomplish what really matters to you in life. So, conduct a cost-benefit analysis on this person who’s costing you a tremendous amount of resources with their drama. Evaluate it against how much your relationship with this person is helping you grow and achieve your goals. If the cost of this relationship outweighs the benefits, then perhaps you’d want to consider drawing some distance from them.

“Life is not so black and white,” you might say. And I get it. I have relatives, with whom I cannot just cut ties, that thrive on creating drama. They live and breathe drama. Drama invigorates them and ignites a fire and a sense of purpose in their soul. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is entirely to each their own. Except, when I am intentionally focusing and funnelling my finite resources towards my goals, involving myself in their drama will cause only derailments. If I may also be completely and unabashedly frank, to what extent does my involvement really help with their situation anyways? Often, people who indulge in drama just need a willing audience. So, if not me, then it could easily have been someone else.

In closing, I’d to draw on the wisdom of one of the greatest and most revered Roman emperor and philosopher—Marcus Aurelius. He said:

The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.

What colour do you want to dye your soul?
Others’ inconsequential drama? Or, your own boundless potential unfolding?

Thank you for reading! To be honest, this topic has been a rather difficult and embarrassing one to write for me, but I hope that my journey can help shine some light for those of you who are trying to untangle and wrench yourself out of unnecessarily messy and exhausting dramatic situations.

Surrender Your Stagnant Belief

June 25, 2022

This morning at 5am, I woke up with an epiphany so abrupt and so intensely powerful that awoken and opened my eyes to this world through a new lens. A perspective so different, so liberating, that it felt like a rebirth. I know. It sounds absolutely exaggerated, except it is not.

We said goodbye to Grandma on Wednesday, June 22, 2022.

I have also been at a junction in my life, where I am faced with more than the goodbye to my grandma but also a few other, albeit some less permanent.

Life unfolds in proportion to your courage.

Sometime in my adolescent life, I’ve decided that I was absolutely no good at Goodbye’s. I never quite understood why that was the narrative I vehemently committed myself to. Perhaps it was because it gave me complete and total permission to dwell in my sorrow. Perhaps it was because it absolved me of the responsibility of processing my loss.

Whatever my flawed reasons were, I’ve finally come to let them go—this morning at 5am.

Until you change your narrative, you will always be confined to it.

It’s strange. I did know the power I had to change my perception and narrative, yet I wasn’t ready to fully embrace it. I’d like to think that not all awakening are “rude”; rather, some take longer to grow roots before they blossom.

So if there is anything that you’d want to take away from this post are these seeds — to hopefully one day colour and perfume your world through a new, empowering perception:

Surrender.

Get out of your own way. Create a new possibility for yourself.

Trust.

Trust that you already have what you need to reach the unfolding beauty that is this life.

Some freedoms are just a thought away

To Love or Be Loved

Sometimes, in utter frustration and heartbreak, my ego shouts: WHY WOULDN’T HE JUST CHOOSE ME, CHOOSE US? WHICH FOOL DOESN’T WANT TO BE EMPHATICALLY LOVED AND UNCONDITIONALLY CHERISHED???

But that’s just my ego talking. I understand that the heart wants what it wants. It’s not always corroborated by logic. Besides, who says they’d want to be emphatically loved anyways? That is only my naive, simplistic assumption.

Most hypocritical of all: I, too, am guilty of letting the people who had emphatically loved me and cherished me go.

I am one of those said fools.

That is all. Just trying to hold the grief of my grandma, and ‘I Am Enough,’ in the same thought.

What would YOU choose? To love or be loved?

The sky became a screen, shot through with pinpricked stars. Beneath it, I felt small and lost.

—A House in the Sky

Rubicon, Point of No Return

Rubicon, also known as Point of No Return (PNR) was a reference dating way back to Julius Caesar, at River Rubicon, where he had reached a point from which he could only move forward and continue on with his current course.

Rubicon is a notion that is ubiquitous in our daily lives: from aviation, to investment strategies, to the biological markup of who we are (called R points, beyond which “cells are committed to DNA synthesis and they no longer require the extracellular growth factors during the remainder of the cell cycle”). Perhaps the only place where Rubicon does not concretely exist, is in our brain, due to the brain’s neuroplastic nature. However, in order to safeguard our sanity, it is not uncommon for people to set up arbitrary mental Rubicons. For instance, to avoid losing all of myself in a romantic relationship, I would implement Rubicons as a signal to my obstinate self to GIVE UP when things are too far gone, and my heart too far broken. Once I’ve arrived at my designated Rubicon, where I fully accepted and embraced a future without my partner in it, then the relationship would start its imminent countdown to the expiration date.

Oh and, let’s not forget, there is also:
Death—the ultimate Rubicon, the most irrevocable commitment to action.

alea iacta est (“the die is cast”)

Caesar

Safe Haven

Healing is not linear.

Perhaps what is not commonly talked about during grieving is: the intense, razor-sharp reminders of the trauma associated with the person you are grieving. Because, relationships are not black and white. You could deeply love someone that has deeply hurt you.

Healing is not linear.

Some days are harder than others. They require much more self-regulating strategies beyond a meditation or even a walk. On days as such, like today, I go to my imaginary safe haven until I have convalesced enough to soldier on again.

On a meadow of luscious green grass, overlooking the ocean and the city, I hide.
Eyes closed, warmed by the gentle morning sun, my heart slows to the cadence of waves ebbing and flowing.
I take some deep breathes, inviting the crisp, dewy smell of early summer to fill my lungs, to displace the anxiety that parks stiffly there.

Her sadness was ceaseless, but she kept it quarantined in a governable little quarter of her heart. It was the best she could do.

The Signature of All Things
Memories are also a good place to hide


Falling Out of Love

Sometimes, falling out of love feels like a gentle awakening from deep, sweet slumber. Bleary-eyed, the person you once fell in love with slowly emerges from reality. You rob your eyes to see them more clearly. Little by little, you realize they are no longer the person with whom you wish to co-create your life adventures. And you are okay with that. Sometimes, people grow apart. You still love them, just not in the same way.

Other times, falling out of love feels like sobering up from a night of heavy drinking. You wake up to your life in absolute disarray: food scraps all over the kitchen, empty bottles, scattered clothes. You look at yourself in the mirror: haggard, make-up smudged, hair unkempt. With a pounding headache you think to yourself, “What have I done?”

Whatever was left of the alcoholic “liquid magic” now only incite a metallic, repulsive aftertaste in your mouth. The thought of having another sip makes your stomach churn.

And that’s how you feel about the person you are in a relationship with, too.

The future you once imagined to be alluring now falls flat, unappealing, even daunting. “What have I done?” You think to yourself.

Some people come in our life as blessings. Some come in your life as lessons.

Mother Teresa

Our Warring Self vs. Loving Self

The beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder

Virginia Woolf

Within most of us, there is a lovingself, and a warringself. While our loving-self endows us with bottomless source of love, our warring-self shelters our hearts from the sometimes abrasive and hostile world. Undeniably, both of them serve a critical purpose in life. However, in order to not sever and wound the people we love, we need to be able to discern when to let our loving-self surface.

Hardened by reality, it is common for us to forget how to lay down our warring selves—especially when we are with those who are closest to us. We sometimes find ourselves in heated conversations with fingers pointing, guns blazing, occupying as much physical space as possible, only to camouflage how small we actually feel inside.

“Why can’t you just see that I am hurting?” We scream loudly and hopelessly in our heads. But only in our heads.

So HOW do we stop our warring, raging-self before we irrevocably damage the relationship? HOW do we summon our loving-self amid such blinding emotions?

It only takes a split second—a willful, courageous split second—to picture your loved ones as their child-selves: benevolent and hurt. Hurt. Because after all, anger, frustration, and resentment, are all byproduct of hurt and fear. If we can take a moment to see beyond the warring-self of our loved ones, then we could change the trajectory of the conversation, and even the entire dynamic of the relationship.

No, it is not easy. But nothing worth fighting for comes easy, does it?