Minimalism Vs Debt: 7 Simple Strategies to Liberate Your Finances

June 21st, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

“Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner.” – Warren Buffett

The last few years were defined by credit cards, bank busts and ultimately bankruptcy for a lot of people.

The reason we got into this mess is simple: we all took too much, and no one told us we couldn’t.

The world exists on checks and balances, and a check without a balance isn’t a smart thing to write.

The solution to any debt problem is easily said than done, but I’ll go ahead and say it: to get out of debt you have to spend less. Easy, right? Well, not so much for many people.

I’ve been dealing with a hunkload of student debt since college. Right now the balance is a little under $15,000. When I lived my over-extended day job life, the idea of ever being able to pay this back was hard to comprehend.

Now that I apply minimalism to every action I take, digging through that debt seems like a much easier reality for me. I hope to pay it all back by the end of the year, and in order to do that I need solid strategies in place to repay the debt.

I think that if you apply minimalism, getting out of debt can be a reality for you as well.

How minimalism can help you get out of debt.

First I want to tell you the story of how I paid off all of my credit card debt (around $2,000) last month. But I have to start with how I had that debt in the first place: in March my computer exploded — the screen just died and it was a year out of warranty. This was a month after launching The Art of Being Minimalist, and while the e-book was paying for my minimalist lifestyle in New York, I wasn’t quite making enough to buy out of pocket a brand new Macbook Pro.

So I had to make a hard choice, one that I hated doing, I put the computer on my Discover card — this is one of the decisions that people have to make all of the time: at the time I had to pay the rent first and figure out how to pay off the computer later.

Here’s my solution for the credit card debt: to pay it off immediately all at once. After the pre-release of Minimalist Business I had more than enough to move to California and continue to pay for my minimalist lifestyle. So, I simply paid the $2,000 credit card debt off. Now I don’t have to worry about it anymore, because I paid it off.

This is where most people approach debt incorrectly. They let it sit there, and game credit card offers with zero-interest, swapping the balance back and forth between card providers but never really addressing the biggest issue: that they’re in debt and they need to get out.

The best approach is to sacrifice your immediate desire to splurge and instead kill that debt now, so you can live a freer life in the future.

There are no good kinds of debt.

When you’re living a freedom lifestyle, there are no good forms of debt. Your education, your mortgage, and especially your consumer debt is all debt you shouldn’t have.

Why? Because debt weighs you down.

It’s a lot harder to make good decisions in regard to your freedom if you’re worried about $15,000 in debt from your education. It’s nearly impossible to make good choices if you’re $900,000 in debt on a house.

You’re never going to live a location independent life if you’re paying into the debt trap.

I realize this is hard to hear, we’ve been brought up on this sick idea of an American dream that was dreamt up by McDonald’s and Walmart to keep the American population buying crap to fill their oversized homes and bodies.

You don’t need anything enough that you should be willing to go into that much debt over it.

Well, enough about the problem, let’s look at some solutions.

Here are 7 strategies you can use to apply simplicity in order to get out of debt.

1. Reduce overhead by adopting a minimalist lifestyle.

The first element to eliminating debt by applying minimalism is to figure out your actual cost of living and attempt to reduce the cost to under a certain threshold.

The best way that I’ve found to do this is to only give yourself a certain amount of money to spend every month on your life. Some people call this a budget, I call it dealing with reality. If your life only costs $1,500 a month, and you’re making $5,000 a month, then you can put $3,500 a month towards paying down your debt.

A few practical strategies for reducing your overhead I’ve talked about many times: create a 30-day wait-list for purchases larger than $20 (other than groceries). Live with less than 100 things. Sell your crap to make extra money. Live in a smaller apartment.

If you continue to spend $5,000 a month when you make $5,000 a month, you’ll never pay down your debt. Yes, that’s very simple, and yet so many people don’t get it.

You need much less than you think. Eliminate overhead to dig yourself out of debt.

2. Pay off the most emotional balances first.

I subscribe to Adam Baker’s Debt Tsunami approach, as outlined in his e-book Unautomate Your Finances, to paying down debts. This is why my temporary credit card debt had to be the first to go, because it was keeping me awake at night.

Baker’s Debt Tsunami approach recognizes that some unpaid balances are more emotional than others. For instance, if you owe money to your family chances are that the unpaid balance is creating a lot more of a strain than how much you owe Citibank on your student loan. Pay your family back first, then move on to less emotional outstanding balances.

It doesn’t matter if the $1,000 your buddy owed you is interest-free. Pay it back first, because your buddy deserves the money back. The banks can wait, save your relationships first.

3. Don’t buy a car (sell yours if you did.)

One of the funniest (funny because people are silly) mistakes that I see people make is simple: they rack up a huge debt in college, then they graduated and immediately rush to the car dealership to put zero-down on a car they can’t afford.

Cars are destructive, dirty, expensive, time-consuming, and they’re also one of the easiest ways to save $8,000+ a year. Simply don’t buy one, or sell the one you have, and you’ll free up a huge portion of your finances that you didn’t even realize that you could have.

People don’t take the entire cost of a car into account when they buy one. They simply look at how much the car payment will be a month, without taking into account the cost of insurance, gas, repairs, parking fines, etc. These all quickly stack up to an unsustainable life.

Living without a car is so simple that I’ve been doing it for the last 8 years: move to a place where you don’t need one. Believe it or not, there are cities and towns in America where you can walk to get your groceries. Brooklyn, Portland, San Francisco, etc. I’ve lived in all of these places, and they’re all wonderful places to live car-free.

Someday we’ll live in a car-free world, and believe me, it will be a better place.

If you do need a car in these places, you can rent one for $6-$11 an hour with gas included by joining Zipcar.

4. Establish a repayment plan.

Debt isn’t going to repay itself, you need to establish a plan to pay back the debt you have.

I normally hate planning, but with money you have to establish a threshold that you’re going to put towards your outstanding debts or you’ll never pay back the balance.

Paying the minimum due each month isn’t a plan, it’s a way to keep yourself perpetually in debt.

Once you’ve established how much your life costs, and reduced your overhead through minimalism, you can move to the next step of dedicating large amounts of money to paying off your debts.

I suggest dedicating anywhere from $500-$2000 a month towards paying down debts until they’re completely eliminated — this is the strategy I’m using at the moment and it’s going a long way towards getting me to the point of living debt free by the end of the year.

As we discussed above, pay the minimum on every account except for the one that’s causing you the most emotional strife. Throw the large sums of money at one outstanding debt until you’ve completely paid it off, and then start on the next. This way you’ll see real change that you wouldn’t if you evenly distributed money across all debts at once.

5. Stop using credit cards.

Credit cards can be necessary in tough situations (like when your Macbook explodes), but in most others you shouldn’t need one.

Credit cards turn money into an abstract idea. It’s not real money, it’s just the credit card. The reality of the situation is that using credit cards is spending real money that you don’t have already.

One of the best ways that I’ve found to opt-out of monetary abstraction is to stop using credit cards entirely. Cut them up and never use them again. Take physical cash out of the bank and use it to make purchases until you’re out of debt.

It’s much more difficult to drop $500 on something you don’t need when you’re paying with a big wad of cash.

6. Establish additional revenue streams.

One of the best ways to pay down debt, believe it or not, is to make more money. The best way to do this, in my experience, is to establish new (and ideally passive) revenue streams.

Create remarkable products around work that you’re passionate about, take on more clients, build resources that help people, etc.

Many people work one job, and have one mostly steady income source. The problem with this is that you don’t have the opportunity in most cases to work harder in order to make more money. You can’t leverage your skills in a day job to create passive income either — all of the extra money you make goes to your company and not your own paycheck.

I recently started to realize that money was just a symbol for the value that you contribute to the world. When you make change and help people, more money will come, if you make the decision to ask for it.

When you make more money, you can pay down your debts faster.

7. Buying things won’t make you happy.

The final element to this whole equation is realizing that buying more things will never make you happy.

The televisions taught us to rush to the mall every time a new gadget comes out. Millions of people wander around clothing stores hoping that buying one more pair of shoes will cure all of their problems. The reality of the situation is that buying more junk just makes us sadder after a temporary high that comes from spending money.

When you opt-out of the endless cycle of consumerism, you free yourself to pay down your debts and eventually live a minimalist freedom lifestyle.


Maren Kate of Escaping the 9-5 interviewed me about minimalist business strategies for success.


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32 Ways to Refocus on the Important

March 28th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

The most successful people have only a few priorities. Here’s how to refocus when you lose track of yours.

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

The inconvenient truth of entrepreneurship.

I have a confession to make, I’ve been working too hard.

The whole idea of working for myself was so I could have more time to live life, remember?

Well, over the last two weeks I got carried away with my entrepreneurship. I’ve been working over 40 hours a week on the blog and my next e-book. This is far too much time to be spending on my minimalist business.

I was supposed to be living the minimalist work week to the fullest, and concentrating on my real priorities: Yoga, Cooking, Writing, and Reading.

Instead I’ve been working all day, cooking fattier foods, and I had totally forgotten about yoga for a week.

I’ve got to refocus, maybe you do too?

Everyone loses focus on their priorities occasionally.

This is okay though, everyone loses focus on their priorities once in awhile. Occasionally it’s beneficial to lose the balance in their life in order to achieve greatness in one direction.

But after working hard in one area, there comes a time when it’s necessary to refocus on what you’ve identified as being truly important. For more on identifying the important see: The Stunning Truth About Focusing on the Important.

This is why I’ve compiled a list, below, of 32 ways to focus on the important. I hope it can help you re-find the focus in your life.

I’m going to be refocusing in the coming weeks.

As some of you know, I’m working on a new e-book called Minimalist Business. The e-book explores my journey to creating a low-overhead business which supports my location independent lifestyle.

I’m writing this e-book because I’ve received hundreds of emails about business side of my work on The Art of Being Minimalist. These emails have given me many ideas to think about as I did my best to help everyone who emailed me create their own minimalist businesses.

I hope it can help you achieve the same kind of life, if you’re interested.

In order to get the e-book done, and maintain focus in my life, I’m going slow down the schedule here at Far Beyond The Stars to two stories per week. This way I can work on making two posts twice as useful to you, and also have time to work on completing the e-book.

On to the focus!

Feel free to apply one or a few of these to your life, but don’t try to do them all at once. Definitely feel free to bookmark this page and return to it whenever you find yourself losing focus.

Here are 32 ways to refocus on your priorities.

1. Slow down. The best way to refocus on your priorities is to slow down. Take 10 deep breathes. Walk slower through life and appreciate every moment. You’ll start to see clarity when you take time to appreciate every moment.

2. Stop checking email. If you read my post on Timejacking, you know my opinion on email: it’s not as necessary as you think. Set two (or even one) specific times to check email during your day. This can save you up to 3 hours of time sitting in front of your inbox waiting for messages to come, so you can react to them. Turn this around, and you’ll start to focus on your priorities and create great work. I’ve been checking email less (trying for one time per day as much as possible) for a number of weeks, and my productivity has exploded.

3. Change up your routine. Turn your routine on it’s head. If you exercise in the mornings, try exercising at night. If you work during the week, try working on the weekends or at night instead. If you walk down 5th Avenue every day on your way to work, try walking on 6th Avenue instead. If you always go out to eat, try cooking at home instead.

4. Disconnect from the internet. Turn off your wireless router, or unplug your Ethernet cable, and just sit there. At first you’ll go crazy without being able to constantly click around on Facebook. It’s okay, you’ll be fine. Before 1990 no one had Internet in their homes, remember? Let alone Internet in their pockets! You’ll survive. Just sit and stare at a wall until you’re able to refocus on your priorities.

5. Write your priorities down. This is so incredibly important. Take out a sheet of paper, or open a blank document on your computer, and simply write down your priorities. I like to keep them to 4 or less. These are the things that are really important to you. These are passions, not obligations.

6. Take a few days off. Nothing fixes focus like a good long weekend. Take a few days off and do something fun. Don’t think about work. Don’t do any work. Just focus on having fun, or creating something that you enjoy. When you get back to work you’ll have a fresh mind and be able to refocus on your priorities.

7. Take a walk. A good long walk can do wonders if you can’t focus. The repetitive motion of your feet has a way of centering the left and right hemispheres of your brain. Just pick a direction and start walking, don’t have a destination, just walk for the journey.

8. Go to the beach for a day. I love going to the beach. It’s a great place to sit in the sun and let your worries wash away. If you don’t have a beach near you, a park can do too, (but beaches are more awesome.) Bring some sandwiches and spiked punch. Don’t forget your sunscreen! Definitely forget your cellphone.

9. Up your intensity. Sometimes the best way to refocus is to take everything to the next level. Take one of your priorities and spend 80% of your time doing it. I plan on doing this with Yoga in the next few weeks. By spending all of your time, you’ll be able to refocus on your priority and take it to the next level.

10. Work somewhere new. If you’re used to working in an office, or in your home, make the decision to change your location. Work from a coffee shop or the library. Go to a friend’s house and work together. Take your work out on the porch and work in the sun, or go to the park.

11. Hang out with different people. We can sometimes fall into a routines of hanging out with the same good folks all the time. The trouble is, this can lead to social stagnation. Try hanging out with new people once in awhile. This will open you up to new ideas and you’ll have new experiences.

12. Sleep more. This is a no-brainer. The studies all show that we don’t get as much sleep as we need. Take a few days and catch up on your rest. Sleep for 9 hours a night instead of 6. You’ll start to notice your priorities come into focus when you have enough rest.

13. Eat good food. We are what we eat, literally. And yet some people eat garbage from the take-out. Don’t do this! Try cooking dinners at home every day for a week (perhaps consider doing this for the rest of your life.) Use fresh vegetables, beans, nuts, berries, etc. Eat fresh fruit for breakfast in order to have more energy. When you eat better you’ll overcome obstacles with much less effort.

14. Sit in silence. Simply sit in silence for 30 minutes. Don’t worry about meditating. Sit on a comfortable pillow, or in a chair, close your eyes and let the thoughts pass through your brain. A time-out like that can change your thinking and help you refocus.

15. Kill your bad habits. Choose one bad habit and take it to the guillotine. Just stop doing whatever you hate about yourself. There are so many things that humans compulsively do that are bad for us. When we have the courage to tell ourselves no we can free up space to focus on what we really want to accomplish. Some bad habits you may have: TV, smoking, drinking, Twitter all day, email, negativity, pessimism, driving.

16. Stop worrying so much. Anxiety is simply failing over and over and over again in advance. Tell yourself to stop worrying. The simple reason for this is that worrying doesn’t do any good. It doesn’t help to guess at what the outcome of an action will be. Make a decision about what you think the outcome will be and stick with it. Maybe it’ll work out, maybe it won’t. At least you didn’t spend 5 hours chewing up your stomach anticipating your own failure.

17. Throw out the plan. Plans are just guesses. Too many people spend 80% of their time planning and half of the time they never get to the actual execution. I’d like to let you in on a secret: execution is everything. The plan isn’t necessary if you don’t do anything. In most cases you can do something without a plan. Cut out the preparation and start making things happen.

18. Read for new ideas. Take a day and go to the bookstore. Find a great book. If you need suggestions, I’ve read a bunch of books so far this year. All of them were very good. Now, sit down and read the book. Slowly let the ideas flow off the page and into you. This will rejuvenate your focus on the important.

19. Turn off the TV. If you know me, you know I hate the TV. Two years ago I helped my roommate paint three of them and turn them into an art installation. Two weeks ago I helped my girlfriend finally sell her flatscreen. The average American watched 5 hours of TV a day in 2008 (according to The Story of Stuff), that’s 35 hours a week. Tell me there are better things you could be doing with that time.

20. Take a mini-retirement. There’s no sense in wasting the prime of your life working yourself to death. Save up a few thousand dollars and go incommunicado. Rent a boat and sail down slowly down the coast. Rent a beach house in Mexico and disappear for a month or two. Trust me, the world will be here when you get back.

21. Move somewhere new. So many people never make the decision to leave their home town. It can be one of the best decisions you ever make it leave a place one you’ve been there for awhile. Pick somewhere and go there. Leave behind all of your crap, you don’t need it. Just go somewhere before it’s too late.

22. Radically change your diet. If you’re eating pancakes every morning, try eating fresh fruit. If you eat steak for dinner, try eating tofu. There are a million ways to radically change your diet. You are what you eat, so when you transform your diet you transform yourself.

23. Declutter your living space. Take a day and get rid of clutter. Find a home for every object that you own. Put things in drawers or closets. If you can’t find homes for everything, you need to get rid of some things. Make a box and put things in it. Take these things and donate them to someone needs them.

24. Limit your work schedule. We work too much. The worst part is, we can usually manage to fit our work into as long as we give ourselves to complete our jobs. No one ever achieved great things by working 80 hours a week for an entire year. If you normally work 60 hours, reduce your schedule to 40. If you work 40, reduce it to 20. Once I get to 10 hours a week of work, I’m going to try and reduce it down to 4 as soon as possible. I bet you can get the same amount of work done by strategically batching requests and eliminating the unessential.

25. Turn off your smartphone. What a terrible idea, giving yourself the ability to be constantly in touch via email. (full disclosure, I do have an iPhone. I mainly use it for capturing ideas via Evernote, taking photos, and communicating with readers via Twitter during set batched intervals.) Turn your smartphone off for periods at a time, if you can’t get rid of it completely. You’ll notice a world of difference, and you’ll be able to focus on the important.

26. Leave your phone at home. Go out into the world and leave your phone at home. Trust me, you’ll be able to tell what time it is. You can ask somebody! It’s important to disconnect from people once in awhile. If you’re constantly available, you’re simply going to be reacting to requests. Bonus: let every single call you receive go to voicemail first, then batch call everyone back at one set time per day. This will save you tons of time if you’re a heavy phone user.

27. Rearrange your house. Take a day and change how your home is arranged. Or maybe even just your living room or office. Put the couch on the other wall. Take the TV and throw it out the window. Consult a Feng shui expert (or ask the Internet) and make sure your space is obeying the right rules. When you’re done, the new perspective will help you refocus.

28. Go vagabonding. Put the essentials for survival in a bag. Book a ticket somewhere and just go. It doesn’t matter where you go, just go. Email the hostel and book a few nights, then take off from there. Don’t have a destination, don’t go see touristy stuff, just live somewhere new every single day. Read Rolf Potts’s awesome book Vagabonding for more on how to have this amazing experience.

29. Read different blogs. We fall into reading the same bloggers over and over again, but that can be a trap. I try to write about new things, and delve deeper into topics, but inevitably I’m still me. Other bloggers are still them. After reading a blogger for a number of months, you might find yourself just reading out of obligation. Try reading new bloggers to change things up.

30. Stop reading the paper. Newspapers are dead. Most of their employees have taken huge pay-cuts over the last few years. Most of their writers are forced to write about topics that they don’t have expertise in and don’t interest them. This leads to sloppy writing and boring stories. Stop reading newspapers, you won’t be missing much.

31. Eliminate obligations. People tend to collect obligations like we collect junk. The problem is that sometimes we don’t take stock to see if we’re getting anything out of them. Take a moment and make a list of everything you’re obligated to do every week. Now strike out everything that you hate doing. This can free up a huge amount of time.

32. Let it all go. Finally, just let it go. The world can do without you for awhile. Just relax and let things happen when they happen. Don’t worry so much, or you’ll get gray hair and you’ll need anti-depressants. When you let it all go, it’s only a matter of time before you start to refocus on your priorities and start to make great work.


Here are some links that will help you:

Be Your Own Guru by Jonathan Fields.

The Joy of Walking by Leo Babauta.

Paying it Way Forward by Colin Wright.

The Most Important Blog Post You’ll Never Read by Glenn Allsopp.


How do you refocus on your priorities?

If this article helped you, I’d love if you’d take 10 seconds and use your favorite method to share it.

Thank you.

14 Simple Ways to Stimulate Creativity

February 16th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

How to banish the resistance and harness creativity

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

One of the hardest battle any of us will fight is the battle for creativity. Countless books have no doubt been written about the war of making art, and many more will be written in the future.

It will never be easy to be a creator.

I’m noticing this, as my subscriber count has skyrocketed over the last few weeks. The Art of Being Minimalist just keeps selling a number of copies every day. But, with all of this attention comes an added pressure.

It will always be easier to write for your one adoring fan. It will always be harder to write for a larger audience. To stand on this Internet stage, my blog, and project new ideas into the ether day after day, is difficult.

The battle for creativity.

I have no doubt that you’ve fought this creative battle too. We all have. The bravest of us choose to fight what Seth Godin calls ‘The Resistance‘ every day.

This is a battle worth winning, and one that you should never give up fighting.

The world has a surplus of mediocre people who are unwilling to take on this challenge, and a great need for artists who will take up the call to create greatness.

But there will be times when you don’t feel like fighting anymore, when it’d just too challenging. During those times you must keep fighting. You must keep creating.

For what other good reason is there to live but to make greatness every day?

For this reason I’ve developed a series of strategies to stimulate my own creativity, I hope they can help you with your own creative battles.

14 ways to stimulate creativity and banish the resistance.

  1. Change your surroundings. Sometimes you can just get bored of working at your same desk every day. That’s okay! Go work somewhere new. Maybe this is the back porch, or perhaps it is the coffee shop. A change of location can do wonders for your creativity.
  2. Turn off all distractions. I speak or this often: work doesn’t happen on social networking or email. Turn these off. Hitting the refresh button on your email won’t stimulate ideas.
  3. Ignore the metrics. Sometimes we try to constantly evaluate our success. How good did I do today? Ignore your success, it will still be there when you find it, trust me. Don’t count your blog hits or how many people answer your emails. None of that is as important as creating good work.
  4. Give yourself no other choice. This won’t be a good idea for everyone, but sometimes my best creative moments come when I have no other choice. For instance, I jumped onto a plane to Portland with no job lined up and no expectation of success, I came back with an idea for an e-book.
  5. Go for a walking meditation. Leave your cell phone, leave your to do list, and just go for a walk. Walk slowly and with no destination. Be aware of the pace of your feet. Look at the trees. Watch the people. Smile. Breathe. This can be very relaxing, and is worth daily practice.
  6. Cancel all obligations. Stop being so busy, you’re distracting yourself from the real work. Take out your meeting planner, put it in a bucket, and burn it. Delete your Google Calendar. Good, now you have nowhere to be, perhaps now you can get some real work done.
  7. Ignore the critics. If you’re brave enough to make a powerful work, you will inevitably attract attention. With this attention comes the critics. You know them, these are the obsessively negative people who’s only mission in life is to tear you down. Ignore them, block them, do anything in your power to stop them from entering your consciousness.
  8. Get some exercise. Practice Yoga, go for a run, go to the gym. A lot of toxins build up in our system as we interact with the world, exercise is the single best way to cleanse your body, release stress, and center yourself.
  9. Drink a tea or coffee. Take 15 minutes to make a tea or coffee. Make every action you take have intention –a beginning, middle, and end. Be aware of every action you take. Breathe. Then sit and just drink your coffee or tea — no, don’t check your email — just drink until you are done. This is a very rewarding experience.
  10. Take an hour to cook a meal. I find cooking very relaxing, so when I’m having trouble stimulating my creativity, I’ll take an hour break to make a good meal. Don’t just microwave something, that won’t help. Prepare this meal with fresh ingredients from the market. It will taste good, and give you energy.
  11. Allow yourself to have bad ideas. It’s okay to pop out a junker once in awhile. There is always the idea that every idea must be better than the next, but that isn’t always true. Let go of your expectations and just make something. Who cares if it’s not the best thing you’ve ever made in your lifetime. It’s something, and that’s more than most people are making.
  12. Read a good book. Many books are filled with good ideas that will stimulate your own idea flow. Take some time and just read. If you’re interested, take a look at what books I’m reading now — I’m reading a book a week in 2010. Sit down, pick up a good book, and just read. Have no other expectations for yourself.
  13. Give yourself some time off. Maybe today you’re just not going to make anything. That’s okay, give yourself permission to take some time off. Go watch a movie, go walk in the park. We are so hard on ourselves all the time, I know I am. It’s okay to take a moment and just breathe in and out and exist without the pressure of making.
  14. Just start creating. Sometimes the act of creating can stimulate creativity. Isaac Asimov wrote over 500 books in his life, just by sitting his butt in a chair and starting to write – he did this every day. It doesn’t matter if what you’re creating is junk, the simple act of creating can start the creative juices flowing.


How do you get the creative juices flowing?

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How Anticipation is the Least Minimalist Emotion

February 3rd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Why your futuresense is handicapping your success.

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

Around two million years ago, we humans evolved the absolutely stunning ability to see things that were going to happen in our heads.

Two million years might seem like a long time, but as far as evolution goes we’ve just developed this miraculous ability. We’re still trying to grasp how to use our pre-frontal cortex properly.

This ability to project experiences upon ourselves can be quite useful. It allows me to try out blog post topics in my head before I write them. If they bomb in my head, there is a good chance you won’t want to read them either. This saves me the trouble of writing (too many) bad blog posts.

I like to call this our futuresense.

No other animal has this ability to anticipate the future quite like humans do. It’s hard to compare it with any other ability. I trust you can do this, and you know what I’m talking about.

This ability to futuresense is cool, but the problem is that it doesn’t always work right. In fact, a good deal of the time our futuresense is completely off.

We don’t know what will make us happy.

I gaurantee at some point in your life you’ve sat awake at night and anticipated a date that was going to change your life — and then it was a boring date. Or you couldn’t wait to get your hands on a new gizmo-gadget, but this didn’t end up solving all of your problems.

If fact, imagine you have this choice: Tomorrow you’re either going to win the lottery, or you’ll be hit by a bus and be paralyzed for the rest of your life.

Which one will make you happier? Easy choice, I know. You want to win the lottery.

Well, you guessed wrong.

Studies have been done on the happiness of these two outcomes. Statistically people who experience these two outcomes end up with the same level of happiness, whether or not they were hit by a bus or won the lottery. Shocking!

What this tells me is that we’re all too focused on a future happiness, and ignoring the fact that we’re going to be the same amount of happy in the future as we are now.

Why don’t we appreciate what we have now? Stop futuresensing, start enjoying this moment.

We can’t futuresense most outcomes.

Then there is the fact that of all the possible outcomes that you’ve been futuresensing, the chances of anything close to what you futuresense coming true are slim.

Many of us sit for endless hours pondering outcomes. ‘Well if I do this, x will happen and it’ll be a disaster.’

How many times has your futuresense told you that everything was going to be a big mess, and it wasn’t? Probably most of the time. The world isn’t really that scary a place, but your futuresense still thinks there are sabertooth tigers.

You can’t anticipate the future.

So we spend hours upon hours ‘making plans’ before we do anything. If what I’m telling you about the inaccuracies of our futuresense is true, then making plans is about the most absurd thing you can do.

By making a plan, you’re just sitting around contemplating a future that isn’t going to happen. Your end product is zero. This doesn’t mean you can’t have objectives, priorities, goals.

I’m just saying that playing out the final act in your head before you start working is a waste of time, and yet we spend so much time doing it.

Nothing actually happens until you take an action and do something.

You can’t futuresense outcomes at all, you can only waste your time. It’s the least minimalist emotion.

You have the power to decide to opt out of using your pre-frontal cortex before you do every little thing. This is not easy, but it helps once you recognize what you’re doing. You’re working yourself up into a big old panic attack over 75 futures that won’t happen.

Turn it off, start living your life.


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10 Simple Ways to Eliminate Anxiety in an Uncertain World

November 12th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Writing and Photography by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter

Let’s face it, the world can be terrifying. Do you know what you’re going to be doing next month, six months from now, or even a year? At the moment I certainly don’t.

I’m moving around, without a base of operations, freelancing out of coffee shops for clients that I’ve never met. Some days I get a little bit anxious. I wonder if I’ll ever see enough money to pay for my train ticket that I put on the Discover Card to Chicago. I wonder if I’ll ever eat again. I wonder if the sky will fall, and if I’ll be run over by a bus, or maybe I’ll never find happiness or success. Oh my god, panic!

And then I think of these 10 simple ways that I can calm myself and bring my confused mind back to reality. I remember that I am responsible for saving myself from this situation, and that I’m the one who that put me here anyway.

Anxiety is largely a construction in our minds. It’s a self-preservation instinct left over from when lions were lurking around the next bush and we didn’t want to be eaten. No one is going to eat you, in actuality, the world is pretty damn safe in most places.

The other horrifying truth is that anxiety can prevent us from achieving our goals. Have you ever stayed home, not returned a call, or even sent an email because you got scared? I know I have.

This supposed self-defense reflex is really costing us something: opportunities.

It’s time to get this anxiety under control, people!

Here are the ten techniques that I use to eliminate anxiety:

1, Take ten deep breaths.
This is one of the most important practices you can do for yourself. So often we rush around doing repetitive things endlessly, with no break for ourselves and our minds. A lot of anxiety stems from being simply overwhelmed. Start by taking one natural breath in, hold it for a second, and then blow it out. Repeat, this time a little bit longer on the inhale. Good! Now do that seven more times. You’ll notice your mind begin to clear and the world will start to seem a little bit lighter.

2, Go on a walking meditation.
One of the best ways to eliminate anxiety is just to drop everything you’re doing and go for a walk. Don’t aim for any one place, and don’t put a time limit on how long you’ll stay out. Leave your technology at home (but don’t forget your keys!) or at the office. Just walk, breathe, think. The world will start to calm and you’ll be able to see clear solutions overcoming difficult situations.

3, Turn off your cellphone.
Phones can make anyone overwhelmed. I like to turn mine off, or just ignore it. When the cellphone rings, 9 times out of 10 it’s just going to add one more thing for you to do. You’ll either have to dodge drinks with your old buddy, or another work problem will surface. Just let every incoming call go to voice-mail. Set aside a time later in the day, once you’ve calmed yourself, to catch up the calls that are actually important.

4, Stretch your body.
This can alleviate a lot of stress and help your body regain it’s natural balance. Start by doing a forward bend, just touch your toes, and stay there. Relax. If touching your toes is difficult, touching your knees is fine. Don’t judge the forward bend, just do it. This will relieve a lot of tension that’s built up in your back and hamstrings. Stay in the bend for two-five minutes, slowly roll back up to standing. Are you calmer? Yes!

5, Make every action deliberate.
Think about every action that you take, and move through it with precision and mindfulness. Do NOT multitask, instead single-task. Do NOT do anything faster than you need to, instead slow down. When you take the time to do every action with completeness, you’ll be so much more effective. You will start to see progress in your actions, which will relieve your anxiety.

6, Remember one time you overcame anxiety in the past.
Recall that one time that you called that beautiful girl you wanted to ask out, and she said yes? Wasn’t it scary? It worked out in the end didn’t it? Remember that job interview that you were so scared you wouldn’t get, and you prepared, and sweated, and walked four times around the block before you went in? You nailed it didn’t you? You can replicate that moment, you have to try first though.

7, Go to a public place.
I like being surrounded by tons of people as they go about their lives. Grand Central Station in New York is good for this, Powell’s bookstore cafe in Portland is good for this. Navy Pier in Chicago is good for this. I like to go to a crowded public place and then just stand still and watch the people swirl around me. I observe how stressed everyone is. How serious they are. And I realize that I’m just one small part of a bigger picture, and that everyone is freaking out too, this makes me feel better.

8, Stop doing so much.
We all do way more than we need to. We’ve got the Twitter window open, with our email, with our Facebook, with that spreadsheet we’re working on, with the copy of the book proposal that we’re writing. Stop doing so much. We expect way more of ourselves than we can ever expect to handle. Take a moment a eliminate a few tasks that you do every day that you’re doing out of obligation, not because these things you’re doing are actually important.

Here is what is important to me: cooking food, writing on this blog, working on projects that are remarkable, completing projects that end in paychecks, yoga, meditation, sleeping, reading. I have to ask myself hard questions before I engage in anything outside these activities.

9, Take a moment to contemplate what’s most important.
Do you have a larger goal in your life? If you don’t then don’t think about this, because it’ll just make you more anxious. If you do have a goal, think about that end result. Everything you’re doing should lead to that point, don’t deviate from your plan.

10, What’s the worst that can happen?

When all else fails, I ask myself the above question. Because seriously, in most cases it’s not that bad. I try to envision that worst possible situation, and I realize that there’s no way it’ll end up as bad as I think it will. In most cases the projections that our brains are making are overestimating the challenge or the danger, and the future will be so much brighter than you imagine.


If you know someone who’s having trouble overcoming anxiety, do them a favor and send them this post! Don’t be scared, they’ll appreciate it.

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