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If You Don’t Know What Your Next Thought Is, You’re Not Alone

If You Don’t Know What Your Next Thought Is, You’re Not Alone

I find it rather easy to get lost in thought. Although I do enjoy this journey through my mind, there are times where I must pull myself out of this excursion. I am reminded of this every time my 3-year old daughter asks me, “Daddy, are you here?” This question hits deep.

I am learning the importance of being present in the moment. One book I turn to for this is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Let’s take a look at what we can all learn from Tolle in his powerful book.

    Life is a series of present moments

    If I asked you where everything happens, what would you say? The answer should be quite simple – everything happens in the present moment.

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    “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you will ever have.” – Eckhart Tolle

    Tolle teaches us that the past is nothing more than all present moments that have gone by and the future is a collection of present moments waiting to arrive.

    We fill in gaps with painful thoughts

    For some reason we incessantly fill our mind with painful thoughts about the past and worrisome thoughts about the future. Yet, we can only live in the present.

    Think of a straight line. At one end is the past and the other the future. In the center of the line is the present moment, where you exist. Now picture gaps along the line on each side of the center. The center (the present moment) is the only spot that should contain our thoughts. However, we fill in those gaps on each side of the center with painful and worrisome thoughts that do not matter. These thoughts do not matter because we can only live in the center – the present moment.

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    One question to freeze your situation

    There exists one question that can freeze any system in its current state.

    “What will my next thought be?”

    By repeatedly asking yourself this question, you can actually delay the answer to the question – your next thought. This is a powerful way to interrupt your mind and separate yourself from it.

    This is an effect from physics called the quantum zeno effect. Essentially, the quantum zeno effect demonstrates we can freeze a system in its current state by endlessly observing it. The key to being in the present moment is observing the present moment.

    Give it a try now.

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    Pull your mind from your body

    Imagine for a moment that you could pull your mind from your body to observe your thoughts and actions. Well… you can. Think of playing a video game where a dialogue or decision box pops up above the character requiring you to make a decision about what to say or do next. What else is happening in the game? You are freezing the game in its current state – in the present moment. It freezes the present moment in the game and in real life, think about that.

    Now think of a recent moment in your life where you had a negative thought. Freeze that moment and visualize yourself as the video game character. In a video game, we don’t judge the character we are controlling, we simply observe the decision or action that needs to be made.

    “Your entire life consists of the present moment.” – Eckhart Tolle

    We all have negative thoughts for which we cannot wish away. They will continue to flood our stream of conscious. The point is that we must stop judging the thought. We can’t stop the thought from entering our mind, but we can stop the judgement of the thought.

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    The next time a negative thought makes its way into your conscious, just acknowledge its existence and remember… it does not control you. Take a moment to observe the thought and analyze it.

    Finally, if you desire to be more present, you must be present. I am reminded here of one of my favorite quotes by Jim Elliot.

    “Wherever you are – be all there.”

    So, wherever you are… be all there.

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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    Dr. Jamie Schwandt

    Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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    Last Updated on July 13, 2020

    How to Deal with an Existential Crisis and Live a Happy Life Again

    How to Deal with an Existential Crisis and Live a Happy Life Again

    As human beings, we are capable of extraordinary things. We have the power to endure extreme physical and mental lengths while welcoming life’s most unexpected challenges, hardships, and check-ins. Sometimes life gets the best of us and then begins the long journey to rise up again.

    These huge and deep revolutionary life check-ins happens to every single living person – all 7.3 billion people on this planet, which most of us call an existential crisis.

    In this article, I’ll explain what an existential crisis is and how to deal with an existential crisis to live happily again.

    What Is an Existential Crisis?

    An existential crisis is when you begin to question your life’s purpose or what the purpose of our existence as a whole. These moments tend to surface when we are feeling stacked up against the wall as the emotions of stress, defeat, and unfulfillment arises and the yearning to know life’s biggest answers continue to grow deep within us.

    Other times, it’s the feeling of misplacement or when the thoughts of failure continue to dig into our minds, and the answers that we’ve been seeking for have not yet been found.

    The thing is – the big answers to life are always subjective to a person, and that itself is perfectly okay.

    There’s no right or wrong answer to go about this, but here are some ways in how to deal with an existential crisis and live a happy life again.

    What Causes an Existential Crisis

    There are different matters that provoke the heart that can then lead to emotional outbursts or distress.

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    Always remember that people define having an existential crisis differently, and a variety of matters can trigger them. Here are some examples:

    • Feeling socially misplaced in an environment or peers
    • Domino effect of failures transcending at once
    • Over-exhaustion of mental energy
    • Losing a loved one
    • Not being “where you want” in life

    One of the most common causes come from feeling invisible or unwelcome by a certain group or environment.

    Part of life is being integrated within a community, and sometimes the feeling of our existence comes from the acceptance of outside forces. Our place in society is reinforced by the attention we receive from other people, and as a result, we being to question our successes, happiness, and even our purpose in the world. Little do we realize that those questions harden the compassion we have for ourselves because they are overruled by self-created pressure and stress. Stress is a response to threat in a situation, so ask yourself if the stress is self-inflicted.

    Is Existential Crisis Takes Place Once in a Lifetime?

    We do not only go through one, but multiple existential crisis in our lifetime.

    By noticing that there may be an underlying pattern, you are able to take that control and lead a life fulfilled by happiness and ease. It just takes answering some internal questions and reexamining your trigger points that may help bring some answers to the surface.

    Having an existential crisis weighs heavily on one’s mind and spirit. Although it can be subjective to a person, it’s safe to say that many people have come across this “check-in” not once but multiple times in their life whether it be because of a breakup, change in career, death of someone, and even in the midst of reaching milestones.

    How to Deal with an Existential Crisis

    1. Check-In with Your Ego

    The ego has the power to navigate your mind

    and your thought process only if you allow it. Of course, ego is a natural human element, and it comes down to how much and how loud that ego speaks.

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    There’s a game that ego likes to play and that game is called the comparison game. It paints a picture in our thoughts into two things main things:

    • Where we should be and what we should be doing based on society’s standards.
    • Where we should be and what we should be doing based on our personal visions of success.

    Understand that there is nothing wrong with setting goals and having high standards, but there is a difference between having an “ego-driven” vision versus a “value-driven” vision.

    After spending some time thinking about what success means, ask yourself – are these successes aligned with my values or am I just running the rat race?

    2. Surround Yourself with Positive People

    They say misery likes company, but if you’re feeling down and defeated, it’s best to surround yourself with positive people with high vibrations.

    This is not only to be exposed to high energy, but also to learn different coping mechanisms from others. Everyone deals with emotions differently and if something is not working in your favor, it never hurts to try to find an alternative route.

    3. Dive into the 5 W’s

    When dealing with an existential crisis, it’s best to tackle the root of it all. Try by asking yourself the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, and why we you feel like you’ve come to this point.

    • Who – Who were you prior to this existential crisis (were you working out regularly, were you involved in a community sport, etc.)? Who did you surround yourself with? Who do you go to for advice or encouragement, who makes you feel negative about yourself?
    • What – What were some events that led up to this point both professionally and personally? What environment were you in? What’s the energy like? What values stay true to you and what has changed over the years?
    • Where – Where do you want to go from here? Where do you picture yourself in your happiest state? Where do you put most of your time and energy throughout the day?
    • When – When do you have free time for yourself? When do you get ready for the day ahead? When did you feel you started having an existential crisis? When did major events occur in your life?
    • Why – Simply and compassionately ask “why” for everything. This article can help you dig deeper

    The simplicity of the word “why” is to help you become self-aware and learn more about yourself. We spend more time getting to know others by having dinner with people, coffee, or hanging out, but how often do we do that with ourselves?

    Get to know yourself as if getting to know another friend. Ask these questions with compassion and thought, and the root may be much easier to find.

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    4. Measure Accordingly

    Look at how you’re measuring your goals and successes. Are they time-sensitive?Are they achieved by a certain age? Or are they set by financial limitations?

    Goal setting is important to achieve the things we want in life, but it’s always important to not only get attached to the time-frame, but stay focused on the goal itself.

    Most times, people are pressured and attached to the idea of time that then translates to stress and unfulfillment.

    5. Quiet the Chatter

    Quieting the chatter goes beyond moving away from physical distractions and inner dialogue – it’s also about quieting the things that consume your energy.

    If you find yourself emotionally drained from listening to gossip, then stray away from it. If you feel your energy is depleted when you find yourself working on projects that aren’t aligned with your values, then challenge yourself to find other projects that you find joy in doing.

    Your time is valuable.

    6. Give Yourself 10 Minutes

    “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life,” – Tony Robbins

    Your personal time can get washed away in the long day-to-day listing of things, and 10 minutes can seem like a long amount of time.

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    How often do we also spend 10 or even 30 minutes mindlessly scrolling on our phones or spending that time on tasks that are of less importance?

    Prioritize your time and find a hobby that can be integrated into a daily routine and away from the screens. It can be meditating, journaling, drawing, listening to music, or gardening.

    While we live in a world where information is constantly at our fingertips, we’re quick to indulge in a huge amount of information without letting our brain digest. Having at least 10 minutes to let ourselves breathe can ground us for the rest of the day ahead.

    Final Thoughts

    An existential crisis is something that happens to the best of us, but there’s always a way out of it. It’s a matter of taking some time for reflection and surrounding yourself with people who can bring you back up again.

    Always remember that your time is valuable and that you should only be going through life at your pace and your pace only. It’s also a point in ourselves to reset and start fresh with a new perspective and a new brewing friendship with ourselves.

    After all, one can’t be happy with others and external outcomes without first being happy with ourselves.

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    Featured photo credit: Jake Melara via unsplash.com

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