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Do You Want 2008 to Be Your Best Year Ever? Let Go.

Do You Want 2008 to Be Your Best Year Ever? Let Go.

Try making a single change in your outlook
Having a ball!

Regular readers will know that I am not much attracted to the type of article that can be summarized as “x simple ways to do y.” I distrust overly simple responses to life’s endless complexity, just as I distrust simplistic ways of thinking.

However, I can think of one — just one — simple action that will make 2008 perhaps one of your best years ever.

This one action is so far-reaching in terms of creating well-being that I felt I had to overcome my distaste for the format and share it with you.

It can be summed up in two words: “let go.”

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Let go of the past

It’s over and done. Whether you relish or hate what you did back then, nothing can change it. Worrying about it is useless; replaying it over and over in your mind merely prolongs the emotions to no purpose.

All that will happen is that those feelings will reach forward and poison the present and the future. People caught up on past obsessions are unable to respond to what is happening now; they’re too busy revisiting and trying to revise what happened then.

Let go of guilt

Guilt is a totally useless emotion. All it does is make you feel bad and tempt you into ill-chosen actions to try to drive it away. Feel remorse by all means, since remorse leads to resolution not to repeat past errors. But guilt? That’s merely a negative kind of self-indulgence, focused totally on yourself, not those who suffered from your mistake or bad actions.

Let go of resentment

Nothing corrodes your happiness, your relationships, or your ability to act sensibly as easily as resentment. So someone hurt you? Let it go and focus instead on what you are going to do either to make things right between you or walk away and make sure that person won’t hurt you again.

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Resentment is like guilt: it’s all about you and your own self-righteousness. It tricks you into replaying that past hurt over and over again in your mind, as you keep the resentment alive. The single hurt then becomes a constant repetition. If you fell down and cut your leg, would you keep doing it, just to recall how much it hurt? That’s resentment: a continual, needless reminder of how much it hurt.

Let go of revenge

There’s an old saying that revenge is a dish best eaten cold. In truth, revenge is a dish best thrown away.

Was getting even part of your original dreams of how your life would turn out? Did you sit day-dreaming, maybe years ago, and envision a golden future filled with revenge on anyone?

All revenge does is reinforce the original hurt, create another enemy, warp your judgment, and take your focus away from where it should be: on doing what it will take to fulfill your dreams. Oh . . . and often create a long-lasting vendetta, that will pull you into worse and worse actions, until you likely hate yourself and suddenly notice that all the time you have been getting further away from where you really wanted to be.

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Let go of joy

This may sound foolish, but think about it. How many times have you devoted enormous effort to trying to recapture some moment of joy, only to find it impossible? How much effort have you wasted on trying to reproduce some past moment of happiness?

Joy is a beautiful butterfly. It floats into your life, filling it with beauty. But if you grab at it and try to hang on, it gets crushed and dies, leaving little behind but a rotting corpse.

Many of life’s miseries are due to trying to cling to something good; to prolong a moment of joy long past it’s due time, instead of letting it go and looking for another one.

Let it go. That way, you’ll never poison it with your vain attempts to revive it.

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A single resolution

That’s it: my suggested recipe for a great 2008. Make it a year of letting go and moving on. No regrets, no guilt, no resentment, no revenge, no pointless clinging to the good moments.

Breathe. Let it go.

Life is motion and it’s better to go along with it, unfettered by the past, that try to fight against it and drag a whole lot of useless baggage along with you.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More About Note-Taking

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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