Should We Ever Break A Promise?

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One of the things that I learned growing up was that we should always keep our promises. But there have been several times in my adult life where I’ve wanted to stop helping someone once I got to know them and their intentions better. But should we consider ourselves a lesser person if we negate our promise with someone?

Many years ago when I was a college student, one of my colleagues would often ask me for help on their chemistry homework. Eventually, I found that I was just being used to do their homework while they were out partying and posting on social media; I resented the fact that I was giving up my time so that someone else could have more to enjoy life. During the semester, they asked several other students for help on the other assignments, and they passed the entire semester on pure charisma, charm and cunning genius. I thought I could say “no” whenever, but instead I kept “helping” them while continuing to seethe inside–hopelessly expecting this person to realize how crappy they were. The truth was that I was an insecure doormat of a person who hated confrontation. Eventually we all finished the semester and I never saw them again.

I’ve seen this pattern appear in my personal life again and again. Looking closer, I realize that this (generally good) habit was learned from my own family. The problem is that boundaries aren’t often taught with “helping unconditionally” and the latter becomes a disguise behind “not being able to set boundaries well.” I think that as new information is gained, it is important to change our actions. When we help someone, we should do it without expectation. But if that “help” turns into the harm of another person, or resentment for the person we are helping, we should consider that a boundary has essentially been violated.

If someone helps us with the expectation of getting back help in return, we should be beware: that help has strings attached and is often costly to pay back. The act of giving unconditionally, which makes us uniquely human, becomes a transaction. Ideally, we want to develop an abundant mindset that doesn’t depend on the help of others, with the understanding that we are moving away from independence to inter-dependent relationships.

Like dating, every relationship is a risk. So it’s important to get to know people as best as possible before becoming vulnerable and giving out unconditional energy. And just like a relationship, breaking up with someone isn’t a bad thing–but someone who has multiple exes will be portrayed as someone who has commitment issues, regardless of how great a person they really are. The goal is then to become such a self-sufficient (not prideful) person that when we help others, we forget the favor as soon as we offer it.


Friday.

We’ve finally made it to one of the most sought-after days of the week: Friday. The majority of the week is behind us, and now we can start planning to do some actually fun stuff! Except, this is probably not true for most of us. As the week progressed, the “laundry list” of things to do (including laundry) piled up and now we have a shit-ton of things to catch up on. But still, its not so bad because for at least a couple hours this week, we will have some time for ourselves to sleep in, listen to music, see more of our family, friends, dog, and others we care about.

But, we’ll probably be exhausted and trying to recover from taking the beating of the week. Driving somewhere far might not seem so fun. Staying out late means adding to the sleep-deprivation we already experienced throughout the week. Our bodies are literally in a state of trying to re-establish an equilibrium, except we are only giving it just a few hours to undo the entire wreck of a (minimum) 40-hour work week. And that’s only if we are lucky and not working a salaried job, or coming in on the weekends to spend more time doing work. But at least we made it.

While we were growing up, a family member or some person of authority told us that “life would be hard” and that we had to, in one way or another, “suck it up.” And somewhere along the line, we equated doing things we didn’t want to do as a part of life. But often, the people who say these things live the majority of their life doing things they don’t want. We definitely need to work hard, but what if what we are working towards in not something that we even want for ourselves? What if this whole time, we’ve been subconsciously following the rules of people who, like us, don’t really have life figured out any more than we do?

Are we not as qualified to disagree with them, and make a better quality of life for ourselves? What’s the point of working hard and doing things, when we cant even fully be present with the company of others, see our family often, and go on a trip without being a stressed-out physical wreck?

I hope that as you’ve joined me on this journey this week of breaking down each day, that we had the opportunity to reflect and make sure that we spent some time each day to work towards a way out of this unpleasant cycle, and creating a new one that would at least let us enjoy our lives a little more. I hope that each day that you daydreamed this week, you did a small action that will allow you to achieve those dreams into reality, be it a hiking trip in Hawaii, delicious food-trip in Thailand, building-gawking in Europe, or a spiritual journey through India. In any of those endeavors, I wish us well in our actions, to be that much more peaceful and happier. You can do it, we can do it. Because the next thing we know, Monday will be here again. Let us meet each week as a different person each time. Happy Friday.


Thursdays

One more day until the goal. But for now, we must work and make sure we get through the day. But depending on what we have planned for the weekend, the day can go by either quickly or last forever. And if the day is going by slow, there are many stimulants and pointless conversation to help kill time. During my college days, I remember many of the local bars would have weekday happy hours. When I later started working full-time jobs, I thought this was a great idea, because it would make the time go by so much faster by hanging out with equally bored friends. The more I was bored with my day, the faster I wanted it to go, so that I had time to do the fun things.

But the irony is that as we get older, we often wonder where the time flew by; we passed it by ourselves, not realizing that even though there are several ways to “kill time” there is no way to get it back. We never know when life gets unexpectedly busy until it actually happens.

The reason why it’s so important to start that thing you wanted to do today, is because only today is guaranteed. You are the youngest you’ll ever be today. As Elon Musk once said, “your responsibilites will only increase as you get older.” Instead of being bored and waiting for the next best thing to come, let’s create that best moment here and now. Otherwise, the future that we look forward to so much becomes just like that Friday: always fleeting.


Wednesday

Wednesday doesn’t exist. The days of the week don’t mean much to us anymore, because we often don’t even know what day of the week it even is. It’s almost like we turn on autopilot on Monday, and we don’t snap out of it until someone mentions that it’s “almost Friday.” It’s as if we live in a trance, inside the artificial world of our workplace where in order to to have financial freedom, we play the role of an extra in a really shitty theatre play, interacting with other uncommitted characters.

Most of us are wise enough to know that most jobs aren’t designed to create wealth, but rather help us make just enough to survive and help pay rent and minimum payments on our loans. And yet, we still participate in the race because it is more acceptable than branching out and doing something of our own.

We need equity in companies, investment in ourselves and businesses and a lot more education (financial and spiritual) to exit the rat race, and actually begin to not only taste freedom, but handle it well. To be independent, we must take risks and begin to act as independent people. And then, we can work with other equally independent people to develop our own inter-dependent network.

But for any of this to happen, we must begin to start snapping out of this trance, this autopilot, the illusion of a dream-killer: that we always have tomorrow. We can’t really live today in constant anxiety of securing our future when that anxiety is what prohibits us from taking risks and taking the actual steps to building a better today, each day. The future will eventually arrive, but let’s not drug ourselves with a paycheck until we finally get there. Let’s meet it as if we were preparing to meet a good friend–intentionally and consciously–and preferably in good health.


Tuesdays

Tuesdays are not an often talked about day. By now, most people have gotten used to the misery of Monday, thinking that it will be easier from here on out. We’ve already endured the classically worst day of the week, and we are one step closer to the weekend. But there are many of us who might pick up a Saturday shift, or, in our current jobs will physically be at work for a minimum of 8 hours. So this way of thinking is fooling ourselves; the weekend is not free time.

It is difficult to persuade someone to free themselves, once they’ve gotten used to the weight of their chains. But these chains can be unshackled at any time, if we realize that what we do isn’t who we are; we are not our work, and our work is not us. But what we do for most of the day determines our temperament for the rest of the day. Maybe we will be used to the grind of our work, and the abusive nature of our managers and coworkers. And when we finally get home at the end of the day, we will be just as tired as we were yesterday.

We will be convinced that we don’t have the energy to put forth an hour or so, of time to start digging ourselves out of this trench to invest in our side business or learning a new skill. But we can do it. Just don’t believe the illusion that everything is okay when it is not. Perhaps some boundaries in our personal life and work have long been demolished by people who benefitted from us not having them; and the best way to reclaim our space again is to create a new identity for ourselves where we love what we do, and, at the very least, we respect ourselves. If we missed Monday, we can still get on the train this Tuesday to a new destination. Every day is an opportunity.


Mondays

Mondays are one of the most interesting days of the week, because people are most aware that they either really hate what they do, or wish they did something else. It is a very polarizing day. But as the week goes on, the feeling eventually subsides into indifference…until maybe Friday, where we enter the weekend and have two days to undo the toxicity of the entire week (if we’re lucky not doing chores and errands on Sunday).

Many of us have different reasons as to how we ended up in our current job/career situation, but that doesn’t mean we need to be a prisoner to the decisions we made when we took this job or career. A college degree isn’t supposed to be a life sentence, and family expectations aren’t supposed to be nails in our coffin. Somewhere along the way, we believed someone else (who probably gave up on their own dreams) that we couldn’t live a successful life and support ourselves and our families if we pursued that which we enjoyed; that we couldn’t “have our cake and eat it too.” Well what if we don’t even fucking like cake?

One of the things we often hear people talking about lately is “good energy” and “positive vibes.” A person that is miserable for most of their day, their week and by extension their life, is frequently doing things that make them unhappy. What we frequently do becomes our frequency, our vibe. Then, the only things we attract are people who are also justifying the miserable lives they live with cliches such as “being an adult,” “a responsible individual” or “realistic.” And we buy into it.

But when we finally decide to change something, we tend to go back to the familiar instead of embracing the unknown career possibilities out there. This “Monday feeling” then becomes a negative stress that takes off years of our life. If we only do things that make us unhappy frequently, we will only connect with people who are also on that same frequency. And on the occasion that we do have a positive moment, it will fizzle out fast because our peace of mind and success are not intentionally created moments but random accidents. Don’t let the most important things in our lives be up to chance.


Creation Is Revolution

It’s not enough telling people to stop doing things. And it’s especially ineffective to criticize the way people do certain things because of the presence of ego. Usually, when we want to change people’s minds, we try to fight them or persuade them. But the first option, like most arguments, serve little to no purpose in changing minds. And the people who are listening to the debate usually look for justification for the way they already think. Persuasion on the other hand can be draining, because we never know how long it will take to change someone else’s mind, or to create habit change that will last indefinitely.

I present us with a third option: to create. Instead of using our valuable time and energy to fight or persuade others, unless it is absolutely necessary, we must redirect it to the one thing we have full control over: ourselves. We can create a community, build relationships with others who are lost in the dust just like us, make art that represents ourselves and learn to communicate our thoughts through better speaking and writing.

When we fight, we are defending the old, the things that are already archaic. There is nothing new to be found in the past. On the other hand, persuasion requires using the knowledge we already know, meaning that we have to feel that our way of thinking is superior to the other, so that they need to be persuaded. This is already a losing strategy against the ego of the other.

But to create is to be present, to use the energy we would otherwise use to defend established rules, traditions and systems in order to advance forward and create new support groups and communities in which new ideas can thrive.

One example I can think of is Bill Nye. Growing up, watching his shows was something that helped me feel like I have a place in the world; that there is a place for the fringe wandering individuals, the weird and the quirky personalities. It influenced my decision to pursue a degree in chemistry and eventually become a chemist. And I was more than excited when after many years, he made a return to the screen to help the cause of global warming and making science “cool again.”

When I see him now (especially when I chance to see him in person) all I see is an angry person who is (rightfully) angry at raising climate change awareness. I would like say that people change, but in reality, it’s people NOT changing and adapting that causes the problems that recur from the past. People are not creating enough, expressing enough and sharing ideas enough. Science was fucked the moment people started entering the field it for the paycheck rather than wondering how often they can be wrong about things through experiment.

Science has lacked the spirituality of creation for many years. The people who created original work, the Tesla, the Einstein, the Schroedinger, the Edison weren’t afraid to be wrong, and were actually wrong often before coming up with something novel and groundbreaking. And even then, ideas were stolen all the time. But, this didn’t really deter them, because it was less about (well-deserved) recognition, and more about constant learning. To create requires generous humility and courage, and this is the best option we have if we really want to start making some changes in the world: with us, with you and our creations.


Try Not To Look For Yourself Outside

When you say that you need to go find yourself, does that mean that you feel lost?

Did you find something that you would rather do instead?

A break is always nice, especially after working really hard. But taking a break with the intention of finding oneself is like trying to go fishing with the intention of catching a fish. At first, it may seem like “well why else would you go fishing if you don’t intend to catch fish?” Perhaps it is not so important what we do, rather than why we do it. Some people might want to spend time with their sons, or perhaps they would just like an excuse to be out on the boat. And what if you don’t catch any fish; would you deem the entire trip a loss? Being goal oriented is great, but we should always remember that, like Bruce Lee said, a goal is merely something to aim at.

If you take a break, then take a break. But going out with the intention of finding yourself is putting the same pressure on yourself that is making you take the break in the first place! There is no ideal version of you except for the version that you are right now. We are made to learn, mold and adapt. Whether we do it intentionally or have the universe do it for us, we are always under a constant state of change. There is no need to run away from yourself to find yourself. You are enough.


 

Suffering Illustrates Capability

Fear is like a virus that is passed down from generation to generation. And unfortunately, the only people who have the strength to overcome it are the ones who suffer the most.

Think of war, particularly our white blood cells that attack foreign objects coming into our bloodstream. When we get sick, it is an immunological response to something foreign that may kill us. Our body temperatures will rise, we may vomit frequently and just feel like total hell–but if the body didn’t have the capability to fight, we would just be dead. Pain then, is actually a way for the things we can’t see, to tell us that the smaller forces are doing their job.

As Jiddu Krishnamurti once stated, fear is a result of thought and time. The more we think about something that has happened, or of what might happen, the more fearful we become. Many of our parents, peers and coworkers have built a life based on the blueprint of someone else; and yet they are surprised when their decisions don’t allow them happiness. This is where the fear begins, because memories of failure are compounded over time with the pain they cause.

Seldom in our lives, are the comments that are made about us, actually about us. If you’re not good at something now, you can get better. If you have flaws that bother others, you can always work on them–no one is without them. But most importantly, if you didn’t have what it takes to win, you wouldn’t be suffering right now. Because suffering (in the positive light) is a bitch of a blessing for living.

Mindfulness Reduces The Power Of Fear

Photo by Northwoods Murphy

Fear is an illlusion that can feel very real–but seeing it for what it is can help us fight its grip on us. We can never give up fighting it. If we give up and let it have a chokehold on our neck, we feel like we cannot breathe. This is when the darkness begins to intensify, and we enter the bottomless well of depression. But just like any other feeling, fear originates from the mind–and anything that we can concieve is never greater than the creator: ourselves. Fear gets its power from failures from our past, and anxieties from our un-formed future. The truth is that we are no longer the same person from before, or this imaginary person from the future. We are we who are, today and now. Failures and successes are only a part of the entirety of us. By being in the present moment, we begin to take away the sources of power of fear; it is from this moment that anything is possible and fear is weakest. So why place our energy elsewhere? Be here, be present and be freed.