On Becoming European

A colleague from the US showed up at my office in Amsterdam this morning, and I greeted them with a sturdy embrace and a kiss on both cheeks.

“Whoa, that’s new,” she said. “You’ve really embraced this whole ‘Europe’ thing, huh?”

I ignored the impermanence in her tone, as if my living here were a temporary fad, and focused on the meat of what she was saying. I guess I have embraced this whole “Europe” thing. I started to think about the subtle shifts in my habits that could arguably be called “European” and found myself surprised. I now habitually spell my words with a different flair (colour, authorisation, etc), I call my cell phone a “mobile”, I use Whatsapp exclusively over SMS, and apparently I’m now a guy who kisses cheeks.

This latter is the most surprising to me, as I have the distinct, vivid memory of being petrified of this type of greeting no more than a year before moving to Europe. The rules of it seemed daunting back then, but now that it’s a habit I can’t remember ever having even learning them.

This reminds me of something I heard once. A simple question. A meditation, if you will, on the differences between cultures. “Is it wrong, or just different?” Everything here is different from what I’m used to, in varying degrees, but none of it is wrong. It’s just different. The food has a different consistency. They focus on different elements. Streets are different. But is it wrong? No

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On Creating a Meaningful Morning Routine

The beginning of the year is an extremely powerful time for creating lasting habits, with the majority of the western world participating on a mass “reboot”, but so often this time is squandered with brute-force style habit adoption.

Few people can change overnight. Even so-called “Cold Turkey” bad habit cessation is the result of several years of guilt, self hatred, and building up until the time is just right.

Enter Habit Stacking.

I first read about Habit Stacking in “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod, and then again in this article (which coincidentally also draws its influence to “The Miracle Morning”). Both are excellent reads and include several morning routine examples. The jist is this:

Add a habit onto a habit you already have, and then slowly build from there. Take brushing your teeth for example. It’s very likely you already have a morning brushing routine (if you don’t… ew), so add a small habit just before that. Then, when that habit is cemented, add another. And another. By the time most people have stopped going to the gym, you’ll be well on your way to a lifelong exercise habit.

I’ve found that it’s more effective to have your anchor habit take place after the habit you wish to adopt, that way it’s more difficult to end early, since you know you still HAVE to brush your teeth. Soon all habits will be this way, and that’s a good thing. You’re now crafting your morning. Forging it on the anvil of your day, and you will thank yourself later.

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On Challenging Needs

At any given point over the past 7 years I have deprived myself of something. I’m often asked, “Why would you ever want to go without ___?!” or told, “Well, I could never go without ___! I need it to live!”

This is exactly why I am depriving myself. Because at one point I also said to these things. “Well I could never go without alcohol!” or asked, “Why would you ever want to go without masturbation for a year?!” I had accepted these things as necessary for my survival due to chemical dependence or habitual abuse. I said the same thing about sugar (3 months of ketogenic diet), speaking out loud (12 day silent meditation retreat), and a few dozen other random things.

I lived.

As I write this I have just finished a year of sobriety (from alcohol), and have decided I don’t want to go back. For the better part of 15 years I just considered alcohol a part of my life. Now it’s not. I also learned a lot about myself.

It doesn’t mean I won’t ever have another drink again, but in challenging my preconceived notions about who I am (and what I’m capable of) i have discovered a lot about myself.

What is something you think you need? Can you imagine a life without it? If not, then perhaps it’s time to find out what it would be like.

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