Big Thanks to Henrik Edberg for taking the time to write this great post. Although the words and quotes from Bruce Lee may not be of his own creation, they are very fitting for his character. I think it is important to latch onto a motto or two to keep the fire burning, using the concepts as a guide for life.
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last 30 years I’m pretty sure you know who Bruce Lee was. If you have, then you may be interested to know that Lee was a very famous martial artist and actor who sparked the first big interest of Chinese martial arts in the West in the 60’s and 70’s. But besides being an awesome fighter and iconic figure Lee also had some very useful things to say about life.
1. What are you really thinking about today?
“As you think, so shall you become.”
Perhaps the most basic statement of how we work. Think about what you are thinking today. What do those thoughts say about you? About your life? And how well do they really match your plans for your life and your image of yourself?
It’s easy to forget about this simple statement in everyday life. It’s easy to be quite incongruent with what you think on an ordinary day compared to how you view yourself and your goals. A simple external reminder such as a post-it with this quote can be helpful to keep you and your thoughts on the right track. An brilliant and beautiful expansion on this thought can be found in James Allen’s As a man thinketh (that can be downloaded for free here).
“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
If you want to improve your life then it’s tempting to want to add more. One problem with this may be that you don’t really have the time or energy to do more though. And so your efforts to improve become short-lived.
Adding more and more just creates more stress and anxiety. Removing clutter and activities, tasks and thoughts that are not so important frees up time and energy for you to do more of what you really want to do. And as the clutter in your outer world decreases the clutter in your inner world also has a tendency to decrease. This has the added benefit of making it easier to actually enjoy whatever you are doing even more while you are doing it.
Adding more thoughts and thinking things over for the 111:th time may create a sense of security. It’s also a good way to procrastinate and to avoid taking that leap you know you should take. And the more you think, the harder it gets to act. Perhaps because you want to keep that comforting sense of security and avoid the risk of wrecking that feeling.
Thinking has its place. It can help you plan a somewhat realistic route to your goal and help you avoid future pitfalls. Overthinking is however just a habit that will help you waste a lot of time. It’s more useful to replace that habit with the habit of just doing it.
3. Learn about yourself in interactions.
“To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.”
The one person that is the hardest to get to really know may be yourself. Studying yourself while you are alone may result in some insights. But it’s also likely to produce a lot of made up thought loops and doubts in your mind. A good way to really learn more about yourself is study yourself in interactions with other people. How people react and act in these interaction can over time teach you a lot. And what you think and how you react can perhaps teach you even more.
What you see, feel and hear in other people may be a reflection of you. The things you learn by thinking this way may not always be pleasant, but they can be enlightening. They help you to see yourself and also how you may be fooling yourself. And these powerful insights can be very valuable for your personal growth. So, in interactions with others, try asking yourself: what is reflected?
4. Do not divide.
“Take no thought of who is right or wrong or who is better than. Be not for or against.”
This is a very useful and powerful thought. It is also one that obviously is hard to live by. Why? I believe it’s because the ego loves to divide and find ways to “add more” to itself. It want’s to feel better than someone else. Or more clever. Or prettier. Or cooler. Or wiser.
How can you overcome this way of thinking and feeling?
To me it seems to boil down to not identifying so much with your thoughts or feelings. That doesn’t mean that you stop thinking or feeling. It just means that you realize – and remember in your everyday life – that the thoughts and emotions are just things flowing through you. You are not them though.You are the consciousness observing them.
When you realize and remember this it enables you to control the thoughts and feelings instead of the other way around. It also enables you to not take your thoughts too seriously and actually laugh at them or ignore them when you feel that your ego is acting out. When you are not being so identified these things you become more inclined to include things, thoughts and people instead of excluding them. This creates a lot of inner and outer freedom and stillness. Instead of fear, a need to divide your world and a search for conflicts.
5. Avoid a dependency on validation from others.
“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
“Showing off is the fool’s idea of glory.”
The ego wants to add because it thinks it’s not enough. One way of doing that is by craving validation from others. We want to feel smart, pretty, successful and so on. And the validation makes you feel good for a while. But soon you need a new fix. And the problem with being dependent on validation from other people is that you let other people control how you feel. This creates a rollercoaster of emotion in your life.
To find more emotional stability and to take control of how you feel you need to get your validation from to a more consistent source. Yourself. You can replace the expectations and validation of others by setting your own expectations and by validating yourself.
And so you validate yourself by thinking about how awesome you are. You don’t sell yourself short. You appreciate how far you have come and the positive things you have done. You appreciate your own value in the world. You set goals and you achieve those goals. This builds confidence in yourself and in your abilities. These things will help you to build a habit of inner validation.
Now, showing off. Why do we do that? To get validation from others. However, this need for validation often shines through and that is why a thing like bragging seldom works. Instead of seeing the cool and successful person you are trying to project people just see the insecure and needy person looking for validation. And your bragging falls flat.
6. Be proactive.
“To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”
It’s easy to get locked into a reactive mindset. You just follow along with whatever is happening. You do what the people around you do. You react to whatever is going on. And so you get lost in your circumstances. This way of thinking doesn’t feel too good. You tend to feel powerless and like you are just drifting along.
A more useful and pleasurable way of living is to be proactive. As Bruce says: to create opportunities despite the circumstances around you. This feels better and provides better results. But on the other hand it’s also more difficult. It’s easier to just drift along in the reactive stream of life. And if you want to be proactive then you may have to take the lead quite often. And that can be scary.
Still, living proactively is so much more rewarding and exciting.
7. Be you.
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”
Just being yourself is a hard thing to do. You may do it sometimes. And other times you may forget or fall back into old thought patterns. Or you may imitate someone else. And that comes through too. And it may work.
But I believe that being the real you will work better. Because there the genuine you is shining through. Without incongruency, mixed messages or perhaps a sort of phoniness. It’s you to 100%. It’s you with not only your words but you with your voice tonality and body language – which some say is over 90% of communication – on the same wavelength as your words. It’s you coming through on all channels of communication.
So I’m not saying: “yeah man, you should just be yourself because it’s the right thing to do etc.” I’m saying that I think being your authentic self – the one where you do little dividing, the one that needs little validation from others, the one where your ego is not running the show and trying to get something from someone – will give you better results and more satisfaction in your day to day life because you are in alignment with yourself. And because people really like genuine and people really like authenticity.