Even though Spock fans would disagree, we’re all guided by our emotions. When they arise through passion, we can channel them to produce and create wonderous things. When our emotions dull or lower, we have a natural inclination to dwell and despair.
As I began thinking about this, I grew curious. Could a routine help reinforce productive emotions and truly mitigate – not just ignore – the reverse?
It seems to me that emotions have two primary sources: preceding emotions and logical deductions. If we believe ourselves to be in a position of greatness, it is easy to get excited and attempt to manifest such a position. If one tells us we are incapable of something or that our ideas have no merit, we question our own capability and reinforce that belief.
External happenstances that guide our emotions are unavoidable. Some may consider that to be a bit scary, but we all have a powerful tool to fight the good fight: internal dialogue! With our own thought, we all occasionally have epiphanies – small and large – that makes us feel good. And we should feel good; we just figured something out! Go team!
But where do these epiphanies come from and once we have them and how often do they really stick with us? I found that I rarely kept track of mine and, as a result, kept asking myself the same questions over and over again. These epiphanies are logical in nature and wildly differ from person to person, but they certainly affect emotions. Since logic can be re-stated time and time again, perhaps we can use it to our advantage and guide ourselves towards a consistently healthy state.
It’s called a Maxim!
You’ve probably heard either the terms “Maxim” or “Proverb” before. They mean the same thing: a short statement of truth.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” - Confucious
“Very little is is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” - Marcus Aurelius
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” - Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, is considered to be one of the wisest men to have ever lived, but even he realized his own weaknesses. So what did he do? He set up a daily routine to battle them. Upon waking, Marcus would recite his own personalized maxims and ponder their meaning; these were quick refreshers that helped guide the rest of his day, week, month, and year.
Modern Society and Me
It seems to me that modern society prioritizes sources of inspiration in a completely backwards manner: ease-of-discovery dominates efficacy. People hang inspirational posters, collect items on Pinterest, and even go searching for the oh-so-loved “like” on social networks. We look for small glimmers of social proof and meaning through luck — we think “perhaps the outside world holds the same things to be true as my inner self!”
How much time does that leave for us to focus and reflect upon our own thoughts? Not enough, in my opinion, and oh what a shame! We understand ourselves better than anyone else, which means we resonate with our own, personal discoveries the most! What would it mean to you if you had an essentially unlimited, effective source of inspiration? We can create sources of daily inspiration that are targeted towards our most foundational of needs, optimized for our current state of life, and — most importantly — guide us specifically towards who we want to be.
Although cute, no kitten on a tree that says “hang in there” is going to prove comparable.
I did a little experiment and pushed myself to create a couple maxims every week. As I set aside 15 minutes every morning to go over my own list and think in peace, I found the benefits to be immediete and immense. Just like starting the day with a win by making my bed, I’ve found that I feel more able and positive when I calibrate my thoughts. It makes small problems stay small — or at least feel small — and become more manageable. Oh, and it makes even the smallest of wins fit into a larger framework, which means their value isn’t simply forgotten.
Since it helped me, I thought I’d share with everyone who might be interested and end up reading this. Here are a couple things I’ve learned:
- It takes repetition. If not every day, every other day seems to be nearly as effective (but there’s definitely a difference).
- You’ll eventually have a large list of maxims if you keep at it. As you keep creating, also focus on condensing any overlapping points. It needs to remains clear and concise… which brings me to the next point.
- Creating your own maxims helps you understand a little bit more about yourself. Answering “Who am I?” becomes quite a bit easier, and the result more vivid.
- Targeting your current emotional state when reflecting is really effective. Just lose a battle? Focus on the war.
As a proponent of Science, I also want to note that none of this was scientific in the slightest. Shoot me a tweet if you’re thinking about trying this out; I’d love to hear about your discoveries!