How to Be Yourself in 2018

Say what you are. Not what you would like to be. Not what you have to be. Just say what you are. And what you are is good enough.
— John Cassavetes

Year in Review: Our Playlist for 2017


Ivan here. 

Good music is like a shortcut to the subconscious. A decent musician can walk to places that a writer has to sprint to.

So before I give you all my paragraphs about how I felt about 2017, here’s a playlist Jennie and I compiled for the year -  one song for every month. Most of these songs are from albums we loved that came out this year - mixed with some 80s synth pop to drown out the internal screaming.

How did 2017 go for me personally? Jennie and I will have another post to go into the specifics, but to sum it up, I’d say it probably went better than I feel about it at the moment. As usual, I found myself making the same mistakes, disregarding the same advice that I'd easily hand out to others. Again, I bit off more than I could chew and had to scramble during the second half of the year to snatch partial victories from the jaws of overwhelming defeat.

But this post isn’t about me - it’s about all of us.


A Different Kind of Annual Review:

Why We Need To Be Ourselves in 2018


If I could summarize 2017 with one statement, I’d say that this was the year when two worlds collided: the world of our beliefs (i.e. how we’d like to see things) and the world of consequences (i.e. what we actually did about it)

When optimism (or delusion) meets reality, the effects can feel quite disorienting.

In 2017, we saw case after case of people who spent their careers signaling truth and decency, but in the post-Weinstein world, we’ve discovered that when the chips were down, a lot of people failed to be neither true nor decent.  

More specifically, I’d divide these cases into two camps:

  1. People who believed the right things but did the exact opposite

  2. People who believed the right things but did nothing

In a way, it’s healthy that we’re starting to see things the way they truly are. It’s brought us closer to a shared version of reality. To quote Annie Dillard, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

It’s a shame so many people had to get hurt before we’re finally coming to our senses.


Forget New Year’s Resolutions:

Let’s Talk Values and Priorities


Appearances and signals of virtue/prestige/credibility/success is the exact opposite of how Jennie and I would like to conduct our lives.

Neither of us want to wake up one day and realize that we weren’t the people we claimed we were, that our values and priorities never translated into anything that we ended up doing. Or worse, that everything had been an act - a play we put on for other people because it looked good - that there were no real principles or values underneath.

Yeah, a wasted life scares us.


An Origami Worldview: Fix Yourself Before You Fix The World


Our lives are composed of a finite series of choices: of how we spend our time and how we spend our money.

We believe that every incremental hour or dollar spent:

  1. stands for something beyond that hour or dollar
  2. has consequences on the wider world around us.

Enough people spending their time a certain way adds up to a certain type of culture. Enough people spending money adds up to a market with certain types of incentives. And when you add everything up, we’re all invested (or complicit) in the system we’ve created and the future we’re creating.

It’s easy to point to the monsters around us and use them as scapegoats. Our elected officials are owned by corporate interests. Wall Street is greedy. The President is narcissistic and ignorant with a limited attention span. Congrats, we’ve now established that monsters will be monsters. What do you want - a Pulitzer Prize?  

The more interesting questions to ask are:

  • Who's funding corporate power over our influencers?

  • Whose greed allowed Wall Street to earn their commissions?

  • And are we really in a position to criticize narcissism and snap judgments on Twitter?

At the end of the day, the best way to fix the system is to fix ourselves.


A Practical Guide:

How To Be True to Yourself in 2018


Within ten days you will seem a god to those to whom you are now a beast and an ape, if you will return to your principles and the worship of reason.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


At the Origami Life, Jennie and I try to take observations (or criticisms) and transform them into something constructive and practical.

" New year, new me."

From reading the most common resolutions of 2018, we get the impression that people are hoping to become totally new versions of themselves, as if a switch will flip, and the world will suddenly change on January 1st.

But none of these things will happen if we continue to live with the results of other people’s thinking, with the narratives of ideology and battlelines, of performing our lives in front of an audience - instead of thinking and feeling as individuals.

If anything, instead of being different people, we need to be ourselves more completely in 2018, and boil things down to the essentials of what we truly value.
 

1. Make a statement about who you are

Before you figure out what you should do, first you have to decide what you stand for. What do you value? It’s rare that I meet a person who deep down, doesn’t want to do the “right” thing. But how can we know what the “right” thing is with all the noise around us?

One exercise I like to do is to summarize what I value in a single sentence, then I’ll ask myself ‘Why?’ three times in a row.

 

 
 

Ivan's Value Statement:

The thing I value most is independence - the ability to make choices, to add value to the lives of the people I care about.

  1. Why? Because I have a problem with authority and groupthink.

  2. Why? Because I value individuals and their freedom to say or do whatever they like - even if it’s misguided - as long as their wrongness comes from an honest place.

  3. Why? Because life is absurd and meaningless, and since everyone must be going through the same thing, it’s important to be true to ourselves and to empathize with others.

 
 

 

2. List all the things that are stopping you from being that person

List out all the instances in the past year where you fell short of who you imagine yourself to be. This could be anything from purchases you made, time wasted on something, things you wish you could’ve said, relationships you wish you could’ve started/ended.
 

3. Prioritize no more than three things on that list

One of the least appreciated things about personal growth is that you can’t have priorities without sacrifice. It’s literally in the definition: if certain things are more important to you than others, then it’s equally important to STOP DOING the least important things.

In 2018, people around the world want to eat better, exercise more, spend less money, pay down their debt, get more sleep, read more books, learn a new skill, get a new job, make new friends, and find a new hobby. Well, which is it? Some of these goals are clearly contradictory.

If you have more than three priorities, you have no priorities at all.
 

4. Do the hardest part first

The hardest part is starting something. Not tomorrow, not next week, not when you’re sufficiently prepared or running out of excuses. Today. No matter how small the step.
 

5. Grind your way to better habits

I have this theory that we’re defined by what we do when we have little incentive to do anything. Doing something when everyone else is equally motivated is called “breaking even.” We don’t go anywhere when we break even - we’re just catching up to the average.

Everyone is filled with hope and optimism on January 1st. Everyone is signing up for that gym membership, cranking up that Mint app, or waking up at the crack of dawn. But when reality sets in sometime in February or March, we find ourselves staring into the abyss. This is the abyss created by January’s expectations and the reality that change is almost universally slow and painful.

And what we choose to do when faced with that abyss will mean everything.

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On that happy note, what are some things that went well in your life over the past year?
What were the things you struggled with?
What’s your perspective moving into 2018?  

Jennie and I would love to hear from you in the new year!

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