Reply

One of my favourite poems was penned by William Wordsworth – a true naturalist. The poem is titled “Expostulation and reply”. To expostulate means to reason with someone regarding an issue. The person speaking to him does not understand how William can sit idly in nature.

William is not being idle though. He spends time in nature to contemplate its immensity; to study it, to become closer to it, and to learn from it. William’s reply grants an insight into what it could feel like when we remember how to connect with nature.

Here is the first stanza from the original poem.

“WHY, William, on that old grey stone,
Thus for the length of half a day,
Why, William, sit you thus alone,
And dream your time away?”

That’s an excellent question. Why would anyone choose to fritter time away when there are so many things that need to completed on the To Do List. You may have noticed that this blog is named Autonomous Will. It was named after this William.

I have been rewriting this poem in my mind for the past 10 years, and want to share one version with you. The poem continues with William’s friend Matt urging him to get back to the real world.

“You stare at clouds, the sky so blue,
As if they held a secret.
Forgetting quick the night curfew,
And losing Self this evening.

Trapped in time, I see you still,
Come now; cease this nonsense.
Let go friend of this placid hill,
There’s naught but trees in forests.”

I looked my friend Matt look over quick,
And pondered my reply.
He paced in space, his gait was swift,
In motion, but confined.

“Your mind dear Matt has lost its shine;
A void with large opacity.
Come sit with me upon this rock,  
And learn your great capacities.

In repose I sense, a minute spent
Gains you, a thousand lives.
A waste to most, few taste content,
Please listen, become wise.”

Furious Matt, retorted then,
“On this life you have no clue.
You waste the day, you hold a pen,
There are real jobs you should do.”

Fast forward now to present day,
Both Matt and I have grown,
We once had gone our separate ways,
Those journey’s led us home.

He saw me once more on this stone,
An old man sitting still,
A listless dread within his tone,
“Can I join you my friend Will?”

I said to Matt, “Of course you may,
This nature is our calling,
Just close your eyes and breathe away,
The pain that has you falling”

We sat in silence taking in,
The marvel of creation.
Matt’s eyes once dull from pain within,
Alight now with amazement.

End.

What Causes What?

What Causes What?

Many kids didn’t like science growing up because it was too hard. There were reports to write up and measurements to make. It could seem overwhelming. I enjoyed this part of science. The part that I did not enjoy was its apparent disconnect from reality. It felt unreal to me.

I observed that we would complete experiments under controlled conditions. We followed a prescriptive approach. Everything needed to be precise. A deficit of 1 milliliter mixed into a substance would fail to elicit the appropriate reaction and our results were deemed a failure.

Reality did not seem to conform to these rules. Reality was so much more random to me. It was difficult to understand.

  • You could behave in class but still get in trouble because your friend was talking.
  • You could drive on the road carefully and be struck by another vehicle that is being driven carelessly.
  • You could make plans for a long and beautiful life and fall violently ill.

It’s hard to make sense of what causes what.

I think that the concept of Locus of Control can help here.

The concept relates to what you believe is responsible for the events that occur around you.

If you have a largely Internal Locus of Control you believe that you are responsible for the results you see in your life. You believe that your actions cause the events in your life and thus always take responsibility for negative and positive outcomes. You believe that the only thing standing between you and your goal is your level of effort and commitment.

A person with a largely External Locus of Control on the other hand believes that they are not ultimately responsible for what happens to them. Fate and randomness play a much greater role in determining what outcomes appear in their life. If they get a promotion even though they worked hard, they put it down to good luck or timing. When negative events occur there is an external source to blame.

So what causes what?

I’m not really sure.

But I do know which mental model is more helpful in building a satisfying life.

By choosing to adopt an internal Locus of Control you are putting the power of your life back into your hands. I warn you that it might suck a little at first because there will be no one to blame except for yourself if things don’t go well.

On a positive note if you focus on your actions and believe that they are the difference makers, you are more likely to consider ways to change your behaviour and create better results in the future.

You can take the test here to determine your Locus of Control: Locus of Control Test

“The One Thing” – Book Review

The One Thing
The book title reminds me of a song called “You give me something” by James Morrison. The chorus goes like this:

“You give me something
That makes me scared alright”

I wonder if that something, was actually The One Thing.

As the song lyric was written by a man singing about his lover; well… I’ll let you use your imagination about what that one thing might have been.

My hunch. That one thing that his partner gave him was a sense of peace. With her, he could repose and disclose the things that he holds close to his soul. What a noble goal. To have a woman love you deep enough that you can open whole. She even lets you hold the remote control.

This book though is not about romance (although you can apply the principles it contains to improve your romantic relationships if you wish), this book is about success & productivity.

This one was loaned to me by a mentor. It turns out that I was so deeply engrossed with it that by chapter five I had ordered my own copy. So now The One Thing has multiplied.

What is The One Thing then?

The One Thing is the priority.

The word priority comes from the word prior, which simply means before. Somewhere along the road, instead of identifying the priority, we started to identify our priorities, and thus became confused and our focus diffused. Instead of focusing on The One Thing, we began to focus on many things.

I used to be obsessed with the T.V. show called Highlander growing up. It starred Christopher Lambert and centered on the lives of a handful of semi-immortals who could only be killed by decapitation. If one immortal removed the head of another one he would receive his power and thus it ultimately became a race to be the last one.

And just like when you stare at your long To Do list and try to find the priority, take guidance from the tag line of the show “There can only be one”.

The book invites us to find the most important thing in each area of our lives, such by doing it that everything else will be easier or unnecessary.

There is an exhaustive set of actions you can take towards achieving any goal that you set. The key is to find the action that will make all of the other ones unnecessary. This action is The One Thing.

An example might help here. You want to lose weight. You decide to hit the treadmill for 2 hours each day. First of all you need to remind yourself that the treadmill was invented as a torture device; don’t do it to yourself. The goal was to lose weight yes?

Keep it simple; calories in minus calories out = surplus/deficit.

Do this for a few weeks and you will lose weight. This action removes the need for the endless treadmill exercise (that you would need to repeat for your entire life if you did not adjust your eating habits). Plus the time & energy  spent planning your exercise, travelling, getting motivated etc. is now also saved.

At work you might have a project to complete that involves six deliverables. What’s The One Thing you could do throughout the completion of the project that would move the needle most significantly for you? Before you start scheduling endless tasks, think very carefully about the answer.

Essentially we ask – how can I get the greatest return on my energy output?

So to begin applying The One Thing in your life you would consider each of the important elements (happiness, health, spirituality, family etc.) in your life and then ask a Focusing Question for each. This question would give you an opportunity to consider bigger answers and bigger actions.

A focusing question can be something like:

“What’s The One Thing I could do to build enough passive income to send my daughter to a good private school” (finance)

Or

“What’s The One Thing I could I do to improve my relationship with my sister” (family)

Then you are required to identify the one single most impactful action you could take to achieve the goal (answer the question) for each element. For building passive income a parent may decide to divert 5% of each pay into a high growth ETF instead of a low interest savings account. This could be The One Thing.

Your focusing question has to be big enough to elicit a large action from you. Think about it like this:

Small question >> small answer>> small action = small result (likely)

Big question >> big answer >> big action = big result (possibly)

This is not a formula for guaranteed success; it is simply one you could use to improve your likelihood of being successful in an area you consider important.

A caution the author provides is to be careful about making sure The One Thing we identify is actually The One Thing. Is it what we really want? Focus is limited, time is limited. Potential is unlimited. Choose carefully.

We can waste precious time on a task or activity that does not get us closer to our goals, so we must constantly ask ourselves: “What is the most important thing, what is The One Thing?”

Another crucial principle disclosed in the book is the need to build productivity on top of passion and purpose. This will lead to inspired action.

How will I apply The One Thing to my life?

I already use an app called habit loop which assists me in tracking the behaviours I want to make stick.

One insight I have gained is that the magic number of repetitions (normally day’s) required to build a successful habit is 66. In the past I have used the tracker more so as a tool to see how I am going, rather than something to motivate me.

I have committed to meditate for 66 consecutive days for 15 minutes using the Headspace app. I’ve been on and off again with meditation, so I am interested to see if this really is a magic number and if I can form a permanent habit.

I also plan to read 30+ minutes per day for those 66 days too.

I will regularly ask myself if I am working on The One Thing. If the answer is no, I will abandon my current task and re-aim my focus. I will also continue to block time out for the important elements in my life, ensuring The One Thing is always the priority.

My written goals look a little different now than before. In a word document I have created a table in which I have identified the key areas in my life, a focusing question, then The One Thing for each area. I will take the action, evaluate, then ask another question if necessary.

Your challenge is simple – pick one positive habit you would like to build, and commit to performing the behaviour for 66 days in a row. Use a sheet of paper above your desk, your phone or calendar to keep track and see what happens.

If you can’t think of any good behaviours you would like to install consider the following areas:

  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Spiritually
  • Finance
  • Physical Health

If you are particularly motivated, ask yourself the focusing question for the important areas of your life and see if you can identify The One Thing. Once you do; take action.

Finally a note to the passive or indecisive. Learn to say no to anything or anyone that conflicts with your One Thing. If you decide to go for a 30 minute run 5 times per week after work, you must say No to any request that does not come from somebody wanting to join you for a 30 minute run during your scheduled time block. You must do this for 66 days. Simple.

Hopefully at this stage it is a fully formed habit.

This book is a tremendous read and I would highly recommend you get yourself a copy and learning more about The One Thing.

5/5

What should you fear?

In my living room lives a large canvas with the following quote:

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live”

This is a quote from Marcus Aurelius book “Meditations” which is essentially a war journal. I read this when I was sixteen years old, and have gone back to it several times.

I think about this quote often. I wander if having a fear of living disguises itself as the fear of death. Perhaps we are not afraid to die, but we are more so terrified to live. Terrified to make choices that might cause a little uncertainty.

You might be in a situation where you want to start a business or find a new life partner but think about all of the possible reasons you could fail on your quest. You fear the infinite possibilities that your choices can bring.

So those dreams and goals get filed away into the back of your mind and slowly fade. The problem although is; they don’t disappear – you can constantly hear them and see them in the background. They eat away at you slowly and often.

You ask yourself “what if?”- Your life is not aligned with your spirit and when the end comes you will be unprepared.

How then do you start living?

I contemplate on my mortality frequently. In conversations with friends I often bring up the topic of death and those in my company begin to suspect that I suffer from some depression that I keep at bay with a positive exterior.

I think about the fact that I will soon die. One the most impactful authors and spiritual teachers I’ve had the privilege to learn from has been Wayne Dyer. He expressed a sentiment that more eloquently captured the essence of Marcus Aurelius’ message:

                Don’t die with your music still inside you.

Take action towards the fulfillment of your dreams, and if you meet failure along the path, that’s OK. Consider that the speed of your failure determines the probability of your success. The faster you fail – the more quickly you can learn, retool, and try again, bringing you one step closer to your goal.

My biggest fear is to die with my music still inside of me.

I want you to think about what your music is – what is the dream that’s calling you?

Contemplate for a moment about what a great shame it would be for you to die with that beautiful dream, and that joyful music still inside of you.