Category Archives: Life management

Guilt and shame – what it is and how to deal with it

Guilt and shame can only come out of two sources: Fear of being rejected or excluded, or a signal that you broke your own principles.

Therefore, accept the feeling of guilt and shame. Let these emotions alert you to the fact that you either did something you yourself deem as wrong (you broke your own principles), or that you are afraid of something, and that fear is disguising itself as these emotions.

Let the emotions of guilt and shame trigger an investigation of your inner workings. Feel the emotion, and try to understand their roots. Do not escape from these emotions – they are your guiding light towards self-improvement, and self-actualizatation – to reaching your full potential – to living your life in alignment with truth and your own  principles.

If you discover that you are ashamed or feel guilty because you did something wrong – you broke your own principles – then you need to make it right. Accept your fault, apologize to whoever you betrayed, and make it right again. Accept the consequences. If you let the fear of the consequences control you, your guilt and shame will create a hole inside of you that you will never be able to visit. Time may disguise that hole with dust covering it so that it is no longer visible, but it will always be there. Anytime you risk getting near it, you will feel unfree – you will not be able to let your thoghts wander in that direction.

It is only through accepting your guilt that you can make it right, and that you can live with full freedom once again.

If you discovered that the guilt or shame does not come from within, but from without, that means you are afraid of having disappointed someone else to the extend that they risk excluding you from their circle, to a degree. If that is the case, you should not let the fear disguise itself as guilt or shame. Look at that fear head on – and determine if you will stand by what you did and risk the consequence of being excluded, or if you deem it not worth it.

There is not right choice here. As long as you live truthfully – accepting that consequence as the decision making criteria for what you do next, you are making a choice based on reality. But if you do not recognize that that is the real driving force behind your guilt or shame, you will not be able to make the right choice – or at least not for the right reasons.

Therefore, face the fear of being excluded, and determine if what you did or are about to do is worth that. If it is, go ahead, and handle the consequences. If it is not worth it, you have at least made a conscious choice that you will not risk that relationship, and that at least makes clear what your priorities are, and you can be happy with your choice because you chose it consciously, based on real reasons, and your real values, rather than letting unrecognized feelings of fear disguised as shame and guilt drive your decisions unconsiously – making you forever resentful and unable to revisit that hole in your consciousness again.

To summarize: your guilt and shame can only come from two sources. Either breaking your own principles, or fear of exclusion.

If it is breaking your own principles, you need to apologize, repair and accept the consequences.

If it is fear of exclusion, you need to see through the guilt and shame and discover the underlying fear that is actually driving these emotions. Then you need to face that fear, and determine if what you did or are about to do is worth it with that fear in mind.

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Decide based on principles – not results

A principle-based decision making framework. That is – I’ve come to realize – the key to success. Regardless of how you measure success. Let me explain.

Currently reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (Sidenote: probably the most life changing book I’ve read in my life – I can’t believe I haven’t read it until now – just imagining how my life would have been if I read it when I was 20 or so.) The book mentioned principle-centered living a couple of times, and even dedicated a whole chapter to the subject. But it’s not until I read this part that I really got it:

“Where does intrinsic security come from? It doesn’t come from what other people think of us or how they treat us. It doesn’t come from the scripts they’ve handed us. It doesn’t come from our circumstances or our position. It comes from within. It comes from accurate paradigms and correct principles deep in our own mind and heart.”

Suddenly, it made sense. I’ve been wrestling with a big decision for a couple of weeks now. It is actually a life changing decision.

I’ve always had a hard time making big decisions. I could never really feel that “gut feeling” that people talk about. I try to foresee the future. I weigh pros and cons. I analyze potential outcomes. I do everything – but decide, and just go with the decision.

In one blow, after reading that sentence, I realized this: I’ve been making decisions based on wrong premises all my life. I’ve been trying to predict the best outcome. This isn’t principle-centered decision making. It is outcome-centered decision making.

“What will lead to the greatest outcome” – rather than “what is the right thing to do, based on what I believe is right?”

Ironically, I realize now, outcome-centered decision making leads to worse outcomes, for several  reasons.

First, it is prone to error. Nobody can predict the future.

Second, it is draining. By trying to predict the future, you will constantly end up evaluating your choice – never really “landing” in what’s the best course of action. Every bit of feedback you get along the way will make you question whether the choice you made will really lead to the best outcome, or if your other option was the better choice. You will end up constantly questioning yourself.

By making decision based on what’s the right choice – based on principles you believe in – regardless of outcome, you will be more centered. More firm. More trustworthy. Have greater integrity. Knowing what you believe in, and following that belief regardless of the possible outcome, does that to you.

And perhaps more importantly, the gut feeling can develop. Finally, it will be possible to feel what is right – because that feeling will be based on whether you are following your principles, or whether you are doing something wrong. Suddenly, it is possible again to listen to your emotions when making decisions.

This will save a lot of energy. Ironically, because you don’t waste a lot of energy questioning yourself, you will also become more productive. And, correct principles are time-tested. They are proven to work, through the history of people men throughout time. People who made the world a better place. People who were happy. So good principles are a good guide, and a great measuring stick for how well you are doing.

So what are the correct principles?

According to Covey, it’s the following:

  • Fairness
  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Human Dignity
  • Service
  • Quality and Excellence
  • Potential and Growth
  • Patience, Nurturing and Encouragement

And what do they mean? What is it, to be fair? What is it, to have integrity, honesty, to view people with dignity, and the other principles?

Well, that, I guess you have to decide for yourself. And that’s the part that I guess you can second-guess based on experience and feedback.

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Why you should not focus on earning money if you want to secure your future

If you want to earn a lot of money, first ask yourself this question: why?

For most people, the purpose is safety. They want to feel that they will never be poor, that they will always be able to make enough money to support themselves and potentially also a family, and live a good life.

So they start collecting and amassing money. Seeing that number in their bank account grow makes them feel safe.

But there is a big problem with this approach.

The problem is that money is not permanent. During your lifetime, things will happen that will make you lose your money, or more accurately, the value that that money represents. Inflation, wars, government taking your assets, bank runs, and many other things that you cannot do anything about.

What you cannot lose, however, is what’s in your head.

Your knowledge is the most valuable thing you possess. Why? Because your knowledge determines your ability to make more money. And your ability to make money is permanent.

In the story if the golden  goose, a goose started laying golden egg for its farmer. But the farmer got greedy and killed the goose in order to pluck all the golden egg at once, only to he disappointed to not find any Egg inside the goose. In the process, he had also killed any hope of new golden egg in the future.

Let us for a moment pretend that there were a bunch of golden egg in the goose. Who has more freedom, who is more secure, who has more prosperity? The farmer that collected a bunch of egg, or the farmer who got one egg a week forever?

The farmer who waited would never have to worry about survival again, and he could do whatever he wanted with his time. The farmer who killed the goose could go and buy something really luxurious and cool, but then he would have to go back to his farm and spend his time producing food, and worrying about the future. Would you rather be the farmer with the cool thing, or the farmer who never again has to worry about survival and can spend his time on whatever he wants?

What would you do with your time, if you didn’t have to spend it earning money for survival?

If you think this type of freedom might be degenerating because it will make you lazy, I think you have a bigger problem. That of purpose and drive. If you need to be forced to do something in order to not fall into laziness, you unfortunately have lost the connection to what drives your from within. That passion for living, curiosity and internal drive to do something because you enjoy it, because you enjoy growing, and because you enjoy the feeling of pride in having contributed to something bigger.

But now we’re digressing. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: stop focusing on amassing money. Focus on growth and development. Focus on increasing your value to the market. Focus on learning things that others will pay you money for. That is the ultimate freedom, the ultimate security, and the ultimate path to creating it source of income that doesn’t rely on your time.

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Life decision making process with acceptable worst case and unlimited upside

Barbell strategy decision making heuristic

When making an important, potentially life changing choice where some of the options may be irreversible, it is important to thoroughly analyze the different options before choosing one. But it is impossible to weigh options against each other if you don’t have objective criteria against which they can be measured.

I will propose here that because of the uncertainty in future prediction, and the existence of so called positive and negative “black swans” (unexpected, impossible to predict, high consequence events), the best strategy is the “barbell” strategy.

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