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October 13th, 2018
A table with four legs is expected to be fairly stable.
Knock off a table leg and the remaining three legs might keep things up.
Knock off another leg and it’s doubtful the table will keep standing. Anything short of a perfect balancing act will result in collapse. And even if that is achieved, the table is useless since using it will throw it off balance.
Knock off another leg and all is lost.
Every day, our brains and bodies need things in order to operate. We need sleep, food, air, relationships and different activities.
Each necessity is like a table leg. Cut into sleep and it’s like cutting some of that table leg off. Now the table rocks.
Poor food is akin to replacing a table leg with a rotten piece of wood. It’ll hold things up, but is it as reliable?
The reverse is obvious: adequate sleep, good nutrition, healthy relationships… All contribute to our mental and social stability.
But what about going beyond this. Can we add legs to our four-legged table? Can we add exercise, can we then add a habit of hiking and open up our options of experiencing the world with others in increasingly healthy ways? Can we add meditation, reading and a writing habit to make our mental environment even more robust?
A table with a thousand legs is probably overkill, but the image is compelling. Such a table can take quite a few hits before it loses stability.
This idea of stability as a function of the number of foundational elements can even apply to our financial security. We might simply ask: how many sources of income do you have?
Is one a stable number?
The important difference between one income vs several incomes is clear in this exemplar question: Would you rather receive $100 from one person every week, or would you rather receive $5 from 20 different people every week? Both circumstances result in the exact same amount of money, but one situation is far superior to the other. In the first situation, if one source of income disappears, then there is absolutely no money coming in. Whereas with the second situation, if one source of income disappears, then there’s still $95 coming in. This simple difference is perhaps at the heart of why losing one’s job is one of the most stressful events that can occur in one’s life. The difference between losing a job, and losing a customer, or supporter cannot be overstated. The second is small enough to look at as a learning opportunity. It does not subsume our whole being in doubt worry and feelings of inadequacy, which is far more likely to happen after losing one’s job. Additional sources of income may also benefit a main source of income, merely for the fact that there’s implicit faith that if the primary job is lost, then all is not lost – literally. Such reassurance may enable one to take things a little less seriously, and often this has good benefits to any endeavor we undertake.
Much the same thinking can be applied to social relationships. Someone who experiences a devastating breakup, but has a dozen very close friends is going to transition into the next phase of life far easier than someone who has no other friends. The first person simply has far more avenues for communication, for love, generosity, and kindness – all the things a person needs during such difficult times.
Returning to the concept of nutrition, we might take a moment to be grateful for the human stomach and the enormous variety of foods we can intake. Imagine for a moment if we were like the koala, who only eat eucalyptus leaves. What if some new invasive species of beetle found it’s way into the environment and decimated the eucalyptus trees, where does that leave the koala? And yet, this is what most people’s financial situation looks like: one job, one income, which could easily be wiped out by one new disagreeable, invasive boss.
What about mistakes and setbacks? How many potential reactions do we have ready on the hip for such situations? Do we only have one angry reaction that is used ad nauseum? Or have we sought out, discovered, trained and embodied many different perspectives on the nature of failure?
How many hits can we take before we lose stability? Does a single disappointment derail our thoughts, our emotions, our mind?
What can we do on a daily basis to add to the foundation of our thoughts?
Can we achieve a greater overall stability by adding to the stability of all areas of our life?
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