Mastering The Mundane: 7 Fundamentals Of An Awesome Lifestyle

In this post I’m going to layout the foundation upon which I live what I consider to be a pretty good life. I hope that they help you to do the same. I’ve been carrying this around with me for the last year and it’s sort of like my own reference book. When I feel sad or like I am in a rut, I just check back to this list to see what is out of line. It’s the underlying mechanics that make the engine that is my life run smoothly.

This is doubly cool in that as far as I can tell it is pretty much immune to circumstance. If I follow my own advice here then it doesn’t matter where in the world I am or what I’m going through I’m usually outrageously content and fulfilled. If I let some of the items go unchecked it’s a slow drop into mediocrity and misery.

There is nothing so profound in any one of these items. What is profound is cultivating an awareness around each item and ensuring that it’s incorporated into your life in whatever way you find most pleasing and beneficial.Here goes!

The 7 Fundamentals Of An Awesome Lifestyle (not necessarily in this order)

Food

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world” -J.R.R Tolkien

 

Food can either be a wonderful medicine or a slow poison that kills you. Simply, we have to eat. Food however is not a simple subject. Forgetting for a moment eating disorders and Western societies insane issues with body image. Food all on it’s own is pretty complex.

There are a ton of ways to prepare it, serve it, and eat it. You should figure out what it is that you actually like. I vary in this regard. Sometimes I eat a very Spartan like diet of just viewing food as sustenance and taking no real enjoyment from it. Other times I eat a rather lavish spread of great food.

But what’s important is developing your own food routine. What do you want to eat for breakfast? For lunch? For dinner? What kind of food do  you actually like and want to have in your life? How will what you eat fit into your overall lifestyle plans as far as health and well being go? Are you already eating as well as you’d like to or could you improve?

I think it’s important to dedicate some thought to your food. A practice forgotten in America it seems. It’s also important to pre plan at least some portion of your meals, if not all of them. I’m all for eating out and having really special meals but it’s never been practical to do that for every meal, every day.

Sleep

O sleep, O gentle sleep, nature’s soft nurse, how have I frightened thee, that thou no more wilt weigh my eye-lids down and steep my senses in forgetfulness? –  William Shakespeare

Let Sleeping Children Lie by stewickie, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  stewickie 

 

This is a topic that I’m not an expert at, by any means, so I’ll bring in an expert to talk about it. I often have an erratic sleep schedule but a few things I’ve discovered I will share.

First, if I go too many nights in a row without quality restful sleep I am much more likely to drop the ball on other more important tasks. I’m also more likely to get sick and lazy. My mental performance suffers greatly and I feel a general lack of creativity and inspiration. These aren’t small problems. Because of that sleep has to be given some recognition in building a lifestyle.

The best advice I’ve ever gotten regarding sleep comes from Steve Pavlina (the expert). Here are a few of his nuggets (links to full article at bottom of quotes)

#1. Get up at the same time every day.

It seems there are two main schools of thought about sleep patterns. One is that you should go to bed and get up at the same times every day. It’s like having an alarm clock on both ends — you try to sleep the same hours each night. This seems practical for living in modern society. We need predictability in our schedules. And we need to ensure adequate rest.

The second school says you should listen to your body’s needs and go to bed when you’re tired and get up when you naturally wake up. This approach is rooted in biology. Our bodies should know how much rest we need, so we should listen to them.

Through trial and error, I found out for myself that both of these schools are suboptimal sleep patterns. Both of them are wrong if you care about productivity. Here’s why:

If you sleep set hours, you’ll sometimes go to bed when you aren’t sleepy enough. If it’s taking you more than five minutes to fall asleep each night, you aren’t sleepy enough. You’re wasting time lying in bed awake and not being asleep. Another problem is that you’re assuming you need the same number of hours of sleep every night, which is a false assumption. Your sleep needs vary from day to day.

If you sleep based on what your body tells you, you’ll probably be sleeping more than you need — in many cases a lot more, like 10-15 hours more per week (the equivalent of a full waking day). A lot of people who sleep this way get 8+ hours of sleep per night, which is usually too much. Also, your mornings may be less predictable if you’re getting up at different times. And because our natural rhythms are sometimes out of tune with the 24-hour clock, you may find that your sleep times begin to drift.

The optimal solution for me has been to combine both approaches. It’s very simple, and many early risers do this without even thinking about it, but it was a mental breakthrough for me nonetheless. The solution was to go to bed when I’m sleepy (and only when I’m sleepy) and get up with an alarm clock at a fixed time (7 days per week). So I always get up at the same time (in my case 5am), but I go to bed at different times every night.

I go to bed when I’m too sleepy to stay up. My sleepiness test is that if I couldn’t read a book for more than a page or two without drifting off, I’m ready for bed. Most of the time when I go to bed, I’m asleep within three minutes. I lie down, get comfortable, and immediately I’m drifting off. Sometimes I go to bed at 9:30pm; other times I stay up until midnight. Most of the time I go to bed between 10-11pm. If I’m not sleepy, I stay up until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Reading is an excellent activity to do during this time, since it becomes obvious when I’m too sleepy to read.

From his article How to become an early riser

#2. Train yourself to get up right away when your alarm goes off.

What’s the real solution then?  The solution is to delegate the problem.  Turn the whole thing over to your subconscious mind.  Cut your conscious mind out of the loop.

Now how do you do this?  The same way you learned any other repeatable skill.  You practice until it becomes rote.  Eventually your subconscious will take over and run the script on autopilot.

This is going to sound really stupid, but it works.  Practice getting up as soon as your alarm goes off.  That’s right — practice.  But don’t do it in the morning.  Do it during the day when you’re wide awake.

Go to your bedroom, and set the room conditions to match your desired wake-up time as best you can.  Darken the room, or practice in the evening just after sunset so it’s already dark.  If you sleep in pajamas, put on your pajamas.  If you brush your teeth before bed, then brush your teeth.  If you take off your glasses or contacts when you sleep, then take those off too.

Set your alarm for a few minutes ahead.  Lie down in bed just like you would if you were sleeping, and close your eyes.  Get into your favorite sleep position.  Imagine it’s early in the morning… a few minutes before your desired wake-up time.  Pretend you’re actually asleep.  Visualize a dream location, or just zone out as best you can.

Now when your alarm goes off, turn it off as fast as you can.  Then take a deep breath to fully inflate your lungs, and stretch your limbs out in all directions for a couple seconds… like you’re stretching during a yawn.  Then sit up, plant your feet on the floor, and stand up.  Smile a big smile.  Then proceed to do the very next action you’d like to do upon waking.  For me it’s getting dressed.

Now shake yourself off, restore the pre-waking conditions, return to bed, reset your alarm, and repeat.  Do this over and over and over until it becomes so automatic that you run through the whole ritual without thinking about it.  If you have to subvocalize any of the steps (i.e. if you hear a mental voice coaching you on what to do), you’re not there yet.

From his article How To Become An Early Riser

Steve Pavlina fanboy much? I guess so! To be honest it’s the only resource I’ve studied a lot related to sleep. Mainly because it’s the only one I’ve ever needed. Steve has done years of self experimentation on the subject and in my view is the best resource there is for the topic. Other things read too much like medical dictionaries and fail to offer practical advice.

Those two articles I re-read anytime my sleep starts to get off track. He also has some more extreme articles on sleep. For instance where he tried polyphasic sleep for a year, well worth reading even if you have no interest in polyphasic sleep.

Exercise

“Exercise ferments the humors, casts them into their proper channels, throws off redundancies, and helps nature in those secret distributions, without which the body cannot subsist in its vigor, nor the soul act with cheerfulness.” – Joseph Addison

fitness by o0bsessed, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  o0bsessed 

 

If you know me at all you know I’m not going to be one to recommend going to the gym everyday or even doing hard exercise regularly.

What I do advise though is remembering to do something. If I spend a whole day just sitting around, working on the computer, or whatever. I don’t feel that good. Make it a point to at least get out of the house and do something. This could be as simple as walking around the grocery store. What it is really doesn’t matter. Bonus points for you however if it’s something you enjoy.

I think everyone should try and have a few sports that they like and practice on a regular basis. It’s just fun. It’s not about getting in great shape or being super fit (though kudo’s to you if that’s what you’re into). It’s more about getting back to your roots and being a human being. We weren’t meant to sit at a desk all day staring at some electronic gizmo’s. That’s unnatural.

Get outdoors, do things with your hands, remember what it feels like to be alive. Although if you decide to use our next bullet point as your daily exercise requisite it’s probably best to do it indoors.

Sex

“The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but the mastery of his passions” -Alfred Lord Tennyson

I <3 Sex by xcode, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  xcode 

Why don’t we talk more about this? I’ve never met anyone that didn’t have any sex that was really happy about it. Sure I’ve met people who have lots of sex and are miserable too, but not as many as I’ve met of the former.

Sex is awesome, it can be one of the most enjoyable parts of life. It’s also a great tool for self exploration and personal growth. When guys ask me “How to get so confident” my answer is usually just, “Get a bunch of BJs”. This get’s a laugh usually but I’m actually very serious in that recommendation. It’s hard to really feel bad about yourself when a beautiful girl has her soft lips wrapped lovingly around your cock. True story.

The same applies to girls. Great sex = Great life. No sex = find a way to get through another day. It’s hard for girls because of the sheer fact that most guys are so horribly lame at sex.

So here’s a favor to the girls in hopes that it might lead to more sex for me in the future.

GUYS… Take some time to learn about sex and learn to get good with it. Accept your weaknesses and find some strengths. If you’re not really coordinated, get extremely good with your hands and mouth. Learn massage. Read, Read, Read then Practice, Practice, Practice. Quit thinking about “how can I get laid” or “picking up chicks” instead get really really good at sex. If you do this I promise, you’ll never have to sleep alone again. And don’t worry, given that most guys are so awfully bad at sex, women already have extremely low standards for what they expect so if you even just make an effort and take your time with it you’ll get great reviews.

GIRLS… Understand that men are generally clumsy creatures, but we are teachable (I think Tim Ferris said that on the view, source needed). If you have a clue what you like in sex tell the guy and most will do their best.

Also keep an eye on this little website here as I’ll be posting a lot of neat little secrets in the coming days.

So that being said, as is usually the case, we’ll get back to sex later.

Using Your Brain

“All men by nature desire knowledge” – Aristotle

This is the corollary to the previous two points, both of which centered on using your body. Don’t neglect your brain.

This habit is all about learning. Read books, study material, learn new skills, learn anything. Learning is fun and learning is a skill. Knowing stuff is cool. Find out what you’re interested and get really really good at it. Learning a lot has never been easier and anyone who is not making it part of their daily routine is going to miss out on the fun big time.

I aim to have 1 or 2 new skills all the time that I am learning.

Here’s a few topics just to get your brain stirring

  • Learn new languages (one at a time seems to work better)
  • Learn to cook
  • Learn a musical instrument
  • Learn a lot about any 1 topic (Any Civil War buffs in the house?)

When I’m considering a new thing to learn I first decide how deep I want to get into it. If I just want passing knowledge to use in conversation I might take an hour and read the Wikipedia on it. If I want to be passably good at it I might devote a few weeks of intense study. If I want to be impressive I’ll build a 3 month plan to master it and then re-assess progress every 3 months.

A good way to go about this that I’m looking more into exploring is to find competitions based on the skills you want to learn and register for one that’s a few months away. Then take the intervening time to actually learn the skill. Setting this dead line will help you to focus on the most important issues.

Work

“Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work” -Horace

I define work as “doing something to make money”. I also find this very fun. I’ve already surpassed my basic required income to achieve the lifestyle I want. So now it’s all basically bonus money.

However, for me the actual process of building businesses is fun and exciting. It’s sort of like giving birth I imagine. It takes a lot out of you and it hurts. But the rewards are worth it. It’s probably good for the readers of this blog that this is a hobby of mine as I’m going to be doing case studies on building profitable businesses in hopes that other can replicate them.

I’m not real fancy about this. I view business as “something that makes money”. If you stand on street corners and wash windshields at stop lights and make money, that’s a business. If you stand on street corners and sell your body to tourists, that’s a business. If you work at a hedge fund and make millions selling derivatives (idk if that’s a real thing), that’s a business. I’m not currently in the habit of trying to build 9 figure businesses, just because I don’t need 9 figure businesses. If I can build a business that makes a few thousand dollars per month in relatively passive income that get’s me more excited than trying to invent the next google. It’s also way easier.

One final thought for this post regarding work. Keep it in it’s place! Work and the money that it provides should be a means to an end in terms of financing your lifestyle. Don’t get too consumed with work and neglect all of the other bullet points on this list. That being said, you can work full time (40 hours per week or more) and still have plenty of time for the other items on this list. So just make sure you’re giving each of them the attention it needs.

Social Activity

“Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends.” – Chinese Proverb

Closing out the fundamentals I want to mention social activity. By this I basically mean spending time with other human beings that you enjoy being around.

Part of my focus on “social activity” is always related to meeting new people at this stage. I’m young and don’t have a big network of friends. But I’d like to, it’s something I aim for and as such I put in the time to meet new people and cultivate relationships. I try to meet some cool guys (hard to do) and I always meet some cool girls (not hard to do). By meet I don’t just mean saying hi to them in a bar. I mean actually talking to, getting to know, and if I like them making some loose plans to speak again.

I carry business cards with me all the time, not so I can promote my business, but so I can give people an easy way to get in touch with me. Bonus points to you if you met me, I gave you a business card, and you ended up on my blog reading this, I think I’m in love with you already.

The other part of my focus goes towards interacting with the social group that I already have, know, and love. Close friends, girlfriends, mentors, family, work friends, and so on. I really do put effort into relationships and in return I get a lot out of them. “Getting something out of it” mind you is never really by design and it’s not suggesting I do things for people to get something back. In all honesty, I like building relationships with people I care about because having that relationship makes me feel great pretty much all the time. That is a real reward for me and it’s totally worth it.

Closing Thoughts

No matter where I am in the world or what my circumstances are if I take care of these seven points each day, I feel great. If I slip up on a few of them for a few days it’s usually not a big deal as long as I get back to it. But if I neglect any one of them for too long I very quickly start to notice a creeping feeling of emptiness or lack of fulfillment. It’s just that simple.

What do you think?

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