21: Structure → Chaos
Musings on privacy, disruption and mindfulness.
Note: This is my second Year-in-Review, check the link down below for the first.
This post was meant to come out on my birthday, but that was over two weeks ago now. I wasn’t writing on a schedule. I haven’t been writing much at all on Medium, in spite of how much I’ve been thinking about writing lately. Which is fitting, because that’s largely what I’m going to be ideating about.
Last year, when I wrote my yearly review, I focused mostly on the past. It made sense since I essentially had twenty years of material to cover. This year is different, though. I only have to really think about what’s happened in the past twelve months. There’s still plenty to talk about, though.
I’ve decided to tackle a few themes — and subsequently, their opposites — which have been resonating with me the most.
1. Privacy → Publicity
In the past year, I’ve become a lot more mindful about my privacy, mainly online. Since I began using the internet at a young age, I had been rather liberal with the amount of information that I put out. I idealistically didn’t see an issue with it — why not display things I’ve done or created beside my real identity? Being open is considered an especially good idea for potential employers to find you, even.
I’ve come to the realization of the bigger picture, though. Services like Facebook and Google are so ubiquitous today that many users do not have any realization of the rights they’re giving away when using any ‘free’ part of the internet. I could get into the weeds about this, but that’s how I feel. Every person deserves the right to privacy.
Which leads me to this post itself. Where is the line when discussing your personal life between oversharing and providing proper context? It has become so easy to delve into and get entangled into the personal lives of most modern content creators. I’ve decided to take a more mindful and cautious approach, shutting down most of my social media channels as well as my publication Wander Notebook, I don’t want to find myself getting too caught up in vanity. (I’ll be writing a post soon about specific privacy tools to help you feel less exposed online.)
At the same time, being in the public eye creates accountability for yourself. It requires you to be responsible and consistent with what you produce. To create something that is powerful enough to break through the chaotic white noise of social media is another task of its own. That requires a lot of work.
TrackMeNot — a lightweight browser extension that helps protect web searchers from surveillance and data-profiling by search engines.
AdNauseam — a free browser extension designed to obfuscate browsing data and protect users from tracking by advertising networks.
2. Stagnation → Disruption
The more comfortable your position in life is, the less inclined you’d be to take risks. Why work any harder than the status quo if you’re happy?
This feeling of contentedness is, however, the enemy of progression. When you allow yourself to get comfortable, you stop hungering for more. You subside into the routine that has been working, and if you aren’t careful, you can end up here the rest of your life.
When you’re put into a dire, desperate position in life — not out of choice — that’s when you truly work your best. That’s when you hustle your hardest — because that’s the only option.
Developing the discipline to work as though life is on the line is far easier said than done. It requires the disheartening feeling of letting go of what you’ve plateaued. Brilliant ideas and work come from disruption of yourself and your life. Light a fire under your ass. Activity begets activity, inactivity begets inactivity.
What exactly does disruption entail, though? Recklessness does not equate improvement. You can’t just throw away structure and hope for good things to come out of tackling life in a wayward direction. Randomness is ineffective. You still need routine and structure, it just needs to be redesigned, sometimes radically so.
3. Autopilot → Mindfulness
I’ve been doing research on neurology lately, specifically metacognition, or the act of thinking about thought — and learning how to learn. This is because I’ve been wanting to answer the rather difficult question of what causes some people to act lazily and others to work incredibly hard.
There is plenty of literature that tries to pinpoint what exactly a person can do to become more productive, but these are external factors. The fundamental root of the problem of laziness stems from the mind itself. If you do not focus on that, any and all change would be temporary. No matter how much something inspires you or motivates you, you’ll always find yourself declining back into the same original state. It’s no different from people that lose weight only to regain it.
Of course, there’s no simple solution to this: You must become your own personal lab rat and experiment. Be more aware and mindful of your actions and thoughts throughout the day. Try to figure out where you lose focus and ask yourself why. When you waste time and procrastinate, it’s so easy to shut down the cognizant voice of reason in an attempt to suppress the guilt of wasting time.
We try our best to choose the path of least resistance when we aren’t actively pushing ourselves otherwise. This is how we stagnate. The act of trying to hold ourselves responsible is itself a difficult task.
It takes a lot of work to rewire yourself to become a person that can choose to do the difficult thing effortlessly. It’s something that needs to be practised constantly, every day. You have to push yourself to enjoy disruption over routine, to push yourself to be mindful instead of mindless.
It’s far easier to waste time if you don’t have anything but a blank screen in front of you, as opposed to writing things out and having that in front of you instead. But to-do lists are often ineffective due to the fact they don’t touch on what actually matters.