Many people say they are in a continuous state of “Overwhelm”. They feel like the lagging wilder-beasts fighting rear guard actions fearing becoming canon fodder. Most people say this is caused by the complexities of our modern world and there is nothing we can do about it. I dispute this in two ways. One I argue our world is not more complex than our ancestor’s world. Two we can do something about it.
Our world is not more complex than the world fifty thousand years ago. Our ancestor’s world is filled with complexities and decisions. This mushroom or that mushroom? This berry or that berry? This way to water or that? Carry spears or arrows for the hunt? Eat my fill now or dry the meat and save for later? Run from the wolves or stay and fight? Is that storm coming or going? They had to make a decision on the spot and each of them may carry dire consequences for them and their clan. Yet, amazingly we do not see cave paintings of someone tearing their prehistoric hair out or beating a club on the ground in frustration. Our ancestors know how to handle complexity and not get overwhelmed. The question is how did they do it?
Today we get overwhelmed by the drinks section of a menu, or the ordering window at Subway, or the cereals aisle. None of these decisions carry life or death consequences, yet we allow them to dominate our mental space, clogging our limited bandwidths. It is not the world that got more complex but we’ve become simpletons. Our capacity for dealing with unpredictability has decreased significantly. I know it is hard to be called a dumb-ass, but I am right here with you. So follow my dumb-ass for a bit longer.
Our ancestors didn’t understand chemistry, physics, mathematics or thermodynamics, yet they survived for millions of years. We’d call ourselves lucky if we make it out of the next fifty years alive. WTF? In order to not get overwhelmed here are three little rules I follow: 1) Simplify Simplify Simplify. 2) Get in touch with nature. 3) Build strong relationships and live in the NOW.
One: Simplify Simplify Simplify. Why say it three times? Because when we think it is simple enough we could go further. e.g. Your kids need new school supplies and need to goto a birthday bash and you need to cancel the gym membership and meet a friend for lunch. Reduced to: reuse last year’s supply for week one, do a phone check-in with your friend on the way to birthday party. Forget about the gym.
Two: Immerse in nature. I don’t mean sit on a piece of lawn for half an hour at lunch. I mean take a three to five day camping trip and really decompress. Sit on a rock and just stare into nothingness. Let your mind get bored and wander. Spin around in one place at night and then look at the sky and feel the rotation of the universe. Be part of the infinitely complex universe and be okay with it.
Three: Relationships and the Present. When researchers ask centenarians what is their secret. They consistently say: Meaningful relationship and wonderful experiences. Notice they didn’t say: “Paid off mortgages, great Pension plans, comprehensive health insurance for the family.” The old gizeers know to live every day like it is their last. We could learn to live more in the present as well. Easier said than done of course. But it gives our dumb-asses something to work on.
Next time you feel overwhelmed try my three step method. If it still doesn’t work, slap yourself on the forehead and say:”STOP TRYING TO MICROMANAGE THE UNIVERSE!” Let me know how it goes in the comment section.
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