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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Life

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If you’re wondering why you’re not happy, why things are always hard, try this thought experiment from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius

Photo: zero take/Unsplash

We can imagine that Marcus Aurelius was a busy man, perhaps the busiest man in the world. He had 14 children. He was living through a pandemic. He had a nagging stomach ailment. He was taking philosophy classes.

Oh, and he was the emperor of Rome. His domain stretched some 2.2 million square miles and included some 120 million people for whom he was both responsible for and in charge of.

How did he manage it all? How did he get it all done? Without losing his mind? Without falling behind?

We know that one question played a huge role.


To find your focus, learn to resist this self-sabotaging excuse

Photo: Simon Abrams/Unsplash

Imagine this: You’ve been diagnosed with a rare and serious disease. In hopes of keeping you alive, the doctor recommends a new, experimental course of treatment. It works for some people — maybe 60%. But it’s covered by your insurance, and if you are in the 60%, you’ll be successfully cured in six months. What do you do?

Of course you say yes. Maybe you’ll get unlucky and it won’t work for you, but it’s worth a try. You’d probably try the treatment even with only a 10% success rate. …


Understanding the distinction is the first step to managing your time

Photo: Alistair Berg/Getty Images

Because I write about distraction and how to avoid it, I often get asked the question “Aren’t distractions sometimes a good thing? Don’t we all need some distraction in our lives?”

Nope!

Distractions are always bad. Period. Diversions, on the other hand, can be good. This isn’t just hair-splitting: The two concepts are fundamentally different, and if you want to use your time productively, you need to understand the important distinction between them.

As I explain in my book Indistractable, distraction is an action that pulls you away from what you intended to do.

Distraction prevents you from living out…


If you think you’re getting me back in zippy pants, you have another thing coming, good sir

Photo: John M Lund Photography Inc/Getty Images

The pandemic ain’t over, but it’s getting there. We have vaccines, and though it fees like we’re rolling them out at the speed at which our grandmothers used to speak to grocery store cashiers, we can all see the sliver of light at the end of the syringe.

A year in isolation has taught us many things, from how much bullshit there was in “no WFH” policies to how many of us could have had careers in professional kitchens. For me, the biggest lesson has been learning exactly what I’ll tolerate in my life going forward. This time has forced…


Three lessons on how to handle adversity while feeling your feelings

A tree shaped by the wind
A tree shaped by the wind
Photo: Melanie Hobson/EyeEm/Getty Images

I used to think resilience was a tool I just didn’t have. I can be an easy crier. How can one cry frequently and also be resilient? When we think of resilience, we imagine stoic faces, superhero power poses, and triumphant fists in the air. If we do a Google image search for “resilience,” a person shedding tears certainly does not come up.

I don’t think that anymore. It’s a realization that has come from time and age more than any single aha moment, but I know now that — much like how courage is not the absence of fear


A classic survivor test shows us the danger of abandoning your mission whenever things get uncomfortable

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Let’s try something. Imagine you’ve just crash-landed somewhere in the Sonoran Desert, deep in the American Southwest. Though the aircraft is now a smoldering wreck, you miraculously survived uninjured, and now find yourself all alone as the sole survivor. Temperatures are topping 110 degrees, and you’re stranded.

Thankfully, you’ve managed to find a few supplies in the wreckage. But while some of the things are vital to your survival, others are useless. To stay alive until rescuers arrive, you must decide which among these items are most important:

  • A loaded .45 caliber pistol
  • A book titled Edible Plants and Animals…

First, you have to dare to be bad at something

A person playing an acoustic guitar on a stage
A person playing an acoustic guitar on a stage
Photo: Prapass Pulsub / Getty Images

I was getting a coffee with a talented, accomplished friend when he dropped a conversational bomb. He looked out the window and said, “The image I’ve carried around since I was very young is this other version of me, who’s not necessarily perfect, but who’s my ideal… the more successful, more productive, more socially well-adjusted, more, you know, everything. More confident version of me. It is me, but I’m behind several screens or something, and I can’t seem to get through.”

Many of us have an alternate-reality self we wish we could be. The most striking thing about my friend’s…


How to give yourself space to work through your grief

Blurred image of people walking at a crosswalk in a city.
Blurred image of people walking at a crosswalk in a city.
Photo: d3sign / Getty Images

The topic of “The Anniversary” started showing up in my therapy sessions sometime in late January or early February. Over the past few weeks, it’s become an increasingly popular topic among my clients, many of whom have given voice to feelings I myself struggled to put into words.

Some therapists have described the Covid-19 pandemic as an experience of collective trauma. Others have carefully delineated the difference between a collective stressor, and collective trauma — though they note that certainly some have experienced traumatic stress (loss of loved ones, loss of employment, or the trauma experienced by health care workers…


It’s also a clarifying prompt when you just want to self-reflect

Woman looking out the window with reflection of outdoors.
Woman looking out the window with reflection of outdoors.
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

I started going to therapy because I wanted to figure out who I was after leaving the company I spent a decade of my life building. Then I began feeling like I was failing as a parent. Then my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Then Covid-19 hit.

Through it all, therapy was a huge source of strength and stability. My friends now see me as a therapy veteran, maybe because I’m always talking about the things I’ve learned from my therapist. One day, a friend came to me with a question: She was about to start going to…


You can override your less-than-helpful instincts by learning techniques from the persuasion business

Photo: John Macdougall/Contributor/Getty Images

The reason why you hate being micromanaged by your boss is the same reason why, as a kid, you refused to put your coat on when your mom told you to bundle up. We’re all wired with a knee-jerk “don’t tell me what to do!” response called psychological reactance — and it can kick in even when it’s you telling yourself what to do.

Saturday Night Live recently captured this tendency with a skit about the “Pelotaunt,” getting riders to workout not through encouragement, but through passive aggression. A woman in the spoof says, “If I hear the phrase, ‘You…

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