Motivational Monday: It could be worse

Every so often on a Monday, I get the blues. I guess they are called Monday blues for a reason. Today I’m ok actually, even though work is kicking my ass. Last Monday I was blue, even though my life was great. You can’t predict it. So, for those of you who find yourself in a little slump this Monday, or may do in Mondays to come, I’m committed to sharing some coping strategies with you.

A good friend recently pointed out an obvious and miserable fact: we are born and die ALONE.  This is a great example of a depressing Monday thought but one that would be encouraged by Stoic philosophers, who believe that worst case scenarios can be extremely helpful and that we should invest time actively preparing for the inevitable miseries of life.

The two videos shared here should 1. help you better understand the stoics and 2. help you apply their wisdom.

Enjoy! Remember, tomorrow you could be dead…

The School of Life giving us a fresh perspective on how to man up!

Wise words from Tim Ferris on how to practically convert pessimism into motivation:




How to be sad

I am happy right now but sometimes I get sad. This is something you don’t often hear people talk about, which seems silly, because everyone gets sad sometimes, right?

I like hearing people acknowledge that sadness or that special brand of sadness, melancholy, is a normal part of life and should be expected.

Melancholy is a species of sadness that arises when we are open to the fact that life is inherently difficult and that suffering and disappointment are core parts of universal experience. It’s not a disorder that needs to be cured.

This quote is from In Praise of Melancholy, an article in The Philosopher’s Mail. Read the full article for a satisfyingly depressing reality check.

I tend to think of melancholy as a glamorous downer, the kind you choose to wallow in for a while. It’s a transient sadness that should be indulged for short periods of time but not be allowed to overtake you.

How much melancholy is too much?

Melancholy, like any emotion you nurture will want to stay and basque in the warmth you provide, so you need to be clear with yourself about how long it will be a welcome guest in your house. Five days is my personal limit. Longer than that and Melancholy loses its sexy edge and starts to resemble depression. To make sure it doesn’t overstay, I note its arrival date and then make the most of it. This usually involves playing lots of songs from my favourite band, the National, who are appropriately happy sad.  As the departure date looms I try to force myself to do something that will jolt my endorphins back into gear, like a dance class or some other high energy sport. I say force, because I would most likely have stopped exercising during my melancholy period and will not be bouncing out the door for a top up. Some days I’ll want to let my friend stay a bit longer and wont make it out the door at all, which is why the other thing you should always do when Melancholy arrives is tell someone that you have a visitor. When you are asked how you are feeling you should say ‘Melancholy right now, but ask me again in five days.’

How do you best be sad?

Overcoming the Problem of Other Minds

The Problem of Other Minds is a philosophical challenge that disturbs one of our most basic human assumptions – that other humans have minds in the same way that we do. How can we be certain of this when we can’t get inside another mind (if there even is such a thing) to check. While it seems like other people have similar mental states to us – they express thoughts and exhibit emotions, we cannot be sure that their thought experience or pain experience is the same as ours. Philosophers, while generally agreeing that sound arguments against the Problem of Other Minds exist, cannot agree on which argument is the soundest. So you have to wonder, if the experts can’t agree on how to justify that other people have minds, how can we begin to know what goes on inside them.

Sheltering Philosophical Minds

Mind ShelterLes Trois Ombres, Musee Rodin, Paris

I know what you’re thinking – what does it really matter anyway? Well it matters if you are trying to understand your own mental state as I was last year when I started seeing a therapist. I was trying to evaluate whether my experience of the world was anything like everyone else’s. Given that mental illness runs in my family, I think I’m more in tune with my mental state than others. But I have no real way of knowing if this is true. I wanted to know if I had depressive tendencies of my own, or if other people felt equally challenged by life. Maybe we all feel the same way at different times or maybe we are all having our own completely unique experience ranging somewhere on the spectrum from blissful to oppressive. I thought a good way to get to the bottom of this would be through benchmarking – and who better to rank me on the scale of mental normalcy than a professional who sees lots of different minds every day. After ten months under psychological observation, my therapist has brought our sessions to a close. I’ve been released. My primary and not so profound conclusion from the experience is this: I’m OK – somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. I suspected this from the beginning, but I just couldn’t know for sure – I didn’t have other minds to compare mine to.

So I know I’m OK thanks to heavily health insurance subsidized therapy, but what about all of you – how do you know if you’re OK?  I think the answer to this lies in homegrown benchmarking. We should do more informal and free comparisons with friends and family. I feel like although mental illness is less taboo now than it once was, it is still rare for us to delve into realms of the mind in our everyday conversations. Part of the problem is that we don’t have a common language for what we are experiencing. The true meaning of the word depressed has been hijacked: ‘I’m like sooooo depressed’ can usually be translated to ‘I’m a bit disappointed’. So when we are really suffering we don’t know how to let our people know. I’ve learnt to understand that when my friends lightheartedly say, ‘I’m having a total meltdown’ or ‘a wobbly’ they’re not OK and they’re letting me know. While I can’t know what precisely is going on in their minds at that point in time, I can ask questions that will allow them to describe their experience in more detail. Through such conversations, I’ve learnt that many of my friends have very similar mental experiences to mine. Sometimes they are happy, sometimes they are sad, sometimes they are tired, confused, desperate, sometimes elated. And so the Problem of Other Minds becomes less of a problem if we talk more about what’s going on in our minds. Specifically, it’s talking about it, or talking about it more specifically, that’s the challenge. Try asking someone what’s going on in their mind – it may not be too different from your own.

For more serious intelligent insight into the Problem of Other Minds see: (Theoretical Synopsis) (Further contemplation)