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Self-knowledge > productivity: forget about systems, know yourself deeply first.

7 minutes read

The most efficient way to reach your goals is understanding why you're not there yet. We're diving deep today.

Today we are nose diving straight into the truth about motivation, why self-knowledge is the key to everything you want to achieve, and a practice to find out why your systems are failing you.

You're reading About Blank, a publication about freedom.

Hola amigos ☺︎ Another day, another issue to ramble about my favorite topic: self-knowledge.

Life and it’s synchronicities! Last week I sent out the one year anniversary issue of my self-knowledge publication: Colectiva Magazine. If you haven’t subscribed yet I invite you to read issue 11 and follow the white rabbit deep, deep down. It was received with so much love, and I want to thank everyone that has been following along.

And now, back to our regular scheduled programming: life in the Philippines this past month has been surreal. Feeling the pumping heart of the archipelago in every cell of my body. Living the beautiful and complicated jungle life, surfing every day and writing, a lot.

Could write forever about this jungle hut and the many natural teachers I’ve learned from in this past month. Nothing like returning to nature and re-connecting with mi lado salvaje. Nothing like the humbling exercise of surrendering to nature.

Something clicked in these past two weeks. Returning to Asia feels like finding the last missing piece to my 2022 puzzle. I want to share what that looks like with you 🧩

Picking up momentum: a never-ending saga

If you’ve been reading About Blank for a while, you know that after I left India and the Ashram (temple where I was doing my Yoga Teacher Training) it has been so difficult to pick up momentum, particularly with my design studio. After leaving India, I had a few months where I was doing a lot of core values housekeeping (core as in: inside of me) and it felt inauthentic to keep my studio as it was after such a transformative passage as the Ashram. Or as India in general.

Half of me stayed in India ruminating about the meaning (or lack of meaning?) of the living experience. The other half kept on working with clients on their brand strategy and design, enjoying the material (and digital) world.

Do we lose ourselves if we cling onto older versions of ourselves?

I feel like I just downloaded a creativity+focus plugin for my Life OS. I want to share an “epiphany” that came to me like thunder.

The truth about motivation

(According to me!)

Ok, so I go one month to do my yoga teacher training. I quit my laptop, phone, social media for a month. I meditate three hours every day, do yoga another three and the rest of the day I’m either reading Vedanta philosophy, or by the Ganga river doing nothing at all. Just joyfully existing.

Then I go back to the material world, excited to go “back to work” with all these new insights and calmness, and surprise! Your motivation has been defaulted to the default, please load all the habits, systems, and all sorts of "magic" neuroscience tricks you’ve developed over the years in order to re-start motivation.

Loading... program error: the person that created all those systems and set those goals has changed entirely. Please restart the program.

So I try to reboot myself for three months, and attempt to get back up and into the same flow I was in. Ah! I was working with seven clients at once, training a junior designer and about to hire a developer. Why the fuck did I go and pursue my lifelong dream?! Am I insane?!

Inner dialogue was on fire 🚒

This system malware continues until pretty much two weeks ago.

I arrive back in Asia, sit down in a world of my own with my cup of matcha and laptop, and one morning I think: hold on, why do I need productivity to stay motivated?

Void. Neurons collapse. Brain orgasm.

If I deeply desire to achieve a goal, isn’t it natural to be motivated and, as a result, productive?

Bug detected.

Have you ever asked yourself why you need motivation to reach your goals? Isn’t this utterly absurd? That one needs to be motivated to have what they wish to have?

Ah, what a way to create a path to nowhere.

You've been defaulted to the default!

It suddenly hit me that I’ve been focusing so much on creating the perfect systems to reach my goals, that I somehow forgot that I’m chasing those goals in the first place. Hear me out: maybe I (and you?) have been so focused on productivity, that at some point I stopped pursuing my vision and went after productivity per se.

As I sat in my little world and looked at my screen, I realized how unproductive it is to rely on productivity.

Years building habits, systems, and trying to hack my own biology – but as soon as I spend a few months off-grid without these systems I am defaulted to my default.

Well, this doesn’t sound very promising or sustainable long-term if I want to keep having offline experiences for months of the year ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ or if I want to simply live my life!

Will I always have to rely on productivity to feel motivation?!

There has to be some other way to change one’s default.

Following "instructions" as a quick pain killer.

And there certainly is: dump the user manual.

If “instructions” really worked, then anyone who would follow the morning routine of Elon Musk would become like him. Anyone who would meditate daily would become the Buddha himself.

Millions of people have read Atomic Habits, yet their life looks nothing like James Clear’s.
Millions of people meditate every day and they haven’t become enlightened.

So, where’s the glitch?

Following instructions and doing X to achieve Y are a road to nowhere because instead of truly understanding the drive and motivation behind your goals, you try to overcome obstacles by following instructions. Naturally, the instruction itself becomes your focus, not the original goal.

The glitch is in the question that drives your motivation.

My inner dialogue went from →  “What instructions should I follow and practice to overcome my obstacles?”

To → “What is the root cause of the obstacle that prevents me from arriving to the place I want to?”

And most important → "What is the sincere intention behind my goals?"

This the new operating system I want to install: arriving to my vision through a journey of truly understanding myself.

The key: Self-reflection

The only way to install it is by cultivating the curiosity to learn about the sincere intentions behind your vision.

You can practice every single techniques to break procrastination, and wallpaper your house with vision boards, but if you don’t know the core reason of why you're getting stuck, these techniques will fade eventually.

Without self-reflection, generic systems won't work because the underlying cause of your procrastination remains. You’re taking a pain killer instead of dealing with the source.

Self-reflection works because you're not alleviating the symptoms, you're finding the root problem and understanding it, helping you deal with it holistically instead of placing a band-aid on it.

Finding the root cause

The most efficient way to reach your goals is understanding why you're not there yet.

If something doesn’t work, ask yourself why. This concept is so simple and obvious, thus it is invisible to the ambitious mind.

I feel like the veil has been lifted: the focus is 100% on my vision, and the work now is to clear the road towards it by examining the roadblocks. 2023 is going to be an interesting year full of new experiments...

Self-reflection Exercise:

Close your eyes and picture your life vision. The destination you want to arrive at. Feel it. Feel your sincere intentions to arrive there. Be as detailed as possible.

Be specific: Imagining this destination creates the road towards it.

Ask yourself, what is the biggest obstacle down that road that is keeping me from arriving to my destination?

And now the hard work: Examine it, understand that obstacle. Find the root cause of it. Ask questions. Find the “why”.

And now the transformative work: Eliminate it from the root, and it will bring you to your vision like nothing else without prescription, nootropics, habit trackers, cold plunges, or 5am frog eating work blocks.

sOmEtHinG goOd is cooking

I hope you enjoyed this issue, if you resonate with this or if you found some of these conclusions as curious as I did, feel free to shoot me an email – I'd love to read your thoughts.

I feel the direction change. I don't want to write about mindful productivity, I want to write about freedom. I want to focus on the vision, not the tools to get there.

Thank you for reading ☺︎

Brain candy on the way

I'm building a juicy template for you, a free Notion dashboard that will help you cultivate an introspection practice to transform intention into action.

This will arrive fresh at your inbox next week, stay tooooooned!

Colectiva Magazine Issue 011: Beyond the
One year Anniversary edition: you’ve been reading about self-knowledge in this publication for a year, what comes after the
Issue 11: Beyond the Mind. Just in case you need more introspection candy!
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