For every self-improvement book I read, I typically have at least one thing that sticks in my brain. I try to implement that one thing into my daily life and then reference back to my notes if I want to remember more about the book. Here are some of my top takeaways from the year. (I also learned A LOT from Ego is the Enemy and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck but I couldn’t pick just one thing from those books to put down.)

Improv Wisdom

In this book, Patricia Ryan Madson talks about how we should act NOW. When you see a paper cup on the ground, instead of being mad, sad, angry etc just act now. Throw it away yourself. If you see it, it’s now your job to take care of it.

The improviser in me is trained to take action rather than muse over whose job it may be. It is always my job if I see it to do, and I’m able to do the task.

This was huge for me. Why should I expect others to live up to my standards? Only I can control thoughts/feelings so why am I trying to impose my thoughts onto a stranger or even my spouse. Why should he wash the dishes if I’m the one being bothered by it? Why get upset about it when I can just do it. Just act.

You Learn by Living

Although this wasn’t my favorite book, I really learned a lot from one topic that she mentions. I am a “highly sensitive person” (book that I’ll read this year) and I have trouble concentrating without absolute silence and I get distracted and irritated easily by interruptions/noises. I notice when I read in public places, I’m constantly looking up when someone walks by or if I hear a weird noise. In her book, Elenor talks about how we need to have an inner calm or oasis that we can be in because these moments of interruption will never go away and if we wait until they do, they we will never get anything done.

I’ve recently read a lot of books about staying in the moment (see below) and so I’ve been practicing ignoring the distractions around me, refusing to look up when someone walks by or makes a noise and instead just focus as much as I can on reading even if that means reading the same sentence 20 times. I think the problem with my reading retention has a lot to do with this. If I’m distracted constantly, then I’m not actually reading. Like when you drive and you end up at home and you don’t remember how you got there. I end up at the end of the chapter and can’t remember anything I read.

One of the secrets of using your time well is to gain a certain ability to maintain peace within yourself so that much can go on around you and you can stay calm inside.

Either I could learn to continue with the reading, writing or whatever I had to do in the midst of this turmoil, or I would have to relinquish it.

The Wisdom of Insecurity

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If I’m reading, and I’m thinking, then I’m not actually reading. I’m not in the moment and I’m not actually doing what I think I’m doing. This has been great for me. It helps me to focus on what I’m doing. For example, if I’m hanging out with a friend and I’m thinking about my response or if I’m thinking about what I need to do later then I’m not living in this moment right now. And if I’m not living in this moment, then I’m always thinking about a moment that will never be here. If I’m always living for the future, then I will never be living because when that future moment arrives, I’ll be already thinking about another future moment.

Thus to plan for a future which is not going to become present is hardly more absurd than to plan for a future which, when it comes to me, will find me “absent”, looking fixedly over its shouldering instead of into its face.

If happiness depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o’-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss of death.

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