For years now, I’ve kept an Evernote on my phone entitled, “Smart things other people said.” It is filled with the obvious: life advice that strikes me hard enough to stop what I’m doing and write it down.
This is a rare occurrence. Only a handful of quips make it into the document each year. Some quotes come from the great figures of our time, and others from researchers or thinkers. Many of the statements come from people you’ve never heard of, most notably my friends and acquaintances. And then, of course, there are the anonymous words that came into my awareness without attribution.
No matter where they come from, I hope they stick with you like they stick with me.
. . .
“You can borrow knowledge, but not action” - James Clear
James Clear is the author of a most practical and useful book, Atomic Habits
. Somewhere in that book, he says that while you can borrow all the knowledge in the world through research and talking with others, at some point it’s up to you to take action. Rather, Google can bring you to the fork in the road, but it will never be the one to push you down one path or another. You must be the one to take what you’ve learned and implement it in your life.
This is particularly relevant to my work with clients in antidepressant withdrawal. People reach out to me because they’re desperate. No one in their life understands what they’re experiencing, and so they look to me for answers. But the reality is that I don’t have any real answers. I have some information and my own experience, but I can’t make their pain go away. They can learn from me but ultimately, they have to choose to endure the process and then choose to commit to the emotional work required to heal the original wounds.
“Believe in someone else’s dream. Mindfulness can be caring for others, because it helps you get out of your own head.” - Dr. Dehra Harris
Dr. Dehra Harris
is a physician and researcher with an emphasis on elite performance. Her work centers on how stressors impact high performers—think doctors, professional athletes, and military leaders.
I met her a few years ago at a conference that focused on the science of flow and mindfulness, and I was particularly struck by this statement. A flow state is nothing but fluidity, a sense that you are completely absorbed in something, beyond the point of distraction. Though it is typically associated with creativity, physical activity, and mundane tasks, the act of helping others can also lead to a flow state.
This is a key component of mindfulness that is missing from the current narrative. So often, the message is that we must turn inward and focus on ourselves. We’re supposed to meditate, chant mantras, and sit in silence to achieve a state of zen. But as anyone who’s tried to meditate for more than 10 seconds knows, it’s damn hard to do. And it’s especially difficult for people who are struggling with their own body and brain (antidepressant withdrawal comes to mind, yet again.)
But to turn your focus on someone else, to believe in their dream, is an aspect of mindfulness that is easier for many people to achieve.
“Sometimes that ship has sailed. Sometimes that ship is gay.” - a very good friend, on letting go
Aside from sending me into stitches, there is wisdom packed into this zinger of a statement that was so casually dropped into a conversation about letting go of an ex who turned out to be gay.
It’s one thing to watch a ship sail away and wonder if you made the right choice to stay ashore. It’s another thing entirely to send the ship away, accepting that you were never meant to be on it.
When people tell you who they are, believe them. They know themselves much better than you do, and you’re unlikely to change the beliefs—or truths—they hold about themselves. You could spend years of your life trying to convince yourself that they aren’t who they think they are, or you could just accept that the ship is gay. It’s not your ship. It was never your ship. And the only way to call your ship to shore is to make room for it to dock.