For no reason

One difference between countries that Spaniards see very clearly when moving to Ireland is the time variation. And I´m not talking about how in the Emerald Isle it´s an hour earlier than in the Iberian peninsula (though it is, we´re in the same time zone as the Canary Islands), but the time of the day when we usually do certain things.

For example, in Ireland, people usually have lunch and dinner much earlier than in Spain, and shops also close earlier, for the most part. My explanation for this is that in Spain, due to the good weather, life is much more outdoor-based, and we go to bed later, while in Ireland, people go back home much earlier in the day, especially during the winter, when days are much shorter, and it gets dark pretty early.

This is something worth remembering when visiting Ireland: even tourist attractions and museums (and coffee shops!) close really early compared to the Spanish standard, typically around five or six pm at most.

Except one night a year.

Culture Night. «La noche en blanco», which took place just this past Friday.

It´s an evening where museums and other places of interest are open until late, access is free (although some places require booking), and there are programmed cultural activities all over the country.

I´m a big fan of Culture Night, so last Friday, I made my way to Dublin city centre, ready to roam and snoop around a bunch of exciting places. This time I visited the City Hall, where I was able to listen to a lovely choir, the State Apartments of Dublin Castle where the viceroy used to live, back in the old times (it had never occurred to me that Ireland had a viceroy), and a Zen Buddhist centre in Temple Bar, where I took part in a zazen meditation.

And it was there, in the zen centre, where I heard the idea that inspired today´s headline. A Buddhist priest explained to us the basic principles of this branch of Buddhism, which has meditation as its core practice, and he placed a lot of emphasis on the premise that, for them, meditation doesn´t have any particular purpose: there´s nothing to achieve, nothing to aspire to, no chasing illumination. You meditate for no reason. You just sit down. That´s it.

For no reason.

Framed picture on a wall, says "Embrace your journey" in black handwritten-like letters; the background is an old world map

Obviously, that´s not all; it´s just the starting point. In reality, there´s always a reason. For everything. That reason, that motivation, is what moves us to do what we do. But I think I understand what they mean: this kind of meditation is based on staying in contact with reality without blocking our senses (in fact, our eyes must remain open throughout, which confused me a bit) and confronting reality face to face, instead of trying to abstract ourselves and escape from it. But as soon as we set a goal for our meditation and create an expectation of the result we want to achieve, we´re moving away from the present reality.

I found this approach really interesting, and I also got to think about how society nowadays tells us that we must be productive all the time, that everything we do needs to have a reason behind, a purpose, a tangible benefit. Have you ever felt guilty of "wasting time"? - it used to happen to me a lot, and it still happens today. Some of us find it really difficult to slow down, and even harder to sit down and do nothing.

But when we finally get to do it, we begin to realize things.

I must admit that meditation is one of my pending items, and it´s been for many years. But who knows, maybe this time round, curiosity and the paradox of not having a goal will finally be what motivates me 😀

Would you like to start with me, just because, for no reason at all?

Annual check-up

Today it was time to take my car to the NCT (National Car Test), the Irish equivalent to the Spanish ITV (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos). The verdict was all OK except for one thing: the "ball joints" at the front right side, which are worn out and need to be replaced. I have to confess that I don't have the faintest idea about mechanics, let alone mechanics in English, so even if the dictionary tells me the Spanish term is "rótulas", I'm still completely clueless😀 Thankfully, the guys at the garage do know.

Anyway, thinking about this today, I realized that I would also benefit from an annual check-up, and I´m not talking about the doctor, the dentist or the optometrist (though those would also be good); I mean evaluating my life at this point in time, how things are going for me, what I´m happy about and what I´m not, and what I would like to change.

This can be done in many different ways; today, I´ve done it using a tool that´s both very simple and very powerful: the wheel of life.

It´s a graphical representation of our evaluation of the current moment in relation to different aspects of life. There are multiple versions with varying categories, scales, etc. The main idea is to choose the areas of life you consider most relevant, position them around a circle, score them individually, and then fill in the resulting "cobweb" to get a picture of the surface it covers.

Drawing of a "wheel of life" - eight segments representing different areas of life, and a graphical representation of a zero to ten score in each of them, creating a cobweb drawing

In this example, I´ve used a scale of zero to ten, positioning my eight chosen categories as radiuses of the wheel:

  • House / home / family
  • Health
  • Work
  • Friends
  • Love / relationships
  • Money
  • Hobbies
  • Personal growth

As you can see, it's a super simple exercise, very visual, but imagine how much can come out of it, as long as we're willing to be honest with ourselves and dig a bit deeper.

Then, once we have that "snapshot" of the current situation, there are many ways to work with the information it reveals. Ideally, the different areas in our wheel would be more or less balanced so that we can "roll" smoothly and effortlessly. Where is my wheel "limping" the most? Is there any area that needs immediate attention? What can I do to align it better?

Or, if nothing in particular stands out, but scores are generally low (or even if they're high, for there's always room for improvement), Where would I like to be in a year's time in each of these areas? And what could I start doing now in order to get me closer to that desired score? Once we have written a list of possible actions, it's better to prioritize them and start by focusing only on two or three; there will always be time to come back for more.

What do you think of this annual check methodology? Were you already familiar with the wheel of life, in this format or a different one? What categories have I not mentioned that you consider important?

What gets us moving

The beginning of the school year and the beginning of the calendar year are typically the times when we take the opportunity to kick off new projects, create new routines, learn new things... Essentially, to start a new chapter of our life, in one way or another.

It´s when we start to move again, when we get in motion, after a holiday break.

But, have we ever thought about what it is that moves us?

The term motivation comes from Latin, motivus, meaning "movement", and it´s the force that pushes us to get moving and achieve what we want. There are multiple theories and explanations about motivation that are really interesting, and I´ll elaborate more in future articles, but today, I would like to focus on one observation originated from NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) on this topic.

NLP primarily consists of identifying patterns in thought and language and working with them to achieve better results in life. In particular, the so-called metaprograms are patterns that point out our natural preferences around getting motivated and performing tasks: for example, some of us are more focused on going "towards" whatever we want to achieve,, while others focus more on moving "away from" whatever we want to avoid (the pattern is called "towards" versus "away from").

This proves very useful when trying to find the best way to motivate ourselves and others, both personally and professionally. What is truly the most important thing for me when I think about this goal or challenge in front of me? Reaching a high level of quality and client satisfaction or making sure there are no problems or complaints? Achieving success or avoiding failure? Attaining pleasure or avoiding pain? Both approaches are completely valid, and one will probably resonate much more with us than the other; it will push us more towards action.

Also, when we´re working with a team or addressing a group of people, it helps to include both approaches to ensure the message sinks in with everybody: "This new app will mark an inflexion point for our product. If we go ahead with the implementation, we´ll be able to multiply our sales and become market leaders; otherwise, we will remain stagnant and our competitors will overtake us".

Other examples of this double reasoning can be seen in some motivational quotes, like this one I have at home for example, which, according to the internet, is attributed to Mark Twain:

Square greeting card with white print on a black background, says "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn´t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." (Unknown)

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

What do you think about these two approaches to motivation? Which one do you identify with most?

Blue and green

Once again August is gone, and September has arrived; in many countries in the Northern Hemisphere it´s time to go "back to school", for kids and also for adults.

Ireland usually enjoys a few days of good weather at the beginning of September (which is officially considered autumn), and this weekend has seen a continuation of that tradition, so the girls and I have taken the opportunity to stretch that summer feeling a bit more before fully returning to the routine, and we´ve been out to see "blue and green", as my friend Bea would say 🙂

We took this picture today at the Blessington Lakes, a water reservoir located in county Wicklow which services Dublin and its surrounding areas. We started the day exploring the lake by kayak, then we went for lunch nearby with some friends (we even had churros for dessert!) and finished with a nice walk around the area, chatting along and enjoying the scenery.

Open air, exercise, tasty food, nature and good company; what else could we ask for?

When I first heard of this idea of going out to the "blue and green", I really loved it; I generally tend to stay at home a lot, probably too much, and I get lazy about going out, but I know very well that I feel much much better when I go out for walks: I recharge my physical, mental and emotional batteries. And if it´s a nice day and the surroundings are also nice, that´s the icing on the cake... Another friend of ours, Juanjo, used to call it "performing photosynthesis", and I also find that expression very fitting. It´s incredible how much a simple walk out in the open air can improve our mood.

Blue and green. Green and blue.

Today, when I got to think about writing this post, what came to my mind was a song by U2, Beautiful Day, which says "see the world in green and blue". This particular line was inspired by a sentence that astronaut Neil Armstrong said while looking at the Earth from the Moon. And the song, in general, encourages us to find joy in the small things of life, even when we´re going through a rough patch.

What about you? What helps you to recharge your batteries? Do you enjoy seeing the blue and green? What´s your favourite landscape?

"It´s a beautiful day… Don´t let it get away".


Following up from the metaphor we discussed last week, that imaginary rope with which we entangle ourselves sometimes, today I´m bringing you a graphic humour page by the great Quinocreator of Mafalda, who I already mentioned some other time.

It´s a page from the book titled Gente en su sitio (People in their place), published in 1980:

Here´s the English transcription, together with a description of the twelve frames, for those who cannot see the image:

1) A very stressed-looking man is trying to detangle a rope he has in his hands; the rope is all tangled, full of knots everywhere. He says out loud: "Why? Why does one always have to live with some damn complication?"

2) Angrily, he continues to tug the rope in one direction and the other, trying to untie the knots...

3) ... Only to end up with the same knots as before, plus a new one that´s even bigger.

4) He gives up, letting his arms drop, and exclaims: "This is useless! I´ll never resolve it!".

5) Then he gets angry again and starts to shake the rope in his hands, shouting: "I´ll never resolve this damn complication!"

6) "I´ll nev..." Suddenly, he stops in his tracks and looks at the rope, stunned. Somehow, all the knots are already untangled!

7) "Hah!..." What a joy! He can barely believe it; he´s done it!

8) "Finally!" He thinks to himself, as he smiles with his eyes closed and his head turned upwards, towards the sky, stretching his arms, enjoying the moment.

9) Still smiling, he looks at the rope...

10) ... He shakes it a little with his hand, and his smile starts fading...

11) ... Until he´s looking serious again, staring at the rope stretching before him.

12) Suddenly, he lowers his head and starts complaining again, thinking: "Why? Why this boredom now?" 

What do you think? The paradoxes of life, right? Or rather, the paradoxes of human beings. I get the impression that sometimes, when we find ourselves without any problems or complications, we actually look for them, because we´re not comfortable otherwise. When will we learn to enjoy the moment without making our own lives so complicated?

And you? In which ways are you complicating your own life? What could you do in order to simplify and enjoy the moment more?

Untranslatable words: struggle

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that every now and then, I write about a sentence I find difficult to translate, either from English to Spanish or vice versa (if you´re curious and want to read those articles, you´ll find them under the category called Untranslatable).

Today, I´m not bringing you a sentence, but a word, more specifically, a verb: to struggle.

The Spanish dictionary says struggling can be translated as fighting, confronting or tussling with something. And yes, it´s something along those lines, but with a few more nuances, I think. Maybe because (at least in my head) most times, that "something" is not a physical thing, but a situation or challenge we don´t know how to manage, so we experience some suffering as we attempt to overcome it.

The photo gallery in Wordpress gave me this visual representation of struggle, and I thought it was spot on:

The rope could represent anything, real or symbolic (or imagined!) that we are confronted with, and towards which we feel we have no resources.. I think it´s a really interesting metaphor because the rope as such doesn´t have a life of its own; it all depends on what we do with it: we can keep tangling it more and more until we end up paralyzed, or we can untangle the knots bit by bit, one after the other, and break free. It´s almost as if that fight, that confrontation, that tussle, deep down, was with ourselves.

And here´s a thing I would like to make very clear: this happens to all of us at one point or another, or rather, at many points throughout our lives. It´s a part of life itself. That´s how we learn, how we grow, how we evolve.

One story that often comes up around this topic is that of the butterfly: part of its metamorphosis involves coming out of the cocoon, which takes a huge effort; it´s a real struggle. Anybody looking from the outside would think it´s going to die without achieving it. But the butterfly achieves it. And it has to be the butterfly itself, on its own, because that´s how its wings become strong, to be able to fly. If someone, with all their best intentions, had opened the cocoon earlier to let it out, it would have stayed weak and would not have survived.

Similarly, we all have to follow our own path and experience our own transformations. But do we really need to have such a hard time? Or watch others having a hard time, without helping them? Well, one thing we can do is treat those moments in life like what they really are: phases of growth, completely normal. And yes, we can help, but not by trying to resolve the other person´s problems from the outside, but by respecting their process, and accompanying them so that they can find their own resources and solutions.

I think this quote summarizes it really well; it´s the first cornerstone of co-active coaching:

People are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.
People are not broken and do not need fixing and have their own innate wisdom on how to live life.

What I mean by this is that, leaving out certain exceptions where there´s a pathology or disorder (in which case it´s necessary to consult a psychiatrist or psychologist), in general, all we need is a bit of time, support and self confidence to overcome the challenges that are put in front of us.

That, and self discovery, lots of self discovery, it always helps 🙂

Whatever is due to happen

Today I´m bringing you a quote I came across a few months ago and really liked; it´s an invitation for us to let go of control a little bit and trust life a more, or at least that´s how I interpret it:

Whoever is due to come, let them come,
whoever is due to go, let them go,
whatever is due to hurt, let it hurt...
Whatever is due to happen, let it happen.

Mario Benedetti

A bit scary, isn´t it? Especially if, like me, you tend to try to control your environment so that things always turn out how you want them to.

But, you know what? Whatever is due to happen is going to happen anyway, so why not relax, enjoy each moment and trust that everything is going to be OK in the long run? Trust that we already have (or can acquire) all the resources we need to face whatever life puts in front of us.

Hey, I´m not saying we should just sit down and wait for life to do everything for us; that´s not the point... The point is having a clear idea of where we want to go and what´s important to us, but without forcing it too much; being open to learning along the way, flowing and adapting as we make progress, so that we can welcome whatever comes instead of getting frustrated because it´s not what we expected.

It´s also about recognizing when something or someone is no longer doing us any good, or they´re simply not helping us grow, and being brave enough to stop clinging to them and let them go so that there´s free space for new people and experiences.

And yes, there will be moments when life hurts a little; that´s unavoidable. But in reality, that´s not what we find hardest; the worst part is the suffering that we add to it, and as I say in this other post, that´s totally optional.

So, do you dare give up control a little bit and let whatever is due to happen happen?

Reprogram your life: Where would you like to start?

(This is the last article in a ten part series, you can see them all under the category called ReprogramYourLife).

I hope the introduction to "Reprograma tu vida» y las ocho claves que hemos visto en las últimas semanas te hayan parecido interesantes. Y ahora que ya tienes toda esta información, it´s time to get started!

Because the thing is, accumulating knowledge without putting it into practice doesn't really help; it's only by taking action that you can achieve real change.

So, where would you like to start? I invite you to choose one of the eight tips and commit to practice an action related to it during a period of time, for example, 21 days:

Here are a few tricks that will help you:

  • Choose just one thing, and make it relatively small instead of trying to do it all at once. Any new habit requires effort until it becomes automated.
  • Write down your commitment – Fill in and print out the form on the next page (or make your own version using a paper sheet), and put it in a visible place so you can remember it daily.
  • Tell somebody! Very often, it helps to have to report your progress to someone else.
  • Don't get discouraged if, for whatever reason, you skip a day. But make sure it's only one; don't let yourself skip two days.
  • Think about what your reward will be after the 21 days, and enjoy it!
Documento the compromiso: "Yo, ... me comprometo a practicar... durante los próximos 21 días, y lo comparto con ... Mi recompensa va a ser ... Fecha: ... Firma: ..."
Commitment document: "I, ... commit to practicing... for the next 21 days, and I´m sharing this with... My reward will be... Date: ... Signature: ..."

A good start is half the work

Irish proverb

Reprogram your life, episode 8: And so much more...

(This article is a follow-up from the ones published in previous weeks, episodes 0123 456 and 7, and the last episode will be published next week)

And we finally arrive at the eighth and last tip in "reprogram your life"; thanks for reading this far 🙂

As we have seen over the last few weeks, there are plenty of similarities between how our mind works and how a mobile phone works, or a computer.

This mobile phone metaphor can be really useful for us to understand and assimilate concepts coming from various disciplines (neuroscience, mindfulness, neuro-linguistic programming...), and also to apply them in practice, as part of our daily life, tweaking our habits in such a way that they actually help us to achieve our goals, improve our vital energy, become more efficient, enhance our communication skills, and ultimately, understand ourselves and others better.

But I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you that this is nothing more than a metaphor, a comparison, and that it can only go so far, because mobile phones and computers are not people; they're just machines. They are very complex and sophisticated, that's true, very smart in their own way, but they're only machines at the end of the day.

And humans are not machines; we are so much more.. You are so much more..

We humans have the capacity to live, create, and feel. The ability to connect with other human beings, with nature, with the deep wisdom of the Universe. To laugh, cry, share, imagine and learn, enjoy the present moment and visualize the future we want for ourselves.

There are certain questions that a machine will never be able to answer... I invite you to reflect on some of them and find your own answers:

  • What excites you and motivates you most in life?
  • What's most important to you? What do you value most?
  • What do you want your contribution to this world to be?
  • What's that dream you would love to be able to make come true?

Reprogram your life, episode 7: Be aware of system notifications

(This article is a follow-up from the ones published in previous weeks, episodes 0123 45 and 6, and more episodes will be published in the upcoming weeks)

Throughout the day, our phone sends us notifications about multiple things, displaying alerts and reminders in the form of text messages. Sometimes we can choose to enable or disable certain notifications, for example, from email services or social media platforms, but others are unavoidable as they are related to the device itself, like when the battery is about to run out, or the Wi-Fi connection is lost; also, once every few months, it tells us that the operating system needs to be updated.

The human body also has an inbuilt notifications system that's highly effective and sophisticated: the emotions..

Mosaic of 25 images of the same woman´s face showing different emotions

  • Emotions are produced as a reaction to a stimulus, which can be real, imagined or remembered.
  • They have a physiological component: our body gets activated in a particular way that's different for each emotion.
  • They also have a cognitive component: our brain interprets the signals it receives from the body in order to make sense of the experience.

Some emotions are learned or have a cultural component, but a handful of them have been recognized as universal: those emotions are shared by all human beings, and all of us can identify the facial expressions that go with them.

Each emotion brings us a message; it comes to tell us something about what's happening at a particular moment, and if we know how to listen, that message can give us very valuable information.

Emotions can be really intense, but their duration is actually short, approximately ninety seconds. The problem comes when we get "stuck" in an emotion, going over it again and again in our heads, because those repetitive thoughts keep re-triggering the emotion in a vicious circle. That's how we generate a specific mood or state of mind, which is less intense than an emotion but lasts longer and has less defined beginning and end moments.

So, what can we do to avoid getting stuck? We can embrace that emotion as it appears, and allow ourselves to feel it. We can let it pass right through us, staying present, without trying to avoid it or run away from it. That will allow us to acknowledge it, recognize it, give it a name, and listen to the message it brings. Because once the message has been delivered, the emotion has accomplished its mission and can leave. And we can let it go, using the information received to make a decision and act accordingly.


Human face expressing joy
  • What is it telling me? – Something pleasant has happened, or I have achieved a goal.
  • What for? – To enjoy it!
  • Also... – My smiling face conveys friendliness: "I'm not a threat to you".


Human face expressing surprise
  • What is it telling me? – There's something new, sudden and unexpected.
  • What for? – To focus my attention.
  • Also... – My eyes open wide so that I can investigate that new thing that has just appeared.


Human face expressing fear
  • What is it telling me? – There's a danger that threatens my safety.
  • What for? – To avoid or mitigate the damage.
  • Also... – My senses sharpen, and my body prepares to protect me from danger.


Human face expressing anger
  • What is it telling me? – There's an obstacle in my way, or a boundary that's important to me has been trespassed.
  • What for? – To remove the obstacle or defend my boundaries.
  • Also... – My body prepares to attack.


Human face expressing sadness
  • What is it telling me? – I lost something valuable or have an unmet need.
  • What for? – To look for help or take some time to recover.
  • Also... – My emotional pain can also trigger some physical pain.


Human face expressing disgust
  • What is it telling me? – There's a potentially toxic substance or situation.
  • What for? – To avoid contamination.
  • Also... – Feeling repugnance makes me avoid things that are not good for me.

Which of these notifications do you receive more often? And what do you do when you notice them? If you´re interested in this topic, here´s another article about emotions that I wrote some time ago.