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?

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?

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?

Being liked... Or not

This week marks two years since this new phase of BinaryWords started 🙂

If someone asked me why I write this blog, it would take me a while to think of an answer. There are many reasons, one of them being that I absolutely love writing: the creative process helps me to express myself, and gives me an incredible sense of fulfillment. It also helps me to reflect on the things I learn and discover as life goes on. In this sense, I could say that I write for my own sake.

But I also, obviously, write for other people: for all of you, my dear readers. If I didn´t want you to read me, I wouldn´t be writing a blog, I would be writing a private diary. But instead, every week I share here my thoughts, experiences, and knowledge, hoping that they would be useful for you, that they would inspire you, and make you think and reflect.

That you would like them.

Close up of a hand showing thumbs up. In the backgound we can see the arm and torso of a man in a suit and tie

How much do we care about our publications being liked or not? And given that whatever we publish on the internet, social networks, etc. is basically an extension of ourselves... How much do we care about being liked or not?

And what are we willing to do in order to keep being liked?

This is a very interesting premise that I came across this week. And it´s nothing new, on the contrary: it came up in a conversation on stoicism, a philosophical school that originated in Greece and Rome around three hundred years BC.

Very often we spend our days doing certain things in order to please others, to be liked by them, to fulfill their expectations, and ultimately, to be accepted by the group. From an evolutionary point of view, there´s a reason for this: in prehistoric societies, losing the protection of the clan could be the equivalent of a death sentence, so we humans developed strategies to adapt and be accepted by our peers.

But nowadays, when most of us are lucky enough not to have to worry about surviving, giving up on our principles in order to belong to the tribe is no longer needed. Once we become adults, we can assume the responsibility of making our own decisions, and do what we believe to be correct at any given moment, even if that gets us disapproval from certain people.

I´m not saying it will be easy, especially when those who don´t approve of our behaviour are our loved ones: partners, family, friends... We may even feel a certain kind of guilt when doing what we believe is right, knowing that it´s not what they would want; that feeling of discomfort is completely normal, in fact, it´s a type of guilt related to growth, and it´s the price we pay for making our own decisions. Even though we can´t completely avoid that feeling, what we can do is learn to be more and more comfortable with it.

We can learn how to free ourselves from the opinions of others by developing our own self-confidence, this way acquiring the superpower of not seeking to be liked.

Because, you won´t be a truly free individual until you get to feel comfortable with other people´s disapproval.

I still have a lot of work to do in this area... What about you, how good are you at it?

Learning, re-learning, unlearning

Do you enjoy learning new things? And do you prefer learning by yourself, or signing up for courses where someone teaches you?

I don't consider myself a professional trainee, one of those people who sign up for course after course in an infinite loop, but it is true that I love learning, and I love taking part in training courses and workshops on a variety of topics, especially those related to personal development.

Luckily, there are many companies (including mine) that invest quite a lot in employee training and development, not only in direct relation to their job role, but also in a more holistic way, on topics like emotional intelligence, mental health or financial education, to name a few examples.

Also, one of the good things that came out of the pandemic was the opening up of possibilities for online training that simply didn't exist a few years ago, or that only existed in an in-person format. Thanks to this transformation, the amount and variety of interesting choices for learning,, both formally and informally, has grown in an exponential way. And slowly but surely, the in-person option is starting to become available again, like in the seminar I've attended this weekend in Dublin (which by the way was amazing, thanks Owen!)

But that begs the question: in reality, to what extent are we making the most of all those training courses we sign up for? All those webinars, those masterclasses, those workshops? How much of what we're learning are we practicing in real life, and how much ends up forgotten? Because getting to know theory X, technique Y or spiritual philosophy Z is all well and good, but unless we apply them to our life, unless we bring them down to Earth and practice them, we're not going to notice any difference, beyond having had fun for a little while (and probably, having spent a certain amount of time and money).

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we shouldn't focus on learning new things; I'm proposing that we truly learn them, integrating them into our life. Knowing that sometimes along the way, we will need to re-learn things that we had already forgotten, or we will come across other things that we used to believe were the absolute truth, and then turned out not to be, forcing us to unlearn them so that we can learn again later. It's an infinite process, it never ends, but it can be tremendously enriching.

So this is what I encourage you to do each time you take part in a training course, workshop, masterclass or whatever: find at least one specific action you can practice in order to integrate what you learned, make the commitment to do that action, and enjoy the results.

And for reflection right now, here are three questions:

  • What's the most useful/valuable/important thing you've learned lately?
  • What had you forgotten already, that you had to re-learn?
  • What turned out not to be true, and you had to unlearn?

Round numbers

This is BinaryWords´s 100th post! 🙂

Hand holding a 100 euro note

It looks cool, doesn´t it? One hundred. A round number. We´ve reached three digits.

Although, well, technically, the very first post could be considered post zero, a simple hello world (no better way to start a blog inspired by computer science) that I wrote back in 2013 to inaugurate my brand new Wordpress site, after the previous incarnation of BinaryWords had fallen into oblivion.

It was also in 2013, ten years ago (another round number), when I took my first Neuro Linguistic Programming course, having signed up for it sort of by coincidence (or so I would think if I believed in coincidences), and completely unaware that I was about to dive right into the world of personal development.

Unfortunately, after that year and that post zero, life somehow got in the way, and my passion for writing was forgotten once more... Until 2021, when it came back again, stronger than ever, and then I finally did it: I took up writing with renewed excitement, this time in a bilingual format, and I chose to share topics that went a bit deeper, helping with self-reflection and personal transformation. That was the origin of my first real post: this is your life, and everything that followed after.

So, technically, if we don´t count hello world, this is blog post number 99, which is not a round number after all... But at the end of the day, does it matter? Sometimes we get too carried away with numbers, especially in these times when we have metrics for everything. Let´s focus on content for once.

And speaking of content, what is your favourite post to date? You can see them all in the archive; I would love to hear which one you enjoyed the most and why, as well as other topics you would like me to write about. And once again, thanks for reading me!

Time to reflect

Happy Easter to all of those celebrating 🙂

A text message from a good friend the other day (thanks Ara!) brought me back to the way I used to spend Easter weekend as a teen and young adult: in a retreat at a convent called El Palancar.

"El Palancar" convent (Extremadura, Spain) seen from a group of rocks high on a hillside

La Pascua del Palancar was a retreat for young people organized by Franciscan brothers from the Betica province, from Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday. The main theme was obviously religious, as it happened with most spiritual events back then, but there was more to it: it was a wonderful opportunity to switch off from the noise and haste of daily life (even if mobile phones didn´t exist yet!) and get more deeply connected to Life, Nature, our travel companions, and ultimately ourselves.

Now that I think of it, these were probably my first steps along the path of self-discovery and personal development.

During the three and a half days of the event, most of the activities were done in company, either in one big group or divided into smaller groups. But there was one, on the Saturday afternoon, which was different: they called it the desertand it was a time slot of about two hours for which they encouraged us to find a quiet place for contemplation and personal reflection. You can imagine how challenging that could be for some of the teenagers: two hours on their own, without talking to anybody!

I remember I always climbed up the rocks on the side of the hill, up to a place very similar to the one in the photo: from there I could see the convent down in the distance, surrounded by the characteristic landscape of Extremadura in the springtime. I was carrying a notebook, a pen, and a piece of paper with a few questions as a guide. But apart from that, nothing.

Silence. Nature. Time and space to allow everything I had inside to come out.

I loved that feeling.

And up there, in that little corner of the world, the two hours would go by, breathing, thinking, writing... Then at some point I would start hearing voices down in the distance, maybe also the strings of a guitar, and I would realize it was almost time to return to the world. I felt like Saint Peter in that passage from the Bible about the transfiguration, when he says to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here, let´s put up a shelter, and Jesus explains that they can´t stay in contemplation at the top of the mountain, they need to go down again and continue with their mission on the ground.

Sometimes we get so sucked into this world we live in, that we lose contact with what matters most to us. But if every now and then we take a break to go up the mountain, then we will listen to our inner voice again, and it will guide us to get back on track. It´s been many years since I last went to El Palancar, and my "mountain" these days sometimes takes the shape of a beach, but the idea is the same: a little bit of time, solitude and silence, and the answer appears.

What about you? When was the last time you listened to your inner voice? And what would it say to you today, if you stopped to listen?


Father's day was celebrated today in Spain, as always, coinciding with the festivity of Saint Joseph. And just by pure coincidence, today in Ireland what was celebrated was Mother's day, as it's the fourth Sunday of Lent.

The dates vary from country to country, but the intention is the same: honouring each of our parents in a special way, at least once a year. Thanking them for everything they've done for us, everything they've given us, starting with the gift of life.

A little child's hand grabbing an adult's hand

It's interesting to see how our relationship with our parents evolves over time, we go through different stages... Let me paste here one of the many versions there are out there of how a child sees their dad at different ages:

  • At age 4: My daddy can do anything.
  • At age 7: My dad knows a lot, a whole lot.
  • At age 8: My Father doesn`t know quite everything...
  • At age 12: Oh, well, naturally Father doesn`t know that, either.
  • At age 14: Father? Hopelessly old-fashioned.
  • At age 21: Oh, that man is out-of-date. What did you expect?
  • At age 25: He knows a little bit about it, but not much.
  • At age 30: Maybe we ought to find out what Dad thinks.
  • At age 35: A little patience. Let`s get Dad`s assessment before we do anything.
  • At age 50: I wonder what Dad would have thought about that. He was pretty smart.
  • At age 60: My dad knew absolutely everything!
  • At age 65: I`d give anything if Dad were here so I could talk this over with him. I really miss that man.

What do you think? Do you agree? And we could say the same thing about mothers. If you want proof, you only need to ask your kids what they think of you, especially if they´re teenagers 🙂

By the way, while we´re on the topic of honouring our elders, let´s also take the opportunity to remember our parents´ parents, and the parents of their parents... What I mean to say is, let´s remember where we come from, and celebrate our ancestors, for it´s thanks to all of them that we are here today, even if there are parts of our family history that we don´t particularly like. They all did their best with the knowledge and resources that they had.

From here, I'd like to wish health and happiness to all fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. And wish for us all not to wait until they´re gone to realize how much we can learn from them.