TIB #33: How to look at yourself differently with “Inside Out”

Written by Arno Jansen

A while ago I watched Disney’s “Inside Out” after hearing Yuval Noah Harari mention it in an interview on local television as a surprising way to look at ourselves in a realistic way.

I am not a Disney fan at all. It is all too candy coloured, too sweet, too predictable and I am not one for Disney princesses. To be honest, I can’t stand most of the (old) Disney movies.

But this one showed a way of looking at life, that is new for Disney and it even helped change my perspective on life.

In the movie we follow the story of Riley through the eyes of the “voices in her head”. We see some sort of control desk inside Riley’s head, and behind it are her emotions controller the way she experiences and responds to the world around her.

The movie takes us on a journey through Riley’s mind, where we explore long term memory, imagination, the train of thought, dreams, even brain freeze.

It made me think about the way we experience the world around us. There are so many “life hacks”, so many mental models and frameworks, so many values, motto’s and mantra’s to live by, but to what extend are we really in control of what’s happening in our heads?

It is comforting to many to attempt to come up with a sort of schematic representation of who we are: starting with our values, expanded to our opinions and principles, all the way to how we behave. But the truth is that our thoughts and emotions are ephemeral, but have a big influence on how we experience our every day lives.

We are much more complicated than just a living machine based on logical rules. And so trying to be a little more at ease with that fact, creates space to accept that we are who we are. We can, and should, strive for being our best selves, while realising we can never be “perfect”. Whatever “perfect” even means.

For me, watching Inside Out was a comforting experience. Seeing our minds visualised in that way, made me realise I would not try to fight it. I have no idea what I am up against. What I can do, is enjoy the way my mind experiences the world and try to control my responses to it, despite the emotions present at any given time.

That is why I have become interested to learn more about Stoicism over the past years. I am currently reading “Discources and Selected Writings” by Epictetus. It is a great look into one of stoicism’s main lessons: to make decisions based on principles, instead of emotions.

The past two weeks have been a test for me to make decisions based on principles. With all family members getting quite sick form the flu, one after another; it was difficult to focus on work. There was just so much to do taking care of others, as well as myself that even if there was time, I lacked the energy and focus to work.

This is hard for me, as I feel that as an entrepreneur, I answer to no-one but myself. My principle for decisions these two weeks was as follows:

  • Above all, I need to be healthy enough to be able to take care of others.
  • If I am healthy enough: taking care of the children is first order of business.
  • Then, making sure everybody eats enough and in time
  • Finally: if time and energy permits: work

/short

When I made this order of priority, two things jumped out at me as they were vastly different from what I would have done only a few years ago:

  • I put myself first. Not in a “me me me me” way, but in a self-loving way: In order to be good to others, I need to be good to myself.
  • Work was the last priority on this list of four.

This meant, I did spend a few days in bed, sleeping as much as possible. A few years ago, I would try to plough through until something gave and I would irrevocably and unconditionally “crash” at some point.

Recovery took a lot longer then and I would occasionally allow myself to feel sorry for myself: “I tried so hard and yet I failed. Now I am sick. I must be weak”. Oh, the stories we tell ourselves, right?

Besides trying to “push through”, I would also prioritise work over almost anything else. If the going gets tough, I tend to start stripping all my enjoyment away from my life and keep work and sleep. That means, I upset the balance of work and joy (although I get joy from work, it is also still work: a way to pay the bills).

As I am writing this, I am on the tail-end of decent flu that got me down for more than a week now. But I am proud to see that it did not upset me mentally. For me, it showed that my investment in my personal, mental wealth is paying big dividends.

That is it for this week. Hope you have an awesome weekend ahead. And if you do have a movie night coming up, consider watching “Inside Out” if you haven’t watched it already.

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