During my childhood, I was fascinated by the powers of “Saltstraumen” and “Moskstraumen” (vortex in the water). They occur close to the birthplace of my mother on the island of Værøy, in Lofoten. During my childhood, I, on a number of occasions, found myself watching one of the most powerful forces in nature which has given inspiration to painters and writers such as Edgar Allan PoeWalter Moers and Jules Verne. Today, our closest association to maelstrom’s can be found in Jack Sparrow’s ultimate fighting scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean III.

Individuals who grow up on the small island in Lofoten are offered some of the most beautiful nature experiences. During the summer, I too experienced the mirror of the sea, the whales and the midnight sun. Also, in the winter time, I experienced time getting stuck for 20 hours of darkness, wind rain, and then there is the maelstroem.

Life in the 21st Century is very much like an ever-changing permanent revolutionary leap between the midnight sun and the forces of the maelstrom, there are many extremes. Never before in history was there a larger gap between the generations. Never before was the speed of change occuring at a such a rapid pace. Our interdependent society is much larger and far more complex. Never before have we had so many decisions to make with so so many opportunities and choices for our future to choose from.

In today`s society this is a big struggle. As we rapidly move toward 2020, we are moving towards a state we describe “the internet of things (IoT)“. This so called state is supposed to make our lives easier and better as we become more reliant upon technology in our daily lives as all our devices and objects are connected. Based on this ever increasing dependence, knowledge will double every 13 hours. Everything will become faster and more difficult to understand. This for many will lead to frustration.

While writing this article, sitting in a restaurant next to a table of five young people, i observed after 20 minutes that they had two things in common. They had not spoken to each other and they were preoccuppied and consumed with tapping on their phones in Facebook and WhatsApp.

The point i’m trying to make is that we are in a state of react mode, a state of unconscious reactions that we do not see even with the clearest mirrors put in front of us. Even though we are very much “socially connected,“ we are losing the capacity to reflect and think socially and humanistically. There is too much information, too many thoughts, opportunities, impressions and decisions to be made.

What is the outcome and the consequence of this? For one, on many occasions, we don`t make decisions at all. We lose track of the mode we are in and land in a kind of downward spiral where we constantly try to put more energy into staying in the same spot that we currently are. As a result, we are looking and searching for a better state, for happiness, for the “perfect road” to the “perfect experience” and the “perfect life.” So many of us are so busy looking for the perfect fish in the ocean and that extra gain that we don‘t see the maelstrom ahead. Before we know it, we are dragged into that downward spiral where all of a sudden we find ourselves putting more and more energy into a situation we feel is not changing. The unfortunate outcome is frustration.

How can we cope with and prevent the downward spiral mentally? How can we free up time for conscious decision- making?. Here are some thoughts on how you can avoid getting dragged into the Maelstrom.

5 Steps to Avoiding the Maelstroem by Choosing “Via Negativa”:

#1.Instead of adding even more options on how to improve yourself, settle for adding value to your life. Do this by subtracting so called “Via Negativa” In other words, take out all the distractions and things that are not important in your life as a way of freeing up your mind and increasing the probability for overall success in your life.

#2. Set Goals and Simplify. Knowing simplification is the ultimate goal in a complex world. We can only get a positive effect if we are Do-Doers. Start by finding ONE FOCUS HOUR per week. All you do is write down a list of things you know make you unhappy, unsuccessful or hold you back. Focus on small achievements, not the big steps. This is important because activities and resolutions on how to improve or “discover” breakthrough innovations usually die out after numerous small steps – also referred to as “little bets“ decribed in the bestselling book Little Bets by Peter Sims.

#3. After you have regained the capacity to FOCUS (#2), increase this activity to a DAILY HABIT of 10-15 minutes of CONSCIOUS THINKING. Write down what makes you unhappy or what holds you back. Then, prioritize and execute. Train yourself to be clear about the things you need to remove from your life. Practice how to say “No.“ Practice how to make conscious decisions. A quote by Steve Jobs explains this the best way:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs –

#4. Measure what can be measured. Just like going to the gym, develop discipline for avoiding and letting go of certain habits and thoughts that interfere with you being productive. Beware of things that get you emotionally distracted which may include noticing where you are really spending most of your time. Then, set yourself a goal to one-by-one remove the topics on your list and actively checkmark your achievements.

#5. Develop New Skills. Also, be sure to always set some time to work on new skills and things that you want to learn in order to broaden your horizon. Start by asking yourself “When was the last time you had ONE quality hour for doing something new and different in your life?“ In today`s society, even as it becomes more and more fast-paced, we should not neglect the fact that making things happen with regards to our personal growth and inner balance – finding serendipity – is what drives our lives based on the small bold risks we take.

In sum, More complex than ever is the continuous search for success and happiness. More increasingly, we all are becoming victims to life continually bombarding us with more information and more choices to make. This, then, can lead to mental, emotional and physical overload. We can avoid this by focusing less on being successful materially and financially and more on being happy and finding balance in life. There are things in life that you can not control or understand. So, my advice is to eliminate the downside “Via Negativa”, If you manage to eliminate the errors and negative experiences in your life, better thinking and better results will follow. By adding some experimental bodlness to this, you will generate greater forward momentum and synchronistic events in your life. The rest will take care of itself.