Thursday, May 16, 2019

How do high achievers in Silicon Valley deal with stress and anxiety?

Many of our clients, at awarenow, are businessmen and entrepreneurs who deal with a great amount of stress and anxiety on a daily basis. We have been interested in talking to successful tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley to know how they manage difficult emotions.

Our CEO Alina met with Rostislav Shorgin, a tech entrepreneur, who runs his own hedge fund. They had an interesting conversation that touched many different subjects, from the concept of fulfillment to effective routines and mindfulness.

About fulfillment

Talking about what fulfillment means to him, Rostislav mentioned that in his opinion there are different levels of fulfillment, and the order varies from person to person. For some people, the first level is connected to success and achieving goals, while for others fulfillment begins when they are able to make the money they need to buy food and pay rent. Additional levels of fulfillment may come when you help someone become a better person or when you feel that your company achieved a big mission, like changing the world. Rostislav believes that all these levels are equally important and the lack of one of them may cause suffering.

About pain and fear

Rostislav believes that suffering comes when we fight against pain because we are unable to accept it. Learning to be aware of the pain and observe it with detachment is the first step to deal with it a healthy way. It is also important to use awareness to identify feelings when we are suffering because it is easy to misunderstand negative emotions. Sometimes you might feel lonely, but that loneliness might come from an underlying fear that your plans won’t work out. As you get more connected to the feeling that originates the pain, you also learn how to listen to signals in your body, like your heart beating faster or shortness of breath. That’s when you know you have to deal with that negative emotion before it becomes bigger and harder to control.

Rostislav started his journey towards awareness thanks to some medicinal plants used by natives in South America. These plants can be brewed in a kind of tea, which creates an esoteric experience. This event helped him connect with other parts of himself and realize that we live in a sort of simulation created by our minds. We do not see reality—we see what our minds want to show us.

Modifying habits and routines

After this awakening, Rostislav decided to modify some of his habits and routines. He started with sleep. He bought a device that measures how you sleep using different parameters, from body temperature to heart rate. The device shows how many times you wake up during the night, how much time you spend in the different sleep phases and it explains why these parameters are important and how they affect energy levels. As he got more information about his sleep patterns, he was able to adjust things when he noticed that he had a bad night sleep. His energy levels and mood have improved significantly.

After he wakes up, he has a list of things that he wants to accomplish in the morning before going to work. These are things that he does to take care of his physical and mental health, like journaling for five minutes and exercising for 30 minutes. Journaling helps to clear his thoughts. As we wake up we often have many things on our minds. Some of these thoughts are not even completely formed—but they might create anxiety. Writing them down allows us to see that there is nothing to worry about. Rostislav does not use his phone during this self-care time; he picks it up after breakfast.

Experiencing mindfulness

Rostislav told us about a special moment that he experienced during a yoga session in which he was able to be fully present and let go of his thoughts. Moments like this one can happen anywhere anytime, and the more we touch this special place of awareness, the more we are able to reconnect with it—even when we do simple activities, like cooking or cleaning. When we wash dishes, for example, we can imagine that the water washes away stress and anxiety. Everything can be a form of mediation if we are fully present. Next time, you do an activity at home, try to do it focusing on the task—in silence.

A note for high achievers

Rostislav considers himself a high achiever, but with time he realized that reaching new milestones was not enough to make him happy. Every time he achieved something, he celebrated briefly, and he was immediately on to the next challenge. This constant pursuit of happiness is an illusion because happiness is not a destination to reach. He pointed out that the danger for high achievers in Silicon Valley is that the journey towards enlightenment becomes a competition. Some people in the Bay Area, see enlightenment as something trendy, but it is important to remember that true enlightenment is not something to use to compete or boast—it is a sacred path that has nothing to do with the ego.

Training your awareness muscle

One of our guides, Daron Larson, believes that you have to exercise your awareness in the same way you train your muscles in the gym. It is not easy to live mindfully—there is no magical pill that can take you to that space—you need to work to be able to reach and enjoy these moments of awareness. The more you train, the easier it is to live mindfully. Having a coach who supports you in your journey towards enlightenment is an excellent way to ensure you are on the right path and you are making progress.

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