Motivation is Stupid, Habits are better

I suck at being motivated. I will be extremely into something for a week only to see myself burn out.

For many years I interpreted this as a failure of choice. If I’d actually been “destined” to do this, Job, relationship, or hobby, my motivation would have never waned.

That’s bullshit.

The truth is Motivation is an exceptionally limited resource.

The best comparison I’ve ever heard is adrenaline. Motivation like adrenaline is great for getting yourself out of sticky situations, that might otherwise threaten to end a dream (or life) early. However, if you spend too much time in that state of overwhelming motivation, you burn out.

So what do you do?

you form habits, and you show up.

Dumb huh?

You just don’t give up. When you miss a blog post, you post one the next day. When you don’t feel like writing you show up and stare at a page. Because what you are doing is programing.

I didn’t work out for most of my adult life. But one day, after reading how good it was for my mental health, I decided to work out. I got a gym membership, and then I just went.

The first week, I didn’t do anything but walk around the gym. Seriously, I just put on my gym clothes and walked around, and left.

But week two, I just got on a treadmill for 5 minutes. The reason, I figured, I was already here, Might as well. That 5 became 30 and my visits became daily.

Now I get some form of physical exercise every day, and it feels weird if I don’t.

That state of “it feels weird if I don’t” isn’t guilt, it isn’t motivation, it’s just that the desired behavior has become such a part of your life you do it without thought.

The key though is not just to show up, but also not to make a big deal of your failures. You didn’t hit the gym…oh well…do it tomorrow.

It sounds silly but you want to reward yourself for doing and ignore the not doing. If you give the not doing attention, even negate attention, it tends to get stronger.

Motivation sucks. Just show up, try your best, and be ridiculously (in your critical head) kind to yourself about it.

AFYM: Give your subconscious a place to talk

We are trained by the current social model, especially as men, to run away from emotions that are not “happy” or “good”. But the main problem with this is that it ignores the fact that millions of years of evolution gave us those emotions for a good reason. (or if you prefer a great creator).

At first glace this might seem silly. What good could deep sadness do? But often if we give that sadness a voice through a kind of call and response method, that is, if we approach it quizzically, we can sometimes sidestep the anger, and get to the real root of the problem.

This isn’t easy. You have to be genuine, because most of your life you’ve probably been pushing emotions down, and trying to kill or numb them. But here’s the rub. You cannot numb just the bad ones. It is the dichotomy of emotions that let us feel the good ones. So when you approach your subconscious it’s likely to attempt to defend itself, which makes sense, you’ve been attacking it all this time.

However, if you can sift through the vitriol, and gently but firmly ask it real questions, without leading, you can sometimes piece apart what’s really going on, and in doing so identify the cognitive errors present within.

Today, I felt sad. I didn’t know why, so I took out a sheet of paper, and said, hello sadness, come on in, tell me your woes, what do you have to teach me. It proceeded to berate me about how I was not doing enough in my work life. So I politely asked it what was enough… and so on. This continued on and on, me nicely but pointedly asking for clarification. The writing externalized it, made it real, prevented the mercurial brain from shifting tactics mid thought.

In the end, keep this in mind, you are not trying to beat your mind, you are trying to reconnect with it. You are attempting to rectify the unconscious ideas that guide you with your conscious desires, and that takes time and patience.

AFYM: You Do Not Have to Agree with someone to be their friend

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In this increasingly divided age, I wanted to comment a little secret. Friendship doesn’t have to be an alignment of ideas.

Friendships are meant to expand your mind, and fulfill social needs.

However, the internet has warped us into thinking conformity is needed to establish relationships. Tribalism is a programmed behavior of humans, but so is inter-connectivity, and it’s only through collaboration that we come to the font of innovation.

One of the hardest truth’s to swallow is the idea that you are not your friend’s savior. You aren’t going to convert them through rhetoric, or logic, or simply bothering them until they break.

If you see the world from their eyes for a second, you are the one with the strange ideas. If you go into a friendship with an agenda it stops being a friendship and becomes a project. It’s not longer about mutual exchange of ideas and good feelings about about one person being right and the other wrong.

In order to find common ground, embrace humility, question yourself without having to convert to the other point, and most of all simply be with that person. If they start to go into a conversation topic you aren’t comfortable with, tell them, and ask them politely to not discuss it.

Most of all, focus on your common ground, and remember, that’s a person out there.

Now comes the hardest part: Letting go and moving on

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The election is for the most part over. I don’t want to get political here, and I wont, but aside from the legal challenges of current president, the political battle for the United State’s highest office is all but decided.

But now comes the hardest part. We need to take a good hard look at ourselves and our opponents and understand them.

To quote an ancient proverb ” When you go seeking revenge, dig two graves.” I know many in the president elect’s camp seek to other, and destroy those in the current president’s camp and vice versa, but that logic is flawed.

First off, it labors under the idea of a Zero sum game, or the idea that someone must lose in order for someone else to win. This makes sense. For most of human history our psychology and biology developed in a zero sum environment. Sometimes in order for the tribe our ancestors were in to survive they had to commit atrocities to other people. However, in today’s world of nearly unlimited resources, we no longer have to destroy someone else to win. The inner-connectivity of the world might pose many problems, but it allows us in the western world to enjoy the bounties of almost always having too much.

Second, the mindset of destroying my “enemies” is largely what got us into the highly partisan and separated mindset that we are in today. Because each time we punish a group, they remember, and they pass that remembrance onto their children who then bring that grudge to bear when they are in power. And so on and so on.

The way forward is instead one of vulnerability. We must all lay our sins to bear at the table, and once it is done say, OK, we’ve all done bad things to people, but let’s bury the hatchet.

This isn’t about making it even, or balancing one bad thing against another, but instead a period of forgiveness to forge unity. Without a common coalition the current divisiveness in the US will do nothing but worsen.

Jesus, whether you believe him to be the son of God or a wise Philosopher, had it right if someone slaps you, you offer them the other cheek. Not because you are so much better than them, but because you recognize that you yourself have done things wrong, and people deserve forgiveness, and so do you.

AFYM: You can disappoint people, it’s OK ( No really)

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I recently disappointment a friend. It wasn’t a big disappointment but I could tell it made him feel bad.

I felt bad at first, but then after a bit of soul searching I realized that while, I may have disappointed a friend, and I did feel bad, I still did the right thing.

The thing is you have to take care of yourself first no matter what. That’s a tough sell, especially to people who were raised to take care of others. Being an older sibling I saw it as my job to care for everyone at the expense of myself.

But here’s a secret. No one reasonable, (reasonable! I say.) will expect you to take care of them first, because in their heads they will always take care of themselves first.

While it sucks to disappoint people, you can’t help anyone if you yourself are broken.

In reality, not wanting to disappoint someone is an ego driven overvaluation of your impact on the other person.

Think of the last time someone disappointment you. You might have trouble recalling it. Did it hurt that badly? Probably not, in reality, if you liked them you forgave them relatively quickly.

try and place that own standard on yourself, and remember. You are human!

Anxiety is a call to action, but you don’t have to pick up.

Anxiety is hell. It’s a great survival mechanism, but one that lacks nuance. It’s on or it’s off and the thing about it is, that each time we cave to anxiety we reinforce it.

This is the main principle behind Cognitive Behavioral theory.

The more we understand about emotions the more we learn that they aren’t based off reality so much as our own perceptions, and how we feel we should feel based off previous experiences, colloquial expectations, and cultural knowledge.

What this means is that our emotions, while powerful and useful aren’t accurate in and of themselves, but they also shouldn’t be ignored.

The key, the real hard balance, is finding the right measure to honor the emotion, and be curious about it, while still not caving to them all the time. Sometimes emotions know what is going on better than your logic or intuition might, and other times one of the other intelligence rules the roost.

While I don’t think there’s a wrong way to process emotions, I think the main key is to identify the patterns of thinking you want to follow, and put your energy towards those, versus the thought patterns that are dragging you down the same old paths.

Advice For Young Men: You are not the savior of the universe (or even your friends and family.)

I distinctly remember. Being in the car with my father, and feeling a sudden sense of obligation to do something about the world. We passed a homelessness, and I felt guilty, seeing his tanned gaunt face living in squalor, as not a quarter mile away million dollar homes were being built. The injustice burned, and I felt being born into a privileged life, I owed the world something, and while my intentions were noble, the scope of my pondering were dangerously broad.

This is not to say that I can’t help the world, or that I shouldn’t but the problem came when I set my intentions to help everyone. To fix the problem of __________ (insert global problem here).

32 year old me now sees the Three issues with my statement.

1. The vast overvaluing of my ability vs the scope of the problem.

2. The inconsistent judgement of what counted as enough.

3. The idea that there is a “solution” to problems at all, instead of simply a set of situations that change consistently.

As for the first, this is a common problem and it stems from a combination of many things, but primarily a lack of self knowledge, and the very human problem of overestimating our own ability, and underestimating how complex the problems of the world are.

A relatively broke college student in English might be able to volunteer on the weekends, and help quite a few people out, but alone he isn’t going to change the effects of three decades of poor public policy, the war on drugs, or human nature.

Take for example homelessness, it’s a huge problem, with many complex nuances, that stem from a variety of different factors. NGO’s and think tanks spend millions with some of the foremost thinkers in the field to come up with solutions and struggle to make a dent.

In the shadow of this revelation, it’s relatively foolish to assume that I a broke college student was going to make the final difference. (Not that I wouldn’t make any difference, but I lacked the humility to admit my own smallness.)

The problem of what counts is also an ego driven bout of perfectionism. Anything less than say the total end of homelessness would do for my hero drunk brain. This of course led me to feeling rather Impotent in the face of the problem, and feeling that my real contributions did not count. (alone they did not, but multiplied over a long time with others with similar mindset’s they would, but I couldn’t see that.)

The final issue, and the real issue, and the underlying defeat of perfectionist ideology is the realization that there is no “solution” to most problems, especially not big ones.

The idea that we can “solve” humanity is a dangerous utopian idea that often leads to the deaths of millions at it’s worst times, and dissatisfaction with life at the very least.

The problem is not that there is homelessness, the problem is that we expect it to end, and we expect ourselves to bear the burden.

To make the world better is an amazing thing, but just not making it worse is a beautiful thing as well.

I guess in all of this rambling I will say this. You cannot alone save the universe, but you can maybe save yourself, and make the world not worse. It sounds a little like a cop out, but eventually, you not making it worse, might inspire other’s to do the same.

Do not try and save the world. Save yourself first, and then if you have the energy, try and make the world suck just a little less, but you don’t have to. No one is watching. No one but you.

Advice for Young Men: Dating sites and Porn are causing you a lot of pain

This isn’t a prohibition. I don’t want you to stop using dating sites, or stop watching porn, but I want you to start doing is to be mindful of how the usage of them effects your real life relationships.

One of the problems of the current century is that dating sites fill the user’s head with ideas of massive abundance. Whereas men of ages past were limited by geographic location, dating sites allow you to expand your reach further and further.

This might be seen as over all good, but there is a paradox in this choice, in his book the paradox of choice Barry Schwartz, talks about how too much choice leads to dissatisfaction.

To summarize an amazing read, the basic premise is as follows, if you have too many choices, even if you get the optimal choice, you will be dissatisfied with the results. Meaning you aren’t going to be as happy with that girl you met online as if you met her in the day to day workings of your life.

The same goes for porn, and not just hardcore pornography, I am talking about the Hundreds of amateur pornographic websites that promote themselves online. What most men, or most people do not realize is that the bodies being presented online represent only a small percentage of real people. What this means is, that unless you consciously attempt to correct for it you will always be comparing the women you date to the perfect, make up clad, photo shopped, pictures you see online.

And that my young friends is where mindful use of these tools comes in. You have to be aware of the fantasy, and the underlying currents in your mind that seek to find satisfaction. Put aside and work through your perfectionist impulse, and find someone who makes you happy, even if he or she doesn’t stack up to what you see online…because no one can.

I know…I know…easier said than done. But were working on it together.

Advice for Young Men: How to Handle Rejection

You will face rejection.

Living is the art of facing rejection.

However, in our culture we put a premium on success, and do not talk often on how to deal with rejection.

The main problem, like most social problems, is the matter of perspective.

While most people learn to take rejection as a rejection of their core self most rejection is actually a statement of that particular individual or group’s needs or wants.

Or to put it another way, you are a flavor.

Picture now your favorite flavor of ice cream, or gum. For me it’s cinnamon gum. Which I am sure to some of you will be absolutely disgusting, but to me is the essence of flavor.

If I were to go up to you and offer you a piece of gum, even if it is one of the best brands and in mint condition, and it’s a flavor you just don’t like, you are probably going to say no.

Is there anything wrong with the Gum? No. But it’s just not your flavor.

That in a nutshell is rejection. It has very little to do with you, and everything to do with the other human.

That being said, this only really works if the gum is pretty ok in the first place. No one is going to accept a half chewed piece of gum, or gum that is covered in lint, or gum that has an exceptionally low quality.

That’s why self-care is important, in order to even have a shot at whatever you are attempting you want to give yourself the best quality product to present, and hope it’s someones flavor.

So next time you get rejected, try not to take it personally, if you are caring for yourself enough , it’s probably not you, it’s just that you aren’t their flavor.

There is no End Point

This is your life.

I know, I know, this is some Gary Vee, motivational stuff, but I don’t share his grinder philosophy, I am not saying this to motivate or move you.

I am saying this because this is reality.

I spent my life sweeping the floor hoping that it would never get dusty, but entropy happens. Energy has to be spent to reverse it, and ya know that’s ok.

The sooner you make peace with this the more you can just enjoy the process.

That sounds simple, but it isn’t, because here is the secret, you are never done.

It’s just change. All of it is change, and finishing is only temporary. That means that trying to hold onto anything can only cause pain.

So revel in your human mistakes, they will pass. Revel in your victories, they will fade, and Revel in your life, it will end. But not really. Something somewhere is always changing.

The key is to stop looking for the end point, but even in this you will fail, and that is ok. The key is to keep on keeping on.

Simpler typed than done.