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.

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.

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.

Persistence

It isn’t that I dislike writing, or find it troublesome. I can write 2000 words in an hour or so. No, the problem is that life gets in the way.

That being said, I have some projects I am working on. A podcast to go with my Advice for Young Men series is slowly being assembled, and I want to write some more semi-free-flowing fiction.

Stay tuned, and thank you all who read my blog. I means a lot!

Schedules Are Important

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In the Covid World, many peoples are feeling lost, and their lives are kind of going off the wall.

I’ve worked most consistently since I was 16 and so having a good 6 months off has sent me a drift.

I realized lately that having some semblance of a schedule will help me.

So now, I’ve been trying to consistently get up at the same time even if I don’t go to bed at the same time. I’m trying to have a basic few routines that I am doing every day in order to add some normalcy.

This can be tough, especially if you struggle with self motivation.

Best bet in that case is to simply start small, and be gentle. This is a strange time, do what you can to make it work for you.

If you must suffer, Suffer Well

One of Monet’s works Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

It is curious that if ones looks hard enough threads of humanity link us together. At the core of nearly every philosophy there is a supposition, a rule, a dictate, or a truth.

One must suffer.

This is not exclusively an eastern philosophy, and it can be found in the works of Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankle, and in the works of many Existential philosophers of the western cannon. This consistent thread is one of the reasons I am currently convinced of it’s veracity.

Now many take this truth and turn it to Nihilism. They learn like the dog in the electrified cage that there is no escape from suffering and so fall into learned helplessness.

However, unlike the poor abused animal in that horrific experiment in the past, we are not bound by our physiology, instead if we allow ourselves to we can learn we are helpless to suffer, but able to choose the type of suffering.

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Why does this matter? Because not all suffering is made the same.

Suffering is not some meaningless thing thrust upon us, but our perception of change. The world changes. I often struggled with the idea that accepting everything as is without judgement would be impossible.

Would I not simply stagnate?

How could I accomplish such an insurmountable task?

To answer my own questions:

No, the world will not stop by accepting it, by accepting it you instead become able to respond better and more efficiently, change is not optional, though you can choose to grow.

To be frank, you cannot do it. I know sounds super Kooky right? Well it’s not. You can simply try and practice at it, each time moving away or from it, but moving none the less.

Suffering is the price of admission to life.

Though there are some that might scoff at it’s simplicity, it is my current belief that you could not know that something was pleasurable if you did not know what pain was.

I think this is why we have what we generally call first world problems. Suffering always measures itself in relation to the situation. If one is hungry they suffer, if one is fed they might complain about the quality of the food. If one has nothing but high quality food they might suffer the dread of boredom.

By being cogniscient that suffering will come along, we are no longer at its behest, and instead greet it as an old friend, knowing that our labors have been paid for and any boons or banes we earn are our own.

So if you must suffer, choose to suffer well, but if you can change something, then do so!

If worry is your default, moving away from it will be difficult, but not impossible

My default mode most days is to wake up, realize I am alive and then start looking actively for something to worry about.

I’ve spent enough time lately in states of non-stress, states that were completely sober, that I’ve come to realize that my stressed out state isn’t mandatory.

When you spend so much time angry, upset, and depressed, you start to think that’s the normal state, and that it’s inevitable. But with a lot of mindfulness, I’ve come to realize this isn’t my natural state.

As I observe my thoughts more and more, I realize my mind actively hunts out problems to worry about and if it cannot find anything I might even invent a problem. But this like all bad habits is just a run away feedback loop that can be interrupted.

I’m getting better at interrupting that loop, but a second more important lesson I’ve learned is that life isn’t going to stay consistent. There is no state where I don’t sometimes get stressed and make mistakes, and that’s okay.

Life is not about doing the right things, it’s about doing.

A terribly oversimplified guide to OCD

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(Disclaimer: I have been diagnosed by an M.D. I am not a doctor, and I will probably get some of this wrong! Feel free to tell me what I missed!)

I apologize for the relative radio silence the past few days. I suffered from an acute spike in my OCD.

OCD is an often misunderstood and misrepresented mental illness. It is debilitating at times, and I have only a moderate case of it. Some people are literally boxed in by there disease stuck in their homes for fear of triggering their OCD.

OCD is in its simplest form is a runaway feedback loop.

The same way any other organ doesn’t stop working when we are not conciously aware of it, the brain doesn’t stop either.

In the neuro-typical (average functional) brain, there is a gatekeeper of sorts that screens this constant pool of thoughts. This gatekeeper tends to only allow thoughts that disagree with the core personality of the individual to pass into consciousness.

In someone with OCD this is the first stumbling block. That gaurds man is quite drowsy and lets a number of perfectly common but disturbing thoughts into consciousness.

Now this sometimes happens in most humans. The urge to jump off a high ledge will send a shudder down someone’s spine, or the idea that maybe we are dying of HIV might send someone into an hour or two of worry.

In OCD however, the this is the second downfall. In OCD the horrifying thought is picked up by and over sensitive brain and amplified. It is used as proof that by simply having this thought is an indication to action. Despite OCD thoughts nearly always being completely opposite of the true character of the individual, and against their wishes.

This causes considerable emotional distress, and to combat that OCD people preform compulsions, or behaviors to aliviate this stress.

The nature of these compulsions depends on the individual, and they are generally disruptive such as hand washing ect, and they are not always consistent. In movies an OCD person has to have every part of their room organized, in real life their room might be a mess, but the OCD Suffer’s hands might be bleeding from being washed too many times.

By participating in these compulsions, the brain incorrectly interprets the anxiety as valid. By running away from the boogy man he becomes real, even if he’s nothing more than a bundle of sticks in the wind.

And so it goes on and on and on, until the OCD sufferer if he or she is lucky learns about Therapies that work. The most effective being ERP or Exposure response prevention.

The therapy is deceptively simple yet exceptionally difficult. It involves avoiding the alleviation of anxiety. The OCD sufferer exposes themselves to things that trigger anxiety and chooses conciously to avoid making themselves feel better. Eventually, the brain learns that since no feedback is given to relive it that the fear they are feeling is disproportionate to the situation, and so the anxiety decrease. Thus Severing the Feedback loop!

Mind you this is not a cure, and it is difficult to do without the aid of Medication, and there are still sometimes the OCD sufferer will fail at this task.

I write this post t simply explain why I haven’t posted and more importantly to tell you all that struggling with a mental illness is perfectly normal, and I understand.

These are strange times, so take care of yourself, and if you do struggle try and get some help.

Hope you all stay well. Be back soon.

It’s a Grand and Noble game

“Let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream that you wanted to dream. And that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time. Or any length of time you wanted to have. And you would, naturally as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes.

You would have every kind of pleasure you could conceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each, you would say “Well, that was pretty great.” But now let’s have a surprise. Let’s have a dream which isn’t under control.

Where something is gonna happen to me that I don’t know what it’s going to be. And you would dig that and come out of that and say “Wow, that was a close shave, wasn’t it?” And then you would get more and more adventurous, and you would make further and further out gambles as to what you would dream.

And finally, you would dream … where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today.”

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1501096-let-s-suppose-that-you-were-able-every-night-to-dream

So suppose the above quote is true. Let’s suppose this is by choice our life. That what is going on is what we chose to do.

Well then it certainly means that this is all a game!

The real worry comes from not knowing. All anxiety is the recognition of how invariably complicated this all is. Think of even a simple task, say going to the market, and begin to think of everything that will go wrong.

Even excluding subtle variations, you could list a thousand things, and still not being close to done. Thus anxiety.

But the quest to eliminate anxiety totally is also a fools errand!

Peoeple miss that the game is the interplay between anxiety and calm, between past and future, and want and satiation.

Life is not, as we so often see it in the west, a problem to be solved. That sort of thinking is both reductive and dangerous, as is all too often seen in the Utopianists of the world, be they Mao, Stalin, Hitler, or nameless Southern Slave owners.

So given this, what is a person to do?

Well, I’ve not the foggiest idea.

Actually, I have some idea, and that is the most anyone can ask for.

The idea is to play the game sincerely. Not for some outcome, as outcomes aren’t real, they are imaginary devices we invented to help produce real tangible results, but the goals aren’t actual physical things.

No, the idea is to play to play, and accept if there is a boon or bane, that is a nice treat or an unpleasant shock, but it isn’t the point.

Some people call this state flow, where the mind becomes immersed in the moment, and loses track of the grand societal narrative, they become sincerely dedicated to something they want to do.

You see when we play the game with results in mind it taints it. If we talk to an attractive person we’d like to get to know, and we really want to get their number, our sincerity is removed, and we come off as a sales pitch. Only when we go in knowing that we might fail and being ok with that, can we really fall into ourselves and away from the objective.

This all may sound a little crazy, and it is. But I’ve come to find some sort of peace in the knowing, that it’s all a grand game, and the point is to play it.