Something I realized lately is that to most of the population I am an extra at best in this play of life but for the most part no one is looking at me. Even if they are they don’t know who I am. Even if they do they probably don’t care.
You are special to people who know you. The people who love you cherish you, and to them you matter.
But to know someone takes time. Time is limited and so the number of people you truly can know beyond the trivial is minimal
Not to mention that most people are just like you, paying attention to their actions , thoughts and feelings.
Finally, add in the pull of the smart phone which people are buried in and you realize that for the most part you could do whatever you want and as long as you aren’t hurting anyone no one is gonna even notice or remember.
While this might seem like a great existential problem, reframing it as a human boon can help you immensely.
Since no one is watching really, you can do whatever you want, in the private of your own life. You are free to dye your hair green,or dress like a hipster or wear an anime tshirt.
Because at the end of the day no one is really gonna care except you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
You need to drink water. Go get a glass, I’ll wait. I’m going to go get one right now. Ok, now when was the last time you ate something with protein? Not sugar. Are you drinking like 5 Red-bulls a day? When did you shower last? How about exercise? Going outside?
These things might seem trivial, but they add up. The ego might disregard them but the animal brain that is most of you, the other 90% of you, takes this sort of stuff dead seriously.
All of these things, are self care, and they matter.
The brain is a complex animal with some basic needs, and if these needs are met, it’s going to be hard for you to function.
The culture seems to hold up in awe those people who work themselves to death, or are lacking in sleep. These states will lead you to a breaking point, and then you won’t be able to help anyone.
Or as a martial arts instructor put it to me years ago, if the machine is broken you can’t work, even if you want to.
Start small, just integrate a little self-care, and then slowly but surely integrate more. It might seem like a waste of time, until you realize that your mood is better, and your motivation keeps you going for longer.
Most of all, be kind to yourself when you fail to do this. You will, that’s ok, just learn, forgive and keep trying. You got this.
The written word is a powerful thing. It allows us to put our thoughts outside our-self. Even now as you read this I am communicating to you, not in real time, but sometime from the past.
Our minds often become cluttered with various thoughts and worries, so a quick practice I like to do, as I did this morning, is to write all my thoughts down as they come. This sort of stream of consciousness writing seems simple but can take practice.
when you first begin it you might find yourself answering the voices, or challenge the thoughts, that’s normal. instead of doing this though try and instead just let the thoughts come. Let them all jumble onto the page, let them not make sense, and let them be counter intuitive. Just let them exist.
You will find the simple act of doing this will often relive stress, and then after you’ve let the thoughts sit on the page a bit, you can go back and offer advice to them.
What I often do in this case is a call and answer, where one color pen is the questioner of the thoughts and the other color is the emotionally charged thought. I don’t criticize the thoughts, but instead I ask them pointed questions.
In a way this allows me to explore the fallacies in my thinking without beating them over the head with judgement.
So next time you find yourself overwhelmed, try dumping that mess onto a page.