Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 654: I am the Change

Change is a process. It does not simply happen to you. The rewards of your efforts are not immediate.

As Peninah Nthenya Musyimi says: if you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done. 

We tend to focus on all of the reasons why something cannot be done, why something cannot work. In doing so, we rob ourselves of the opportunity of actually testing that . We rob ourselves of making the effort to change. We rob ourselves of making the effort to improve our lives and the world around us. So much could change if each person was to let go of the opinions that start with the belief that "it cannot or should not". How many times and in response to how many scenarios have you heard someone say "that's just how it is, there is nothing we can do to change it"? Many, many times and in many, many scenarios. This is another way for someone to say "it cannot change" - but without bothering to test that belief. The opinion becomes more real than the potential reality you can create - that OPINION is what stops people from taking ACTION. That OPINION is what allowed this world to be the way it is. That OPINION is what allowed the pain and suffering in this world to exist.

Go with the choice that scares you the most - it is the choice that requires the most of you - Another cool suggestion from Peninah. Do that which you resist - you will often find the greatest gifts in those things.

People achieve more and do more when they know that not doing so will mean that nothing will change - people who come from poverty or abuse do MORE to change their lives - because they know that if they do not then they will stay in their own personal hell. Often this only happens when opportunity is GIVEN to them - there are very few people who can independently create themselves and their opportunities from nothing. Unfortunately, these few success stories are used as a fantasy for other people, they are not effectively used to support people, only to show them how to dream - so many people do not take the next step from dreaming to DOING - this is where the fantasy falls short. These stories should be shaped and shared in such a way that they also show HOW to create change, not only that it is possible.

The spiral effect of 1 + 1 + 1 ends up making big ripples in communities. Supporting one person to change themselves will in turn give that person the opportunity to support and share with others as well. It will give them the opportunity to teach their children things they may not have taught otherwise, things that will support their children in creating their own opportunities and in turn resonating the effects of that teaching into the community. One person at a time quickly accelerates to 2, 3, 4, 5.... 100 people - imagine if every single person who already has so much opportunity to make changes - not only for themselves, but support others as well - imagine if each of them supported only one other person who is not so fortunate. In time, that one person can then support another person of their own and so on and so forth. This may sound "small", it may sound insignificant and impossible to effect real change in the world - this is simply because we have become so ineffective at seeing the potential objectively, at investigating fully how far it could go. We have become slaves to our perceptual fallacies and biases - effectively re-enforcing our already ignorant behaviour. We have limited ourselves in what potential we see in ourselves and in others - we have become stuck in opinions that keep all of us limited.

Changing ourselves and the world is as simple as stopping our opinions of the way things are. In reality, most of the things we believe come from fallacies of thought and perceptual biases (we do not see things for what they are). It is our own ignorance and lack of self awareness that has gotten us to this point - this is where we must take responsibility and change ourselves for the good of the entire world.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Day 653: Polar Opposites

This continues from my previous post - please watch the TED Talk embedded there for context.

There is plenty evidence showing the extent of human bias and fallacies. There is also plenty of research showing how the way we think is the cause of these biases and fallacies. I particularly enjoy Dan Gilbert and Dan Ariely's TED Talks on these topics and see them as a good starting point for someone wanting to find out more.

Now on to this TEDx Talk from my previous post. Alison Ledgerwood describes some studies that show how our opinions can very easily be manipulated, especially to see the 'not-so-bright' side of things. She shows how, once we are given information that is described in a negative light, we are very unlikely to be able to regard that information in a positive way again without conscious effort.

I can see absolutely what she is saying and I have seen it many times (I have experienced it many times as well) - but what I find interesting is that we can also get stuck in positives. The most common examples of this would be hope and faith - where we absolutely refuse to give up the notion that there is something great just out of reach (but it's coming closer! I know it!). We form this idea of what something is (even when there is no evidence to support that opinion) and we hold onto it as if our lives depend on it. We become aggressive or defensive when we feel like someone is attacking our belief, which usually just makes us hold on tighter. We flat out refuse to consider any alternatives to what we believe to be true.

Another aspect of being bullheadedly positive is when you look around at the world and you can see that there is something very wrong with this world, but you pretty much ignore that and focus on you and your happiness. I don't know about you, but I'd call that ignorant positivity - ignoring the plight of others to be able to continue a positive experience.

Part of this positivity comes from the value that we give to things (eg. beliefs). When we believe that something is important, and we feel that it is definitely important to us then we will strive to protect it - but in reality we are only protecting our belief - the value that we have given something. This in part is because we have a subconscious belief that if someone comes and proves our opinion wrong and removes that value, that somehow we actually become less valuable. Remember that I have never said that human reasoning makes sense - this is a very big reason that we are in the position we're in.

So now we have these 2 biases - the polar opposites of positive and negative - what do we do now? The answer sounds simple but it takes years of work to achieve: Let go of the beliefs and opinions. Keep an 'open mind'. Consider everything. Investigate everything. Look at things practically and without preconceived ideas. Realise that beliefs and opinions do not define you or your value. Get unstuck in thought patterns that generate positive or negative experiences - it's as simple as knowing which thoughts trigger the experience and then simply not participating in the thought. Once you see how silly it all is and you remove the power that the 'importance' of it all had over you, it becomes much easier to simply... stop.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Day 652: Stuck in Negativity

A big storm passed through tonight and kept me from my computer for almost 2 hours so I didn't get to doing everything I needed to. So I will write my next post about the video above. Watch it in the meantime, mull it over for a while - I'll do the same.

At least it finally rained a decent amount - the plants and animals in the area have not been thriving as we've basically been in a drought.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Day 651: Discipline, Instant Gratification & Accepting Failure

After watching this Talk by Dr Sean Richardson, the 'mental toughness' he describes is one dimension of discipline. Discipline can have quite a broad application, ranging from delaying gratification to standing your ground on something that you know is what is best.

What is instant gratification? It's wanting something (an experience or reward usually) RIGHT NOW without consideration for any future consequences or results. Here are a few examples:
  • Buying a new item of clothing that is something that you "must have" without considering the origin of that item or the system as a whole that you are supporting by impulse buying that particular item.
  • Doctors over-prescribing and running more tests than is actually reasonable out of a sense of "at least you are doing something". 
Sean argues that the desire for instant gratification comes from a part of our brains, that it is a natural response to have that comes, in part, from the fight or flight reflex which is geared to ACT NOW in order to preserve your life. I am not going to go into this instinctual aspect, but rather focus on the desire itself. One point that I will mention which was a good point Sean made is that real fight or flight is quite rare for a lot of people (especially those living in first-world countries) - real threats to your survival is rare. What does happen quite frequently is threats to your ego.

Instant gratification is a big contributor to postponement - to delaying doing something that you should do and that will benefit you in the long term in order to do something that is "nice" in this moment. Instant gratification is a lack of foresight, it is not seeing the bigger picture. It is being so focused on your immediate experience that you cannot comprehend what your future may or may not hold - and, more importantly, connect with your future self in a meaningful and empathic manner.

So now you understand what instant gratification is and a bit about the consequences thereof - what then would be the solution to stop falling prey to your impulses and compulsions and start taking control of yourself in order to create a life that you will be satisfied with, not only now, but for the rest of your days?

Part of the solution is twofold: firstly you must develop discipline - and part of developing discipline is accepting failure. In order to achieve your goals you must accept your failures - by not doing so you limit yourself and your growth. Let me elaborate: Focus on your actions, on doing the best that you are able to in that moment - don't focus on the results of either winning or losing. If you do the absolute best that you can then you will be able to accept your failures more readily. Failures are opportunities to learn and grow - do not take them personally. Failure can become a challenge rather than a self definition - the moment you define yourself as a failure then that is what you will live and become. You will then limit your choices and expressions to fit within your definition of yourself as a 'failure'. You will justify your inaction by telling yourself that you would have failed anyway so there was no point in even trying.

Another interesting aspect that Sean mentions is that if you believe that effort is the key to success then you will see failure as a challenge, but if you see ability (whether you are able to do something or not) as the key to your success then you will give up. Changing your way of thinking and behaving is in itself challenging - but entirely possible and wholly worth it. Changing something as simple as delaying gratification can contribute to creating a world that Sean imagines at the end of his Talk. It is well within our ability to change the world and ourselves - WE are each the KEY.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Day 650: Relationship Support Hangouts

I am sick at the moment and am not able to write a full length post soooo.....

I have started a relationship support hangout series on the Desteni I Process profile, so I am posting the first hangout here for today's post for those who have not yet seen it. I am doing one on the first Thursday of every month and will post them here on my blog from now on.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Day 649: Social Exclusion and Loneliness

John Cacioppo discusses a dimension of loneliness that is not quite the same feeling you get in terms of longing for a relationship. The reason I say this is that when you are lonely and longing for a relationship it is more likely coming from your thoughts - what you are thinking is what drives your experience of loneliness. These thoughts would be similar to these examples:
  • If only I was in a relationship I would be happy
  • If only I could find someone who understands me
  • If only so-and-so would come back to be
This loneliness above is completely self-created and can be solved by stopping those destructive thought patterns.

There is no denying that we are a social species - we crave interaction and connections with each other. John discusses this biological aspect of loneliness, which I will refer to as social exclusion. Social exclusion can manifest for a number of reasons: it can be self-created (antisocial behaviour that drives people away is an example) or it can be that the other people are the ones who are intentionally alienating one individual out of cruelty.

The effects of social exclusion can be quite severe, as John points out in his Talk. One of these side effects that seem to be becoming more prevalent in our current-day society is that people who feel lonely and alienated go into a sort of survival mode and focus more on self preservation rather than social concern or empathy. John proposes that this is because of an evolutionary imperative to be part of a group - being part of a group essentially makes survival easier, especially for most of our ancestors. When you're part of a group you protect each other from the dangers around you, you help each other find food and share it amongst yourselves. While this dimension may be relevant, there does seem like there may be more to it than just that. In the end, each of us is autonomous and self-aware - would this not imply some sort of complicitness in the design of this construct?

Another side effect of social exclusion is that, because you become more focused on yourself and your own position, you are likely to become more defensive with other people - simply because you are not willing to take their point of view or position into full consideration. 

Saying that some long term behaviour is derived from our nature takes away the opportunity for us to take responsibility for that behaviour and change it. Take social exclusion as an example: you become more focused on self preservation when you feel alienated and alone - but what happens when you are aware of your feelings of loneliness and alienation and choose to no longer allow those experiences within yourself? Would it not then be possible to change your apparent nature? Take the defensiveness point as another example: it is entirely within your ability and power to stop the intense focusing on yourself and consider the other person's perspective. Sure, it may not be easy, but I have seen it being done and I have done it for myself so I know that it's possible. It requires willingness to see yourself clearly (objectively and with awareness) and willingness to change.

Now I'm not saying that any person "should" go be alone all the time. What I am saying is that being alone does not have to change you - your experience of yourself and of life should not be dependent on whether there is another person with you or not. Certainly it can be very enjoyable to be with people - I am not saying that you shouldn't. I strongly recommend building relationships and meeting new people as it can be a mountain of support and a source of new information about yourself - BUT, if you are in the position (for whatever reason) of being alone without the option to create connections with other people - make peace with it - it doesn't have to control your life. I know it can be scary putting yourself 'out there' to meet new people - but it is absolutely worth it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Day 648: How Do You Change When it Seems Like You Can't?

This post continues from this post - check it out for context.

I have seen people undergo awesome changes - stop addictions, stop destructive habits, change their self-defeating thought patterns, overcome fears, develop discipline and more. I have seen people reinvent themselves and be who they want to be. I have also seen many of these people "fall" on all these amazing points the moment they face temptation again. It's much easier to change when you're in an environment that removes the triggers for your patterns you want to stop - but what happens when you go back home and are faced with all of those triggers again - do you continue to stand and transform yourself, or do you fall?

That's up to you, of course.

The reality is that there is something in people, I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's something that - now I don't want to say "keeps", but - keeps people from being able to follow through with their choice and will to change. It's not like it prevents people, it's more like it makes change, and certain realisations that would open up opportunities for change, more difficult. You can see this manifest in this way: You spend years saying something, exactly the same thing, over and over and over again to one or more person(s). You test using different words, different environments, different presentations, different tones of voice, different gestures - everything you can think of - to convey a message... But... It takes that person(s) YEARS to "hear" the point and fully realise what it means.

Here's the rub - there's a big difference between hearing something, understanding it and fully realising it. It's even another different thing to actually live that realisation - but in a sense when you truly realise and understand something there is no way that you can NOT live it.

So why the hell is it so difficult to fully realise and change? Why does it take so much to get to a point of truly understanding that if you continue to live in the way you live now, while KNOWING that change is possible, that you will deeply regret it and possibly miss out on living a truly significant life?

Why is it so difficult to change, even when you KNOW that the change will benefit your life? What is it that holds people back from taking that step out of intellectually understanding something into actually living it? What is it that trigger the thoughts that lead to inaction? Why are people so seemingly hellbent on not changing? What is it about facing old temptations that makes someone forget everything they had done up until that point and slip back into old destructive patterns? Yes, we know that listening to thoughts will lead you back to the old behaviour - but what is it that makes those thoughts re-emerge with such ferocity - even when a person has seemingly let go of and changed those old patterns?

I have seen it so many times and it breaks my heart. I have seen people completely destroy themselves after years of living principled and contented. I have also seen people re-emerge from a fall and work hard to get back to where they were before - but it is that much harder - it is that much harder because now they are carrying the shame and guilt of their 'relapse' and they have to work that much harder and longer to build trust with themselves and the people around them again.

Why does it seem to work this way so much of the time, that we have to sabotage ourselves and experience pain over and over again before the willingness to change truly opens within us? Why do we put ourselves through this?

As always - each of us is entirely responsible for ourselves - the pain is avoidable when you walk with awareness and willingness to question your every step until you know that you will not fall - no matter the situation.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 647: Why Don't You Change Even When You Really Want to?

Why don't you change - even when you know exactly how?

Why don't you change - even when you know exactly what has been keeping you from it and how to stop being distracted by those things?

Why don't you change - even when you've had a huge realisation?

Why don't you change - even when you know that how you're living is making you miserable?

Why don't you change - even when you know that the fear you feel is just another trap to keep you from changing?

Why don't you change - even when the shame of not changing leads you to depression?

Why don't you change - even when you know that waiting for inspiration to 'make' you change is just a fairytale and a disservice to yourself?

Why don't you change - even when you understand that it will not magically happen on its own and that you have to actively work to create the change?

Why don't you change - even after you've made the same mistake a thousand times over?

Why don't you change - even when you know exactly what will happen if you don't?

Why don't you change - even when you can clearly see how your actions hurt others?

Why don't you change - even when you can see that the only outcome of your current path is certain doom?

Why don't you change - even when you suspect that maybe how you live is not the only or best way to live.

Why don't you change - even when you suspect that what you so strongly believe may not be true?

Why don't you change - even when you hate yourself for the choices you have made?

Why don't you change - even when you see how the change would benefit your life?

Why don't you change?

There may be a million answers to these questions, but there seems to be one underlying tone that encompasses the entirety of humanity so that even when you really want to change and know how to do it, you just don't. Maybe you forgot all about the big realisation you had and went back to the daily motions of your life. Maybe you just haven't developed your discipline. Maybe...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day 646: The Misconception About Change

This Talk by Robert Greene covered a very common misconception that people tend to have about everything that is behind success. We tend to fixate on everything we can see with our eyes - which is generally only the end result of something - basically the product of success. When we look at other people who have been successful we tend to see the apparent good luck that helped them along the way (like meeting the right person with the right connections), or the project that gets them wealth and attention - all of the visible signs of 'manifested' opportunity and success. What we tend not to see is everything that went in to getting the person there, all the hard work and small steps that led to the big result.

People tend to lose touch with themselves over time and especially in adulthood. We listen to everyone around us telling us what we 'should' be and what we 'should' do. Unfortunately we listen to them more often than not. We start forgetting what it is we enjoy doing. We tend to end up living a life we don't like or enjoy.

So we tend not to see the story behind the success: the person's life experiences, the knowledge they gained, the skills they developed, the work habits they developed, their thinking patterns, the ability to withstand criticism and negativity. Visible change is something that manifests after time and preparation. By failing to see how change really works, we fail to change ourselves because we're expecting change to magically 'happen' or be handed to us. This leads us to become increasingly frustrated, because we feel bored and like we're not reaching our true potential. We then tend to reach out and grab some immediate and superficial temporary fix to make us feel better and 'feel like'  we've changed - but the change and feeling of relief doesn't last. This becomes a pattern that repeats over and over until you either change it or die.

We need to stop looking at what everyone else is doing and start focusing on our own processes. We need to learn how to change, how to develop discipline, how to develop skills, how to gather knowledge and separate the good from the bad.

We should welcome wrong turns and mistakes - they are opportunities to explore ourselves and the world more than before. You can learn more about yourself from making mistakes compared to when everything goes exactly according to plan.

we need to rediscover the things we enjoy and are 'naturally' drawn to - developing ourselves in the paths that we are interested in will make our journeys more interesting to us. Learning will no longer be cumbersome and boring, but exciting and self motivated.

We have great opportunities for change in something like work - we can make small changes to ourselves from which we will start seeing results with time and continued application. It gives us the opportunity to really see ourselves clearly - more so that trying to 'find yourself' in some new age or spiritual path. Looking for some magical answer outside of ourselves is actually more like running away from ourselves - it does not lead us to truly look at ourselves and challenge ourselves.

As usual, the answer is astoundingly simple and yet so often missed. With a little bit of dedication and discipline we can shape ourselves and our lives to be everything we would like to experience.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day 645: Transforming Hopelessness

First, allow me to say how good it feels to be typing this - I have been unable to post anything in the last 2 days (dues to unexpected events and not having electricity for most of Sunday). Having the opportunity to write feels good - which seems kind of counter intuitive considering the generally held opinion of the human race. The feeling that comes is a sense of fulfillment of following through with my commitment.

This was quite a moving Talk by Nick Vujicic who was born without arms or legs. He speaks of overcoming hopelessness and creating himself and his life from the starting point of no restrictions and no beliefs holding him back. He has achieved much - you could probably say that this is thanks to his "disability" rather than in spite of - he was able to do this because he did not hold himself back. He did not allow any thoughts of "you're not good enough", or "what are you thinking, you can't do this".

Let's put aside the hope, faith and god bits and focus on what can actually be done by any person who so wishes to achieve something. What is hopelessness? It is thinking and believing that you do not have the ability or power to effect change. There are some situations in this life (they shouldn't exist, but unfortunately they do) in which the lack of power or ability to change your life may be a very real thing, as opposed to it being perceived. The difference between real and perceived powerlessness is that when it's real then there is literally nothing you can do to change the situation, but when it's perceived it's more like a state of mind rather than the absence of solutions. Hopelessness is not the same as powerlessness. Hopelessness is a state of mind in which you accept defeat and allow depressive and negative thoughts. Powerlessness is more like a fact. If you have the power to change something you have it - if you don't, you don't.

Hopelessness is a prime example showing how you can be your greatest enemy - where you allow negative and self defeating thoughts to influence your actions and state of being. Nick labels these thoughts as lies - Desteni labels them as backchat and as self dishonesty - so we're talking about the same thing, just with different vocabulary. In a way your thoughts can control you if you let them. Consider suicide: you may tell yourself "just give up. Just give up. Just give up. You're worthless. No one could ever love the real you" over and over and over until you feel like giving up, until you believe that you are worthless and unlovable. The thing to remember is that these thoughts are essentially you - they are not being implanted in your mind by some alien creature - they exist because you allow them to and because you actively participate in them.

Something that leads to much self loathing and depression in this world is the concept of value that we force upon one another. In truth, value is not determined by looks, your jobs, place of birth, money - each of us has an intrinsic value of life - nothing can change this. Appearances is a big one - it's funny, like Nick pointed out in a story he told of how some teens told him that they did not judge him by his appearance but would go and bully other students for their appearances, we say that looks are not important - but why do we then go and kill each other with out words? Why do you look in the mirror and see ugliness instead of value?

Consider this: Would $1billion take away the pain of losing someone close? No. We are the ones who perceive that the value of money is greater than the value of life - this is not the case. Money cannot replace life.

This world is all about unattainable standards that ensure that you will never accept yourself, no matter how hard you try to achieve those standards. Nothing you do will ever be enough unless you realise that it's all a lie, that the game is rigged against us all.

A quote from Nick's Talk: "When you don't get a miracle you can still be a miracle for someone else" - forget the god part and consider what truth is in this statement: you may not get the life you would like, no matter what you do, but you can still live as an example to others and change their lives.

So forget the positivity in this message from Nick and realise that each person is capable of changing their own lives by stopping the thoughts that are telling them that they can't. Realise that each person has the ability to develop themselves in any way they choose - some things may be difficult and others may be easy. Hope and faith are not necessary - they are not practical - they lead you to a point of not being entirely realistic with yourself and missing what is already here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Day 644: One Small Step at a Time

In this TED Talk BJ Fogg discusses different ways that you can support yourself to change your behaviour. The idea he shares is based on the very common experience where you try to change something about your behaviour, but you try to change it completely and all at once. This is generally something that people are not well equipped to do as it requires a high level of discipline. So, what BJ Fogg suggests is that you start by changing one tiny habit at a time.

This technique is one that could work for many people and support them in ch
anging their lives. As always, it's not absolutely the only thing that can ever work, but each person can test it for themselves and see if it works for them.

The point of "celebrating" your achievement may have some hidden consequences, what I mean by this is that if/when that point of celebration is no longer there you may no longer feel motivated enough to do the thing anymore. Essentially you become dependent on the good feeling you get from congratulating yourself.

I know that this is woefully short and incomplete, but I am going to have to finish it in the next post...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Day 643: Why is Your Life So Hard?

Life isn't all that hard. We make it hard. We have taken the simplicity out of our lives and replaced it with rules and customs that don't really make sense and don't serve any practical purpose.

We have made fashion a big part of our lives - but take a look in the mirror: do the clothes you wear change who you are? No. Maybe your idea or perception of yourself changes, but who you are does not. Why then does so much attention, time, resources and skill go toward an industry that has moved beyond practicality and self expression into absurdity? Jon Jandai said a funny and true thing in his Talk: When you follow fashion you can never catch up with it because you're always following it!

It is a hard time that we're living in - I cannot say if it's the most difficult in our history because I do not know if it is. What I do know is that for those people who can afford a house (or rather people who can afford the home loan) will spend 20 - 40 years paying off that house.

School and university is generally boring and does not give much practical information that you can use to improve your life or your experience of life. Most of the information you forget as soon as you've written exams. You don't learn much about the life skills that you actually do need. The teacher is simply unable to give students individual attention as there are too many students to each teacher.

Universities are cesspools of rape, excessive behaviours, slave labour and red tape. Not to mention they cost a small fortune and guarantee you nothing.

We are told to go to the cities to work and succeed - but most never get to that success and must settle for simply surviving.

Health care is practically unaffordable and unattainable for a large portion of people across the world. There are very few places that provide quality healthcare to every single person.

Life shouldn't be this hard - but it is. It is because we've made it this way. We have made this world a place of misery and unnecessary suffering. We have created a society in which we do not care for each other or support each other. We have created a society that commits genocide on a daily basis. We have created a society that throws away millions of tons of food a year while millions starve. We have created a society that has both extreme poverty and extreme wealth. We have created a society that believes that violence brings peace.

You cannot claim innocence - we are all responsible - whether you live in a cave or in a city you are still responsible. Every moment that you accept the world the way it is and proclaim that you are powerless, you are allowing the world to exist the way it does. there are billions of people on earth. At least half of us know that the way we live now is unacceptable - now we must stand together and propose a new way and, most importantly, live as the example of what is truly possible, of the true beauty and compassion that exists within each one of us if only we would choose to express it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day 642: Motivation in the Age of Reason

I will continue with my trend on motivation and willpower in this post and once again base my post on a TED Talk by Dan Ariely. Basically what he discusses is the findings that indicate that people find much more value in the things that they worked hard on - even to the degree that the more difficult the task was, the more they will value the end product, even if the end product does not look or work as it is supposed to. This flies in the face of the belief that is so widely held at the moment: that a high salary can give an employee an experience of high value, as well as that the efficiency model (see the link above) is the best way to maximise production. In fact, according to Dan, the efficiency model is actually decreasing productivity in this day and age of knowledge and information.

Value is essentially subjective - we create the value of something according to our perception of it. So what tends to happen is that the more time and effort we put into something, the more we value and cherish the finished product. Most of the time, part of the appeal of a thing comes in when that thing belongs to us (I love it because it's mine!). This can be seen in the very basic example that people generally do not love some unfamiliar child with whom they have no ties nearly as much as they love their own child. This basic occurrence can be seen in everything in this world, in every part of our lives. The funny thing is that a lot of the time we expect other people to value things exactly as much as we do. This expectation obviously does not come from the understanding that our values are all objective and that another person cannot have the same values as we do - it comes from a more self-absorbed and almost innocent/naive place, where we simply do not consider the entirety of ourselves in a situation, nor do we consider the entirely of the other person's life and inner experience. You could say that we're somewhat deluded in our belief that other people should be just like us. We are deluded because if you take a moment to pause and think about this you will realise that there is no way that this is possible - each person has different experiences in life and is unique in that sense, so no 2 people can be exactly 100% 'the same'.

Basically, the higher we value something, the more motivated we become. So  what happens when we are doing something that we feel is not worth the time and effort we're putting in? We do not feel motivated about it. We feel like there is no point to what we're doing.

We also feel like our time was well spent if we are encouraged or acknowledged for our actions. This little fact indicates that most people function on pattern of needing outside forces to validate them in order to experience value in the things they do. This is a cycle of dependency that, like all dependencies, holds us back and specifically keeps us from embracing our own creative power to move and create ourselves and whatever else we may want to do in the world around us.

The solution to all of these points is as follows: Let go of the ideas and subjective values you have gathered in your life. This does not make you a person who no longer cares - it sets you free from the ties that bind you and keep you stuck forever in in holding on to intangible feelings that you have connected to specific objects or achievements. It gives you the opportunity to create meaningful and real connections with real things in the world, with real people, not just with memories and the feelings that they carry. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Day 641: The Source of Your Choices

This is a side of decision making that I had not considered before, and from my experience with other people I do not think that many people do see this dimension. As usual, it seems strange that we would miss this dimension - as you will see in the post, it may be the difference between making a change in yourself or in your life or doing nothing.

There are generally two starting points that you could have when making a choice (let me make it clear that this is a generalisation and will not be the case in all people or scenarios):
  1. You are avoiding negative consequences: Let me use an example from Scott Geller's Talk above: You attend a class in college every week because you will fail if you don't.
  2. You are moving towards positive consequences: You are doing something because you see the value in doing it and know that you are capable of doing it. An example would be (again from Scott's Talk) a child practicing a musical instrument diligently because his/her parents told him/her that they will get a better version or piece of the instrument (a new and better snare drum for example) if he/she proves to them that he/she is developing his/her skill in playing the instrument. The child would then also be likely to want to read ahead of the current lesson - Scott calls this self-motivation. 
Most people do most things in order to avoid negative consequences. Get a job to avoid poverty. Go to class to avoid failure. Put on makeup to avoid ridicule. Do what other people do to avoid being an outcast. What tends to happen when you make your decisions from this starting point is that you do not feel like you really have a choice (even though you do - your experience is that you have no choice) and you feel powerless. This leads to a generally unpleasant experience and sense of yourself, as well as a rather pessimistic outlook.

Compare this to when you are working towards a positive consequence - a goal that you're excited about and something within which you see value, as well as the understanding of why you're doing it and the knowledge and skill to actually do it. When this is your starting point you feel powerful, in control and competent enough to achieve your goals. This is the starting point that increases the chances of your success.

So now most people's choices are based on a negative starting point, on trying to avoid some kind of negative experience - but most people don't realise this. This leads to a lot of people going through a lot of unpleasant feelings and experiences unnecessarily.  I say unnecessarily because it can be avoided simply by sharing and understanding this realisation. I propose that all schools should include things like this in their curricula for each and every child, so that every single person in the world knows the complete nature of their decision making as well as the extent to which certain factors can influence their experience of themselves as well as the outcome of their choices. This seems far more important to a developing human being than absorbing a whole lot of information, most of which they will soon forget and never use again.

I suggest that you look closely at the decisions you make. Look at why you're making that decision: are you trying to get away from a bad experience? If so then you know that you are setting yourself up for a hard time. I also propose that the idea that people need motivation in order to do something is also not the only, or even the best solution. Instead, we are entirely capable of Moving ourselves simply because we see what must be done, why it must be done and that we are able to do it. Self-Motivation can become a dependency just as easily as being motivated by outside sources: what happens when you don't experience that positive energy that psychs you up to do something? This is why I propose that we live without motivation - that we live independent of negative or positive energy/experiences. I also completely agree with Scott Geller that we must become interdependent and support each other and be humble with each other - we can become a true global family in this way.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Day 640: Self Control & Temptation

In this discussion, Dan Ariely describes, essentially, that most of us are seriously lacking in self control (ie discipline). This is nothing new - on some level we all know it, but it can be quite difficult to admit to yourself that you're not as fantastic as you thought. The jist of it is that we tend to be ruled by our immediate impulses and instant gratification - delaying gratification (even when the reward will be better) is not something that most people are willing to do when faced with the temptation of getting something immediately.

Dan applies this lack of self control and foresight to our apathy in terms of global warming - there is not enough of a negative consequence happening right here and now to motivate us to go to the lengths required to ensure our continued comfortable survival. This really is a funny thing when you put it into words: we don't do anything to change our lifestyles now because we don't feel like it, even if that means that the state of the planet will continue to decay and continue to become more extreme and dangerous, possibly until it kills us all. It really doesn't make sense when you put it that way.

Dan proposes 2 possible solutions to our weakness when faced with temptations and dealing with future problems:
  1. Reward Substitution: Connect the act of the solution (doing the thing that you don't really want to do) with something you do want to do - for example: on the days that you take a drug regiment that may or may not cure you, but has unpleasant side effects, do something you do like, like watch a few movies (Dan's example in the Talk).
  2. Make a contract with yourself: Set specific guidelines for achieving a goal and punishments for when you do not follow those guidelines. 
I agree that these are tools that you can test for yourself to see how effective they are for you - but these are certainly the only approaches that are available to you. The biggest obstacle that I see in achieving self discipline and in developing the ability to look clearly into the future is that so many people do not truly understand the nature and extent of the consequences of their choices and actions. Yes, you know what will probably happen, but you keep it away from your conscious thoughts, you deliberately do not spend too much time really thinking about what your actions will bring in the future. Dan touches on this concept briefly: you do not regard the you in the future in the same way that you regard the you here in the present. You also tend to assume that 'everything will work out' - even when you haven't done anything at all to ensure that outcome. This unrealistic expectation causes a lot of grief in people - but the sad truth is that it is self made.

An example of this disconnected future self is this one that Dan described in the Talk: Liver cirrhosis is a pretty huge issue when it is immediate - when it's here in this very moment you'll do anything and everything in your power to get your liver healthy again to ensure your continued survival - but when you're thinking about 40 years down the line, it doesn't really seem like such a big problem anymore and you are less likely to take any measures to prevent it from happening. In reality the experience you will have in 40 years time when you get liver problems is exactly the same as it would be if it was happening right now. The key is to realise that 'future you' is no different from present you, and that you will dislike problems in the future just as much as you dislike them in the present.

In truth, I don't want to live with my main goal in life being problem avoidance or scuttling around trying to fix problems. I want to be able to live in a peaceful environment, within me and around me - don't you?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Day 639: Robots Can and Will do What You do

From self-driving cars to carebots for elderly people, rapid advances in technology have long represented a potential threat to many jobs normally performed by people.
But experts now believe that almost 50 per cent of occupations existing today will be completely redundant by 2025 as artificial intelligence continues to transform businesses.
A revolutionary shift in the way workplaces operate is expected to take place over the next 10 to 15 years, which could put some people's livelihoods at risk.
Customer work, process work and vast swatches of middle management will simply 'disappear', according to a new report by consulting firm CBRE and China-based Genesis.
'Experts predict that 50 per cent of occupations today will no longer exist by 2025 as people will take up more creative professions,' said Martin Chen, Chief Operating Officer of Genesis.
'This means that jobs will evolve and so will real estate development.'
Workspaces with rows of desks will become completely redundant, not because they are not fit for purpose, but simply because that purpose no longer exists, according to the report.
'The next fifteen years will see a revolution in how we work, and a corresponding revolution will necessarily take place on how we plan and think about workplaces,' said Peter Andrew, Director of Workplace Strategy for CBRE Asia Pacific. - DailyMail

Imagine that: 50% of the jobs that people do today will no loner be guaranteed. The hope is that the workplace and/or economy will evolve and start providing jobs for all the people who will now be homeless because a robot took their job.

Robots taking over the workplace may be inevitable, but we can change the way in which it is done as well as the impact of this on the lives of people (and the entire planet for that matter). Will millions of people become unemployed? Will the robots work only for the rich while everyone else is left to fend for themselves.

We have the power and potential to use the tools that we create, like robots, to improve life for everyone without taking away anyone's livelihood. There are many different ways in which this could be done, many different proposals that can be tweaked and fine tuned until they work to the benefit of all life on earth. We have this within our reach, and yet we continue to grab at straws, believing that somehow a solution has appeared.

I am stopping here for now, short and sweet for tonight.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Day 638: Imposter!

We are all imposters to some degree. Survival in this world essentially requires that we pretend to be someone we're not - and not only one someone - we have to be a different someone to suit different people and occasions. It's really no wonder that everyone is looking for themselves, we're all lost under the rubble of our own bullshit.

Can you honestly say that you are always yourself, 100 % of the time? Can you honestly say that you have never changed your stated opinion to suit the moment (ie to fit in)? Can you honestly say that you have never held yourself back for fear of humiliation or ridicule? Can you honestly say that you have never felt the need to adjust your appearance or personality to suit the career, goal, partner or social status you aspire toward?

Who are you with your family?

Who are you at work?

Who are you in school?

Who are you with your friends?

Who are you with your partner?

Who are you alone?

Who are you with an authority figure?

Who are you when you are in the position of authority?

Who are you in nature?

Who are you with animals?

Who are you on the internet?

Who are you when there's conflict?

Who are you with people you respect?

Are constant, or do you adapt to fit in? What are the reasons for you changing yourself? Do you do it because you see that as the best way to direct the situation or because of some fear within you? Do you change because you believe that you must be a certain way in order to fit in or get what you want? It's not about always being honest with everyone all the time - that is not what I am advocating. What I am opening is the consideration of investigating WHY you change - is it because you have made a clear and deliberate choice to do so, or because you are functioning according to some belief, fear, desire, ideas or whatever?

When you are in a moment where you know that your actions and words are not what you really want them to be, and the only reason you are being dishonest is because you're following some twisted, fuzzy logic about what you 'should do' or about what people will think of you if you say and act according to your true 'inner voice' - stop for a moment. Take some time later on in the day to really investigate why you believe you should speak and act in this way. Write about that moment, write out your specific thoughts and rationalisations (all the reasons you gave yourself for fitting in). Those thoughts will tell you much about the source of your insecurities etc. This simple exercise may surprise you - I dare you to give it a try.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Day 637: The Psychology of Self Deception

Sound familiar? Why do people respond with so much more interest and positivity when it's a psychologist talking about self responsibility, self honesty and reactions compared to when a destonian talks about it? It's so funny, but really not. It's funny how preconceived ideas will completely block someone's willingness to listen to a message. We see this in the history of humanity over and over but never seem to learn to get over our prejudices. It is the epitome of self sabotage - the legacy of humanity.

Now, on with the point of this post: what the hell does self deception even mean? Cortney Warren gives a number of examples in her Talk in the link above, although most of them are rather shallow. On the one hand, considering the state of mind of most people that's a smart move since most people wouldn't be able to comprehend much more than the most obvious and superficial of examples. So yes, while the Talk is a good starting point it is far (far, far, far, far, far......) from the full extent of self deception. Essentially self deception is the tendency of people to not see themselves or the world for what it/they is/are. It is the tendency of seeing things through different shades of colour, ranging from just a slight tint to a complete smudging and discolouration of reality.

So yes, you could use something like lying to yourself about how much you really ate as an example; but at some point you should challenge yourself to go deeper. Challenge yourself to be truly objective and to develop critical thinking - start looking at all the things you take for granted in your life, all the things you automatically assume to be true, right and unchangeable (your religious beliefs, cultural norms, your reoccurring thought patterns, common ways in which you react emotionally).

One of the biggest forms of self deception in our society is our absolute unwillingness to take responsibility for ourselves. Most people find it incredibly easy and even ideal to point fingers at everyone but themselves. This shows its face in all aspects of life: politics, relationships, family, work, religion, economics. Let's look at each of these points, I'll give an example for each:
  • Politics: I'm not responsible - the government is responsible! Here we feel content to abdicate our power to act in favour of grumbling and complaining about the ineptitude of our elected leaders.
  • Relationships: How many arguments have you had where you believed that your partner is the only one at fault, that you are absolutely innocent and made no contribution whatsoever to the situation you find yourselves in...? 
  • Family: You blame your parents for how you turned out. It's not my fault that I don't know how to cook and clean - my parents did everything for me!
  • Work: Pinning your oversights on some poor unsuspecting colleague - and then convincing yourself that they were actually at fault all along.
  • Religion: God did it.
  • Economics: Those damn bankers and the stupid government that bailed them out. Completely avoiding considering that each and every one of us contributed to the current state of the economy. 
Even these examples are superficial, but Cortney gave some really good advice for when you're dealing with  reactions and developing your self awareness and self responsibility (and therefore self honesty): PAUSE. When you see yourself reacting, participating in specific thought patterns, being inconsistent (your thoughts, words and behaviour is all different) - PAUSE. Take a good look at yourself and choose to change.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Day 636: Critical Thinking: How to Think

This is a very timely discussion for the times we're in - our education system is only good for pumping out robots designed to complete menial and repetitive tasks. It is becoming more and more evident that we need to redesign the way we educate. The evidence of this is all around, most easily seen within the common inability in people to think independently and rationally. The style of our education system stays with us for our entire lives if we do not take the initiative to change ourselves. Something as simple as not being willing to consider something as valid if it is not in line with our opinions can be said to be at least partially caused by how we are taught to accept what we are told unquestioningly as the truth. When we are told different things by different sources whom we respect equally then we will simply choose the one that suits our beliefs best.

So along with unquestioningly accepting things as truth (this generally happens when we are dealing with an authority figure, or a person who we respect), we tend to not look into the things we believe all that much. When I say 'believe', I am not limiting the meaning of the word to religious or spiritual beliefs but am including opinions and world views. So we are pretty content to remain blissfully ignorant and 'follow the leader' (our leaders are all the people who have influenced us: political figures, scientific figures, family, friends, actors, musicians, etc). We are not this way by accident - we were shaped to be this way.

Luckily, more and more people are breaking free of their chains of ignorance and starting to question the way we live and teach. In the video linked above, Jesse Richardson discusses the nature and benefits of starting to think outside the box, outside our comfort zones. He discusses 2 elements that are woefully lacking in our education system: creative thinking (design and innovation) and critical thinking (thinking logically, objectively and rationally). A very valid point he makes is that it's OK to let go of the ideas that you previously felt you needed to defend to the death - it is actually liberating to let go of all the things you believed must be true and start to question what is actually true and how does the world actually work. A funny thing about critical thinking that Jesse also describes is that it tends to lead to self awareness where you start looking at how you got to the conclusion that you're at and consider whether it is actually valid or an assumption or belief.

He asks another pertinent question towards the end of his Talk: Shouldn't we apply the same vigour, effort and attention to education as we do to marketing? Imagine what a difference it would make if we put as much of our skills and resources into education as we do into the industries that have profit as their main focus and goal. Imagine if we were as excited about creating a rich educational system for our children as we are about making lots of money. Each and every person deserves to be shown how to think critically and investigate things thoroughly without preconceived ideas and notions. Our education system is designed for the opposite: comply or face punishment and exclusion. Imagine if it was changed from being the 'carrot or the stick' to being an informative adventure for a child that they look forward to and do not require outside motivation to do. This is entirely possible - some people are already implementing these principles with great success - not to mention the personal fulfillment and satisfaction that stands to be attained by both students and adults.

As a last note I'd like to include the link to the logical fallacy website that Jesse mentions in the Talk that is a very useful source to have printed out or bookmarked for yourself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Day 635: Feeding the Homeless is Illegal

(CNN) -- Arnold Abbott handed out four plates of food to homeless people in a South Florida park. Then police stopped the 90-year-old from serving up another bite.
"An officer said, 'Drop that plate right now -- like I had a weapon,'" Abbott said.
Abbott and two pastors in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were charged for feeding the homeless in public on Sunday, the city's first crackdowns under a new ordinance banning public food sharing, CNN affiliate WPLG reported.
Now they face possible jail time and a $500 fine, WPLG said.
Despite some criticism from homeless advocates, city officials have vowed the new rules will be enforced.
"Just because of media attention we don't stop enforcing the law. We enforce the laws here in Fort Lauderdale," Mayor Jack Seiler told WPLG.
He defended the law in an interview with the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.
"I'm not satisfied with having a cycle of homeless in the city of Fort Lauderdale," Seiler said. "Providing them with a meal and keeping them in that cycle on the street is not productive."
But Abbott, who has been helping feed homeless people in the area through his Love Thy Neighbor nonprofit since 1991, said authorities are targeting the city's most vulnerable residents.
"These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing. They don't have a roof over their head," he said. "Who can turn them away?"
Recently, the city has also passed an ordinance limiting the storage of personal property in public, WPLG said. Then came the restrictions for food sharing.
"The city passed an ordinance requiring us to have a Porta-Potty. It's ridiculous. The whole thing was designed to rid Fort Lauderdale of its homeless," Abbott said. "Police told me anyone who touches a pan ... anyone who is involved, will be arrested."

Somehow this is being justified. Somehow people believe that doing this is good and right. You have to look at life in a very narrow light to be able to stand by this kind of opinion - meaning that you do not consider other people the same way in which you would consider yourself if it was you in their position.

When you're looking at the world in only a certain light you're going to miss out on all the different views and perspectives that would otherwise give you a comprehensive point of view. In the story above, people are wanting to drive out homeless people because they are a 'nuisance' and are not 'aesthetically pleasing' to the eye. The logic is that if you stop allowing people to support the homeless with food and prevent the homeless from building their homes on the streets that they will go away - as if that actually solves the problem. Obviously the reasoning is counter intuitive and actually just heightens the problem for those people who are homeless.

Now I 'm not saying that all homeless people are saints and that they had no hand in where they ended up - in fact I'd like to stay away from generalizations as much as possible and use them only when necessary. How someone got to where they are is not the issue - what is the issue is that there is no support structure in our society to support those who have gone through difficult times - whatever they may have been.

Now things are changing - the scale of the change is as yet undetermined - but the fact that the behaviour described in the story above is allowed at all is a daunting one. It is becoming more socially accepted in some areas to deliberately ignore and even quash the rights of those people who are less privileged - thereby setting the mandate that money determines not only the nature and quality of your life, but also your position and value in society.

This stems from the unwillingness to regard another person who falls under a particular category in your mind as equal to you - it is a form of discrimination that can eventually evolve to the extent that the discrimination against the jews went in WW2. All of this comes from ideas and beliefs that you allow within yourself, that you allow to dictate your actions and words. The solution, of course, is to let go and embrace a flexibility within your life and yourself where you are willing to investigate all things and do not simply cling to what you know.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Day 634: Many Voices, One Song

Originally from Kommetjie in the Western Cape, singer songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou has made her way onto TEDx and pretty much broke the internet with her mesmerising live performance. The South African has taken her craft to the streets of Berlin where she performs for the public in Germany’s libertarian capital.
Not only does Alice deliver hauntingly beautiful songs, many of which she has written herself, but she also comes across having a beautiful world view that is conveyed here in her TEDx talk. This approach is apparent in the statement “I see pop stars with so much fame, so much power; yet they use it only to advance themselves. I want to be different, I want to stay pure” and it seems that is just what she is doing. - Dont Party

Imagine if celebrities were more like Alice. Imagine if celebrities used their positions to promote solutions to the problems in the world. Imagine if celebrities honoured their roles as examples and lived with integrity and honesty. Imagine if celebrities made music or movies about things that actually matter.

The third and final song that Alice performs in the video in the link above is a rare example of a song not about sex or love (when you look at it closely, songs about love are really about sex). This is the music I would want my child to listen to - not the popular pop music hypersexualising the youth and zoning the attention of the population on frivolities and ideas that enslave us instead of setting us free.

All too often songs like these are used as a banner instead of as an example or creed to live by. What I mean by this is that people walk around telling everyone else how they love and support the song and the message, but in truth the only actions they take are "token gestures" - nothing truly substantial according to what is actually required to make a real change.

I'm not going to harp on about how wrong everything is and how people are not making the difference they think they are. I want to rather focus on how we can harness our own potential and the potential we see within each other to let go of the ideas that are connected to things like music, fashion, relationships that keep us cycling around in superficial and unproductive patterns. For example: letting go of the ideas about sexuality and relationships that has been created and perpetuated by the music and movies/TV industry that warps so many peoples' views of what sexuality and relationships should be like, to the point where people find it incredibly difficult to be fulfilled simply because they have unrealistic expectations for their lives.

Something that could be done is create music and other media like TV shows that illustrate the real things that happen in real life and how to effectively move through those things without causing yourself more misery or harm. Imagine if TV shows actually taught people how to communicate openly with each other and work through common issues like a difference of vocabulary or breaking out of reaction cycles to create a platform for solutions. Imagine if songs were about overcoming difficulties in life, or reminding people about principles that contribute to creating a life that everyone can enjoy.

Imagine if principles like compassion, understanding, communication, groundedness, integrity, honesty - were promoted instead of beauty, competition, aggression, emotional outbursts, suppression, judgement... Do you think that teenagers would still rebel against their families if the entire family structure was built on openness and communication?

We have the capacity, creativity and innovation to build a society that is kind, compassionate, caring and worthy of the gift of life that we have been given. More and more people are standing up and questioning why we live this way, why we allow the abuse of life, greed, envy, cruelty - it is time to stop complaining and start taking action. It is time to start making a stand for a better world, to use our voices. One voice may not carry far, but hundreds, thousands or millions will resonate across the planet.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Day 633: Losing Track of Yourself

In this last week I have been unable to write my blog every day for a number of reasons. What is interesting is how difficult something like this becomes to pick it up again. The same can be said for waking up a bit later for a few mornings and then going back to waking up earlier. It seems like once you break your routine, or flow, it becomes more difficult picking it up again than it was in the very beginning.

This happens to many people - it's probably happened to you at least once in your life where something that came as easily as breathing turns into a big bad negative experience as soon as you break your routine. All of a sudden you start having all sorts of thoughts explaining exactly why you can't, or don't have to, do this thing you used to do so well and freely. It can be so easy to listen to those thoughts, to give them validity and drift away into complacent justification.

In those moments that you give credence to these thoughts you lose a little bit of yourself, you lose your will and your power to direct your life. You don't lose it for good - it's more like you lock it away in a little box and throw the key away - you can still open the box, but it will take more then the turn of a key. It now is that much harder to get that piece of yourself back, so most of the time you hang onto those thoughts telling you that what you're doing is OK, that you're still the same you you were before, you've just made different choices. In truth, the only choice you made was to believe your thoughts that were telling you why you didn't have to follow through with your previous choices.

After all this you create some very good reasons for how you got to where you are now, but there's a little nagging feeling inside you that is telling you that you're not being honest with yourself, that by allowing yourself to fall under the spell of thoughts and justifications, you are diminishing yourself and gradually becoming less than what you once were.

The question is: what would you do if those thoughts were no longer there? How much easier would it be to pick something up again after pausing for a moment (whatever the reason may be)? Is it the thoughts making you believe that it is so much more difficult to start again? How would you feel and act without the thoughts? Would there still be a hesitation if you perceived the task ahead of you to be mandatory, unavoidable and important?

So what's the difference between apparent "freedom of choice" and necessity that makes some things easier to do than others? Should the choice to justify inaction or avoidance be called freedom of choice in that you are choosing to avoid your responsibilities - to yourself and to any other person or being involved? What good is freedom of choice when so few have the self discipline to actually follow through on (especially difficult) choices and commitments.

This discussion can be applied to all areas of life: diet, relationships, family, work, play, hobbies, etc. The moral of the story is this: There are many things in life that we make more difficult than they actually are, so many things that we could be doing and so many ways in which we could be growing - but we allow something as small and incorporeal as a thought to dictate what we will and will not do, all the while telling ourselves that there's a good reason.