0272 – let go of cheap validation, do hard things instead

It feels like I haven’t done a proper vomit in a few days. I did a version-one glossary of terms that I tend to use, and I’ve spent some time tagging my entire vomit base– which is 270 vomits. I still have 730 vomits to go.

I suppose I’ve been feeling rather lethargic and lazy. Why is that?

I’ve been bothered by my constant itch for external validation. I was reading something on one of those “how to become a man” type posts and it talked about how when you’re a kid, you want to impress your parents– you want to get love and validation for the things that you do. “Mommy, mommy, look what I did!” And I think that has been a driving factor for me for a very long time– for all my life, actually. I’ve been addicted to being called smart, being called clever, getting lots of likes and shares.

But I know intellectually that this is fundamentally vacuous, and that you can end up gaming it. You do whatever it takes to get likes and shares, instead of doing what you would really rather be doing.

What does “really rather be doing” mean? It’s all chemicals in the brain, after all, and it’s all varying degrees of validation. So I suppose “really rather be doing” is simply anything that helps with deep signalling. A single post that gets a bunch of likes and shares because it’s clever and witty isn’t nearly as fulfilling as building more fundamental skills… am I entering a pointless rabbithole here?

I want to be happy. And I feel like the things I’ve been doing to pursue happiness have been rather limited and superficial. I spend a lot of time in the dark playground and in mixed feelings park, when really I want to experience flow, and I want to be in the good playground. I want to be deeply valuable to people, I want to improve people’s lives. I want to be a good friend who is deeply helpful. I’ve spent a long time away from all my friends, from all the people I cared about or thought I cared about. I miss a lot of them right now, although it’s entirely possible (and likely!) that if I get into my old routines, I will get annoyed and frustrated with myself all over again by distracting myself from the things that I want to do.

So what DO I want to do? I want to be financially independent. I want to cook. I want to be fit. I want to be healthy. I want to sleep well. I want to be at the cutting edge of interesting things, I want to be a part of dragging the future into the present. Yes.

What’s stopping me? Why do I not feel like “today was a good day”? Because I avoid the biggest and most difficult tasks ahead of me and focus on doing petty busywork instead. Okay. What do I need to do to make progress on the difficult tasks? I need to break them down, answer the questions of why I’ve been avoiding them, and then just freaking do it. There’s more…

I was reading Dale Carnegie’s how to win friends and he wrote about the importance of giving people what they want– if you want somebody to do something for you, you can’t be all about your needs– you have to show them how you’re helping THEM. How THEY are going to benefit, why THEY are awesome.

How does this apply to self-talk? How does this apply to dealing with your own akrasia and procrastination? I think another recurring thought/thread for me is this idea that I keep bashing against the same hard part of the brick wall, when really I should be hitting at the softer bricks. The hard part of the brick wall in this case is the language and self-talk that I’ve inherited– that I just need to be less lazy, that I’m such a lazy person who needs to wake up… but clearly that isn’t working, so clearly I need an alternate approach.

What is this alternate approach that I’ve been avoiding? What do I want, deeply, and how do I align my language and thoughts and structures and actions so that I feel more compelled to do the things that I know I should do but I have been avoiding? It might be about value. Maybe I’m not sufficiently modelling the end-state that I will achieve by doing that. The happiness I will feel at having done it, how proud I will be. How satisfied.

Okay. Why do I keep looking for things outside of work, outside of the projects that I’ve committed myself to? That’s an easy one– because the work I have ahead of me is hard, and my natural inclination– or my conditioned inclination– is try to avoid doing hard things. I need to change that. So this is me realizing that the solution is to walk right into the fear, to go right into doing the thing that I’m avoiding doing because I’m scared. Let’s do scary hard things everyday. Maybe if I use that language things will be better. Every day I need to do a scary hard thing. I know that scary hard things are worth doing. I loved having done standup comedy, I love having given a lecture to a bunch of University students, and I love having cooked chicken. I enjoy the fact that I walked 10km with my wife a few nights ago.

So I suppose all in all I should try and change my inclination from liking validation– getting likes and shares for doing things that come easy to me– to feeling really good when I do something that’s a little bit difficult, a little bit scary. That’s also a kind of validation, but it’s a better kind of validation because it’s tied to me leaving my comfort zone. And all personal growth happens outside the comfort zone. And as long as I’m growing and learning, I can’t be sitting around getting anxious and frustrated with myself for wasting my life.

I think that works. I think that’s good enough for now. I think it’s time to get to work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *