0383 – review your principles regularly

TLDR:

  1. I want to minimize unnecessary fear, uncertainty and doubt
  2. I want to never feel sorry for myself
  3. I want the freedom to be spontaneous
  4. I want people to feel safe around me; that with me they can be themselves
  5. I want to work on interesting problems (follow my curiosity)

I’ve been reading Ray Dalio’s Principles and I’ve been finding them to be quite therapeutic. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s just knowing that it’s written by a person who I can respect and admire, and it’s written not to be performative but as a manual for others to succeed as well. It’s rigorous, clear, systematic.

Let me quickly try to recite it as much as I can from memory. It starts with values. What do I care about, what do I really, really want? Because if I don’t know what I really want, and I don’t make that clear, then when I’m confronted with difficult decisions I’m going to pick the easy way out. I mean, who really wants to wake up early in the morning when they didn’t get to sleep early? Who wants to drag themselves out to put themselves through a gruelling workout if their body hasn’t yet gotten conditioned to get pleasure out of the process?

And yet I know it’s really easy to just verbalize a bunch of things and call them values. Everybody values a whole bunch of things, don’t they? Or we claim to. I was turned off by this in school, and in the military, when there were a whole bunch of “core values”. Leadership, responsibility, honesty, integrity, all of those grand sounding lofty words that end up seeming like vague placeholders. I think that’s a shame, on hindsight. Values should be precious, they should be respected and fought for. And an individual who’s looking to develop values should start with something that’s honest and true, and something that she truly, truly believes in.

And that’s hard. It’s especially hard to decide to prioritize something over everything else. When push comes to shove I’m not sure what I value. If you put a gun to my head I think I might say something like, honestly, I value feeling safe and comfortable. If I look at my own history and past, that’s what I like… but doesn’t everybody? The thing is we live in a messy, complicated and difficult reality. A cruel reality that doesn’t owe us anything. So it’s difficult if not impossible to preserve a safe space for ourselves while remaining in that safe space. Safe spaces are created by fighting to enforce boundaries, to have a powerful membrane that keeps out the bad stuff and lets in the good. I value having a home that I feel at home in. And yet I haven’t gotten around to fully customizing it to suit my needs and interests. So do I really value it, or do I not? [1]

I suppose… given the harrowing, frustrating experiences I’ve had over the past few years, and the years before that, I want to say that I would really value the freedom to escape from it all. And I don’t mean by sticking my head in the ground and pretending it goes away– I’ve tried that, and that’s never been a sustainable solution. No, I want to escape my fears and anxieties by confronting them head on and destroying them.

So I guess I must value confrontation. I must value learning and growth. I say must not to mean “I am obligated to”, but to mean “it is clear to me that to live a happy life I have no other choice, and the alternatives are becoming increasingly undesirable to me”. I no longer want to ever languish in doubt and uncertainty. I don’t ever want to feel sorry for myself again. I imagine I might, but I want that to be contained and effectively managed. I want to create for myself a stable foundation so that I can be violent and creative in my art, in my writing, in my expression.

I want to earn the freedom to be spontaneous. And the spontaneity I’ve been experiencing so far has been somewhat hollow and false. I’ve been playing in the dark playground. What I really want is to experience flow and to feel like I’ve earned my keep, like I’ve earned the right to do whatever it is that I feel like impulsively doing. But even before that I want to temper and steel myself so that when I do have impulses that rise to my attention, these impulses are pre-selected by my subconscious to be in service of things that I care about.

I don’t want to impulsively be harsh or negative towards people. I want to be kind and loving and gentle and compassionate. I want people to feel safe and comfortable around me, that with me they can be themselves. Yes, I think that is what I really, really want. I want people to be able to be truly honest with me.

And I want to work on interesting problems. Am I suggesting that the problems I have in front of me right now are not interesting? That’s not true. Anything is interesting if you examine it closely enough. So my problem is that I have been evaluating the problems in front of me with my stomach, with my amygdala maybe. I associate it with pain and discomfort. It churns my stomach, makes me feel uncomfortable, and it’s easier to avoid it. What I need to do is to enlist my head, my prefrontal cortex [2] and bring the problem into full awareness. Under the light of conscious attention, the fog of war WILL dissipate and I will be able to unscramble my problems and solve the puzzles. And then it’ll feel good. It’ll be like being able to do calculus or trigonometry, after first being unable to. And that will be some great progress.

I value growth. I value progress. I value being a bigger man today than I was yesterday– not just because of all the perks, but because it gives me the freedom and opportunity to help and support others. And because it plain feels good. The good feelings I’ve had so far are minute, stolen. It can be better than this.

And I value the idea of being able to keep to my word. I’m still not on the ball 100% of the time, but I think I’m getting better.

_____

[1] When I’m down, I’d be inclined to say, well, I guess I don’t value anything at all. I’m not down right now, so I think I can say… I do value the things that I repeatedly say that I value. I just haven’t learned to properly fight for them yet. I haven’t learned to do them justice. But I intend to. Of course, as usual, talk is cheap. But me writing these vomits is one of the things that I’m committing to. This is the 8th day in a row that I’m writing and publishing a word vomit, and I want to do 49 days in a row to prove to myself that I can do it.

[2] All of this is psuedoscience, I know, but it sorta works for me and I’m not pretending to be any kind of expert here. I’m just saying what I need to say to keep myself going.

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