0400 – stop hoarding truth in boxes

As I woke up this morning and lounged in bed for a while, before going to the toilet and reading a book (currently re-reading: Power of Habit), I found myself thinking an old thought– if so many self-help books are sold every day, why aren’t more people effective and functional? Why aren’t more people doing great things? And I thought about what I wrote yesterday– truth [1] in boxes. Good books are boxes of truth. Most people don’t read them. Of those who read them, most don’t really dig into the truths. And of those that dig into the truths, most never take it out of the box. We tend to just open them up and sniff the truthfulness, nod our heads and stroke our chins and then put the truth back in the box, and put the box away– on our bookshelves, in our journals and blogs, what-have-you. It feels good to have come close to truth at some point, to have interacted with it, and then we go home, feeling good about ourselves but ultimately not changing very much. To use a dating analogy– it’s like going out to meet people, talking to them, maybe getting a number, maybe getting a kiss, but then going home and never pursuing it any further than that.

That’s fine. It’s possible to live our entire lives like that, that’s an okay life. But I notice that when I’m not really paying attention, I tend to be on a sort of background quest to collect truths in boxes. I’m a truth-box hoarder, maybe. I have bookshelves filled with books that I know have truths in them that I ought to carry with me all the time. I put it away, maybe. And I have thoughts and memories and experiences that are full of truths. But they’re al boxed up. There’s a huge collection of boxes, some of them labelled, some of them not, some of them with high-quality good stuff in them, some of them with duds. And it’s probably possible to spend a lifetime sorting and cataloguing and organizing these boxes, and there’s probably a lot of demand for that sort of thing as a service– and I think people are doing that. But if I’m really honest with myself, I don’t think that’s what I actually want to do– is it?

I think… Some amount of box-sorting might be necessary or useful, but I don’t think it should be an end in itself. (This is assuming the goal is to lead a happy, truthful life without stress and anxiety, which is what I want.) There are a bunch of truths and insights locked up in a bunch of boxes, and they’re probably all connected. But what I really need to do is to increase the amount of truth that I internalize. [2]

How do I do that? It’s clear that accumulating more boxes of truth doesn’t actually do very much to increase the amount of internalized truth. Truth gets internalized through rigorous practice. How does rigorous practice happen? First it requires a stated commitment, yes. Then it also requires environment redesign. It requires frequent cues. It requires preparing for failure. For it it almost feels like I have to “baby-proof” my life to accomodate something that I’m trying to internalize.

I’ve found that having a calendar and boxes to check off on my fridge have kept me doing my word vomits daily. I’ve found that having a personal wager with a colleague about daily updates has kept me solidly on the wagon for the past month or so.

I’m thinking right now that it’s frustrating to be repeating this stuff– yes repetition is necessary for learning but at the same time, it can get a bit annoying when you’ve done something several times without succeeding, and then it feels like you’re trying to do the same thing again. Something needs to be different.

I think I need to practice meditation. Meditation is a loaded word… I think I need to make time to sit and breathe deeply and allow myself to feel calm, so that I can then make it a habit to identify the most compelling or important truth-boxes and open them and really breathe them in, take them out and run around with them so I can really internalize them. I mean, it’s not like I don’t know what needs to happen, do I? I lose sight of it in the constant fog. So I need to constantly get out of the fog so I can see more clearly. And that requires me to breathe deep (something about having lots of oxygen to the brain, maybe, I don’t know the details– all I know is that it seems to work and I should do it more.) Why don’t I do it more? I suppose because it feels silly. How shall I keep track of it? The calendar works for my vomits, it should work for my breathing exercises, too. And I should tie the two together– so I don’t cross out the calendar until I’ve written the vomit for the day AND done my meditation practice shortly after.

I hope that works, I want it to work. Also I should write down some bits from “What I Want” in my wallet. It’s just a thing I’ve felt like I should do.

As expected, vomit #400 isn’t nearly as amazing as I wish milestones were. But it’s a milestone nevertheless. And I will keep going.


[1] I realize that “truth” is a broad, vague term. In this context I’m probably talking about insights– about statements that ring true about how the world works, about how our minds work, about what is optimal, what is good.

[2] Again, this is with the assumption that internalized truths lead to better outcomes, which I think is a fair assumption. I think I have quite a bit of experience that validates this– that when I act in accordance with things I know to be true (I’m thinking about the boring basic stuff here– eat healthy, sleep early, drink lots of water, no zero days, what gets measured gets managed), I have better outcomes. And the most simple, unvarnished goal is to simply live a life with better outcomes.

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