0419 – identify and overcome your intrinsic weaknesses

“What intrinsic weaknesses do I have, and how do I overcome them?”

Aw, man. One of those questions I don’t really feel comfortable answering, because I’m aware of how I’m repeatedly wrong about my own assessments of myself, and about what I think needs to happen next. At the same time, I realize that I have to make an attempt anyway, because progress and growth won’t happen by itself. So with the caveat that I’m probably wrong to a degree I do not realize, let’s try an crack open this question.

My first and biggest weakness is… what? I guess it would have to be something systemic that is keeping me from doing things that I know I want to do, from becoming the person that I know that I want to become. What is that? I’m tempted to say inertia, but that’s not a personal weakness nearly as much as it is a ‘force of nature’. My response to inertia? The way I approach things? The way I think about things? The way I deal with circumstances?

Should I just list a bunch of failings and then see which seems to be the worst? Could they be reduced to “list of bad habits” and “list of missing good habits”?

I’m still learning to be responsible and accountable. To do what I say I will do, or want to do. I still underestimate how much time it takes to do something, and I overestimate my own ability to do things. I think if I could make progress on these two fronts, I would make substantial progress.

I still underestimate how much gets done in little daily chunks, and overestimate how much gets done in ‘hackathon’-style intense sprints. These two biases hinder my progress. Is this the biggest weakness?

A part of me feels like I could make progress on all of these fronts by meditating more. By sitting quietly and allowing myself to bring all of these obvious-on-hindsight truths into my immediate field of vision. Is this true, though? I don’t know for sure, but it seems like there’s a lot of literature suggesting that this is the case.

In general I seem overly anxious and jittery. I need to be a lot calmer, to take things on one at a time. I don’t do this as much as I should, because my anxious jitteriness tends to be my default state. That’s bad. Anxious jitteriness makes me do lots of little things, keeps me busy and worried without actually making a lot of progress on things that need progressing-on.

For instance, right now I’m writing this word vomit while I’m on a bus, and I know that when I get home what I should do is meditate for a while, maybe shower, and then figure out the most important things I can do to prepare for work tomorrow. I already sort of know what they are. But history tells me that I rarely do this. I put things off until the last minute, by which it’s too late for me to make any real progress, and then I have to start manufacturing excuses and explanations for why I haven’t made as much progress as I want to. And I hate that, it feels like deception. It IS deception. I’m deceiving myself above anybody else, and by doing that I make deception a part of my existence, a part of my practice. And I hate that. It’s like… once you start lying, or breaking the law, then you have to be constantly worried about maintaining your lies and you have to be extremely wary of law enforcement. And I’m not detail-oriented enough to maintain that sort of facade. So the only way I can really live is to be brutally honest.

Maybe that’s my weakness. I’m not sufficiently honest with myself about things. I get afraid, and I start running all these shitty subroutines and patterns that really have no business taking up any space in my head. Precious neurons utterly wasted. I mean, if I can talk about the importance of daily work and practice, then I can reasonably say that I do understand it– at least in principle. But that’s a Boxed-up Truth– something I hide away, only taking a whiff of it from time to time out of academic curiosity, and trotting it out once in a while to demonstrate that I do understand what is right, good, important. But Boxed-up Truths are suffocated in their boxes– the challenge is to allow them free reign into our lives. When we do that, though, our lives change, and change is always uncomfortable.

Maybe my weakness is that I’m still a bit childish with regards to discomfort. I still play it too ‘safe’ in many respects. If I was more willing to be honest with myself about uncomfortable things, and willing to lean into and go through the discomfort, and do the hard work that needs to be done, every single day, then I would be vastly better off in every imaginable sense. I’m not doing it because I’m still attached to some sort of feeble hope that problems will go away if you ignore them. Intellectually I know this to be true. In action, in practice, I still haven’t fully internalized this.

I think “my biggest weakness” is to be found somewhere in this space of what I’ve described. I don’t face my fears, I don’t walk into my discomfort. I’m dishonest with myself about what needs to be done, and so I have an escapist attitude towards things and I pretend that I’ll be able to do more tomorrow, that I’ll be in a better state of mind tomorrow. The only way to overcome it is to do hard, messy, ugly things, over and over again. To take a deep breath and just dive into the water. To touch the icky creepy crawly. To head into the gym despite feeling weak and embarrassed. To put on the socks and shoes and lace them up and put one foot in front of the other, over and over again.

My weakness is that I don’t do that. The way to overcome it is to do it. The obstacle is the way. The pain IS the point. The anxiety and jitteriness are symptoms of the disease, the disease (dis-ease) is wishful thinking, delays, fear. And saying all of this is relatively trivial. What matters is that when I get home, I do the stuff. And I should be measuring more precisely whether or not I’m doing the stuff– because if I’m not, then we’re not making progress. Well then.

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