0538 – evaluate (and do not tolerate) your problems

(started 4 oct 2015)

In an earlier vomit, I mentioned that I already pretty much know what all my problems are and I know what to do about them. But when I look back over my life, the reality of it is that I don’t always do what I need to do. So there’s an incongruence there.

If I know what to do, and I’m not doing it, do I really know what to do? What are the things that stop a person from doing what they need to do? When I’m down, I tend to question myself and my motivations, and suspect that I’m a fraud. When I’m up, I know that this isn’t true– I know in my bones that I do really care about things.

So, if I do really know that I do really care about things (that is, the feeling is real), then there’s still a gap between the feeling and the action. The main thing that’s kind of hard to acknowledge and admit is that the conscious mind might not have much to do with it.

A couple of vomits ago I wrote about how insects fly into flames, and humans stay in destructive relationships or stick to habits that are destructive. The reasons are probably similar– in both cases, we’re probably following an internal logic or an internal set of instructions that might have worked for us in some way before. Whatever the case. It’s a bug, and the conscious mind isn’t very good at dealing with bugs that might be operating below the level of consciousness. I know i’m being iffy about the precise neuroscience, but that seems to be roughly what’s going on.

This is basically the central challenge or conflict of my life. Growing up. Killing the person I used to be in order to become the person I want to be right now. Definitely a very repeated motif. I think I’ve made some progress, and I think there’s some truth to the idea that when you want to progress to a new state, there’s a period of time that there will be relapses into the old state– often multiple relapses– and you have to integrate that into your developmental process. I think I’m doing okay. But I also think I can be doing better, and I want to do better.

Okay. Lots of repetition going on here. But what is it that I wanted to get at?

I wanted to go through the common causes and frustrations that I experience when trying to make this transition, and figure out what I need to do or say or think in order to get through it faster. The challenge is not to never fall, but to be able to bounce back from falling as quickly as possible.

I listed 4 possible problems, and maybe there are more.

1. I’m tired.
2. I’m weak.
3. I’m scared.
4. I don’t know how.

I suppose they should map quite nicely onto the procrastination equation– value, expectancy, impulsiveness, delay. Huh. I guess I’m tired and I’m weak are similar. And I didn’t account for delay or value. Let’s start over.

I don’t really care, I don’t really think I can do it (weak, scared), It doesn’t really feel urgent, and I’m distracted (tired?).

The meta-challenge for me has been that I understand these things intellectually but I still haven’t fully internalized them into my day-to-day functioning. A simple idea is this– if a task isn’t made very precise, it doesn’t get done. I constantly postpone this.

(continued 9 feb 2016)

This still remains one of the core challenges in my life– perhaps THE core challenge. It also overlaps with something else I’ve been thinking about, which is my interface with the world. I was thinking about that in the context of the “greater world” – other people, big problems, opportunities, etc. But this is about my interface with the world that’s directly in front of my face. My problems. My responsibilities. How do I interface with these things? What is broken about this interface? How do I improve it?

The way to improve weakness is to do strength training. At the most basic level I’ve come to believe that physical exercise is key. I’ve been making progress on this over the past 3 months by lifting weights. That forces me to rest better, to eat more, and it also has taught me the very real belief that if I work at my limits, and then rest and recuperate, my limits expand and I can do more than I had done before. That’s something that’s easy to appreciate intellectually but intellectual appreciation is insufficient. You really need to KNOW it in your bones, know-by-doing.

Tiredness is resolved with rest. What stops me from resting? Why don’t I rest enough? I have this flawed sense that I haven’t done enough, and that I need to repent for my sins of ignorance and avoidance by working through my tiredness. But that is damaging– the work you do when tired is shoddy and requires double-work to fix. And it’s demoralizing and frustrating, and you’re prone to “injury”. Better to rest and start over fresh whenever possible. So this turns out to be a sort of moral problem, a failure of imagination or a misconception of the cause-and-effect relationships at the heart of it. If you’re tired, and you can afford to rest, you must rest. The question is, how do you know if you can really afford to rest? Well… unless you’re literally at war and people’s lives or livelihoods are on the line, rest is almost always a superior option. That should be the default setting. I suppose before that you also need to recognize when you’re tired, as opposed to pretending that it’s not the case, or just ignoring it. This requires constant, regular check-ins with yourself to pay attention to your state.

Then we’re left with fear and ignorance. How to do deal with fear? The fear never goes away. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s the crippling fear of catastrophic failure, and the fear of not getting it right. It’s okay to not get it right as long as you avoid catastrophic failure. And avoiding catastrophic failure is fairly easy– there are usually just a few basic things to watch out for. Writing these things down on paper makes them less scary than when they’re in the fog of the mind. When you’re afraid, write down the worst case scenario.

Ignorance? When you don’t know how to do something? We have Google these days.

My problems aren’t really problems.

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