On a day-to-day level I’m afraid of getting caught and scolded for doing bad things, or for not doing the things that I promised I would do. Rationally, this fear should translate into me doing the things. But in practice, this isn’t the case. I have a sort of deer-in-headlights problem, where subconsciously I deal with this fear by handwaving and rationalising and talking and doing anything apart from doing the thing. Even last minute panic doesn’t always give me the mind-focusing clarity that some others say it does.
I saw a comic once: “procrastination: browsing imgur stressfully”. It’s a funny thing that people can relate to, and it’s funny because it doesn’t make sense logically. If you’re stressed because of your deadlines, you should stop whatever you’re doing and work on whatever the deadline is. I find myself grasping at some primitive ideas – the passive, prey-creature’s response to danger is to freeze, hide, play dead and hope that the predator goes away. The transition from prey to predator is a difficult one for me. It’s actually remarkably hard to find people who have made the transition and then lived to speak about it. Most often, it seems, that if and when people do make the transition, they then start acting as if they were ‘predatory’ all along. And it makes sense – why talk about your former weakness, when you can talk instead about your current strength? It’ll be interesting to see, when I eventually transcend my present configuration, if I bother to reach back and lift other people up from my situation. It might be suboptimal, my new circumstances will probably change my mind and have me pushing forward towards something new. I don’t know, I don’t want to overthink it, we’ll see.
Let’s go back to the start. So I have this deep challenge of focusing on rewiring my brain at a very fundamental level, from prey to predator. How do you do that?
My hypothesis is – you start by eating smaller fish. That’s how it works in video games, right? The boss wrecks you, you lick your wounds and start beating up little baddies, get stronger, get more powerful, and eventually you become stronger than the boss and wreck him. It’s possible that all of this is in your mind, that you were stronger than the boss to begin with but you had limiting beliefs holding you down. But so be it.
Sometimes limiting beliefs can be sort of legitimate – if you’ve never achieved something before, it makes sense to avoid trying, because you have a history of failure and trying again is just going to lead to more pain. So you need to take another route. You need to attain intermediate states.
What’s the closest intermediate states that’s achievable? There’s always something that’s just slightly out of reach that’s actually achievable. That’s what I need to do. I’ve known this for a long time, written about it several times, the hard thing is keeping it at the forefront of my mind 24/7. Reiteration and repetition helps. Weekly reviews help. I also need to do daily reviews. And it looks like meditation is a part of the answer, exercise is a part of the answer, sleep is a part of the answer, diet is a part of the answer. I hesitate with all 4 of those things.
Meditation because it feels a little silly, and I’m irrationally afraid of looking silly, even if it’s just to myself. But I’ve tried it and I know it helps. And there’s a lot of literature about how it helps. I also know that diet definitely affects my state of mind. Sleep definite, DEFINITELY affects my state of mind. If I want to progress and summon the demon-god in everyday life and eventually slay the saboteur-prison-guard, I will have to meditate, sleep, exercise, eat well. The eggs everyday help. The salmon helps. The beef helps. Deep breathing helps. Cigarettes are a tool of the prison-guard. Fast food is a tool of the prison-guard.
Flipping the identity bit is one of the hardest things to flip. It’s the highest order bit, and theoretically it could be flipped through sheer force of will, but it seems that a bunch of other bits need to be flipped at the same time. Think back to the MVP pyramid… there’s identity, beliefs, habits, rituals, routines, behavior, thoughts, relationships, environment. They all work together in tandem. If I want to change any one of those things, it helps to change all the others.
Identity: Who do I really think I am? I’m a scared little boy who’s afraid of getting caught. Who worries he’ll never be able to fulfill all his obligations. Who’s a deer in headlights. Who needs to just get by. Who smokes cigarettes sometimes.
Beliefs: I do believe that things will take a turn for the better for me. And I certainly have made progress, and am making progress. But it does also feel like there’s something inhibiting this progress. And I think the biggest blocker there is – I still haven’t fully embraced that I, the person in the present moment, am responsible for getting me out of my current configuration into a superior one. When I was younger I used to think that some day a better version of me would take care of business. I am that better version of me. To get EVEN better, I’m going to have to work on me. I can’t continue to play the waiting game. I’ve waited long enough, the bad days have passed, the bad environments have been left behind. It’s just me, my home, my office, my commute, my colleagues, my social life (whether it exists or not, depending on MY actions), my personal projects (whether I define them or not, take action or not – it’s all UP TO ME. Present me, 2016 me, not 2020 me or some other hopefully better future me.)
Habits. I have several that I need to crush. I sleep late. There are a bunch of reasons why I do that, but the main lever I need to press in order to change that is that sleeping early is necessary to give me the clarity of mind I need in order to shape my life for the better. To ship the things I want to ship. I can and still will ship all the blogposts that I want to ship. I will cook again tonight. I will work out tonight. I will sleep early, and wake early tomorrow. And I will progressively reduce the amount of time I spend on stupid shit.