Some people tend to have an all or nothing mentality. Many end up with nothing. The good news for the person who struggles in this way is that if the tendency is to view things in an all or nothing way. That person can choose all and in this way can have everything life has to offer. The story of the prodigal son has three characters. The father who loves his sons. The prodigal who takes the money lives in excess. The third is the brother who never leaves. The prodigal has more pleasure and more pain than the brother. But he leaves seeking. The brother never seeks and because of this he doesn't find the same celebration as the prodigal. It is important to note, people who struggle don't lack self control. They are simply discontent with their situation. Is it better to be the prodigal or the brother, it depends. People see the grass greener on the other side. The reason I mention this is that if you see a person seeking, looking for pleaser in wealth, sex, drugs or anything else don't think that they are weak. Just wish them well as they seek. Many prodigals never make it back home. So don't judge people, don't label them addicts. The prodigal had to spend some time in the mud in order to come home and enjoy the celebration when he returned.
*I always try to remember that when people see drug addicts they tend to think, "how sad that person experiences such lows". The drug addict thinks back "how sad those people have don't get to experience any real highs." Is is better to burn out or fade way?
Very few people find themselves in avoidable situations by accident. We choose things.
This moring I walked to a crossfit workout, fasted and soar from my workout yesterday. i didn't want to go and seriously thought about not going. I did the work out it sucked and as soon as it was done I felt amazing and started looking forward to the next one. Then I walked to the ocean. I walked through the sand tired from my workout and then my feet touched the cold water. I didn't want to go in, with every step it was colder and worse until finally I jumped under the water. As soon as I was ubmurged in cold I felt great and lingered there for a while. The sun, the water the sky. Feeling like how could this moment be more perfect. I'm trying to teach myself to keep doing the things I don't want to do. This is me making myself accountable to the internet to keep making those little choices that pay off so much.
* Another day away from posting from my old writing. I am very much learning patience and it's paying off. This process involves self discipline but more importantly the understanding that I will never be "better off" just different. I give up who I am now for who I will become but this process never stops so there is no point in holding on also no point in trying to hurry it along. Things like intermittent fasting have taught me how to wait to eat but it has over flowed into the idea that is if I can wait to eat what can't I wait for.
I am very close to big things but I'm patient even with the setbacks as this gives me more time in this phase and that's ok because this is a good phase. Plus I see the trends and am playing the slow game. There is a big difference between being bored while you wait and using the waiting time to learn and grow as much as possible to prepare for what is coming. The setbacks just mean I'm not ready for the next phase yet and this isn't bad just information that there is more to do here, now. Life is a series of phases within phases within phases, forever fractal. With this perspective there is no way to speed it up or slow it down, just watch and learn.
For most of my life I was reactive. Life gave me situations and I responded to them. I knew that I didn't have control over very much so I was stuck. Since I had no control over people places or things I gave up on control and slipped into a powerlessness state, believing that somewhere there was a big guy in the sky throwing things at me and my job was to see if I could get out of the way fast enough, I reacted. I still have no power over people places or things but the one thing that my all or nothing thinking missed was my ability to control my subjective perception of people, places or things.
I can't change anything outside myself but I can decide whether to shut my eyes or put glasses on. If I shut my eyes everything is still there but I can't see it and if I put glasses on objects don't change my site does. I have a choice about how I see things. I have control over my own site. As this really started to sink in I soon changed from reacting to life to being proactive about life. Constantly changing my focus, choosing to shift my mind's eye toward positive things and shutting my eyes to the unnecessary. I can't make bad things go away but I can choose to not focus on them. I decide what I focus on.
This same concept holds true for things both physical and conceptual. I can't remove self pity from the world or from others but by focusing my attention on self worth myself pity becomes very small and insignificant. I can choose what to focus on and that choice makes me proactive because I decide how significant things are in my life. Now start to apply this proactive perspective concept to struggle. I can decide how big or small cravings are. I can decide what I really need and what I don't. I can choose to no longer do addictive things. I can shift my focus away from them making them so insignificant that there is no struggle. I can give things up and never pick them up again. That's right, never.
* As I read some of these old writings the thing that sticks out to me was how small my world seemed back then. I was in a small town in Indiana. The world seems so much bigger now, much more complex. I didn't go back to drinking but I will say that most of my relationships either deny that I ever really had a problem or wish I would start again. Working at the facility was a world where drinking was the thing we were all trying to avoid so much. On this grey morning I just have to remember how much our environment and location shape our perspectives. Some of these ideas when I read them seem ok but most seem simplistic and obvious, they just where new to me at the time. Either way I think it's been good for me to go back through them.
There are some things that we as people cannot change. We have limitations.
I don’t want to spend much time on this because I want to empower you to see that change can happen in your life. But what I want you to stop doing is trying to change things that you can’t and devote that energy to things that you can. Most importantly you cannot change other people. I cannot control you, I cannot make you agree with this , I cannot make you better, but you can. Realize that you cannot change anyone else and start working on changing yourself. Use these concepts on yourself, even though it is tempting to go around and accurately critique others, you can critique them but you can’t change them. Also, you cannot change the past or future.
Regret has a very specific function. It is a negative memory that exists in your brain to keep you from repeating the same thing that caused the regret in the first place. If you had no regret it would be difficult to learn from your mistakes because you would not be able to make the connection between the negative feeling and whatever actions cause it.
So if I write something foolish on this page and realize it I may think to myself. I regret writing that and that recognition will keep me from writing the same foolish thing on the next page. Regret is just information about your past that tells you what not to do in the present. Unfortunately, many people are plagued by constant regret. Anyone who is doing something now that they have regretted in the past is missing out on the simple idea that regret is information. These people start to hate their past which is where the regret is coming from. Then they start to hate the present where the action that is triggering the feeling of regret is coming from and then sure enough based on the past and present they start to have expectations about the future. They start to expect that regret will always be a part of their lives, that it is unavoidable like aging.
The good news is that once a person realizes that regret is just information to help us learn they can change the current behavior that is causing it. This is figuring out the riddle of regret. At this time the expectation that their future has to be filled regret goes away. The future opens up and starts to have possibility. This process of learning from regret has to be repeated over and over. Most of us don’t have just one regret so the process of learning from regret can’t happen just once but over and over until our regret list starts to get shorter and shorter.
* I look back at my life and try to remind myself to find that perfect balance between seeing regret as information to not repeat a mistake but not getting swallowed up by regret and having it hold me back. mastering controlled regret is a daily challenge.
Change requires a few things, one is that things not be the same. Simple enough You can't change if you stay the same. So we need a change in action but we are not looking for a temporary change. Struggle wants to convince you that if you just take a break from the struggle you can come back to it and it will be just like that first time. Well, that is not the change that I'm working toward. My change is action plus consistency. This means that real change only takes place when time is added to it. The more time in between you and the struggle the more changed you will be. This gives you something to look forward to because once you are free you look forward to every new day. Each day is a day when you are that much freer. I can't emphasize the consistency enough. You don't get to take a vacation from being trapped.
Think of struggle like a big fire breathing dragon that wants to kill you. You can never train it. Struggle never gets to be your pet that behaves itself and walks by your side. Many people try to keep their struggles around but under control. That is why consistent change is so powerful. Once you have mastered consistently living in freedom you never have to fear struggle again and that is what makes you free. That means you never get to go back to that old struggle. Not even on special occasions. But not even when I'm old and....no never. The good news is that if you truly do this right you won't struggle with that. It is good news, you will never be trapped again, that's what makes you free. Desiring something different does not equal change. It is doing something different that brings the change…the doing….the action. You must consciously do something different than you did before.
*I definitely remember trying to emphasize to myself that the changes I had done were not temporary. I have learned so much about the brain and how it changes over time as we change and learn. I now think of change much more from a brain perspective than back then. I still hold onto the idea that I can't get a different result in life by doing the same old thing. Now I make sure to cycle everything. Mix it up. Try new things, variations in your repeated routines.
I learned about motion in my high school physics class. I didn't pay much attention. Years later thinking back I was struck by how applicable the laws of motion are to the concept of change. What is in motion wants to remain in motion. This deals with momentum. When an object is moving one direction it has force behind it. It takes friction to oppose that force and slow it down. It takes an equal force to stop the object’s motion altogether and it takes an even greater force to change its direction I'm not into baseball but go with me. A baseball won’t move until it’s forced.
Someone has to throw it. Once it’s hurtling through the air wind resistance, or friction, will slow it down. Over time, with enough friction, the ball will stop and land on the ground. You could stop that ball faster if you aimed it at a wall. The force of the wall is at least equal to the momentum of the ball. The ball will hit the wall and drop to the ground. If the force is great enough, the ball might even bounce back a little. Now let’s say you want to change the ball’s direction. You want to hit it out of the park. You’re going to apply much greater force by swinging a bat at the ball. When that bat connects, it will drive the ball the opposite direction.
People are just like baseballs. For whatever reason we’re hurtling in one direction. Sometimes we’re flying down a certain path in life and nothing is slowing us down. Sometimes the friction of life is enough to slow us down. But if we want something different, we need a new force to stop our momentum and a much greater force to change our direction.
Let’s go to another example. If your car is rolling down a hill it has momentum behind it. It will take greater momentum to push the car back up the hill. One time my car stalled just as I crested a hill. My car immediately started rolling backwards down the hill because gravity was providing momentum. I jumped out of the car and yelled across the street for three guys to help me. They were able to push the car up the hill into the safety of a parking lot. They provided a greater force which changed the direction of my car.
Just like pushing my car up a hill, change can be hard. At the very least, all change requires a greater force to change than it does stay the same. if we can accept this concept we will stop daydreaming about how nice it would be if change was easy. We can understand that we cannot change direction without friction and that we need a greater force to make change.
* Fun for me to read this. I defiantly see how everything is trending certain ways. The older I get the more incremental the change. I know that if I try to do too much I've already plotted my own failure. I now try to chip away at things building up my margin. Playing the slow game. 37 has been a different perspective. There are so many things I told myself needed to happen by now in life but once certain years are gone they are gone, no going back. Less pressure. I took chances and tried to get the most out of the opportunities I had when I was younger. No one told me that failing was just learning. Playing the slow game. 50 doesn't seem that old anymore, 60. I'm definitely focused on health first but also enjoying the little routines of my life as I know now everything just keeps moving.
Chances are if you are reading this there is something about yourself that you want to change. All that means is that you are somehow discontent with your current situation. Don’t think that is a bad thing, I’m not saying whether your current situation is good or bad only that if you desire change it is because you believe your current situation is lacking in some way specifically it is lacking whatever you want your situation to change into.
If you want to lose five pounds that means you are discontent with your current weight and your current situation is lacking a skinnier you. If you want a raise that means that you are discontent with your current pay and your situation is lacking money. The path to happiness is often paved with discontentment. Recognizing that helps us to change so that we don't remain in discontentment.
*This seems a bit obvious but how many of us want to be happy not understanding the role of unhappiness in the process. It's all dualistic. I look back at times when I was younger and I didn't feel happy at the time but I look back on those moments as simpler happier times. It's the contrast, being happy sometimes happens not in the moment but after the moment ends. Discontentment is valuable information. It tells us what to change. Numb the discontentment with anything but change and it will only get louder.
Every conscious action that you do gives the rest of the world information about you. Every action the person next to you does tells you something about them. I’m not saying what is good or bad information. I just want you to understand that the conscious actions that you have justified to yourself tell others about who you are. We give people information about ourselves in two different ways. We tell other people about us with our words and we tell them about us with our actions. Sometimes we tell someone something with our words that goes directly against what we are telling them with our actions. At this point the other person is getting mixed messages and it is up to them to decide which information they will accept and which they will reject.
Action Reveals Priority
Talk is cheap, watch people. Subjective values are found in action only. If someone is holding a glass of water while they tell you "I would never hold a glass of water". It is safe to conclude that at that moment, in that circumstance the person subjectively valued water, regardless of what they tell you. The action revealed the priority. This was important because I instantly realized that I was a total hypocrite. Constantly I would say one thing and do another. While smoking I would say "I'm going to quit smoking". I did quit smoking years later but when I did I didn't have to tell anyone, they knew because I wasn't smoking anymore. Action reveals priority at that moment in those circumstances and has nothing to do with desires or intentions or morals. It simply tells you what the priority is every time without fail regardless and it doesn't ask for excuses.
This removed my ability to deceive myself. It also made it difficult for others to deceive me, because I never believe any ones words. The actions speak louder. Not a new concept but it had never really hit home. Instead of telling myself and others things a just owned it. The point is that everyone is showing what they subjectively value every minute of every day with their actions. So what is the most important thing in your life. Whatever you do, whatever takes up your time, energy and money. Economics is a democracy. Everyone votes with dollars. What did you vote for today? Is your priority what you tell yourself and others?
Opportunity cost- the cost of anything is every other option
Opportunity cost is a idea that can be difficult but if you understand it you may find that you have much more freedom than you thought. The price on a bottled water at the grocery store says $1.00, what does it cost? You will have to spend a dollar to purchase it but the real cost is anything else you could have spent your money on. I could start to list out other things you could have spent your money on but the list is infinite. So if you are trying to sell something you aren't just competing with whoever is selling the same thing as you. You are competing with any other option the person has.
This works when we're not talking about money, it works for everything including time. Anything you do with your time cost you anything else you could have done with it. Anyone that you are with cost you everyone else. I started thinking this way and was immediately disappointed. I felt like I had made bad choices, I had. The sooner you start thinking about opportunity cost the quicker you can start to own your life. When you chose something it is what you really what more than anything else. So it can make life brighter, every day can taste better. When I choose a band to listen to I feel good because I know that band is who I would rather listen to than any other band at that moment. I have been able to take ownership over my choices, ownership over my life. So at this moment there is nothing more important to me than trying to explain this to you. If you are reading it, thank you. I am honored to have this writing be more important than anything else you could have done at this moment.
*I am constantly thinking about this and the clock is always ticking. Clear goals are very important in this game of life.
Any conscious action that a person takes has to be justified. In other words, every time you act it is because you have given yourself good reason and permission to do so. Every time you make up your mind to do something, whether it is to read this or to eat your next meal, you convince yourself that it is ok to do that thing. In other words you use reason all the time weather you are conscious of it or not. If you want to do something but can’t convince yourself it is ok to do in your own mind you will not be able to do that thing no matter how hard you try.
I say conscious because if you accidentally hit someone with your car it was just that an accident and the person doing the hitting probably did not think it was ok to do it. This type of accident is very different from the person who says to them self that person just cut me off they deserve to be hit by a car and them proceeds to hit them. The second person justified hitting the person based on the action of being cut off.
The importance of the concept of justification is that whatever you are doing you have decided it is ok, ultimately you are responsible for that decision. In the example of hitting the person that cut you off you decided that because he cut you off he needed to be punished and that hitting him was a fair punishment and that you needed to be the one to carry out that punishment. Another person may disagree entirely but you are the one who decides. You may try to explain the reasons you felt justified to others and they may disagree, possibly everyone you tell may disagree but you will be able to continue to do that thing as long as you decide it is ok for you.
Here is my top ten lists of common justifications. These are not the only justifications out there and these can be phrased in any number of different ways but if you really want to stop struggling you need to learn them and learn them well.
1. Minimize- It's not a big deal.
2. Compare- point out someone else who is worse
3. Pay back- others did this to me before, so I can get them back
4. Self Pity- I don't matter so my actions don't matter
5. Arrogance- I am the best so it is ok to hurt lesser people
6. The I don't care lie- repeating "I don't care" to try and convince yourself
7. Lesser of two evils- I could have done something much worse
8. Identity- I define myself as an addict so I'm just doing what an addict does
9. I'm only human - everyone is addicted to something, so am I
10. Blame shifting- Billy did it too (substitute Billy for any other name that applies
and if those don't work....
11. Screw it- no thought I want it so I do it
Each one of these justifications has an opposite. The opposite is the statement that has the potential to undo the justification. I will keep the same list but after the explanation I will give it's opposite.
1. Minimize- It's not a big deal -It's not a small deal
2. Compare- point out someone else who is worse -point out someone who is better
3. Pay back- others did this to me before, so I can get them back -it wasn't ok when they did it and it's not ok for me to.
4. Self Pity- I don't matter so my actions don't matter -If it doesn't matter then it shouldn't matter either way
5. Arrogance- I am the best so it is ok to hurt lesser people -It wouldn't be ok for people that think you are a lesser person to hurt you
6. The I don't care lie- repeating "I don't care" to try and convince yourself - you only have to repeat "I don't care" that many times about things that you do care about
7. Less of 2 evils- I could have done something much worse -you could have done much better
8. Identity- I define myself as an liar so I'm just doing what a liar does -define yourself as an honest person so you will be an honest person
9. I'm only human - everyone is addicted to something, so am I -Classic- if everyone else jumped off a bridge would you, letting the culture make your decisions
10. Blame shifting- Billy did it too (substitute Billy for any other name that applies -True and changes nothing about your guilt
and if those don't work....
11. Screw it- no thought I want it so I do it - there is no stopping this one which is why when the other justifications are gone people just do it, this admitting total defeat. It is saying I have no control over myself my struggle makes the decisions. This is being totally trapped.
The key is to decide not to use justifications when it comes to the thing you are struggling with. Remove the justification and you remove the action. If you are trying to quit smoking start to think about what justifications you use to smoke. Do this before you quit smoking. Get familiar with yourself and the way that you think. Start to use the opposite side of those justifications and you will start to remove power the struggle has and then quit smoking. You will have much more success than if you quit without knowing what the struggle will whisper in your ear.
The smokers justifications are the same as the heroin addicts and the man who beats his wife as the child who steals a pack of gum. Now, before you think that I'm saying all these actions are the same and slam the book down don't. Realize the actions are very different but the justifications are the same. As you start realize that the justifications are not yours but instead are the same justifications everyone else uses you will hopefully stop thinking that your situation is different and instead realize that it is the same. Learn to remove the justifications and learn to remove the power from addictive thinking in all its forms.
Once you see these justifications in yourself you will start to here other people use them constantly. Allot of the time people feel the need to say them out loud in hopes that someone will agree. Then the person can mentally shift the blame to the that person. These are also powerful if you have kids. Children think they are the first one to say “Billy did it too”. Learn these for yourself but also learn them to teach your children not to use them. In order for you to do any action you must justify it to yourself in your own mind.
I was an Alcoholic
This blog contains many of the ideas that helped me to get sober and stay sober.
Everything in Italics is me now, commenting on the writing from 10 years ago. Everything not in Italics is the 8 year old writing. In some ways I am the same but in others very different that is what make it interesting.
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