People Do Not Change…

Unless They Want to Change

This is an important rule in life. Remember it.

I know I haven’t written a blog post in a while and that is due in large part to focusing on further developing our podcast. However, my wonderful daughter woke up early this morning (loudly) and after cajoling her back to sleep, I decided it would be a great time to work on an article (thanks Sophia). Today’s article is about a very simple rule that will bring you a lot more freedom in your life. The rule goes as follows: people do not change, unless they want to change.

Remember Newton’s Laws of Motion? (I don’t, in fact, I had to Google it before continuing any further). In 1687, Isaac Newton (then not yet referred to as “Sir” until he was knighted in 1705, thanks Google) proposed his three laws of motion in his ground breaking work the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. His theories on motion, which eventually became laws (the highest order of the Scientific Method), revolutionized the way we see the world today. Well, some of us anyways (I won’t drop any specific names but they see the world as non-spherical).

Thanks for inventing gravity, bro!

Now, obviously, I haven’t read his book but from what I gather it can be summarized as didactically exploring the three different Laws of Motion. The three laws are as follows: #1 “without resistance: objects in motion, stay in motion”; #2 “the greater the force, the greater the acceleration”; and #3 “for every action, there is a reaction”.  I am no physics teacher (so definitely don’t quote me on the 2nd law) but for the purposes of this article we are going to extrapolate the theories of momentum and motion into human behaviour. That is that people who act a certain way are not going to change unless they either A) have to or B) want to. No amount of wishful thinking or mindforcework is going to make a person change. You can encourage change, you can even be the model of said changes but in the end: the individual is the ultimate decider, the force and the accelerator, of change in their life.

I have heard it said that a majority of the world’s mental frustration and angst is based upon trying to control things that are simply out of their control. When I work with children (and clients of all ages for that matter), I always tell them that the only person they can control is themselves. Not nature. Not animals (especially not cats). And not others. So stop trying. If there is a behavior that you do not like about someone, you have choices to make. You can either tell them about it and hope they decide to change their behavior or you stop worrying about it altogether. Notice how both of these choices are under your control.

If you have a friend who is chronologically challenged (they are late for everything, and I’m not talking 15 minutes here, I mean an hour) and/or has extremely poor communication skills (perhaps they were raised by Carthusian monks on a lifelong monastic silence) and it drives you bonkers. Stop. Reflect. Is any of this behavior yours to control? No. It isn’t. So stop trying. These people will not change unless they have to or want to. Now, that is not to say that you say nothing or do nothing with this sheepish individual. Again, go back to your self-agency. You can make choices for yourself. Ask yourself: what do I want? If you want your friend to improve on quality x,y, or z, then tell them. But do not text them. We shirk from conflict enough as it is these days and texting, being the new form of human communication that it is (even angry letters sent from Popes and contemporaries of the Middle Ages typically took time to put a level of thought into their diatribes), is simply not an effective method of having a constructive discussion. If you want people to change, you need to tell them and then they can decided whether or not they want to.

The other version of change is when people have to. But really, nobody has to do anything if they don’t want something of it. Take for example the case of the “hopeless alcoholic” (I borrow this character  from Bill W’s Alcoholic Anonymous) who can’t stop drinking. Indeed, the compulsive drinking of this reprobate seems to suggest that they are afflicted with something not dissimilar from a disease. It is killing them yet they cannot stop. They are addicted. They are powerless to the drink. Yet we hear of so many people with similar tales of addiction that are able to successfully become sober and remain that way the rest of their lives. But how? Because they want to. They want to be clean. For their families, their friends, themselves. They are proud of their success and their choices (and damn proud they should be). Even if an individual is arrested and told that they can’t, say, have a drink. They still could do it. But if they look at themselves and realize: I am not proud of the fact that I physically assaulted a newspaper box and soiled myself at a bus stop, I need to get myself together here. That is not them having to do anything, that is them wanting to do something. They want to change themselves. These are lasting changes. Not when the wife says do this or I’ll leave. Not when the police say do this or you’re going to prison. Only when the individual says, I need to do this for [insert reason, clause, ultimatum here].

I could write a lot more on this. I have decided that I will and put them into a book to be lost in the oversaturated market that is self-help books. But that is enough for right now. If you like this, then comment on it and ask for more. Share it with your friends. Print it. Frame it. Or burn it. Whatever you do, realize it is your choice. Realize that no one has control over you. That you are the most important voice and decider in your life. That is not to say you should be a selfish individual but rather that you do things because you want to. Not because you feel like you have to. If someone really cares about you, they will want you to do what you want to do. They will not pressure you, they will encourage you. So make good choices and remember that you can’t control anyone, so stop trying to force it. People do not change, unless they want to.

R.G.

Image taken from: https://en.dopl3r.com/memes/dank/how-people-fixed-lightbulbs-before-isaac-newton-invented-gravity/792013

Be an Internet Pixie not a Troll!

February 22, 2020

The internet is a fascinating and boundless place. It has so much content. So much culture. So much influence. It is a land of unlimited opportunities for information: on any subject, on any thing you can really imagine (always use caution when really tapping into your imagination). It is also a place for socialization albeit a very strange one. You see, part of what makes us humans so interesting is our ability to communicate. According to anthropologists, evolutionary biologists and other smart people – the ability to explicitly and implicitly communicate and thus share information, is what got us to where we are today. Therefore, language: the vessel through which we communicate, is complex. We do not just express ourselves through our literal written words or our spoken phrases. We also use body language, active listening, tone, and a lot of hidden meanings or symbolic language (things like idioms and sarcasm) among other amazing phonological things. My point is, there is more to language than the words we write in a comment box.

Figure 1.1 Check out this cool graph!

The problem is that the internet, for the most part isn’t really monitored by a ruling or governing body. Sure, they have all kinds of people observing what goes on in the internet but no one is really policing it. For example, say you woke up late and are starting your day off poorly. Then you get on public transit and someone on the bus is listening to music full blast without headphones. Yes, using their shitty phone to blare ear bleeding static noise for all to enjoy. It’s at this point you realize you forgot your coffee. Your body temperature increases. Frustration builds up. You feel a demon inside you starting to riff speed metal on your psyche. You are ready to snap.

But you can’t. You can’t walk up, rip that person’s phone and defenestrate them both from a moving vehicle.[1] Social norms resist us from doing that. If you were to do that. You would probably get yourself in a lot of trouble with the law. Because you took someone else’s property and destroyed it (albeit, somewhat justly).

Is there a metaphor here? Yes. Is it super clear? Maybe not, so I’ll explain. We all have bad days. We have all likely been victims of our anger and rage at some point. If not externally, then internally. However, socially constructed systems, like laws and policing bodies, have created things to protect others and in so doing has developed social norms and expectations. Ask anyone on the street if it is normal to walk up to someone and punch them in the face and they will tell you, most likely defensively: no (on second thought, I strongly advise that you please do not do that). That is because we all have a right to be safe.[2] So, you can’t take that goofballs phone and throw it out the window, even though he deserves it. And if you do you go to jail.

So you keep that anger in.

Until.

Something else happens. Then something more. Et cetera. Et cetera. And the fire that is your temper grows.

If you are a healthy person. You might start to do some deep breathing. Take a sip of cold water. Distract yourself. Maybe think about a herd of wild puppies jumping on you in a spring meadow and the sun is out. Just look at those puppies. Awww so cute. (Damn, that calmed me down just writing that!)

But maybe you don’t have the strategies to calm yourself down. Maybe you’ve been told all your life to keep it in or not to let it bother you. This advice isn’t very helpful because it isn’t practical. We have to let it out some way or another. And if we don’t let it out through a positive mindful practice, we will let it out through a negative one. Go ahead and name your vice: be it raging at others, road rage, porn, liquor, stealing stamps from your Grandmother’s vast collection, you name it.

Or, maybe you go on the internet. After all, the internet is for the most part, a fairly unregulated and ungoverned place. It seems, that the only way you are ever held responsible or accountable for something you say is if it causes enough social outrage that people come after you. Usually, this is reserved for the off-colour remarks that famous people make while tweeting well past midnight.[3] But the troll is not famous and thus they log on and proceed to absolutely trash someone of status or otherwise. You go on groups and intentionally start fights. You love dwelling in comment boxes and typing things you would never say in public. But here, oh here, you’ve found the perfect place to unleash that monster inside you. Your goal in what you say is not to provide constructive criticism but to evoke the same rage demon that has been conjured up in you. All these years. These people are called Internet Trolls.

Trolls are bastards. They feed off negativity. They say things that cause emotional responses in readers arousing some of our most primitive emotions: hate, fear, anger. They desperately want you to respond. To ignite their fire. To keep that pain burning. Because they are weak. They are hurt. They are people who have been bullied all their lives. Mistreated and presumed powerless. Neglected when they needed a friend. Abandoned when they needed a place to share their heart, their passion, their spark. Trolls are also people just like you and me. They were once a child. They were once innocent and full of potential, now they get their power from antagonizing others online. See the hurt in their words. Hate is hurt and hurt people hate.

There is only one remedy to hatred.

Kindness.

Which brings me to my amazing mother. She has given me so much advice and care over the years that I could never repay her back, I can only pay it forward unto others. She used to say to me when I was angry at someone: If you have nothing nice to say, find something nice to say. I know. I know. The saying usually goes that if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything. But our brains are wired for connection. And when we see the positive in things, our brain develops neural networks that, from that moment on, searches for positive things. It might be difficult at first, but the more you look for the good, the easier it becomes.[4] So instead of shooting a bunch of venom into the internets, say something kind!

For example, perhaps you have a funny comment about regarding what someone does. Do a quick checklist and ask yourself: could this person misread what I am saying? Is this comment mean spirited or is it friendly? Where is this comment coming from? Is it out of pride or jealously? I probably shouldn’t post it then. There are other questions you could ask, but these are good immediate ones to consider before posting something. I’ve made jokes and said things that after I thought, perhaps sometime later: geeze, I probably shouldn’t have said that. If you are having Post Regret. Don’t sweat it. Who you were is not who you are. Just make a conscious effort to say nicer things moving forward. Maybe go back and say something positive on that person’s page. They probably won’t notice or even care, but you will.

Going around saying nice things or comments that are intended to encourage or promote positive feelings is a really good thing. You are injecting the opposite of what the internet already has waaaaaay too much of: trolls and trolling behavior. So much so that it’s a commonplace verb nowadays. Also, you will feel good about yourself too! When you say positive things and encourage others, you feel amazing after. So be an Internet Pixie instead. Might sound super lame but it far outweighs being classified as a troll.[5]

What is a Pixie? Well, depending on where you look, the definition of a Pixie is an entity that can be mischievous but chooses to do “good” instead of being “bad”.[6] They are literally kind-spirited (a kind spirit) versus mean-spirited (a mean spirit). We all have a consciousness and an intuition that tells us what is right from what is wrong. We feel good when we do things that are good, like helping others; however, if we feel bad, like a troll often does, we continue to do bad. Being a troll is cyclic: you feel shitty, so you say something shitty, then you might get a rush of dopamine, but because you didn’t do anything constructive, you feel shitty and the cycle repeats itself.[7] Wow, that’s a lot of excrement. Excrement is toxic. That’s why we get rid of it. So: break the cycle. Be kind, friendly, nice and pleasant on the internet and say things that follow these values. I guarantee that if you promote kindness by throwing some Pixie dust on the internet, then your overall mood will follow!

So be an Internet Pixie, not an Internet Troll. Start Pixing today!

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Have a wonderful day.

-RG   

Figure 1.1 Comes from the article Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication written by Nagesh Belludi. Read it here at: https://www.rightattitudes.com/2008/10/04/7-38-55-rule-personal-communication/


[1] Absolutely love when I get to use this word in a sentence. Defenestrate literally means to throw someone out of a window. Who came up with that? A genius, that’s who.

[2] I know some smart ass is going to say: “Well maybe in your culture but not in mine”. My advice is to read the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

[3] Much like operating a car or heavy machinery, don’t post things under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

[4] Thanks mom, I promise I’ll clean my room. Later.

[5] I originally considered calling it an Internet Faerie; however, I received a lot of feedback, non-verbal and otherwise, that this was probably not a good choice in wording. My intent in using this terminology was not to offend anyone or any groups. If you think it is suiting go ahead. Whatever it is, it is meant to be positive.

[6] Found this through a simple Wikipedia search, then got lost for half an hour in the vortex that is the internet and ended up on the climate on Kilimanjaro wondering: how did I get here? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixie

[7] It is a similar phenomenon in drug addicts called the Habit Loop. For more information, read: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

Your Choice/Getting Reps In

February 18, 2020

I started writing these articles or excerpts- whatever you would like to call them, as a way of positively relaxing, reflecting and growing. You see the old method I previously employed, that of getting all pent up during the week and then getting smashed up with my friends, is extremely counter-intuitive to being a successful new parent. Hangovers and screaming children are a fatal cocktail. I also realized that I didn’t want to follow some of the similar missteps of others by self-medicating with alcohol as a method of stress management. The interesting thing is that alcohol increases stress levels rather than inhibits them. Therefore, I needed to find something different and fast. My relationship with my partner and my child depended on it.

Throughout my twenties, I thought it was meaningful to lose yourself in parties and the drink. To forget your values and act like an absolute idiot to attain laughs, attention and even popularity. But that was all incredibly misplaced. While I made lots of great friends throughout my travels, many of whom are still in my life, quite a few of them have subsided and gone elsewhere. The reality is that this was all very much a mask to hide my true self. I am a hurt person. A lot has happened in my life that has negatively impacted me. A lot of it was my own fault. Some of it wasn’t. Regardless, I had an option: to change my values and my lifestyle or slowly destroy my life because of my unhealthy habits. The choice was mine and no one else.

 So, like any human with half a brain and a kernel of dignity, I chose to get better. To spend more time with my family and do more productive things. I chose to change. I had the humility to realize that the way I was living was not positive but rather destructive. I almost lost a great relationship and everything that came with it because I was too stubborn to get some help. Life is not easy. For anyone. And if it is easy, then who can you really relate to (it’s hard not relating to anyone)? We all experience pain and we will all at some point or another, if not already, experience immense loss. Loss and pain is part of existence. Death is what makes living real. Time is the only universal currency in all living things. Money doesn’t mean shit when you die, only what you did with the time that you were given does. So start using your time wisely. Which is precisely what I started doing: using my time wisely.

I started going to bed and getting up earlier. I spent more time with my family. I developed a bond with my baby daughter. I played less video games. I put my phone on silent and didn’t respond to people right away. I avoided group chats like the plague. I stopped caring what most people think (after all, if they didn’t respect my new way of life- why bother having them around?) I limited time spent around negative people and energy vampires. I drank less booze and ate much healthier. I mediated. I took cold showers. I journaled (kind of doing that right now). I drank more water. I went to the gym almost every morning. You get the idea: I changed my habits. I changed my life style.

Change is a choice. A choice you make daily. It is not about being perfect. It is about doing your best. Every day. That is how you fall asleep quickly and soundly every night. Knowing you did your best. So that is what I decided to do: my best. I realized that when I was partying, drinking beers, eating garbage food and feeling terrible for the next two and a half days. I was not doing my best. It was evident. I need not ask anyone for a second opinion- the proof was in how I felt: like shit. Not only did I feel gross in terms of physical body- but I also felt like garbage inside my mind. My mental wellness was getting thrashed around like a headbanger at a Slayer concert and not in a good way. The irony is that I partook in these activities because I wasn’t feeling very good about myself but it was also through these activities that continued to make myself feel worse. The fact is that I simply was not doing a very good job of being a partner, a parent and a professional (my productivity at work was struggling too). I simply had no passion. No drive. I had a house. An education. A family. But something was missing.

A passion.

When I was eleven years old, I wrote a book. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t very good. The plot was the same consistency as a Michael Bay film and featured characters that didn’t really develop. I used my grade seven classmates because I really couldn’t come up with interesting characters and didn’t want to. I was more interested in telling an action packed story where me and my friends took on a demon infested island. I wrote this book in one day. I was so excited. I was having so much fun. I didn’t care about the quality of it. I just loved creating this juvenile adventure that was overflowing with gore yet lacking in philosophical exposition. I wrote it while laying in bed and when I finished, I could hardly sleep. I couldn’t wait to show it to my friends the next morning. When I got to school, I felt like I carried a treasure inside that Garfield notebook. Before I knew it, everyone was reading it. They loved it. It was such a great feeling for I had finally found something I was good at. I was terrible at sports, music or most anything that required a level of skill. But for the first time I was getting honest praise for something I accomplished.

For a long time, I forgot that feeling. Instead, I turned to a plethora of other hobbies. I reserved writing for when I would become ‘inspired’. But that never seemed to happen. I just kept putting it off. Occasionally, I would start a project but then get distracted by a friend, a girl, booze, or all of the above. I went through my undergrad and finished my masters. Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do during this time was write. But really, it probably should have been the first thing. You see, for me, writing is part of my self-care plan. When I actually do it, it really doesn’t require that much energy. Behavioral psychologists call this a flow state, when you do something that seems to escape the parameters of time and you get lost in the act of doing it. Finding something that puts you in this state can help in combating mental health disorders[1]. Writing helped do this for me, so why did I stop.

I probably stopped because I lacked consistency. I lacked having a plan. I lacked holding myself accountable. I lacked courage. I simply wasn’t getting any reps. I kept putting it off, thinking that tomorrow would bring the inspiration I needed. Well, you probably don’t need me to tell you that tomorrow never came. If you want to see change, you need to start right now. Not tomorrow. Not on New Years. Today. This very second. Now. So think of a goal. Maybe you want to get in better shape. Then stop reading this and do as many push-ups as you can do. Or do squats while you read it. Start right now. If you want to drink less booze, go buy a six pack of kombucha instead (it tastes like beer). Whatever it is that you want to change or get better at, you need to get repetitions in (I call them reps). The more daily reps you get in, the higher your chances of success. So make it something you can do relatively easily (ex. Mountaineering is not a good daily goal unless you live in Switzerland or a mountainous region; however, if you want to read more, then have books near you that you can pick up). Also, remember, you are not perfect. If you miss a day, shake it off, start again tomorrow. Do your best.

Remember, in the end, it is what we do with the time that we are given. Make the gift that is this time worth while and do what you want to do. Nobody else is going to do it for you. So go out there and get those reps!

(Semi)Pro-tip: If you want to see lasting change, make it a change that you can accomplish daily. For example: if you want to eat healthier, go to the store and buy some veggies! Then put them in your lunch and eat them. Feel good about eating them. Say: I just ate veggies. Go me! Or whatever mantra is going to make you feel good about your choice and insodoing is going to keep you making positive choices. It all comes down to you making a conscious choice. No one can make it for you. If you want change, you need to be that change.      

-RG


[1] Google it if you don’t believe me.