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

The Philosophy Behind I’m Probably Wrong About Everything

In today’s post: I decided to write a brief explanation on the title of my project: I Am Probably Wrong About Everything. Since developing this idea in early 2020, I have found myself becoming more and more interested in the pursuits of asking questions I never asked and expanding my understanding. Questioning everything rather than just accepting my reality. The big question I wonder is what do I really know?

When I tell people the name of my blog/podcast/whatever this is, I often get a good chuckle. Perhaps that was the original intent. To develop something that made humour from its own self-deprecation. Admission to the fact that, well, I probably have no idea what I am talking about but I want to talk about it. And the more I think about it, the more I begin to believe that there is a lot more to this title than I give credit. I see the world through a lens. My lens. You do too. Only it is your lens. Our lenses are based in part through experience and relationship. You learn what you learn through practice and whoever is around you. This develops the building blocks or foundation of your understanding. Then come the abstracts. Things like events happening in other parts of the world, seemingly worlds away and of no immediate proximity to your world. As you learn through reading, watching, imagining and other means, this information is filtered through your lens of your understanding and thus shapes your perspective.

What makes this problematic is that I have so often found myself gravitating towards those who agree with me. Those who think like me. Perhaps even those who look like me. And when we choose to identify and associate ourselves with people like ourselves, we run the risk of developing a myopic view of the world. Of only seeing and understanding the world through our lens thereby becoming completely out of touch with the rest of the world. For example (and perhaps not the best one), we hear of celebrities being jerks to their rabid fans and think: What’s their problem? They are rich and famous? They shouldn’t treat people like that! Especially not their fans. But we have no idea what it feels like to be a celebrity and just how annoying it is to not be able to go anywhere without being recognized. Have you ever wanted to buy one item at a grocery store after a long and exhausting day (maybe, say, ice cream?) hoping to get in and out as quickly as possible only to be obstructed by one your annoying cousins or any acquaintance for that matter? Yea, well, I imagine that is what a celebrity goes through. Only it is every day, every where and all of the time. Makes me very glad I never got into movies.

My point is, is that we really don’t know what goes on in the minds of others. We have a hard enough time as it is keeping track of our own. At least I do (I won’t speak for you). Therefore, by definition of us not being able to think and speak for others then we have no idea what goes on for other cultures, races, religions, nations, genders, sexualities, etc. Especially ones that are not our own. So when we see things happening around the world on the news and think: Gee that must be how “they” do it down there. We should probably give that a second thought and ask ourselves: who is they? Do I know a they? Shouldn’t I be asking they instead of thinking that this is what they does all day? But I know two theys and they have different answers!?! My point exactly.

Therefore, the purpose of this project is to seek to understand as much as I can and always be open to differences of opinion. The truth being that I haven’t always been open to different opinions. This is especially true around politics. I see myself as I fairly liberal minded person but what does the other side have to say? Do I have to commit myself to one side of some strange tribalist political feud? Or can I be more open? What is it that this person is saying? What are other people saying? My point is that once we stop being open, we close the ability to change our minds and thus get ourselves closer to the truth. Whatever the truth is. And a lot of what we are currently living under is a collection of assumptions and historical consequences that are worth reexamining. Which is why I want to admit that I am probably wrong about everything but that I want to learn. So maybe you too can help me.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to subscribe or comment on my posts. Have a wonderful day.

R.G.

Rediscovering Motivation: Restarting My Routines

April 26, 2020

I don’t know about you folks, but I am really feeling the quarantine blues. I know Social Distancing is something to take seriously, which I am, but DAMN my routine and my willpower is way out of wack. I feel out of sorts and really lacking the motivation to do the things that are important to me. So I thought that this would be a good time to reflect on that and perhaps even offer some encouragement to you as well (if you find yourself in a similar state). After all, we are all in this together. I mean truly, whether we like it or not, this is happening to all of us and it is affecting all of us.

Before we were in this situation, I found myself getting up at five minutes to five in the morning. This gave me time to have some coffee, maybe even meditate, read a book, stretch and then head off to the gym before going to work. I found this routine got me pumped up and ready to go. I attribute much of this to not only going to bed at a reasonable time before but to getting some exercise before starting my day. Right there we got two major things that fuel a healthy mindset: sleep and exercise. Since quarantine, gyms have closed and I find myself working from home.

I am very thankful to be working. Unfortunately, many of us may not be as fortunate. While some of us are receiving financial support- there are others who are living under extremely stressful financial situations. My heart goes out to these individuals and their families. This is but one more major difficulty during a tumultuous time. I do wish to acknowledge these individuals. My thoughts are with you and your families at this time. I can not speak for you but my only hope is that this article may provide something useful to you.

Working from home is more difficult than I had anticipated. Not that the work itself is more difficult but rather the ability to remain focused is. At work, I find myself coming to a place where I am given a specific task: to do my job. When you are working from home, there is much more you have to do- especially if you have children. At the time of writing this, my daughter is seven months old. It is wonderful to be able to experience being around her during the day. Seeing her trying to figure out the world more than I was ever able to when I worked. However, it can make focusing on work and staying on task for extended periods of time very difficult. I can only imagine what this is like for parents of older children who are much more mobile and active.

That said, If I am being honest with myself: I am hiding my lack of productivity behind my daughter. Behind my spouse. Behind my dog. Behind my chores. All of which is rather unfair. The real reason my level of effort has decreased is because of me. I have fallen into a slump and I have chosen to use our current situation as an excuse. Yes, the gym is closed. Yes, I am not able to switch up my scenery and put myself in a “productive” environment. Yes, I can’t see friends. But these are all reasons to hide behind my lack of productivity. I can still get up early in the morning. I can still go to bed at a reasonable time. But I find myself not doing these things. Why? Because I am looking for a good reason not to. For me, blaming it on something out of my control is a great excuse. The problem: it is still an excuse and the only person who is really stopping me from accessing my potential is myself.  

Sometimes it helps to pull back the layers and look at things from a distance. Detaching yourself from the immediate experience. So if I am to do that and stop and assess things, I will see that there is a habit loop starting to cultivate itself. I tell myself: “Okay, I am going to get up early tomorrow and start my day like I used to.” But I find myself staying up way passed my intended bedtime binge watching shows about a gun trotting madman with a penchant for killer cats. The result: I go to bed later and can’t get myself up in the morning. Almost always, we do things because there is a reward.

Think about your worst vice: typically you do it because you get something out of it. If you didn’t you probably wouldn’t do it. Take for example alcohol. If you have a couple drinks, you start to feel good. It relaxes you. Have to many, you feel like you were hit by a truck the next day. But often times we forgot about how bad our hangovers are and only remember the good feelings, so we find ourselves doing the same thing only a few days later. My point is that our memory and our minds are programmed to these feedback loops especially if what we get out of it is a good feeling which over time become habits. This is explained originally (and far more clearly) in Charles Duhigg’s wonderful book The Power of Habit.[1]

Picture 1: The Habit Loop as explained in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg picture retrieved from: https://medium.com/@laxmena/the-habit-loop-book-review-the-power-of-habit-303dc690825d on April 26, 2020.

So for me, staying up late with mindless entertainment was becoming a habit. Watching tv or playing video games felt good but then I would have a hard time getting up. This did not feel good. It made me feel unaccomplished and that in turn was failing my goals. This would derail my day and my mood because I felt unsuccessful which would manifest itself in, you guessed, staying up late to ward off those bad feelings. Before all this, I would get up in the morning and go to the gym. The reward was that I felt great after and in turn mentally set me up for a successful day. The problem is that the system of delivering that reward: the gym, is no longer available. So what do I need to do to get back on track and reclaim my routine? Like most things, the answer is deceivingly simple: I need to change right now. I need to stop hiding behind people and events believing they are “obstacles”. I am my only obstacle. I am the one responsible for where I am and the choices I make. So, I need to start making better ones.

The best way to get out of a slump is to acknowledge that you are in one. For me, my slump is not being productive and in not setting up some rigidity in my day. We all need this in our lives, we function best in the presence of a schedule not the absence of one. Therefore, I need to develop and stick to a routine. So starting today I will give myself a weekly schedule. If I slip up, rather than beat myself up, I will do everything to get back on that schedule. For example: if I don’t get up at 4:55, I will get up at the closest interval to that on my schedule. Most importantly, I will set an alarm at the end of the day to go to bed. This will help remind me that I have got to get up early tomorrow. Remembering that the biggest thing in aiding a positive and strong mindset is sleep! If you get a good night sleep, you will simply be more ready for whatever comes your way in the morning.[2]

Picture 2: A rough copy of my proposed routine.

I have included a scanned copy of my schedule above. You will notice the emphasis is on the morning having a strict routine and there being a set time for bed. This leaves plenty of room for figuring out the rest of the day. To me having a regulated morning is necessary for having a productive and positive day. Maybe it is similar to yours? Or perhaps you too could benefit from having a schedule. Feel free to share your thoughts and let me know what you think. I will be posting next weekend with results in how I did with my schedule and areas for improvement. This will help keep me accountable and honest. Human beings are creatures of habit and having a routine can help promote our maximum potential. My goal is to get back to achieving just that! I would be honored if you joined me (or perhaps for me to join you)!

Thank you for reading,


R. Grant


[1] Duhigg, Charles, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Canada: Random House, 2013.

[2] Walker, Matthew, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, New York: Scribner, 2018.

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.