Good Morning, I Love You

I first heard of Dr. Shauna Shapiro on the Being Well Podcast. The ideas she presented are something I would have considered “sappy” and “unmasculine” not very long ago.

But I was intrigued, and have started reading her book, “Good Morning, I Love You.” Normally I wouldn’t write about a book until I’ve finished it, but there have already been a couple of things that really struck me.

Here’s one of them:

“We must change our mindset from one of self-improvement to one of self-liberation. Self-liberation means freedom from our limiting beliefs, our misguided idea that there is something wrong with us that needs to be “fixed.””

Which reminds me of something I’ve heard from Steven Hayes (paraphrasing this one) : You and your life aren’t problems to be solved, but processes to be experienced.

I’ve lived most of my life as a “personal development” addict. But the only thing that I’ve stuck to developing is a vast knowledge of personal development material. Just like food, sex, alcohol, most drugs, shopping, gambling… all the stuff that we do, but some go over the line and abuse them rather than use them – that’s what I did with personal development. I had good intentions (I think), but I used it as a distraction from life rather than as a way to engage with life. Embarrassingly, I also used my “vast knowledge” (which was 99% bullshit) so that I could feel good about myself – of course I was better than all of the people out there who didn’t care about “getting better” (whatever that means).

Liberating my mind. Moving from self-improvement to self-liberation. That’s the direction I’m going to point myself in today.

I said there were two things that struck me so far. I’ll write a second post about that one soon. A little teaser – it’s what motivated me to write this post in the first place.

 

Past to Future

Warning – super self indulgent me me me post coming up.

Maybe it will help someone out there, if only to let them know that others are out here, we’ve seen some shit ourselves, we’ve been able to move through it, and we care.

This morning, I had the thought that the way I’ve been living has been just plain wrong. I’m going to hit 50 this year, and I’m still ugly, sick, broke, and stupid.

Then, another thought: maybe the things I’ve been doing have been working perfectly. Everything I’ve ever done, everything I’ve experienced from the time I was able to make decisions for myself has brought me to where I am today.

Of course, there are some things that happened to me that I had no control over. Those brought me here too. But I had no control over them, so I couldn’t have “done” them differently anyway – I didn’t do them in the first place. Therefore… no fucks for them.

But…

If I hadn’t gotten so drunk and high before the concert I was supposed to play the lead for my senior year in high school that I passed out just beforehand and couldn’t go on…

If I hadn’t engaged in sexual behavior that was ridiculously physically risky and financially devastating to both me and those who bailed me out…

If I hadn’t gotten myself kicked out of the Navy because I was too scared to commit to sobriety…

If I hadn’t spent most of the 90’s (and some of the 2000’s) in various mental hospitals and rehabs…

If I hadn’t forced my family to move halfway across the country to get away from me…

If I hadn’t run away from more jobs than I’ve had…

… I wouldn’t been where I am today.

… I wouldn’t be *who* I am today.

And you know what?

I like where I am today.

I like who I am today.

I’m not successful by the standards of the marketers of my society, but I’m (finally) ok with that. I’m generally happy. Content, yet still have a desire to grow and improve.

Let’s go over that list that Jim Rohn said to avoid becoming:

Ugly? Really?

Objectively, probably not. But objectivity about one’s physical appearance isn’t possible – eye of the beholder and so forth. Can’t really control that one, barring plastic surgery. So let’s drop ugly into the no fucks given category and move on to…

Broke? Really?

Sure, if you look at it from a straight up financial point of view, a net worth of -30K is pretty forking broke. (Shout out to my fellow Good Place fans!)

But holy shit, I *live* in the goddamn Good Place… *and* I get to fucking curse!

I get to experience:

A wife who I love and who loves me. She’s my best friend and my soulmate.

Family that I love, and who love me.

No shortage of good food to eat, both nutritious and otherwise.

A pretty nice roof over my head.

An income that provides me all of the basics, plus some creature comforts.

Both activities and medication that allow me to maintain my physical and mental health.

That last one seems like a good segue into…

Sick? Really?

From a purely physical point of view, I’ve been blessed with a naturally strong constitution. It’s amazing how healthy I am, considering all of the crazy stuff that I’ve put myself through.

On the mental side, I’m so fucking lucky it’s unbelievable. (BTW, if you don’t think there’s such a thing as depression or mental illness, fuck off now, go educate yourself, and come back when you aren’t an ignorant dingleberry.)

I’m lucky enough to have been born at a time when there is medication that exists that has helped me with my Bipolar II disorder, and to have been born into a part of society where that medication is available to me. AND to have been born at a time and in a place where there are scientifically backed therapeutic resources for people like me.

And finally…

Stupid? Really?

No. I’m not. I’ve done some pretty stupid things, but I’m not stupid. Not that the thought that I’m a dumbass doesn’t still pop into my head from time to time – I just no longer identify with it.

One of the things that I value is the alleviation of suffering, and the increase of fulfillment in the universe for all sentient beings (hat tip to Shinzen Young for the suffering/fulfillment thing).

Maybe one of the ways that I can do that is to share self-absorbent posts like these, to let others know that no matter what you’ve done, no matter what’s been done to you, you can use it as a stepping stone to a better live, both for you and others.

There’s a line in the Big Book of AA that says “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” It’s a beautiful place to be in. You can be there to, if you keep on moving toward it, no matter how slow you go.

 

Inner Critic or Inner Coach

Have you ever come across a tiny distinction that immediately changed the way you look at things?

This happened to me recently when I was listening to Episode #219: Making and Breaking Habits, Sanely of the Ten Percent Happier Podcast with Dan Harris. The guest was Kelly McGonigal, and something she said hit me hard:

“Why would you let your inner critic decide what it is you want to change?”

We all want to change something about our lives. Quit an addiction, exercise more, eat better, etc etc etc…

As a general rule, and especially if the thing you want to change is extra tough, it’s best to stick to one at a time.

But how do you choose exactly what to work on?

Don’t follow your inner critic. Do Follow your values, those things that are intrinsically meaningful to you, and link them to the behavior you want to change.

McGonigal calls the part of us that tries to shame us into change the Inner Critic. I can’t help but compare this to Steven Hayes’ Dictator Within.

But it doesn’t matter what you call it. This Inner Critical Dictator evolved to make sense of and help you survive in a hostile environment. It’s not interested in helping you create the life you want.

Here’s a few questions that are worth thinking about:

What are your values? How can you link them to your goals? Who is it that’s choosing those values and goals?

The Coming Year is Dedicated To…

Over the last couple of days, I re-read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

In it, he tells the story of William James, and his year of personal responsibility.

Here’s a blog post from Manson about it: The Prime Belief. Go read that before continuing on – the rest of this post will make a whole lot more sense if you do.

That’s where Imma dedicate most of my available fucks to this year – 100% responsibility for my own life – knowing that how I respond to everything is all Lyman, all the time.

No blame, no fault finding, no thinking that because of my genetics or my upbringing I suck too much to live a useful life.

Blame, fault finding, and woe is me are always options – they are responses that I’ve pulled out of my pocket in the past. Mostly the last one. I was (am? yes, am.) such a special snowflake that everyone but me has this life thing figured out. Poor Lyman, might as well just kill yourself. But wait, even that is asking too much of a scared and weak little piece of shit like you.

This doesn’t come up as much as it used to, but I still do it waaaaaayyyyyy too much more than I want to. Probably even more than I consciously realize.

This is about living the Serenity Prayer, with a focus on courage and wisdom. It seems to me that serenity is actually a by-product of acceptance, and I’m really good at faking that – dying on the inside with a bullshit smile on my face, and hiding from the world if I can’t manage that smile.

I’m going to work on developing:

  • acceptance (for really reals) when it comes to the things I cannot change (for really reals)
  • courage to change the things that I can
  • wisdom to know the difference

I’m not asking a god to grant me anything. I’m asking present Lyman to develop these things, so that future Lyman can live a richer, fuller life.

Just Do It! isn’t going to work here. The only thing to “just do” is point yourself in a direction and move. Here are the tools I plan on using to point myself if the direction of acceptance, courage, and wisdom:

Life gonna test my resolve here – that’s what life does. I’m gonna fail, over and over again. That’s what humans do.

I don’t give a fuck.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

 

The Ever-Blessed ONE : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 030

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.


“This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on this, as on every topic, the resolution of all into the ever-blessed ONE. Self-existence is the attribute of the Supreme Cause, and it constitutes the measure of good by the degree in which it enters into all lower forms. All things real are so by so much virtue as they contain. Commerce, husbandry, hunting, whaling, war, eloquence, personal weight, are somewhat, and engage my respect as examples of its presence and impure action. I see the same law working in nature for conservation and growth. Power is in nature the essential measure of right. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet, its poise and orbit, the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and vegetable, are demonstrations of the self-sufficing, and therefore self-relying soul.”


It may seem all new agey and woo woo, but we – you, I, and literally everything in the universe, are one. I think that’s what Ralphy means by the “ever-blessed One.”

No, this doesn’t mean that you are all things, like some spiritual teachings say. But you are an integral part of all things. An important cog in the workings of the universe. Just like your liver is a part of your body, and necessary for it to function, you are a part of the universe, and necessary for it to function.

Even when your consciousness is gone, and your body is decaying, it will provide for the earth in ways that we are only beginning to understand.

Again… we are all waves on the ocean of life – and the ocean would be incomplete without each and every one of them.


Thoughts? Feel free to drop them in the comments.

 

Do Nothing and Die : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 029

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.


“Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to an aim. This one fact the world hates, that the soul becomes; for that for ever degrades the past, turns all riches to poverty, all reputation to a shame, confounds the saint with the rogue, shoves Jesus and Judas equally aside. Why, then, do we prate of self-reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power not confident but agent. To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. Speak rather of that which relies, because it works and is. Who has more obedience than I masters me, though he should not raise his finger. Round him I must revolve by the gravitation of spirits. We fancy it rhetoric, when we speak of eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not.”


There is only power in action.

In the template for these entries, I usually use “blah blah blah” as a placeholder until I’m ready to write my part. Because as I’m saying it, that’s all it is. Blah blah blah… it’s nothing until it’s put into actual practice out there in the real world.

Do nothing –> get nothing. Actually, it’s more dangerous than that. Do nothing –> degrade.


Thoughts? Feel free to drop them in the comments.

 

Transcendence : Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson : 028

Continuing our discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.


“And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid; probably cannot be said; for all that we say is the far-off remembering of the intuition. That thought, by what I can now nearest approach to say it, is this. When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name;——the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. It shall exclude example and experience. You take the way from man, not to man. All persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers. Fear and hope are alike beneath it. There is somewhat low even in hope. In the hour of vision, there is nothing that can be called gratitude, nor properly joy. The soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well. Vast spaces of nature, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Sea, —long intervals of time, years, centuries, —are of no account. This which I think and feel underlay every former state of life and circumstances, as it does underlie my present, and what is called life, and what is called death.”


I’ve always thought that it was a bit ironic that I was using another man’s words to base my ideas of self-reliance on. But just as we leave the raft behind, when we get to the place where we can live to the tune of our iron string, we transcend those things that we’ve built our lives upon, and become something completely new.

We might use Socrates’ hammer, Emerson’s wood, some glass from Einstein, a bit of carpet from Aurelius, the historical Buddha’s tape measure, Christ’s concrete, Hayes’ plastic… but the house of ourselves is greater than the sum of it’s parts.


Thoughts? Feel free to drop them in the comments.

 

A Week Focused on Action – Working on “A Liberated Mind”

[This is a crosspost from a book discussion community on Reddit focused on A Liberated Mind: How to Pivot Toward What Matters.]

Over the past week, I’ve focused on Chapter 14 – The Sixth Pivot – Action – Committing to Change.

Previous entries in this weekly exercise:

“… you’re not doing this to… conform to a new version of a conceptualized self.”

This is key for me. There’s a fine line between change in order to live a fulfilling life by “connecting to your deepest values”, and change in order to become something “better” than you already are.

I was always focused on the latter. It is for anyone who’s jumping off place is “I’m evil and deserve punishment.”

We also have to remember that perfectionism will kill any progress we’ve made. The commitment to change, followed up by the best action we can take in the moment, is inherently successful. Forget the results – it’s all about the process.

I also really like the question we ask of ourselves in order to make this pivot:

“Based on a distinction between you as a conscious being and the story the mind tells of who you are, in this time and situation are you willing to experience your experiences as they are, not as what they say they are, fully and without needless defense, and direct your attention and effort to creating larger and larger habits of behavior that reflect your chosen values? YES or NO?”

My highlights and notes from the chapter:

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dance

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commit to building values-based habits of action,

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committed action brings the six pivots together into a healthy, ongoing process of acting as you choose.

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It can’t be learned all at once, any more than how to dance the tango could be learned all at once.

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habitually pivoting toward what matters

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It means moving forward with self-compassion, not berating ourselves for inevitable missteps, and buying in when our judgmental minds label them, or ourselves, as failures.

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you’re not doing this to impress others, bolster your ego, or conform to a new version of a conceptualized self.

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you’re committing to change because doing so is helping you connect with your deepest values from your most authentic sense of self.

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accepting the pain and risk

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keeping our attention on the richness of making an effort and learning new habits rather than fixating on a static state of success and how far we are from it.

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we’re not going to be immediately competent in our new chosen actions.
Note: Defuse from perfectionism

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We’ll backslide in our behavior and we’ll probably grasp again at avoidance.

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that is how change happens.

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the intrinsic satisfaction of developing competence.

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We yearn to be able to act effectively in the world; to live, and love, and play, and create skillfully. This is the yearning for competence—to be able.

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especially once you are the one determining how to motivate yourself.

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please others

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serving others,

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We may become obsessive about trying to prove our competence or avoidant of the shame of not being perfect.

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Procrastination is one way we avoid these situations; we mistake it for a way to keep feelings of failure or anxiety about the prospect of failure at bay, but it only ultimately intensifies them. Of course, often we also just abandon the effort altogether.

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we’re simply not going to be immediately competent in building values-based habits.

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If someone tells me in the first session how they picture themselves being applauded for their great skill or how they want to be famous and play in a rock band, I know there is heavy sledding ahead.
Note: And there’s why my life has been heavy sledding – more about the image than the skill. Especially the image of not caring about the image

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immediate consequences dominate over delayed consequences.

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we will enjoy playing the guitar once we are in a band,

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I will stop worrying about the future when I have a lot of money.
Note: Or out of debt. Or not even alot! Just more

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including the learning we can gain from our stumbles,

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some forms of persistence are actually forms of avoidance,

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building habits of values-based actions that are authentically meaningful to us.

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we should develop SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused, and time-bound.

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specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused, and time-bound.

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A great way to think about the process of building new habits of living is embarking on a hero’s journey.
Note: Getting to bed at s reasonable hour is part of my hero’s journey. Gotta be as healthy as possible to be a hero!

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through committed action the quest is accomplished.

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Passion without perseverance is a tragedy; persistence without purpose is a mockery of human potential.

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Based on a distinction between you as a conscious being and the story the mind tells of who you are, in this time and situation are you willing to experience your experiences as they are, not as what they say they are, fully and without needless defense, and direct your attention and effort to creating larger and larger habits of behavior that reflect your chosen values? YES or NO?

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Life asks it of you over and over and over—without end, so far as I know.

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life affords us the potential to take committed action in every moment of every day.

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Also, feel free to draw on other behavior change science.
Note:This is one of the things that I love about ACT. It doesn’t claim to be a panacea.

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Advice without that rigorous scientific foundation is often misleading.

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Make Small Adjustments

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the thought stops being a bother.
Note: This is a key idea in ACT for me : he doesn’t say “before the thought goes away.” He says “before the thought stops being a bother.” Such a distinction!

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our behavioral patterns don’t only affect us as individuals.