Category Archives: Just Thoughts

Grow or Deteriorate

“When you are uncertain whether you should do something or not, just think whether doing it you will grow or deteriorate, and act accordingly.” — Theron Q. Dumont

OK, so I know I’ve been on a bit of Brian Johnson kick lately… but there is a way to get me to stop. Just tell him to stop putting out so much great stuff to comment on!

This morning I was reading his Philosopher’s Note on The Power of Concentration by Theron Dumont. When I came across that quote in the note the truth of it hit me over the head like a pile of … something really heavy.

Everything we do either helps us to grow or to deteriorate.

And in every moment, we can choose which we want to do.

This doesn’t mean that we are going to make “perfect” (whatever that means) choices every moment of every day. Sometimes we are honestly mistaken about what will promote growth. Sometimes we are blinded by our own defects. Sometimes we know that what we are about to do isn’t good for us, but we go ahead and do it anyway.

Bottom line – sometimes we choose wrongly. In my opinion, as long as we maintain a sincere desire to move into growth on a regular basis, we’ll find a way. We’ll grow in wisdom, so that we won’t be mistaken as often and won’t be as blind as often. We’ll grow in discipline, so we have the strength to make those choices that are best for us.

Abraham Maslow said something similar:

“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” (source)

Let’s step forward into growth today. Again. And Again. And Again.

 

Calluses of the Mind

Something else I’ve picked up from David Goggins, and another reason that we should follow the path of most resistance, is to build up “callus our mind”.

Our bodies are amazing things, fragile as hell yet able to toughen themselves as need be. Calluses develop on our skin (mainly our hands and feet) when it constantly rubs against something that it normally doesn’t come into contact with.

They develop in order to protect us – and so that the rubbing can continue without pain.

But the process itself involves pain. Sometimes calluses start as blisters and pop, spewing pus everywhere…. and the callus making process starts all over again. Not a fun processes.

Calluses of the mind work the same way.

Doing something different, something beyond our current level of comfort, by definition involves pain – sometimes mental, sometimes physical, usually both.

Calluses of the mind only develop when we come into contact with mental discomfort, over and over and over again.

Sometimes mental blisters develop and sometimes mental pus oozes. But if we keep at it, the calluses develop. And lo and behold, that thing that was soooo mentally painful no longer causes the discomfort it once did.

When you are deciding if you are going to to do something outside of your comfort zone, there’s always at least one excellent reason to do it.

In order to callus your mind.

 

Who The Fuck Are You?

“No, really, Lyman. Who the fuck are you to be writing this shit?”

“What qualifies you to write about Stoicism, ACT, Mental Health, or any of the other bullshit that you spout.”

I’m drawn to this stuff. Whatever the reason, I’m pulled toward expressing my ideas on personal development and how people can create better lives for themselves.

No matter how many times I quit, no matter how many blogs I’ve deleted, no matter how much criticism I get… I keep coming back for more.

For a while there, I started thinking that there was really something wrong with me. I thought I was one of those pathetic people who would just keep buying book after book, seminar after seminar, course after course… looking for that one thing that would finally make me ok.

Guess what. I was right. That’s exactly who I was. Still am to some degree. Probably always will be on some level.

But something kind of cool has happened. I gained a lot of knowledge. Knowledge is good. It’s one of the very few things out there where more is always better than less.

Some of the knowledge that I’ve gained is the knowledge that there’s a whole lotta bullshit out there in the world of self improvement. So many things that we thought were true when it comes to personal development were either just plain made up or put out there with only anecdotal evidence.

I like to think of it as a signal to noise ratio. And the noise in the self-help world can be deafening.

So who am I? I’m a guy who dabbled in almost every form of self help that you can imagine. A guy who can tell you what has worked for him and what hasn’t. A guy who can point people in the direction of those experts with a high ratio. A guy who, because he hated himself so much, was brought to the brink of death by his own hand, but is still here. And still kicking.

That’s who the fuck I am.

 

 

The Path of Most Resistance

I’m currently reading “Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds” by David Goggins. I’d seen the book floating around out there, but it didn’t interest me much. I thought it was just another “military guy has a rough time of it but succeeds in the end” kind of book. Yeah, they can be inspiring, but they don’t always have a whole lot of original, actionable material.

Then I came across this comment on Reddit, which pointed me to this video, which convinced me to find a copy of the book, read a few pages, and buy it.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the book. I’m about a quarter of the way in, and it’s fucking fantastic. But this article isn’t about that.

This article is about a single idea that I picked up in the video.

The idea of taking the Path of Most Resistance.

Normally, we hear and talk about the path of least resistance. It’s how water and electricity move. We design aqueducts and wire homes to take advantage of this.

Human beings default to the path of least resistance as well. I really like the idea that it’s an evolutionary trait – we aren’t lazy, we’re just conserving energy because who knows when a lion or that asshole from the other tribe is gonna leap out from the bushes? You better be ready.

In order to conserve that energy, we design our lives to take advantage of this property.

This isn’t a bad idea. Simplifying is a great example of taking the path of least resistance – get all of that crap out of your life so that you can focus on what really matters.

The problem we have now is that we’ve created lives that are so easy when compared to the lives that the majority of people lived just a hundred years ago, it’s almost laughable.

Not that people don’t have problems. When everything is difficult, *of course* you should take the path of lease resistance. You don’t need to train for life when every day is a constant struggle for survival – the race itself is the training.

But that’s not what (most of) our lives are like right now. Most of the people in the society we live in (I’m assuming you have at least a few creature comforts if you are reading this) have an essentially zero chance of being surprised by a mountain lion, and a very small chance of being physically attacked by a member of another tribe in the in the near future.

“Wait a minute, buddy. You obviously don’t live in my neighborhood if you think that I only have a ‘very small chance’ of being physically attacked.”

Right. But it’s not going to happen *constantly*, unless you live in a literal war zone. So even in a “bad neighborhood” situation, how much time do you think you need to rest, and how many calories do you need to pack on (without immediately using them properly) to be ready?

Not as much or as many as we are, that’s for sure.

We relax. We “conserve energy.” We consume mass amounts of readily available calories because our caveperson brains think that it may be the last time that we see food. Then we get mesmerized by the media that convinces us just how dangerous the world is, repeating the cycle. And to satisfy the need we have for adventure, we live our lives through our screens, watching others do the things that we want to do instead of doing it ourselves.

And it’s killing us.

Taking The Path Most Resistance, whenever possible, is a solution. Start taking it. On purpose. When you don’t have to. Whether it’s connected to a major goal or not.

It will make you stronger.

That’s why people go to the gym or hit the trails for a run. To get stronger. We don’t have to. We do it in order to feel better, in order to look better, in order to be able to say “Yeah, I can do that.”

Make your life your gym. Take the path of most resistance as often as you can.

Of course that dish in the sink isn’t going to hurt anything by being there. Rinse it out and put in the dishwasher anyway.

Of course it’s more reasonable to drive the mile to the grocery store. Why waste your energy walking and carrying the stuff back?

What’s the point of talking to that attractive person and asking them out, when you know you are going to get shot down?

It isn’t only about getting the sink clean or taking care of the shopping or being in a relationship with a particular person.

It’s about your ability to get shit done that needs to get done. And the more you can make getting shit done a habit, the more shit you’ll get done. And maybe (maybe!) you’ll have a clean sink, a well stocked fridge, and your dream partner in the process.

Take the path of most resistance more frequently today. It doesn’t have to be be huge at first. When you feel fear, discomfort, or laziness when facing the prospect of doing something that you want or need to do, recognize that this is path of most resistance. And take it.

 

Locked Doors

About a week ago, I was outside with my dog for his morning business.

Petey is an awesome dog – fun, loving, loyal – unless there’s another dog around. He came from a shelter and is a bit emotionally damaged. Other dogs freak him out, and he can get very aggressive (barking, snarling) when he sees them, whether they are near him or not. When they get close by, he goes insane. My wife Tracy and I refer to it as “going Cujo”, and that’s not an exaggeration. Luckily, he’s a small (30 to 35 pounds) Corgi mix, so the leash and harness allow us to manage him, but it is difficult.

Anyway… I’m outside with him at about 4:30 am, and I notice another dog owner out there. When this happens, I always do my best to move away. Since it’s my dog who’s the asshole, I figure it’s my responsibility to do the moving.

But… this person starts coming toward me with their dog in tow. I stand there, talking softly to Petey, telling him it’s OK, telling him to be a good boy.

“Do you have a key to the apartment building? I locked myself out.”

Ugh…

No, not the most compassionate response. I’ve locked myself out of the building myself a few times, but luckily my wife has always been home when I’ve done it so she can just let me in. It must really suck to not have someone to do that for you. If the person didn’t have a dog with them, it wouldn’t have been a problem at all, but I know what’s coming.

I realize there’s a solution!

“The side door is unlocked,” I tell her. “Just go in through there.”

“But the inside doors…”

“The one on the first floor hasn’t locked in the two+ years I’ve lived here. You can get to the elevators that way.”

“But the inside doors lock.”

O boy.

“No, it’s unlocked. You can get in that way.”

“But the inside doors lock, and I won’t be able to get to my floor.”

“You can go through the side door, then the inside door, then the elevator.”

“But the inside doors lock.”

OK… I guess she needs her hand held. Here we go.

She’s between me and the path leading to the doors. So I start walking toward her and her dog to get by her and there goes Petey. Barking, snarling, up on his hind legs, pulling at the leash trying to get at the other dog.

She gives me almost no room to get by, but I manage and get to the door. I open the outside door without my key and point to the inner one. “That door is unlocked. It’ll get you to your apartment.”

“No, it’s locked.”

Fuuuuuuck!

“I promise you… go up there and you’ll be able to open the door.”

She grudgingly gets by me (freaking Petey out even more) and goes to the door. She turns the handle, and low and behold, it’s unlocked and she gets through.

The response you’d expect? “Wow, thank you!”

The response I got? “Well, these are supposed to be locked!” as she goes through the door without another word.

“Supposed to be” is not equal to “is”.

I understood that she was having a hard time. Locking yourself out of your building at 4:30 am is a pain in the ass at best, scary at worst. She was reacting to her situation with anger and wanted someone to fix it for her.

Again, not my most compassionate moment. Now I see I should have shot her some metta – “May she be free from suffering.”

When do I just stand around and wait for a savoir, consciously or not? When do I not try solutions that are offered to me? When do I not even look for a solution? When do I just sit around and give up, completely misusing the principle of acceptance?

What doors are wide open in my own life – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially, etc. – that I assume are locked and I can’t get into? What could I be, do, and have if I’d just make a tiny bit of effort and try to open the door?

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. It’s usually necessary if we want to do something we haven’t done before. That’s something I need to work on myself. But once a solution is offered, we need to try it before discounting it.

What door do you assume is locked and haven’t even tried to open in your own life? Even if you’ve tried before, try again. Ask for help, then implement the solution if it isn’t something you’ve actually tried to do before. And if that doesn’t work, try again, look again, ask again. There are two possible outcomes –  you’ll eventually find a solution, or you’ll die before that happens. Since you’re going to die anyway, you might as well spend your time working on getting those doors open.

It’s way better than standing outside the apartment building of life waiting for your key to come.

 

The Dance of Thoughts, Emotions, And Actions

Thoughts cause emotions.

Thoughts cause actions.

Emotions cause thoughts.

Emotions cause actions.

Actions cause thoughts.

Actions cause emotions.

It’s a dance. Some think that the thoughts take the lead, others emotions, and others actions. I think they are all correct.

It’s not a straight line where A –> B –> C. It’s more of triangle, with each point connecting to the other.

Change any one of them, and the other two will follow. They may come along kicking and screaming, but they’ll come along eventually.

Emotions are the hardest to work on directly. Drugs the easiest way that I know of. Most of the ones I’ve tried have brought my life to some pretty horrifying places. A few (mainly for my Bipolar disorder) have helped, but only to stabilize. There is no joy to be found in Lamictal.

Thoughts can sometimes be changed directly, but forcing new ones seldom lasts, and can actually be harmful.

(With regard to thoughts and feelings, I’ve found that unconditional acceptance of my current state is the best starting point for change.)

Actions are the easiest to brute force. The tiniest action (putting one foot on the floor after laying in a heap of apathy, straightening our back after slouching) can have a major impact on our thoughts and emotions. It’s the lever that can move your world. But action untempered by thought and emotion is blind and can be the lever that destroys your world.

If you want to dance a different dance, first recognize who is doing the leading, and maybe let one of the others tap in.