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296 – How to Handle Frustration

This week'e episode is a bit different. Usually I write up my episodes so I dig deep and give you something really helpful. This week, it's just me and the mic talking about how sometimes people act in ways that are frustrating. They lie, cheat, even steal from you. I talk about how I'm dealing with that in my life at the moment and how I'm using Stoicism to act with integrity, and not let someone else control how I behave, or how I feel.

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Categories
self-improvement

287 – Interview with Constatin Morun of Unleash Thyself Podcast

Episode Transcript:

Erick: Hello friends, my name is Erick Cloward and welcome to the Stoic Coffee Break. Stoic Coffee Break is a weekly podcast where I take aspects of Stoicism and do my best to break them down to the most important points. I share my experiences, both my successes and my failures, and hope that you can learn something from them all within the space of a coffee break.

So this week's episode is an interview with Constantin Morin, and Constantin has a podcast called Unleash Thyself. And Constantin and I had a great conversation a couple of weeks ago and he's just a really warm and very insightful guy and I really enjoyed the conversation with him. We had talked before that as well and I really appreciated his insights into developing the type of person that you want to become and getting over those internal blocks that keep you from.

From reaching your full potential. So his podcast again is, is called Unleash Thyself and I highly recommend it. Like I said, Constantin was, is a great guy and we just had such a wonderful conversation. So I hope that you enjoy this conversation with him and we'll see you at the end of the podcast.

Constantin: Hello. Hello everyone. We have with us today Constantin Morun from the Unleash Thyself podcast.

We're about to have a beautiful conversation around many, many amazing topics that are important in today's day and age and one that's very dear to my heart and for those that are able to see this in video format, I have a sign to my right here that says follow your heart. And what it really means to me is essentially not just following what's in your heart, but starting with knowing what's in there and allowing it to come up.

And I also equal that to finding your why, finding your purpose, finding what it is that you want to be doing and then pursuing it. Like that's the last thing you'll do in your life so that you can ideally find joy, fulfillment, success, abundance, and whatnot. And I know Erick, you and I had a beautiful conversation last week on this topic and so many others.

So I thought, why not start there? Maybe we'll, we'll start with you and say, well, how has your journey led to this point and how are you seeing this idea of potentially following your heart further down? whatever paths you decide to go on.

Erick: Yeah. So the last, uh, year for me has been, wow. I mean, actually, yeah, basically the last two years, but especially this last year has been, uh, massive amounts of changes.

So I'm currently in Florida right now and I don't have a house and I don't have a car and I got rid of most of my possessions. I have some things in my brother's place. Uh, Bicycle, keyboard, guitar, some clothes, old yearbooks, pictures, those kinds of things, but just a few bins over there and. What I have with me is a, a checked baggage, a carry on bag, and my backpack, and that's all that I have, and it feels very freeing to be in this situation.

One of the things that I did find interesting was that even though I've gotten rid of all of this stuff, My level of happiness, levels of anxiety that are part of everyday life haven't changed much from when I did own a house and I did have all of these things. And so I was talking the other day with, uh, so I'm staying with my friend Shana here in Florida, and we're talking to a good friend of hers who is just Went through a really, really nasty divorce and her ex was talking about, she was telling me about how he is always looking for things outside of himself to find his happiness, you know, he bought this new big truck, you know, that he was hoping, you know, so we could be like, I'm, you know, this big manly man kind of thing and all of these things that he does and he's so miserable and he, he tries so hard to have all of these things outside of him to make him happy.

And, you know, he's always, You know, he goes out of his way to make other people unhappy, thinking that by diminishing their happiness, it will make him somehow happier and have control over them. And it was just fascinating because I, you know, as I was talking to this gal and I just mentioned how, you know, the external doesn't necessarily change the internal.

It can be helpful for sure. If you're in a really bad situation, like if you're in a war zone and you get out of a war zone, that can be incredibly healing for sure. But for the most part, so much of our external doesn't change our internal. So I'm just as happy as I was before, I have just as much anxiety about what I'm going to do with my life as I did before, but I definitely feel a bit freer because I don't have all of these things that I have to worry about, and that right there has been, been really, really good for me and very healthy for me, um, but I still, like I said, I still worry about what I'm going to do with my future and where I'm going to go, so I'm.

Yeah. I'll be flying out to Amsterdam next week, which will be very interesting and very exciting. So I'm really looking forward to that. I'm going to move this mic here so I, uh, so I'm really looking forward to that. Um, but I think on, for the most part, uh, yeah, this next few months are going to be very much about discovery and trying to figure out what I can do and what I want to do with my life.

Constantin: Yeah. That's a beautiful spot to be in. If you can be there. And the story you shared from your friend and. the discussion you had that resonated so deeply with me because honestly, that described me a few years back before I really made a decision and said, well, I need to understand why this brings me joy, happiness, fulfillment, because like the person described, I tried all the external things, shiny toys.

Hanging out with the wrong people, doing the wrong activities. And I say wrong because they're wrong for me, not necessarily because they weren't good activities. And the putting down of other people. And what I have found that's very interesting that in all that process, Erick, is that it's usually like what you do to others and how you perceive others.

It's a big reflection of who you are internally. And perhaps in his case was about putting people down so he can feel better about himself. But that also can tell me, and based on what I know now, is that likely he was putting himself down internally. Because I was doing the same thing and I come from a place where like, oh yeah, that makes sense.

That's what I was doing. I was putting myself down. And I thought that's normal, which meant that why would I be doing anything else to other people? To me, that's normal. I'll put you down. I'll make you small because I make myself small all the time. And for me, the biggest catalyst, the biggest change was realizing that I was living a life that pretty much everyone else Painted for me in a way.

They're like, this is what you should do. This is what's gonna bring you, happiness's gonna bring you money. This is what's gonna bring you success, blah blah, blah. Fill in the blanks. And it wasn't until I was like, oh yeah, you know what? That's what happened. I lived someone else's life. Let's actually take a step back.

I want this constant in one. And that process took a while for me. 'cause I wanted it myself. with my own knowledge, following books, following podcasts. And eventually I came to the other side and I said, Oh shit, this is my, this is my passion. This is my, why this is my purpose. And since that day, everything became more clear.

Like in your case, nothing changed overnight. It's still a process. It took me in fact, six months to really do something about it. But then once I took that action, so I went from like awareness, I became aware of what it is because I did the work to action. That's when everything changed. That's when my, I came out of depression and moved on the other side.

That's when I, my anxiety reduced to the point where it's mostly gone now. That's where burnout pretty much. And all of these things start to happen in, in our lives when we align ourselves more with who we are. And that's what I found from my own life, the people I'm fortunate enough to, to coach and mentor and other people in my life that, that I've seen go on similar paths.

And it sounds like you're on the path, Erick, right now where you have left behind the things that you don't need anymore, that don't serve you anymore. And now you get to pave a new path and finding out. What really makes you tick?

Erick: Yeah, for sure. And yeah, it's, it's going to be an interesting path for sure.

There's so many roads and, and things I can take. Uh, as most of you know, I've been in tech for at least my listeners. I've been in tech for 24 years and that was something that I fell into. It wasn't necessarily what I wanted to go into. It just more of, I was just stumbled into it, found I was good at it.

And as people kept paying me more and more money to do it, it was like, okay, I'll, I'll keep doing this. And, um, you know, not the worst thing in the world, but by realizing that. It's probably not ever really been my passion. So I wasn't one of these people who came home from work or finished up work and then jumped on a, you know, my own project.

So I jumped on an open source project to work on it. You know, it's just like, I would find it interesting and I would read up on new technologies and I would find those things, but I found that. That it just wasn't, I just wasn't one of those super geeks that loved, you know, sitting down and programming all day.

I mean, I, I did it for work and what I found, yeah, what I found was that I love creating and that was really important. Uh, so having, uh, having a job where I was creative and I always need to be creative with everything I do is really important to me. I need to create things for other people, whether that's podcasts, whether that's writing a screenplay, which I did one time, uh, about 25 years ago.

For competition. I thought I wanted to be a screen player, screenwriter at one time. Uh, I've written music. So in fact, the, the theme for my podcast, if you listen to that piano theme, I wrote that it's actually a much longer composition and I took a piece out of that. So for me, it's, it's all about creating things and what I'm going to create next.

I'm not sure. And, you know, I, I definitely have lots of ideas, which makes it challenging to winnow those down and to, to really pick on those things. And I wish, I guess I don't wish, but for me, it's, it's a place of discovery. And so that's, that's always exciting. I like to explore as I like to discover things.

So I don't have a problem with getting out there trying to discover these things. I know a lot of people want all the answers now and they want to know exactly what they should be doing. And I. Over the last few weeks, I've been struggling with that. I have these moments of, of kind of almost panic or a little bit of anxiety of like, crap, what am I supposed to be doing?

Am I supposed to be working on music? Am I supposed to focus more on my podcast? Am I supposed to write a book? What is it that I need to be doing? And because I don't have an answer for that right now, there's, there's quite a bit of anxiety. And, you know, like text my friends, I'm like, ah, am I making the, making the right choices?

And they're just like, you're on a good path. Just follow this path out and see. Where you can go and where you can get to. And so I sat down last week, I think it was, and read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. That's something I like to do every now and then because it reminds me of remembering that you need to follow the path through and do your best in every situation.

And what was, there was something I was reading where, uh, no, it was actually, uh, uh, what's his name? Uh, Josh Terry on, uh, Instagram. I don't know if you've ever seen him. It says his Instagram thing is Josh Terry plays or something like that, but he, he gives inspirational videos. And I really liked one the other day where he said there are two different ways of following a path in this world or of… of finding your purpose in this world. One of them is to have a clear vision of where it is, and then you, you create a plan and you work relentlessly towards that vision. And plenty of people do this, and they, they mold their circumstances themselves around to try and reach that goal. And then there's the other side, which is, excuse me, which is where you live in each moment the very, very best you can, and you make a choice in that moment.

Do I want to go this way, or do I want to go that way? You try one of those, and you see how it fits, you do your best in that situation, and if it works for you, you continue on down that path, if not, you take some steps back, and then you change your path a little bit, and then you try the next thing. And again, but each moment you are trying to live that moment most excellently as possible.

And you said, either one is fine, but knowing how you work with things might be a better thing. It might suit you better. And for me, I recognize that I'm definitely more of the latter. I'm more of that person who gets in, experiences it, tries it, and then see if I like it, see if it works for me. If it doesn't, then take some steps back.

I've never had this grand vision of what my life should be. And I've been a much more of a, an experiencer of life, but it's hard sometimes to recognize that. It's okay to be an experiencer of life. I don't have to have the grand plan, especially in a world where they're always telling you, Oh, you have to plan your goals.

You have to have these big plans to do all of these things. And you have, you know, in order for you to reach your goals, you have to, you know, make smart goals and all of these different things with that. And I think that's true, but I think that not everybody works that way. And I, I, I oftentimes feel like I'm very disorganized in my life because I don't, you know, I'm not a project manager.

I don't plan things out in a big old project, uh, per se. But I'm able to manage things pretty well and get things done. I mean, I, my friend Lisa pointed out that I cleared a six bedroom, 3, 800 square foot house in just a few months when I was selling my house and got rid of all of this stuff that I accumulated for over 13 years.

So it was. You know, it was definitely doable and I'm definitely recently good at planning like that. But I don't feel like I'm a good planner like that because I don't have like a long term vision of like, in five years I'm going to be here, in 10 years I'm going to be doing this. You know, I don't even know what I'm going to be doing in three months.

Constantin: So here's the funny thing though, right? The definition of a planner that you might be using is someone else's definition. And that's what I have found on this journey as well is that we tend to jump on definitions that other people make for things. That's fine, right? Because you got to start somewhere.

But at one point we have to take control and say, well, what's my definition? Do I feel like I am a planner? And like you said, you give good example as to why you are one, maybe you're not one by the standard definition of the definition of those that you have had in your life as people to follow. And that's always interesting to look at because everything can be looked at the same way.

And you talked about this as well, about being okay with the unknown. And one of the biggest fears, if you talk from a psychology point of view, one of the biggest fears that people have in life is the fear of the unknown. And there's a good reason behind it when you look at how we evolved as human beings, right?

Unknown is what could kill you and in many cases it did back in a hundred years plus. So fear of the unknown is something that most people innately afraid of and then that gets built up with our society and whatnot. So it's beautiful to see that when we can be a bit more liberated and say, you know what?

I've been okay till now. I've made it to here. Let's allow some unknown to pour in. It's like, I know I want to. Like in your case, for example, explore music or in my case, explore public speaking, not be so rigid on how that's going to happen because that's when you miss out on opportunities. And that's how I was by the way, because I'm a project manager at heart.

I have the certifications. I had to like, Oh, I want to public speak. This is exactly how it's going to happen. And when you do that, you're essentially, it's almost like you're swimming upstream or you're swimming against a tide. You may get there because you're working really hard, but it's going to cost you.

Meaning your health, your mental health, your emotional health, all those things may come into play and some will not make it. Or you can allow a bit of the unknown to come in and they will show you a path. It's like, oh, if you go left here a bit. It's going to be less current than if you go right, it's going to be even less, right?

So all of a sudden you see opportunities, you see new experiences, new people come into your life to guide you. And then the end goal is like so much more beautiful and that's been very, very hard for me to do. And it sounds like maybe a bit for you also, but for me as someone with a mathematics degree, being analytical.

Trusting in anything other than my brain has been difficult, but once I start doing it, it's so much more liberating and so much more powerful.

Erick: Mm hmm. What's been the most interesting surprise that is, that's come about or opportunity that's come about when you've been less analytical?

Oh, that's a, that's

Constantin: A, that's an amazing question.

And so one of the things that I've come to learn, this is the last six months maybe, is that I've always had an intuitive sense. What it's like, it's not coming from here. It's coming from somewhere below, right from your heart, from your gut. People call it gut feeling, intuition, inspiration. And the more I get out of my head, meaning that I don't jump on a conclusion or use my analytical mind through meditation, through other practices, I have these, I want to call them voices, but inspiration coming up.

And when I listen to it, it seems to be guiding me on a good path. When I don't listen to it, I'm reminded, well, you probably should have listened. And I'll give you a silly example. Over the holidays, I wanted to buy some new couches off of Facebook marketplace. I find some I liked, go to buy. I have a chat with the person, everything seems all right.

And in the past, if I didn't jump on a sale on my Facebook marketplace, they would sell pretty quickly. So we arranged to do a deposit of 50. So not a huge amount. As I sit down at the computer to do the transfer, to put a deposit so I can pick the market the next day, I literally have this gut feeling that something is not right.

Literally, I'm like, this, this seems off. I look at their profile a bit. I see that they have some items listed in literally in Canada and one in the US. And one across from what I was in Canada. I'm like, that's odd. But instead of asking them any questions, I continued to look. I saw a couple more fees that seemed off, but I'm like, you know what?

I really want this couch. I'm just going to send the money. But the entire time I had the feeling that this was off. This is not good. As soon as I send the money and this is the way you, when you send the money, you cannot get it back. You're pretty much. Then I get up. I remember going upstairs. Telling my, my parents, my partner, it's like, you know what, I feel like this was a mistake, but let's sit with it.

And of course the next day comes up, I get ghosted and you know, I never see the coaches. And that's a great prime example where like, I'm just using, I wouldn't even say my analytical mind cause even my analytical mind could have seen this coming, but more like letting emotions to get the best of it.

Cause it's like, Oh, I really want this. Yeah. And not listening to the voice. And I've had that happen a lot more, but now because I'm getting out of my head, meaning that I'm not allowing my head to jump in as much, finding that balance, I get to hear that voice a lot more often. And it may show up as a feeling, it may show up as a something, you know, like a hormonal imbalance maybe.

I don't even know. It's very hard for me to explain, even though I look at it from a psychological and from a, I don't know, let's say science background.

Erick: Yeah. I've had that same thing happen to me before. So I get you. And as soon as I sent the money, it was like, wait a second. That was, ah, yeah, that was a bad idea.

And I knew that I knew that I didn't want it, but I was so excited about the thing that I didn't take that moment to pause and go, how does this feel? Does this feel right? No. Yeah. And that's the

Constantin: thing that people talk about. And it took me a while to really grasp, which they say, you can look at life as things happening to you.

Right? My car broke down. This person broke up with me. This experience was not good or good, whatever you want to label it. Or there's the other side, we can say, this is happening for me, meaning that, okay, I gave the money where I lost it. I could play the victim and be like, Oh, I can't believe I got swindled.

I can't believe these people did this to me. Blah, blah, blah. Right. And you become the victim and you beat yourself up. And there are other things happen there. Or you can say, this happens for me. Meaning it's like, okay, what lessons can I take out of this? What can I learn and why did this happen to me?

And for me, looking back at that, it's like, well, perhaps that lesson in my life came because It reminded me that, hey, you have another way to not just use your analytical mind or your emotions to make decisions. You have another way. It was shown to you. You didn't want to respect that. Well, here's what happens.

So that's a piece of a lesson. The other lesson could be is I don't trust people so easily. Do your due diligence at the very least ask them some questions. Hey, why do you have, you know, three listings all in different places in the world type stuff, right? So that's a big, a big, big, big lesson for me in the last few years.

It's like how you look at life. Are you the victim? So you look on the negative side or are you, is this happening for you and you look on the positive side?

Erick: Absolutely. Yeah. Think of it as a 50 lesson that you learned. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And that was the price you had to pay to learn that lesson.

Yeah. I think that's a much better way to look at it is, yep. I had to pay a price for this, but if I don't learn that lesson, then I wasted my money. Whereas now you, you had that 50 and you gave it away and you learned a good lesson from that. It's like, okay, I can learn something from this. Yeah, that's very, very true.

Yeah, the Stoics are, are very big on making sure that we were able to take that step back and look at things in the, and be able to analyze them that way. But it takes that self awareness, which I think is, is very, very challenging. It takes a lot of work. It also takes a bunch of humility because. It's, it's much easier to play the victim.

It's much easier to be like, Oh, like you said, you know, the world happens. Things happen to you. And I actually did a podcast episode called that to you or for you a while back. And it was all about that. It's like, is life happening to you or is it happening for you? And the thing is, is that life just happens.

And your choice on that, whether it's you decide is good or bad, it's, that's your choice. You can say this was the worst thing that ever happened to me, or you can say this is the best thing that ever happened to me. You can have no opinion on it. You can just be like, this is what's happening to me. And you have to accept it because it is what is happening to you.

But your judgment on that, and how you perceive it, and how you let it affect you, that's always your choice. You know, when something happens Yeah, and that's really hard for a lot of people because they'll be like, Oh, this horrible thing happened to me. That's why I feel this way. And it's like, no, this thing happened to you.

You made a decision that it's a horrible thing. And so you are acting like a horrible thing happened to you. And maybe it was something that was hard. Maybe you were in a car accident and you're in a lot of pain. But the more that you, your perspective on it adds. Even another layer of misery onto it if you do it that way, because I mean, there are plenty of people who have good things happen to them and they're still miserable about it.

I was listening to Tim Ferriss's podcast with Morgan Housel, who's a financial guy. He wrote, he writes about the psychology of finance and stuff like that. And he was talking about, um, back in the 60s, there was an interview with like the richest man at the time. I cannot remember his name at all, uh, cause I'd never heard it before this point, but he saw this documentary on this guy and it, they showed him and he was like the richest man of the world at the time.

And he was one of the most unhappy people that this guy had seen. And, and they asked him, they said, you know, what? You have, you can get anything that you want in life. What, what do you want most in life? It's like, I want to be someone who's happier than me. And he didn't know how to do that. Like he had all of this money, all of these things, but he had this perspective on things that even with all of this money, he was still miserable like that.

Because of his perspective, because of the way he was viewing the world. And it was really, it was really interesting to see that. You know, cause like they say, money simply magnifies who you are. And so if you're a miserable person to begin with, you just often will make you more miserable. Yeah. So you're circumstantial.

I

Constantin: love that. I'll give you an example. I mean, it's happened over the weekend. I'm still pondering over it and I'm curious to see your take on it with a stoic background and what you've gone through life. And this is pretty much on theme right here with like life happening for me, to me, and also reminds me of how it would have reacted in the past.

So, I have a fairly new vehicle, a 2023 GMC Yukon, and in Canada where I live right now, it's been literally snowing in the morning, freezing in the afternoon, raining in the evening. On this particular day, which was this past weekend, I get in the car to go to some, a friend's house and I get in the car and as I begin to drive down the road, I hear some water pouring in the background.

And I'm like, man, I hope that's not inside. And I hope that's on the outside. I didn't pay much attention to it. All of a sudden I stop at a stoplight and water starts pouring through the main console of the car. Inside, all over the dashboard, everything else. Then I see water pouring all over my leather seats in the back and I'm like, wow, I can't believe this is, this is a one year old car.

I have like 10, 000 miles on it. And I remember in the moment I had this biggest aha moment and I'm like, huh? I did the old things that I would normally do is like, I was like, why does it happen to me now? Like I have such a busy week coming up. I don't have time to deal with this. It's the weekend. All those old narratives.

But because I've done a bit of work and I, by a bit of, I mean, quite a bit of work lately, I was like, huh, you know what? Those thoughts are not going to be conducive because I know the path they're going to take me down on. I was able to interrupt them. I was able to put our thoughts in and say, you know what?

It's Saturday. This happened. There's a reason. We'll figure it out later. I have a night, a night with friends coming up. I don't want to ruin that. So all I did is I got to my destination, right? I wasn't thrilled about it, but I was like, whatever. I got out, messaged my friends and said, Hey, I'm going to be 10 minutes late.

I had some paper towel in the car, cleaned up the car. And between walking between what I part and their apartment building, I practiced my tools on how to essentially interrupt those thought patterns and replace them with good ones. And for the rest of the night, I was able to ignore the situation completely, which my old me, I would have turned around and I would have tried to deal with the issue on a Saturday night, been pissed off, called everyone I know to complain about, Look, poor me.

This happened to me. How can this happen? You know, I paid this much money for this card issue. Anyway, down the path. I had a conversation, I had, you know, five hours with my friends, got back down, left, more water was pouring. I'm like, okay, I'll deal with this on Monday. It's not a big deal. Practice my things.

Another moment of realization came up. I was like, Oh, let me call my parents or let me call a couple of friends and tell them what happened. Right? So we can all sulk in the misery and be like, ah, you know, bad GMC or bad this and bad that. And then I realized, you know what? I'm not. Because there's no point in focusing on the negativity.

There's no point in doing that. I'll take care of the problem. Like I always do, right? Looking back, I've taken care of everything I had come up in my life. And then it's going to be a fun story. And the beautiful part for me was that as I started meditating on this and when I got home, right? And the next day I was like, okay, so why did this happen for me?

And then it poured in. It's like, well, it becomes a great story to tell on a podcast like we're doing now. It's the first time I shared this. It can become a great story when I go and public speak about how my old self would react. and lead life and how my new self is doing it. There could be many other reasons that I haven't figured out yet, but we can always look at the positive.

And of course, Monday came, I went to the dealership. They're like, yeah, that's a pretty big issue. We'll take care of it. Come back in a few days. We'll get you in right away and we'll get it fixed. Right. And it took an, what, an hour of my time to get the dealership and back. They'll give me a rental car when I take the car in.

It'll be fine. It's not a big deal. It's just a car. And like you talked earlier about, like, they're just things. They're not gonna really do much other than amplify your situation. And that's been my experience. And when I sat with that, and I still sit with it every day in meditation, the more I do that, the more I realize, wow, if this was five years ago, I don't even know how ballistic I would have went.

Right. Like I would have been aggressive with the people at the dealership, maybe. And I would have been crying at everyone that would listen and it would derail my entire week. Right. Cause then you're in that negative mindset that it's not going to lead you to anything positive because you and I talked about last week, how your thoughts lead to your feelings, lead to your actions, lead to your results.

So my thoughts, all negative, negative feelings, which amplify more negative thoughts. Then my actions are not going to be positive and then my results are going to be exactly what you'd expect.

Erick: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. No, that's a great story. I, uh, and obviously a great learning example for sure. And one thing you mentioned in there, which I really, uh, I hadn't quite thought about it this way, but that.

You talked about how you didn't want to complain because you didn't want to suck people into the misery and you'd all feel crappy about that. And I'd never quite thought of it that way because oftentimes, you know, you feel like, you know, I need, I need to get this out. I just need to vent about this thing.

And I think that in some cases that is important. You know, when something crappy does happen, you want to be able to just want to go and let that out. Um, But I think that even then you need to be very careful about that. And the Stoics, you know, Marcus Aurelius, he talks in there, it's like, don't ever hear yourself complaining out loud.

Not even, not even in private, you know, and it's that same thing. But I was, but I hadn't, I hadn't quite thought about it yet. It's that whole thing of misery loves company. And a lot of times people will talk about all the miserable things that are happening to them because they want to pull people in.

They want to have that. People would feel sorry for them and they get that attention and stuff like that. And I've known, I've had plenty of friends and relatives and who've done that and it gets exhausting. And I hadn't realized that I hadn't really thought about it like that. So clearly the way you said that, you know, suck them into the misery.

And I was like, Oh, that's really, that's very, very poignant. But I mean, for

Constantin: me, that was a, that was a fairly new realization. I'll be honest, I haven't considered it like that. And then I asked, okay, what would the purpose of me calling be? Other than to perpetuate misery, if it's like you said, if it's to get a second opinion, be like, Hey, what should I do about this?

What happened? There's a different purpose. But I knew in my, in my mind and my heart and my body, that the only reason I would call is to complain and be like, Oh, how could this happen to me? Because I already knew what I was going to do. I mean, I had to take it to the dealership. It's on the warranty.

There's not really like I have 10 choices. I knew what had to be done, which meant I'm not going to call about opinions. I'm not going to call about anything else other than to complain. But there will be situations in which you find yourself or like something bad happens, like you said, and you do need those people in your corner.

But then I guess we have to check ourselves and see, are we calling to really complain or are we calling to say, Hey, this is what happened for me. It's not great. What is your opinion? What can I do? And then you kind of brainstorm back and forth. Yeah.

Erick: And I think that, I think that you can, in some instances with the right person, vent.

Because sometimes you just need to let that frustration out. And, and sometimes I've done that where I'm just like, Ah, this is the thing that's going on. This and this and this and this and this. And, okay, whew, all done. And it's just like, it's letting that energy out. But letting that person know, hey, I need a second to vent here.

This has nothing to do with you. This is not me dragging you down into the suck. This is me just, I need to let this energy out because it's spinning around in my head and once I say it out loud, I get that out. I think that's a very, very different approach because you're not necessarily complaining there.

It's more of like you're almost factually explaining the situation out loud just so you can put your story together in your own mind. And I think that there's, I think that there's a big difference between that, between complaining and venting. And I think that. I think they can be very interesting. I had something similar like that happened to me a while back, not nearly as, as epic as that, but, uh, I, I had scheduled to get my booster vaccine and my flu vaccine for this year and had it all scheduled out.

And before I was going to it, I had a doctor's appointment and then I had an hour in between the doctor's appointment. And when I was supposed to get my vaccine, the vaccine was on the far. It was the only one I could get, and I just wanted to get it done and out of the way. And so I finished up my doctor's appointment, walked to my car, and I couldn't find my car keys.

And I was like, what is going on here? And I look inside and they're sitting on my chair, like great. So I had to call an Uber to come pick me up, take me home, get my spare car key, bring me back. I drove all the way out there. I mean, just barely made it in the nick of time and it was at one o'clock and I said, okay, I'm here for my appointment.

They said, Oh, I'm sorry. The software double booked to you. Somebody's already taken that slot. We don't have vaccine for you today. And like, I was like, and I was so mad. I'm like, what? You expect me to suffer because your system screwed up. This is, and I just stopped right there. Cause I could feel myself getting so heated and I was like,

I'm sorry. I'm, I'm acting out of line. I'm really sorry about that. I know there's nothing you can do about it and I know it's not your fault. Have a good day. And I turned around, I was walking down the aisle and I was just like, and you know, one of the other people at the place was like, Hey, is there anything I can help you with?

And I was like, well, no, because this is what happened. I explained the situation really quick. And she was like, Oh, I'm really sorry about that. That kind of, that sucks that you drove all the way out here for that. And I said, yeah, but I'll just get some chocolate and go home. So I, I got some chocolate, went across the street, grabbed some lunch.

Cause I could tell I was getting really hungry, which makes me a little bit moody and angry. So I was like, okay, and went and did that. But I was. I was very proud of myself because like you said, you know, five years ago, I'd have been snapping out a pull to Karen. I would have been like, let me talk to your manager.

This isn't fair. You know, and I would have tried that and nothing would have happened. And I would have just been angry and pissy and moody that whole day, uh, you know, and it would have ruined my day when I just caught myself and was like, yep, there's nothing you can do about this. You're not doing this to be malicious.

You're not doing this to be mean at all. You're simply doing your job and there's simply the way the cards fall that day. It was like, okay. And so I just let it go and that for me was like, when I reflect on that later that day, I was like, yes, yes. And you know, pat myself on the back because before, because before, like I said, a few years ago, I would have just been, the claws would have come out.

And so it was, but I mean, I was still slightly disappointed with myself because I still did get heated right at first, but I was glad that I was able to pull back quickly enough and be like, Hey, I know this isn't your fault. Have a nice day. I love

Constantin: the story, Erick, and what I like about that is your realization there that you are aware that that's not who you are.

And looking back at myself doing that in the past, even though I realized I'd be like, I'll continue through with it. And you realize you stopped yourself and that's the power of what we're talking about here because with all the work I've done, with what I work with my clients as well on essentially reprogramming.

their mind so you can do stuff like we just said on a consistent basis. It's not that negative thoughts will not come up. I mean, you still live in an environment that has a lot of negative stuff happening. They will come up, but now you have the tools. So first awareness and then the second, the tools to stop that from getting anywhere big, right?

So as you work through this, you know, there was a few months ago now. You, because you celebrate, because you reinforce it with your mind, likely if it happens again, you might not even get to the point where you blurt anything out. You might catch yourself before you even say anything else and you walk away and say, thank you.

You know, it happens. And that's the power of repeating something that you want to instill within you because all those negative reactions like you and I had in the past, I mean, those are not just there all of a sudden. They were things that we repeated all our life or we were shown by others in our life.

So that means that the opposite is true too, which means that if you have a reaction, that means you likely repeat it often, either to yourself or to others, and you can overcome that and put something better in its place.

Erick: Yeah. And it's taken a lot of work because my example was my father and my father was highly reactive and he was very quick tempered and not all the time, but a good portion of the time.

So when something happened in a way that he was unhappy with, it was just. Bam, that temper come out really, really fast and it took, it took a lot, it's taken a lot of work to be very, very cognizant of that. And part of that, I think also is that because we often feel like if we have a good excuse for why we act a certain way, then it excuses that behavior.

And, and so one of the things that stoicism has really helped me with a lot is to actually take responsibility for those things that I do that I, rather than coming up with an excuse for it and being, Oh, it was okay that I acted that way because of X, Y, or Z, I take responsibility for it, which that was the other thing I tried to do here was I said, I'm sorry, I'm, it.

I'm acting out of line, and I shouldn't, you know, I shouldn't be acting this way, and I apologize, and I hope that you have a nice day. I didn't say, oh, you, you screwed up, I can't believe you did this, and, you know, and, and, because I did, I could have used that as an excuse of why I'm allowed to be angry.

But I didn't. I recognized that I needed to take responsibility for my behavior and the way that I was acting and what I was doing. And stoicism has really helped me with that, like I said, because I used to always have excuses. If I had a good excuse, a good rationalization for it, I then I was, I was totally justified.

And that's our ego talking, because what it does is it makes it so that we We feel okay with our behavior. We justify our behavior. And I think the more that we can look at those things and take responsibility for them, then we can, it makes it much easier to improve our behavior. Because if we're actually taking responsibility for it, we want to be sure that we don't continue that behavior.

We want to show that we don't repeat that behavior. And so when we actually step up and take responsibility and say, yep, I, I did that, I don't like that I did that, but I did that because it's, it's reality. It's what actually happened. And so. You know, in this case, yeah, I got heated. I got, I got started a little bit, get a little bit angry and I took responsibility for that.

I got angry and that wasn't very cool of me and I don't want to be that kind of person. So I own that responsibility. I own that, or I, I own that behavior and I'm responsible for my behavior. And so it helps to, it helps to take that away from our egos because we're not trying to soothe our egos and say, Oh, I'm okay.

I was justified in being upset. Yeah,

Constantin: beautiful, beautifully said that. And if you look at both of our stories there, right, something negative happens and everyone has a different definition of negative, right? Both of these situations are cool because they're negative across the board. And then we looked at it and said, okay, what's the lesson in this?

That's the positive side of it, because it doesn't remove the fact that you still had to go somewhere else and spend more time and energy and do that. It doesn't take away the fact that I have to now deal with this issue. We don't know the damages inside. It doesn't take away any of that. It's not about negating the negatives.

It's about not focusing on them, which is what you emphasize so beautifully here as well, because we, I guess, because of culture and how we learned in school, but also our human physiology and evolution, We are prone to focusing on the negative. You and I talked about the negativity bias, which is the idea that anything negative makes it to your brain, to your conscious mind, a lot quicker, either from your memories or from what happens in the environment, because it was a defense mechanism as we evolved to keep you alive.

So you knew about all of this, which is something that we have to work against. That's why it's so hard to actually get a hold of it. And then once you become aware of that, then the next part is you have a choice. Do you want to do something about it because you have the knowledge? Or do you continue to be the way you are?

And I don't believe there's a wrong or a right answer. Some people choose to continue even though they know better. And some say, like you and I in this case, is like, you know what? We know better. Let's take an action. And the action is to, well, feel our feelings as we both, you know, I was angry as well in the moment I felt those feelings, but then I chose to let them go, let go the negative thoughts and move on to the lesson piece.

It's like it happens for me. What's the purpose and the reason they happen in your case? I'll give you like my two cents. It may have happened to teach you, not to teach you, to reinforce the lesson you just knew you learned. How can you learn something if you don't practice it over and over? So if this keeps showing up in your life, it's not that the universe doesn't like it.

It's like, well, let's get you better at dealing with the situation. So in your case, Erick, it could be like, well, you might not even have the outburst. It's going to get to a point where it could be like, you'll be frustrated. You might let. My event, when you get back to the car or in a private space, be like, okay, you know, that's unfortunate.

What can we do about it? So that's, that's, that's beautiful to see.

Erick: So do you think that most people fall into a negativity trap like that or fall into things being negative because they assume that these things shouldn't happen to them as if life should be great all the time. And so when bad things happen, they feel like, like the universe is out to get them, if you will.

That's a

Constantin: great question. I love the question. I'll say a few people might be like that, right? Because, uh, I can only give myself an example because I know myself really well. I've been like that many times in my life because I'll be like, I have a good stretch and then something negative happens like this.

I'm like, but I've been doing everything right. Why, why is this negative thing happening? Like, why is this being thrown my way? Why is this happening to me? Why, you know, like, and we get into that. And some people unfortunately have lives that are a bit tougher and then negative things keep piling up. But here's what I've come to realize.

Once you get yourself into a negative state, you're much more likely to attract more negativity into your life because if you can't appreciate the positives, then why would those be reflected back to you? Is if you look at just from a psychology point of view or from a physiology point of view or anything that's, let's say science based more, right?

Look at what happens. You and I both know the example, I think we talked about this. If you think about a red car, cause you want to buy a red car, when you go out on the street, that's all you're going to see. You're going to see a red car here, a red car here, a red car there. And that's the power of your focus where you put your focus.

That's where your subconscious mind will and with your conscious material will try to make that a reality for you. So if you focus on the negativity and say, I can't believe this is happening to me. I can't believe life is so unfair. I can't believe this, this, and that. You're telling your brain to bring more of that because that's what you're asking.

That's what you're talking about. But if you focus on the positive, that's more of what's going to come back into your life. So to answer your question That's part of it for sure. I have seen it show up in many different ways, right? People have had bad luck their entire life. And then that keeps building up because that's all they can focus on.

Other people have been mistreated and they take the mistreatment as a reflection on who they are versus on who the person doing the mistreatment was. And that was me earlier in my life because I was bullied and then I became the bully a bit. And I'm like, It was never about me to begin with, about what the person was going through.

And then when I was a bully to, let's say, my younger brother for, for a few months before I learned better, it was also because what I was going through, it was nothing else. Yeah, yeah,

Erick: I do find, yeah, and I do find that though, that often when people do get stuck in that negativity, that it seems like their life continues to be negative.

And I don't know if it's that they necessarily have more negative things actually happening or if it's just that they draw attention to those negative things far more than your average person does.

Constantin: Great, great point. And I can see, I can see it's both because So there was, there were studies and there's this paper coming up on this, but I'll tell you a couple that fascinated me.

So there, I don't know which part in the States, there is this beautiful road in the middle of nowhere, simple road. And it has like telephone poles every a hundred or so yards or meters and no trees or anything else. And then there was this stretch of road where there were a lot of accidents and like 80 percent of accidents.

The people that essentially just by on their own, they were hitting the telephone pole, but there's like a hundred yards between them. So like, they were wondering like, how can you hit a telephone pole when like literally you have so much space to like, just not hit anything. And what they've realized is that the people that got in those accidents, they would be like, you know, the car was swerved.

And then we're like, Oh, don't hit the pole. Don't hit the pole. All your mind gets there is like pole, pole, pole. And then that's the direction you're going to go into. And if you think about that, like take an abstract back and say, okay, how do I apply that in our life? If your focus is on the negative, Oh, I hope I'm not going to catch all the red lights on my way to work.

I hope. My manager is not going to be pissed off at me today. Like all those negative focuses that we have, well, that's what you're asking your mind to bring into your existence. And we're not talking about spiritual stuff here. We're talking about how our body works. And obviously if you take it to the spiritual side, that's how manifestation and law of attraction technically works because you put your focus on something and that's what you attract into your life.

And that's what I see when I go to your question or some people will technically have more negative stuff happen because their focus is so much in the negativity that that's all they can see because I, I'm not sure about you, but I have friends in my life that essentially I go to any party, I go to any gathering, all they can talk about is, Oh, this bad thing happened to me and this bad thing happened to me.

And this happened to my mom and this happened to my father. And you're like, wow, that person must have a really unlucky life. And then you realize, wait a second, maybe it's not that, because you know what? I've also had a lot of these things happen in my life, but I chose to focus on the positives. And then there were less of those things happening in my life.

Huh, I wonder if there's something there. Yeah, yeah,

Erick: I can see that very much happening. Yeah. Yeah, well, kind of back to what you said about the telephone poles. Uh, so I actually got my motorcycle license a number of years ago, and mostly because I'm terrified of riding motorcycles, and so I was like, okay, I want to, I want to, I want to do this to get over that fear.

Um, but what I found, what was interesting is they teach you in, in this, like if you're riding on your motorcycle and you see a pothole, you focus on away from the pothole. You don't focus on it, you focus where you want to go because where you're is like where your focus goes, that's where you go. And so that is one of the things that they, they specifically teach, you know, especially on a motorcycle because you, you are carrying.

In a car, it's, you can turn a lot quicker and with a motorcycle, so much of it is momentum so that you stay upright. So you can't turn nearly as fast, otherwise you lay the bike down. And so it's like, look where you want to go. And that was really a very important lesson like that. And I think, yeah, so basically you hit it right on.

Yeah. So people will, when they're sliding off the road, don't hit the telephone pole, don't hit the telephone pole. Bam.

Constantin: Well, there was another study. I don't remember where, this was in Europe somewhere, where they took a class of kids and they told them to run around the class, but avoid hitting any other kids.

And then they took another class and they told them, just run around the class, have fun, do whatever you want. Well, which group do you think had the most collisions?

Erick: Probably the first one.

Constantin: Yeah. Yeah. Right. Because people are like, Oh, I want to make sure I don't hit this, this. Like you said, your focus is on like what to avoid.

And then that's what's going to come into your life. It reminds me of school sometimes, right? I was an A plus student up to the university, then I didn't care as much for school. I still graduated with a math degree. I still did well, but I remember when I was going in and I was afraid of, I cannot fail this test.

I don't want to fail this. Let it not be this, this, and this negative questions, and then they would be on the test. I'll be like, did I manifest that? What happened? Looking back now, I was just focusing on the negatives. Right. And I couldn't allow anything else to show up in my life.

Erick: Exactly. Okay. So we had talked earlier about kind of making the theme about this of, of finding your path, what advice or what are some experiences you want to share along that?

Cause I know that your podcast is about Unleash Thyself, which is very much driven with helping others find their path. So for you, what. I guess what are the top three things that you can put out there that you find are the most helpful for people trying to figure out their path and, and, and to head the direction of that their life should go or that they want their life to go?

Constantin: I love that question, Erick. And um, the way I look at it right now is I looked at how I've done mine and I did a lot of research. I did a lot of studies. It took me months to uncover it. Now the process I've streamlined it and it came down to like three big categories really, which is the uncovering. What it is that your why is your purpose doing a quick inventory where it shows up in your life.

And then for most of us, it doesn't show up much for me. It was like less than 10%, meaning that pretty much one in 10 actions I was taking was not driven. By this why, by this purpose, which meant, of course, I wasn't really happy because that's my why in the end is what drives that happiness, joy, fulfillment, abundance, all of it.

And then once you have that inventory taking action, because we talked all after doing this entire interview and conversation about the importance of action and putting your focus on something, right? But you can't do the last two steps unless you do the first one. So the first one, let's break it down a bit.

The way I see it when it comes to uncovering. your why, your purpose. It starts with who you are after the day, meaning that what I do with my clients and what I do myself as well is I look back at stories of my life. I, I will tell you, Hey, if you came to do this with me, it's like, Hey Erick, bring 10 stories.

Don't think too much about that. Think about stories that are important to you. Maybe the first time you got your first job, maybe summer camp when you were 12 and some cool stuff happened. Maybe, uh, uh, you know, the incident you had that, uh, with the vaccine, right? And the flu shot, that could be a good story.

And the idea is that then you have someone else, a coach, a mentor, a friend that doesn't even know you intimately to really influence you to, to negatively. You, you tell the story and as you go through the story, You allow the other person to ask you questions, not why questions. Why did you do this, Erick?

But more around what questions and how questions to try to get the feelings, to try to get to the bottom of it and showing who Erick actually is or who this person actually is. And what you will see come up from, it's actually phenomenal. For me, when I do this with my clients, it takes about three hours to go through 10 stories because you want to go deep.

You'll see patterns form up and most people will have anywhere between three to seven different patterns to form up. And that will lead you to seeing which one shows up more in these stories because you'll have stories that have nothing to do with each other. In fact, some are. Five years apart, decades apart, one is a school, one is a family.

And all of a sudden you see, whoa, there's a pattern there, there's a pattern here. So that might mean that that's more who I am. And from there you start to work with the person that was helping you do this, facilitate, you find out honing on a statement. Like for me, my statement that I came to, and by the way, this is always evolving because you evolve as a person.

But mine right now is, so actually before I even share mine, there's two pieces to it is what you do and the impact you have with what you do essentially. So mine is to inspire, empower, guide and support individuals. So that's what I do. So that they, so they too can find joy, fulfillment, success, abundance.

in life and their world becomes a better place, right? So that's the impact I'm having on their life specifically. So once I found my why, there's a second element to it. So that's the first part, right? The best, the biggest theme is usually your why. And the idea here is you don't want to be spending too much time on the words.

It's whatever sounds well for you, right? Mine, that's what sounded good to me. To you, it might sound different if that's your theme as well. But keep in mind, that's very genErick, right? You could take that, Erick, someone else can take it. And it's, it doesn't really tell you how you're going to do it, what type of, um, work you're going to do to fulfill that.

You then go to the next part, which is the how. So the other themes, because as I mentioned, there's like usually three to nine teams coming up. The other ones usually become your how, like how you're going to actually execute on this. So if I'm talking about inspiring, that's one of the things I want to do.

It's not that, Oh, I'm going to do a podcast. That's the, what the, how is, what actions do you take on a daily basis or want to, or rather. are taking on a regular basis to execute on your why, right? So maybe it's the way you talk. Maybe it's the way you listen. Maybe it's the way you reach out to people. It could be a million different things.

And you find those themes. It could be anywhere from three to five themes from what I have seen. So three hows. And now what do you have? You have a why, you have a how, or multiple hows. And the last piece is how do you actually, or the what rather, which is. What do you do with that? Meaning how does it show up in your personal life?

How does it show up in your professional life? So for me, it was, Oh, okay. The one of the Watts is the podcast. A second one is social media posts. A third one is how I show up in my personal life. A fourth one is how I show up in my coaching and mentorship practice. A fifth one is how I show up in my corporate life.

I don't know why or how I execute on my, on my, why in my

Erick: house. Can you explain the house a little bit more? I'm, I'm not quite catching that. So, yes. So

Constantin: let's, uh, let me actually, I have a, give me one second. Okay.

I have, uh, one of my journals here in which I, I work on on my own ideas. Other things. So I'll give you some examples from how I brought this down with a couple of clients recently. And, uh, when it comes to the house, let me, let me get to it and we can cut this out from the episode. Um,

because I want to be giving you a great example.

Okay, perfect. So your house, uh, here are a great question. Couple of things. Your house are essentially your strengths. What are you graded and how does it match with your why? Because it's part of your themes. Now this is a big one for me was that this is not necessarily how you want to be, but rather how you show up because we looked at little stories from your past.

So how did you show up in those, in the stories? So how you actually behave is from the themes we discussed. Now, let me give you an example. Um, and I have, I have a few here that we can go into. So let's say a theme comes up that you had that. You know, you are optimistic, right? I'm someone that's always optimistic.

That's one of mine, right? What does optimistic mean for someone? Optimistic means that you're someone that always looks at the glass half full versus half empty. You're someone that always looks at the positive versus a negative, and there's other definitions you can use. Okay. Now that's one of my hows, but it's not really a statement now, is it?

So you want to actually look at it and go a bit deeper into it. So looking at my notes here, where's my optimistic one is about finding the positive in everything. So what does it mean that I make a statement that says, okay, I'm optimistic. How do people see me? Well, I find the positive in everything.

When something is wrong, I look for what's right. That's actually part of mine. Okay. So what does it mean? So now I have an interaction with you or like this, what happened this past weekend, right? Or I have an interaction at work, a project might be derailed. Might be not going well, I could become pessimistic.

Oh, we're going to lose this contract or this is not going to happen. Well, I could look at it and say, you know, I acknowledge that there's negatives, but what's right, what's going well, what's positive in this, why is this happening for me? It's kind of the same thing we were discussing earlier, right? The, another one that I had done with a client early, um, yeah, this was earlier this month.

They, a theme for them that came up is that they, uh, are someone that want to make others feel safe. Okay. Right. And well, then the, the how becomes the idea that you are making others feel safe, secure and heard. So what do you do? You extend trust to others. This is breaking it down further, right? You let people know you have their back.

You allow them to know you're there to support them. You make them aware of the fact that, hey, you're here for their benefit. So if that's me, let's say that's one of my house, that means that every interaction I, I come up with, it could potentially show up in that. I have a conversation with you and I say, Hey, Erick, it doesn't matter.

You know how this conversation go. I have your back. We'll go to the bottom of this. It could be a stranger on the street, right? And it's, it, it frames it a bit. But so what you do then is you have your why, then you have your hows, and then you look at, okay, so how many, how does, how does this how show up in my life?

Am I making others feel safe, seen and heard in my interactions? If that was mine, for example, and I look back at my life. I wasn't doing that. Let's look at the optimistic one because that's mine, so I can speak to it a bit more. So if it's about finding positive in everything. Erick, I was doing quite the opposite.

I was exactly the person that we were talking about earlier. I could not find the positive in anything because, oh my God, this happened again and this happened again. Now, I, I'm excited if I say anything, you know, like let's say 90, 10%, 90 negative, 10 positive. Yup. And here's someone, you know, AmErickan dream, beautiful home, cars, loving dogs, partner, family, great job, yet I'm always miserable.

It doesn't make sense. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And when I found that and one that became the, wait a second. In my earlier years, I was able to find the positive in everything. I was always able to be optimistic. And that came up as a theme in my stories. Why did I unlearn that? Why did I stop doing it?

Because you see the idea of the stories that we look at is that they, it's not about. What happened in the story in the sense of like, Oh, this was the outcome, you got a job, or you lost a big game. It's actually how you acted throughout it. So who you are actually shows up even if you don't realize it.

Yeah. So a comment I have from a client of mine recently when we did Herds, she was like, Wow, I couldn't believe. how much I actually learned about myself in the process of going through the stories because she thought she knew everything about the stories because they're her stories, not mine. Yeah. It's just about like, when you go deeper, you realize, wow, the power of reflection and introspection.

Erick: Yeah. And for, yes, absolutely. I think it's more of the, uh, yeah, so it's like the attributes or the process of, of the thing. It's all

Constantin: the strengths. I call them the strengths. And this is what Simon Sinek is. A lot of this, some of, I mean, a lot of this, a lot of what we talked about comes from Simon Sinek as well.

He talks about, uh, finding your why or start with why rather, and then he has a book on working through it. And that one, parts of it came from that, parts came from my own personal experience and other books I've read. But it's really about. Understanding at the core of who you are, what motivates you, what are your strengths and doing more of that into your life?

Yeah. Okay,

Erick: good. Yeah, that was helpful. I'll

Constantin: give you another one that's, that's mine that maybe will ring more true for you or for the audience to, to connect here. So I told you my why it's about inspiring, empowering, all that stuff. This one is growth mindset. That was the theme that came up for me because you see growth mindset means that you're always willing and open to learn from every situation.

to grow, to, to, to realize that, wait a second, what you know is not the end all be all. You have opportunity to grow. And now when I say growth mindset, that's not really a how, right? I have to convert it into a action. What do I do? And mine was like, I learn from everything and everyone. So that's my how I learn from everything and everyone.

What does it mean that I am open to the ideas and points of views of others? Or everyone I interact with, it doesn't matter if it's the janitor in the office or the CEO of a company, they all have something to teach me. It doesn't matter if I'm driving to a friend's house or I'm having a party, there's something that I can learn from it, right?

Or we have a podcast episode. And that, that was a big one for me when I realized that was the case. So what does, what did it do to me? Well, you see, even though that there was something that I always did, it didn't mean that I was doing it all the time. I was doing it some percentage of the time. This allowed me to have clarity.

And now literally I approach every situation, this conversation with you, Erick, now, now it's like, before I start, I have my own mantras and things I go through. And one of the things is I am open to learning new things. In fact, I can even read it from my mantra here, but. If I can get to my screen up, but essentially it's all about being open to learning, right?

Learning and growing and growing. And that's, those are two of five I have, right? Some people have three, some people have four. I've seen some have six, but usually three to five is. enough to put you on a path and then your life can be guided a bit better. It's not about being rigid and saying, Oh, this needs to happen because realistically you'll have things you need to do in your environment.

They have no control over. So you can do all of these, but you can do some of it. Like in the example, like if let's say optimistic was yours, Erick, and you had the situation come up with your vaccine and you knew that that's who you are. Not just who you want to be, but who you are, then you can approach the situation a bit differently.

Erick: Yeah. And I think that optimism is definitely one that I try to incorporate better. Um, I did actually did a podcast episode a couple of months on that because, because of the background that I have, uh, growing up in a very strict religion and a very dysfunctional family with a lot of trauma. My, my natural tendency as a kid was, was very optimistic.

I was a very happy kid in many ways. So very, you know, And I remember that. I remember feeling like life is wonderful, except when my dad would, you know, lose his shed and, and smack us with his belt. But otherwise life was full of a lot of joy for a lot of time. Then as I got older and got to be a teenager, it was much, it was much harder.

Um, and I remember specifically making a choice when I was younger that I knew people who were truly happy. And I'm like, if they can be happy, I can figure out how to be happy because I'm not happy. And I, I, I can tell that they're not faking it. I'm not, they're not walking around going, yeah, I'm so happy.

Life is great. You know, but they, they honestly were just genuinely happy people. And because they came from good homes, they had good parents who loved them. Their families were strong and supportive. And so for me, I have always had a lifelong quest to get to that point. So because of that goal. I've had to actively choose optimism and it's hard sometimes because my, my history makes it so that I tend to want to be a little bit more on the downside and find that negative and worry about the thing.

What's, when's the other shoe going to drop and that type of situation or that type of outlook. And so I've actively tried to. Make sure that I don't do that or at least move towards a different direction. And oftentimes I do what I call nudging, which is the idea that if you wake up and you're in a bad mood or you're having a tough time about something and you're upset, that I don't try to immediately change my mood.

I don't go, ah, you know, try and, try and will myself into a better mood because that's really challenging to do that. But it's just more of like taking a step back. And kind of nudging my mood into a different direction. It's kind of like if you're on a boat. I mean, it's, it takes a lot of work to turn a boat around when you're sitting on, on a lake.

But it doesn't take a lot of work just to nudge it the right way and keep it going and then slowly turn it the direction you want to go. And it's just micro, and it's just like micro nudges. I mean, you can just micro thing and, you know, yes, it takes long. It's a longer arc to get there. It's not as sudden.

But it's much, much easier and it's a lot less effort and it's, the idea is I don't want to change my mood right now, but I want to make sure that my mood in an hour is a little bit better. And so you slowly kind of nudge it that way and you think, okay, I can choose to be a little bit happier about this.

I can choose to let go of this. I can choose to take a deep breath and let some of this out. I choose to focus on something that's a little bit better. But it's not like an immediate, like, you know, flip a switch because that, that almost seems, uh, you know, sociopathic or something like, Oh, I can just turn my emotion off and there we go.

Constantin: But, Well, yeah, that's, that's funny you mention that because to some of those things it can be like that, but there is also a thing where you want to let your emotions happen and then feel your feelings and then be able to let them go. And you touched on something very important there, which is the power of knowing who you are.

And you said, you know, you're someone that's optimistic. So let's say you go to this exercise, you found, find your why, find those house of strengths. Well, that's the power of knowing who you are. Most of us go through our life without knowing who we really are below the surface, below all this negativity.

So then at least you have the awareness, but can you imagine how you can navigate your life? If you know this, cause you're living, you're living proof, you at least know some of it and you choose the optimist side. Is it not, is it going to happen every time? Not yet, but through practice you can get there.

Because guess what? That negativity that you're talking about, so the reverse, the pessimism and when the shoe, the other shoe is going to drop, that's also a learned behavior. So that means that you can unlearn it and bring something else, something called brain plasticity that some people may be familiar with, right, from psychology.

And this is actually funny enough from a science point of view, it's only fairly recent that they've realized that, wait a second, your brain. Not only can adapt to new situations, but can also change old patterns and beliefs and whatnot. Because in the past, they believed that once you're a certain age, that's it, it's game over.

What you know, you know, and nothing changes. But now science is catching up and saying, you know what, no, you have the power. You have the power to change everything and anything about your situation. It's up to you.

Erick: It takes a lot of work to do that, for sure. Oh, it does. And I think they

Constantin: I guess, for the interest of your, uh listeners.

Some of my listeners may have seen this already or not. But let's talk a bit about the process of interrupting thoughts, right? Because I feel that that's a powerful tool that people can use right now. And as I tell people in my life, as I tell my clients, as I tell people on shows, the feedback I get all the time is like, I can't believe this actually works and it works as fast as it does.

And for that, Erick, let's preface with this. There are five stages, right? So you have the environment. Which is anything outside of you that causes something within you. So like, let's take my example, my car, right? My car is my environment. The negative stuff happens, then what's going to happen? A thought or a belief is going to pop into my mind.

Ah, not this again. Why does this always happen to me? AmErickan cars are useless. You can name it. You can be, that's a belief, right? Or a thought. Yeah. That could be in my mind. That's negative, right? That's going to then go to what? Emotions and feelings. I'm going to start to feel a certain way again, like that.

Why is it always me? The victim is going to come up. You allow that to happen, which is what we, most of us do, then your actions will get impacted. So the actions that night was I'll drive to my friends. I'm going to have a good time. So there's a couple of things that happens in impacts in all me would be like, turn around, cancel the party.

I disappoint my friends. I disappoint myself. I'm going to sit in misery. That's pretty bad action. Right? And then from that action, a result comes, but what would the result be if I turned around and I settled my misery and called people up? I mean, it's not going to be good at all, right? Probably not what I would want.

So that means that in the process, there are five stages. Look at what we can control a hundred percent. My actions, we try really hard, but really they're influenced by. Everything out. Sorry, not my actions, what we have in life is influenced by our actions, right? You can't control your actions fully, you have some control, but if your feelings, emotions are a certain way, then you can't really control that.

Because I remember when I was depressed and suicidal, I wanted to get better. I wanted to do more, but I couldn't, I couldn't take the actions. I couldn't bring myself to, nor could I touch my emotions and feelings. I mean, sometimes you can change it, right? Some external force can come in and can make you happy temporarily.

For example, I always look for escape in food, sex, gambling, gaming. It brought temporary satisfaction or buying a new shiny toy. But again, temporarily, then I'm going to jump the thoughts for a second. We'll go to the environment. What can you control in your environment? You have control over who you choose to hang out with, maybe what job you have, but a lot of stuff in your environment, you have no control over.

Like I'm going to jump in my car and drive. I have no idea what anyone else is going to do on the road. I'm at the mercy of anyone there as a quick example. So then it leaves us with a thought and beliefs, which we know from brain plasticity, we have a hundred percent control over. So that's what we should be focusing.

Yeah. So let's talk about that really quick, but I'll pause to see if you have any questions or you want to add anything in there.

Erick: No, that's exactly the same pattern that I, that I follow and I use. So, um, and that's very much informed by Stoicism because it talks about really the main thing you can control is how you think about something that the misery that you feel in a situation isn't the event itself, but your perspective on that event.

It's how you think about it. So yeah, so I find that to be very true. Um. That if you can focus on how you think about something, not just, and I think there's kind of multiple parts to that. I think that there are the things, the actual subject of your thoughts. So the stuff that you're focusing on is very, very important, but there's also the perspective that you hold about those thoughts, kind of your attitude about those thoughts.

If you want to, for lack of a better term, that if you always, you can look at the same, you can have two people looking at the exact same situation, the exact same facts. If one has more positive outlook on it, they're going to describe it very differently than somebody who has a negative outlook on it, even though it can be the exact same situation.

So your circumstances, your facts, everything can be the same. Their thoughts could be similar, but their attitude, I guess, would be the best way. Like their attitude and their thinking. Can be very important and it's interesting for me when I find people who are extremely negative like that is just that there, it's that perspective on everything.

It's just that they have this dark filter over everything. And so anything that comes in when it could be taken as possibly positive, they find the negative in it. You know, it's, you know, it's kind of like, wow, here's a sunny day, but it's so hot out there. Well, yeah.

Constantin: Okay. I mean, you're right. I mean, like I said, the environment influences all of that.

So if you grew up in a house like that, or some negative things happened to you in your childhood, and all of us have had negative stuff. Some traumas are deeper than others. That's going to shape up your life. So of course. You may have more negative thoughts for you that, like you said, half of those may be positive to me, but for you, that will be negative, which will trigger the entire chain again.

So that's beautiful. Absolutely. A hundred percent.

Erick: And for me, one of the things that was the biggest shift for me, um, was about, I a year and a half, two years ago, um, I had a podcast episode that I'd taken a break from the podcast and I came back and this was kind of my kickoff again for this last stretch for the last two years.

And it was really important for me because what it was about was recognizing that in order to In order to be happy, I had to learn acceptance and there's Stoics talk about that a lot. They have a term called amor fati, which means accept your fate, meaning accept everything that happens to you because it happens and you can either love it or hate it.

Universe doesn't care. It's still going to happen. So acceptance is a big part of them. And I had a situation where I. Somebody that, that I really cared about hurt me very deeply, and I was very, very angry, and I was just, I was absolutely furious at this person, and I recognized that the reason why I was so angry was because their opinion of me mattered so much to me.

That if they, you know, whatever that opinion was, that influenced so heavily on how I thought of myself. And I was like, this is ridiculous. Why do I base my own self esteem on somebody else? Because then it's not self esteem, it's other esteem. And I'm like, this is, this is really interesting. So I did a really deep dive into this whole thought and this whole area because I was like, how do I take that back?

How do I take back my self worth, my self esteem? I've outsourced it, I've outsourced it to somebody else, and it was making me incredibly miserable because anytime this person would be upset with me, I thought I was a horrible person. And so I, I did a lot of reading on different things. I, I studied some young and some Freud, you know, thinking about maybe identity and roles in life and, you know, just trying to.

Trying to figure out how I could take this thing back and why, why it was this way anyway and what I, what I realized was that my opinion of myself was so bad that I needed that validation from somebody else that I thought I was not a very good person and so if I needed somebody to tell me and reassure me that I wasn't a bad person and obviously somebody is.

You can't outsource that to somebody else because sometimes they're going to be mad at you. They're going to be frustrated with you. They're going to be annoyed with you. And so I was like, okay, well, what is it about myself that is so awful that I have to be validated by somebody else? What is so bad?

What is it that I, that is terrible about me that I think I'm such an awful person? And I was like, I really don't know. And so I sat down and I wrote a list of all the things I didn't like about myself. And it's funny because I'll tell that to some people and they'll be like, what, why would you do that?

Why wouldn't you write down all the nice things about you? And I'm like, no, if I'm going to practice self acceptance, I need to go down there and figure out what are all the crappy things about me. And I went through this list and I realized that. It kind of fell into two categories and there were the things that I truly didn't like about myself that attributes and things that I just, I thought were weren't great.

You know that I could be a bit selfish at times, you know, but the other things fell into things that I thought other people didn't like about me. So there weren't even things that I didn't like about me. These were projections that I was putting on other people. Now they're important because that often tells you when you're projecting these things onto other people, that that's really how you feel about yourself.

But I had to, but some of those I could look at and go, Oh, okay, that's just an insecurity. I can, that's something I can dismiss. But by going through that exercise of just writing down everything that I didn't like about myself or that I thought was awful about myself, I realized that most of those things, that all of those things were things that were completely acceptable.

They were problems that everybody else had, they were problems that, that weren't really that far out there and I was not as awful as I thought I was. And that for me was a giant pivot point in my life where I went, okay, I can just, I don't have to love everything about myself. But I can at least accept everything about myself.

I can accept that I can be selfish sometimes. I can accept that, that I get annoyed and frustrated at people. I can get, I can accept that I lose my temper at times, and that I get a bit overheated, and that I'll start yelling because I'm just so frustrated. I can accept those things. Do I like them? No, but they're part of me.

So I'm just accepting reality. And from that point on, it made it a lot easier to work on my thinking and those kind of things because I could take responsibility for. My selfish thoughts. I could take responsibility for my angry thoughts. I could take responsibility for all of those things that our egos like to push off and go, Oh, you're, you're not a bad person.

You're, it tries to protect us from that. But if you can recognize, yeah, it can be selfish sometimes. Okay, when you do something selfish, you can go up to it and go, yeah, I was being selfish there. I can be angry sometimes. I can be jealous. I can be all of these things. If you own that, then it's much easier to take responsibility and accept that.

So it's easier to actually deal with that. You're like, wow, I was kind of, I was being really self centered here and I was being kind of a jerk to mom that day or whoever. And I wasn't, you know, I wasn't acting the best that I could have. But you can own that a lot better and that allows you to deal with those thoughts much, much better.

So for me, that's, that self awareness was a really big turning point in my life.

Constantin: Ah, thank you for sharing that powerful, vulnerable story. I couldn't agree more. And as you were sharing that, you, you came up with two things, like you said, self awareness and acceptance. And it's funny when I talk about integrating your why into your life.

I use a framework I came up with and awareness and acceptance are the first step. If you cannot do that, there's no way you can go to implement anything else. Because now look at what you did. Let's say you discover that you could be a bit selfish. Let's take that one as an example. And selfish has a negative connotation in life, but really it's not because is it selfish for me to take some of my money and invest it in myself, give myself a coach, give myself a course.

Some people will see it as selfish because I could be giving that money to someone else. I could be buying my partner something. It's selfish because it's for you. So there's a definition there. But now, at least, what do you have? Awareness. You can make a choice and say, well, do I agree with this part of me?

You can say, you know what? It's not that bad. You accepted it. You healed it. You allow it to keep. But if you say no, then guess what? You have the power to change. And say, you know what? I'm going to keep an eye out for this. When it comes up, I will interrupt this thought, this belief, replace it with something else.

And maybe in six months, maybe in three weeks, maybe in a year, I won't be selfish anymore. Or whatever the negative aspect of yourself you want to change. And that's, I believe, the biggest power that essentially you're talking about because that allowed you to not be on this path. We will now have choice, but before you may have felt like you didn't have choice because like you, and the example you used is so powerful because I was also seeking validation externally because I was feeling so bad about myself internally without realizing beating myself up that I was just looking externally for all the validation and what does external validation do?

Like it feels great in the moment, right? It makes you feel so good, but it doesn't stick because you don't have self validation. Yeah. If you don't have self validation, then it doesn't matter. Like, I could think that you're the most amazing human being on this planet, Erick. And that's going to stroke your ego.

That's going to make you feel good. But if you don't have the same feeling, tomorrow you'll forget. And I do something that maybe you interpret as me not being happy with you. And like you said, then you go down the spiral where like, Oh, you know, but why does Constantin not like me anymore? What, what, what's going on?

And I've been there myself so many times. Yeah.

Erick: Yeah. It's amazing how, how much we twist and turn and try to become something that we're not because we want that external validation. And I noticed that for me, a lot of that, that That unwillingness to look at myself and to look at the things I didn't like about myself for so long was because I wanted to believe that I was a good person.

And so, I thought that if I looked at these things, it would show me that I was wrong. And so, and So there was an unwillingness to look at that, and when I would do things that I wasn't necessarily happy about, or I would do things that were not in line with who I thought I should be, I could come up with all kinds of rationalizations internally about why I did that thing.

Oh, well, you know, she really upset me, and so she deserved for me to yell at her, all of these things. And we, we rationalize these things to ourself. Because we don't want to believe that we're not a good person. So everybody thinks, I mean, I think most people think they're a pretty good person, but they're afraid that they're not.

And which is where a lot of insecurity comes from. Which, if somebody truly believes that they are a good person and that they are, Then they are comfortable with themselves, then anybody can say anything about them and they just, they can just be like, okay, that's your opinion about that. And okay, it doesn't, it doesn't have that much of an impact.

It's, it's a way of just being able to, it's not even bulletproofing yourself. It's just because you recognize that who you are, your self image can't be moved by what other people think of you. Yes. And that is an incredibly powerful and powerful place to be. And I've worked really hard to get there. And so like sometimes I'll get negative comments on my, you know, Instagram or whatever like that.

And it used to kind of set me off a little bit. And now it's just like, I look at him like, Oh, okay. Interesting opinion. You know, next, next, yeah, next. It's like, I don't have time to deal with and, you know, to spend on. That type of negativity and it's really surprising to me because, you know, my podcast is about stoicism.

It's about, you know, you taking control of your life and being responsible, being compassionate, being kind to other people. And so when I get people who throw trashy things on there, it's just like, are you, are you actually understanding stoicism? Plus you're wasting all of this time throwing this negative energy at me.

Why? You know, it's like,

Constantin: you mentioned it really well earlier, it's like, it's a reflection of who we are inside. Right? So that person might be going through something tough. They have a poor opinion of themselves and they take it out on others. And I know I speak from firsthand experience because I've been there myself in the past.

Not necessarily comments on social media, but comments in relationships and in friendships and even work sometimes, right? Because you're so frustrated at yourself without realizing it and because you have no awareness, right? And especially you don't have acceptance, it's hard to fix anything. Yeah. And before we, we jump off of this topic or um, go anywhere else, let's, let's go back for a second to the thoughts, um, to share this tool with people that they may find beneficial.

And this is why I mentioned to you that I'm using it every day. I'm using all my clients. My mentor is the one that taught me this. I'm using it in my professional life, my personal life, and I've shared it in my podcast as well. So it's like this. You have a thought come up and because like you were saying Erick, you can become aware of these things.

The first step is awareness. So you have a thought come up or a belief. It's about catching yourself and saying, Oh, do I really believe that I'm a procrastinator or I'm stupid? I'm fat? Whatever the case may be. You're like, you know what? That's not something I agree with. I want to interrupt the thoughts so it doesn't come up again or it doesn't turn into a much bigger problem than it impacts my emotions and then my actions and whatnot.

So what I do in that is simply the following. And before I share this, I will ask you a question. I know I asked you this question last week, but play along with me. Okay. Every human being has this scenario where they'll be working on something or they'll be doing something. And then they have a thought come up and they say, Oh, I need to go pick up something from the kitchen.

They get up. They physically move themselves from where they were, maybe on the couch, maybe on the chair and they go to the kitchen and by the time they get there, they forget why they got there to begin with. I'm assuming that happens to you. Yeah. Happens to everyone. That's, and the funny thing is if you look from a physiological point of view, that's a natural reset that we have built into us as humans.

So what happens essentially. Because you physically removed yourself from the place, you interrupted whatever thought patterns you're, you're having, a vacuum got created called the scotoma. And like anything else in nature, when there's a vacuum, it has to get filled up and it got filled up with different thoughts and beliefs.

So by the time you got to where you wanted to go, you forgot where you got there because that was on top of mind. Now if that's automatic, that means we can harness it and make it or put it on manual control. So coming back, I have a thought, let's say I'm ugly. Let's use one that I used in the past. Okay, that's a thought I don't agree with because I already became aware of this in the past.

I accepted the fact that, you know, that's not true. I don't allow, I don't want to entertain this thought or belief, really, because it's a belief. I then want to do, the first step is do something physical. Remove yourself from whatever you're doing. If you're sitting down, just stand up. If you're in with a group of people, And a thought comes up or you're in a meeting, excuse them and say, hey, I need to go use the washroom.

My apologies, I'll be back in 30 seconds, a minute, whatever. You remove yourself. That creates a scatoma. Now, as soon as you do that, what I do is, and for those that are not watching, is essentially I'll be taking a deep breath while putting a big smile on my face.

Big, big smile on my face. And I'll explain in a second what it does. And the next step to that is to celebrate, and you talked about this too. You celebrate that you caught yourself, that I caught the negative thought. So you're celebrating something that actually happened. You're not making stuff up.

You're celebrating the fact that you caught yourself. And the way I do it is I. hit my chest and I say, yes, Constantin, we caught it. While I have a big smile on my face because I just took a deep breath. And what am I doing with all of that? So the deep breath continues to reset, but it also brings in fresh oxygen into your body.

The big smile moves you instantly into a state of happiness, even though you might go back to negativity in a few seconds, doesn't matter. It brings you there. Celebration also enhances the happiness and guess what? It starts to release Dopamine and other good feel hormones in your brain, your brain is gonna go like, what just happened?

Why are we happy? And it's gonna look to find clues. And, and then the next step is to replace the thought with whatever, you know, it's like, Oh, I'm not ugly. I'm beautiful. And here's the proof for it. Right? So what you've done there is interrupted the thought, brought in joy and happiness and all that with it and the good hormones and then replace it with a positive thought.

You do this once, it's not going to have much of an effect other than pull you out of that. potential negative scenario you're about to go in. But you do this multiple times, you start training yourself. There's exercises you can expand from here where you do it on purpose, where you start thinking about negative stuff on purpose and interrupt it.

You're going to see that after a few days, after a few weeks, it's going to become more and more on autopilot to the point where the idea is that It's not like you're not going to have negative thoughts come up. We talked about that. They will come up because your environment is your environment, but you're going to train your brain to be like, nah, that's not what I want to entertain.

I want to go through a good thought and belief. And then that says a train. And for me, what has it done? It allows me to literally, when something bad happens, yes, I can see the negative side of it, but I'm not going to spend hours and days and weeks in it. It's going to be momentary. And I'm like, you to spend time there.

I go here. And that's a strategy that I've seen work with pretty much everyone that's willing to try it. I haven't seen it fail yet. Now, sample size, obviously, it's always a question, but I've seen 100 plus people use this within my own circle and from my mentor as well. It's working. Yeah.

Erick: No, I can definitely see that.

That's, it's very much, it's, it's a bit more intense than what I was talking about with my nudge, which is, you know, just like, Hey, be aware of that. But basically it's, it's, it's a nudge. It's a, it's just a short little exercise to interrupt that, that pattern and, and just move it up in a much more positive light.

So yeah, I can see how that would be very, I can take

Constantin: a whole lot, 10 seconds. That's it. Right. Yeah. It doesn't have to take a long time. Now, obviously if you're at home working from home and you, you have the luxury of taking a bit more time, sure you can, but there's no need for that, right? Just interrupt every time it comes up.

And I was talking to a nurse friend of mine the other weekend, we're having dinner and she's having a harder time because it's winter here in Canada, the winter blues, she's from a warmer country. And she was talking, he's like, what, what do you do? What, how can you overcome this? And I gave her the exercise.

This was in the evening of our dinner. And then the next day she messages me cause she was a skeptic before. He's like, you know what? I've tried it and it actually really works. I have no idea why, but it works. And I'm like, okay, try it and see. And I'm always of the opinion, don't take my word for it. Or don't take Erick's word for it or any expert in the world.

Try it. Do your own research. If it works for you, keep it. If it doesn't, toss it away. Now, of course, don't try it. You know, don't do it halfway there and then toss it out. Try it maybe for a week. Because like I said, it takes you 10 seconds, 15 seconds, right? And it doesn't do anything negative to you. Yep.

Erick: And then on the other side, how you mentioned that there's a, you know, How you often do negative visualization, the Stoics have a term for that is called premeditatio malorum, which means premeditated malice. And so it's, but yeah, it's the idea that, um, if you, if you put yourself in a safe space, you sit down and you think about what's the worst things that can happen, then it makes it much easier to face those things because you've already faced them in your mind, which is incredibly powerful.

And that's a tool that I've used and I stumbled on it accidentally. Um, After my divorce back in 2006, where I was divorced, I was getting divorced. I was working for a startup and they bounced a whole bunch of my checks. And I reached a point where I basically had 17 to last me for a week. So it was really, really tough.

I was riding my bike into work every day. I cycle a lot. So that was fine. So I didn't have to pay for gas, but I was just kind of panicking because I'm like, okay, what happens if I run out of money? And. I went through this whole exercise of like, okay, well, if I wasn't able to get another job, I guess I could move back to Salt Lake, move in with my mom or move back to Minnesota, move in with my mom for a bit, but then I wouldn't be able to see my kids for a while.

That would really suck. But, you know, then I could look for jobs, you know, There were just all kinds of things that I went through of like, how would I handle that situation? And for me, it was really, really helpful because I was like, well, if I needed to, I could live in my car for a bit. You know, I mean, that wouldn't be fun, but I have a gym membership that I can go to the gym and I can, you know, I can take a shower there and you know, I can do all the things that I need to do.

I go into work. Okay, yeah, this, uh, I'll figure this out, but it really took that power of money away from me. That power of that fear of not having enough, it was just like, oh, well, it's just a, it's just a resource. And if I don't have enough of it, okay, I'll have to figure something out, but I can do this.

But it, it changed my attitude towards money, which was helpful. And it took away a lot of fear because it was like, yeah, I could survive even if things got really, really crappy. They didn't get that crappy, but, but it was, it was just a thing that I kind of went through. And I was in a way, I was kind of forced because like I said, the company I was working for was bouncing some checks, found out later on that the president of the company had been, um, embezzling money.

So that's why they were bouncing checks because he was, he was basically pulling money from the coffers. And so, yeah, that turned into a whole messy scenario, but for me, it was, it was, it was very powerful. And I was really glad that happened at that time because it made it so that I was less worried about money overall in my life.

And I was like, I can live on so much less. I can live off of little, I'll be able to, I'll be able to make things happen. And I'm luckily I've never had to since then. And uh, I'm doing okay as far as things go, but uh, yeah, it was, it was a really powerful lesson for me. Exactly.

Constantin: And it's really what, if I understand you correctly, what you did in the scenario as well as essentially realize that nothing holds power over you.

It's your perspective that does, it's your beliefs that do. So if you believe that if you don't get money now, you're going to be broken out on the street, you're going to have that because you're not allowing any other opportunities to show up in your life. What you did is realize, yeah, I mean, I'll always be okay.

Yeah, it's not going to be ideal, but that's temporary. If, if we allow it to be temporary, because what happens in the case, if you don't do what you did or other, because there's many other exercises one can do. You end up in a situation and then you're going to play the victim and not say that you're not a victim, right?

Because, you know, you could be the victim of something, but I'm saying playing it to yourself, meaning that you over emphasize it and all of a sudden it becomes a chain effect where you can't pull yourself out of it. And that's what I was with my depression for the longest time. It's like until I really hit the rock bottom, I couldn't get up because even though certain things were bad, I was so over emphasizing them.

And I wasn't allowing the positivity to shine through.

Erick: Yeah, yeah, that can definitely happen. So I'm glad you were able to pull that out. So

Constantin: yeah, absolutely. And I, funny enough, I had that reflection on that too, a while back now. And I'm like, with the knowledge I have now and the tools I have now, can I see myself?

And I couldn't visualize, I couldn't see a scenario in which I would, not because I'm someone that cannot get depressed because I still have days when I'm not as happy or you know, I still have some thoughts that are not the best in the terms of like, let's say depressive thoughts. But now I have tools where I can get to feel my emotions, which is the one thing I didn't know before, like you actually can feel your emotions, I can feel your feelings.

And then I have tools to pull myself out and say, well, once that happens, there's no point in wallowing in it. How do we change those thoughts and beliefs and move myself over? So that's why one of my mentors says, knowledge is power, right? Then you hear people say, ah, you know, that's not great. It's not true because knowledge is, doesn't give you anything.

And technically it's true because knowledge gives you a choice. So meaning if I have the knowledge now, I still have a choice. I'll do, I use the knowledge. Or do I actually decide to go against the knowledge and that's a choice that anyone can make and you know what's right and wrong. And we talked about that at length.

Erick: Yeah, for sure. All right. Well, we're coming up on an hour, a little over an hour and a half here. Um, is there anything else that you want to bring up before we close out this conversation? Well, I think

Constantin: we touched on so many important points here, Erick. So I want to thank you for your time and energy and everything else that we've shared, the space we've shared.

I think I'm good. How about yourself?

Erick: Yeah, this has been a really great conversation. I've enjoyed what we've talked on. So we're going to cross post this on each of our different podcasts. So if you're listening to it on Constantin's, then you'll be able to find me at stoic. coffee. That's my website is, yes, stoic.

coffee. And go ahead and give a shout out on yours. Yeah,

Constantin: absolutely. And if you guys are watching this on Erick's show, then you can find me at unleashthyself. com. Or you can find us on social media, on YouTube at Unleash Thyself, me personally on LinkedIn under Constantin Morun. And we'll both have these in the show notes as well, respectively.

But yeah, come check out our work. I mean, Erick is doing a fantastic work for those listening on my show and definitely go check out his stuff. All right.

Erick: All right. This has been a great conversation, Constantin. Likewise, Erick.

Constantin: Thank you so much.

Erick: Thank you.

And that's the end of this week's episode. I hope you enjoyed this conversation that I had with Constantin, and I hope that you check out his podcast. Again, that's Unleash Thyself podcast, and I think you could really learn a lot from it. Like I said, Constantin is a very insightful, very thoughtful, very warm person, and I think you could get a lot from that.

As always, be good to yourself, be good to others, and thanks for listening.


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Categories
Enemies

259 – Enemies

Do you have enemies? Are there people that you don’t like? Are there people who don’t like you? May there is someone who makes your life more difficult? Today I want to talk about the importance of having people in our lives that challenge us.

“There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself – an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.”

— Antisthenes

One of the hardest things for us as social creatures is to deal with our enemies. Now when I use the word enemy in this episode, I mean everyone from people in our social circles that we don’t like, to romantic or business rivals, and everything in between. There are plenty of people that we probably don’t like and plenty that may not like us.

And believe it or not, it’s a good thing to have enemies.

Enemies

“Your friends will believe in your potential, your enemies will make you live up to it.”

— Tim Fargo

“Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.”

— Antisthenes

One of the hardest things for us to do is to be honest with ourselves. Our mind likes to play tricks on us, so we will often change how we remember things so that it put us in a better light. We will change our interpretation of things so that when we make mistakes, that we still come out looking good. We will fudge reality so that we are still the good guy in a story, even if we have done things that, deep down, we know were not things that aligned with our principles.

Our friends will let things slide and often let us get by with not being our best or taking the best course of action. They may be more likely to comfort us and say the things we want to hear. They might not call us out when we backslide or try to weasel out of owning up to our mistakes. If our friends approve of everything we do and let us get away with everything, we would never improve. We should seek out those who tell us when we’re not holding up our principles. We should listen to those who are honest enough to call us out.

This is why having enemies is important. Enemies will not let us forget the things that we have done. When we make mistakes or screw up, they are the first to point them out and call us out when we don’t act according to our principles and values. Our enemies are the ones that challenge us to live up to what we say we will do and call us out when we don’t. They will find our smallest flaws and are not afraid to point them out. This is why our enemies can be our best friends. This can be very frustrating and we might even get angry about it, but it can be the fastest way to see if we are living up to our principles.

The Truth

“If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it’s a lie, laugh at it.”

— Epictetus

Recently, I found out that an old friend of mine that I used to be closed to quite dislikes me now. At first I was upset and thought they were being unfair because they disliked me for some of my behavior in past that had nothing to do with them. But as I was talking to a mutual friend they pointed out the fact that I had actually done these things in the past, and rather than complain about them not liking me, I needed to step up and do better.

While I didn’t like to own up to my past behavior, they were not wrong. Some of my behavior in the past wasn’t great. I realized that how they perceived me was not under my control. There is nothing I can to do change the past, nor little I can do to directly change their opinion of me. The only thing I can do is to be the person that I want to be. I have no control over what others think of me, only my choices and the actions I take. If this person dislikes me, and I’m holding to my principles and values, then they are not the kind of person I want to be around.

Hold To Your Principles

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

— Winston Churchill

Now, just because someone is unhappy with something that we do doesn’t mean that they are right and that we need to change to make them happy. There are times when we will do things that others may not like, but it’s the right thing to do.

We need to have the courage to be ourselves regardless of what other people think of us. We need to build our character and follow our principles in such a dedicated manner that the choices we make and the actions we take are aligned with who we want to be. If we constantly change our choices and actions based upon what others might think, then we really need to take a look at ourselves and make sure that we know what our core principles and beliefs are.

When we live by building our character and not worry about what other think of us, we rarely need to apologize for how we act. If someone is upset with us because they don’t like something we have done or said, we should see if we have done something against our principles.If we find that we haven’t lived up to our standards when dealing with other people, we should be quick to apologize.

We don’t apologize because someone is upset with us, but because we have failed to uphold our principles. If someone is upset with us and we have upheld our principles, then there is no need to apologize. We never need to apologize for upholding our principles and doing what we think is the right thing.

Expand Your World

“If anyone can refute me‚ show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective‚ I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the main reasons why we should listen to those we don’t like is because we don’t have all the answers. When I was in the Mormon church, there was a strong emphasis of not reading or listening to those that disagreed with the teachings of the church. This close-minded way of acting in the world was something that always rubbed me the wrong way.

I mean, why should we be afraid of listening to those who don’t think like we do? Shutting yourself off from ideas don’t support your worldview will actually make you mentally weaker. If your way of viewing the world is so good, then you should be able to listen to new ideas, logically see the mistakes in them, and dismiss them. By engaging with opposing points of view we make our own arguments stronger because our opponents can point out the weaknesses.

By taking the time to listening to ideas we don’t agree with, we may actually find some new ideas that we can use to make our lives better. No one has a monopoly on good ideas. As smart or as great as we think you are, we don’t know the best way to do everything. We thrive as a culture because we have all kinds of new ideas and we challenge old ways of thinking. If it’s a good idea, there’s a good chance that it will stand up to scrutiny. Then we take what works, and do our best spread those ideas.

I mean, that’s what I’m doing with my podcast. I try to take the best ideas that I can find, apply them in my life, and help spread them around to others so that they can use these ideas to improve their lives. Hopefully, they can improve on these ideas so that I can learn and use the new and improved versions. Don’t get so attached to your own ideas such that you think they are the only way something can be done. Doing so means that your ego is in the way.

Defeat Your Enemy

“Your enemies cannot make you hate them, define you, or make you obsessively think about them, only you can do that.”

— Carmine Savastano

One of the most important reasons why we should try to understand our enemies, is because spending energy on hating others makes your life miserable. When we consider someone to be our enemy, we are blaming them for something that is wrong in our lives. We believe that if they would just act a certain way, then everything would be fine. In a sense, we are trying to control something that we do not have control over. Letting go of anger makes your life more positive and focuses your energy on things that are more useful.

Conclusion

“An honorable man is fair even to his enemies; a dishonorable man is unfair even to his friends!”

― Mehmet Murat ildan

If you have someone in your life that you consider an enemy, I want you to think about why. Do they act in a way that you find distasteful? Are they mean or cruel to others? If their behavior is something that goes against your principles, then it may be it’s someone that is not good to have in your life. In that case, use them as an example of what not to be and learn by watching their mistakes.

But, if it is because they make you uncomfortable by pointing out the truth, it may be time to try and build a bridge. Then maybe this person is more of a friend than you might think. This may be someone with enough character to tell you what you need to hear, and an honest enemy is better than a friend who only tells you what you want to hear.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

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Categories
Acceptance Choices Circumstances

250 – When Life Has Other Plans

When life throws you curveballs, how do you handle them? Do you freak out? Do you roll with it? Do you look at it as an opportunity or a disaster? Today I want to about how to keep a perspective on life that helps you keep on moving when things don’t go as planned.

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

— Epictetus

First, I want to apologize for not getting last weeks episode out. As you know I’ve been struggling with pretty severe insomnia over the last few months and last week I just hit a wall. I had the episode about 85% finished, but was so wiped out that It was a struggle to just get to the end of the week. The irony of it was that the episode was about dealing with feeling overwhelmed. I was going to make it this weeks episode, but given some big events that happened for me this last week, I felt it was more pressing to talk about how we handle the unexpected twists that life throws our way.

Congratulations

One of my favorite things that has taken place in Portland over the past 12 years was the World Domination Summit. For those of you who don’t know what it was, it was kind of like a TED conference with all kinds of interesting speakers, classes, and experiences for people who want to live differently in the world. It was founded by Chris Guillebeau, who lives here in Portland. He’s the author of several books and writes a blog about travel and living an unconventional life.

A few weeks ago, I was reading one of his posts called “Congratulations On Your New Life”, that really stuck with me. He talked about how a few years ago he was speaking at a conference and someone who was asking a question mentioned that they had just lost their job, and rather than offering condolences, he felt like he needed to take another route. He congratulated them. Since that time, this is usually the response he offers when someone talks about something that is causing a big transition in life, such as losing a job or ending a relationship.

Now this may seem a little harsh to some people, but Chris mentioned that most times when he followed up with the other person, that even if they were a little shocked at first, when they took the time to think about it, they really didn’t like the job or could see that they were better off out of the relationship. In a way, this event was a favor and an opportunity to make a change in their life that they probably wouldn’t have done were it not for this happening.

Curveball

The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.

— Ryan Holiday

This last week, as I mentioned, was exhausting. I decided to take off Friday to see if I could get caught up on some sleep. Even though I knew that I could sleep in, I still only got about 5 hours of sleep. I was able to get a short nap in later that afternoon, but soon after waking up received a call from the owner of the company I work for. He let me know that due to financial constraints, he had to cut my project and was letting me go. I thanked him for letting me know and we talked through next steps of making the transition smoother for the other developers who would be taking up the slack for some of my minor projects.

At the end of the call, he thanked me for handling things professionally and not making it a difficult call. I told him there was no reason make things difficult. He was simply doing what he needed to for his company. For me, it was an interesting moment. There was no real stress about the whole thing. It was just matter of fact like “this is just a thing that happens in life”. I felt very relaxed and stoic about it, and after the called was over I laughed about the fact that my first thought on hearing the news was that now I’d finally be able to caught up on sleep.

Life Happens

So what do you when life throws unexpected things your way? Do you panic? Do you look at all the downsides?

Don’t Panic!

— Douglas Adams

The first and most important thing we can do in any situation is to do our best to stay calm. Part of the stoic teaching of Amor Fati, is that we love everything that happens to us, and that our reaction to anything will not really change what happens. In the case of getting laid off, being rude to my now former boss, would not have changed the situation, and would have only made things worse. In fact, by the end of the call, he asked if, when he had more funding available in the future, I was open to working as consultant to finish the development of the software I had been working on. I told him that I was certainly open to it if my situation in the future made it possible to do so.

No One to Blame

To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education; to accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun; to accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.

—Epictetus

Another important thing we can do is not get caught up in finding someone to blame. It is one thing to understand the root cause of something, but to waste time trying to pin the blame on someone does nothing to help you move forward. It only leads to more stress and worry. Now, this does not mean that if someone is causing issues for you that you simply ignore them. It does mean that you do your best move on and let go of things that don’t serve you. In this case, being angry with my former boss because he didn’t have the funds to continue keeping me on payroll doesn’t matter. It’s simply the way that things turned out. It’s just the way that all the circumstances lined up. Nothing more, nothing less.

Choices

There are no problems, only choices.

One of the most important ideas that I’ve been trying to implement in my life over the past few months is that of focusing on what choices I have in front of me in any given situation. Letting go of all the worries and what ifs won’t help me keep moving forward. In the case of losing my job, I’ve been able to apply this by making a list of things I can do, not worry about why didn’t things work the way I wanted.

What Next?

It is not what happens to you that matters, but how you react to it that determines the quality of your life.

— Epictetus

So what comes next for me? That’s hard to say at the moment. This last year has been a turbulent one already, so this is just one more factor in the mix. But right now I have a little more of the most precious resource known to man – available time. And this is something that will allow me to accelerate some things I’ve been working towards.

I find myself in a place full of opportunity.

I’m reaching out to recruiters and others in my industry. Since I’m working on getting my house ready to sell, I’m appreciating the fact that I will have more time available for getting things prepared. I plan on improving my workout regimen and cycling more once the weather warms up a little more. I plan on getting a few more podcast episodes made so I have them ready a week or more in advance so that I don’t run into something like last week. I’m working on some ideas for expanding the reach of the podcast.

But first, I’m going to get some sleep.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

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Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Responsibility

245 – Whining or Winning

Do you think that life is fair? Do you think it’s unfair? Are others “winning” when you are not? Today I want to talk about how fall into a pretty bad way of thinking that reduces our ability to take responsibility for ourselves, and blame our unhappiness on the world outside of us.

Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.

— Teddy Roosevelt

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.

— Epictetus

From time to time, I like to hop on the stoicism sub reddit and participate in discussions. I really appreciate is that most people are pretty thoughtful and respectful, and I often learn something new or see things in a new light.

But there’s a kind of post that I see on there from time to time which I find is pretty sad. It is usually some who is upset that they are not getting all the things in life they think they deserve. They complain that the job sucks or they’re struggling with school and the teachers are mean and out to get them. Or they’re afraid to talk to someone they’re find attractive and are upset that they can’t get a date. They talk about how how they tried to be stoic, but they still aren’t getting what they deserve. They complain that other people still treat them poorly even though they are trying to be stoic. There is often a lot of blaming of others for their misfortune and lashing out at the world in general.

So today’s episode is going to be a little bit of a rant, but I hope that you can bear with me.

Fairness

Don't be overheard complaining…Not even to yourself.

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the hardest things for us to wrap our heads around in this world is this:

We are entitled to nothing in life. We deserve nothing in this world.

Now, I’m sure that might be upsetting to those of us who think that life should be fair. I’ll give you a hint:

Life is not fair and never will be.

How could it be? There is nothing in the universe that would be able to enforce some external rule of fairness. And if we tried to create a society of absolute fairness, who would be given the task of deciding what is fair?

You?

Me?

As much as I’d like to think that I could be a good arbiter of fairness, I know that because of my own biases and personal failings, I could make a system that I think would be fair that plenty of others would disagree on. We could never get everyone to agree on what the definition of fairness is. As much as we might wish it, fairness is not something intrinsic in the universe. It is not a natural law like gravity. It is something that we have to create on our own as a society.

Interestingly enough, I think this is proven out because one of the core virtues of Stoicism is that of Justice. What that means to me is that we need to help bring justice to the world because it is not already a natural or intrinsic part of the world.

What’s ironic is that most people I see complain about the fact that world isn’t fair, are those that want the world to bend in a way that benefits them. If this were to happen, wouldn’t that make it so that world was again unfair because it benefits them and not someone else?

Character

Don't demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.

— Epictetus

Another part of this post that I wanted to talk about is the idea that if you act virtuously then everything will work out for you exactly the way that you want it. That people around you will change who they are simply because you are trying to be a good person. That because you “act” like a good person, then everything will simply come to you because you deserve it. This is never going to be the case.

Let me spell it out clearly for you:

You don’t deserve anything.

Just because you want or think you deserve something doesn’t matter. You can think that all you want. Just because you are nice doesn’t mean that you should get to date someone you find attractive. Just because you act virtuous doesn’t mean that other people will be nice to you or not try to take advantage of you. Or that good things won’t happen to bad people (of course who are you to decide if they are bad people?).

The reason that you act virtuously is not so that others will change for you. It is so that you act in a way that you feel good about. That you are living a life that you are proud of. Life will happen to you regardless of your character. Having a good character does not mean that everything will go your way.

In fact, I would argue that you if you think that you deserve something because you think you have good character, you probably don’t. I think that someone with good character would recognize that they don’t deserve anything by just thinking that they are a good person. You cultivate virtue, and build your character because it’s something you want. You want to be a good person not so that you get something or you earn something. You cultivate virtue because that’s kind of person that you want to be.

Doing The Work

Happiness is not the absence of problems, it's the ability to deal with them.

— Steve Maraboli

Another common thread I notice is that most of their complaints are based on the outcomes they want. They complain about how they are are not getting the things they want. Rather than looking at what they are doing and finding where it doesn’t work and making changes to trying to figure out why things aren’t working, they are blaming others for why they are failing.

When you get something without having to work for it, you miss out on the lessons you need to learn in order to handle the success that you have. If you haven’t learned to be a charming, fun, or interesting person and you happen to land a date with someone you’re attracted to, why should they stick around? You haven’t given them any reason to do so. Have you put in the work to be a good partner? What do you bring to the table that would make them want to date you? What about their preferences and free will? Just as you wouldn’t want to date someone that you’re not interested in, why should they be forced to?

What they are asking for is all the reward without the work. If you get a college diploma, but you didn’t earn it and do the work, what happens when you get hired and after a few weeks your manager realizes that you don’t have the skills to do your job?

Doing the work is how you gain the skills to be good at what you do.

Doing the work is how you are able to maintain what you earn.

Let’s say that you want to be a firefighter. Maybe someday you’d like to be a leader of a fire fighting squad. And let’s say that on the your first day on the job, they just give you that position. Would you be very good at it? Would you know what to do to safely put out a fire and help those in danger and keep your team safe?

No you wouldn’t. In fact, if you were simply given that position without the experience or training, then you would be a bigger danger to yourself and those around you. It is only through putting in the work that you learn how to safely and effectively fight a fire and lead a team.

Closing Thoughts

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

— Dalai Lama XIV

You are responsible for the results of your life. If you want to be successful in life, study successful people. You’ll find those that are truly successful are those that take responsibility for their actions. They don’t blame others for why they are failing. Recognize the things that are blocking your path and figure out how to work around them. When you put the work in, you gain the skills to overcome any obstacle in your path. In my experience, when you stop complaining and take a good look in the mirror, you see that that the biggest blocker to your success is you.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

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Categories
Interviews

244 – Interview with John Chancey of Knowledge Brew Supreme

This weeks episode is an interview I did with Dr. John Chancey of the Knowledge Brews Supreme podcast. It was really fun to dive into all kinds of interesting philosophical topics with John. He's sharp, warm, and fun. I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed chatting with John.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Emotions

243 – All the Feels: How to Ride the Emotional Waves

Are you afraid of your feelings? Do you avoid, numb, or shut down your emotions? How much stress and anxiety do you create trying to avoid uncomfortable emotions? Today I want to talk about the power of emotions, and how to reduce your suffering by feeling your emotions all the way through.

Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life.

— Robert Greene

Emotions are powerful forces in our lives. They are the drivers of the actions we take. Those actions lead to the results get in our lives. The better we are at managing our emotions, the more control we have over our lives, and more likely we are to achieve the things that we want to in our lives.

What are Emotions?

Emotions are complex mental states that are often a result of the interaction between our physical responses to external stimuli and our own thoughts, beliefs, and memories. Physical stimuli such as a perceived threat, pleasant touch, or intense sound can trigger a physiological response in the body, such as an increased heart rate, sweating, or changes in hormone levels. These physiological changes can influence our emotions, as our brain perceives and interprets these physical sensations and maps them to an emotional state. At the same time, our own thoughts, beliefs, and past experiences can shape how we perceive and respond to these stimuli, creating a feedback loop between our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.

When we have a strong emotional response to something, it is not just a thought in our minds, but something we also feel in our body. It’s this physical dimension which often makes emotions so scary. Our brains perceive a physical threat, and reacts as if there is the possibility of actual physical harm, even if we know rationally that we’ll be just fine.

Vibrations

If you were to describe what an emotion felt like to an alien, you probably describe it as something like a vibration that you feel in your body. Some of those vibrations feel nice and pleasant, and others feel negative or distressing. But really, it is more or less a vibration that comes as the result of the thoughts in your mind, and the physical circumstances around you.

So why is it important to understand and manage your emotions? I want to propose the idea that most of the suffering in the world comes not from just physical pain and injury, but through emotional pain and anguish. And that suffering is made worse because we try so hard to avoid uncomfortable or painful emotions, and it is this avoidance which causes more suffering than the emotion we’re trying to avoid in the first place.

Feeling our emotions is also just part of being human. When we learn how to actually feel our emotions when they come, and not avoid or suppress them, we get to experience the full range of being human. If we don’t feel sadness or grief, then it also limits our ability to feel happiness and joy. For me, this is part of what the stoics mean when they talk about living according to nature. We all feel emotions, which means they are part of our nature, and repressing or ignoring them is not living in alignment with nature.

Avoidance

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.

— Seneca

One of the interesting things about humans is that we will go out of our way to avoid painful or uncomfortable emotions. And it’s this avoidance which causes us to suffer far longer and deeper than if we just felt the original emotions in the first place. We often cause more damage than the emotions themselves. When we try to avoid the emotions we’re feeling, we will often distract ourselves with activities that either numb what we’re feeling, or keep us focused on something else. Alcohol, drugs, food, sex, or porn, are just a few of the things we use for numbing ourselves. We may overindulge in other activities that keep our minds off of feeling the emotions we have. Working extended hours, binge watching Netflix, and even spending too much time in the gym can distract us from processing and feeling emotions we’re uncomfortable with.

Addictions

An inability to regulate emotions can lead to substance abuse as a form of self-medication to manage difficult emotions. Addiction and emotional suppression are often interconnected, as individuals who struggle with emotional regulation and coping may turn to substance abuse or other compulsive behaviors as a means of numbing or avoiding their emotions.

On the other hand, chronic substance abuse can result in further suppression of emotions, as it alters brain chemistry and interferes with a person’s ability to experience and regulate their emotions. This creates a vicious cycle, where substance abuse and emotional suppression reinforce each other, making it difficult for individuals to break the cycle of addiction and regain control over their emotions. Effective addiction treatment often involves addressing the underlying emotional and psychological issues, as well as addressing the addiction itself.

Psychosomatic Disorders

Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.

— Elizabeth Gilbert

Our emotions have such an impact on our bodies that we can suffer what are called psychosomatic disorders. Psychosomatic disorders are physical conditions which are caused or worsened by psychological and emotional factors. They occur when psychological stress or anxiety manifests in physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems, and fatigue. These disorders are thought to result from the interaction between the mind and the body, where psychological stress can affect the functioning of the nervous and immune systems, leading to physical symptoms.

Examples of psychosomatic disorders include, but are not limited to, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, and tension headaches. Treatment usually involves a combination of psychotherapy to address the underlying psychological factors, and medication to manage physical symptoms.

Toxic Masculinity

The unwillingness and inability to just feel the uncomfortable physical sensations in our bodies has caused more suffering in the world than all the wars humanity has ever fought.

One of the ideas I want to explore a little is toxic masculinity, which for me, is one of the most damaging things in our culture. Toxic masculinity is a cultural construct that refers to harmful and restrictive norms associated with masculinity, such as the suppression of emotions, aggression, dominance, and the expectation of being tough and unemotional.

The inability of men to manage or sometimes even to feel their emotions is one of the most damaging behaviors in society. These toxic norms can lead to negative behaviors such as violence, bullying, and the objectification of women, and can result in negative consequences for both men and women. When men are unable to deal with their emotions in healthy ways, those emotions don’t just disappear. In my own experience, the more I try to suppress or ignore how I feel about something, it doesn’t just go away. In fact, it usually feels like it gets worse. It’s very much like a pressure cooker building up steam, until it finally finds a way to release all that energy.

Toxic masculinity contributes to poor mental health and a limited expression of individuality. When you are unable to manage your emotions, then your ability to feel the fullness of being human becomes highly limited. Toxic masculinity is not synonymous with masculinity itself, but rather represents a narrow and harmful definition of it.

I remember one time in college I was having a discussion with some friends about how men really have very few emotional states. At the time, I was of the opinion that men had about 5 emotions: Happy, okay (neutral), anger, fear, and sadness. The reason I thought this way was because my own emotional repertoire was very limited. Because of the emotional toxicity in my own home and the culture I grew up in, the range of emotions I knew how to safely handle was very limited.

When I was married, my ex wife often ask me how I felt about something. When I would respond with just one the 5 emotions I mentioned earlier, she would ask if I felt anything deeper, if I had a broader range of emotions. I would try to dig deeper, but often found that I really didn’t know what I was feeling.

There were two aspects to this. First, I often just shut off emotions I didn’t know how to deal with. This meant that the range of emotions I allowed myself to feel was pretty limited. Second, if there were other feelings outside of happiness, sadness, fear, or anger, I often couldn’t recognize them, and didn’t have the words to express how I felt. This often led to unresolved emotions which would come out in expressions of fear and anger.

Riding the Waves

The more you know about your feelings, the more power you have to direct them.

— John F. Demartini

So how do we get better about feeling our emotions? What can we do to improve our ability to regulate our emotions, rather than try to suppress or avoid them?

We need to become masters of feeling. We need to ride the waves our emotions.

Have you ever watched big wave surfers? They’re pretty amazing to watch. When you see a master surfer out on the ocean and a big wave comes along, they get nervous and excited. Sure, that big wave is scary, but it’s also thrilling, and the more time they put themselves in the path of these waves, the better they get at riding them. And it’s the power and the energy in that wave that makes it exciting to ride.

I like to think of emotions like waves on the ocean and we’re all surfers, and we are not allowed to get out of the ocean. These emotional waves are going to come at you whether you like them or not, which is pretty much how life is.

So you have choice.

When these waves come a long you can try to avoid them. But if you spend your whole life not learning how to deal with your feelings, those waves are still there and will still pull you under and knock you over, especially you’ve never really learned how to handle them.

Or, you can decide to try and get on that wave when it comes along. You’ll get knocked over sometimes and it’ll feel like you’re drowning. Sometimes you’ll get on the board and start riding the wave and make some progress only to fall off and biff it. As you get better at riding the waves of your emotions, you’ll find you’re able to handle even larger waves and come out the other side feeling the thrill of handling yourself in a way that is so much healthier. You’ll even start to look forward to all emotions that come your way because you know you can handle them, and they make life feel so much richer and fuller.

Practical Steps

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

— Kahlil Gibran

The first thing is to recognize that emotions are natural. Every single one of them, so rather than fear them, we should welcome them. We need to recognize that we’re going to have positive and negative emotions, and that we should welcome both of them. We can’t cancel out the dark or negative ones and only accept the positive ones. And the thing is, we want to feel all the emotions in our lives, and not just the positive ones. There are times we want those negative emotions, such as grief, for example, when someone close to you dies, or feeling the heartbreak at the end of a relationship.

Second, we need to recognize that emotions are just a feeling, a physical sensation, a vibration in our body. They can often feel overwhelming and terrible, but that vibration in your body is not going to kill you, even if your mind is trying to convince you otherwise.

Third, is that when we have an emotion, the best thing we can do is to step right up and do our best to embrace it. The more we try to avoid or suppress it, the longer it will hang around. The healthiest and honestly the fastest way to deal with emotions is to feel them. The harder we try to avoid emotions, the longer they stick around. Emotions don’t go away, but will show up in other ways. When we stop resisting, we allow our mind and our body to process how we are feeling, and let it move through us like it’s naturally supposed to.

The last thing to remember is that emotions show up in physical ways, and processing them is a physical act. We need to find physical ways to let them through. I know for me when I’m feeling an incredibly strong emotion, positive or negative, I will often cry when I just let it pass through. It’s what I need to release all that energy, and afterwards I feel so much better. I may feel tired, but I usually feel calm. I feel clean like I’ve just purged a whole bunch of heavy energy which was weighing me down.

Learning how to manage and regulate our emotions is a skill we all have to learn if we want to live our best lives. Emotions are a fabric of our lives, and are not something you can avoid. Try as you might, those waves are going to keep on coming for as long as you’re alive. So you have a choice. Are you going to try and avoid them only to get pulled under gasping for air, or are you going to turn into the wave, ride it like a pro, and feel the fullness of your life?


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Transformation

242 – How to Become Another Person

Growing up, many of us feel like we only have a few options in how to live our lives. Like, there is a list of things we need to check off to be happy. Certain  careers that are acceptable. Certain kinds of people we should date and marry. Goals we are expected to obtain in order to live life correctly. Often we get stuck in thinking that we have a few choices in life, and we think that’s how it’s supposed to be.

But how would your life be different if you viewed yourself as something you get to create and to become someone you admire? Are you living the life you want to? If you aren’t, do you know how to create big changes in your life? Today I want to talk about, rather than simply growing and getting better little by little, what if you transformed yourself into something completely different?

We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.

— Seneca

Why does it seem that changes we want to make take far longer than we think they should? Often, we get by just making small and minor adjustments in our lives. We have found a way of living that works for us, and we don’t want to upset things. We are “fat and happy” as they say, and don’t want to upset our comfortable lives. We are stuck playing it safe, rather than just transforming our lives.

But when we think about it, can we ever really consider this growth? To me, this sounds more like maintenance, like we’re keeping an old building running with minor tweaks. For me, this is coasting. This is playing it safe.I think for many of us, there are periods of our lives when we get complacent. We are comfortable, and for many of us, this fine… or is it? What if you get to the end of your life and you see the opportunities you could have taken which would have made a dramatic change in your life and in the lives of others, but because you sought comfort over change you let those opportunities go?

While incremental change is good and helpful, if we want to be greater than we are, we need to change who we are as a person. We have chances all throughout our lives to step up and to become someone far greater than what we are.

I made a prosperous voyage when I was shipwrecked.

— Zeno

Zeno of Citium, a wealthy merchant, was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy. On a voyage, he survived a shipwreck where he lost a great fortune. He ended up in Athens, and while trying to figure out what to do next, he was introduced to philosophy at a local bookshop. Zeno, so taken with the description of Socrates in Xenophon’s Memorabilia, asked the bookseller where he might find a philosopher along the same lines as Socrates. Crates of Thebes, the most famous Cynic living at that time in Greece, happened to have been passing by the bookshop. The owner of the bookstore introduced the two and Zeno became a pupil.

While Zeno could have bemoaned his fate, he took the opportunity of a clean slate to make a radical change in his life and become a completely different person. His teachings have resonated throughout history and humanity benefited because of his willingness to turn adversity into a life-changing opportunity.

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.

— Marcus Aurelius

Now, the brain’s main job is to keep us safe. If something is not threatening us or dangerous, and we’re comfortable, then it makes it challenging to step up and change. Our ego will create all kinds of resistance, make all kinds of excuses, and even self-sabotage us, because it wants to keep us safe.

The kind of change I’m talking about is changing who you are at a core level, and your ego will certainly feel the fear that comes with this. This is changing your identity. It’s about letting go of who you think you are at this moment, so you can become who you want to be. The tighter you hold on to who you are, and defend who you think you are, the harder it is to become this better and more evolved person.

This type of change takes a willingness to be fearless and step into the challenges so you can learn, and see the obstacles not as things to be avoided, but the very things that strengthen you and make you even more resilient.

It’s a willingness to upset the status quo, and give up the good so you can get to the great.

Doing what you have always done, will only get you more of what you have always gotten.

The kind of change I’m talking about is transformation, not growth. Transformation comes about when we decide we want to be a different person, rather than just trying to be a better version of who we are.

If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.

– Seneca

Now like Zeno, sometimes changes are thrust upon us through circumstances or the actions of others, and it's important that we find ways to step up and face what life sends our way. But, what if I told you that you could decide to change who you are at any time? That you don’t have to wait until calamity strikes in order to decide to make a big change in your life. You can choose at any time to change who you are, and become a far different person than who you are now.

So why don’t we do this more often? Because we get comfortable. We get stuck. We think life is just supposed to be the way it currently is. We forget we can choose at any time to become someone different. But in order to become an even better person, we have to let go of who we currently are, and that is scary. We have to question our own identity, our own belief systems of what we think is true and who we are, so we can become someone even greater.

But you might be thinking, “Well, the stoics tell us we need to accept life for how it is, what we should learn to be happy with life gives us”, and while this is true, it does not mean they are mutually exclusive. You can be accepting and happy with what life gives you, AND still want to step up and become something greater.

In fact, we need you to be the best version of yourself and contribute to the world in a positive way. We evolve as a species by being willing to step up and not just find comfort and pleasure, but by trying to improve the world for as many people as possible.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.

— William James

So how do we make these changes? How do we become this better version of ourselves? This is something I’m still trying to work out, but here’s a few ideas to start with.

First, you need to understand that you are allowed to do anything you want to in your life. When I say this to people, I’m often met with shocked expressions. The idea that we are allowed to choose for ourselves is one of the scariest and most powerful ideas that we can internalize. From birth, so many of us are not taught this lesson. It’s like we’re given a list of a few choices of how we’re supposed to live.

But the thing is, it’s a false choice. You don’t have to choose from that list. You can make your own list. It took me decades to truly understand this.

Whether it’s through our families, our church, our culture, or the media, we are always being given subtle and not so subtle messages about what we are allowed to do with our lives. When I was a church member, I felt like I could only do what were okay with churc h doctrine. I felt so powerless and not in control of my life. Once I left, I realized I was the only one who could decide how I wanted to live.

When I say you can do anything you want, there are a few caveats. We need to remember you are not able to choose or control your circumstances. You are also not able to choose the outcomes or consequences of your choices. Remember, we can only control our thoughts, choices, and actions. Nothing more.

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

— Alan Watts

The next step is to spend some time really getting to know who you currently are. I know it sounds funny, because if anyone should know you, it’s you. But the truth is, we all have blindspots, and most of those come from our ego. We will often ignore or change our interpretations of things so we are comfortable with ourselves. We will downplay things that might make us look bad, and put more weight on things that make us look better.

Getting to really know yourself is challenging, because it’s very uncomfortable to take a clear and honest look at yourself. This is where accepting yourself for exactly who you are can make a world of difference. You’ll have to practice letting go of judgments about yourself, and try to be as factual as you can. A good way to help in this area is to ask someone you trust to be honest and blunt with you..

One thing to keep in mind as you work through this process self-knowledge is that your past does not equal your future. Just because you did something in the past or something happened to you in the past does not mean you will be the same in the future. You can decide to let that shit go, and recognize who you were in the past is exactly that – who you were in the past, not who you’re going to be.

Once you’ve taken time to understand and get to know yourself, the next step is to identify who you want to be. What kind of values and attributes does your ideal you have? Are you kind? Thoughtful? Generous? What kinds of behaviors do you have? How are those behaviors and attributes different than who you are now? What kind of thought patterns does this future you have?

I would suggest you take some time to write a future auto biography of this new you. You only need a few pages, but try to create as detailed a portrait of this person and their character as you can. The more details you have, the easier it will be to imagine this future you and act accordingly. Being able to have a clear and in depth profile of this person will give you something to refer to over the next few months as you work to become this future version of you.

Once you’ve taken the time to envision this new you, take some time to think about what you could do to help yourself take action to become this person. When you create a todo list for the day, think about what things this version of yourself would do. Do they get up early? What do they eat? What books would this person read? Try and be as detailed as possible.

Once you embark on this path of becoming the new you, be sure to take time and reflect back at the end of each day. Are the actions you’re taking beneficial? Are your ways of thinking helping you to become this kind of person? Are the people you’re spending your time with helping you along your path or are they hindering you? Are you creating habits that help you along this path of the new you?

There’s a lot that goes into who we think we are and the roles we play in our lives. Often we get stuck in patterns of thinking which hold us back from becoming the person we want to be. Sometimes, rather than just making small incremental changes, we need to change our whole belief system and become another person.

The Stoics teach us the most powerful tool we have is our perspective. This is the lens through which we view the rest of the world, and give meaning to the events in our lives. When we decide to see the world through the perspective of the future version of ourselves, that's when we can make significant progress in a short amount of time.

Be good to yourself.

Be good to others.

And thanks for listening!


I know I’ve put a lot of information in this episode. I actually had writer's block when I started this, but once I got rolling it was hard to keep up with the ideas that kept coming. At some point in the future I’ll take these ideas and put them into a more formalized format, but I hope some of these ideas will spark some big changes in your lives.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Perspective

241 – Mind Over Mood: The Stoic Art of Reframing

Mind Over Mood: The Stoic Art of Reframing
What do you really see?

One of the things we talk about a lot in stoicism is that it’s our perspective on something that causes our distress. So how do we change our perspective on things? Are there tools that we can use to help us view things differently? Today I want to talk about some of the things that get in our way of broadening our perspective, and what tools we can use to help change our perspective.

It is not the things themselves that disturb people, but their judgments about these things.

— Epictetus

Great minds do not always think alike.

— Anonymous.

One of the most important ideas in stoicism is that our perspective is what informs and colors our opinion about things that happen in our lives. Being aware of our own perspective is very challenging because we really only interact with the world through our own point of view and filters.

We have attitudes and biases that we are often not aware of which affect how we interpret the world and how we decide to respond to events and other people. Basically, we act based on our judgments, and our judgments are formed by what we think about a situation.

For example, say that we have two people, Jane and Tony, and they are walking down the street to a coffee shop. They pass by a group of teenagers with skateboards hanging outside a convenience store. Now when Jane sees them, she smiles and remembers how she used to ride a skateboard at that age and how fun it was to hang out with her friends. When Tony sees the same group of kids, he becomes tense and anxious because he remembers some kids in his neighborhood where he grew up that rode skateboards and used to chase him and beat him up. Each of them are seeing the exact same situation, but having completely different emotions about it based on their experience and their thoughts about the group of teenagers.

Reframing is a when we actively work on changing our perspective on something. First, we become aware of our thinking. Second, we question our thinking by looking for evidence, and using logic to prove or disprove our thoughts. Third, we correct errors in our thinking which helps us change what we make something mean.

So why is it important for us to improve our ability to change our perspective of how we view the world? When we learn how shift our perspective on things, then we are better able to see things as they are, and not just act on our first impressions. We need a fuller picture and have a clearer understanding, which helps us make better choices. Sometimes, just getting slightly different perspective on something can completely change how we view something.

One of the clearest examples of how reframing can radically change how we understand something is from the movie, The Sixth Sense. If you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense, I’m warning you now that I’m going to reveal some big spoilers. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you watch it then come back and finish this episode.

The Sixth Sense opens with psychologist Malcolm Crowe, who is played by Bruce Willis, and his wife Anna, played by Olivia Williams, getting ready to go out to dinner. A patient of Malcolm’s break into their house and ends up shooting Malcolm and then killing himself. After this indecent, the movie introduces us to Cole, played by Haley Joel Osment, a frightened and withdrawn boy, who is now a patient of Malcom’s.

As the movie progresses we see that Malcom has been struggling to communicate with his wife and their relationship seems very strained. We also learn that Cole has the ability to see dead people, which is the cause of his fear. Malcolm helps Cole to try and understand how to deal with this ability, and the two begin to form a strong bond. Near the end of the movie, which up to this point has seemed like a relationship between a boy and his therapist, it is finally revealed that Malcolm is actually dead, but didn’t know that he was dead.

When it finally clicked for me that Malcom was dead, it shifted my whole perspective on what the movie was actually about. It was also fascinating how it changed Malcolm’s perspective on who he was, and what was really happening. When I went back and watched it again, it felt like I was watching a completely different movie. Scenes where it seemed like Malcolm was interacting with his wife or with anyone other than Cole, were completely changed knowing that Malcolm was dead, but was unaware of it. It was an extraordinary instance of my perspective shifting with new information.

So what can we do to get better with reframing the world around us so we can make wiser choices? There are a few practices that we can do which can really help change how we view a situation.

One of the first things we can do it to is identify cognitive distortions, which are common patterns of thinking that lead to negative or irrational thoughts. This is very inline with what Seneca meant when he wrote:

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.

— Seneca

We see what we believe rather than what we see.

— Alan Watts

Some cognitive distortions include the following:

All-or-Nothing Thinking: This is where we think that things are one way or another, such as good or bad or black or white. This pattern makes it hard to see that there are shades of gray, that there are nuances in every situation, and in every person. It also makes is challenging to see that sometimes both options can be true.

An example of this comes from a listener who asked me how to reconcile self acceptance with self improvement. They felt that if they accepted themselves for who they were, it meant they were giving up on self improvement. But these things are not mutually exclusive. You can accept yourself and all your flaws, AND still want to improve. Just like how you accept a young child for who they are and all the things they are not good at, and want them to grow and improve.

Mind Reading: This is when we think that we know what other people are thinking. We may make assumptions of their opinion of us, or what their motivations or intent are without any evidence. This is something that I have struggled with throughout my life, much of it came from having to stay on my toes around my father. I was constantly guessing what he was thinking so that I could stay safe.

Personalization: This is when we take responsibility for things that are not our fault, or blame ourselves for things that are out of our control. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy. Often, this behavior comes from living in a dysfunctional home. If there is one or more parent that doesn’t take responsibility for their actions and puts the blame on other members of the family, children learn to accept blame for things they haven’t done in order to keep the peace.

Catastrophizing: This is the tendency to exaggerate the significance of negative events, and to expect the worst possible outcome. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. This pattern of thinking can lead people to feel easily overwhelmed because of the emotional weight they put on even minor events. It can also stop us from making progress in challenging situations because it makes them seem far more difficult than they actually are, leading to bad decisions or just outright giving up.

Once you become aware of these distortions, you can challenge them and reframe them into more balanced and realistic thoughts. Writing down your thoughts in a journal and answering questions such as, “Is this thought really true?" or "Is there any evidence to support or contradict this thought?” is one of the best ways to become aware of these kind of patterns and notice how they impact your thinking.

You can also discuss them with someone you trust if you find that more helpful. The point is to find a way to recognize those thoughts and question them in a rational and logic manner so that you can see things for what they really are.

Once you have a handle on what you are thinking and have made the effort to logic through cognitive distortions, you can use what you have learned to change how you view something. For example, rather than assuming that you know what someone is thinking, you recognize that you don’t know until you ask, or they volunteer the information. Rather than taking blame for things that you have no control over, you only take responsibility for your choices and actions, and let go of the rest.

For any of these practices to be effective there is a core skill that we need to develop. For me this one skill is the most important in Stoicism, and that is the skill of mindfulness. Now, I know that sound like a broken record because I talk about mindfulness and meditation a lot. The reason for this is that all other practices and processes we might use to improve ourself are dependent on awareness. If we are unaware of our thoughts, perspectives, and cognitive distortions, then it makes it nearly impossible to change anything.

Until we make the unconscious conscious, we will call it fate and it will rule our lives.

— Carl Jung

I’ve used this quote by Jung many times because it is such an important insight. Even just taking 15 minutes a day to sit and pay attention to you mind and observe your thinking can make a big difference. Remember, mediation is not about zoning out, it is about focusing your attention on your thoughts, your body, and your environment. Just as you would take time to work out to strengthen your body, meditation is taking time to strengthen your mind.

The ability to change and broaden our perspective is probably one of the most important skills that we can develop in our lives. It is also one of the most helpful, since the ability to see things from multiple perspectives gives a more holistic picture of a situation or event. A fuller picture can help you see and understand things you may have missed if you only rely on your own narrow perspective. It can help us understand other people and how they think, and handle situations in a way that is more beneficial to ourselves and those around us.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
wisdom

240 – Interview with Trever Yarrish

Interview with Trever Yarrish
Interview with Trever Yarrish

Trever Yarrish is the owner and founder of Zeal Software and The Hiive co-working space. He is also a good friend and one of my favorite people to chat with about stoicism. He's an avid student of stoicism and brings many of the stoic principles and ideas into his companies and his personal life. We sat down and had a chat about life, work, family, and the importance of having a process for managing your mind and emotions.

Books mentioned in the podcast:
The Power of Giving Away Power
Existential Kink


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
wisdom

239 – Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned
The Universe is Change

Hey everyone, this year has been an especially rough year for many of us. I can honestly say it has been for me. I had another episode mostly written but I decided that I wanted to change things up and talk about what I have learned over the past year, and ask you about the most important things you have learned.

The past few years have been quite a ride for the world. With Covid shutting down so many things and altering our way of life in so many ways, we have all been affected in big and small ways. For me, the company I work for shut down our offices and we now all work remote. Since the company I work for is very small, we all decided that it wasn’t worth the risk since if one of us got sick and came into the office, there was a high likelihood that everyone else would catch it as well.

This has been a mixed blessing. I enjoy working from home and having a lot a freedom and flexibility in my work. But, I’m also an extrovert and a very social person. I really enjoy spending time with others. Finding connection with other people is one of the things that feeds my soul, and Covid made that very challenging. Over time, I found myself retreating more and more and reached out less and less to friends. I think I also fell into a bit of depression because of my lack of time with others, as well as struggling with my own self esteem.

I had also stopped the podcast a while before the pandemic, but a year or so in, I decided for my own sanity to restart it so that I could spend some time each week tending to my mental health by working on the podcast. Each episode that I create is more than likely something I’m struggling with at the time I’m working on it. This helped me focus on the shit that I was dealing with, and try to find some ways to effectively deal with them. I call the podcast my public therapy.

But I think this last year has been one of the hardest but also one with some incredible growth. This year I’ve been working through the ending of my primary relationship with my partner of almost 9 years. In many ways I really put off dealing with it, which unfortunately made things much harder. It hasn’t been until the past few months that I felt like I had the strength and the skills to face it head on. It was why I took a break from the podcast at the beginning of last year, under the guise of spending more time working on learning Unreal Engine to change my career path. I felt a lot of shame over my failure to fix the issues in my relationship, and felt like a failure and a hypocrite if I continued the podcast. I mean how could I tell you, my audience, how to improve your lives when mine felt like a disaster?

But as I’ve worked through the ending of that relationship, I’ve learned some things about myself that helped me make some big strides, and I felt it was important to share them with you. I worked through some big blindspots and learned a lot about myself, and finally felt like I had a grasp on some concepts that could really move the needle for anyone who was trying to improve their lives. Many of those became episodes, and I feel like they’ve been some of my best. So now, I’d like to share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year.

Lesson One: Failure is just missed expectations.

I often talk a lot about learning from failure on this podcast, and it’s become very popular to talk about being okay with failure. But, to be honest, I think that even though we say it’s okay to fail there’s a part of us that still struggles to accept that. We don’t like failing at things, even if we say it’s okay to fail.

But over the last year, I finally started to make sense of a quote from Epictetus that took me many years to understand:

An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.

― Epictetus

The reason why this was hard for me to understand is that when something goes wrong or there is some kind of failure, I used to think there was always someone to blame. But what I’ve come to realize is that we only consider something a failure because we have some expectations around it. When we just accept that something happened the way that it did because that’s how all the circumstances and variables lined up, then there is really no one to “blame”.

When we can simply look at something dispassionately as cause and effect, and release any expectations about what we think should happen, we are able to observe, accept, and deal with what is. We learn to deal with reality as best we can, and not be upset that things didn’t happen as we wished they would.

Lesson Two: You are worthy of love because you exist.

Often, I felt like I had to be perfect for someone to love me. I felt like I had to be perfect for me to love and accept myself, and this is simply not the case. You don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love and to accept yourself. And there are several things to consider around this that support my opinion.

First, no one can ever be perfect. There is no absolute standard of what a “perfect” person is. And if there was, who would be the one to set that standard? Why should they be the one to set that standard? You have the ability to set the standards for yourself, and part of that standard, in my opinion, should be how kind and compassionate a person can be with themselves.

Second, people will love you because they choose to do so. You have no control over who loves you. As the stoics have well established we can’t control other people.

Third, the stoics recognized that we are all part of the human family and that we are here to help each other the best we can. If we live a life that is only centered around ourselves, then we have missed some of the best things in life. It’s been shown through many experiments and studies that the best way to create joy in your life is to help other people. So do your best to help others, and let them help you.

Lesson Three: The more you run away from the things that you fear, the more power they have over you.

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.

— Seneca.

Throughout the evolution of mankind, there were plenty of mortal threats that we had to have healthy sense of fear in order to stay safe. For the most part, most of us life in fairly safe places where we rarely have to worry about our physical safety. Most of the things that cause us distress are the thoughts, perceptions, and opinions in our own minds. In other words, we create our own fear. We stress ourselves out. We are the main source of our suffering.

More often than not, when we take the time to examine our own thinking about something, we can see that it is our imagination that is really scaring us. We create the worst case scenario in our minds, and convince ourselves that it is the most likely outcome. Whether that’s a hard conversation with our partner, kids, or friends, or standing up when there is an injustice that we object to, we imagine the worst outcome, and scare ourselves into inaction. We may fail to see that what we consider to be an awful outcome might be a great opportunity.

Lesson Four: You need to be the source of your self esteem.

For a lot of us, especially those who grew up in chaotic and unstable homes, we developed ways to deal with the chaos that, while they were helpful at the time, don’t serve us well in adulthood. Many of us become “people pleasers” in order to stay safe so that we minimize the abuse we suffered from the people closest to us. In my case, this was the unpredictable rage that came from my father. And when I say “people pleaser”, it really isn’t about pleasing the other person. It means that we try to figure out how to keep the other person happy so that we don’t upset the person we look to as our source of love.

When we get into relationships later in life, we will carry these ways of coping with us because it’s what we know. The problem is that if we’re with a partner that has a healthier sense of themselves and how relationships work, these kind of coping skills don’t work. We will try to figure out what we should say or do so this person will love us. We discard our own wants and needs so that this person will still love us. But, to anyone that understands healthy relationships, this is manipulation. We aren’t being honest, we aren’t being our authentic selves. We are trying to be what we think they want to be so that they will stay happy with us and love us.

So lesson number four is that we can’t expect others to be our source of self esteem and healing. We need to be that source for ourselves. To be honest, it is completely unfair that we should expect our partners to be the only source of love for us, and that they should be the ones to fix us. That’s a lot of pressure on anyone. It is also putting our source of self esteem outside of ourselves, so we aren’t in control of it.

When we learn how to accept and love ourselves, we become that source of love for ourselves. We take control of how we feel about ourselves, which means that we can show up in our relationships as a whole person that can accept the love of others, but is not dependent on it. This also means that rather than looking to the other person for what they can give us, we can find healthier ways to give and take in a relationship, rather than just taking.

There are a lot of other lessons that I learned this year, but these are the core ones that stood out to me, especially the lesson of self acceptance. Realizing that by putting that burden on someone else means that it is out of my control was really a life changer. It’s not an easy thing to change your thinking around yourself, and just accept yourself for exactly who you are. There is a lot of pressure to conform to societal ideas of perfection, that no one can ever live up to. There’s a lot of power in accepting yourself for exactly who you are, and extending that to others.

So what lessons have you learned this year? What helped move the needle for you? Are there things that you finally understood that make a big impact on your life? If you’d like to share, please share them on instagram. The account for the podcast is @stoic.coffee. If you’re on twitter, you can find me at @StoicCoffee. I’ll put a post up there about lessons learned in 2022. I’d love to hear what you’ve learned over the last year that really impacted your life.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
confidence

237 – Self Confidence

Self Confidence
Self Confidence

Are you confident person? Do you have faith in yourself as person? Are you comfortable with who you are? Today I want to talk about how we often will self sabotage ourselves not because we don’t have the skill or capacity to do something, but because we let self doubt creep in and stop us from sharing our gifts and talents.

To have self-confidence is to trust in one's own abilities and judgement. It is the foundation of success and happiness.

— Seneca

Self-confidence is an essential quality that helps us lead a successful and fulfilling life. It is the foundation of personal growth, and it enables us to face challenges and pursue our goals with determination and resilience. Unfortunately, many people struggle with low self-confidence and feel insecure about their abilities and worth. This can hold them back from reaching their potential and living a fulfilling life.

I think that many of us, and I include myself in this group, feel like we have a lot to give to this world, but we often are afraid to step up and share our gifts. And to be honest, I think the world can use a lot more of our talents and abilities. When we let fear get the better of us, we really miss out on contributing to the world in a positive way.

One of the example of where I really struggle with this is in creating this podcast. Each week I sit down and write and share my thoughts about stoicism and living a good life. The thing is, I really struggle with living these principles myself. There are times when I feel like such an imposter because I fail to live up to the standards I have set for myself. Most of the topics that I share on this podcast come directly from the things I’m struggling with in my own life. I keep doing it because it’s always a time for me to reflect on the things that I’m struggling with and hopefully help inspire others to keep pushing through.

There are several strategies and principles from Stoicism that can help us gain confidence in ourselves and overcome these insecurities. Here are a few key ideas to consider.

Focus on what you can control. One of the central tenets of Stoicism is the idea that we should only concern ourselves with things that are within our control, and let go of those that are outside our control. By focusing on what we can control – such as our own thoughts, attitudes, and actions – we can gain a sense of agency and empowerment that can boost our confidence. When we are able to let go of the things that we can’t control, we are able to use our energy towards things where we can an impact, and let go of the things where we have no impact.

Another key principle of Stoicism that goes hand in hand with control is that of acceptance, or the idea that we should embrace whatever comes our way, whether it is good or bad. This doesn't mean we should simply resign ourselves to our circumstances, but rather that we should learn to accept them and make the most of them. The act of acceptance is really just acknowledging and accepting reality. The more are able to just accept things as they are, and not wish they were something different, the better we can develop a sense of inner peace and resilience that can help us feel more confident and self-assured.

The only thing we have control over is our own thoughts and actions. When we focus on improving ourselves and living according to our values, we gain confidence and inner peace.

– Zeno of Citium

We can practice mindfulness. By focusing on the present moment and accepting things as they are, we can reduce anxiety and cultivate a sense of peace and inner strength. This can help us to approach challenges with a clear mind and the confidence that we can handle whatever comes our way.

When we practice mindfulness and being present, we are also not worrying about the future or ruminating on the past. Remember, mindfulness is not zoning out, but it is being as present in your body as you possibly can. It’s about noticing how your body feels and all the sensations of being alive in this moment.

Don't let what you can't do stop you from doing what you can do.

— John Wooden

I think the biggest killer of self confidence is its polar opposite, self doubt. Often times we fail simply because we let self doubt creep in. We let that internal voice, our ego, that wants to keep us safe and avoid failure, knock us off our path. This is really one of that saddest things because we often truly have the skills to accomplish our goals, but because there is a risk of failure, our ego is trying to protect us. If we don’t try, then we can’t fail. And the thing is, we going to fail. A lot. We’ll probably fail more times than we succeed, and our culture failure is often seen as one of the worst things you can do.

I know a systems engineer that worked for Nike a few years ago. He was tasked with fixing a server that managed the sales system in their company stores. One time he made a mistake and misconfigured the server and their sales system was down for a few hours. Unfortunately, they were fired. Rather than looking at this as a chance to learn where their systems had some weak points, the management decided that it was more important to punish the person who cause the system failure. This was an opportunity to learn something, but it was squandered because they wanted somewhere to place the blame more than they wanted to find the weak points in their system.

One of the the way that we can learn to accept and even appreciate failure is by developing mental discipline. Mental discipline is the ability to control our thoughts, and by extension our emotions. By practicing techniques such as mindfulness and learning to look at things through multiple perspectives, we can become more aware of negative thought patterns and emotion states that can hold us back and instead cultivate a positive and confident mindset.

Be confident in your own abilities. Believe in yourself, and others will believe in you too.

— Marcus Aurelius

The last point that I want to talk about is one of the most difficult things for many people, myself included. Far too often we let the opinions of others dissuade us from stepping up and becoming the person that we want to be and doing what we want to do. We stop ourselves from being our authentic and true selves because we’re afraid that others may not like us, or even reject us.

And this is not an irrational fear.

Earlier in human history, if you were cast of the tribe, it could mean your death because of lack of food, shelter, and protection. But the thing is, even though it can feel like it’s the end of the world, in our modern society, you can always find somewhere to fit in, and find people that like you for you. But more than anything, if someone doesn’t like who you are when you are being authentically you, then they are not your people. They are not your tribe. Your worthiness as a human and as person does not come from what others think of you. It does not come from your successes or your failures. It is simply there because you are a human being on this planet.

Self-confidence is not something that can be given to you. It must be earned, through hard work and determination.

— Aristotle

We aren’t always confident when we start a task or a project. But the most important thing is that you start it anyway, and gain that confidence along the way. It may take a while to be good at something, and the first step is have confidence that you will get better with each step.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
kind

236 – Nice vs. Kind

Nice v.s Kind
Kindness

Are you a nice person or are you a kind person? Do you know the difference? Today I want to talk about whether it’s better to be nice or kind.

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.

— Seneca

I few weeks ago, I stumbled on a discussion on twitter of all place about the difference between being nice and being kind. It was an idea that I had never really thought about, so today I want to look at this idea from a stoic perspective.

I’m sure that most of us at some point when we were kids were told that we needed to be nice to everyone. We may have been scolded for not “being nice” when we said something that upset someone else, as if we had control over how that other person felt. This was often mixed in with being told that we’re being “unkind”, so I think the place to start is to define each of these terms.

The definition of being nice is, “Pleasing and agreeable in nature. Exhibiting courtesy and politeness”, whereas the definition of kind is, “Generous, helpful, and caring about other people”.

In Stoic philosophy, being kind and being nice are often seen as two distinct virtues. Being kind is generally considered to be an essential virtue, and as a fundamental aspect of being a good person. The Stoics believed that the key to living a virtuous life was to cultivate the four cardinal virtues: wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation. Being kind falls under the virtue of justice, since it involves treating others fairly and with empathy. On the other hand, being nice is typically seen as a less essential virtue, because it’s often more focused on pleasing others and avoiding conflict.

Since one of the most important things we learn is stoicism is that we cannot control what other people think or feel, we can see that sometimes people will be nice in an attempt to please or manipulate others. They are trying to control or influence how the other person thinks or feels about them.

On the other hand, being kind is very much within our control. Being kind is when we act in such a way that is helpful to others. We aren’t doing something just so that we look good or that others will like us. We are simply living our principles.

Life is so hard, how can we be anything but kind?

— Jack Kornfield

If we dig a little deeper in stoic philosophy, the difference between being nice and being kind can also be understood through the the concepts of moral goodness and moral worth. Moral goodness refers to actions that align with virtue whereas moral worth refers to the character of a person.

Being nice can include actions that could be considered virtuous, however, being nice does not necessarily require someone to have a virtuous character. For example, someone may give money to charity simply because it makes them look good, rather than because they genuinely care about the well-being of others. In this sense, being nice is a matter of moral goodness, but not necessarily moral worth.

On the other hand, being kind means having a virtuous character and doing actions that align with virtues. A kind person is someone who consistently demonstrates virtues such as compassion and generosity, not just in their actions, but in their overall disposition and character. Being kind involves both moral goodness and moral worth.

In his letter "On Tranquility of Mind," Seneca wrote, "The first step in a life of wisdom is to establish our moral worth, to make ourselves good men; the second is to become good at what we do." In other words, Seneca believed that in order to live a good life, we must first focus on developing our character and doing virtuous actions.

Similarly, Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations, "Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one." This quote highlights the importance of not just talking about virtues, but actually practicing and embodying them in our lives.

I’ve noticed that some cultures are often kind, but not always nice. Others tend to be nice, but are not necessarily kind. When I lived in Austria, I found that the people were not always nice, and were often very blunt, but they were very kind and would often go out of their way to help friends and strangers in need. Of course, this is just a generalization because it will vary from person to person.

I think in many ways, being nice is more about the appearance of what you do, and kindness is about doing something because it’s the virtuous thing to do. It’s taking care of someone’s kids when they’re in the hospital and not just sending “thoughts and prayers”.

The last aspect of kindness that I want to touch on is that of self kindness. One of the key principles of Stoicism is that external events are beyond our control, and that our happiness is dependent on our own actions and attitudes. This means that being kind is not just about being nice to others, but also about being kind to ourselves and treating ourselves with the same compassion and understanding that we would show to others. In my own experience, I’ve found that as I’ve learned to be kinder and less judgmental to myself, it makes it easier to be kinder and less judgmental of others. In fact, I’ve found that the people who are often harsh on other people are usually really hard on themselves. By being kind to ourselves, we become less judgmental and kinder to others.

While being nice is often seen as a desirable quality, it is not as essential as being kind. Being kind involves treating others with empathy and fairness, and also involves being kind to ourselves. The difference between being nice and being kind can also be understood through the concepts of moral goodness and moral worth in stoic philosophy. While being nice involves performing actions that align with virtues, being kind involves developing a virtuous character which would drive you towards virtuous actions. In order to live a good life, stoic philosophers emphasized the importance of cultivating virtues in both our actions and our character which is essential for finding happiness and fulfillment.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
philosophy

235 – Interview With Tanner Campbell from The Practical Stoic

Interview with Tanner Campbell
Interview with Tanner Campbell

I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking with Tanner Campbel from The Practical Stoic. Tanner is sharp, warm, and kind and I really enjoyed our conversation. I hope you enjoy it as well.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon! Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Challenges

234 – Easy Life

Easy Life
Everything is Difficult At First

Do you want your life to be easy? Do you complain, get stressed out, or upset when challenges come up in your life? Today I want to talk about why we should not only accept adversity in our lives, but learn to embrace it.

The path of least resistance is a terrible teacher.

— Ryan Holiday

One of the things that I notice all the time are ads on Facebook promising some easy hack to get more clients, make more sales, lose weight faster, etc. It seems as if everything can be reduced to some kind of easy hack to be successful. And I’ll admit that I have fallen for some these. I’ve purchased a program that is supposed to teach me the “easy way” to one thing or another, only to find that there usually is no easy being successful at something.

So why do we look for the easy way? Why are we often taken in by promises of easy success? I think it’s pretty obvious because working hard at something is, well, hard. But I want to posit a few ideas on this. While we think it would great to have easy success with something, do we lose something if we have easy success? I want you to consider the idea that if we have an easy success at something, we may be cheating ourselves of some of the most important skills we need.

Think of it this way: Who are we more impressed by? The person that was simply given everything in their life? The ones got their jobs or were admitted into schools, not because of their own merit, but because of their family connections or wealth? Or are we more impressed by those who came up against incredible obstacles and persevered? Which story is going to make a movie that we’d actually want to watch?

One should never wish for life to be easy. It is through adversity that we strengthen our skills, test our mettle, and know what we are capable of.

— Erick Cloward

I’ve often talked about how I love cycling, and for several years, I was obsessed with it. I would ride at least 3 times a week logging around 150-200 miles a week. I found pleasure in tackling the big hills around my home. It wasn’t just that I knew that I would be stronger because of the work I was putting in, it was because I really enjoyed climbing those hills, I loved the feeling of the burn in my legs and feeling my strength as I pushed myself to the summit.

Over the years I’ve come up with excuses as to why I don’t ride like that anymore, but I think it’s really that I convinced myself that it was just too hard do anymore. I’ve felt discouraged that I let myself go, and I know the amount of work it will take to get to that level again. But in doing all that, I forgot the simple idea that I don’t have to be that good again. I just have to remember to love the process, to enjoy the ride, and to savor the burn. If I put the miles in, while I may not ever reach that level again, I’ll certainly improve over where I am now, and certainly improve my health.

The Spartans

The Spartan story of Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae is considered one of the greatest military conflicts in history. Xerxes, the King of Persia and an estimated 180,000 soldiers were held at bay for several days by a significantly smaller Greek army led by Leonidas, one of the kings of Sparta. While they eventually lost due to betrayal from a Spartan traitor, the fighting force of 7000, lead by 300 of Sparta’s elite ranks, they managed to keep the Persians at bay until the rest of the Greek army could assemble, and eventually defeat the Persian forces. Over seven days of battle, the Spartans lost 4000 soldiers but inflicted a loss of 20,000 on the Persians.

There are many reason why this story resonates with us even today. First and foremost is that King Leonidas knew that he was most likely marching to his death. He also knew that in doing so, it was the best chance to buy time for the rest of Greece to mount a defense against the Persians. Second, is that these soldiers had trained long and hard for most of their lives so that when the time came, they would be ready to face their enemies and fight ferociously. They didn’t wish for their lives to be easy, but challenged themselves to become the best of the best. Training amongst the Spartans was considered to be some of the most difficult, which is why the Spartans where extremely successful in their military campaigns.

The willingness of these warriors to push themselves to become the best they could be are part of the reason that we have stoicism and democracy. If the Persians had conquered Greece at that time, its fledgling democratic and philosophical traditions may not have survived.

Good judgment comes from experience. Most experience comes from bad judgment.

— Anonymous

A man cannot understand the art he is studying if he only looks for the end result without taking the time to delve deeply into the reasoning of the study.

— Miyamoto Musashi

When we take on challenges and learn to love the hard parts, we also build the skills that we need to sustain what we’re doing. Think about it this way: What if your goal in life was to become the CEO of a successful tech company like Apple? What would happen if tomorrow you were suddenly given that role? Would you be able to sustain it? Would you have the skills to run a company of that size? Would you have the experience needed to make good judgments about how to run such a company? Unless you had put in the time, you wouldn’t be successful, nor would you be able to ensure the long term success of the company.

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.

– Marcus Aurelius

So what can we do to get better at embracing the hard parts of life? How can we change our mindset to love the burn?

First and foremost is our perspective. If we look at the hard parts as something that is bad or to be avoided, then we’ll never look forward to them, which also makes it more likely that we won’t push through when things are boring, hard, or painful.

Pain and Pleasure

One of the most interesting things about the human mind is that many of the same sensations that we have are considered god or bad based upon our perspective. For example, nervousness and excitement have the same physiological symptoms, yet we consider nervousness to be bad and excitement to be good. In the kink communities, there are plenty of people that find great pleasure in being flogged. Many people enjoy roller coasters or horror movies in which they feel fear and excitement at the same time.

Using these examples, are there hard things that you normally avoid that you could find the pleasure in? Rather than simply tolerating them, can you find ways to love them? If you’ve ever seen a hard core body builder at the gym, you will often see them push themselves to where they feel immense burning in their muscles and yet have the biggest grins on their faces as they push through that pain.

Another way to look at things is to see if you can find pleasure in mastering the boring or basic things. For example, if you are learning how to program a computer, rather than just racing through the practice code, can you take time to see if you can make the code more efficient or elegant? If you’re working on becoming a writer, can you find a clearer or more interesting way to express an idea?

It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.

— Miyamoto Musashi.

Patience and Process

Another thing that trips us up is that we are often impatient. We want success and we want it now. Many of us will spend so much time trying to find shortcuts, that it would have been faster for us to have simply taken the necessary steps in the first place. We can help override this by finding ways to enjoy the journey, to love the process. We can get so focused on the end goal that we miss the scenery and experiences along the way.

Recognize that it’s the journey that will turn you into the person that you will be when you get to the end goal. Recognize that you’re going to suck at whatever it is you want to get better at. Be okay with sucking at something, and enjoy watching yourself go from sucking at something to getting better at it.

So what are you working towards right now in your life that is hard for you? Is there something in it that scares you? Are there things you’re trying to avoid that you know you need to do to get where you want to go? Can you change your perspective to find the pleasure and the excitement in it? The more you can embrace and love the sucky parts, the more you’ll look forward to the challenges, and the more you’ll learn to love the burn.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Thinking

231 – A Model of Thinking

A Model of Thinking
Photographer: 919039361464473

The stoics teach us that we have control over a few things – our thoughts, our choices, and our actions. In short, our will. So is there a way that we can get better with our thinking, and improve our outcomes? Today I want to talk about a model that can help us be more aware of how our thinking impacts us, and with that awareness, improve our lives.

You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

—Marcus Aurelius

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

Marcus Aurelius

One of the most important things that the stoics teach us is that our thinking, one of the only things that we have control over, is one of the most important things in determining whether we are successful in accomplishing the things we want to in life, and ultimately what determines our happiness. Because we can only experience life through our own subjective experience, we are the ones that ultimately determine how we judge what happens to us, and what meaning we give to those things.

A simple example of this is how the same thing can happen to different people, with wildly different outcomes simply because of the perspective a person has on something. For example, in study after study, people who suffered traumatic injuries such as losing limb or severe burns report that the initial impact of the injury can certainly cause depressions, anxiety, and other issues. But over time, most people end up reporting that their level of happiness returns to basically where it was before the accident. If they were happy before, they generally are happy afterwards. If they were depressed, they generally fall back into their same way of being.

There have also been studies on how people who have a sudden windfall of wealth through inheritance, the lottery, or some other channel, report that even with all this sudden good luck, after a few weeks or months the shine wears off and they are as happy or unhappy as they were before coming into wealth. Often when we get exactly what we want – a raise, a new car, or something else that we thought would bring us happiness, we find that it is only temporary.

So why is it that even when we change our circumstances to something that we are sure will make us happy, we often end up right back where we were? Because no matter what the circumstances are, we are still the same people. We still have the same way of thinking, and how we think, and the meaning that we give to things have a far greater impact on us than the circumstances themselves.

It is not things that upset us, but our opinion of them.

— Epictetus

So how do we get better at improving our thinking? As with most things, it comes down to awareness. If you want to know why you’re getting the results you’re getting, you need to know what you are thinking.

I’ve mentioned one of my favorite life coaches, Brooke Castillo several times on this podcast, and one of the best things that she teaches is what she calls “The Model”. The Model, is basically a simple yet powerful outline of how our minds work. It’s not anything new, and these ideas have been around for millennia, but it’s a nice encapsulation of what the stoics teach, so I’m going to share it with you here.

The first part of the Model are Circumstances. These are what the stoics would label as externals. This includes circumstances and events that happen. It’s simple what life brings your way. When you think of circumstances, they are things that are purely factual. They are things that you could prove in a court of law. Things like, “it is raining”, or “that car is red”, or “I am 50 years old”.

The next part are Thoughts. When you encounter circumstances and events, you have certain thoughts around them. This included both conscious and unconscious thoughts. This is the story that you are telling yourself about these events and circumstances, and what you think they mean. These are not facts, but rather your judgments, opinions, and impressions.

The next part is Emotions. Emotions are caused by your thinking. When you tell yourself a story about the things that are happening, you create emotions. You feel something. That could be anxiety. It could be joy. It could be fear. Whatever you are feeling, it is caused by your thinking.

The next part is Actions. Our actions are driven by our emotions. Emotion comes from the Latin “emovere”, which means to “move out, remove, agitate”. It’s from the same root as motive, motor, move, and momentum. Emotions are the things that get us to make choices, and take action.

The last part of the Model is Results. When we make choices and take action, we get results of some kind.

So how can we use this model in our lives?

If you want to understand how you are dealing with something in your life, you can use the model to help clarify why you are getting the results you have in your life. By filling in the information in each of these sections, you can get a rough but clearer picture of what’s going on.

If you’re in a place where you can sit down, I want you to pull out a blank sheet of paper. I want you to write down these 5 section, and give yourself some space to write next to them:

Circumstances

Thoughts

Emotions

Actions

Results

So let’s take an example and fill out each of these lines. The nice thing is that you can start with any section.

Let’s say that you get into an argument with your significant other at least once a week about the dishes. You get frustrated with them for just leaving the dishes in the sink rather than putting them in the dishwasher as you would prefer. Let’s fill in the lines and see how we can be more aware of our thinking. Remember, these can be done in any order. It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together, though for this for this exercise I’ll go in order just to illustrate the ideas.

In the Circumstances line we put, “My partner leaves dishes in the sink”, and “I have asked them to put them in the dishwasher.” That’s it. Those are the only facts in this story.

Let’s fill in the thinking line. “When my partner doesn’t put the dishes in the dishwasher, I feel like they are disrespecting me and they are doing it just to upset me.”

Next let’s fill in the Emotion line. You would write down something like, “I feel frustrated” or “I feel angry”. Remember these are emotions. You can’t put something like, “I feel ignored” because being ignored is an action attributed to the other person, and also, ignored is not an emotion.

In the Action line we would write, “I complain to my partner about dirty dishes being left in the sink.”

Lastly, in the Result line we might put something like, “My partner feels like they are being attacked and storms off”.

Once you have this filled out, you have a little bit more clarity into the situation. You can examine the thoughts you have around the situation. In this example, the thoughts are projecting a motive onto your partner. They may or may not be doing it to purposely upset you, but because of those thoughts, you feel angry, which drives you to complain to your partner, and start up the conflict again. When you are able to change your thinking around the situation, it can change your emotions and actions, which lead to different results.

Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions – not outside.

Marcus Aurelius

In short, if your dealing with an issue and want to have some clarity around it, using this simple model is a great way to examine the situation a little more rationally. It’s a framework to start from to help you see where you may have some thinking errors. It can also be used in a positive light. If you are trying to get a certain kind of result, try filling this out and seeing what kind of thinking and actions might help you achieve the results you want.

Think clearly from the ground up. Understand and explain from first principles. Ignore society and politics. Acknowledge what you have. Control your emotions.

Naval Ravikant

Let’s say that you want to meditate for 30 minutes a day, but you find it challenging to do. Put “I want to mediate for 30 minutes a day” in the Results line. In the Actions line, you might put, “I schedule a break at 10 am on my calendar”. In the Emotions line, you might have something like, “I am excited about my 30 minutes”. In the Circumstances you might have, “I have a space in my house with pillows near a window.” And in the Thoughts line? “I know that after each session I feel more relaxed and feel more clear in my thinking.”

The mind is a pretty complex thing, but helping to gain some clarity in our own thinking can really make a world of difference. Using a model like this is a way to help improve our awareness of our thoughts and how that thinking leads to the results we get. And while this model is not all encompassing, it’s a great starting point to gaining insight to the stories we tell ourselves, which drive the actions we take, and the results we get.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
other people

230 – Our Human Contract

Our Human Contract
Ignorance leads to fear…

Is it ever okay to hate someone as a stoic? Is there ever a time to have “righteous anger”? Today I want to talk about anger, hate and violence in our ever more divisive world.

Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. This is the equation.

— Ibn Rushd

Today the world feels like it in chaos. Everything from political violence, war, and ethnic clashes to threats of violence and down right viciousness on social media. Alongside that, the sensationalist news media leading with crime and vilification of those with the “wrong” political opinions. We have politicians excusing and even encouraging violence against one group or another based on their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or social status.

With all of this going on, it can at times feel like there is justification to be angry at some group or another. There is always someone else to blame as to why things aren’t going the way that you think they should. It’s easy to fall into this trap of declaring that if everyone else just thought and acted the way that you wanted, then everything in the world would be much better.

Anger is such an important topic in the stoic philosophy that it’s in the first sentence of Marcus Aurelius’ Mediations. He says, “Of my grandfather Versus I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all anger and passion.”

So why do the stoics believe that anger and hatred are so paramount that they warn against them so strongly over and over? Because what they call the “temporary madness” of anger can cause us to do things that we would never do when we are calm and relaxed. We limit our capacity to make better decisions, we will underestimate risk, and at times even cause harm to ourselves just to cause injury to the target of our anger.

But most importantly, the stoics teach us that the harm that anger can cause doesn’t just cause damage to those on the receiving end, it also damages our character. It causes us to be ugly on the inside. We alienate those around us. We push people away from us, cause harm to others, and spend time in a dark and hateful place of our own creation. We make really bad decisions that have lasting consequences, often by split second decisions. As Donald Robertson puts it, “Anger allows us to do stupid things faster and with more energy.”

I have, at times when I’ve lost my temper, said some pretty mean and vicious things to people that I genuinely care about, only because I let that temporary madness take over. I felt hurt about something and want them to hurt as much or more than me. As soon as I calm down I truly regret those things that I said, but sadly, they’re out there and the damage has been done. Looking back on my marriage, I know that my anger was certainly a contributing factor to my ex wife asking for a divorce.

The more unjust the hatred, the more stubborn it is.

— Seneca

Have you ever met someone that is angry a lot? How pleasant are they to spend time around? Do you look forward to your time with them or do you make excuses to limit your time with them? I know that I do my best to limit my time around others like this. There were even times when I have been on dates that I fond very attractive, but because of bitterness or anger I was not interested in pursuing any thing further. I would even go so far as to say that hate and anger make a person very ugly inside and out.

One of the saddest things I can think of in my own life are the bittersweet memories of my father and his violent temper. It’s really sad because there were plenty of great things about him. He was funny, kind, smart, and generous, but so many of my memories of him are overshadowed by his anger and the mental toll that it took on me. I’ve spent the last few years working through the trauma caused by his anger, and stoicism has been a big help for me as I’ve worked through these issues.

Whoever does wrong, wrongs himself; Whoever does injustice, does it to himself making himself evil.

— Marcus Aurelius

A few years ago I was in a stoic group on Facebook and was very shocked to see a discussion going on where a few members of the group were using stoicism to try and justify racism. They were posting things like pictures of people living huts in Africa as proof that these people were inferior to them. While I tried patiently to discuss this with them and talk about how stoicism is not compatible with racism, I found it was worthless and gave up on the conversation. Fortunately they were shortly banned from the group.

So can one be a stoic and be racist or misogynistic or bigoted? No. I don’t think you can for several reasons. First, one of the most important things that stoicism teaches us is that there are things we can and cannot control and it’s incumbent on us to determine the difference, and to work on the things we can control and let go of the rest. It’s therefor illogical to hate someone for the color of their skin or their sex or gender or any other factor that they cannot control. Secondly, anger and hatred are called out as some the most important “passions” or negative emotions that we should avoid.

Epictetus also makes it very clear that we are to do good and help all humans, not just those that we like or who are on “our side”:

One cannot pursue one’s own highest good without at the same time necessarily promoting the good of others. A life based on narrow self-interest cannot be esteemed by any honorable measurement. Seeking the very best in ourselves means actively caring for the welfare of other human beings. Our human contract is not with the few people with whom our affairs are most immediately intertwined, nor to the prominent, rich, or well educated, but to all our human brethren.

— Epictetus

You cannot continue to hate someone without repeatedly wasting, on them, some of your precious time and mental energy.

— Mokokoma Mokhonoana

So is there ever a time when anger is justified? Again, I would have to say no. Hate and anger diminish your ability to be rational, and the stoics teach us to use our rational minds over emotions. And the idea that there is justifiable or righteous anger has led to so many atrocities throughout history. Anger is not an easy thing to control. I know that I might think I’m justified in how I feel about something, but even that justified anger can quickly spiral out of control and I end up saying or doing things I regret.

Mobs that start off feeling justified can spiral out of control and end up doing horrendous things to satiate that righteous anger. Throughout history we see that every tyrant, fascist, and dictator has believed in the righteousness of their cause which has caused immense suffering for so many people. Others in feeling that they have the right to be angry about something, have taken out their anger and rage on others in ways that completely destroy their own life and the lives others.

So what can we do to better manage our anger? How can we work on getting rid of hate? The stoics give us many ways to work on anger, but I think the most important is from Epictetus:

It is not things that upset us, but our opinion of them.

— Epictetus

It really comes down to our thinking. If we spend our time thinking about how awful the world is, or that we deserve something, or how much we hate another person or group of people, we are the ones creating these feelings inside of us with our own thoughts. It is our choice to focus on hate and anger, or to direct our thinking and opinions in ways that help improve our lives. When you spend your energy on hating others, you create a prison of unhappiness in your own mind. When you put hate and anger out into the world, you don’t just cause damage to the target of your anger, but to your own character, and you bring that anger into the world.

If you hate a person, then you’re defeated by them.

— Confucius

I know that some people feel like they have to prove their strength with anger or violence. But as a simple though experiment, if you see two people arguing and one of them is getting more and more worked up and yelling, while the other is remaining calm, who do think has more control of themselves? Who do you think has the stronger will? Anger is a sign of weakness. Giving into anger and hate is easy. Self control and mental discipline is hard.

As I mentioned earlier, the stoics teach us to identify what we can control, and that the only things we really control are our thoughts, our will, and our choices. You have control over your thoughts. You can change them at any time. When you choose to focus on anger and hate, you are blaming someone or something else for how you feel. You are not taking responsibility for your own thinking and emotions, which is one of the only things you actually do have control over.

As a simple practice, any time you are feeling riled up about something, try to take time out before making any decisions. Before you say those awful things, send that angry text, or post that vicious comment to social media, take a break. Go outside for a walk. Read a book. Play some music and dance. Whatever it is that you do to distract yourself and get your mind to calm down. Once you’ve given yourself some time to cool off, take some time to examine your thoughts that are causing these angry feelings. Then decide if there is a better way to handle the situation. Take the anger out of your text or post. Can you change it to be something purely factual? Is it something that even needs to be communicated at all?

The last and most important thing you can do is to be careful about what you watch, read, and listen to. There is so much hate fueled media out there and the more attention you give it, the more susceptible you are to falling into hate and violence. Extreme political media, conspiracy theories, and anyone that puts out violence and hate are things that bring no value to your life. Anyone that promotes the idea that you should hate one group or another is someone you really should avoid.

There’s a lot of anger in the world right now and it’s easy to get swept up in it. Part of being a stoic is learning how to master your emotions and learn to be dispassionate about things so you can view them rationally, and act in ways to promote the greater good. There is no reason to spend your time and energy on hate. There are so many problems in the world that we need to work on together to help make the world a better place. Don’t be a part of the problem by adding to the hate and violence out into the world.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
self-improvement

227 – Self Commitment

Self Commitment
Demand the best for yourself!

Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.

— Marcus Aurelius

How often do you find yourself starting something only to notice a few weeks or months later that you let it fall by the wayside? Today I want to talk about why we have trouble keeping commitments to ourselves, and some ideas about how we can get better about keeping those commitments.

If you’re like me, you are always interested in improving yourself. Maybe that’s cutting down on your drinking or losing weight. Maybe it learning a new skill or starting a new business. There are all kinds of goals and things you want to do to enrich your life. We approach these things with gusto and excitement as we look forward to how much better our lives will be as we implement these changes in our lives.

Fast forward a few weeks or months later and many if not all of those resolutions are just a distant memory. Our good intentions have given way to our default way of life, and we return to the way things were. We may not have even really noticed when it happened. We may have been on track for weeks, only to find a short time later we have dropped our plans as if our resolutions never even existed.

Part of the reason why I wanted to make this episode is because this happened to me recently, and I’m trying to get back on track. I was doing great with meditating every day for at least 30 minutes, but about a month ago I severely sprained my ankle and was in a lot of pain for a while. I was also having trouble sleeping, and found my motivation to keep up with things beyond the basics was pretty low. I subtly used my injury as an excuse to quit my daily practice.

So why does this happen? Why is does it seem so hard to follow through on these commitments we make to ourselves? What is it in our makeup as humans that we get pulled back to the status quo even though we really do want to make lasting changes in our lives?

For much of evolution, humans struggled to have enough to eat. Because food was often hard to come by, survival depended on smart management of energy. Expending energy when you didn’t have to could mean the difference between life and death. Luckily, for must of us, food insecurity is no longer an issue. While we may not be able to afford prime rib every night for dinner, most of us are able to buy healthy food to feed ourselves. But these habits that served humanity over thousands of years are still engrained into us. This is why for most of us our bodies are more interested in sitting down for a show on Netflix than going for a run.

When we try to change something about ourselves, our minds often struggle to adapt to the new changes that we are trying to make in our lives. Our brains work really hard to keep us safe. We’re still alive in our current situation, so our brain will naturally gravitate to what it knows. Losing weight, taking up a new workout, learning a new skill all require effort and work. We may also fail when we try to do these things, so we’ll stick with what we know because it’s safe.

Another challenging aspect in our quest for self improvement is our desire for instant gratification. We get a dopamine hit when we do something that is pleasurable now, and have a harder time imagining the payoff we’ll get in the future. Some examples of short term pleasures that hit that dopamine switch include alcohol, entertainment, drugs, social media, and plenty of foods that are tasty but are not good for us.

There is nothing wrong with some of these short term pleasures in moderation, though one problem with chasing these short term pleasures is that that the effect is also short term. If we constantly chase after these short term pleasures, we also find that each subsequent time usually is less pleasurable than the one preceding. I learned this as a young child when I had my very first piece of cheesecake. I loved it so much that I happily took a second one, only to find that rather than enjoying as much as the first, it had the opposite effect and I started to feel sick to my stomach.

These short term pleasures often have long term consequences. For example, if we eat too much unhealthy food, we put on extra weight. If we spend too much time playing video games we don’t spend time on relationships or hobbies or other things that enrich our lives.

When we don’t keep these commitments to ourselves, there are a few things that happen. We develop a habit of breaking our word to ourselves. Often we’re much better about keep our commitments to others than we are to ourselves. If we were to behave this way towards our friends, we would erode their trust in us. The more we do this to ourselves, the more we erode our trust in ourselves.

We also create inertia that moves us in the wrong direction. We might think to ourselves, “I can’t keep my commitment to eating healthy, so why bother cutting down on alcohol?” This kind of self-sabotage is often the main reason we don’t accomplish the things we really want to. We will often use this setbacks as proof that we just can’t do it.

Doctors won’t make you healthy. Nutritionists won’t make you slim. Teachers won’t make you smart. Gurus won’t make you calm. Mentors won’t make you rich. Trainers won’t make you fit. Ultimately, you have to take responsibility. Save yourself.

—Naval Ravikant

How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?

—Epictetus

So what can we do to help us get better about making the changes we want in our lives and avoid self-sabotage?

It comes down to self discipline. It’s about being able to get yourself to do the things you want to do for you.

Self discipline is the ability to make and keep commitments to yourself.

Self discipline is taking responsibility for your actions and choices, and not blaming them on things outside of yourself.

Now I know that self-discipline kind of gets a bad wrap because we think it’s too hard. And yeah, if we’re not in the habit of keeping commitments to ourselves, it is hard. Often though, it comes down to changing our perspective on things and what we make it mean.

For example, committing to eating healthy food is much easier to do if we look at it with the perspective that we are nourishing our bodies so we feel and think better. It’s much more challenging if we look at it as if we’re being deprived of all this other food that we can’t eat. Having a clear idea of why you’re working on changing something will go a long way towards helping you stay on track.

One of the stoic tools that we have is negative visualization, or premeditato malorum. We make a list of all the things that can go wrong, and how we’ll solve each of them. For example, if your are trying to lose weight and you are following a specific diet, you list all the things that could derail you from eating healthy. Maybe going out to dinner with friends is challenging because you always get dessert, so you decide to find a few restaurants that have healthier options that fit with your diet. Maybe you hate shopping for food, so you have your partner do the shopping or you pay a delivery service to do it for you. Anything that might be an issue, you find a solution to work around it.

Since many of our goals are things that just fall by the wayside, another way that we can help ourselves it by giving ourselves a way out. Yes, that’s right, you decide under what conditions you’ll allow yourself to quit, and commit to yourself that you can only quit if you make a conscious decision to do so. You are not allowed to just let it fall by the wayside. For example if you are trying to lose weight you decide that you will quit the diet you’re on if you follow it successfully for 6 months and you don’t lose any weight. And if you reach that point where you make that conscious choice to quit, you also commit to finding another way to lose the weight you want.

Learning to keep commitments to ourselves is for me, the ultimate expression of self care. It’s about you deciding that you are important enough to keep those commitments to over all else. And the better you are about keeping your word to yourself, the better you are about actually reaching the goals that you set out, and ultimately have the life you want.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
wisdom

226 – Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance
It’s the Truth I’m After

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

— Marcus Aurelius

Today I want to talk about one of the most interesting things about humans, the fact that we cling so dearly to our belief systems in face of contradiction evidence, often to our own detriment.

Why do humans resist changing their minds, even in the face of overwhelming evidence? How often have you changed your opinions when presented with new facts? How often have you actually changed your behavior when you learned new information? How often to you rationalize your opinion or simply deny facts because they don’t fit your belief system?

The human mind is a very malleable and flexible thing. It is because of this flexibility that we are able to survive in all kinds of environments and circumstances. Over time and through experience, we develop a belief system of how the world works. Much of this comes from the circumstances we grow up in. The culture around us, the family we are born into, even the physical surroundings can inform and influence our belief system.

A big reason why we have this ability is that the brain is a pretty good prediction machine, but it needs to have principles and ideas to work from. It’s job is taking past experiences and merging it with current information to try and predict what will happen next. It is precisely this ability that helps us to survive.

As a child, it is easy to be more flexible with our thinking, simply because we are inexperienced and don’t have a lot of knowledge. Everything is new to us at some point, so we’re naturally curious because just don’t know. Our brains are looking for more information and experiences in order to make better predictions. We try things and see how they work or don’t work, and adjust our expectations accordingly. With each new bit of information we’re able to make better predictions to help us survive, and ultimately thrive.

But while the human mind is flexible and adaptable, as we age, it takes effort to keep this flexibility of thinking. As we gain more and more knowledge and experience we are usually able to make better predictions of how we think things work. These in turn inform our opinions and judgments and hopefully help us navigate the world in a safe way so that we might live long and prosper. Where we run into trouble is when we decide that we have enough knowledge and information and turn those opinions and judgements into beliefs.

Often though, we are simply given beliefs by those we trust. This includes family, friends, teachers, leaders – anyone that we consider an authority. Many beliefs we pick up are not well tested or thought out. They are just ideas that have been around for a while. Many ideas are tenacious not because they are right, but because they reach a critical mass within a culture or community. Superstitions, religious beliefs, conspiracy theories are prime examples. Pretty much anything that is taken as truth without little to no evidence, site dubious sources, or are not open to exploration with new information can be categorized as beliefs.

A mark of an open mind is being more committed to your curiosity that to your convictions. The goal of learning is not to shield old views against new facts. It’s to revise old views to incorporate new facts. Ideas are possibilities to explore, not certainties to defend.

— Adam Grant

When something becomes a belief, whether from external influences or ones that we have created ourselves from our own experience, it turns into something that we no longer question, but defend from anything that might threaten that belief.

So why do we find it so hard to change our beliefs? What’s in us that we will deny and fight for our belief, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that we are wrong? What is the benefit of acting this way?

When we have a deeply engrained belief, and we come upon new information that shows that we could be wrong, we start to feel cognitive dissonance. Basically, when the mind has two or more contradictory beliefs, we start to feel tension as we grapple with the fact that something we thought was true, might not be true.

When we feel this disharmony, we have a number of options that we can take. We can take in the new information, adjust this belief that we have which will in turn change our behavior. We can can rationalize and make excuses for why it doesn’t really apply in this case so that we can hold onto our belief. Or, as what happens in many cases, we ignore or deny the information and go on holding the same belief.

Since our minds want to resolve this tension, it often takes the last option of just ignoring or denying the evidence in front of us is the easiest option. It’s the one that takes the least amount of work, and allows us to simply go on living like we had before. Change takes work and our minds are lazy and want to hold onto the status quo.

Most of us like to think that we’re good about receiving new information and adjusting our opinions and behaviors accordingly. But this is something that we all do, often without even really thinking about it. To illustrate this, I’d like to take an example from daily life. How often have you rationalized eating something that you know is bad for you, but you don’t want to give up? Maybe it’s your favorite ice cream or cookies whatever it is, you can find all kinds of ways to rationalize why you don’t have to give it up. You’ll point out that it has some healthy ingredients or that it’s convince yourself that it’s not that bad. Whereas if you were honest with yourself and truly wanted to eat healthier, you would simply remove it from your diet.

In my own life, it took me decades to let go of my religious beliefs, even though they never felt right to me. I had been told for so long from so many people I loved and trusted, that anytime something would come up that contradicted what I had been taught, I would find some way to rationalize it, or ignore it because I was scared to give up this belief. But once I finally had enough evidence that the church was a fabrication from it’s founder, I could no longer in good conscience stay in the church and so I left.

If anyone can refute me‚ show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective‚ I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after.

— Marcus Aurelius

So how can be better about integrating new information into our way of viewing the world so that we have more informed opinions?

I think the Buddha was on to something when he said that the cause of suffering is attachment, and in this case we get attached to our ideas and beliefs to the point where we feel threatened when something comes along that might disprove them. Our ego identifies with these beliefs, and if we’re wrong we often feel like that means there is something wrong with us. When we can learn to be less attached to these beliefs and develop a mindset of curiosity, then we can take in information without feeling threatened. We can actually seek out information to see if we can prove that our idea is wrong so that we can get closer to the truth much quicker.

This kind of approach is not easy though. It means that we have to become more mindful of our thinking. We need to pay attention to when we’re feeling defensive about something because that is often a signal that we are feeling threatened by something. We also need to notice when we feel fear in our bodies. If we’re not in physical danger but we’re afraid because of what someone is saying, we should probably look closer at why we’re afraid.

While I like to think that I’m good a this, it has taken a lot of effort to not be as reactive and not feel like I have to defend my ideas. I still fail from time to time, and end up feeling defensive and end up in arguments, but I’ve certainly made progress on that front. I’m better about recognizing when I start to feel defensive about things. I pay attention to my body and any physical sensations. I try to ask questions, to help move me into a space of curiosity and learning, and out of that space of having to prove that I’m right.

Developing a mindset of curiosity takes mindfulness, patience, and a willingness to learn over wanting to be right, and is something that can greatly enhance our lives and relationships.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

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Categories
Acceptance

224 – To You or For You?

To You or For You?
To You or For You?

It does not matter what you bear, but how you bear it.

— Seneca

Do you think that life just happens to you? That you are simply a pawn in the game of life? Because there are so many things that we don’t have control over in our lives, it can be easy to fall into this kind of mental trap. The problem is that when adopt this kind of thinking, then we have placed an unhelpful filter through which we view everything that happens in our lives.

While there is plenty of debate within the stoic community as to whether or not stoics are fatalists, meaning they believe that life happens as fate determines, I honestly don’t worry too much about it. If we are simply following out the plan of life that is predetermined for us, then there is really nothing we can do about it. If we aren’t and we actually do have freewill, then we should keep doing our best to live the best life we can.

With that said, it can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like life just happens to us, and that we have little to no control over anything. And if this is the case, and we have little to no control over out lives, then adjusting our outlook to be of the mind that everything that happens actually happens “for us” and not just “to us” can certainly make the trip much more enjoyable.

So let’s take a look at each of these perspectives.

When we believe that life happens “to us” then there is very little that we can do about it. Everything is just going to happen and we just have to endure it. We feel like victims because we have no control over all these things happening to us. We wish things would happen the way we want them to, and when things don’t go the way that we want we complain about it. We blame our failures on someone or something outside of ourselves. We are simply at the whim of all these external forces.

When we believe that life happens “for us”, the same things may happen, but how we respond to them and how we let them impact us is quite different. We are no longer a victim of circumstance. We look at everything with an eye as to what we can learn from this situation. We find ways to become stronger from what happens to us. We are curious about what is happening, and how we might even be able to enjoy things, even if they are challenging or uncomfortable. There is also no one to “blame” for anything because even if something sucks, if we approach it as something that life is supposed to bring our way, that it really is something for us to learn from.

An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.

– Epictetus

When we hit setbacks, we don’t look around for someone to blame for it, we recognize that the setback is there for us to learn. Maybe it’s to teach us persistence. Maybe it’s a sign for us to change course. Maybe we missed something along the way and the setback is time for us to evaluate other opportunities.

Let’s take an example that can show the difference between these two perspectives. Let’s say that you had to have a difficult conversation with someone, and you knew that things could get heated. If you were to approach this with a “to me” attitude, you would be frustrated with this person that they are getting angry with you or not listening to your point of view. You might be defensive with them because of all the things they were doing to you. You might even avoid the conversation in the first place.

But if you were to approach them with an “for me” attitude, you would see it as an opportunity. You might see this as a chance for you to practice listening to this person and to hear their concerns. You would see it as an opportunity to craft a solution that suits both of you. You would be more likely to approach it with compassion rather than defensiveness. It would also make it less likely for you to avoid the situation in first place.

So why do we feel like most things happen to us rather than for us? It think there are a number of reasons. First is that quite naturally we don’t have much control over many of the things that life sends our way. I mean the fact that we don’t control where we were born, the color of our skin, or the family that we belong to, we recognize that some of the core parts of our life are just chance. Because we have little control over some of the key aspect of our life, it’s natural to apply this to other areas of our lives.

I think another big reason is that humans are great at taking the path of least resistance and it’s easier to blame what happens on things outside of ourselves. Taking ownership of our lives is a lot of work. It’s something that we all talk about, but to actually step up and so is not something most of us are good at. We’re not really taught to accept responsibility, we’re taught not to fail. I mean think about in school. If you mess up a test or class project, you’re punished for it. You get bad grades and you get in trouble with your parents. We don’t look at those things as signals that you are not understanding something or pointing to areas that you need to work on. And so we do our best to avoid having that failure on us, so we look to find someone or something to blame.

I do want to point out though that this is not the same as the platitude that “everything happens for a reason”. I find this is very popular in religious circles and it always rubbed me wrong because to me it always implied that you were either being rewarded or punished by god for being a good or bad person. People don’t get cancer for a good reason. People don’t get abused by their parents for a reason. That’s just not how life works. Life just happens, and sometimes it sucks and can be pretty damaging, and it’s so much easier to just blame everything that is wrong on something outside of ourselves.

I like to think of “for me” is a much more neutral perspective. Life puts these things out there for me, and I can decide what I want to do with them. I can learn from them, and grow stronger. I can ignore them, and try to find ways avoid them. But if we really want to be in control of our lives, we need to look at challenges not as something that is in our way, but more like an obstacle course that we choose to test ourselves and something that we can improve our skills in overcoming. When we can recognize that life and it’s many challenges are here for us, the better we can get about just facing things head on with curiosity and compassion.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break

223 – Changing Others

Changing Others
Epictetus

Living on this planet with other people can be very challenging at times. If you’re like me, sometimes you have a strong difference of opinion with someone, and you end up in an argument and spend a lot of time and energy trying to change the other persons mind. We see this play out on social media as well where people spend a lot of time and energy trying to debate other people to get them to change. Watching this behavior in myself and others, makes me ask the question:

Why do we spend so much time trying to change other people or expecting that other people will change for us?

We know that we cannot change others, but there’s a part of us that wants the world to change for us. Our brain looks for threats and danger outside of ourselves in order to keep us safe. When we’re uncomfortable, it’s challenging to just sit with those things that are uncomfortable so we look for a cause outside of ourselves. Maybe we don’t like what someone else said, or we disagree with their opinion. We think that if the other person would behave or think differently, then we would be happier. Rather than spending our time and energy looking inside and finding what we control in the situation, we try to change what we think is the cause.

The problem is that we misidentify the cause of our distress. We think the cause is someone or something else, but really it comes down to the story that we’re telling ourself. It’s the meaning that we give to what the other person said or did. We take their actions and words and interpret them to suit the narrative that going on in our minds. We spin what they other person says in a negative or positive light depending out our opinion of them.

One of the main reasons that we may try to change other people is that we want others to think like us. Human beings are very social animals and fitting in with others is very important. It’s part of what helps our survival. If there are more people who think like us, then we feel like our worldview is correct, and we feel safer. We feel like we’re part of how the world is supposed to be. When others disagree with us, we may feel like our worldview is under threat, which causes us to feel uncomfortable or even hostile. When it comes to an opinion that we hold very strongly, we may unconsciously feel fear when something comes along and challenges our beliefs. We don’t like the tension and so we try to change the other persons opinion.

I also think as humans we’re all a little lazy, or more to the point, our brains are lazy tries to be efficient. Taking time to figure out where we might be wrong or to figure out the the things we can control takes time and cognitive energy. It also takes energy to actually control the things we can. If we can get someone else to do the work, then we don’t have to. The problem with expecting others to do this kind of work, and to change for us, is that it makes others resentful, and the changes that we need to make don’t happen. Also, in the long run it means a lot more work for us if we expect others to change for us, we have to somehow convince all those other people to change to fit our worldview.

When someone is properly grounded in life, they shouldn’t have to look outside themselves for approval.

— Epictetus

So how do we work with this? How can we get better about recognizing and staying in a place where we don’t need to change other people in order for us to feel happy?

I think the first thing we need to do is ask ourselves why it is important that we change this other person? What do we get if they change their mind? What happens if they don’t? What are you making it mean if this person has a different opinion? What’s the story you’re telling yourself?

I think a lot of this behavior comes from insecurity. When we are insecure, we need others to agree with us in order for us to feel okay with ourselves. Our ego needs that validation in order for us to feel okay.

When we are comfortable with ourselves, we don’t need others to agree with us. Just as we wouldn’t argue with someone over whether 1 + 1 = 2, if we are really secure with ourselves, we would not feel threatened over someone disagreeing with us.

Don’t argue with people nor insist on showing them truth. Maybe it is you who needs to change your mind. Even if you are right you only incur resentment by trying to correct others.

—The Ancient Sage (@theAncientSage)

We also need to consider the fact that we might be the one who is wrong. Just because you think something and have an opinion about something does not mean that you are correct and the other person is not. When we take the time to really consider someone else’s opinion, we may find some problems with the opinion that we are holding. We would just realize that we had bad information and could adjust accordingly.

Lastly, we need to recognize that when we expect others to change for us, we give our power away because we are basing our comfort or happiness upon someone else changing for us. When we expect others to change for us, we are placing ourselves in the role of a victim. We’re unhappy and won’t feel happy until someone else changes and does what we want them to. Not a good way to to find equanimity.

Learning to let go of our ego and of our need to have other people think like we do can reduce a lot of stress in our lives. When we can listen to and be curious about other peoples opinions without taking it to mean that we’re wrong if we don’t agree with them. We can expand our worldview while at the same time preserve our equanimity.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. Stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Want to help support this podcast? Become a patron on patreon!

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
philosophy stoicism

217 – Interview With Donald J. Robertson

An interview with Donald J. Robertson about his new graphic novel about Marcus Aurelius called Verissimus. We talk about all kinds of stoic history and the politics of his day.

Categories
philosophy stoicism

216 – Give yourself fully to your endeavors

Photographer: 919039361464473

Forget everything else. Keep hold of this alone and remember it: Each of us lives only now, this brief instant.  
—Marcus Aurelius

Don’t let fear, low self-esteem and the negative voices hold you back from your true destiny. 
—David Goggins

One of the hardest things for me, and I’m sure that many of you fall into the same category, is to know what you want and have the courage to go after it. There are plenty of reason why this happens, and for the most part it comes down to fear, and the two biggest are fear of failure, and fear of disapproval of others. Today I want to talk about some changes I’m making in my life, and how I’m facing these fears.

First, I want to let you know that I’m putting the podcast on indefinite hiatus. While the podcast has been one of the greatest things I’ve created, it’s also helped me realize that I need to stop procrastinating on pursuing the things I really want to do. I need to face those fears, take those risks, and use my time in a way that will make me the happiest.

Sometimes the worst thing is to have something that is moderately successful, but ultimately doesn’t take you where you want to go. It becomes an excuse to hide behind. While the podcast has been successful with over 4 million downloads and 3 million of those downloads in just this year, it is also something that takes up a lot of time and focuses my energy away from the things that I really want to do. It has become an excuse to avoid going for what I really want and avoiding the possibility of failing.

How I Got Here

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves. 
—Alan Watts

The careers I wanted to go into when I was younger were theater, film, TV, video games, and music. I loved acting and singing and thought that if I could make a living doing any of those, I would have my dream job.

So how did I end up as a software developer? Because I was afraid that wouldn’t be able to make it in the arts. I started out with good intentions and at one point did have what I see now was my favorite job. I had a part-time job at a financial firm making videos and graphics, recording audio, and even making music videos for a rap artist that the owner was supporting. I loved that job, but it was only part time and rather than figure out how to make it in that arena, I got a job in tech and learned how to program. I was afraid so I took the easier path.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a pretty good career as a software developer. It pays well and I’ve been able to support myself and my family. I’m not complaining by any means. But often when we are successful in something, we’re afraid to step onto a different path because we’re afraid of failure. We get so used to being successful, that failing at something, even though we expect it because we’re just starting out, is often too much to bear. This is what has kept me from stepping up and pursuing the things I want. bcause I won’t be nearly as good in other areas as I am in programming, at least not for quite some time.

This happened to me a few years ago when I decided to learn to play cello. I’m a pretty decent pianist and singer, and in my mind, I thought that I should be able to pick up cello pretty easily. When I found that it was far more challenging that I had thought and I was not making the progress I thought I should, I gave it up. That failing at the time was just too much for me. I had become so used to being good in other areas of music that when I failed to live up to my expectations, I couldn’t handle it, and because our minds don’t like failure, rather than changing my expectations and putting in the work to become good, I just decided it wasn’t for me.

Lessons Learned

With all of that said, I’ve learned a lot of lessons from working on this podcast. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and how to apply stoicism in my life. I’ve learned that consistency is the key to any success. That putting out work, even if it’s not great is how to learn and get better, and then your work will be great. And even then, you’ll still put stuff out that’s not as good as you want, but you put it out anyway. I’ve said before:

Consistency is the killer of fear.

I’ve learned how to put together a good show with good content. I’ve become a better writer, and learned how to communicate difficult ideas and express them in a way that others can understand. I’ve learned how to dig a little deeper into things and have found that often times the better and more useful answer is counterintuitive and non-obvious.

I’ve learned how to speak better and use my voice to effectively convey my message. I feel more comfortable with being in front of the mic than I ever thought I would. I’ve learned how to record and master and put our episodes that wound up being close to professional level.

Creating this podcast has certainly been a good thing in my life, and I’m grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned and all the support of received from you along the way. But even with all those good things that have come from this journey, we always need to be re-evaluating what we are doing with our lives and make sure that we are on a path that we want to be on. We need to have the courage to step up and take risks for the things that will bring us closer to our true goals. We also need to have the courage to let go of the things that no longer serve us.

What’s Next?

You can accomplish anything if you can: 1) prioritize ruthlessly 2) control your attention. Both of these have become particularly hard in the present age. As such those who can control these two critical factors will rule the world. 
—@TheAncientSage

For the past few years I’ve been dabbling in VR/AR/3D design. I find it exciting and a little scary because it’s not my area of expertise in the world of programming. But the more I dig into it, the more I see the possibilities for using this medium to create films, games, and musical experiences. I’m an artist at heart, and I love creating and exploring and finding ways to bring the things I dream up into existence. I know there’s a lot to learn, and I’ve been working up the courage and resolve to pursue this dream.

But to pursue this dream, I need to focus my time and energy on learning the tools of the trade and adding skills to my toolkit. In order to do this, I need to bring my focus, discipline, and dedication to this new venture, and let go of other distractions or I’ll burn myself out trying to do too much. If I don’t walk this path I’ll feel the same frustration that I’ve felt for much of my life, of knowing what I want, but not having the courage to step up and do what needs to be done.

Give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. 
—Epictetus

So where does this leave the podcast? I plan on leaving the podcast up with my podcast host. I put a lot of time and energy into it, and I want to leave this out there as others may find them useful and helpful in understanding and applying stoicism in their lives. It’s possible that I may relate a book or an audio course at some point in the future, but for now, I need to focus my energy, time, and talents on becoming on what I’ve titled an “Immersive Experience Creator”.

If you enjoy this podcast and find value in it, I would really appreciate it if you would make a donation on Patreon. I have put thousands of hours of work into this podcast, so just as you would pay for an audio book, donating on Patreon would be helpful in offsetting hosting fees, and help fund my new ventures. You can find the page at https://patreon.com/stoiccoffee

Conclusion

Learning to let go of things that distract us from our path, especially things that are good, is really challenging. This is not a decision that I’ve come to lightly. It’s been filled with all kinds of second-guessing and trying to find ways to keep it going while I work on my other pursuits. But in the end, I realized that if I want to be successful in pursuing my dreams, I have give them my full attention. It has been a wonderful trip to share my thoughts and experiences with you, and I’m so grateful for all your support and wonderful emails. I hope that you have learned something from my experiences and insights, and I hope that when the time comes for you to have to make a hard choice of letting go of something good to go for something better, that you will have the courage to do so.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, please consider give a donation on Patreon at  https://patreon.com/stoiccoffee
You can also swing by the and pick up some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it.

Thanks again for listening.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, please consider give a donation on Patreon at  https://patreon.com/stoiccoffee
You can also swing by the and pick up some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it.

Thanks again for listening.

Categories
philosophy stoicism

215 – The Space Between

"When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.”
― Marcus Aurelius

Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about equanimity and how it may be the most important idea that the stoics came up with. And the more I look into it, the more I see that this is the one of the most important principles, and a foundation for being able to apply the other principles more effectively. We can also see how important this is in other traditions such as Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism, also promotes the idea of calming the mind as one of the highest virtues.

So why would this be the case?

I used to think that equanimity was a byproduct of following stoic principles. That if you learned to control what you can, and let go of the rest, then you could find more peace of mind. But the more I dig into it, the more I find it is almost the opposite. The calmer your mind, the easier it is to see what is under your control and what is not. The more you can keep an even keel, the more you can make better decisions under pressure.

Now don't get me wrong, practicing stoic principles can certainly help you have a calmer mind. When you learn to identify what you can't control and let go of those things, it certainly can reduce stress in your life. But if you are constantly feeling stressed, this process is much harder because you're starting out at a disadvantage.

Taking the time to practice mindfulness puts you at an advantage because you're already in a state of mind that is helpful. It's like the difference between preparing for a fight versus just being tossed into the ring at a moment's notice. Equanimity, mindfulness, meditation… all of these should not just be an afterthought, or "nice to have", but should be considered essential tools to your stoic practice.

Stimulus and Response

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. 
—Viktor Frankl

When you are upset, you are likely to sacrifice the wellbeing of tomorrow to appease the hurt feelings of today. Not a good trade. Subject your emotions to a cooling-off period before you allow them to guide major decisions.
—@TheStoicEmperor

One of the most important things that being mindful helps us do is think long term. If we are able to take that space between stimulus and response, and choose our response rather than just react, we are able to choose things that will benefit us better in the long run. If we are constantly in a space of reactivity, we let our emotions override our rationality and often do things that might feed whatever we need in the short term, but can have long term negative consequences. We are also less in command of ourselves and are much more easily controlled by others.

When can learn to take that moment to make a choice rather than react is one of the most powerful things that we can learn to do in our lives. Giving ourselves the power to choose how we respond in any situation is the ultimate expression of self control and power. The fact that we are always looking to make a choice, means that it's more likely we'll respond in a way we are proud of, and that ultimately leads to better outcomes for ourselves and those around us.

Monkey Mind

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. 
— Anonymous

Meditation and mindfulness are not the easiest things to do. Our minds are always on the run. The Buddhist have a great term for this called the "monkey mind". For many of us, when things get quiet, we get anxious and it feels like our minds are spinning even faster. What's really going on is that when you are not focusing on something, you see how busy your mind actually is. There is nothing wrong with this, it just is.

The most important thing that you can do with meditating is not to try and not think about anything, but to become more aware of what you're thinking. Meditation and mindfulness are just practices in awareness with each breath being like an anchor to maintain your state of observation. You take a breath, you notice a thought, you breathe out and just watch where the thought goes. Repeat.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation is intermittent fasting for the mind. Too much sugar leads to a heavy body, and too many distractions lead to a heavy mind. Time spent undistracted and alone, in self-examination, journaling, meditation, resolves the unresolved and takes us from mentally fat to fit.
— Naval Ravikant

A skilled warrior controls and tames their anger and uses it as fuel when necessary, but never lets it drive their choices and actions. They know that letting anger or fear drive their actions is more dangerous than any enemy they may face. Doing our best to cultivate a mind that is thoughtful, calm, and patient prepares us to be more resilient when we feel anger or fear and want to lash out and say or do impulsive things.

Like most things, it's always challenging to take what we know and turn it into what we do. Turning our daily practice of mindfulness into something that we do as a habit is something we need to practice as often as possible. And the thing is that we will fail, because if we never failed, we would never need to be mindful because we would just be mindful all the time. We will fail in our practice, and then we'll remember to be mindful, which we will do for a while, until we forget, and then remember to be mindful…and repeat.

This never ending cycle becomes part of our practice to be a little better each day. To be a little more present each day. To live up to our ideals a little more closely each day. This is one of those ideas that is obvious, but still not easy to always follow. A good way to help set the stage is making a practice of meditation each morning to or journalling start the day off are always good ways to set the stage for the day. Then it's just about refocusing your awareness throughout the day with being mindful.

So what’s a simple way to practice mindfulness? Think of it like this: Just as a normal meditation practice is all about awareness of your thinking and bringing focus back to your breathing when your mind wanders off, mindfulness is a reoccurring meditation that you do throughout your day, to bring your awareness to your thinking. When you do this, you remind yourself to be as present as possible, to not worry about things from the past, because they cannot be changed, and to not stress about future events because they are unknown and have not yet arrived.

Conclusion

When you can be better about living in the present, which is what mindfulness is all about, you will be more attentive and deliberate about what you are working on. When you are more deliberate, you bring more of your faculties to bear, you do better work, and you make better decisions. When you practice meditation, you deliberately choosing to develop equanimity rather than just hoping that it just happens.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, join us over in the Stoic Coffee House. The Stoic Coffee House is a community built around the ideas of stoicism and the Stoic Coffee Break  podcast.
Also stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
philosophy stoicism

214 – Embody Your Philosophy

Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it. 
— Epictetus

Events in life mean nothing if you do not reflect on them in a deep way, and ideas from books are pointless if they have no application to life as you live it. 
— Robert Greene

The hardest thing about any philosophy is being able to apply what you learn in real life. We can read all the books, watch all the videos, follow all the gurus, but until we actually apply what we've learned, all of that learning is worthless.

Developing a practice of reflection and thinking deep about your life experiences and philosophy is a challenging endeavor, because it is often difficult to actually apply what we know. We know what we should and shouldn’t eat, but we struggle to eat a diet that is healthy for us. We know we should work out and keep ourselves in shape, but getting out of bed for the early morning run is not easy when you want that extra bit of of sleep.

So how do we live our philosophy? How do we move past just book learning, and into application of what we have learned? This is something that has been a real challenge for me, so I’m guessing that it’s a challenge for others.

Learning to reflect on what life brings our way, what we can learn from it, and how we can grow from it is something that take effort and thoughtfulness. Connecting what we learn to how we act is always an ongoing process, but unless we figure out how to do that, then our knowledge is wasted, and we continue on as before.

To be honest, I don’t have some perfect way to apply philosophy, but it’s something that I think about every day. Every time I fail to keep an even keel when things are challenging, it’s always a struggle to slow down, breathe, and let go of the feelings that were so strong and overwhelming just moments before. But lately, I’ve been practicing a few ideas to help keep me in a mindset that has been more helpful and more aware.

Acceptance

Peace must be found in the imperfect present.
— The Stoic Emperor

One of the most important things that I’ve been working on is acceptance. Life is never going to be exactly the way that we want. Ever. There will always be something to complain about. There will always be wars, natural disasters, turmoil and chaos somewhere in the world. There will always be something "wrong".

Often, I have found myself feeling irritated or annoyed because things aren't the way that I want them. When we spend time wishing for things to be otherwise, we are refusing to accept reality as it is. Getting into a mindset of accepting things are they are and not as I wish is always a challenge.

The more I practice acceptance of what is, the easier it is to work with what is. Acceptance is not the same as resignation. We don't despair, but we don't also don't see the world through Pollyanna eyes. It's not that we give up trying to find positive elements in our situation, but find peace in the imperfectness of life.

Facing Challenges

Failure and deprivation are the best educators and purifiers. 
—Albert Einstein

If everything is life was easy, there would be little incentive to improve and grow. Facing up to, and overcoming challenges is what brings the greatest pleasure in life. When we are simply given something with no effort on our own, we are robbed of the chance to learn and grow. I know for me, the things that I earned through hard work and persistence always feel more rewarding than things that I was just given.

When we face a great challenge, we get the opportunity to bring all our skills, wits, and wisdom to bear, as well as acquire new strengths and skills. If we are never tested, never challenged, then we stagnate or even atrophy. Muscles and skills that go unused are pretty much worthless unless we actually use and develop them.

Learning to view challenges as the key to growth is hard! We want things to be easy and go our way. I propose that we work on getting better at the meta-skill of seeing challenges as the path to growth not the obstacle. Then we can face any challenge with the right perspective.

Equanimity

The wise man is neither raised up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity; for always he has striven to rely predominantly on himself, and to derive all joy from himself. 
— Seneca

Life is always going to be throwing you curveballs. Sometimes you're ready for them and knock it out of the park. Other times you can be as prepared as possible and you still falter. Still other times, you're caught completely off guard. There's no such thing as getting what you deserve (or not), because the universe doesn't really care. Life happens not as we want, but as it will, and we’re just along for the ride.

If we are wise, we recognize this truth and understand that our happiness should not be dependent on external things. If we attach our happiness to our careers or possessions, what happens when we lose those? You could get fired tomorrow. Your house could burn down. If your self worth, your pride, are wrapped up in those things, you are handing over your control to things outside of yourself.

When we recognize that we have control of our happiness by appreciating the good AND the bad, and recognize that this is just how life is, we are better able to take what happens in stride.

To be calm is the highest achievement of the self.
—Zen proverb

The more we learn about the brain, the we learn that we are constantly bombarded by stimulus, and everything that enters our conscious awareness impacts us, no matter how small. Add in the noise of the modern world and finding some peace of mind is becoming more and more of a challenge. Being calm is not just a matter of will, it's a matter of practice. The more we practice, the stronger our ability to call upon our ability to be calm.

And why is developing the skill of calmness so important? If we are constantly being buffeted about by every stimulus, sensation, or emotion, we are never really in control of ourselves. We are also easily manipulated by those who can arose our anger or fear.

Calmness for me does not necessarily mean quiet. One can practice mindfulness in the middle of chaos, which is one of the most important places to be calm. Equanimity is about the internal calmness, not about what is happening outside of ourselves. We need to be that calm in storm. The quest for equanimity is always an ongoing practice, and one of the most important skills we can develop.

Practice

I think the best way to live your philosophy is to cultivate a mindset or calmness . It’s taking that time each morning to set the mood for your day. Meditation, journal writing, exercise – these are all things that help us to get in the mindset that works to find that equanimity, that balance, that helps us in our daily lives. And when we practice meditating in the morning, it makes it just a little easier to be mindful throughout the day. That mindfulness can be that bit of awareness that we need that buys us those moments between stimulus and response that allows us to choose for ourselves and make wise choices, rather than just reacting.

Conclusion

Developing a useful mindset of equanimity is not something that just happens. It’s something that you have to cultivate and work on each day. It’s something that takes effort and constant reminders. You may remember to be mindful and aware of your thinking and what’s going on around you, only to forget again a few minds later, and have to bring your focus back to being mindful. But each and every time you fail, and remember, and bring your focus back to being mindful, then you have strengthened that mental muscle just a little more. And it’s the thoughts that count.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If this podcast speaks to you, join us over in the Stoic Coffee House. The Stoic Coffee House is a community built around the ideas of stoicism and the Stoic Coffee Break  podcast.
Also stop by the website at stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.
Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
wisdom

203 – Belief Without Evidence is Wrong

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

— William K. Clifford, Ethics of Belief

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We all like to think that we are wise, that our opinions are well thought out, and that we’re smart enough to spot when we have inconsistent beliefs. Today I want to talk about why believing something without sufficient evidence is wrong, and that idea that how we come to a belief or a conclusion is more important than whether the belief or conclusion is correct.

Wisdom

One of the four virtues of stoicism is Wisdom. Wisdom is not just the acquisition of information, but the skill of properly applying the knowledge that we gain to make better choices and actions. It is our job to learn, to see clearly, and act upon the truth, but even more important than reaching the correct outcome, is having a correct process of learning and discovering the truth.

William K. Clifford was an English mathematician and philosopher in the late 1800s. He wrote a well thought out essay called “The Ethics of Belief”, in which he discusses how it is immoral to believe something without evidence, even if you end up being correct in your belief. But why is it so important to make sure that the process we use to form beliefs is sound? Because if you come to a belief based upon faulty evidence, then you can’t be sure that next time you use the same thinking that you’ll get to the correct outcome. Basically, you may think that you are smart because you got it right, but you didn’t. If you use the same thinking process, you may not be as lucky. Having a correct process helps you to be more consistent and to reach correct or more correct conclusions, more often.

Say, for example, you have a friend who is in the same math class you’re in. Your friend is an average student, and on a big test, they get a perfect score. Shortly after, you hear a rumor that your friend cheated on the test. You have no proof of this, nor do any of the people you talk to have any tangible proof, beyond their own speculation that the only way your friend could have done so well on the test, was to cheat. You decide to accuse your friend of cheating, and report them to the teacher.

Let’s look at the possible outcomes. Let’s say that your friend did not cheat, and after they are cleared of any wrongdoing, you retract what you said and try to make amends. You may have spoiled the friendship because you accused your friend with no actual evidence, other than the rumors spread by others.

Let’s say your friend did cheat, and you feel vindicated because you were correct. But should you? No. You are just as wrong as the first case because you made an accusation with insufficient evidence. It was just by chance that you ended up on the right side. You had no evidence to reason through that your friend had actually cheated. Based on the evidence you had, you made an assumption; you guessed. You had no right to come to the conclusion that your friend had cheated on the test. This is dangerous because once you have been “correct”, you are less likely to question yourself the next time because you guessed correctly this time.

Show me someone for whom success is less important than the manner in which it is achieved. Of concern for the means, rather than the ends, of their actions…I want to see him. This is the person I have looked for a long time, the true genius. 

— Epictetus

Process Over Outcome

When we reach the correct answer but have an invalid process, we have not learned how to make better decisions, so we actually do ourselves a disservice. If we don’t understand why we’re correct, or at the very least admit that we just got lucky and guessed correctly, then we will never create a framework that helps us to be successful consistently.

For example, often entrepreneurs will get lucky. They’ll have a lucky break that may not have anything to do with them. Perhaps the weather happens to ruin their chief competitor. They’ll attribute their success to something else, such as their own brilliance or the superiority of their product, and are unwilling to attribute it to the luck of circumstance that broke in their favor. They may not really understand the lucky break that helped lead to their success. They think because they were successful once they know how to be successful again.

No real belief, however trifling and fragmentary it may seem, is ever truly insignificant; it prepares us to receive more of its like, confirms those which resembled it before, and weakens others; and so gradually it lays a stealthy train in our inmost thoughts, which may someday explode into overt action, and leave its stamp upon our character for ever.

— William K. Clifford, Ethics of Belief

Beliefs Lead to Action

Why is it so important that we don’t hold on to beliefs that are incorrect or based on insufficient evidence? The beliefs that we hold, even illogical ones that we think are just our private beliefs, influence the choices we make and the actions we take in our everyday life, and some that can have pretty serious consequences.

An example of this how beliefs can impact the choices people make can be seen in when we look at vaccines and the pandemic. People have been fed a steady diet of how they should distrust the government, usually by politicians for their own benefit – though I find it disingenuous because these politicians are usually seeking reelection, so they’re the ones running things. This continuous disinformation campaign from politicians, pundits, talk show host, and others with a hidden agenda has eroded trust in the institutions that are in place to help us a society weather such events.

As we’ve seen cases of the Delta variant climbing higher over the past few months, it comes because of this distrust. We see that 98% of those dying from Covid are unvaccinated, and it’s not because the vaccine is not available, but the majority are refusing to get vaccinated because of the distrust they have in the government and its institutions, distrust of science, or distrust of vaccines.

Because of this belief that they hold, evidence that is presented is filtered through this distrust. Experts who have spent their lives in the service of humanity, who have dedicated their careers, are dismissed as unreliable, or even threatened for presenting evidence contrary to this belief.

If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.

— Marcus Aurelius

You Want to Believe

So what are some of the reasons we believe things without sufficient evidence? When we come into this world, we are given a world view, a belief system from our parents, our religion, and our culture. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We’re taught traditions, beliefs, and stories about how the world is, and it’s how we learn how to function in the world. Where we run into trouble, is that most of us are brought up not to question the world around us. We get in trouble for not simply obeying the rules, and often shamed for asking questions about things we don’t understand.

In my own experience, I was taught that obedience to the church leaders was more important than anything else. I always found the idea of blind faith troubling, because it makes abuse of power very easy, and we have seen this happen time after time. Also, to me it makes a mockery of god. If god just wanted me to just be obedient, why did he give me a mind that wanted to find answers, to question things that seemed illogical, and try to make sense of the world? When I was told to ignore evidence because it went against the teachings of the church, it made me distrust the person teaching it. They were telling me to ignore my own sense of reasoning, logic, and to just take their word for it.

Now, religion is not the only place where we see misguided beliefs that are not questions. There have been plenty of beliefs, ideas, and theories taught in schools or treated as common sense that were taken as fact. There was no proof, but because they have been around so long, were just assumed to be true. For example, for centuries, women have been treated as if they were mentally inferior to men in science, art, literature, music, and many other fields. Because of these ideas, women were denied education, careers, and often treated as second class citizen, all because of a belief that they just were not on the same level as men. This allowed those in charge to point out that there were not a lot of prominent women in as proof that this was true, all the while ignoring the fact that women were denied opportunities to make any contributions, thus creating a self reinforcing belief. It has taken a lot of hard work for our society to move past these ideas, and we still have a long way to go.

On a personal level, we often create beliefs about ourselves because they were things we were told about ourselves, or conclusions we came to through faulty thinking. Maybe we think we’re not very smart or creative because our parent told us so. Maybe we believe we don’t deserve to be treated respectfully, because we’re been treated poorly by others. One that I struggle with from time to time is that I’m not worthy of being loved because I lose my temper. There are plenty of beliefs that we adopt because our brains try to make sense of the world around us.

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.

—Epictetus

It’s Okay to be Wrong

So how to do we get better at challenging our beliefs? I think probably the most important aspect is that we need to be willing to be wrong. This is probably the hardest part. When we feel we are right about something, it feels good and we feel confident. We don’t like to be wrong because it feels uncomfortable and scary. So we avoid being wrong at all costs.

And how do try to avoid this? We’ll avoid admitting we’re wrong by discounting evidence that we don’t like. We’ll reinterpret or spin things in a way that shows our position in a more favorable light. We’ll double down on our position. We’ll get angry, which is a way to manipulate others to support our position. We’ll deflect and try to blame others for their shortcomings.

When we get comfortable knowing that we’re going to be wrong a lot, we can avoid a lot of anxiety and stress. We can be humble and think of ourselves as seekers of knowledge, not as the fountain of truth.

I think one of the best ways to start is to get comfortable with this is practice incorporating some of the following phrases into our language.

“In light of new information, I’ve changed my mind.”

“From the evidence provided, it looks like I need to rethink my position.”

“You make good argument. I’ll consider what you said.”

“I never thought of it that way. Thanks. Now I will.”

Once we are willing to be okay with being wrong, then we can take the time to ask more questions about our belief.

Where did I learn this? Who did I learn this from? What are their motivations behind promoting this belief? Understanding the source of this belief can help you be aware of conflicts of interest from others and yourself.

What evidence is available to support this belief? Are there scientifically rigorous studies, or experts in this area, that can help me learn more about it? We don’t suffer from a lack of information in this world. We suffer from a willingness to look objectively at that information and follow where it leads us, even if we don’t like the results.

How does this belief help me? Understanding this can help us see why we might unconsciously hold on to a belief. Often we want to hold on to a belief because it helps us. Maybe we find comfort in it because the alternative is too uncomfortable or scary. Often, just asking this question alone can help us see that a belief does not serve us, and we can work on letting it go.

Conclusion

The beliefs we have about the world guide our choices and actions. Doing our best to put our beliefs through a rigorous process can help us reach better conclusions. And even when we are correct, we should be willing to always work on refining our process of testing our beliefs. It is not enough that we have the correct answer. More important is how we got there.

—-
Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Purpose

198 – The Fear of Knowing What You Want

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Do you really know what you want? When you think about what you want, does it excite you? Does it scare you? Are you pursuing what you want? In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about why it’s scary to know what you want, and why that’s a good thing.

“Everything, a horse, a vine, is created for some duty. For what task, then, were you yourself created? A person’s true delight is to do the things they were made for.”

—Marcus Aurelius

This week, I got an email from a listener who said she was struggling with being in a career that she felt no passion for but felt like she couldn’t leave for practical reasons, and asked if I could devote some time to this idea. I felt strongly about this because, as I’ve been working on putting things together for the Stoic Coffee community, I’m facing my own fears and doubts. I know it will take a lot of work. It will challenge me in ways that I can’t even imagine. It also creates excitement because of the opportunities that it can open up for me to connect with you, my listeners, and the ideas and things that we can work on together.

The Challenge

We all face the challenge of knowing what we want. There are so many reasons we struggle to know what we want. Why is this so challenging? Because we have been told our whole lives by our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, churches, and society what we’re supposed to want. Taking the time and the effort to know what we want is not something they teach us to do. We just assume that we’ll know what we want.

There are all kinds of forces that influence what we believe and what we feel is acceptable to want. Every culture has lots of biases about what is acceptable. Some cultures hold doctors in high esteem and look down on artists. Others may consider being a farmer is more important than being a banker. There are all kinds of explicit and implicit messages about what we should want and what is unacceptable. But these are things that should not matter. These are things outside of your control. If you are choosing what you want based upon what society or religion or family tell you, then you are choosing based upon the opinions of others.

Religious influences can also have a big impact on what is acceptable. In my case, there was such a big push to get married and have kids, that the thought of becoming a musician or actor was downright scary because I was afraid that I could not provide for a family while working in such unpredictable industries.

With those closest to us, there is a lot of pressure to conform to what they want for us. To go against what they expect is scary, and downright terrifying. Families have an outsized influence on the careers we choose, the people we marry, and the values we hold, which can make it challenging when we know they might disapprove of the things we want.

These are all powerful forces, and to seize the rudder of our ship and chart our own course can feel overwhelming. There are strong currents pulling us all different ways and if we don’t have a clear destination in mind, then we just go where these currents take us. But there is a way that we can figure out where we want to go amidst all the noise and chaos.

We slow down, tune out the noise, and listen.

Listen to what?

Listen to the sound of your breath and the rhythm of your heartbeat. You pay attention to the thoughts in your mind. When you do this, you hear what your mind and heart truly want. You become aware of your actions in everyday life. You notice the things that get you excited and the things that sap your energy.

The truth is most of us know what we want, but to say it out loud is scary… and exciting. Do you know why it is scary AND exciting? Because fear and excitement feel the same. If what you want scares you, that’s great because it means that it’s exciting! It’s thrilling! It means it’s something that you can’t imagine yourself doing, because to imagine yourself doing it feels like betraying everything you were told or believe about yourself.

Will you succeed?

Will you be great?

Who knows?

Does it matter?

No!

What matters is that it’s your dream, and every day you work towards your dream is a day that you feel more alive. Every day you spend working on someone else’s dream is a day that you are not living. Therefore, the stoics implore us with Memento Mori, to consider our mortality so that we can distill what really matters. We can look at each day and the actions we take and ask, “If today were my last day, would I still do this?”

To take that rudder, and steer your course towards your destination, your dream, is to take responsibility for your life. There are all kinds of external forces that don’t want you to follow your dream. You can’t control those, and that’s okay. It means that those are things you can let go of. Just think of how much energy you save because you can let go of trying to control those things! For example, you can let go of worrying about what others think because you have no control over that. What you can control is your mind, your choices, and your actions.

Resistance

When you try to know what you want, your brain will put up all kinds of resistance. You’ll find yourself second guessing yourself. You’ll try to talk yourself out of it because it seems like it’s impossible. This is normal. Your brain is trying to protect you. The fear of pursing your dream and failing is very powerful, and it has stopped plenty of us from stepping up and owning our dream.

The way you work through this resistance is to imagine what it would feel like if you lived in a perfect world where nothing could stand in your way, and that you could easily move past every challenge that presented itself. What would that feel like? What would that look like? Can you see yourself doing it? Imagine it in a as clear a way as possible. I mean like 4k video clear so that every time you think about about it, there is no doubt what your dream looks like. If you leave it vague, it makes it very challenging to get what you want. Things like, “I want to work for myself”, or “I want to work in medicine”, leave things too up in the air. The more clear and detailed you can be, the more likely you are to make plans to go after what you want.

Changes

Knowing what you want is scary because it can lead to big changes in your life. When we truly know what we want, we often bury these desires because if we went after them, it could mean a lot of change in our lives. We will do other things to distract us because we may not be ready to make those changes. For example, if we decide that the career we have doesn’t suit us anymore and we want to go after something else, that can mean a complete change of lifestyle. It may mean that we make a lot less money, and have to downsize the house we live in. It can change our whole circle of friends.

Maybe you want to get married or maybe you want to get divorced. Maybe you want to cut ties with friends or family that are damaging to you. These are all things that you may want, but are afraid to do because it can mean tremendous changes in your life and living situation. But remember, life is always in constant flux and that as much as we might want it, things will never stay exactly as they are. We should be will to not only accept change, but embrace it and guide it in ways that benefit us. Think about it this way. If you want to be a veterinarian, it’s going to take years of schooling and a lot of hard work. But the thing is, that time is going to pass you anyway, and at the end of that time spent in school, you’ll come out doing what you love.

Another reason we may be afraid to go after what we want is because we feel like we are too old to change. I disagree. We can choose to make changes at any age. Albert Schweitzer was an accomplished musician and clergyman in the early 1900s and could have easily spent the rest of his life in comfortable positions in the Lutheran church. At the age of 30 he decided he wanted to be a medical missionary. He went to medical school with little knowledge or aptitude for medicine, and after 7 years of school, he finished with a medical degree and went to serve the people of Gabon, Africa, at his own expense. He would spend the rest of his days working to build a hospital in Gabon, and speaking out against colonialism.

It’s Okay to Know

If you’re struggling with this, the first step of knowing what we want to just to accept that it’s okay to know what we want. We don’t have to do anything about it right now. Just acknowledge it’s what you want. If you are young, it is very possible that you might not know what you want, at least in the long run. That’s okay. Because life is constantly changing, you may want something at one phase in your life and want something completely different later on. Just because you make a choice and go after what you want, does not mean that you can’t change your mind. You can always change your mind. What served you in one part of your life may no longer work for you. Just because you pursue one path in your life does not mean that you have to continue down that for the rest of your life.

Conclusion

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

— Tim Ferriss

Making the choice to pursue what you want is scary, and challenging, and it should be. It means you have to grow and step out of your comfort zone. It also means it’s worth it. Any dream or desire that is worth it will challenge you. You will doubt yourself along the way. You will fail. You will have down days, and days where you want to give up and ask yourself why you ever wanted it in the first place. You will find strength that you never knew you had. You will find allies and helpers and people that show up at just the right time to lend a hand. You may never actually achieve your goal, but living each day pursuing your dream, to go after the things you want, is a day that you have truly lived.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break Control philosophy stoicism

194 – Find Your Why

Find Your Why

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“So you were born to feel ‘nice’? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?”

— Marcus Aurelius

Does your work suck? Is your boss a micromanager worthy of the office? Maybe your co-workers are shallow and spend their time working on the perfect selfie for Instagram? Maybe it’s boring or too challenging? Today we’re going to talk about something that takes up the bulk of our lives, and how we can make it better.

One of the toughest things in life is to work at a job we don’t like. There are plenty of factors that can lead to job satisfaction. Many of them are outside of our control, but there are some that aren’t, and those are the most important ones because they can lead to true job satisfaction, and maybe to finding your purpose in life.

The other day I was listening to an audiobook called Own Your Day by Aubrey Marcus. It’s all about getting yourself into shape both physically and mentally so that you can “own your day”. There was a chapter that was all about how to love the work that you do. He used a term which really resonated with me:

Love the grind.

When you love the grind, you find pleasure in every aspect of what you’re doing, even if it’s tedious, uncomfortable, or even painful. You understand that this is what you signed up for. You understand that it’s the process, it’s the doing that is the thing.

Learning to love the grind is all about appreciating every aspect of your job, even the parts that are not fun. This means that you can even figure out a way to enjoy the boring parts of your job. And I mean it just like that. Take it on as a challenge to make the boring parts not so boring.

Learning to love the grind is also about facing the challenging parts head on. It’s about not fearing the challenge, but thriving on it. People often complain about the hard parts of a job, but the challenging parts are the most interesting parts. That’s where you hone your skills, and where you learn learn to master your body and mind. Any job that does not challenge you is not worth doing. If you are not growing, you are wasting time. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to be running at peak every second of the day. There are aspects to every job that are boring, and that’s expected. Nothing is going to be a thrill-a-minute, and if it were, you’d burn out way too fast.

It’s about learning to love the process, the doing of the work, and not being too focused on the outcome. Sure, you need to keep an eye on your goals and what your working towards so that you can make sure that you are taking the right steps to achieve your outcome. But don’t get too fixed on it, because life throws you curveballs and no outcome is ever guaranteed. You can control your part in the process, but you can’t control that it will end up the way you want. It will be what it will be.

Find Your Why

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

― Viktor E. Frankl

“Everything, a horse, a vine, is created for some duty. For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.”

— Marcus Aurelius

When it comes to jobs, I think there are really two kinds. There are the ones that do because we believe in the mission, and it aligns with our purpose, and those that are a means to an end so that we can pursue our purpose outside of work.

Either way, to be successful and to enjoy your work, you must figure out your why.

When people say that you should follow your bliss and do what you love, they are not wrong. But like always, it’s never that simple. What they are really saying is that you need to find that inner loadstar, that fire that gets you up and moving, not look to things outside yourself. Figure out the why not the what. People get stuck on trying to figure out the perfect job and once they know that, they’ll be blissfully happy. Every job, no matter how awesome or glamorous it looks, has its shitty aspects. Want to be a rockstar? There’s a lot of work involved. Lots of practices, lots of touring, lots of rejection and disappointment. You can’t have the glory without the slog.

Now, there are times in our lives when we may work at a job that is not something we love or even like, but it can still feed our why. Sometimes we just have to pay our dues. For example, my oldest kid just got a job at a bakery, and as we were talking about it today, they said they had made up their mind that even if the job sucked, they were excited anyway because they really wanted to learn how to bake and to decorate cakes. They were willing to put up with the crappy parts because they want to gain the skills that could lead to something better. They were willing to pay their dues.

Another example of doing something that may not be our passion, but feeds our why was in an interview with the director Kevin Smith. He was talking about how his dad worked at the post office for his whole career. He didn’t much care for his career, but he did it because his why was that he wanted to have a family and hang out with this wife and kids. He didn’t care what anyone thought about his job. He had his dream of being a father and husband, and the post office was just a means to an end. It was a price he was willing to pay for his dream.

Internal vs External

No matter what, your “why” should be internally motivated. If your motivation is to receive praise or to have the prestige of having a certain position, or do a job you hate just for the money, then your why is going to be really hard to support because it’s outside of your control. Praise, rewards, recognition, bonuses – these are all externals. If you are externally motivated, you don’t have control. You are at the mercy of others.

The reason we get stuck on external motivators is that we are brought up that way. We get praise when we behave or when we get good grades or score a goal or do well at whatever task we do. But when we’re only willing to do something for praise, we are only doing what others want us to do. If we only do things as long as there is some recognition or or reward, then we don’t push through the hard or the boring things that might lead us to improve and master our skills. It also means that we tolerate the shitty parts rather than enjoying the slog.

When we are internally motivated, when we have our why, then we will do whatever it takes to reach our goals, to master our skills. Anything that gets thrown at us just another challenge for us to test our mettle and get stronger. We will put up with the shitty parts of a job because they serve our greater goal. We want it because it’s important to us, not someone else. Don’t give your life and time living for someone else’s dream. Find your “why” and own it.

Owning Your Why Gets You Through the Slog

When I first started this podcast, I really didn’t know what my “why” was. I wanted to learn about stoicism, and I wanted to figure out how to make a podcast. I hoped that learning about stoicism would help me to grow into the person that I want to be, and that making the podcast would teach me the skills to create something interesting. As I’ve worked on this, I figured out that my “why” for creating this podcast, and for creating a community around it is this:

My “why” is to reduce suffering in the world and help people live their best life through learning and applying Stoic principles.

Owning this “why” helps me through the slog.

When I sit down to work on an episode for this podcast, it’s almost always challenging. I’ll have an idea in my head of what I want to express, and sometimes it feels like I have to push hard to get things going. Sometimes I hit that flow where my mind is clear and my fingers fly across the keyboard. Sometimes, I can tell I’m on the edge of something good and finding the right words and phrases to bring the idea from my head to the page so that I can share it you is like is like slogging through a Spartan race course, but I can feel that the gold is at the end of that slog. So I push through. I push through the slog because I know if I push through that resistance, put word next to word, in the end I’ll have created something of value. Some episodes come out great, others are just so-so. But no matter what, it’s always worth it.

Setbacks

Sometimes we get frustrated or struggle with our work. We complain about our the things we don’t like, which can make it easy to focus on the less desirable parts of our work. This can color our entire view of the situation, and rarely leads to a solution, but just making us feel even worse. We can offset this with constructive complaining or venting and getting out the things that you are struggling with. If you’re complaining but have no desire to do anything about it, be honest about it. But recognize that when you complain and take no action, you are not controlling the things that you can, and are allowing yourself to become a victim. If you are letting off steam, and are paying attention to what bothers you, you can take those issues and figure how to fix them. Look at the challenging parts of your jobs not as impediments to your work, but as obstacles to learn from, to grow your skills, and master the challenging parts.

Whatever it is you do for work, find your “why”. Maybe it’s providing for your family or to learn a skill. Maybe it’s because you believe in the mission of what you’re doing. Whatever it is, figure out what that is so that when you hit the slog, when a new challenge comes along, or you’re stuck in the boring part of your work, you won’t slack or complain, but you’ll be the master of yourself, and your work.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Want to be a part of the Stoic Coffee Community? Click here for more info! Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

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Coffee Break philosophy stoicism

192 – Self-Sovereign

Self-Sovereign

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“Be content to seem what you really are.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the hardest things in our lives is to be completely honest with our selves and with those around us. Why is that? Why do we hide parts of ourselves or lie about how we feel, especially with those we love the most?

We are afraid of rejection. We are afraid of not belonging. We are afraid that if those closest to us really “knew” us, they would no longer love us. The need to fit in and belong is a powerful, almost primal one. Being rejected by your family or society can be one of the most devastating events of a persons life.

Belong

For those of us who grew up in a strong religious culture, there is an accepted way of behaving, and anything outside of those roles and rules is frowned upon, and sometimes you can be shunned or excommunicated. I have friends and acquaintances who haven’t spoken to family members for years or decades because they didn’t toe the church line.

For some, being open about their sexuality has gotten them ostracized from organizations that embraced them prior to their coming out. The person hadn’t changed, just the perception of them in the eyes of that group changed.

There are also powerful forces in the media and marketing industry who spend tremendous amounts of time and money figuring out ways to make you feel you are not good enough. The messages are so well crafted and often subtle to where unless you are really paying attention you don’t even notice the influence they have on you. All of this to get you to buy certain things, support certain politicians or causes, or to hold certain beliefs.

My Story

When I was seventeen, I had decided that I no longer wanted to be a part of the Mormon church. I was tired of feeling ashamed because I struggled so hard to behave like a good Mormon. I struggled with the inconstancies in church doctrine and how so many core beliefs conflicted with scientific discoveries, and my own common sense. I felt like there was something truly flawed in who I was as a person. I tried to leave, but because most of my social circles were church related, I got pulled back into it, and struggled for another decade or so to fit in.

It took a lot of a work and support from my ex wife, but I finally left the church in my early thirties. I had finally reached the point where I could no longer pretend to be someone I wasn’t and believe in something that I felt to be patently untrue. When I finally made that decision, I felt like I had just shed 200 pounds. I felt lighter. I felt relief. I felt like I was finally free. It has taken a long time and a lot of work to shed the belief that I was less of a person because I didn’t live up to someone else’s expectations.

More recently I’ve been working on healing a lot of the trauma from the environment I grew up in. I’ve been lucky to find a good therapist who specializes in healing trauma. Re-training how my my brain interprets things has not been easy. It has meant being honest with myself about the things that scare me. It has meant facing up to my fear that maybe deep down I’m not a very good person or that I’m somehow broken. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not true. I’ve had to learn how to accept and love myself, even with all my flaws, or maybe because of them.

Along with that healing has come a better sense of well being. I feel like I am more honest with myself and others. I am the person that I want to be. I ask for what I need and want. I don’t need the approval of others. There are times when I fall back into old habits and patterns. Sometimes the disapproval of others can still kick in that fear of not being good enough, but those episodes are fewer and far between.

Self-Sovereign

“The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the biggest truths that I’ve learned through all of this is that when you finally stop apologizing for not living up to the expectation of others, and truly accept yourself for who you are and live your life how feel is best for you, then you are truly free.

This is the truth that is often hidden from us. It scares people who have power over us. When they can no longer control or manipulate you, you may be judged harshly. They may speak ill of you. You may be ostracized or shunned. But when you hold to what you know is true, hold to your core values, and love and accept yourself, then nothing that anyone else has to say matters. You are free. You are what I call “self-sovereign”.

Being a self-sovereign person is challenging. This kind of freedom is scary. You no longer blame anyone else for your feelings and actions. You don’t apologize for not living up to others’ expectations. And you might think that I’m saying you can do whatever you want, and well, I am. Being self-sovereign also means that you own your choices and are honest about your motivations. You are 100% responsible for yourself, and that you accept the consequences for your actions.

Actions

So what are some steps you can take to become more self-sovereign in your own life?

I think the first step is to work on self acceptance. To accept that you are worthy of love, just like everyone else. To accept that you are not broken. You are not a mistake. You are just another flawed human, doing the best you can. Accept that it’s okay to make mistakes, and you don’t have to be perfect to be loved.

Second, is to understand that doing this kind of work is challenging and uncomfortable, so having a good support system in place will make a big difference. Whether that’s a therapist, a good friend, or some kind of support group, surround yourself with those that encourage you to be your authentic self. They will challenge you to take responsibility for your own actions.

Lastly, to do this kind of work, you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone. I found a tweet the other day from a Dr. Vassilia Binensztok, with the twitter handle of @JunoCounseling that I think is very appropriate and pretty much nails it:

“When you’re not used to being confident, confidence feels like arrogance.

When you’re used to being passive, assertiveness feels like aggression.

When you’re not used to getting your needs met, prioritizing yourself feels selfish.

Your comfort zone is not a good benchmark.“

— Dr. Vassilia Binensztok

Being self-sovereign, learning how to be your authentic self and let go other expectations of others is a challenge that we all face. The most courageous thing you can do in your life is to ignore who the world thinks you should be, and to truly, unconditionally be yourself. It is then that you are free.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

191 – Get Busy With Life’s Purpose

Get Busy With Life’s Purpose

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Does being a Stoic mean you can be apathetic? Does not reacting mean that you just give up? Because Stoicism is about controlling your response, it can easily seem that you just let things just happen and don’t take action. But to be a true Stoic, you are the opposite of apathetic. You are effective. By taking the time to choose your shot, you don’t waste time or energy on the things you can’t control.

Often, we confuse action with actually doing something useful. Because Stoicism is about taking responsibility for ourselves, we need to be smart about the actions we choose. When we take the time to make a deliberate and well thought out choice. We want to be effective, not busy.

“Get busy with life’s purpose, toss aside empty hopes, get active in your own rescue — if you care for yourself at all — and do it while you can.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Apatheia

When we look at the definition of stoic term apatheia, it means “without suffering”, which is like equanimity, or “to be emotionally balanced” and unaffected by negative emotions. It is not the same thing as the modern day English term apathetic, which means void of feeling.

It’s easy to understand why people might use Stoicism as an excuse for apathy. On its surface, it can seem like not being reactive to every little thing in your life is just being out of touch with the world. When you don’t respond in a way that most of the world thinks you should, it can seem like you are disconnected and emotionally unavailable. But a Stoic is not someone that doesn’t feel, rather someone that chooses the act in a way that upholds their principles and chooses their response, even when they have powerful emotions around something.

For example, if someone is struggling, it’s easy enough to say that you aren’t stepping in to help because it’s not something that you can control. This is true because you can’t control other people and their situations. But, given that there is almost always something in every situation that you can control, taking the times to be sure that you are doing what you can to be helpful is something that a Stoic would do.

This can be challenging though, because sometimes not acting is the best course of action. Often the situation is best served by not getting involved. Sometimes the other person does not want you involved in their business. Sometimes it’s simply none of your business.

I think that it’s also easy to become apathetic because you understand how little you control in what happens in your life. You also recognize that the small part you control may not seem like it has a big impact. And if you have so little control, and the things you do make little or no difference, why even try?

Because how you live your life is important. How you carry yourself in the world matters. Because the mannerin which you do your work matters. If you approach the world with the attitude that nothing you do makes any difference in the long run, it’s too easy to fall into nihilism and just give up completely on living. This is a far cry of what Stoicism is about. Remember, life isn’t just about the accomplishments in our lives, it’s about the process. Cliché as it may sound, but it’s the journey that counts.

And honestly, if the world so depended on the things that you did, that could be a bit overwhelming to hold that kind of responsibility. I’m sure that Marcus Aurelius felt this way all the time.

What Can You Do?

So how can you be sure that you are not just using Stoicism as an excuse to be apathetic?

I think we need to look at why we might not take action in a situation. Sometimes, things are just hard and we may not want to do them. We may not have the mental or physical capacity to take on the things that we want. Sometimes we just may not have the skills needed to help. Taking the time to be honest about these aspects can help us take most effect action, or understand that the situation is best served by staying out of it. I think it comes down to knowing yourself, knowing your core values, and being willing to do the hard things when things are difficult.

Another important aspect to be aware of is burnout. I think that it’s easy as Stoics to take on more than we can handle. We want to see the world be a better place, and we want to do good in the world, but we also need to be honest about what we can handle. We also need to be honest about what we want. We only have one life, so we need to be clear about what it is we want to accomplish in our time on this planet. We also need to be clear about what our core values are. We shouldn’t do things because we feel guilty for not doing it. We should do the things that we want to, and do them to our best of our ability. That alone will certainly help make the world a better place.

This does not mean that you need to be a saint and give up all your worldly possessions and go serve the poor, unless that is what you want to do. If that’s what you decide would lead to the more fulfilling life, then you should do that. But don’t do something just because it’s what the world expects from you. Do it because it’s what you expect from you.

Actions

What are some steps you can take to avoid apathy? We can take the time to ask ourselves questions following questions and suss out if we’re just being lazy, or if we being effective.

Do you feel good about the actions that you took?

Are you upholding your core values?

Are you doing the things that you have the ability, capacity, and the willingness to do?

Are you not trying to control the things you can’t?

Are you being effective or are you just being busy?

Living like a Stoic is not about following a rigid dogma. It is about using your rational mind to be the most effective in your life, and the lives of those around you. By taking the time to know yourself, your values, your skills, and being respectful of others agency, you can apply yourself where and how you’ll be most effective, and sometimes that means doing nothing.

“Concentrate on what you have to do. Fix your eyes on it. Remind yourself that your task is to be a good human being; remind yourself what nature demands of people. Then do it, without hesitation, and speak the truth as you see it. But with kindness. With humility. Without hypocrisy.” 

— Marcus Aurelius


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

189 – What You Are Capable Of

What You Are Capable Of

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“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent — no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.” 

– Seneca

Have you ever thought about how much energy and effort we as humans put into seeking comfort and avoiding challenging things? So many things that we spend money on in our lives revolve around making things easier or more comfortable. Part of human evolution has been to seek comfort. We try to make things easier for ourselves. But in doing so, are we robbing ourselves of a chance to grow? In our search for convenience, do we end up weakening ourselves?

Pleasure and Discomfort

If you have ever seen the movie Wall-E, you may remember what one of the main things of the story lines is how, in our search for comfort, humanity has become lazy and unable to care for themselves without technology. They are extremely obese, and are unable to walk, or really do anything for themselves. They lay on powered lounge chairs, eat junk food all day, and do nothing but amuse and entertain themselves. Every physical need is taken care of by robots. In their ultimate search for comfort, they have allowed themselves to atrophy and become basically grown up children.

On the flip side of this, if you have ever been to a Spartan Race, you would have seen people purposefully put themselves in hard situations. They seek out challenges. They push themselves to see how much they can take. Trudging through mud pits, scaling rock walls, crawling under barbed wire fences, all in an effort to test themselves to see what they are capable of. It’s pretty intense and inspiring.

So why do we struggle so much with choosing what we know will be good for us? I think we need to understand that most things we do in life are done to avoid discomfort and seek pleasure. If you examine almost anything you do it life, you’ll find that most, if not all, of the things you do fall into these two categories. We stay stuck in  habits because we are unwilling to let go of pleasure or deal with discomfort.

So how do we change this? How do we get to a place where we are willing to forgo pleasure and bear some discomfort?

We change our perspective on what we consider to be pain or pleasure, and a key to this is changing our timeframe.

When we think short term vs. long term, it becomes more clear about what is pleasure and what is discomfort. The thing is, what is considered uncomfortable and pleasurable is often very subjective. We are the ones that judge whether something is a pleasure or a discomfort. What may be very uncomfortable for others, some may look forward to. What some might think is very pleasurable may be annoying for someone else.

For example, some people consider lifting weights to be painful and uncomfortable and avoid going to the gym. Others consider it to be very pleasurable, and invest significant amounts of money and time at the gym. In my opinion lifting weights is uncomfortable, and at times can be painful, and at the same time it also feels really good to work your muscles and to build your strength. The research shows that lifting weights is good for us because of the long term health benefits such as stronger muscles which help the body withstand injury, increased bone density, plus having the strength to do other activities in your life. When we think about this in short vs long term, then we see that short term discomfort leads to long term pleasure.

So what it comes down to, is which perspective do you choose and act upon?

Choices

Years ago, I found out that a close friend of mine was celebrating being sober for 12 years. He said he had been an alcoholic and it had caused a lot of issues in his marriage. At one point his wife him that he had to get his drinking under control or she was leaving. He didn’t really think it was a problem, but started attending AA meetings to appease her. Over the next few months as he heard more and more stories, from other members, he noticed how many of their stories were very close to his own experiences. He started to see how his actions had been causing pain to himself, and to those that loved him. It took a lot of effort, but he was able to stop drinking. He did this because he changed his perspective. He decided that he was willing to give up the temporary pleasure that drinking gave him. He decided the pain he was covering up with alcohol was something that he needed to face head on. Undoing so he gave up short term pleasure and avoidance of discomfort for long term pleasures of more control in his life and improving his marriage.

What Is Your Pleasure?

So when we’re facing challenges what steps can we take in order to be more effective at making better choices? I think first off, have a clear definition of what your pleasure is. Is having a strong body or a particular physical skill your definition of pleasure? Is having a good relationship with your partner or children your pleasure? Whatever it is, then approach each challenge that you have as a way to flex your muscles and improve your skill. Look at the challenge as the pleasure. Imagine what it would feel like if you were a master of it? How much pleasure would that give you?

Learning to flip your idea of what pleasure and pain is very important skill and is very much about perspective. If you can decide that the uncomfortable thing and overcoming challenges and something that gives you pleasure, then when those things come your way, you won’t run away from them, you’ll turn and face them head on, and you’ll know what you’re capable of.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

188 – Do What You Can

Do What You Can

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When you find yourself in a challenging situation, how much time do you spend wishing things were different than they are? Do you get stuck in thinking how it’s not fair? What if instead of wanting to things to be other than what they are, we worked with what we have? What kind of change could you have in your life and in the lives of others if you instead focused on what you could do? How much time and frustration would you save yourself?

Today I want to talk about how taking action, even if it’s just a small one, can help get you on the path of moving through challenges.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

One of my favorite movies and sequels of all times is The Bourne Identity with Matt Damon. One thing I love so much about it is how Jason Bourne is always looking for what he can do. While his character has training that most of us never will go through, what makes Bourne so good at surviving is his ability to improvise. He has trained his mind to approach any situation with an eye for figuring out what he can do with what he has. Whether that’s using something nearby to cause a distraction so he can achieve his objective, or simple stopping to blend in with a crowd, it’s his ability to see and accept things for what they are and not wish they were otherwise, and act on those things that keeps him alive.

Just like professional poker players understand that because you will never get a great hand every time, you do your best to play the hand you’ve been dealt. If you only wait until you have the best hand, you’d probably run out of chips before you got to play that hand anyway. But to be an excellent player, you use your skills of probabilities, reading other players, and misdirection. You don’t just play your cards – you play the situation, the place you’re playing, and the other players.

“Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs?”

— Marcus Aurelius

I’ve been shaving my head for years, and while I miss my hair mostly for the warmth, I have found that instead of feeling bad about not having the thick blond hair I had growing up, I’ve assembled a nice collection of hats that can be worn in every situation. When I go to a black light party, I have my partner or one of my artist friends draw with black light reactive ink on my head. The reactions I get from the brilliant glowing designs is one of the best parts of my night. I decided long ago that I would simply embrace what nature gave, a nice shiny head, and appreciate all the perks that come with not having to buy myself shampoo for the last 20 years.

I have a friend who lost a leg in a car accident years ago, but she hasn’t let that slow her down. She always out camping and hiking. When she shows up to a fund party or a festival she’ll often have her prosthetic leg that is decked out in LEDs. She could complain about it, but she recognized long ago that it was simply a waste of time.

When it comes to working with less physical things, it can be a bit murkier. Maybe you have a temper, or struggle with depression, or you have a hard time keeping organized. Rather than trying to get rid of these aspects of yourself, or beating yourself up over them, why not learn to just accept it and figure out how to work with it, or around it? If we can look at these and accept these things more like how we view physical challenges, as accepting them as things that just are, and not judge them as good or bad, I think we could make a lot more progress in a shorter amount of time.

I think one of the biggest areas that this shows up is in perfectionism. Because we feel like something has to be perfect, we can’t see it for its beauty of being less than perfect. As a side note, perfection in most cases is not something that can be actually defined or achieved any way. We except far to much of ourselves and expect that we should be able to do it all. That we can have the perfect body, never lose our temper, never miss an appointment, or always say the right thing, but we can’t. So rather than punish ourselves for not being able to do all the things that we think we should, what if we just figured out the best way to work around it?

It all comes down in figuring out the things you can do something about and working with those. If you spend your energy focused on all the things you can’t control, you’ll waste your time, and you won’t make progress. For example, if you have a hard time keeping organized, are there strategies that you can use to help you stay focused and on track? Maybe it’s setting a timer to go off every hour to remind you to check your todo list to be sure you’re on track. Maybe it’s bad enough that you need to hire someone else to help keep your time organized.

When you’re stuck in a situation, stop and think about what you can do. If you hear the words, “I wish…” come out of your mouth, stop for a moment and think about why you wish something was different. Usually a wish is something that you want changed that you have little control over. Then start your next sentence with “I can…” and list off 3 things you can actually do in that situation, even if they are very small things. Jus putting down a few small things you can do in that situation gets the creative juices going about what things you have control over, and actions you can actually take.

This is something that I’m not very good at, but when I do it, it make a difference in helping me to focus on what I can do in a situation. Whether that’s dealing with a difficult situation in a relationship, a problem at work, or really any challenge we have before us, if we ask ourselves 3 things we can do, we start taking control over the things that we actually can do something about.

As an example, I thought about what I can do when I’m frustrated with someone at work. What are three things I can do in that situation?

1. I can take 3 breaths before I say anything

2. I can type up a note and get all my frustrations out of my head

3. I can table the conversation to a later time, when I can approach it more clear headed

Now I know those are not Jason Bourne moves, but thankfully I’m not a former international agent running for my life.

Trying to think creatively when we’re stressed or challenged is not easy, but it’s fact of life. When we can stop wishing things were different, and look at a situation and ask, “What can I do?”, the more likely we are make some headway, and to help get ourselves unstuck.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy stoicism

186 – Stuck In The Past

Stuck In The Past
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I want you to take a moment and think about the biggest regret in your past. Is there some choice you made that you still kick yourself for? Were there circumstances, such as physical or emotional abuse, that you had no control over? Maybe there was something that you did, or didn’t do, that you still regret? Maybe there was the “one that got away” or you chose this job over that job. Every one of us has regrets about the past.

Today I want to talk about how holding onto the past is something that spoils your present and poisons your future.

“All this hurrying from place to place won’t bring you any relief, for you’re travelling in the company of your own emotions, followed by your troubles all the way”

– Seneca

One of the core tenants of Stoicism is to be aware of, and to focus on what we can control and let go of those we can’t. One area that we don’t have control over is what happened in the past. It is not something that can we can change, yet it is one of the hardest things for us to let go of. Regrets are a prison of our own making, but we are the ones that hold the key to our escape. Learning how to untangle ourselves from past can bring us so peace and freedom to move more lightly in the present.

“Regrets are a prison of our own making, but we are the ones that hold the key to our escape.”

Why do we hold on to the past?

So much of our identity is wrapped up in the memories of things that happened to us and things we did or didn’t do. Experiences shape how we think the world works and our behavior in all kinds of situations. Our perspective on the past informs us of who we think we are.

As a thought experiment, what would happen if you woke up with no memory of the past? How would you know who you are? Would it change who you are as a person? How would you know what you like, dislike, feared or consider as important? Do you like peanut butter and hate whiskey? Do you appreciate rainy days or do you find them intolerable? If you had no memories of the past, you wouldn’t know what you think about so many things. It is our memories, and the importance that we give them, which inform how we feel about things in the present, and how we decide what we think is important.

Another difficult part of letting go of the past is that because our minds are prediction making machines, we get stuck in the trap of “if only” thinking. We think about how much better our life would be if only we had made a different choice, or if only we had been born into different circumstances. We play back all kinds of alternate scenarios of how we think things should have been. But this kind of thinking hold us hostage to the past, to something that cannot change.

Since you can’t change the past, how to you let go of the past? How to stop painful memories from holding power over your daily life? How do you let yourself out of the prison of your own mind? Since you can’t change your past, the only thing you can change is how you think about it. Your perspective on what those memories is what gives them a positive or negative meaning. By changing your perspective, you change what those memories mean. This is called reframing.

How do we reframe the past?

“Reason shows us there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

— Seneca

By changing the story that we tell ourselves about the past, we can change what it means to us. For example, I grew up in a very chaotic environment. My father was often violent and angry, and there was a lot of fear in our home. Now I could focus on how terrible it was, but what good does that do me? If I spend my time thinking about how awful it was and how I was so afraid of my father, I keep myself in a place of unhappiness. I create my own prison from the memories of something that I cannot change.

But what if I decide to change my perspective? What I focused on how my father was smart, curious, and funny? How he used to make us laugh so hard that we’d be doubled over on the floor? Or how he would talk about fascinating ideas that he had just read about the cosmos, or chaos theory? What if I look at my father with compassion and empathy, and decide that it’s a lesson for me in learning how to forgive others, and how to be loving towards people who have hurt me? By changing what the past means, I can can use those experiences as lessons. I can decide to focus on the good things and reframe the bad things as lessons I can learn from. Holding onto the past and allowing it to impact me negatively, doesn’t change what happened, and it the person it harms the most is myself.

Amor Fati

Now some people may disagree with handling things this way. They may think that doing so minimizes what happened or that we’re denying what happened. This is not the case. The Stoic idea of amor fati, “to love your fate”, means that we need to embrace our past. Because we cannot change the past, the more we resist accepting and acknowledging our past, the more power we give it over our lives. When we acknowledge and accept what happened, we also get to decide what we make it mean. We can make dark memories feel awful, or we can look at them as things that we survived, and how we got through them.

Also, remember that everything that happened to you in the past made you who you are today. Every choice you made, every experience you had was something that you can learn from if you’re willing to look for the lesson. By reframing it, you can look at it as an experience that you survived, and figured out how to get through. Because of the choices you made, you became the person you are today.

One of my favorite examples of where I had a sudden shift in perspective that changed a whole experience, was when I watched The Sixth Sense. If you haven’t seen that movie, this is your spoiler alert. In the movie, Bruce Willis plays a psychiatrist who is trying to help a young boy who is struggling with the fact that he sees dead people. When Bruce Willis’ character finally makes the realization that he is actually one of those dead people, it completely changes the meaning behind almost every moment in the movie. When you watch the movie a second time through with this knowledge, it’s like watching a completely different movie. Just that slight change in perspective changes the whole meaning of the movie.

Life is challenging. None of us are going to have a perfectly carefree life without pain or struggle. If we let every less than perfect moment in our life sour our memories, then we can lock ourselves in a prison of perpetual unhappiness. You are the one that holds the key to that prison. That key is all in your perspective and the stories you tell yourself.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break other people philosophy stoicism

185 – Needy

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Needy

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Transcript:

Hello Friends. My name is Erick Cloward and welcome to the Stoic Coffee Break. The Stoic Coffee Break is a weekly podcast where I take an aspect of stoicism and do my best to break it down into its smaller parts and see how we can apply it in our daily lives. I try to share my experiences, both my successes and my mistakes that hopefully you can learn from them and all within the time of a Coffee break. Today’s episode is called: Neediness.

Marcus Aurelius said:

“People exist for one another, you can instruct or endure them”.

Earlier this week I went to a movie theater. Now I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic so that seems like something odd that I would do because I follow science. I wear my mask and I’ve already got my second dose of the vaccine. But in this case it was a socially distance night at the movie theater. Friend of ours had rented out the theater so we could watch an old seventies kung fu movie and it was really a great time. It was a very small group of us in this whole giant theater, but it was really great to be able to spend time talking to some friends and having that kind of social interaction. And one of the things that I recognized, because I woke up the next morning feeling really happy and rejuvenated, was that one of the things that I need in my life is connecting with other people and being social. I’m an extrovert. So it’s not a big surprise, but I didn’t realize how much I missed it until the pandemic came along and made it so much more difficult to do those kind of things and to spend time with my friends.

So today I want to take a look at needs that we have and look at neediness through the lens of stoicism and how we can keep to our ideals, and understand how neediness is something that shouldn’t be looked down upon, frowned upon, but something needs to be understood. So I know that neediness in our society is something that’s always looked down upon and something to be avoided. And I think this is for a couple of reasons. I think one of them is because if you need something that makes you feel vulnerable, and if you tell somebody about some kind of need that you have, then that puts them in a position to have power over you.

I also think that a lot of this idea comes from the rugged individual society ideas that permeate our society, that we have to somehow make it on our own, that we have to be independent, that we have to forge our own path. And that said, and I think this has done a lot of disservice to us because in doing so, it also has helped reinforce a lot of these gender stereotypes that men have to be strong and unemotional and that if we’re emotional then we’re weak. So men are not able to ask for the things that they need because asking for anything that has to do with emotions is considered weak and that’s very, very frowned upon.

But on the flip side, women are supposed to be emotionally supportive for everyone else around them and to put their own needs on the back burner. And in this case we all get the short shrift, and I think this is something that’s been very damaging to our society. I think what we need to do is kind of re evaluate when we’re feeling needy about something not as a weakness, but as a signal that something is not being fulfilled in our lives.

Epictetus said:

“First, say to yourself what you would be and then do what you have to do”.

For me this is one of the simplest and clearest ways to define what self improvement is. It’s saying: decide the kind of person that you want to be and then do the things to become that person. But I think before you can decide who you want to be, you also need to understand who you are, and understanding your needs is part of understanding who you are.

And the thing is is that we all have needs and we need to be okay with the fact that we have needs and to accept that we’re all vulnerable in plenty of ways and that’s okay. I mean we’re born needy and when we have Children, we don’t go, “oh my gosh, this kid needs food”, you know, we don’t tell them to buck up and to figure it out and go find their own food. No, we take care of them, we help them by satisfying those needs that they have.

I think that in stoicism we need to be careful because oftentimes we can fall into that trap of self denial. We think that because we can go without, then we should go without. And I don’t think this is really a good way to look at things. Yes, in stoicism, part of it is understanding what we can and can’t control, and in this case by identifying the things that we need, we can take actions and steps to take care of the things that we can control and then ask others to help us for the things that we can’t.

Now, in saying all of this, understanding and accepting that you’re needy, because we all are, does not make it so that your needs are somebody else’s problems. It is not an excuse to be selfish. What this is is that clarifying the things that you need and asking for help to get the things that you need and doing your part in fulfilling those needs as well.

Now, what kind of needs am I talking about? Well, they could be almost anything. Me for example, needing other people. There are there are things that we do need from other people. For myself, I need friendship and acceptance. I need that affection that I get from being with my friends.

We may have physical needs that we need to take care of, such as where we decide to live. I live up here in the Pacific Northwest and I love it. This is a fantastic place. And this is some place where I decided that I didn’t need the cold of Minnesota, didn’t need the cold and the strangeness of Utah, but what I did need was to live in a place that was pretty open minded and where the weather was fairly comfortable.

We can also look at our career. What is it that you need in a job for happiness? For example, in any work that I do, I need to be creative, I need to be building or making something because that’s how my brain works. If I have a task that is just strictly too repetitive, it gets really, really boring for me and I find that it’s not a good space for me to be in. What I need is to do very creative work, but I also need to have a lot of structure as well. I need to know what it is that I’m trying to get done and have the support, be able to get done. The things that I need to. So, working in a chaotic environment sometimes can be exceptionally draining for me.

We can also decide what we need in relationships. What kind of things do we need emotionally? What kind of affection do we need from our partners? Are we begin to public displays of affection? Do we need lots of physical touch or do any lots of emotional reassurance?

Understanding these things and being able to not look at them as weaknesses, but as things that help us thrive, gives us the tools and gives us the insight to be able to see that, recognize what we need and then ask for help, getting those needs fulfilled. And the thing is is they’re probably going to be plenty of people who won’t be willing to help you fulfill some of those needs. And that’s okay. That tells you that there’s somebody who’s not going to be able to help you get those needs met. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, if they can be very clear about that, that’s actually a good thing, because you won’t be wasting your time trying to get them to give you something they don’t want to give you.

Learning how to communicate those needs and express them clearly is something that can be very helpful in almost any relationship, so when it comes to identifying your needs, there’s a couple of things you want to keep in mind. Be easy on yourself. You shouldn’t feel ashamed for the things that you need, and wanting the things that you want. You can define what you need by just being honest with yourself. And if you have someone that you can trust, you can also ask them and you can say, “Hey, what areas do I seem to be a little bit needy in?”, and look at that as just a signal. It’s a flag to let you know where something is kind of missing in your life.

I do think it’s important that you take the time to examine your needs and decide if, if this is a need that is helpful for you. Is it something that helps you to grow into the person that you want to be? Or is this something that’s detrimental to you? Just because you want it or feel like you need, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.

And then once you have those things sorted out, you can ask others around you to help you get those needs fulfilled. Now when we’re doing all of this, be very careful that you don’t take on other needs unless it’s something that you truly want to. I know there’s some people who get a lot of their needs fulfilled by serving other people and that’s okay. If that’s something that recharges your batteries, then do that thing!

Every single person on this planet has needs and the sooner that we can be honest about what we need, the sooner we can work on getting those needs met in healthy ways. And that’s the end of the Stoic Coffee Break.

Be good to yourselves, be good to others, and thanks for listening.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break ego philosophy stoicism

184 – The Truth Never Harmed Anyone

The Truth Never Harmed Anyone

I want you to imagine something that you excel at. Something that you a pretty confident about. Maybe you can sing or dance or draw. Maybe you’re great at basketball, or soccer, or poker. Whatever it is, I want you to think about how you feel when you are doing it.

Now, I want you to imagine that you’ve just being doing this thing that you’re awesome at, and someone comes up and critiques you. How do you respond? Would you listen to this person? Would you get offended and annoyed? Would you think, “who does this person think they are to critique me?” Even if this person is one of the leading experts in this area, would that change how you feel?

Today I want to talk about one of the hardest things for us as human to receive – criticism.

”It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Why is Criticism so hard for us to hear?

I think it’s because deep down, no matter how good we are at something, we all harbor insecurities. We feel that we just aren’t as good as we pretend to be, or want to be. Because our ego, our identity, is wrapped up in who we think we are. When something threatens that identity, we can easily get defensive. Our egos try to maintain these boundaries of who we think we are.

Many of us, myself included, grew up in situations where we were frequently criticized by our caretakers, siblings, or even the community we grew up in. We might be constantly told through subtle and direct ways how often we fall short or are a disappointment. In these situations it’s hard to learn how to handle criticism effectively because those that are supposed to teach us, are the ones inflicting the wounds. The old adage of just “toughing it out” sometimes just creates more open wounds that never really heal. We can become hyper-sensitive to criticism because those wounds just get reopened, often feeling just as raw as they did when we were young.

Why should we get better at handling criticism?

The fastest way to improve at anything is to be honest about our skill with it. If we are unable to look at things as they are, we’re going to continue making the same mistakes. This true in so many areas of our lives. If we’re unable to handle criticism in our jobs, we’re never going to improve and gain the skills that we need to advance in our careers. If we can’t handle feedback in our relationships, we’ll find it difficult to build healthy and supportive relationships because we won’t be able to deal with challenges head on.

Not handling criticism can hold us back from taking a chance on the things that we really want to do. I know that this is one that is really a struggle for me. Looking back, I can see that some of my choices in life such as not pursuing music or acting was because I was afraid of the criticism and the accompanying feelings of insecurity. And those are both careers where there is no way to escape criticism.

When you get better at handling feedback, people trust you more, and feel like they can be honest with you. This can help relationships at work and in your personal life.

How do we get better at handling criticism?

So how do we get better at handling feedback? How do we transform ourselves from avoiding and resenting criticism, to not just handling it well, but embracing it?

The most important, and probably the hardest, step is to make it safe for others to give you feedback. Many people won’t give feedback because they’re afraid of upsetting the other person. Even when they a prompted, people will still not be completely honest because they don’t trust that there won’t be repercussions for their candor.

How do you make it safe? By listening, taking in the information, and thanking the other person for their candor. You don’t debate. You don’t get argue. You say “thanks”… and mean it.  This is not easy, but it pays huge dividends in the long run.

When getting feedback, it’s so easy for your ego to kick in and get defensive. Don’t argue with the person giving feedback. Remember, this is their opinion, which they are entitled to. You can waste a lot of time and energy trying to prove them wrong, or you can take that time and energy and focus on keeping it safe for people to share their opinions with you. Again, the best thing you can do is say, “thank you”.

When you get better at receiving feedback, it’s always helpful to ask for more information. You can ask for clarifying examples. You can be curious. But only ask if you really want to know. If you’re looking for fuel for an argument, say “thank you”, and move on.

Action

Once you’ve received feedback from someone else, you need to decide what to do with it. It’s always good to bounce this off someone that you trust. Sometimes, the advice isn’t all that great. Sometimes your ego might get in the way. Having someone who has an unbiased opinion can be helpful to see if there is merit in the feedback. And if the person gave you something that was helpful, let them know and thank them. This helps close the loop and shows the other person you really are open to receiving feedback.

Pitfalls

When taking feedback, it’s all too common to take it as a personal attack. And it is possible that it is. The other person might say these things because they have an ax to grind, and that’s okay. You can’t control how they give feedback, and they probably will not do it perfectly. What we’re working on is what you can control, and in this case you can control how you receive it. But think about how much power that gives you when someone can try to personally attack you, and you can just take it and smile without getting ruffled.

It’s also important that you don’t hold a grudge. If you want to be someone who people trust with giving you their honest opinion, holding a grudge is one way to sabotage any efforts of creating a safe space for people to tell you the truth.

Conclusion

Receiving feedback is one of the fastest ways to help us grow, but also one of the hardest skills to master. Our insecurities and ego are always getting in the way. But when we develop the skills to be open to honest feedback, others are more open and honest,  we are better able to master our own emotions, and we spot our shortcomings make improvements faster.


Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

 

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy stoicism

183 – Mind And Body

Mind And Body

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“Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person or that person, this challenge, this deed. Quit the evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in right now. You are not some disinterested bystander. Participate. Exert yourself.”

– Epictetus

One of the hardest things that we have to deal with as humans is anxiety. As humans, we evolved to be constantly aware of threats around us. This is how our brains evolved to keep us alive. That rustling in the bushes could have been a snake or tiger. The adrenaline spike got us ready in flash should we need to fight for our lives or run for safety. Without these traits, humans would not have survived very long.

The problem is that we are built to handle threats that don’t exist for most of us. Getting your brain to understand and appreciate that though is a whole other challenge to our modern world. Because our brains are constantly on the lookout for threats, we may feel uncomfortable or anxious for something that we “think” we shouldn’t cause that kind of response. Maybe our partner is frustrated with us for being late. Maybe the noise from the traffic outside is just a little too jarring. It could be anything that might trigger this kind of anxiety in us, and we may not notice until we’re all worked up about something and in the middle of an argument.

The Chaos

One of the things I struggle with is this kind of anxiousness that sits in the background of my thoughts. It’s almost like white noise, and I often don’t even notice it. It comes from having grown up in an environment where I felt unsafe. When this happens, you’re constantly vigilant for threats. It becomes a state of being. It becomes this barely perceptible background music that creates an anxious mood that can impact how I view everything. I call it the chaos.

The chaos is always there, and it colors how I view everything. It doesn’t care if I like it or not, it just wants to keep me safe. Because of this hyper-vigilance, the constant state of “threat” creates a physical sensation. A tightness in my stomach or shoulders or neck. My breathing may be a little faster and shallow. My heart rate may be a little elevated.

I talk a lot about how our thinking impacts so much of what we do. Our thoughts create emotions, which drive the actions that we take, and those actions lead to the results we get. And because I know this, I often try to “think” my way through feeling anxious. But the thing is, the physical sensations that we have strongly influence the thoughts we have. If you don’t believe me, try to have a calm, rational conversation with someone while holding your hand over a flame. It’s really not going to happen, and it shouldn’t. If you’re holding your hand over a flame, your body is smart enough to get you to stop.

Our physical sensations have more control over us than we want to admit. But the thing is we have physical bodies. That’s what being human is all about! It’s that simple. To think that we can somehow ignore our physical nature and the bodies we inhabit is not realistic. And that’s okay. I think having a body is great! Even as I get older and there are pains and things that don’t work as well as I’d like, I’m still glad that my body still functions pretty well.

Because anxiety is a physical sensation, it needs to be handled in a physical way.

The Mind-Body Connection

One of the great things about Stoicism is that we work really hard to handle things in a rational way. And while there is clearly a focus on how to manage our thinking, we need to be sure that we are not ignoring our physical nature. By examining the way we think and observing how external things impact us, we can use these tools to gain the awareness to manage things from both sides – the physical and the mental. It is not just one or the other. It’s both.

When I studied acting in my first year of college, we worked with a method of acting where we worked on developing a character internally and externally. Some exercises that we did in class were fascinating. For example, getting into costume, using a particular prop, or even just adjusting your posture could help you get into the mindset of your character.

By thinking what your character would think, you could change your entire personality, and you would change how you moved physically to embody how you felt inside. If the character was fierce or jolly, your face would take on those expressions. Standing in a menacing posture, or holding your arms outstretched to embrace a long-lost friend would trigger the emotions you were trying to create with your character.

Physical Awareness

“Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come. A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhappiness to the present.”

– Seneca

The other day I was feeling particularly anxious. I don’t know what was causing the stressful feelings, but I noticed them for a good portion of the day. I finally reached a point where I couldn’t sit with it anymore, so I went for a walk. When I got about 300 meters from my house, I burst into tears for about a minute. Then it just stopped. I continued on with my walk and noticed that my mood was getting more and more relaxed. Later that evening, I noticed how good I felt. I had done nothing in particular, but that physical activity, and that release of whatever was stressing me out helped purge those anxious feelings.

Active Mindfulness

One of the best ways to practice being aware of our physical nature is through mindfulness and even meditation. One of the biggest misconceptions about meditation is that it’s purely a mental exercise. There are some meditation practices that like that for sure, but most mediation practices I’ve ever done have been very much focused on an awareness of the thoughts in your mind and the sensations in your body. It’s about developing a more acute awareness of both so that they can help regulate and support each other.

The Buddhists have what they call “walking meditation”, which is an active mindfulness. This idea that it’s not just trying to control your mind or reach some state of nirvana, but to be fully present in your own body and mind. It’s about being intentional about what you are doing, not just mindlessly going through the motions. That while you are cooking or gardening or doing some other task, that you are fully aware of the thoughts in your mind and the sensations in your body. While cooking, do you smell the ingredients, and savor the tastes? If you’re gardening, do you notice the texture of the dirt between your fingers, the smell of the plants, the vibrancy of the flowers? The more we can practice noticing the physical sensations that we feel and recognizing them when they are very subtle, the sooner we can take some actions to reduce those anxious feelings.

When we recognize that anxiety is a physiological response to the physical world AND the thoughts that we have, we can make sure that we’re using all the tools in our toolbox to ensure our wellbeing. The next time you’re feeling anxious, rather than trying to think your way out of it, or to convince yourself that you shouldn’t feel that way, just let yourself feel it, and see if there is anything physical that you can do to help calm your nerves. Maybe a short walk or some exercise. Maybe doing some yardwork. Maybe even doing the dishes. I know for me that getting things back in order is also useful for the mental aspect of things. Whatever it is, find your thing that helps you bring things back into balance, and find that equanimity you’re looking for.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy stoicism

182 – Want What You Have

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Want What You Have

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If you’re in a place where you can take a moment and write something down, I want you to get a piece of paper and pen, or may sit down at your computer, or on your phone. Just something that you can take notes on. If you are driving or unable to take notes, then make a mental list.

I want you to take a moment and think about the things you want in life. Think about all the things you want to accomplish. Maybe the career or a particular job you want. Are there things you want to learn and master? Maybe material things you want to have, such as a house, or maybe a piano, or a bicycle. Maybe people want around you such as a partner, or kids, or friends. It doesn’t need to be exhaustive or all encompassing, but I want you to list at least 5 things. Go ahead and pause this for a moment and make a quick list, and start it again when you’re ready.

Now that you have a list of things you want in your life, I want to you count how many of the things on you list are thing you already have. Maybe a few? Maybe a lot? Maybe none?

Gratitude

Don’t set your mind on things you don’t possess as if they were yours, but count the blessings you actually possess and think how much you would desire them if they weren’t already yours.

— Marcus Aurelius

When we think about things that we want in our lives, we also need to think about the thing that we already have, and appreciate those things. It’s easy for us to get stuck in the mindset of only focusing on the things that we don’t have in our lives. We focus on what we are lacking as a person and where we consider ourselves as failures. We can get too focused on all the material things that we don’t have and want.

But what if instead, we took time each day to learn to want what we have? What if we stopped wishing for what we didn’t have appreciated what we did? I know for a lot of people who are religious and pray, this is something that is often included in their prayers. For those of us that are not religious, we can still take a lesson from them and remind ourselves daily to appreciate what we have.

Grass Is Always Greener…

The other aspect of gratitude stressed by the Stoics is that we should be careful about wanting what others have. How often have you looked at someone else and wanted what they had? Maybe it’s material possessions. Maybe you think they have a better life than you. Maybe they’re happier, better looking, charming, etc. We like to think that “if only we that person’s life, we’d be so much happier.” But we don’t know that. We don’t know what other troubles someone else is struggling with. Maybe in comparison, our troubles are so much easier to deal with. We can only project what we think our life might be like.

When we look at someone and think that they have it so much better than we do, and we want their life. But you know what? You can’t have their life. You have yours. This is what it means to accept your fate and everything that comes with it. It means that you get work with what you have. You work with your life as it really is, not as you wish it to be.  When we get stuck on wanting things we don’t have and making our happiness conditional on those things, we give those things power over our happiness!

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that seeing what others have and wanting that is always a bad thing. Looking at what others have and appreciating is how we can understand what we want, and see that something is possible. Whether it’s an ideal relationship, career, or skill, we can look to them as role model. If it’s a material possession, we can can also appreciate it, and we can be happy for the other person.

Witholding

The Stoics also have an interesting idea that we should think about how much we would miss what we already have. If you look on your list of things that you appreciate about your life, how would you feel if you suddenly didn’t have it? What relationships do you have that you would miss in your life? What possession do you treasure that you would still desire if you didn’t have it? And it could be anything. It could be your favorite pair of jeans. It could be your favorite guitar. It could even be your phone, and I yes, I’m not saying that ironically. I imagine that a lot of you are listening to this podcast on your phone.

We can also take this one step further and practice a kind of abstinence with the things we appreciate by going without them for a while. I know some people will fast so that they appreciate the food and drink that they have. Others go camping to enjoy the outdoors, but they also know how much they will appreciate their nice warm bed. I know myself when I have been away from people I care about, I appreciate them even more, and remember how much I enjoy their company.

So much of the unhappiness we feel in our lives is not being present where we are. We’re constantly looking to the future and how we want things to be, or getting the things we desire. Wanting what we already have is a simple and effective way to be present in our own lives. Meditating on how we would feel if we did not have those things, as well as depriving ourselves at times, can also help us appreciate the life we have.

Hello friends! Thank you for listening. If you like what you hear, head on over to patreon.com/stoicoffee and help support this podcast by becoming a patron. Also stop by the website at www.stoic.coffee where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop. Also, if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Ask Coffee Break philosophy stoicism

181 – Askers and Guessers

Askers and Guessers

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“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”

—Marcus Aurelius

Last week I talked about asking for help. This week I want to delve into asking a bit further.

Guess Culture

I grew up in a Guess Culture. And what is a Guess Culture? A Guess Culture is one where the social rules are so ubiquitous that everyone knows them, or is expected to know them. It usually happens when most people around you hold the same beliefs about how things should be. When a culture is very homogeneous, for example, a religious majority, it’s easy to just assume that everyone knows the social rules. Outsiders who are new to a city, or even country, often find themselves flummoxed as they try to navigate all these unwritten rules that everyone else seems to know.

Ask Culture

On the other side, there is Ask Culture. This is where asking is encouraged, and guessing is considered rude. It happens in families or communities that encourage asking. For example, many of the sex positive communities have clear lines around asking and consent. It also happens in places where there are diverse kinds of groups and in order to navigate all their differences they have to ask.

I want to talk about each of these, and why becoming an asker can help improve our culture dramatically.

I came across the idea of Ask Culture and Guess Culture after reading an old a blog post from metafilter.com. In it, the original poster talked about how a friend of his wife was coming to New York and asked if it was possible to stay with them for part of the time. It was a very straightforward ask with no assumptions made that they had to host her and she even said, “Let me know if this might be a possibility…”. He thought the ask was exceptionally rude. The comments that followed were very interesting as plenty of people thought it was exceptionally rude, whereas many others thought it was respectful, and urged the poster to simply say “No”. Finally, a user called tangerine mentioned how this was a clash between Ask Culture and Guess Culture. I’ll read a part of it now, and I’ll leave some links in the show notes to this and some other articles that I found rather enlightening:

“This is a classic case of Ask Culture meets Guess Culture.

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person — and you obviously are — then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.”

After reading this, it amazed me at how many things just clicked. I grew up in a Guess Culture where everyone around me was Mormon or understood how Mormon culture permeated every aspect of life in Utah. When I would meet people who had just arrived and were not familiar with the church, I would often end up explaining how things worked. I would often get responses such as “Really?!” or “Are you serious?!” when explaining some of the unwritten rules of the road.

There are traits for each type:

Guessers

  1. Are used to just “knowing” what the “right thing” to do is because that’s what everyone else around them does
  2. Consider asking a direct question as creating conflict and they are usually conflict averse
  3. Want you to guess as well
  4. Find it difficult to directly tell you the truth.
  5. Feel you are challenging them if you ask them direct questions
  6. Feel resentful when you ask, because you’re supposed to “know” what is rude.

Askers

  1. Ask because they don’t know
  2. They don’t want to make assumptions.
  3. Are okay with “No” as an answer.
  4. They want the truth and find it confusing that asking considered offensive.
  5. Have a higher level of communication because they want things to be clear.

Now mos I have found that living as a Guesser causes a lot of stress. Leaving things ambiguous and trying to guess what someone else might want leads to uncomfortable situations. Whereas I thought I was doing something nice, the other person found it rude that I didn’t ask before I acted. If I had taken the time to ask, I would have gotten buy in from the other person, and we both would have been happy.

As I delve into this, remember the point of becoming an Asker is to improve communication with people around you. And for some, especially for those that live in a Guess Culture, this is going to seem like you are learning to be rude. It’s going to be uncomfortable. It may be especially challenging if the people closest to you are Guessers.

Honesty

When we work on becoming Askers, the most important thing is to be honest. We’re honest about our intentions. We’re clear about our ask. We ask because we really want to know. Learning to be as honest as possible is hard. In many cultures, and especially Mormon culture, we’re trained not to rock the boat. We’re trained to “be nice” which is code for don’t say things that might make others feel uncomfortable. A big problem with this thinking is that it means we have to figure out what might make others feel uncomfortable, but we won’t know what that might be unless we ask. It’s really stressful!

Most people never see everything eye to eye, so we should be cautious of those that agree with us too easily. There’s a high probability that they are not being completely honest and may just be telling you what they think you want to hear. The more comfortable we are with telling the truth and hearing the truth the better we can deal with life and trust those around us.

When we work on becoming an Asker, we’re also expecting others to be honest. When we make an ask, we want the truth. We want the other person to let us know if it is something that they don’t want to do.

For example, say that you’re out on a first date, and you ask your date if they’d like to go to your favorite Italian restaurant. Now maybe your date doesn’t like Italian food or is gluten intolerant. Would you be offended if they asked to go somewhere else? Personally, I would be more upset if they didn’t because I want the date to be enjoyable for both of us.

Boundaries

I’ve often talked about boundaries on this show and I think they are helpful as we learn to be Askers. When we’re trying to be more honest, it does not mean that we have to tell everyone everything. It means that we need to be honest about what we’re feeling and thinking. This is where defining and respecting boundaries comes in. For example, if someone asks you about something you don’t really want to discuss, you don’t have to tell them. Informing them with something like, “I’m not comfortable talking about that topic” is a straightforward way of setting your boundaries. If you notice that someone is uncomfortable with something you’re asking about, you can ask them if it’s something that they don’t want to discuss, and we can respect that.

Becoming an Asker can also help a lot in professional situations. For example, say that you’re in the middle of a project at work and your boss comes to you with a new project to work on. If you’re a Guesser, you might just say yes and try to figure out how to fit it in with the rest of your work, knowing that it will put you behind. If you are an Asker, you ask which project is the priority, and how much time you should allocate to each. If your boss is a Guesser, this may be a bit of a challenge, but this kind of clear communication can help you reduce stress and conflict because you are bringing up your concerns and asking for clarification.

Be Okay With “No”

When a Guesser is in a situation where they have to say “No”, it makes them uncomfortable. They feel like the other persons should never have “put them” in that situation, or they should have asked in some very specific way that an Asker could not have known. This is frustrating for an Asker because they don’t see asking as being rude. They are trying to be clear, to understand, or to get consent.

Responsibility

Being an Asker also means that you take responsibility for what you say. It means that if others are uncomfortable with what you ask for, as long as you follow your core principles of honesty, open mindedness, and compassion, you do not need to apologize or feel bad about telling the truth. Remember, if someone else is offended because you asked a question, it is their thinking that caused their emotions. You did not “make them” feel anything.

Create an Ask Culture

Creating an environment in your home or work of an Ask Culture can reap significant benefits. It can strengthen the communication with those that you spend most of your time with. It can lead to discussions that are difficult and rewarding. For example, if kids have an environment where they feel like they can ask their parents about anything, it can lead to a higher level of trust. It means that when they’re struggling, they will ask you for help, rather than shutting you out. If employees feel like anything is open for being questioned, you can have the frank kinds of discussions that are needed to improve the workplace and the company itself. We should reward people for being honest, not “punish” them for saying something that we don’t like.

Conclusion

Becoming an Asker after living so long as a Guesser has been a challenge for me. It is uncomfortable because I was trained for so long to say the “right thing” or have the “right answer”. Sometimes being honest about what I want feels confrontational. It also feels vulnerable because I might get a “No”, which feels like being rejected. But being an Asker is about doing our best to be honest and expect honesty from others.

And “No” is a completely acceptable response.

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Further reading:

https://ask.metafilter.com/55153/Whats-the-middle-ground-between-FU-and-Welcome#830421

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/askers-vs-guessers/340891/

Categories
Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

180 – Ask For Help

Ask For Help

 

“Don’t be ashamed to need help. Like a soldier storming a wall, you have a mission to accomplish. And if you’ve been wounded and you need a comrade to pull you up? So what?”

— Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics teach us that we are part of the human community, that we’re here to help and support our fellow humans. We are social animals, and as much as we may think that we are independent, we’ve thrived as humans because of our cooperation. None of us can survive just on our own. We rely on each other in a very interconnected society.

Let’s look at a practical example of how we’re all physically reliant on each other. When you buy groceries from the store, you rely on all the people that built the store, run the store, and create food and other goods for that store. As much as you try, you can never be truly 100% self sufficient. Unless you walked naked out into the wilderness, used only what you could find, hunt, or harvest to create shelter and feed yourself, you are dependent on others.

Even understanding this basic principle, one of the hardest things for many of us in life is to ask for help.

Why? Why is this so hard for us?

There are a lot of reasons. Asking for help is being vulnerable. It is putting ourselves in a place where we might get rejected. We may feel like we are weak by asking for help. Societal ideas often reinforce this idea by promoting that we need to be strong and independent to be successful in life.

This is a lie.

Now some may think this a paradox of Stoicism. If we are to control what we can, doesn’t that mean that we should be self sufficient? Yes, we are need to control what we can, and be self sufficient. But controlling what you can, does not mean that you write off the rest of the world. It means that you do your part by managing your emotions and being the person that you want to be regardless of who other people think you should be. Asking for help is do something that we can control. Asking is communicating our needs, wants, and desires, and allowing others to choose to help us, or not.

Trust

For many of us, being able to ask for help comes down to trust. For those of us that grew up in difficult circumstances, we can find it hard to trust that other people won’t take advantage of us when we ask for help. We have a hard time trusting that someone else has our back. We may isolate ourselves physically, emotionally, or mentally so we don’t have to rely on other people.

This lack of trust can also lead to a lot of stress and unhappiness. When we interact with others, we’re often afraid that if we ask for something that we’ll be denied, so we often just do whatever we want without checking in with others. We may exclude others from our decision-making process because we are used to deciding things on how they impact us. Because we feel like we’re the only ones looking out for ourselves, we may not consider how our actions impact others.

Another impact this has on us is that we often try to take on too much and do whatever it is we’re trying to accomplish by ourselves because we don’t trust other people will help us. In a nutshell, we become control freaks because we don’t think that other people will have our best interests at heart, even if they have been supportive in the past.

Who Not How

So why should we trust other people? Why is it important to learn how to ask for help? To answer that question, I want to talk a little about a book I’ve been reading.

In their book “Who not How”, Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy discuss how important it is to work with other people to accomplish the things we want to in our lives. They illustrate this point by discussing how Michael Jordan never would have had the success in his career on his own. In order to win as many games and championships as Jordan and the Chicago Bulls did, they needed to assemble the right team. This included Phil Jackson as coach and other stellar players like Scotty Pippen. Working together, they built one of the greatest basketball teams ever. Michael Jordan, for as truly talented as he was, never could have had such a winning career by himself.

“Do you have Whos in your life that give you the perspectives, resources, and ability to go beyond what you could do alone? Or are you keeping your goals so small to make them easier to accomplish them on your own? Do you really think you must be the one to put in the blood, sweat, and tears, bearing the whole load to prove your capability?”

— Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy

When I read this, it really gave me pause. There are many things that I want to get accomplish in my life that I try to take on myself. And while I do have the skill to accomplish them from start to finish, I could get them done much quicker and have higher quality if I were willing to ask for help. I know that doing so also helps with organizing because I have to schedule something with other people in mind and not try to keep the schedule in my head. It also means that I could expand the size and scope of the project because I would have people onboard who would be stronger in areas where I’m weak.

Taking a little more from Who Not How:

“It can be easy to focus on How, especially for high achievers who want to control what they can control, which is themselves. It takes vulnerability and trust to expand your efforts and build a winning team. It takes wisdom to recognize that 1) other people are more than capable enough to handle much of the Hows, and 2) that your efforts and contribution (your “Hows”) should be focused exclusively where your greatest passion and impact are. Your attention and energy should not be spread thin, but purposefully directed where you can experience extreme flow and creativity. Results, not effort, is the name of the game. You are rewarded in life by the results you produce, not the effort.”

Personal Growth

Now much of what I’ve talked about focused a lot on career and work, but we can apply it to our personal lives. If we want to live healthy and happier lives, we all need people to help us where we lack in our lives. When we’re sick, it’s great to have someone willing to do those things that we’re cannot do for ourselves. We need friends who help support us when we struggling. When we share our lives with others and share our struggles, we also find out that we’re not the only ones that struggle. When we’re vulnerable, it allows others to be vulnerable and share their struggles with us. We get the chance to support others and be supported.

People also love to be supportive and helpful. For example, I was afraid to ask for contributions to my podcast for a long time. I was afraid of what others would think. But people have been happy to step up and support me in this endeavor. They’ve also offered some ideas that I’m working on to expand the reach and impact of this podcast, and find more ways to share Stoic principles with more people. They’ve also been vulnerable and shared their struggles with me, and I appreciate it. It’s helpful for me to know that I’m not alone in navigating the complexities of life.

Sharing our lives with others is also a source of a lot of joy. For example, camping with friends is something I really enjoy. Being able to connect with others out in nature certainly recharges my batteries. Sharing a sunset or sunrise with good friends is something that I look forward to.

We also need other people for us to see our flaws, because we all have blind spots in our own thinking and behavior. I know in my case having a partner who is stronger in areas that I’m weak has helped me become a better person. Her rationality, and she is a lot more rational than I am, her insights into people, and her ability to explain other points of view that I may not have considered have helped me grow in ways that I would not have been able to on my own. She’s also helps me see where I am weak, which is not always comfortable, and difficult to own up to. She holds me accountable to act like the person I’ve said I want to be.

How To Ask

So how do ask for help? Well, this is something that we don’t need to overcomplicate. We ask. We try to be as clear as we can in what we’re asking for. Sometimes we need to feel validated. Sometimes we need to vent. Sometimes we need help. But we ask. We need to make sure that we aren’t asking someone to do something that we should do for ourselves. Asking someone to change who they are because it doesn’t suit us is not a very healthy ask for either person.

With that said, we also need to be okay with someone refusing our ask. Just because we got up the courage to ask does not mean that the other person has to comply. Remember, we are all free to choose what we are and are not willing to do. We also should not guilt other people into doing what we ask. Trying to control and manipulate others is never a healthy way to get something done. If they aren’t willing to help, that’s okay. We now know that they are not someone we can go to for help in that specific area. They may help in other areas, so we also need to be sure that we don’t just write someone off because they aren’t doing what we want.

Asking for help is something that we can all get better at. The next time you are striving for your dream, or struggling with a problem in life, remember, many hands make light work.


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Categories
Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism wisdom

179 – Do Hard Things

Do Hard Things

“Give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths.”

— Epictetus

The unglamorous, most powerful way to accomplish your goals and becoming the person that you want to become.

One thing that fascinates me about humans is our desire to find the easy way to do almost anything. So many of the things that we think of as necessities in our modern lives are simply things that make our lives easier. Things like dishwashers, microwaves, and email. All things that help us accomplish things that would otherwise take much longer to accomplish. Washing dishes or clothes by hand, while not exceptionally difficult, nonetheless take up quit a bit of time. Microwaves cook our food in less than half the time of traditional cooking. Dashing off an email takes far less effort than writing and mailing a letter.

None of these things are good or bad. They are simply tools to accomplish things in a shorter span of time. But just like everything, it comes with a cost. As we get used to the comfort and ease these tools bring to our lives, it gets easy to become complacent. We get used to things being easy and instant. We get bored if we’re not entertained. We find it hard to focus on and accomplish things that we want to. We get distracted by all the new and shiny things. We find it challenging when things are hard and take time.

Do you want to accomplish your goals? Do you want have more motivation throughout your day? Do you want to grow more as a person? If there is one thing that you can do in life that will help you to accomplish your goals in life, it is this:

How willing you are to do hard things, and how willing you are to suffer to accomplish them.

Why Do Hard Things?

“To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.”

— Albert Einstein

Doing easy things does not bring about much of a sense of accomplishment. It’s when we push ourselves to our edge, challenge ourselves and take on a goal or task that feels risky or scary that’s when we feel alive. When we push through the difficulties and work our way through to the other side, it feels amazing.

If you want to have career success like Hugh Jackman or Steve Jobs, you have to do hard things. You have to get up each day and do the things that others don’t want to. You get up and you go for a run. You get up and go down to the basement and do that workout. You make a plan and follow it. You do the things that others don’t.

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a person perfected without trials.”

— Seneca

When it comes to growing as humans, taking the easy way never brings the fulfillment that we need. Personal growth is hard. If you want to be an exceptional human, or even just above average, you have to put in the work. There is no other way around it. You can’t have someone else do the work for you. There is no machine that magically turns you into an awesome person. There are no shortcuts in growing, and remember that it’s the journey, it’s doing the work is the point, not just reaching the destination.

To state the obvious, doing hard things is hard. That’s why everyone doesn’t have a body like Jessica Alba. Not everyone can sing like Kelly Clarkson or play the cello like Yo Yo Ma. It’s hard work.

Death Gives Clarity

The Stoics ask us to reflect on our own mortality. Momento Mori. Remember that we could die at any moment. Why is this important? Why think about death?

1. When we look through the lens of our own mortality, we get a clearer idea of things that are important to us.

2. We stop putting off important things until “later”, because there might not be a “later”.

Carpe Diem

— Robin Williams, Dead Poet Society

Let me put it this way…when you get to the end of your life and look back, would you rather reflect on how many hours you spent watching TV, or would you rather reflect on how you were able to grow and strive towards reaching your full potential?

I know for me I want the latter.

Massive Action

Training yourself to be disciplined and dedicated is hard work, but I think that there are two aspects of how to do hard things. Massive action, and small actions.

Brooke Castillo, my favorite life coach, talks about taking massive action. What this means is identifying what is going to move the needle the fastest. When we are able to make some great progress in a short amount of time, we can build up momentum to push through when things get tough.

Often, the massive action doesn’t have to be great, it just has to get done. Maybe something like writing a crappy first draft of a book over a weekend or writing 5 songs in a week regardless of how good or bad they turn out. Maybe it’s slowly walking a 5 miles on a weekend. It doesn’t matter if it’s great the first time. It matters that you took action that moved the needle.

Taking massive action gives you something to hold onto that helps keep you moving forward. In our example of the crappy first draft . If you have a crappy first draft of a book, you have something to work with. You have a foundation to build off of.

A good example of massive action in my own life is this podcast. My massive action was that I put out an episode every day for the first 137 days, a feat which still surprises me. I did slow down over time because what I wanted out of the podcast changed. I wanted to go a little deeper into each topic, and make it a little longer. I also wanted to spend time with my friends and family, so slowing the pace was necessary. But having created a large body of work made it easier to return to creating episodes after taking a break for over year.

Small Actions

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

— Bruce Lee

In 2003, I was watching the Ironman Triathlon broadcast from Hawaii. Now if you’ve never seen the Ironman, it’s pretty badass. It starts with a 5 mile open water swim, a 122 mile bicycle ride, and a full 26 mile marathon at the end. Finishing one is the probably the hardest sporting challenge a person can accomplish.

At the time, I was overweight, in terrible shape, and not very happy with my health. Watching the Ironman inspired me. Seeing the dedication and dogged persistence that those people, many of them just regular people and not professional athletes, lit a fire in me.

Over the next two years, I dedicated myself to training for triathlons. I started out small, just running for 15 minutes a day around my neighborhood. I was exhausted, my legs hurt, and my lungs burned, but I felt more alive than I had for years.

I started swimming at my gym. I would do 5 painfully slow laps per session. Over time I built up to 20 laps in the same amount of time.

I enrolled in spin classes and later bought my first road bike. As time went on, I found a passion for cycling and changed my focus. At my peak I was putting in around 200 miles a week on my bike and completed several century rides – rides of 100 miles. I also lost 55 lbs.

The most important lesson I learned from my years of cycling, is that consistency is king. If we want to actually finish what we start, we must become a master at building habits. Doing a small “hard thing” every day helps us get used to struggling. We get used to suffering for the things we want. That hard thing will be different for each person. It can be something that supports you in your goals or not, but it has to be something that challenges you. I should also be something that starts small and you do it every day until you don’t have to think about whether you should or shouldn’t. You just do it.

For example, say that you want to get up each morning and workout. If you get up on your first day and do a 60 minute workout after not having worked out for years, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ll be sore for a few days. You might resent how much time it takes, so remember to start small. Maybe on your first week, you get up and stretch for 5 minutes, do 10 push ups, and 10 sit ups. The next week, you might bump that up to 15 pushups, 15 sit ups. The next week you might add in some pull-ups or some free weights. The point is that you do it every day.

Once you have one habit that you do every day, add another. Then another. Soon you have a day that is a stack of habits of your choosing.

Feeling accomplished at cycling helped me feel more confident overall and willing to try other things that I might have felt were to scary or risky before. I also found that I was better able to create and keep helpful habits. Now that I’ve been out of cycling regularly, I miss that fire and drive. I’m also about 30 lbs overweight and I’m not happy with where my health is. I wrote this episode for me because I want to get back to doing hard things.

Process

An important aspect to remember about this are that you shouldn’t wait to feel motivated to start something. If you wait to “feel motivated”, you may never get it done. Take the feeling out of it.

Like we talked about last week:

“You can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so.”

— Marcus Aurelius

So if motivation is not what’s going to help us achieve things, what will?

Process. Process is greater than motivation. Motivation comes from momentum, and your process is what helps you create momentum. When you create a defined process, you have a clear step by step guide that makes it easy to know what you need to do to accomplish your goal. Creating a process also helps you anticipate roadblocks and plan around them, which removes a lot of fear and anxiety that pops up when we set out to do hard things.

Do you want to be a good writer? You get up everyday and you write. You remove the distractions. You close you browser and silence your phone and you write. Then you do the next day, and the day after that. Even if you don’t have anything to write about or that you think is any good, you write and you edit and you write until you start to find your voice. You practice your craft every day. You do the hard things.

You want to be a great singer? Then you practice everyday. You do your scales every day. You sing the same song over and over until you know it so well that you almost hate it. You listen to your singing coach and follow their instructions. You do the hard things.

Want to have a better relationship? You have to do all the small things every day. You have to communicate with your partner. You have to consider their needs along with your own. You have to set healthy boundaries for yourself, and respect theirs. You have to put in the work. Just putting in the minimum, or “phoning it in” as they say, won’t get you there. You don’t build a strong and healthy relationship without effort. You do the hard things.

Doing hard things is a core and fundamental piece to accomplishing anything worthwhile. It helps to give our lives meaning, and creates a sense of accomplishment. The next time you face a particularly scary challenge, don’t turn away because it’s not easy, rather turn into it because it’s hard.


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178 – If It’s Endurable, Then Endure It

If It’s Endurable, Then Endure It

“Everything that happens is either endurable or not. If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. If it’s unendurable… then stop complaining. Your destruction will mean its end as well. Just remember: you can endure anything your mind can make endurable, by treating it as in your interest to do so.”

— Marcus Aurelius

How often do we complain about the things that we don’t like about in life? There are so many things to complain about in life. Even at this moment, there are so many things to complain about. The Pandemic. The government. Politics. Our relationships with others. Money. Even the weather. We can all find things to complain about.

Complaining about something wishes things to be other than they are. It is trying to get the universe to change for us. The universe doesn’t care about our complaints. If you are able, do something about it. If you are cannot, accept it, let it go, and move on. To continue complaining is a waste of time and energy.

Why do we complain?

I think there are several reasons. Many of these have to do with covering up our own insecurities.

Attention – People often complain about things because it’s much easier that actually doing something about it. Internet trolls are a prime example of this behavior.

Avoid Responsibility – Blame other people or things so that you are not responsible for things failing. We don’t want to be the reason that we failed.

Excuses – This often is self soothing for things that are outside of our control. We don’t need to make excuse for things we can’t control.

Superiority – People will try to lift themselves up by putting others down. By pointing out someone else’s failures, they imply that they are superior to the other person.

Manipulation – This is often used as a way to bond with others. “If you hate the same things I do, we’re on the same side!”

Honesty is the best medicine

When we complain, it’s usually because we have expectations that are not met. We think that things should be other than they are. The fact that we have expectations mean that we think we have some kind of control over something. Because we think that something should or should not have happened the way that it did. The sooner we can recognize and accept how things really are, the less time we spend wishing things were otherwise.

Now, this does not mean that we should simply suffer in silence. Talking about things that are bothering us and saying them out loud a good way to understand what is bothering us. Sometimes we just need to vent.

The difference between talking through an issue and complaining is the motivation behind it. When you are discussing a problem or venting about an issue, you are trying to get things out into the open. You are expressing how you feel about something. It’s an investigation about what you are feeling and thinking. There is no expectation that anything is going to change. Complaining is putting things out there and expecting them to change without you having to do anything to affect that change.

Getting things out into the open is very important. The sooner we get them out, the more honest we can be about what is going on and the better we can identify what the reality of a situation is. The longer you hold onto these thoughts, the more they can drag you down. The more they float around in our minds, the longer they stay unresolved and often feel like they compound things and make it feel like they are much bigger than they really are. This is why talk therapy or journaling are so helpful for resolving problems.

What to do if we are a complainer?

We can notice when we are annoyed or frustrated by something. Be honest about why we’re complaining.

Are we hoping that things will change? Are wishing that someone else would fix this? Are we blaming others? Then we’re complaining.

Are we trying to figure out what’s bothering us? Are we just venting? Sometime talking through an issue out loud is exactly what we need to identify what is bothering us. And sometimes we just need to vent.

If we’ve identified that we can do something, are we willing to do it? We may not be in a place where we can. If we are, it’s a good time to ask for help if that’s something that we need.

If we’ve identified that we can’t do anything about it, sometimes just venting is all we need to get it out and let it go.

What to do if we are with a complainer?

Ask them if they are just venting, or if they are they looking for a solution. Ask if they want our opinion. Ask them what they are going to do about it.

If they’re venting, we can be that sounding board for them. We all need someone to listen to us and help us when things are hard.

If they’re asking for help, we can offer our opinions. We can offer our help if that is something we want to give.

We also need to not to take on their emotional labor. That means if they’re frustrated or upset about something, they may try to push those emotions on others, usually a partner or close friend, and expect them to try to soothe them and fix it. We can let them know we are not responsible for fixing their problems. We can listen. We can be supportive. We do not need to fix it for them and doing so robs them of the opportunity to grow. It also means that we are enabling them to continue in their unhelpful behavior.

Do what you can

I remember a few years ago when Neil Diamond was on tour and came down with the flu. While he was recovering, he still wanted to perform, but he let the audience know that because to his cold he was not up to his usual standard. He offered to refund anyone’s ticket to that wanted their money back and then went on to perform. Not a single person took up the offer. He did not complain. He did not make this anyone else’s problem. He took responsibility for what had control over.

Complaining is a lazy way to deal with a problem, because it is hoping that by airing our grievances they will somehow magically change for us. It’s how we become a victim and make ourselves powerless by giving our power away to people and things outside of ourselves.bra

If we can clearing identify a situation for what it is, do what we can, and let go of the things we can’t, we can stay in control ourselves and maintain our equanimity.


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177 – Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

 

“It is our own opinions that disturb us. Take away these opinions and resolve to dismiss your judgment about an act as if it were something grievous, and your anger is gone.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Over the centuries, the term “stoic” evolved from the original meaning of someone that follows the philosophy of Stoicism, to someone who does not show emotions.

When you look up the definition of stoic in the dictionary, it says:

“stoic: Not affected by or showing passion or feeling. Firmly restraining response to pain or distress.”

Stoics are not emotionless automatons. All humans feel emotions. Reading Meditations, Marcus Aurelius seems far from being cold and emotionless.

“If you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.”

— Marcus Aurelius

Practicing stoicism is not about repressing emotions. It is not about pretending you feel nothing. It’s about understanding how your mind works, so that you can use it to benefit you and those around you. It’s about finding balance and equanimity. It’s recognizing that you have control over what you think, feel, and do. If you are swayed by every little thing other people say, or frustrated by outside events, you will be at the whims of your emotions. Others will easily control and manipulate you.

So why do people equate being stoic with being emotionless? I think it’s because anyone that follows the tenants of stoicism understands that emotions are like the weather. They come and go. They’re in a constant state of flux. Because they understand this, Stoics know that if you sit with uncomfortable emotions for a while, they will eventually change. They will pass.

Whenever you have a thought, you create an emotional state. Some are subtle and others can be powerful, but every single emotion starts from a thought. It could be a very conscious thought you are actively choosing to think about. It could be a non-conscious background thought that you aren’t particularly aware of.

When we’re offended or upset by someone, it says more about us than about the other person. The thoughts that create the emotion are our own, not someone else’s. If you are offended, it’s because you chose to be offended. Your mind creates every emotion you have. If you are the one creating your emotions, you also have the power to change your emotional state. By processing those difficult emotions, you are also taking responsibility for your emotions. You recognize you cause those emotions and you do not blame them on other people or events.

As Brooke Castillo, one of my favorite life coaches, says, “No one can make you feel anything without your permission.”

Other People

Another reason that people think of being stoic as being emotionless is that your reaction is being compared to how other people might react in the same situation. The person making the judgement has their own idea of how someone “should” respond. Because a Stoic does not react how they think someone should, it seems strange. It also means that it is someone else’s opinion, and as we all know, that is something we don’t have control over.

When we get comfortable with uncomfortable emotions we also do not take on other people’s emotions. Now what do I mean by this? When someone is angry or frustrated with us, they may try to use those emotions to control or manipulate us. We may feel it’s up to us to change in order to manage their emotions. It is not. Their emotions are theirs to deal with. It is not up to us to manage their emotional state. When we can learn to separate ourselves from someone else’s frustration or anger, we can act in a way that is calm and wise. We don’t let others control us.

Examples

Let’s look at some examples.

If someone says something rude or offensive to you, is what they said intrinsically offensive? Like if someone said that you looked like a warthog, would that offend you? It is only offensive because of your judgment. It’s only offensive because of the meaning that you give to it. Maybe you think warthogs are awesome and fierce, so you could take it as a compliment.

Another example. Say that you’re feeling down and sad about something. You feel that emotional distress. You may feel depressed. Suddenly someone says something that makes you laugh and suddenly your mood has changed. The feeling may not completely go away, but the intensity lessens. All because what your mind focused on shifted. The power those thoughts had over your mind moments before has faded.

Bad Choices

Succumbing to your emotional reactions can be a detriment to the task you are trying to accomplish. I remember seeing a new report after a particularly devastating earthquake in Haiti. Some aid workers were so disturbed by the devastation, they felt overwhelmed with shock and sadness. And while this is a natural feeling, getting stuck in that sadness made them far less effective than if they recognize they were making the tragedy all about them rather than the people they were there to serve. If they had taken the time to recognize which things are not in their control and focused instead on what they can control, they would have been much more effective.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t shouldn’t feel what you feel. Having empathy and compassion for others is part of what makes us better humans. But learning to sit with those uncomfortable emotions and finding better ways to process them helps you and those around you in the long run.

Know Thyself

I think the most important tool in learning to sit with uncomfortable emotions, is that we need to identify what we’re feeling, and ask why we’re feeling the way we do. Are you angry? Fearful? Ashamed? Why? Often the reason that we feel uncomfortable is that there is truth in what someone said.

Maybe we’re insecure about something. Maybe we acted in a way we’re not proud of and we don’t want to own up to. Maybe there is some true injustice happening, and that’s feeling is a signal for us to step up and take some action.

To be a Stoic is to be striving to be a better you and being willing to stretch yourself when things are hard. It is being willing to develop strength in areas that others won’t. It means developing the mental fortitude to recognize how your emotions are impacting your thinking. It is finding healthier ways to process emotions. Maybe that means you go for a run or a walk when you’re angry. Maybe it means that you give yourself some time to just vent to a friend or even just out loud.

Just remember that an emotion is sensation in your body, and barring certain medical conditions, an emotion can’t physically harm you. It won’t kill you. Emotions are the drivers of our actions, which is why it’s so important to sit with them, especially when they are uncomfortable. Because emotions change and fluctuate so easily, we know that the emotion will subside just by thinking different thoughts. If we can’t sit with uncomfortable emotions, we’re prone to acting out in ways are harmful to ourselves and others.

Any time you have an uncomfortable feeling, don’t run from it. Embrace it and ask what it is trying to tell you. If you don’t understand what you’re feeling, how are you going to know how to respond properly? If you fly off the handle at every minor challenge or lose your cool when things don’t go your way, you’ll be easily derailed. The more you can sit with uncomfortable emotions, the better you will be at handling difficult situations.


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176 – Win Or Learn, Then You Never Lose

Win or Learn, Then you Never Lose

I have a card in my office that I look at from time to time. It says, “Win or learn, then you never lose.” I don’t know how I got this card or where it came from. I love that quote so much I have it sitting on my desk as a daily reminder that I when I feel like I’m failing at something to remember that I’m really just learning something.

Why is it so hard to look at things with this kind of perspective?

Expectations

From the day we start school, they encourage us to get good grades. We’re encouraged to do what teachers expect from us. We learn how we’re measured, tested, quantified. We learn what is considered “good” and “bad”. As we get older, we’re often discouraged from figuring things out, to be curious, and explore, and instead come up with the “right” answers.

This kind of thinking leads us to focus on the outcome, and to only judge what is happening based on what others think is the “correct” outcome. We get so focused on this idea of finding the right answers we miss a lot of chances for growth along the way.

What if you could look at everything that happens to you as something you can learn from? What if you could train your mind to see everything as an opportunity? What if you could resist less, and flow more?

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

—Marcus Aurelius

When we frame our experiences as a place for learning, experimenting, and exploring, we see that the doing, the actual work is important. Every time we make an attempt, we get a little better. We find what might make things a little more efficient, a little more impactful. Even day is a step towards getting where we want to go. Every challenge that we come across is just one more lesson we get to learn. Each step we have to repeat, the better we get at it.

When we focus on the process, we are doing the things that we can control. When we take each challenge as a step in learning, we can refine our process. We may even start with one process, then throw the whole thing out and create a new one all together. When we are willing to be in a constant state of learning, we always win. If we are only looking to win, we miss out on so many parts of the experience.

Let’s look at a real-life example.

When I first started singing in my high school choir, I really didn’t know what I was doing. I loved music. I sang along with songs on the radio. I sang hymns at church. But I was certainly no Frank Sinatra or Placido Domingo. I often sang off pitch. The quality of my voice was thin and a little rough. Sometimes I felt embarrassed because I would sing something quite different from what my fellow tenors were singing. I would end up singing along with the sopranos who usually had the melody.

But as time went along, I kept getting better. Each day I would learn a little more about how to sing. A note that seemed too high the week before was a little easier. As my vocal cords become stronger, I was more accurate in my pitch. As my longs strengthened, I could hold my notes a little longer. The timbre of my voice became smoother and richer.

I also took voice lessons from a great teacher, who helped me build a strong foundation of correct singing. At first, it was scary to stand in front of a single person and sing. Especially someone as good as my teacher. But I knew that if I wanted to get better, having someone help me get to know my voice and how to use it would help me develop the processes I needed to become a better singer. I learned exercises to strengthen my voice. Exercises to get better at hitting the right pitch. I learned to move my mouth, neck, and body to create the sound I wanted. How to breathe to get the most power and control. How to sing delicately while still staying on pitch.

But interestingly enough, I found that the biggest impediment to becoming a better singer was worrying about how good I was in comparison to others. When I would get down on myself about how I didn’t sound as good as some of the others who had been singing for years, I would get nervous and it was like I had almost forgotten all the things I had learned. When I worried about what others thought, I would usually sing far worse than if I didn’t care, and sang because I wanted to sing.

I think that much of my success with singing came because I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was okay with not sounding great when I started off. I remember thinking when I successfully auditioned for the choir that it would be a great way to learn how to sing. The overall outcome I wanted to was to learn to be a better singer, which was something that I had control over. If my goal had been to sing a certain number solos or to have a recording contract, then I probably would have failed because those were things I did not have any control over.

Application

Now that we know this on a cognitive level, how can we apply this in real life? I mean it’s one thing to know it, it’s another to do it.

First, be clear that nothing is a mistake. It is a process. Think of it like an airplane. An airplane is never perfectly on course. In fact, it is off course most of the trip and is constantly making small course corrections along the way. We’re very much the same way. Think of every step in getting to your goal as something to work through. It is there to teach you. It’s a puzzle to be solved.

Second, don’t waste the experience. When you feel you have failed at something, which I think we all do, sit down and write what you learned from that failure. What are the things that you didn’t know before? What are the things you know now? What can you do differently next time?

Third, don’t let the idea of failing stop you. Accept that failing is learning. Accept that you won’t get it right the first time, or even the second or third. In fact, you may never get it right. But if you learn something from it? Well, then you’ve succeeded.

The goals that we set should be guides, stars that help us along the way. But if we only judge our success by whether we achieved the stated goal, then there’s a greater chance we’ll fail. If you set your goal to learn what you can from trying different things and improve based upon your experience, you’ll have a much better chance of succeeding.

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175 – Circumstances and Choices

Circumstances and Choices

One of the core tenants of Stoicism is understanding the things we control and the things we cannot control. Today I want to discuss this a bit more in depth.

“Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.”

— Epictetus

Circumstances and Externals

First, I want to focus on the things that we don’t have control over.

Our property is anything that we own. We don’t control what happens to our things. An earthquake, fire, or flood could ruin our home. Someone could crash into our car. Our computer or jewelry or money could be stolen.

Our reputation, or namely, what other people think of us. This is hard because we want to be liked by other people, and to some extent are driven by what others think of us. But simply put, we have absolutely no control over what other people think of us. As an aside to this, since we cannot control what other people think of us, this also means that we cannot control other people. Since other people’s moods and actions are driven by how they think, and we cannot control what they think, we cannot control other people.

Our office, or the position in life. This includes things like the circumstances of out birth. For example, we don’t control if we were born white or Black, Finnish or Filipino. We can’t control the nation that we are born in. We can’t control if we are born into a wealthy family. These are all things that are just pure luck.

This also includes aspects of our career or politic power. We can choose our career, but how successful we are is not up to us. We can work hard and make the best choices we can, but we often get promoted at work because of the choices of other people. We may choose to run for political office but we get elected to office because other people vote for us.

Probably the most surprising thing for many on the list of things that we don’t control is our body. You might think, well, I do have control over my body. Can you stop your body from breaking down? Can you stop simply make an illness stop? No, you can’t.

Thinking

Now that we clarified what things outside of our control, let’s dive into what we do have control over. Epictetus tells us we control how and what we think. Let’s take each of the things that he mentions and dissect it.

Opinions are our judgments about people and events. These are our beliefs about the world. These are formed by our experience, our knowledge, what other people have told us, and our own biases and superstitions. These are the things that we think of as “true”, and in a sense, they are true for us.

Motivations are the reasons and meanings that we give to things, or why we think things happen the way they do. When we make assumptions about why people do things, we are ascribing motivations to them. This is of course just our opinion about why we think they do something.

Desires are things we want, such as material things, career, personal pursuits and growth. These our own motivations. This is the “why” behind the things that we do.

Aversions are things we avoid, dislike, and may even hate. This is the “why” or the motivation behind the things we avoid or will not do.

These things that Epictetus has laid out are the things that influence our thinking. They are integral to our complete thought process. Each of these aspects is so important to understand because how we think is the key to the choices that we make, and the actions we take.

Choices

So when it comes down to it, our thoughts and choices are the only things that we actually have control over. Everything else is outside of our control.

Everything.

When you look at everything as a circumstance or a choice, it becomes much easier to see what our options are in any situation. When we clearly understand what our options, it is easier to make a choice, and those choices lead to actions, which lead to the results we get. We many not have many options. We may not like our options. They may completely suck. But the better we get at clearly recognizing our options, the more willing we are to make choices. The more choices we make, the better we get at making better choices.

Shifting to this way of thinking is not easy. From my experience, most of us go through life thinking that we have a lot more control over what happens to us. When we recognize that we have very little control over what happens to us in life, it can be downright scary, or it can be downright liberating.

The less we have control over, the more we can focus on the things that we do have control over. We can focus on understanding how we think. We can examine our opinions. We can see if our beliefs about things are holding us back or influencing us in a way that is detrimental. We can stop wasting energy on things we don’t control.

The most important thing that we can do each day is to practice seeing what our options are and making choices.

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

— Neil Peart (Drummer and lyricists of Rush)

It’s okay to decide not to make a choice. Sometimes we don’t have enough information, or we feel overwhelmed by too much information. Sometimes is not a choice that is worth our time. Steve Jobs and Barack Obama both simplified their wardrobes so that they did not have to spend time make choices they felt were unimportant. You can do the same. Choosing to not make a choice, or to delay a choice, is still making a choice. But by making it intentional, you are exerting control over your life.

Influence

Many of the things we cannot control, we may think that we have influence over. But I want to caution about this way of thinking. I think we should view things as either circumstances OR as things we can control. Why is it important to get rid of this grey area? Because believing we have influence over something is a messy area that can lead to very poor choices.

“Influencing” is not an action, it is just a perception. You can’t choose to influence someone or a situation. However, you can make a choice, take an action, and the result of that action may or may not influence someone or influence an outcome.

Influence is also something difficult, if not impossible, to measure. When you think that you have influence over something, you think that you have some semblance of control over it. By keeping things clearly in the categories of things you do have control over, and things you do not have control over, you are able to think more clearly, and you don’t fall victim to hubris.

Practice

So how do we become better at seeing our options and making choices? I plan on making an episode about how to make better choices, so that I can give it the focus that needs. But in the meantime, taking some time each day to write down your options when it comes a decision is a good place to start. You can also examine the choices you make each day and eliminate the ones that are not important.

Clearly seeing things we do and don’t have control over is a skill that can impact every aspect of our lives. It can help lower our stress and help us make better and faster decisions. It can save us energy by focusing on the important things in our lives and letting go of the rest.

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174 – You Are Good Enough

You are Good Enough

“A person’s worth is measured by the worth of what they value.”

Marcus Aurelius

The other day I was talking with someone close to me who said that they often felt extremely anxious in social settings, at work, or even video chatting with people online. I asked them why, and they said, “Because I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing and they’ll get mad at me.” I mentioned the usual things like, “It’s not your place to try and control what other people think and feel. To try to do so is just manipulation”, and “How they feel is not your problem to deal with, it is theirs”. And while these things are true, I didn’t feel like I got to the root of the issue.

In thinking about it over the last few days, I think it comes down to one thing – they do not value themselves. They do not feel “good enough”, that they are not worthy. I know that a lot of us struggle with this, but I want to tell you this – you are of value. You are worthy. Why do I know that? Because you are a human being, and every human being is worthy because they exist. You were not put here to live for someone else. You are here to realize your full potential, and if you are living for others, you are not following your path.

I have often wondered how it is that every person loves themself more than all others, but yet sets less value on their own opinion of themself than on the opinion of others.

Marcus Aurelius

This person, like me, is a recovering people pleaser. They struggle with it because they are also a nurturing person and sometimes the line between nurturing and people pleasing is not very clear. I understand this. My people pleasing came from my own insecurities of feeling like I’m not good enough, so I would try to get my validation from other people.

This is is not an unusual thing. I think many of us are brought up in ways which teach us that our opinions, our thoughts, our desires, are not worth anything. We’re taught that our value comes from following what others expect us to do. This includes all kinds of things like where to go to college, what our profession should be, even who we should marry.

The truth of it is Our thoughts, your desires, are all valid. All of them. Sure they might be considered silly, weird, or even disgusting by others. That is their opinion. The thing is, we are allowed to live our lives any way that we want. We get to live in the way that we think is best for us. We get to chose who we want to be. We are not here to live for someone else. With this also comes the realization that everyone else gets to do the same. They get to live life how they want to as well. They are not put here to live the way that we think they should.

Now, with that said, this does not mean that we are free from the consequences of how we want to live our lives. If we choose to abuse drugs, we can’t make the physical and mental consequences that happen magically go away. If we choose to live a life of violence, there are consequences that come with it, such as becoming the victim of violence, ending up in prison, or possibly death.

We also need to consider that we’re often fine with not keeping our commitments to ourselves, yet we’re afraid to disappoint others. Why is this be the case? Why should your commitments to yourself be less important than what other think?

This is what the Stoic’s mean by valuing your opinion over that of others. In fact, the better you become at defining your core values and living them regardless of what others think, the more control you will have over your life. Since Stoicism teaches us that we need to control the things we can, by defining our values, and living them, we are controlling the one thing we can control, namely ourselves. The more you worry about what others think, and try to live the way that they expect you to, the more control you are giving to them over your life.

“Attach yourself to what is spiritually superior, regardless of what other people think or do. Hold to your true aspirations no matter what is going on around you.”

Epictetus

But this does bring up a question – isn’t this a selfish way of living? Isn’t paying attention to our needs over those of others selfish? I think it’s just the opposite. I think of it like the instructions they give you on an airplane. You need to secure your mask before you help others. If you’re constantly pushing off what you need for others, you are not living to your fullest potential. You’re not running at your best. When you’re taking care of yourself, you are able to be more helpful to others. There will be people who think this is selfish, but that is just their opinion. We don’t have any control over what they think. But if you are acting in a way that is inline with your core beliefs, then by your own definition, you are not being selfish.

This also means that we do not have to justify ourselves and our choices to other people. We do not need their approval to live the way that we want to. We do not need their approval to be who we want to be. Their approval is something that is outside of our control. Seeking approval from others is just another way of people pleasing and worrying about the opinions of others.

When we choose to live according to our values, we have control over ourselves, and we are better able to be actors in our lives. We are more responsible for ourselves because we are choosing the kind of life, and the kind of person that we want to be, not what other people think we should do or be.


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Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism wisdom

172 – Responsibility

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Responsibility

How is one responsible for themselves?

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

– Marcus Aurelius

On this podcast I talk a lot about being responsible for for your own actions and thoughts, but what does that really mean? How do you actually accomplish this?

When you take responsibility for yourself, you recognize that it’s your own thoughts which create your feelings. You can step back and see that you can change how you view a situation. Regardless of what anyone else does or says, you are in command of your emotions. By choosing to think differently about what is happening around you, you don’t give power to other people over how you feel.

If we are upset because of what someone else said, we don’t blame them for how we feel. No one can make us feel anything without our permission. And while this is great in theory, it is hard to put into practice. Even our language makes it easy to blame others. “You made me so angry!”

On the flip side of that, we do not own someone else’s feelings. If they feel something, it is their own thinking that creates their feelings. They are responsible for how they feel, not you. This doesn’t mean that we have to be jerks. We can be compassionate and understanding. But if they don’t like something we say and they blame us for how they feel, we don’t take ownership of that.

What does it mean to be responsible?

Let’s break down the word: responsabilis, which is latin for “to sponsor or pledge, to be answerable for.” And -ility which means to act. So in a nutshell it means, “to act in the way that you have pledged”.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good person should be. Be one.”

– Marcus Aurelius

I think the biggest key to taking responsibility for you actions comes down to one thing:

Choice.

Choices are active. Being responsible means choosing to take action, rather than being acted upon. Choose your response to others instead of just reacting. Reactions are giving up our ability to choose.

In every situation, we have choices. They may not be many but we always have a choice.

Rather than simply waiting for something to happen so you can respond, be proactive and choose to act.

Don’t just avoid doing evil, choose to actively do good.

Rather than avoiding saying mean things, choose to say encouraging things.

Rather than trying to not get angry, we can work on being kind and compassionate.

Rather than avoiding an uncomfortable situation, face it head on with courage.

Take action.

How do we get better at taking action?

As with developing any skill, the first step is awareness. The more aware we about what we think, what we say, and what we do, the more we can choose those things, rather than reacting. Awareness always takes lots of work. It means that we can’t run on autopilot. The brain tries to be efficient by relying on emotions or gut feelings. These are shortcuts. Being truly aware is hard. It means that we look at the situation, applying logic, think about options and outcomes, then act on our decision.

As we become more aware of our own thoughts, words, and actions, we need to take some time to think about what kind of person we want to be. We need to ask if those thoughts and actions help us become the kind of person we want to be? We need to plan how we want to act in a given situation. Then act.

If there is one thing that I can recommend that will really help with this, it’s paying attention to the language we use. We can practice changing our language. “I felt sad when I heard what you said.” Even further: “I felt sad, because I thought X when I heard what you said.”

Taking responsibility for our thoughts and actions is not easy. But I think it becomes easier when we take an actively making choices, rather than just passively avoiding uncomfortable situations. Be the driver of your life, not just a passive onlooker.

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Coffee Break philosophy self-improvement stoicism

169 – Why Do You Care What Others Think?

Why Do You Care What Others Think?
 
Why do you care what other people think?

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”

– Marcus Aurelius

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius warned us worrying about the opinion of others is a waste of time. But, if we live with other people and are social animals, shouldn’t we worry about what others think?

No, because what others think doesn’t change the intrinsic value of who or what is being judged. It’s just a thought in their mind. That is all.

While this is an easy concept to grasp, it is a hard thing to implement. From the day we’re born we seek the approval of other. Our parents and family at home. Our teachers at school. Our friends and co-workers. We all want to be liked.

But does someone’s opinion of us change our intrinsic value? Does someone else’s thoughts make us a better or worse person? No, it doesn’t. What other people think doesn’t have any bearing on whether you are a good or bad person. Whether you have value or not.

So what happens if we stop worrying about what other people think?

We save ourselves a lot of stress. We focus on how well we’re are doing in our personal growth. We stop worrying about what other people are doing with their lives. We stop focusing on the faults of others. We don’t worry about who others think we should be. We focus on becoming the person we want to be.

Because in the end, you’re the one that chooses who you are. You’re the only one who can decide who you want to be. If someone disapproves of you, or doesn’t like you, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change who you are.

Now, does this mean that we should completely ignore the opinions of others? No it doesn’t. I know that I just got done telling you the opinions of other shouldn’t matter to you, but we should listen to others to see if there are any facts or truth to what they have to say.

So how do we do this? How do we listen to the opinion of others, but not let the sway of it impact us? If someone disparages us, how do we let it go? If someone praises us how do we not let it go to our heads?

We do this by being curious. We listen for what is fact, and what is opinion. We leave the opinion for the other person. We verify the facts and use them to our benefit. We try to find the data, so that we can learn from it.

Let’s take an example. If you’re singing a song at a performance, and afterwards you overhear someone mention they didn’t like your performance. Should you be offended? Does it change your value? Does it change the performance? No.

Now let’s say that you go up to this person and ask them why they didn’t like your performance. They may mention something like the prefer a different kind of voice for that song. Maybe they didn’t like the style it was played in. Maybe it was their exes favorites song and it brings up bad memories for them. Most of these things are just their opinion. All of them are things that you cannot change.

But, if they were to tell you that a few notes were  flat, or you flubbed some of the lyrics in the second verse, these are factual things that you can verify. These are things that you can do something about. You can practice those tricky passages. You can work on memorizing the lyrics. In this case, you should be grateful for their feedback because others may not feel comfortable being that honest with you.

Learning to separate fact from opinion is a very powerful skill but it something that most of us are not very good at, but there are some ways that you can practice this. The next time you’re watching the news, pull out a sheet of paper, and split it in the middle into two columns. Label one column facts, and the other opinions. Pay attention to what the speaker says and write down which things are facts and which are opinions. Also notice how many things they state as facts but really are just opinions.

When you start to master this, try this in a conversation with someone. Think about what you are saying. Which things are facts and which are opinions?  How about the other person?

The buddhist’s teach that all suffering is caused by attachment. Attaching our self worth to the opinions of others is a way to truly suffer. It gives the other person control over you, and you become a victim. Learning how to let go of the opinions of others gives you the strength to stay true to your core values.

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Coffee Break

158 – How To Be Alone

How To Be Alone

Humans are very social creatures. It is our ability to be social and to cooperate in large numbers that has enabled us to create such amazing societies. We usually feel most at home when we’re with others, but there are times when we find ourselves alone. Most of us find it rather uncomfortable. How do we learn to be alone?

A friend of mine who went through a recent breakup asked me how to deal with living alone. And while I gave him a few suggestions, I thought that it was big enough question that I want to address it further.

When I went through my divorce I found that the hardest change in my life was learning how to live alone again. I had my kids part-time, but I found that on the evenings after I dropped them off, the quiet of my apartment was just too much to bear. I would go to the mall or the grocery store or a karaoke bar just to fight off the dreaded loneliness that was so apparent after having my kids for a few days. On the days that I’d forget and just go home, I’d feel so heartbreakingly alone I would end up in tears on my couch. It took some time to learn how to be alone again. I was used to the hum and the noise of my family and found comfort in the rhythms of dinner, bath, and story time with the kiddos.

Alone in my apartment, I worked on making friends with the quiet. I let myself feel the sadness at the ending of my marriage. I cried at missing story time with my kids. Sometimes it would sneak up on me, leaving me feeling like I had just gotten the wind knocked out of me. I would still find myself trying to distract myself from my feelings. I read books, watched movies, and played guitar, but I got better at just being okay with feeling like shit sometimes.

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well-ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”

― Seneca

When we learn how to be alone, we learn that loneliness is not the enemy. It is just a reminder that we like being around other people. Because we are social creatures, it’s built into us to want to be with others. Often the hardest part about being alone is the stories our minds tell us about why were alone: “I’m not good enough.” Or “People don’t want to be around me.” Or “I deserve to be alone.” I think this is where a lot of our loneliness comes from. Our mind is trying to make sense of why we’re alone, so it starts finding reasons to support it. Because we don’t like hearing these things and the feelings they create, we try to distract ourselves. T.V., drinking, drugs, overeating, and Facebook are just a few of the ways to distract ourselves from the constant dialogue in our heads.

If you can sit with the quiet you can start to hear the thoughts that are constantly humming in the background. At first, it may be uncomfortable. You may feel all sort of uncomfortable feelings because of the negative chatter that goes on in your head. When you take the time to listen to and get to really know yourself, you can learn to like yourself. What’s great about it is that if you don’t like the company you’re in, you can change. You can work on becoming the person you want to be. You can become someone that you like. That you can change yourself is one of the most important things the Stoics taught.

“It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire. Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.”

― Marcus Aurelius

When you learn to be okay with being alone, you develop a stronger sense of who you are. In my case, learning to have my own sense of autonomy was something I needed to develop. I had relied on my ex-wife for a lot of things. I had relied on my church as well. Now that I was no longer married and no longer Mormon, I had to reinvent myself. My identity that I had held for so long was not really who I was anymore. I had to decide the kind of life that I wanted to live. I had to create the person I wanted to be.

When you can be comfortable with the quiet, you can find being alone as a refuge from the noisiness of the world. With all the technology we have that keeps us so connected, sometimes you need to disconnect and turn off all the noise and chatter just to hear yourself think. You can put down your phone, turn off Netflix, and just listen to the quiet. With no pressure or rush to be anywhere, you can learn to be more comfortable with yourself. Rather than reacting to one distraction after another, you can listen to, and get to really know yourself. You might be surprised what you learn about the one person you should know better than anyone else.

—-

Hey friends, thanks for listening to the podcast. If you like what you hear, I would really appreciate it if you could help support me by making a pledge on Patreon. You can find me at patreon.com/stoiccoffee. Even just a small amount helps in keeping this podcast going. Also, head on over to my website at www.stoic.coffee and sign up for our weekly newsletter. And lastly, if you know of someone that might like or could benefit from this podcast, please share it with them. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

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Coffee Break self-improvement stoicism

157 – Don’t Feed the Trolls

Don’t Feed the Trolls

 

Don’t be a dick.

One of the hazards of being alive is the fact that we’re never going to please everyone. We’re going to have people that will not like what we do. People are going to criticize whatever it is we’re doing. And in the 21st century, this is nowhere more apparent than in social media. This weeks episode is about how to be your best online.

I’m always amazed and saddened by the vitriol and hate that I see online, especially towards women. It’s as if the anonymity of being online, that separation of the digital world, they aren’t talking to a real person. I read comments and the like from others saying things that they would probably never say in person. That social pressure to not be an asshole somehow gets ignored. That distance gives them license to express their most vulgar selves with no repercussions.

Compassion

So how do we deal with criticism? How do we deal with vitriolic tweets and Facebook trolls?

“When someone criticizes you, they do so because they believe they are right. They can only go by their views, not yours. If their views are wrong, it is they who will suffer the consequences. Keeping this in mind, treat your critics with compassion. When you are tempted to get back at them, remind yourself, ‘They did what seemed to them to be the right thing to do.’”
— Epictetus

What Epictetus is reminding us here is that someone else’s opinion is just that – their opinion. It has very little to do with you but says volumes about them. What they are expressing is their view of the world. Often, they don’t have anything to truly criticize other than they don’t like your point of view. They may feel insecure about themselves, and they don’t like the facts presented because it threatens their worldview. I see this a lot in political areas. People often adopt an “us vs. them” mentality where anything that doesn’t come from their “team” is wrong. Often all they can do is threaten or insult the author because they can’t offer up any real counter-arguments.

The next thing Epictetus advises us it to have compassion for our critics. And why is that? Why should we be compassionate towards someone that says mean, cruel, vulgar things to us? Because they are the ones that suffer if their views are wrong. The fact that they can be so cruel tells you that they are pretty unhappy people if they can get so easily riled up and jump quickly to insults.

The easiest way to do this as well is to simply look at the facts. If all they have to offer is insults, then you can easily dismiss it because there are no facts involved. If they actually have something factual and logical, you should be delighted because then you have something you may able to learn from and improve yourself.

Confidence in Yourself

“I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”
— Marcus Aurelius

When someone does disagree with us, how do we react? Do we get riled up? Do we dash off an angry tweet to our critics? Why do we feel angry anyway? If we are acting in a way that we are proud of then nothing that someone else says should upset us. Usually, when we act in a way that comes from anger, we are insecure about something. If we are secure in who we are, if we are holding to our values, then others opinions don’t matter.

When we get into a flame war with a critic, we are no longer in charge of ourselves. When we let the opinions of others dictate our actions, then we are giving them control of us. If we get mad or get depressed because of the criticism of others, we have given them control over our emotions. We become the victim.

Being the Critic

So how should we act online, and in real life when giving criticism to others?

“If it is not right, do not do it. If it is not true, do not say it.”
— Marcus Aurelius

This simple maxim should be our guide in what we say and do. As Jiminy Cricket once said, “Let your conscience be your guide.” Or put more bluntly from Will Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.” Most of us know when we’re being an ass and when we’re not living up to our best selves. If we have something honest and helpful to contribute, then do so. If not, it might be best to leave well enough alone. Spending time arguing with online trolls is pretty much a waste of time, and you really don’t change anyone’s mind. Usually, you end up getting dragged into a bunch of shit, and each side gets more and more dug in and convinced that they’re on the right side.

The world is full of haters. As we spend more time online and less time in person, and as political divisions become wider, I think we’re only going to see upticks in the vitriol. We need to be sure that we don’t get sucked into the vortex of online hate. By taking the time to be compassionate towards our critics thoughtful on our responses to other people and realize that they are coming from a place where they think they are doing what is best, then we could be part of the solution, not the problem.

—–

Hey friends, thanks for listening to the podcast. If you like what you hear, I would really appreciate it if you could help support me by making a pledge on Patreon. You can find me at patreon.com/stoiccoffee. Even just a small amount helps in keeping this podcast going. Also, head on over to my website at www.stoic.coffee and sign up for our weekly newsletter. And lastly, if you know of someone that might like or could benefit from this podcast, please share it with them. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

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Coffee Break

156 – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

 

What could possibly go wrong?

What could possibly go wrong? I think one of the biggest mistakes that we as humans make is that we are far too optimistic about how something we’re planning might go. In doing so we often fool ourselves into believing that it will work as planned, and overlook what could go wrong. In this weeks episode, we’ll discuss how we can take steps to avoid the blind spots that can easily derail us.

How many times have you started a project, or tried to start a new habit, only to run into all kinds of unexpected resistance? Maybe you want to start going running each morning or maybe you have a project at work and despite your best-laid plans, things start heading off the rails in ways that you never expected. The optimism and energy you had starts to wane as you deal with one setback after another. I run into this all the time. I think that I have things well planned out only to find that what I thought were conservative estimates and plans were far too optimistic.

When we make overly optimistic plans, we act as if it were a simple mathematical formula that we can plug in the right variables and have things turn out exactly as expected. But as we all well know, the best plans don’t mean anything if they can’t stand up to the reality of a situation. We fall into overly optimistic thinking because our brains are trying to be efficient. It takes time and effort to dig into a planning process and go deeper than our initial optimistic plans. It takes exploring uncomfortable thoughts and ideas and being willing to throw away any ideas that don’t stand up to reality, even if we’re very attached to them.

So why is it so hard to get things nailed down and complete the things we want? First, we’ll look at two of the most common mental traps that we fall into. Then we’ll look at some ways we can work around own limitations, and help mitigate the challenges that surprise us along the way.

Confirmation Bias

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

—Richard Feynman

Probably the most pernicious enemy of trying to plan for something is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when we seek out evidence which supports our decision and ignore evidence that conflicts with our preconceptions. It is the clearest example of overly optimistic thinking, and we are all guilty of it. Confirmation bias blinds us to all kinds of other possible solutions. When are too attached to an idea, when we want to prove that we already have the solution, we miss out on finding better solutions. The more that we can approach something with an attitude of seeing where we could be wrong, the more likely it is that our plan will stand up to scrutiny and be more successful. Take the time to examine your own bias and to ask yourself, “Am I defending this idea simply because it’s mine? Am I ignoring contradictory information because I’m too in love with my own idea?”

We saw this happen in the second Iraq war where, because the decision makers had the idea that there had to be illegal weapons in the country, even the smallest bit of data that could bolster the argument was held up as definitive proof. Anything showing the opposite was simply dismissed and ignored because it didn’t support the idea. Once the country was invaded, it became evident that there were no such weapons and it became clear that the evidence was flimsy at best.

Beliefs

Belief Bias is a concept similar to Confirmation Bias. Whereas Confirmation Bias seeks out information to confirm the decision we want, Belief Bias is when we use an existing belief to support a conclusion that lines up with that belief. When we don’t allow our belief to be challenged, and to be open to the idea that we might be wrong, we don’t allow reality to influence our decisions. We may make bad decisions because they are based upon a faulty belief. Circumstances change, discoveries happen, and being open to new evidence is critical to making progress in ourselves, as well as successfully completing projects that we embark on.

For example, if we believe that women are not as smart as men, then we may dismiss a great idea because we believe that only good ideas can come from men. I’ve heard from a few women about how their ideas were dismissed at work, simply because they were a woman. Once the same idea was presented by a male colleague, it would be given the consideration it deserved. Because of this belief, it’s taken centuries for women to be treated as equals, to be paid the same as men, to be able to vote. As we progress as a society we often ask ourselves how could we ever have held such a ridiculous belief?

So how do we avoid these traps? What are some steps that we can take to be sure that we aren’t fooling ourselves?

Open to Criticism

“If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth by which no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the most important areas of making better decisions is to be open to criticism. One are where we can see that thrives on criticism is the are of science. One of the reasons why we have made so much scientific progress over the last 100 years is because science is open to the idea that a discovery or an idea is only valid for now. That it is based upon the best evidence available and should only stand as long as withstands review and stands up to criticism.

We should take this same idea and apply it in our own lives. We should only hold onto an idea or a habit as long as it serves us and helps moves us the direction we want to go. When we seek out contradictory opinions, we are taking steps to counter our own bias. When we come upon new information or receive criticism, we should be willing to review it and change direction if need be.

Imagination

“How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.”

— Marcus Aurelius

One of the things that sets us apart from other animals is our imagination. The ability to tell ourselves fictional stories, to think about what-if scenarios is a powerful tool in creating our future. Without imagination, we would not have the ability to create ideas about what we think the future will be like. We would have no way to plan for the future. This singular ability is what helps us to move from being reactionary beings to creators and designers of our future. But far too often we suffer from a failure of imagination and end up surprised that things don’t turn out as we expect.

Because we have the gift of imagination we need to consider the unlikely, to think of the impossible, and be open to ideas that we may not like. This also opens us to a larger pool of possible solutions.

Premortum

“Nothing happens to the wise man contrary to his expectations.

— Seneca

One of the most important practices that the Stoics have is Premeditatio Malorum, which is to imagine all that possible ways that things could go wrong. I’ve talked about it before on the podcast, and it’s a very useful practice. This is not the same thing as being pessimistic. I like to think of it as a way to test your ideas and plans against reality, by using your imagination. This is not an easy exercise. It takes effort to let go of your wish to have the right solution and to think of all the things that could go wrong.

I came across a similar exercise that psychologist Gary Klein calls a “premortem”, that illustrates this idea rather nicely. As Dr. Klein explains, “Our exercise, is to ask planners to imagine that it is months into the future and that their plan has been carried out. And it has failed. That is all they know; they have to explain why they think it failed.” Just as doctors do a postmortem to understand what happened after the fact, a premortem is a way to truly imagine the most likely ways that a plan could fail.

Being Wrong

A lot of the topics I’ve discussed today revolve around the fact that we don’t like to be wrong. We get attached to an idea and want that idea to be right, and thereby validating ourselves. But the thing is the more try to avoid failure, rather than facing it head on, the more failure we’re going to have. Being able to let go of needing to be right, of validating ourselves, the more we can get out of our own way and make better decisions.

Hey friends, thanks for listening to the podcast. If you like what you hear, I would really appreciate it if you could help support me by making a pledge on Patreon. You can find me at patreon.com/stoiccoffee. Even just a small amount helps in keeping this podcast going. Also, head on over to my website at www.stoic.coffee and sign up for our weekly newsletter. And lastly, if you know of someone that might like or could benefit from this podcast, please share it with them. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

Categories
Challenges Coffee Break Fate

154 – The Paradox of Change

The Paradox of Change

 

The only way is through!

One of the weirdest things about being a human is how we get comfortable with our habits, and resist change, while at the same time we get bored when things stay the same. In this weeks episode, we’ll talk about how to deal with the paradox of change.

When one day is pretty much the same as the next, we crave variety. If something is too easy, we get bored and quickly lose interest in it. But when life throws a challenge our way we often complain and whine about how life isn’t fair.

So how do we deal with the challenges that life throws our way? How can we learn to cultivate and attitude of gratefulness for the hard things in our lives, and use them to grow and become better people?

“A setback has often cleared the way for greater prosperity. Many things have fallen only to rise to more exalted heights.”

— Seneca

I want you to think about the last movie you watched or book that you read. Can you remember the challenges the hero had to face? The obstacles they had to overcome? Maybe the hero got knocked down and had to struggle over and over to get back on her feet, and eventually through hard work and determination, overcame a great challenge. This is something that we as humans crave in our stories. I mean how interesting would it be if the story started with, “Our hero had everything her heart desired, and lived happily ever after”? Not much of a story, and certainly not one I would be interested in.

So why do we love this in our stories, yet complain about it in our lives? This is what I call the paradox of change. Life is continually changing and bringing new challenges our way, but we get comfortable and feel distressed when our comfort is disturbed, forgetting it’s the challenges that make us who we are, that help strengthen us into being the kind of people we want to be.

Say that you wanted to start your own company. If you want to succeed, then you have to learn how to deal with difficult people and situations. Because it is impossible to never face a tough situation or to have everyone you deal with simply follow and agree with everything you say. You have to expect setbacks and failures because you are going to have to learn how to navigate difficult situations if you want to succeed. In fact, the more you can anticipate and plan for setbacks, the better off you will be. If you only plan for rosy scenarios, then you will have a much harder time when challenges come your way.

“The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. ”

― Epictetus

When challenges come our way, one of the most important things that we can do it learn how to face them, and not shy away. If we make a habit of turning away from difficult situations and challenges, we’ll never get stronger. We’ll never reach our full potential. When we make a habit of leaning into the hard things, even if it scares us, then open the door to greater growth and opportunities. If we only take on the easy challenges, then our skills will never improve. If a pilot only sails their ship on the calmest of waters, they’ll never leave port because they can’t count on always having great weather. If a singer only sticks to nursery rhymes, they’ll never develop the skills to tackle the aria they want to master.

How can we look at something in a way that helps us see it as a tool for growth? I think the biggest thing, and this is something that I struggle with, is to let go of the outcome. When we get so tied to the desired outcome, we often just want to skip the hard stuff and get to the end result. When we’re stuck thinking that we want a situation to be a certain way, we can begin to feel like that’s what we’re entitled to. The problem with this kind of thinking is that we can’t control the outcome of any situation. Life has too many random things that happen that are simply out of our control.

When we develop a love of change, an acceptance that everything and everyone is always in a constant state of change. No one in life is static. Too often we get stuck thinking of ourselves as being a certain way, and what our lives should be. When something comes along and disturbs that, we often resist those changes and ignore the reality of the situation. We do this with other people as well. We decide that a person is a certain way and hold to our judgment of them, we find it difficult to accept that they may have changed.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

― Marcus Aurelius

When we can look at a challenge, we need to see it as a teacher, as the thing that will actually train us how to overcome it. We need to look at something and ask, “What can I learn? What skills do I need to develop to over this?” When a musician starts a new piece, she doesn’t simply try to play it start to finish and then give up when she can’t play it perfectly. She starts working at a very basic level. She’ll break it down into smaller workable parts. Each passage presenting its own challenges. She will probably run into things that she’s never done before or isn’t very good at. Working on these passages are the very things that will help her to become better. Maybe she struggles with triplets, and rather than wishing they weren’t in there, she doubles her practice on them. Working on the challenges of the piece is the very thing that trains her in the skills to be able to master it.

“Win or learn, then you never lose.”

— Anonymous

It’s been said that those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it. And while this was said more as a critique of society, I think that it’s very true for each of us individually, as well as the places we work. If we label our failures as such rather than as something to learn from, we risk repeating them. A client of mine once made a mistake that brought down some of his companies computer systems. The company fired him missing an opportunity to work with that him to figure out how to prevent it in the future, as well as improving their employee training.

When we can learn to be grateful for the challenges that we face, we can approach them more readily, and humbly. We don’t try to avoid them, but rather welcome the challenge and become excited for the skills and the growth that they will bring. Then when things don’t go as planned, we are able to quickly regroup and learn what we can from the experience, and push forward and do better the next time.

Hey friends, thanks for listening to the podcast. If you like what you hear, I would really appreciate it if you could help support me by making a pledge on Patreon. You can find me at patreon.com/stoiccoffee. Even just a small amount helps in keeping this podcast going. Also, head on over to my website at www.stoic.coffee and sign up for our weekly newsletter. And lastly, if you know of someone that might like or could benefit from this podcast, please share it with them. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to help this podcast grow. Thanks again for listening.

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Coffee Break

153 – Hatred of Others

Hatred of Others

 

Don’t be a dick!

Are you disturbed by the political landscape that has changed so rapidly over the last 4 years? As more and more authoritarian parties come into power around the world, we see that hatred towards others – immigrants, refugees, women, minorities – seems to be at an all-time high. In these troubled times, we need to take a look at ourselves and be sure that we don’t fall into the trap of hatred and blaming others for the disappointments in our lives.

When we look at today’s news, we can see that there seems to be an uptick in political violence. We see leaders being elected that openly advocate violence towards others. Why is this? Why do people feel the need to hate other groups?

I think it comes from people feeling disappointed with not getting what they think they deserve in life. And when that disappointment happens, people look for someone or something to blame. Rather than taking the time to think about why they didn’t get what they wanted like most of us, we find it’s easier to blame something outside of ourselves because our egos don’t want the uncomfortable reality that we are in charge of our lives and that there are things that we did or didn’t do.

When reality doesn’t live up to our dreams, when we don’t get the things that we think we deserve, we look to someone to tell us why. Politicians and leader exploit this need and provide us with easy targets as to why we didn’t get what we wanted. They give people someone to blame, and usually, it’s those that even less fortunate than the ones that they’re appealing to, such as getting the declining middle class to turn against the poor by taking away

Is there ever a time when it’s okay to hate another group based on race, nationality, gender, sex?

“Never in reply to the question, to what country you belong, say that you are an Athenian or a Corinthian, but that you are a citizen of the world.”

— Epictetus, Discourses