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October 15th, 2018
What if you had no choice but to feel good?
Arguments about the nature of free will aside, what if each and every day started with a wonderful surge of energy and motivation to get up and get at the day?
Is such a thing a choice? We seem to attribute this sort of thing to will power, and how much we can muster to bring about this kind of mindset.
What about starting off the day miserably and continuing to have a miserable day? Is this a choice? Or have we created a situation where we have no choice but to feel this way when we wake up and think much the same way throughout the course of the day?
It might not be too much of a stretch to say that any situation we currently find ourselves in, we have no choice about. We may have had a choice, but now that the antecedents to the present are gone and lost forever to the annals of history, that choice no longer exists, so we might in fact say that we have absolutely no choice about our present.
The trick here is realizing that the present is continually receding, and while we do not have a choice about the present, we do have a choice about the future.
For example, say someone challenged you with this: if you can have five spectacular days in a row next week, you will get $100,000. What would you do with such a strange challenge? Would you just hope for the best and let those days come your way? Or would we perhaps be inclined to prepare for those five days? Would we maybe ask ourselves what causes us to have a great day? Would we identify those things and start lining them up in preparation for those days?
If we wanted to leave as little as possible to chance, how might we manufacture our situation in the time leading up to those five days to leave ourselves with no choice but to feel fantastic?
For many who do not feel fantastic, the reverse challenge is constantly being met. The situation for feeling miserable in the morning and throughout the day is being perpetuated in a vicious cycle fashion. Such a statement may feel threatening, and even insulting, but such reactions surrender a sense of calmness in order to entertain such feelings, and a calm thoughtful pause can go a long way to unpack situations. Mae West is famously quoted for saying that those who are easily insulted should be insulted more often, and such a sentiment begs the question: why exactly would such a person be threatened or insulted? The core of such answer might have hidden within it a key for unlocking such a dismal situation, and opening up a sense of reality to something more expansive, generous, and enjoyable.
Such a feeling of being threatened or insulted may come from a suspicion of blame. The no choice argument here is a double-edged realization that from one side puts blame on the person who feels miserable squarely on that person, which ultimately is probably not helpful, unless such a person responds well to the ‘toughen-up’ prescription. The other side of the no choice argument relieves such a person of the blame. Past actions cannot be changed so why would someone in the present be required to feel shame over the past since they still have the agency in the moment to create a future that is far better than the past? A threatened feeling or a feeling of insult may be a form of embarrassment that both of these edges are the case, which many productive people would define as progress. If you aren’t embarrassed by your past self, then you aren’t growing. A feeling of insult or being threatened might be a sign of a realization that’s on the brink of happening, or possible evidence that such a realization is possible.
If such a threatened or insulted person asked themselves whether they had a choice about being threatened or insulted, it might open up the space for asking: How do I become a person who is not easily threatened and not easily insulted? Would such a process require more of a change on the side of one’s self or the rest of the world. Most focus on the later, but the whole crux of the situation might be indicated by a change that needs to occur on the former: a change that needs to happen within one’s self.
Regardless, any change that we make is sure to have ramifications in our future. In some sense, our future self is a puppet, a sort of slave to the decision we make now. We would be wise to think generously, and kindly, and lovingly about our future selves, because when such a future becomes the present, we will look back at our current actions and have absolutely no choice.