Introducing a new content category: Intersections.
Intersections will cover the intersection between psychology, culture, and entertainment. Culture and entertainment can have an enormous impact on who we are, our lives, and our psychology. Movies, music, television, and other cultural events will be discussed in this particular category. However, the focus will be on individual experience, cultural consciousness, and psychology.
Minimalism Fights the External Battles Mindfulness Fights Internally.
Part of our cultural identity is consumerism. We are taught to consume. It is bred into us. We signal status, security, and purpose with what we consume, what we buy. I believe it’s a slow killer of the human spirit. Marketers use deficit advertising: ads giving us the impression we are not enough. It plays to our insecurities and fears. The idea we could be better if we only had Product X.
Minimalism, simply put, is the questioning of the function of material possessions in our lives.
Is it really worth it to spend our lives striving for more money? More things? More, more, more. What have we sacrificed for our things? How does the importance of material things compare with family, relationships, and community?
The documentary follows Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus’ journey from corporate executives to aspiring minimalists. At a time in Millburn’s life when he was making a lot of money, he faced a personal crucible with the ending of his marriage and his mother’s passing. Turning inward, questioning the purpose of his life, he found himself buried in stuff. His recently departed mother’s house jam-packed with … stuff. The stuff he was now responsible for.
Millburn reasoned his mother held onto the stuff with the best of intentions. She was holding onto memories, moments in her life memorialized by stuff. But the stuff wasn’t the memory. The memories are inside us.
And so Millburn asked, “could life be better with less stuff?”
Shortly, Ryan Nicodemus (Millburn’s best friend) was on board after throwing a “packing party.” The party had Nicodemus packing his belongings as if he was moving. He would only open the boxes when he needed something. When very few boxes were opened, they knew they were on to something. And thus, their minimalism journey began.
A 2015 survey found that more than 30% of people are overwhelmed by the clutter in their lives1. Removing clutter can decrease anxiety, increase focus, and make you more productive2. Clutter is linked to poor eating habits as well as raised cortisol levels. The body is in a state of fight or flight at all times. The brain likes organization. It drains our mental energy to view visual clutter. People who live in clutter are less likely to correctly interpret the facial expression of characters in movies3.
I didn’t realize the impact of decluttering. There was a time when I had a paper tray stacked a foot high with mail and documents that I’d go through someday. (Yeah, Right). I had no idea what was in that stack. It was a big mystery. Eventually, I just threw it all away. Now, it is organized (trashed) right away. Important documents are addressed quickly.
Psychologists note individuals with anxious or avoidant attachment styles are more likely to be materialistic4. Attachment styles are developed during the interaction with parents and caregivers. Research suggests that many try to use materialism as a replacement for love and acceptance. Its clear materialism is linked with depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior5.
While an increase in materialism tends to decrease life satisfaction, a decrease in materialism has the opposite effect. Relationships and autonomy increase and the sense of meaning improves when reliance on materialism decreases.
This is Millburn’s story. Growing up poor, as an adult, he had a drive for material things. The drive led him to early success. As a result, his relationships, finances, and sense of purpose were impacted. When the glasshouse of materialism collapsed, he found little meaning in the material items that he strove for. In debt, he lived to work for the material items he owned.
In my experience, I’ve found materialism can be the result of a need for security. I’ve transitioned from materialistic behavior towards a minimalistic attitude and back again. I find that when I need peace of mind, I am more likely to be minimalistic. When I need a sense of security, I desire material things. You may see a comparable pattern in yourself.
Turn Down the Volume
The sheer volume of information placed before us simply cannot be properly processed by our minds. Much of this information is marketing, advertising for products and services.
As a result, we buy more stuff than we need, and our minds are overloaded. This, in part, causes us to suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression. “Screen” technology only exponentially expands this issue. There’s too much!
Consequently, two movements have risen to combat these cultural realities. Minimalism, for the physical (generally) and mindfulness for the internal. These ideas are not new, yet have a powerful relevance in the here and now. Due to their popularity, it’s inferred there is a society-wide concern with the volume of information and it’s effect on our lives. The idea of minimalism allows us to turn down the volume on the physical items that surround and support our lives.
I didn’t believe I was a cluttered materialist. Buying the stuff gave me joy if only for a fleeting moment. Others advised I’d feel better if I was organized and neat. I just didn’t believe I had the time to do it.
I do. And I did.
I feel much better, staying neat and orderly. (Of course, I can still be messy at times). Tasks like making my bed every day, folding laundry, and keeping the clutter off my desktop have changed my relationship with things.
After I divorced, I was surrounded by stuff! Everything you could ever want. At one point, I had a Mac desktop, a MacBook Pro, an iPad, and an iPhone all sitting on the desk staring at me. (Looking back, it was funny, I’d get a text, and it sounded like a siren going off!) They weren’t doing what they were supposed to do – making me feel good. It was just … stuff. I was buying for the feeling, the impulsive rush of the power to do so. It led to debt and disappointment.
In another way, minimalism frees us from the “keeping up with the Jones'” mentality. We can instead think “I have everything I need.” We can tell ourselves that it is okay if we don’t have ANOTHER thousand-dollar purse or the newest iPhone.
I like to point out that wanting is a psychologically stronger force than having. This psychological reality supports human survival in certain situations. On the other hand, it also drives addictive behavior. It’s never enough, the hedonic treadmill.
In the documentary, David Ramsey says, “You will never have the money to buy everything you want.” The mind will always drive you with wants. But the material things around you should have a purpose. This is very closely related to YOUR purpose. If there are many meaningless material items in your proximity, chances are there is also a feeling of meaninglessness in areas of your life. Minimalism provides you with the tools to start on this journey.
The documentary (Netflix) Minimalism: Less is Now is less than an hour (in true minimalist form). Though not a true minimalist (working towards it, however), I believe the ideas presented are a solution to many mental health and debt issues in our society. It is a great philosophy to provide meaning in life—a potential solution to the mindless behavior driven by marketing and overstimulation.
You were a little kid once—a starry-eyed, innocent child. You had dreams, big dreams. Maybe somewhere along the lines, you’ve decided you don’t deserve those dreams. (bullshit).
Instead of thinking that a new year’s resolution is a cliche, it just may be the opportunity to dust off some of those old dreams and make them real.
Life is just too damn short not to.
There are just a couple of days remaining in 2020. For many of us, this means new years resolutions. As 2020 was a tough year, 2021 promises to be a year of transcendence and growth. In many cases, this process starts with a resolution.
Half of us will resolve, yet less than one in ten will successfully achieve our new year’s resolution1. As we leave this year behind, the following are ideas that will help you navigate the next year.
Decide on Your Approach
In a recent study, researchers found that approach goals are more often achieved than avoidance goals. An approach goal is adding a habit into your life. (For example, waking up at 5 AM each morning.) An avoidance goal is subtracting something. (Like deciding not to eat chocolate.)2When making a resolution for the new year, it is more beneficial to add a habit or activity than to stop one.
Generally, there are three goal types: process goals, performance goals, or outcome goals.
Process goal: This type aims to create that habit that will drive towards the goal. IE. spending time writing each day.
Performance goal: Usually, these behaviors are linked with frequency or time and drive the behavior toward the goal. IE. writing for twenty minutes each day.
Outcome goal: Focuses on the end result, or outcome. IE. to finish writing the novel3.
The most popular resolutions are associated with losing weight and physical fitness. Challenging goals lead to higher performance levels4. Set challenging goals to raise the likelihood of achievement.
Write it down. Research shows that those who write down their goals and resolutions are more likely to follow through on them5.
Now, decide what type of goal is necessary for your resolution (make sure it’s an approach goal). Make sure it’s sufficiently challenging. Then, write it down.
Why do you want this to be your new year’s resolution?
Do you want to make more money? Do you want a bigger house? Do you want a better body? Do you want to lose thirty pounds? Why?
Who are you doing this for?
How will you feel when you achieve your goal?
The choice of resolution must clearly align with your values and something that you truly care about9. Things in the nice to have category will not qualify.
You have your resolution(s) written. Now write 1-2 pages on why. What does it mean to you? How will you feel when it’s achieved? What will potential failure look and feel like?
Question: Why do new year’s resolutions fail?
Answer: We underestimate our reactions when things get uncomfortable6.
Consequently, planning is paramount. Decide ahead of time what action you’ll take in certain contingencies. For example, if you plan to run daily and experience shin splints, what action will be acceptable to keep you on track? Bicycling may be an option7. Putting a plan-b, an if-then clause in the plan can dramatically increase the likelihood of following through8.
Planning lapses may help reach the overall goal8. The reasoning is that often when a lapse occurs, the event can trigger a complete loss of motivation and a feeling of failure. This can be avoided by building in a “lapse”. It is important to not overly rely on will-power9. This psychic energy is used in our daily lives to a great extent and is finite. When it is depleted, it is unavailable until recharged.
Develop a method to track your progress. Not to change your behavior directly, but indirectly. Track to build self-awareness, to see the state of your habits in relation to your goal11. Put time on the calendar to look at the stats. Consider relevant questions such as Am I on track? What are the obstacles/challenges? How can I simplify the process?
Manage expectations. Break the resolution down into smaller parts. Don’t expect instant results. (There is a reason it is a new year’s resolution!)
Don’t Go it Alone
Having the support of your social circle is vital to achieving your goals10. An accountability partner can help you stay positive through a shared desire to achieve your new year’s resolution. It requires some vulnerability – another to witness your potential failure. Yet, the support can go far to ensure that you stay accountable for what you set out to do.
Simply having someone to share the journey with can have a powerful positive impact in keeping engaged with the goal12.
The Tension Between the … You’s?
Considering aspects of different identity theories, ponder the dichotomy between the narrative-self and the experiential-self. The narrative-self is the idea that there is an evolving story told to oneself as a function of identity creation13. (This is also referred to as the remembering self). In contrast, the experiential-self is the part of our consciousness experiencing the present, the current experience.
When difficulty is experienced in achieving a goal, there is tension between these functions. The narrative-self decided that we’d take on the resolution. The experiential-self is having difficulty in the present moment living up to the story the narrative-self would like to be true. The solution to bridging this gap is becoming more self-aware. Many strategies exist to facilitate greater self-awareness, including meditation, taking psychometric tests, and requesting regular feedback at work.
When planning, make it easy for your experiential-self. Understand that our subconscious judges an experience by the best or worst part and the end of the experience14. That being so, make sure to really enjoy the best part of the approach goal and arrange the events so that the end is thoroughly delightful.
Breaking It Down
Decide your approach- write it down.
Think about why-write it down.
Plan-contingencies, lapses, etc.
Ask for support.
Become self-aware- Ease tension between experiential and narrative-self.
Just look at you—cute little kid, deserving of the world. There’s only one you and you (may) only get one try at life. Honor your inner child, honor yourself, and go after it
Daily, @whoareweblog on Instagram, a thought-provoking quote is posted. It is intended to shift paradigms, inspire, and/or give perspective. Often, personal experience is considered in searching for quotes. Just as often, society’s experience is considered. Here, We dive into the top 8 Life-Saving Quotes of the Day posted in the year past.
“God Have Mercy on the Man Who Doubts What He’s Sure of…”
Bruce Springsteen is the perfect place to start due to his philosophical lyricism. The lyric “God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of…” is the last line of the song “Brilliant Disguise”. The line stands apart, barely intelligible as the mystery’s final pondering between two individuals romantically involved. But the line hits a broader chord.
It is my belief that many of us ‘know’ certain things. These ideations may be difficult to reconcile. They may require a complete change in life or an uncomfortable confrontation. And so we doubt, often to our own detriment. We may need to confront the conversation with our significant other about the relationship. We may need to quit our job and pursue something with more meaning. We may need to move to a warmer climate, take a vacation by ourselves, or step down from CEO to barista to feel connected to life once again.
This beautiful Idea inspires courage and certainty, self-knowledge and hope. And perhaps most importantly, forgiveness at the times we lack the courage to go in the direction of our dreams.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us….”
Gandalf the Grey so poignantly explains to Frodo, attempting to quell his despair. This may sound obvious or trite. In times when in the greatest despair, the simplicity of this idea is the remedy. Gandalf restates the idea that the quality of life is 90% your reaction to life’s events. It’s about what is done. Additionally, there is a boundary of time.
The average human lifespan is seventy-nine years. That’s 4,108 weeks. In your first ten years, you can’t do much about your living conditions. That’s 520 weeks of life. By the age of twenty, you’re beginning to find your identity. That’s 1,040 weeks, more than 25% of your life. By the age of thirty, you begin to understand who you are and what is sought. There’s still some exploring left to do. At thirty-five, there’s kids, bills, a mortgage, and a 401k – you’re a grown-up. That cost you 1,820 weeks. Without offending anyone, let’s say the last nine years of your life, you may not be as mobile and able – that’s 468 weeks. That totals at 2,288 weeks.
Time is limited. Are you deciding properly what to do with the time given?
“And those who were dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
The individual experience is unique. Many of the ideas that now guide everyday understanding were initially seen as insane. Consider Galileo. Essentially, labeled foolish, an absurdist, and a heritic by the powers that be. His life, reputation and livelihood threatened by his notion the earth was not the center of the galaxy. Instead, he suggested the sun was the center point. Galileo knew this to be true by the evidence he gathered, the measurements and observations made. He was dancing – but no one could hear the music.
This is true for many. Intuition suggests something not evident and we ignore or subdue it because we can’t be seen “dancing”, at least when no one else can hear the music. This idea reminds us to know what we know and know it to our core…the world will come around.
“Every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around.”
Vanilla Sky (Abre Los Ojos) is a wonderful movie. In the main character’s dream of a perfect life, his love, Sofia, presents this fantastical idea. The idea reveals we are not what we’ve done. There is little to be done about past actions. We have only the present and the future. The idea is fascinating, freeing us from past guilt and allowing us the opportunity to learn.
The idea served as a gateway to the concept of mindfulness. Each moment is a moment of transition, a moment of change. The extent of that change is in our power to control. Also, the moment is passing – you’re in a moment, right now. Right now, there exists an opportunity to change course, to begin again. In the comfort of this thought exists peace and hope. In Sofia’s certainty, an opportunity for healing and growth.
“The quality of your life is more important than the destination of your life.”
Sam Harris is a modern-day philosopher. Stark and unforgiving, his certainty is sometimes daunting. However, here he points to a softer idea. Humanity hurriedly makes its way, rushing and plotting the way through life. Yet, when the perceived destination is reached, there is often a disappointment. This is because there is still a drive to arrive at another destination.
Combining elements of the hedonic treadmill, mindfulness, and gratitude, this quote plainly points out that our drive forward has the ability to distract us from the place we’ve arrived. And at times, there is the need to reorient that drive towards the quality of the current stop on the journey. At a level deeper, enjoying the “now” will only make it easier to enjoy the “then” – our destination. After all, the place you currently occupy was once a destination, right?
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
I recently experienced this as a personal phenomenon. I came across a book (doesn’t matter which) that connected me with deep parts of myself, revealing long-forgotten desires, hopes, dreams, and personal truths that I long had forgotten. Art does that. It reorients the way we see the world, ourselves, and our relation to it. From these different vantages, we can see into different cracks in our spirits, our souls. Like finding coins in the couch or a twenty in a pair of jeans, this discovery and rediscovery bring us to life.
Though many times in my life I’ve experienced this, this quote from Sharon Begley reminds me that something out there will awaken my spirit once again, though its eternal death seems imminent. Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. Find it, and rekindle your spirit.
“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Dylan Thomas forever changed the way I felt about words. He is very earthy in their use. The unique way he put words to the experience of human emotion has never been replicated. In this poem (aptly titled: Do not go gentle into that good night), Thomas gives a holy rendition of the perseverance of the human spirit. Against all odds, against all rationale, against the foe of death…fight.
Perhaps one of the greatest features of the human spirit is perseverance. Against insurmountable obstacles, the illogical, emotional predilection to overcome, defeat, and outlast is universally admired. The poem stirs the instinctual human belief that there is no unconquerable enemy, no miracle too large to occur, and no hope too great to hold. All is possible through the perseverance of the human spirit.
Thomas asks us to hold all these fires close to our heart and conquer the darkness, to fight for life and the magic tenacity of the human spirit.
“If life transcends death, then I will seek for you there. If not, then there too.”
These words are uttered by Arjun in the second novel in the Expanse series, Caliban’s War. The words, an expression of his undying love for his emotionally unavailable, politician wife. A certainty is expressed in the love he has for his wife. A lack of rational thinking in the matter is purposed without thought. There is something admirable about this level of devotion. Another piece suggests a hope of love’s eternal binding: the suggestion that love itself is eternal, the human desire for eternal life.
In the context of the story, Arjun serves as his wife’s only tether to the chaos and irrationality of her own humanity. She relies on him to provide this, as she struggles to stand above the fray and manage humanity.
The excerpt serves as a reminder that the true beauty of humanity may be in our chaos, thoughtless devotion to love and the magic of the experience.
Loneliness is at an all-time high in our society. Now, we enter a holiday season socially-distanced.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, holidays surrounded (physically) by family seem less and less a good idea. As the pandemic reaches a peak, we are more likely to be physically and emotionally alone. Survey data (pre-pandemic) reports that almost half of participants sometimes or always feel alone1. What’s more, the root cause is identified as social isolation or the lack of social connection. Loneliness is associated with mental and physical health issues, from depression and dementia to heart failure and stroke2. For those of us with a mental illness, the holidays tend to just make it worse3.
On the other hand, the potential for spreading COVID to family and friends is an imminent risk this holiday season. As a culture, we put a high value on our large family gatherings and holiday parties. Yet, it may be best we don’t get together in the same ways this year as we have in the past.
If you’re not visiting family this holiday season, you may be experiencing loneliness. Here are some suggestions to stave off loneliness, anxiety, and depression during this holiday season.
Rumination or Deep Thinking?
There is ample evidence that repetitive negative thoughts are detrimental to your mental health4. This is called rumination. It is essentially our stress response (meant to seek our harmful stimuli and protect us) on repeat. In this context, negative thoughts about not visiting with the family will only worsen the situation. The stress often associated with rumination tends to make our physical health decline as well. This negativity bias kept our species alive for thousands of years, yet in a pandemic, it’s driving our anxiety4.
The idea of deep thinking implies a distance between our thoughts and feelings. It is the act of observing our thoughts for their quality. Also, there is the issue of intent. Deep thinking is a very intentional practice. Rumination is primal, fear-driven, and compulsive.
What can you do to break the cycle?
Go for a walk.
Set time for solving the problem
Reframe your thoughts...I won’t get to see the family this year, but just think how great it will be when I do next year.
Show gratitude..to yourself. Write down three things your grateful for, even in the midst of this pandemic.
Gift Giving: Make it Meaningful
Giving has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, provide greater life satisfaction, and even a longer life5. Getting crafty and making the gift, for example, painting, textiles, and creative writing can also greatly impact well-being and life satisfaction6. Additionally, making the gift provides more meaning in comparison to simply buying the gift.
Just … Breathe
Mindfulness practice can have an eternity of benefits. Focusing on breathing techniques and meditation can help in many ways8. Mindfulness practices have been shown to reduce loneliness6. By simply setting aside ten minutes a day and settling your body and mind with deep breathing can reduce negative emotions7. Taking a moment to pay attention to what’s happening inside and outside of your body, lessens stress and anxiety levels. In addition to reducing loneliness, mindfulness can improve social connections in social situations that do arrise9.
Be Aware of Your Reactions
One of the benefits of mindfulness is building awareness. When becoming aware of emotions, become aware of their triggers. Embracing a non-reactive habit to emotions yields a decrease in their negative affect10. Significant experiences of change and loss will cause feelings of grief. These elements are common this year, especially this time of year.
Reset Your Expectations
Often, there is an idea in our minds of how things “should be.” This year things will certainly be different. Come to accept this fact, yet understand that achieving a connected experience with your family and friends is still possible. Though it may not be in a traditional fashion, we sometimes conceptualize the holidays. Making internal adjustments such as embracing a Christmas zoom call provides the experience of connection that is sought10.
Also, social comparison is almost always a poor idea. Don’t allow yourself to compare your experiences to others. If you feel triggered by social media (or hell, your next-door neighbor) pictures from others’ holidays, don’t permit yourself the comparison. We are coping with the frustration, loss, and lack of normalcy the last year has brought upon us.
Take Care of YOU!
During the holidays, many of us have a rare opportunity to reflect. This may arise in the form of longing. The longing for family, friends, security, or family can put us in a state of loneliness10. Practice self-care. Understand you will need some time, space, and tools to reorient your mind and emotions to your current circumstances. I hope the above offers a doorway to the tools that will help in a time of need.
Inspiring stories of those who achieved their dreams later in life
As we age, it can feel like a clock is ticking. A “scarcity mindset” with regard to time can take hold. And still, the message in our culture is that ‘youth is king’ and ‘forty is over the hill’. I’ve had this feeling. I’ve had the idea ‘what I’m doing is not an expression of who I am!?’ This is not the career for me! I wish I could...and a whole list of ideas and potential regrets comes to mind.
The need for novelty is human. Change is necessary to keep us invigorated. The average person changes careers at age 391. Being 40 and having these thoughts, it appears I’m in good company.
However, there are countless examples of household names who’ve turned their lives around later in life. They’ve set out to find the success they’ve dreamt of. They’ve changed their whole lives, to better suit their purpose. Proving that it’s not too late to achieve your dreams, to change your trajectory.
These are ten powerful ways to turn it all around.
Know What You Know and Bank On It
Regardless of how you feel about retail giant Wal-Mart, the story of Sam Walton is one to learn from. Walton started at J.C. Penney’s and was told by his boss that he was not cut out for retail and threatened to fire him. His books and clerical skills were a mess.
His saving grace?
Walton instinctively knew what he knew. The books weren’t as important as making sure the customer was happy! He instinctively knew this truth is what mattered to the success of a business.
Walton was drafted into the army during World War II. After the war, he invested his own money and secured a twenty thousand dollar loan for a retail store. Walton banked on knowing what he knows, even though his previous boss told him he wasn’t cut out for it. Before long, he had the best variety store of its kind in Newport, Arkansas.
Smooth sailing, right?
Not so much.
Seeing his success, his landlord refused the renewal of the lease and took over the store, giving it to his son!
Walton didn’t give up. He found a new location (this time insisting on a 99-year lease), in Benton, Arkansas. He called it Walton’s Five & Dime. In ten years, he had grown to 15 variety stores. He was putting in the hours, but still just wasn’t seeing the profits. That’s when Walton implemented a new business strategy. He’d cut prices so low as to undercut his competition12.
Knowing that he’d have to continue to open more locations, he approached the company that he franchised many of the stores from to ask for an investment. They firmly said, no. Consequently, Walton mortgaged his house and borrowed all the money he could to finance the first Wal-Mart. He was 42 years old! He put it all on the line because he knew, what he knew.
This is powerful stuff, here. There are things that you know, ideas you have that other folk do not. You could change the world with your idea.
Why did Walton do this?
In the most simple terms, his first Commandment: Commit to your Business.
We know the rest of the story about Wal-Mart. But it all starts by believing and knowing what you know to your core. And Walton did this even though he was 42.
Indulge Your Passions Without Fear
We all have passions, some not related to our careers. Some of us are lucky enough to live out at least some of our passions in our work. Vera Wang wished to attend Fashion Design school, but her father (a successful businessman) forbade it. He told her to get a job while she studied Art History. She did what she was told. By some stroke of luck, she ran into the fashion director for Vogue magazine at the boutique where she worked. She arranged an interview years later and was hired. She worked her way up, eventually leaving Vogue for Ralph Lauren. Here, she became the design director2.
Success, right!? End of Story!?
This is only the start. And often, when some level of stability is reached in our careers, we may be fearful about doing anything to threaten this.
Though Wang achieved a great deal of success in writing about fashion, what she really wanted was to create it. She decided to open her bridal boutique13. Largely, this came from the fact that she had to make her wedding dress! She was unhappy with the lack of fashion involved in wedding dresses. Now she is widely known for this impact on the fashion industry.
Wang admits to not knowing anything about wedding dresses in the beginning. But she approached her passion fearlessly.
Wang loves fashion, but writing about it didn’t allow her to fully express her passion. The fearless passion for creating the fashion eventually came to bring her, her most fulfilling success. And she did not make this evolution until she was 40!
Do what you love and it has the power to define your life.
Don’t Ever Stop Fighting For Your Passion
Harland “Colonel” Sanders was 62 when he first franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken. His success came as the result of a long life journey.
Sander’s father died young, leaving his mother to work and he to take care of his three younger siblings. He left school after sixth grade. His mother remarried and he did not get along with his new stepfather. At 13, he set out on his own.
For 28 years, he had an unsettling amount of jobs, ranging from a lawyer to a streetcar operator. Sanders was characterized as temperamental, short-tempered, exemplified by his getting into a fistfight with his client in the courtroom3.
Sander’s personal life was also…difficult. His troubles holding a position caused his wife and mother of three children to leave him. His oldest son passed away from complications due to a routine procedure, a tonsillectomy. These events led Sanders to suffer depression for much of his adult life.
He began running a gas station, cooking food for travelers passing through on the highway nearby. During this period, he developed his recipe for fried chicken, the now-famous KFC recipe. For the first time, the Colonel was experiencing some success. But alas, a new highway was built nearby that cut off visibility and traffic to this location. This would wipe out his business.
Sanders hit the road selling his recipe to various restaurants and franchises for royalties of 4 cents on every piece of chicken sold. The tides were turning for Sanders. By the age of 74, he had over 600 outlets serving his secret recipe chicken. He sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken, yet continued to work for them.
The Colonel was known for his constant fighting with KFC. They sued each other back and forth, several times. Sanders even started a new restaurant he called “Colonel Sander’s Dinner House”, in which Kentucky Fried Chicken sued him over the use of the word “colonel”. He publicly complained about the direction and quality of the food, referring to the gravy as wallpaper paste!
This would continue until the end.
Harland Sanders never stopped fighting for his vision. If something was wrong or out of place, he called it out. He never stopped fighting. He lived to be 90 years old, fighting the whole way. KFC is now one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
Colonel Sanders was buried in his iconic white suit.
Don’t ever stop fighting for what you want.
Be Crazy About What You Want
Ray Kroc is credited with the success of the mega-fast food chain, McDonalds. He bought his first McDonalds at age 52. He was known for his intense, focused and obsessive business style.
At an early age, Kroc had a desire to serve. He wanted to serve in World War I but was 15. And so, he lied about his age so that he could go overseas with the Red Cross. A born salesman, Kroc had many jobs all displaying his ability to connect with people. As a milkshake machine salesman, he sold a machine to the McDonald’s brothers. He became obsessed with the idea that their business could be uber-successful if placed all throughout the country. The brothers had already started this process. However, the process was conducted with far less fervor than would be by Kroc. When the McDonalds’ franchising agent stepped away due to health issues, Kroc was there to help4.
Kroc was a known workaholic. He worked obsessively to expand the McDonald’s restaurant to the rest of the country. His first and second wife left him due to his obsession. Inside the business, he indoctrinated discipline and codes of conduct, standardizing the way the work was done. This simplified the process of expansion. He mortgaged and nearly lost his home to keep the business afloat, early on.
Kroc was insatiable about building the business. His first wife once asked him when it would be enough. He responded: Honestly, probably never.
Kroc also had his issues personally, but his craze about the business he built could not be denied. Without Kroc’s devotion to the business, the Golden Arches would not be as recognizable as they are today.
Be crazy about what you’re building.
Ride the Wave Humbly, But Do Ride the Wave
Taikichiro Mori was an economics professor at what is now Yokohama University. He also served as the Dean for his last five years. He was 51 when he started a real estate company, using two apartment buildings inherited from his father. Mori used the inheritance and completely redeveloped the Toronoman area. This part of town was left devastated by a 1923 earthquake and US bombs during World War II. Due to his background in economics, he believed that land prices were to grow in price exponentially5.
Grow they certainly did. In the end, his company owned 83 buildings in Tokyo’s downtown. In 1992, Mori was named the richest man on earth. Mori understood that he was simply in a position to take advantage of the trajectory of the economy.
Though he became very rich, he remained humble. Mori is quoted as saying “I guess I am called the world’s richest man, but that doesn’t necessarily do anything for me. I just got to be that because land prices in Tokyo shot up.“15
Mori was modest when recognized on the world stage. He was able to take what his father had built, infuse it with the tools that he already had in his knowledge of economics, and ride the wave of rising land prices in Japan. Though Mori passed away soon after, his family remains among the richest in the world.
It’s important to understand that success in our ventures is sometimes dependent on us riding the wave, the momentum of the moment. When this happens, ride the wave! But stay humble in doing so as Mori did with the Mori Building Company.
(And this wave may not come until you’re in your fifties, as it did for Mori.)
Be a Passionate Problem Solver
Donald Fisher was forty when he purchased a Sacramento Hotel. Spending his life renovating hotels, he was ready to own and run his own.
Also in the hotel space, Fisher rented retail space to the Levi jean company. He went shopping for some jeans. He wore a size 31 waist (an uncommon size) and couldn’t get the jeans to fit. They would not allow him to return the jeans! He suggested to the manager that they stock and display all different sizes of jeans for customers to look at and try on. Unlike today, this was simply not done at the time. This spawned the idea for a “Wall of Levi’s” where the jeans would be displayed in the Levi retail space6.
The manager began to see that the idea of the display was working. Fisher asked him to be a partner in a new clothing/retail venture but was turned down. Fisher also noted that other retailers did not display or offer their jeans to be tried on. And so partnering with his wife, he raised $63,000 in 1969 to open their first retail store “The Generation Gap”. They displayed and sold Levi’s jeans, records and tapes. Eventually, they were known simply as “The Gap”.
In 1972, they began making their own brand of jeans. They were the first retailer to have the store name the same as the label on their jeans. This is another common practice in retail today.
By 1973 The Gap went public, changing the face of the retail clothing store for generations to come. Fisher and his wife went on to acquire The Banana Republic and begin Old Navy, two other significant retail stores that maintain popularity today.
If Fisher wouldn’t have set out to end his frustration with buying jeans, he may have never started The Gap. Lesson learned, be a passionate problem solver.
Persevere Over Your Person
Samuel L. Jackson was in the acting business long before he ever “made it big”. His father left his mother when he was very young and died of alcoholism shortly thereafter. Jackson became interested in acting while in college in his 20’s. After graduation, he moved to Harlem to pursue stage acting. He performed in several plays and in the ’80s had several small parts in movies7.
Behind the scenes, Jackson was dealing with his own demons. In 1991, he was admitted to rehab for alcoholism and cocaine addiction. Upon his release, Jackson secured a role in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, as Gator Purify. The serendipitous opportunity was presented to him to play the role of a cocaine addict. His performance earned him a “Best Supporting Actor” award from the Cannes Film Festival as well as the New York Film Critic Award. At 41, Jackson was finally on the map16.
After becoming sober in 91, Jackson’s career took off. He was 41 years old.
Jackson did not believe that he had a problem with addiction. But after going to a bachelor party, he passed out in the kitchen while heating crack cocaine on the stove. His wife and daughter discovered him and begged him to go to rehab.
At the end of the day, whatever causes us to need to break out from where we are is really inside of us. In Jackson’s case, it was his addiction to substance abuse. In this triumph, he was able to persevere over his person.
Be Your Weird, Authentic Self
Theodore Seuss Geisel had found success throughout his life. He was a visual artist, known for drawing advertisements for various retailers. He also wrote using an eccentric sense of humor9.
Several incidents in Geisel’s life had large impacts on how he would conduct himself. When he was young, his family was often shamed due to their German heritage and the events of World War II. One incident causing him to fear public speaking for the rest of his life occurred when he was to be given a medal in boy scouts. This medal was to be given by Theodore Roosevelt. Instead of receiving the medal, he was quickly ushered off stage due to his being German.
During prohibition, his father, a brewer, was forced to shut down the family’s brewery. In college, Geisel worked his way up to the position of editor in chief of the college paper, the Jack-O-Lantern. He was caught drinking and the position was taken from him (it was still prohibition). He then began submitting his writings and drawings under the name “Seuss”.
After college, Geisel went to Oxford to study. He did not fit in nor do well. And so, he returned.
While working as an advertiser, Geisel would occasionally get free-lance work in the Saturday Evening Post. He signed his work as “Dr. Theophrastus Seuss”, eventually shortening it to Dr. Seuss. After 27 rejections, he published his first children’s book, “To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street”, in 1937. Interestingly enough, Seuss’s wife wrote several children’s books during this time, published by Disney and Golden Books.
Seuss’s (Geisel) seminol book, “The Cat in the Hat” was published in 1957 permanently casting him as the eccentric children’s author. Later in his career, Seuss would publish the “Lorax”, receiving some backlash for his voicing his concerns for environmentalism. Also, in the 80’s he published “The Butter Battle Book”, open opposition to the nuclear buildup happening due to the Cold War.
Even though not accepted by the president publicly, failure to fit in at Oxford, the success of his wife in the industry, and the constant rejection, Seuss remained his eccentric, weird and quirky self. This is how he will be remembered in the halls of history.
Be your weird, authentic self…Even if you’re over the hill.
When “The” Opportunity Comes, Take It
Alan Rickman was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at age 26! Before this (and after) he was a graphic designer. The acting was something he did on the side, for fun. He was successful in his career. Though, his dream was to be a full time actor10.
For years Rickman was a stage actor, making money but really just doing it as a side-hustle. And then, at 42 he had the opportunity to play the villain Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Rickman’s initial reaction was to decline. He read the script and didn’t find anything immediately redeeming.
Later Rickman commented that the film was revolutionary in the way that it represented some of the minority characters. Also, his agent and friends told him that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
And so, he took it. The result changed his life.
In Rickman’s performance, he outlined the quintessential villain for future action movies. He became widely known for this role as well as his role as Snape in the Harry Potter films.
If Rickman would have gone with his initial gut instinct and declined the Hand Gruber role, staying in his comfort zone, he would have never had the opportunity to change his life as he did. But, when ‘the’ opportunity came, he took it…
Blaze Your Path
Bea Arthur began her adulthood by joining the Marines. She was one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve in 1943. After World War II, she was honorably discharged and went on to intern as a lab technician.
But she opted out of this career, and instead took a seemingly out of left field turn towards acting. But to her, it was her lifelong dream and she pursued it. She studied and went on to have a good career acting on the stage. Yet, it wasn’t until age 49 she began in television17.
In the 70’s she was known for her lead role in Maude. The role featured her personal politics and named her as a voice for the women’s liberation movement at the time. The television show brought to light societal issues from menopause to mental health. Arthur was known for her passionate voice for these and other issues.
In 1985, at the age of 63, Arthur was cast as Dorothy in the Golden Girls. The Emmy winning show was nominated six out of the seven years it aired and was Arthur’s biggest hit of her career.
The issue that was most important to Arthur was that of LGBTQ rights. She left $300,000 to the Ali Forney Center which opened the Bea Arthur Residence, a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth.
In her work and life, Arthur always spoke up and engaged her audience with her beliefs. Later, she was a voice for the issues and concerns she was most passionate about. From the decision to act, believing her family wouldn’t support her, to the opening of the shelter of her namesake, Arthur blazed her path with the change that she wanted to see in the world.
It’s never too late to start after your dreams, to change your life. The thoughts that drive us to believe this, that’s the real culprit. That’s the thing that holds us back,
The Best Recent Titles for Inspiration, Motivation and Personal Revolution
More information is published on just about any subject than ever before. As Tesla founder Elon Musk says, “You don’t need college to learn stuff… you can learn anything you want for free.”1 I adore this piece of advice.
There are two challenges when attempting to learn on your own. First, determining what’s important. Second, clearing the static created by the barrage of available information. So we’ll limit what’s important to psychology, self-improvement and insight. And let’s just say the purpose of this article is to clear the static!
In the last five years, print book sales have reached 650 million. Printed books maintain popularity over digital and audio version of the same. Sixty-five percent of adults in the US have read a printed book in the last twelve months2. Educational material has never been more in reach for human kind than in this moment, right now.
The following are seven must read books! These books will shift your paradigm, motivate and inspire you.
Scott Barry Kaufman delves into the personal journey and research of famed Psychologist, Abraham Maslow. Perhaps the most interesting gem this book provides is that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was never intended to be a pyramid. The idea was not that you could not be actualized without food or shelter. Or, that when you were hungry and without food that you couldn’t experience love.
This idea was hijacked by management schools as a gross oversimplification of Maslow’s Ideas. This book attempts to give Maslow’s theory the nuance and depth it deserves.
In a tireless effort both into Maslow’s research (finished and unfinished) and personal journals, Kaufman explores each of the ideas associated with Maslow’s self-actualization, including safety, connection, self-esteem, exploration, love, purpose, peak experiences and what Maslow referred to as Theory Z. The concept of self-actualization defined as “…the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”3
During Maslow’s later years, he began to understand that self-awareness could lead to transcendence. Those self-actualized individuals that he used to exemplify his idea described experiences beyond the recognition of their ‘selves’. Experiences transcended their own sense of self and ego.
In what seemed a contradiction, these folks also had a strong sense of who they were at their core, exuding strong values and beliefs. This simultaneously perplexed and inspired Maslow. There appeared to be a phase beyond self-actualization. Maslow didn’t get the chance to fully flesh this out in his lifetime.
The book discusses the D-Realm and B-Realm. The D-Realm (D for Deficiency) refers to ‘needs’ that come from a deficiency in shelter, safety, love or esteem. These are called safety goals. In contrast, B-Realm referred to growth related needs. For example, gaining wisdom, insight or integrating life experiences. These are growth goals. Maslow used the B-Realm to describe what we refer to now as “being present” or “in the moment.” Ultimately, the choice between safety goals and growth goals may differentiate between the paths to self-actualization and transcendence.
In sum, the book illustrates the possibility of a culture that takes care of the most basic human needs. Thus, humanity can actualize, growing to our full potential.
Perhaps Manson is best known for his 2015 inaugural bestseller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. In this follow up, Everything is Fucked, he has come into his own. The book simultaneously recognizes the insanity as well as the importance of hope in our lives. Anecdotes illustrating how hope drives us through tumultuous and uncertain times, provides meaning and will very likely be the cause of human extinction.
The concept of hope is examined from many angles, revealing its impact on humanity. From its function in cults and religion to how it moves us to join political parties to how we are inspired daily, individually. The full-force of hope is undeniable.
We find Nietzsche’s concepts of master morality and slave morality. Master morality describes how those who have success and own the spoils of society feel they have earned it. Slave morality, on the other hand, recognizes that the average person is much like a ‘slave’ to those who feel they have earned the success. (IE business owners, corporate presidents etc.) The tension between these two moralities exist in our society. Nietzsche warned that this tension would only grow. (Sound familiar?) These moralities are often used to inspire people to join one side or the other. Hope used to divide.
In Manson’s estimation, hope is both the cause and the effect of what is wrong with the societies of today and the future.
On its face, it seems a bleak statement: Everything is fucked and it has a lot to do with hope. Fucked is past tense, referring to that in the past. And hope calls to the future. And so implied, is the importance of the present. There is a strange comfort in the eastern-style idea of being present or content with your life in the now. A mind in the past is depressed and a mind in the future is filled with anxiety. Enjoy the now. Regardless of what we do, the future will inevitably bring our demise. There is a positive message to be taken away here.
The book goes on to report that anyone offering hope, is not doing so for free. There is a cost that is not always immediately obvious. We are sold hope to soothe our emotions. Pain is a constant throughout humanity. And so, there will always be a market for hope in all of its constructive and destructive glory.
Interesting ideas in this book. Old ideas, presented in a fresh way with a modern framework. A must read.
Want to change your life? Change your habits! After all, your life is the sum of every little habit that you have. This is a wonderful nuts and bolts book on improving your life, by James Clear.
We’ve all been in a rut before where we knew we had to make changes, but we couldn’t fathom where to start. Additionally, when faced with this challenge the journey to the goal seems insurmountable.
As Clear writes in several examples, throughout history real lasting change has come come from very small changes over a longer period of time. In the framework of self-improvement, this is very small changes in our personal habits designed to enhance our lives.
Clear teaches that there are four steps in creating habits: cue, craving, response and reward. These four steps were originally identified by Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit. Clear builds on the four steps with four laws.
Make it Obvious
Make it Attractive
Make it Easy
Make it Satisfying
The nature of the talent needed to put these types of books together is in the supporting analogies. This is where Clear shines. Interestingly enough, motivation can’t be counted on to fuel a habit. It is far more dependent on the environment. Several great examples of how this is the case are shared in the book. Habits that need changing begin by expanding awareness.
The idea that bad habits are solutions to fulfill primal cravings makes sense. The reason we crave high calorie food has to do with our desire or craving to sustain our life. However, we now live in an environment where this is not always healthy. Consequently, our access to high calorie food is much greater than it was. And so the trick becomes associating healthier, low-calorie foods (to stick with the current example) with a positive experience.
Ultimately, Clear’s support for the ideas he puts forth is intriguing, commonsensical yet not always obvious to most before the read.
(I know, I know, I know. This one’s not recent. But that is okay. It’s relevant and I’ve re-read it recently!)
Leave it Gladwell to point out why innumerable successful people are in position due to the system they came up in. At first glance this may not be a very shiny idea.
The book paints an image of the systems of humanity at large, shining a light deep into our cultural unconscious. We are challenged to think more critically about how to see power and influence in relation to humanity.
Gladwell masterfully and surgically approaches each success story willing to disregard what we may naturally attribute as likely causes and instead posits that credit is due to something far less obvious.
For example, Gladwell proposes The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes. In this theory, Gladwell hypothesizes that cultural circumstances made communication between air traffic control and a flight crew impossible causing a deadly crash. This power distance index (PDI) indicates the culture’s disinclination to challenge authority was the circumstance at play. Because of a cultural difference in the perception of power and communication, a deadly and completely avoidable plane crash occurred.
In the infamous 1990 Avianca flight from Columbia to New York, the failure of the pilot or co-pilot to challenge the air traffic controller’s direction caused the disaster. Though both knew the that fuel was running out, they would not bring it up. Even in this life or death situation, cultural norms and beliefs may have a large role in disasters life this.
This and other less than obvious ideas regarding success are also shared. Including 10,000 hour rule, the Matthew Effect and others. This book is known for turning common cause and effect assumptions on there heads.
I heard Heath on the a podcast and was stunned at the beautiful simplicity of this idea. For Heath, it began when he heard this parable: You and a friend are having lunch by a river. Suddenly, you hear a child calling out as s/he is carried by the river. You jump in and save the child. As you bring the child to shore, you hear another child coming down the river. Your friend takes off running up the river, leaving the new child for you to rescue. Where is your friend going, you ask? Your friend tells you “I’m going to go upstream and stop the bastard who’s throwing these kids in the water!”
As leaders we are problem solvers. Yet we often become caught up in a cycle of reactivity. With our current knowledge and technology, we should be in a position where we can solve problems before they happen.
Heath discusses the three barriers to upstream thinking, problem blindness, lack of ownership and tunneling. The book would be interesting enough identifying these ideas. However, the book leaps ahead to dig into how what we are doing now to solve problems (or at least creating the appearance we are solving problems in our organizations public and private) just isn’t working and in some cases is making things worse. Thinking upstream is necessary.
Upstream is a book requiring a bit of study and time. It is important the idea stay top of mind as we race into the future. There’ll be no excuse to not see some of the most trying problems humanity has ever had to deal with.
Shetty brings the secrets of the monastery to light in his book, Think Like a Monk. All of the simplicity of the monastic lifestyle applied to our hectic lives. The books shines in its simplicity and the everyday activities he provides to grow the concepts in our own lives.
The book is divided in the three parts; part one, let go; part two, grow; and part three give. The first part focuses on the sense of self, negative emotions and your intentions. One of the activities supplied are in this section involves identifying personal values. The activity asks you to make note of the three whom you spend the most time. Of the three, what values do you share with these folks? How important is that value to you?
The second part, grow, gets into our day to day, discussing routine. Very good, focused information here.
If you’re reading this, chances are you are on the periphery of some of these practices and this middle section of the book will help you solidify some things you’re circling.
And finally, give. The way of a monk is to give. There are some simple but profound ideas in this final part. For instance, you don’t have to have a lot to give. Many of us are waiting until we get to that point where we have excess to…give. This is unnecessary and often we never arrive. Give now.
There is a large benefit to be had by giving to your community. If you don’t have a community in mind, Shetty does some work to help you identify this as well.
This book is truly great if you are looking for a modern book focused on improving your life and increasing satisfaction. The author achieves this by keeping it light, yet focused on age old wisdom that much of western culture has left behind. Awesome book. I’ll be picking through this one for weeks to come.
My first feelings about this well-told, adventurous, introspective and inspiring book were that it was the everyman’s story. One of “us” makes it big. He carried ‘our’ story with him.
But something was off with that original view. There was something … else. I got the audiobook, I listened to it on one day off. I was digging.
What was it?
I realized that the real beauty and perhaps the secret to McConaughey’s success, was the story he was telling himself.
In one story from his childhood, McConaughey describes a scene where his mother and father get in a brutal argument. Dinner tables were flipped, knives were drawn and blood was shed. Here’s the decision point, the differentiator and the theme I was working for. McConaughey could have told this story as a victim. From the point of view of a scared child. But that’s not what’s on the page. Instead, the story is told lightly and is used to illustrate the beauty and passion on how his family interacts. In the end, his mother and father (drenched in blood and ketchup) make love on the floor in the heat of their argument.
The real idea that I was seeing working out in the authors life, was the way that he was telling himself the story was the key. McConaughey states in a stark phrasing at the beginning fo the book “I was never a victim.”
Many of us get the opportunity to decided how to tell our stories to ourselves. Many of us choose to tell the story with us as the victim or the martyr. No matter what happened in McConaughey’s life, he was never the victim and he only ascribed the most positive meaning. Really this is the metaphoric green-light. And perhaps, the idea that we choose our perspective on our lives.
We may not all get the opportunity to write a memoir. But why shouldn’t we? What story are you telling yourself? Hopefully one with a lot of green-lights.
In early July, I posted an article called “My 40’s Manifesto”. I have made it a point to keep the tenets of my manifesto top of mind. Also, I decided I’d provide updates intermittently. Perhaps some of you will get some enjoyment on my trials and tribulations during my search for enlightenment post forty.
There are five tenets to my manifesto:
I will work on connection
I will be authentic
I will accept love
I will think deeply
I will engage in relationships
Here’s where I’m at five months in.
I Will Work On Connection
I have done several things to follow through on this piece. I have regularly continued to write letters, made calls, visits and reached out even when I normally would not. I have made an effort in this realm. I have regained a relationship with a friend that I believed was done several decades ago.
In addition, I read Matthew McConaughey’s new memoir, Greenlights.
I did not see this one coming.
I remember McConaughey as the “romance movie guy”. Kind of a jock that I didn’t really connect with. The guy who I was trying to beat, who had it easy! My antennae did perk up when I saw True Detective and Interstellar. Nonetheless, I haven’t poured over his catalog as I’ve done with other favorites.
What I found in the book was incredibly relatable and a welcomed shot of positivity. The book’s trip through Mr. McConaughey’s life illustrates a fierce passion, a sense of adventure, a sense of self-discovery and knowledge, and a determination to go deep that borders on foolishness (the best kind, I think).
The book has reconnected me with parts of myself I hadn’t reckoned with in a long time. I’ve been acquainted with things that I love about myself that I haven’t watered in quite a while. It’s revealed some harsh judgements on myself the cause of some standard without a purpose. I now have some tools to balance a severe internal inquiry with a healthy sense of self-love. This self-love has made it much easier for me to connect with everyone from family, friends to coworkers.
It’s important to note that just when you think you’re in a state of complacency in the cycle of life, there are are works of art out there that will awaken things within you that you’ve forgotten were there or haven’t quite found yet. It’s a great book, check it out.
I believe my friends and family now have a much greater sense of the esteem that I hold them in. Much healing has happened this year in those relationships with much more to come. I am now becoming interested in just connecting with the people on the periphery, the small conversations that I always avoided. Small talk. I don’t do it for fear of getting stuck there, listening.
All in all, I’m connecting more to myself and more to those in my life without fear of being rejected or misunderstood.
Current Challenge: Remaining connected consistently. I love my solitude. Sometimes, I get stuck here. Staying connected to yourself broadly is a good thing. While good on staying connected to me, it is an area of balance that needs some management.
I Will Be Authentic
This has been a series of events. Oh how we can trick ourselves into believing such crazy things! I won’t take the opportunity to make fun of myself. Instead, I’ll just discuss my process. In being mindful and aware of my feelings, through a combination of meditation, journaling and other self-discovery tools, I have discovered that I often disregard my needs. There is a thought that says, “Hey, Watts, if you were tough enough, you’d just grin and bare it.” At this point, I don’t request or communicate how I feel to anyone. No, not at all. Instead I become mentally foggy and irritable. I become mean, petty – even arrogant as a result of this.
I have come to the very quick realization that there is no reason to feel weak in sharing my feelings. In fact, the act of sharing is what is defined as a relationship. When you share something and become vulnerable, you feel something happen. The feeling is changed at its core by its sharing. It really is magical.
At the advice of my significant other, I shared an impactful story with my father. When I was young, I recall a time when he referred to be as a “freckled-face strawberry”. Then, he said something along the lines of “…he wont be winning over any girls any time soon…”
In a very uncomfortable situation, I explained these memories to my dad. He didn’t have any memory of this instance. I didn’t want him to feel bad, I prefaced the story as the simple sharing of information. He assured me that he had no idea what he was saying and was most likely just joking with his friends. (Honestly, I did have quite an awkward phase where I was quite covered with freckles.) Nonetheless, this was a thought that played in the background for my entire life. I was obsessed with the fact that I might be ugly. However, once I shared this with him, it’s power in my mind, lessened.
Lesson learned: Don’t hide your feelings from those closest to you. Sharing could prevent a lifetime of pain.
Presenting your authentic feelings to those you’re closest with can be a magical thing. This is true even when they are difficult feelings that perhaps are not easy to share.
Current Challenge: Remembering that not fully sharing yourself is not good for anyone involved.
I Will Accept Love
There is something lurking beneath my awareness that keeps whispering (just out of earshot), saying “you’re not enough…” I’ve taken some time to look around me and truly understand that most of us have this issue to some degree. We may blame this on family, friends or other things externally, but the truth is – we do this to ourselves. It’s just a cognitive, mental habit.
I’m going to work hard to show them I’m worth it.
If I keep on giving in this relationship, sooner or later they’ll ask me what I need.
If I take enough pain, at some point I’ll feel worthy.
The sad thing is that this self-denial often gives us purpose. Purpose is generally a good thing, but not when it is based in this. Not too long ago, I felt that the quality of my relationships was simply the promise of future quality, potential. Ideas of personal boundaries and discussing needs with significant and other close relationships, just seemed an idea that was impossible to manifest.
It is not. It is necessary to think about these things otherwise you end up a slave to your own ideas about relationships that may not be fully dependent on reality.
There have several ways that this has appeared in my thoughts. I wouldn’t call people because “what if they didn’t want to talk?” I wouldn’t express my needs in any relationship because “what if they say ‘no’ and leave?” I wouldn’t ask for help because “what if they think I’m weak?” If I had a question for my boss, I wouldn’t ask because “what if he thinks I’m dumb?”
When you say these things out loud, they sound ridiculous. But we are all in a negative thought spiral most of the time. Eighty percent of the thoughts we think are both negative and exactly the ones thought yesterday. Our psychology pays attention to the negative. We evolved this way in order to survive. To that end, we aren’t designed to be happy. We are designed to survive, and thusly scan the environment for negativity.
It is a human need, connection. We are wired to be connected and love is the mechanism in which we connect. However, this also contradicts our other evolved characteristics meant for survival. For example, the need to be aware of threats. This is what happens in the case of our obsession with what we perceive as negativity.
In the end, you have to practice. Ask for what you need. Don’t be hurt if another’s boundaries make it impossible for you to receive your need. It is more about them than you. However, don’t deny yourself what you need!
Current Challenge: This all goes back to self-acceptance. Believe people love you just the way you are.
I Will Think Deeply
I am deeply enjoying this one. Taking the time and creating the space for deep thinking is paramount to a healthy mind. I have learned so much from just connecting the dots, just a little deeper, just a little deeper. Sometimes you just keep diving, but this is a way to connect with yourself.
Much of what I’ve learned about relationships has been due to following feelings to their corresponding thoughts. I have this need to be publicly adored. I always just reported that it was due to being the oldest of six and naturally a show off. These are external things that may have had an impact on me, but weren’t really the root cause. I’ve spent many nights awake to understand where this came from.
However, one of my earliest experiments sharing this with others, backfired in a severe way. I had created a rap song for one of my science classes using a karaoke machine that recorded overdubs. I created what I thought was a great song to share with my class. When I began playing the tape in front of the class, it sounded completely different. It sounded…bad.
At this point, I turned and hid behind the podium as the song played. In my mind, it sounded so much better! So I locked myself in my bedroom and practiced and practiced and practiced. I had to redeem myself. Each time I perform even so much as a speech or a presentation at work, I see this as a chance for redemption. So of course I want to take the chance! I want to compare how it sounds/looks/feels in my mind with how the audience perceives it.
This hope of redemption burrowed deep into my character. It has caused me to seek out this experience.
Thinking deeply has brought me to this thought.
But there’s more, thinking about psychology, the origins of human nature, purpose and consciousness has become a passion.
Current Challenge: Becoming overwhelmed with the information that I have left unexamined for so long.
I Will Engage in Relationships
This one (more than any of the others) requires an extreme presence. Often referred to as being “in the moment”. I often close myself off for fear of being judged and misunderstood. This is a terrible, terrible, terrible way to deal with these situations. It still is probably my biggest challenge.
I have an interesting baggage with relationships. By relationships, I mean friendships or intimate relationships. Friendships and relationships require (in my mind) me to be the hero. I have to be saving someone or fighting for some cause. I need to be offering something that is extraordinary. Perhaps, the person who is receiving these gifts doesn’t necessarily feel that way. But here’s the catch. In the process of trying to live up to my ideal, the hero, I have a moment of doubt. And so, I often (in the case of intimate relationships) need the point of view of the other person. Guess what? Often, this greatness is not recognized the same way in my partners or friends. So I grow cold, mean and resentful.
The pattern is still here.
Strangely enough, I believe that I’ve dealt with the emotional core of this behavior. Yet what remains is a vestigial cognitive process, a habit. It’s not even fueled by any emotional baggage. I’ve had this play out in countless ways with family, friends and ex’s. I work to change my behavior by being mindful of it and making sure that I keep my sense of self-love in check when with others. Often, I can be overly concerned with them and bend myself in an inauthentic way to prove that I’m worthy. Codependent anyone?
Current Challenge: Again, self-love. If you don’t fully accept yourself, you aren’t going to get it from anyone else.
Later in life, I am finding that I am attached to some ideas that don’t add up. These ideas have and are having a serious impact on my life. One of them I am trying to move beyond is materialism. Many studies show that those who are materialistic have a lower social and personal well being18.
I didn’t have a whole lot of money for most of my life. I couldn’t get all the “stuff” that I desired. This was extremely troubling. I felt a “less-than” feeling around all of my peers. Notably, when I was only ten or so, I refused to leave a shoe store until my father bought be a pair of Jordan’s for me, for the upcoming basketball season. (We eventually decided on Reebok Pumps).
This materialism compounded in my twenties when I dated a young woman whose ex-husband was an air force captain. Holy beta male did this set off an explosion of self acceptance issues. I had to puff out my chest! Up until this point, I was going to be a rockstar. As a result, I wasn’t familiar with this competitive, all encasing feeling. (That’s a story for another time.) I did everything I could do to try to make myself look wealthier and to get more stuff. I bought a house, worked my way up in my company (same company I work for now) and completely changed everything in my life. Mountains were moved, in retrospect. This turned out to be a lot of really misguided effort.
In the next phase my life, I got married. This was during a positive time when my income grew. I was at the height of my materialistic journey. We took two to three vacations a year. I drove a luxury car and was going out to eat four to five times a week.
After the marriage ended, I had a bunch of … stuff. A huge television set was mounted on my wall. I was amassing a large vinyl record collection and had bluetooth speakers and/or a high end Sonos speakers in every room. I was spending more than I was making. I rationalized that I was investing in my future.
Uh…yeah, I’m not exactly sure how that works out, but I typed it, so there it stays! The only thing I was really investing in, was American Express.
I’ve made a lot of changes and still have some way to go. But I still get caught up in impulse buying. My mind has found a new way to express this desire.This is done through buying items I’ll “need”, moving away from entertainment items. I love organization, so office supplies are one of my favorites. Also, I love vinyl records. I do truly love them for a variety of reasons. But if I’m being honest with myself, the most exciting part of the whole process is clicking the “buy” button and awaiting its arrival. (Oh look, there’s a notification for one right now!)
Okay, still I have a long way to go.
But, I’m going either way…
The power of desire is incredible. It causes us to mislead, straight up lie to ourselves. We resent one another, fight, go to war, steal and bully for what we want, what we desire. The desire for material goods is just one example. There are sixteen desires including power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquility2. So, which desire is being expressed by impulse buying?
Power mostly15, with a hint of status.
I feel powerful when I buy something. It also provides a feeling of status by using that power. But I’m not fooling the marketers, they know I feel this way. They’ve set it up this way. They have the human psyche mapped out when it comes to making purchases. There are all kinds of psychological principles at work pushing us in this direction. The Gruen effect will have you lost in a store in hopes that you are more likely to buy8. Ikea has been named in this scheme9. The Diderot effect keeps us buying things subsequently, after an initial purchase3. For example, you buy a computer. Then, you buy a new mouse, a new case, a new desk etc. Before you know it, you’re broke. And here we are, experiencing the Diderot Effect.
It’s likely that we all suffer from impulse buying to some degree. If only there was another me that would appear when I was making these rash decision that screamed: “Buying that will not make you feel better!”
Since that is not an option, let’s look at some others. This is how I’m beating impulse buying and so should you!
Delete Shopping Apps
The average consumer spends over $5,000 per year on useless items21. It is projected that online sales are to reach $4.2 trillion in sales this year and $6.4 trillion by 2024. A lot of people shop online and 62% make a purchase at least monthly22. Shopping on mobile phone apps is expected to rise by 56% by 2022. While most shopping starts on mobile phones, most online transactions are completed on a computer. This is expected to change as the trend moves us towards mobile.
Delete the Amazon app.Delete the Etsy App.Delete the ebay app.
I did it. It helps more than you’d think. The logic follows, if you can’t look it up easy on your phone, you’re less likely to make an impulse buy. Of course you could go to your phone browser and shop. Nevertheless, there is a reason for shopping apps for your phone. It creates a greater level of engagement from the user (you). Also, it is more likely that you’ll develop a habit for using the app23.
The rate of online shopping addiction is going up. Much of this has to do with the stress caused by the pandemic. However, it’s good to know the tell tale signs.
Spending more than you can afford
Feeling guilty for the purchases made
Feelings of upset due to not being able to shop
Hiding your items from your loved ones
Any of these feelings or actions should certify a red flag. You should consider the possibility of a problem.
If you’re already going to buy five grand worth of useless stuff this year, this is a no brainer. Limit your access to buying useless items.
Choose the Fruit Salad, Not the Cake…
Often when we make an impulse buy, we do it during an emotional time. Impulse buyers are often more status oriented, experience more anxiety and inability to control emotions and experience less happiness than most24. It has a mood boosting effect. If this is the driving factor influencing the purchase, this is problematic. Understand that when most of us consider making a purchase our limbic system (the part of the brain responsible for pleasure) becomes active25. Those marketing to us know this. There are several tricks they use to lure us in to make the purchase.
In an experiment conducted in 1999, a group of participants were given a two digit or a seven digit number to memorize before an interview. They were also notified they could pick a snack off of a snack cart. The snack cart offered either chocolate cake or fruit salad. Those with the seven digit number overwhelmingly chose the chocolate cake.
The chocolate cake represented the “feel good”, impulsive choice while the fruit cake represented the more thoughtful, less impulsive choice. Those with “more on their mind” overwhelmingly chose the “feel good” choice. Often when we enter online or brick and mortar stores, there is some attempt overwhelm us. In providing more information and choices than we need, our perceptions are easily overwhelmed and confused. Consequently, we are more likely to make more “feel good” purchases.
This is also true if there are other things unrelated to shopping that are on the mind. If we’ve got a lot on the mind, we’re far more likely to make that emotional purchase26. When we’re stressed and our frontal lobe is overloaded or exhausted we’re on autopilot. We’re not even fully conscious of what we’re doing. This is right where companies want us.
A recommended best practice is that you make a list before you shop. Stick to the list. Don’t stray.
For larger purchases (set your own limit here ______). Then, wait it out. No need to jump on it.
The moral of the story is that if you can convert shopping to a thoughtful process instead of an emotional one, you’re far less likely to impulse buy.
Know Your Brain
We are happier wanting or desiring something, than we are when we actually have it4. This is profound.
Let’s state that one more time. We are happier wanting or desiring something, than we are when we actually have it. It’s counterintuitive at first, sure. But think about it. You’ve experienced this before. It makes sense if you understand it’s the reason why we survive. This desire had to be strong enough to move us to do crazy things like kill animals so that we could eat, at one point in time. Now, we still have the same instincts. However, they now don’t serve us quite so well in the case of driving impulse buying behavior. Understand that we are dealing with an instinct that is at the very core of who we are.
Here are some basic strategies that marketers employee to exploit these instincts.
The cheap stuff is at the register. Marketers know that we like to buy stuff. Putting these items where we check out is a way of squeezing a few more bucks out of us and us getting a little more of a “rush” from buying something else.
Put the prices on the left. We read left to right, so we automatically assume that number lines proceed from left to right as well. Subconsciously, we know that one starts on the left and as we move right the number increases. So this makes us feel like it’s a lower price27.
Foods that are often bought together are separated in stores. This causes you to have to walk past a lot of other items tempting your impulse20.
Misting produce is often to make it look more appealing20.
The expensive big ticket items may be put in displays up front. The consumer may then see a cheaper version of what they saw when they walked in and consider the cheaper a steal. For example, a $5,000 television is put up in front of the store. You’re in the market for one. When you are looking through them in the rear of the store, you find one for $2,500 and think “Wow, what a deal!”10
It is thought that 62% of in store purchases are impulse buys. This percentage is thought to be much higher online8. Know your brain is set up for failure in this way. Be aware of their tricks.
Mindfulness can lead to cure for multitudes of mental conditions including the desire to shop. Just being aware that you are making purchases to make yourself feel better is a fantastic start. But when you sit with it, you start realizing some scary things. For those not familiar with this idea, it is not synonymous with meditation. Meditation may be used as a tool to reach a greater degree of mindfulness. However, mindfulness is this case is simply being aware or conscious of a predilection for impulsivity.
Am I buying this because I have low self-worth?
Am I making purchases, spending thousands just to make myself feel better for a few minutes?
What is the true drive behind my action?
I recommend meditation, personally. Mindful meditation is simply the act of training your mind to pay attention to your thoughts. Eventually, to have a greater control over them. In this way, you can identify when am I making these purchases? How am I feeling when I make the purchase? What are the activities that occurred prior to me making these purchases?
I will caution that a surface ask of these questions will not do. You’ll have to go a little bit deeper. Studies show that mindful meditation can improve impulsive thoughts27. Essentially, if you want to curb your impulse spending, get ahold of your thoughts. Be mindful. Acquire a tool that will help you achieve a greater awareness of your thoughts and where they stem from. There are many available to you including the raisin exercise, body scanning, mindful seeing and listening, self compassion pause and more.
Change Your Philosophy
If you are having trouble with impulse buying, there may be a misalignment between your values and your actions. Or, perhaps worse, your values and actions are aligned. Your actions are simply reflecting your values. When this is the case, it may be time to make a change. If we believe that having more material items will bring greater happiness, this may be something that you want to reconsider.
A 2014 meta analysis of materialism’s impact on well-being has found that there is a negative correlation between life satisfaction and prioritization of materialism28. This means that most research finds that the attitude that things equal satisfaction is simply untrue.
For example, I love the Green Day record American, Idiot. I haven’t listened to it for quite a long time. I heard one of the songs from the record one day, randomly. I, then, purchased the record on vinyl. I made an impulse buy. I have yet to listen to said record and I recieved it months ago.
Is my philosophy that I like to collect record just in case I ever want to listen to them? Is it that I believe buying this record, the process of ordering and awaiting its arrival the main reason I ordered it? Do I believe that I will achieve greater life satisfaction by having this record?
Yes. Yes, I do.
And so I make the buy, the impulse buy. It’s time to rethink my philosophy. My life is good knowing that this music is out there, yes. But I will change my philosophy to only purchasing records that I’ll listen to on a regular basis. Otherwise, the purchase simply doesn’t align with my values.
Examples of values around purchasing could be “I value purchases that impact my life regularly.” Or, “I value purchases that are sustainable for the environment.” Or even, “I value purchases that provide memorable experiences.” The values that I was exercising sound more like “I value the feeling experienced by making a purchase that gives me a good feeling in the moment.”
And so my philosophy needs to change to one that more closely aligns with healthier, more character and thoughtful motivations of purchasing. Evolving from “I do what feels good in the moment” to “I will do what regularly enhances my life in a positive way.”
Document Your Reasons for Purchases
Another thing I like to do is write down my reason for the purchase. This puts in place a little accountability for where I’m spending my money. For example, If I decide I need some new work clothes, I write in my notes app on my phone all the thoughts that surround this idea for the purchase.
Can I afford it?
Why do I feel I need new clothes?
Is this an impulse buy?
What would happen if I didn’t buy it?
Is this a need or a want?
How does this play in to the overarching theme of my personal values?
Often times this can simply help you learn from your purchasing snafus.
I was notorious for buying workout equipment. At one point, I had a really nice workout bench, weights and a pull up bar mounted in my basement. These were all impulse buys. I think I used them one time. If I would have had this practice at the time, my notes would have looked something like this:
Can I afford it? – How can I afford not too? I’m going to look great and nothing should be prioritized ahead of health!
Why do I feel I need this? – I feel like it would improve my overall well-being, physical fitness and life in general.
Is this an impulse buy? – No, no, no. I’ve wanted to work out for forever.
What would happen if I didn’t buy it? – I would continue to be out of shape and weak.
Is this a need or a want? – This is definitely a need.
How does this play in to the overarching theme of my personal values? – I believe you have to exercise to be healthy and thriving person in life.
At this point in your similar situation, you’ll realize what a salesman you are too yourself. These all seem like reasonable answers, so what happened?
For the first question: yes, I could afford it. But what I could not afford, is if I bought it and did not use it? I cannot afford to buy things I wont use. My initial answer to this question bypasses this whole idea. Secondly, I am right on with this answer, it would improve my overall-wellbeing and physical fitness. However, I have to commit to using it. This is the idea that I failed to consider.
Note to self: “add impulse buying question ‘Can I commit to using this item/service/purchase so that it justifies my investment?’”
This is also a good question to ask for any purchase of a service (gym membership, subscription service, streaming service etc.) I used to say things like “I better watch a movie soon, so that I can get the value out of the HBO subscription.”
What the hell?!
The third question, if I didn’t buy it what would happen? My answer circumvents the real issue here. I was attempting to find a solution for becoming for fit. But this is not the only solution. Pushups, running and yoga are examples of other things that I could do without making the purchase. Maybe I could add to this questions ‘is there another potential for the solution for the problem I am trying to solve?’
Need or want? Don’t confuse this question with the problem that you are trying to solve with the purchase. It is a NEED for me to be physically fit. However, because this is only one solution to that problem, it is a WANT.
The last question presents a similar issue. It is an overarching value that creates my need for physical fitness, but we circle around to commitment. I did not want to commit to using the weight bench. I, again, considered the purchase as the sole solution. It was certainly A solution. However, it was not the only solution.
This list is a good place to start. You can make your own notes as you go.
Give it Away
You may be thinking, “Okay, great. I have a problem. That makes me feel like crap.”
If that’s the case, that is truly not the intention. However, there are things you can do that really make you feel good in healthy way. The research is mixed on altruistic behavior in general, however the act of giving is a positive experience. Psychologist Adam Grant , refers to it as “one of the best anti-anxiety medications available”16. Even the thought of giving can release the same feel-good chemicals as thinking about food or sex.
Donating to charities is a great way to put your money towards something that is more closely aligned with your values. A 2008 study found that spending money on others makes you happier than spending the money on yourself28. So if we’re just trying to improve our feelings, buy something for someone else! Give! This will make you feel better. Another study found that elderly folks who volunteered for two or more organizations are 44% less-likely to die than others in the next five-years. This is true even when taking into consideration other highly impactful habits like exercise and smoking28.
Giving your time and money is a great way to increase positive social interactions and personal connection. We’re built for connection and truly, this is always evident in one way or another in our drives behind our actions. This includes impulse buying.
If you experience some struggles with impulse shopping and it is having an overall negative impact on you long term, you may need to spend some time considering the contents of this article.
The good news is that you can change. It is possible for you to get a hold of your spending and not buy so much on impulse. The key is to realize that the wanting is so much more powerful than the having. Be grateful for what you have. There are so many others in the world now and throughout human history that have had so much less. Express gratitude.
Two hundred years ago it was 1820. The population was less than one billion. The most common mode of transportation was your own two feet. Or, if you were in business, it was a boat navigating a canal system. The feared kings of Rome and England, with all of their cruelty and wielded power did not have the kind of silent, immediate and fierce power that we now have.
One bomb can end life on the entire planet. At the intersection of an invention and a system, the result is a change in the climate of an entire world. One man elected can immediately change the most influential culture in the world. A person unknown today, can become known the world over tomorrow with how quickly information spreads and the viral phenomenon can take hold.
Throughout humanity, we’ve sought to improve our lives. These vast and many improvements are now at our fingertips. They are integral to and often un-thought of elements of our existence. For example, each morning during the winter we wake up in a heated home. This warmth is because someone figured out an efficient way to route gas to our homes. Someone else found that we could run our furnaces on this gas and vent the heat from our basements to our bedrooms. Then, we get out of bed and prepare for our days using products and services that have much the same story as the gas, the furnace and the duct work.
We don’t think about what it took to make these things happen. In fact, many times we are unappreciative of these things until their absence. This happens in the case of a power outage or our car breaking down on the side of an obscure farm road.
No cell signal? How can that be?
It is time we reckoned with the scope and reach of humanity’s power.
Let’s create an Individual/Improvement Power Ranking.
This scale goes from 1 (the power of the individual + improvement= not very powerful) to 10 (the power of the individual + improvement= very powerful). This is a rating of how the improvement makes the individual more powerful. The rating would measure potential impact on their environment both negative and positive. (Note: this is not scientific, it is only for the purpose of discussion).
A long time ago, we developed eye glasses. With this improvement, the individual can see images they couldn’t before, near or far away. Extremely powerful for the individual, there is virtually no impact on the environment. This would have an IIPR of 1. Again, what we are measuring is the impact on the environment.
In another example, we’ll give the IIPR of a gas furnace a 3. The individual would have somewhat limited power over the environment with this improvement. They could heat their living space. Of course, one could blow out the pilot on the furnace and allow the house to fill with gas. They could then use a match to blow up the house. The consideration in the ranking takes into account the potential to exert power over the environment and condition. This blowing up of the house would impact the folks who live there, the neighbors, the neighborhood and the first responders in the initial impact.
The power over the environment in this case is undeniable, they are able to heat their living space. This would seem very powerful indeed to those born 200 years ago.
Now let’s get more powerful.
A car is rated with a 6 IIPR. Cars can cause damage to the environment in several ways and is mobile. A car could cause car accidents if the driver so chose. The individual could drive through small towns hitting pedestrians and causing accidents. It is rated higher because it has the potential to exert more power over the environment than in previous examples. This is due to it being mobile and the individual having more direct control. All the driver need do is press the gas pedal and turn the wheel. Much more control and power is available compared to the furnace. A bus and an airplane might have a similar IIPR. Still powerful enough to carry one from one side of the country to the other.
How will future generations appraise today’s average IIPR rated tools?
To further flesch out our rudimentary scale, a 1 IIPR would be an individual with a highly individualized improvement. Our example was the eyeglasses. A 10 IPR would be nuclear launch buttons available as is the case for the US President to push at any time, ending life on the planet.
One simple action, all the power.
There was no chance of destroying the planet one-hundred years ago especially at the individual level. We have more power per individual than ever in history. More knowledge is at our fingertips than at any point in the past. This is to the point where the human. mind is overwhelmed. We are not equipped to adapt or evolve this quickly. But that discussion remains for a later time.
The average human being has far more power (or can have a much larger impact) than in previous generations. This power continues to grow at a greater rate. If you were to fast forward at the exponential rate we are now growing our individual power, it’s easy to assume that each of us will end up with the equivalent of a button before us that could potentially end the world.
Is humanity doomed to die a flash in the pan in the course of the universe?
Is our existence just a failed experiment by an arrogant god?
The adage about ‘absolute power corrupting absolutely’ has to hold some insight into our future, right?
At the rate we’re going, we may individually have the power to destroy the world. As our IIPR continues to increase for every improvement, this scenario becomes more and more likely. It is probable that someone will make the “wrong choice”, right? Someone will push the world-ending button. A course correcting event would have to intervene in order to alter our current course from this inescapable future, it seems.
What an utterly terrifying thought.
The Power Quality: Good or Bad?
We arrive at the idea of power quality. In short, we continue to leverage the impact of our individual power and the button factor increases. [The button factor = extreme individual power. IE the button to end the world nuclear-ly.] Most of what we’ve discussed to this point is the negative potential. However, there is the chance that someone could use this power for good.
One of our financial giants (those with a net worth a fraction of the wealth of the entire world) could decide to liquidate their wealth investing in solving a key human problems. Perhaps it’s starvation, war, climate or humanitarian issues. The point is, the quality of the power should have the potential to be good as well. Yet, it’s harder to perceive.
The question is, if a negative power quality is the nuclear button, what is its positive equivalent?
Destruction and peril on that large of a scale are easy to imagine. But what would cause humanity to thrive in an analogous manner? If there were an easy answer to this, we’d name it. Perhaps the reason we don’t, is that our survival instinct is scanning the horizon for threats. Therefore, creating our this negative bias. Nevertheless, it is hard to conceive of an IIPR that would have a creative (the opposite of destructive) impact comparable to the button factor.
Even when we take a polar opposite such as death (death, a state opposite of life) and cure it. There would still be incalculable destructive potential. Where would everyone live? Would we limit reproduction? How would it affect culture, religion?
It seems that curing death would both devalue life and make unnecessary deaths so much more a tragedy. Would only the rich have the option to live forever? What are the economic implications? This is a completely different thought paradigm.
Perhaps it’s suffice to say that we’re describing symptoms of a universe themed in entropy. End of story(?).
Is Power Inherently Bad?
Is it just as simple as Orwell puts it?
If the object of power is more power, is it just a western addiction?
For those who gain power, it is not particularly good for the individual. When you have power, research finds that people just don’t like you as much. You are seen as intimidating. Others want to take your power. The US President has historically been considered the most dangerous job on the planet. The science is in, having power is not good for human health. But still, there is a drive (some greater than others) for us to acquire it. For the individual, power does not equal health or longevity.
As Earth’s population increases, the power of systems becomes more relevant. Systems are great at increasing productivity and standardization. Yet, most of us that belong to the capitalist system in the US find ourselves serfs in some unavoidable way. The purpose of our lives, (if we are willing to take a hard look in the mirror) is, at least in part, to consume. This plays on the fact that human desire is a stronger motivator than actually having. We’re prompted to buy a phone every year or two, a car after a couple of years and our attitude is that more is better! Amazon is the king of shipping unneeded, impulse items to you instantly. It is also one of the biggest companies to EVER EXIST!
We were born into this system of excess and materialism. Because of this, we attract citizens from outside the country who were born into a state of lack. Lack is not experienced the same way here in the US/western world.
Donald Trump is right to point out that every company in the US goes to every extent to avoid paying taxes. It may be legal, but often when exposed it certainly isn’t ethical. Why should Trump be any different? Other CEOs and C-levels are not paying income tax. The accountant’s job is to make sure these folks pay the least amount of tax possible. Our systems are now centralizing power. This is a function of that purpose. It’s how we designed them to work. Again, power (in this case power=money) seeks only more power.
It is interestingly enough, happening parallel to the individuals power growth. But it comes at a cost.
The Cost of Opting Out
This capitalistic system drives our culture. It is who we are, to a degree. Most of us are noble enough. We don’t want to pollute the world’s oceans, be responsible for sweatshops to produce our goods or consume food that is hazardous to our health. However, these and countless other harmful side effects are those of a capitalistic system. A system we either have to participate in, leave or work to change from within. This is an enormous challenge, given that it flies in the face of the very principle of the system, growth at all (more recently “most”) costs.
In capitalism, if you (or the company) doesn’t grow, you (it) die(s). If we don’t produce ‘more’, survival is limited ofr businesses and organizations.
We were taught to strive to do well in school. Why? Because, we had to get a job someday! Many of us went on to get higher educations. The purpose? More income!
I was under the impression until my mid-thirties, that the purpose of life was to get stuff! That’s what I was socialized to believe. (I obviously could have done some more research and changed my mind, educated myself etc.)
The theme is, our system is one of the key driving forces in the world. One individual could not easily change this system. This is much different from our IIPR. The system is the improvement, but the individual is less important in this calculation. For this concept, it is the population plus the improvement (the system). The PIPR, if you will.
If we chose to opt out, the cost would be detrimental to our own survival. One would have to either join a non-capitalist society (none come to mind) or completely move off of the grid. For most of us, this cost is too great to give any serious consideration to this idea. Leaving our family, friends, jobs, hopes and dreams… not a big selling concept, there.
The most thoughtful of us choose to stay put. One person fleeing a society doesn’t threaten it. So while our individual power is increasing exponentially, it does so only in relation to the society we belong. The cost of our individual power is our membership in the society.
The System is Perfect
Our brand of capitalism is designed to give human beings purpose. We choose a job, career or some other task to label ourselves with. Then, we go. We do it. It’s who we are, who we’re to become. Without this distinction, many may simply wander or worse. There is some merit to this. However, this idea references the purest form of our brand of capitalism.
As mentioned earlier, we are able to have heat in our homes due to the labor of another (others). We never have to go through the process of tediously meeting and thanking them. This is only possible because we live in a society that promotes individuals to specialize in tasks and benefit from each others labor and production. (Obvious positives and negatives inherent, here.)
The system produces what it is designed to produce. As we improve systems, their impact is further felt. Its tip is sharpened, its effectiveness enhanced. For example, our economic philosophy (in essence) is to sell a lot. Often, we produce a lot which drives the prices down and so the matre becomes sell a lot for a little. Growth has to happen, so it always leads to more, more, more. Is it any surprise that companies like Amazon, Target and Walmart rule the retail markets? (The companies that you’re thinking of right now that don’t follow this pattern, will eventually.)
If we changed the principle of the system, we would change everything interacting therein. If we changed the philosophy fromsell a little for a lot, we would end up seeing that trend in the leading and largest companies in the world. (I understand we wouldn’t do this.)
We continue to get better and better at programming our systems. We have created algorithms that predict outcomes we can’t understand.
In the US, we have some fail-safes in place to protect the power from becoming too centralized. These antitrust laws attempt to protect us from systems that overreach. What this seems to illustrate, is that somewhere in our collective unconscious we understand there is a need for balance.
Humanity’s issues all stem from a lack of balance. The industrial revolution has birthed a modern system that is immediately sustaining. But in the long term, it is environmentally punishing. And this is for many reasons. What started as an improved alternative to using a horse or a camel as a means of transport, became an industry polluting and tainting the world directly and indirectly. We’ve learned fossil fuels contribute to destroy the environment at an alarming rate. We begin to act (albeit late) in the game. This is in an attempt to regain balance. Companies are asked to create technologies more environmentally friendly. New technologies are created. Really, this is all for the sake of balancing environmental and other balance concerns.
Relatedly, we have social media. A means to connect socially through the medium of technology. New technologies have manipulated these formats to make you and I the product (our attention, opinions and money). The recent Netflix Doc called The Social Dilemma, outlines these ideas in detail. The best use of this, like other human systems is balance.
Previously, it was mentioned the government steps in with antitrust laws to protect the over-centralization of power. The idea of government intervention is often not a popular idea. Often, the government is called in to bring balance. There is a lot of controversy around this. If not the government, then who should enforce balance? Who should decide what the balance should be? And these concerns about the responsibility of defining and enforcing balance bring about other problems as well.
Distribution of wealth is also at an extreme point. The richest in our country own an increasingly large percentage of the wealth available. The gap between the riches and poorest grows. Who can step in to rebalance this? Will they do it fairly?
Coming to Terms
I’ve always enjoyed this phrase, “coming to terms”. It seems to mean “to put meaning to a concept”. This is precisely what I seek to do. There are four concepts used to illustrate the ideas herein. The IIPR, PIPR, the quality and nature of power and balance are all ideas brought forth to illustrate a shadow of a concern in the back of my mind. This concern is that the state and impact of humanity is changing rapidly. This is in large part due to our power, our systems and our drive for power. The thought that one person could destroy a world is not easily comprehended. It’s easy for many to believe that it couldn’t be true. However, it is.
The paradigm has changed right before our eyes. Humanity’s power has grown for the individual as well as the systems we’ve created. The systems may now be impossible to stop, though we have the best of intentions. Our world has picked up the pace, moving at an astonishing pace. Human minds are not equipped to deal with all that we have at our fingertips. Some of what we create, such as algorithms, produce results we don’t have the ability to fathom. It is no wonder why we see a rise in mindful activities (IE as meditation and yoga) offering us a tool to gain control over our precious little attention.
Historical references to make future decision become less and less relevant everyday. One hundred years ago, the Earth’s population was 1.7 billion. Today, we are nearly 7.9 billion, by 2030 we will be at 8.5 billion. And by 2050, 9.7 billion human beings. While from here it seems that balance is the obvious answer, what that looks like and how it’ll be implemented will be much the decider of whether we prevail or perish.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (Oct. 4-Oct. 10). The World Health Organization estimates between 30% and 80% of people with mental health concerns don’t seek treatment1. On Armchair Expert Podcast, it was reported that it takes five years for someone with depression to seek treatment.
The average person suffers for five years before taking steps to address it!
Almost 50% of adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetimes3. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 75% of men report an increase in stress and 50% report a decrease in mental health9. Men are also less likely to seek treatment compared to women.
If you’ve had a headache for five years, you’d go to the the doctor, right? Why is mental health different? Five years is too long to wait to get treatment for mental health.
But here’s why we don’t seek treatment for mental health!
We Don’t Know What Normal Is…
Are you normal?
Many of us aren’t in full understanding of what it is to feel ‘normal’. A manageable level of anxiety, a decent state of self-awareness, good relationships and a healthy sense of well-being are often considered symptoms of ‘feeling’ normal. Our families introduced us to the concept of normalcy. If our behavior wasn’t accepted among the family, we were told we were acting out of line. Sometimes this “telling” went too far. This, a phenomenon is referred to as gaslighting. Gaslighting is the act of causing someone to question their judgement or reality2. One way to gaslight someone, is to minimize their feelings.
“You’re blowing this out of proportion, aren’t you?!”
“You shouldn’t be this upset!”
“You’re being ridiculous!”
Now of course it may be normal for some judgement to be put onto the feelings of those closest to us. However, when it becomes toxic (IE you question your own reality), that is when it becomes a problem. Often our parents set the standard as to what normal is…and it may not be…normal. And therefore, we may not know exactly what normal may be.
Dr. Joe Luciani says “…understanding your present day insecurities and the environment provided by your parents (as well as other significant shaping influences) during your early developmental years, … give [s] yourself an important edge.”
Counseling can help map this out.
How do you define normal?
Admitting seeing a “therapist” or “counselor” is difficult. When others make this admittance, we may pass judgement. The Mayo Clinic names stigma around mental illness as the number one reason why people don’t seek treatment4. To make matters worse, nine in ten Americans agree that there is some stigma around mental health5.
It’s real, your not … cray
Think about this…
Most villains in our movies suffer from mental illness.
Have you ever had a “crazy ex”?
Referred to another as ‘out of his mind’, ‘nuts’ or ‘bonkers’.
Often Halloween costumes reflect people who have mental illnesses.
Often, we negatively describe others in psychological terms. We’ve all said these things! Probably not the best idea, on second thought…
In a CBS poll, 79% of Americans agree that Mental Illness is a real medical issue, yet only 12% feel there is adequate care available 5. As of 2014, most insurance plans are required to offer some coverage for mental health6. Even with legislation, people still have a hard time getting coverage8. The workaround for insurance companies is putting stringent standards around the “medical necessity” of the treatment.
Online counseling companies such as Better Help, Talk Space and Am Well will save you a few bucks. Yet they are about $40-80/wk7. Though they are often unlimited in access. Employee Assistance Programs are available from many employers that will offer some benefit, however these are often limited8. On average, the cost of therapy is $60-$120 per session or week ($3,100-$6,200 per year). Those with insurance coverage pay slightly less.
Insurance coverage is often not adequate. Insurers pay primary care benefits at 23.8% higher rate than those of mental health benefits10. Much stronger enforcement of parity laws is needed by state and federal governments in order to properly address this issue.
A study shows that 84% of mental health counselors are white13. Only 5% are latino and 4% black. As it stands, counseling and therapy is a white business. Only one in three African Americans who need mental health treatment receive it. It is difficult to get and access is often correlated with other socioeconomic factors. Ethnic and racial minorities have a disproportionate rate of disability related to mental health comparatively. It’s reported that 50%-75% of the youth in Juvenile detention centers meet the criteria for a mental illness. Gay men report higher levels of anxiety disorders than heterosexual men. Gay men are also more likely to report higher levels of dissatisfaction with mental health care, feeling as if the providers are judgemental or have anti-gay attitudes13.
While the above is not the complete picture, it serves to illustrate a trend. Most therapists are white, not as relatable to minorities and other groups. It is difficult to get access if you belong to these groups. Even if you do get care, you may not feel comfortable receiving it due to discriminatory attitudes by the provider. Many of our teens need mental healthcare, but it is often realized after they are incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities.
The answer to this part of the riddle is to continue to trumpet the importance of mental health and make it more available with a more diverse base of counselors.
Based on census data between 2007 and 2016, there was a significant increase in minority psychologists. This is promising news considering the problem. Further, it suggests a trend going in the desired direction.
When someone has clear signs of mental illness, but is convinced nothing is wrong it is referred to as Anosognosia11. This is a Greek word that more or less translates to “without knowledge of disease.”12. This is common in more serious mental health scenarios. It is thought that 40% of those with bipolar disorder and 57%-98% of schizophrenia patients have this condition12.
Anosognosia is the number one reason why patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders do not take their meds15.
If you don’t have the ability to perceive the disorder, you likely won’t seek treatment.
Five Years Is Too Long To Wait To Seek Help For Mental Health
If you’re suffering in any form from a mental state, seek help. At work, ask for the EAP information. Talk to someone you know has participated in therapy. The point is, if you’re suffering give yourself the chance to get healthy. If it’s not something you were socialized or raised to believe is normal, be a part of the change that makes it so. One-hundred years ago most people didn’t have a doctor. In one-hundred years, most people WILL have a counselor.
I ask every person I interview “If money was not an issue, how would you spend your life?” Almost everyone answers, traveling! As human beings, we love travel. Studies show that we are more optimistic about our work after travel and we improve social connections and communication skills1. Among other things, traveling alone can boost confidence, provide a greater peace of mind and bring you more in touch with yourself2.
On a recent expedition, I had several realizations of my own. Among them, five reasons why we love to travel!
Your Dreams Are Out There
I’ve traveled a lot in the past. When I landed in Denver, Co. the other day, I was so relieved that the mountains were all still there! Sounds crazy, but there’s a metaphor here. Traveling and having this experience reminded me, that our (your) dreams are still out there. And just like the mountains that I don’t experience everyday, my (your) dreams are an achievable experience as well.
You know, your dreams – the things that you’re working on day in day out with that day job and all the stress!
When you have changes of scenery to this degree, you’re reminded there is wonder outside of your normal experience.
Anything is still possible.
You Get To Know Yourself, Again
If you’re traveling alone, you get a lot of uninterrupted time with your thoughts. When you’ve got the mental space, this can be liberating. You reset your purposes and intentions, grieve and heal from recent stresses. The opportunity to think deeply about the meaning of the most recent events in your life is afforded. You have the chance to recalibrate.
Likely, there was a time when you were in a similar mental space. This initial experience enabled you to identify the hopes and dreams that drove you in the first place. Traveling alone can get you to that place once again. It can help you you take stock and adapt to the current landscape of life.
It Changes You
The openness dimension of our personality is one of the Big Five Personality traits researchers use to differentiate our personalities. A study from 2013 reports that especially when traveling in a foreign country, your level of openness can increase3. This adaptation can reduce your tendency to be emotionally reactive in your daily life, and thus your stress level decreased.
Your perception changes. Your world doesn’t seem as unmanageable. Something transcendent happens.
Travel makes you healthier. Women and men who don’t take an annual vacation are more likely to die. And men who don’t vacation are 30% more likely to get heart disease8.
For god sakes, go on vacation!
It’s Who We Are
It is widely believed that for 99% of human history, we’ve been nomadic. There weren’t villages, cities or towns. We were born to move around the globe5. The longing to do so is in our DNA. As a matter of fact, gene DRD4-7R is called the wanderlust gene. It is correlated with high levels of curiosity and restlessness6. This particular gene is present in 20% of the population7. So you have a one in five chance at being a natural nomad. No matter, it is in our very souls, the desire to travel.
It’ll Make You Smarter and More Creative
There are many different theories on how human beings learn. From behaviorism to situated learning theory, they all seem to have their own versions of building blocks. You can’t learn one concept without having some knowledge of a related or adjacent concept. Traveling increases your experience, which can in turn increase your library of concepts. You’re more worldly, smarter.
Experiences traveling increase the depth of thought and the need to make connections between dissimilar concepts. This process is often the genesis of creativity8.
Traveling is a wonderful thing. A sense of adventure can always shake up the mundane. I love traveling. Whether by car or train, plane or on foot, I was born to be on the move.
Our beliefs about politics are personal. We don’t like to discuss our beliefs as a measure of self-protection. Often, for good reason. Here are some things to keep in mind about politics and our interactions with other humans.
In civilized company, it’s something we’re not to discuss. It’s divisive, personal and uncomfortable. Yet, it’s implied and assumed in almost everything we do. From the car you drive to your feelings on vaccinations and face masks. It is widely assumed these feelings are related to your political positions. People are more afraid now in 2020 to share political beliefs compared to in 201714.
Drive a Toyota?
Your a Democrat.
Why can’t you believe in universal healthcare and also be republican? Why can’t you support the second amendment and also believe that Obama was the best president of all time? My gut feeling is that you can and many do. Many (and perhaps most) of us may have feelings similar to this. Feelings that don’t allow us to neatly fit into any one category.
The psychology that drives our political persuasion is a complicated proposition. The divides caused in our current societal climate make it relevant to each of our daily lives.
It has long been noted that discussing politics should not take place in civilized company. A recent study from the University College London found that the more differing viewpoints are shared, the more each of us remain cemented in our viewpoint. Further, sharing differing viewpoints causes us to pass judgement on the other1. This may give rise to bias blindspot. This is the belief that we are less biased than the rest of the general population2. The more we discuss politics, the more we become blind to whether our own ideas are well developed or not. By extension, less open to other’s ideas.
So, this old adage seems to hold.
You Believe More of What You Already Know
The concept of motivated reasoning is ever present in our discussion of politics. Motivated Reasoning is the bias to make a decision based on what we already know3. For example, if an individual does not believe racism towards African Americans to be an endemic problem in our society, they may be more likely not accept the ideas inspiring the Black Lives Matter movement.
Are You Good at Math?
The concept of numeracy refers to your ability to reason and apply numerical concepts. Research has show that the greater your ability in this area, the more susceptible you are to letting politics skew your reasoning5. For example, if you are shown data that a product is likely cause health problems, you are far more likely to ignore this fact in regards to a solution in a political context than without.
Further studies suggest a cure for this phenomenon. Scientific curiosity. The more scientifically curious we are, the less likely we are to be swayed into partisan thinking regardless of political affiliation or bias6. Folks who are scientifically curious are more likely to seek out information that challenges their group’s ideas. Paradoxically, the higher the level of numeracy the more likely you are to be politically biased.
Politics Can Hurt
Studies show that having a deeply held belief challenged can truly hurt us emotionally7. Scientists believe this is due to our own personal identities feeling threatened.
Liberal ideas bloom from a prioritization of equality, fairness, and protection of the vulnerable. Conservative ideas often favor in-group loyalty, moral purity, and respect for authority5. These are deeply personal ideas. We may find these concepts as intertwined in our own personal identities. Arguing that one concept should be valued above the others can be disturbing to many of us.
You Don’t Know How To Argue
The moral rhetoric of conservatism and liberalism doesn’t seem to be able to sway the other side. A study done in 20158 finds arguments that win us over are not those that will change the hearts and minds of our counterparts in opposition5. The logic finds its fault in that we are more easily swayed by those who already believe 98% of what we believe9,10. Only 9% of liberals and 8% of the conservatives in the study made arguments reflecting the others’ moral principles5,7. Instead, they argued their own moral ideas. The ideas that support why they believe what they believe. Trying to persuade others using the supporting ideas defining our beliefs is not a recommended strategy in bringing others around to our views.
Research also shows that we are more flexible than we think once the feelings of personal attack are removed. In a study, participants received false feedback regarding their political attitudes. For example, the participants’ views were summarized incorrectly often taking the opposite position in political stances. The positions were followed up on later the same day and the following week. Their attitudes were shown to have moved significantly in the direction of the incorrect feedback11.
Often during the election cycle, there is cultural discourse around what could happen if one candidate doesn’t win and visa versa. That is because it works! This is especially true in the context of politics. In one study, it was reported that when white voters were reminded that minorities would be the majority someday, they were more likely to vote for Trump12.
We regress to tribalism when we feel fear13. It becomes in-group/out-group. Who is in our tribe and who do we have to protect ourselves from? As a candidate, President Trump is famously quoted, declaring “Real power is – I don’t even want to use the word – fear.” 15
So What Now?
Politics are deeply personal to many of us. It is a difficult experience to have a family member or close friend be in opposition to our most cherished and passionate beliefs. With the knowledge outlined here, we can do the following:
1. Don’t Discuss Politics
I won’t discuss politics with my family or friends until after the election. For the most part, its divisive and there is judgement that harms the relationship. We feel personally attacked if our beliefs are questioned.
The more we argue to change the other, the more we stay the same.
I don’t believe my family and friends are bad people, stupid or ignorant for what they believe or who they vote for. My experience is different than theirs. In the spirit of our frontal lobes, I want to preserve the relationship. We’re smart enough to do that, aren’t we?
Facts don’t win hearts and minds.
2. Continuously Question Your Beliefs
Many things that I (and I suspect you) believed ten years ago, I no longer believe. This is due to a continuous questioning and searching for what is really important. Be scientifically curious! You’ll end up believing more of what you know, so continue to upload!
Catch yourself if you buy too much into the “Kool Aid” of one side or the other.
If someone close to you wants to discuss, listen. Try to get to what they are really saying. Why do they prioritize one value or one set of values over another?
A strange anxiety hangs in the background of my psychology this year. If you’re like me, when the summer fades a fog moves in. I’m less engaged, tired. There’s a loss of hope and inspiration. I want to sleep all the time.
Older now, I have an anxiety about this state and these feelings. The things I’ve tried in the past during these periods didn’t seem to help. As fall rapidly approaches, I need a gameplan.
How do we defeat SAD?!
In the following we’ll discuss The 4 Things You Should do NOW to help prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is it?
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, is a form of depression most commonly occurring in Fall and Winter. Indicators of SAD include depressed feelings, losing interest in activities once enjoyed, low energy, trouble sleeping, irritation or thoughts of death and/or suicide1.
In particular, SAD symptoms may include oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain, fatigue and low energy. Additionally, overating and loss of interest in sex and physical touch is also common under this condition3. SAD is five times more likely in females2.A less common version of SAD occurs in spring/summer months1. It is believed that 5% of the US population suffer from SAD. Interestingly, the further one is from the equator, the more likely they may suffer from SAD3. The reason for this brings us to the cause.
The days are growing shorter and this means less light. Light’s impact on our little human brains can’t be understated. Light impacts our production of serotonin, the mood hormone3. Without light, less serotonin is produced and our mood is decreased. In fact, serotonin reduces depression and anxiety, heals physical wounds and maintains bone health4.
Darkness causes us to produce melatonin, which causes us to be sleepy. On a larger scale, melatonin controls our sleep cycle. Light, conversely, causes the pineal gland to stop production5. This change screws up our sleeping patterns or circadian rhythm. Lack of sleep is tied to just about every health issue from diabetes to heart health and of course, mental health6. Sleep is so impactful on health, even a small adjustment. During the “spring ahead” phase of daylight saving time, research has shown a 25% increase in heart attacks the day after losing one hour of sleep. Also, strokes, fatigue, headaches and car accidents are more frequent. Conversely, the fall back causes night to fall soon and so, depression diagnosis spike 7.
The 4 Things You Should do NOW (the “Gets”)
1. Get Lit!
Treat the cause: lack of light. Light therapy boxes are designed to substitute sunlight during the darker parts of the year. Just thirty minutes a day with a light box (preferably first thing in the morning) has benefitted 85% of SAD cases in clinical settings3 . Doctors recommend a lightbox with a rating of 10,000 lux. The light should be 16-24 inches from your face8. You can purchase one of these a many retailers for $20-100 on the low end.
2. Get Down with D! Vitamin D, that is!
There is a link between vitamin D and serotonin production9. Patients diagnosed with SAD often have low levels of vitamin D3. Of course the other way that we produce vitamin D is through sunlight. Lightboxes and tanning beds can produce vitamin D in the body. However, doctors warn against the potential danger of cancer in certain uses10.
Eat food high in vitamin D such as salmon, crimini mushrooms, fortified yogurt and orange juice and eggs11. Or take a vitamin D supplement. Most of us need about 600 IU (international units) per day or about 400 MG (conversion IU X .67 = 600 X .67= 402)12.
3. Get Physical
Even a walk for 30 to 60 minutes can help produce serotonin and other chemicals in the brain that will help with SAD. Rhythmic exercises moving both your arms and legs (IE running or martial arts) are best13. Aerobic exercise has been shown to raise serotonin levels for hours after a workout and improve sleep quality14.
4. Get Together
While experiencing seasonal affective disorder, it may be difficult to get motivated to be social. However, the benefits of a standing social engagement (IE a group or club) are many. Take a yoga class or schedule a coffee date. The effect is described as a a “one-two punch”. First, you get the boost of looking forward to the activity and then you get the benefit of the activity itself15! Fill your calendar with these types of activities to avoid falling into the SAD trap of isolation.
As we get into fall, these 4 “GETS” will become even more important. So Get Lit! Get Down With D! Get Physical! And Get Together!
As an undergrad majoring in psychology, I was moved and inspired by the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. Often referred to as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI, this personality test is perhaps the most controversial of its kind. Critics claim the science supporting MBTI doesn’t add up. On the other hand, those who do believe in its utility often do so in the extreme.
Upon first taking the test, I was revealed as an INTJ. Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging. According to the book, Please Understand Me II, by David Keirsy, this was less than 2% of the population! At that point in my life, I truly felt alien to my fellow humans. The test proved my feeling, I was rare! It also gave a sense of normalcy to my experiences and thoughts. Among other things, it reported that I couldn’t stand small talk! Wow! I was reading my fortune!
Many other aspects of the INTJ type seemed to illustrated my personality. The way I chose mates, patterns of thought, the way I physically held myself…. I was amazed. I suddenly became the guy who was giving this test out to people at parties.
Also, taking the test many times throughout the years, I always was revealed to be the same type, INTJ. And so, the test appeared to be reliable. I gave it to girlfriends, friends, family members and strangers. I wanted to know them, of course. But more importantly, I used the test to explain myself.
INTJ’s live in their heads, have a hard time with intimacy and may not check in with you for years. But that doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
This was a helpful tool, it explained the abstract way I express love. I did this by vulnerability and sharing deep…thoughts. Not feelings, exactly. But thoughts on feelings.
Nonetheless, the MBTI has had a great impact on my life.
Today, the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory is somewhat controversial and ignored in the psychology field. Take a free version of it HERE. Or the official version HERE, for $50!
This is your ultimate guide to the MBTI.
What Does it Measure?
The MBTI evaluates four dimensions.
First, Introversion vs. Extraversion. (I vs. E)
Introversion is described as getting “energy from [one’s]…inner world”. Extraverted people are excited around others and like to excite others by talking and relating.
Next, Sensory vs. Intuitive (S vs. N).
This is really about how you take in and process information. Sensory leaning folks tend to simply believe what they see or hear. Intuitive folks tend to try to make some meaning out of the things they see or hear.
Third, Thinking vs Feeling (T vs F).
This, not as simple as it seems on its face, refers to decision making. Thinkers consider facts and ideas whereas Feelers tend to consider people and their feelings.
Finally, Perceiving vs. Judging (P vs. J) describes how you present yourself outwardly.
Perceivers are spontaneous and adaptable, whereas ‘Judgers’ are more structured and organized6.
You are asked a series of questions measuring which end of the four (4) sliding scales you end up on. Then, based on these results, you get a 4 letter designation. I, if you are more Introverted than Extraverted, S if you are more Sensory vs Intuitive and so on.
From these distinctions, the 4 letters reveal your ‘type’. Your personality is described from your type.
One of the cornerstones of standardized test is reliability. Essentially, a reliable test should measure the same things, the same way each time. If those measurements are applied consistently, the same results should be provided. Researchers have found that 50% of those who take the MBTI get a different result when retaking the test five weeks later3,13. Professor of Psychology, (University of Pennsylvania) Adam Grant, says the test is not reliable, valid, independent or comprehensive1. Critics also report the test is widely embraced because it leaves out the negative. It celebrates personality without qualifying it into good or bad3.
The MBTI was influenced by Carl Jung’s archetypes. Some researchers refer to it as the “Jungian Horoscope”10. The mother/daughter team that forged the inception of the MBTI had no specific training in psychology. Rather, they were enamoured by the idea of understanding and classifying personality in types. Associate Professor at Oxford University, Merve Emre, reports a similar story to the one I reported. She came across the test and upon taking it, felt “seen” for the first time. She wanted to use this language of personality. Through careful study, she eventually became a skeptic. Emre believes that personality is not fixed. Instead, the MBTI is based on the “fantasy” of human “characters” having a “knowable interior”2.
The psychology field virtually overlooks the MBTI completely. There is effectively no scholarly published research on the test. It has been ignored by the scholarly journals. Instead much research focuses on the Five-Factor Model, based on current research driven ideas about personality8.
Meyers-Briggs Die Hards
In several places there are stories of people discovering their MBTI type and it being very eye opening to them. This includes Jennifer Fayard, PhD and writer for Psychology Today7. Professor Emre, Oxford University, reports that the test is “a portal to an elaborate practice of talking and thinking about who you are.”2 On the question of validity, the Myers-Briggs company claims that the source of much of the criticism is from very old studies. Since the publications of these studies, the company has continued to do its own research and improved the test.
The MBTI does not predict job performance. However, it does seem to be predictive of the satisfaction experienced in the professional role. In example, those who test a P (perceiving) are thirteen times more likely to be a Rhode Scholar5. So there is some predictive value to the “test”.
The MBTI is the most popular personality test in the world. It is more relatable than modern versions of personality assessments. IE The Enneagram or the Big Five15.
The nature of identity and personality is messy. It’s very human. Dr. Emre sums it up well in the following:
The Power Of Relatable
So two women, before the true dawn of the field of psychology, begin to measure person-related traits. The traits should be predictive of personality. This mother/daughter team create the most popular personality test in history, and it remains so long after they are gone.
The MBTI is much more relatable. It is easier to view yourself as introverted or extraverted, as opposed to mentally framing your level of agreeableness. Then, to further simplify, with MBTI you are assigned letters representing your results: IE INTJ, ENTP etc. These designations (16 combinations) have been given names by several different authors and researchers. Consequently, the translation from the four letter designation to one word title like teacher, make it much easier to connect the results to reality. The Enneagram, for comparison, simply relates that you are “Type 2”. You can easily look this up, but the phrase “type 2” doesn’t reveal anything about your personality.
David Keirsey, Author of Please Understand Me II, provided an enhanced framework with which to look into MBTI.
In the graphic to your left, the names of each type designation made it even more relatable while also building on the Myers-Briggs foundational research.
The Most Celebrated Personality Test of All Time
While the critics are many, the MBTI is the most popular personality test of all time. And again, if it’s not as scientifically savvy as what is expected, it serves as a starting point and useful framework to self-discovery. One of the most entertaining pieces of MBTI culture is the describing of MBTI types by using characters from popular culture, movies, video games or TV. All of this brings the MBTI into our lives and culture, connecting to us in powerful way.
In sum, the MBTI is a great place to start as a tool for self-discovery. While the scientific and diagnostic elements are not observed by the scientific community (and perhaps rightly so), the value is the framework and insight into personality. It also is useful in providing the language to express internal processes and experiences that may not have been possible without it.
Case Study: ME
In the early 2000’s, I discovered the MBTI through Keirsey’s book. I was certainly inspired by the thought that I wasn’t “broken”. My personality was out there, it was studied. The idea behind the book was incredible: please understand where I am coming from. Without this idea, I would be left with Catholic school’s teaching of good vs evil to understand human behavior. The MBTI seeded in me the belief that diplomacy was a useful in dealing with humanity. I took the test several times and always got the same results: INTJ, the MASTERMIND. I loved this name. While it did a lot to explain in neutral terms many of my behaviors, there are some things it didn’t quite connect with.
While I apparently had the outward appearance of confidence (which did rear its head from time to time), I often suffered from severe anxiety and fear of judgement from others. I wanted nothing more than for that explanation of confidence to be true. Yet, it often wasn’t. While the personality test describes me as one who is analytical, I used this ability to a neurotic end. I replayed social situations, fantasies and other things. I was obsessive. It provided a foundation in which to think about my personality as well as described traits to strive for. Conversely, it also gave me excuses to not attempt improvement.
Recently, I took the test again. This is the first time I received another designation: ENTJ. Of course, still similar, I am far more extraverted than I was in my youth. This has shown itself in the changing of the I to E. This time, with this knowledge, I’ll be sure not to let it become an excuse or an explanation. Instead, the good reported in my MBTI results will be a goal to improve and maintain. The not-so-good will be areas where I’ll focus improvement efforts. This is the ultimate way to use the MBTI: to begin self-discovery, be proud of who you are and to assist in developing a plan to improve on your shortcomings.
In my early twenties, disgusted by my lack of progress in life, I disassembled and threw away my bed. I wouldn’t allow myself a bed to sleep in until I made something of myself.
Maybe a little over the top?
Yeah. I agree.
I decided I would build myself a loft bed. And so, I got pen and paper and drew up the plans. Measured the room, measured the wood and cut.
Now, I don’t have a “handyman gene” in my body. I can’t build stuff. But my bed turned out pretty darn good. There was enough room underneath for my desk and dresser. It was cool.
The learning piece however, was that something happens when you put pen to paper and plan! The power of thinking before you take action is often key to success.
Planning with good old-fashioned pen and paper has many benefits. The following are 5 perks of personal planning on paper.
1. Planning Sorts It All Out
What is it you’re trying to do?
When you accept there are only so many hours in the day and that you won’t be able to do it all, you’re forced to choose what you’ll spend your time doing. You are forced to face that certain tasks just don’t serve us in the pursuit of our goals.
The simple act of writing down our goals has great impact. In the act of writing, you identify what is important to you. Implied here, is that you are also noting what is not important to you by not writing it. You’re filtering what is and isn’t important1.
You are 42% more likely to achieve your goal if you write it down2. There is a level of accountability and clarity achieved by this simple act.
By handwriting your goal as part of a plan, you are deciding on a direction. If you decided to go west, you cannot also go east, for example. You are narrowing your focus.
Emily Balcetis, psychologist from NYU, believes that simply rearranging the way that we see things visually, changes the way we perceive them. And further, by narrowing our focus, we can achieve more3.
Narrowing focus leads to a greater likelihood of achieving what’s important.
2. Planning Reduces Anxiety, Stress and Fear
Writing a simple to-do list can reduce anxiety and give structure to what needs accomplished4.
The Zeignarnik Effect refers to the mind’s inability to let go of tasks until they are complete. Often the impact is raised anxiety. The simple act of writing it down helps ease this effect5. Just making a plan to get our tasks done can reduce anxiety6.
3. People Who Paper Plan Achieve More
Those who write clear, specific goals become oriented towards that goal. The act of setting a goal sets you in motion towards that goal. Handwriting your goal with specificity increases the likelihood of achievement by 1.2 to 1.4 times8.
Writing helps with a neurological process called encoding. Encoding is the process that determines what will be a long-term memory and what wont. Writing goals down helps them become encoded as long-term memories8.
In a famous Harvard Business study from the 50’s, the 3% of the class who had written goals and a plan to support the goal earned more than ten times the other 97% of the class9.
4. Planning Provides a Competitive Advantage
Most people don’t plan.
As a result, a shocking 92% of people don’t achieve their goals! For a variety of reasons, this is true. Planning enhances the likelihood of achieving goals where others are less likely to follow through10.
5. Planning on Paper is Better for Your Brain
Putting pen to paper to write stimulates neural activity in the brain. The effect is similar to that of meditation11. Writing down the plan can take your brain out of reaction mode and put it in long term thinking mode, lessening the release of stress hormones12.
Relatedly, stress reduces our ability to make informed plans14.
The act of setting goals changes the neural pathways in the brain, optimizing to achieve. The stronger the emotional energy associated with the goal, the more quickly our brains will change to accomodate achievement. In other words, the more you want it, the more your brain sets you up to get it13.
I use and recommend a planner called the #ThisIsMyEra Planner. It is a 90 day planner, totally customizable. Start with your vision of what Your Era should look like. Fill out your master goal list. Break them down into S.M.A.R.T. goals. Then, there is a monthly view, a weekly view and a daily view. Also, a system for daily gratitude and review.
Belief is “the ability to combine histories and experiences with imagination, to think beyond the here and now”1. Our minds are meaning machines. And so it’s pursuit is to find (or create) the meaning of everything. Further, what we consider our reality is a function of what we believe, not visa versa. Throughout human history, people have been either castigated or commended for their beliefs. If you were cast out of the “tribe”, this equated a death sentence. Consequently, our beliefs have evolved to be relevant and important to our lives. Often feeling like a matter of life and death.
And so, these are the four things you need to know about your beliefs.
1. Your Beliefs Are Strongly Influenced By Your Tribe
The feedback that you received as a child strongly influenced what you believe about yourself5. Our caregivers essentially provided initial beliefs regarding ourselves6. It’s fair to point out that with this initial piece of learning, that we also began the process of belief by taking on others’ beliefs about us. Also, we also began to make decisions about others based on the way we were treated by them. If we were loved and nurtured, then we are likely to have the belief that people are loving and nurturing5.
At times, we have beliefs only to ensure that we are accepted in our tribes. James Clear writes “The people who are most likely to change our minds are the ones we agree with on 98 percent of topics”3. In other words, the people we’re closest to influence us the most. Often referred to as Social Proximity Effect6, we mirror those who we spend the most time with7. This is true with beliefs as well. Asking someone to change their minds on a core belief is akin to asking they change tribes3. A difficult proposition indeed.
2. What You Believe Determines Your Reality…Not The Other Way Around
This idea is true culturally. For almost one hundred years it was said that a human being could not run a mile in four minutes. That is, until 1954 when Roger Maris did just that. Since then, more than one thousand others have completed this feat. Time did not change, nor did the devices or units we used to measure human running speed. However, what did change was the belief that it could be done8. Consequently, many have changed their beliefs regarding the four minute mile.
Our core beliefs are often considered in making decisions in our lives. Because of this, it is important that the quality of our beliefs will cause us to “run a four-minute mile”. That they will inspire our success. But all to often, our beliefs are self-limiting.
I am not attractive enough
I want great relationships as long as I don’t get hurt
“X” is wrong with me, I don’t deserve love9
Dr. Bobby Hoffman provides a good framework to think about how powerful beliefs drive our perceptions.
First, control. People who believe that they are in control of their lives are more accountable for their own success and failures. They feel they have the ability to orchestrate their lives, relationships and career.
Second, competency can determine the likelihood of performing on tests and completing tasks. Task avoidance, on the other hand, is tied to a feeling of incompetence.
Third, value. The value that we believe is derived from completing a task will often direct our behavior to complete the task.
Goal orientation is the fourth self-belief that drives our perceptions. The more goal oriented we are (especially when we get to the top of this “scale” to Mastery Performer), the more likely we are to try varying strategies to achieve goals and monitor our progress.
And finally, epistemology or the belief about the acquisition, application and usefulness of knowledge determines how we perceive knowledge, information and problem solving in general10.
Research has found time and time again, that what we believe about an outcome influences the outcome11.
3. There Are Things That You Believe, That Are Simply Untrue
Climate change is a political hoax.
The Earth is flat.
Brain cells can’t regenerate. T
here were three wise men.
Caffeine dehydrates you.
Adam and Eve ate an apple.
What do all of these statements have in common? They are all commonly held false beliefs.
Perhaps most interestingly, even in the face of evidence, we tend to hold on to false beliefs. If we believe that we know a lot about a topic, our level of curiosity lowers. Therefore, we don’t explore the idea any further and it “sticks”12. Confirmation Bias posits that we tend to discount ideas that contradict what we already believe13. I put some effort into ensuring that in the list of “false beliefs” listed above, there were examples that would ruffle feathers. That’s your confirmation bias at work.
Some 25% of Americans report being superstitious. Superstition is most commonly described as recognizing, fearing or celebrating “co-occurring, non-related events.”14 Many times superstitions can become self-fulfilling prophecies. In a study completed in China, students born during the year of the Dragon were examined. Chinese astrology points to those born the year of the dragon being “destined for good fortune and greatness.” The study found that due to this belief by the children’s parents, the parents behavior changed in ways that caused the children’s performance in school to be enhanced. The parents expected more of their children, spoke with their teachers more than other students and more often incentivised performance15.
4. We Can Change Our Beliefs And Other’s…But Not How You Think
When I was young, my girlfriend’s father provided an old adage: “When you’re young, if you’re not liberal you don’t have a heart. When you’re old, if your not conservative you don’t have a brain.” Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was the tin man and am now the flighty scarecrow.
We can change what we believe. Implicit in the definition of belief is experience and history. Much has happened to change those things in my life. Experience will change conceptions. These changes will alter our beliefs. We are a process.
Harvard Professor John Sharp recommends the following:
Be the editor of your life story. If life’s not manifesting what you want, change the script. Make the decision to change.
Divergence Point. Where does your story break from the reality? Identify. Start here.
Is the story you’re telling yourself really true? Is it too negative? Does it hide bad habits? What does it conceal? Is there a blindspot?
Think Self-Appreciation vs Self-Deprecation. You’re beliefs are intertwined with your identity. It takes time. Be patient with you.
Ditch the Old Story. “Cut away what no longer serves you.”16
You are not your beliefs. Although tightly tied with identity, belief is continually changing in us. C.S. Lewis was famously an atheist turned Christian. Vader comes back from the dark side, in the end. Even to yourself, be kind first and right later3.
Time Anxiety is the pervasive feeling of being rushed, causing feelings of overwhelmingness and panic1. It can be in relation to current time, future time or existential time – fear of time slipping away without meaning.
Though many people experience these various forms, they are all connected. While I am consistently fighting this anxiety, it is always fighting back.
In Time Anxiety, there is an overwhelming sense of time lack. There is a process of thoughts taking up a lot of mental bandwidth. This anxiety impacts functioning in other areas of life. Due to this anxiety, I haven’t engaged in relationships as well. I haven’t accomplished as much as I’d like. And finally, I haven’t done a lot of the things that I wish that I had at this point in my life.
But, I’ve made serious headway in dealing with it and I’ve almost beat it.
Here are three steps to minimize Time Anxiety.
Step One, Be Aware
Be aware of how you’re feeling.
Many of us aren’t born with this ability. If not, think about it like this. If you’re not as productive as you’d like or if work (or some other large, time-taking obligation) is not allowing the freedom for you to do what you would like, you may want to dig a little.
Do you get up each day and just “wait” to go to work?
Do you not make plans with friends because you “have work”?
Do you often not do the things that you wish because there’s not enough time?
Do you rush through tasks, not completing them to the best of your ability?
Is there something important you’ve failed to do, because you don’t have time?
Are you ALWAYS in a hurry?
While on the surface these seem like innocuous questions, the thoughts that drive them are problematic.
For years, if I worked a certain day, I did little else. At the time, if you would have told me I had some sort of anxiety I would have said something like “I don’t have time to think about that. My job is a lot, I need to rest.” In hindsight, I was so overwhelmed with the thought of there not being enough time, that I wouldn’t put anything else on my list. An so, there was nothing but work on my list. No friends, hardly any hobbies and my relationships were left failing.
Now, I work more hours than ever, I do more of the things I love and I’m happier than ever! But the first step was being aware of what I was feeling.
You can do this by meditating, journaling, yoga or just going on walks. These activities help bring ideas or thoughts to the surface.
To think: “I feel overwhelmed with the quantity of tasks I have to do in the time allotted, and that’s a problem…” was a breakthrough for me. Especially, the last part – identifying this was a problem.
Step Two, Gain (Some) Control
So now that you’ve become aware of some of the roots in your Time Anxiety, you’ve got to understand that it most likely comes from a lack of control.
So, what can you do?
*Maybe most importantly, you should realize that you’re never fully in control. Throughout my learning process, I’ve had days so rigidly planned (to the minute) in my fight for control, that when a surprise inspection shows up at work, I am thrown into a full fledged panic attack. My day is ruined and I performed like a moron in the inspection. So, it’s important to understand this. But the point is, do something to help you gain some control.
With Time Anxiety, the most effective thing you can do is plan. The planner I use is fully customizable and requires some serious thought. It helps me keep track of what’s important and where to spend my energy. I’ve used planners before, but they just helped me create lists that I’d rush through. I wasn’t really doing anything very well, just feeling…rushed. And overwhelmed.
Each week, I have a set of priorities. They are pretty general. For example, ‘publish blog’, ‘get my team on board with the new company initiatives’ or ‘run five times’. Each day, based on those general items, I plan activities that support them.
I have made the lists too large. Also, too short. I have avoided the lists. And, I have completed nothing the whole day, just adding to the list that I’ve never started. In the end, the behaviors about this are driven by Time Anxiety.
Planning is also a skill. Be patient. You have to give yourself time to learn. You’ll schedule too much, too little and some days you wont plan. But be tenacious, keep coming back to it.
Decide what you want to accomplish for the next ninety days. Break it down into thirteen weeks of smaller chunks. Take each week and break it into days. The days, hours.
This will help you realize what you really want, value and are willing to sacrifice for.
Oh and also…
Get up early, like no later than 7.
Just do, don’t think.
Eat less sugar- More greens, nuts and olive oil.
You will feel powerful.
Step Three, Monitor & Improve
As with any new venture, there is trial and error. And for this, you’ll need to find a way that works for you to track yourself. It could be as simple as taking mental notes… “I don’t feel as anxious about time as a I have previously, today.”
Or, you could physically document it in varying degrees. I recommend the latter.
Each day, I take note of the volume of activities that I attempt. (I often take on more than is possible to do in one day. )
I note when I am best able to complete tasks effectively. Early in the AM, most admin tasks go off with a hitch. In the early afternoon, physical tasks are favored. If I don’t accomplish my task list, I take note of why. Common causes are that something emotionally draining happened at home or at work. Or, something unexpected comes up such as a visit from my boss or human resources issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Sometimes, I’m just fatigued and the tasks lose their meaning.
I take notes on how I could have been more effective given the circumstances. This ‘view from 10,000 feet’ approach also gives you a sense of control. It’s uncomfortable at first, but once you make it a habit…it becomes easier to view yourself in this way.
I recommend the #THISISMYERA planner. It has all of the tools to help you succeed in this. Creating this habit of revisiting your activities daily can transform your life.
Use these ideas and tools to create a habit of improvement.
The benefits of reducing Time Anxiety are great. Less stress, muscle aches and a greater desire to do. I am more productive, more flexible and better at every activity I take part in. The more I release the anxiety the more ambitious, social and more likely to reach out to my family and close friends. Also, I eat better, exercise more and enjoy life to a greater degree, moving forward a little bit every day.
Our relationships shape the quality of our lives. From our parents and friends made in formative years, to our life partners and coworkers, the impact of our relationships is often underestimated.
Early in life, without human touch, infants may die. Skin to skin touch increases the neurological development process in small children as well as other processes2. Physical and emotional connection releases oxytocin2, responsible for trust, empathy and bonding3. A recent study identified high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, disability, cognitive decline, and depression among the conditions affected by loneliness4 – or the lack of relationships. The importance of our relationships can’t be overstated.
You are who you’re (and have been) with.
The Jonas Brothers
More than any other type, family relationships play an underlying role in our well-being throughout our lives7. Our families are our first experience with relationships. It has a large effect on how we conduct future relationships. The way in which we express or repress our emotions, communicate, handle stress and how we interact with our significant other all stem from what we observed in our close family relationships8.
We were born programmed to bond, to engage in relationships. Especially with our primary caregiver, often our mothers. The quality of this bond is said to predict the success or failure of our relationships, emotional balance, the ability to enjoy being ourselves, to find fulfillment in being with others and the ability to bounce back from disappointment, discouragement and misfortune9.
From this relationship, we are found to develop an attachment style or bond. This attachment bond is thought to impact future relationships, either strengthen or damage our ability to focus, be conscious of our feelings, and/or calm ourselves. This attachment bond also greatly influences the ability to deal with adversity9.
The four types of attachment bonds are Secure, Anxious-Preoccupied, Dismissive-Avoidant and Disorganized.
Secure Attachment types tend to have high self-esteem, are comfortable sharing their hopes and dreams, and can ask for support and comfort when they need it.
Anxious-Preoccupied types desire love and intimacy, yet their low self-worth causes them to be clingy, needy and jealous. They can be known as fun-loving, but this is often an attempt at attention seeking behavior in order to earn love and admiration.
Dismissive-Avoidant types may desire a loving relationship, but are plagued with some deep-seeded internal struggles. They dismiss the need for love and affection, simply because they don’t know how to conduct themselves. Parents were most likely physically present, but not emotionally.
Finally, Disorganized types were usually raised by a caregiver who was dealing with trauma themselves. Their behavior was probably fearful and unpredictable. And so they learn to see the world as a threat, are preoccupied with pain and loss and may have trouble socially10.
Of course, Secure attachment is the ideal. Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy can help those with Anxious-Preoccupied, Dismissive-Avoidant and Disorganized.
Studies show that younger brothers and sisters teach the older empathy. Sibling bullying is tied to depression, anxiety and self-harm. Relationships between siblings are a critical factor in adult well-being11. People emotionally close with their siblings rate a higher level of life satisfaction and lower levels of depression12.
Strong family relationships express appreciation and affection, commitment, communicate positively, enjoy their time together, have a sense of spiritual well-being and manage stress and crisis well12.
Jim Rohn, motivational speaker, famously said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”14 This has several implications. First, you want to be loved and accepted by those closest to you. Secondly, you also need to be challenged and able to accept criticism. A good friend is not always an enabler, but will tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it. And finally, perhaps most importantly, how influential these folks can be in your life.
It is said that most people have an average of 5 intimate bonds, 15 close friends, 50 friends and 150 casual friends15. This is based on Robin Dunbar’s research. She goes on to theorize that we only have the mental capacity to have 150 casual friends. Further, this is due to the our evolving in villages containing about 150 people in population16.
Friendship are important in fulfilling the basic human need of being accepted. It improves socioemotional movement throughout life and helps us cope with stress. Friendship even helps with decreasing illness 17.
Friendships are defined by five dimensions. Their dyadic nature, the emotional bond between the two, the fact that it’s voluntary, its egalitarian and its a form of companionship13.
Studies show that being physically within 25 feet of a high performer can have a positive effect on your performance of about 15%. On the other hand, being in close proximity to a low performer is detrimental to your performance. This can decrease your performance as much as 30%1.
It has long been known that acquaintances or “weak-tie” friendships positively correlate with happiness . The more “weak-tie” friendships you have, the higher reported happiness17. These folks could be your yoga instructor, the barista, your cab/uber driver or fellow coworkers. Some companies have used this information to set up work space to set up chance encounters between employees17 to drive creativity and collaboration.
The point is that people in our periphery are impacting our overall well-being. Those who we wouldn’t consider friends but still connect with on an, albeit, shallow level are having an impact on us.
There is all kinds of research suggesting that healthy, committed, romantic relationships provide a boost for health and even life expectancy. Healthy relationships tend to have the following characteristics:
They listen to one another.
They openly communicate without judgement
They make time for each other
They remember important details about the other’s life
They engage in healthy behaviors together18.
Married people undergoing heart surgery are three times more likely to survive the first three months. Married folks also report lower stress levels, a greater sense of life purpose and healthier behaviors18.
From my romantic relationships, I’ve learned everything from how to properly fold my clothes to how to properly groom to how to be honest with myself and become more self aware. Relationships, whether current or not, impact who I am and what I will do. The journey through life is really lived with others inside of our relationships, both close and acquaintances. It is important to understand their impacts on us, so that we can be mindful of how and why others are affecting us in the way that they do.
In sum, you are who you’re with and who you’ve been with…
Your preferred music genre gives a lot of insight into your personality. Researchers have recently made a connection between the big five personality traits and the music we listen to. To start, take your test HERE.This is a pretty cool test and helps out the folks continuing to do this research.
How do vibrating molecules in the air striking a nerve and sending a signal to our brain cause such an defining experience?
What does the music you listen to say about you and others?
I don’t know…
How Music Works in Our Brains
Your favorite song comes on. The vibrating molecules send the sound waves through the air. They travel from the speaker (or headphones) down your auditory canal and vibrate the eardrum. From there, the raw data becomes perceived.
The Temporal Lobe processes the sound. In the language processing center, music is truly appreciated. Words are typically perceived in the right hemisphere and sound in the left.
The Frontal Lobe, responsible for decision making, thinking and planning, can be enhanced and influenced by music.
Broca’s Area is the part of the brain that expresses speech. Relatedly, the part responsible for the ability to perform music. Suggesting that playing an instrument or the ability to perform music may enhance the ability to communicate.
Wernicke’s Area is the place in the brain where we enjoy and analyze the music. This area is also where we comprehend language.
Vision is processed in the Occipital Lobe. While most won’t perceive music here, there is evidence that musicians use this part of the brain to visualise music.
The Nucleus Accumbens is in charge of rewards, releasing dopamine. Music causes this dopamine reaction in much the same way as cocaine. Also associated with addiction, music can become addictive.
The Amygdala commands our emotions, their triggers. Emotions caused by music might cause physical reactions in much the same way. Have you ever had goosebumps during your favorite song? Cried at a live performance?
Memories are both stored and created in the Hippocampus. This area of the brain also helps regulate emotional responses among a host of other functions. Music may help with regenerating neurons improving memory.
Our body’s baseline regulated by the Hypothalamus. For example, body temperature, sex drive and appetite. Music can have an influence on this function as well. Relaxing music will lower blood pressure and reduce the heart rate.
The Putamen is where our rhythm and body movements are coordinated. Dopamine released here will cause use to want to dance, particularly if the music is rhythmic14.
Music is truly a very powerful force on our brains.
Fans of Pop appear to be honest, conventional and extraverted2. They score low on Openness and high on just about everything else6.
Rock fans were found to be gentle, introverted and had low self-esteem2. They scored increasingly high on Agreeableness, were less likely to be practical but more imaginative. They scored high on Openness6.
High self-esteem, introverted, at ease with the world and creative2. Relatedly, classical music may improve visual attention10.
Like the rockers, these folks are introverted, tend to have lower self-esteem and scored high on Openness. However, they scored low on Agreeableness and higher on Neuroticism6.
Similar to our punkers, high in Openness and Neuroticism and similar to rock fans in Agreeableness6. Liberalism is more strongly associate with this preference as well as punk/metal, classical and rock5.
Outgoing and high self-esteem2, higher in Extroversion. Research that has taken a deeper dive suggests that these folks tend to display more politeness and compassion5.
Outgoing and assertive, not as gentle as the others2. These folks rate high in Conscientiousness and Extraversion. Furthermore, they score low on Agreeableness and tend to prioritize goals over relationships6.
These folks tend to be outgoing, have high self-esteem. They are creative, at ease and intelligent2. Rating high in Openness and Neuroticism, these trends are characteristic of Jazz fans6.
Additionally, intelligence is highly correlated with the a preference for music without words12.
The Music You Don’t Like
Much of our musical tastes are the cause of nature and nurture. Mainly, the physical structure of our auditory system. In relation, research explored how dissonance (lack of harmony) impacts the enjoyment of music. Trained musicians who knew the notes individually played in the chords, were able to enjoy the music more8. There are number of ideas to draw from this.
First, this suggests that the more we learn about the music, the more we can enjoy it. Simply put, we can learn to enjoy any kind of music. Second, the assumption that what we find appealing is due to its physicality can’t be true.
So, while we can judge others’ musical tastes. Or, we can decide there is music that we just don’t like, it seems we can learn to like it.
A study done in 2017 discovered that our brains come up with a baseline of what we consider our “favorite music” pretty early on. For females, from 11 to 13 and for males, 13 to 16. We also get another dose of “influence” in our early twenties14. In another sense, your tastes may already be made (if you’re older than sixteen or past your mid twenties, of course).
However, there are some folks among us that can’t enjoy music. This is called Musical Anhedonia. This is a neurological disorder in which the communication between the grey matter and white matter, cannot communicate the pleasure of music15.
While research is still in its beginning phases in fully understanding the relationship between music and personality, it remains interesting. I believe that this is another effective baseline and starting point in self-discovery.
There are two … personality … trends I find in myself. They aren’t separate personalities, they’re trends…
One, an Old Wise Man, and the other, a Little Boy. These are feelings or impressions that I get on myself, regarding myself.
It’s a little strange, I admit.
I feel like the Little Boy when I am wrong or challenged. He gets his feelings hurt, pouts and often says things like: You don’t love me!
I’m leaving, you wouldn’t notice anyway!
Why don’t you care about my feelings!
Who do you think you are! Let’s just be happy, okay?
The Little Boy is breaking things. He’s huffing and puffing, stomping and yelling. The “boy” is angry that he can’t always be the center of attention. Upset that other people’s lives aren’t revolving around his. (well … mine.)
In comparison, the Old Wise Man tendency helps in guiding others in my proximity along their road to self-discovery. Imbuing some wisdom that I have found viable along the way. I immediately jump to the big picture. Down the road, everyone will get where they’re going, no matter the bumps they hit today…type of attitude. Always, philosophical and non-emotional.
In these cases, I may share experiences or ask questions to lead them to their answer. Sometimes, I feel like I must have seen it all. I must’ve dealt with every possible situation, scenario or catastrophe. Consequently, I often act as counsel, trending towards the Old Wise Man.
In these cases, it is often necessary to be the one counseling others. I know better than they do how to proceed with their life.
I know, I read that, too.
Carl Gustav Jung, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, named four archetypes. He referred to them as the persona, the animus/anima, the shadow and the self. In addition, Jung believed that archetypes were images and themes that held universal human meaning across cultures4.
Persona – Who we project to the world that we are
Animus/Anima – Opposite of biological sex. IE a woman’s masculine side.
Shadow – Source of creative and destructive energies
Self – Provides a sense of unity
Archetypes are illustrated in dreams, art, religion and literature4. From these, were derived brand archetypes. Twelve in all, brand archetypes have been adopted by companies as a marketing concept to exude a certain “character” for its customers to related to.
The Innocent – Exhibits happiness, goodness, optimism, safety, romance, and youth
The Everyman – Seeks connections; is recognized as supportive, faithful and down-to-earth
The Hero – On a mission to make the world a better place, courageous, bold, inspirational.
The Rebel – Questions authority, breaks, rules; craves rebellion and revolution.
The Explorer – Finds inspiration in travel, risk, discovery, and the thrill of new experiences.
The Creator – Imaginative, inventive; driven to build things of enduring meaning and value
The Ruler – Creates order from the chaos, controlling and stern, yet responsible, organized
The Magician – Wishes to create something special, make dreams reality; visionary, spiritual
The Lover – Creates intimate moments, inspires love, passion, romance and commitment
The Caregiver – Protects and cares for others, is compassionate, nurturing and generous
The Jester – Brings joy to the world, humor, fun, irreverence; makes mischief
The Sage – Helps the world gain deeper insight and wisdom, thoughtful mentor or advisor7.
The Innocent is the Little Boy. Their greatest fear is doing something wrong8. This is exactly what drives me to the Little Boy tendency.
Throughout my life, in several settings, I have been in the role of leader. The main reason for this is simply default. I was the oldest of six boys. Similarly, I led a rock band as a singer for many years. Now, I run a business.
I’ve been a mentor and advisor. The downside, is that I haven’t learned to handle being wrong, taking feedback or pushback. In these situations, it makes me feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I may feel I’m wrong, my worst fear! I shrink and feel like a Little Boy who needs his mother.
At an interview last year, after several questions, the interviewer became concerned that I “…wasn’t creating the kind of culture [at work] in which my team could give me feedback.”
This comment shook me at the foundation. Suddenly aware, I saw that I was simply being unapproachable. Although I believed I was being ruthless, I was leading in fear.
Ihope they don’t ask me a question me!
I’m going to have to make an example out of someone!
Why can’t anyone be on my side?
The key idea is that the Little Boy lives in fear.Nothing good comes from fear. I’ve made mistakes. Hired the wrong people. Didn’t count on some people enough. Let others get away with murder. Had no idea how to relate my experience in my marriage. a
The Little Boy hides.
For example, the Little Boy would rather let everyone go along happily instead of own up to a mistake. Certainly, he isn’t going to actively do anything to make anyone aware of anything negative. The Little Boy (the innocent) can be oblivious to the bad things going on around him/her. Above all, this is due to the fact that they believe in happy endings12.
The Old Wise Man is The Sage. The Old Wise Man is often known for his philosophies, wisdom and sound judgement. A kind and wise older-father type. He may appear absent-minded. I embody these traits. Often, The Sage may appear foreign or alien from those he advises. Most often, this is due to the Old Wise Man seeking to differentiate his/herself10.
After all, my friend Nick told me when I was twenty-two that I should write a book called The Art of Living. I was out to give people advice.
Denial of feelings is part of the “shadow” (destructive energy) of The Sage. The anxiety of running away from the shadow, can cause the perception of life as a series of uncontrollable events. It can feel helpless10. The result may be that the Old Wise Man becomes pompous and self-important11.
A Close Third…
Not related to the topic at all, there are other brand archetypes I can identify with, but this is definitely up there with The Innocent and The Sage.
This is the shit you’re reading.
Creator’s want to create meaningful and beautiful things through the creative process. They mainly express themselves through their chosen creative medium. At times, the Creator may be obsessive and perfectionisic13.
For example, I’ve been in my office all day writing this thing, getting it just right.
The Old Wise Man and the Little Boy seem to be at two opposite ends of the spectrum. Yet, there is some connective tissue. The optimistic Little Boy hopes for the best. He tries to hide all the “badness”. The Old Wise Man has many of the answers. However, when the Wise Man gets shaken, he has to retreat to do the math on his/her positions of wisdom. Thus, the Little Boy is thrown into the heat of the moment. He feels small, vulnerable and just wants all the “bad stuff” to be over with.
The reality of the transition from the Old Wise Man to the Little Boy, is jarring. In one moment, you are endowed with all the answers. In the next, you find out you’ve made a mistake in your calculation, just when they were counting on you most. (That’s how it feels, anyhow).
Consequently, the thought train dives down the rabbit hole. Furthering its quest, searching for the necessary information to ease the anxiety. Nonetheless, a state of insecurity.
The Little Boy shows up, always co-dependently hoping things will work out. The Old Wise Man will return with the answers. The Little Boy just knows it.
Mr. Spock and Dorothy Gale…in one…
In sum, most of the time I feel like Mr. Spock. I’m attempting to be logical, fighting through the fog of human emotion to assess real value of events and happenings. My purpose is grandiose, my breadth of knowledge vast.
Consequently, when my significant other says “Mr. Spock, you slept through your alarm and didn’t wake me up?” Of course, they’re frustrated, angry at the thought of lateness and particularly at me. Because I let them down.
Somehow, I instantaneously convert to Dorothy Gale.
My dog is my best and only friend, I’m wearing a technicolored blue dress and I want to run away. Even though I was mad at my uncle, inevitably I’ll be chanting “There’s no place like home” as soon as the shit hits the fan with the wizard and the wicked witch. But, I’ll still be pretending that Somewhere over the rainbow … all of your dreams come true.
My significant other will look at me like I am crazy when I’m so hurt that I let her down. I am angry, I want to slam things around expressing how a feel in small acts of destruction. My chest tightens, I’m being attacked. There’s no hope. All of my innocence is gone, I’ve fallen out of favor in her eyes. Everything is terrible.
Where’s my blanky?
And there you have it.
Eventually, I spend enough time retracing my every step finding the root cause of my error. At this juncture, I approach my significant other and say:
“The way you spoke to me this morning cannot be tolerated any further.”
Jung’s archetypes and his analytic psychology help us create a framework of how to think about psychology, our subconscious and human nature at large. The metaphor of the archetypes is sufficient to get across a personal experience I’ve had with my sense of self and how it relates to the world.
Often, discovering the language to bare the emotional weight of our experiences difficult.
Luckily, Jung has provided an important tool: the emotion-bearing archetypes. A common metaphor to share ourselves with one another. And finally, a tool in our ever deepening self-awareness and self-discovery.
We’ve barely scratched the surface on the brand archetypes. Which BA’s are fighting in your psyche?
Draper’s words hit an emotional core. As a result, I’ve used this scene several times to express my feelings and experiences. I felt like I was just watching my life. I wasn’t actually in it. It was impossible for me to get in to.
In its extreme, this is called Depersonalization or Derealization Disorder. Symptoms include detachment from reality, feeling emotionless or empty (not feeling like you love those closest to you), not being able to relate to people, in a constant mental fog as well as constantly physically and mentally exhausted1.
This disorder is well documented and recognized by the DSM-5. I’ve certainly suffered some of the symptoms, perhaps not enough for a diagnosis. I felt I was “in there”… just waiting to return to…life.
It is interesting how we have the ability to experience our lives by proxy. That is, proxy: something serving to replace or substitute for another thing3. Examples of our “proxies” are social media, television and our own thought patterns. Some old, some new; research rushes to understand the world’s pace of change and its impact on human experience.
In a study done before the COVID -19 pandemic, quarantine’s effects on its participants is significant. Almost 30% of subjects had symptoms of PTSD and more than 30% suffered depression4. The longer the quarantine, the more prevalent the symptoms. Connection with family and friends through technology, (IE Social Media) seemed to have a positive effect. However, more research should be done.
It is known that social media is associated with higher levels of anxiety, loneliness and fear of missing out5. In one study, nearly half of the subjects reported feeling lonely some of the time or all of the time. In those who use social media as a replacement for person to person human interaction, feelings of loneliness are likely to increase6.
Studies show that people often post their “best” on social media. This may not be authentic. It certainly is not enough for the deep connections that human beings desire8.
Dr. Brene Brown says, “We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hard-wired for connection, love, and belonging.”8
Depending on how it’s used, social media can be beneficial. When there is already a person to person connection, it is valuable. When it takes the place of person to person interaction, the more negative effects of SM are more likely to occur.
How many of your friends on Facebook, are friends in reality?
Could you call many of these people on the phone? Right now?
Have you actually met these folks?
What does it mean if the answer to these questions is “not many”?
I don’t know. But it might point to the reason you feel like you can’t “get in” to your life.
Like Don Draper.
Depersonalization is a feeling of detachment or estrangement from yourself. This is the third most described psychiatric symptom after depression and anxiety. Under severe stress, it is theorized that half of adults experience depersonalization9.
I’ve never felt this way, specifically. But, I did use to pinch my arms and elbows. It was a fleeting thought, but I used to be concerned that I didn’t feel it. At times, I did it hard enough so that I could.
How about you?
2. You don’t feel connected to your reflection.
I, like many of you, hate the way I look and feel like it is a deformed cactus with googly eyes looking back at me in the mirror. It’s just not me.
3. You feel a sense of detachment from your environment.
Sometimes, it’s like there’s a switch. Tnrow the switch and I have to remind myself of where I’m at. It’s brief but real.
4. You feel like a robot.
At a very dark time in my life, I remember waking up feel like I wasn’t going to work. I didn’t care if I lost my job. But as if I wasn’t in control, I got up and went to work. When I walked to my car after work, it was like the events of that day were years ago. At the same time, it felt like the day was very short. I started to wonder who was sailing the ship, if you know what I mean.
5. You think your memories belong to someone else.
Sometimes, I’ve told stories so many times, that I honestly don’t remember if they’re true or not.
6. You know there’s something wrong10.
I’ve known there’s something wrong my whole life. That’s one large reason that I started this blog.
How did you do on the signs?
Are you freaking out a little, like me?
As I began this post, it was because this episode of Mad Men left a mark on me. I thought it was interesting that I spent a lot of my life…trying to …get “in” to my life. And as I researched, I am beginning to understand why.
Love and Connection
People with Depersonalization or Derealization Disorder report not being able to feel love. “You know you love your family, but you know it academically – rather than feeling it in the normal way.”11
Leonard in Mad Men’s series finale, shares with the therapy group. He admits he doesn’t know what love is, though he supposes they do. “No one cares that I’m gone.” Leonard shares.
These themes echo through the caverns of my memory. These feelings, these…bouts of numbness and confusion. I intellectually know that others love me, but I didn’t know what “IT”, even was.
There is no consensus on the root cause of Depersonalization or Derealization Disorder. It does seemed to be related to or caused by exposure to traumatic experiences.
And so, talk therapy is a great way to treat depersonalization. An example of the impact of this is demonstrated in the Mad Men clip above. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, focuses on changing negative thoughts and feelings and is also very helpful. Of course, mindfulness and meditation help with Depersonalization Disorder as well.
Although I am gearing this request to a population who doesn’t connect, please share your experiences with me in the comments or at RPWatts@whoarewe.blog.