Some weeks ago I was in a conversation with a friend and she asked why I was running away from being in a relationship. I told her I am so weird and I am not sure there is anybody who would put up with me. She replied ‘that’s what you tell yourself right?’ That’s the bullshit excuse you give for not doing what you know you want to do. To be honest I knew this all along but putting it that way was a rude shock for me.
This made me think of all the limiting stories I have told myself about why I am the way I am or why I do the things I do. I have heard a lot of people say ‘ I have OCD, that’s why I behave like this’ or ‘ the doctor said I have ADHD that’s why I can’t concentrate’ or my favourite, ‘ I am an introvert that’s why I don’t want to meet people’.
Maybe some of these stories are true and maybe they really limit us and there is nothing we can do about it. However, personally I think more than 50% of the time it’s just a comfortable excuse we use to explain why we choose to be the way we are. We chose those limiting narratives because they somehow make us feel good about ourselves. Either in explaining our lack of resolve to do something we know we need to do but don’t want to do or perhaps to get the pity of people we are talking to.
You learn best when you’re stretching yourself beyond your previous level of comfort.
Sure, getting into a routine is great. “Flow” is great too. But neither is the best way to learn. You want to be stretched to the edge of your ability sometimes. It needs to be hard and uncomfortable. That’s how your brain grows. We learn when we’re in our discomfort zone.
When you’re struggling, that’s when you’re growing stronger and smarter. The more time you spend there, the faster you learn. It’s better to spend an extremely high quality ten minutes growing, than it is to spend a mediocre hour running in place. You want to practice at the point where you are on the edge of your ability, stretching yourself over and over again, making mistakes, stumbling, learning from those mistakes and stretching yourself even farther.
“For man to be able to live he must
either not see the infinite, or have such an explanation of the meaning of life as will connect the finite with the infinite.”
Shortly after turning fifty, Leo Tolstoy succumbed to a profound spiritual crisis. With his greatest works behind him, he found his sense of purpose dwindling as his celebrity and public acclaim billowed, sinking into a state of deep depression and melancholia despite having a large estate, good health for his age, a wife who had born him fourteen children, and the promise of eternal literary fame. On the brink of suicide, he made one last grasp at light amidst the darkness of his existence, turning to the world’s great religious and philosophical traditions for answers to the age-old question regarding the meaning of life. In 1879, a decade after War and Peace and two years after Anna Karenina, and a decade before he set out to synthesize these philosophical findings in his Calendar of Wisdom, Tolstoy channeled the existential catastrophe of his inner life in A Confession, an autobiographical memoir of extraordinary candor and emotional intensity, which also gave us Tolstoy’s prescient meditation on money, fame, and writing for the wrong reasons.
He likens the progression of his depression to a serious physical illness — a parallel modern science is rendering increasingly appropriate. Tolstoy writes:
Then occurred what happens to everyone sickening with a mortal internal disease. At first trivial signs of indisposition appear to which the sick man pays no attention; then these signs reappear more and more often and merge into one uninterrupted period of suffering. The suffering increases, and before the sick man can look round, what he took for a mere indisposition has already become more important to him than anything else in the world — it is death!
The classic symptoms of anhedonia engulfed him — he lost passion for his work and came to dismiss as meaningless the eternal fame he had once dreamt of. He even ceased to go out shooting with his gun in fear that he might be too tempted to take his own life. Though he didn’t acknowledge a “someone” in the sense of a creator, he came to feel that his life was a joke that someone had played on him — a joke all the grimmer for the awareness of our inescapable impermanence, and all the more despairing:
Today or tomorrow sickness and death will come (they had come already) to those I love or to me; nothing will remain but stench and worms. Sooner or later my affairs, whatever they may be, will be forgotten, and I shall not exist. Then why go on making any effort? . . . How can man fail to see this? And how go on living? That is what is surprising! One can only live while one is intoxicated with life; as soon as one is sober it is impossible not to see that it is all a mere fraud and a stupid fraud! That is precisely what it is: there is nothing either amusing or witty about it, it is simply cruel and stupid.
Have you ever had a time when something was working so well for you suddenly you start freaking out and you want to check out? I have.
Maybe you have been in a loving relationship it became so good you start freaking out. And suddenly you think of ending it.
Or running a business things start working out fine’ you are making a lot of money. Becoming ‘successful’.Then suddenly you start missing key meetings,stop taking calls and treating your customers well. You go into self sabotage mode.
We self sabotage because we think we deserve better than what we have or we think we don’t deserve what we have.
I think what happens is we have something like an inner thermostat set inside us to a certain temperature and once the temperature in the house goes above a certain threshold the
thermostat kicks in and brings the temperature to the set temperature. We have a certain standard of normalcy we expect from ourselves and once things start happening beyond that. Our mediocrity standard becomes threatened and we try to bring everything to how we think it should be.
We self sabotage because we are scared. We haven’t been here before and don’t know what to expect.so we decide to pull back and cut our losses before things get out of hand and we are put to shame. We end the relationship because we are scared it’s getting too good and we are becoming vulnerable and then we start thinking ‘what if this person leaves me?’
I don’t have a solution to self sabotage. However,I think becoming aware that we self sabotage helps us see the signs once they start showing up. This awareness might help better manage the it when it happens.
“Almost everything comes from nothing.” -Henri F. Amiel
No matter where you are now in the pursuit of your dreams, know that people who’ve done what you’d like to do started right where you stand.
You have limitless power to create the future you visualize if you’re willing to dream, plan, and work.
Don’t worry about what you don’t know. You’ll learn. Don’t stress about how much you’ll have to do. You can only do it one thing at a time.
Just start where you are, take the first step, and then watch your nothing evolve.
“In proportion as [a person] simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude…,” Thoreau famously wrote.Indeed, in today’s world of constant stimulation and interconnectivity, despite the rise of single living, the art of solitude is in graver danger of squander than ever, more and more susceptible to festering into the toxic sister aberrations of loneliness and boredom.
In this wonderful vintage footage, legendary Russian filmmaker and writer Andrei Tarkovsky offers some timeless advice to the young:
Here is a subtitle to what Tarkovsky was saying:
What would you like to tell people?
I don’t know… I think I’d like to say only that they should learn to be alone and try to spend as much time as possible by themselves. I think one of the faults of young people today is that they try to come together around events that are noisy, almost aggressive at times. This desire to be together in order to not feel alone is an unfortunate symptom, in my opinion. Every person needs to learn from childhood how to be spend time with oneself. That doesn’t mean he should be lonely, but that he shouldn’t grow bored with himself because people who grow bored in their own company seem to me in danger, from a self-esteem point of view.
Make peace with yourself. With your failings and everything you never did right. The jobs your screwed up, the relationship you messed up, the friends you disappointed,the promise you broke. Make peace.Not with anyone but yourself. Set yourself free from the guilt and your shortcomings.
The worst prison you could every be locked in is one you created for yourself just because you think it would make you feel good about yourself. We can’t help it sometimes. We have to live with the result of our failure, indecision and everything we didn’t do well.