Monday, September 24, 2007

Who moved my cheese?

"A change would do you good" - Sheryl Crow

It could be that I am biased because I work in the technical industry that I have a different view on change than some I know. In my line of work, things change constantly. We're always anticipating the next project, and we're always trying to recover from what happened yesterday. Its a tough thing sometimes. There are rarely breaks, and if there are, they are usually not the kind you want.

That said, change seems to be a tough thing for people. Some people seem to crave stability, consistency, and predictability. And when faced with the inevitable changes that occur in life, they are left wondering their purpose and their focus, and they find themselves wrapped up in the loss of their previous niche.

So what does this mean for will?

If we are unclear of our goals and making unsound judgments about what directions we should be taking, we can be left in a lurch when things shift. The time we spend recovering from or mourning these changes is time we take from our true goals.

So how should we deal with change to better facilitate our will?

Facing Reality

I think the first thing we need to do is accept that change is inevitable. We need to understand that everything around us is subject to alteration and that on some level, we can take nothing for granted. This doesn't mean we need to be paranoid, but I think it is wise for us to speculate if ever so slightly about how things may be affected if our dependencies change.


Our Jobs - Particularly for those of you not in the tech industry, you might be comfortable that your position and your work are stable and valuable and that as long as you keep your shoulder to the wheel, you'll at least have your current job for as long as you need it. It's a nice fantasy, and I think that maybe with the economy being what it is, people are realizing that companies will fold or reorganize with no warning. So what do you do? How do you plan for that? What can you be doing ahead of time that will facilitate your ability to retain further employment when the current rug gets pulled out from under you?

Our Family (chosen and otherwise) - None of us like to think about the loss of a loved one, but it happens all the time. No rhyme. No reason. Or sometimes we kinda see it coming. Point is, what happens after they are gone? What aspects of day to day life and business change because of their absence? What can you do ahead of time to help yourself in what will be a moment of sorrow and loss?

How about something as simple as our vehicles? Breakdowns happen. Accidents. Thefts. We have a set way of how we go about commuting and traveling. What happens when our set way is no longer? How do we deal with that? How can we plan to cope with the transition to a different way to move about, and what do we need to do to restore our preferred method?

These are but the tip of the iceberg. And most of us spend a lot of time in denial. If we can pretend these things don't happen, and can delude ourselves into believing that nothing will ever change, then we don't have to face these possibilities. We don't have to overcome these uncertainties. We can rest easy in the comfort of our Will du jour.

So if facing the fact that change does happen whether we like it or not, or whether we facilitate it or not, then the next thought is that we can plan ahead for what we know will happen sooner or later. And in planning ahead, we take some of the stress away from what will already be a stressful time when these changes do finally occur.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Show me

So anyone that has gotten to know me well enough, and has spent any time at length talking to me knows that one of the things I loathe are people that rant and rave about something in their life where they have complete control over the situation, and rather than exert that control, they'd rather envelope themselves in the problem, and offload it emotionally onto someone else.

It never ceases to amaze me the people that give up their choices in life only to sit on their butts and whine and complain.

To these people, the ones I care enough about, I give them my version of tough love.

If you bring to my mental doorstep your dead rat, you damn well better be prepared to clean up all the piece and buff the linoleum when you're done, because I'm gonna give you the third degree.

I ask them what they've done to solve the problem themselves. I point out the obvious solutions that they've glossed over. And in doing so, I often encounter my other pet peeve. The phrase, "I can't". You might as well tattoo the phrase, "I'm Fucked" on your forehead if you utter "I can't" anywhere near me.

And sure. I suppose people go off expecting some sort of sympathy, or empathy, or some such thing. And maybe I'd be a better person if I went around telling these people that "things will get better", and "it will all be better soon". Maybe. Maybe I'd be like the educators who pass their students even when they clearly have no mastery of the most basic skills, because they don't want to offend their delicate self esteem by holding them accountable to the educational system. Maybe I'll be like the mother who tells her child that the abuse his father inflicts on both of them is something he can learn to ignore and grow past. Maybe I'd be like the White Knight victim who spends all their time and energy trying to solve everybody else's problems while ignoring their own. Maybe I'd be the two-faced person who tells these people what they want to hear. Not because its the right thing. But because its the thing that would please them most and make them the most agreeable to me. Maybe...

I'd rather empower people. I want to see people who think about the fact that they have accountability in their own emotions. That they are ultimately responsible for how they feel and how they act, and that they can exert Will to "make it all better", and not expect or hope that some outside force will do it for them.

This is one of the reasons I can't stand what I affectionately refer to as the Astrologically Asinine. They can always come up with a cute excuse as to why their lives suck or why they are justified in behaving badly. Because clearly, it's not their fault. *eyeroll*

You want to rant at me and expect sympathy? Fine. Come prepared. Tell me about what you've done yourself to resolve the problem. Tell me about the struggles you've had facing your own fears and about the triumphs you've had overcoming things you didn't think you could overcome. Tell me about all you've put into it. Then tell me that you know you're blowing steam, and that you already really know the answer to your problems and own up to the reasons you haven't enacted them yet. Show me that inside you lays someone greater than some idiot who expects the world to revolve around him. Show me that you have genuine interest in resolving your troubles, and not that you're a lazy fuck looking for someone to justify you.

And if you want a hand hold? a hug? a kind word? something of that nature? Ask for it. Specifically. Don't try and bind me in the web of your inadequacy, and expect me to realize that this entire charade is just to get a bit of love and affection from me. Otherwise I'll give you the love I give. And if you can't handle that, don't go bringing your shit to my doorstep.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

On habit as a factor of Will

"The law of the harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny" -- G. D. Boardman

When most people hear the word habit in reference to behavior, it is not unusual that it is associated with a negative connotation: what people refer to as a BAD habit.

But what is habit?

Merriam-Webster defines this context as: a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance, an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.

So why would there be good and bad habits? And what are good and bad habits?

It seems to me that a habit (however you spin its alignment) is just a repetitious behavior. A pattern, as the definition states. So when we talk about "good" habits, we mean things with positive consequences or ultimately positive returns. Things that bring us joy, or work to make our lives easier, etc. "Bad" habits lead to negative consequences, or otherwise unproductive or unhealthy returns. But good or bad, its a pattern. Habit is a pattern that is generally created by the repetition of an action that produces a momentary psychological or physiological pay-off. It's the cumulative consequence of our repetitive action that prompts us to define it as good or bad. But how we define it doesn't change the basic mechanisms.

So how are habits built?

Typically, there are two means by which habits arrive. Either as a somewhat inadvertent perception of an agreeable payoff to an action, or as a deliberate action derived to an expected result. But both involve that momentary pay-off or result. And again, either of these could result in what could be considered good or bad habits.

So what is the implication of habit with regards to the mind?

The human brain is the most sophisticated pattern recognition computer in existence. There is no other means by which data can be processed as efficiently. From the sounds we hear, to the things we see, to any other means by which we receive information, we infer things constantly as a function of pattern. The brain was built for patterns. It likes patterns. Similar patterns are easy. Things that do not seem to form a pattern are not so easy. Think of how we deal with day to day things. Music is a pattern of sounds. Things we consider good music has rhythm and beat, and musical progression.. all of which are patterns. Patterns we understand. Sounds that do not seem to have any set beat or rhythm are generally not considered musical, or perhaps fall into a fringe perception of music because they have patterns we do not understand. And learning to appreciate various types of music comes from learning to understand the inherent patterns.

So what does that all mean?

It means that the mind loves patterns.. Habits are patterns. So the mind loves habits. And this is the biggest reason why habits are difficult to change once they are set. This goes for good and bad habits.

So how does this pertain to Will?

Habits, in any of their forms can interfere with Will. The mind seeks to find the easiest route through the use of habits, and can sometimes pre-empt our conscious choices. How many times have you intended to make a stop along an oft traveled driving route (say, the route you take to work), during a time when you were not normally traveling to work, and in the course of your driving, you completely forgot to stop? This is habit vs Will in action.

The bulk of this battle isn't what to do with good or bad habits, but learning what our habits are. You can't change or improve what you don't even consciously know about. And even though we may consider things good habits, it's important to recognize that life changes, and the habits may require change as well. This is why it is important to be introspective of your actions. Learn your motivations. Understand what drives your life's habits and use that information not only to mold better habits, but just to continue to be willful about your choices. We are not truly living our Will if we run through life on autopilot. Even if the plane appears to be on a good course.

We must be mindful of our actions. Habits, when used for positive means, are good tools in doing our Will, but it is vital that we guide these habits with our Will and not expect them to live our Will for itself.