Drugs, smartphones, discomfort, and restlessness.

Drugs, smartphones, discomfort, and restlessness.

I started smoking cigarettes with wreckless abandon when I was about 17. For nearly ten years I smoked a pack or two a day. I loved the nicotine, but I also loved carrying the pack and lighter around with me. I liked having to always make sure I had my smokes. They were like my security blanket.

I smoked pot pretty much all day long during this time as well. Same deal. I loved having my kit with me, having to make sure I always had weed, and reveled in doing all the things I did while high.

Together I had a solid foundation of habits that I depended on emotionally and physiologically.

At some point I switched to smokeless tobacco to give my lungs a break. I got some sort of bronchitis every year and I knew all the smoking wasn’t healthy. When I started grad school and getting my shit together I quit smoking cigarettes altogether. That was 1997. But since then I’ve maintained an off again/on again relationship with nicotine.

As for the weed, I quit pretty hardcore for several years also when I started grad school. I mistakenly believed scientists were serious types who would never meddle in such things. Quitting pot opened the door for full-blown anxiety which I dealt with in various legal ways for the next decade. I think I was always anxious but the weed, and not taking life very seriously, helped keep it at bay.

Once the anxiety ripped open I leaned more into the dip and less into the weed and found a new friend in craft beer. For sometimes years I would go nicotine free but mostly chewed nicotine gum because I knew dip, like smoking, could cause cancer. And by this time I had spent over a decade of my life putting some sort of carcinogenic form of nicotine into my body. And I pretty much drink a beer or two every night.

I am currently nicotine-free and smoke weed very occasionally though I like my evening beers. I have probably chewed nicotine gum for nearly a decade but, again, do not currently. I will probably go back to it at some point but I am trying to stay off all forms of nicotine.

But my point is not just about nicotine. It’s about my need to have that security blanket. When I am not smoking/dipping/chewing gum I am more restless. Now, even when I use drugs I am a bit restless, but much more so when I am trying to be clean.

I still drink a cup of coffee or three a day and would freak the hell out without it. And I’m cool with the amount of beer I drink. But I remain disturbed by my seeming inability to resist checking my iPhone.

I got off of Facebook years ago because I had such a compulsion. I have removed most of my phone apps that update regularly including all forms of social media except twitter that I use for my business. I disabled all of the notifications so my phone only tells me when someone is calling or texting. But I STILL fucking check the damn thing hundreds of times a day. I don’t honestly know how often, but too frequently for my comfort.

I check my email a lot. I’d estimate I get a new mail about 1/100th of the times I check to see if I got a new mail. WTF is up with that? And I even removed the Mail app. I have to go in to safari and check my mail on the web.

I check the weather app maybe ten times a day. Does it change? Nah.

Now that I am blogging and on Medium I have those apps and check my stats more than I should.

So what I wanna know is why do I do these things? Is it related to my history of addiction?

In general I feel restless and so I think I’m looking for a distraction or for a ‘fix’. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable and am looking for an escape. But mostly I’m bored (and restless maybe). Am I still looking for a high?

And I don’t know what to do about the restless. What I do know is that when I’m inspired, creating, and working on a meaningful project I am far less restless. And that carries beyond the time spent actually doing those things. I think I am ‘missing something’ and, as such, trying to find it on my phone. Or in a sack of weed. Or a pack of Marlboros. Or a can of Skoal. Sometimes I think I am looking for esteem in these other things – from outside myself. Instead of self-esteem, am I dependent on other-esteem?

The only thing I know to do is to keep myself busy. And not crazy busy like some obsessive compulsive (though I may have those tendencies). But is that the solution? From whom do I seek counsel for my restlessness? I discuss it with my therapist but we have yet to go too deep. I am relearning how to esteem myself and maybe in discovering how the restlessness will subside?

And really, I should be proud that I am choosing healthier outlets for my restlessness, but the phone obsession is annoying. And embarrassing. And to the point where I consider daily trading my iPhone in for an old flip phone with no internet. But there are things I love about my iPhone and the problem is not the device, it’s ME.

I want to address the personality traits that lead me to do these things. But what are they? Am I sick? Am I bored? Am I a spoiled brat? Is this a thing?

I have a PhD. That and a quarter will get you a hot cup of jack squat.

I have a PhD. That and a quarter will get you a hot cup of jack squat.

The sentiment is nearly always the same.

“You’ll have no trouble getting a job around here. You have a PhD!”

I’ll tell you. Nothing could be further from the truth.


When I quit my tenure track job I was 90% confident I was doing the right thing. My DITK (dual income three kids) family just wasn’t functioning. Two parents trying to pursue demanding careers was not conducive to a good family life. I wanted to be a bigger presence for my children and to find a balance in our family unit. Day care failed because someone was always sick. Babysitters were ok but between the two I was spending my entire salary. I just couldn’t justify having a career given what it was costing me.

So I quit. And, yeah, 10% of me wonders how my life would have been different, regrets giving up my career, and feels stupid for bailing on something I put so much work into.

At first I assumed that jumping off the tenure track was career suicide, and wondered if I was just burned on the whole conservation biology career path. I became obsessed with beer making and decided to start my own brewery.

Things were going great with the brewery until I discovered my wife’s affair and got a divorce. In 2010 I was forced to get a job and start over.

Though there are one or two tenure-track positions near me they are both occupied and will be for the forseeable future. But I was able to leverage my education and experience to get a job two hours away as part of a larger conservation project. The job carried a weighty title but didn’t translate to anything meaningful. To me the job was really about laundering government grants to support various programs as each would take a cut of the pie until it trickled down to me and my coworker. We made decent money but there was really no job to do or, if there was, no one wanted us to finish it because that would mean the end of the gravy train.

I became very disillusioned but kept the job for over three years and they allowed me to work from home. I was only away from my kids for 9 months and I still had them every weekend while I was gone.

After that job I was lucky, again, to get a state job with a conservation agency. And low and behold, that job was also about doing nothing. I guess I was picking the low-hanging fruit, or maybe I just want to work, or many I’m a big crybaby. Obviously neither of these jobs was running a research lab at an academic institution. But surely there were elements that could be a source of joy.

Nah. Both of those jobs sucked. My supervisors were uninspiring and really just wanted me to keep quiet. My skills were not needed nor utilized. There was not much contribution to be made beyond checking off a few boxes once in a while. I was uninspired at best and depressed at the worst.

I tried to make it work. I wrote a 75,000 page book while getting paid at the state job. I looked for silver linings but there were none. I’ll admit that I am a bit demanding and expect a lot from a job, because I want to give that much. There are certainly people who could make these jobs work but it wasn’t me. Just because these jobs were ‘in my field’ does not mean I was a good fit or vice-versa.

I have come to terms with the fact that it is ok for me to leave these jobs. I still wrestle with leaving, but I am much happier exploring and searching for something better than I was twiddling my thumbs and being forced to observe the fleecing of America on a daily basis.

And I’m quite lucky to be searching because my wife has a job that supports our family. I have the luxury of finding a career that ‘makes me happy’. Or, that utilizes my skill sets, challenges me, and helps people. On a daily basis I wonder if that’s a pipe dream or whether it is possible. I truly don’t know. To varying degrees I believe it and I think it’s stupid.

But the bottom line is I prepared my self for a career path that I quit for my family. And in having done that, I closed a door. Trying to reopen that door and peek inside was bad for my soul and was not really a possibility. Despite everyone telling me how easy it is go find a job with a PhD I am prepared to start completely over. At 44 years old.

Progress reporting, setting goals, and accountability

Progress reporting, setting goals, and accountability

One of my pet peeves is that there is so little accountability anymore. Alternate facts, fake news, lies, etc. But I don’t wanna address global accountability because I have no solutions. Except that we have to hold ourselves accountable first. And that’s where I am today with my lottery winnings.

At two months in I have achieved some things but struggle with others. A month or more of that time I dedicated to house projects and finishing up our move. But I rarely let myself see those victories. Instead I see how little I have achieved. I don’t yet blog everyday, or practice mandolin daily, or meditate seven days a week. Sure, I’ve made improvements but I set my goals too high. Instead of setting realistic goals I aimed too high. So I see that but now need to stop beating myself up for not meeting the unrealistic goals I set. Round and round I go. . . . . .

I boiled down my ‘what would I do if I won a million bucks’ into a nice abbreviation:

E -> M -> J -> M -> B – > W

Or, Exercise, Meditate, Journal, Mandolin, Blog, and Write

Those are the things I want to spend my time doing, in the time I previously spent at my job.

I even developed specific goals related to each item.

Exercise: I do this already. Four days a week I do weight training at home. 45-60 minutes. I don’t really have to work at this as it is already a habit, but I would like to add a little cardio in the future if I can achieve all my other goals.

Meditate: I started meditating using Headspace a few months ago and have been good at doing it a few times a week. My goal is get up to 4 times a week, then a 15-day streak, and ultimately nearly every day (or 5-7 times a week). I am working toward this. I do better during the weekdays and have trouble meditating on the weekends when I am more surrounded by family and am ‘not working’ or dedicating ‘me time’.

Journal: Related to blogging and writing I am prioritizing journaling. Similar to meditation, I would like to do this every day, am getting better, and can comfortably knock out 3-4 days journaling in a week. My goals are to increase frequency toward daily and to link my journaling topics to meditating, blogging, and writing. Of course, some journaling is free-form and has no goals, but overall I do well linking my tasks together under a common theme-of-the-day.

Mandolin: I want to play more and try to squeeze it in where I can. It’s hard because it’s loud-ish and I don’t necessarily want other people in the house to hear my practicing. A struggle when not alone (which is almost never). I have two lines of goals with respect to mandolin: 1) learn new songs and explore jazz particularly and 2) work up some solo singing songs toward doing a set at open mic night and developing a solo mandolin ‘act’. Again, I do fairly well but have trouble prioritizing over the long run. I would like to practice at least 5 minutes a day, but 4-5 days a week of 30 minutes would be great.

Blog: I set up this blog to help maintain regularity and accountability. I have missed a week or so and see how it could slip away entirely. Like everything else, it’s hard to create new habits, it’s easy to slip up, and easier still to let it slide away into oblivion – falling back on old habits. I would like to either blog or post to Medium 4-5 days a week.

Write: My ultimate professional goal is to get out all of the ideas I have inside in written form. First task is to finish editing my beer book and publish an ebook. Then I can move on. This is the slowest process of all and the hardest to show progress. I set a new goal today of editing 2-3 chapters a week so that I can finish in a month.

I don’t think those goals are unrealistic, but I have trouble sticking to it. Just like anything. It took me a long time to make exercise a habit, and it is still hard sometimes, but I rarely miss a week without it. And, when I do, I forgive myself. I will continue to stalk these other new habits and try to improve. But I need to figure out how to not blow them off. My typical bailing procedure is to say to myself, “it’s ok, it’s no big deal, these are silly things, anyway” to reflect the low importance I place on my needs. It’s not like I’m getting paid for any of this. It’s not like a job I can justify by saying I have to pay the bills. The only justification I can come up with is ‘I want to’ or ‘I need to’ and those sentiments just don’t carry the same weight.

My wife is cool with it and does not enforce my lack-of-importance. She sees these things as important and supports my quest to build new habits. My limiting factors here are my old beliefs that I don’t deserve what I want, my needs aren’t important, or I’m not worthy.

Those are the things I must get passed, and the way to do that, I think, is to trick myself by building the habits. I’m convinced that I JUST NEED TO DO IT and the rest will fall into place. But it is hard to JUST DO IT. It’s so easy to find excuses like I listed above.

I would do E, J, M, M, B, W BUT . . .

I’m ignoring my family

I want to be a good husband/father

My needs aren’t important as others’

I have to do X, Y, Z related to my roles as father or husband

Those things are silly

But I’m not earning money doing those things so they aren’t valuable

Ultimately I need to change those responses, and maybe in addition to building the habits by JUST DOING IT I need to replace the negative thoughts with more appropriate ones.

I DO deserve it

I have needs that must be met

My needs are important

I am a good father/husband AND can do my things

In truth, not getting my needs me is COMPROMISING my ability to be a good father/husband and, THEORETICALLY, by doing ‘my things’ I may actually IMPROVE at the very things I value.

I want to be a good father and husband but I also want to be the best ME I can be. And I have spent years figuring out what makes me the best ME and now I just need to do it. In fact, I need to recognize and value my efforts by creating the best life I can. It is the time for ACTION!

You can’t make someone not believe in God

You can’t make someone not believe in God

If that’s blasphemous I apologize. I mean, I capitalized the G.


I say this it often, ‘you can’t make someone not believe in God’. Today I said it again and I’m feeling the need to write it out.

In my efforts to enforce my boundaries I told my kids’ ballet teacher I thought they were doing too much. Like many kids activities I hear about, ballet has become increasingly time-consuming, stress-inducing, and a source of much strife for my family. As more activities are added my girls (I have three in the school) experience more stress and less joy.

Sure, part of this is growing up, being responsible, and being human. But none of the students are going to be professional ballet dancers. Or, if they are, they do not require increasing activities to do so. Or, a reasonable amount of activity and commitment are not going to drastically reduce the potential for them to reach their ballet dreams. I don’t know, maybe that’s not true. But for me and my family, it has become too much.

And, being the people pleaser, I have not said anything for awhile. I sat by and watched the activities build and help manage the resulting stress. But I bottled it up to the point where I needed to do something about it, and on my current quest to improve my life chose this fire to fight first. I simply wanted to let the involved parties know that I was resistant to the current direction and to have my voice hear. I tried to share my thoughts in a parents meeting, but was unable, so I summarized my thoughts in an email shared it with all the staff and parents. I received a response from the teacher which was professional and decent. And I appreciated it.

So everything went well. I felt a need to speak my mind, I let it out ,and claimed my space in the world. And my words were heard. I congratulate myself for getting my needs met in my attempts to change old beliefs.

However, my words probably aren’t going to make a difference. Probably nothing will change with respect to the increasing demands my family will experience. And that’s ok, because that wasn’t my goal, but it also makes me wonder how we ever change, or what would be required if I did want to change people’s minds. What can I do to change anything? Can you make people not believe in God?


Because I don’t think so. Or, at least, I don’t feel strongly enough about this particular issue to want to fight (or feel like I had the stamina to fight) that battle. In this case I feel better having met my needs to speak up and I feel like I now have a foundation for future protest so that my resistance has a context. Now when I disagree with any particular additional activity everyone will understand where I am coming from.

More often than not, I don’t want to or don’t feel it’s my place to, make people not believe in God. But what if I did feel strongly enough to fight? How would I do it? How do people do it? Can people do it? It makes me think of our current political situation. Can we change things?

Look at civil rights. Lots of resistance. Lots of protest. Millions of individual efforts to change how people think. Yet, I still see a lot or racism. I see a lot of people unconvinced that ‘not believing in God’ is a good thing. Does anything change? Can it?

I wonder.

Coparenting and being cool

Coparenting and being cool

One of the first conversations I need to have to tackle my boundary issues is with my ex-wife. Here’s an article I posted on medium about it.


Divorce truly is the gift that keeps on giving . . . .

As a divorced man receiving child support I’m in kind of a backwards situation. See, I was a stay-at-home-dad and sacrificed my career for my kids. So when I divorced I had no job, but got 50/50 shared custody because that is what’s best for the kids.

My decree states that I will receive a small sum of child support to help offset expenses for my three kids. We split all the major expenses amicably, following the orders of the decree. I went back to work at a significantly lower salary and we agreed to a reasonable child support payment following the states calculation methods.

But now the ex and I are both remarried. The balance has shifted and my household makes more money, although I actually make less than my ex wife or her new husband. But, my ex believes she shouldn’t have to pay the child support any longer. She asked me to ‘be cool’ and just ‘let her’ not pay me. I’m having a small crisis over the issue. Partly because it renews old boundary issues I had in that marriage, but mostly because I feel like that decision is out of my hands.

On the one hand, we’re both remarried and have our separate lives. Yet, we are still joined through the kids and will be forever. On the other hand, there are laws involved that are out of our hands. There are acceptable and legal options to change the custody order and, as I understand, even if I permit a change she still legally owes the kids the money.

I have to make plenty of decisions with my children’s’ mother and would like to minimize these interactions as much as possible. The case of child support seems like one we don’t have to, and may not be legally able to, do together.

I recently lost my contract job. Since I retired from being an academic professor I have not been able to find work remotely resembling my former career. I started a small business but cannot pay myself a salary. I have found short-term work and unsatisfactory jobs but nothing I can call a career. Theoretically, I could go work at a fast food restaurant. I have options but I also have hope that I will find something meaningful and rewarding.

Anyway, I am thoroughly exhausted trying to get her to pay me because it always results in me having to listen to how greedy I am. I have had enough of the attacks to my character and accusations about my intentions. My ex doesn’t know this, but since I married I put the money in a separate account for the kids. I believe in the system and intend to use child support for the children, regardless of what my ex wife might tell you.

I have talked to my lawyer and understand my options and the intent and extent of the law. I don’t think my ex-wife has made that effort. I am torn between informing her about the seriousness of this issue and the options available to us both, or just going to Child Services and asking them to deal with it. The thought of having a mediator receive and disperse payments is dreamy.

My lawyer also informed me that legally I have twenty years to collect any unpaid child support due the kids. Which means after eight more years of non-payment I could call up Child Services and let them know she hasn’t paid — and they would go and collect the unpaid child support. I wouldn’t do that, even though I’m not ‘cool’ enough to ‘let her’ not pay me.

I also believe, after talking with my lawyer, that if either me or my ex wife asked the juvenile court system to reassess our case that I would probably get more child support because the calculator doesn’t consider new spouses incomes. I don’t care to initiate that process but either of us could.

My real conundrum is that I am justifiably suspicious about what the repercussions might be whether I ‘am cool’ or get Child Services or the Juvenile Court involved. I already fear my ex does not talk well of me in front of the kids. I don’t think she’s terrible, but I sense that she may not have the same wounds on her tongue as I because I don’t believe she bites hers as often. I fear this will worsen if I do not behave ‘in a cool manner’ over this issue.

Though I don’t necessarily need the money for the kids, I admire the system for seeking to be equitable. I am proud to hold a separate account for them should they need it now or in the future and will use those monies on their expenses and not my own. I appreciate the states’ rules and laws regarding this issue and wish to honor them by obeying them as I am supposed to. The courts were not involved with my divorce decree but I relied on the state methodology to ensure it was equitable. In fact, I ultimately agreed to a much lower support payment than I believed I would have received had we gone through juvenile court. Just to ‘be cool’.

Am I a douchebag for wanting to follow the rules and either follow the decree conditions or go to juvenile court to amend them? Some will surely say so. I think my ex is correct that I could get away with ignoring the non-payments forever. And by doing so would honor my ex wife’s desires but dishonor the state legal system. Which matters? More or less? Why can’t I just ‘be cool’? Doesn’t what I want matter? How much do I have to consider her feelings as we continue to coparent?

I have looked deep inside myself and I do not feel spiteful or vengeful and do not believe I am trying to ‘get back at her’ as I have been accused of doing. I feel like I am already being (and have been) ‘pretty cool’ about this whole thing. And I don’t appreciate being having to make this decision. Does that make me a jerk?

Or, is my behavior justified in trying to obey the laws and rulings of our society and to ‘do right’ by my children. At the end of the day, it is my kids whom I want to honor the most and child support, presumably, is intended to do exactly that. Aren’t I ‘being cool’ by following the rules in this case? Shouldn’t I not give a shit about being cool?

You know. . I do not enjoy making coparenting decisions with my ex-wife but I do so because it’s best for the kids. We do pretty well navigating the blended family, coparenting waters and I would rather make all of the parenting decisions together without the aid of the government or third parties. But sometimes the old behaviors come in to play and she is aggressive and I am not. I want to please and she wants to be pleased. I work on these habits that contributed to our divorce in the first place, but they can come back to life and interfere with my ability to coparent. It’s like they say, they know how to push our buttons because they installed them. If anything I wonder if my ex wife is taking advantage of my need to ‘be cool’ in this situation.

So I’m stuck with a few discussion topics. Should I invite a third party in to deal with this aspect of my divorce? Should I go against my personal beliefs to maintain the peace? Will it matter whether I’m ‘cool’ or not? Is it possible to handle this in such a way that everyone wins? Does my behavior change anything at all?

What do you think?

Epiphany: How to change your old beliefs.

Epiphany: How to change your old beliefs.

If that kid never mustered the courage to ride his bike off the ramp, he never would have felt the sensation of jumping your bike off a ramp.

Sure, he could have thought about it and got pretty close to imagining what it would feel like. And he might have. But that doesn’t compare, not in the least, with how it really feels.

While I used to be that kid that jumped his bike off ramps, in my adult life I take far fewer risks. I think a lot about taking risks, but I actually take very few.

The specific risks I’m talking about are not that scary to some people. But I rarely tell people how I feel. Whereas this, in itself, is no big deal, it scares the crap out of me. I am a people pleaser and fear abandonment if I risk conflict. I wish I could tell people how I feel and not doing so leads to a few problems.

  1. I don’t enforce my boundaries
  2. I complain about my predicament (I need to tell someone something but I don’t) to my loved ones
  3. Sub-par parenting (I have trouble getting my kids do things)
  4. People assume everything is fine with me, even when it isn’t, which perpetuates my inauthenticity


BOOM! There’s five years worth of therapy condensed into four bullets.

So yeah, that’s my people-pleasing-lack-of-boundaries-passive-whiner identity crisis right there. My old beliefs tell me that I HAVE to act this way or people will not like me, not love me, and abandon me. I realize, intellectually, that is false but my ‘self’, my ‘person’, my ‘soul’ doesn’t know how to do it. But now, I have to.

I realized last night that I don’t walk the talk because I’m afraid. My inability to grow, to cross the threshold of changing my beliefs, comes from being afraid. Some ramps are just too big, I guess.

But this is the only ramp left for me at this point. So much of my life is incredible yet I struggle to enjoy it and long for something else. I long for extrinsic factors to esteem me and guide me through my days. But I don’t want to digress, because I discovered the mechanism toward action.

I realized that the times I complain about my life are effectively identifying the areas where I need action. That’s probably very obvious to some, but I am having an epiphany. As I complained to my wife about my current issues with my ex-wife, my kids, and their ballet teacher she tried to help me find solutions. Of course, I snapped at her ideas because they all required work and induced fear. I need to stand tall and initiate some changes to my relationships and I am afraid they will abandon me if I do. There it is.

But afterwards I realized that I NEED to address these things because my old strategy of tolerating things, burying them, complaining to loved ones, and sometimes blowing up is no longer working. And by ‘no longer working’ I mean it is causing my physical stress, reducing my quality of life, and influencing my relationships with the people in my life. I would like to change those things.

I also realized, with my wife’s help, that things are not going to change if I don’t change. That means something because I spend my time worrying that I will make things worse and assume things will certainly not get better. But I realized I am less afraid of things getting worse than I am of things staying the same. What a relief! And when I can find a way toward optimism, I wonder if things might actually get BETTER because I will get these immense loads off my chest, learn better coping strategies, and maybe even CHANGE MY OLD BELIEFS!!!!


And there’s the epiphany.  I have been struggling trying to change old beliefs but I really didn’t know how to do it. I think, and I hope I’m right, that the way for me to do so is to:

  1. Complain about what’s bothering me
  2. Think about strategies to address these bothersome things
  3. Identify the strategies that I dislike the most, or that induce the most painful reactions
  4. Figure out a way to address those strategies


I’m sure it’s not that simple and that some dynamic between me being upset and my wife helping me helped get me to that point, but it’s a start.

So. After I realized I need to practice healthy boundaries in a way that is scary I have planned three distinct conversations with each of the parties in my life. I’ll let you know how it goes.




Ego, Self-help, and Action

Ego, Self-help, and Action

Though I started seeing a counselor or therapist in 2010 I feel like I’m just starting to get my act together. I have read so many self-help books and learned about so many techniques it could make your head swim. Really, I love them and I am making small changes to improve my life. And while it makes me feel better to understand what I am going through I feel like I haven’t made the big changes I need to make. Yet.

Intellectually I understand what I am going through, how I process information, and how my old beliefs continue to guide my decisions and behavior. What I don’t understand, or what I can’t seem to change, is how I can replace my old habits and beliefs with more helpful ones. Or at least how to stop doing the same old things.

In many ways I feel confident and have a high self-esteem, but I suffer from low self esteem and confidence in many situations. As a people pleaser I get my esteem from others and am only confident when I am successful at maintaining a low conflict environment. Because this is impossible, I feel like I have failed most of the time. So with my family and friends, in my social life, I struggle with self-esteem. But when I’m all alone in my head I feel confident and secure. So weird.

So that juxtaposition sets up a conflict between my intellectual and physical selves where I can’t behave in the ways that I want to. And aren’t we ‘set up’ to do this? To understand that we need to change but then to be unable to do so? Is this a tenant of self-help that guarantees repeat customers? Is this why you can read the same stuff in so many different places? Is it all a scam?

Of course I don’t think it’s a scam, but I think helping people execute the tenets of personal growth is the challenge we need to meet. More often we read about WHAT to do and not so much the HOW. And the HOW requires ACTION.

For myself, I have spent seven years thinking about stuff more than acting on it. I have changed a lot of behaviors including working out more, journaling, and being mindful but It takes a lot more effort (and a lot of time) to replace the old beliefs.

Therein lies the real challenge. To truly change I, we, need to replace the old outdated beliefs with new ones. That means we need to reinforce the new beliefs by thinking, acting, and REPEATING such that we build a database of enough information to challenge the pile of data supporting the old belief. Think about it, even though we may have been wrong we have been collecting data through life experience that supposedly supports old ideas about how the world should work. Whether the evidence really supported them or not, we chose to find support and thus reinforced a belief and made it stronger. That’s a huge pile of undoing right there.

And it’s unfair to lie to ourselves and decide that an old habit was beneficial when it really wasn’t. Sure, we may not have understood so at the time, but it’s hard to undo! Just because I now understand that trying to make people feel good is not the reason people like me, I spent nearly 40 years telling myself that was true and piecing together cause and effect in all aspects of my life. Now that I challenge that and say, I don’t have to behave in such a way that I think it will please people, I’m sort of naked and vulnerable and ignorant about how to behave.

So, yeah, it isn’t about trying to create enough evidence to challenge the piles of data generated from our lives, it is about getting to the source. And what is that, exactly? Can we instead discover the ‘real’ issue, deal with it, and have everything else fall into place? We surely are told that, and I believe it, but don’t exactly know what it looks like.

From what I can tell it boils down to mindfulness. Perhaps in maintaining a state of beginners mind we ignore the old beliefs and create room to build new ones. But the added challenge is that our old beliefs continually try to reinsert themselves into the game. They are a strong force with a high degree of self-preservation. For some reason. The beliefs don’t know they’re alive – how can they desire to live on?

For myself, I feel like I have automatic thoughts and behaviors related to my old beliefs that immediately insert themselves and thus perpetuate. I don’t always have time to be aware of what’s happening before it’s too late. In this manner the old beliefs perpetuate.

So, yeah, mindful efforts to be aware of those exchanges could possibly be the most likely mechanism of change. In meditation you learn to be aware of thoughts and to let them go. I think that’s exactly what needs to happen here. I need to be aware that I will have automatic thoughts constantly throughout the day that will perpetuate my old habits, beliefs, and feelings. In order to change the way I feel or act I need to intercept these thoughts and do something with them. Maybe let them go, maybe rethink them, maybe challenge them. But if I don’t catch them the autopilot mode will continue.

Is it that easy? Well, given how hard it is to maintain awareness of my thoughts it’s truly hard, but is will that simple effort and technique be effective?