I’ve been reading a few books lately that have begun to fundamentally shift the way that I view happiness & living a good true life that resonates both with who we are and who we deeply desire to become. Just thought I’d note down a few ideas that I’ve mined so far from these books and repackaged them with some of my own thoughts, admittedly selfishly to retain it for future reference before amnesia takes hold, but you – of course – are welcome to glean what you will from it, you handsome reader, you. Ultimately bear in mind that these are more or less messages from myself to myself, and are in the spirit of conjecture to further process & consolidate my current reading.
- Wealth is subjective. Having more than adequate financial resources doesn’t equate to wealth or success; it’s just the accumulation of currency, the gathering of a certain thing. Financial hoarding – and all the psychological implications associated with the act of hoarding
- The ambition to gain more than necessary financial resources is not something I bristle at, but don’t ever be foolish enough to think that having large sums of disposable income leads to happiness (I bristle at this belief); and recognize that what you seek here is not happiness but the pursuit of getting more money like trying to get the most points in a game; they are mutually exclusive, and in the end mean nothing when you have enough to satisfy your baser needs (you don’t take your riches with you to the grave, we all become dust at some point). Perfectly fine to want/gather more money as a goal unto itself, I reckon, but don’t attach that to the achievement of an ideal/happy life
- Living a life of integrity that harmonizes your values with your actions, coupled with having adequate means to exist and continue existing for the foreseeable future, is wealth; why it is subjective is because those values and what constitutes a life that’s integrated with those values, is entirely down to the individual. In that sense it is qualitative; not quantitative as what the word has come to be associated with today
A few weeks ago I was about a quarter of the way through Tim Ferriss’ The 4-hour Work Week, and he offered an exercise to which I was taken aback by my response to.
It was a sort-of calculated visualization exercise. Part of it was listing a few things that, assuming I had all the money & time in the world, that I would like to have, like to be, and like to experience. The exercise then went on with a view to quantifying these things in dollar terms, and working out a plan to carve out a life that achieves those things in the short-medium term.
The problem is – I struggled to think of anything. Aside from a few magic things to have, and maybe a few concert tickets/tickets to travel, I couldn’t think of anything to put on the list.
Worse than that I didn’t know what I wanted to do – the only section I could fill out fully was the section on what I desired to be. I always had a clear vision of that.
Then it hit me – maybe, somewhere along the way from being a child, I’d forgotten how to enjoy life & have fun. I’d been so focused on slogging up the educational system successfully that I’d forgotten how to live life and enjoy myself along the way. That took me a few days to process.
Then I realized also, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to a lot of people close to me, that I’m in my head too much. Even though my natural default is and has always been silence/observation from the young age of being a toddler, being in your head 24 hours a day doesn’t allow for the yielding required to enjoy the experience of life.
Is it because I just like chasing after an ideal, with the view that once I attain it then I’ll find satisfaction? If so, as I’ve mentioned above, this is a futile exercise. Nevertheless I don’t disregard it as a possibility – there are numerous ways that society has worked this model unconsciously into our way of life; like a hypnotic trance that we all don’t realize we’re in (unless texts like the one you’re reading now gives you permission to snap out of things and realize what you were a part of).
What being in your head does to you is it denies you the opportunity to get in touch with the instinctual energy that’s moving within you. The mind places a moral judgement on certain actions, thoughts, and ideas, which causes anxiety, frustration, guilt, and depression.
I think the way to solve this is to find ways to – figuratively – cut your head off. By that I mean finding a way to shut off the intellectual side of things, and to live life as you see fit without placing judgement over those actions. Even if only for a few hours, the day, or the whole week, your true spirit and whatever is moving through you as a spiritual being needs an outlet to express itself with.
Realize that the head is the primary mechanism through which we are controlled; there is no form of mind control that is not in some form allowed or perpetuated by the individual in question. For example you have an urge to follow a path in life that goes against what you’ve been taught growing up by close relatives to follow (most often the unfinished stories and desires of our parental figures); this instinctual urge engages your entire being; your heart and your primal core, but the head quickly rushes in to place judgement and guilt on those foreign thoughts like antibodies to a foreign virus, so as to suppress and hold down the true expression of who we wish to be.
The culprit is the head – we must figuratively place ourselves in the path of a self-inflicted mental decapitation from time to time, if we have any hope of living a life that we are inherently content with as individuals.
The thought that one wants to kill oneself is closely related; the sad misunderstanding is that, most of the time, what needs to die is not us physically (as is commonly thought to be) but a weaker, less resourceful part of our personality/character. In this way a new transformed version of ourselves is allowed to rise from the ashes like the phoenix, and rebuild us at a higher plane of existence so that we are fit to face the challenge from which we previously broke down at. We break down only to be built back up again stronger and more agile, such is what nature dictates, and it is no different for humans. We are creatures that evolution has groomed for many ages to be the perfect vehicle to at the very least not only withstand change, but embrace it. We are born adapters, and have always been.
So I guess what I want to take from this train of thought is that I need to get out of my head more frequently, and to chase life and all the wondrous experiences it can yield so as to allow for whatever changes that are meant for me to hit me like a truck.
Overly positive thinking, while I used to be quite a keen proponent of its benefits, has to my mind lost most of its credibility. There are events in life that we neither have control over, or will ever have control over, which is quite primitively frightening as it sets alarm bells off for our animal brain – the need to control and account for everything in our midst of consciousness, so as to be better prepared for survival (the most basic primal instinct), has been something that’s inspired some of the most ingenious packaging for the meaning of our existence.
Religion, superstition, and now overly positive thinking, are products of this process.
The belief that being positive will set off a chain reaction of events to attract favorable things to our life just cannot be true. The ancients knew this, but somewhere along the line this thought gave way to prescribed belief systems.
The only things we have control over are our thoughts and our actions – and nothing else.
No amount of rosy framing around the world will change, for example, what other people think or what other people do. What’s required is not a prescription of dogma, but a prescription of healthy pessimism to re-align the balance that an overly positive mind lacks, and therefore suffers from.
Also recognize for the vast majority of the population, taking a pessimistic view of the world is quite notably shunned, so tread lightly when implementing these thoughts into your approach to life and interactions with people. For example there are those who feel quite secure emotionally to admit that they love music that is specifically dark, depressing, and emotional, purely for those beautiful qualities in the music. There are those who, at the very sight or sound of this music, irrationally turn their noses up at the fans of said music and write these individuals off as, ironically, emotionally messed up. Nobody likes to have their rosy bubble of the world burst by something that inherently threatens that perceived security, so they rationalize that people who like that type of music are in some way wrong, therefore distancing themselves from and neutralizing the unconsciously recognized threat.
So a very realistic view of the world needs to be taken, whilst also allowing for ourselves the mental and emotional permission to strive forward with where we intend to head in life; without (crucially) setting rosy expectations for ourselves which, if we don’t happen to achieve, creates meaningless, self-inflicted bouts of frustration and depression.
This really hit home for me around a week ago. I had started up my regular gigs again, performing magic at a Coffee Club in the city, so that I have something to do on Saturday mornings and I get to try out new tricks that I’d been working on during the week. I felt so much frustration, because for some reason everything seemed off that day. Call it being rusty, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was something inherent in me: approaches were not working right, I couldn’t get into the flow of each trick. I realized after some thought & self-reflection both during and afterwards that it was because I wasn’t yielding to the experience in the moment. The recurring, unconscious thought before I attempted a trick was the following:
I have to be confident and perform amazingly so that I can build my skills to achieve the status of being a great magician one day
I had unconsciously created a thing to achieve. A distant tangible expectation for myself, so every step was scrutinized and analyzed through the lens of whether I was moving successfully in this direction. And while it’s a good technique for rapid progression, the by-product of this particular goal pursuit is a primary disconnect between why you originally chose to do that particular thing, and your current actions; in my case my primary cause was for the love of magic and performing in and of itself. Somewhere along the line I forgot about this.
Every false step that fell short created anxiety and depressive thoughts, which further spiraled my performances, whereas if that thought from which my actions sprung forth were to change, then I’d be moving from a stronger, more resourceful core which would flow on in the form of the confidence I have in my performance(s):
I have a trick I’d like to try out. I’m excited to learn what works, what doesn’t work, why these things are, and how my audience responds/enjoys my performance. I have no road map, but I’m curious to give things a shot to see where it takes me
Once I was able to self-diagnose and re-frame the non-resourceful thought in my head, that particular moment was transformative. I felt a rush of creativity, wonder, and vitality – almost as if they had always been there, building up, only waiting for me to give the signal for it to all come rushing back to me.
Needless to say, this reset my approach to magic. I feel more grounded as an individual, and feel as though my belief in myself & my magic had returned. I’d like to think I’m a better magician for it, but that’s not something I need concern myself with at this point in time.
A distant goal is useful for short to medium term desires, but recognize that the sacrifice you make with goal setting is a certain peace of mind associated with doing something purely for the joy of it, and therefore creates a potential source of anxiety. Whether this anxiety is needless or not, is dependent on context.
I think a good mantra to live by, therefore, which takes into account these teachings, is the following:
Always be prepared for the worst, but constantly work to be the best
Contrast has always been a source from which color and texture is imbued upon the most pleasurable parts of our existence. So I believe it’s through the dichotomy of these two outlooks on life that gives rise to a middle-road that resembles some form of peace and tranquillity that is a better place to move through this life from.