Utilize Everything & Take more Risk
In changing behaviour, there will be an element of uncertainty and challenge involved in going outside of the ranges of how I normally act (my comfort zone/safe haven). This visceral feeling of tension that I experience when doing something new or challenging can be framed by my mind in different ways.
My mind creates the context for this physical sensation by labelling and interpreting it in a certain way. For instance, some people get excited when they experience this feeling of tension whereas other people may become very self-conscious and anxious; it’s all in how they relate to their sensations.
For example, I used to resist these sensations and get nervous just prior to doing a presentation before a group of people, whereas nowadays I just let those feelings come over me and use them to become more grounded, focused and present to the moment. These sensations come up for a reason, and if I don’t resist them, they can be utilized in ways to assist me.
It’s kind of like that old-school game Tetris; the key to success lies in utilizing the blocks that I am being presented with. It’s the same in Life; I focus on finding a way to leverage and utilize everything that shows up.
When I relate to tension and uncertainty in such a way that challenging my limits is experienced as exciting, I can start taking more risks in Life. Bringing down stress levels and completion helps to achieve this and will help me to get reacquainted with my need for exploration. After I restore this natural sense of adventure (that is intact in the young child) I will be able to relate to taking risk as fun and exciting.
Parents, peers and caretakers sometimes like to downplay the need for exploration in children (which is definitely a form of abuse in my opinion) and to act more ‘safe’ and ‘careful’.
People teach their children:
“Don’t expect too much, don’t set your standards too high. Don’t aim high, because you will be disappointed when you fail. Just settle for this low-risk Life like everyone else and you will do just fine, as you will grow to love the boring easiness and comfort of it.”
Why the fuck would I be disappointed if I give my all and fail?
I can feel good about myself for putting it all on the table, trying something new and going at it with full conviction.
“It’s not the victory that defines the man, it’s the fight.”
~ Pook ~
The real issue here is that same uncertainty of cognitive dissonance I wrote about in the section on goal-setting. Human beings have an innate tendency to not want to waste time and energy in vain, as this lowers our chances for survival.
People do not want to end up investing a whole lot of effort into a new behaviour, only to have it not result in anything of value.
If I engage in a new activity and invest energy into it, I want to have something to show for it. This is called outcome-attachment; I am invested in the results of my actions.
The challenge for human beings has always been to become ‘free of the fruits of our labour’. The only way to live this wisdom is to override this innate tendency and just laugh at myself whenever I do something that doesn’t yield me any positive results.
The only thing to take away from a failed action (investment of time/energy) is to frame it as an opportunity to become more indifferent to failure and to stop taking myself and ‘looking good’ so damn seriously.
“You don’t surrender to your dreams…”
…and have an anxious need to achieve them, or else I’m a total loser. I do what the fuck I want (in terms of the current goals that I have), I act to the best of my ability (given the current resources that I have available), I enjoy the ride as much as possible and see how it all turns out later when I reflect.
If I fail, I’m still a hero by my own standards as I’m playing an authentic game that is in alignment with how I want to live Life and my current understandings. I don’t win if I play and succeed at the society game that the masses are adhering to. That is me settling for something someone else decided for me.
“You surrender the one thing you’ll never have: Control.”
~ Dan Millman ~
I can’t control outcomes, so I let go. My only concern is whether I live in alignment with what I want and my current understandings, that’s the real win. I change my behaviour based upon what I want in Life (my goals) and upon the development of my understandings of Life, not necessarily upon societal standards or feedback from other people (unless someone influences my goals and understandings).
My ego is always concerned with looking good so it will want to win and succeed at my goals. It will readily sacrifice what I really want in exchange for looking good. It would rather have me succeeding at society standard goals then deal with a possibility of failing at my own. Therefore, I try to keep that ego in check to the best of my ability and focus on bringing my actions and practices in alignment with my own goals (what I want) and understandings, and not live a fake Life.
Principle: Don’t settle
(give up on what you want)
“My quest for Greatness; slowly giving
way to this Life of mediocrity.”
~ Vegeta ~
Sustainable long-term results are usually a result of sustained effort and investment of effort on a new (set of) behaviour(s). As human beings have this tendency to be attached to outcome and want results as fast as possible (instant gratification), it is possible that I will give up on my goals when I don’t achieve what I want. Research shows that human beings will stop attempting an action when they meet with repeated failure, as they learn that trying is futile.
This phenomenon is called learned helplessness, as people learn from repeated failed attempts that they are unable (and thus, helpless) to be successful in what they’ve set out to do. The reasoning goes like this: Try, fail, try, fail, try, fail, try, fail, and they eventually conclude: “I can’t do this is. This isn’t possible.”
In reality, it may perhaps be the case that the thing actually was possible, but that I was simply using a strategy that didn’t work. Or perhaps, positive results were just around the corner, but I just didn’t persist long enough.
To stay out of this learned helplessness trap, I am very hesitant in stating what I believe to be possible or impossible. Sure I take the likelihood and chances for possibility into consideration when I decide on what activities to put my time and energy into; but I will not so readily exclude something from being possible.
Also, excluding something from my mental map of what’s possible will also ensure that I will not realize it for myself.
I don’t like settling for less than what I want. It is a hallmark of healthy self-esteem to want to grow and enjoy new valuable experiences. I deserve what I want (as long as what I want is an authentic goal, not a superficial ego craving that comes from a sense of self-deficiency), so I never settle. I will not give up on my dreams. When someone says I can’t do or have something I truly deep down want, I discard what they are saying.
I don’t judge them for it; it’s just their doubt and positive intention to not see me disappointed. I can relate; my mind has its times of doubt as well.
Disappointment is just me finding an opportunity to feel bad when I confuse a desire with a need. When a need is not met, I feel bad, as I need it to feel good. I don’t need to have my other goals and desires met to feel good. In fact, working towards my desires and the anticipation that comes with the realization of them is actually what makes me feel great.
It’s the journey that gets me excited, the realization of my desires and the attainment of my goals are just the icing on the cake. Sure a celebration ceremony is loads of fun, but the actual game is where the real fun is at.
Once you truly understand this, you’ll find that after you realize one of your desires, you want to quickly set new ones as desires and goals give your Life the excitement, fun and an adventurous quality that people who live in settling for mediocrity don’t get to experience.
I don’t resign to how Life is; I declare how it’s going to be.
Accept reality as it is now? Yes.
Resign myself to it for Life? No.
Life and identity are dynamic, everything changes all the time.
A step in the direction that I want is just a Self-Change Project away. The first step is to take brutally honest look at how Life is and how-I-am-being as-of-now. When I have a clear sense of what I’m dealing with, I can set a direction for what I want to turn my Life into. I can declare what results I will create for myself and start designing and implementing new practices that will facilitate the realization of those goals.
In this way, I will operate from a ‘World-meets-word fit’ way of using language.
“Reality is catching up with me, taking my
inner child I’m fighting for custody.”
~ Kanye West ~
Practice, not Perfection
Finally, I’d like to conclude this book by re-establishing the focus on Practice, taking action and implementing new behaviours in Life. Very little of this stuff will be of any value, unless applied in the real world. Sure, some of my behaviour will be altered by certain insights during reading that change the context of how I see Life.
However, for the bulk of changing behaviour I will have to rely on taking that .1% of conscious influence that I have on my actions.
It’s most strategic to apply this small portion of deliberate willpower on creating new practices and implementing these in my Life by means of Self-Change Projects.
I don’t want to get caught up with searching for the perfect set of theories, ideologies or practices before starting to take action in Self-Change. I start with basic stuff in areas that I know I can improve upon and don’t deceive myself in the fact that I’m not in control of my behaviour at times. I am brutally honest and real about where I am as-of-now, but I am also authentic in where I want go and what my goals are.
I just take that .1% of influence and invest it wisely.
I suggest you do the same.
Thanks for reading,
Edward Spruit Msc.
‘Identity is Dynamic:
The Workings of the Self-schema
Daily Practices for Self-Change
Creating changes in behaviour that stick!’
First published at:
Copyright © Edward Spruit, All Rights Reserved, 2012.
No part of this book may be directly reproduced without consent from the author,
unless quoted or paraphrased.
Words of Thanks
The author would like to thank the following people for their influence
on me and/or the creation of this book:
My parents and family, Werner Erhard, Arian Kloot, Tim Veldhuis, Tom Hulscher,
Rick van Tol, Koen Somers, Robin van Weert, Jeroen van het Hof, Gabor Mate,
Viktor Frankl, John Bradshaw, Robert Sapolsky, Eben Pagan, Brian Tracy, Napoleon Hill, Jay-z, Kanye West, Danny Way, Typhoon, Alan Watts, Carl Sagan, David Hawkins, Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, Lao-Tsu, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Owen Cook,
Alex Treasure, Guy Sengstock, Mark Sisson, Gary Taubes, J. Stanton, Doug McGuff,
Peter Joseph, Ziva Kunda, Richard de Mulder, Dr. Dimitri van der Linden, Rick Hart, Douwe Tiemersma, Ken Blanchard, Brad Blanton, Martin Seligman, Robert Glover,
David Deida, Pharrel Williams, Guy Ritchie, Ayn Rand, Chuck Palahniuk, Pook,
David Shade, Kari Granger, Michael Jensen, Steve Zaffron, Kelly Starrett, Mark Rippetoe, Matt Kroczaleski, Jim Rohn, Anthony Robbins, Daniel Goleman, Dan Millman,
Miguel Ruiz and anyone I happened to forget.
The Identity is Dynamic Online Book Series is over for now. I will keep dropping new articles on this website on a regular basis. Cheers for now…
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