There are things about yourself that are easy to change. And there are things that are more difficult. What defines a characteristic, into either category, is a combination between how much you want it to change and how engrained it is.
Self improvement is a lifelong process. If you think you’re done, you fucked up.
Ok, you know how all those really high hippies say “We’re just all made of stardust maaaaannnnnnnnn!!”?
Well, I’ve always wondered too and I’m going to explain why it’s true.
In 1945 it was known that the big bang didn’t have the right conditions to create anything else other than helium and hydrogen, which are the two lightest elements know. Ok, so everyone wondered, where the hell did all the other elements come from? Well, someone figured out that stars (like our sun) are only made of helium and hydrogen and when they get really old, if they’re the right size, they explode. And when they explode, they produce temperatures approaching a billion degrees which is enough for them to produce the heavier elements, like carbon and oxygen, that… wait for it… make up our bodies!!!
SO. We are literally made out of stuff that was cooked up in an exploding star billions of years ago.
In 1996 Jim Carey was quoted as saying: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
I went on the Bachelor Canada to find a wife in a kind of an online-dating-on-steroids scenario. But a side effect is that in recent months I’ve had the fortune to become a Canadian D-list celebrity. And it’ll likely last for all of a few months. But I say ‘fortunately’, not because I’ve enjoyed some recognition, but because five minutes ago I let a little girl, who really looked like she needed to pee, go in front of me in the bathroom line.
When someone gets recognized from being on TV, they’re privy to a sense of belonging, acceptance and validation of self worth, that only popularity can bring. Humans crave this. It’s why everybody just wants to be the popular kid in high school (but hey, maybe you didn’t and in that case, by god good for you). Think of it like an emotional high.
But this kind of emotional high is fleeting and relative to what the person has had before. And once they have 1000 ‘likes’ on an instgram photo, 1000 ‘likes’ doesn’t give the emotional high the first one did. They need 2000 or probably more really..
I don’t know why, and maybe someone can enlighten me, but humans get ‘high’ on this attention and it’s addictive the same way drugs are. The worst part is that we acclimatize to it very quickly and need more the next time for the same level of excitement and ‘high’.
But it’s the things you’ve heard of all your life that really make you sustainably happy that aren’t relative. Being a good person doesn’t require you to be an exponentially better person the next day. It’s a very different kind of positive emotion. Letting the little girl who really looks like she needs to pee go first, even though you’ve just had a beer, will always make you a nice person. And that feeling is sustainable. It will make you happy forever. And the reason is because you are happy with yourself. You are happy with who you are as a person.
I’m incredibly fortunate to have had a taste of fame that makes people happy in such an unsustainable way. It’s made me appreciate the sustainable side and really know how powerful it is.
Most people exercise their daily lives in much the same way they’ve done in years past. Most people have a job that’s at least somewhat similar to what they’ve had in recent years or months. They don’t have drastic changes in their lives, and if they do, they’re mostly logistical: a move to a new city, an office move, or a move to a new company into a position which has been similar to ones in which they’ve been before. And when one moves to a new company, it means that their hierarchical position is much the same as it was before. No one moves from a lowly desk clerk to CEO. And so not many people see or feel the changes that can occur in themselves, when others’ expectations of their actions are suddenly different.
Imagine war. Some readers, unfortunately, may not have to imagine it. But two generations ago, the vast majority of the population was directly or indirectly involved. They had no choice but to do things unimaginable by our current citizens. And yet how different were those humans physiologically from us today? I can’t imagine genes changing all that much in 80 years.
It’s like the Greek myth of the general who burnt his ships upon arriving at the shores of his battle. He wanted his soldiers to win knowing they’d fight all the harder with no choice of retreat.
I’m always impressed by how differently we can act when we have no other choice. Other people’s expectations of us in these situations are the same thing. The things we’ll do, the trauma we’ll endure or the confidence we suddenly pull out of nowhere are all amazing. So put yourself in situations that scare the shit out of you… I think you’ll be surprised how well you do, when failure isn’t an option and everyone is expecting the best from you.
The only thing done just for itself, instead of as a means to get something else, is the act of trying to be happy. Why do you want money? Why do you want a nicer car? Why do you want recognition from your friends and family? Why do you want love? You want these things because you think they will make you happy. And some will. And some will for a short time. And some will for a long time.
Happiness is the only thing done for itself and not as a means to any other end.
The inspiration from this originally comes from Aristotle:
Happiness is… “that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else”
It’s often misinterpreted that science explains concepts perfectly. People believe that when something is ‘proven’, it is taken that proof will never be refuted and that it is 100% true. But the below links explains things much more clearly. If people understood this underlying fact about our ‘knowledge’, they might be more open to the new ideas and ways of thinking.
And now for the cheesiest line in knowledge… Remember when we all thought the Earth was flat?
Two things together:
One. You know all those stories about journalists or photographers going to some remote place (usually Africa, or, whatever, it doesn’t matter) and talking about taking villagers pictures and then showing them? Right, well they all report the same thing; that the villagers are so surprised and so intrigued because they’ve never seen their own photograph before or maybe even their own reflection. Ok, that’s cool and interesting. And I’ve tried living without seeing my reflection and it does produce some cool results (see https://timwarmels.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/mirrors-and-their-anthropological-effects/
Two. Remember the book “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Shwartz. He talks about the fact that conventional economic theory teaches us to think that the more choice we have in a situation, the happier or more ‘utility’ is created. But then goes on to show many situations in which that isn’t true. This is largely due because when there’s choice beyond a certain amount, the mind starts comparing what we end up with what we could have ended up with and it becomes too much data to analyse and we end up less happy because of the energy it takes to process all that extra data, or choices.
Well what about the paradox of self knowledge. What if our rapid and easy access to our reflection leaves us in a state of perpetual self absorption? That’s likely a hyperbolic way of putting it. But we didn’t evolve with all this access to ourselves visually or, maybe even more importantly, through social media, access to what other think of us via ‘likes’, etc.
The increased access provides a breeding ground for self-consciousness and self second guessing. Am I beautiful? Am I smart enough? Am I cool enough? It’s all inward and it’s due to a knowledge access paradox. You’d think more knowledge is better, but maybe it’s not.