If you do nothing

If you do nothing then the ants and rats and algae will come. They start in the shadows, taking the grime and food and dirt that builds up around the edges. But the more they get away with it, the bolder they will get.

Soon your pool is green. Soon your house has an ant trail marching all the way into the kitchen and back to an underground nest. Soon the rats are so emboldened they find a way into your dustbins, your garage, your car.

Atrophy is the enemy. His best friends are algae, ants and rats. Fight back.

Bail out mindsets and remedies

Sometimes my brain will flick a switch and bail out. Just like a wrestler tapping out of a choke hold, when my stresses build up and become too much, the brain seems to automatically hide from responsibility. It searches memories for simpler times and childhood. Sadness creeps in. The search for distraction and pleasure creeps in. It bails out of life. This happens quickly and quietly.

Inevitably when this happens, and when I take the time to look at my life, I will see a pattern emerging. Usually this “bail out” mindset happens when I haven’t looked after myself in one of three ways. Either I haven’t done any exercise in a while, I haven’t done anything artistic in a while, or I’m not sleeping enough. Or some combination of the three.

So yesterday my brain bailed out. So I ran in the afternoon….yes….endorphins! Then i went to bed early. Today I’ll try find some time to doodle on the guitar or work on the podcast….Yeah, the podcast I reckon.

Do what you can. Which is more than you think.

Buildings through different lenses

One way to view a building is through the lens of a developer. Using this lens, a building is a foundation, a frame, and finishes (interior and exterior — windows, doors, penetrations) plus the surface finishes (floors, walls, ceilings, interior doors, rest rooms, mop closets, central plant) and the HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, controls, elevator systems.

Buildings can also be linked to health and emotion. A house can be a safe space and a home full of joy, or it can be full of anger, the scene of a divorce. Creative spaces can give you a sense of freedom and purpose. Pressurized space characterized by disjunction and poor design can give you a feeling of unease – it may even make you sick.

Depending on what you want to achieve, it helps to have the right lens. For example right now I need to sort out several functional things in our old house such as the garden lawn and the crumbling driveway. Developers lens helps here. I also have to manage a big family’s needs and expectations with my own. Seeing our home as a space for emotional fulfillment, health, and personal development is perhaps the lens to use here.

Pull it back

Recover from that setback, that fall from grace, that injury.

Given that entropy rules, and the world naturally falls apart, recovery is perhaps the most important thing we can strive for. The only thing to strive for. Recovery from whatever is wearing you down – be it lack of sleep, lack of money, lack of fitness – this is really all we have.

In the road to recovery you are either getting better, or you are getting worse. There is no steady state. Time marches on and age is a bitch. But free will allows you to fight back and recovery time after time. So recover. Do it for yourself and do it every second of every day. If you stop trying, then you lose.

You’ll still lose eventually. But recovery from all the bumps along the way is where potential is met and where the great moments are found.

Pull it back, until the next bump comes along.

Rehydrate…mate

My daughter once was hospitalized and became dehydrated from the sickness. Part of her recovery was to take rehydration formula. She got better, but we have bags of formula left in our house.

Like a teenager sneaking sips of his Dad’s whiskey, I have been pilfering the formula after my runs. I feel guilty, but I also feel great!

I’m going to have to invest in some man-sized rehydration packs because I am nearly out of my infants stash….which seems to be the good stuff.

If you feel groggy or tired or stiff, rehydrate…mate.

Fear and desire

I can’t concentrate.

Irrational fears and desires are pushing at some primordial nerve. At any given time i want to:

  • eat
  • to sleep
  • to play computer games
  • to watch movies
  • to listen to music

But I also want/need to:

  • work
  • study
  • complete chores
  • spend time with my wife and children

How can i get rid of the noise and focus on the right thing at the right time? I have 2 suggestions today.

1 – Understand your personality type. I took a personality questionnaire the other day from understandmyself.com – it delved into my responses to certain questions, assessing me under 5 big personality traits:

  • Agreeableness: Compassion and Politeness
  • Conscientiousness: Industriousness and Orderliness
  • Extraversion: Enthusiasm and Assertiveness
  • Neuroticism: Withdrawal and Volatility
  • Openness to Experience: Openness and Intellect

I have extreme elements which make up my personality (as does anyone) and this makes me want certain things, find some things easier than others and generally behave in certain ways. Of note in my assessment – I am non-assertive, withdrawn, extremely open and agreeable by nature – so I have plenty to work on and my fears and desires stem in some way from my innate nature.

2 – Understand our culture of gratification and pleasure at the expense of long term benefits. The lazy, primal part of our brain is being taken advantage of by the tech in our lives. Structure your life around managing this desire (ie. downtime from the tech), and the signal can more easily be heard among the noise.

Black Friday Blues

Black Friday Blues are a very distinct set of emotions. These emotions hit my consciousness like a Mike Tyson punch to the head once a year. My name is Ross and I am addicted to technology.

If you could see my setup you would realise how deep my addiction has set in. I have wonderful headphones linked up to specialised hifi equipment attached to my Macbook. My TV room is full of gaming, streaming, hifi and AV devices. The pleasure it gives me to link up a piece of high fidelity tech has become a crutch. And now the internet throws half price deals at me – it’s like offering an alcoholic a tequila shot and a beer chaser – half price happy hour. Sheesh.

I still haven’t figured out how I am going to avoid/ignore/manage the deals that will barrage my inbox all day today and tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

Pleasure, sadness and reality

As an experiment, try and find the habits in your daily life that are driven by pleasure – you know the ones i mean – those things you do when you’re a little bit bored which give you that nice little buzz and dopamine hit.

It is difficult. It forces you to reflect on your actions and life, and it eventually forces you to recognise that pleasurable things are not the most fulfilling things, precisely because they are temporary and external. In this way, pleasure is different to happiness.

Pleasure is a momentary feeling that comes from something external — a good meal, a message notification, making love and so on. Pleasurable experiences can give us momentary feelings of satisfaction, but this feeling does not last long because it is dependent upon external events and experiences. Try and locate the pleasurable (not happy, remember) activity in your life and try to stop doing it for a whole day – I’m almost certain you’ll find it hard to do.

But pleasure is not wrong in and of itself – so why stop? Because we need to know how we feel without the constant pleasure seeking. Are we doing all these things because we are sad without them? And if we are in fact sad about something, shouldn’t we find a more permanent solution?

The trouble comes when we ascribe the pleasurable activities in our lives more value and power than we should. A drug addict gives heroine priority over everything else – she sees it as the source of her happiness and of her power in life. Similarly a bulimic ascribes power to food and the control thereof. In actual fact, drugs and throwing up give us but a temporary pleasure – not a true satisfaction. They are not the answer to any sadness that is felt.

Once we see the things we are deriving pleasure from, a useful next step is to reflect on how we feel when we do not have access to these things – are we happy or sad without them? If we are happy without them, then there is no real problem. Carry on living.

If we are sad without them, and furthermore if we rely on the activity more than we should – then something needs to change for the sadness to lift.

Recovery

I am reading Russel Brand’s new book Recovery and I am struck by a few things already:

  • Brand is smart – super smart and articulate
  • Recovery is a word full of meaning and depth I did not recognise before reading the book
  • My life is full of addictions
  • Spirituality needs to be understood consciously and explicitly in one’s life

It has given me food for thought and for writing. It has already made me want to change my life.