My old mate Marcus Aurelius said it best some 2000 years ago…
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Everything we see is a perspective, not a truth.”
As readers of this blog will already know, I have, over the past 3-4 years, deliberately and methodically been reducing and eliminating the noise, clutter, distractions and interruptions in my life.
This ongoing life-process has not only had a profoundly positive impact on my life, and state of mind, but has also offered some additional, largely unforeseen, but equally profound, ‘obstacles’ to (yet) overcome…more of that later.
It’s growth innit?
This self-imposed desire to relinquish ‘the crap’ out of my life has been born simply and selfishly to remedy some of my own less-than-desirable personality traits.
My thinking is, and guided by the philosophies I read, the path to understanding my own glorious-fucked-upness is to instal opportunities, everyday, for not only sober reflection and thinking – but to also ‘test-drive’ ones self-improvement in the outside world…what’s the point of self-awareness, finding your philosophy, aligning your chakras, tapping into your inner woo-woo if you don’t put it out there into the coliseum of life to see if your new personal mandates and disciplines are indeed working, or how they can be improved.
My own ‘traits for repair” included differing, mild forms of self-sabotaging behaviour – mostly manifested via compulsive or impulsive behaviours, a tendency to be a tad passive-aggressive – oddly to myself mostly. However my main objective was, and continues to be, two-fold.
1. To continually improve the narrative in my head. To have better control of my ego, with the view to not only establishing better, and more consistent levels of calm, but to also recognise where and what will potentially negatively impact my thinking. To proactively protect my calm. To be disciplined and aware of the things that mess with my mojo…man.
2. Improve my relationship with money, wealth and fiscal abundance. Up and till very recently, I have always been totes-crap at managing my money. I have had times of significant incomes, yet my inability to develop ‘wealth’ has been totally remiss. I ‘think’ my chaos-with-cash underpins a lot of my own personal demons…where this comes from is irrelevant for this forum, the point that is important though is…I will change.
Now I see fiscal abundance as a resource-tool only – I have absolutely no desire to collect stuff, build big house or buy boats n cars…I see wealth as tool to provide service to others – and that is why I’m keen and destined to change my trajectory so I can be of better service to others…that’s it…oh, and to get a dog…and maybe upgrade my hifi (music is my only vice)
So like I said, I’ve made fundamental changes in my life to reduce distractions. Over this time I have continued to become increasingly aware of the acute impact external stimulus has on me, both psychologically and physiologically.
And I need to remind myself...this is external stimulus that I have complete control over, it is within my sphere of choice, whether I want it in my life or not…
So armed with clarity of choice, about 4 months ago, I decided to once again pull out my ‘distraction-axe’ (it is a thing…think Thor) and began the process off hacking away at a few more daily activities, aka habits, that upon reflection:
a) offered me no benefit at all
b) was in fact a monumental waste of my time, and
c) would actually disturb and unsettle my mojo, and lead me to (internally) respond and react completely contrary to the way I wanted to feel and think...and that is…to be as calm as possible and have control over my calm.
“The nearer a person comes to a calm mind, the closer they are to strength”
– Marcus Aurelius
This is bonkers….
I’m no tech-head, nor am I a complete luddite, but for some reason I have an iPhone, an iPad, a MacBook and an iMac…and it’s both equally hilarious and scary where I found myself literally moving from one device to another, depending which room I was in, or how upright or horizontal I was positioned.
Now I’d like to consider myself pretty disciplined, and well-abled to exercise self-control, but I still found myself finishing work at my desktop iMac, then picking the iPhone up as I walked to the lounge room to sit down, where I’d pick up my iPad to read something…quite often leaving the iPhone on the armrest next to where i was now sitting.
Not only that, but my MacBook would be sitting, sad & unloved, on the coffee table nearby, whilst, and like most lounge rooms, there’s a massive flatscreen TV staring at me…screaming for attention.
This device-whoring has to stop, so I visualised my inner He-Man and started swinging my trusty distraction-axe… and severed the following habits, plus the habit inducing distractions, with pretty much immediate effect…aahhh there’s my disciplined self-control.
What Did I Cut Out?
– No more watching free to air TV, I consume only on-demand streaming content only that I’m interested in. This included eliminating ‘the news’ and current affairs programs. I occasionally watch long format podcasts that interest me.
– I deleted all social media off all my handheld devices – I only access social media to post these blog posts once a week, via another platform that bypasses me having to look at FB of IG.
Gone is the mindless scrolling, reading ‘comments’ & ‘opinions’, or uploading ‘work-content’ or self-indulgent, narcissistic ‘work-selfies’ or photos of a lamb chop that I so proudly cooked.
– I turned off all notifications on all my devices and emails…all those ‘pings’, alerts and ‘red buttons’, those hyper addictive visual and / or audible notifications…gone.
– I stripped my iPad of all email apps, messaging/text apps, plus all social media. My iPad is now E-Library, solely for reading purposes only.
– I unsubscribed about 95% of my emails…and I continue to cull as unwanted content arrives.
– My iPhone is on ‘silent’ pretty much all the time, and is used for the odd phone call and text message, to book an Uber, check the weather forecast for cycling / training purposes, and write lists (I’m a list guy), and add ‘reminders’…(I’m a forget guy).
The ‘weaning’ process gladly didn’t take too long thank god. But I still had to install some additional disciplines to remove the temptation of “picking up the bloody phone”...and that included…
– Inoculating myself away from the temptation by keeping devices out of arms length and quite often in the other room.
– Also as much as possible, I leave my phone at home when I am out, at work, going for a walk or bike ride.
– I has started re-using the actual ATM card, rather than the iPhone for purchases – another opportunity to leave the phone at home.
– Placing unused / not needed devices away in the cupboard
– And walking around the apartment blindfolded so I couldn’t find my devices
So after 4 months, any noticeable outcomes?
In one word ‘MASSIVE’…
After about third month, I realised that I had been suffering opinion-fatigue for the previous…well, god knows how long.
Now I’m not sure if opinion-fatigue is a legit psychological term of not, I did a very quick search online and it does seem like its ‘a thing’.
An article from the Independent Newspaper that I found calls it Opinion-Fatigue Syndrome.
For me, even after only 3 months I realised that I was no longer being disturbed or perturbed by the information and content that I had been subconsciously and consciously exposing myself to…I felt kinda sober…all over again…yay what a relief!
Just Because You Believe It, Doesn’t Mean It True
You know that feeling when you hear or read stuff (online, news, magazine, adverts etc) and you can physically feel yourself react, getting wound up…well when this happens, there is not only a neurological cluster bomb being triggered, but there is also a corresponding physiological hormonal response – adrenaline, cortisol and a host of other hormones spike to create a cocktail that will be detrimental to your health.
Constant exposure to opinion generates not only emotions of anger, anxiety, sadness & hopelessness, but it also provides a host of other disturbing psychological responses…
It promotes false narratives to what maybe is important and what is not.
What is truth and what is not
What is real and what is not
We find ourselves comparing our (real) life to faux-lives
We are saturated and force fed questionable information – which is all just opinion.
Not only that, we’re addicted to the opinions of the opinionated – we are thanks to A.I., and if you’ve seen the Netflix special The Social Dilemma being fed exactly what our biased opinion wants to believe is true and right.
What we read and see only inflates and ignites stuff that we already think is true…this could be related to politics, social reforms, your diet ideology, your fitness, global warming, self-harming…even flat-earthers…if you want to find an opinion that endorses your beliefs systems then there’s a proverbial smorgasbord of ‘information’ that will support ‘your-beliefs’…an A.I. will continually drip-feed you this content to ensure you stay longer on the platform you’re using.
“Public Opinion…an attempt to organise the ignorance of the community,
and to elevate it to the dignity of physical force.”
Knowing What To Ignore
This quietude-circuit-breaker that I’ve ‘installed’ into my day to day [something I plan to maintain and upgrade as the months and years roll by] has allowed me to ‘recover and reestablish’ my ability to:
– Reclaim the power of child-like appreciation, to strip the veil of distractive-habits and therefore to start to look upon life with a new and more grateful sensitivity.
– It has motivated me to relook at the world, our world, my world, with generosity, and to take pleasure from the simple things – like the ocean, the sky or a shaft of light, the wind, the early morning bird chorus. There is so much good stuff happening around the world, there are so many amazing people doing amazing work, there’s nature, space, weather, art and culture to be wow’d by – yet the information we’re being fed is popularised & polarised, hinging way left or way right…it seems that we only hear from people, institutions and organisation with the loudest voices, and most severe soundbites…this in my opinion is the first thing to be ignored
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.”
– I’m inspired and motivated to take stock, notice and bring out the charm and the value of the everyday?
– It’s emboldened my ability to apply more self-discipline and to think more effectively – in effect, guiding myself to improved productivity, insight and dare I say ‘creativity’.
– My “unflappability” is improving…meaning I’m becoming more resistant to reacting when circumstance become chaotic. And importantly, when things do go to shit, I’m now better enable to ‘recover’ my composure and dignity…because it’s our dignity that gets thrown out with the bath water when we lose our shit.
– I can listen better, not only that…I can shut the fuck up and listen some more, without feeling that I HAVE to add my opinion and take on who’s talking to me…I can simply listen more and maybe ask more questions
– I’m finding myself to be much more sympathetic to those individuals who choose to wear Crocs
Much of our life is ruined for us by a blanket or shroud of familiarity that descend between us and everything that matters. It dulls our senses and stops us appreciating everything, from the beauty of a sunset to our work and friends
Life isn’t necessarily dull and without excitement – it’s just that one forgets to look at it i the right way: we forget to remind ourselves what being alive, fully alive, feels like
With a clearer head and more time to self-invest, I’m better abled to focus on what Greg McKeown refers to as “Essentialism”. He says “essentialism is not about how to get more things done, it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
Is self-awareness realising how many things don’t require your opinion?
I mentioned at the beginning of this post I am currently facing a number of obstacles, purely born from my decision and subsequent actions from the past 3-4 months.
One of those challenges was how I wanted to proceed with this blog format – in terms of the content that I cloddishly attempt to distribute each week.
So, this is what (I think) I’ve decided….
I’m not going to contribute and flog my opinion any more.
I’m going to cease offering my advice / opinion on resilience, mindset, sleep, eating, recovery, strength etc
Firstly, EVERYONE innately knows what to do when it comes to their health wealth.
EVERYONE knows that drinking alcohol too frequently is no good
EVERYONE knows optimal sleep is king
EVERYONE knows it’s the mindset that dictates personal success
EVERYONE knows…I could go on
The question is: Why don’t people want to do what is best for them?
I could go blue in the face advocating the health benefits of burpees and kimchi lattes, but if you don’t want to do it, then you’re not going to do it…simple
I’ve decided I no longer have any desire to add to the noise, the clutter and irrelevant-opinion out there.
I actually want to swim against the current, and rather than continue to spew information already saturated in the public domain – my approach henceforth, with this blog, will be purely to pose questions & ideas and offer ways to think more effectively.
The approach I’m taking is obviously nothing new, but it’s something that has been sadly in decline, especially over the last couple of decades. In fact this approach is commonly referred to as The Socratic Method…“The Socratic method is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions.”
My end-goal continues to underpin health, fitness, strength and life-vitality, but I will now endeavour to stimulate some critical self-thinking, rather than feebly offer opinion-based remedies and lifestyle ‘solutions’.
This process, that has taken place over the last 20 years, and will continue to evolve, has taught me this (so far…)
Our optimal psychological, physiological and philosophical wellbeing is reliant upon the narrative that occupies that lump of fat between our ears. Sure, if you want to improve your health, then follow your doctors, guru, coach, mentor, teacher’s advice of ………….[insert advice]
But if you really really want to begin a journey of optimal well BEING, then we, I believe need to address our own fucked-upness.
Because it’s there and there alone where we find our compulsive, impulsive, self-sabotaging behaviours and narratives that dictate our ability to be kind to ourselves through the practice, our innate practice of self care.
Addiction to Distraction
And, maybe, the only way is to begin the process of simplification and reduction of the distractions that keep us tied to the past and looking anxiously into the future.
These distraction-lassoes that keep us fixated on the ‘not-now’ come in many guises, these life-dulling and numbing guises include – alcohol, poor food, hyper connectivity, over-consumption, being busy, hyper stressed, plus what I’ve mentioned above.
“We get addicted. Not necessarily to heroin or whiskey, but to everyday innocuous activities that attract no alarm or suspicion. We are hooked on checking the news or tidying the house, exercising or taking on fresh projects at work. It can look to the world as if we are just being productive, but the clue to our compulsiveness lies in our motives. We are checking the news to keep the news from ourselves at bay; we are working on a project as an alternative to working on our psyches. What properly indicates addiction is not what someone is doing, but their way of doing it, and in particular their desire to avoid any encounter with certain sides of themselves. We are addicts whenever we develop a manic reliance on something, anything, to keep our darker and more unsettling feelings at bay.”
– An Emotional Education, Alain De Botton
Through my own journey I now realise that the more i eagerly look into and resolve my own ‘questionable traits & habits’ is where I find answers and the map to my own wisdom.
By reflecting all of my past, and current, ‘dumb behaviours’, ‘dumb actions & habits’ and ‘dumb thinking’ and dumber words I have managed to stumbled upon my own wisdom, that alone perpetuates fulfilment and drives me to keep seeking and asking myself questions .
The more ‘dumb’ stuff i resolve the wiser I find myself getting.
This is what I call WisDUMB
The more I resolve, the simpler my life gets…the simpler my life gets the more attention and discipline i have to apply myself to what matters to me and the my peeps…and that ain’t dumb
Until next time…
My new school of philosophical thought….WisDUMB...who’s in?