YODA WAS A STOIC
COUNTER-HABITUAL JEDI MOFO
Given it’s the start of 2021, the reoccurring topic of my last couple of posts, on the surface, reverberated around the importance of committing to a daily investment of ‘quietude and reflection’. A dedicated “daily hiatus” if you like, to access our reasoning-mind, to not only befriend the contents of our noggin, but to also encourage more conscious decision-making and lessen our propensity for distracted, knee-jerk decisions.
Embrace and befriend the discomfort.
Again, to repeat myself, repeat myself – the better choices we make, the better the corresponding obstacle, problem or hurdle that arises from said choices.
I think it’s also incredibly worthwhile that we remind ourselves, via our daily hiatus, that better choices does not equate to easier choices.
The often overlooked reality is the majority of our betterment choices, when enacted, are hard…often, very hard…fear and trepidation can often then step in and sabotage our efforts.
We can enthusiastically ‘vision-board’ our desired outcome, yet we can often neglect to forecast & purposefully plan for the challenge, nor undertake the required learning, or appreciate the sacrifices and necessary consistent-discipline required to move you toward your desired outcome.
This goes for both implementing new ‘healthier thinking & doing habits’, AND ALSO, relinquishing older, tired ‘unhealthier thinking & doing habits or behaviours…they both require the same intention and attention.
Leaning into our challenges, whilst being preprepared for the obstacles in advance, knowing that there will be potential problems and hiccups along the way, will lead to a greater level of “fulfilment”.
It’s this mental preparedness and acceptance of the hiccups where we have an opportunity learn from our lessons.
So the idea I’m attempting to unpack here is that it’s our conscious & deliberate approach and acceptance of discomfort, and not being overly-distracted and led away by comfort, where we can produce the life-trajectory changing transformations we’re wanting…that, and good sleep.
“Named must your fear be before banish it you can”
Yoda was a Stoic – “The code of the Jedi is Stoicism 101.”
There’s solid philosophical argument that a lot of what ails modern folk is that we tend to be overly motivated (& reliant) by our desires & ignorance.
We constantly seek ‘comfort’ – found within our distractions & addictions. When it comes to our wellbeing, we can seek comfort in the pursuit of easier external alternatives, such as injections, pills, supplements, protein powders, fad diets, health-hacks, and other quick fix silver bullet remedies…
In Ancient Greece, around 300 B.C., Stoic philosophy gained an appreciable following. The Stoics taught that “true power is self-mastery.” To live a good life, they also believed that one must live in harmony with nature.
Yoda and the Jedi impart similar lessons, by teaching Luke (Me, not that Skywalker chap) to discipline his mind to harmonise with the logic of the Force. “To find the good, the Light Side of the Force,” Yoda’s advice to Luke, one has to remain calm, mindful, and unafraid. Both Yoda and the Stoics teach us lessons that are good for us all.
When it comes to our life pursuits being corrupted by desire & ignorance, the early Greek and Stoic Philosophers, our Buddhist friends, plus Yoda, all concur that our distraction to consumption ultimately leads to non-fulfilment. As Yoda eloquently puts it “the shadow of greed, attachment is. What you fear to lose, train yourself to release. Let go of fear, and loss cannot harm you.”.
Returning to our own galaxy, the Buddhists have a term called Samsāra (Sanskrit), which is the beginningless cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. Samsara is considered to be dukkha (suffering), and in general, the unsatisfactory and painful, perpetuated by desire and ignorance (or Avidyā) – sounds alarmingly similar to some of my earlier years/decades.
Before enlightenment…chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment…chop wood, carry water.
Back in the old days when chopping wood, carrying water, finding shelter, maintaining security and cave sex took up the majority of our time, we neither had the time nor the energy to worry about Kim & Kanye, Donald’s toupee or Facebook’s privacy settings.
Not to mention the cave-sex, but these days, for the majority of us, we’re blessed not to be burdened with housing issues, protection from the environment, or worries over food and water supplies. This freedom from Maslow’s Hierarchy has allowed us to invest so much more (spare) time to absorb, seek and prioritise comfort...this is something our ancestral brains love, and uploads and stows away very easily, much to our detriment.
It’s been said that addictions would be so much easier to over come if they didn’t offer temporary relief (no shit Sherlock) – we experience short lived satisfaction from them, we keep getting (re)hooked.
In repeating our quest for instant gratification, pursuing addictions of all kinds (as mentioned in my last post) – some seemingly benign, some obviously lethal – will continue to reinforce old patterns of suffering & ill-health aka ‘comfort’… behaviours that only strengthen dysfunctional patterns…and makes repeating the behaviours we’re attempting to resist, even more difficult.
We’re ancestrally wired to be fat and fearful
Just as we’re ancestrally-hormonally structured to store fat, we are ancestrally-wired to seek and remember security and comfort – our brains have evolved over 300,000 years to do everything it can to, amongst other things, to protect and build our fat storage, and remembering security and comfort. Our brains will habituate behaviour to ensure we don’t forget – this adaptation was key to the survival of our species – but these days it’s making us sick, tired, fat and unhappy.
Killing us (slowly) aka Samsara
Self-Reward or Self-Sabotage?
“That was such an awesome day, I’m going to bed early, so I can get up early and do it all again tomorrow”
…said (hardly) no one ever….
“Oh man, what an awful disaster of a day, I better rest up and take care of myself,
so I’m in the best possible shape to deal with it tomorrow”
..said (hardly) no one ever….
Have you noticed that we often use the same comfort-reward / self-reward methods when we celebrate, commemorate and commiserate?
We’ll habitually default, with Yoda-lightening-speed, to our very own personal comfort-menu – whether it’s cigarettes, alcohol, bongs @ breakfast, shopping, anger, anxiety…whatever is in your ‘coping-arsenal’, we’ll rely upon, or use as “an excuse” when…
– We’ve had a productive day, or a challenging day
– When the weather is hot, cold, or inclement or sunny.
– If we’ve had an argument with our love one, or joyously happy
– Celebrating a new job, or facing termination or being laid-off from our job
– Self-rewarding oneself after a training session, or ‘self-punishing’ ourselves because we can’t be arsed
– We can celebrate a birth, or commiserate a death by intoxicating ourselves
– Even going for a walk provides us with ample motivation to celebrate by over-eating or drinking alcohol – it’s like we mentally dangle the reward carrot to motivate our ‘activity’.
Whatever you’ve been doing for decades past, is what you’re effortlessly doing right now.
Our habitual brain is equally clever and covert, in connecting the comfort-dots between our thinking & doing….it wants you comfy, and will do everything it can to keep you in this state of effortless-equilibrium – whether its healthy or not.
Counter-Habitual…a whole different way of looking at the same old stuff.
“What assistance can we find in the fight against habit?
Try the opposite!”
My old mate Epictetus said “Whatever you would make habitual, practice it; and if you would not make a thing habitual, do not practice it, but accustom yourself to something else.”
In short…If you want to break a ‘bad’ habit, try doing something new or develop a new good habit that contradicts your bad habit. Or better yet, try an approach that is the opposite of what you’d normally do.
A bit like George Costanza, in the Seinfield episode where he decides to do the complete opposite (3min vid, watch it, still makes me giggle)
Counter Habitual, is the counter intuitive method to begin the rewiring process to develop new ‘healthier habits, whilst just as importantly, relinquishing the habits that are detrimental
If you’ve been doing the same thing over n over with the same results, maybe it’s time to do the opposite?
Things aren’t going to get fixed if you try the same ‘solutions’ again and again
Consider all approaches, even the opposite of what you initially thought right
Sometimes the most counter-intuitive solution is the best answer.
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
If your health-wealth goals, your sleep, fitness, emotional stability etc need an overhaul and you’ve been doing the same thing for years and years, maybe now’s the opportune time to try the opposite.
This is macro-recalibration at it finest, because we can tend to over-look the basics..the ‘basics’ which mother-nature herself has insisted we optimally maintain, yet we tend to de-prioritise these as an afterthought…and then struggle to work out why we’re tired, grumpy and everything’s difficult.
I’m talking the big-ticket items here, the lifestyle anecdotes, when mastered (most of the time) will ‘shift’ your physical, cognitive and philosophical health-wealth to the next level.
All the usual stuff I harp on about…reducing alcohol / drug intake, optimal sleep, pursue consistent forms of movement and exercise that you love, sunshine, maintaining lean muscle mass and eating the best foods available to you….simple stuff.
Make It 202Won
All I’m suggesting to do is start stacking the deck more in your favour in 2021.
By incrementally adjusting the habits as a vote for you, then over time, these individual counter-habitual circuit breakers will begin to not only override existing, less desirable habits – but you’ll witness your momentum, drive, enthusiasm and life-force to not only continue, but to also protect your new sense of wellbeing…you’ll, naturally by default, seek to change or improve other areas of your life.
Your brain will upload and rewire your security and comfort programming to include the lifestyle choices that optimise your wellbeing, whilst overwriting the old tired data that keeps your stuck in your comfort zone…the past.
Use The Force…Effortlessness requires effort
You may be hitting your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s…possibly feeling a little flat, achy and generally, and to quote Iggy Pop, feeling a bit “blah, blah, blah”.
My argument is age is only how many times we’ve been around the sun, so don’t allow how you’re feeling right now, don’t allow your decades-fixed habits and behaviours to dictate your potentiality.
You’ve got 30,40, 50 more years ahead of you!
Just because you’ve been doing the same thing for decades, doesn’t mean it isn’t good for you, or cannot be changed.
One thing that 2020 taught us is that everything is now up for grabs, meaning our jobs, our health, our security, they way we work and commute etc has all been challenged and changed…and we should only expect, and plan, for things to get weirder.
Let’s use the momentum of change from 2020, and recalibrate our own health and wellbeing by challenging our fixed assertions on how we look after ourselves.
Start to reposition the fundamentals of your life as a priority, and not as an after thought.
‘If’ 2021 is as challenging as 2020, then why wouldn’t you want to ignite renewed intention on cultivating your wellbeing & strength?
What’s the alternative?
How’s this for counter-intuitiveness?
‘Use’ your current ‘state of funk’ as your driver and motivator for implementing positive change, rather than allowing it to segue you to self-sabotaging behaviours.
Our life force (Luke, Luke, Luke….Obi Wan voice), wellbeing, mojo, vitality…whatever you want to call it…is like yeast that never loses potency. Any time we add moisture and warmth of self-kindness and self-compassion, it will automatically expand.
If we keep it in the proverbial freezer, then nothing happens.
And here’s the kicker???
Practicing self-kindness and self-compassion is a habit. And if you haven’t practiced it for a few decades, it’s going to be bloody hard to do…because it’s going completely against the grain of what you potentially have been doing the prior years and decades…again totally counter-intuitive.
What a weird concept eh?…being kind to ourselves…that’s just nuts…so nuts in fact that it might. just. work.
This Craziness Isn’t Going Away…
With Trump, social media, Netflix, 24hour news cycles, conspiracy theories, Kim & Kanye in our cross-hairs, plus all our own personal, beautifully bespoke fuckupness thrown into the mix, is there anything as counter-intuitive as being Counter-Habitual in 2021?
Could the answer to recalibrating our careers, our health, our mindset and our relationships all be reconfigured if we started to live with more intention, embracing the challenge and realising, as Yoda says “the greatest teacher, failure is.”
Make 2021 the year you identify and lean into your challenges