Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Day Seven — Journaling

Photo by Bradley Huchteman Some Rights Reserved

Last night, I listened to tape seven of the set. As has been a theme throughout, it focused on the power of questions to bring clarity and focus, this time to one's beliefs and values and the distinction between what Tony calls "means" values and "ends" values — the former being things that are not actually an end into themselves, like having money or a family and the latter being what we're actually after in the end, like why we want more money or to have a family or to have better health. He makes that distinction to say that one should work toward the ends and not the means, because it's all too easy to get lost in how we think we should get what we want instead of realizing that we already have it. He also talks about the importance of understanding our negative values, i.e. the things we would do almost anything to avoid in life, such as frustration, physical pain, or failure, because he believes that much of the genuine failure experienced in life comes from conflicts between those two sets of beliefs — a positive desire for adventure and success but a paralyzing fear of frustration, failure, and the unknown to take a strong example.

He also talked a bit about conflict and how he believes it arises from "rules conflicts." He defines "rules" as internalized "if…then" clauses that drive our evaluation of both our own behavior and the behavior of others, such as how we've learned to show or accept love or respect. (e.g. If you love me, then… If you respect me, then…) When what I have internalized as respect or love or even basic civility doesn't match up with the rules someone else has for those things, it generates conflict. Given that he doesn't make any value judgements about any given set of rules, it may all come across as a bit postmodern, but if your focus is on understanding the conflict, it doesn't actually matter who's right, if there is even a "right" in a given situation. (Humans have a knack for finding conflict in the most meaningless of places.)

So, for the exercise of the day, he asks the listener to three questions that are roughly:

  1. What's most important to me in life?
  2. What are the emotions I'd do almost anything to avoid?
  3. What has to happen for me to feel the positive things in life?
He wants the answers to one and two ranked and checked for incompatibilities to be addressed in more detail later.


I had a to actually think for some time about what my answers were, and I came to realize that I'm not actually that certain as to what is important to me, other than a few very basic things.

  1. Stability
  2. Productivity
  3. Personal Growth
  4. The ability to help others
I know "productivity" is a vague noun, but it's the best I can manage in English for what I actually mean. Imagine the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a chapter in a challenging book or finally clearing your to-do list or making 110% rate while working at a place like Amazon or doing in a few days a job that would normally take a team of people a week! That's what I strive for in life harder than anything other than maintaining the consistency and stability of the strange patterns that make up my life.

Their are a thousand other things I could have put on the list — love, a little bit of structured adventure, music, but those are the ones I kept coming back to time and time again, that seemed to ultimately encompass the rest of my desires.

The second list was somewhat more challenging, because I don't have words for what I fear the most. The closest I can come is "uncertainty," but that isn't quite right. I'm not fundamentally bothered by the unknown or the unpredictable as such, but I am bothered by avoidable uncertainty — things that are only uncertain because I couldn't find the right answers to my questions or the right way to prepare for what I had to face. This is what kept me from working a normal job for most of my life; my lack of work experience made me terrified of normal work, because no one had ever written a manual for how to have a boring job. (Then I found Amazon. If you've ever worked in an Amazon FC, then you know what I mean, despite the fact that I find the place deeply amusing.)
  1. Uncertainty
  2. Wastefulness
  3. Failing others
  4. Needless change
As for the last question… "What has to happen for me to feel the positive things in life?" I don't know that I actually know the answer to it yet, but as is the nature of this program, I'm going to try and step out on a limb and write one out. I may look back on it and find it to be the most inane thing I've ever said, or I could be dead on. Only time will tell.

For me to feel the positive things in life, I need a stable base from which I can achieve quantifiable productivity in all areas of my life and feed my personal growth, mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially, so that I can be more ably to help those around me while avoiding uncertainty.

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