Tag Archives: addiction

Small Steps

I’m writing this in Microsoft word. I can tell because it just automatically capitalized the word Microsoft. Let’s try apple, looks like it doesn’t, but that’s not exactly fair. How about linux? Well, it doesn’t automatically capitalize it, but it does mark it as misspelled and suggest “Linux.”

Sorry, I’m easily distracted. You see, this is really switching it up for me. I don’t have word on my personal computers and so I’ve gotten in a habit of writing everything up in Google Docs. Even when I’m at school, like I am now, I usually use Google because that ensures that my files will pretty much always be available to me. That is until Google decides to rise up and enslave us and holds our files, email and personal information ransom until we bow down to them. But at that point I don’t think files like this will be my main problem.

So you’re probably asking yourself why I’m using word right now, well you probably aren’t but just play along. You see I have this habit of sitting down at a computer to get stuff done and saying to myself “well I’ve got to log onto Google if I want to write anything. And while I’m on Google I might as well check Gmail, and while that’s loading let’s just pop into Facebook and just see if I have any updates.” You can see how the little things like this can start snowballing out of control. The really nefarious thing is that my line of thinking isn’t exactly incorrect, if I did everything I listed it really shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. I usually only have one or 2 emails that are really interesting and it only takes me around 30 seconds to delete the emails from group on I allow myself to keep getting “just in case,” and it would take me a similar amount of time to check my usual Facebook updates. I start off with a bit of truth, that what I’m proposing should only take a few minutes, and using it to justify something I know isn’t true, that ultimately I’ll only end up surfing the web for 5 minutes rather than 25 or 50.

I’m constantly reminded of the story of the witches in Macbeth. Now, I don’t have Wikipedia and it’s been a while so I’m going off my head here, but I remember the gist being that the witches tempt Macbeth with dreams of taking the crown by telling him two true things and one untruth. This is similar to how “psychics” work, throwing out vague statements that you’re bound to see in yourself until they have your trust and then weaving fantasy based off the rather trivial truths they’ve established. The human mind is a messy thing and has a tendency of ending up with the wrong conclusion, and it takes a truly conscious effort to correct ourselves to keep from falling prey to the many appealing fallacies out there.

Right now I honestly feel a little like a drug addict going through withdrawal. Opening up a computer and not going straight to email and Facebook just feels wrong. This is a clear sign that something has gone pretty wrong with the way I’ve allowed my mind to be wired, constantly strengthening poor habits and allowing them to subtly take control.

They say acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to solving it, and while I definitely agree with that I’d say the biggest step is actually making a real effort to change your problem. There’s a lot of people who know they have problems, I think we all know some kind of addict who keeps talking about changing but never makes any little to no effort to actually change their ways.

I just put my hand on the mouse to correct a spelling error and without even thinking my hand moved the cursor to open up the internet. It really is strange to realize how much we allow our unconscious to drive our actions, pushing us through the same pathways we’ve always been down until we become entrenched in them.

But I’m still a firm believer that until you die it’s never too late to change. I could definitely just get depressed and start sulking about talking about how much I’ve wasted or how things will never change, focusing on my failures. But I know that won’t get me anywhere, you have to look ahead if you want to get where you go. If you keep looking to the past you’re not in control, your past is in control.

Today I say that I am in control. The old me may still come back to haunt my thoughts from time to time, but I will not allow him to control my destiny.

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Less Pain, More Gain

As of today I’m 4,421 words into a book I’m writing. One of two books I’m working on right now actually. Honestly since I’ve started this blog and committed to developing as a writer I think I’ve written about as much as I had in the previous 4 months combined. I should note that I go to art school, we don’t do a lot of writing here. I think most of my writing since coming to this school has been facebook and emails.

Still, while I’m happy about this I’ve had this gnawing annoyance in the back of my mind over the fact that I’m being so productive in this area while stagnating or slowing down in others. My plan for the books I’m working on was always to pluck away here and there over the case of a few years, between three and ten, I have more time sensitive goals.

Part of the reason for this motivation is probably novelty, for me it’s always easier to work in the beginning when everything’s fresh and new, but my interest drifts quickly.

Then I realized what I was doing, I was being productive by procrastinating. I was actually putting off other work that I had set in my mind as high priority to “goof off” writing. This isn’t to say it’s a great thing, I really should have been more focused on my homework today, but it reminded me of something Khatzumoto at All Japanese All the Time talks about, the more practicing a skill feels like playing, goofing off or procrastinating the more likely we are to do it. The more we put it up on a pedestal and start putting this crazy pressure on ourselves the more likely we are to avoid it, if simply to avoid the mental anguish of dealing with the stress we’ve burdened ourselves with.

This isn’t to say that everything in life can or should be like just like play, firefighters, surgeons and front-line soldiers certainly can’t enjoy this luxury. But the more we can approach our life with this attitude the more we’ll want to work toward our goals, while conversely the more we make our goals super serious and super important the more our natural laziness can push back.

The goal isn’t to pretend reverse our natural stream, to swim against the current of our nature, but to go with it while consciously channeling it where we want to go. Of course there will always be times when we absolutely have to get serious, but if you’re like me you can only be serious and focused so long, the trick is minimizing the time we have to spend in this mode while still constantly growing.

If you want to exercise try signing up for a sports league rather than just going through the motions on the machine, or do what I’ve seen online and place a treadmill in front of your TV and play video games while running so you can have your digital cake while burning real calories. If you’re studying a language start watching TV, listening to music and playing video games in that language. Or you can just watch stupid youtube videos in that language. If you’re a writer think of your story like you’re watching a movie and the only way to see what happens next is to finish the next page. Or imagine you’re doing a TED talk and your words are being eagerly devoured by the crowd.

These are just suggestions off the top of my head, every person is different and works slightly differently so your milage may vary. Once again, sometimes pain is unavoidable and should be faced, but I reject the idea that just because something is painful it isn’t magically the right way to do things. If that were the case we should all still be hunter/gatherers.

It’s the people who had lazy minds who still put the work in who made life what it is today. You just need to find a way to use your laziness rather than letting it use you.

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Watching Your (Information) Diet

It’s been 5 days since my last post. 

I feel like I should have some really good reason for not taking 30 minutes and writing even a quick post these last 5 days, but I don’t.

Honestly I have trouble keeping track of the amount of time I waste with fluff and junk media.  I define fluff media as stuff like TV, movies, internet and the like that aren’t particularly bad, but aren’t particularly helpful either. I’m a pretty big sitcom fan and I’d put most of them in this category. We might need some of this stuff to give our minds a break, but I think most of us could do with a little to a lot less. My main source for fluff is reddit, which is a great site  in short bursts but it ultimately is a bit like drinking your media out of a fire house. After a while everything blends together, after 2 hours of reddit I’d have a hard time naming more than a tiny fraction of what I actually saw while browsing the site.

Junk media is like junk food, it actually hurts us. Lately I’ve been thinking of the news more and more as junk media. It seems like every morning I check the news and I’m hit with a torrent of bad news that just makes me feel bad. I already know the world can be a harsh place, is reading about the latest abuses all around the world really helping me? Some of this stuff is necessary in small doses so we have a better view of the world, but you can definitely get hooked on it and end up with a skewed view of the world.

Frankly I need to admit I’m an internet addict and cut back on it. Ultimately I think I can achieve moderation, but right now I’m having trouble. I’m going to cut myself from the internet for 3 weeks, until the end of my school year.

I’ll still be updating this blog, I need to get online to check a few things a day but ultimately this should only take 15 minutes. I’ll just write my blog posts in word and copy and paste them rather than writing them online like now. 

Ultimately though I want to be more conscious with my time and my media intake. Just like we need to watch what we put in our mouth if we want a healthy body I think we need to watch what we put in our head if we want healthy minds. 

I’ll leave you with the three broad

  1. Quantity
  2. Quality
  3. Usability

Basically the ideal items of a media diet would be thinks that are high quality while taking up a minimum amount of your time and being applicable to your daily life. This isn’t to say that you need to take a zero tolerance attitude, sometimes you just need to turn your brain off and give it a rest, my main suggestion is to simply try and be more conscious about what you’re taking in rather than going about it mindlessly.

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