Can you control your chariot?

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Plato started by depicting every human as a intelligent, reasonable soul that must guide two strong horses. The problem lay in the fact that the horses wish for different things.

The first horse wants quick pleasure, this is where impulse and laziness comes in. This beast only wants the easy route to life every second of every day. The second horse is more powerful seeking a route of hard-work and pressure.

This makes a very difficult goal of balance and direction to achieve for the chariot driver…

Because of our cognitive capacities, it is as we are “divinely mad”. We are animals at the base, yet capable of so much more! This is where the conflict begins.

As the person to guide his chariot, it is up to you to have enough strength to beat the horses, or they will break the chariot.

Can you beat your horses into submission and achieve long-term success?

The God Apollo could tame his beasts and achieve Godliness. Can you?

The God Apollo could tame his beasts and achieve Godliness. Can you?

A Scientific Explanation of Impulse

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Have you ever been on a healthy diet, then been on the couch watching T.V and you suddenly get a craving for chips and you start to seriously contemplate getting said chips? Have you ever set your alarm clock wanting to get up at a decent time, yet when the alarm goes off, you shut it off and sleep just a little longer?

These examples, among uncountable others, operate under a hyperbolic discount function of simple ambivalence. What that means is that you firstly have two choices that are essentially clean-cut. You either get chips or you don’t. You either get up for the day or you sleep. This is simple ambivalence.

The second problem in these situations is the hyperbolic discount rate. We all place value on certain alternatives whether it be eating badly or eating healthy. In the long term, most of us can agree that eating healthy is far more rewarding, yet almost all of us give in to our cravings once and a while. This is because the hyperbolic discounting (getting pleasure from food immediately) becomes more valuable than the overall slowly occurring value of long-term health.

This preference of reversals can be calculated by the discount function below.

Hyperbolic Discount Rate (for the math lovers)

v = V/kD, where V is undiscounted value, k is a constant degree of discounting, and D is the time of Delay.

In situations where k is quite low, preference reversal such as clicking the snooze button, will never occur. Even with Delay being as low as possible (there is no delay), if k is low enough then a person will always choose the higher value route. Consider a person who likes both pill A and pill B (which both create happiness) but pill A is far better than Pill B (which lets say causes intense diarrhea). The person will always seek Pill A even if Pill B is immediately available.

As mentioned above, to regurgitate information, delay, as it lowers, makes the v (overall discounted value) higher. If k ( a difference of opinion between option one and option two where one is valued higher than the other ) isn’t inversely low enough, than preference reversal can occur.

Two paragraphs up I mentioned that clicking the snooze button is a preference reversal over past objective values. Whether a person presses the snooze button is determined on variables (within simple ambivalence) such as how tired they are and how close the alarm clock is to their bed. As a person is already refreshed and wants to get up (k is low), they will not click the snooze button even if it is within reaching distance. Commitments such as moving the alarm clock (increasing Delay to value of Sleep) can help convert the equation so the v is always chosen of the better long-term choice of getting up, in theory. However, if a person is SUPER tired, even if the delay (moving the alarm clock across the room) is high, they may very well still press the snooze and walk back to bed to sleep.

For the chip problem, it operates under the same domain. I love ketchup chips personally and I find it very hard to not cave to my craving of them at least once a week. When it comes time that I have a craving, I always consider a couple things that contribute to the hyperbolic equation. I first consider whether I have been good with my money for the week and whether I deserve it in that regards and how much effort it would take to get the chips (defining k) and how long it would take to finally  be eating the chips. If I have chips at my place already, there is no doubt in my mind that I will eat them as K is high and D is low. If the chips are a block away for 1.50 for a small bag, then I will consider it as k is moderate and D is moderately low. If I think I have been bad with my money (low k) and I shouldn’t go to the convenient store where they have high prices, I always consider going to the actual store to get a big bag for 3.00 which offers much more than double the amount of chips. However, I often never take this route as D is far too high. * This may seem like a lot of mental work but these occurrences are quickly happening within a minute of thinking about it within my mind.

^Considering this example however, most times I will get the bag of chips if the craving is strong enough. I can make many excuses and rationalization to achieve this. Some such rationalizations include “I worked out yesterday” or “I worked an extra hour at work”. It depends on many more variables than just a basic k and D discount rate.

This is where I will lead next into more complex ambivalence where choices, typically the long-term values, are less clearly defined and more difficult to put to a specific value and where making rationalizations can lead to impulsive decisions.

I challenge you: Consider some of these simple ambivalence situations when they occur.  Often times, you will know that the myopic choice is wrong and that you should stick to your long-term goals, yet you wont. However, if you record these occurrences, they may halt your impulsive actions. Recording them is one ‘trick’ to solving this myopic dilemma (which I will discuss in a different post).

Stop to Smell The Roses

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The presence is the essence of all that will ever be. The future is nothing until it becomes the present; that’s when it actually matters.

The days slip by and, although I progress, I’m whipping myself for more and more. It’s as if I try to escape time as a restraint. I am the over-bearing chariot rider who wishes to overwork his horses. The horses can’t seem to please the rider, no matter the speed and strength at which they are developing.

Taking a step back, I’ve adopted the spirit of personal competition; I will only compete with myself, I say. I didn’t lay out the rules for progress or happiness in this internalization of my competition but now I see the balance that must arise from them.

The past is merely a reflection in our mind, and I’ve been using day after day for progress but a true journey of Mastery in any sport will show times of Plateau after Plateau in which no progress is made. I had not realized this and my will was breaking.

I was losing the spirit of Life itself.

If anyone is to take anything, take a breath. Breathe. Our worlds are so vast and yet, so finite. Trying to accomplish so much in as little time as possible may not be the best approach to any world. This time may go quickly but “not stopping to smell the roses” is as much a crime as laziness.

This path of Life can show so many Truths! Breathe and let it in.

Stop and Smell The Roses

Have You Found Your Passion?

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What is passion? From people I have discussed with, we have found that passion is surrounded by a creation of boundless energy. This energy comes from seemingly nowhere, yet it rejuvenates the soul!

We all know that eating, drinking and exercising can promote energy and that these present themselves through the body, but what of passion?

Passion must then come from the mind! I hope you would agree with me when I say that passion is not energy created from the body, but from the mind. This has been talked about in many places online and I believe this as through my personal discoveries.

So I ask you again, what rejuvenates your mind, soul and spirit?

People ALWAYS told me to ‘find my passion’ and I tried very hard to search for it… I would ask them what it should feel like and they wouldn’t be able to articulate it, they would just say “you’ll know”. This was not very helpful but I now understand where they are coming from!

Passion is rejuvenation, yes, you should “know when it happens”, yes, but what does it feel like?

Passion feels like a soul that is complete. When a passion is undertaken, time should not matter. A passion eliminates any other concerns of the mind; it makes stress and worries the ghosts of a distant past.

It’s like riding the biggest wave like a pro; it’s like climbing Mount Everest without exerting any effort; it’s like never studying and getting 100% on everything. It’s the effortless reward.

Finding that energizing activity does not happen overnight, but whether you know it or not, you have probably dived into that great sea of effortless. The trick is to realize you’re swimming and make sure you don’t go back onto dry land, where energy is drained from the soul.

I’ll give you the first time I realized Philosophy was my calling. My friend wanted me to go to the bar with him at 11 PM; I was considering it until I remembered the groups I was going to start in college. I started speaking to myself imagining the questions people would ask me as I was presenting the idea to them about the club (ironically Philosophy club). I decided to tell my friend I wasn’t going to go with him. Instead, I spent TWO HOURS talking to imaginary people about the club and my passion of philosophy. After the two hours, at 1 AM, I was still not tired. I was actually feeling extremely ALIVE. THAT was the moment I realized I had found my Passion.

Can you find your effortless Mount Everest?

It’s in the Stars

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Last night, I was halted in my tracks; I was stopped dead.

It was a typical, cloudy day in Alberta and night was upon me as I went on a sugar-craved Slushie run. After I left the convenient store, I crossed the nearest street and then was on a narrow path back to my house, then I looked up.

Dead center in my view was the big dipper. I stopped thinking. I stopped breathing. There were no clouds blocking those stars. The clouds were blocking out much of the sky and yet I had the perfect view of the dipper.

I was in complete awe of this beauty for many seconds. Something so far away and yet still so beautiful. So perfectly lined up for my appreciation and entertainment.

And I think to myself: How can people look at the stars and still wage war and chaos?

We are part of a gigantic cycle. Everything organic lives and dies. Trillions of cycles constantly fading in and out of existence, and yet only man tries to create his own warped destinies.

I’m all for self-control but how can a human see the stars and not think “I’m part of something much larger than myself” or “Everything is so spectacularly unique, why do I thrust my own ego and pride so greatly?”

The woes of the adult human are great, but in consideration of the universe, we are but a spec of dust. Why spend time concerning ourselves with the evils (ego, control, power, hatred,) when we have been blessed with the opportunity for such powerful happiness?

 

 

Displacement Heartache

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My mother has always held high hopes for the future and in the past, that meant travelling around Canada to find new opportunities for herself. I have realized I am the same way now; I move around quite frequently looking for the next adventure.

But this time it’s different.

I moved from Vancouver to a place in Alberta recently and for the first three nights, my heart ached with pain. I had not felt this pain when I moved before, or at least I do not remember it. The pain felt as if it was an infection seeping into all my organs and like churning butter, it would vibrate around my mid-section.

I thought to myself how devastating this must be for young children who lose their homes. How painful to the emotional soul it is to lose home, friends and sentimental places. How painful to know nothing of the new place for days, weeks, or months.

Vancouver was my home… I had a VERY cozy place there. But now I am displaced to a new house which surely isn’t as nice, but fits my future better. But the body does not care for the benefits of the future, it only cares for the present. My body was telling me this was a very, very bad call.

Even now, if I reflect back to my old place, my body starts to feel these churning emotions.

Fear. Loneliness. Regret.

So powerful.

And how powerful can they be in one’s life if not aware of them. I imagine how scarred kids must be from this sort of change. I wonder how many people have went through this and ran from their feelings. I wonder who denies their freedom from the fear. And I wonder what are the best ways to prevent this pain from these new paths.

Don’t Fear the Questions

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I’ve recently completed a book called Socrates Café by Christopher Phillips. If you don’t know of Socrates already, he is a Greek philosopher of past. He is the center player in the Socratic Method which aims to create answers by asking loads of questions. That being said, the author goes on a journey with hundreds of people to ask questions and continually improve their understanding of concepts and their perceptions about things ranging from food to love.

The author makes a very understandable point that everyone can learn from the Socratic Method of questioning. More important than just asking questions, is defining terms and asking the right questions.

For example: You could ask yourself “what is the meaning of life” but this is a very loaded question that doesn’t have much personal use. The more appropriate way to approach this question for individual benefit would be “How should I give my life meaning”. These simple adjustments in wording and perception of problems is what Mr. Phillips displays very powerful in his book.

It’s a true journey into our souls and to understanding the universe within our minds. Some people would argue that we are insignificant creatures in the scheme of the universe but this isn’t true. Our minds are so advanced that even for the best philosophers, it takes decades for them to understand themselves, if ever they do. We have our own HUGE universe within our grasp and I would say the only ‘insignificant creatures’ are the ones who don’t try to explore their universes.

In the book, he questions all of the primary methods:

  • What is the question?
  • Where am I?
  • Whom do you need?
  • What’s it all about?
  • Why ask why?

These may seem very general and I assure you that in the chapters of this 200 page book, he contemplates far more specifically with his Socrates Café friends.

After reading this, it has only solidified my views on how I should operate. The world is gigantic with so much experience and knowledge to be had and it’s a shame to block things out of fear and ignorance. It’s a far more daunting task to explore the inner universe with its goods and evils, yet I think for a rich life, it must be done to find enlightenment. I don’t think you can really enjoy life if you don’t enjoy yourself first.

Why do most people quit questioning things like a child would, full of wonder? It seems that we are scared of questions and of curiosity that could lead to pain, but I’d argue life is about understanding and benefiting from every experience whether good or bad.

If out of these rambles you take anything, take “No fear will confine me” because it’s a shame for anyone to put themselves in their own mental prison.

Ridiculous In Pink

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Yesterday it was raining too hard to go without an umbrella. I went back into my place and found only one umbrella there. A bright pink Victoria’s Secret umbrella. My friend had taken my blue one and left her pink one!

I was left standing in the porch area of my place deciding what I should do. My mind was initially like “Can i be seen with this umbrella?” and “This is going to be so embarrassing”… I almost wanted to just walk in the rain!

But I said screw it and went with the neon pink umbrella. I owned that umbrella. And I, of course, got some interesting looks and smirks but looking it over:

Why is it such a big deal?

Its a color. A pink umbrella. When you take the perceptions out of it, its just an umbrella. That’s it.

It amazes me how we categorize so many things, especially something so basic as color… All I know for sure is that yesterday was a great day and I got my errands done. From now on:

If people want to judge something, I’m going to let them. But I will not give so much thought to something that does not deserve my focus.

Want to Quit Smoking?

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Smoking is the epitome of impulsiveness. The brain decides its time for a smoke and the mind quickly follows suit and thus, a person smokes. This is so hard to stop because the brain has a certain influence over how we act. This relates closely to how men often stare at pretty women. Its not necessarily a conscious act, it’s pure instinct and impulse brought on by the brain’s basic logic.

So what can we do to stop this impulsive behavior?

One proven method, experimented by Stony Brook University, is that smokers commit to recording every smoke they have during a day. Its simple, write down in a notebook or your phone, every time you smoke during a day. That’s the first step.

How does this stop the impulse to smoke?

For one, having to put the information down will seem like a chore. This ‘pain’ will start becoming related to smoking, thus making smoking less desirable to the brain.

The next step is to commit to smoking the exact same amount every day after you have recorded on day 1. How does this stop the impulse to smoke you may ask?

Impulsiveness and long-term views are inversely related. When one is impulsive, long-term consequences are typically ignored. When one becomes long-term oriented however, impulsiveness decreases! When committing to smoking the exact same amount, the brain will also consider this a chore.

The most effective way to get over impulsive acts is to make them into chores and have negative stimuli. Having the stimuli related to smoking such as recording the smoking time and following a schedule are two chores that the brain does not want on its impulsive level.

This will ultimately lead to the mind being in control. You may smoke when desiring it for yourself but the instinct to smoke will slowly go away due to the long-term view you have adopted with the chores!

Try it, commit to the recordings and scheduled smokes, and you will start to find you get sick of smoking at the level you currently are.

Author’s Experience: I was being very lazy. My brain was telling me to sit around and do nothing but look on my phone, etc (impulsive, easy acts) for hours on end… So I followed this method and recorded every aspect of my day for three days. On the second day, I was so sick of recording and seeing the time I sat around, that I started to do more productive things than sitting around! Now whenever I just sit around, its never for very long because I remember the huge annoyance that writing my whole schedule was! This method works, people!

THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT :

The brain is not necessarily against our success, it is only wired for the easiest paths of existence. Making the ‘easy’ paths become an annoyance or chore will always lead to the beneficial paths being more valued by our brain.

Frustration

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It may be the worst feeling out of ANY of them. I would rather be hot-blooded angry rather than be frustrated. I would rather be crying into my pillow than be frustrated. Yet, frustration has seeped into my life.

As I learn After Effects, I get this frustration. I watched a 13 minute tutorial and tried to duplicate the work and it took me an hour and a half. And the work wasn’t nearly as good as the tutorials.

I try to tell myself that I’m new and it’s fine, but my brain hates that I’m not skilled yet. I can feel my hair falling out as I work through it.

Its very ironic because I (my mind) know that its slow but good progress, yet I (my brain) says that something is terribly amiss.

However, I will continue to battle through the storm!

P.S: This post is for my own personal encouragement. I know someone will read this… And I’m not one to go back on my word EVER so I must go on. Its the perfect little system of encouragement :)

P.S.S: Thank you to whoever reads this. You are my reason not to give up.

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