Working To Stop Being Your Enemy

We do things that are contrary to what we set out to do, more often than we care to observe. That makes us our enemies. But how can we put a stop to that or minimize it?

Yesterday’s article “You Are Your Enemy” seeks to uncover hidden conditioning that are meant to keep us from doing what we most desire to do and it was enlightening. The next question that follows revelation is “how can we change the narrative.” It’s not enough to point out a problem if we can’t search for the answer.

I must start by saying I don’t have a definite answer to this question. The fact that I pointed them out intellectually doesn’t mean I’m immune to the conditioning. I just live everyday with the understanding that “I am my enemy” and I try to minimize the effect of that.

That said, I found a thought provoking probable solution to this. It was something from Jim Oshaughnessy. Here’s what he has to say:

I think knowing something “intellectually” offers little help with our ability to truly understand our many failings and build systems and processes for minimizing their impact on us. The power of emotions, the power of narratives, and the power of self-deception are exponentially more powerful than a dispassionate and longer-term view and almost always win.

An ounce of emotions equals a pound of facts. To truly break free is both hard and frightening. We risk being ostracized and labeled heretics and apostates.

The only person who can change you is you. If you want to truly succeed at virtually any aspect of life, you must begin to dig deep on all your beliefs and assumptions. You must challenge each one, no matter how basic. When we look at history, we see that most beliefs and commonly accepted “truths” were, in fact, wrong. Why should we be any different?

Looking at life as a series of probabilities as opposed to absolutes allows you to discard beliefs that are no longer useful and adopt new ones that are. Always aim to go further.

All emphasis mine

Jim’s words are profound at helping us find a solution to our innate problems. And I like the beginning of that. He made it clear that “intellectual knowledge of our problems is not enough to help us solve it, we must do more.” That explains why I still struggle with being my enemy despite intellectual awareness. But here’s what I noticed, intellectual awareness can give you the illusion of a solution, don’t fall for it.

He also said one thing that strikes me, “seeking a solution will place you on a part where you risk being labeled heretics and apostates.” I’ve had a share of this is the reason why it strikes me as a thoughtful observation. You see, to allow yourself for example hold on to a stock when everyone is selling will put you in an awkward position, to take a sleep of 8 hours a day when folks around you take pride in 4 hours sleep per week won’t make you their favourite. All attempts to optimize against your natural tendencies puts you in a position where labeling is easy.

But the only person who can change you is you. Just you. And that requires some guts and hard work and contrarian spirit. By Jim’s explanation, it includes having to “question your beliefs and reexamining them,” it ends on seeing life as a series of probabilities and not some absolutes.

Why do you take pride in 4 hours sleep per week?

Why did you buy the stock?

What’s stopping you from fixing the friction in your relationship?

Answering all these questions and all others that may have subjected you to your natural tendencies will get you close to your beliefs and provide you an opportunity to reexamine them. Ultimately, triumph comes when you see probabilities in life more than you see absolutes. That must not go without saying, there are no absolute fix as well, you must keep working.