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How to live life Unrestrained


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“To be great is to be misunderstood.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The feeling of living a restrained life is comparable to that of driving while having your foot on the brake and the gas pedal at the same time, pushing hard, wasting a lot of energy, getting nowhere, and not enjoying it at all, just terrible, not a way you want to live your life.

Stoic philosophy solution is so simple that it’s really hard at the same time. To live unrestrained, you need to know the difference between the things that are under your control, chiefly your will, and the things that are not, everything else. Do this and you will become able to push the gas or the brake at your will. Let’s dig deeper.

A problem of courage

Most of the time, the feeling of restraint is really just a problem of courage. The lack of courage that comes when you cannot give yourself permission to live, if you’d just do this, give yourself permission to live, you’d immediately feel free and unrestrained.

When you lack the courage to live, you want, at least unconsciously, for other people to tell you how to live your life, be them your friends, your mother, or maybe the Instagram or YouTube stars. It can be anyone. It’s just easier, all you need is thumbs up or thumbs down, a happy face or a scorn face, it all boils down to being approved or not, if people approve of you good, then it means you are doing good, if not, you are doing bad so you need to correct your behavior. Terribly simple, right?

Whereas when you give yourself permission to do anything, there is no one telling you if you did good or not, you need to judge that for yourself, you need to use your brain and think and ask yourself how do you know if you are living well? At first, it’s unknown territory and it is scary, that’s why it is a problem of courage. This is the only road of freedom, the only one.

For no one is living your life. People might say that they’ve been through similar circumstances and the like, but at the end of the day, no one is in your own skin, you are the only person with literally your skin in your game. When it comes to living your life, there is no higher authority other than you.

The two things that are stopping you.

The first one is the fear of fucking up. Although I’d love to tell you the secret formula for not ever fucking up again, I can’t. You know, I know that fucking up is simply going to happen, that’s how you learn. Avoidable? Sure, but only up to a point. It is in failing that you know how to do better the next time. This fear can paralyze you if you let it, don’t. Do, learn, improve, repeat. Make your own life recipe book.

The second thing is the need for approval. This is currently a festering disease.

It’s commonly thought that being nice with other people comes out of the need to do good in the world, we are nice because we want to be good with people. But this is bullshit. Most of the time, you do this out of getting approval, because you cannot approve of yourself first, because you cannot decide what’s good and what is not good in your life and thus give yourself permission to live in what you deem the best way to live. 

“Nice people” don’t care about the person, they care about being approved by the person. It’s not about other people, it’s about them. In reality, nice people are the egoists of the world. If you’d really care about other people, you’d do what’s right, not what is wanted. 

Once you become your own man/woman, once you stand for yourself, you will no longer be restrained by the need to be told what to do by other people. They don’t like what you are doing, fine, they like what you are doing? Fine. 

The only thing you really need is the personal knowledge that you have good intentions, not just for others, but for yourself as well so that we can all win. 

This is how you live unrestrained. When you live for higher values, tested by yourself, other than the values of the herd.

Don’t as for permission to live, to do or not to do, to smile or not to smile. Give yourself permission to do anything right now, know that you have good intentions, focus on what you can control and you’ll be unrestrained by anything. 

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore it if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance and Other Essays

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Tools for Reasoning: Authority bias


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Have you ever found yourself cursing over a stupid decision that you knew was not the best one, but you did it anyway because an “authority figure” in your life such as your mom, teacher, father or older brother told you you should? How could you say no to the mighty voice of experience, right?

“As to the wise man, we shall see. What concerns you and me, who are still a great distance from the wise man, is to ensure that we do not fall into a state of affairs which is disturbed, powerless, subservient to another and worthless to oneself.” Seneca 

Don’t follow someone just because he or she is an authority or anything else. What served him might not serve you, taking circumstances and many others into account. This is the authority bias, which consists of making decisions basing your reasoning on authority alone, like a robot, not taking account of your specific situation or other factors that would make up for better reasoning and a more informed decision. 

It’s impressive how it is so annoyingly common to find yourself on your 30’s or 40’s wanting to change your career because, at the moment of choosing it, you went with the voice of “experience” without listening to yours, the person that would find himself doing it for the next 40 years. 

This is one of the consequences of the authority bias. In Stoicism, I picture Epictetus telling you, that more than authority bias, it’s more the “being a slave to other people reasoning bias”. Now, one thing is to choose a career path not suitable for yourself, but another paramountly different is to kill thousands of people just because you were told to, as happened in Germany during WWII or in Vietnam. This lures you to think: How harmless really is it to let other people do your thinking, however small the decision?

The obedience experiments. 

Stanley Milgram proved how weak our will becomes when we find ourselves in an authoritative situation with his famous “Shock experiment” at Yale University. You can find more about it here or watch the movie on Netflix if you prefer. 

In the experiment, Milgram tricked people into thinking that they were going to participate in an experiment that measured people’s ability to learn for the fear of being punished, while in reality, he was measuring their compliance to authority. They were told that they were needed to administer shocks to a person in another room (an actor) if they got the answer wrong, and subsequently, raise the volts (45–100–100–200) administered with each wrong answer. The actor got them wrong on purpose and at the same time started yelling that he was in pain and wanted the experiment to stop when the shocks got high enough. The authority figure was a doctor (actor as well) in a coat that gave orders such as:

Prod 1: Please continue.

Prod 2: The experiment requires you to continue.

Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue.

Prod 4: You have no other choice but to continue.

Note that the subjects of the experiment were allowed to leave at any moment but do to the context, most didn’t and the majority gave the “learner” painful shocks until required to. This was no doubt a dark experiment with even darker implications. 

How often do you comply without even thinking about it? Without even knowing that you find yourself in an authoritative situation? 

Back to us and normal life. If you have ever taken a decision that proved to be wrong just because someone you deemed capable and admirable told you to do so and then went on and did it, and then fucked up. You know what I’m talking about and you know how much it sucks. 

So now that you know the bias. Be smarter. I’m not claiming that you don’t have to hear the opinion of an expert, that would be stupid and would just be another bias, but you have to be able to take everything else into account as well. Such as your situation and the interests embedded in your choice. Ask yourself, who is ultimately affected by my decision and how? Once that is done, challenge authority and question them. 

Be free. 

Until next time, 

Ricardo 

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