philosophy

Conquering Fears, Modern problems, philosophy

Where Are You Putting Your Attention ?


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“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” 
― Marcus Aurelius

There is nothing, absolutely nothing you can experience outside the realm of your consciousness. Everything you are capable of thinking and feeling happens inside your mind. Due to this, human experience is entirely subjective, it will inevitably vary depending on who you ask, not two humans will experience the same things.

If you cannot experience anything other than through the lenses of your mind. Logically, we can infer that every experience will be tainted by your subjectivity, that is, tainted by your persona, by your feelings, your past stories, and the opinions and prejudices that give structure to your sense of reality.

Whenever you experience discomfort about a something, it is not that something is uncomfortable in the ultimate instance, but rather, by your subjective estimate of it, your mind decides if it is comfortable or uncomfortable, of benefit or of harm.

Meaning is not found in what happens, because what happens has no meaning in itself, it’s just phenomena happening in the universe. Meaning is only formed in relationship with a person, but meaning is not attributed from phenomena to persons, meaning is attributed from persons to phenomena. It is not what happens to you, but how you see it and what actions you decide are best what determines the quality or lack of it in your experience of reality.

This is interesting.

Think about two persons losing their jobs. The first one, let’s call him Bob, is terrified. He does not know how he will manage to survive without income. Plus, he has a family and he needs to pay his little kid’s tuition next month, as well as rent and food. He hasn’t been able to save a lot because the job didn’t pay well. Bob is going out of his mind, but can you blame him, wouldn’t you be going crazy as well? Stressful situations aren’t pretty, we all know that.

The other guy, Karl, lost his job as well as Bob, but Karl has a smile in his face. He looks as if he’s just given a promotion instead of getting fired. But Karl just finished reading The Communist Manifesto (pun intended) and now that he is without a job he feels free, emancipated from the dictatorial, time-sucking job he was in. He is now thinking about all the new possibilities that have just opened in his life, later in the afternoon he is gleefully searching for the communal communities he read about in an article where he can go and live another life.

The same thing happened to bought people, but their estimate of it makes all the difference.

The video I’m going to show you next is hard as it feels like a big slap in the face, it does explain the point brilliantly though.

Consciousness and data

Let’s dig deeper.

Your experience is directly determined by the focus of your attention. Attention, your ability to direct focus and process the infinite types of information you encounter day to day. A human attribute that happens to be as well, under your control.

We are not omnipotent, you cannot know everything there is to know in the infinite of the universe. Your attention is limited, obviously, and can only process a certain amount of data at a time.

We now know how much data can be processed by the mind and the logic that follows is pretty interesting.

The amount of data a human being can process is 126 bits of information per second, or 7,560 per minute, or almost half a million per hour. Over a lifetime of seventy years, and counting sixteen hours of waking time each day, this amounts to about 185 billion bits of information.

The question that arises is: where are you locating your attention, and therefore, how many of those bits are being used appropriately?

Everything you will ever experience will be determined by the allocation of your attention. In the end, you will possess, theoretically speaking, a movie in your mind that could be downloaded, however, that movie will show the contents of where you located your attention throughout your life.

The quality of your life is directly related to the quality of your experiences, the quality of your experiences is determined by the focus of your attention, and this my friend is under your direct control.

Where are you directing your attention day to day? Are you even in control, honestly?

If you stumble into a problem, the problem is not something outside, but something inside yourself, it is real, don’t get me wrong, but it is not the thing itself that is a problem, the problem is your estimation of the situation. 

“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems” 
― Epictetus

The problem, I repeat, is never outside of yourself. Outside, things just are, it is within the realm of your mind and subjectivity that a problem becomes a problem. Now, you can either let your attention slide to the usual focus on the problem and its consequences or you can direct it consciously towards a more beneficial state of mind in which you are under control. How you see it and what you will do about it. That remains under your full control. 

Reclaim your most basic, powerful and divine power, the power over your mind. It’s yours.

A great complement to this read: Choices

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Business advice, philosophy, Reflections, Self development

Separation of tasks


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“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ” 
― Epictetus

I’m pretty sure you know by now that no, it is not that bloody simple. The difficulty arises precisely in making the distinction of what’s in our power and what not.

Alfred Adler, one of the founding members of the Vienna’s Psychoanalytic Society as long with Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, claimed in his all too controversial at the time “individual psychology” that all problems are really just interpersonal problems.

But, really? Can you really go so far as to claim that every problem is an interpersonal problem?

Example. Let’s say that X person is working for a huge company and just two days ago, he messed up really, really bad. He made the company lose half a million dollars due to a stupid decision he took. He has a huge, huge problem and apparently, on the surface level, the problem is that the company will lose money but deep down, his worries are quite different. When he goes to bed he cannot stop thinking about arriving the next day and having to look everyone in the face, especially his boss, who will be furious. In reality, his problems spring from interpersonal relationships.

Interesting isn’t it? Something to think about. My point here, coming back to the distinction between things that are under our control and things that are not is too clarify it a little more, using Adler’s concept of separation of tasks.

The reason we are often unhappy as Epictetus cleverly claim is that we cannot make this distinction and so we worry about things that shouldn’t even concern us. The separation of tasks is another way of thinking about what you can control and cannot.

In a love relationship, for example, your task is to love, you cannot make the other person love you, or, well, you can, by being lovable yourself first. But the imposition, saying: “she should do this or he should do that”, is wanting to take the other person task.

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

By separating tasks you can make the distinction of up to which point you can act and up to which point you should concern yourself with. Careful not to use this as an excuse not to do anything, because more than an excuse to not acting and leaving things be, on the contrary, you realize how much more it really is that you can actually do instead of waiting for other people to do whatever. If you are clever enough, you can always find a way in which you can act to come about anything you want, but knowing the distinction of up to which point you can do so is what will give you peace because you’ll know you’ve done your part.

Coming back to all problems being interpersonal problems, this Adlerian methodology comes very useful, because problems stop being problems, the only problem you are left with is with whether you do or you do not do your task and my friend, that’s always under your complete control.

Want to read some more: On life Navigation

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