For social beings who by nature need communication and contact, we have a really bad habit of isolating ourselves. We would prefer to hide behind social media, small talk, and our own self-doubts rather than try and make connections. Socialization is hard work, even for extroverts. You are a bubble of experiences, ideas, thoughts, temperament, and genetics and you meet another bubble that has all its own experiences and beliefs. Who knows if youre bubbles overlap? Trying to find similarities is frightening because people don’t always click right away.
Making friends means being vulnerable, and vulnerability is uncomfortable because it means not being able to predict the future as well. Even something as minor as revealing you love dogs: what if they hate dogs and have had traumatic experiences with them? It’s unlikely, but the more personal the topics get, the more risky it is to share them because you don’t know how they’ll react. As much as social anxiety is seen as over reacting in our culture, it’s actually not that unreasonable when you consider how socialization puts identity and sense of self at risk.
We like focusing on the ‘good stuff’, especially in American culture. We like feeling good, looking good, and being happy 100% of the time. When we talk and risk oursleves, we demand and expect payback for that socialization risk. Yet sometimes the result is awkward and embarrassing. It’s not required to be pretty and it usually isn’t smooth at all. In fact, it can be uncomfortable and unsatisfying. Talking to other people is hard, that’s proven by how entire college majors are dedicated to simple communication.
It’s okay to be socially awkward, everything gets better with practice. It’s okay to miscommunicate something, you’ll keep at it and they’ll eventually catch on. It’s okay to not know what to say, you’re not a mind-reader. It’s natural to have some difficulties when bridging the gap between two entirely different lives. Keep at it! Keep taking risks and communicating with people. Closing ourselves off socially is starving ourselves of a basic pyschological desire, so stay fed! It might not always seem worth it in the moment but it is in the long run.
Not all passions are equal in the eyes of our culture. People who care about TV shows seem somehow “less” or more frivolous. That arises from the fact that it usually doesn’t require a higher degree of education or complex thinking to watch it. Furthermore, spending all of your time thinking about a show takes away from thinking about something more valued by our culture. However, I’d like to try and change that view point just a bit: why do most people care more about shows than we do real things?
Shows are captivating because they have story lines. As humans, we love stories, we think in stories. Yet they are also captivating because a vast majority of them have character development. You can trust someone is going to change, and most likely it will be for the better. It’s comforting. Also, if they are done correctly, shows can be amazingly interesting. Science is absolutely fascinating, but not thrilling like watching dragons attack a castle. Books are entertaining, but people don’t like spending the energy it takes to imagine and process the words.
When you compare random bits of data, it’s much harder to get excited than over Person A killing Person B over Person C who loves person D who loves person B. In our lives, we love stories, but we also get frustrated when our lives work out more like a series of random events and less like a path that leads somewhere. Not all passions are equal because some roles seem to be only available to those who are skilled enough to achieve them. Fans are a dime a dozen, but lawyers? Learning the Law takes years of extra schooling. The problem is most lawyers probably aren’t that passionate about the law.
What if we were as passionate about our lives as we are by really good shows? What if we could see ourselves as the protagonist and the hard work as a mighty challenge that’s worth overcoming? Consider becoming a fan of your own life.
Fear is a part of our lives. As Americans, we don’t like thinking about that: “We’re free independent people! We do what we want because we want to do it!” But even if we say the only thing to fear is fear itself, we don’t apply that to our everyday lives. We fear being judged, failing, being embarrassed, and more. Then it stops us, freezes us up from taking risks.
However, fear is also a powerful motivator, if you’ve heard any villian-monologue. True in a lot of cases, fear is an influential emotion. It can even be a healthy motivator. Everyone experiences fear at some time or another, but it’s a matter of what scares you that drives your actions. If we fear remaining the same, we can strive to make a change. If we teach ourselves to fear the risk of doing nothing, we can convince ourselves to take risks that help us in the long run.
And it’s okay to be afraid! Fear has such a negative connotation around it because it seems like only cowards get scared. However, fear is very real. It’s even a wise action to be afraid; it means you know the risks and are alert for your safety. Being afraid means being on guard in dangerous situations. If you are afraid, you can prepare yourself, it makes evolutionary sense. When we experience this fear, the key isn’t to try and ignore it, but push through it. Be afraid and take the jump anyways.
Intelligence is actually incredibly hard to pin down with a solid definition. Academic success depends on the class, past knowledge, family situations, even who you sit by. IQ can only predict success to a certain degree, and it judges only how good people are at finding new patterns and solving problems. Some argue only looking at academic intelligence cuts out creative or practical intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a term for how well people know and understand their own and other’s emotions; it’s been shown to strongly predict interpersonal success. Even from culture to culture, intelligence can be seen as something focused around how you deal with people, or how you deal with information. It is multifaceted and the line between intelligence and talent is slimmer than most people realize.
However, we are obbsessed with intelligence. We want to believe it’s something you are naturally born with, that you can’t escape, but that’s not necessarily true. A person can actually raise their IQ to a certain degree, more effort can increase one’s grade and success in the workplace, and happiness isn’t even correlated with IQ! Pyschologists have been trying to pin it down for forever because it’s not as simple as “If you are intelligent, you will succeed in life.”
I have my own little theory about intelligence, and it is this: intelligence is how well a person can adapt and solve problems, while wisdom is how well a person can apply things they’ve learned to the “real world” ane real relationships. There’s overlap between the two. People have different amounts of each. It’s hard to judge something as complex as intelligence in something as small as a single number. When you go out and about your day, just remember that you can improve from wherever you’re at.
An adventure harkens to some mighty feat, some string of events that affect and change a person. Yet how many events that have changed you really happened on an ‘adventure’ versus happening because of an oridinary, predictable chain of occurances? Humans are actually good at predicting the future. We can estimate a person’s character pretty quickly, if not always accurately. We can deal with schedules planned literally months in advance because we can understand how to get places and who to deal with. So when it comes to adventure, the key seems to be being unable to predict it.
However, the unknown is frightening, and where do you find unpredictability? How do you make something as intangible as an adventure? Furthermore, why do we want adventure when we also want a routine to stick to?
In my experience, the best way to find adventure is to put yourself in a situation that you are interested in, but usually would never try. You take risks and get to know people whose routines aren’t the same as yours. Sometimes it might be boring or a massive mistake, but it’s different and able to change you for a better. Routine isn’t bad. Change isn’t bad. Adventure isn’t something that people need everyday, although that might be some people’s cup of tea. The important thing is that you do take risks, that you do seek adventure to some degree. We might not always be able to accomplish a mighty feat or learn a great lesson, but we can always learn, can always improve.
Being able to learn is a gift. One of your common phrases of conventional wisdom is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. The idea someone would purposely do the same thing over and over again is absurd because who would ever want to live that way? Stagnant? A common horror trope is having someone live the same day over and over again. Even if it’s a wonderful day, over time it becomes a miserable prison. The real question, however, is why we let ourselves remain stagnant when we’re not even caught in such a loop.
I’d argue that we are mostly held back by our fear. It’s easier to fear the unknown, so we tell ourselves its okay to live without ever really moving forward, even if we’re miserable there. It’s not that you don’t want to be an artist, it’s that you fear being able to support yourself. It’s not that you don’t want to write a book, it’s that you fear no one will like it. It’s not that you hate strangers, it’s that you fear they will hate you. The core destroyer of dreams isn’t some parent or teacher or reality even, but the fact that we are afraid of what we don’t know.
And yet! We long to grow. It’s the most satisfying part of every narrative. We are humans who love to learn, we’ve developed entire fields based on a simple question: “Why?” Maybe you feel 100% content with your life, but if you do, you are in a very small number. Everyone can improve themselves, everyone can learn to be better than who they were yesterday. Fear is always there. Courage, however, is being able to scream and crawl your way past it so you just get it done. Be courageous, learn and grow, even when you want to play things on repeat.
Fantasy stories hold such appeal for humans because we like the clarity. A hero has a designes purpose, they band with their friends and overcome obstacles, then they defeat the Final Boss and they get a reward. Granted, some fantasy stories put different twists on the predictable ending, but the thing that is most persistent is the purpose. Sometimes it takes the whole book for the hero to find it, but they always do. There’s a message, a moral, that teaches the audience.
One of the interesting things about pyschology is that we grasp narratives much more than combinations of events. We set a beginning, middle, and end to our recitations of our day, to our conversations, to many things. From here you could easily branch into talking about truth, the purpose or lack thereof of existence, and so on. However, it is in our design to look for the climax where the hero defeats the villain. It helps motivate us because we know where we want to go.
The fact is, we are very distractable creatures. It’s much easier to watch someone else learning their purpose and accomplishing things than to seek out the truth ourselves. It’s not totally obvious which dragons we’re supposed to defeat and which we’re supposed to befriend. Sometimes the band of friends we think will carry us through gives way. We lose our narrative and it can be exhausting trying to get it back. However, no matter what you believe, purpose can be an incredible force for good. Let’s not let life pass us by, let’s make it into a stunning story.
There are so many different kinds of art, all with such variety in every sense of the word. I’ve met people who love lineless animation, art deco, impressionism, vintage storybook art and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Whatever people like, however, it’s important to remember that our senses of what’s attractive and good are in tune to what others think too. Its an interesting concept, but consider fashion fads. The big 80s hair was the height of fashion, but if you tried to mimick it today you might find yourself isolated in social situations. That’s why it’s so important to surround yourself people who respect and love you.
We want to think of ourselves as independent agents, but we are swayed and primed for all sorts of things depending on the situation. The people we surround ourselves with bring out the parts of us that they value. We are affected and effect others in how we live and interact.
Our sensibilites are highly impacted by what other people care about. That’s why we should try to surround ourselves with people who may be very different from us but who value the core things we care about. When we chose to be friends with certain people, let’s do it intentionally, knowing you will affect each other. It’s okay to start out liking art deco and find yourself loving impressionism because of someone else. Just make sure who you change to be is someone you can be proud of.
Everyone has different gifts. Some people naturally are caring or wise, others can really work hard and persevere. There are such a wide variety of people, all with different talents, and it’s honestly amazing. Even That Jerk you know, from work or around your neighborhood, has a few qualities that could be really amazing if they used it right.
We all have things we can do well, but those things can also be our weaknesses. People who are in tune with emotions recieve the full brunt of them and there’s no dial to turn it down. People who are honest and ambitious tend to hurt those they care about because others’ opinions genuinely didn’t occur to them. People who work hard can be taken advantage of and treated like they are less just because they do have to work to get where they want to go.
We do all have talents though. Books with segmented groups based on personality are fun because the reader wants to find out where they would fit into the world if they were in it; it’s why Hogwarts houses, what Divergent group, and Percy Jackson’s Olympian houses grab our attention. If we know how others see us, we can play a role and be accepted by the community we’re in. The problem originates in the fact that no one fits a stereotype perfectly. There’s no one perfect ‘Slytherin’ or ‘Child of Hermes’. We expect our full spectrum world to fit into distinct categories because it’s helpful; the hueristics makes things easier to understand and deal with.
Honestly, maybe you don’t fill into a label solidly. Maybe you’re on the fringe between two categories. Maybe you think your talents don’t even exist. Life can be hard, and it’s easy to think that your own individual skills are worth nothing in the whole scheme of things. However, little actions build up, working with people to join your little skills together can make something sincerely awesome. Just because it isn’t clear to you what things you’re skilled at doesn’t mean you aren’t skilled in some manner.
Habituation is when a stimulus in your environment is so constant, your mind ends up filtering it out; think about white noise, the feeling in crossed legs, a chair that’s always there. Our minds get used to the information coming in, so the neurons stop firing so much. The ‘cure’ is focusing on it, or moving. When it comes to life, we filter all these little things out a lot. It makes sense to do so, and so our brains are designed to work like that. However, it’s important to remember that we do filter things out because we have to choose what we focus on; we can’t take in everything.
We have a bad habit in America of wanting to achieve 3,000+ things and then ignoring when the stress messes up our health. No matter how talented, experienced, or clever a person is, they can’t be amazing at everything. We each go through periods of our lives where we focus on a a particular goal, where we have to be selfish and get our careers figured out, or where we have to be selfless and figure our relationships out. There are different stages of life, and we learn how to deal with our problems as we grow through them.
It’s okay to be habituated to white noise! It’s okay to give yourself a break on one things and focus on another. Today is a good day because you’re figuring it out, even if it seems like some massive knot of a problem. Just focus on improving a little bit, and then the little bits will add up.