Identity

What’s in Your Bag of Shit?

I was listening to Neil Strauss the other day on Tom Bilyeu’s youtube interview series called “Inside Quest” and something he said really stuck out to me. He said that we all carry around a “bag of shit” or in other words- some story we’ve made up about our unworthiness or how we’re unlovable.  Then we operate and interact with the outside world looking for evidence to add to our “bag of shit” and to support our dis-empowering story we have made up about ourselves.  We will even fabricate and alter certain events through our own skewed perceptive filter just to support our story and give us a sense of certainty that we are right. We then often times use this “bag of shit” we carry around with us to motivate us to achieve more, acquire more or to hunt for the perfect spouse or partner.  We really believe that if we get that prized possession or relationship- then we will finally be enough, lovable or feel good about ourselves. Some people spend their whole life seeking the very thing they believe will help them let go of and forget about their “bag of shit”.  The irony is that as long as you are holding onto the bag of shit and keep your inferiority saga in the recesses of your mind, nothing and no one will ever give you the feelings of being enough or being lovable. 

 

The only way to free yourself from this trap is to let go of your bag of shit and to become aware of the narrative that is running your life. The old story is driven by fear, lack and scarcity. If you don’t believe you are enough right now, no amount of money, fame, relationships, or anything outside of you will ever be able to give you the feelings of security, significance and love you are seeking. Those external rewards only magnify the relationship you have internally with yourself. If you love yourself, feel worthy and have a loving and compassionate relationship with yourself- then you will have healthy and loving relationships with others, money, possessions, etc. 

 

What is largely running people in our world is an error in self definition. A major error. A colossal mistake in perception and judgement. People use money, relationships, power, status, jobs, religious affiliation and much more to define themselves. They create a fictional game about how their person-hood and self worth is tied to their success or effectiveness in one or more of these areas. The issue with this approach to defining yourself is these external things are largely, if not completely outside of our control. One of my favorite authors, Robert Greene says that we only have control over 5-6% of what happens in our world and experience on this earth. ONLY 5-6%. He also affirmed that the way to best impact our world is to only focus and exert our energy in that small window (5-6%) of where we actually have control. Therefore if we maximize our focus, attention and energy to improve and affect only what we can control, then we will be able to change our circumstances and impact the world. Where most people go wrong is they spend the majority of their time, attention and energy on the 94-95% of things that are 100% outside of their control. This leaves them powerless and victims of their circumstances.  Therefore if you are going to define yourself and base your identity on your job, relationship, status or any external thing, you are due to be a slave to circumstances, others and the world. As Joe Donnelly says, 

 

“You can either be the CEO of your own life or you can be life’s employee”. 

 

I am not proposing that you say “hell with it” to creating a business, forming relationships, making money or seeking things externally. I am just warning you of the trap of being attached to those external things. And more importantly the emotional death you will experience if you tie your identity to them and sell your soul for them.  I have been in relationships where I put my girlfriend up on a pedestal and derived my sense of self from being her boyfriend. At first it was an exhilarating rush of oxytocin, but it soon became pure slavery. Obligations, ownership, and expectations within the relationship crippled my ability to do anything else in the world and to feel like I was living my true purpose. 

 

What I am proposing is balance. Like the Samurai warriors of ancient Japan, they embodied balance probably better than anyone. On one hand they were very masculine, tough, hard-driving and resilient. They were some of the toughest and most skilled warriors in the history of the world and they protected their villages by killing and eliminating the enemy. Yes this was their rigid and strong masculine side. However they did not live 100% of the time on this side of their nervous system. They also had a feminine side, which was more flowing, compassionate and flexible. They would write poetry, dance, play the flute and make love to their wives. They intuitively understood that they needed to balance their lives and their nervous systems in order to be the most fulfilled, the happiest and healthiest they could be. 

 

If they lived 100% of the time in their masculine warrior motif, they would have died much younger. The cortisol would have be firing at all times and this inevitably would have decreased their lifespan and diminished their overall level of life satisfaction. Conversely they innately knew that operating in the feminine side of their nervous system was going to give them fulfillment and rejuvenate their soul and spirit. 

 

All too often today we see individuals lack balance. They are all Type A power, strength and aggression. Sure they might achieve some pretty great success, but at what price? At the price of their enjoyment and fulfillment on this earth?  Then we see others who operate on the other side of the dialectic. They are accepting, flowing and peaceful. Yet they have no drive and contribute very little to the world. Finding the middle of the paradox is a way to strike a balance and achieve both the science of success and the art of fulfillment. 

 

Life is the most hilarious and ironic teacher around. We set a goal and we invest everything into that goal, only to find out that once we actually attain the goal, that the very goal/prize itself is not what we really wanted after all. Here are some higher values that I believe are the things we are really after:

 

1. Flow– a level of presence, creativity and mindfulness of enjoying an activity/interaction just for the sake of engaging in it. 

 

2. Contribution– the secret to living is giving. PERIOD. Nothing lights up and energizes the human spirit like giving and serving a fellow man.  Depression, anxiety and all forms of mental health impairments vanish when one looks to give and contribute.

 

3. Growth– I don’t care how many friends you have, how successful you have been- if you are experiencing progress in your life- you are dying. What does the Bible say? “Where there is no vision, the people perish”

 

4. Who we become. It is not the accolades, money, possessions that truly fulfills us at the end of the day, but it is rather the person we have to become in order to solve those problems and achieve those goals. The ultimate satisfaction in life is complete 100% CONGRUENCE. Living in alignment with your values is the ultimate fulfillment. 

 

 

Advertisements

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life

Once you’ve read a number of self help books you’ve probably adopted the understanding that the world is quite subjective.  The media, politicians, advertisers and pretty much any ruling entity convey to the world that there is an objective reality. A lot of people buy into this objective reality that is being fed to them, and consequently, their lives tend to be filled with fear, suffering and hardship.  With an understanding of our subjective experience as humans being, the world in which we interact with typically takes the form of the beliefs we hold about it. Generally speaking, our experience in the world is a result of our beliefs about the external world, beliefs about ourselves and beliefs about other people.  The vast majority of these beliefs we are not aware of. They are unconscious beliefs.  A very wealthy person has certain beliefs about himself, the world and others that allows him to become very wealthy. The same goes for a happy person, a depressed person, a peaceful person, a spiritual person- you get my point. The world in which we live in is a direct result of the beliefs we have about that world, ourselves and others. Think of our beliefs as the glasses in which we view the world through. The lens of our glasses determine the world in which we perceive and therefore experience. If we see a bright, colorful, exciting world- that’s exactly what we’ll get. If we see a gloomy, dark and depressing world- that’s what we’ll get.

Our beliefs about the world and other people can be referred to as our ‘model of the world’ or ‘world view’. A person who thinks that humans are generally evil and always looking to take advantage of other humans will live in a world he believes to be challenging, and he will ultimately engage in fear driven behavior in order to protect himself.  On the other hand, an individual who believes that money is easily accessible and that money-making opportunities are like buses will inevitably become very wealthy and find such opportunities to grow his wealth. 

Our beliefs about ourselves is often times referred to as our ‘self image’ or our ‘identity’. Our identity is the bag which holds our individual beliefs about ourselves. If you believe yourself to be one of the fittest human beings on earth, you will likely have very specific rituals in which you are dedicated to that will enhance your physical condition. If you believe yourself to be a worthless slob, you will probably not be very sociable and could possible not take care of your hygiene. 

In order to change one’s life they must change either their model of the world and their identity. However, changing these things seem to be quite difficult- because how many people do you know who have been effective at changing their life?  The number is likely very small and possible zero. The reason for this is because those who have failed to make tangible changes in their life don’t understand the power of identity, beliefs and their model of the world. Understanding the implications of these factors is the first step towards creating change. Once these are understood, then the questions of “how do you change your identity? How do you change your model of the world? How do you change your beliefs?” can be asked.

One expedient means to shifting your beliefs (both your identity and your model of the world) is through questions. Our minds utilizes questions as the mechanism in which beliefs are transformed into action. In other words, questions are the active form of beliefs. The questions we ask ourselves- both consciously and unconsciously- demonstrates our beliefs (both our identity and our model of the world). You might be saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t ask myself questions”. Yea- you aren’t consciously asking questions, however at an unconscious level- questions are always being asked. That is how our mind processes the external stimuli and information it is receiving from the outside environment. Our brain is constantly asking these two questions:

1. “What does this mean?” 

2. “What should I do?”. 

However in addition to these two questions, our minds also likes to link another question to question 1 in the form of a presupposition. The question “what does this mean” is very vague- it is missing an important part of information. It is absent of a recipient. So our brain rather asks the question “what does this mean about ______? The blank space is for whatever is pertinent in the person’s life. The blank space is typically related to one of our 5 primary needs as a human being. For someone it might be related to their survival needs (food, shelter, protection against violence, etc). For others it might be about whether they will receive love or approval. For a third person, it may be about their level of competency or significance. But typically, our unconscious questions are centered on ensuring that at least one of our 5 basic needs are being met in that particular moment. For a quick review, here are the 5 basic needs that William Glasser outlined in what he called Choice Theory (formerly Control Theory):

1. Survival

2. Love/Connection

3. Competence/Significance/Power

4. Freedom

5. Fun

We tend to live in a variety of questions- depending on the context. If Dave goes on a date with a girl, he may be unconsciously asking the question, “How can I have fun tonight?” (FUN). or “How can I get laid (Fun or Significance or love or it could be all three needs- depending on his belief system). Or he may be asking the question “How can I make sure I don’t embarrass myself?” (which is coming from survival or competence. The question that Dave asks himself going into the date will have a drastic impact on what likely occurs during his date. Our questions determine our reality. This scenario is an example of contextual questions. You will probably ask different questions in different contexts and situations.  It is probably likely that you’ll ask different questions if you are going to a party or if you are going to church. The contextual questions you ask yourself (unconsciously) are important to become aware of and begin to ask them consciously. These contextual questions have the power (if asked with enough repetition and focus) to change your experience in any given context.

Contextual questions are powerful, however we as humans tend to live in 1 or 2 global questions that colors our entire experience in every context. One person’s global question might be, “What do I have to do to feel significant?”, while another person’s question might be “Who do I have to be for everyone to like me?”.  Identifying your global question comes down to identifying the unconscious story you are living in. We are all operating out of some story that is related to our past. The typical structure of a person’s story is this:

A. Something bad or limiting occurred in their past

B. They devise some plan to make up for that past transgression in their life.

C. They pursue this goal or set of circumstances with the belief that once they get the goal or life circumstances they will finally “have made it” and be okay.

D. They never actually feel okay with themselves (even if they do get the thing they’ve been chasing)- because that feeling of being okay is an internal state that can’t be met by anything or anyone outside of them self. 

E. They either select something else to chase or they give up and begin to feel hopeless or helpless about life (depending on whether they were able to reach their contrived goal/picture perfect life). 

If you can identify the unconscious story you have been living in, you’ve made a huge step. Most people never gain the self awareness to be able to see past their narrow and tilted view of reality. Once you know your story, it is time to find out what unconscious global question you’ve been living in. It should be pretty easy once you understand the story you have been telling yourself. Unless you are poverty stricken and struggle meeting your basic survival needs, our global questions (and subsequent stories) tend to revolve around our need for love/connection and/or our need for competence/significance/power. Once you uncover the global question that has been directing your life, you now have the power to change the question consciously and begin to rehearse over and over. Awareness and then rehearsal of this new question is one approach to changing your beliefs- which take the form as your model of the world and your identity.  Many people chase money, relationships, possessions, titles, prestige thinking that it is going to finally deliver on and make up for their greatest insecurity- when in reality all they are ever after is an internal feeling, an emotion or a perception- which can only be given to them from their own doing. 

 

How Batman and Abraham Lincoln Can Change Your Life

In the world of film and cinema a “character actor” is best described as an actor that dedicates a portion of his life to learn everything about the person he is playing in his upcoming film. He then completely dedicates his entire life to learning and adopting the behavior, looks, mannerisms, speech, personality and practically everything about the character he is playing in the upcoming film.  It is quite a radical approach to acting. Daniel Day Lewis might be considered the greatest character actor of our generation. He played Abraham Lincoln in the movie Lincoln. He absolutely embodied Abraham Lincoln in every regard. You might be asking why I am talking about this cinematic concept of the ‘character actor’.  Maybe this example of the character actor will make my point a little clearer. Heath Ledger played the role of the Joker in the Batman movie The Dark Knight in 2008 and soon thereafter took his own life. Some speculate that his suicide was a result of him over-identifying with his role as the Joker.  Though there is no concrete proof of this and nor will there ever be a verdict on such a speculation, let’s take a deeper look at this process that a character actor undergoes in preparing for his role. 

For months (probably well over a year to be more accurate) leading up to the Dark Knight, Heath Ledger played his role of Joker 24/7 in order to really fully embody it and perfect it. Some might see this as harmless fun- sure. But what was he really doing? What is really going on here? He was learning an entirely new “way of being”- a totally different beingness.  He was 100% embodying a villain that had maniacal beliefs and lethal intentions. He was practicing over and over again- being sinister, dishonest, violent and slippery.  Through all the months of rehearsing this and practicing this new set of beliefs, behaviors and expressions- one can’t help but to think that he had wired this new identity to his nervous system so strongly that he actually in some ways became the Joker.  If this is true, then it is no surprise that he fell into a deep depression. He probably had an existential identity crisis and couldn’t look at himself in the mirror after seeing who had become. The shame must had been enormous. 

Obviously it is not confirmed that Health Ledger committed suicide as a result of his role of playing the Joker, however I think that this example of a ‘character actor’ can be an effective metaphor for understanding the nature of identity, beingness and personal development.  Simply put, what Heath Ledger did in preparing for the role of the joker (rehearsing and practicing a way of being and an identity) is the same exact process as what we are doing as humans all the time- we just aren’t conscious of it. We are always anchoring something to our nervous system and conditioning (learning) some behavior, thought pattern or emotional reaction (ultimately a way of being). As long as we are breathing and conscious- we are rehearsing some unique beingness. This is good news and bad news. Let me start with the bad news. The bad thing about this is that 97% of the human race is conditioning into their nervous systems shitty and did-empowering states like fear, anxiety, depression, resentment, etc.  On the other hand, the good news is that if we wake up from our trance, we can actually take control of our conditioning and begin to move in the direction of who we actually want to become.

By now you might be asking the question- “well since Heath Ledger and Daniel Day-Lewis are actors- aren’t they just acting?” Yes of course they are actors, but they differentiate themselves from other actors because they embody their role to the fullest and let that become a part of their identity for some finite amount of time. Isn’t this precisely what we are doing as humans? We are doing nothing more than acting and then creating a story around our acting so it forms a set beliefs about ourselves aka an ‘identity’ or ‘personality’. This is kind of screwed up right? Maybe, but what’s even more screwed up is how we as humans tend to  “act” in such an incongruent way that our nervous system is tied up like a pretzel.  Yes the vast majority of us are UNCONSCIOUSLY being just like a character actor.  We are always conditioning some pattern into our nervous system whether we like it or not.  However the patterns we are wiring in are likely to be incongruent- pulling us hard and jolting us in opposite directions.  Love, joy and peace are pulling us in one direction while fear, shame and anger pull us in the other direction. No wonder we can’t get anything accomplished. We are “acting” out a role of pure incongruence.  Then when we don’t get the results we want in life- we beat ourselves up over it and add even more shit to our giant shame sandwich.  Think about it- we have the unique power to visualize and determine who we want to become as a person. We can visualize that person, step into that person and with enough practice we can begin to embody that person.  Then after months and years of practicing this way of being and ‘acting like this person’- we will actually become this person. This is a beautiful thing if you see it for what it is. Some people might see this phenomenon as dark or manipulative or against God’s will. I see it as a huge opportunity. You have to choose wisely who you want to become. Because you could become a complete asshole. You could also come to understand that you have the unique power to serve, heal and love to an exponential degree. You could also not choose and let your life unfold on a ‘default’ setting.  This is how 97% of society operates and they turn out to be fat, broke, divorced and depressed.  Why is this? Because they are conditioning mixed messages into their nervous system at all times. They have mixed associations to everything. This keeps them in no mans land- never really happy or never really sad, never really successful or never really a complete failure. Do you see the predicament in not making a conscious choice about who you are to become?

 So what I am proposing is that we have the unique power to decide our destiny- to make a decision about the person we are going to become. And once we make this decision, we can rehearse it daily, step into it, embody this person and ultimately become this person. Create such a crystal clear image in your mind of this person you wish to become and overlearn the shit out it. This will completely shift your way of being and the great news is that it is entirely an inside job. Regardless of what kind of feedback the external environment is giving you- you can continue to be this person and condition this way of being into your nervous system until it becomes automatic and you become unconsciously competent at being the person you want to be. And once you become that person, it’s not like the process stops- you just continue to grow and integrate more fully.  I see this approach and understanding to personal development as highly practical and an ideal combination of Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics), Milton Erickson, Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Tony Robbins, Napolean Hill (Think and Grow Rich), Joe Dispenza (Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself) and Alex Loyd. (Beyond Willpower) 

 

Now this leaves you only one question…

 

WHO DO YOU WANT TO BECOME? choose wisely, however make the choice, or someone else will for you. Or as Jim Rohn liked to say, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

 

Why 99.9% of People Can’t Get Themselves to Change- HOW TO BE THE 0.1%

How often do we as human beings accomplish something and then proceed to just shrug it off like it never happened? We do something good, maybe feel good for a moment, then we just let it drift on by and we forget about it for the rest of eternity. This positive experience and emotion never even imprints in our subconscious memory. Dr. Rick Hanson, one of the world’s renowned expert in mindfulness and neuroplasticity explains it best when he said, “In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but teflon for positive ones”.   Our brains weren’t created to make us happy, they built to keep us alive.  They are constantly on the look out for threats to our survival aka negative experiences.  This is likely the root of this negativity bias that occurs in our cognition and memory.  However, this way of processing the world is also incredibly detrimental to our identities. We are so quick to raise the standard and look onto the next goal or task in sight that we never actually register the task we recently achieved as a “success”. I think this is the most underrated factor in the success equation.  The key difference in changing and enhancing one’s identity is this constant acknowledgement and celebration of even the smallest progress towards one’s goal or destiny. If you are only going to celebrate and acknowledge your success once you achieve your big goal and your ultimate destiny- it will never happen. You will never achieve your big goal because you will have not built that new and improved identity that is required to achieve that goal in the first place. The winning and successful identity must always precede the attainment of the goal- plain and simple. You must become the kind of person (and more importantly see yourself as that kind of person) that can achieve the goal before you actually can attain it. If you do not see yourself as that kind of person with 100% certainty, then good luck- you’ll never get there.  My Dad always said that true greatness comes about when competence meets confidence.  Celebrating the small victories and progress along the way is what builds the confidence.  Think about something in your life that you are 100% certain about. Something that is so tied to your identity that you experience anxiety and cognitive dissonance when you do something in opposition to that. Maybe it’s something as severe and outlandish as thinking of yourself as a murderer.  You probably are thinking, I would NEVER commit murder. Your belief that you would never commit murder is so certain and strong that just the thought of it makes you experience a great deal of unease and cognitive dissonance.  You are without a doubt 100% certain that you are not a murderer. This same level of certainty is what you will need in regards to your future desired outcome.  This confidence and belief is not an intellectual certainty, rather it is a feeling state. Belief is nothing more than a feeling of certainty- not a thought.  And the only way you get that level of certainty at the emotional level is to celebrate each tiny, little step along the way. Acknowledge and “register” even the smallest of successes and the slightest progress. You have to train yourself to be worthy, long before you are worthy.

 This insight really hit me pretty strong tonight. I spent 6 hours working through the entire Tony Robbins’ book Awaken the Giant Within tonight and came up with several exercises which I believe to be the essential building blocks to transformation and personal change.  His book is a great manual and starting point for massively transforming one’s life. One exercise I found particularly insightful and effective was this:

 First, we must understand that the quality of our lives are 100% dependent on the quality of our emotions that we consistently live in (where we live emotionally). Identify your 10 emotions of power- the ten emotions that you need to start living in, in order to become the person must become. Robbins listed his ten emotions in his book and I think they are pretty good, so we’ll use his as a reference. Which 10 emotions- that if you were to live in those states on a day to day basis- would bring you the kind of life you’ve always dreamed of. For me they look like this (these should give you an idea):1. love/warmth

2. gratitude/appreciation/celebration

3. curiosity/constant learning

4. Passion/excitement/enthusiasm

5. Flexibility/patience

6. confidence/internal sense of significance\self worth/CONGRUENCE

7. Determination/Grit/Steadfastness

8. Playfulness/Humor/Cheerfulness

9. Health/vitality/physical energy

10. contribution/giving

 

Now that you have identified the 10 emotions that you must live in to guarantee yourself a great quality of life- start by asking yourself the first question (write down these questions and your responses in your journal):

 1. When have I been loving and warm? Provide 5-6 concrete examples from your life.

-Make 1-2 examples from today or yesterday.

-Make 1-2 examples from sometime in the past month or two.

-Then make 1-2 examples from sometime before last year (somewhere in the fairly distant past).

*Write down these 5-6 examples and replay them in your mind. Get associated to these experiences. Step into these moments and re-live them.  See what you saw, feel what you felt, hear what you heard.  Sit with them for a few minutes. You know how to be warm. You know how to love. It doesn’t have to be purely romantic love, but it’s good to provide examples of both.

 Now continue this exercise for each of the other 9 emotional states. Provide examples from all 3 time frames and really associate to and relive these memories. I know this exercise might take 15-30 minutes, but it will be well worth it.  Here’s why.

 Imagine the power this exercise would have if you did it every night. You reflected on your previous day and looked into the past to celebrate when you experienced these positive and uplifting emotions. Pretty soon after days of this, what do you think your identity will be? You will see yourself and think of yourself as a loving, determined, confident, etc person (or whatever emotions you think would be beneficial for you to live in.) You will also be able to engage in these emotions much more frequently because you are rehearsing them every night with this exercise and ritual. The more you practice living in these states- the more they will become your “default setting” and the more you will believe with 100% certainty that you are a worthy, successful and loving person. This conscious recognition of these “small victories”, like reflecting on times when you were loving or determined, has the power to transform your identity into the person you want to become. Truly you are already that person, but with the ineffective cognitive strategies (negativity bias) that you are currently practicing- you are disowning these positive parts of yourself. Imagine what this exercise repeated day in and day out will do to the beliefs you have about yourself. Your entire identity will expand exponentially. You will walk differently, you will talk differently, you will interact with others differently. The certainty about who you are as a person will be astounding. When you live your life in your ten emotional states of power- the quality of your life will transform. It really gives you the power to achieve anything you want because you are becoming the kind of person with the kind of beliefs and identity who can achieve that very something you desire so dearly.

 We spend so much time as humans performing negative self-talk that no wonder everyone is depressed, divorced, in debt and obese. We do something good, but we instantly brush it under the rug like it never happened. Rather when we do something wrong or make a mistake- we sulk over it for hours like it is an indictment on our character. The only difference between successful and congruent people and those who are unsuccessful are the way they cognitively process and store the events that occur in their respective lives. Here is the difference to sum it up (if you haven’t already gotten it).

Successful people celebrate even the smallest successes and the tiniest progress. Rather when they fail or make a mistake, they don’t take it personally, they don’t throw a pity party or have a major a freak out. They just continue with the process until they finally make another step in the right direction. They are process oriented and have a growth mindset (which is brilliantly discussed in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset).

 Unsuccessful people are so focused on the achieving the end goal, that they brush off every little success or minor step along the way that is truly progress. They literally don’t even consciously see they’re making progress. They believe that they will only celebrate and acknowledge themselves as a success when they get the big goal. However they never get there because it is impossible to develop that championship and successful identity unless you celebrate even the smallest successes along the way. They are purely goal oriented and this tends to persuade them to develop a fixed mindset about their ability.

We ALWAYS operate at the level of our identity. This is why change is so brutally difficult for most people. They want to change the circumstances in their life, but they are not changing their identity and who they are becoming.  What they tend to do is rearrange circumstances- which is nothing more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic…no actual transformation occurs.  Jim Rohn summed it perfectly:

 If you want life to change, you’ve got to change. If you want life to get better, you’ve go to get better. It’s the only way it happens. Luck will show up for people and it will leave them. But if you’re constantly improving who you are and what you give- GAME OVER.