The Unwilling Path

The Unwilling Path

posted in: Mind Tools | 0

It’s all good and well to write a blog article or a book on self-improvement, but the reality is that unless it is focused on a hot topic, like how to get a girl or make a bazillion dollars in your spare time, you just can’t get people interested. The reality is that very few people just up and change for the heck of it. We’re talking small percentages of one percent. Of course, those one percenters are usually the more successful people because they actively pursue change. You and I won’t change without significant pain, trauma or necessity in our lives. In general, people just aren’t willing to follow a path of discomfort.

Rollo Tomassi in his book “The Rational Male” says that he tries to help men unplug from the feminist narrative that they’ve grown up in and adopt the red pill matrix. Even his AFC’s (Average Frustrated Chumps) resist the red pill. The horse must be thirsty before it will drink. In any case, I’m not focusing just on red pill stuff, but a change in general. It’s a sad thing to say you are not really much different at 40 than you were at 20, or at 60 than you were at 30. A successful man or woman must always be growing and changing. Adding to your skill stack, improving your financial status, increasing your value and practice is the social-sexual market place, and many other pursuits are changes, but they do not come on their own and they do come at a personal cost.

Change is painful. Actually, change requires some level discomfort for most biological entities. In the days of sailing ships, the masts that the sails hung on were the trunks of huge trees. The masts needed to be very strong to handle the transfer of force from the winds down to the hull of the ship to drive that ship across oceans. The best masts were from trees grown on hilltops where other smaller trees were removed. This removed protection from the winds at the top of the hill. The living tree was strengthened by constant exposure to the winds. In weight lifting, pushing yourself to lift heavy weights results in micro tears in the muscles which actually stimulate the growth and strength of the muscle tissue. No pain, no gain. An extreme example is Amandeep Singh, a Punjabi stunt man who can take ten blows to the balls with a sledgehammer. To change, some level of pain or discomfort is unavoidable.

The problem is that we are hardwired to avoid pain. Remember the last time you touched something hot. You didn’t even consciously pull back your hand. Your body is designed to avoid pain. Of course, you can consciously force yourself through training to override the pain. I do that every morning when I take a contrast shower of first very hot water, and then ice cold water with no transition. After the initial shock the ice cold water is refreshing, but after a year of doing this, I still have to mentally brace myself. To some degree, we all have to force ourselves to endure pain or discomfort to change. So you and I face a dilemma, we want to change, but we avoid the pain that comes during the process of change. What do we do?

We live in a world of pain and suffering and sometimes it just slops over onto us. Marriages and relationships go bad, jobs and fortunes are lost, health declines and age advances. If you’ve lived for any length of time then you have had a wave or two of pain and suffering wash over you. What I am suggesting is that the shit-storms of life are the manure for personal growth. If you can pull back mentally for just a moment from the mess around you and remember that pain will help you to grow, then you have hope. Or, you could just give up and wallow in misery.

You have to learn to surf the suffering and catch a wave that will take you far instead of just letting the wave wash over and drown you. There are all sorts of sayings, “desperate people do desperate things”, “necessity is the mother of invention”, “no pain, no gain”, etc. You and I need a mindset that takes advantage of adversity instead of avoiding it. That doesn’t mean you keep doing the same stupid thing over and over, it means you change what you do, and often what you think because the old model wasn’t working.

One of the skill sets you need is a specific mindset that sees adversity as a good thing, that pain and necessity are critical motivators to open your mind and body to change. I’m not talking about becoming a masochist, or an Opus Dei monk who scourges his back to atone for some failing. However, pain is a catalyst for change. You see this even in boot camps for the Army and Marines. It is a mentally and physically painful place, with the specific intention to break down a recruit and then build him back up into a killer who will charge the enemy under the most extreme conditions. People can live in denial for a long time at some low level of suffering, but when a breaking point is reached, they are at their most receptive point for adopting new thinking and new practices. Knowing this about yourself gives you a competitive advantage particularly if you are prepared with this mind set when the next disaster comes your way.

You can also induce a level of pain now to facilitate growth. One of the PUA tips is to practice approaching a certain number of girls every day just to engage in small talk and reduce your anxiety about interacting with the opposite sex. I have read of this same kind of approach in training children to overcome a fear of dogs because of some previous bad encounter. The therapists show the children pictures of dogs interacting with happy kids, then after awhile they show movies of the same, then they keep them in a room separated by a two-way mirror to see a group of kids playing with dogs in the next room. The trick is to gradually introduce a mindset that kids and dogs love each other. In all of these cases, frequency encountering discomfort is key to removing fear and developing confidence and competency. I’m no martial artist, but I believe the same is also done in martial arts training in that expecting and handling painful kicks and throws are conditioned in.

My core approach to change and growth is summed up in two words: systematic and incremental. I have a daily weekly system for change. I don’t focus on goals, I focus on doing the system. I don’t make huge changes, I make many small incremental changes that lead to huge changes. It’s very easy to add two ten pound plates to the bench press, but not so easy to add two twenty-five pound plates. Whatever change I’m working on is always done in small increments. This has two great benefits. Goals are elusive. You can say, “I will lose 30 pounds in three months”, and when you reach the end of month one and have only lost five pounds you are likely to give up. Goals are in the future. Systems, what you do today and every day to get to the goal or target are in the here and now. You need a target or goal but focus on doing the system every day. Doing that makes it a habit, that then becomes a lifestyle. Mentally, emotionally and operationally this is a much more sustainable approach to change.

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