Tracking without judging

What has worked better is tracking behavior without particularly striving to change it. Rather than drawing a “good enough” line and striving to meet it, you commit only to tracking the relevant numbers -– dollars spent, calories consumed, miles walked, pages read. What you discover is that simply knowing this data changes what you want to do, so that you’re not constantly fighting with yourself. You don’t need to depend on winning endless should/shouldn’t battles in order to change.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2020/08/the-myth-of-grit-and-determination/

I believe this is true with one important caveat: The value you are tracking must be close to the actions. Allow me to explain…

If you track your weight, this will have little effect: When I pick up a cupcake, the scale is nowhere near—if I could think, “don’t eat the cupcake because weight loss,” then I wouldn’t be tracking my weight trying to affect my weight loss. But, “if I read for a few minutes now I can then mark off—right now—that I did some reading today. So, tracking, “ate more veggies,” works… or, “did something active,”…

Anyway, that’s been my experience. ymmv :)

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Intention

Here’s my uneducated hypothesis: the childhood politics of trying can leave adults with the habit of sometimes engaging in tasks without a real intention to complete them.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2020/07/dont-try-intend/

My attention has been drawn to “intention.” I’ve now read and heard, from several sources I consider fonts of great information, that intention is the key to having your efforts yield what you actually want. I’ve started trying to figure out what actually is my intention in conversations, blog posts (meta!) emails, coaching, etc.. I’m definitely onboard the intention bandwagon.

There’s a fine hair to split—in my opinion—regarding what exactly does setting, (and then remembering and staying true to,) one’s intention accomplish? Let that sink in for a second. When we talk about intention, we’re talking about something I decide in my mind before I take action. What exactly is that historical decision supposed to do? I don’t think it creates motivation, nor does it sustain motivation I get from somewhere else.

I think it is simply a compass. Once I’m neck-deep in the swamp of doing the thing and the alligators are sliding from the banks into the glassy water… it gets hard to remember why I was draining the swamp. (Feel free to craft your own metaphor if you don’t like my alligator-laden negativi-tea.) A glance at my compass— A glance at my intention instantly reminds me: Alligators be damned, I was intending to … and by George I shall so endeavor!

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Fine tuned indeed

It seems almost paranormal, but I think it’s just more of nature’s evolutionary fine-tuning. Being such social mammals, it would make sense for us to have an uncanny sensitivity for detecting, another person’s sentiments toward us, even when they’re not advertising them.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2020/05/how-to-get-rich-in-the-kindness-economy/

In recent years I’ve elevated my perception of the subtleties of interpersonal communication—everything beyond the spoken word—from one of those, “I don’t know how I do that,” skills to be something I explicitly practice and notice in others. This is one of the things which makes great actors and actresses: Their ability to produce all the subtleties makes them feel very real to the majority of people who do not detect subtleties consciously. (They of course feel very real to me too. I’m saying I now better understand why and what cues are causing me to feel that way.) This is a super-power. Once you are reasonably competent at detecting what is affecting you, you can then use that information intentionally.

There’s been an enormous amount of discussion recently about facial expression, masks, posture, and intention. In effect, a huge number of people are getting a crash master-course in using and detecting all this subtlety.

I think that bodes well for all of us.

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Nameless joys

That particular experience—abundant warmth and dryness with dampness at the fringes, and a well-earned touch of fatigue—is exactly the same feeling I had as a kid every time I came in from playing in the snow. It still summons images of snowball fights, toboggan rides, and the ribbon of exposed grass you make when you roll up a snowman-ball.

~ David Cain from https://www.raptitude.com/2019/10/a-million-nameless-joys-await/

Anybody else feel like looking back at all the ones I can think of seems almost inappropriately decadent? The more I thought about it, the more I came up with, until I started to think, “maybe I should become monastic for at least a short while, since I seem to have been gorging myself on joy.”

haha no

More seriously, his idea of the intersection—a Venn diagram as he put it—of place, time, and culture leading to unique moments of joy, is a succinct description of what I love about traveling; I’m not trying to escape from “here,” but rather I’m trying to see what’s outside my normally tiny Venn diagram.

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I am the crowd

This moment of forgetting always begins with a thought that you’re somehow different, morally speaking, than the rest of the crowd. That guy didn’t signal when he changed lanes. I always signal. That car could’ve made the light—I would’ve been quicker. I am always very efficient with overhead bin space.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2017/12/the-crowd/

It’s been a long time since I‘ve gotten upset about crowds (of any sort.) But there was a time when stuck in traffic, or held up by a crowd, etc. really pushed my buttons.

Now I just feel sympathy for everyone who is in the crowd, (as I am as well,) but who doesn’t yet realize it.

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Renunciation

Renunciation is one of ten trainable qualities known traditionally as the paramis (the others being generosity, resolve, patience, morality, effort, insight, loving-kindness, equanimity and truthfulness).

~ David Cain, from https://www.raptitude.com/2017/11/opting-out/

This feels—perhaps—like a more nuanced version of my, “just say no to everything,” theme for 2019. That may should harsh, but it’s not. I say, “yes,” to many many things. When I try to say, “no,” to everything, I end up saying, “yes,” to only one-many things.

I’m not a Buddhist by any stretch of the imagination. So I’m not about to take up the paramis as an explicit practice. But the idea of actively renouncing things gives me a positive practice; something I can actively do, rather than something I have to avoid doing.

If you have an elephant problem, “don’t think of a pink elephant,” isn’t going to help. “Just say no,”—despite it’s possible utility as a drug use prevention program—isn’t working very well for my problem. So instead, “think of flowers,” works better for the elephant problem.

So maybe, today I can practice keeping space.

Also…

The solution is simple and difficult.

We can turn it off.

If it’s not getting you what you need or want, turn it off for a few hours.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2017/10/the-engine-of-our-discontent/

Hear! Hear! …and, once more, louder for those in the back!

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That’s easy, but it doesn’t count

In other words, the only way for a person to experience that particular place and time was to experience that particular place and time, and I although I was in the right place, I spent much of that time goofing with my phone.

~ David Cain, from https://www.raptitude.com/2019/09/nothing-can-be-saved-for-later/

I have become a master of not goofing around with my phone. I have become a master of experiencing certain moments; leaning into the present one might say. Engage with random dogs. Wander that interesting side street. Stop and actually smell that flower. Take off my shoes and play barefoot in this tree. Pause and enjoy the sunshine and blue sky during this nice walk.

But that’s trivial. And it doesn’t make my life terrific. I’m still profoundly unhappy and stressed out.

Know what’s hard? Leaning into, and enjoying, the experiences which are stereotypically the things I dis-prefer. (I’d prefer them to be otherwise, but in fact I have no control over.) That chunk of boring software I have to write. Staying up until 1am, (I’m normally asleep at 9:30,) to babysit a computer system that has to be rebooted in off-hours. Dealing with burnt-out headlamps on the car… when it’s raining, and I had an appointment to get my Mac fixed. Pouring my life into a project and watching no one support it. And so on. Lots and lots of moments that suck the joy of life right out of me.

Yeup, lots more moments I need to lean into.

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Slower than a bee

This vignette, seen in a certain way—as though it is happening, but not happening to me—can be just what it is, without any entanglement with my own interests. None of my reflexive moral judgments are present. The angle of the sun doesn’t remind me of everything I still have to get done today. Seeing twenty-year-old students doesn’t make me wish I was younger. Because I’m not here. It’s just life unfolding, and on its own it’s beautiful.

~ David Cain, from https://www.raptitude.com/2019/08/how-to-see-things-as-they-are/

If you sit still, you can do what he’s describing anywhere. (You’ll have to go at least skim the article.) But if you sit still and do the visualization in nature, you will be immediately rewarded.

The world moves at its own pace. Somehow, it’s neither always faster nor slower than my normal pace. It’s a fundamentally different kind of pace that encompasses all the range of speeds. Regardless of speed, it’s unhurried. Meanwhile, it turns out that I’m completely capable of hurrying at various speeds. But sitting still and noticing the pace of the world always provides me with striking perspective.

There are so many varied speeds; Bees and birds, wind and trees, sun and moon, and there are slower speeds of course, but I can’t see those. If I pay extreme attention, in just the right situation, I can see a shadow cast by the sun moving. But that’s as slow as I can see—something that moves on the scale of one day.

Have you ever stopped to consider the speed of a bee? Do bees even notice we are moving? Are we just these large-ish pieces of their environment which are always in different places when they return “tomorrow” (aka, a minute later in our timeframe)? It seems obvious to me that the bees are going too fast and are missing EVERYTHING. (Well, sure, pollination and bee-production they’ve got.) But from my enlightened, lofty perch of slower-than-the-bee, I can see so much more.

Which makes me wonder: From my lowly perch of faster-than-a-lot-of-other-things, what am I missing?

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Antler-locked

Today, it’s alarmingly easy to find yourself antler-locked with some remote, faceless person who’s trying to tell you that universal healthcare is a communist plot, while you’re waiting for your potato to finish microwaving. This facelessness turns up our impulse to argue even more. You may have noticed it’s a lot less pleasant to argue with someone when you can see their eyes.

~ David Cain from http://www.raptitude.com/2016/02/the-art-of-letting-others-be-right/

I find it, in fact, so unpleasant to argue with people that I’ve effectively given up the effort entirely.

The first phase comes of self-reflection once you think you might—at least some of the time—be wrong. The second phase comes when you realize that your sometimes-wrongness might apply to the interactions with other human beings. Phase three is when you wonder why it is important to change the other’s mind. Phase four is when you stop judging people at all.

This has the side effect that you also give up trying to get people to stop arguing at you. If I don’t argue, then the other person assumes their idea has carried the argument, when in reality I’m focused on how delightful my iced tea is, or the weather.

I’m reminded of the ages of roots, fire, water and air that I mentioned a few days back; Once you start flirting with the age of air, the only person left to argue with is oneself.

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