What’s Your Problem? And Why?

rain

A recurring theme in Raptitude is that why is a more useful question than what. Why is the mother of all whats, and tells a much more meaningful story.

A 600-foot triangular stack of stones sitting in the Egyptian desert for five thousand years is notable, but it’s the mystery of why someone was compelled to build such a thing that makes it so intriguing. If we only look at events and things, and judge them as if they were isolated entities, we can’t possibly understand them. Everything is both a cause and an effect, so there is no way of knowing what something is if you never look at why it is.

So if that isolated entity is something in your life that you want to change, such as a personal weakness or a lingering dilemma, your efforts to solve it may seem to be in vain. Your plan, at a glance, makes sense, but the problem keeps coming back. Try as you might, ten years later you still haven’t lost the weight, found a better career, or learned to play piano.

Contemporary self-improvement material seems to be concerned simply with what you should do:

To be more productive, start doing this.

To lose weight, eat this and don’t eat that.

An isolated tweak to one troublesome part of a person’s behavior can’t possibly address why they do it. There is a whole lifetime of momentum behind a person’s habits. To change the trajectory of something with as much inertia as an adult human life, we really have to understand the forces that put it into motion in the first place. 

You Have to Figure Out the Why to Get the What Right

For so long I was concerned solely with the what of my life. My attention was consumed by what was happening to me at the time, what decisions I’d made in the past, what I expected in the future. For quite a while, I didn’t like myself or my situation, and that appeared to be the extent of the problem. I’m in X situation, and I don’t like X situation.  I look in the mirror and see Y, and I don’t like Y.

So I focused on what to do about that. If I didn’t like that I was out of shape, I would vow to start exercising that day. If I didn’t like that I was failing in school, I’d plan to wake up at five and hit the books. Sounds logical.

But it never took. I couldn’t make habits of these things. So I concluded that I was just defective in some way, and it would always make things hard for me. Success would come only with greater amounts of effort and will. Hopefully one day I’d have it in me.

foreheadslapThis is a flawed approach. I’m beginning to make headway in my weaker areas, and I think it’s because I figured out that almost all of my problems are just tendrils of the same problem. There is one all-consuming compulsion that undermines just about anything I do to be more effective than I’ve been in the past.

When I finally unraveled the cause, the solutions started to emerge. I haven’t solved this problem, but finally I know what it is and where it came from. In fact, it seems like everyone I know well is struggling with a host of problems stemming from just one major weakness. Some people just can’t make a decision. Others can’t keep their temper in check. Other people just can’t bring themselves to trust someone. One big problem gives birth to any number of little ones.

Mein Kampf, and Yours

This week marks six months writing for Raptitude. I launched it on this year’s Ides of March, and it has changed my life so much that I can’t believe it’s only been six months.

I didn’t realize it, but writing is something I’ve needed in my life for a long time. From here on in I will never not write. It helps me clarify my thoughts and my values. It helps me figure out who I am. In a brief half-year, my goals have become clear to me, and I have no ambivalence about what I want to do with my life.

So now that I (finally!) know what I want, I’m left to confront this major personal weakness in order to make it happen. I’ve always felt like there was something in the way: a dark, malignant wall between me and my potential.

For many years I was too bogged down by indecision and resentment to worry about what that wall actually was, or how to get past it, but now that I’m moving in a steady direction I find myself butting right up against it.

Sorry to be so abstract. My struggle — my brick wall — is self-sabotage.

I ruin things for myself whenever I start to excel beyond a certain point. Like clockwork.

For a long time it seemed to be reasonless, just an inexplicable curse on my life. There is no apparent logical reason to sabotage oneself. But over the years, patterns started to emerge in my life and the why of it all became obvious to me.

Life story time, but I’ll keep it as brief as possible.

As a kid I was an academic and athletic all-star. I excelled at everything without much difficulty.

I figure the beginning of my slide happened at a specific moment in Grade Two. Earlier in the week, the teacher had given me some advanced material to work on, because I already knew how to add and subtract. She was so impressed with my reading and math skills, and showered me with praise. I liked praise.

One day she had left the room when three or four of the rowdier kids started goofing off with some blocks, stacking them on their heads letting them fall off. The whole class was laughing, it was actually pretty funny. One of the blocks landed near me and I handed it to the head rowdy kid so he could do it again. That would prove to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

When the teacher returned, she made a stern face and wagged her finger at the kids who were acting out, giving them the same lecture they got just about every day. Just as she was finishing, a little girl said, “David was doing it too.”

She turned to me, staring daggers. In front of the whole class, she tore into me like I’d killed someone.

“And I gave you all this extra credit! I guess that was a mistake.” She went on and on. I don’t really remember exactly what else she said, but I got the message.

That was the first instance where I recognized the double standard I was subject to, and the resentment began to build.

At report card time, my friends were praised and rewarded for bringing home passing grades. The adults in my life thought there was something terribly wrong if I ever got “average” grades. I understand their concerns now, and they weren’t mean or pushy about it, but from my angle it was certainly unfair.

Naturally, I developed the habit of sabotaging myself whenever I started to do too well at anything. I just wanted to be normal, without the burden of high expectations. By junior high I started dumbing down the way I spoke, avoiding big words. I quit track and field and basketball. I gave myself permission to not do a stellar job on my assignments, and life quickly became easier on many levels.

I had successfully lowered the bar.

A Weakness Emerges

The blocks incident, and the subsequent years in school left me with two crippling fears: looking bad in front of others, and setting high expectations. In other words, I became terrified of both failure and success. Mediocrity was the only safe place.

By adulthood I had grown an immense internal resistance towards achievement and productivity, and to this day I feel an overwhelming urge to back the hell off whenever I start to outdo myself. Whenever I accomplish something, I immediately stop working and indulge in something. I take time off. I will to do anything but push myself further.

The problem is, I’ve reached a point in life now where I want to do nothing more than achieve as much as I can, but I’ve spent the last twenty years (subconsciously) learning how to make sure I don’t do that. I’m still highly addicted to letting things slide, and it makes my day-to-day tasks very difficult to get through.

Right now I’m excited about so many awesome projects, and it is all quite manageable for me in terms of time available and my skill level, but so much of it is floundering, because part of me really doesn’t want it to happen. After six months of blogging I still do not have a single article in reserve. Last week I was a whole seven days ahead, which (I guess) felt uncomfortably productive for me, and now I find myself finishing this article two hours before it’s to be posted. It seems to happen without my knowing, because it’s such a well-worn pattern.

I seem to almost be moving backwards with my exercise these days. I just worked out for the first time in four days, because before that I was starting to get on a roll. Once I get some momentum going, I almost dare myself to skip the workout.

I became intensely uncomfortable with the progress I was making, because it meant I had to expect that much more from myself in the future. So the pressure to back off surged to unbearable levels, and I caved like I so often do.

So there’s my problem. I sabotage myself compulsively.

But there’s hope now, because I know where it came from. I know what my fears really are. It’s still a wall, but it’s not dark and mysterious. It’s not a curse, and there is a perfectly good reason for it to be there.

Look Back to Move Forward

Knowing that there is a specific, meaningful history to my particular dilemma really puts it in perspective. I’m not a loser, I’m not defective. I will not always suck at what I suck at right now.

There were some powerful overriding forces shaping my behavior for a long time, and now the rest of my life has become a spinoff of that. My specific story determined the biggest defining qualities in my life today: what I think of myself, what I expect of myself, what others expect of me, what I desire and what I fear. Talk about big potatoes.

A specific story defines all those things for you too. Something from your past. Bad habits and personal weaknesses all have a story. You don’t have to be a genius to figure it out either.

  • What in life has been profoundly difficult for you?
  • When did that start happening?
  • What was happening at that time in your life?

In any given moment, we’re strongly predisposed towards certain well-lubricated behavioral grooves. Once a major pattern develops in a person’s life, the rest of their behavior tends to form around it. For me, that habit — backing off as soon as I have something to lose — has become the path of least resistance.

So because of that, gravity draws me directly towards it. It’s the down in my universe. That stubborn pull defined my lifestyle (escapist, unambitious), my wardrobe (bland), my demeanor (quiet), my career choices (stable and boring), and who knows what else.

What’s the down in your universe? What would you end up doing if you let your impulses reign, if you exercised no restraint or willpower? That’s your path of least resistance. Figure out its story.

Once you discover the story, you might find that your major struggle in life is no longer a slugging match between your willpower and your impulses anymore. Rather than a battle, it’s a tangle. With a careful hand, you can trace its strands, get under the tightest knots, and eventually tease them apart.

If you find you are stifled by the same personal weakness over and over in life, don’t think of it as a part of you, it’s just the current chapter. Maybe it was there in other chapters too, but it’s an integral part of the story. If you can’t make sense of it, flip back to the earlier pages and see if you can see the events behind your current conundrum.

If you look at your life with a broader perspective like this, the arc of the whole story starts to emerge, and the big conflict seems to have a good reason for existing. It sets up the next chapter nicely.

R

Photos by Cia de Foto and Striatic



Jay Schryer September 17, 2009 at 7:46 am

Wow, David. This is great. For me, personally, this is awesome, because I could have easily written this about myself. I self-sabotage, too, and for almost exactly the same reasons that you’ve given for yourself.

Somewhere along the way, I figured out that falling from greater heights hurt worse than falling from mediocre ones, and so I stopped desiring to climb any higher than necessary, metaphorically speaking.

Reading this post has done more good for me than a year’s worth of therapy, so thank you for that. Now, I just have to figure out how to put it into use on a practical level. You’ve given me the “knowing”, now I have to move to the “doing”.

Thanks again.
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..The Power of A Smile =-.

David September 17, 2009 at 8:10 am

Somewhere along the way, I figured out that falling from greater heights hurt worse than falling from mediocre ones, and so I stopped desiring to climb any higher than necessary, metaphorically speaking.

That’s really what keeps it going for me. I get nervous when I have something to lose.

I’m glad you could identify with this Jay, I hope it’s helpful.

Mo September 17, 2009 at 7:50 am

Great post–gives me a lot to think about. I can really relate to what you’re saying! Bravo for identifying your ‘down’ & using it to learn.

I recently came across your site & am loving the articles! Thanks for writing.

David September 17, 2009 at 8:11 am

Thanks Mo, and welcome to Raptitude.

Tina September 17, 2009 at 10:14 am

David, you have a knack for writing what I need to read that day:) Thanks for sharing your story. It’s nice to know that someone else has attacked their wall and is surviving. I haven’t done anything about my wall, because, although I may not always be the happiest I know what to expect. I may have to start taking my wall down…It can’t kill me, and it will probably be better:)

David September 17, 2009 at 11:55 am

Oh, good timing then. I am surviving so far, and as tough as the going gets sometimes, I still feel like I’m moving forward. Takes time though.

Find yourself with a smile... September 17, 2009 at 11:14 am

David,

I’m impressed with how much you share on your blog.

I wanted to point something out… just to put what you’ve achieved here in perspective… I don’t know if you look at Alexa rankings (Alexa.com to download the toolbar), but you currently rank at 153,934 (lower is better) after 6 months of blogging… my site, PeacefulProsperity.com ranks at 959,633 after 2 years of blogging.

Pretty impressive!

As far as technique is concerned, my preferences are a bit different. I have found that looking into the past for root causes can quickly become an infinite (or near-infinite) regress. Developing a deep level of acceptance (mental relaxation, or inner peace), on the other hand, has allowed me to deal with my own shortcomings much easier as they arise… even if I don’t know their origin.

This is just my experience, though… individual results may vary… :-)

keep smiling,

Ben
.-= Find yourself with a smile…´s last blog ..Finally… Warrior-Mystic.com is Live! =-.

David September 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm

For a long while I was convinced that developing my skills of acceptance and consciousness were all I needed to do, and after that the practical things would fall into place.

There is no need to analyze your past endlessly, but there is much to be learned by thinking about where your present-moment resistance comes from.

I don’t think it’s necessary to choose between understanding the origin of your habits and learning to field the present moment. I do both.

Find yourself with a smile... September 17, 2009 at 12:20 pm

There are many change technologies that utilize a variety of methods of integrating ‘the past’… NLP and Hypnosis are two of my favorite.

I don’t think it is necessary to choose ‘working with past’ vs ‘accepting present’, either.

I was just sharing my preference.
.-= Find yourself with a smile…´s last blog ..Finally… Warrior-Mystic.com is Live! =-.

Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching September 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Hi David — thanks, I could definitely relate to the sense that “others’ expectations are sky-high for me.” My response to that in the past has been to constantly try to meet those expectations and continually be disappointed in myself because the bar only seemed to raise. At this point, of course, we’re talking about the expectations of imaginary people — it’s remembering to remind myself of this that’s the trick.

David September 17, 2009 at 4:08 pm

I always love your insight Chris. You are right on, there is only one set of expectations to meet. But they don’t appear out of thin air.

It’s difficult to reconcile my expectations of myself with my performance. Part of me says “Whatever you do is good enough” while another part says “You’ve been squandering your time and talent your whole life.” Both are correct, and it isn’t always obvious what to do. Looking at the origin of those expectations has helped me understand what is truly a meaningful accomplishment to me.

John September 17, 2009 at 3:10 pm

It’s funny how childhood experiences really have a great impact on who we are today. What the experts say is true.

In my younger days, I went to high school with people who didn’t give two sh**s about life. They figured life would just work out for them and it was better to indulge in sex, drugs, and popularity contests. At the time, I thought they were right. Why try and be remarkable when life will just work itself out?

I think it was Sophomore year when I starting realizing that the company I kept was bad for me and my future. Everyone has the potential to be great in life, so why settle? Why can’t I be great?

Of course, having this mindset came with a price. I was pretty much a loner in high school and not very popular. The other kids made me feel insecure, and in time this one problems caused other issues to arise (fear of public speaking, fear of failure).

Fortunately, that was then and this is now. I no longer have an innate fear of failure, and while public-speaking is still a bit of an issue, I want to take care of it (maybe by joining Toastmasters on campus).

My life is mine again. I can take control.

P.S. In just six months, you’ve garnered a huge following, and your writing kicks ass. We support you, David :)
.-= John´s last blog ..Would You Rather Have Pleasure Without Pain? =-.

David September 17, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Congrats on recapturing the reins, John. Some never do. High school was not so great for me either. My overachiever persona was dead by then, and I didn’t like what was left. My friends were great people, but they weren’t overachievers either because I wouldn’t want to be around anyone who would be one-upping me all the time. There are powerful emotional forces at work behind the scenes, at all times.

Lori September 17, 2009 at 5:49 pm

As John said, your writing is kick ass, David. (Nice comment, John!)
I loved reading all the comments here; I second the motion(s)!
I can remember your first posts; you pretty much had me at hello (ha). One of my favorite posts you linked here, and that was only after ~8 wks into blogging. I’m happy for you, David, you’ve found one of your callings.

About your message here, yowza, you really hit a chord. I totally forgot about them, but I have a similar memories. I excelled in school; but I always felt really bad for the kids who had a tough time. I can remember faking that I didn’t understand geometry in Junior High, so the girls would think I was suck up or a priss. I can remember pretending not to understand math (or like it) because kids were somehow a snob if they were good at it.

Uh oh, now I have some thinking to do. Just when I thought I had it all figured out. I enjoyed this post, David. Thanks! :)
.-= Lori´s last blog ..Clutter Capades =-.

David September 18, 2009 at 8:25 am

Writing this post really made me think about the unique social dynamics that every kid has to find a way to deal with in school, and how it carves their adult life. It is a critical time.

Sorry to make you think Lori!

Jacq July 1, 2011 at 8:36 am

David, what you describe is pretty common with gifted kids. Hold yourself back so you don’t stand out, fit in and don’t get teased… Have a read through Carol Dweck’s book: Mindset.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) September 17, 2009 at 6:39 pm

thx for the insightful post David.

I like that you promote the questioning of Why, so often we are discouraged from doing so~ it can be seen as childlike, self-pitying or complicating…and the struggle continues…

My down is accepting that others may wish to interpret what I say and do in the way that they do.

David September 18, 2009 at 8:30 am

Hi Char. You’re right, there is a lot of resistance to the question “why.” I guess looking at the reasons behind things can be uncomfortable sometimes.

Lori September 17, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Sorry – I made a critical type-o! (grrr…)
I meant:
I can remember faking that I didn’t understand geometry in Junior High, so the girls wouldn’t think I was suck up or a priss.

Your post got me all flustered…
(lol)
.-= Lori´s last blog ..Clutter Capades =-.

David September 18, 2009 at 8:30 am

No problem, I will fix it.

Anonymous September 17, 2009 at 6:57 pm

This is a very insightful post! Keep up the good work.

By the way, I’ve actually excelled at math by examining “why?”

I know it doesn’t tie in exactly but it only furthers the discussion.

David September 18, 2009 at 8:35 am

That’s an interesting thought. I happened to have a thing for math, but I found it very difficult to ask questions in school. I had identified with the role of the know-it-all, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help. When I got to high school I ran into a problem I didn’t understand, and instead of asking “why,” I just started getting bad marks and it continued all through college.
.-= David´s last blog ..What’s Your Problem? And Why? =-.

suzen September 18, 2009 at 9:14 am

Hi David!
Wonderful insight! Often the patterns of behavior we suffer the most from as adults have deep roots in childhood incidents. Having the courage to look back and ask that big why question can lead, as you wrote about, fantastic insight and therein lies the opportunity for change.

I am thrilled you have decided that you cannot NOT write. You are a very gifted writer, David! Write on!
.-= suzen´s last blog ..Boy Training – Meet A Great Blogger! =-.

David September 19, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Thanks Suzen. Write I will.

Daniel Edlen September 18, 2009 at 9:41 am

Boy you know how to do it, this blogging thing. Look at the comments! Awesome, man. And awesome post. You are really good at sharing deep and dark personal stuff, coming out the other side and then generalizing it into actionable ideas and questions. Really good.

I remember a couple moments and words from my parents when I was little that had reverberating effects in my Life. My wife and I were talking about it yesterday when she was noting I wasn’t rewriting my list of things to-do every day like the lessons suggest that you’re helping me with. She noted that I seem to hold myself back because “that’s how I am”. Long ago I’d said “I’ll take me as I am.” My mom wrote it on a post-it and kept it always as something good. It is good, but it sets boundaries based on preconceived notions. I was already perfect, already set, already ready to take on the world. In grade school. So throughout my life, if something seemed too much of a stretch, I wouldn’t do it. I HAD to see the end of things before I started, in detail. So I didn’t start a lot. I was an overachiever to the point of obsession with school especially.

My wife, and you, have helped me to start to realize that I don’t even hardly know myself in a lot of ways, that my Life is for exploring all this. So that’s one why and a way out from me.

Peace.
.-= Daniel Edlen´s last blog ..In Memory Of Michael =-.

David September 19, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Hi Daniel. I no longer trust thoughts I have that are along the lines of “That’s just who I am.” The natural tendency is to think of myself as who I’ve been which precludes a lot of things I could be. There is no reason for the future to be just like the past. Good luck with your self-exploration.

Jacq July 1, 2011 at 8:32 am

“I HAD to see the end of things before I started, in detail. So I didn’t start a lot.”

Daniel – this is a common characteristic of people with a personality profile of INTJ (Myers Briggs). It’s not a bad thing when you use it with purpose.

Erin September 18, 2009 at 3:10 pm

A great post. Sometimes we press forward with bad information. By that I mean that something happens that we take personally, and we allow it to re-shape our lives or de-value ourselves; when really someone else was having a bad day.

I have thought of the “why” as an endless loop question. You have heard little kids put a why to the end of every statement an adult says and then there is an attempt to answer and it goes on forever without resolution. But I will consider the why now thanks to your thoughts on the subject.
.-= Erin´s last blog ..This Present Moment =-.

David September 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Yes it’s alarming how someone’s bad mood many years ago can manifest itself in another person’s life for years afterward. Too bad I didn’t know not to take it personally.

Roberta September 18, 2009 at 8:58 pm

David, kudos on 6mos of writing! Thank you for your candor.

Asking the “Why?” seems to be the impetus towards getting to the root and eventually breaking the wall(s). A couple years ago I became more frustrated with certain parts of my life. Part of my Why’s led me to hypnotherapy and somatic therapy, what was interesting about that is that like you found from your own introspection it led me back to my childhood. I am continuing to ask more Whys? and finding there are more walls to break down.

David September 19, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Thanks Roberta! There’s always more introspection to do, isn’t there…

brigid September 19, 2009 at 10:03 am

I started to write a response to your post and ended up doing my own! it is way too long to put here.
My answer to whats my problem, is, I don’t have one, I only think I do. I am my own worst enemy and in the end am really pleased with the opportunities I have given myself to achieve a life of fulfillment, joy and daring.
On a night when I cannot sleep your article has helped me clear away the crap I have been storing in my head.
Thanks for your inspiration….again. And good night:)
Brigid
.-= brigid´s last blog ..What Is Your Reason? =-.

David September 19, 2009 at 3:32 pm

I’m part of the “my own worst enemy” club too. It’s a big one. See you at the next annual meeting :)

Shaun September 19, 2009 at 1:13 pm

David, it’s been a long time since I came across a blog so worth reading. I’m at a point in my life where I realize I need to do something about my lack of personal achievement.

I’m not really sure how I can move past my wall. It’s essentially a crippling fear of failure, combined with a certainty that I will fail. I start with these huge ambitions and then as soon as things get a little difficult and the spectre of failure begins to loom, I give up or procrastinate indefinitely, because I’m so afraid of proving myself right. Consequently, my life never moves forward and I get more and more comfortable in my satin-lined rut.

I can’t really pinpoint where this started exactly, but I think it has to do with the ultimate failure of a couple major endeavors in my life that I was certain would succeed, but ultimately fell apart, despite my best efforts.

I know that I have to start believing in myself more, and I need to be willing to take risks, but the ironic part is that I’m certain I will fail at this! It’s a vicious circle.

David September 19, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Hi Shaun, thanks.

I hear ya. Many people recommend failing on purpose, to develop an emotional indifference to it.

Here’s an article on how to stop being a failure-phobe: http://bit.ly/RdwLA

Char (Tutor:Mentor) September 19, 2009 at 8:13 pm

David~ is it etiquette to comment on another’s comment? I have the social skills of a tree.

Shaun~ I just wanted to ask if you are acknowledging the goals your are kicking? I just had a quick look at your site~ very clean, neat graphics, clever design. Remember, the little things are not so little, big things can’t come unless the little are there.

Today I am happy that I navigated two shops filled with people making me the centre of attention (I’m autistic so socially I stand out. Happy days) and did not feel intimidated, victimized or foolish. My chronic failure is “not picking up the ball” or throwing it out of the court~ it’s not that I’m scared so much as English is my second language. Though, it seems I’m good for a laugh :-)

David September 20, 2009 at 9:07 pm

By all means Char. I love it when people reply to other commenters. I’ve actually set up the comments that way, you can just click “Reply” beneath any comment.

Jeremy September 19, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Writing does create something special in a person’s life. I enjoy your writing. It makes me want to become better at it. Thanks.
.-= Jeremy´s last blog ..Book Review: All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindgarten =-.

David September 20, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Hey thanks Jeremy!
.-= David´s last blog ..What’s Your Problem? And Why? =-.

Mike @ Find Inspiration Today September 20, 2009 at 9:36 am

Great post again…I think alot of people struggle with overcoming what they know holds them back and even brings them down. Very inspiring and I’m looking forward to cruising through your archives!
.-= Mike @ Find Inspiration Today´s last blog ..Get Started Again – Now! =-.

David September 20, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Thanks Mike. Enjoy the archives.

Stephen - Rat Race Trap September 20, 2009 at 10:03 am

Hi David. I recognize a lot of myself in what you write. Every time I get going good on something I seem to back off too. I’ve never really analyzed it like you have though. I don’t know why, but I was a trouble maker in school and got really bad grades even though school was easy for me. My family was full of athletes and I never even went out, even though I know I had some natural ability.

You have an incredible talent for writing and I’ve always appreciated that and usually agree with the content :-). There is something about these kind of personal exploration posts that resonate with people and you’ve done a fine job with this one. Thanks.
.-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..Is It Time for a Quantum Leap? =-.

David September 20, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Hi Stephen. What’s weird is that all of this analysis came after the fact. I never really knew why I did what I did; like you say, it’s just not something I thought about at the time.

You’re right, this post really did seem to strike a chord with a lot of people. The more I write about human beings the more I realize we’re all dealing with the same forces in life, more or less.

dawn September 20, 2009 at 1:16 pm

“Why is the mother of all whats”

That is going up on the wall in my office. Great writing as always ;)

David September 20, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Hey thanks Dawn. I’m honored to be a part of your office.

Brenda September 20, 2009 at 3:30 pm

“I became terrified of both failure and success. Mediocrity was the only safe place.”

I love that line. I’m starting to think that we need to be more accepting of whatever arises in us, whether it’s success, failure, or mediocrity. Otherwise, we’re being harsh and judgmental on ourselves. The parent who pushes perfection, the teacher who ridicules, the peer who punishes all become aspects of our selves unless we figure out how to accept each with equanimity.

I’m still working on self-acceptance at my advanced age, trying diligently to be less judgmental of myself and others. I’ll have great long stretches of success in this regard, then someone or something will piss me off and I’ll realize I’ve blown it. There may be some value in learning to accept failure/blowing it as simply some ‘thing’ that happened that day, no different from hitting a curb or backing into the trash can. Just a thing.

Cool piece of writing you’ve done here, Mr. David.

David September 20, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I remember in grade school, somebody mentioned something about people who fear success. I thought, how ridiculous, that’s like being afraid of ice cream. Everybody loves success.

But it does come at a cost, and ironically it had become really taxing on me and I was already avoiding it.

I’m trying to be more forgiving of myself too. I have struggled with personal productivity and discipline, and there are some days when I totally forget to tell myself that it’s okay not to be on top of everything. Sometimes that’s all it takes: just telling yourself that you’re fine.

Vijay - Meditation Techniques Guide September 22, 2009 at 11:46 pm

Excellent post! Well said – “You Have to Figure Out the Why to Get the What Right”. It is really important to introspect within and ask ourselves why we need a certain change. If that’s absolutely clear, then the “How” and “What” are easily sorted out.
.-= Vijay – Meditation Techniques Guide´s last blog ..Related Links & Resources =-.

Daphne September 25, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this post. I am on a similar journey and I look forward to learning from you as I read more about yours. Kudos for seeking a better you!
.-= Daphne´s last blog ..Willingness to Fail =-.

Louie January 31, 2010 at 8:09 pm

The world needs more people like you. Good Luck David!

Rose Siboney LaLuz February 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm

One Thousand Thank Yous.

Kelly March 1, 2013 at 8:16 pm

My stumbling block right now is getting back into blogging. Long complicated stories – much like yours actually have stopped me from writing too. And then strange, unacceptable online interactions and stalkers scare me off, so I find it really hard to be myself online anymore. I already said it, but I’m really glad I found your blog. I relate to so much of what I’ve read so far. I wish I’d found it two years ago when you were writing this stuff, but late to the party is kind of my style.

Thanks for putting your thoughts out here for other people to read. It’s really helping me come to terms with a lot of my own past fears and insecurities. xo

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