Do We Have Free Will? The Answer is Complicated…

Yes and no.

We have free will in the day-to-day activities we engage in. I can pick the color of shirt I want to wear, which restaurant I want to dine at, and whether I want to date Susie, Sally, Sarah, or Sylvia. All at my own autonomous discretion.

However, do we always know what we want? And can we really change whatever we want about our lives?

The problem people run into is when we can’t make decisions for ourselves due to some kind of limiting obstacle. The obstacle could be in the external world, but more likely it’s within our own psyche. These are often called success barriers

Human beings are addicted to emotions. We essentially become slaves to our identities, constantly reinforcing beliefs about ourselves unconsciously. This “echo-chamber” of the mind can be extremely helpful, or extremely damaging, depending on what’s being reinforced.

For instance, if you have low self-esteem, it feels almost impossible to accomplish goals a person with high-self esteem would. Why? It’s because this person’s ego is addicted to believing a story about themselves that says “I’m not good enough to earn this because I’m [insert rationalization]…”

This neurotic, obsessive habit, when left unchecked, can plague someone’s life for years. Do the still have the free will to change it? Yes. However, it’s like digging yourself deeper in a hole. You don’t need more shovels, you need a fucking rope. But the person who has this problem (unconsciously) wants to keep digging deeper. So, in a sense, they really don’t have complete free will. They’d ignore the rope if they saw one.

There is a way to reclaim more of your free will, but it requires a combination of acceptance and applied knowledge. There is a quote that says…

“Without awareness, there is no choice.”

I don’t know where I heard this quote, but it’s ridiculously true when it comes to free will. We have to detach from what we know, and listen to what we don’t know. This is why meditation is becoming increasingly popular in Western culture. Being less reactive is a valuable skill in today’s distracted, reactive society.

Why? Because we’re stupider than we think. If we were super intelligent, we’d accomplish our goals in an extremely straightforward manner. But most people spend a lifetime trying to figure out how to play “life”. They’re too caught up dabbling around in the sidelines, reading a tutorial book on how to play hockey when they’re actually at a football game. It just doesn’t work.

Granted, there ARE people who seem to float effortlessly through life, with seemingly infinite free will, actualizing whatever goals they conjure. These people, however, are small minority, because most humans have very real problems.

“You don’t attract what you want, you attract what you are.”

This basically explains the Law of Attraction. Like attracts like. You can only hold what your cup can handle.

This may seem a little harsh, but it’s true. If you really want to change things, but just can’t seem to do so, have an honest assessment with yourself about what might be blocking your success. Is it your own thoughts?

You always have the free will to make changes in a positive direction. Just start now, ground yourself with as many positive influences as you can. The more pillars you have at the base of your building, the less likely the structure will collapse.

Stack the odds in your own favor.

What do you think? Leave your comments below! If this article is insightful to you, consider subscribing to the Be Here Now email list. You will receive an occasional dose of philosophy and psychology, straight to your mailbox! 

How to Get Out of Your Own Way: A Practical Guide

In today’s distraction fueled rat race, it’s so easy to get caught up with the wrong things. So much so, that we lose years of our lives to a zombified state of despair. A state where we can show up to the office and come home, but not really feel like we’re in the right place.

I’m writing this guide in hopes that it will help someone 1) get out of this state quickly & 2) Do what they’re meant to be doing all along and enjoy it. It’s only three steps, like the Lynyrd Skynyrd song.

Without further ado, here is my step by step prescription to cure this increasingly common disease:

  1. Cut out the technology by at least 80%. Wisdom comes from slowing down and listening, not speeding up. I say this a lot, but I’d argue the way we use technology is the MAIN CAUSE of being stuck in a state of “I’m unhappy and I don’t know what to do!”. Why? Because it slices up your attention span every time you click on a link, look at photos, watch videos, etc. This is dopamine seeking behavior. Your body WANTS a purpose, it wants rewards. But instead of putting in hard work to find reward, you’re chasing it through the superficial realm via technology. This isn’t good, and I’d argue it’s the number one cause of feeling “stuck” and hopeless. It weakens your ability to focus. Cut this shit out ASAP. You don’t need it. Imagine it’s 1968. Literally go back in time and simplify your life. It will give you a massive edge over most people.
  2. Actually put in the work and mean it. Once again, it’s not rocket science but so many people have lost touch with this concept: Hard work is rewarding, regardless of what you work on. It is absolutely impossible to feel pleasure without discipline. Work, dammit! It’s actually very, very fulfilling.  If you’re still not convinced, remember a time when you worked really hard on something and it was a success. Remember how amazingly good you felt after it was done? Imagine if you worked that hard every day, how much more respect you would have for yourself and your craft. Imagine how different your life would look if you instilled this work habit. (“What should I work on?” – Anything! Only you know…and don’t bullshit…what that is. I can’t answer it, but I guarantee you know, deep down inside.)
  3. Stay healthy and guard your health with your life! Self explanatory, but true. Eat your vegetables and get outside as frequently as possible. You want to be attuned to the “greater picture” of life. Living a sedentary lifestyle and eating junk will make change significantly harder. Feed your brain quality, and it will function well.

That’s it. Best of luck!

Why it’s Good to Have an Ego

Everybody hates on the word “Ego”. They instantly think of a smug asshole who thinks they’re better than you.

However (while those people are unfortunate to deal with), having an ego simply means “sense of self”. It’s your identity. It’s how you make sense of yourself and the world. It’s your relationship with others in a society.

Unless you go meditate on your own in caves your whole life, you’re going to need an ego to integrate with others in this world.

I hear so much of “slay the ego” in spiritual communities. People want to dissolve their sense of self and be “one with the universe”.

But frankly, that’s an extremely impractical (and dangerous) philosophy to practice in your life. Because you’re never going to completely get rid of your ego so long as you are a functioning member in society.

I’m making the argument that it’s a GOOD THING to have an ego.

Humans are tribal beings. We seek a place in society and it’s necessary to have an identity for this purpose. Our DNA is wired to be in groups.

Trying to destroy your sense of self can make it extremely difficult function in society. I see this phenomenon happen a lot with heavy psychedelic users. They think it’s helping them, but it makes it harder and harder for them to integrate back into society the more they trip.

However, there is a counter side to this argument, and I know many people (including myself) who have greatly benefited from the ego-destroying effects of psychedelics. Many people say being less attached to their ego makes life a lot less serious and less heavy…and I completely agree. Psychedelics can rewire the brain in beautiful ways and they can help people awaken and discover a greater spiritual appreciation of life.

I just want to reemphasize: You shouldn’t be ashamed of having an ego. It’s not going away, and fighting it is just playing a silly mental game with yourself.

Having a healthy ego can help you in business, relationships, jobs, hobbies, etc. Having an IDENTITY is one of the strongest motivational factors to human beings. We are motivated by how we are valued in society. This is not a bad thing.

When I say “having an ego” I do not mean possessing or becoming attached to your image. When this happens, a person becomes insecure and feels they need to brag about themselves or shove it in others faces why they’re better than you. This is an unhealthy ego — and I want to make a fine distinction here that this is not to be encouraged as it will lead to problems in life just as someone who is addicted to “dissolving” their ego may experience.

What do you think? Leave your comments below!

 

“Self – Improvement” is a Myth

Self-improvement is a very socially conditioned ideology in Western society that we like to think will make us happy — but it really doesn’t. You can’t improve who you fundamentally are. You can only accept yourself and all of your internal beauty and move forward with that knowing in life. Chasing external things (relationships, validation, love, the “need to improve”) will not bring you true fulfillment. Because it really does come from within.

Try to not judge yourself so hard. Realize that you are a fundamentally whole being as you are and there is absolutely nothing that needs to be improved about “you”. Let that knowing shine through and life will do what it’s supposed to.

You can develop skills through discipline, and get better at things. But you can’t improve “you” at the core level, so just give up on trying.

When you do come to understand this (and you will know when the time comes) you won’t feel the need to improve who you are. You will do the things you want to do in life and it won’t feel so heavy and forced.

Remember, you’re a whole being as you are. All you need to do is realize this — and go on with your life!

 

Don’t “Hustle”. Just Work Smarter.

Want to start your own business? Want to get better at something? Want to make more money?

A lot of people feel like they have to strain themselves to achieve what they want. They get dangerously caffeinated (or drugged), work on little sleep, and don’t take breaks. They become execution robots. They equate “stress” with “productivity”.

I was one of those people. What happened?

I burned out. I physically couldn’t take the stress. My body and mind shut me down and pulled the plug. I had to quit my job, see a doctor, and fucking relax and re-center my mind.

What I failed to realize, was while hustling gives you an adrenaline rush of “winning” in life, it isn’t a sustainable lifestyle long-term. It actually is more likely to impact your health in a negative way. We’re not meant to live like that.

So, what’s the alternative? How can I achieve what I want and not kill myself in the process?

  1. Realize that change is a long-term process. You can’t always control it, so admit you can’t control everything and you just need to let life happen.
  2. Work with what’s right in front of you. What stuff needs to get done right now? Don’t get overly caught up in grandiose schemes of being famously rich, moving to the coasts, and romance–that will only lead to delusion. Be grateful for any unfair advantages you may have going for you right now, where you are.
  3. Enjoy day-to-day life. A warm shower before bed. Practicing a musical instrument. Watching a good movie. Taking a walk outside. Laughing with old friends. You have to be able to love the simple, subtle activities of day-to-day life…and here’s the important part…WHILE you work hard on your projects.
  4. K.I.S.S. – Keep it Simple Stupid. Too many rules and restrictions you put on yourself are bound to be broken. Stick to your core values and just get those right every day.
  5. Show up every day. This is the secret to working smarter. The daily grind really adds up to your benefit. Treat your passion like a job and show up every single day regardless of how you feel. We all work jobs we hate but we don’t even dare not showing up to work. Why? Because we’d get fired and not be able to feed ourselves. So if you want to turn what you love into a career then treat it like a professional would and show up like you mean business.
  6. BALANCE. This is a 24/7, 365 days a year commitment…This means eating whole foods. This means keeping your physical body healthy by exercising. This means getting 8 hours of sleep every night. This means having quality relationships with friends and family. If any of these are out of whack, you’ll struggle to enjoy your full potential in life.
  7. Eliminate distractions and block time to work deeply: We have a finite amount of willpower. Distraction taxes it heavily. If you want to work smart, you have to work deeply. That means being as free from distraction as possible. I recommend reading Deep Work by Cal Newport, which discusses the importance and value of working deeply in a constantly distracted world.

So there ya have it. Hope this helps some people. Hustling can seem appealing, and might be worth a try. However, in my experience it only inspired me to be true to myself, cultivate a rich daily routine, and  value a balanced lifestyle over short-term material gain.

Are You Headed in the Right Direction? A Quick Way to Find Out

The best way to determine if you’re heading in the right direction is to gauge how comfortable you are in life.

If you’re cozy, you’re probably not growing or fulfilling your higher potential in life.

I use the word “uncomfortable” deliberately.

Uncomfortable in this context does not mean self-hate, nor does it imply being in a life-threatening situation.

It simply means this:

Are you ACCEPTING challenges, or are you AVOIDING challenges?

Facing adversity is a non-logical paradox. It is a paradox because it is uncomfortable, and us humans will go to great lengths to avoid discomfort. As a result, we basically stay stagnate and live unfulfilling lives.

Unfortunately, nobody ever told you that comfort and discomfort are the same thing. They are both energy. They are both polarities that have the capacity to cause great change in your life if you allow this contradiction to exist and roll with it anyways.

Steven Pressfield calls this feeling “resistance” in his book The War of Art. Resistance is that voice in your head that talks you down, fears judgement, and wants instant gratification. All of which prevent you from THRIVING and CREATING BEAUTIFUL CHANGE in your life and the lives of those around you.

Takeaway:

Read The War of Art. If you’re cozy, start challenging yourself to work hard and face your fears. You WILL adapt, and you will be amazed and intrigued by your capacity to manifest great change in life and how far you’ve come.

P.S. You can’t “think” or “logic” your way into facing your fears. I’m asking you to leap. I’m asking you to absolutely believe in yourself and trust the universe no matter what, before you have proof of anything, that everything will be okay, that everything is happening exactly as it should.

Fear is made of mist and disappears the moment you walk through it.

“Mental Masturbation” is Stopping You from Achieving Greatness

Inspirational content is becoming a drug for many people. It’s over-saturating the digital market and there is absolutely no scarcity of “good” advice out there. It’s at our fingertips and we can dabble in it 24/7 — living a fantasy of how marvelous our lives could be.

Frankly, I would argue self-help has become superficial entertainment for many. It’s no longer “motivating” people to actually do anything progressive. Rather — it’s become yet another form of escapism just like drugs, alcohol, social media, and television are.

It’s a cheap high. A quick way to masturbate your mind for a dopamine spike and artificial epiphany release. “Wow, what a magnificent concept! I feel like a successful, actualized genius” is the feeling people are addicted to.

Even worse, self-help dabbling is deceivingly “healthy”  because it’s pseudo-intellectual. 

I’m here to shatter that paradigm and declare self-help is a total waste of time and mental energy if we don’t practically integrate such advice into our lives.

We can learn all concepts and theories we want, but if we don’t do anything with the information, it’s totally useless. Desensitizing our brains to content intended for pragmatic use is digging deeper into fantasy and further from reality.

What happens by over-fantasizing, is we tend to place too much emphasis on external happiness and need, and can’t find happiness within ourselves. 

Self-help works when an individual is at the cause of their actions, not the effect of their environment. Next article I will explain Cause vs. Effect and how to tell which side you may be operating in.