Tag: philosophising

Back to First Principles

Back to First Principles

Winter on the coast was tough. Coming into spring I find myself re-evaluating. Today I went back to the beginning to remind myself why I continue to choose hardship.

I love my life right now. I really do. I have two jobs that make me feel I am making my little corner of the world better. I have become brave enough to explore performing in front of others. Brave enough to try the things that resonate with me. Brave enough to risk failure because the chance to succeed carries more weight.

But there are always those aspects we don’t desire. There is always the flip side. My flip side is mostly condensation. This may seem like a relatively minor thing to you. Granted, it could be much worse. But I have been living in a 2m x 4m pop-top caravan with my two little dog friends since I returned to NZ in January, 2016. There was the notable exception of when we all down-sized to a 2m x 1m crawlspace to optimise mobility but condensation remained.

A micro living space is challenging in its own ways, but when the ceiling is coated with dangling raindrops, waiting to rain down on you through the evening, night and dawn, the complications mount up. It’s not the cold as such, that bothers me. Although, it is worth noting that the mountain range that forms a background directly behind us, is not coated in snow for half the year because of our tropical climate. I have two warm (canine) bodies and a hot water bottle contributing to heating my sleep space. But constant humidity and damp bring about mould, mildew, annoying droplets disturbing sleep. Holes between the walls of my pop-top caravan mean there is a draught and temperatures akin to those outdoors. Having to collect my own solar energy and drinking water directly from rain have required management. But believe it or not, that’s part of the appeal. That is to be more connected and conscious of the processes of life.

The reason is savings. The thought that reduced expenses might lower the obstacles to owning my own real estate. The chance to be responsible for significant capital investment does not really appeal. But the ability to contribute to my own equity in lieu of padding someone else’s retirement does. The house, the obligatory job, the fixed location… I could leave those too. At least the location I have chosen suits my needs.

“I’d known for a long while now that I really wanted out of cities and out of the cycle of working for the ability to pay off someone else’s mortgage and barely being able to get ahead. I have no real estate of my own, no desire to sell my life to a high paying job and its soul-sapping demands, no money to speak of, and no prospect of inheritance or a beneficent sponsor. The chances of procuring a lovely country home on a rural block, on which I could work towards a quiet, self-sustaining lifestyle were remote to say the least. And the problem of how to financially support myself once I got there always lingered in the back of my mind.” – part of my first post in this blog.

c2a9fairfax-brassett06.jpgBut the goal has always been freedom. All else was detail. I have saved a bit by living this frugal life. It means I can splash out if I want to as well. With the goal of true freedom, I find myself revisiting books on entrepreneurship and even writing ambitious beginnings to business plans. Visions of floating away on the tide to explore the open seas swim about in my mind.

Perhaps the permaculture goals I am living for are not ambitious enough. Perhaps they would become my new prison. Or perhaps they are really just another stepping stone to economic freedom and the pathway to absolute freedom. Either way, I can be sure that this process so far, has led to my mind being more free than it has ever been. Freer to truly believe in possibility.

The World is But a Stage…

The World is But a Stage…

March 1st, 2018

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [All the world’s a stage]
William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616

I managed to secure a job! It’s only a 10-hour per week gig but it pays well and involves co-ordinating a project called “Community Champions“, encouraging people in the community to assist and speak out against domestic violence.

I have a number of applications in for jobs with a few more hours as well, from labouring and a potential building apprenticeship to disability support work and teacher support. I find landing on the ground in a new place is a great time to open myself up to new possibilities. It’s a chance to release who you have previously been and see where the new move takes you.

With that in mind, I also followed up on a thought that often occurred to me during The Longest Walk NZ. Since you are reading this blog, it’s probably no surprise to you that I am devoting a lot of energy to constructing my life as I would like it to be, as opposed to getting trapped into a default pattern. Many of these inquiries lead to changes in internal practice rather than external circumstance. The things we believe and choose are the things that determine our direction and success.

This line of thinking led me to reimagine what I thought about actors and acting as a profession. Choosing to be a professional actor, like any professional artist, is a long shot. Success is determined as much by good luck as by good management. Or at least that’s how it can seem on the surface. The reality may be different. All actors (or at least those not riding on someone else’s coat tails) face the same odds. Yet some of them convert those odds into a career. You could argue that talent plays a part in this, but I bet if you asked the successful ones, they’d say choices were far more important.

A good actor has to persevere not only in their belief that they can make it in the face of harsh and repeated rejection, but they also have to persevere in honing their craft. The former challenge is tough enough and the vast majority of people will never know such self-belief. Although that is admirable in itself, the latter task is what interests me. In order to be a good actor, one has to successfully portray a depth of character that cannot exist unless it is felt and experienced.

The actors you know from big movies are ALL good actors. Even the bad ones are only bad by comparison to a handful of elite performers. If they can’t convince an audience, they linger in the realms of pornography, bad theatre, infomercials and B movies.

The way I see it, the difference must occur at a very deep level. It must necessitate the removal, or stepping aside, of a person’s reflexive behaviours and image of self. It requires a person to strip themselves back to the basics of the human experience before layering on a whole new person. Someone with a different history, different beliefs, difference behaviours and a different perspective on life. To me, this seems like great practise for exactly the type of internal work I want to devote my energies to.

I’m not interested in fame. Not in the slightest. I had a brief taste of that last year and you can keep it, thank you very much. Money only interests me to the extent that it can invoke freedom. But the practice of confronting fears, insecurities and self-doubt as well as the actual business of re-inventing an experience of “self”… those things compel me to give it a nudge. In fact, I believe it is precisely because we see how people have accepted these challenges and excelled that drive the phenomenon of fame.

By separating others as “celebrities” from the common man/woman, we unconsciously forgive ourselves for not having risen to our own challenges. They can do it because they are “talented” or “special”. They are different or “other” when compared to us. Logically, we know it not to be true if we think about it. They are also just people after all. But if we think about it to that degree, our excuses dissolve. The difference in those who succeed (at anything) is what beliefs they choose to hold.

the road to addams
And this is how THAT happened…

So when I saw the local drama society, I enquired about it on Facebook. That led to mention of a play having auditions. The men they’d had at auditions hadn’t fitted and ‘Would I like to try out?’… ‘Oh, and by the way, it’s the role as the male lead in a musical production of The Addams Family that we need to fill’. Gulp. Oh well. Sink or swim, I guess. Caution to the wind, I decided to give it a go with the attitude that the very worst that could happen is I get experience of what an audition is like.

The audition was… well… terrifying. Standing alone on stage, I had to belt out my most convincing attempt at one of the songs in the play. Unaccompanied. Just a handful of people staring up at me in serious appraisal. Scrutinising my performance and deciding whether I had what they needed in the role: A lead role with a whole heap of lines, a couple of solo songs to sing and several more in co-operation with others. In a production that, while it is no Broadway acting company, is intended to polish up as a piece of quality theatre.

Did I mention that they want their lead to be very Spanish? Next up came a cold reading with a Spanish accent at a Spanish pace. I was in WAY over my head, but I’d already confessed as much to the production crew and they were all really supportive. And I must’ve sold it because I got the part. I will be stripping away Stephen and learning to become Gomez Addams for the next few months for a stage show in Greymouth.

After that, I decided to swing by the local pub on the way home. I came in for a celebratory/wind-down beer and left with a job. Not even sure how that happened, to be honest. But the Wild Food Festival is in town in a couple of weeks and they needed a hand. So I shall be putting my barman hat on once again. Quite a week. But the next few will likely prove to be more eventful still.

Emotional Self-Care

Emotional Self-Care

Emotions have been the single most difficult thing about my journey recently. At the risk of sounding a little to “Dear Diary”, I decided to share a few thoughts in the hopes it may serve someone else.

Coming into The Longest Walk NZ, it was the emotional ride to finally deciding to commit that was the biggest challenge. I knew it was what I wanted to do. I knew it was important to me. I knew I had faced similar crossroads… made the other choice… and regretted it. Yet still, I found it incredibly hard to take that leap into the unknown. There was no security. There was no ‘how to’ guide. I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Now that I’ve been on the road for over six months, I’ve found peace with the unknown elements and I actually enjoy the creative aspect of not having a blueprint. Not only that, but I have found security of sorts in history of supportive interactions with a vast number of people in every single place we have travelled to. The freedom I’ve found through making that commitment is unparalleled by any other experience of my life so far.

There are different emotional challenges now though. It took me a while to accept the hospitality and charity of others too. Having dealt with that, I am now often reminded of a very important lesson: to be aware of emotional vampirism.

The beast that is animal welfare draws forth strong emotions in many people. With that, comes a strange kind of attraction for emotional vampires. I refer to those who choose to dwell on drama or focus on painful loops and problems outside their sphere of influence. They thrive on ‘venting’ and constantly seek empathy for their perceived struggles. Black and white thinking tends to dominate their world view and everything seems to be hopeless or unfair. They leech others’ energy to feed their own insatiable hunger for high emotion and they flock to causes such as animal welfare.

Over the years and through my travels, I have become pretty skilled at conversing with people of varied backgrounds. It’s fair to say that I can have a reasonable conversation quite comfortably with most people I am meeting for the first time. Just because I CAN talk to most people, doesn’t mean I ENJOY talking to them all.

My psychic defences are poor. I feel other people’s emotions quite strongly and I have a very hard time not taking them on-board. The flip side of this is that I am also very aware of my own emotions and these days, I have learned to understand when they signal the need for action or change. That hasn’t always been the case and my inability to manage emotions as guiding signals has led to deep pain and suffering at times.

When these emotional vampires come into my life, I feel myself being drained and it becomes more and more difficult to maintain logic. They pull me into their pain and wear down my ability to resist. I can suffer their need for a sympathetic ear for a time but I reach a limit and have to physically remove myself from their presence in order to regroup. These encounters are dangerous for me because I often find myself close to the brink of re-joining them in their habits of unhealthy thoughts: the negative spiral of tainted/skewed logic.

To be honest, the thought scares me. It scares me because I know that pain. It scares me because I know how slippery the slope is and how hard it is to change. I have to be careful not to let empathy for their pain draw me in because I know THEY are ultimately the only person in the whole world that can help them. THEY have to choose to be ready and THEY have to commit to changing that pattern. Some aren’t ready yet (and I’m not qualified or able to help get them there) and others probably never will be. Either way, I have to consciously avoid letting it be my problem.

I want to be clear that these are not necessarily malevolent or nasty people. The ones I am coming across are generally killing themselves with kindness. They care so much that they too struggle to disconnect. Nevertheless, the cause is irrelevant. I still need to care for myself. The freedom I have fostered in my life right now balances on the knife edge of my beliefs and emotions. My freedom hinges maintaining healthy, useful thinking habits.

The other major challenge for me is dealing with being so publicly available. At first, the kind of minor celebrity that this venture has brought was novel and a bit fun. Now, while it is mostly just neutral, it has a definite down-side. I am always “on show” when I am around my trailer. I am almost always around my camper. Often, I am staying at kind people’s homes and that comes with an unspoken understanding that I chat about the journey and cause. I am happy to oblige and I am grateful for their hospitality, but it also means time to myself can be severely limited.

To put this in perspective, I prefer to be alone most of the time. I don’t mean that in an unfriendly way. I am also a very personable person. That might seem a contradiction and maybe it is. All I know is that I feel at my best when I have time alone to recharge and it allows me to enjoy time with others.

In combination with New Zealand’s ridiculous “freedom” camping regulations, it unfortunately means that the only time I can truly withdraw and recharge (legally) is inside my camper in a fairly public place like a campground. With this new-found “celebrity” comes a breakdown in normal etiquette. If people see the camper, they “have to see what it’s about”. If they’ve also been following the campaign, some feel they have earned the right to access me any time they might happen on me.

At this stage, I must add that usually, I am fine with that and I enjoy meeting people who have been following the journey. It’s nice to talk to new people and even nicer if I don’t have to start by explaining what is going on. In fairness, even I have trouble defining the limits of when it feels alright to be approached and when I’d prefer to be left alone. But II am starting to get a better appreciation for how it must feel to be a REAL celebrity. If I am trying to do some banking, I feel like common courtesy (at least in NZ culture) says to give me space. If I am sitting inside my camper with the door closed, it’s akin to someone in a zipped up tent. Personally, I would leave them alone unless it was someone I already knew.

Overall, I must say that it has been a great journey and I haven’t regretted the choice to undertake it. These little gripes are small in the grand scheme of things. My hope in airing them so publicly is that it might help someone else. If it does help you, I would love to hear it if you’d like to share it.

The Personal Power of Batman

The Personal Power of Batman

I have been a big fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins since it first came out in 2005. In watching it again last night I was reminded of a number of important life lessons that apply to us all. Batman is the crime fighter but what Bruce Wayne learns on his journey there teaches us how to achieve everything we have ever hoped for… whatever that may be.

There have been several reincarnations of Batman. The thing that makes Christopher Nolan’s Batman a little different is the depth he gives his protagonist. I always struggled with the unrealistic fighting skill that Batman, the alter ego of a billionaire business man, displays against hardened criminals living every day in their violent street reality. Fittingly, this thought is voiced by the crime boss Falcone when Bruce Wayne confronts him in a restaurant. He tells Bruce that he could never understand their world or the way that power works within it because of his wholesome background,

This is where we begin to see Bruce choosing to understand. The moment he steps into the alley and swaps all his cash and his expensive coat for a homeless man’s beaten up jacket, he decides to learn what it is to live hard. Unbeknownst to him, he takes his first steps to learning the truth in his sweetheart Rachel’s words “There’s a difference between justice and revenge”.

This is where we stray from Batman’s path. Unless of course, you too desire to defend the weak, fight crime and bring justice to a lawless society. In which case, I suppose this movie is like a ‘how to’ manual. (You may also enjoy Super (2010) which offers a more down-to-earth version for the non-billionaires among us). For the rest of us, we turn to a ninjitsu master wielding a plethora of clichés and a rare blue flower.

Ra’s Al Ghul not only refines Bruce’s fighting skill, but takes Bruce on a journey through his psyche which we all must take if we are ever to meet our potential. In fact, I believe we must take this journey several times over. Me ol’ mate Raz challenges Bruce to face his fears. Too many of us let our fears dominate our decision-making. We may justify those decisions in a number of far more empowering ways, but if we are brave enough to really confront our truths, we know it to be so.

He tells Bruce that he fears his own potential for greatness. His own potential to be powerful. His sentiments echo those of the oft-quoted Marianne Williamson, who says in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Take or leave the bits about God and the message still stands firm. It is fear of failing that prevents us reaching for that which is really important (to us). You could argue that it is Bruce’s fear of what he may truly be capable of achieving with all his money, power and influence that leads him into the shadows to begin with. Equally, it is his “playing small” which finds him fighting petty criminals in prison before Raz gives him a path to liberation from his own fear and we see his presence automatically liberating others throughout the movie.

I’ve been living this reality this year and last. Last year, I chose to really confront my wishes for life. I chose to pursue freedom by acting. That choice brought about this blog and everything that has followed. This year has been a continuation of that choice, with many more choices that needed to be made and followed up on. The Longest Walk NZ is the culmination of many hard choices and the confrontation of many fears. I suspect there are many fears yet to come. I hope to have the courage to confront them and to act.

You may not have a hallucinogenic blue flower to reveal your deepest fears, but if you choose to confront uncomfortable truths, you unlock a power beyond measure. Your fears are there to guide you. They reveal that to which is most important to attend. The choice to understand fear is the choice to be free. In understanding what prevents action, we take the most important step in overcoming the obstacle. Define the barrier. It is the first step to learning how to bring down the wall. Where it cannot be brought down, it is the first step to scaling it.

Source: wikimedia.org
“So I Guess You Can Just Eat What You Want”

“So I Guess You Can Just Eat What You Want”

Someone recently said to me “I guess you just get to eat whatever you want?!” I could have just blindly agreed in the manner of normal social convention, but instead I thought about that. I then drank some wine and thought some more. This blog post is the result.

First, some context. If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you know what I have been doing the last few months. If not, check out The Longest Walk NZ and you’ll have a better idea of where this comment comes from. Once you’ve done, come back here and read on.

Nice to have you back. Thanks for making the return journey.

Now that you know I spend my days walking around the country with my dogs and towing a 100kg trailer, you’ll appreciate why someone may say such a thing. It’ll also probably be easy enough for you to accept that I have been a personal trainer, infantry soldier, martial arts instructor, dog trainer/handler, ESL teacher (primary school)/clown, outdoor education instructor and group fitness instructor at various times in my life to date. I say all this only to demonstrate where I am coming from. It may seem like a varied… perhaps even ‘chaotic’ work history but there is a common thread. That thread is testing my beliefs, abilities and desires.

After a lot of experimentation, that is really what freedom is about for me. After all, if you don’t really know yourself, you can never really know what you want. If you don’t know what you are capable of, freedom will only bring you fear and insecurity. And if you don’t know what you want, freedom is just a word because others will bend your will to what they would have you do for their own ends.

With the context established, you can view this comment with fresh eyes and hear it with fresh ears.

“I guess you just get to eat whatever you want?!”

The personal trainer in me sees these words and sees pain. Some people won’t like this, but one of the most important lessons I learned training as a personal trainer (and coaching personal development) is: “Find the pain… and twist the knife”. I first heard that in a sales training session.

You can be the best personal trainer in the world, but if you are not a good salesman, a prospective client won’t sign on for your services. And if you can’t determine the emotional motivation for seeking the service, remind them of it and use it to motivate them, you won’t retain that client. The human psyche being what it is, we believe we do things because “there was a special/sale/new product” or some other such rubbish. The reality that every informed salesperson or marketer knows is that we act on emotion, not logic.

So when someone says to me “I guess you just get to eat whatever you want?!” I hear “I wish I could eat what I want and not get fat”. I hear the frustration, the struggle, the pain, the desire, an emotional connection to food… and the potential motivation to encourage active choices. I know I am losing a few of you here because it can hurt to think that people may be manipulating us in such a way. It can be hard to face difficult truths about ourselves. You may interpret it as being judgemental, cruel or nasty. These darker beliefs and motives are hard for some people to confront. I hope you read on anyway.

I had a similar struggle when it came to reading “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene. It took me a year to read that book because I found it hard to get past the emotional revolt I felt. I read the first few “laws” and struggled to accept the logical argument for their factuality. The things I wanted desperately to believe about human behaviour contrasted with the facts being laid bare in front of me. Once I committed to reading it with an open mind, I could process the truth comprising its wisdom.

The underlying truth in that book and in all things related to long-term health is that it is your beliefs which determine your life.

From that point of view, “I guess you just get to eat whatever you want?!” is really more about what you WANT than what you EAT.

The short answer is yes, I do. But it’s not because of what I do. It’s because of what I wanted in the first place. I also ate what I wanted BEFORE I started walking for four hours every day towing 100kg and then too, I didn’t battle with weight issues. Some would like to claim I am “lucky” because they believe it is about metabolism. Others will make it personal and feel that I am discounting their unusual individual impediment to weight management. I still stick to my guns on this one though: the issue is what you want. It’s not the food. It’s not the weight. It’s not your body. It’s the underlying emotion in every case.

You can eat what you want when “what you want” is not related to what you eat.

This is where I get off the train. It’s not because I’ve run out of stuff to say, it’s because there’s not much value in my saying it. Some people will probably view this as a rant but I suspect that if you read this far, it touched you deeper than that in some way. (Either that or you are my Mum, who reads all my blogs.) The value in this blog is in encouraging you to think about WHY you eat. Not just at a surface level but the thing that triggers it. Furthermore, about WHY you go to the gym, watch TV, go fishing, drive to work, read books, sleep in, or do anything else for that matter.

My only hope for this post is that it sends someone down a path of discovery. I hope that it causes someone to be brave enough to delve deeper. I hope it helps someone to succeed at starting on a path to their freedom.

Depends What You Look At

Depends What You Look At

March 27th

I recently posted a picture of strawberries on Instagram which had been filtered in a specific way to produce a visual illusion. My friend Nick who is pretty savvy with pictures and Photoshop was quick to debunk the claim that it contained no red pixels. I have been thinking a lot since then about how much our beliefs colour our perception and experience of the world.

You can link through to the Twitter feed of Akiyoshi Kitaoka here. He regularly posts pictures which offer various optical illusions. I don’t know enough of the requisite skills to test his claims. Nor do I care to learn them. But even if I did, would I test them? Or is there something operating in me that encourages me to believe in wondrous things? Whether I would check or not is moot really. Although it is important to catch myself in this reaction of blind belief. The answer to the latter is: yes. I will default to the wondrous over the ordinary even if it is accompanied with a healthy scepticism.

A movie I watched recently, Now You See Me, briefly explores this idea in various theatrical ways. (Actually I watched both this and the sequel, which both play on this same theme and I can’t recall in which it was said specifically). The gist was that the allure of magicians is that people have a need to believe that anything is possible.

I can identify with this. Not only that, but I have specifically and deliberately tried to train my thoughts to tend in this direction. A while back now, I struggled with depression. I recognised my habit of seeing obstacles and unchangeable truths. I also recognised the absurdity of these claims and the changing nature of everything. One practice that resulted was that whenever I noticed any negative statement I might tell myself, I would counter it with three things I was grateful for. Slowly but surely, I began to associate negative feelings with an opportunity to find things to be grateful for.

Step by step, I was able to change my world view from one of insurmountable obstacles to one of possibilities. The world changed from a place where every struggle was ultimately pointless to a place where amazing things happen every day and challenges are an opportunity for growth. More directed learning helped consolidate and strengthen these ideas as well as understanding just how important those default beliefs are to my perception and ultimately to the outcome.

This extended eventually to realising how important it is to be aware who I spend time around. I like doers. I like dreamers. I like people who choose to see obstacles as problems to be solved. I like people who tell me how great it is that they got sick because it reminds them that they are neglecting their diet or lifestyle. I like people who take personal responsibility for the things they don’t enjoy in their lives.

This week, I have seen two more examples which have troubled me. I wasn’t sure how to write about them but I felt it was important to discuss them… at least with myself if not with others. The first was something posted by a teacher of mine at university. An exercise physiologist, he was posting an article about the dangers of the developing acceptance of obesity as the norm. When something which is harming us becomes our standard for normal, we are creating a toxic cycle in our reality. There are other examples in our everyday lives that we could all identify if we cared to and each will affect us in different ways to varying degrees.

The second is that of resistance to change. Several smaller organisations I have come across recently have been led by people who seem oblivious to the changing world around them. Convinced that their experience of 20 years, 30 years, or more of doing the same things makes them an expert in doing what is best. Yet they fail to see their failure to improve their operations in this time. They fail to see their failure to generate income to improve the resources they have to work with rather than suffer due to lack of funds. They struggle to recognise that their opportunities to flourish have increased while they were busy proclaiming their martyrdom. Their song is the same: “We’ve always done it this way. It’s worked for … years. These people don’t understand”. Yet the facts and examples happening all over the world around them speak to the falsehood of their claims.

I will suffer brief conversations with people who tell me how hard their life is. I will tolerate those who insist on swinging conversation to complaints about spouses. I will sympathise with the person who insists they have no choices or is stuck in a rut. But I will never choose to be around that person for any more than the bare minimum time I can manage. These are the emotional vampires who will suck you into their world of inevitability and self-pity. These are the people who will infect my psyche with their poisonous world views lest I fail to recognise it. It’s never worth trying to convince this person they have choice. It’s not worth it to make change my job. People have to be ready to choose a different way and it’s likely to harm me if I try to help them on the way. Yet my default is often to try.

I think the most important thing we can do in life is to notice and reconsider our beliefs. They are our most important tool to shape our lives. People interact and events happen around us but the only thing we have control over is the way we react to them.