We Are Getting Weaker
Do you ever wonder what the motivation is for all the crazy things we do? I do, all the time. I have a theory, and I’m just going to come out and say it. The human race is getting weaker. Admitting that, let’s have an honest discussion about it.
Civilized Does Not Have to Mean Impotent
We like to believe that civilization has bred the animal out of us, that we’re programming-based organisms, but anyone who behaves 100% programmatically is a robot. So, unless you’re a robot, you are influenced by instinct to some extent. The more basic the impulse (self-preservation, reproduction), the greater the influence of instinct and lesser the influence of programming, at least when it comes to what we’d like to do, which can be loosely translated as goals.
Weakness is the shortfall between our goals and our ability to achieve them. For example, I’d like to have sex with Scarlett Johanssen, but I have many weaknesses that prevent me from doing so (including a lack of motivation to fix those weaknesses – more on that later.) The ways we perceive ourselves as weak – mentally, physically, and emotionally – define what we’d like to be via negativa. To eliminate those shortfalls is to become strong.
What Motivates Us?
I spent years as a coach and learned a few things along the way. I discovered that technical knowledge is important. Essential, though, is the ability to motivate. With the exception of the mentally ill, people behave in largely predictable ways. Marketers exploit this, attacking the shame and fear that stem from your weaknesses by promising to alleviate them. Do you strike out with the opposite sex? It must be your skin. Or your gut. Or your breath. Is your marriage a mess? You don’t have to try harder, just read this book…
From mainstream gimmicks (why do we continue to agree to be fooled by “ab lounges” and crash diets?) to organic food to dietary supplements to overprotecting children from every conceivable displeasure to the the extreme – obsessive CrossFitters, citizen militias, even ISIS, we are all aware of and reacting in a predictable way to a sense of weakening – a widening gulf between our goals and our ability to achieve them.
We project, both egotistically and correctly, that others suffer these weaknesses as well. This projection gives us permission to “go with the flow” because, after all, if everyone is a slow-moving, slow-thinking, physically and mentally ineffective, emotionally-broken person, then we’re all still on the same level. It’s a wash, right? I’ve still got a chance.
Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way and – here’s the take-home – we know it.
Resist the Weakening
The crushing sense of helplessness that comes from contemplating our weakness and doing nothing about it is what’s bringing us down. That’s why we love watching people do things that are outside of our comfort zone.
Any social influence I’ve ever enjoyed has come from doing what others can’t or won’t do, further proof that we just need to step up. If seeing someone else succeed feels good, imagine how it would feel to experience it firsthand?
Chase the Leader
If you agree that becoming weaker sucks, then do something about it.
Self-motivation (also known as intrinsic motivation and the only kind worth bothering with) is essential to goal attainment. When 20-year-old Andrew Miller became the youngest person ever to win the 100-mile long Western States Endurance Run this year, he said, “I had a chase mindset all day.” He thought he was in second place!
Intrinsic motivation relies on internal rewards. Enjoyment, satisfaction, a sense of security, instead of extra cookies if you do your workout, for example. Intrinsic rewards are only available by doing something. You can’t buy them, be gifted them, or find them in the back of your sock drawer or between the couch cushions.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
We retain enough of our survival instincts that we can react defensively to threats. Unfortunately, as we have discussed before, the most imminent and blatant threats are often ignored until it’s too late because we strive to maintain decorum. But the constant, low-level threat, the one caused by our weaknesses and what we know they mean, wears away at us every day and makes us sad.
Stay “safely” in-bounds if you wish, but I urge you to explore the edges of your comfort zone. Identify your weaknesses, get familiar with them, then either conquer or forget them. Living with them is a too-common way to waste your life.
Start with the Biggest, Easiest Win
You’ll have to be brutally honest with yourself for any of this to work. What is wrong with how you’re living? What’s bringing you down? Make as complete a list as you can. Write it down. This is a practical, as in practice, not theoretical, exercise.
Once you’ve got your list, organize it by severity. Put the most damaging shit at the top. Be fearless. Analyze what’s bringing you down and prioritize.
Now, make a second list with all the same items on it, but prioritized by ease of fixing/least disruption to your life. If you think of new items, add them in the appropriate place to both lists.
You can probably guess the next two steps – cross-reference the lists and make…a third list! The third list is your to-do list. It should only have one item on it at first, the easiest to achieve and most impactful item. Most bang for the buck type thing. You need a win, and this is how you’ll get it.
Get to It
Nothing else to do now. You don’t need try to recruit anyone to help you or share your plans with anyone, just get to it. The possibilities are far too varied for me to try to point you to resources. The exercise of solving this problem for yourself will make you stronger in itself. Once you’ve made some progress, add another item to your to-do list.
On to victory!
Giraffes Solving a Problem – Banner photo By GIRAUD Patrick – Own work, CC BY 2.5