Using Barriers To Level Up


Let’s explore how might we breakthrough to the next higher version of ourselves using barriers to help ourselves and possibly enable a shift in our lives by understanding external cues and seeing what they trigger in ourselves which then gives us a chance to change those external cues through our actions which are born out of brutal awareness. I use brutal awareness because all have us have very minimal practices of observing ourselves to the actions, words, the self-concepts that we create, our reasons for justifying our failures etc. I will talk more on how I dealt with honing my latent awareness to the next level of “Brutal Awareness” in one of my future posts.

To understand this better here is a brief introduction to understanding how we are nothing but the sum of our habits. Most of our behaviors have been shaped by conditioning which we have accumulated over the years. Conditioning has shaped has in myriad forms, external attractions that are targeted on us (#consumerism), habits that we have picked as a part of our culture and our own up-bringing and even certain self-concepts that we have of ourselves of which we are totally unaware of consciously or sub-consciously.

I can sense few of you going – What! This is horseshit, how can my culture have anything to do with the habits I have now? Before, you jump to another site just read the rest of the write-up before making that click. Just play along with me…:)

Let me explain – Nothing in us is spontaneous. Everything we have or do is learned or acquired. This conditioning of my muscles for posture and movement is beneficent and essential. I could hardly live a human life without it. What is important to realize is the price we pay for it. Every conditioning is a limitation, a curtailment, a censorship even. You are enabled to do this…at the expense of giving up other possibilities and other ways. Muscles are close to nerves, sensations, therefore the conditioning of my muscles affects my emotions, and through them my behavior. There is no such thing as an innocent conditioning. Each service carries its price tag. As Westerners, they have been trained to walk fast, and that has imprinted a brisk step in their whole life, thoughts, work and this has led them to always be in a hurry to get things done, to reach places, to obtain results with quick efficiency and purposeful resolve. On the other hand, an Indian like me has been taught to squat since childhood, and in that posture, close to the earth from which he comes, he learns patience and peace, lives in cosmic contemplation and waits for eternity. (Sometimes I exaggerate a lot :-P)

The shaping of my muscles has resulted in the shaping of my mind. A whole way of life has already been inscribed into the marrow of my bones by the very way in which I have been taught to walk, to sit, or what have you. And if such a harmless exercise has already marked my life and steered my thoughts, I begin to think with curious anticipation of the more direct and concerted ways in which society and tradition has bent into submission not only my hands and feet but my values and tastes. A long conspiracy waiting to be unraveled thread by thread. Most of us act and move most of the time like automatons, and the common pattern in society around us makes us forget the long conditioning that has resulted in the stereotyped behavior that dampens our reactions and impoverishes our lives. To realize the extent of such bondage is the first step towards liberation from it.

Our whole organism has been conditioned to enjoy, accept, do,repeat certain things, and to reject others. This isn’t a conscious process anymore, but a pre-programmed choice that is triggered by my cells within me before I know what is happening in the recesses of my mind. It’s the automatic pilot that steers its course without any reference to me, though I am in the cockpit! The method is comfortable and safe, but only for a routine flight. Now I want to explore new horizons and charter new routes. While thanking my muscles and dendrites for their unfailing service in the past I want to let them know from now on I call the shots and lead the fight. I want to re-own my organism and bring to the movements of my body and my life a new spontaneity. I want to unwind before it’s too late. This is what I told to myself more than a year back.

One thing that has helped me in my journey and also in realizing all this is my inquiries with myself and also most of my mentors. Frederic comes to my mind at the moment as he is one person who has had a huge impact on me in this space of learning to be authentic. Owning my past so that I can create my future. You can check out his site here.

Since then, my journey has been about testing each and every self-concept, limiting beliefs, extreme reach barriers that I had in myself and deconstructing them one by one by testing them. Invariably, all of them turned out to be false assumptions. Here is one other article by another blogger who has had a huge influence on me and my thinking. His name is Ramit Sethi & he runs a personal finance blog and his site is mainly about ‘psychology’ among other things disguised as a personal finance blog. Here is an article he wrote in which he talks about extreme reach barriers.

Now, coming back to what I was inviting you to see. Think about such things in our lives that we have, think of all the things that we script for ourselves and the moment when we need to do something that challenges the very notion of that scripted story, we bend ourselves into submission and what do we do again – follow the ant farm like we used to instead of breaking away and charting a new course for ourselves.

And guess what? Most of the changes that we dream of are overwhelming – and we let them bring our self-concepts to the fore and we go back to doing the same things –

  • Very same coffee-day outings
  • Make fun of people hitting the gym
  • Make fun of people who have protein shakes in their homes.
  • Just crib a lot and keep thinking inside – Man – this is so not for me.

(My Wish-list I unknowingly kept dreaming to for the last 10 years and as I asked around with a lot of my friends, I found it wasn’t just me. We were all doing this!)

  • I really wish I was a morning person
  • I want to wake up early.
  • I want to start off productive, and yet I didn’t.

Wouldn’t it be better If I simply said to myself, I’m not a morning person; I work better at night (because I’m a creature of the night :-P), and that’s where I’m going to spend my productive time and I know that it takes me a little while to get up in the morning. Wouldn’t it be better to acknowledge that and work under those constraints, than to beat ourselves up and feel guilty for twenty years trying to do something that’s probably never going to happen again?

Constraints Inspire Creativity – Don’t remember where I read this but this came to my mind as I’m writing this.

Or put it another way; wouldn’t it be better for myself to simply say, “You know what, three times a week is just too big of a goal. It’s embarrassing, but who really cares; I’m going to do it once a week. I’m going to go out for a run and I’m going to run for twenty minutes, and that’s it.” And after I did that for one week, and felt weary and after three weeks started to feel a little better, and at four weeks I told myself, “You know what? I miss that run. I’m going to do it twice.”

This is when my baby steps towards regaining control over my health began.

When I often do my behavioral design interventions with people, I prefer to work with the people who do, who say, “You know what? I am afraid of changing my appearance,” or “I’m afraid of working out because I’ll become like one of those guys who’s always doing protein shakes,” another thing I used to say to myself.

Though I don’t do it myself as I worked out a alternative workout/eating routine for myself. 😀 I’d see these guys in the gym and I would say, “I’m not going to take protein shakes,” “I’m not going to be one of those dudes.” It’s about understanding the role of food,weights, and cardio, and all that stuff, none of which I understood before I started researching about the human body, athletes workout routines, why they did what they did etc.

So what was my natural response? To say, “I don’t want to be like those weirdos, I’m not going to do any of that.” Instead, had I looked deeper, I would have said, “You know what? I’m afraid of actually changing. I’m afraid of trying this for six months or a year and seeing no results. I’m afraid of actually succeeding, because if I do succeed, then are my friends going to think I’m a weirdo, because now I go to the gym a lot or I have this bottle of protein shake on my kitchen counter?” Those are all the true deep fears, but I didn’t have the introspection to be able to acknowledge that.

Now this was so true in my case, I had built up all these extreme reach barriers in my psyche that I was unaware of which was like a chain around myself that I’m walking around with every single day. So, I’d like to invite you to look and observe yourself in everything that you do. Scratch that, just take your health and your inclination towards health and workouts. Observe your thoughts, behaviors, actions and write them them if possible. Now, step by step test each one of those assumptions and I bet you all of them will go Poof! if you would stick to it.

Identify your constraints that you have and go crazy – hack them down. If something, works let me know. Even better, I’m throwing this offer – Take a challenge with respect to your health. Identify your constraints and your barriers note them down. I’ll gladly offer you a free consulting session for an hour in which I’ll work with you in helping you break down your barriers.

If this sounds good and you are up for the challenge – leave a comment here with your email id and I’ll get back to you.

P.S. ( I’m giving out 10 slots), so hurry if you would like to un-script your script! :).


[First Post] A Healthy Mix of Self-Delusion & Realism

Hmm…my first blog post and I don’t even have any clue where I should start from. I have been pondering for the last 2 years about keeping my research online whether that’s related to Behavior Design or Gamification or Cross-Platform Learning or Hacking Skills. After having accumulated a lot of personal journals (things that I have tested repeatedly) and having written so much, I just didn’t know where to start from.

Finally, I asked myself. Was I too afraid of being judged or ridiculed by random people who could read and comment on the all the things that I have tried so far?

Maybe…but even so I began to dig deeper only to realize it was my inner voice in my head that made these fictions and even showed them as terrifying screenplays in the form of horror movies of how terribly my blog posts would be received. Finally today, I decided it’s time to slay the elephant in the room. Since, I have so much to share…I’m going to use multiple tags+categories to pen thoughts on each area that I have worked on with the main source being that of the random thoughts & observations that I happen to make / notice / stumble upon every passing day on different topics. I have always been fascinated by different models and theories and anything that piques my curiosity I dig deeper to explore that area.

Today, I was thinking on these lines….

Sometimes I often find tricking my mind helps to get things I have to get done when I don’t feel like it. Say, when I got to write my journal to piece together things for the book I’m writing.

In the mornings I usually have thoughts like these –

Bah!!! I can’t think of anything to write

waaa! Today isn’t the day for me to write, exercise, finish the book that I have been postponing for a long time. It can be practicing the skill that you are working on for a long time.

If you find yourself to be upset about something…force your face into a smile, you will be happier. Sounds creepy…but it works. Your physiology controls your emotions. Change your state and get to the emotion you need to do what you need to do. 😛

For writing, My Hack? –> Just start typing, it doesn’t matter what. Just the trigger to notice I need to write and the action to start typing about things that are happening around you and you doing what you are doing / things you notice…

That glorious dump you just took a while back, about the creepy prank that you think you could try on one of your friends, I’d write…here I am drinking my lemon green tea or even that crow gawking at me from the window.

Eventually I built up enough momentum that my sentences become semi-coherent. I could just delete the first twenty minutes of babble.

One big caveat: I think one can do much better with a healthy mix of self-delusion and realism. I try to find this blend in myself (mornings are for undeserved optimism, and nights for realism)

And it helps if I make the desired behavior and target as small as possible…each day just write 1000 words not more not less, and during those days you have epiphanies…just let it flow.

And now I get back to work on my next 1000 words for the book. I’m acting as if it will be a huge, massive, crash-the-Amazon-server hit.