We live in a delusion that we want to make progress without it being hard.
We become slaves to what “should be,” and our should be is “easy.”
People will go insane over the thought of walking in hot weather but can go into a sauna without complaint.
The difference is expectation and intention.
When you’re out in the cold, your automatic reaction is to shiver.
It makes sense, right?
The cold is uncomfortable.
So, we focus on the compulsive, negative thoughts that stem from expectation and become a slave to the mental structures we call home.
But, if you were to be with it, flow with it, and realize that discomfort is a part of the human experience…
You would find that your interpretation of thoughts is the culprit of your suffering.
I’ve learned this lesson many times.
The first was after being arrested for the possession of marijuana (they don’t take that lightly on a college campus).
The second was after I’d borrowed $2000 from my dad, maxed out my first credit card, and taken out loans for a 5th year of college. I financially destroyed myself to make my little eCommerce business work… and it failed miserably.
The third was in Costa Rica. After I hit a high in business revenue, I impulsively bought a flight to CR with my girlfriend at the time.
The true nature of our relationship was revealed, we broke things off and flew back the next day.
All of these experiences had one thing in common:
Not a slight increase in stress, but the kind where you feel trapped.
The smallest tasks turn into mountains of impossibility.
Every thought becomes an enemy that traps you in a mental game.
There ceases to be a light at the end of the tunnel, and you can’t help but wonder if you’ll ever get out.
These phases of life aren’t fun, clearly.
But, these moments are when life offers a lesson that can only be found through a shift in direction.
All of these major struggles had a few things in common:
- All progress-induced happiness was stripped from me, like an abrupt transition to a new movie scene after the climax.
- I felt lost and had little desire to sustain the progress of my previous purpose – I had achieved it and had to move forward.
- I experimented both inward and outward. I tried techniques for inner peace while creating new goals with accompanying education and practice.
- With time, the pieces of the puzzle came together, brought clarity, and launched me into a new season of intensity.
This is what we are here to unpack.
Why does this matter?
So you can identify the point in life you are at, see the light at the end of the tunnel, and avoid treading water before you are too tired to get to shore.
The Balance Of Peace & Progress
Happiness is a skill.
It is not given but created.
Not deserved but earned.
As with all skills, it must be practiced, refined, and adopted as a part of your life.
If it doesn’t belong in every day, week, or month of your present and future, why are you doing it?
If you want to become a writer, creator, or marketer – why are you not writing everyday? Even if you don’t get paid at the start, you still have to build leverage, reputation, and authority to the point of getting paid.
If you want to learn high-impact writing (in a practical setting that helps you build leverage for the future of work) check out 2 Hour Writer.
When isolated, happiness loses its meaning as it cannot exist without an unhappy reference point of prior experience.
This is the problem with the new age positivity movement.
You can think positive thoughts all day long. But what people fail to realize is that every positive thought holds a negative seed. This is why almost every great success comes after great failure.
You can think your way to a positive future, but the image of that future is forged through an equal and often more painful past.
Without a negative experience as an anchor, you have nothing meaningful to move toward.
There are two states of mind to become aware of:
Being and doing.
Peace and progress.
Stillness and movement.
When your attention is focused, without distraction, on either of these modalities of pure living, you tap into the power of the present moment.
Everyone wants money, muscles, and a desirable partner.
The act of achieving those goals feels incredible… at the start.
If you don’t have a philosophical sense of mastery behind your material pursuits, you are in for a rude awakening.
Even if your actions don’t change, the “why” behind them can.
A bodybuilder that got started after a tough breakup can find meaning in the microcosm of life that weight training is – if they allow their mind to see beyond their identification with the material world.
Those that do acquire their material desires change on the outside, but not the inside.
Many people turn a physical 60 years old with the mind of a 12-year-old going through emotional puberty.
The main Buddhist teaching is that of impermanence.
That is, nothing can be isolated and held static by the mind.
This includes ideas, feelings, emotions, people, locations, and everything else that we label and expect to stay the same forever.
The identification with ideology, dogma, or other static mental constructs are the source of our suffering. When they are threatened, so is our happiness.
Thinking is not bad and often necessary when critical.
But when gone unchecked, compulsive thoughts can create a personal reality of inescapable turmoil.
When one is still, their mind wants to move.
When one is moving, their mind wants to be still.
Without deliberate practice, the mind will latch onto the past or future in an attempt to make the impermanent permanent.
This is the cause of unhappiness but is not to be demonized as that is against the point.
When you feel unhappy, observe that feeling. Lean into it. Let it point “a finger at the moon” and present the lesson that life is trying to teach you. From that low, lean into the coming high.
The activities that create this blissful state of mind are personal. You must observe, hypothesize, experiment, fail, learn, and repeat this never-ending process even once you have reached objective success.
Because even that isn’t permanent.
Seasons Of Experimentation & Intensity
The secret is to engage the mind with the impermanence of life, not attempt to engage life with the mind’s desire to make permanent.
Of course, there are seasons of intensity that most of us have experienced:
- The “universe aligns,” everything clicks, and you act on an idea that makes perfect sense.
- You have clarity on your goals, reaching new levels of skill, and enjoying the process.
- You feel a sense of purpose. It seems like there isn’t enough time in the day, but you wouldn’t change it for a thing.
The feeling of pure progress is unmatched.
No distractions, absolute clarity, placing one, two, three bricks down to build your vision for the future.
It would make sense to fill our days with more activities that result in this experience.
Life’s seasons of intensity aren’t the problem.
They happen naturally after a season of experimentation.
That is where the problem lies for most people.
They don’t perceive the dreadful, negative, and hopeless period of feeling lost as an opportunity.
If you can master your mind in these periods of struggle, the negative ceases to induce suffering.
Instead, you prime yourself to launch into a new season of progress.
The Purpose Of Experimentation
Self-experimentation is the only way to solve your problems for good.
People can diagnose and prescribe a solution to your problems, but that lacks regard for the difference in perspective, goals, and experience from those prescribing the solutions.
Let’s imagine that you are feeling low energy.
You come across a post on social media that has confidence and conviction in the diet advice they give (this can also be applied to the problem of little money and specific business models).
You are in search of a solution, they tell you that veganism will solve all of your problems, and from an unenlightened state you:
- Clean up your diet
- Follow their advice as if it were law
- See the results they mentioned
Then, you attach to that diet ideology and become a prophet. You attribute results, that others have gotten via different modalities, to veganism and demonize anyone that questions you.
This is dangerous, obviously, and is the definition of low consciousness.
In reality, what happened is independent of veganism:
- You ate more nutrient-dense foods
- Your actions worked to survive your vegan identity
- You had clarity (not chaos) by following a disciplined nutrition regimen
Veganism, in this case, was simply a modality for ordering your mind (sustained degree of flow state) and allowing you to follow the principles of health – but you attributed it to a method.
Now, if you were to try veganism for a month, carnivore for a month, keto for a month, and flexible dieting for a month, you would:
- Make connections between the diets to reveal the fundamentals of health (pattern recognition = dopamine).
- Pick and choose certain methodologies that you enjoy, meaning they will bring sustainable results.
- Refine a system that fits your individual nature to perfection.
Then, once healthy living becomes effortless, you can do the same for your finances, social life, romantic relationships, spiritual endeavors, or any other domain of life.
If you’re going through problems in your relationship, hire a therapist, watch a YouTube guru, go on a retreat, and experiment with options until you find the right solution.
If your business isn’t growing, buy a course, hire a coach, test a new software, zoom out, and create a new strategy…
There’s always a way to solve your problems, and you strip yourself of that power when you latch onto one solution (that probably won’t solve the problem for good).
Self-experimentation is the open-minded process of creating, not finding, the solution to the endless problems in your life.
Note for creators and solopreneurs: this is how you create a unique, holistic product or service that markets itself in a saturated market.
We don’t need more specialists, we need holistic synthesizers that create new systems with accompanying nuanced education.
You feel lost because you don’t have a system to maintain a baseline level of clarity.
When you enter a new chapter of life, clarity creation should be top priority.
That alone will order consciousness to the point of feeling a sense of control over your future.
To go inward, the main techniques you will be experimenting with are that of immaterial pursuits:
Philosophy, spirituality, or emotional intelligence.
The techniques you can experiment with include but are not limited to:
- Long quiet walks
These activities engage your attention with the present moment.
As with all skills, you improve by progressive overload.
That is, by gradually increasing the level of challenge so that you don’t get bored or anxious. Bored because the challenge is too low, anxious because the challenge is too high.
The goal with inward experimentation is to incorporate one of these activities into your daily or weekly routine.
The practice must be sustained, lifelong, and on the path of mastery if you wish to maintain the benefits that come from these pursuits.
The reason you feel lost is that you lost connection with a purpose, goal, or routine that brought order to your life.
When you end a chapter in your life, you may not want the same things you previously did. This is a good thing. It means you are growing.
But, nobody wants to be stuck in that period of feeling lost for too long, and there is only one path out:
- Stay mindful of hints at a new purpose, and don’t let the lessons of life pass you by.
- Set a goal so that you can perceive life situations through the lens of that goal (again, pattern recognition = dopamine = collecting puzzle pieces until the image is clear)
- Identify the gap between you and your goals and note problems standing in the way.
- Study, build, and experiment in alignment with that goal.
What is the most pressing problem in your life right now?
Is it self-esteem? Money? Lack of fulfillment?
Sit with this thought and contemplate.
Now, are you able to work towards solving that problem now, or do you have to solve another one?
If you lack money and don’t have the time to start a business, then clearly you shouldn’t start a business. You either need to experiment with budgeting or get a new job.
If you’re looking for a boy/girlfriend, are you in the financial, physical, and spiritual position to sustain a relationship? If not, solve the other problems first.
Once you identify a goal you can pursue, research, and experiment with techniques that will allow you to reach it.
If you need guidance and education around building a high-performance lifestyle, starting an interest-based business, and joining a supportive community (where you might meet your next business partner), check out Modern Mastery – readers can join for $5.
Maintain New Baselines
As you progress through a season of experimentation, clarity begins to culminate.
Soon enough the final piece will click into place, you will launch into a season of intensity, and reach new highs in the respective domain of life.
Like hitting a monthly high in business revenue.
But, stay mindful that this season will come to an end.
Similar to bulking and cutting in bodybuilding, you can only “bulk” for so long before you gain too much fat. You start to feel groggy, slow, and uncertain if you should keep pushing.
When it comes time to “cut,” and without a proper system, you may lose a lot of the muscle you gained.
We don’t want that.
As you are turning the final page, make an effort to separate signal from noise.
Double down on the techniques, tasks, and actions that will maintain your a new baseline of “muscle” acquired.
The entirety of this process of:
- Experimenting to solve your problems
- Gaining clarity on a new chapter in life
- Pushing to new highs and systemizing the process to maintain results
Is the essence of life.
In fact, it’s just another perspective of the scientific method.
Do what you will with this information.
I am but another human that pursued a goal, figured it out, and am passing down what I learn.
I would encourage you to do the same.