Knowing What to Do and When to Do It

I don’t have a specific topic to cover today; not because I couldn’t find one but mostly because at the time of writing it’s Monday morning and I’m not particularly motivated to write. As I’ve said a few times during the course of this blog, my goal is to be honest and real and I prefer not to put a fake face on my content here. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes what I put down to digital paper isn’t going to be the most positive and uplifting thing in the world, but that’s the price of putting your true self out there for people to see.

One of the things I’ve struggled with for most of my life is knowing what I want to do for work. I’ve always had vague ideas of various things I’d like to do, but like many things in life I’m just not willing to pay the costs to get there. There have been many examples of this over the course of my years as a responsible, tax paying adult, and for each item there have been reasons I’m interested and factors that prevented me from pursuing an interesting opportunity.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment regarding my career was when I chose to give up on my dream of becoming a professional pilot. Of the many things I like to do, flying is at the very top of my list. There is nothing that makes me feel more free than being thousands of feet above the earth at the controls of an aircraft that can take me virtually anywhere. I have never been more at peace than when I am up in the air.

Unfortunately, the events of life conspired against me and I was forced to choose between flying and what I believed at the time was a more important responsibility. It turns out now that the decision was wasted from the start, but I couldn’t know that at the time. I made my choice and now it’s too late to realistically get back into flying as a profession. Perhaps one day I’ll make enough money to do it recreationally, but spending my days in the air is nearly certain to be an impossibility.

Of course, like many of my topics, this article is sparked by a feeling I have inside me about some aspect of my life. It can be good or bad, but it is something that weighs on my mind heavily at the time of writing. We face so many decisions in our lives every day; some are small and insignificant, while others can be life altering to the extent that nothing is ever the same again. Sometimes it’s impossible to know how a single decision will affect the rest of your life.

The knowledge of unforeseen consequences can make it quite difficult to make decisions about even the most basic things sometimes. You can know from a logical perspective what the right choice is, but you become afraid of what might happen if you make that choice. Other times you have no idea what to do because you can see various outcomes that are all equally good or equally bad or some mix of the two, and you don’t which result your decision will generate.

Perhaps the most difficult part of my life has been knowing what to do and when to do it. There has been so much doubt in my life about many things, from career to family to just getting up in the morning. Some people are able to deal with these things very well and live happy, productive lives. Others are more like me who struggle to put up with a world which continues to throw difficulties our way and we just can’t understand why we can’t figure out how to avoid them.

I’ve had to learn to accept that I will always struggle with many of the things that are expected of me as a man and a father and whatever else I may be. My attention is easily grabbed by various things that aren’t particularly good for me, and it’s far easier to descend into something distracting to pass the time rather than deal with the problems I’d rather not have in the first place. The responsible side of me knows I should do better, but the will just isn’t there.

Perhaps one day I’ll find the strength inside me to extract myself from whatever this is that keeps me from being more than I am. It may be that I can find a way to shed my anger and anxiety and angst about the circumstances of my life and finally learn to accept that it is what it is and there isn’t much I can do about it. The thought of that galls me, but the reality is that with billions of people in a world of limits, only a few will truly realize their full potential. It is knowing this that makes it so hard to take risks and really know what to do and when to do it.

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Living in Chains

I’ve been struggling lately with a thought process that isn’t very respectable amongst certain circles of society. We are brought up to believe that rules are important and we should respect those rules and follow them. For many things, I believe this to be true, especially when it comes to doing things that might cause harm to others. On the other hand, there are certain rules that chafe at my very being and it is a struggle to live with them.

While I could probably come up with a long list of the rules I dislike and would prefer to go away, suffice it to say that it is the source of my dislike for certain rules that causes me to feel the way that I do. Deep within who I am as a person is a primal need to be free from the constraints placed on me by other people; by a society that has decided that order is more important than choice. That the illusion of safety is more important than allowing people to live their lives as they see fit.

Many of the restrictions we live with today are causing a large number of people to waste their talents away. There are so many rules and regulations regarding something as simple as just starting your own business that it creates a barrier to entry that is simply too high for many to overcome. Much of the time it isn’t money that stops a person from trying to step out on their own, but an arduous process of jumping through regulatory hoops that people can’t or won’t deal with.

I’ve known for a long time that I don’t like working for other people. Having to come into a place every day where I have little to no say about how I spend my day just rubs me the wrong way. It was extremely difficult to deal with back when I was in the military, and it hasn’t become any easier now that I’m just working a regular day job. My spirit is crushed on a daily basis when I get up in the morning and have to go into work.

My last few more personal posts have been somewhat depressing, and I realize this isn’t really something that most people want to read about. We are all mostly concerned about our own problems and don’t really want to hear about the problems of others. I do my best to keep my issues to myself, even in my personal life, but sometimes you just need to get your thoughts out of your own head and out into the world.

At the same time, it is my belief that some of my readers will identify with this feeling. There are so many people in the world who are stuck in situations no one wants to be in. Some have it worse than I do, while some are better off, but the feeling is exactly the same. We all envisioned our lives turning out differently than they did. There is no cure for a disappointing life, and in the end we are bound by the chains that brought us to where we are today.

What can we do about such things? Raging against the status quo might have some kind of positive effect, but most of the time it’s just wasted energy. The mass of society is going to progress forward the way it has for the entirety of human existence, singularly unimpressed with our desire for something more. We can try to follow the advice of some to “make your dream come true” through hard work, but realistically it also requires a bit of luck…or a bit of help. There isn’t really much you can do if you have neither.

I try to stay positive in my life and especially in this blog, but lately I’ve been struggling with these feelings I can’t seem to deal with. There needs to be a change of some kind, but I just don’t know what. Like many people who might be reading this, I’m struggling with figuring out what I can and want to do with my life. Who knows where I will end up, but I hope it will be somewhere that finally puts me in a place to do something with my life that makes me feel like my life is accomplishing something worthy.

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What Do You Do When You Feel Trapped?

It is a universal fear. We all spend some portion of our lives worrying about it and trying to avoid it. One of the biggest reasons we make the decisions we make and take the actions that we do is in an effort to mitigate the chances of it happening to us. It could come in many forms, from money to career to an actual physical condition. No matter who we are or what we do or where we go, there is always a latent fear of becoming trapped in one form or another.

Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to believe we are in control of our own lives, the reality is that we will all become trapped at some point in our lives. The worst version of this is obviously some form of slavery, which has been a bane of human existence for millennia and shows no sign of being eradicated any time soon. Even if it isn’t explicitly restraining people and keeping them like animals, as long as one group of people stands to benefit from the cheap or free labor of others, it will continue to thrive.

Most of us don’t fall into this category, however, and while it is tempting to believe that we should ignore our own entrapment because it pales in comparison to such horrible conditions, it is foolish to ignore the feelings that arise when we feel like we have no options. No matter how small or insignificant our own problems feel in comparison to some of the more terrible situations that other people go through, they are important to us and deserve a significant amount of consideration, even if only from our own perspective.

As you might expect, the reason I’m writing this post is specifically because I feel trapped in my own life. For the last eight years or so, I have been stuck in a career I can’t stand performing work that is unfulfilling and waiting out the clock until the end of the day. Eight years of not building anything for my future or learning a valuable skill or doing anything meaningful with my time. The effect has been maddening and is one of the reasons I finally decided to do something like writing a blog.

Where the struggle is getting more and more difficult to deal with is the huge wall of the unknown that stands before me this year. My current job ends in the next few months and I have little hope that my next job will be any better than this one. My resume is geared toward the same kind of work I’ve been doing, and breaking into something new would reduce my income to a level that won’t support me or those who depend on me. I feel trapped in an endless cycle of useless jobs that simply pay the bills and nothing else.

Many people would be thrilled to have my problems rather than the ones they are currently struggling with, and I’m very aware that my angst could be judged as ungrateful by people going through far harder times than I am. However, I’ve said in the past that suffering is relative and even if our problems are not objectively as bad as another person it doesn’t negate the intensity of our feelings.

I’d like to say that this post contains some wisdom within it that will help you to figure out what to do in a situation such as this, and many times I do try to provide some kind of advice to help you decide how you want to approach an issue. However, in this case I can only state a question with no answer because the word trapped implies there is little or no chance to escape, at least for the time being. Until I can find a way out, it will simply be a question that needs an answer. For now I will have to be content with sharing my discontent and hold out hope that my situation changes in a favorable way. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

Are you struggling with your situation? Do you feel trapped in one form or another? What can you do in a situation like this? Many times just sharing how you feel can relieve some of the stress we feel when things just aren’t going the way we hoped they would. It isn’t wrong to be unsatisfied with your life, and most of us are always looking for a way to move from where we are to somewhere better. Sometimes we are just trapped by our circumstances.

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How to Get What You Want From Someone

Let me start with a disclaimer: the title of this article is a bit misleading. It isn’t so because I intended it to be, but there really isn’t any other way to word the sentiment of what I want to convey in this post. I want to be clear that there is a difference between manipulation and an honest effort to help someone want to do the things you’d like them to do. One is based on extracting something from someone; the other is simply learning to deal with people in a way that helps you have a more peaceful relationship with someone.

As we continue in this age of detached social media and all kinds of influences creating a barrage of pressure from all directions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate reality from the world we create in our own minds. While the latest push into a new era of technology has many benefits associated with it, there are also some crippling intellectual and emotional issues that we will need to learn to deal with before we can claim that we have fully adapted to the new way of doing things in the modern world. Of course, with the rapid pace of advancement, we may never catch up.

One of the big problems we have today because of this constant shift in the way our lives work is that we are becoming more and more narcissistic in the way we look at ourselves in the context of others. As it becomes more and more easy to get what we want at almost the moment we want it, we are becoming more used to a constant stream of instant gratification. In the face of this, we are rapidly losing our ability to wait for the things we want or even to learn to accept that some things just aren’t going to happen.

This isn’t that big of a problem when it comes to things like material possessions that most of the time are simply a matter of hard work and focusing on a goal. Spend enough time working and saving and you’ll probably get what you’re yearning for, assuming it isn’t a super yacht or something extravagant like that. Of course, if you’re driven enough and lucky enough, even that is within your grasp. The problem arises when we start applying this mentality to our relationships.

Unlike the inanimate objects we might like to purchase, a relationship with a person has someone on the other side who has their own desires and needs, many time in opposition to your own. If either side refuses to take a step back and look at the situation from both sides, many issues will flare up into arguments because both sides are focused on their own point of view and completely disregarding the other. It is impossible to reach any sort of agreement when neither side is willing to even listen to the other person.

This isn’t much of a problem if you aren’t particularly interested in being agreeable with someone. When you don’t care about the feelings or needs of another person, you are free to focus on yourself. However, when it comes to someone you’ve decided is important to you, it becomes critical to start setting aside your own desires so you can start focusing on what the other person wants.

Part of this effort requires putting in some time to learn about the other person. There are things about them you will come to know as you spend more time with them, and if you really pay attention you can gain a wealth of knowledge that will help you smooth over differences and make things work more smoothly. Learn their little habits, the schedule they like to keep, the way they like to have things done and anything else that can help you to make yourself more of an asset to them.

The worst thing you can do is to try to shove your own wishes down the throat of the person you want something from. The harder you push, the less likely it is that you’ll get what you want. If you get irritated because they aren’t acting the way you’d prefer, you have two options: stop interacting with them or start figuring out how you need to change the way you interact with them to get the result you want. Brute force may work for a time, but eventually they will get tired of dealing with you.

In the end, we all have things we want or need. If we allow our differences to get in the way and solely focus on what we want and how we want it, there is little chance that our relationships will get any better. The only way interactions between people can work is through compromise, and it is important to not only be willing to compromise on our end, but also to recognize when the other person has made a compromise on our behalf. It goes both ways.

What do you think about handling relationships? Do you excel at helping people to meet your desires or needs, or is it a constant struggle to get the other person to do anything for you at all? Are you constantly frustrated about the things you lack? Sometimes all it takes is a step back and a bit of attitude adjustment to get what we want from someone important to us. We just have to be willing to take the time and put in the effort.

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Learning How to Look at Yourself

Most people struggle with self image. Our society tries to teach us that we have to maintain a certain type of image that we project to others and we spend a great deal of time trying to conform to that expectation. It isn’t necessarily any one specific configuration of person that everyone is trying to be, but a standard sense of feeling like we are accepted by others. You need only look at the various social media accounts of the people you’ve decided to let into your life to verify this.

The problem with this sort of social striving is that we make it much harder on ourselves to do any sort of true self analysis. Our attention is so caught up in trying to polish our public image that we tend to ignore taking a really hard look at who we really are on the inside. We are far more interested in taking the perfect “selfie” than looking in the mirror and trying to seriously understand the person staring back at us.

I can say with some honesty that this isn’t really something I’ve bought into with any significant level of commitment. Social norms have never really appealed to me, and being in groups of people has always made me uncomfortable, especially when they are people I’m not very familiar with. This has allowed me a great deal of solitude, which is an excellent environment for self reflection.

When you have large quantities of time in which to really take a hard look at yourself, it becomes much easier to be honest about who you are. With all the distractions gone, you stop listening to what other people are saying and really start looking at how you work at every level. The things you start to learn can be shocking at times, as you start to realize you aren’t even close to this ideal image everyone seems to want to wear like a costume.

For many, it is much easier to be honest about the flaws of other people because our egos make it very difficult to think that we aren’t good people. In my own case, I have a very brutal sense of honesty, to the extent that I admit terrible things about myself that I would never have the courage to point out in someone else. As we all know but never admit, we each have an incredibly strong dark side lurking somewhere beneath the civilized veneer we cloth ourselves in.

If this sounds scary to you, don’t be discouraged. Truth is rarely easy or safe. When you decide to start down a path of serious self analysis you’re going to find things about yourself that aren’t very nice to think about. The trick is to have that thought firmly in your head from the very beginning so that you aren’t surprised when you stumble on something that you would normally consider shocking. If you aren’t finding anything that makes you afraid of your own potential, you likely aren’t doing it right.

What do you get out of all of this? As you start to peel back the layers of your own person, you gain a deeper understanding of why you behave the way that you do. It also allows you to identify things in your life you never knew you’d be able to live with. Sometimes we have expectations that simply don’t need to continue, mostly because the way our true selves work is in opposition to these flighty desires. Learning to look at yourself with as clear a lens as possible is a great step toward moving to a better place in your life.

What do you think about self reflection? Have you learned to cast off the illusions we tend to create around ourselves? How can you apply these things to your life in a way that makes it better? Taking the time for self improvement requires a lot of time and effort; there are no shortcuts to anything that is truly worth doing, but the rewards for such a journey can be life changing.

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Personal Post: Living Life as a Goldfish

It’s been said that a goldfish only has an active memory span of about three seconds. Science has disproven this myth, but it has been an apt comparison to people who struggle with remembering things. I say all the time that I have the memory of a goldfish, mostly because I have a consistent pattern of forgetting things. Most of the time those things aren’t very important, but sometimes they can be quite a problem.

The problem for me is when this bad quality crops up when it involves making plans with other people or conveying important information to those who need it. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told some detail that needed to be passed on or discussed with someone only to forget the entire thing moments after the conversation is over. It isn’t very frustrating to me, but it usually sparks quite a bit of irritation or anger when I come in at the last minute with important information. It’s even worse when I completely forget altogether.

I’m not sure what causes this problem with my memory. There isn’t anything in my long term memory to suggest this was ever a problem in the past, so either my memory is so bad that my entire life isn’t as I recall or this is something that is getting worse with age. I don’t believe Alzheimer’s runs in my family, and I hate to think about possibly going down that road. I’ve seen what that can do to people.

Another possibility is simply that my attention seems to always be focused on the moment, which I discussed in another article. I get a new piece of information and then, if I don’t do something to make sure I remember it later, my attention shifts back to whatever it was I was doing or whatever the next thing on my list is. The detail I was supposed to retain is lost to the void, only to resurface later when something happens that forces it back into my head.

The problem is that it comes off to other people as if I just don’t care enough about them to remember. That’s an understandable way to look at it, even if it isn’t true. I do care, and I’m always there for the people who need me when it’s most important, setting aside anything I have going on to make sure they have what they need. The problem is those pesky details that just aren’t big enough to stay in my brain for very long. Those get left by the wayside.

It makes things very difficult for me in my daily life. I’m always blindsided with things that I should have taken care of long before it came up, but didn’t because I wasn’t able to retain the memory long enough to do something about it. It constantly frustrates my significant other, and there have been a non-zero number of arguments that have stemmed from me forgetting to tell her something she needed to know. No one chooses to live life that way. Why would I choose to make things more difficult?

If you are a consistent reader, you’ll not that I put the moniker of personal post on this article. All this means is that I wanted to share something about myself with you that isn’t necessarily about the topics this blog was created for, but more about who I am as a person. Sometimes it helps to share things with others, even if it probably won’t fix whatever problem you have. Maybe it can or maybe it can’t, but at least putting it out there in the world is doing something about it. Here’s hoping that I can figure out how to make this problem more manageable.

What do you think about forgetting things? Does it mean you don’t care, or is it a problem with your brain? Is there someone in your life who struggles with an inability to keep track of things? It can be hard to tell the difference between someone who doesn’t care and someone who just can’t keep it together, but it’s usually better to assume that they just can’t make it work until you have evidence to the contrary.

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Keeping Calm in Stressful Situations

Throughout our lives we are subjected to many situations that cause us frustration or fear or anxiety or any other number of negative emotions. We always wish we can avoid these kinds of encounters, but the reality is that most of our life is centered around conflict of some kind. In some ways this is a good thing because it is only when we are placed under strain and have to push our way through a situation that we are able to grow into something more than we already are.

I just went through something that was very stressful and could have ended in a catastrophically bad way, but that result was avoided because I was able to de-escalate the situation. High levels of emotion were involved and there was a lot of chaos in the fray, but in the end it all turned out to be nothing and we were able to resolve the situation with no lasting negative results. I won’t go into any real detail here, as it was a very personal situation that didn’t involve just me, but suffice it to say if it had been handled differently it could have been life altering.

If there is something we can learn from this kind of situation, it is that allowing our emotions to control our behavior almost never generates the kinds of results we would prefer to have. When we rush headlong into a fight or make snap decisions out of fear or make assumptions about a person based solely on very limited information, we have very little chance of thinking clearly and rationally approaching whatever the problem is to come up with a clear and logical solution. Emotion by its very nature is chaotic, the very opposite of what is needed in a crisis.

As I stated in the very first post for this blog, one of the things I hope to accomplish during the course of my writing is to not only discuss different topics that are important to me, but also to help people move toward a more logic based way of thinking. Our society today has shifted away from looking for efficient, effective solutions to our problems in favor of spinning our wheels trying to do things that make us feel good. There is little thought put into the decisions we make as a nation today, and the same is true for many of us in our own personal lives.

Perhaps the best skill we can hope to master is that of emotional self control. The ability to maintain our calm in any situation is something that is difficult to attain and even more difficult to do consistently. Depending on where you fall on that spectrum of control, getting to a place where you are able to always manage hectic situations in a good way could take many years to reach. I previously mentioned that behavioral issues usually take a very long time and require a lot of effort to change, and this definitely falls into that category.

It’s one thing to understand that we need to be calm in stressful situations, but something quite different to actually start doing it. Many people will be looking for some trick to make an easy transition from where they are now to where they want to be, but like nearly anything worth doing in life there just isn’t any easy way to make it happen. You just have to place your focus on making the change and maintain a constant readiness when the situations you have to deal with come up. To use a common parlance: practice makes perfect.

Obviously I’m not recommending you place yourself in stressful situations just to practice being calm. The chemicals your body generates during these times is not good for you and can be harmful over long periods of time. The idea is to spend time every day actively thinking about becoming better about how you handle conflict and get yourself mentally prepared every day for it. Go through scenarios in your mind and figure out the best way to handle them. Think about the different people you might interact with and how an argument might erupt and the best way to resolve it. Mental practice beforehand, however theoretical, at least gets your mind in the game before a potential situation. Waiting until you’re in it is far too late.

Too many times we are led down the easy path by people promising easy answers to hard questions. If it’s important for us to put a significant amount of time into searching for an answer, it probably doesn’t have an easy solution. Making things better for ourselves almost always requires hard work and dedication. That’s just the way things are. At least until they come up with a way to program bad behavior out of us. I’m not sure I’d want to live in that kind of world.

What do you think about emotional discipline? Do you struggle with keeping control during conflict? Have you ever had something terrible happen as a result of your inability to keep your cool? As we continue forward in this new society we live in today, we are seeing an increasing lack of emotional control. It is only when we can take a step back and try to look at things objectively that we can come up with the best solutions to our problems.

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The Joy and Bane of Video Games

Everything in life is best when taken in moderation. This is a common theme among many practices in our lives, especially when it comes to things that can be harmful when taken to extremes. The effects of addictive behavior are most obvious when our addictions create behaviors that are obvious or dangerous others, but some of our vices are only harmful to ourselves primarily and can have a secondary negative effect on the people around us that may not be as clear.

For myself, I struggle with an extremely addictive personality. For most of my life I have had a problem with moderating my behavior in certain activities, partly because they are so enjoyable and partly because of the hyper-focused way that my mind works. What this means in reality is that anything I engage in that I find fun and that requires any amount of dedicated focus is likely to turn into an addiction, even if only for a short period of time. Once it’s no longer fun, the addiction fades away.

The problem arises when you have an endless supply of new versions of whatever your addiction happens to be. For many people, video games fall into this category, and I am certainly included in that group. My entire life from childhood to now has included a significant amount of digital interactive entertainment, from the early console systems like the Nintendo Entertainment System (really showing my age here) all the way up to the modern online gaming era that included monster role playing games like World of Warcraft.

As I stated before, there are two components to a video game addiction that causes problems. The first is the part that gets us involved in the first place: fun. We start out playing a game because we find it enjoyable, and the more fun something is, the more time we want to spend doing it. We get snared into that great feeling we get when we’re doing something we like, and that creates an urge to keep playing even when we know we should stop.

The second part is the focus aspect. The reason this is important is that virtually all video games are designed to grab your attention and hold it for the entire time you are playing. It is rare to find a truly engaging game that doesn’t require you to put most or all of your attention on it constantly. As a result, your mind shuts out the world around you and you are immersed in the fantasy world that has been created for you.

As I said at the beginning of this article, neither of these two things are necessarily bad on their own. Escaping reality for a short period of time can be quite healthy, providing a relief from the stress and pressure of our daily lives. The problem arises when you find yourself wanting to spend more and more of your time in that world and can’t bring yourself back to the real one. When you pull yourself away and all you can think about is getting back to the game, you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms. It is classic addiction.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to resolve this kind of thing. Video game addiction ranges from a mild problem to full blown ruining of people’s lives. Unlike a drug addiction, there are no harmful chemicals that can cause us to “overdose”, so it is much like a functioning alcoholic in that the person is damaged and this causes problems for the people around them, but they can still go on being addicted and make things work. It isn’t optimal, just functioning.

This is the joy and bane of videos games, at least when it comes to someone like me with an addictive personality. For most things in my life, I have brief explosions of addictive behavior, which is fine because I also quickly become bored and move on. Video games, on the other hand, change so much and so fast that I never seem to get bored. Individual games fall away, but gaming itself has stood the test of time. I am a functioning video game addict, and I’m not alone. Odds are that if this came up in your search, you might be too.

What do you think about video game addiction? Do you or someone you know struggle with it? Where do you draw the line between simply enjoying a game and becoming addicted to it? This isn’t the deepest of topics covered on this blog, but sometimes the simple things affect us the most. Knowing you have a problem and finding a way to break free of it are two different things, and one is much harder than the other.

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Maintaining Relationships with Emotional Problems

I tend to have tunnel vision. It’s one of my major flaws that I’ve never seemed to be able to figure out how to effectively deal with. As my attention is grabbed by one thing or another, I tend to become hyper interested in whatever it is I am doing and everything else falls out of my consciousness. The result of this is that I tend to have difficulty maintaining any real amount of focus on anything else as my mind races in lockstep with whatever current activity I’m involved in.

One of the consequences of this flaw in my makeup is that I tend to have a great deal of difficulty in maintaining my relationships with other people. This isn’t because I don’t care about the people in my life. On the contrary, when a need arises I set everything aside to make sure whatever they need is taken care of. However, when it comes to the day to day process of interacting with the people who are important to me in my life, I tend to not do a very good job of maintaining contact at the level that they would prefer.

There is an over-tendency to jump to medical diagnoses when it comes to behavioral problems such as this, throwing around terms like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but I think most of the time this is just an excuse for people to not have to change their ways. If we can blame a medical problem for our behavior, then we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions and we don’t have to put any effort into changing.

The other end of the spectrum is just as bad. When people don’t understand why you have the behavior that you do, it is difficult for them to accept that you might want to change but can’t do it overnight. Some of the people in your life might tell you that you should just be able to stop doing what they don’t like as if it is like flipping a switch. Behavioral habits just don’t work like that.

By far the most difficult situation is when your significant other stands in opposition to whatever behavioral issue you might be dealing with, especially when their is no understanding on their part about what your behavior is and why. They become hurt when you don’t act in the way they wish that you would, taking it as a sign that you don’t care. As a result, the situation is not only created by the fact that you have a negative habit in your behavior, it is amplified exponentially by the emotional hurt caused by a lack of understanding on both sides.

The goal would seem to be that each party in any relationship should approach the situation with a default attitude of not making any assumptions until enough evidence has been acquired to make a conclusion. Are they ignoring me because they don’t care, or are they busy with something and it’s just the way they are that causes them to forget everything else? Do they take care of the important things I need them to do, or do they let me down when it really counts?

At the same time, both sides should also be putting effort into resolving whatever behavioral issues are causing strain in the relationship. Ample patience and understanding should be had on both sides in understanding that the process of changing a habit takes a very long time, and behavioral habits are perhaps the most difficult to adjust. When we remember that some things take a lifetime to change, we start to see that even small, tiny changes can be a huge sign that the person really cares about making us happy.

In the end, the attitude on both sides should be something to the effect of “I love you the way you are no matter what, but I have hope this thing I don’t like will change someday”. This way our love can be unconditional and we don’t place unnecessary stress on the other person, but we keep the focus on trying to reduce the strain in the relationship caused by things we don’t like. If both sides can adopt this philosophy, then the frustration of dealing with interpersonal problems becomes much easier to deal with.

What do you think about relational stress? Do you have a behavioral quality that is causing problems in your own relationships? What steps are you taking to not only change your own behaviors, but become understanding of other people’s issues and support their efforts to change them? Relationships are perhaps the most important part of our life, and learning to improve them can have a drastic effect on our happiness and contentment.

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Am I a Good Person?

One of my favorite songs right now is a parody music video by a YouTube content creator by the name of TheOdd1sOut entitled Good Person. In the video, the performer goes through several examples of a completely self absorbed person who does a number of “good” things in an effort to show what a virtuous person they are, but each example is nullified by an equally bad or selfish thing that shows his true colors. The message of the video is funny but clear: the point of doing good things is to be good, not to look good.

This is a perfect satirical statement about our society today. Too many people are far more interested in their own optics rather than actually getting anything done. In a nation where the average person craves fame more than value, it is difficult to find people who you can count on to do the right thing even most of the time. More often than not, what we see in public is vastly different than who the person really is in their private life.

Most of us struggle with this in our own lives from time to time, so it is difficult to become too angry with these people. One of the hardest things for a person to do is to break away from the crowd and stand up for something that isn’t very popular. It doesn’t matter if the thing we believe in is factually correct or morally righteous. Our fear of rejection or even physical harm can sometimes prevent us from doing the right thing. It’s easy to be noble when there aren’t any consequences for it. The task becomes infinitely more difficult when we have to face opposition.

Still, a lack of courageous people in our society is exactly why we see the societal rot that we live with today. Career politicians are the most obvious and corrupt example of this. If you look back on the average representative, you will likely find a multitude of positional changes as you move through their history. Sometimes it is a genuine change of heart on an issue, but most of the time it is either political expediency or a necessary evil to save their job. Rarely does a politician truly sacrifice himself on the alter of truth.

On a more basic level, this is a problem not only with the people charged with leading our nation, but also with the general public at large. Most of us want to look like we’ll always do the right thing, but when an opportunity comes along that’s just too tempting to ignore we’ll happily jump into a situation that is harmful to someone else to line our own pockets. The riots over the last year or so are evidence of this. Average people stealing and destroying the livelihoods of their own neighbors, ostensibly because they’re angry about some esoteric problem but the reality is that it’s because they have an excuse to be evil and can get away with it.

There are a lot of places to lay the blame for this kind of behavior. The feckless media we have today certainly doesn’t help. They always cover the things that make us hate each other while ignoring the things we’ve done that make our nation great. The movie and television industry is no better, showing us as much violence and sex and other mind rotting material as they can cram through their production lines. Social media platforms filter out the things we really should be seeing in favor of those that pit us against each other, a divide and conquer strategy as old as time.

The bottom line, however, is that it doesn’t matter if we have corrupt politicians or a hollowed out media industry or even social networking conglomerates actively working against us. No matter what you see in your daily life, the only person responsible for your actions is you. When you set aside the noise of all the excuses laid out in this article and look at yourself in the mirror, all you’re left with is the actions you chose to take. It becomes very difficult to sidestep the guilt when there’s no one to blame but yourself.

The point of this article is not to make anyone feel bad, but to point out that being a good person is an internal thing. Much like being in love, no one else can tell you if you’re virtuous. You just know because you do virtuous things with no thought of reward. This is probably the hardest thing to do, because human beings are naturally selfish and want to get paid for their efforts. But the truth is that the best rewards have nothing to do with anyone else. It is feeling good about ourselves that is the greatest payment we can ever receive.

What do you think about fake goodness? How do you feel when you find out someone you thought was good never really was? Are you able to tell the difference between a truly selfless person and someone who just wants to get something from you? There’s nothing you can really do about the people in life who just want to get what they can for themselves, but you can always do something to make yourself a better person. The better you make yourself, the more you’ll be able to see people for who they truly are.

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