Many of my readers can almost feel superhuman, and as we know each superman has his own kryptonite. Is there a cost-efficient way to fight those cravings? I am as curious as you. Today I suggest you visit here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Lev Goldentouch as a use case
I do not want this post to be abstract, so I will put myself for examination as a use case. The major facts are real, but in some paragraphs, I modified the reality just a bit. I will not tell where to protect my own privacy.
Maybe, writing is a great form of therapy. And I really hope my own struggles will help others with theirs. This is not a “hero” story, so do not expect sudden plot changes and overcoming great difficulties. As in everything else which is real, you may find certain things funny, but the comedy is not intended.
As I age my willpower is not getting any stronger. I am not entirely free of my old cravings, and as I learn more about the universe my appetite only grows. In more than one sense. I have a huge appetite for knowledge, which may be good. At the same time, the appetite for food could be an issue. Some of my cravings are clearly unhealthy and need to be managed.
The growing appetites are something to be expected. As beginners, we try different things for cheap. Some we enjoy, others we hate. As we learn more, the basic stuff gets boring and we start using progressively more complex, expensive and demanding stuff.
For example, each of kitchen knives used to cost 2$ when I got married, but now I use 80$ knives from Japanese VG10 steel by Global or ceramic knives by Kyocera. The better knives are uncomparably better: razor-sharp, perfectly balanced, ideally suited to do their job, capable of chopping for decades. They are fun to use, much safer than the cheap crap, and they save tons of fuss, but they are expensive.
While my appetites grow, my willpower does not catch up. This is also common and expected:
- The ability to focus is reduced, mainly by productivity tricks. The focus is managed as a resource for highly demanding and creative activities. Raising 3 kids in a healthy family requires a great deal of multitasking. Managing a department requires dealing with constant interrupts. Being an expert on accelerated learning is a side business that required context switching several times every day. There is not so much focus left for the other stuff…
- My readiness to change is decreasing. Not really sure why. Maybe the rate of changes is accelerated, and my capacity does not catch up. I always feel that I need to run very fast simply to stay in the same place. (The rabbit in Alice is a metaphor for a middle aged person.) Maybe I am simply happy with my family and my lifestyle and do not want further changes. Occasionally I am nostalgic about how easy life was 20 years ago.
- Everything I touch always needs maintenance. This maintenance is a burden on my willpower, and the more I touch the more maintenance is required. In the example of my knives, I need to sharpen some of them with dry stones and some using honing oil. My apartment always needs cleaning and decluttering. I have a huge “to do” list, which only grows with time.
- I do not train the willpower. When I was younger, certain things I did were directly training and flexing the willpower. I used to force myself to read boring books, visit courses and I did not care about and to eat food that was “good for me”. Nowadays I really enjoy my books and articles, stay away from video courses and cannot get enough healthy food. Instead of “pushing through” I learned to enjoy my daily chores. I actually enjoy doing dishes and laundry, and most of my chores are automated anyway,
Bad habits are usually not very difficult to overcome
My biggest issue is not with the bad cravings, but with the good cravings running unchecked. I have insufficient resources for all those things that I enjoy and are good for me. How did I arrive at this condition? Again, I used simple tricks.
Each time I craved something bad, I replaced it with something sufficiently similar but healthier. I almost never eat cookies and cakes, but I eat fruits and energy bars. The coffee I drink is pure, without milk or sugar. Approximately twice a month I get depressed, and a Cuban cigar makes me feel better. I do not do extreme sports or go to a psychologist and get my adrenaline and my therapy from horseriding.
There are no toxic people around me – only good people who inspire me. I think this is more luck than planning. Occasionally I needed to help people deal with their demons to transform their bitterness into inspiration. Usually, I simply boost positive communication. I was able to distance myself from individuals and topics that made me unhappy, like all kinds of politics.
Healthy habits unchecked
With good habits, the situation is more complex.
How much of healthy food is too much? I am definitely eating more than enough. I am always physically hungry, and each time I tried a diet I gained weight. So I do not each french fries and hamburgers, but organic vegetables are not the only ingredient in my diet.
At which point we have more toys than we can handle? Some toys, hobbies, and interests are needed to be creative and for self-expression, but more than enough will clutter the apartment, especially if three very creative kids play along.
When do investment strategies turn from healthy money skills to a gambling problem? I lost some of my money on leveraged ETFs and ICOs. I knew that this was a risky investment, but could not keep away from it. My willpower crumbled in the least favorite time.
How much learning is too much? Learning can become addictive and occasionally I feel that the return on investment is not good enough. Every time I have a vacation, I have a strong urge to learn a new language. I definitely learn a lot of local history. I do not really need this information, I just crave for it.
What amount of work is damaging the work-life balance? I do not even know where my work stops and my hobbies begin. Usually, at work, I feel more comfortable than at home. Yet I go home as soon as I can because Anna needs help. But over the weekends and holidays, the kids are with Anna and I work on keytostudy. To make things worse I work not really to make money, but because I enjoy it and this means my priorities are screwed.
These are not real issues
While I am surrounded by great and sensitive people, they keep telling me that my issues are only in my head. Objectively, everything is great.
I am gaining some weight but my blood analysis is surprisingly good. I am physically more active than ever. So no real issues there.
My family complains that I do not spend enough time with each family member or taking care of the house and there are no big family vacations. Yet all the family members adore me and I have a meaningful role in their lives.
I am definitely not happy with my achievements, yet this is an issue of luck as much as anything else. Probably if I could channel my enthusiasm into something other than research and content generation… In any case, I can honestly say that I am well above average.
My appetites take from me almost more than I can give. It is very common for people my age to be constantly tired, disillusioned and unsatisfied. Some call it the mid-life crisis. Yet I do not want red sport cars, dangerous adventures or easy women.
Strategies I intend to try
Since I feel that my issues are real, I intend to try the following strategies:
- Urge reduction. The method is simple. I visualize like I managed to get what I needed, I played with it a lot, then I got tired and discarded it. For example, I did not use French for 20 years, so why did I even bother to learn it?
- Declutter. Why do I have a ricebaker, when I think rice makes me fat or a breadbaker when I prefer industrial breads over my own creations? My kids and my wife prefer spaghetti, and I prefer antipasti. I really need to learn how to give up.
- More focus on results rather than the process. This seems like a clear recipe for disaster. All books on happiness, creativity or spirituality recommend focusing on the process, yet I might have gone too far.
- Train my willpower. I know I built my life in a way that I love what I do and I do what I love, but this leaves very little place for training the willpower itself. I am becoming really spoiled and I do not like it. Not really sure how I will handle this one (not by sports), but it definitely needs to be handled.
- Stop feeling shame. There is a certain shame I feel for not being more: a better person, a more productive engineer, a father who is always there for the children. I guess this is inevitable, and acceptance mixed with gratitude is a better emotional response. I am even more ashamed that although I have no real issues, I feel troubled with the issues I have. The exercise is very simple: each time I feel shame, I will try to reframe it into a positive feeling.
- Relentlessly continue with my working strategies. I am definitely happy that I do not have strong destructive urges and replaced all of them I could notice with positive ones. The success I had turning suicidal thoughts into self-development motivation 25 years ago is almost complete. Yet from time to time I still feel helpless, especially when I think about the uncertainties of the future.