Mystery Me

I was recently asked what I write the most about here. My response was that if Tim Ferriss does productivity hacking and Dave Asprey does bio-hacking, then I guess I’m a self-hacker. A DIY self-improver.

After many years of being externally focused, obsessive about the future and resentful about the past, I began a journey inward about 5 years ago. I hacked my self. My ego. My personality. My soul. I learned the power of awareness. I learned how to observe my thoughts and feelings with minimal judgment. I learned healthy non-attachment.

I’ve come a long way. I’m happier, more whole than I’ve ever been. But as I turn 48 in a few weeks, I’m very aware of a few of my idiosyncrasies and dichotomies.

In the spirit of self-hacking, here are a few mysteries of me that befuddle and bemuse …

  • After 10+ years of being committed to working out intensely and regularly, I’ve lost my passion for it. I literally get tired on the way to the gym. I have some sort of mental block in this area that I can’t seem to move. Yet, I feel that my desire for healthy, fit, energetic body is sincere. But I can’t seem to: a) recover that same drive and b) link behavior to desired results.
  • I remain a control freak, over-planner. This is not uncommon for survivors of trauma. We obsess over environmental details and conditions — especially related to time and plans. This produces a series of odd behaviors. I can’t go to a concert and have people behind me. So I either stand in the back of the room or find a pillar to put my back against. I argue with Google Maps on best routes. Then obsessively watch the progress. When arriving at a coffee shop or restaurant, I worry — every single time — that I won’t find a place to sit. My faith is strong. My belief is deep. Yet I can’t let these little, trivial things go.
  • The closer I am to you, the less likely I am to tell you how I really feel — or ask for what I really want. While I’m getting better about this, my first reaction to most emotions directed at someone I care about is “Will they still love me if I share what I’m feeling with them?” I know that I believe in truth and that it should be expressed at all times. Yet, I still hedge my bets, protect my emotional flank, with those closest to me. I still try gauge and sometimes even control their responses.
  • I still have a strong tendency to compare myself to others. This is a pretty basic and old feature of the ego, so it’s extra difficult to re-wire this one. I compare up (they’re better than me) and down (I’m better than them). The comparison doesn’t last long, because I’m disciplined about being aware of it. Yet it’s still the first reaction many times. I know I believe in loving more (literally tattooed on my body!) and loving unconditionally. Yet comparison is all about conditional love — of others and myself.

To be clear, perfection is a myth and imperfections make life interesting. So this isn’t about perfection, but it is about improvement. About owning that which I have control (supposedly!) over. About continuing to work on the ultimate fixer-upper … me.

Two questions …

Any tips or insights on working through any of the above?

What are your dichotomies and dissonances?


  • Andrew McCarroll says:

    On the last point on comparing yourself to others. I was woefully guilty of this for years. At one point I became aware of how, in far too many conversations, I would compare myself to others. “I’m smarter. I’m stronger.” etc. A mentor pointed out to me that this was not coming off well. He suggested that instead of comparing, find commonality. He suggested I make this an active exercise every time I talked to someone. It led me to being a more deliberate listener in an effort to get to know someone better and finding things we had in common to discuss. This was about five years ago, and it has worked wonders for both my sense of well-being and for enhancing my interpersonal relationships. It is also a great and fun way to make new friends!

  • Andrew McCarroll says:

    Thinking about your fitness motivation on my walk this morning, I’ll share my own experience when this happened to me.
    For years (and years!) I made everything I did an internal competition. Lift more weight, run farther, ride faster, swim more laps. When I did not attain a workout goal (i.e., doing a combined volume of 10K lbs of chest work in the gym), I felt like I had failed due to lack of will power. In recent years I found myself blaming my (middle) age as proof that I was “losing it.” Now I simply do something because I enjoy it without setting an arbitrary goal. I walk with music (Deep Focus playlist on Spotify being my favorite) not with a stopwatch. I simply enjoy being outside and moving. If I feel like running up a hill or two, I do it. If not, who cares?

    The other change I made was trying new things like using kettle bells, jumping rope and putting a heavy bag in my garage. I plan to start Jiu Jitsu in the near future – which should be interesting as I have zero wrestling experience. Find new things to learn and spark your interests. It is working for me!

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