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Tap on the Glass #91 Addicted to Porn?

by Michael Darling

Are you addicted to "inspiration porn" like I am?

During a recent weekend, I spent nearly an entire day reading post after post by some of my favorite inspirational and personal development bloggers.

Want to know how I felt the next day? This is not going to be surprising to many of you for sure, but I felt....

Terrible.

I felt bloated and heavy from my overindulgence, overwhelmed with my internal sense of failure to be able to even come close to the expectations from these articles. In fact, it did just exactly what I perceive as the opposite of what these articles are trying to convey....I also felt small and cynical.

And I felt envy for not being as wonderfully productive as all the goodie-goodie gurus I so love. Of late, I'm even struggling with my hero, the late Zig Ziglar.

In truth, I think what it all boils down to is that I have feasted on too much rah-rah advice about how to be awesome and epic and remarkable and revolutionary and just a damn badass mutha (shut your mouth).

But why did it make me feel exhausted and helpless? I've been doing articles much like this for several years, so why did the stuff that was meant to leave me feeling inspired end up doing the opposite?

Because I'm a loser. That was my first thought.

But that didn't feel right either.

So I am trying to reassess. Pacing around in front of my window yesterday and staring at an open sky, it begins to occur to me that a lot of this "Self-Help" has turned into a sort of escapism.

..and don't think the irony of looking elsewhere for "self-help" hasn't escaped me in the first place!

Here's what I think...
Reading about personal development allowed me to experience boosts to my self-esteem without the inconvenience or discomfort of actually taking action or using any of the advice. Hmm...

What I'm beginning to notice is that the highs didn't last. Like a junkie, I had to keep indulging to keep from crashing. Exhausting!

But here's what really distressed me: As a blogger, I've contributed a lot of my own self-help advice. Did that make me a hypocrite? Was I a pusher?

Ohhhh....Ouch.

I realized that the truth about self-help is sometimes pretty stark. Little to none of it is going to stick unless you actively take a role in making it stick.
And I learned something else too...

If you want to make a lasting impression, our brains respond better to stories of conflict and struggle in the pursuit of something than they do to lists of motivational rules meant to bring bliss and success. Go figure.
Scientists have discovered that our brains are hard-wired for storytelling (I.e., tales of trouble). I have no idea how they came to that conclusion but there it is.
Jonathan Gottschall's book "The Storytelling Animal" relates to it. Many books I've read through the years stuck to me better than others because of the author's ability to wrap me up in the story...so maybe there is some truth to it.

Scientists think they're so smart!

So maybe the story you tell yourself about your dreams and your pursuits is the key to making inspiration stick. Maybe all that good advice really just needs a good story to go with it. This is not a simple proposition, especially when you feel heavier than a sad clown on the planet Jupiter.

It probably takes some effort to tease out the kind of story that'll work for you. You can't just snap your fingers, tell yourself you're Luke Skywalker, and expect a hero's inspired sense of purpose. Force or no Force, I've already tried and it doesn't work, believe me. It just doesn't.

So maybe, heres a process that might work for you (your mileage may vary):

SHUT IT ALL OFF. DISCONNECT.

I sometimes have to cut myself off—completely. In fact, I've gotten to the point where I have to do this often, which may belie other issues, but try this and see what happens:

No Internet.
No self-help books.
No motivational pollution.

Just me alone with my thoughts for a while. Admittedly, this is hard for me and often terrifying.
My mind is a scary place, even for me. Plus, my work requires connection. And I'm always looking for another fix. Again, that's the way of the world now.  I admit, I'm not fond of it.
It's not like it was 40 years ago when you worked your shift and then punched out till the next day without having to worry about reports and emails and phone calls coming at you every waking moment.

More and more, I have to do it though. I have to let myself unplug and crash. Only then can I even start to feel inspired again.

TALK TO A FRIEND.

Sadly, I haven't done this in quite a while. So I should probably follow my own cliched advice. Again.
It has to be a genuine friend who knows me..not a mere acquaintance. You have to feel safe enough to let the walls down..and you have to listen.
I'd do the same for my friend.

 
TAKE A LONG WALK ALONE.

Like many of you I walked to school a lot growing up. Uphill both ways in a snowstorm, knee deep....right?
But there was a lot to be said for those walks. It gave me a chance to process my day and think about how I fit into the world.
As an adult, I sure don't do this often enough. But when I do, it clears my head and gives me some emotional space to push forward...

 
WATCH YOUR FAVORITE "Against-all-odds-Hero" movie.

To this day, Rocky is still my favorite, but who cares as long as it works for you. Find that "Eye of the Tiger". Maybe that goes back to the bit about storytelling. Our brains like to hear about the struggle and triumph of th underdog because we like to feel that same boost in real life.

 
REAFFIRM YOUR DREAM IN WRITING

Ok..that's appropriate to me. I'm often surprised when I find out that what I actual think is not what I think I'm going to think. When I write these little ditties, it helps me edit and discover what's really going on up there...and in my heart too. I choose what I let everybody see. Writing sometimes gives me the opportunity to sort through conflicts and ideas so I understand them better. With that, I can reaffirm goals in a way that makes sense to me.

Make it bigger than you
I have a nasty, ugly, monster-mutant of an ego inside me that tries to make life all about him. The more I allow him to have expression, the less inspired or motivated I feel.

The world gets very small when it's just about me. In fact, it's suffocating. The only remedy is to step outside of my selfish concerns by caring about and doing good things for other people. I have to allow my dreams to morph a little for the service of the world beyond my narrow expression of "I."

I've found that the quickest way to experience a boost of inspiration is to help someone else solve a problem or surprise somebody with unexpected generosity. It can be something as simple as expressing gratitude to someone for the small ways he or she delights me.

Then I use that boost to help me imagine how my dreams and personal goals can have positive meaning or impact for other people and the earth that sustains me. Doing so feels good. It's the kind of feeling I want to have stick around.

For most of us, inspiration doesn't live long inside the hollow vacuum of greed and selfish accumulation of our individual desires. We are each a part of the world, not the world itself.
Establish your meaningful quest
When I was in the 7th grade, I co-wrote and illustrated three "epic" choose-your-own adventure books with my best friend. To be honest, I wrote..he illustrated.

The experience forced me to think about the unexpected pathways created by our decisions and the uncomfortable fact that our choices can never provide us with any real certainty. Anything can happen, no matter how safe a given path looks from the outset.  You can never completely prepare for the "human factor".

Being involved in the creation of such a story is kind of exciting. Inspiring even, maybe.

Just as in a choose-your-own adventure book, I think that life makes us the protagonists in our own stories. We might not get to choose every plot point or every ending, but we do often have a say in choosing a general direction or theme.

We get to co-write our own personal narratives. We get to be the heroes who don't give up in the face of lots of bad days or enormous obstacles or paths that have dead-ends. We get to do it all for more than just us. We get to try to save our corners of the world in our own special ways.

When I'm the hero of my story, I accept challenges more readily  and I'm more likely to brave my fears.   I care more about riding the adventure than dreaming (and stewing) about the outcome (which I've been prone to do on many an occasion).
Ruthlessly curate your mentors
I struggle with this one. Shiny new gurus draw me into their shiny happy places all the time. If I'm not careful (which I'm often not), I soon feel like…well, you read the beginning of this post, right?

I have to remember that no blog or book or podcast or seminar is going to move me past my hang-ups. Personal development bloggers and life coaches can show me possible paths. But it's up to me to choose which one to walk.

Then I actually have to take action. I can't just keep accumulating new maps.

So it's important to be selective. If I want to stay inspired on my quest, then I have to acknowledge that my mind only has space for a few good mentors.  That's where the trouble begins.

My mentors shouldn't just tell me what I want to hear. They should challenge me. They should help me deepen my narrative and push it further. And they shouldn't care whether or not I call them master or give them money or retweet their platitudes.

In my experience, the best mentors are the ones who make me laugh, not the ones who take themselves or anything else too seriously.

I'm way too serious enough already.
I don't need more rules. I've got plenty of those.
I need mentors who encourage me to play and explore and get dirty and scraped up. But they can't act all holier-than-thou if I choose not to.

Ultimately, my destination may not be the one I dream about. It's freeing to be OK with that.

So I guess that means I'm the hero in a story not yet told. It's being written now. Part of it is even in my own handwriting.

That inspires me.

Maybe it will inspire you too.

 
Thanks for reading.