Agreeableness: The Sacrifice of Self

Agreeableness breaks down into Compassion and Politeness. 

Compassionate people are the caring, loving types. They are sympathetic towards other people’s feelings and take an active interest in their friends and families lives. 

Polite people are very careful with their words. They have a deep respect for authority and hate to seem pushy or impose their will on others. 

On the surface agreeableness appears to be largely good, but we need to be alert to the costs that exist at any end of any personality trait spectrum. 

In this case the word costs can be taken literally. There’s a reason why assholes make more money…

Let’s start by talking about what drives agreeableness, before examining those costs and why it is you might want to practise being less agreeable. 

The Maternal Link

One of the biggest differences between men and women among the Big Five personality traits is in agreeableness. Women are a fair bit higher, on average, than men.

For fear of being lynched by the social constructionists, my feeling is biology is the overwhelming factor here.

Pregnancy has, especially historically, placed women in a far more vulnerable position. Even after childbirth, an infant didn’t have access to things like formula. The baby was firmly tied to the mother.

If you hadn’t noticed, infants are quite disagreeable little bastards. What’s particularly annoying is they have every right to be. They are completely and hopelessly dependant.

As a parent you must sacrifice yourself completely.

In the modern age the man can take on that role more and more, but as a tribal hunter-gatherer there really was only one woman for the job. 

But someone had to be the one to go and hunt for dinner. Someone had to to go out and negotiate on behalf of the tribe. 

Disposable Men

I believe these self-evident biological underpinnings manifest themselves in perhaps the biggest difference personality psychologists have found between men and women. The interest in things versus people. 

Male dominated industries include engineering and aviation. Female dominated industries (of which there are many) include teaching, nursing and childcare. 

Now, none of this is to say that social conditioning has nothing to do with the difference, but to deny the role of biology seems to me to be at the other end of ideological extreme. 

It’s worth noting that sex differences in personality have been shown to be larger in more gender equal countries.

Still, it would be remiss not to point that there is far more commonality – far more overlap – between men’s and women’s personalities than differences. I have quite an effeminate set of personality traits, on paper at least. That’s not uncommon. 

If you picked a man and woman off the street at random 4 times out of 10 the women would less agreeable than the man. That’s not insignificant either. 

But these slight trends play out prominently at the extreme ends of the spectrum. 

The vast majority of extremely disagreeable people are men. Extremely low agreeableness is a high predictor of incarceration. There are 15 times as many men in prison as women. 

We tend to look up at those who hold all the power and wealth, of course, but men also dominate the lowest positions in society. 

Disagreeableness cuts both ways.

One theory for this – called the greater male variability hypothesis – argues men are more disposable as they are less likely to reproduce successfully. 

This theory also makes sense when you consider why women are more neurotic on average. Sensitivity to negative emotion is what keeps you alive, even if it does kill your quality of life.

And that’s what an infant needs from its mother most of all: to survive.

The Sacrifice of Self

Placing the gender debate aside, collectively we are much more agreeable than our ancestors among the primatesOne assumes that as we evolved we realised there was far more to be gained from sacrificing on behalf of the tribe.

Of course, the more agreeable you are the more friends you’re likely to have, the more likely those friends will repay your kindness in turn. 

In this sense compassion can be thought of as a negotiating strategy. I’ll share my spoils today so that you’ll share yours tomorrow. That way none of us have to go hungry.

The benefits here are obvious. 

So a far more interesting question is to ask whether you can be too compassionate or too polite? Often it depends towards whom that compassion/politeness is directed, but the answer is most definatey yes!

One pathology associated with high agreeableness is dependant personality disorder – when someone develops a child-like dependance on authority figures because their unable to establish any autonomy of their own. 

In any relationship you want a partner who is similar in temperament when it comes to agreeableness, otherwise it may be a very one-sided affair. 

However, two highly agreeable people need to watch out! If you avoid conflict at all costs, you end up stewing in your own resentment. It builds over time. 

Ultimately a relationship without conflict is doomed. 

Then there’s the tricky issue of determining how much you should sacrifice for your kids. At some point the bird has to leave the nest. The only way a kid can learn to fly is by going solo

If you over-coddle them, or over-structure their lives, they may fail to develop the necessary autonomy to stand on their own two feet. 

This is a story that’s as old as time. Like the child who fights his or her nature to please the parents.

To some extent this is a struggle we all have. Our need to meet the approval of others at the expense of our own identity. 

A Competitive Edge

Disagreeableness correlates strongly with competitiveness.

One way to foster mediocracy among kids is to hand out participation medals at sporting events so no-one has to feel bad.

It defeats the point. So you ask, what’s the point of competition? Well, to get what’s best. Fundamentally, we compete so that we can eat. (When you consider that most games involve hitting some kind of target, it’s quite possible that sport derived from hunting. )

But competition works in reverse. It gets the best (and worst) out of us. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. 

Competition does drive better results but so does working as a team. So, you might conclude, the very best results come from competing as groups. 

This is why I believe sports is so important, especially for children/adolescents. It teaches you to both work as a team and how to negotiate on your group’s behalf. 

If it’s in your nature to sacrifice yourself for others, finding a cause or a group that you’re willing to stand and fight for is a good way to teach you to be more disagreeable.

There’s always a way to stack the personality cards in your favour. 

The other thing sport teaches you is how to lose, how to “take it on the chin.” We undermine that process by doing things like handing out participation medals. But we also undermine that process by instilling a cutthroat win-at-all-costs mentality. 

The most important thing isn’t winning, it’s being allowed to compete again next time. In the game of life that’s what gives you the best chance of success.

The Dark Knight

Let’s finish this post by talking about those who don’t play fair. The so-called assholes who end up ruling the world. Many of them are, of course, but to lie the blame squarely at their feet is to miss the lesson. 

One of the main reasons disagreeable people make more money is because they don’t take things so personally. Of course they might not have many friends, but who cares when you live on a luxury yacht!

Jokes aside, just because someone isn’t personable doesn’t mean they’re bad. And just because someone is nice doesn’t mean they’re good. 

Perhaps it’s us agreeable types that need to develop a bit more backbone?

If you ask me, the world’s isn’t short of nice people. We don’t need more fake niceness in the world. What need are more good people willing to act like assholes. 

What I mean by that is a willingness to upset/be disliked by other people. (Not actually be an asshole.)

The reason we avoid that difficult conversation is because we fear upsetting the other person. That’s what we tell ourselves, at least.

But the brutal and honest truth is – the real reason we don’t want to make other people feel bad – is because that would make us feel bad.

Yet, by avoiding that difficult conversation we become less resilient. We all feel worse (and are worse off) in the long run. 

And none of us are awake.

As a society it seems we’ve forgotten that being offended is actually a choice. It’s not one that should be taken lightly. 

Sticks and stones remember? 

Being offended has little to do with the horrible things someone else has said, but what you believe. It has to do with the expectations you’ve placed on others.

I’ll finish with this thought.

I once heard the remark that success can be measured by the number of difficult conversations one has had. In an increasingly polarised world I believe the success or failure of democracy will be measured by the same yard stick. 

The way to fight the forces of evil – both within and out – is through understanding. To do that we must be willing to have the difficult conversations.

Ultimately this is what the freedom of speech was designed to both protect and promote. It’s the one thing we should all agree on. 

The complete freedom to disagree. 


This is part of a series of posts on the Big Five Personality Traits. Please find previous post below:

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

Openness: The Gates of Mind

“Openness is seen in the breadth, depth and permeability of consciousness, and in the recurrent need to enlarge and examine experience.”

McCrae & Costa, 1997, p. 826

Openness (which is actually Openness to experience) breaks down into Intellect and Openness. 

Intellects like grappling with ideas. They love to solve complex problems and debate philosophical matters. They have a rich vocabulary and can formulate ideas clearly.

Those high in Openness enjoy the beauty found in nature and art. They see patterns that others don’t. They tend to be very reflective – the so-called daydreamers who always have their heads stuck in the clouds.

Open types love to experience new things, of course. Having a creative outlet isn’t so much a hobby as it is a need. Like oxygen!

In simple terms, we can say that straight Openness is associated with creativity, imaginativeness, and interest in aesthetics, whereas Intellect is related to an interest in ideas.

Both are strongly correlated with IQ. 

Let’s start with creativity and Openness before moving on to Intellect, and the link both have to intelligence.

What Is Creativity?

To quote the dictionary, “creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something.” Inventiveness is a good word. What’s going to help facilitate a creative mind is exposure to many different things, movies, experiences, books, art, theatre, etc, etc.

One way researchers have measured creativity is through divergent thinking tests. These require individuals to come up with as many ideas or solutions to a simple problem.

For example, how many uses can you think up for a brick? 

Less open people typically generate fewer and more obvious answers to this question, like building a wall or a house. Whereas an open person will think weapon, paperweight, doorstop, or putting it on the gas pedal of a car in case you want to drive it off a cliff without anyone in it. (Naturally.)

You can measure creativity by the sheer number of ideas or in terms of originality.

What differentiates an open person’s brain has something to do with latent inhibition, a process also known as learned irrelevance. 

Of course, it’s impossible to take in every detail the world throws our way. Learning what to ignore is critical, otherwise we would become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data presented.

So what our clever little minds do is cull irrelevant information. The cost here is this information may be helpful later on. When later on arrives, we may fail to recognise its significance, to unlearn its irrelevance. 

Researchers have tested latent inhibition by “exposing participants to seemingly unimportant stimuli that later form the basis of a learning task.”

For the average person, this information – having been rendered irrelevant – gets filtered out. So it fails to penetrate awareness. Open people, on the other hand, are far more likely to bring that information to mind.

This is what, in part, makes Open people great problem solvers. The ability to connect seemingly unrelated dots, to see things that others don’t. 

The Costs of Openness

So, you can think of latent inhibition as the brain’s filter. Open-minded people have a leakier consciousness that lets more information in.

You might think that’s great because you notice more. That must be an advantage. This is true, but it also means you’re more likely to struggle with distraction. Focusing on the task at hand can be tough if you’re always off in the clouds. 

That’s the price you pay for a creative mind, of course. A wandering mind is a creative one. But it’s also one prone to overthinking and anxiety.

Those who are excessively high in Openness and low in Conscientiousness (in particular) may be so drawn by new ideas/beliefs – so susceptible to changing winds – that they struggle to form a coherent life structure.

Put another way, they have trouble defining themselves. 

It can be a curse for someone high in neuroticism too. 

Openness is, in some sense, a drive to explore the unknown. To buck conventions and take a step out into chaos. It’s a risker mode of existence. That nature can be hard to reconcile if you’re highly neurotic. 

The danger for a closed-minded individual is ignoring what is pertinent. The warning signs that what you are doing or thinking is wrong.

We shouldn’t always follow the standard operating procedures (as we say in aviation). Often we need to think laterally to overcome a problem. To adapt to an ever-changing world.

If you have a belief – if you only ever look for/accept what confirms that belief – your idea of the world may crash violently with reality. This can be hard to reconcile if you don’t learn to open your mind – if not for you, then for those on who you enforce your particular worldview. 

The Link to Intelligence.

It’s difficult to talk about Openness without mentioning intelligence.

I should say, a straight IQ test is still the best way to measure intelligence, although you’re unlikely to be low in IQ if you score high in either Intellect or Openness. However, it’s not uncommon to be low in Intellect but high in IQ. 

This is because Intellect is a measure of interest in abstract ideas, essentially, whereas an IQ test is a measure of processing speed, verbal ability, working memory, and problem-solving capacity.

You can, broadly speaking, break general intelligence into Fluid intelligence and Crystallised intelligence.

Fluid intelligence is like your brain’s processing speed. Provided you are given the proper nutrition in childhood, it’s pretty much set from birth. It slowly declines with age.

Crystallised intelligence is a measure of what you know. It’s the knowledge you’ve accumulated from prior learning and past experiences. It increases with age.

There’s an interesting split here.

Straight Openness is more closely linked to verbal or Crystallised intelligence, whereas Intellect is more closely related to non-verbal/general or Fluid intelligence. 

How to Broaden Your Mind

Now, one question that often arises – something that has created a lot of heated debate – is whether or not one’s intelligence can be increased. The answer is both yes and no.

For the most part your Fluid intelligence is fixed but you can increase your Crystallised intelligence. But here’s the thing. Crystallised intelligence and Fluid intelligence are intertwined.

You increase Crystallised intelligence by using your Fluid intelligence to reason and think about abstract problems.

So here’s a suggestion. 

Find an idea that really grabs you. Something that is difficult to wrap your head around, that you can grapple with. Then read as much as you can about it. Listen to all sides of the argument.

Really seek to understand. 

Finally, consolidate your learning by writing about it in your own words. It is one of the best ways to do so.

Trying to learn something new is a habit that’s worth developing for life. It turns out that increased Crystallised intelligence actually compensates for the decline in other cognitive abilities as you age.

It’s like an old chessplayer competing against a younger apprentice. The younger kid may be able to think quicker, but the more senior player has a considerable breadth of knowledge to draw on. 

Some Closing Thoughts

I want to finish this post by bringing up a final point about intelligence. 

Sometimes, something of a superiority complex is found in naturally intelligent people. If you have an IQ of 115 or greater, that puts you in the top 15 % of the population. What’s more, most people you know are probably just as smart as you are. 

You’re not seeing the whole picture. 

There are just as many people at the other end of the IQ spectrum. Those who score less than 83 are not eligible to be inducted into the United States army. They really struggle to look after themselves in a modern complex industrial society. 

What that means is (I’m taking an educated guess here that I’m talking to the top 15%) you’re really fucking lucky. If you have a high IQ that is something to be extremely grateful for. 

Not to belittle any hard work for whatever successes you may have accomplished, but IQ is the most significant determinant of success. Nothing else comes close.  

You’re not better than someone just because you’re smarter than them. And there’s a reason why researchers have often found an inverse correlation between intelligence and conscientiousness. 

Those who struggled more at school often had to work much harder to pass the bar. In the process of learning to work hard, many of these kids often end up outpacing everyone else later in life. 

There is something significant to be said about that. Of course there are many things that make up one’s character. Intelligence is but one.

I want to stress that all of us are closed-minded to a large degree. Nature didn’t intend for everyone to open natured for good reason. It is a rare trait to be highly open in nature.

If we didn’t compartmentalise the world – if we didn’t attach labels, draw lines or make assumptions – we wouldn’t have a psychological grounding to stand on.

We have to close our minds to a large extent in this world. If you remain open to absolutely everything, you will never become anything. 

That means make some tough choices. That means coming to terms with the world we have closed ourselves off from and the one we have locked ourselves into. 

I believe that not only is that ok, it’s necessary.

Because we don’t, can’t, and never will be able to see the whole picture. But that idea, paradoxically, is the one we must always remain open to.

This is part of a series of posts on the Big Five Personality Traits. Please find previous post below:

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

The Big Five Personality Model: An Empirical Tool for Understanding Yourself

The Story of Personality Theory

Some 80-plus years ago, researchers embarked on one of the longest (and most boring) projects in human psychology. It started with the idea that people are born with different character traits that remain relatively stable throughout one’s lifetime. 

Welcome to the idea of personality. 

To test its validity one researcher – let’s call him researcher number 1 – began by picking up a dictionary and highlighting any word he could find related to human behaviour.

After putting this list together, another researcher – let’s call him researcher number 2 (presumably because number 1 killed himself out of boredom) – took that list and started to categorise these words into, well, categories.

Unfortunately he also killed himself, so another bunch of researchers took over and began the painstaking job of measuring these categories, or traits, on a large number of people over a very long period of time. 

The researchers who managed not to kill themselves (God bless) started narrowing this list down by binning any trait that fluctuated too much – failing to show any signs of stability over time.

Eventually, the list got smaller and smaller until, by the 1960s, they were left with just 5. (Traits, that is, not researchers.) Those were:

  • Openness 
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness 
  • Neuroticism

At this point, researcher number 648 – I believe it was – confidently declared that these five traits can be used to explain all human behaviour. It took another 20 years or so before researchers had the data to back up this bold claim, but it turned out that number 648 was right!

The Big Five, as they are now referred to, “have been found to contain and subsume most personality traits.” They are considered to represent the basic structure of what we call personality.

The data has shown the Big Five are relatively stable over time and that there is a genetic component to it.Where you land on the spectrum of each trait goes a long way to determining who you are, the choices you make, and how well you do in life.

But listen, don’t kill yourself just yet!

An Overview Of The Big Five Personality Traits

The main thing to take from this sad story is that the Big Five traits represent one of the most established and empirically driven measurements in human psychology.

Of course there is some disagreement with the model. Some believe there should a sixth trait while others disagree with the semantics, but, in the main, psychologists agree that the Big Five model captures the human experience well.

In a grossly simplified nutshell, those who are highly extroverted tend to feel more positive emotions and have lots of friends. Highly neurotic people tend to feel more negative emotions. They are more likely to get divorced, lose their job, and be depressed. 

Those high in conscientiousness like to do things to the very best of their ability. They enjoy following schedules and the predictability of routines. Whereas those high in openness are very creative. They love to travel and experience new things.

Finally, those high in agreeableness are kind and compassionate in nature. They love helping and caring for others.

It’s worth reiterating that each trait represents a range between two extremes. So low extraversion would mean you’re introverted. Low neuroticism would mean you’re a zen Buddhist monk. Low agreeableness would mean you’re a bit of ass. 

You get it!

Where you lie on the range of each trait makes up your personality’s basic – underlying – structure. Of course, the variations are vast. And, of course, our personalities are complicated. They do change day to day depending on our mood, environment etc.

This leads the argument that such models are too simplistic – that they will always be prone to error because they can’t capture someone’s personality in its entirety.

Why Should You Use The Big Five Personality Model

To give you an analogy, if I call a tree a tree, it paints a very blurry picture in your mind’s eye. But no two trees are the same. Your idea of a tree is going to be very different from mine. 

So, it’s worth you giving a few details to hang your hat on. Telling you what kind of tree it is, what environment it is best suited to, etc. 

But If I take that too far – if I start describing the detail of every leaf, well, you might want to kill yourself. This is the equivalent of breaking it down to the level of the individual. It’s actually impossible to do for one thing. 

What you want is to slice up the pie to the extent that it provides a practical framework to work with, but not to the point that the details take you away from the bigger – more important – picture.

Now, where that happy medium lies has been the subject of much (painfully dull) debate over the years, with different personality models proposed ranging from over 4000 traits to just 3. 

The big five emerged as the leader from the pack following extensive literature. It is seen as the preferred model by many in psychology today.

What makes it a particularly great tool are the revisions it’s undergone since its inception in the 1990’s breaking it down into a series of correlated facets and sub-facets.

A good way to visualise this is to imagine the big five as the major branches of a tree, with the facets and sub-facets representing the smaller branches and leaves. 

This gives you both a lower and higher resolution picture to work with. Here’s a pretty picture:

Understanding Yourself Using The Big Five Personality Model

Over the following weeks I will write a post about each of the big five traits and the two correlated aspects they break down into. 

I will propose several theories for why they exist and what the personality strengths and weaknesses are (broadly speaking) depending on which side of the spectrum you tilt towards. 

I will offer up some practical advice for helping you work with and strengthen your particular personality hand.

But before I do, it’s worth understanding the particular personalty hand we’ve been dealt in greater detail. So here’s some homework to do before next week’s enthralling lesson.

You can head over to understandmyself.com and take a test that will give you a detailed breakdown of your particular personality make-up based on the Big Five model. 

(You can also do this as a couple and get an additional report that points out your blind spots. Something I can highly recommend.)

I believe it costs 10 USD. (There are free versions of this test available, of course. The only reason I recommend this one is because of the detailed report it gives telling you where you lie on the spectrum of both the Big Five and their correlated aspects, also what that means for you.)

I should say, if you tend to be hyper self-critical, it’s going to skew the results. It’s important to be honest but try to take it when you feel normal. 

Anyway folks, that’s it from me this week.

The main points are:

  • The Big Five represents one of the most established and empirically driven models in human psychology. 
  • It’s considered one of the most reliable personality models in modern psychology. 
  • The Big Five represent the basic underlying structure of one’s personality. Each trait breaks down into correlated aspects that give you a higher resolution picture.
  • You can take a test at understandmyself.com to find out where you land on the spectrum of each trait and what that means for you.
  • It’s best not to kill yourself.

Stay tuned and stay alive – I swear it gets a lot more interesting! 

Next week I will be discussing extraversion. 

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

Why Understanding Personality Is Key to Increasing Potential

I recently completed a course on personality theory that I found infinitely fascinating. Today I want to share some thoughts about how this understanding can help us better navigate in the world.

You can think of personality as the lens through which we view the world. It functions by filtering the world so we only pay attention to certain things. This then influences the way we think, feel, and act.

Part of what colours our lens has to do with the environment in which we have been raised. But another significant part has to do with the innate personality traits that we were born with.

Science has shown that much of personality is inborn and relatively stable over time. Who we are runs deep. Indeed, most parents can get a good sense of who their children are by the time they’re toddlers.

This understanding is critically important. 

Not only for knowing who we should become but for helping us understand that other people are fundamentally different. They will never be able to look at the world like you do – neither will you they. It’s this understanding that helps foster greater compassion and tolerance for “the other side.” 

This is also why we should pick things like our profession based on our personality. Some are of us are naturally creative while others look at art and simply don’t get it. Conversely, some of us are highly conscientious while others couldn’t care less if they put odd socks on in the morning.

Most organisations need a combination of both vertical (in-the-box) type thinkers and lateral (out-of-the-box) type thinkers. Indeed, the world needs various personality types because there isn’t a single answer to all of the world’s problems.

Does this mean we can’t adjust the colour of our lens? Does it mean we can’t become something we’re not? No, not entirely. Our personalities change naturally as we age. They are malleable. And we should try to expand the limits of our own personality.

That said, there are limits. After a certain point, you get diminishing rates of return. We all have a proclivity to learn specific skills more quickly than others. We all struggle to understand certain things more than others too.

This is because all of us have limited cognitive abilities. We’re simply incapable of processing all of the objective facts in the unknowable universe. Different personalities are nature’s way of covering all bases.

This is important for understanding different political persuasions, which is heavily influenced by personality. Sometimes liberals have the answer; at other times conservatives do. But, at the end of the day, to quote some Indian dude, “the left-wing and right-wing are part of the same bird.” 

We need diversity of thought. And we desperately need to work together despite our differences. This is how we cover each other’s blind spots.

There’s something else to be aware of too. 

Many of us berate ourselves for our weaknesses while failing to see how they’re intimately linked to our strengths. This is because there are pros and cons at the end of each personality trait spectrum.

Ultimately this understanding can help us find that goldilocks position in life we’re all looking for. The one that suits us best (and this, I firmly believe, best suits the world too). But it also helps to adjust the parts of ourselves that on occasion need adjusting to fit the circumstances.

Ideally, you want to wear the hat most suited to who you are as much as possible. But you also want the ability to put on a different hat when the circumstances require it. Because life is unpredictable so we must be adaptable. 

The trick is to specialise at what you are but practise what you aren’t. 

But to do that, we must first become clear about who we really are at our core. We must first understand the hand we have been dealt before we try to play it – before we match the game to our particular set of cards.

This is something I want to talk to you about next week by introducing you to something known as the Big Five Personality model

In the following weeks I mean to break these five traits down while placing my own personality under the microscope. In the process I hope to shine a brighter light on who you are too, so we may all deepen our understanding about ourselves and the world we live in. 

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot or @PointlessOverT

You can also email him directly at: anxiouspilot2@gmail.com

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that has a personality disorder…

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) A great way to unburden your mind is to write your worries down on paper. Then, ask yourself some objective questions about those thoughts and write those answers down. Then, keep going – keep asking questions about your answers and writing those thoughts down. Eventually, as if by magic, you’ll come to a surprising insight.

2) What you want is a different hat to wear for every occasion. But you also want to wear the hat most suited to who you are as much as you possibly can. To put it another way: you should specialise at what you are but practise what you aren’t.

3) Your personality is the lens through which you view the world. Part of what colours this lens has do with the social context under which we have been raised. But another major part has to do with the innate personality traits that we were born with. Who we are – who we really are – runs deep. This understanding is important. Not only for knowing who we should become, but for helping us understand that other people are fundamentally different. It’s this understanding that helps foster greater compassion and tolerance for “the other side.” It also encourages us to engage with the other side so they can help point out our blind spots.


2 x Quotes:

“To be human means to be constantly in the grip of opposing emotions, to daily reconcile apparently conflicting tensions. I want this, but I need that. I cherish this, but I adore its opposite, too.”

— Stephen Fry

“What frightens us or gives us anxiety is not when bad things happen—it’s when we’re not sure whether a bad thing will happen or not.

— Mark Manson 

1 x Thing:

This Mark Manson article: The 3 Paradoxes of Life in which he answers the question of finding contentment by wrestling with the 3 paradoxes of life. The paradox of choice struck a chord with me in particular. As he writes, “Freedom is only meaningful when it is given up. And we give up freedom by making commitments.” Well worth a read!


1 x Joke:

Did you hear the tragic news about the Italian chef who died?

He pasta-way!


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3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 13/05/22

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You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Motivational Mondays – 04/10/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that makes you take a freezing cold shower before wrapping you in a warm towel.

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 


4 x Thoughts From Me:

When you cling to something you lose the ability to see clearly. It’s only by letting go that you give yourself the space that true love requires. 

When our leaders continue to lie and treat us like children – when they fail to protect us in ways we know they never should have… At times like these I take solace in the words that Obama said when he left office – that progress is never a straight line – but the over all trend is upward. The world is far safer and more equitable than it was 100 years ago. We will always have these wobbles in history as those in power try hard to resist changes that are both necessary and inevitable. Of course we can’t be complacent and we need to keep fighting for those changes. It’s important to stress, in the same way that high can’t exist without low, hate cannot exist without love. Now is the time for the voices of love, peace and compassion to rise to the table and tame the cauldron that is 2020.

The best way to look after the world is to look after yourself. 

How much of the time that you spend on your phone is intentional versus mindless? Let me be clear about intentional time. I’m not just talking about work. Connecting with family and friends or using social media to champion a cause you believe in. This is intentional time. Watching cat videos or playing candy crush – maybe not. If your intention is to unwind with a game that’s fine of course, but make sure you use your phone with intention. Have a point when you pick it up. Make sure it’s not simply about trying to get a dopamine hit because that, my friend, is an addiction. 


3 x Quotes From Others:

“The moral thing I should wish to say… is very simple. I should say: love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way and if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn the kind of charity and the kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.” – Bertrand Russell (Source: brain pickings.org – The Love of Truth and the Truth of Love: Bertrand Russell on the Two Pillars of Human Flourishing)

“Rabbi Alfred Bettleheim once said: “Prejudice saves us a painful trouble, the trouble of thinking.” ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Source: tablet mag.com – Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Teenage Essay on the Holocaust)

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs (Source: cristianmihai.net – Don’t Try. Be)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This brilliant Tim Ferris podcast episode with Jamie Foxx on Workout Routines, Success Habits, and Untold Hollywood Stories… For sheer entertainment value this might be one of the best Tim Ferris episodes I’ve listened to. Jamie Foxx’s impersonations are incredible. What. A. Talent. This is well worth taking the time to listen. I guarantee you’ll love it! You can find a few of quotes and notes I took from the pod below.

NOTES & QUOTES:

  • ‘You are the bow and your children are the arrows. You’re just trying your best to aim them in the right direction. And hopefully your aim isn’t too off.’
  • “The notes are right underneath your fingers baby. You just gotta take the time to play the right ones. That’s life.” – Ray Charles
  • “What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing.”
  • If you can stay motivated and not be jaded or feel entitled or be spoiled then you can do anything. 
  • “The hardest part to achieving something great is afterwards because now you have to top that.
  • One of the most amazing things about America is the evolution of freedom. We are on the right path. Be who you want to be. Love who you want to love. We are evolving. 
  • I asked my daughter what she thinks about gay rights. She replied we don’t. We don’t think about. We don’t give a shit. That’s you guys. – Thank god for the youth. 
  • You better start laughing because you’re gonna be dead in a minute. 
  • What do you do when you get writers block? I write about things that get me angry. 
  • The best kind of interaction is in person because it requires discretion to deal with all types. On the internet people interact without discretion and you can get dragged down by it. 
  • Your hustle muscle is the most important thing to exercise. When you want something and you go make it happen as opposed to leaving it up to chance. If you hustle you’re not spending your time worrying. Put the hard work in and it takes 70 percent of your worrying away. 

2 – This very interesting BBC article by David RobsonWhy Arrogance Is Dangerously Contagious. From the article: “Now, fascinating new research by Joey Cheng, an assistant professor of psychology at York University, shows that overconfidence can be contagious. “If you have been exposed to an overconfident person, then you become more likely to overestimate your own relative standing,” she says. It’s a tendency that could cause dangerously deluded thinking to spread through a team.” This is well worth the quick read!


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

So we took our son for a little staycation this weekend to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival!

As I was pointing it out the full moon to him, he quickly buried his head into my shoulder while saying, “I’m scared.”

I asked him, “Of the moon?”

He replied, “Yes.”

I looked over to my wife who said, “Why on Earth would he be scared of the moon?”

I was quick to reply, “Why on Moon wouldn’t he be?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Wait wait, I can come up with something better…”

I continued, “Maybe he’s afraid that it’s going to sit on him!”

Get it!?

Because it’s the Moon


I’m here all week ladies and gentlemen.! 

Till next time…

Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

How can you make sure that the time spent on your phone is intentional?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about anything I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom!)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Motivational Mondays – 28/09/20

Motivational Mondays – 28/09/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that forces you to take the stairs before handing you a beer.

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 


4 x Thoughts From Me:

The greater your understanding of how small you are, the bigger the person you become. 

If you want peace in this life then you have to learn to let the ego go. That’s not to say you should see it as the enemy. Your ego is a part of you. It’s a tool to be used, just like your hands. What I’m getting at is the ability to stand back from your ego and see when it‘s useful to engage with it or not. Often it’s best left alone. In my eyes it’s an essential skill to be developed throughout ones lifetime. You may never master it but with practise you can become exceptionally good. If you don’t, of course, you may lose it altogether. The danger then is that the tool ends up using you.

People will always believe a confident lier over those who whimper the truth.

Why write when everything has already been written about? Two reasons. The first one is because it’s not true. No one has written about your story. No one has written about your own unique perspectives. The second reason is because no one has written exactly as you would. Often writing is about reinforcing timeless advice and passing it on in a way that speaks to the people of our time for our time.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way.” – William Blake (Source: brain pickings.org – How an Artist is Like a Tree: Paul Klee on Creativity)

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov (Source: artofblogging.net – Writing Quotes to Inspire You to Punch the Damn Keys)

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”Albert Einstein (Source: waysofthinking.co.uk – Why We Need To Use The Power Of Imagination Now More Than Ever)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This inspiring TED talk by Xiye Bastida‘In a deeply moving letter to her grandmother, Xiye Bastida reflects on what led her to become a leading voice for global climate activism — from mobilizing school climate strikes to speaking at the United Nations Climate Summit alongside Greta Thunberg — and traces her resolve, resilience and profound love of the earth to the values passed down to her. “Thank you for inviting me to love the world since the moment I was born,” she says.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“If our struggles make the world a better place, then they will make us better people.” – Xiye Bastida

2 – This brilliant Mark Manson article, The Cognitive Biases That Make Us All Terrible People. As Mark explains, ‘For those who don’t know, cognitive biases are basically inherent “flaws” in our psychology—they’re the predictable ways we misjudge situations, filter information incorrectly, or jump to irrational conclusions about people or events. We all have them. We all succumb to them. And it’s only in understanding them that we can develop the self-awareness to guard ourselves against them.‘ Well worth the read!


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

For all you parents out there – and seen as the Moon Festival is upon us this week – I thought you might enjoy this timely rendition of the classic children’s book Goodnight Moon


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. That’s all from me this week! 

Till next time…

Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

How can you make mindfulness a habit?

(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Motivational Mondays – 21/09/20

Why A Basic Understanding Of The Mind Helps To Let Go

A basic understanding of the mind helps.

To understand our mind is a tool we can use – it isn’t who we are – we are not our thoughts.

The mind is simply a vessel that continuously delivers thoughts based on everything that it’s been fed.

That doesn’t mean your thoughts are accurate – it means the exact opposite.

The vast majority of stuff we are fed and told, the concepts, constructs and expectations of society are largely bullshit – they’re just ideas. Your mind is always going to project that stuff to some degree or another and that’s perfectly ok – you should understand and accept that!

But! BUT BUT!!

You should not accept such thoughts as accurate – you should treat them and the beliefs you have with a HUGE amount of scepticism – remain open to the possibility that what you think and believe – that what most people think and believe – is largely bullshit! Because, and I’ve got news for you, it is.

That doesn’t mean you should create an inner dialogue about what you are thinking or currently believe – that only serves to strengthen the thought you are having anyway! What I’m getting at is because of this understanding, you should let go of the VAST majority of your thoughts.

Let them pass.

Your mind is simply generating ideas continuously – by letting them pass and not fixating on anyone of them – they lose their power of being able to define you! This also allows you to see those thoughts more clearly – for what they are.

It’s from looking at them this way that we can gain greater insight that helps to shatter the illusions our clever minds love to make up!

FYI These are just some thoughts from my mind – feel free to let them go/treat it as largely bullshit (probably just echoing something I fed it anyway).

9 Golden Rules For Cultivating A Growth Mindset.

“There is no such thing as a natural-born pilot. Whatever my aptitude of talents, becoming a proficient pilot was hard work, really a lifetimes learning experience… The best pilots fly more than others; that’s why they’re the best.” CHUCK YEAGER

Following on from a previous post: How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free, I decided to put together this list of 9 Golden Rules for Cultivating a Growth Mindset, that I compiled from my notes of Carol S. Dweck‘s brilliant book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Here they are:


1 – Make A Concrete Plan.

To do this think about the goals you want to achieve most -ones that align you closest with your values – then write out a detailed plan by asking yourself where, when and how. The more detailed the plan the better. Finally review & modify as necessary everyday.

2 – Show Up Everyday.

It’s important you form the habit by showing up every single day. Remember you’re telling yourself something important when you show up on the bad days as well as the good. Even if all you can manage is 10 minutes, 5 pushups or 1 paragraph – whatever it is you’re working towards – make sure to show up!

Dweck advises the “next time you feel depressed, think about effort as a positive, constructive force, not a drag – try it out.”

3 – Don’t Let Any Failure Define You.

Remember you’re not your failures. Remember you only ever really fail when you decide to give up. Remember to keep the idea of a growth mindset in the forefront of your mind.

As Dweck points out, “When people believe their base qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. When depressed it is only more of a reason to hang on and do what’s necessary to keep your life on track.

If you keep going, keep learning, keep growing – you will prevail.

Don’t. Give. Up.

4 – Study To Learn Not Simply Pass.

“Those with a growth mindset take charge of their learning and motivation. Instead of plunging into unthinking memorisations of course material, they said, “I looked for themes and underlying principles across the lectures… I went over mistakes until I was certain I understood them.” – CAROL S. DWECK

Loving the process is key. Find your passion by defining the values that mean most to you, then build your life around them. If you can do that, you will have a natural hunger to learn. Success will then come about naturally as a by-product of simply doing what you love. You’ll also realise that ‘success’, as defined by society, is something completely different.

5 – Seek feedback/Ask for help

“The person who asks is a fool for five minutes, but the person who does not ask remains a fool forever.” – Ancient proverb.

True self confidence is the courage to be open – to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source. Real self confidence is reflected in your mindset: your readiness to grow.” – CAROL S. DWECK.

Seek constructive criticism, not praise. You can always improve. You can always grow. Forget about feeling stupid or disengaged and think about learning and how to improve instead. Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to put up your hand.

6 – Praise effort not talent.

 “Admiring our children may temporarily lift our self-esteem by signaling to those around us what fantastic parents we are and what terrific kids we have — but it isn’t doing much for a child’s sense of self. In trying so hard to be different from our parents, we’re actually doing much the same thing — doling out empty praise the way an earlier generation doled out thoughtless criticism. If we do it to avoid thinking about our child and her world, and about what our child feels, then praise, just like criticism, is ultimately expressing our indifference.” STEPHEN GROSZ 

Make sure to praise effort for trying to achieve something difficult, even in failure. Never praise natural ability or talent, especially when they complete something easily.

One of the worst parenting compliments to give, is telling children how clever they are. Far better to apologise for something being too easy and then challenging them to do something more difficult. Following that, praising their effort even, or perhaps especially, if they fall short. Then encouraging them to think about how they could have done things differently. Finally encouraging them to keep going.

7 – Be honest but be constructive.

When criticising it’s important we give our honest assessment but equally important we offer advice on how to improve. Don’t simply judge, teach. Think of helping that person to grow by giving them the tools with which to improve.

Be sure to tell them how you really feel. It’s not always easy but honesty is ultimately the kinder thing to do.

8 –Find the time to reflect.

Look back at bad experiences and understand that it doesn’t define your intelligence or personality. Instead ask what can I learn from it? Do this every day if you can. Ask how could I have done better? What are the lessons I need to learn? How can I grow from here? Show up the next day with those lessons fresh in the mind.

Don’t settle for good enough when you can be great. Don’t settle for great when you’re capable of being extraordinary. Keep going and form the habits of champions.

9. Take Ownership Of Your Mistakes.

“Unfortunately people like things that work against growth. People like to use their strengths to achieve quick, dramatic results – they don’t take their weaknesses as seriously as they might”Morgan Mccall

Dweck says, ‘you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.’ Blaming and complaining get you nowhere. If you stand up and take responsibility for your mistakes, you’ll gain the respect and admiration of others. You’ll also put yourself in the mindset of wanting to learn and grow. This is what it means to be a true leader.

Dweck notes, “Leaders are made, not born, and made more by themselves than by external needs.” That means taking full responsibility for your life and your mistakes.


SOURCES/ARTICLES:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Presence, Not Praise: How To Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Achievement by Maria Popova

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives by Maria Popova

The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz