003D. Newsletter Highlights: April 2023

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Key Quote

“Every decision we make carries consequences that affect not only ourselves, but those around us.” – Andrew Gilley

Episode Summary

Delve into the enigmatic world of personal development, as we unearth the secrets of ancient philosophy to help us transcend the shadows of our past. Discover the hidden power of habits in molding our very essence, uniquely crafted to suit our individual journeys.

Join us as Andrew Gilley reveals the art of embracing life with love, creating spaces of wonder, and kindling the fire of curiosity in our interactions. Uncover the timeless wisdom of the Greeks, redefining happiness as an all-encompassing fulfillment, rather than a fleeting emotion.

Venture into the realm of emotional resilience, where true strength lies not in perpetual happiness or numbness, but in the calm acceptance of life’s ebb and flow. Learn to forge a character imbued with responsibility and interconnectedness, as we unveil the significance of integrity and trust within the tapestry of our communities.

Embark on this captivating journey through our podcast episode, and unravel the mysteries of self-discovery that await.

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Andrew Gilley: Welcome to Surviving Humanity: A Self-Help Podcast, where we shift your perspective to help you overcome the obstacles in your life. I’m one of your co-hosts, Andrew Gilley, and today I’ll be reading you highlights from this month’s newsletter focusing on how to build character and habits. You can sign up to get these newsletters straight to your inbox from the homepage of our website at survivinghumanity.net.

So, let’s get started.

First, I’m gonna look back at the last three episodes from this month and talk about them a little bit. Wes first treats us to a monologue about his personal story of struggle and self-discovery, and tragically it does begin with childhood trauma and abuse. He discusses how this leads to a life of codependency, anxiety, depression, even further issues with compromised immune systems and nervous system issues through complex PTSD.

Wes then details his journey of reconnecting with his authentic self and personal development through personality tests, book readings, therapy, and ancient philosophy and spiritual modalities. He reflects on how he changed his perspective throughout this journey, how he’s reframed his ideas on pain and suffering, and how he hopes to teach others to get through and swim instead of sink when dealing with their own traumas.

It’s a very personal episode and I think it’s really important to – for some people at least – really reflect deeply on personality and study the things that you haven’t studied about character and things like that.

Wes found this really helpful, I found this really helpful. It’s not for everybody, but, when we look at the way personal development works, some people are going to need that kind of information to really try to figure yourself out. And I think building character and understanding those foundations for values, and who you are as a person and where you wanna be going are really helpful.

So, authentically connecting to yourself is important because we are often not allowed to do that. In fact, many times we’re actively discouraged from really connecting to ourselves because life is so fast and personal development isn’t really a priority. It’s not one given to you by default. You sort of have to seek it out.

Our next episode was Wesley and my conversation episode. We drive into character building and its relationship to habits and we discuss how much trauma there is and figuring out how to have a framework for building character that exists for somebody outside of kindergarten.

That’s the last time we really developed that. We give a couple of practical tips recommending the VIA character strengths survey and in general, I think this episode is a helpful expansion of some more practical things that Wes was talking about as well as how character relates to habits here. Our character is developed through the habits we shape, so we have to be really careful about how we’re constructing our days, how we’re constructing our habits. Doing something over and over again is the way to build anything, good or bad.

So, character is just a habit done over and over again and when we look at an archery metaphor, when we’re aimed the right way in alignment with our values and we know what to do, we can hit the target and the target there is developing good character, being a good person, that’s the goal, anyway.

Obviously, all these things aren’t done in a day, but it’s developing character in yourself to answer the ethical questions that’ll come up in your life, not anyone else’s life. Your character is your character, and that’s why figuring out your values is so important, because your character is unique to you.

It can’t be anybody else’s, because nobody has experiences, insights, and personality traits that you do. These things matter a lot for how we approach the world and how we enter into communities with other people. So, when we hold our values close to us, and we bear in mind that sometimes it won’t always align with everyone’s, that’s when we can really start building character.

After we lay those foundations, we are gonna come into some struggle, too. This brings me to our third episode, An Interview With Matt Thieleman on How to Build Character. Wesley had a conversation with Matt here, who’s a transformational coach and speaker, and he describes a few things I’ll get into a little bit more. But, I really liked his one tip for surviving humanity, to approach life with love.

And I think Matt’s finding a way to exist in the world where you create space for yourself is really interesting. So, I’d like to go ahead and dive into three things we learned from Matt Thieleman this week. He tells an interesting little story about how he, just, one morning, very early in the morning, 4:00 AM, was able to produce a whole new book outline.

He had just left his old position and was going somewhere new and he said about this: “What happened was I allowed for space in my life so that nothing new could come. And what also happened was more clarity on who I am in the world and who I’m here to serve.”

And I think that’s very important, because creating that kind of space in your life, creating psychological space, is something we often don’t have the chance to do.

We don’t really have the time to sit down, think our thoughts, breathe. That’s why meditation is really important for a lot of people, myself included, because it’s the only time we ever actually get to slow down and think. When we’re leaving space in our lives, when we drop the assumptions that we’ve been making about ourselves, that we’ve been holding onto from childhood, we allow for more authentic self-expression.

We find something inside of us that we didn’t know was there. We find new ideas, new expressions, new creative outlets, and I think finding these things can sometimes only come at points of great friction, at really difficult times in life. So, I think this can be helpful in that regard to push out some of the old and just allow the new to flow in.

Because often it’s subconscious, it’s clicking in the back of the head. But if you’re working your nine to five or worse, you’re exhausted when you get home. It’s not an environment for profound introspection, but when you step away a little bit, if you have the opportunity to do that in your life to exist in a sort of uncertainty and see…

What comes to you? Is it a book idea like Matt? Or could be any number of things, but really when we provide psychological space in our mind, when we realize that we’ve got this vast expanse in the head that isn’t confined by physical space, it’s confined by mental energy, then you can have ideas that can really shift you in new directions in your life.

This is where big paradigm shifts often happen is at those edges, those big points. Another thing that I really liked is he asked us to always consider habits, what are they for? I think this is important because, as Matt points out, a lot of the times you’ll go online and you’ll see here’s a 15-step daily routine to achieve your best life.”

And some people can work with that, but a lot of the time that’s not what we’re looking for. Because if you already got a calm mind all the time, you don’t need to be spending half an hour meditating every day. Of course, you might that, and that’s how you got it, but you have to tailor your habits to your needs.

I don’t need to set a reading habit, for instance, because that’s something I naturally do every day. But somebody who’s trying to read more absolutely would want to. I do have to set a habit for doing exercise every day. My friend who compulsively runs an hour and a half every day, no matter what, rain or shine, does not need that.

Remember, habits are the building blocks of character development. When we’re looking at building those habits, we’re looking at shaping the way that your character moves over time. We’re shaping the way you develop over time. It’s not a simple one-to-one thing.

It’s a process, an ever-changing thing that ‘s located in you, in the particular person, you, the particular body, you, but it’s always shifting, little by little. It’s not big shifts, it’s small shifts, but small shifts lead to big changes.

So, make sure you know what your habits are for, because, otherwise, you might be wasting some energy. And the last thing I wanted to examine from Matt’s interview is a series of questions at the end, because everybody’s always trying to talk about how to heal divides. It’s a big topic, and when we’re dealing with emotionally charged political issues, it’s always difficult.

That’s a tough cocktail of emotions to deal with at the best of times, then when you don’t agree with somebody and it’s dear to your heart, – I personally have had trouble with this. I’m a very passionate person sometimes a good way is to ask yourself these questions that Matt pointed out.

Where can I get more curious about the other side? What’s here for me to say, what’s here for me to understand? And, looking to the other side, what’s over there that I’m not seeing? And I think these are helpful, because they’re not questions about what’s correct or not. That’s often a non-starter.

Often we have two totally different sets of facts that we’re working with if we’re in an argument with somebody. But, even if you don’t agree with somebody, you can understand maybe why they have the problem, and trying to figure out people’s motivations there can be helpful.

It can help you empathize with them. It’s approaching it with curiosity, I think is very helpful here, and curiosity doesn’t mean acceptance, it doesn’t mean endorsement, it just means curiosity. It’s like, what’s up with that?”

And I think sometimes we’re not willing to hear people out, we’ve already decided what’s up with that. So, it can be a good exercise in curiosity, not only, just in the argument context, but also in general, get curious about things. Living curiously is a very good way to live. Being interested in things is a very good way to go through life because it helps you engage with the world and try to understand it a little bit better.

I’ll be closing this out with a couple highlights from our blog this month about developing character. First highlight is from How to Build Character: Learning from Ancient Greek Wisdom.

The word happiness in our current time usually means something like a good mood. It feels good to be in a good mood. That’s not something you can be doing all the time. We’re all human, we’re all happy sometimes, sad sometimes, angry or apathetic, awake and asleep. Life is complicated and daily living takes up a lot of our energy. Ancient Greek philosophers didn’t think of happiness as we do.

They called it eudaimonia. While it means happiness, it’s more like how we think about fulfillment. Living happily is one thing, but living a fulfilled life is something different entirely. Happiness is something we treat as a feeling; fulfillment is a state of being. It’s exactly how Aristotle thought of character, not as a feeling, but as something you are.

Russ Harris points this out in the excellent book, The Happiness Trap, that we have this sort of false conception that everybody’s walking around, chipper and smiley all the time, and most people are just existing. We’re all complicated beings with lots of complicated different emotions.

I think the pressure to be happy all the time makes a lot of people unhappy, makes people feel like there’s something wrong with them if they’re unhappy. But really, if you think about happiness, not as the mood – because all feelings go away, good and bad – as a life aligned with your values, living in harmony with other people, that’s a different kind of happiness.

That’s a happiness that you’ve built, cultivated, and established in your life through the process of developing character. It’s a lot of work, but if we think about happiness more like that, instead of just being in a good mood, we can start to have better conversations about what being happy is and how we should approach being happy.

Speaking of this, we talk in the next article about how to build resilience and in a similar vein, some people might think that a strong character means always being happy. I think that morally good people are upbeat and give energy to the people around them. Some do, but there are different types of good people with all sorts of personalities.

The media gives us the message that we ought to be happy all the time, but this isn’t emotional resilience. We don’t wanna deaden our emotions, but we don’t want them running wild over us and stopping us from living our lives. With emotional resilience, we can weather the storm of tough circumstances.

It’s not blind optimism, nor is it grim resignation, but it is a level-headed assessment that resilient people make; that reality is what it is, and we need to keep going.

This ties in well to the previous point: emotional resilience is not being happy or feeling nothing. This is also a misconception a lot of people have about stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy. We don’t want to deaden our emotions. But, if you feel emotions very strongly – I have this issue – then you can’t really just let your emotions run free without any kind of restriction, that’s just bad for you. It stops you from doing what you wanna do. So, resilience here as a matter of perseverance, as an understanding of the variability of emotions and the long-term prospects of developing character, that’s what really builds resilience.

And, lastly, we have the article, Building Character in Relationships: Better Together. As we move through life, we are faced with countless choices and decisions, both big and small from the mundane, like what to eat for dinner, to the more serious, like whether to take a new job or have a child.

Every decision we make carries consequences that affect not only ourselves, but those around us. This isn’t meant to be burdensome, but it is something to bear in mind. Taking responsibility is important to both building character and relationships. By demonstrating integrity, you display vulnerability and trust in a community.

You’re coming from a place where you’ve done wrong and are asking to be forgiven, or, maybe you have to stand by a difficult choice. When you develop your character, you aren’t always going to be going with the flow. Sometimes in relationships, you’re gonna be the one who has to put your foot down, or maybe you made a mistake.

But, taking a responsibility is important to share your commitment in any relationship and is a model for healthy community building in any context. No person is an island. We are all interconnected with communities around us, and our character affects other people too.

So, you’re not just building character for yourself, you’re building character for everyone else. It’s important to be aware of that. That doesn’t mean always putting yourself second or anything like that, but it means knowing where you fit in. You’re an important part of the community, just like anyone else.

And it’s a good thing to recognize your role there and it is a difficult point, but it’s also incredibly rewarding when you build character in a community. You help other people build character. You strengthen your bonds together, and that’s really where we get fulfillment, that’s where we get eudaimonia, that’s where we get happiness. Not a shallow happiness, but a deep and profound one that comes out of our process of building character and engaging with the world and trying to approach the world with curiosity and love.

Thank you for listening. Tune in next Tuesday to hear a story from me, Andrew Gilley, on the first episode of our stories on reframing negative thoughts and how it relates to mindshifts.

If you wanna help support us, please join our exclusive monthly book club on Patreon, share the podcast with others and don’t forget to follow, rate and review on your favorite podcast platform.

And before you go, do you feel like you could benefit from a boost to your morale? Why not give our 7-Day Self-Confidence Challenge a go? For only seven bucks, you’ll get exclusive access to content that will help you determine your core values and strengths, reframe negative thought patterns, and break old habits to build new ones all while setting realistic personal development goals.

Links to our Patreon and the challenge can be found in the show notes, and we will see you next week!

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