Recently I’ve been struggling to cope with three souls in my mind. One of me, let’s call him Adam, is this confused, unmotivated, extremely lazy, loser whom I despise. The second me, let’s call her Eve, is this exuberant, attentive, active, busy-bee whom I love. Then there is the third me. It is the Libra (let’s also call it that), the greek goddess of balance, who listens to both sides and tries to make sense of me as a whole. But here is the big problem, which throws Libra into chaos: I am always trying to define myself clearly—black or white kind of way, which is utterly impossible. Just last week, I came back from a hectic business trip: two nights in one city, three nights in another, and traveling to other destinations in between. I hate riding on airplanes but all short 2-3 hour flights so I just try to suck it up. As I came back on Saturday morning, and the plane landed half past noon, I had already planned a 1.5 hour lunch with my wife, followed by a tennis practice, then some cuddling time with my baby daughter whom I hadn’t seen in a week. On the night before, I worked until 11 p.m. on a Friday because my associate and I was busy trying to expand our business idea. We sat down and tried to really zoom in on the to dos, excel style, and asking ourselves the very question many entrepreneurs do, “If I had to start my shop tomorrow, what is the minimum I have to have prepared?” That was the direction and out came the laundry list. We were hyped and having a tough client pitch week, I was excited to have this discussion. So I came back home and shared with my wife how thrilled I was at learning to multi-task wholesome activities. Oh, I also forgot to mention I wrote two times during the week by waking up early. So I was big with adrenaline rush. Saturday flew by. Suddenly on Sunday, weariness crept in and I became drowsy, almost feeling like someone intentionally switched some off button inside of me. I tried to sleep in in the morning but my wife wanted to take our baby daughter and her mom out to a nice lunch so I had to get up. When you have a baby who is 10 months old, you always need to wake up around 5 or 6 a.m: A) because you want to, B) because she makes these shrieking noises. When I came back in the early afternoon, I was yet again swept by serious lethargy and I passed out on my bed. At 5 p.m. I woke up. I wasn’t hungry but I decided to eat: soup and salad. Then I went straight back to sleep. I hated my Sunday. I realized I did nothing but sleep (and eat) and spend a very lackluster time with my family. My wife knew I was tired so she managed to step in. But I felt guilty. Nonetheless, I badly wanted a normal Sunday, the kind where you wake up and make pancakes or French toast, go out to a nice open café and have a nice meal, talk to some close friends, and eat a lovely dinner topped with a 2-hour movie, etc. But none of that happened. Then night fell, morning came. It was Monday and I had to go back into work mode. I had an awesome time Friday and Saturday with Eve and I just dozed off on Sunday, and then Adam had to take over. Because work was slow, I could relax a bit—work on my own terms. Yet there were many other things I could work on but all required higher levels of energy. Unfortunately, all I wanted to do was what Adam wanted to do: bare minimum.
This is not the first time this kind of relapse has happened to me. I have never taken narcotics or have had trouble with alcohol. But if I had, I think I know how the guilty feels when they fall into relapse. The guilt is overwhelmingly painful. I had to quickly run to my various remedies: scrolling through Quora answers, Medium articles, and watching TedTalks. As much as I detested doing these activities—not because it’s uninformative but because it just proves I’ve lost touch with Eve—it was the only way I could get myself out. I heard one motivational speaker say a few inspiring thoughts, which I’ve heard probably a countless number of times already just in different “packaging”. “Don’t be satisfied with the status quo.” “You are special to just be alive.” “Emotions are useless so just ignore and move on with it.” “The x second rule to action,” All have been said, heard, resaid, and reheard, multiple times. But I sat in Starbucks listening and talking to myself. My state was going downhill, super-fast.
So why does this happen? I’ve already repeated this guilt-trip cycle over a hundred times in my life and probably two dozen times over the past two years. I tell myself that I need to be Eve and I draw out this happy face with countless rules and motivational phrases taken from speakers like Tony Robbins, Direk Sivers, Tim Ferris, Simon Sinek, etc., and they all don’t seem to do the trick. Factually, logically, and emotionally (when I am in a good state), I understand. When I am in the Libra moment, such as now, I can close my eyes and quietly observe it. If I know it, why can’t I fix it? I learned in my consulting firm that the question and issue is already more than half the solution. We all agree to this age-old testament. Then why is it so hard to deal with Adam? Why can’t I be Eve all the time and sometimes Libra?
I often doubt all those aggrandizing self-help gurus. They can’t possibly be so energized all the time. They also have Adam moments. But the real question we all need to ask ourselves is how long do amazing people take to snap back out from the Adam state? How can we emulate this now or is it really a habit formed during youth?
My tennis coach used to say that it’s more important to constantly swing my racket every day, even if that was against the wall for ten times. Then my gym teacher said the same thing. Then my writing teacher, editor and other authors I’ve met along the way. Consistency, that’s the only way, for example, to becoming a published author. When I hear or read stories about this magical moment of some writer, suddenly writing a dozen pages on a Sunday afternoon, I cringe, knowing that those people will probably have a difficult time publishing a real book. We all know it in our minds that diligence is the burning torch. It’s the day-to-day that matters to writers. Celebrated Hollywood actor, Will Smith, once said in an interview that he attributes his enormous success in his acting career to A) the power of self-belief, and B) strong work ethic. The second one was, in his words, “knowing that he was going to work harder than anyone else, every day.” We all know hard workers are not only highly committed individuals but also consistent.
Oftentimes when I go jogging I turn on a running app. It measures, in total, how much I ran at what speed and time. It also spits back all these other details: how much calorie I burned, my best one km run, my average pace, etc. It also tells me, if you’d set it, how much I’ve ran every five minutes. Such is the marvel of current-day technology and, yes, satellites. I wish I had this kind of app that measures of input and output. It allows me to know “how fast or slow” I am going at a given moment and when was my peak performance. Why do I crave for something like this in my work life or mental state of mind life?
We live in a world where we look down on having Adam. It’s almost equitable to sin because we are not being productive with our lives. Just an hour ago I was at a convenience store trying to decide whether I should buy comics or an interesting magazine on coaching. I was tired from the day’s work so I should have bought comics but I ended up buying the coaching management books. Both were roughly the same price. Then a peculiar thing occurred. I became more energized after I bought the coaching management books. Sometimes you buy an ice-cream and then filled with unbearable guilt, almost in that instant you finished eating the cup. Other times, you feel happy about the choice and gratification it brought. It’s almost always a hard call because you rest your outcomes on the most wishy-washy balance of all: feelings. Say, for example, if your friend said something mean, like “it’s going to take thirty more minutes on the treadmill to burn that one off,” it might make you feel guilty. But if your friend said something nice, like “you had a tough day; you earned it!” you feel great.
My conclusion rests upon you. I understand that I am weak and strong. I have Adam, Eve and Libra living inside me. I make an effort to pull out the Eve and find out my mental-emotional pattern that will bring her out even more. For starters, I try to envision and ask myself what state I would become before I engage in activities such as watching a TV episode, which typically follows the pattern of excited when you flick it on, happy when you are watching, somewhat gratified when it’s finished, then a quite a bit morose when you see how much time has passed and how little you have accomplished. Recently it has helped a quite a bit to control my urge to indulge in passive activities. Instead it allows me to think more about producing and creating things as the shortcut to getting Eve out.
So, what about you?