Inside Search

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


People have this tendency to explain things in terms that are unhelpful. For instance, many people consider procrastination a problem they have.
But what is procrastination? It seems to just be that they're doing stuff they consider worthless. If by definition it's a matter of judgement, then what exactly are we even talking about? It's just a way to put yourself down, but doesn't tell you what to do.
A more useful thing to have is a model of the mind that explains why things happen, both the ones we want and don't want.
From that perspective, a solution arrives quickly.
The idea is that whenever we finish one thing, our mind brings up a list of things to do, organized by cost-efficiency. If for whatever reason we can't do the most cost-efficient thing, we'll just keep trying the next one until we do something.
Procrastination from that perspective is the result of some activities that are at least somewhat profitable being extremely cheap. It is always easy to procrastinate, but the reasons we feel bad about it are duty and lack of reward.
Thus the solution to procrastination is to change either cost or reward of any activity in the list, such that the things you consider worthless don't come up first.
One way to do this is to make the worthless activities more difficult. For instance, if you play games, you can uninstall the game. It doesn't prevent you from playing the game, just makes it harder. Turns out in many cases that's enough.
Another thing this model of the mind gives us is explanations about other situations. For instance, people who are surrounded by too many things tend to have trouble focusing. Everything is difficult to do, because their attention is already half-filled at any time.
To deal with that, the logical thing to do is reduce the amount of stuff around. At least the ones in sight. Perhaps some things should be thrown away, but a lot can be achieved even by just making them harder to see. For instance, a million little doodads on the desk take more attention than the same ones in a drawer, because you don't see inside the drawer unless you specifically look there.
Reducing unneccesary effort is one of the core ways to motivate yourself more.

Friday, September 27, 2019


For over a year I've been aware of a mental state that I sometimes have. I call it "alpha", because its characteristics make me think of leadership.
Alpha feels like a somewhat angry state. The kind of state where I hate everyone and everything because they're wasting time, so I decide to not be one of them. Instead I quickly decide what is useful and do that.
Or at least, that's how I originally saw it. While anger does bring out alpha in some cases, it has to be empowering anger. Heck, it doesn't even have to be anger at all, as I've later realized.
What I've discovered is that alpha is control. It's not even that control is a part of alpha, but rather the core of it. Everything else appears to be a result of it.
Alpha is deeply related to flow in that both are states of optimal performance, but in some ways they are also different. Namely, flow seems to be a balanced mix of focused and diffuse, but alpha is mostly focused. It could be said that it's a specific type of flow, or more specifically a subtype.
I've been able to cultivate alpha without using anger all that much. Originally the main way of "going into alpha" involved wasting lots of time, then becoming angry at how useless that is.
Working hard also seems to result in alpha, but not always. It seems that simply forcing myself can result in either alpha or emotional resistance, depending on something other than my actual will.
About 3-4 days ago I caught myself wasting time once more. Gaming as usual, but with a game that I didn't even particularly like, namely the co-op mode of Starcraft II.
I had a couple theories of why I keep reaching that point, one of which was surprising. That is, "what if gaming itself isn't a problem, as long as the games I play are emotionally rewarding?"
The idea behind this theory is that when I waste time I'm serving some kind of emotional need. A need which is being served based on how much I care about what I do. Thus, it would logically follow that boring activities fulfill the need less and so, take more time. Given enough time spent in a boring manner, exhaustion is sure to follow.
How this relates to alpha is that alpha is the opposite of how I feel when I'm wasting time. When I'm in alpha, time matters a lot more and so I waste less of it. Thus, to get out of doing boring things is to transition toward alpha.
Throughout those few days my head has been working on this problem in the background, until tonight I reached a breakthrough of sorts.
It being, "If I consciously decide to become more productive, it takes me around 3 days to change."
By itself that's not all so surprising. What piqued my interest, though, is that I began to think about the exact mechanics of it. If it takes me a certain amount of time, then what exactly is giving the effect? Clearly it's not something too simple, otherwise it would take less time. It has to be mental restructuring of some kind.
Thinking further, I understood that this change is based on willpower somehow. I do not automatically go into alpha over time, but as a result of some conscious choice.
I'm having a hard time thinking of putting that choice into words right now, but I'll try regardless.
In essence, I feel the choice is something like "deciding to prioritize" or perhaps "valuing results over convenience". Whatever the case, it does require actually doing something, rather than just forcing myself to be serious.
For instance, what I've noticed is that I tend to end up in alpha when I'm feeling somewhat bad. Sleep deprivation is a poor way to achieve this, unless I'm missing no more than 2 hours of the required 8.
Having mild diseases like coughing or a runny nose can also help, although again it has to be something that doesn't turn off my thinking.
So basically, it seems like alpha is a result of responding to stress by taking control? Something like it, perhaps. I'm not entirely sure.
One strange thing this makes me think of is the effect of exercise.
Exercise results in stress. If the difficulty is right, overcoming this stress is a possible conscious choice. Thus, exercising when I don't particularly feel like doing anything might well be a way to force myself into alpha.
Endurance training like running doesn't seem to do much for alpha, although it improves quality of life in the longer term.
Strength training like push-ups seems to have a major effect. I somewhat feel like it has something to do with shoulders, because simply pushing them back has improved my energy on several occasions.
Push-ups naturally push shoulders back, hence forcing a more dominant posture - likely a factor that promotes alpha.
That said, although push-ups are an excellent way and pushing shoulders back might be useful, it is not strictly necessary. Even light aerobics can result in alpha if it involves perception and control.
As an example, there is a pair of moves for dropping to the ground and getting up in a moment.
The steps for dropping are, put one foot back, bend it at the knee, then roll onto your back. If done right, there is no hard crash and so no pain either. Doing it somewhat suboptimally results in feet flying up to mitigate the blow. If that happens, the roll was too fast.
Getting up requires first rolling further toward the upper back, then switching directions while keeping your body curved. The result is basically rolling onto your feet, but it has to be done very fast. Those with more experience than me effectively jump onto their feet.
If I do it too slowly, I fall back down, so speed is clearly a huge factor.
Doing those two exercises slowly is a good way to test control. I typically do them on a harsh surface such as a stone floor, with no ill effects or pain anywhere. If done right a couple of times, the feeling of control turns into perception of your own body. This perception silences out the noise in my head and so allows me to focus on whatever I want in the near future. Thus, alpha.

Monday, May 13, 2019

A bit less realistic

I've learned a lot in the last few years, most of it coming so gradually I barely noticed. Maybe people like me grow up late, or maybe I just didn't have the incentive before.
Rather than mope around as usual, I'll instead write down some observations.
People are quite useless, but calling it out is useless too. So I should either become better than those I dislike, or shut up about it. Silence is the way to strength.
Most information that is available is half-true. Some mess with it for their own gain, but most is actually just simple stupidity. People say what they want and don't think about whether it might just be them.
In any case, here are my hopefully less stupid observations.
Success is difficult to learn even with help. The best way I've found so far is to just work hard.
Sure, working hard sucks and it's stupid. But so are you if you think you can do without.
The purpose of working hard is not to get shit done, not directly at least. Instead it teaches you the real size of your goals, so you can separate them from dreams.
The difference between a dream and a goal is that whether a dream comes true is a matter of luck and whether a goal comes true is about work. The more you work, the faster your goals come true.
Hence, if you know what success feels like. If you know the feeling of alpha or flow, you come to instinctively dislike the idea of "luck".
Ever worked hard for something and then had someone say you're "talented"? THAT is an insult. I didn't fucking get anything by "talent". If I could rely on such magic, I'd do it all the time, but no, I did the fucking work and got the rewards. Not luck, just work.
Tell me more about how some people are just talented, but you can't achieve anything. All I can hear are lies to cover up the fact that you're lazy. If you believe that talent matters much, that is.
Another reason to work hard is that it makes you optimize. Doing lots of boring stuff is boring, yes. That's the fucking point. If you go through it enough, you'll figure out how to make it less boring.
This is how I can in learn around 50 Japanese words per day every day. This is how I can read novels in a language that people give up before they put in even one fucking day.
Those who optimize forever before actually working are absolutely useless. I refuse to remain such a person.
When writing stories, or really with writing in general, the most important thing is to do it often. Whenever you have written on a particular day, you'll think about it for hours and improve by doing so. On the days you don't write, you don't improve.
Thus the goal for writing is first quantity, not quality. If you can keep going every single day, then the rest is just a matter of finding the right things to practice. The only hard part is practicing every day. Once you do that, success is so easy it's boring. Exactly how it should be.
Nerds like me need sunlight. Ofc we're not gonna get any. Vitamin D is the next best thing. What does it feel to not have enough? Drowsiness.
Ever since I started to take vitamin D, the difference between day and night increased a lot. It became harder to wake up, but once I did wake, I did it thoroughly. No more in-between bullshit. Either awake or not. This is what vitamin D does.
If you haven't done that, try vitamin D supplements for a week. Maybe it helps you. If literally nothing changes, you can quit and you'll know that you're fine in this regard.
Exercise isn't something I understand. Been doing it regularly for a week or two now. At first it sucked a lot. I was dead the next day.
But then I recovered and every next time it sucked less. I can do more push-ups than I can count on my fingers. I no longer want to lie down every time I run for a bit. I'm faster. I don't feel that tiny bit of exhaustion after lifting my heavy backpack anymore.
I guess those things count, but they're not much. Exercise doesn't feel like torture, but it still sucks. It's just that the rest of my life sucks a little less as a result.
A lot of my days are bad. Sometimes I feel like depression isn't something anyone can get over with. It's like alcoholism. You might feel good now, but you know what it's like to feel bad. If you let it, it'll come back and ruin your life. This is how I feel I am.
If I work too hard, I crash and feel bad.
If I work too little, I get tired all the times and lose motivation.
If I sleep too much, I can no longer seem to wake up.
If I sleep too little, my head stops working eventually.
There is no way out of this crap other than some kind of balance.
But with all this pessimism or realism (plot twist: they are the same thing) there is something more to learn. That is, cynicism isn't the entire truth. Yes, stuff sucks. Yes, people are useless and die someday soon. But if that's all you see, then you're missing out.
If you can, learn to have fun. Do something that you love. It might not be something you can do as your life's work, but every little bit counts. This kind of love is where passion comes from. Once you have passion, the rest is just a matter of wanting something enough and the work that results from it.
If I could teach a single thing to a past me, it would be this. It is fine to not be a realist.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Cowardly Beasts

There are beasts in me that poke when I’m not looking. Yet when I try to find them they have long gone away. Monsters that disturb my inner peace and try bring me down in guilt over things both done and undone. What is the nature of those beasts? Why do they bother me so, if they can’t even stand up before me?
I feel it is me. That I don’t really like to know my wrongs and weaknesses, but hide it through a layer of objectivity. Yet I so much yearn to know. How can such conflicting realms exist within a person? Is it perhaps that a man’s soul is not only divisible, but rather even impossible to unify into a single piece? I can not know whether that is true.
Just earlier I felt a lack in me. That if I had been a philosopher, always engrossed in their internal world, I would have come through the difficulties I've had with more constitution. I felt a deep pang of regret.
Yet when I went to look for that regret so I could ask it questions, I did not find it any more. It's a mere beast in me that pokes holes into my shell. Then again it is also me. What purpose could a person have in poking holes in one's own fortitude?
Perhaps it is fear that should I not consider those things, I would be hurt once more, this time more badly. Then again, I feel little innocence at this point anyway, so what exactly is there to lose?
Would I become a worse person if I knew those things? A more cynical me, that seeks to profit at others' expense? Or perhaps that is already who I am, but simply can't come to terms with the facts?
I can not deny being weak and sinful. As with any person, I am not perfect and perhaps never was. If that is the case though, then in addition to repenting and learning to be better, I must also accept that maybe there isn't a better past that I could escape to. That maybe if I returned to the places I was, I would see them different and no longer take part in the magic that I saw when I was there last.
Perhaps it is nature itself that brings me down like this, embodied by mere instinct that deems me as one lacking in worth?
My knowledge of nature does not support such a hypothesis. More than anything, nature is a matter of both consequence and opportunity. One that is not dead can always still do something, such is the law of the world.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Rain of inspiration

Inspiration is a fickle thing. If we were to picture is as lemon juice my brain(the lemon) usually doesn't produce more than a couple drops, no matter how hard you squeeze it.
Yet, at times I am struck by a greater deity called Inspiration. It's like the meta-ruler of all inspiration, having command over it.
When it happens I feel like the lemon has been slammed by a baseball bat, discharging a liter of lemon juice at once.  Then it's put into a blender to emit several more gallons, after which a rocket brings the lemon to space, only to have it fall down again, causing a storm of lemon juice on impact and having the sky rain lemon juice globally for several weeks. It's like a gore-fest of juicy lemon goodness.
This is how I feel about inspiration.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Happiness and (enjoyable) sadness

Today was a very good day. I got up very easily and was at full force the whole day. But it's only natural to me that I am not always "happy". I felt good the entire day and I still do, but I also feel sad right now. It's strange how I can enjoy some kinds of sadness, but I see what I have to see and do what I have to do. I'm filling my role and that's fulfilling in any circumstance.
As is with any good thing, there was no reason for me to be happy and there is no reason for me to be sad. Sure, I could find excuses. I could claim that I was happy because I was awake and didn't have any sleep deprivation, but that doesn't really capture the point. I'm not happy because bad things are missing, but rather because I get to focus on the good things. Lack of evil is neutrality, not goodness. It takes more than that.
But really the main reason why I have enjoyed the whole day so far is that I don't have any reasons. Usually I am always so intellectual, but today those things just don't matter and that's the best way it could be. It's not even one of those depressive episodes that make me numb. I can feel everything.
I can feel that with days like this it is only a matter of me doing or not doing. That whatever I choose to do, I will progress in and if I choose not to do anything, that's fine too. It's relaxing.
Objectively, it will not last.
Subjectively, I don't care if it does.
What matters is the here and now. All I can do and all I ever have to do is my best. I can't always be optimal. I can't rule the world or perfectly control myself, but that just means I'm human. It means I have something to improve at. Something to do. Perfection is the least enjoyable state of existence, if it comes at the cost of consistently sacrificing all resources you have. Sometimes being leisurely is good, sometimes not. Life is relative.
So what if my current best is not the physical limit of my capabilities. At least it's more consistent.
It isn't possible for a person to keep sacrificing themselves, after all. What you overdo one day, you lose to numbness the other. There are limits to what we can do and that's fine, because it means we don't always have to try our hardest. Doing your best is not the same as doing your most, neither should it be.
Funny how I'm not really used to feeling like this. I have this strange haze where everything amuses me, even sadness. I feel this so rarely that I haven't actually developed it into full-blown happiness. I can't even begin to describe it, because I'm so used to thinking in terms of intellectual values. Pessimistic values, that is, since my intellect has been so bogged down in negative things.
Happiness is not about thinking of things the way they are. It's not about objectivity. It's about not thinking at all. Subjectivity is simply better for happiness than being objective ever could be.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Strengthening my motivations

I've always been unable to stay still. Although not hyperactive, I might seem so, as my mind is constantly looking for something to do. This boredom appears to be quite different from that of other people though. Generally when people feel bored they solve it by finding a way to idle away the time. Watching TV, browsing facebook, etc. I can do those things if I want to, but generally that's just not enough. I need stimulation and those things are not fundamentally anything that requires my attention. Whether I watch a show or not, the results will be the same and I can get the gist of things without expending my full attention. Thus the rest of my mind still wanders, causing distress unless I can guide it.
This instinct to always keep going is one of the my strongest motivators. I know there is always something more, so I feel like whenever I stay still I'm falling back. That simply taking a break is detrimental, unless that break is necessary to keep going later on. Idle time by itself is worthless to me.
I don't always have this level of motivation though. Despite my best efforts, there are still times when I do nothing of value. As much as I dislike those times, I still act like that occasionally. Mostly it's due to sleep deprivation or other kinds of fatigue.

Recently I've found a very fulfilling activity - writing. While I've written blogs and schoolwork for years, it was always inconsistent and based on external factors. Although I've liked to write, it took a special kind of motivation to do. I needed to be inspired or have an external goal, both of which are not reliable.
At one point this inability to control my creativity started to bother me. I knew that I'm skilled enough to always write the way I did at my best times. That with even a little effort, I could up my standards.
What remained was finding motivation to do so. As I was in pretty bad depression at the time, all my motivations were about doing things that are less horrible. During depression it was extremely harmful for me to simply idle away, as that always caused a storm of uncontrollable thoughts. Thus, I exercised, programmed and did many other things that were not particularly enjoyable, mostly because they were less awful than doing nothing. I didn't realize it at the time, but my motivation for programming was not inherent.
As I recovered from depression, it puzzled me how I have become so useless. That I can't consistently do even the things I did while depressed, despite being mentally stronger now.
I thought about this often and eventually found ways to control my attention ore. To create inspiration where there once was none. To return to writing stories that I thought I would never complete.
Right now I have a story that is 29 pages long. It's the longest piece of structured writing I've ever written and what made it happen was mostly my stubbornness. That I returned to the story that I was unmotivated to keep writing. I thought about the story frequently until I realized what needs to happen next. This process has happened several times, thus reaching the current pagecount.
What's especially thrilling is that the increase in quantity did not decrease quality. In fact, I have learned to write conversations and descriptions better now, with less stuttering and clumsy sentences.

Then again, despite the progress, I haven't yet regained all that I've lost. The way I write now is less emotional and more intellectual. Despite the substance of the story not changing, I haven't found ways to express it the ways I sometimes rarely did in the past. While my quality in the past was very random, the peaks were also higher.
I can only keep going and hope I'll get better. Because I will.