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Number one priority

I see my psychologist every Monday at 9am.

It's the most important thing I do every week, so I purposefully schedule it right at the beginning of the week, before the hecticness of work and life sweeps me away from my number one priority – to work on myself.

We see the world through the lense of our own mind, and whatever is embedded in that lense will present itself as reality to you throughout your life. If, for example, you have a victim mentality, you can be sure that you will see your victimhood in just about any situation. If victimhood is the lense through which you see the world, then in a situation which someone else might experience as an enjoyable challenge, you will likely feel like a victim.

You may well have a good reason to feel like a victim, and there may have been incidences in your past which justify this worldview. The challenge, of course, is that we have a way of continuously attracting those things in our life which we identify with. So if you want to stop being a victim, then you have you change your mind about your victimhood.

This change requires you to do the extremely hard work of stepping back from yourself (i.e. your mind), looking at yourself objectively, and seeking to change your deeply ingrained patterns and beliefs towards a higher ideal.

This change happens slowly over time as a result of persistent effort and almost militant observation of your thought stream. Stepping back from your mind, your thoughts, your beliefs, your patterns etc is bloody hard work. If you're doing it properly, it will likely touch every nerve and sensitivity you have.

It requires that you to look at every thought/belief/action and ask yourself the question, is this serving me? Is this making me a better person? Is this moving me towards fulfillment, or just perpetuating a cycle that has been on repeat for my whole life?

As humans, we have the most incredible ability to step back from our minds. It's one of the great mysteries of life, and one of the unique features of being a human. As humans, we (uniquely in the animal kingdom) can engage in metacognition - thinking about thinking. We have the ability to step back, and not just respond instinctively to every situation as it arises, but purposefully and consciously change our mind and our thoughts.

At its best, this is an incredible gift. At its worst, this is the hamster wheel that we use to keep going over scenes in our mind (memories of past experiences or imaginings of future scenarios) until we drive ourselves batty.

For me, therapy is metacognition at it's best, and it's why I choose to do it every Monday at 9am. I fully appreciate that therapy isn't possible for everyone, most especially due to the cost. That said, I'm amazed by how readily people will prioritise to spend their money on all sorts of weird and wonderful things in their lives over their own mental wellbeing. We have a tendency to spend a lot of money on escapist activities to temporarily allow us to disconnect from the clutches of our minds, rather than sorting our minds out so we don't have to run away from it in the first place.

As a quick exercise, imagine you were able to step out of your body and look at yourself from a distance. As you look at this person standing in front of you, now imagine that this is someone that you deeply love and care for. Feel that physical sensation of your love for this person arising, that warmth in your chest and that beautiful tingle in your spine.

Now, standing in front of this person, ask yourself the question – what do you need to do in order to take care of this person standing in front of you? What decisions would you make for their wellbeing? How would you speak to this person, how would you prioritise the money you spend on this person, and how would you treat this person?

It's amazing how clearly we can see this for others, and how deeply empathetic and compassionate we can feel and act towards them. And yet, when it comes to ourselves, we tend to take very poor care of ourselves and treat ourselves extremely badly. I've often thought that if we treated others the way we treat ourselves (in the battlegrounds of our mind) we would be very quickly reported to the authorities for abusive behaviour.

If you really want to take care of yourself like someone you care for, and that's a decision you have to make, then you need to prioritise working on yourself. It's your #1 priority. For me, this includes weekly therapy, daily meditation, reading self-help books, lots of time in nature, and serious accountability to people around me, most specifically my wife.

These are just my examples, and there are so many other ways you might choose to work on yourself. Wherever you are in your own journey, I'd encourage you to decide, right now, to stop making excuses and start doing the work. It's okay to love yourself enough to take care of yourself.


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