Today I present another great guest post from our good friend Dawn Pine. This is the second in a set of three posts that he sent over in a series directed toward masculine self-improvement. Last week, I posted up Dawn’s excellent points about the three levels of motivation and his practical advice about how to keep yourself going in the face of distractions, discouragement, and worldly pleasures. I will finish publishing the series this week. Today I present to you the first of two posts designed to help you with overcoming your own fear of improvement. MANY thanks as always to The Male Brain for his time and effort and continued contributions to the success of this blog.
“If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.”— Attributed to Mikhail Gorbachev
I have a good friend who is, to some extent, like me. He is tall, well groomed, and does sports regularly to keep fit. He is a fully functional divorced member of society. There is however one big difference. My friend fears change. He also fears improvement.
So now you guys are thinking, “OK, Dawn, what exactly are you talking about? We get fear, but what is this ‘fear of improvement’ that you mention?”. So let’s discuss it here using my friend as an example.
The Concept of Homeostasis
First, we need a definition. The appropriate word to use here is Homeostasis. From the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Homeostasis, any self-regulating process by which biological systems tend to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are optimal for survival. If homeostasis is successful, life continues; if unsuccessful, disaster or death ensues. The stability attained is actually a dynamic equilibrium, in which continuous change occurs yet relatively uniform conditions prevail.
Homeostasis is a biological phenomenon, but I dare to expand it into the realm of human psychology. My extension, as I have witnessed it, is that people tend to “maintain stability” in their habits and believes. People adhering to an ideology are a very good example of this – you CANNOT convince them to think differently, even you confront them with mountains of evidence. The same thing applies to “improvement” – most people don’t want to improve. It’s a change in the status quo, a need to “rock the boat” and maybe even (GASP!) expand calories. The human brain is lazy and we are all creatures of habit.
Simply put, homeostasis addicts us because it is safe, easy, and normal.
It is also a recipe for long term stagnation and disaster.
As I usually say: “If we were girls, we could all have a good cry and complain. But since we are men, we need to do something about it”.
What Is Stopping You from Overcoming Your Fear?
First let’s acknowledge that the most important thing standing in your way is YOUR BRAIN. That’s right, “we have met the enemy and it is us”. My friend has been in the same situation for years. He only does the minimum required to maintain the status quo. For example – if he is dating someone, that’s great and he makes an effort to stick with that girl. If he is not dating, he’ll open the apps and websites and try to contact girls.
Since he does not recognize the situation, he knows that something better is out there, but he cannot figure out how to get it. He does not understand his problem.
We had a conversation about his issue once. I suggested he should “day game” once a week (this conversation was “PC” – Pre-Covid). His reaction was funny as hell. He looked at me like I was an alien, and ask: “You mean, like a fucking WEIRDO?”. Here I must mention that he has seen me day-game on a few occasions, so there is no knowledge gap of this activity’s existence. His mind refused to accept another possibility of meeting girls when confronted with it. This was for “other people”, not for him.
Overcoming your fear of improvement starts with recognising that YOU ARE YOUR OWN BIGGEST PROBLEM. Now let’s figure out how to solve that problem.
Using the Upside and Overcoming Your Fear of Improvement
Second, the fear of “unknown” negative consequences is stopping you. “You have a bad feeling about this” but you have no idea what will happen. This is the time to visualize it. Ask yourself: “What is the worst thing that is going to happen?” and then critically examine it.
I asked my friend that. His response to me was: “I will be arrested”. When I asked on what charges, he did not know. I asked him: “will you keep on harassing the same girl if she tells you to take a hike?”. He said no. I asked: “Do you realize that if an officer did question you, he won’t be able to detain you because there is no such felony for talking to a girl until she tells you to get lost, and then not bothering her again?”. He agreed, but would still not approach girls.
Most of the time, that “horrible” outcome, is actually not horrible at all. When critically examined, that “horrible outcome” looks like a big piece of… NOTHING.
This brings us to the third point – WIIFM. This stands for “What’s In It For Me?”. This your main motivation – what do you get out of it? If there is no or very little downside, you should consider the upside. For my friend, the upside in his case was a few phone numbers of girls that you get to see in person – unlike those bogus internet profile pics.
The downside in his case involves losing an hour of his life – the same would be true for me as well in the same situation. The loss of an hour of time is simply not a major issue in this case.
If you can identify what you are gaining, this becomes your motivation for doing it.
The “day game” example is a true story. I used it to show how “good people” may fall victim to their own fear of improvement. I’m not immune to it either. None of us is. In future post I’ll share how fear crippled me at the work place, and how I got over it. [Looking forward to that one – Didact]
I leave you with the 3 keys to overcoming your fear of improvement: Acknowledge it, critically think of the worst possible outcome and finally think of the WIIFM. Hopefully once you have those sorted out, you should be on way to actionable improvement.