Conquering Defeat

introspection |ˌintrəˈspekSHən|: the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.

Sometimes I feel like I need to limit my time interacting with technology to just the times I need to get my job done. I go through this phase every now and then where I realize that my dependency on technology may not be as strictly beneficial for me as I make myself believe.

I’ve long held the belief that any technology is good technology. Technology is inherently good, even if it’s used for bad purposes.

Every now and then though, something happens that triggers a realization that life extends past the computer. It’s almost sad to need to realize that, but such is the reality of dedicating your life to your work and passion. Such is also the blessing and the curse of what we do. It’s kind of an ironic cycle: I am passionate about my work, so I spend a lot of time doing it, which makes me less passionate about it in the long run (burn out). For me to avoid the burn out, which is the worst outcome of passion, I have to remind myself explicitly to step aside and metaphorically (sometimes literally), and smell the roses.

It might be a trip home to see your family, your parents coming to visit you, some personal issues, or some external issues. It can be a combination of those, but the end result is introspection. Introspection can be a scary and frightening thing. A lot of people spend a lot of time running away from introspection. I can relate to this comic and have referenced it a lot since first seeing it (in my work’s bathroom stall):

I think that comic captures something essential about our use of technology. Whenever technology becomes not a tool to get a job done, not a toy to play with, and not a passion to feed, but an excuse to run away from introspection, then it’s time to re-evaluate it. Taking a long walk at night alone, sitting along on the beach, going on a solo bike ride. Solitude does not imply loneliness nor boredom. Solitude can be a time of reflection. Running away from hard decisions and tough problems doesn’t solve them. In fact, it can worsen them.

Part of me wants to turn this into one of my month-long goals: No Twitter or non-work-Facebook for a month. No internet for a month, etc. But I don’t think that’s the problem nor do I think I would get anything from it. The problem isn’t technology, the problem is using technology to run away from thought.

Flow (this is the third time I reference that book now) describes this in the second half of the book. People who conquer solitude, emotion, and thought are the proverbial “Masters of their domain”. I’m only 24, I’m a baby in the grand scheme of things, but I’m old enough now to draw conclusions from my experiences, and one of those conclusions is: The brain can be either your biggest liability or your biggest asset. It can bring you down, and it can lift you up. The difference in my opinion is introspection. Being able to understand that what you’re feeling is not reasonable. that you’re emotion is unjustifiable, that you’re confusion is incomprehensible is actually a really powerful concept.

One of the other conclusions I’ve reached is not to dwell. The instant a negative outcome is irreversible, any mental capacity spent not deconstructing it and learning from it is a wasted brain cycle. Nothing is sadder than a wasted brain cycle. This has been my indispensable tool for dealing with negative outcomes: Not getting into a college I wanted, not getting a job offer I wanted, not getting a raise I wanted, or any other life circumstance.

Once you truly isolate yourself from your reality and can look at it objectively and from a third person perspective, things click and become clearer. Think about all the situations where a friend has been able to help you figure out something hard. The difference is they’re isolated from the incident. Being able to do it on your own means you can do it for all the situations that are too personal to share, and at your own pace.

You obviously can’t control your emotions. You can’t stop yourself from being happy, sad, angry, or bored. What you control is your reaction to that scenario. If you learn to tame and control your emotion, you become in control of your happiness.

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