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Choices

It turns out that L. P. Hartley (http://bit.ly/2D0ovtA) was right. The past is indeed a foreign country and they do, do things differently there. (http://bit.ly/2D0oPsi). In my youth superheroes were an expression of our hope that the better angels of our nature would always find some way to save us from ourselves (http://bit.ly/2NgfKAh).

Unsurprisingly perhaps I have written about superheroes and superhero culture before (http://bit.ly/2Nd7IZ0) Quite a lot as it turns out: http://bit.ly/2Nhdl8H, using the trope to both reveal hidden aspects of myself and to ask some obvious questions: http://bit.ly/2NiPhSU.

The birth of superhero culture was an ideation reflective of specific values (http://bit.ly/2NeHe9v) that were an expression of a nation’s aspiration to lead all other nations. As +Bruce Marko says they became a vehicle through which we actively sought to realize our own potential (http://bit.ly/2Nd5wAV). In looking at how (and why) superheroes were born we can also find parallels in other forms of human activity, like brand building: http://bit.ly/2Ne76m2 and business (http://bit.ly/2Nj9qbm).

That superheroes inspire us still is self-evident (http://bit.ly/2NiQ2LK). We secretly ask ourselves “what if” questions (http://bit.ly/2Ne7jpk) and, conveniently perhaps, gloss over some of the more glaring problems associated with the concept: http://bit.ly/2NfdCZV. We think there is (possibly) a superhero inside ourselves (http://bit.ly/2Ngf7XC) and ignore, perhaps, the fact that the superhero narrative is now changing: http://bit.ly/2Ni7yQ0. Superheroes themselves, as +Gideon Rosenblatt points out are being reinvented for a new century: http://bit.ly/2NeIEAR (maybe: http://bit.ly/2D2XLZu).

A superhero generator (http://bit.ly/2D2XOVa) often becomes the jumping-off point for some deeper thinking (try the generator to see what I mean). And while the connections with marketing are quite evident (http://bit.ly/2D3lF7o) it’s in popular culture that we find some of the more amusing instances: http://bit.ly/2D3mME6.

Yet superheroes present a deeper paradox: http://bit.ly/2D0pdHg. Their very existence, the need for them is an acknowledgment and a compromise. An acknowledgement that we have failed to achieve what we want and the compromise we must now make to get where we need to with the outside intervention of someone who is not bound by our own cultural, moral and social principles. Despite the potential for a good outcome here this is a devil’s bargain (http://bit.ly/2D1GMqE) with all the potential to backfire.

In the world we live in now, with the knowledge we have and the growing awareness we can both indulge in a little of speculative fun when we analyze just how different would the neuronal characteristics would certain super heroes have as they changed (http://bit.ly/2CZW279) and trying to imagine the actual process of becoming one: http://bit.ly/2D2VnlH.

Clearly, anything that takes place inside our heads has the potential to change us: http://bit.ly/2D3c2FB. And even as we scientifically explore the possible (http://bit.ly/2CZWTVp) we are also cognizant of where the true superpowers lie: http://bit.ly/2D3om90. Our ability to use what we have to perform extraordinary feats http://bit.ly/2Bt8sAa suggests that we have the potential to be our own saviors.

The grip superheroes have on our imagination (and passion) has not weakened (http://bit.ly/2D2zHWM). If anything it’s only getting more heated (http://bit.ly/2D1fKQ1) and, maybe, complicated: http://bit.ly/2D0h2L3. What’s certain is that unless we learn to fully take responsibility for our world (https://amzn.to/2D2zX8c) we shall continue to long for saviors outside ourselves to come and save us.

I know your superpowers of detection have enabled you to discover all the coffee supplies you needed and all the sweets you can safely consume so now you’re facing a full pot of coffee accompanied by croissants, cookies, donuts and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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Lifeplan

A doctor friend of mine once said to me that the only truly stress-free condition he knows is called rigor mortis (http://bit.ly/2oSkeP2). It would appear that almost everything we experience is a stressor which means that stress may not necessarily always be bad for us: http://bit.ly/2wZMC5o.

But good as stress may be the growing body of evidence shows that left unmanaged it accumulates and changes the wiring of the brain and the physiological responses of the body leading to many diseases that have a high mortality rate - http://bit.ly/2wYY9SJ.

Stress affects not just out physical health but also our mental health and, yes, even our ability to socialize. The reason why we are so highly susceptible to stress lies in the fact that we are wired to recognize and respond to a massive variety of stressors: http://bit.ly/2wYAxxp.

Because the body and brain form one whole, indivisible, adaptive machine (http://bit.ly/2wW6WVm) stress is something we respond to in order to adapt and overcome (http://bit.ly/2wYrxbt). What stress does to our brains (http://bit.ly/2wWNNCG) inevitably affects our bodies and vice versa.

While stress triggers a whole host of involuntary physical and psychological responses there are strategies to actually use the brain to gain conscious control over them, to some degree (http://bit.ly/2wRNSra). In some way we are no different to lab rats (http://bit.ly/2wZ04Xr).

To learn how to cope with it all we have to go to the “best of the best” and learn how to handle stress from Navy SEALs (http://bit.ly/2wWsBwO). The entire scope of “The Sniper Mind” (https://amzn.to/2wXtpBx) is to teach its readers how to best handle their brains under pressure which means that adapting to stress and handling it requires awareness and a strategy.

Meditation is a great way to reduce stress (http://bit.ly/2wWsTDU) and there is an excellent guide on how to meditate in the Appendix section of “The Sniper Mind” but just in case you haven’t yet got it there is also this handy guide giving you nine steps you can apply in your everyday life: http://bit.ly/2wZ0HQN.

We now have a body of evidence that shows us that mindfulness and meditation have long-term, positive implications for the quality of our mental and physical wellbeing (http://bit.ly/2wXKXgP). This kind of discipline and approach to life can redefine fundamentals such as pain (http://bit.ly/2wXLOy3), reshape our brain (http://bit.ly/2wXYO6S) and increase even our sense of empathy: http://bit.ly/2wV8lLT.

We are physical beings. Our mental self is housed in a body of flesh and blood and bones and nerves that inhabits an environment that affects everything we are and, quite possibly, everything we can become. Unlocking our mental and psychological capacity requires us to push and strain against whatever physical limits we have: http://bit.ly/2wZIvq0.

When even the language we use determines how we see the world and what decisions we end up taking (http://bit.ly/2kQscXu) it is important to realize that the things we don’t do intentionally or are aware of have the capacity to control our life and take us down paths we don’t control (http://bit.ly/2wWZb1n) which may be at odds with what we want.

Everything is the result of something else (http://bit.ly/2wZiNlo). There is no avoiding the ripples. What we do need to do though is become aware of who we are, cognizant of where we really want to go and then work hard to get there.

If you’ve done your job right coffee is right there, in front of you. You’ve got plenty of donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake within easy reach. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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Becoming

Dr Samuel Johnson, the world's best conversationalist and first lexicographer (https://ind.pn/2LN6OwZ) thought the past mattered a great deal. He believed it hid the kernels of what we are. What we've become. Long after he'd gained fame and fortune in London, he returned to his adopted town of Lichfield, in the Midlands of England. He then spent hours and hours each day thinking about his childhood, recollecting individual events, going even so far as to restage childhood pranks and childish games, in the hope that he'd gain a glimmer of the events that helped make him what he was.

Peculiar as you may find it that a hugely successful man would embark on such activity as a form of self analysis, it’s important to remember that it’s reflective of a couple of things: First, William Blake’s magical Auguries of Innocence (http://bit.ly/2LSxZGM) whose immortal line: “To see a World in a Grain of Sand” invite us to not just exercise our imagination but to also understand that fundamentally everything is connected. Second, experimental archaeology (http://bit.ly/2PssGQp) where the past is reverse engineered (http://bit.ly/2LNEt9Q) in order to better understand its boundaries.

Both of these approaches have something in common: their belief that nothing happens in a vacuum. The very small and the very large are linked by function and form to such an extent that one can be imagined from the other and function and form are determined by the boundaries created by the environment something takes place in.

That this seems to work even when applied to something as complex and constantly evolving as people is evidenced by the Jesuit motto of “give me the child of seven and I will show you the man”. (http://bit.ly/2PqOKdY). Memories of experience apparently influence behavior (http://bit.ly/2Png7po) which is why it’s important to understand how behavior can be used to influence the way we manage memory, experience and knowledge (http://bit.ly/2AIy8w4).

Scientifically, our childhood, does affect who we become as adults (https://read.bi/2PngyA2). It shapes our social skills (https://ind.pn/2LKY8Hb) and it affects some of our outlook in life (https://n.pr/2LNq4dB). But we’re not marble to be carved into by our parents and those whom we encounter when we are helpless and small. We are fully-functioning, evolving, thinking, beings capable of rational thought as well as emotions. We can rewire our own brains (http://bit.ly/2G4dPH5), we can learn to be more focused (http://bit.ly/2PqaAhS) and we can learn to be more social and productive (http://bit.ly/2LQEJVk).

Inherent in this argument is the still not quite decided “Nature vs Nurture” debate that recently has had some fresh data to work with (http://bit.ly/2LMq1yF). Do we become who we are or (as some suggest) we are what we become (http://bit.ly/2LNgozV). Meghan Dhaum’s thoughts on this are both provoking and insightful: http://bit.ly/2LMK8Na.

Inevitably, in our search, we become introspective and the question of identity -http://bit.ly/2Ps6GVU , (and how it’s formed) doesn’t take long to surface: http://bit.ly/2PrYBQO.

Like most forms of learned behavior our childhood cannot be overcome until we make the effort required to re-evaluate our purpose, reaffirm our worth and rewire our brain to behave differently.

As children we are subject to the environment. We are helpless inside our skin. For the first ten years of our life we are both grains of sand and tools being fashioned to work adaptively within the environment we grow up in. As adults we have the responsibility of who we become, how we think, what we value and what we do about it all. But that responsibility doesn’t just happen. It requires active commitment and the willingness to be an adult, to be responsible, to be, truly who we want to be. Not who others and circumstances have made us.

I know you know that I know that I do not control you. I only remind you, out of a sense of duty, to make sure you have plenty of coffee and lots of sugary treats. Donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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Instructions

When it comes to instructions IKEA furniture, apparently, deserves a special mention (https://bzfd.it/2LvJh3y) and special articles (http://bit.ly/2P6Ka4v) and has helped spawn a mini-industry of professional IKEA assemblers: http://bit.ly/2LrNjd1.

Whether we admit it or not we all like instructions. We crave them because our brains are hardwired to avoid uncertainty (http://bit.ly/2P94aDR) and instructions, whether they are for a piece of IKEA furniture, happiness (http://bit.ly/2P5GgJb) or for life (http://bit.ly/2P0ozKY) instructions remove the sense that we don’t know what we are doing and we don’t know where we are going and they help give us a sense of direction (http://bit.ly/2P0ooPO).

Traditionally, when it has come to living the good life (http://bit.ly/2LrPIV5) we’ve turned towards religion as a form of higher authority that could, somehow, provide all the elusive answers we crave (https://bbc.in/2Ls8P17). And when that hasn’t worked we’ve turned towards atheism (https://bbc.in/2P28xAm) or science (http://bit.ly/2P7oGVm).

Every decision we make is emotional (http://bit.ly/2Hsz2vn) which means that our need to look for guidance is not going to go away and science and rationality will not destroy it (http://bit.ly/2LqmIgg). Behaviorists have long known that we are feeling machines (http://bit.ly/2LvPsEM) whose ‘programming’ has evolutionarily evolved to help them navigate the complexity of the world: http://bit.ly/2P2IE3x.

The psychology of religious beliefs, our need to believe actually, often transcends the simplicity of just looking for a father figure and reflects a much deeper drive (http://bit.ly/2LtuMgt) whose complexity better represents who we are, as a species.

While organized religion is certainly suffering (http://bit.ly/2P2IUQ3) we continue to ask “big questions” and search for their answers (http://bit.ly/2P0tony). We are driven, in part, by our curiosity (http://bit.ly/2P3dA3F) and in part by the hope that somehow, somewhere there will be answers (http://bit.ly/2LsKIjc) that will tell us exactly how we should live our lives (http://bit.ly/2P60DWC).

We are an interesting mix of emotions driven by a modern hunger to be better, happier and more fulfilled, to be creatures that strive forward into the great unknown and our more ancient past that tells us instinctively to hold back, keep our head down, go for the safest option possible.

We rage because we feel caught in this in-between world where the questions we ask only raise more questions (http://elitedai.ly/2LtqOnU) instead of giving us answers. We pull back even more angrily when we feel there is little else we can do and secretly resenting ourselves for doing so, we move forward and the fear we feel hardly makes things better (http://bit.ly/2P4ipJS).

It sounds like we are always acting out in some way. The sign of a species that’s young still in its development (https://bbc.in/2P83zCk) with bipedalism appearing just four million years ago (https://s.si.edu/2LqTBd0) and anything recognizable as a modern human being probably no more than 200 – 300,000 years old (http://bit.ly/2P8G3oR) despite the fact that our ancestors appeared long before that: https://nyti.ms/2P8Gbol.

The point here is that it’s taken IKEA 75 years to get to the stage where the instructions for its furniture enrage us less and we have some solutions other than what we can do should things hit that crunch point where we need someone to help. In a frighteningly short time we’ve come a long way (http://bit.ly/2Lqu2bS). We are changing still (http://bit.ly/2LsPGMG) and there are no instructions. We can learn to deal with the uncertainty and fear this inspires(http://amzn.to/2Do3jbY), lashing out to compensate or we can stride into the perceived unknown, as a species, knowing that what has brought us this far in our evolution is the social instinct: http://bit.ly/2PbuFbR.

The choice, now, really lies within us to make (http://bit.ly/2P2IXey).

I know you need no instructions each week yet here I am feeling compelled to give them. Coffee, as always, and donuts (at the very least). Some cookies, croissants and plenty of chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.

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Complexity

When we do think about life we feel that it is something we should be able to intuitively understand. After all we are, right now, both alive and capable of telling exactly when something isn’t so we feel that it shouldn’t really be that difficult to tell when something is not alive to begin with or when something is dead after having been alive.

However that is not really the case (http://bit.ly/2MZRtu8) and not only is it not the case but we are also experimenting with ways to animate matter that challenge our very notion of where matter ends and life begins (http://bit.ly/2MXyK2h).

Being able to make life (http://bit.ly/2MYKLEW) notionally transforms our understanding of our own capabilities in regard to our limitations. If we are gods (http://bit.ly/2MZPHcx) the argument goes, should we not also be able to extend indefinitely our own life and be capable of extending that same courtesy to those we care about?

There are those who argue that before we even go down that path we should explore what exactly it means to attain godhood (http://bit.ly/2ONtKxM) but that is splitting intellectual hairs. Yuval Noah Harari (http://www.ynharari.com/) suggests that the option to question has already been taken out of our hands and as technology advances we are on the path to godhood, as we speak. http://bit.ly/2N0Agkz

Yuval suggests that it is ignorance that has led us to invent gods, creating ‘answers’ of a sort that fill in the blank gaps of our existence and, as we fill those gaps with knowledge and skills and abilities, we shall write the need for gods (or God) out of our set of psychosocial requirements.

That, of course, doesn’t quite answer what we would do with life, or how we could define it, let alone control it - (http://bit.ly/2OKKwhc). Nor does it answer what we would do if, as gods, faced some inevitable limit to our own abilities (and I am assuming here that even a god has to operate within the limiting parameters that define the universe he or she inhabits).

Eighteen months to a year ago, all of this would have been conceptual; the conversation purely philosophical. This is no longer quite the case. While we are far from omniscient or omnipotent we can create synthetic life forms (https://ind.pn/2MXsDep) just as we can create mechanical ones (http://bit.ly/2OHWurG).

You might argue that we should have all of this worked out already. After all, as a species, we’ve been alive for a long, long time already and we should know what our responsibility is: http://bit.ly/2MZKZeW. Unfortunately nothing is straightforward. As a species we have evolved to respond to environmental and existential pressures. Because everything we do requires effort and soaks up energy, we respond only when we absolutely have to which is why we have been happy to allow philosophy to entertain the thoughts we simply had no time for (http://bit.ly/2MZRwWV). Until now.

What has changed? Everything has speeded up (http://bit.ly/2rw0Hoo). Our decision-making has evolved insufficiently to keep up. As we progress we might be heading towards our own unplanned obsolescence. Maybe. What is certain is that we at the stage of our development, collectively, where simple answers do not exist. To be sure, they never did. But they sufficed. They now no longer do.

Complexity is inescapable. Back in the early 19th century, Mary Shelley (http://bit.ly/2OOaT5Y) gave us Frankenstein (http://bit.ly/2OQxkrd) as a metaphor for complexities that arise our of relative simplicities. She imagined an early version of Dr Venter (http://bit.ly/2OMIXiy) whose work has captured the imagination (http://bit.ly/2OPsbzI) and raised questions about responsibility (http://bit.ly/2MZKZeW) we have not adequately addressed yet.

Every day and in every way our powers are growing: http://bit.ly/2OQzwyX. We range into realms where we should perhaps not venture in but we really cannot help it. Curiosity is in our nature: https://bbc.in/2MY9dpO. Without it our cognition is incomplete: http://bit.ly/2OKMyxQ.

So, here we are. Caught in a paradox. All-powerful and yet incapable of achieving exactly what we want. All-knowing and yet still so ignorant. Human and yet on a path that may change the very definition of what we are. The ‘simple’ things that drive us have given rise to complexity for which we have yet to find an answer.

The only certainty lies in the fact that we ought to keep on trying. Keep on evolving. Keep on exploring and, in the process, strive to not lose sight of each other.

We are still human and relatively responsible which is why I am fairly certain you’re looking at a full pot of coffee today and have chosen some choice donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake to accompany it with. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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Love In The Brain

It was just three years ago that I was writing about the Chemistry of Love (http://bit.ly/2MDhGi7) and the magic of Valentine’s Day. That love is a chemical we know and understand, more than that, we actually feel it. But love is, of course, way more than that.

Because nothing can exist that cannot be thought of or about, love starts in the brain. Love, it would seem, particularly romantic love, is a reward: http://bit.ly/2OZYOLR. At the same time love is obsessive, addictive and risky: http://bit.ly/2Me4eEv. There is a really good reason for all this and it is found in the way we have evolved to survive: http://bit.ly/2Mlqdcu.

As Helen Fisher is eager to acknowledge, romantic love is something we crave (http://bit.ly/2OVr7Lr). The way the brain falls in love is also something we can now understand better: http://bit.ly/2Mlgzqu. And let’s not forget that love and romance are the building material out of which relationships are forged. A secure relationship has a whole lot of other things associated with it that make it very desirable: http://bit.ly/2Mf1CpX.

The increasing body of research around love and romance (http://bit.ly/2P64BzA) should help us all understand why love happens and how it evolves: http://bit.ly/2P2oLdG. Men and women approach love differently (http://bit.ly/2MiFVFu) and that, in itself reveals how we are affected by cultural constructs. Love’s origins may be in ancient Greece (http://bit.ly/2OYV5y2) or maybe a little later: http://bit.ly/2KMzBRw.

It is interesting that something as deep, pervasive and primal as love is it is also something that we have examined very little while, all the time, we talk about it a lot: http://bit.ly/2KKi38U. Frustration, for example, may be necessary to feel satisfaction when in love: http://bit.ly/2KMvrZV.

Unsurprisingly, as we have turned to pseudoscience to help us solve the mystery of love, or rather address the problem of unreciprocated love: http://bit.ly/2MEnzLV we are also now using science to overcome the ache of love spurned: http://bit.ly/2MFeFhl.

A lot of the problems we face in this world are of our own making. The neurobiology that ensured our survival and ensconced us at the pinnacle of the planetary food chain also conspires to foil our expectations and complicate our behavior: http://bit.ly/2KKWe9e. If behavioral science can explain the patterns that lead us to fall out of love: http://bit.ly/2KKWwwT it stands to reason that its strength and the addiction we feel to it is also based upon behavioral neurobiology: http://bit.ly/2MElnnP.

This creates an interesting conundrum. On the one hand we can accept who we are at a neurobiological level. Accept that not every relationship is destined to last, that we may, indeed, naturally fall out of love with someone we are in a relationship with or take steps to stop feeling anything for someone who doesn’t return our feelings: http://bit.ly/2MEmcgp.

Or, we may, instead, create a construct in our minds (as we have) of what love and relationships are supposed to be like because we know that the aspiration changes us and how we behave, elevates our thinking (http://bit.ly/2MEmkfT), changes our perspective (http://bit.ly/2KR0FPW) and actually makes us, overall, better versions of our self.

The struggle between the caveman and the astronaut in us is real (http://bit.ly/2MBDieB). We have a lot to learn about how we truly behave (and why) - http://elitedai.ly/2MEUf86 and, as I showed in The Sniper Mind (https://amzn.to/2KIBU8d) the road to controlling our impulses and rising to greater cognitive and emotional heights starts with an awareness of our physicality and small steps designed to help us use it better.

I know, that you know that. The ability, for instance, to get through each Sunday Read and come out the other side having learnt new things and acquired a fresh perspective is predicated upon the success of the previous day’s hunt for plenty of coffee and croissants, cookies, donuts and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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Sanity

Exercise has been central to my life since I was young enough to have memories. At age eight my dad strapped 8oz boxing gloves to my hands and made me fend off the half-speed punches he was throwing with his own. Two years later, every Sunday, he would leave me in the wake of his sprinting down a proper running track as he tried to show me how to sprint properly. He was the equivalent of a Golden Gloves champion in amateur welterweight and he could run 100m in eleven seconds flat.

Just two years after that I would venture out on my own to discover martial arts to add to my repertoire of running, climbing and boxing skills and, by then, exercise had become the drug of choice for me, forever. While friends think I am incredibly disciplined, drinking little if at all, never having smoked, having been more or less the same weight all my life and always looking for ways to maximize how I use my body, the truth is a lot more pedestrian.

I have the same self-destructive urges, bouts of doubt and uncertainty and occasional moment of insecurity as everyone else. The only difference is that my drug of choice, the means I use to exorcise my demons has always been physical. If I get tired, exhausted, depressed, disheartened, my go-to space is fabricated out of my body’s ability to move and my mind’s willingness to force it to: http://bit.ly/2AK3vq6.

Today we know that the brain is subject to the body and vice versa and exercise changes the brain: http://bit.ly/2AIR3a5. The role of exercise on the brain is well documented: http://bit.ly/2AItQEQ as are the health and medicinal benefits of exercise: http://bit.ly/2AE40SA. So the real question is why do some people not exercise? And here Emily Balcetis (http://bit.ly/2AGhnkZ) whose work I cited in “The Sniper Mind” - https://amzn.to/2AGhsoN has some very interesting observations to recount that concern vision and perception: http://bit.ly/2AIS2Hj.

The benefits of exercise are not just for adults however. Children, too, can find it of direct benefit to their physical and cognitive development: http://bit.ly/2APvchk. Darebee, the world’s favorite, free, fitness resource (http://bit.ly/2AG9VX0) has over 1,000 workouts and several role playing games programs that will fitness accessible, fun and sustainable.

At a certain level we are all biological machines, made up of substrates that are subject to normal degradation, ageing and wear and tear. Fitness is not just the means through which we look and feel good but also the tool we employ to stave off the inevitable physical and mental decline that the lifespan of the substrates that make us, what we are, has ordained: http://bit.ly/2ADw9ce.

There is good news in all of this. First, you can truly exercise anywhere: https://amzn.to/2AHhqgn. Second, it doesn’t have to be at Olympic sports level: http://bit.ly/2AIDU0B. Third, the cognitive benefits of exercise start almost immediately: http://bit.ly/2AJQbly and finally the overall, holistic impact of exercise to the body/brain symbiont are now being documented in detail: http://bit.ly/2AGbWCy.

There are so many processes going on in our body and brain that maintaining a healthy balance in all of them so we don’t go wacky or get ill is a delicate act in itself. Exercise helps: http://bit.ly/2AHhI6X.

Life is, for us all, a journey. Each step is an adventure. Each moment a challenge. The body, truly, cannot live without the mind: http://bit.ly/2AGizVv But the mind, without a body may also not be able to exist: http://bit.ly/2AJ48jB.

There are many different questions to ponder here. They range from moments when the mind simply allows the body to do the apparently impossible (http://bit.ly/2KS0OmJ) to instances where the body and mind are inseparably intertwined: http://bit.ly/2AK6ZZI to the point that we are never quite sure whether we are a brain with a body or a body with a brain: http://bit.ly/2APx7T4.

The fact remains that without a brain our bodies would be unable to reach out for coffee in our weekly shopping, alongside a generous helping of donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday wherever you are.
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Growth

The moment we talk about forgiveness the question that accompanies it is “are some things unforgiveable?” - http://bit.ly/2NS8dDG. Every time I have a discussion about forgiveness there are some people who fail to understand that it is a really difficult thing (and an occasionally painful one) to actually do: http://bit.ly/2LXbm4u. By some accounts we live in the age of outrage. Anger, blame, finger-pointing and demonizing is probably easier to do now than at any other point of our digital (and maybe societal) development. Yet, forgiveness, pops up even now: http://bit.ly/2LYtJ9l.

Psychologists tell us that forgiveness is about our own mental health: http://bit.ly/2NU1HfM. In “The Sniper Mind” steps of mental and psychological development forgiveness (http://bit.ly/2Le23wO) is really about freedom: http://bit.ly/2NKjlm5. This makes it sound self-serving which, in a sense, it is: http://bit.ly/2NTc0Rj.

There are a couple things here to consider, and they are linked: First, forgiveness is a personal journey: http://bit.ly/2LXcYLA. Second, because it is so personal it is also about forgiving not just others, but also our own self: http://bit.ly/2LYE6tV. There is such a strong resistance, at times, to apply forgiveness that it’s taken the words of a convicted murderer about to be executed to make us think: http://bit.ly/2NNRJMM.

“Everything in the mind has repercussions in the body” (http://bit.ly/2NUrRPE). In The Sniper Mind (https://amzn.to/2LXTjeK) we learnt that we use constructs to create our reality and then filter all our decisions through it. When part of that reality contains personal pain (http://bit.ly/2NStzRu) we are reluctant to give it up because it would then require us to reconstruct what we think is real, a process which always requires a close re-examination of our own personal beliefs.

In her long and detailed dissertation titled: “Unforgiving Pain: A Qualitative Exploration of Chronic Pain and Self-Forgiveness” (http://bit.ly/2LUKaU6), psychologist Ellette K. DiPietro comes to the conclusion that our artificial separation of mind and body does more harm than good, sometimes by omission and sometimes by deletion of critical observations.

It is true that pain and loss define us (http://bit.ly/2NUMqvj) in ways that hope never quite does. After all, both pain and loss feel more concrete. Being from the past, they have a feeling of substance and validation that hope can never quite achieve and, we tell ourselves, they are the steps (or shoves) that got us “here”. But that isn’t quite as true as we think it is. While pain (in any form) may be an inevitable part of the living process, suffering is not: http://bit.ly/2NTZpgy.

We have to choose to suffer. And we usually do so because dealing with our emotions is always more complicated and harder to do. Yet learning to control our emotions is easier to do than we might think (http://bit.ly/2NTPckx). Pain, is of course important to us. So much so that some of us actively seek to experience it: http://bit.ly/2LXqEXf.

Here’s a truth: Pain is a stressor that causes neural and physical adaptations which are part of our development and growth. Knowing when to let go and when not to. Choosing when to suffer through inaction and when to actively seek suffering and pain through actions is part of the decisions and choices we make. Each of these, all of them, has consequences. The consequences of our decisions and choices make us who we are. In constructing our future self from the basis of the present, it is always better to do so on our own intent instead of allowing the actions, inactions, beliefs and judgements of others to shape us.

I know you’ve made the right decision and choices, which means you have coffee aplenty, alongside a mountain of donuts, cookies, croissants and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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The Politics of Sex

As adults we quickly learn that few subjects are quite as taboo in open discussions as the question of sex, or more particularly sexual politics. (http://bit.ly/2NB2T7E)

For something so private and, generally, taboo there is an enormous amount of legislation governing it (and us) - http://bit.ly/2NxUwK6 which remains largely unaddressed, unacknowledged and undiscussed. At least outside the circles of those directly impacted by it.

This is odd. We live in a time when we can see so much of what is going on in the world (http://bit.ly/2NxvGtW) that it becomes obvious that the most natural abuse of power or perceived power comes in the form of sexual harassment in every situation where a woman is seen as being at a disadvantage (https://bzfd.it/2Nv95hi). The Weinstein effect (http://bit.ly/2NCwyNZ) has opened the floodgates (http://bit.ly/2NzQQr3) and highlights just how prevalent and pervasive sexual harassment really is (https://dpo.st/2NCE6Af) and the double standards that apply (http://bit.ly/2NADpXQ).

This begs two obvious questions: First, why has it taken us so long to face up to this reality? Second, why did we never think that one of the most basic levels of interaction between sexes that have inherent biological inequalities (http://bit.ly/2NAUIIF) which have leaked into our social constructs (http://bit.ly/2NC1EFf) would not lead into abuse if there is no coherent oversight in place?

Gretchen Carlson’s TED Talk makes for uncomfortable listening (http://bit.ly/2NwnJ8f) and highlights a problem that is being highlighted by the #MeToo movement (http://bit.ly/2NzcDiE).

I have my own theory on the answers to the two obvious questions I have cited here. It has to do with the perception of gain and the perception of cost and the costs/benefits analysis algorithm that underlies many of our personal decisions. On a broader scale it is logically clear that in order to change something we need to understand why it happens in the first place: http://bit.ly/2NwEDn9. There is no shortcut to that.

It is odd to think that politics and sex are related. But seeing how politics is really about finding ways to live together when we get together in numbers great enough to form nations it makes perfect sense that sex and politics will go hand-in-hand (http://bit.ly/2ND3FkK) and the #MeToo movement is changing that too: http://bit.ly/2NAJ1Bx.

Because sexual harassment is based on biology and culture the problem is global: http://bit.ly/2NA6C5h. The mechanism that keeps it mostly hidden is endemic: http://bit.ly/2NAJkfF. Some men are speaking about it and re-examining behavior that’s deeply rooted into ‘normality’ - http://bit.ly/2NC3d65. To confuse matters even more, men, the active ingredient in the toxic formula of sexual harassment are feeling masculinity is under threat: http://bit.ly/2NwIHnk.

Thankfully there are glimmers of hope that indicate the world is changing in some respects: http://bit.ly/2Ny910s. But they are not enough. True change must come from within as well as from without. While we are building the structures that will reshape the power dynamic of our future world, we must also have the strength to look deep inside ourselves and in each interaction with each other, irrespective of sex, we must start from a new place of acceptance and respect.

Unless we are willing to truly try and understand why we are as we are, we shall be incapable of doing anything other than pay lip service to an idea while subconsciously subverting it which is pretty much what has mostly happened until now.

You feel the change? Then act on it.

Coffee doesn’t discriminate. Neither do donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake. I know you know how to put all these together so do have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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Procrastination

I recently spent three years of my life living in a world where decision-making was governed by finely honed skills put to work by people who were focused, clear-minded and highly motivated to get the outcome they wanted (https://amzn.to/2Jn1y1S). In that time I started and scrapped the first half of my book twice, I spent entire weeks wondering whether I could even do justice to the high-quality material I had gathered and decided, more than once that this was a book too far, that the subject was too complex and the scope too wide for me to finish.

Now, “The Sniper Mind” did come out and all this is just a slightly amusing incident in the course of its completion. But it did not feel so at the time. I actively had to borrow some of the skills and mindset of the snipers I was researching to get the job done. And, in the process I understood some things about procrastination that have completely transformed it for me.

But until that happened I too was fully immersed in Charlie Brown’s universe where the very idea of what I had to do threatened to overwhelm me to the point that I could not do it until, paradoxically, I had ample time, space and mental rest to consider it at length: http://bit.ly/2LjiXu0.

Psychologists view procrastination as an emotional response that makes future efforts all that much more difficult and negatively impacts decision-making: http://bit.ly/2LhEz9Y. And studies suggest that we are all affected by it (http://bit.ly/2JnCrvT) which would mean that the mechanism that drives it is more or less universal and augmented or mitigated by our ability to exercise emotional control. http://bit.ly/2JnCZ4V.

Tim Urban is someone who has experienced procrastination at a deep enough level to be familiar with its workings: http://bit.ly/2Jp5grT. The folks at “Real Simple” see procrastination as having biosystemic origins and a time-management cure: http://bit.ly/2LidG60. While other researchers consider it to be more integral to the decision-making process and therefore good in itself: http://bit.ly/2JoRGEA.

Uncertainty is present in every decision we make (http://bit.ly/2LilOmU). Because we are hardwired to avoid uncertainty (http://bit.ly/2Lgg5OE) when we encounter it we feel fear. Fear then begins to shut us down (http://bit.ly/2pHVcTR) unless we take steps to counter it. Procrastination, from my point of view, happens when the task we face appears so difficult that we put it off until we can no longer defer the effort required to do it and the consequences of not doing it are going to be worse than not doing it.

This is indirectly supported by research and studies (https://ti.me/2JpFDa3) that have shown that the importance attached to a particular activity is in direct proportion to our likelihood to procrastinate. Where do we go from here? How do we intentionally and successfully tackle something like this? The answer lies in the reward system in the brain. In the element of “fun” we imbue everything we do and our sense of urgency in life, in general.

If we change how we see the value of the things we do (http://bit.ly/2Jp6qDL) we are likely to approach them with a much different attitude. If we truly consider the context of our lifetime (http://bit.ly/2Jn1NtO) the sense of urgency will be a constant without it, however, hurrying us up to the point that we cannot enjoy what we do.

All of this requires a little rewiring of the mind. A little hands-on approach in the control room of the self. Without being hyper-disciplined or super-focused we can learn to enjoy what we do, regardless of what it is and, in the process, make life itself, fleeting as it may be, feel like a lot of fun.

I know you did not procrastinate when it came to making the decision to make lots of coffee today and make sure you have a surfeit of cookies, donuts, croissants and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.
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