Inner Space
Hi, I’m Diana Demco and this is the Inner Space newsletter about my reflections on living an examined life. If you're new, you can find old editions here. You're getting this email because you signed up on my website. If you'd like to unsubscribe, click here.
If you've tried to change a bad habit or go about doing things differently, you for sure are acquainted with the gravitational pull of your old "ways." You said you would meditate after breakfast, but scrolling through your phone is more appealing. It's like it's whispering to you, akin to a modern day siren. Whatever the "temptation" is, most of the time we give in to it.

As a remedy for this vicious behavior, we're usually sold the pill of discipline. It's just a matter of resolving to choose the thing that's good versus the one that's bad - a feat that requires, as we're told, mental strength and an iron will.

But if you've attempted to go through life this way, with clenched fists and frowned eyebrows, always vigilant to resist the myriad ways in which you could stray from your "schedule," then you know it's not a particularly pleasant way to live. As someone who has tried it, it's quite miserable. And this isn't because an inclination towards watchfulness or non-judgmental attention is wrong, but because in this particular case it's a forced, unnatural action that will drain our willpower very quickly.

We can't go through life in a constant state of resistance. As I've elaborated in another issue of this newsletter, softness is preferred to rigidity, because it's more likely to serve us in this complex world. Rigidity closes us down, softness opens us up.

But if hard cold willpower is not enough to bring about desired change, then what could possibly work? Here's when the ancient Greek concept of sophrosyne comes in.

Sophrosyne doesn't have a direct translation in English, but it refers to self-control or moderation. It was considered an important virtue that was essential for cultivating one's character. Plato explored the concept in a dialogue called Charmides. We could say that those who have sophrosyne are "tempted by the good."

Now, returning to the struggles of changing one's behavior and adopting a new orientation in the world, we can see that cultivating sophrosyne is a saner way to approach our transformation. Rather than struggling to restrain ourselves from our unhealthy habits, using an iron fist, we can cultivate a way of life that affords the unfolding of only those desired inclinations.

My favorite metaphor for this, borrowed from cognitive psychologist John Vervaeke, is thinking about a child and their beloved toys. If you were to stumble across a collection of toys on your bedroom floor, there's little chance you'd start playing with them. They simply don't have any salience to you. You're not struggling to "resist" them, you just do, by your nature. Now replace the child with yourself and the toys with your distractions, bad habits and destructive patterns. You want to grow beyond a "child," so that your old "toys" (be them video games, excessive alcohol consumption, binge watching YouTube) are not even viable options. They'd be just unappealing activities that you can't relate to anymore. Like a siren whose song doesn't have any effect on you.

I can't give you a recipe for how to go about achieving this, but as someone who has managed to silence a few sirens, I can tell you that it's about developing a system of interconnected practices (like movement and meditation, to name just two) that afford this transformation.

The goal is to live in such a way that the wrong deed doesn't even factor in the equation.

Timeless Content

Don't specialize, hybridize
Stephan Ango | 3 minute read
A defining question one needs to answer when pursuing a career is whether they'll take the specialist or the generalist path. Stephan Ango tries to shake us out of this dichotomy and make us consider another option: embracing a hybrid expertise. I recommend his short article on the importance of leaders who have a hybrid skill set.

Picture of the Week

Quote I'm Reflecting On

Writer Ryan Holiday shares a lesson about training (your ego and anything else in life):

My friend the philosopher and martial artist Daniele Bolelli once gave me a helpful metaphor. He explained that training was like sweeping the floor. Just because we’ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep.

Source: Ego Is The Enemy

Question For You To Ponder

What's an activity that tempts you into being someone you don't want to be? How could you reimagine yourself in relation to that activity?
Thank you for reading.

Until next time,
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