Do more of what makes you healthy (and happiness will follow).

Zero Dean

Author | Photographer | CG Artist | Filmmaker

A tough pill to swallow

A tough pill to swallow

“Everyone wants a happy life without difficulties or suffering. We create many of the problems we face. No one intentionally creates problems, but we tend to be slaves to powerful emotions like anger, hatred and attachment that are based on misconceived projections about people and things. We need to find ways of reducing these emotions by eliminating the ignorance that underlies them and applying opposing forces.” — Dalai Lama

Many people express interest in a “better life” — (to save more money, to get fit, to eat healthy, to travel more, to spend more time on personal projects, etc) — but even when certain things they do are clearly not helping them get what they want, they keep doing them over and over & simply hope that, by some stroke of good luck, change will somehow happen. And when it doesn’t, they complain when things are not going as they desire — and yet, their lives are completely congruent with their priorities and the decisions they’ve made as a result of those priorities.

Without even being consciously aware of it, many people have been snared into living their lives controlled by their habits, their possessions, or the opinions of others. And they continue to do so without realizing that all they really have to do to change their lives — or better yet, pursue the life they truly want — is to recognize the ties that bind and make a conscious effort to let go of the habits, possessions, or self-limiting beliefs that hold them back.

The sad thing is that, even though we know our lives aren’t working in certain areas, we are still afraid to change. We are locked into our comfort zone, no matter how self-destructive it may be. Yet, the only way to get out of our comfort zone and to be free of our problems and limitations is to get uncomfortable. We can only experience freedom in direct proportion to the amount of truth that we are willing to accept without running way.” — Robert Anthony

We’ve all heard the expression, “Life is a journey, not a destination” — and that’s true. Most people interpret that to mean “enjoy the ride”, but it can also be interpreted as, “If you don’t like where you are in life, you don’t have to stay there”. If what you are doing isn’t moving you in the direction you want, try something else — and keep trying different things until you are moving in the right direction.

The sad fact is that many people tie their own strings and then complain when those strings don’t let them do what they want(ed). “I can’t do X, I have a mortgage.”

“Bad habits are easy to develop but hard to live with. Good habits are hard to develop but easy to live with.” — Brian Tracy

“I can’t go to X, I have animals — or children”. “I could never live without my Starbucks — or my cigarettes — or my beer — or my entertainment”. “Eating healthy is too hard — or expensive.” “I couldn’t live without my routine — or a certain level of comfort”.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way — you can’t because you think you can’t. We have far more control over our lives and state of being than people are generally willing to admit to themselves.

If you have the power to change something that is holding you back, and you don’t, that’s a choice, not a limitation.

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean

People have the power to change — but often ignore it, because on some level, we take comfort in our self-imposed limitations. People will often set up their priorities in a way that limit what they are capable of — and then they willfully choose to live with that out of habit or of fear that any alternatives will be “hard”.

That’s not something people like to hear. Rather than take responsibility for their lives & make a change, many choose to complain, blame forces beyond their control, say “that’s just the way it is”, or convince themselves that’s there’s nothing they can do that they’re not already doing. That is until the pain of where they are or what they are dealing with becomes so strong that they DECIDE to make a change — they find a way. And that decision is no harder or less hard than it ever was.

The fact is, complaining doesn’t change anything. Actions do. If people want a different life from the one they have, they have to make different decisions — even if that means staring fear in the face, making some sacrifices, or doing some hard work — and then acting on those decisions.

Decision-making in itself is not difficult — it’s only the conflicting thoughts of “should I or should I not do something?” that are difficult — as these conflicting thoughts are what cause stress. But with a deliberate focus on gathering information and weighing options — stress is reduced and decision making becomes just another step in helping you get what you want out of life.

“Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every part of your life in an instant.” — Anthony Robbins

Many decisions that are perceived as “difficult” appear that way mainly because people deliberately choose to remain ignorant out of fear that a decision they want to make will require work or some kind of sacrifice – they want an easy solution. And for many, that solution is to do nothing — and that perpetuates the cycle. We often spend more time worrying about something than we do taking action to change it.

Sometimes the only difference between a decision being made and not being made is how we justify it — absolutely nothing else changes other than our internal dialogue and how we think about the problem. Anyone who has put off a personal trip for ages due to excuses, but can manage in short notice, to find the time & money to travel to a friend’s wedding (or a funeral) knows this. Again, it comes down to priorities.

[See: ‘I don’t have time’ vs. ‘It’s not a priority‘]

We live our lives based on a set of priorities we ourselves set — we will often blame external factors such as our environment, but no one has more control over you than you do. And sometimes we adopt beliefs and set priorities based on what we’ve seen others do — even when those actions make no sense — and we never question it. That’s conformity.

Conformity is necessary and can have its advantages — it can protect us and keep us together, and there is strength in numbers, but it can also be damaging and divisive. We often ostracize or punish those who think different, look different, or have beliefs different than our own. This has been proven over and over again in history.

We all have opinions of piercings, tattoos, haircuts, clothing, religion, politics, skin color, and sexual preference — and that’s normal. But on the whole, we are not taught tolerance, compassion, or unity.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” — Dalai Lama

Many religious groups, for example, claim they teach love and compassion for all — up until sexual preference, contraception, abortion, or conflicting religious beliefs come into play and then it’s a different story. I suspect for some of you, just reading those words generates a strong emotional response. But true compassion is compassion for all people at all times regardless of how they look or what they believe. And this is a tough pill to swallow because it is not what we are taught.

Most of us learn our behaviors based on what we see others do — be it in real-life or on TV. That’s normal, but where we sometimes run into trouble is when we stop questioning what we see simply because “everyone else is doing it” and “that’s the way it is”. It is true that we need to conform, but we should not do so at the expense of abandoning reason and common sense.

But the fact is, group dynamics is one of the most powerful forces in human psychology (video) — as demonstrated by the Asch conformity experiments (wikipedia).

“You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay? Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” — Jim Rohn

And nothing brings us together like television. And we’ve come to “trust the box” — that entertainment dispensing device is our portal into another world. Don’t get me wrong, I love my entertainment as much as the next person, but we need to remember that a very large part our attention is fought over and paid for so that the media and advertisers can convince us what to buy or even what to believe. And they’ve spent years & years gathering exactly the right kind of data necessary to manipulate our spending habits and our perception of the world.

It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just how the world of advertising, news media, and entertainment works. You are provided with news & entertainment in exchange for your attention at times when they want to sell you the belief that you will benefit from what they have to offer. You don’t just buy a car, you buy a feeling — you don’t just buy a product, you buy “status”.

The media typically teaches & encourages us to believe that political parties are at war with each other because it creates drama & “good stories” — we are often broken up into “red” or “blue”, yet the fact is, many on both ends of the spectrum unknowingly work and get along with each other in real life. And perhaps surprisingly, many people who label themselves as “liberals” or “conservatives” actually fall somewhere closer to the middle than the extremes. We often have far more in common and far more common ground than the media would have us believe.

“The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news… and it’s not entirely the media’s fault, bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.” — Peter McWilliams

People are people. They are us. We are them. We smile at each other’s babies in the supermarket and our children play together at school.

And as a society, we let so many things be ok, even when they do us more harm than good — and we willfully accept it because we’ve been conditioned to. The world is full of insanity & contradictions that the collective consciousness accepts and buys into because “everyone else is doing it” and “that’s the way it is”.

We consume food that is made of pink goop or that has no nutritional value, we feed our children products that are artificial or almost entirely made of sugar, we let TV and commercials set the example for how we live our lives, we let laugh tracks tell us when something is funny, in some cases we even let TV raise our children and we let the media tell us what to think. This isn’t a surprise. We know this.

From research on TV & Health : Approximate number of studies examining TV’s effects on children: 4,000 — Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5 — Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680

“If you came and you found a strange man… teaching your kids to punch each other, or trying to sell them all kinds of products, you’d kick him right out of the house, but here you are; you come in and the TV is on, and you don’t think twice about it.” — Jerome Singer

We make entertainment our priority at the expense of our health. The average American spends over 4 hours per day sitting still watching television. This is time that we could be spent doing something productive, learning something new, making genuine connections with people, or interacting with our children.

Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled by Zero Dean

This is time we could being doing something active or planning — *gasp!* — healthy & balanced meals — instead, obesity is an epidemic (video) and we are the fattest nation in the world. And rather than accept personal responsibility for what we put into our bodies, we blame the people who make or deliver the goods or how cheap & artificially “delicious” it is.

Many don’t take an active role in their children’s education. Teachers nowadays often fill the role of parents. Manners are no longer as important as they used to be. And “family” doesn’t mean what it used to, either. We live to work rather than work to live.

And yet we say, “That’s the way it is.”, when in reality, that’s the way we let it be.

We are our own worst enemy — with ourselves and with each other — and it goes beyond diet or television. We accept defeat easily and even cater to it. In most cases, anyone who ever said “I tried everything” (and failed) most likely gave up before they actually did. And rather than encourage those people, we comfort them. “It’s ok, you did the best you could”, even when the comforter can think of things the person could’ve done, but didn’t. And we even accept that certain things are hard so they shouldn’t even be attempted — “Why even bother, the chances are you’ll fail anyway?”

We wouldn’t have the things we have in this world if everyone who ever felt like giving up did. If every one of those people simply stopped struggling to reach their goals because someone said, “It’s ok, you did the best you could.” you wouldn’t be reading this on a computer. Or if those people hadn’t defied the common belief held at the time, the world would still be flat and we’d still be getting around by horse and buggy.

We construct the lives we live and we often blame everything but ourselves when we don’t have what we want. We make excuses when we could be making decisions and taking action. We take comfort in mediocrity. We surround ourselves with people like us — people who will often accept our false weaknesses, as we do our own.

We claim we don’t have enough time — and yet we watch over 4 hours of television per night (not to mention the Internet or video games). We claim we don’t have enough money — when we spend it on products we don’t actually need with money we don’t actually have.

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” — H. Jackson Brown Jr.

We are not taught discipline. What is discipline? Discipline is simply choosing between what you want now and what you want most. Anything worth having almost certainly doesn’t come easy, but that’s not what we are told.

We are a society convinced that instant gratification is the answer to our problems. Cure the symptoms — not the cause — and that pills are the answer to absolutely everything. Discipline takes a back seat because disciplined people are less likely to make impulsive decisions about the products they buy.

We are a nation of quantity over quality. Buy disposable — it doesn’t have to last, they’ll make more. Throw it in a landfill.

We let our garbage drain into the oceans and strangle our planet. Of course, it’s only one plastic bottle or bag at a time on our end, but more than half a billion every single day worldwide. We are not in balance with our environment — this has been proven time and time again by the number of species of plants and animals that are now extinct as a direct result of man.

The IUCN created shock waves with its major assessment of the world’s biodiversity in 2004, which calculated that the rate of extinction had reached 100-1,000 times that suggested by the fossil records before humans.

No formal calculations have been published since, but conservationists agree the rate of loss has increased since then, and Stuart said it was possible that the dramatic predictions of experts like the renowned Harvard biologist E O Wilson, that the rate of loss could reach 10,000 times the background rate in two decades, could be correct.

It’s the way it is, so it’s ok — society says that it’s ok. It’s someone else’s problem. It doesn’t — yet — touch us directly or adversely affect our lives too much just yet so it doesn’t matter and it won’t until it does.

We must have more and more and more. So much so that we buy it with money we don’t have and joke about it now, but complain about it later.

We are a society of bigger, better, faster, more. I must have it. Even when I don’t need it and probably won’t use most of it. We know better, but we do this over and over and over again in our lives. We buy much more than we will ever need or use.

Because someone will judge us by our “stuff” and we unwittingly live our lives based on what we want other people to think about us. We so closely associate with what we have, that we and our stuff are practically the same. We don’t like it when someone doesn’t like our stuff or doesn’t think our stuff is as good as theirs. And we convince ourselves that because our stuff has value, we do, too.

“I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest to make money they don’t want to buy things they don’t need to impress people they dislike.” — Emile Henry Gauvreau

If you don’t have enough stuff, drive the right car, dress in the right clothes, or wear designer shades, you are judged as lacking – or different. Yet your car gets you from point A to point B as quickly as any other, your clothes keep you warm and comfortable, and your $5 sunglasses protect your eyes as well as the $150 pair that you would no doubt break or lose anyway.

We equate high prices with quality — even when cheaper goods are composed of exactly the same materials — and we flaunt possessions that were made in sweatshops by children or by people who have to take breaks every 90 minutes or else they’ll be poisoned by the fumes. We should be ashamed, but we’re not because society says it’s ok — and besides, if anything changed, we’d probably have to pay more for our products.

But chicken nuggets are delicious! — “Because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color”

We don’t want to see where our food comes from or how those animals are treated before they become a Happy Meal. We ignore what we are putting in our bodies. And we blatantly ignore the alarming increase in diabetes, Alzheimers, and cancer around the world. We only care that our food and our products come in shiny, happy, little packages, preferably boneless.

“It is interesting that in our society it is totally okay to spend $50,000 on a heart attack, but what would people say if you spent that amount of money on just having fun? They would think you were crazy, and they would probably resent you. It seems we have our priorities mixed up. Perhaps if we spent $50,000 on having fun, we wouldn’t have so many heart attacks! Think about it.” — Robert Anthony

We live in one of most amazing times in history (was video — now transcript) where most of the things we do on a daily basis would’ve been considered impossible “magic” only 100 years ago, yet we complain about everything — from things we don’t have direct control over, such as traffic, lines, prices, shortages, the weather – in which case, there is never any point in complaining. And we complain about things we do have control over — and yet most do nothing to change the things they can.

Many have lost sight of the fact that life is a gift. Some think “life is hard”, but compared to what? Considering the alternative, I’d rather be alive and breathing and dealing with and overcoming the challenges in front of me, than have 6 feet of soil over me.

We continue to let ourselves make choices that limit what we are capable of achieving. And we accept it as the status quo. That’s “normal”. That’s conformity.

I’m sorry, but if you don’t like where you are in life, I respectfully refuse to accept that there’s nothing you can do to improve your position in it.

So no, I will not provide you the comfort you seek when you complain. I will not say, “Me too”, or “That’s too bad” or “It’s ok, I know you did the best you could” if I know you didn’t. But not because I don’t care, quite the opposite actually, but because I believe in you and your ability change your life circumstances.

Because you are stronger than you think. And because no matter how bad you think it is, I guarantee it could be worse.

I dare you to be different and take responsibility for your life & your world. You are far more capable of changing it than anyone else.

I think you’re awesome.

And you are. But not because I believe it, but because deep down, you know it.

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight” — Jim Rohn


Zero Dean

Zero Dean

Author of Lessons Learned From The Path Less Traveled. Professional photographer. Filmmaker. Humorist. Into photography, art, kindness, compassion, and living beyond comfort. Normal is boring.