All posts by Alex

Homeostasis, and How to Overcome It

Homeostasis is the ability of a system to remain balanced. As many of life phenomens this one has two sides as well. From one point it helps to maintain an inner equilibrium despite the chaos of the external world. This ability provides high chance that a system will adapt and survive. If a system is not able to restore its balance, it may cease to function.

From the other hand this is the reason why it’s so hard for us to get new experience.

We tend to live in the most comfort way we can afford. We’re striving for it naturally. This means that every new experience that lies beyond the homeostasis zone is unwanted. It may destabilize the balanced system.

However, if you’re willing to change your life, it’s critical to get new experience now and then. This is when you need to go against the biological rules.

This is hard. If you’ve been living a homeostatic life for several years, your mind may resist anything new right off the bat. Even if the experience is a pleasant one, like a short-term travel to a nearby city, your mind can take it as a threatening event merely due to its foreignness.

I believe, you may easily come up with a couple of other example from your life, when you don’t take action on something you’d like to do. For example, you may want to check that new restaurant, but one by another excuses start to pop up, like the food may turn out not good enough. So you decide you better have dinner at the place you’ve been visiting for the last X years every weekend.

So how do you trick your brain? To do that consider reminding yourself, that the way you feel about getting new experience now (negative attitude) may be different from the way you feel about it after getting that new experience (positive attitude).

Lately I came up with an idea to watch Joker with Joaquin Phoenix in a movie theater. But I began hesitating if I should get the experience. I remember how some movies I watched before turned out a waste of time. So after the spark of interest to this new experience, I felt that I better stay home (in a comfort homeostasis). However, I used this technique and imagined that if the movie turns out good, then I’d have a dophamine rush and would be glad that I took this chance. This allowed my mind to get back to the positive view of this event.

I went to the cinema and did not regret it!

That’s a simple, but powerful example. If you wish, you can apply it to anything else you may want to experience, like traveling or going on a date.

Why 100% Life Control is a Really Bad Idea

There is a popular belief that a successful man must control 100% of his/her life. If circumstances prevail over your plans, then you’re weak.

This belief was shaped by countless self-help gurus.

It has to be said, that I’m quite a fan of self-development and this blog has quite a bunch of content focused on personal growth. However, this does not replace the fact that life coaches are people, and people, as you know, make mistakes.

Initially, I was an adept of this belief as well. I truly believed that it’s just you who’s responsible for everything that takes place in your life. If something does not work out as you expected that’s your fault. Only a cry-baby blames environment (people, circumstances). A genuinely strong person blames her/himself for not reaching the goal.

Now consider these two examples:

  • You got late to an interview and missed the job, because the train did not arrive on time (for example, a traffic collapse happened and it took several hours to restore the regular operations).
  • You missed the deadline and lost a deal, because your boss overburdened you with work.

How would “a strong, 100% responsible for his/her life person” overcome these obstacles?

I hope, you get the absurdness of this belief now.

The thought that someone 100% controls his/her life is too idealistic. It’s okay to fall back upon this belief if the person is very passive indeed. However, if you take this literally, your journey to success may end with a nervous breakdown.

Nobody can (far less, must) control everything. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you should let life just happen, without controlling it. This approach is more realistic, adult and healthy.

Next time you let this infected thought soak into your mind, let it go fun itself (along with a person who manipulatively provoked it, because this cheap trick is often used by incompetent managers, who by making you feel the guilt, simply put responsibility off their own shoulders).

One Day in a Life of a Software Engineer

Lately, I was approached by a completely fucked up exponent of human race. This so called person works for one of the clients of the company I’m currently working for.

I was publicly and unexpectedly accused of asking payment for the software that “didn’t work at all”. Unfortunately, that’s quite a widespread characterization of a software engineer’s work by a pea-brained employee from the client’s side.

Those who can formulate the task correctly and in case of problems work on them together in an adequate way worth their weight in gold. Of course, it’s not required to say that these people are always welcome.

However, most of the time people are way too self-opinioned and use “Master-Servant” role model when communicating with others (of course, unsuccessfully trying to take the Master role).

It has to be said that most poor (financially and what’s more important, spiritually) people, when they get a chance, tend to dominate over those who are tied with them by a personal of professional relationship. For example, such person is used to criticize waitstaff in the most personally humiliating way.

At the same time these people become genuine arse-suckers when roles are changed.

Getting back to the story: that dumbass employee publicly and without any obstruction (though this person’s supervisor was sitting right there) dared not only criticize my work in a slanderous way (‘coz the piece of software I wrote did actually work), but also made it personal, criticizing my qualities as a person.

Perhaps, living in the US, I could easily sue this person and win the case. However, you can’t hope for it in Russia. The chance to get any compensation in this case is close to zero.

Being a member of the company and thus, responsible for its image, I chose not to use the same pathetical techniques on this piece of shit. I had strung myself up to reply officially and decently as much as I could, although the amount of adrenaline which filled my blood at that moment was enormous.

After I left the client’s office I was in a quite devastated state of mind: the preceding events dropped a bombshell. I had lost control over situation.

That was exact moment and a vivid example when someone should take care of her/himself. To return control I had to set conditions. On the road back to my company’s office I came up with the most logical and sane condition I could.

Here it is: I won’t perform any more work for this client until the payment for the previous work is done.

Technically, my contract does not allow me to choose, which clients to work or not to work with. As a consequence of my refusal to continue working for this client, I could be fired.

However, the fact was that my very human dignity was involved, and I could lose much more than just a job, – my self-respect.

When I faced my boss, I stated this condition very clearly, though in perhaps more emotional way than I’d like. The message was heard, though not from the first talk. Later that day and next day (which is when I’m writing this post), the boss and I analyzed the task and the software again and he agreed that it works as it should be.

You may say that when I determined to quit my job if the company does not agree with my condition I was in a better position due to my high professional skills and the offer I got earlier from the other company. I’d answer: yes, you’re right.

But does it mean that someone can mess with your personal dignity if you’re just starting your career? Does it mean that someone can humiliate you as a person if they pay you money? It’s up to you to answer this question. But I really hope that the answer will be “HELL, NO!”

Take Care of Yourself

We want to be nice, so we lend money to a friend, who has just wasted his/her on a brand-new car.

We want to be helpful so we solve colleague’s problem when we’re not asked/obliged.

We want to be loyal to the company or our boss, so we keep working several hours beyond 6 pm, answering phone and replying to email on weekends. No overtime pay, of course, just “Thank you. You’re a good man.”

Bran Stark to Theon Greyjoy Game of Thrones GOT You're good man
Bran Stark to Theon Greyjoy Game of Thrones You’re good man

We eager to be trustworthy, so we take more and more responsibilities, until we burn out.

We want to be loved, oh yes, we really do. So we dump our feelings, dreams and our general life plan to accommodate someone else’s wishes.

And then, when we get a nervous breakdown, when we experience total moral, psychological and physical exhaustion, they say: “Oh, what a pity, you should take care of yourself. Take care, darling. See you!”.

And then suddenly we begin seeing this situation from a very different angle. Suddenly we see consequences very clearly. Loyalty results in abuse, amiability turns into exploitation.

If you’re not loyal, you’re fired. If you’re not nice to friends, they will turn their back on you.

Yes, they will.

Another scenario is a miserable life full of fear, regret, frustration and low self-esteem. If you like to suffer, perhaps that is what you want.

But if not, then I encourage you to spend time on some self-reflecting. I encourage you to take a look at all social interactions you have in your life and define: are they based on equity and care or are they nothing but an unfavorable product of your low self-respect?

You can’t help others until you take care of yourself. You already have this experience of making everyone around you comfortable, satisfying their desires. Where did this path lead you? Have you reached harmony and fulfillment? Really?

How do you take care of yourself? By taking control.

How do you take control? You set boundaries and you lay down conditions.

And here’s the most important part: if the boundaries and conditions you’ve set, get violated, you act on it.

You don’t softpedal it, you don’t play things cool. Otherwise consider nothing has changed. So what was the point of the whole thing? Continue living your life as you used to.

Don’t allow this situation fade away. Because if you do, it will chase you, and you’re going to face it again and again, in different shapes. Until you learn the lesson.

If you really do care about your life, then do what you promised to do if your conditions got violated.

You said to your boss that you quit, if this and this conditions are not met? Then do quit!

You said to your friends you stop any relationship with them, if they continue making joke of you? Then do it! Stop returning their calls.

Put bluntly, most people don’t give a shit about each other. Have you ever passed by a funeral? Did you genuinely personally care that some unknown person dies? I bet, no. That’s not your fault. That’s just how life works.

Don’t be afraid to disappoint a few people who really don’t care about your well-being as a person. Yes, it may seem that they do… while you bring them something they need. But when you stop doing that, well, you know.

Trust your own guts. If the food feels like it turned sour, then it did turn sour!

If intuition tells you that this person, this job, this way of living is harming you in a psychological or physical way, then it really is.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking that everything is great, when it’s not. You’ll only make things worse.

When you’re reading these lines, do you have a feeling that you already know it? That you know that your life is so unbalanced? That you give much more than you get in return?

The only reason it’s happening to you is because you didn’t care about yourself properly. Face this truth and accept it.

You’ve got to start taking care of yourself. Because if not you, then who?