Becoming the sort of person I want to be

There are three major shifts that I’m struggling with:

  • becoming a person who can tolerate more pain in order to achieve certain goals, such as fitness
  • becoming a person who can easily enjoy people’s company and appreciate what’s interesting about them
  • becoming a person who can make longer-term commitments, trusting that things will work out

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth making these changes. Maybe I should just go with how I bend, building on strengths instead of fiddling with weaknesses. If I follow that principle, I might instead:

  • look for ways to make the most of the things that come easily to me
  • explore the shifting connections around ideas and conversations instead of focusing on specific people
  • maximize freedom, flexibility, and agility

The first set of paths seems harder than the second, but will it work out for me better? Taking the easy way still leads to lots of interesting possibilities and less wasted energy. On the other hand, trying difficult things can expand my confidence and help me challenge artificial limits. Also, I tend to over-estimate how difficult things are, and I tend to be more adaptable than I expect. So if the first set of changes is better for me (based on the reasons given by philosophers and learned from other people’s lives), it might make sense to give those a good try–at least for a number of years.

Let me take a closer look at each of those shifts to see if I can puzzle out what I’m struggling with and how to transform that.

Becoming a person who can tolerate more pain in order to achieve certain goals, such as fitness

I still feel anxious at the prospect of combined pain and stress, like the way I seized up after spraining my ankle in a krav maga class. On the other hand, I feel okay with the slight discomfort of the gentle running program that W- is helping me with and the Hacker’s Diet exercise ladder I’m doing. I’ve dealt with some pain along the way to working on other things. Most things are not supposed to hurt a lot (otherwise you’re doing it wrong), but a little wobbliness is understandable.

Taking the long view helps. I remind myself that pain has so far been temporary and that memory is thankfully fuzzy about stuff like that. Gradually, as my strength and tolerance improves, I should be able to take on more and more.

Becoming a person who can easily enjoy people’s company and appreciate what’s interesting about them

I’m okay with people. I like them as an abstract idea, and I get along with people online and in real life. I probably just have to get out more, ask more questions, share a little more of myself in conversation, and become more comfortable with having people over.

Becoming a person who can make longer-term commitments, trusting that things will work out

Seeing the difficulty that people have in transferring leadership roles and knowing my own inconstancy of interests, I hesitate to take on longer-term commitments or bigger roles. Maybe this is something I can learn, though. I’m surrounded by opportunities and role models, so it’s as good a time as any to pick this up. For some of the bigger decisions, I find it helpful to learn from other people who have dealt with similar things before.

What would be some triggers for switching strategy and following what’s more natural for me? If I’m not making any progress or if I notice myself being consistently unhappy, that might be a good sign that I need to reconsider my plans. In the meantime, I’m making very slow progress, but it does seem to get easier and less scary each time I try this.

  • Ana Isabel Canhoto

    Hi Sacha, Thank you for your candid post.

    I do think that we tend to put too much emphasis on our “weaknesses”. We should celebrate more what we are good at and see the rest as work in progress. Plus, those ‘weaknesses’ may turn out to be ‘strengths’ in a different context – for instance, a low-ish pain threshold may actually keep you safe; or, it can encourage you to explore alternative forms of exercise or living that turn out to be best for you or where you can meet people that have more in common with you.

    But if you really want to tackle those ‘work in progress’ areas, then you need to dig a little deeper than what you are doing here to understand what exactly makes you uncomfortable. For instance, the difficulty in enjoying people’s company (in person, as opposed to face to face) could have to do with the ability of dipping in and out of conversations (easy to do online, not so easy in person and you often find yourself stuck talking about topics that you are have no interest in). In may case, I used to be very puzzled that sometimes I loved to be with people and felt energised by their company but, on other occasions I would hate it and would leave the conversation feeling totally drained. To cut a long story short, I realised that I enjoyed to be with people that are future oriented (e.g., talking about plans for tomorrow, or what might happen next year), as opposed to people always talking about the past (specially those that always moan about good things used to be in the ‘olden days’). So, it’s not the people, it’s the type of interaction.

    From what I can see, you are doing great. I have even been inspired by your challenge to grow your own vegetables and herbs :-)

    • I suspect that in many cases, for me, it’s more about being held back by the fear of something rather than the actual experience. <laugh> If that makes any sense! For example, I might imagine the awkwardness of being stuck in a conversation that I want to wrap up or hovering around the edges of a conversation I haven’t figured out how to contribute to, but really, when I get there, things are usually fine. As I pick up more experiences, it gets easier to talk myself past that initial anxiety by remembering how things have worked before. =)

  • Richard Styrman

    My advice is to go into a local boxing gym, try to find or ask around if there’s one that holds group sessions focusing on endurance and strength. Ask if you can come and watch for a session, then next time they have another session; try to join in and just go through the motions, in your own pace… Just be humble and learn their world.., Just wanted to share something; while i been struggling with my own issues, my .org files are a complete mess; >_> gona try to dig up your old notes, i saw somewhere before on how you organize it all, i have a habit of piling my stuff into 1 or 2 files :)

    • I have surprisingly little upper-body strength or endurance. It’s a little tiring to try to French-braid my hair, for example, since I’m not used to holding my hands up high! <laugh> I’m working on that with gradual programs like the Hacker’s Diet exercise ladder, since I like the self-paced, tracked nature of that a little more than the group exercise sessions I’ve done before. I’ll keep that in mind, though – I have a friend who enjoys boxing! is probably what you’re looking for. =)

  • einSelbst

    Hi Sasha,
    I don’t know if my additions are helpful but I had some thoughts when I read your post.
    Personally I tend to the 2nd set of paths. My experience is, that in life there will always come a time, when some specific thing comes easy (is easy to do) (english is not my first language). E.g there are times in life when I’m able to spend (more/a lot/ some) time with friends, then maybe the other year it is easy to do work (but I don’t have time to meet other people often). This sounds a bit silly but what I mean is, there are people who always want the thing they don’t have atm instead of going with the flow and appreciate the current set of circumstances.

    This should not be mistaken as a lay-back do nothing attitude. It is always important to do something. Like in your post about tools. It is not so important which tools to use, but use one at all.
    So for example with the sports, don’t choose the sport which feels hard but try some (or better a lot) out which involve movement and then do the one which you enjoy most. Skiing is very different from aquagym / boxing / cycling / beach volleyball / yoga / gym. I like table-tennis and snowboarding a lot.
    While they are very different they all improve fitness.

    Concerning long-term commitments I think I can basically repeat myself. E.g I couldn’t imagine to life in a flat with my gf still after we had been together for some years. But all of a sudden, I was ready for it.
    Also I did know I want to have a baby at some point but it always felt not quite right. Without any mind-change at some point I was ready to say: If you’ll be pregnant, I’m fine with it. My son is now 2 years.

    With the people is probably the most difficult. If you like to know my opinion let me know. In any case: thanks for sharing your thoughts. They are helpful and inspiring.


    • Yes, I like going with the flow too, and finding things that fit you well. =) Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  • Raymond Zeitler

    “Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth making these changes.” Good, because I think a good follow-on post to this would be “Becoming the sort of person I Am.”

    BTW, pain is never a good thing, and if it occurs when you exercise, you’re either doing it wrong or you have inflammation in the area. But exercise is very important for optimal brain function, so I hope you’ll find an exercise that’s painless yet requires enough effort to increase your heart rate.

    • There’s a little twinge in my upper left leg which is not particularly pleasant if I’m jogging (or biking over bumps), but it’s hard to describe, and it might work itself out over the next few months anyway. =) But yeah, I’m pretty good at sticking within my comfort zone when it comes to exercises. (I’m a wimp! =) )