How to develop some Free Will

Image result for sam harris free will image


I didn’t grow up wealthy. My whole childhood was an intricate dance of balancing infinite wants and the reality of a lack of resources. I learned at a young age that I would have to make do with limited resources. I feel like this set up a strong foundation for my ability to defer gratification.

In some ways this is a superpower in today’s world. Everything is so accessible and convenient, we forget how to exercise some creativity or grit in how we solve our problems. Without our own awareness we are pushed into becoming the perfect consumer, mindlessly throwing our life energy (money) at every problem.

Are you fat?

Here’s a cool diet ebook with 5 steps to getting that sexy body!

Are you depressed?

Here’s some medication that will make you feel better. Just ask your Doctor!

Do you feel insignificant among your peers?

Buy yourself an Audi, a nice suit, and people will respect you.

These sound like first world problems, right? However….are these really problems? Are these problems that you can solve with a product? Maybe they are, but should that be your first step?

After my Divorce, I was completely shattered in alot of ways. I went to a therapist to try to get a handle on my emotions and determine where I would go from here. Nothing seemed to matter and I just wanted someone to give me a list of things to do to reset my life. After a long discussion, she recommended that I consider seeing a Psychiatrist. She thought I could benefit from taking SSRIs. Now, I’m not saying that’s not the appropriate choice for some people, but I was surprised by how quickly pharmaceutical drugs were brought to the table as a potential solution.

I was terrified to adjust my brain chemistry, for a variety reasons, mainly I didn’t understand how my own brain worked, and I didn’t want to become dependent on an expensive medication. While I could afford to pay for the medication, I decided to take an alternative route.

First I researched how SSRIs worked, and discovered that the desired outcome of ingesting SSRIs was to increase your brain’s serotonin(extremely layman understanding). So I thought….ok, how can I increase my serotonin without drugs? After researching, I found that it increases when you climb up a perceived dominance hierarchy. I eventually decided that I would focus on something that I had absolute control over. While it would be nice to have gotten a promotion through my job, I knew that some of that would be out of my control.

I focused on becoming fit, and not just “fit”, but I was going to get abs and actually get some confidence in my physical appearance. I researched online a variety of diets and routines to get me started. I learned about intermittent fasting and convinced myself that this was the missing ingredient I have been missing with all of my previous half-assed attempts. About a year later, I am in the best shape of my life.

Is this whole post, just an excuse to humble brag? Well, partly, but also, I want to reiterate that none of these positive changes would have occurred if I had just bought the pills. Often times we are promised an easy solution by purchasing a product. More often than not, the product reduces our own grit or ability to think outside the box.

You can extend this out to other products. Hiring someone to cut your yard might save time and not break the bank, but unless you’re planning on doing something productive or worthwhile with the time saved, are you really just reducing your adaptability? If you cut your own yard, you learn something, you get exercise, you develop a sense of ownership of that task, and you get that sweet sweet dopamine hit of checking a chore off your list.