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Tracking The Shimmer

Introduction

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“The unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates

The key to navigating the shimmer is metacognition.

Cognitive Science defines Metacognition as the awareness of one’s ‘thought processes.’

Some spiritually-infused contemplative systems say it’s seeing the ego through the eyes of your soul.

(Metacognition means you can choose which of those stories you want to believe).

An everyday example is when we watch movies, we tend to get absorbed in the film, forgetting for a small precious moment who we are and the problems of our lives. If the movie happens to be scary, most of us go meta. We remind ourselves that we are watching a movie, and that whatever is on screen, there is a man in jeans just behind the horror holding a camera.

Your sense of self, with all of its dramas, is a movie most of us don’t know how to notice.

When we apply metacognition to ourselves, life can go from feeling like a meaningless prison to waking from the Matrix.

Metacognition unlocks the possibility to learn how you learn.

If you learn how you learn, you can learn anything anybody has ever learned.

That’s worth repeating.

If you learn how you learn, you can learn anything anybody has ever learned.

Learning how you learn unlocks metaprogramming.

Metaprogramming is the process of redesigning your identity(s).

If you learn how to metaprogram, you can change the world (at least yours).

The atomic element of an identity?

Habits.

Every technique and practice in this course helps to improve meta-cognition.

Why I Track My Behavior

“Man is an enigma to himself.” -Carl Jung
“We make the unconscious conscious by examining our patterns.”  –James Hollis

Tracking yourself is the meta-habit.

We can very quickly fall into scientific and mystic rabbit holes when talking about how much we don’t understand ourselves. However, the frame of this post is pragmatic, so we are going to focus on observable behavior.

The most straightforward way to begin understanding yourself is to record your daily behaviors, observe what your behaviors confess about who you are, and adjusting accordingly.

If you don’t notice the shimmer, you’re controlled by the shimmer.

As we’ll cover, you think you know who you are, what goals you aim for, and what our daily strategies for achieving them are.

And if we’re not tracking our behaviors; we’re likely wrong about what our goals are, delusional to our misperception, and afraid of the truth. 

Once we begin tracking our behavior, our daily habits will confess who we really are, and what goals we really pursue.

You may protest that you are much more than your actions, but people don’t care who you think you are, they care how you act.

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

And how we act daily brings us into the realm of habits. Behavioral scientists estimate that somewhere between 50-80% of our waking lives are unconscious behavioral sequences; aka habits. Who we are is the culmination of our habits. And it is the nature of habits that they are incognito to our consciousness.

Therefore, we begin the cleaning of our window of perception by tracking our behavior.

Your Conscious Story, Goals, and Habits (Myths, Gods, and Religions)

To maximize the effect of tracking your behavior, it’s worth taking the time to identify what you think your current and conscious goals and habits are.

A useful map for understanding existence is that it’s a journey.

The Taoist called it “The Way.”

Our journey has three distinct features:

  1. Your Story (The kind of story, and the style of narration)
  2. Your Goal (The central aim that gives your existence meaning)
  3. Your Habits (The path you take to achieve your goal)

I believe a critical function of religions are that they provided a style of story, a goal (the promised afterlife), and a set of daily habits that the devotee can aim for that produces significant daily meaning and positive emotion (the clinical literature on the effects of religion on well-being support this).

Whether or not you consciously realize it, you are telling yourself a story about existence, you have goals, and you have daily habits. Most people are unaware of their story, have multiple conflicting goals, and their daily habits don’t align with either.

The magic in tracking our behavior is that it will begin aligning our story, goals, and habits. So before we get into how to track, let us try uncovering our current story.

Your Story (Myth)

You’re a greater artist than you realize.

Your life is a narrative structure you’ve created which you exist within. Through it you understand what words like galaxy, supernova, epiphany, bliss, and orgasm mean. You also understand heartbreak, grief, suffering, and agony.

One of the most powerful predictors to life satisfaction is determined by the style of story you tell yourself. Scientists code this story-telling element of our mind as our “Explanatory Style,” and the two rough styles are “Optimistic and Pessimistic.”

(If you want to discover your explanatory style and learn how to improve it, check out my ‘Make Your Myth’ course - over 500 people have taken it and only 4 have asked for refunds).

Deeper than our explanatory style, is the type of story we tell.

This is our myth.

To get a quick sense of the type of myth you’re telling yourself, get pen and paper. Write down the 2-3 movies that have most captured your attention over the course of your life. Take 5 minutes to write how you’d describe each of these stories to an intelligent, curious 10 year old.

If you took the time to write this out, the stories you picked, and the way you articulated them, will give you a good foundational sense of the type of story that has you.

(My three movies were the Lion King as a child, The Matrix as a teenager, and V for Vendetta as an idealistic college student. Conclusion: Heavy, delusional, savior complex I struggle managing lol.)

As an adult in his early 30s, my favorite movies are Princess Mononoke, Arrival, and Annihilation. Do with that what you will lol.

Are you telling yourself a tragedy or a comedy?

Are you the hero or the villain?

Are you rescuing, or being rescued?

People don’t have ideas. Ideas have people, and your story not only has you, but is you.

Your Goal (God)

Every story has a goal built into it.

The goal is the driving motivational force behind the protagonist (you). Evolution has programmed into our primal brain some basic goals; Flee, Fear, Fight, and Fuck. But we also have consciousness, and that creative linguistic whirlwind is creating a story that possesses you.

To figure out your goal is simple enough. Just ask yourself’ “What is my highest life goal?”

Okay, I’m being facetious.

It is incredibly difficult to uncover what your foundational story is if you haven’t worked at shaping it.

If you don’t know yours, you are either unconsciously possessed by your story (this is the state most of us function within), or you’re possessed by another’s story (and this will always end in a tragedy — see the top 5 regrets of the dying if you want to taste the bitter truth here.)

It is a technical neurobiological fact, your perception of progress towards goals give your experience positive valence.

To say another way, feeling like you’re making progress towards your goals is what gives life its positive meaning.

I think, in a very functional way, our goals are our gods.

If you have conflicting goals, your progress detection mechanism, and therefore your feelings of positive emotions, are confused (and this tends to produce anxiety or depression).

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Nothing quite as starkly as tracking your behavior will show you what goals unconsciously possess you.

Your Daily Habits (Religion)

Who you are, and who you will become, comes down to your daily habits.

I believe your highest goal and your daily habits are your God and your Religion. Your highest goal gives your life meaning and direction. It informs you how to spend your finite existence.

Your daily habits are the systems of behaviors you believe, as confessed by your actions, will manifest your highest goal.

We each worship a god, (or gods), and if you don’t know yours, becoming aware of your daily habits will reveal them to you.

Most people live in pandemonium. Because they unconsciously worship multiple, conflicting gods, they live scattered lives, haphazardly aiming at multiple, often conflicting, goals. The most successful and fulfilled people don’t live like this. They know what their highest goal is, they use it to inform their daily habits, and they unflinchingly examine themselves to see if they are living in accord with their highest aim.

If you believe you know the god you worship, track your behavior to see if you’re a hypocrite. If you don’t know which gods you worship, track your behavior to see who you are sacrificing your finite time to.

The Magic of Measuring

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“What gets measured gets managed.”  –Peter Drucker

There is a fascinating psychological phenomenon called “self-monitoring reactivity.” Basically, whenever people start monitoring some aspect of their behavior, without them trying, they start to improve that behavior.

People wanting to smoke less, who start tracking how much they smoke, smoke less (without trying.)

People wanting to lose weight, who begin tracking themselves, lose weight (without trying.)

People wanting to write more, who track how long they write, write more (without trying.)

The statistical impact of the reactivity effect is big enough that researchers have to design around it if they want to measure other correlations. (citation)

This observation they called reactivity…it was our teleology. It was our Dharma.

Or at least, that is how it appears to me.

There is force inside us that wants us to become what it is we are meant to be in the same way something is ushering the unfolding of the rose petals and the rupturing of the acorn shell.

All we have to do is give it an honest mirror.

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Think about that for a moment.

All that this force needs from you, in order to begin guiding you, is honesty.

Tracking your habits is a kind of honesty most of us haven’t trained to do.

Measuring your commitment via your habits is a kind of honesty we’re afraid of.

But, whenever we’re ready to begin, theres a two million year old godforce inside you waiting to meet you.

Waiting to bloom you.

When you start becoming aware of the gods that possess you, you begin banishing those whom you don’t wish to serve. It is as if, some deep part of us knows what we want to become, and if we take just one step towards it, it crosses the universe to meet us.

Be brave enough to look at your hypocritical, lazy, and childish mass of habits.

Once you start tracking your behavior your confusion and delusion will be laid bare before you.

Before I started tracking myself, I was one of those obnoxious assholes who self-righteously said “I don’t watch television, bruh.” Once I looked at a week’s worth of data, I saw I was averaging 3-4 hours a night on Netflix. Not only was I a hypocrite, but I was unnerved by how oblivious I was to a good chunk of my day.

The little goblin in your head that justifies your wasteful patterns is a persuasive force. Dissolve your false idols with meta-cognition.

Personal Reactivity Story: My Stutter

I’ve had a stutter since I can remember. Our family lore is that my mother couldn’t understand me as a child and my little sister would have to translate for me.

My entire life, when I speak, I feel a kind of guitar hero conveyor belt coming towards me, bringing the next few words the sentence I’m saying wants to speak, and when a word appears on the belt that I can feel I’m going to stutter on (somehow I can feel it), I begin to try to think of replacement words that start with a different sound so I can avoid stuttering.

Whenever I actually stutter, its often because the word I stuttered on was simply the right word to use and I want to use that word more than I’m afraid to stutter.

Although people tell me they don’t notice my stutter, I notice it every time. Whenever I speak, I’m navigating its contours.

For most of my dreaming years, I always dreamt dreams for my life where I could be great but hidden. I’d be an author who never did interviews, or a psychologist that never appeared on camera. I wanted to create great things, but I never wanted to stand in front of a group or a camera and stutter.

I started a podcast in 2015. My first 15 episodes I recorded conversations with my friends. No launch strategy, no producer, no team; I just wanted to learn how.

Because I had to edit my own podcasts, I started listening to myself speak.

It was the first time in my life I sat with full attention focused on my own speaking.

I noticed within a few episodes that there was a specific cadence I spoke with that correlated with stuttering, and a slower cadence, that when I dropped into, I didn’t stutter at all.

Within a few months of editing my podcast and listening to my voice, without trying to fix my stutter, I learned how to not stutter.

Note: when I get excited or if someone tries to ask me a deep question while I’m working out, I still stutter.

But I know how to slow down now. I’ve given dozens of lectures to hundreds of people and I don’t think I’ve ever stuttered on stage (I do however talk slowly).

This is the power of reactivity.

Find the clean mirror is your life and begin looking everyday.

How To Start Measuring

Level 1: Track Your Shimmer Addiction

Level 2: Track Your Day

Level 3: The Habit Score Card

Level 1: Track Your Shimmer Addiction

The first level is the most simple, but deceptively difficult.

Simply count how many times you check your phone today.

Here’s the deal; there is a 99.99% chance you’re addicted to your phone.

In the next section I’ll provide over 50 studies that all reflect the horror story;

Our addictions to our phones is one of the most important problems to figure out in our age, (and is also the greatest tool ever invented for people who learn how to use it).

Listen. If you learn how to use the shimmer, you’re going to be able to create a life more incredible than you can likely imagine. And if you don’t learn how to use the shimmer, it will ruin your mind.

This is not hyperbole. The Four Faces of Mara will provide the receipts.

The first step to waking up is putting a notecard over your phone.

Write on one side of the note card: ”Every time I open my phone today, I will draw a tally on the other side of this card, so that I can begin to notice the shimmer.”

The above sentence is called an ‘implementation intention.’ Research has repeatedly shown people who write implementation intentions are 300% on average more likely to complete the task.

The structure of an implementation intention is: “I will do behavior (x), in context (y), in order to achieve (z).

You can use that on anything. It’s real magick.

Start by tracking for one hour.

Slowly work your way up to tracking for a whole day.

If you’re able to maintain this experiment for a week straight, you’ll be in top 5% of people in the world at navigating the Shimmer.

Level 2: Track Your Day

The next level to to track how you spend your time.

Show me a man’s calendar, and I’ll show you what he worships.

Show me a woman’s calendar, and I’ll show you her fate.

How we spend our hours creates our character.

How we spend our days shapes our futures.

And if you don’t track yourself, you’re bullshitting yourself.

Here is a snapshot of my calendar from the other week.

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Many productivity thought leaders say to only put into your calendar the things you have to do at a specific time, place, and with other people.

They would not recommend you use your calendar the way I’m sharing.

I actually agree with them.

But this practice is a kind of wake-up call. Try it for just a week. See what you’re up to.

Here’s how it works.

Use your calendar as you normally would, however, every few hours, take a moment and fill in the previous few hours with what you actually did.

Try to not get more specific than 30 minute blocks.

It’s fine to write ‘bullshitted on phone’ for an hour instead of writing down every specific action you can think of that happened in that hour.

If you don’t have a logging off ritual you’re likely not every disconnecting and this hurts your sleep, recovery and immune systems — get a shimmer sing-off routine.

You can start by using this tracking practice as your shimmer sign-off ritual.

At some point in the evening, take a deep breath, open your calendar, document your behavior for the day then unplug for the evening.

At the end of the week, set an hour or two aside, and review which gods you worshiped.

Tips

  1. I recommend keeping it simple at first. Make it a habit of recording before trying to be hyper-specific.
  2. Avoiding waiting until the end of the day to fill your behaviors in for the first time. I tried this. It turned into a frustrating guessing game.
  3. There are many different ways to track your behavior. Pick whichever one you do reliably, consistently, and specifically.

Level 3: The Habit Scorecard

James Clear shares this introductory skill to the beginning metaprogrammer.

We’ll explore his protocol, and offer a few more advance options for the gamers here.

Step 1: Make a list of your daily habits (min: 10)

Step 2: Go through each one and label + or - or =

  • Guiding Question: Does this habit cast a vote for my dharma or does it cast a vote against my dharma

Step 3: Don’t try to change anything, just track, just measure, just focus on trying to become aware.

Level 2: Habit Scorecard + Cue / Craving / Response / Reward

Conclusion

Evolution by natural and sexual selection has coded into us primal motivational drives that we’ve mythologized as gods. We become aware of the primal motivational drives by examining our goals and habits.

Metaprogramming is one of many names for the process of cultivating awareness of our unconscious patterns, and changing them to improve ourselves. We can become conscious of the story, goals, and habits that make up who we are, by examining our patterns. We make our patterns conscious by tracking our behaviors, and this is why I track my behaviors.

Remember, the Shimmer refracts the memes within it.

The gods you bring with you when you’re in the Shimmer matter.

Your behavior in the Shimmer grows and spreads beyond what you can notice.

Track yourself to learn what kind of trail you’re leaving in The Shimmer.