One Love

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 “I don’t like it when people think I’m racist because I voted for Trump,” a friend of mine said.

It’s well known that Trump is racist. Does voting for him mean that my friend is a racist as well?

Short answer: No. Yes, he’s white. Guilt by association is a fallacy. Yet he tends to find white people boring. More on this later. My friend likes a lot of the policies Trump is making and is working toward, including the wall. The problem is that he voted for a guy who skirts the line of being a white nationalist and prefers to hang out with dictators and shuns democratic leaders.

So why am I his friend?

Short answer: He’s a good dude. Though, he and I disagree on a lot of things, we can have debates without getting emotional. Not because we’re manly men. We are. I’m free to hate on his ideas: religion, political views, prejudices against whites. But I love his toilet humor, his love of motorcycles, and his compassion. Since he has no power to make policy for this country, I’m not giving someone the ability to make stupid choices like building a wall to try and stop the illegal immigration that is happening.

When someone votes a person into power, they support that person in their entirety, whether the voter disagrees with any part of their world view or not. So my friend may not be a racist, but he put his trust into someone who is. And now that person has the ability to affect policy in a way that fits his warped world view. And if it favors some people and not others—the rich, for example—then the country suffers as a whole.

Now, I’ve heard several people making the proclamation that white people are boring. I’ve definitely made that same proclamation about FOBs. We’re completely wrong. And, yes, this is about not judging a book by its cover. Even though when it comes to books, I do. I know it’s wrong, despite being an author.

I think because my upbringing was in the San Francisco Bay Area, where diversity is a key feature, I’ve met many interesting and boring people. And what they look like rarely defined that quality. My friend grew up in a predominantly Caucasian area, so somehow that might have skewed his  perception. I tend to find people interesting if we can have cool in-depth conversations. Often times I don’t find that out until I dig a little deeper, since most people live in a very politically correct mindset, and I don’t.

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I know in parties I’ve been the boring one because I might have felt insecure for some reason and wasn’t able to let my real self out. I also know that what can make a person interesting depends on the observer. So I may want to geek out about storytelling, others may find that ghastly dull. Or I may want to talk about how The Satanic Temple is doing good work in separating church and state, and people will stare at me with despair and want to run away but doesn’t for fear of being viewed as rude. So when it comes to conversation, it takes two to tango. And it’s this fact that my friend and I get along well, despite our vastly different world views. Within that friendship, we also find a lot of things in common. And I think people are all generally this way. We all want a certain level of security, connection with others, to be happy and content, and to be at peace. If we realize this, then tribalism can be minimized. Wasn’t this what Bob Marley sang about in One Love?

Game of Thrones’ Endgame

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Watching Avengers: Endgame, I noticed the movie spent the first hour showing the characters reacting/processing what had happened in Infinity War. This makes sense. They just lost their biggest battle against their biggest foe and saw the biggest genocide take place in the universe.

Spoilers!

Compare this to Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4. In episode 3, the North were facing the biggest, baddest army of the dead. Every character lamented their looming deaths. Then the long night came. And went with the North victorious. Yay! Episode 4 begins and they spend the first five minutes burning their fallen heroes in massive funeral pyres. Great. Now let’s party it up and drink like it’s 1999. That’s actually what happened. They drank and drank, people fornicated, and a big blonde woman lost her virginity. Uh...

In storytelling, scenes should have consequences, good or bad. Otherwise, why show them? Then there needs to be an equal reaction to the weight of that scene. For example, if a guy get’s the date with the girl of his dreams, that’s great. However, the fact that he’s taking the girl of his dreams out on a date begins to weigh down on him. He might stress over how to dress, feel incompetent, or wonder if he can keep the conversation going. Worst yet, does he go for the kiss? If he doesn’t, he might look like a wimp. If he does, then he might be moving too fast.

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GoT episode 4 spends almost no time processing that win. No one talks about the health of their armed forces, takes account of their resources, or wonders if they are capable of beating their next foe. Taking the time to surmise the state of things can up the tension for the viewers and present problems that the characters have to tackle. They can still party and have sex, but save it for later though. Much later. At least let the smoke from the funeral pyres clear.

I was listening to a podcast about GoT’s recent episodes and how they sucked. Most of what they said could be argued either way. But a commenter made an important point: Good stories show “this happened because that happened”. Instead, the recent episodes showed that this happened, then this happened, then this happened, etc. In writing, there’s a structure in storytelling called MRU’s, motivation reaction units. The motivation can be summed up as a goal. Whether that goal is reached or not will result in how the character will react. Here the character spends time thinking about what happened and discovers the next goal, which leads to further action until that new goal is either met or not met. Another reaction ensues. And on and on. Using MRUs makes it easy to structure your scenes and helps the viewer and reader understand what’s going on. Because this is how we live life. We all have goals. We all celebrate our wins or lick our wounds. And then we move on. Hopefully.

Willful Ignorance

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I debated a friend of mine about theism. He’s working on his masters in pastoral ministry. Me? Well...I’ve read a few verses of the bible, so I’m not qualified to debate him in any way. Most of my knowledge of that historical fiction came from watching the Atheist Experience on YouTube. So my religious knowledge remains rudimentary. If that.

In one of our debates, he condemned the validity of the Theory of Evolution. We argued in circles, and I kept telling him that I was nowhere close to having the knowledge of an evolutionary biologist, let alone a biologist. Needless to say, neither did he. He asked me to read a book that has interviews of scientists who stated that the theory has serious problems that put its validity in serious question. I was a bit shocked to find that there were scientists that doubted evolution. I didn’t know how to argue against that except to read what those scientists objections had been and research to see if they were valid. I then challenged him to speak to an evolutionary biologist who is a believer and get their views on the theory. He declined, stating that he has read enough to know that evolution was not true.

While watching the Atheist Experience, I had come to learn about the Discovery Institute, a creationist organization, which had compiled a list of almost 900 scientists who don’t support evolution. In response, the NCSE, National Center for Science and Education had started Project Steve, honoring the late Stephen Jay Gould, an evolutionary biologist. The project asked scientists who supported the theory to sign their names on its list with one caveat: Only scientists with the name Steve should participate. From the NCSE’s FAQ: Not only Steves (can sign), but also Stephens, Stevens, Stephanies, Stefans, and so forth. Etiennes and Estebans would have been welcome. As of March 9, 2018, there were 1424 signatories.

When I relayed this to the pastor, I mistakenly stated that the NCSE created their own list to mock Discovery’s. So instead of acknowledging that only Steve’s could sign the list, and that that list had surpassed the number on Discovery’s, the pastor lamented the NCSE for mocking the creationist organization.

Now, whoever has the bigger dick, the longer list, doesn’t prove one thing or another. But the point of Project Steve was to show the overwhelming support for evolution by scientists, since only about 1.6% of the US population is so named.

Still, the pastor stood stern and reiterated my need to read his book. I said I would, despite the fact that he wouldn’t take me up on my challenge to him. I told him that I was pretty confident that I could debunk the issues the book presented.

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He said, “It takes a lot of faith for you to make that statement.”

He has a point.

I don’t know what objections were made in that book, but stated that I was confident in debunking them. The reason is simple: there are mountains of evidence for the Theory of Evolution. Mountain ranges worth.

At this point I went quiet, shutting the debate down. For a pastor to use faith against me is farcical. Faith is central to religion. Without it, all religions would evaporate like a mirage in a desert. Faith is the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Hence the idiom blind faith.

And this is why I’m an anti-theist, someone who is against theism. Many religions purport to have all of the answers, but this can negate the need to explore or find the truth. My pastor friend is a prime example. He won’t explore the truth behind evolution because he’s protecting his own world view. And the sad thing is he doesn’t realize it.

I don’t go around proselytizing my atheism. Though, I’m willing to discuss theism because I’m open to having my mind changed. There’s comfort in thinking that an all-powerful being is there to save and provide for us. However, when I learned that every day 21,000 children around the world die before the age of 5, my belief in that being died as well.

I may be told that we cannot know god’s plan. But if this is god’s plan to let 21,000 births happen only to let them die, I’m gonna question the validity of that plan. And I’m gonna question anyone’s prayers for silly things like getting their promotions, or winning the lottery, or having their cancers cured.

Honestly

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I’m an anti-theist. What that means is that I’m against religion for many valid reasons. For example, an ex-girlfriend had gone to her priest and confessed that she had lost her virginity. The priest scolded her, telling her that she had sinned. She never confessed again. Another example is the segregation of people by faith, sexuality, or magic underwear. “If you don’t believe in what we believe, then you’re going to hell!” Think about that for a moment. A serial killer in the U.S. can seek forgiveness from Jesus and be allowed into heaven. But a non-believer will go to hell. That’s fucked up.

So much of religion is based on the idea of faith. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of the definitions of faith is: firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Though, theists often vehemently decry the Theory of Evolution, demanding transition bones, blah blah blah. But to believe in god, you must have faith. Hypocritical much?

Because I’ve been watching the Atheist Experience on YouTube, I’ve gained a superficial knowledge of logic and have found a small hobby of talking to theists about their beliefs. I’m under no illusion that I’ll convert them to non-believers. But it’s always fun to challenge their faith. The issue comes when theists aren’t willing to have an honest conversation about it.

I was talking to someone who was very skittish about taking his lord’s name in vain.

“I know there’s a god,” Skittish said.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I can feel it.”

“Imagine this. You’re walking down a dark alleyway and see a shadow moving behind a dumpster. How do you feel?”

“I feel concerned.”

“Cool. You keep walking and you find that the shadow was just a garbage bag fluttering in the breeze. Now how do you feel?”

“Not concerned.”

“So your feelings aren’t a good pathway to finding the truth since they can lead you astray.”

“But the word feeling is so broad. It can mean anything, blah blah blah...”

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Here was where the dishonesty had happened. I showed that his feeling that god existed can’t be used to show the truth. Feelings can be unreliable. So he diverted the discussion by focusing on something else. I’d wager that if he’d admitted that my argument was right, then he might begin to doubt his faith in some deity. That was why he channeled the subject onto the some vague thing about the meaning of a word. To this day, he likes to muddy words instead of focusing on the subject we’re discussing.

There’s another theist that I talk to, and he commits something called guilt by association fallacy. He spent a lot of time trying to discredit Evolution. I explained that Evolution is both a fact and a theory. He narrowed his eyes at me and started to debate me, and I realized he didn’t understand the difference between fact and theory. So I talked about that. Then he diverted the conversation to how scientists couldn’t be trusted because grant money depends on their results. They’d manipulate the data or ignore evidence that proved their hypothesis wrong to preserve their grants.

I then tried to explain the peer review process and how competitive it is in scientific community. So, if someone wants to make a name for themselves by proving the Theory of Evolution is wrong, for example, then they would garner fame and fortune beyond most people’s dreams. Ignoring what I had said about the peer review process, he continued on the path that some scientists have “cheated”, so science as a whole couldn’t be trusted. Hence, guilt by association fallacy.

I suggested that he talk to a theist who was also an evolutnary biologist and get their point of view. This way they could have an open discussion without having the heaviness of opposing worldviews. Alas, he declined.

Having honest discussions is paramount to growing and learning as a human being. If we’re all about protecting our egos and our beliefs, then we’re never open to new ideas and ways of thinking.

I’m wrong a lot. That’s why I go to my writing group on a weekly basis and have them critique my pages. Otherwise, my writing and story would never improve. I like to say that I’m wrong 50% of the time and am guessing my way through life the other 50%. Life’s too short to worry about being right most of the time. Sometimes making the wrong choices can lead to the right outcome.

Listen to my writing group discuss writing and masturbation on the Uncontained podcast.

Materialism

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When I had gone to the vision board party, one of the tasks was to dream big and find pictures that represent our wishes and paste them onto the board. We had piles of magazines that ranged from gossip to golf to science. Leafing through them, I could find pretty much anything my heart desired. But there was a problem. Leafing thought the mags, I saw nothing that struck a cord. Except a picture of Jason Momoa as Aquaman because I want more tattoos. But that’s within my reach. In other words, I didn’t need a vision board to help me manifest this.

I had a feeling that this was going to happen. Having it played out in front of me confirmed that I strive to live more like a minimalist; someone who doesn’t need excessive materialistic things. To be clear, I have things: caR, I’m Appled out, an iron horse. So in that respect I’m a hypocrite. In my defense, I enjoy all of the things that I own. However, they do not bring me happiness. To me joy and happiness are two different things.

I see so many people buy things for no real reason except maybe to fill some emptiness that lies within. Instead of addressing that emptiness, they buy things to try and fill it. I think there are two basic problems with this approach. One is that the emptiness is within the individual. Second, buying something gives people that endorphin rush. I’ve been addicted to new stuff. I totally get it. But it can hurt the wallet.

My sister has five different ways of heating food up. The oven. A microwave. A toaster oven. A hot air oven. And she recently bought a portable steamer.

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An acquaintance of mine asked me what I had thought about the new iPad Pro. I told him that I went to an Apple store and played with it. Very nice. But my original iPad Pro that I had bought three years ago still works well. I do almost everything with it. Writing. Blogging. I watch all my streaming services on it; I don’t have a TV. The new iPad wouldn’t do anything different for me. He said he was thinking of upgrading.

Why, I asked.

The processor is faster, he answered.

What do you do on it that you need a faster processor?

He shrugged. I draw on it sometimes.

Dude, how fast do you draw that you need a faster processor?

Another acquaintance came up to me in Starbucks a few weeks ago. He looked excited and told me he had good news.

You get a blow job, I asked.

His eyebrows lowered against his eyes. No, I bought a new car.

Don’t you have two already?

Yeah. I traded the SUV in.

He has a sports car that he daily drives and had bought and financed a new sedan. Because he needed more room than his sports car could provide? Which is why he got rid of the SUV? Or he needed a smaller car because his SUV was too big? I was a bit confused at this point.

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The issue is that the emptiness within a person is bottomless. That person could buy everything in the world and still have that emptiness within them because they’re not trying to find out what is causing that emptiness. Instead they’re trying to fill that emptiness with stuff, and that hole is devouring it up.

The new Netflix special, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, shows how stressful people can be when they have a lot of stuff. After getting rid of the shit they don’t need, the people on the show feel relaxed and serene. We as Americans have too much stuff. I mean, it’s not a surprise that we have to either buy bigger homes or rent storage spaces in order to store our endless junk.

Hypocrites, raise your hands.

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I’m guilty. I have two cars. But at least I didn’t go into debt buying a second car.

The question should now be: What is this emptiness?

It could be anything. Lack of confidence. Loneliness. Living a purposeless life. The game is to explore yourself and find out. Honestly, that’s the fun part. For me, I knew I was a creative. So I explored different outlets before settling on writing and storytelling. That took a lot of time. For example, I delved into acting for three years before jumping out of it. But, man, that was fun. I learned so much about myself going on stage and acting. It was one of the big steps that opened me up to me. Since then, I have never left the deep end.

Vision Boards

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Out of curiosity, I went to my first vision board party last week. I’m constantly trying to meet new people and sometimes that entails me going to events like this. Another such example was when I had gone to a lucid dreaming and astral traveling meetup. I had locked the skeptic within me in his cage. He was rattling his tin cup on the bars, yelling at me, every time someone made a claim that he knew couldn’t be supported in any scientific way.

I thought the vision board party was some sort of MLM, multilevel marketing, recruitment. I personally hate those schemes. I’ve been involved in one. They’re a fucking cult. I don’t want to promote this particular organization, but the organizer had us meet with the cult leader. He stated that he had helped create thousands of vision boards. That he manifested things into his life using them. He told us to think outside of the box, so dream big. Want a big ass house? Put it on your board. Want those red pumps on your feet? Paste it on your board. Want that man with eight-pack abs? Put an inanimate picture of him up on that piece of inanimate cardboard. Vacation in Hawaii? Hell, yeah! Then put a picture of a beach, any beach, on that minced up tree and let that manifest into your life. Praise the cardboard!

The next important point that he expounded was that we must look at the completed board every day. Just look at it. Bask in it. Make love to it. OK. He hadn’t said those last two things. But he did say that we must look at it every day. And then bam! No further instructions were given past this. Do we speak to the board? Plead with it that the things on it would happen? Caress the pictures we’ve pasted on the board?

He kept talking about the law of attraction. The power of it. That we can all wield it. That as long as the universe knew what we wanted in our heart of hearts—my heart has more than one heart?—then we’ll attract it into our lives. Because the unimaginably vast universe cares what piddling sacs of water and goo—humans—want.

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I rolled my eyes. To be fair, if he had used the word prayer, faith, summon, cast a spell, concoct a potion, wave a wand, human sacrifice, I would have rolled my eyes regardless. Well, if he used that last one, I would have bolted out of the party, screaming like a little girl.

I used to be “spiritual”. I explored that realm a lot. I thought I could manifest things into my life, too. The issue is that people think they manifested it when they actually did something to bring that thing about. In plain words, the law of attraction is false. There is no scientific evidence to back that up. Unless we’re talking about magnetism or gravity. I’m not a physicist, so there might be other things that involve attraction. And that’s the thing! Spiritualists like this individual use scientific words with new age jargon to make them sound more authoritative. Law of Gravity. Law of Attraction. One is supported by mountains of scientific evidence. The other is supported by...nothing.

Here’s a video that explains better than I what I’m talking about:

Vision boards do very little to bring about our dreams. It may be a reminder for people to put forth the effort toward them. If I wanted to go on a Hawaiian vacation, then I’d save up for it and make the necessary logistical choices to make it happen. The vision board does nothing. It won’t save me the money. It won’t schedule the flight. It won’t call the hotel to make the reservations. If I wanted a pair of red pumps, then I’d save up for it and go to the store and buy it. Some people would call that process manifesting. I’d like to call it taking action. And no, I don’t actually want a pair of red pumps. Black is fine.

Now, can things happen with no effort on my own? Yeah. But I chalk that up to coincidence. Coincidences happen on the daily. To everyone. Everywhere. People have a hard time believing that because the chance of some coincidence happening can be rare. That doesn’t make it impossible. And it doesn’t mean that the universe made it happen. The lottery is a perfect example. There’s a reason why the lottery can grow to millions upon millions of dollars. Because it’s astronomically difficult to win it for an individual. But people do because millions upon millions of them partake in it.

Imagine a cardboard target with a pinhole slightly bigger than a grain of sand. Stand about six feet away. Take one grain of sand. Try throwing it through that pinhole. What’s the likelihood of accomplishing that? Pretty damn small. Now, take a fistful of sand and throw it at the target. The likelihood is now better.

A lot of these spiritualists tout anecdotal evidence. A long time ago, I was listening to a spiritual program. The host asked his listeners to try to manifest something: Imagine an amount of money and see if you can manifest it into your life. Why not, I told myself. What could it hurt? So I thought of $20,000 dollars. And then I waited. Bam! I got a check for around $15,000 green backs. I’m not sure how long I had waited, but months had gone by before I got the check. I was stunned!

Shazam! I said to myself, let me try this shit again. I thought of another $20,000 bucks. Months passed. And bam! No large checks came to me.

What had actually happened was that I worked for a company that skirted the California labors laws. Unbeknownst to me, a coworker of mine had filed a law suit. He won. A year or so later I got a letter stating that I was owed a settlement.

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Let’s look at the Law of Gravity. It’s called a law because we can use it to predictably calculate what happens when we drop something, for example. But to determine why or how a law happens, a theory is given.

The law of attraction is false because it isn’t constant. It’s nowhere near constant. Spiritualists and snake oil salesmen call it a law to make it sound legit. But it ain’t. That’s why anecdotal evidence can’t be used. These cult leaders cherry pick stories that support their position, and ignore those that falsify it.

It’s sort of like this: Ever think of a person, and then all of the sudden that person calls you? It’s a miracle, right? No. We find this significant because we’ve ignored all of the other instances that we thought of that person and nothing happened. Most of the time we can’t recall those moments. So when this miraculous thing happens, our minds assign significance to it, and then try to make sense of it: I manifested this person to call me.

If we as human beings want to create something or make something happen, then we have to take the steps toward that goal. Luck is probably involved in every step of the way. I want to become a best selling author. Sitting around wishing for it won’t do a thing for me. I do have to write the book, get an agent, and then that agent has to sell the book to a publisher. All of that takes a lot of effort and luck. Once my book is on the bookshelves, more effort in marketing and luck is required to get readers to buy my book. I often tell people that publishing is a crapshoot. I have little control over my book’s success. All I can do is take the steps necessary and hope for a lot of luck. Maybe I should just buy a lottery ticket.

Life’s Purpose

I write almost every day. Usually at cafes. Starbucks is my go to because I’m Asian: free electricity, heat, WiFi, and refills. During my years at these cafes, I’ve met a lot of people. I met one of my riding friends because he saw me carrying my motorcycle helmet. Our differences could be described as a great divide. He’s conservative, highly religious, a Trump supporter. I’m a liberal and am an atheist. To say that I am not a Trump supporter would be putting it very lightly. However, we’re open enough to have cool conversations about our similarities and differences without getting emotional. Subjects range from boobs to mechanical steeds to religion and other fiction about the human condition. For me, it’s human connection at its finest, the trading of ideas.

Then I encounter the other side of the spectrum. I met a guy who is very closed off to listening to new ideas. Well...he heard them, but I could sense he wasn’t processing them because his counter arguments were a repeat of what he always says. It’s like ideas tried to fly into his head, but there was a cage that kept them out.

We were talking about kids. That I didn’t want them. “That is the purpose of life,” he said. “To procreate.”

I said, “We’re human, we’re conscious beings. We can determine what our purpose is in life. If a person wants to earn ungodly riches, then that person can pursue that.”

He laughed at me. “Good luck to that guy. Cause that never happens.”

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“Do you wanna go to Silicon Valley? Because the tech industry is creating a lot of rich people.”

Now, I thought I had some serious limiting thoughts. No. Talking to him, I could feel the mental limitations that he placed on himself. I could feel how constricted his thinking was, how small his world was, a prison of his own making. It made the few conversations that we’ve had unpleasant. Now all I do is have small talk with him. And I despise small talk.

Limiting thoughts are nothing. What I mean is that thoughts are just that. Thoughts. They don’t become anything until we act on them. Sometimes I wanna kill my mom because she rags on me so much. We’re two generations removed so my ideas about life is night and day compared to hers.  Obviously, I’m not going to kill my own mother. Too dark?

When I have a limiting thought—I have many—I do my best to ignore them. It’s very difficult to try and negotiate our way out of our own limiting/negative thoughts because we’re prone to seeing patterns where there aren’t any.

I have a friend who is in a committed relationship. But she’s perpetually angry at him when he doesn’t do what she expects him to do. For example, she sent him a sext—a naughty text—and he didn’t respond for a while. That upset her. Then when he did respond, she grew more pissed because he didn’t sext her back. So when we talked about this, I said, “Maybe he’s busy. Maybe there was an emergency. Maybe something happened, and he couldn’t be in that headspace.”

“Of course I know that,” she said. “But that doesn’t help.”

“You know you’re overthinking things.”

“Yeah. But I can’t help it. I feel rejected.”

In all fairness, to feel rejected from thoughts of rejection is a healthy response. However, we get endless thoughts fed to us every day. There’s little we can do about that. The good news is that most of them go unnoticed. It’s like walking down a crowded street. We don’t notice most of the people that walk past us. The issue is that thoughts drive our emotions. Especially the ones we deem important.

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What we do have control over are the thoughts that we hold on to. Like the guy who has limiting beliefs, he holds on to the idea that he can’t accomplish more than what he thinks he can. Worst is that he acts on it. My female friend feels rejected because she’s insecure about her relationship. So she blinds herself to all of the good that her boyfriend has done for her. And she isn’t present enough to realize that her perpetual anger might be pushing him away, making her unpleasant to be around.

For me, the best way to handle limiting thoughts and beliefs is to take steps toward your goal. Just do it in spite of them. In a podcast that featured my writing group—link below—we all talked about how difficult it is to get published. There are so many writers and so many books that a voice could get lost in all that noise. So why try? Because if you don’t, then the chance of it being heard is zero.

There’s another phrase that certain life coaches dispense: fake it till you make it. Faking it means that you’re taking time and mental energy to pretend about something you’ve yet to believe in. That can create conflict within a person because they’re fighting against their limiting belief with a counter belief. It’s hard enough to pursue your goal and then pile on top of that mental warfare against yourself. Why stack the cards? Once you’re focused on the task at hand, there’s no room for limiting beliefs. And even if you make room, you’re moving toward your goal anyways. So faking it isn’t necessary.