Mental Tips

In this post, I cover mental tips, distinctions, and books that have helped in my nursing journey.

  1. Principles by Ray Dalio

On goals:

This book helped me see that joy in nursing arises from a feeling of progress (not in how big the nursing paycheck is). In other words, your goal should be to be on a mission that you will be engrossed in. A helpful mentality, then, is to learn to struggle well, rather than try to find a nursing gig that will minimize stress/struggling.

What I’m saying will only be an abstraction if you are in school and incurring debt. You’ll realize the reality of what I’m saying only once you secure a “real nursing job” and find it to be an empty practice in trading your time for money.

So how does one go about formulating a worthwhile mission in nursing? I honestly don’t know, but I’ve found three questions to be tremendously helpful:

  1. Is there a way for me to use my strengths in nursing?
  2. What activities add meaning to my life? Can I incorporate more of these activities into my role as a nurse?
  3. What has been your most painful, excruciating experience? What will you do in nursing to make sure no one experiences that same type of pain?

On pain:

Recently I had a talk with an old friend. He was two months into his new grad job in the Emergency Department, and he was already thinking of quitting. His worst day occurred within the last week when he dealt with two Code Blues within minutes of each other. His anxiety over his job was getting so bad he developed shortness of breath whenever he drove to his hospital.

He told me he wanted to quit and get a “chill” job where he only took vital signs. I told him the only job that comes close is school nursing, and it would bore him. So what was my friend to do, since his job was causing anxiety?

I told him to run toward his pain instead of fleeing from it.

How does this apply to the average man? Don’t try to escape from your job if it is causing you pain! Instead, ask yourself: what is this pain trying to teach me? If you quit your job to escape the pain, the same type of pain will probably appear in your next job. In other words, the problem isn’t with the job; the problem is with you.

On struggling well:

Why is that 10% of American adults are depressed? Where are the 10% of Americans that are so happy that they need “depressant” medications to contain their jubilee? I’ll explain this in the paragraph that begins with “on a larger level.”

On a similar note, have you ever heard anyone say: “life is so easy!”?
To the contrary, I’ve often heard comments like:

“Life is tough.”

“Life’s a bitch, and then you die.”

“I want to commit suicide.”

“Why does God allow such bad things to happen?”

I think we can all agree that life is challenging. For the past 20 years, I’ve searched for the explanation for why “life is tough.” The best explanation can be found in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which posits that systems become more disordered (or chaotic) with the passage of time.

The Second Law is in action in our daily lives. For instance, even when I invest absolutely no energy, my room gets messy, and dust accumulates around my laptop. And even on days when I don’t sweat at all, my body starts smelling. I don’t need to do anything!

On a larger level, the Second Law predicts that each area of your life will diminish in quality over time. That is to say, your mental health, finances, relationships, and every other facet of your life will be driven towards chaos, unless you invest time and effort into reversing the entropy.

The beauty of the Second Law is that it offers the simplest reason for the observation that “life is tough”: every part of life deteriorates over time!

Struggling well, then, is Ray Dalio’s way of saying that we need to invest energy in the facets of our lives that naturally deteriorate over time. For instance, it’s easy to identify bodybuilders on the street; they have huge muscles. The only reason bodybuilders’ muscles are so abnormally large is that each bodybuilder had to spend significant time shredding his muscle fibers in the gym. He hedged against the decline of his muscle cells by “working out.”

Similarly, we need to “work out” or invest energy in the facets of our lives in which we want to see results. Otherwise, the universal law will take over and drive our lives toward disorder.

So what did Ray Dalio teach me about struggling well? He taught me that everyone struggles with the human life, and this struggling never ends due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Struggling well means that you can’t look for a release valve in life; you need to accept that life is a struggle and learn how to invest energy in individual facets of your life in order to improve them.

Everyone struggles, including billionaires. They just struggle on a different level from the rest of us.

2) The Book of EST

Background info: I attended the Landmark Forum in 2013, and I loved it. The Landmark Forum is a training seminar whose roots are found in EST, a personal development movement pioneered by Werner Erhard (who reached his heyday in the 70s and 80s).

I’m recommending this book because it gives you as close an approximation of the live event as is possible through the written word. This is what I got from the seminar:

Past events do not mean anything.

That is, past events are simply that: past events. The person who is creating meaning from the past is YOU. Does this mean you can disregard the lessons you’ve learned from the past? No. It DOES mean, however, that you need to watch out for the stories you’ve created about past events.

For instance, I was a virgin when I was 21, and the only vagina I had seen up to that point had belonged to a 60 year old woman whose diarrhea I had to wipe in an ICU. On the eve of my 22nd birthday, I had a chance to finally “stick it in.” I was so nervous my hands were shaking. When I finally pulled down my pants, I couldn’t “get it up.” The curse words floating in my mind won’t be discussed here, but the stories will:

“Yup, that proves it. I am a big time faggot!”

“Story of my life: I’m impotent.”

“I’m not a real man.”

I told myself these interpretations/stories for the longest time. The stories were spontaneous and appeared to be so true that I concluded these stories were facts. But who was creating the stories? Me. Who was making conclusions about my life from that one “failed event?” Me. If I could step back in time, I would write down each story I created and recognize them for what they were: interpretations of an event that I deemed to be life-defining.

So what stories are you creating about the past? Have you made any judgements about yourself because of individual events?

Men are prone to creating these stories from past “failures”:

a. “I’m a fuck up. What’s the point in trying?”

b.“I’m not smart enough.”

c. “I’m not good enough.”

d. “I’m not a man.”

Women are prone to creating these stories from past “failures”:

a. “I’m not worthy to be loved.”

b. “I’m not pretty enough.”

c. “If someone really knew me, he would leave me.”

Here’s the point: YOU are the one that’s creating the stories.

People create false stories about life in general.

Any of these sound familiar?

a. “Marriage will make me happy.”

b. “I need a relationship to be happy.”

c. “Once I have a house and kids, I’ll be happy.”

The nursing profession has its own set of false stories:

a. “Nursing is a calling, not a job.”

b. “Nursing is a noble profession.”

c. “If you become a nurse, your life will be meaningful.”

My experience tells me that nursing is NOT a calling. Rather, it’s a job through which people exchange their time for money.

As for nursing being noble, it all depends on the quality of the individual nurse.

As for nursing and a meaningful life, the reality is that nursing won’t add anything to your life. It will simply enhance whatever emptiness or joy is already within you.

The Book of EST taught me to observe my own stories and to challenge them to test their validity.

In order to have a meaningful life, you need to be “on the court.”

How many times have you been in line, only to see a beautiful girl next to you? As your heart beat faster with the possibility of speaking up, your fear inhibited you from doing anything. This actually happened to me yesterday. As I waited in line, I noticed a gorgeous blonde next to me. I was about to strike some conversation and potentially get her number, but I backed out. There were a couple of pieces of self-talk that caused me to keep my mouth shut:

a. “The other people in line will judge me and think I’m a rapist.”

b. “If there’s no chemistry, then the conversation will stop and it will be awkward to stand next to her in line.”

c. “Ahh, she’s got small tits anyway. I can do better.”

After I bought my product and left the building, I kicked myself. I had missed an opportunity to get the blonde’s number, even though I had nothing to lose. I had cared more about looking good in front of strangers than actually taking action. I later realized that striking conversations with strangers while waiting in line is a metaphor for taking advantage of opportunities in life, such as taking on a new job, asking someone out, or selling a product.

As you consider the opportunity, you fear being judged by the people around you. At the same time, you fear rejection from the actual person should you actually take action. And the entire time, you self-sabotage yourself with negative self-talk.

Being on the court means that you choose to take action, even though you may look like an idiot or fall flat on your face. If I had been on the court when I was in line, I would have struck up the conversation with the girl and risk getting rejected. But because I had been “in the stands” instead, nothing happened. On the surface, I won because I got to “look good” and blend in with the silent losers around me staring at their phones. In reality, I actually lost because I missed an opportunity to get to know the girl.

The next time you’re in line and notice a beautiful girl next to you, ask yourself if you are on the court or in the stands.

Everyone thinks the grass is greener on the other side.

Marriage as an institution is failing miserably. Consider this: if half of skydiving participants died from defective parachutes, the skydiving market would crumble immediately. But for some warped reason, we continue to allow people to get married, even though we know at least half these marriages will dissolve (in case you’re wondering, the warped reason is that the divorce industry is a market worth $50 billion annually).

Ever wonder why most marriages don’t work out? There’s a Chinese saying that explains this phenomenon: “you are riding a donkey, looking for a horse.” The American version of this axiom is: “the grass is greener on the other side.”

Marriage doesn’t work because every man and woman believes the grass is greener with another partner. Men are constantly looking to pair bond with younger, more fertile women. On the other hand, women are constantly looking to pair bond with men with greater resources. This is why you often see women dumping their “loser” boyfriends in favor of older men with money. The phenomenon of men and women “trading up” is ingrained in our biology.

The same principle also applies to jobs. Almost every one is looking for a job that pays more than his current one (with half the responsibility and stress). Not convinced? Well, if I offered you a job that paid twice your current salary and brought half the stress, would you take it? Exactly.

The point is that “the grass is greener on the other side” syndrome is pervasive, but it’s not necessarily true.

The Forum invited me to believe that the grass is green on my side of the fence. So if you’re single, the invitation is to cherish your freedom. If you’re working at a job, the invitation is to take full advantage of it. And if you’re a nurse, the invitation is to take advantage of the possibilities the profession has to offer.

I’m inviting you to ride the donkey you’ve been given until you drive it into the ground. Only then should you look to ride another donkey/horse. Don’t try to jump onto another donkey when your current ass is working fine!

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