The most useful thing to teach young people is how to modify their habits

The most important thing for young people to learn is how to modify their habits. If they can modify their habits, they understand the importance of change, and they understand how to make change happen.

The ability to change is the ability to grow. If we don’t change for the better, we stay stagnant, and in relation to others, we atrophy and become worse. People have to change for the better, or they become weak until death.

To modify a habit requires conscious change. Changing habitual behaviors requires self-awareness and the strength to make something out of that awareness. Self-awareness means knowing our own strengths and weaknesses – both as the outside world perceives them and internally.

Habitual behaviors are necessarily hard to change – these are the behaviors we engage in frequently. The more we do something, the harder that is to change. This is especially true for behaviors that result in feelings of pleasure. Drinking, gambling, drugs, sex – changing habits related to vices is incredibly difficult. Not only does repetition give us an answer for a way to do things, and humans are lazy creatures that don’t want to change, but repeating pleasurable behaviors rewards us psychologically for doing these things.

It’s important that we recognize when we engage in repetitive behavior when there is a better way of doing things. Better can come in multiple forms. Better can refer to efficiency. For instance, if we open a new Excel sheet every time we create a budget, we could save lots of time by creating and using a template, or a program that does the work for you.

Better can refer to health. If we smoke cigarettes every day, that’s going to take a toll on the lungs, decrease our athletic and cardiovascular ability, and increase longer-term concerns like cancer. If we have sex with many partners and are left wanting more, or we accumulate things because it feels good, then we risk short-term dependence on those feelings and the want for more, and the long-term solidification of those habits. These are more mental, psychological health concerns.

Change requires action. Once a habit is identified that should be changed, it takes commitment to action to make that actually happen. It takes opening the Excel template over and over instead of the new workbook. It may take closing an already started new workbook. It may mean staring at dessert as everyone else continues to eat.

The ability to change is the most important skill because it is so difficult. This ability also paves the way for future learning. If you can learn to be self-aware and learn what skills you are lacking and those that would benefit you, you can go and learn those things and accomplish your goals.

Stubbornness prevents change and acceptance of the reality of the need to change. When we are locked into our habits, and either refuse to change or refuse to go through the self-examination required before changing, we reduce our ability and our likelihood of ever changing or being introspective. We will continue on with our further-defined habits, regardless of the costs. Stubbornness is reinforcing.

We can learn from others. Just like learning from a teach in school or a mentor at work, we can learn how to modify our habits by watching others who have become proficient in modifying theirs. Because this can be learned, it can be taught. Teaching this requires making the audience willing to change.

Psychotherapists do this. Psychotherapists make their patients comfortable, then willing to change, then open about their strengths and weaknesses, then prescribe a plan to change.

I don’t recommend a course on psychotherapy be taught to all high-school students, but I recommend some of the lessons from the practice be taught at the high-school level. Students should be taught and made to go through the exercise of changing a habit. Start with their studying skills, or note taking, or reading. Destroy the old habits and replace them with new skills that will be valuable for the rest of their lives. In the meantime, teach them how to change.

These students are about to go to college – where they can enter with an understanding of how behavior is modified and an analytical approach to modifying theirs, or they can become the next wave of brainwashed, debt-burdened employee robots. The individual doesn’t benefit from being a debt-burdened employee robot.

Not being a debt-burdened employee robot is only one benefit to instilling the ability to modify habits in young people. From the ability to think freely and understand behavioral changes, people will be less likely to blindly follow an ideology. Political discussion these days is a shouting match between Republican and Democrat. There’s no nuance or compromise or standing up for individual beliefs – it’s all about following the prescribed ideology. There’s no thought in politics.

There’s no thought in corporations. The debt-burdened employee must do what he’s told in order to pay off loans. This ingrains the servant behaviors which make “good employees” that rise the ranks in a corporation. It doesn’t innovate or look out for consequence outside of shareholder value – which is what shareholders want.

The most useful thing to teach young people is how to modify their habits. The ability to modify habits will make people moral, courageous leaders of companies and governments, healthier and longer-living citizens, and unique contributors at dinner parties. Changing habits is, by definition, one of the hardest things people can do, but it is the most important. Without changing behavior, we become stuck in our skillset, our status, and our current spirituality. Start changing habits today.

Boys are not men until they have been broken and reforged themselves

To become a man means to complete The Hero’s Journey. The hero’s journey takes a man into the darkest, scariest place a man can imagine. It is depicted in mythology as the bottom of the ocean with the meanest whale, or the dark cavern with the fire-breathing dragon. That is where the mythical treasure is found, before the hero returns to the normal world. Boys are not men until they have been broken and reforged themselves.

A man is no longer a boy when he is ready to face the world on his own. He has the skills, the courage, and the wisdom to interact with obstacles that stand in the way and to deal with challenges without being rattled to the point of psychosis.

In mythology, this deep cavern, the source of all insecurities and evil, is where the great treasure is found – the princess that needs saving, the father that was lost, or the pot of gold. So too in life, this dark place is where glory is found. And while the dark place is always within ourselves – in our own insecurities, it often takes external circumstances to overcome these insecurities.

Glory in the “real world” is often rewarded with the material receipt – a beautiful girl to wed or monetary wealth. The real reward is the spiritual wealth. We become strong in spirit when we choose to face our deepest fears and turn around our strongest insecurities. When we are physically, mentally, and emotionally strong, we can endure tough challenges and be happy during any trials. Happiness is found in strength, and strength is required to conquer those mentioned dark, scary, unknown situations.

When we overcome our strongest insecurities – whether it be women, money, physical appearance, or relationship insecurities, we often overcome the obstacles that prevented us from experiencing that thing (eg money, women). Women are attracted to the man who is not worried about being attractive to women, and feelings of wealth work the same way.

To break down our deepest fears and insecurities, we need to go to the proverbial belly of the deep-water beast. We need to go, at least psychologically, sometimes physically, to this darkness. These deep-sea monsters, these insecurities, are not easily defeated.

Your deep-sea monster, your insecurity, destroys you in the process of you destroying the monster. To be “destroyed” in heroic journey-terms, means to crush the spirit of your previous self. The weak, immoral, and lazy characteristics in you are destroyed. It means destroying the ego that holds onto the things your old self held in regard. Free yourself from the needs of those previously held insecurities.

These traits are replaced through the new and stronger version of the individual that makes it through the hardship. Strength and confidence, industry and determination, and virtue replace the dead characteristics, and you re-enter the world to share your new strength.

There is no cheating on the journey to becoming a mature man. Help can be picked up by lessons from others or your own experience. Ultimately, you are the only person that can destroy your insecurities. You can do all the reading and philosophizing you can manage. You can understand how dragons are destroyed and how your insecurities should be managed. But, until you put in the effort to destroy your insecurities, to destroy your past self – your dragon, your sea monster, you will not be free from the insecurity. You must go to the belly of the beast. You must develop the skills and the virtue necessary to become stronger than the beast and to destroy it.

That is the first half of the battle – destroying the previous self that held you down. The second part is to rebuild yourself. To reforge yourself means to take the new skills, the new virtue, and become stronger because of it. You rebuild yourself with the new characteristics.

If you don’t rebuild yourself, you can be destroyed during your battle with the dragon. It is uncommon to face your deepest insecurities – most people won’t do it. People will go their whole lives without facing these fears.

It is uncommon among those people that do face their demons to become better for it. Too many get caught up in the demons that they find them attractive. Instead of becoming the hero that destroys the dragon, many become the dragon that is a strong force of evil or vice.

The man who becomes attractive to women only to use them and lead them on destroys the women’s virtue and adds to the suffering of the world through the woman and her future partner.

The man who builds his financial empire, not to make the world a better place by enabling new technology but to build his own wealth to build power over others, destroys his virtue and adds to the suffering of the world by eliminating the possibility of others to compete and dig themselves out of poverty.

Becoming a dragon is attractive. It is strong and can kill enemies. It gets to have lots of sex and drive expensive cars. Evil will always be attractive. It is shiny and rich and powerful. This is precisely the problem with vice and evil. It consumes you by making you want more – more women, more money, more power.

There is more strength in virtue. There is strength in knowing you did the right thing, and can always do the right thing. There is true freedom is knowing you don’t need more – more women, things, or status.

When you choose to rebuild yourself with the new strength and virtue, that is when you have something to share with the world to make it a better place. It takes touching evil – killing the dragon, to find this strength. Then, it takes the strength and virtue to choose not to be a dragon, and instead to be a positive influence on others. That’s the hero.

Some people start out on their journey to conquer their insecurities by consciously attacking them. Others may be called by accident. A firing from a job, a hard breakup, or an encounter with evil – these are some events that can trigger the journey of the hero – or the villain.

Boys are not men until they have been broken and reforged themselves. This is because it takes breaking down and destroying the ego so that men can learn the wisdom and strength to handle challenges in the future.

While this is how all people become mature and learn to deal with hardship, there is a double standard that makes this more important for men that women. This process is required for men to be attractive in the sexual market, which is not the case for women.