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Solving for X
When you are discontent with your life’s conditions, you can follow one of three strategies:
You can change your mind so that you don’t remain discontent—or the dissatisfaction becomes less severe.
You can change your behavior so that you no longer experience the conditions that cause discontent.
You can change the world around you, so those discontenting conditions no longer exist.
These are not exclusive strategies.
You can do more than one.
The question is: if X is what must to change to remove the discontent, how can we solve for X?
Changing your mind
It’s always possible and sometimes easy to change your mind And sometimes merely changing your mind can be a complete and satisfying solution.
But not always.
Sometimes it’s just the first step. Changing your mind will almost make it easier to change your behavior and change the state of the world.
You might not want to change your mind, but if changing your mind would make it easier to change things beyond your mind, then changing your mind would be an excellent place to start.
You might believe that you can’t change your mind. But if you believe that, then it’s just because your mind’s been conditioned to believe that it can’t be changed.
The belief that there’s nothing you can do is called “Learned helplessness.”
And it can be unlearned.
To change your mind, solving for X means finding what it takes for you to change your mind.
X is you.
Changing your behavior
The conditions of your life are partly the result of accidents and partly the result of the choices you’ve made. Your circumstances are the result of your past behavior.
Your behavior has a cause. It’s the product of your mind. So to change your circumstances, you must change your behavior, and to do that, you must first change your mind.
And not just any change will do. It must be a change that leads to behavior that will change your circumstances.
If you’re trying to change your behavior, solving for X means finding what it takes for you to change your mind so that your behavior changes in the way that you want it to change.
Once again, X is you.
Changing the world
The state of the world is not the product of your mind. It’s the result of the laws of nature and of the actions of other individuals.
The world will not change of its own accord. Some individual must do something to change the world.
You cannot directly control what others do, but you might influence them indirectly. But only if you do something different from what you have done in the past.
Since the way you’ve behaved in the past has not caused others to behave in ways that make the state of the world closer to the way you prefer it, you have to change your behavior and interact with others more effectively.
And to change your behavior to what it has been to what might bring about the state you desire, you once again need to change your mind.
Solving for X means discovering how you might influence others to change what they do; that means changing the way that you interact with them, and that means changing your mind.
Once again, X is you.
No way around changing your mind
The only way to change the circumstances of your life is by changing your mind and your attitude, or your mind and your behavior, or your mind and others’ behavior by changing your mind and your behavior.
You are the only one who can change your mind.
You are the only one who can change your behavior—and you do it by changing your mind.
You are the only one who can bring about a change in the world—and you do it by changing your behavior, and you do that by changing your mind.
No matter what course you take, when you solve for X, X is you.
You still have choices
X is you, but you’ve got choices.
You can choose to change your attitude or leave your attitude unchanged and change your behavior and try to change the behavior of others.
You can change your behavior by using more skill or by using force.
You can influence people by finding common interests and negotiating with them or by wielding power and bullying them.
There’s no one way to solve such a problem once you’ve realized that it’s yours to solve.
When you solve for X, X is always you.
I’d like always to be able to change my mind in whatever way would result in the greatest good and the least harm.
I can’t always know the best way to do that, but I can generally get a good idea.
And I haven’t always been able to change my mind—even when I’ve known how I want it to change—but practice has made me increasingly able to do so.