• All posts,  Self development

    Caring too much about what other people think

    In the dying years of the twentieth century, and the first few decades of the twenty-first, a remarkable shift occured in the American psyche. This has been described by numerous scholars as the transition from a general concern with character, to a preoccupation with personality°. The somewhat simplified story goes like this: People used to be concerned about what kind…

  • All posts,  Self development

    How not to get angry

    It is commonplace to bemoan the gradual slide of Western politics into mud-slinging and fear tactics, to complain about trolls and the general level of vitriol, to worry that we live in a world where anger gains a new level of respectability. I’m going to make the case that anger is enabled and exacerbated by a somewhat complex mental phenomenon which…

  • All posts,  Self development

    The fear of missing out

    Right now, at this very moment, in your nearest town or city there are people having fun. No matter whether it is late afternoon or early morning, somebody somewhere is doing something exciting, novel, or naughty. Indeed, across the world millions of people are doing things right this moment far more exciting than reading this blog. You are missing out.…

  • All posts,  Self development

    There are no souls

    My aunt died yesterday. Well, in fact she was my second cousin, once removed, but my mother’s family is very close and so, throughout my childhood, she and her family lived just tens of metres from us and I called her ‘aunt’. I hadn’t seen her in over a year, still I felt sad. I still feel sad as I…

  • All posts,  Self development

    How to design self-experiments

    A spirit of experimentation is afoot. Science has always given us great stories about people who experimented upon themselves. Whether we’re entertained by Santorio Santorio weighing his own poo, or by Albert Hofmann testing out LSD on himself, we could too easily come away with the idea that self-experimentation is dangerous, extreme, and just a touch silly. In the last…

  • All posts,  Self development

    Minimalism as the examined life

    A couple of thousand years ago, an uncompromising Athenian philosopher by the name of Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. It’s a provocative idea. Similar sentiments surface and resurface across history, and across cultures. Perhaps we need to hear this message again and again precisely because we find it so hard to take on board. Perhaps,…

  • All posts,  Self development

    Mindfulness meditation: Reinventing the wheel?

    “You’re just reinventing the wheel! This has all been said before! What’s the point?” Some people imagine that inspiration comes from nothing, that creativity is like a sort of psychological Big Bang. It doesn’t. It isn’t. Scientific ideas evolve over time, and they’re often based on earlier, non-scientific ideas, at least to start. Take the atomic theory — the idea…

  • All posts,  Self development

    Don’t wait on confidence

    You wake up, uncomfortable, to beeping sounds and urgent voices. “He’s awake!” There are voices. Hurried footsteps. You notice the uncomfortable tubes. You’re in hospital. Over the next hour you learn you’ve been suffering from a mysterious it-could-only-happen-in-Hollywood illness. You’re recovering now but you have completely forgotten who you are. You have simply no recollection of your previous life. You…