It's All in Your Head

"Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right." - Henry Ford

Your brain controls every aspect of your body. Even if you're not thinking about making your heart beat or digesting lunch, your brain is making sure that happens. Some things in your body are managed via the endocrine system's chemical pathways and some via the nervous system via both neurons and chemical pathways, but every action your body makes is controlled by the brain. (Technically, certain hormones originate elsewhere in the body and certain reflex pathways don't pass through the brain, but even those signals are indirectly managed by the brain.)

If you don't have as many friends or as large a network as you'd like, that also is controlled by your brain. It's not because you're ugly. It's because you're shy, are afraid to let others into your life, or lack social skills. And all those things come from your brain. Any effort at self-improvement must derive from, and largely take place in, the brain. You can accomplish much of what you're trying to change about yourself by sitting on the floor in the darkness and examining your thoughts. In fact, I recommend that.

Of course, Robert Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence, famously explains that quality is at the intersection of human experience and reality, that is, it is some mix of objective and subjective. Everyone who looks at Brad Pitt is necessarily struck by his acting skill, intelligence, good looks, wealth, famous friends, etc. Everyone would basically agree that Mr. Pitt is a quality person. How can that be a subjective determination if everyone agrees? That's bordering on fact. Is quality a fact? That doesn't make sense on an intrinsic level. It takes human judgment to determine quality, so it can't be a facet of objective reality.

Where does that leave us? Even if Pirsig's right, that some aspect of quality resides in objective reality, to actually become quality still comes from the brain. I may be totally incapable of doing a one-handed push-up, but that weakness ultimately derives from my prior cerebral unwillingness to push my body to its limit over the last few years. I didn't identify as someone who works out, so I didn't work out. Or I was afraid of muscle pain, so I didn't work out. It was all in my head.

Sorry for the heavy theoretical bent of this piece. I've got a more practical piece lined up for tomorrow that just needs a bit more editing before it's ready.


Working a full time job for the first time in my life is wearisome, but I'm learning a lot. I feel like I'm more committed to this job than I've ever been committed to anything. It's a good feeling.