54. How can I help?

Sometimes I want to do more good in the world and serve and help others more. But sometimes I am just lazy. I have good ideas of what to do, but then I fail to follow through. It will take me weeks to write a letter or go visit someone.

Service takes work. To really help someone, you don’t get to just swoop in and make a huge different really quickly. There needs to be times of learning and growing and observing.

It’s sort of like when you are using a paint sprayer: it is really satisfying to spray paint and have it instantly and beautifully paint something. But in order for that to work, you have to spend so much time taping things off and protecting other things. You have to identify and prepare what actually needs to be painted instead of just spraying everything.

And making a difference requires a lot of prep work. It requires learning and growing and figuring out what other people need.

Categorized as Questions

53. What is a good GRE score?

I took the GRE today. I got 164 on quantitative and 166 on verbal. (The highest you can get on each is a 170.)

I studied for quite a while for it, including taking two practice tests. The first practice test in July I got a 164q/160v. The second practice test at the beginning of September I got a 166q/167v. So I did better on one of my practice tests than I did on the actual exam. I was sort of nervous today.

And I ran out of time on one of the quantitative sections. I’m pretty sure I could have gotten all the questions right if I had 10 more minutes, but I had to guess, including typing a random number into a box that was most definitely not right.

I don’t love taking tests. My hands were freezing and my armpits were sweaty, as they usually are when I get nervous. But I just realized that I actually like taking tests when they don’t actually matter–it can be a fun way to learn and work through problems.

I had a dream before I took the test that I went to the testing center and they only had paper copies of the test, and when I went to complete the test, it was already written on, and so I had to get a new copy. That was written on too, so I had to get a third copy of the test. It obviously didn’t go so well.

So what is a good GRE score? It depends on the university you want to get into. Basically, anything around a 160 and above is quite a good score.

But if you took the time to study and did your best, then you got a good score just because you tried.

Categorized as Questions

52. Why is consistency important and how do I become more consistent?

There are three things that I am very consistent about:

  1. I read my scriptures and say prayers every day.
  2. I shower every day.
  3. I got to church every Sunday.

The rest of my life, I’m not always that consistent. I think consistency is important, though. It’s a lot easier to do things all of the time than to do things some of the time. And consistency helps reduce worry and chaos and keep balance and productivity.

I’ve been trying to be more consistent about quite a few things: Exercising. Keeping the house clean. Not watching too many movies or checking social media too often.

I want to consistently spend quality time with my children and serve others.

I have a morning routine that helps keep my consistent: I started to write for 15 minutes every morning at the beginning of the year after I read my scriptures, exercised, and showered. I got a whole lot more writing done because of that.

But sometimes building consistency takes a lot of effort and patience, and I have to get back up and keep trying even though I’ve missed a few days. Sometimes I need to reanalyze when I do things, or why I’m doing them.

What helps keep you consistent?

51. How do I stand up for myself and what I believe in?

I find myself going along with the conversation sometimes, even when I don’t actually agree with things that are being said. I come home and complain about something that happened instead of bringing it up when I’m there. I find myself agreeing with opinions without really thinking about it. I apologize when I don’t need to, as if my presence is an inconvenience.

I don’t always know how to defend what I value, who I am, and what I believe in sometimes. I’m not confrontational, and I do try to blend in and go along with whatever is happening.

But sometimes I need to be a bit more brave. Instead of answering the questions, I need to challenge what questions are being asked. Instead of pretending to agree with someone’s point of view, I need to say that I disagree. Instead of floating down in the direction that someone else is pushing me on, I need to realize where I’m at, and get heading towards a better way.

I do not need to apologize for being, for thinking, for believing. I do not ever need to assume that who I am and what I believe needs to be hidden so that I do not offend someone else. I can be who I am, stand strong, and calmly let the world know where I stand.

Categorized as Questions

50. How do I improve my relationship with my spouse?

  1. Work together
  2. Spend time together doing fun things
  3. Talk about important things and hard questions
  4. Stop talking when you get angry or emotional
  5. Take care of yourself
  6. Give each other space
  7. Give each other thoughtful gifts
  8. Find new ways to say I love you
  9. Laugh together
  10. Be patient
Categorized as Questions

49. What is my brain doing?

Sometimes I don’t understand my own mind. I have thoughts and feelings that I can’t make sense of. I try to come up with sensible explanations, but they don’t always work out very well. It can be a chaotic space sometimes, and I don’t always know how to deal with my own brain.

Categorized as Questions

47. What are good questions to ask others?

Sometimes I am not the best at conversation. But asking a question is usually a good way to keep a conversation going.

Questions such as:

  • How are you, really?
  • How is your family doing?
  • How is your job/business/etc.?
  • I am thinking of taking up a new hobby. What do you like to do?
  • Do you have any new projects going on?
  • Can you recommend a book/movie/recipe?
  • I need advice about ______. Do you have an ideas?
  • Do you understand _______ that I’m having a hard time with?
  • What do you hope for?
  • What are you struggling with?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Where have you lived? What has been your favorite place to live?
  • What is something you miss in your life? What is something you are grateful for?

And ask someone a question that you wished someone would ask you.

But listening and caring about the answers might be even more important than asking the initial question. Listen enough to ask a follow-up question about what they are saying.

Categorized as Questions

46. How can I criticize to actually initiate change?

Sometimes we want to improve ourselves. Sometimes we want to help others improve.

But pointing out what someone does wrong (just criticizing them) can do little to make that change. Somedays, I have this internal voice that is constantly telling me everything that I do wrong in my life.

And that negative voice does not inspire me to improve.

My brother, William, said today that he wished that everyone could learn a language. He said when he was first learning the language, he didn’t like when he was corrected. But as he got better and better, he started to appreciate any corrections. When we think we are good at something, we want to do better.

So change only happens when it comes from a place of positivity.

It’s so much easier to become a better person when you think you are a good person in the first place.

It’s easier to become better at piano or writing or drawing or cooking or anything if you tell yourself that you are doing a good job and that you want to do even better.

So when we want to improve ourselves, or we want someone we know to improve, start with positivity. Start with praise: you are good at something, but you can be even better.

That positivity will be the catalyst for change.

Categorized as Questions

45. What is alief?

Conceived by philosophy Tamar Gendler, “alief” is used like belief, but it’s more of an automatic reaction that is not necessary rational. Often, an alief conflicts with a belief, but we act on our alief even though we believe otherwise.

For example, I can believe that something is safe, but I can still get scared and act like it’s not–like walking on a sky bridge.

To have an alief is to a reasonable approximation, to have an innate or habitual propensity to respond to an apparent stimulus in a particular way. It is to be in a mental state that is… associative, automatic and arational. As a class, aliefs are states that we share with non-human animals; they are developmentally and conceptually antecedent to other cognitive attitudes that the creature may go on to develop. Typically, they are also affect-laden and action-generating.

Gendler, Tamar, “Alief in action (and reaction)”, Mind and Language, 23(5): 552–585.

Okay, now that I learned a little bit about what alief means, I’m wondering if it’s even useful and necessary to have a word for this concept or if the concept is coherent? The concept is similar to instinct, but basically an instinct that conflicts with our more rational beliefs.

But I don’t know if an alief is really that different than a belief. We believe conflicting things all the time, and the version of rationality that makes alief possible assume that rationality is not conflicting, when I think it very well can be. (I can believe something is safe and also believe that it is not safe at all, and all of that is quite rational).

Some of examples of alief are being scared on a sky bridge, crying during a fictional movie, or acting on a bias that we know is wrong. And these things are very different from each other, so I’m not inclined to think that this concept is entirely useful.

Further reading:

Categorized as Questions