Become a Fortress
How to build a strong mind and become unshakeable
Do you remember that fable about 3 little pigs and a Big Bad Wolf? Once upon a time, there were 3 brothers piglets. Each built a home. One built his house from straw, another one from sticks, but the last one took his time, worked his piggy ass off, and built a house made of stones.
When the Big Bad Wolf arrived to have some bacon for breakfast, he destroyed the first two brothers’ houses with a couple of blows.
The brothers fled and found refuge at the third brother’s house and no matter how many blows the Big Bad Wolf inflicted on the house, the house of rocks withstood. It was an impenetrable fortress.
Is this a fable about the importance of the structural integrity of your house?
This is a fable about your mind.
The only place you have ever lived in and will ever live in is your mind.
Your mind is your only home.
Now, the question for you is:
❓ Is your house made of straw or is it an impenetrable fortress?
Here are some things for you to meditate on.
1. Have you ever experienced anything but your mind?
What is the nature of your experience? Do you truly know what the objective reality is? Have you ever experienced something you call the “external world”?
Go deep into your experience and find answers to these questions. Let’s run some simple thought experiments:
- You see things because you have eyes. But does a blind person experience the same reality as you? Would you be able to explain the concept of color to them? Is the reality that they “see” the same reality that you see?
- You hear things with your ears. But have you ever misinterpreted what other people say? Have others misinterpreted something you’ve said before? You sometimes mishear what people say because you are distracted. You are so absorbed by the thoughts in your mind that whatever people say is being deleted by it. If you are honest with yourself, you must admit — sometimes you choose to be selective with what you hear. The information enters your ears but then it has to go through the filter of the mind. Your mind generalizes, distorts, and deletes the information 24/7. Even language skills can get in the way of your listening & true understanding. You don’t always listen to what is being said. You listen the way you are.
- You read things. Even while you are reading this you hear a voice in your head. Is that the same voice that sounds in your mind when you are alone? When you retain information where is it being retained? When you recall information where is it being recalled from?
- You say you experience the hard matter. But do you really? The phone that you are holding in your hand, the chair you are sitting in, the slight touch of the wind from an open window in your room. Where exactly does the experience occur? Where does the physical sensation or perception take place? Close your eyes and investigate this. Where is it? Can you sense the sensation in your mind’s eye? Can you find the boundary of the physical sensation? Where does it start and where does it end? Do you really experience that thing that you call hard matter or everything that you’ve ever experienced is the experience itself?
- You can experience your past if you recall a memory. You can experience the future by telling your mind to imagine things that do not yet exist. The concepts of the Past or the Future are created in your mind if you concentrate your attention on the thoughts about what happened or what might happen and what follows next are the corresponding emotions that those thoughts generate. You experience time by stretching your mind into what you call the Past or Future. But does the Time really exist? Have you ever really experienced that thing that we call Time or all you have ever experienced is and has been this present moment?
Go into these questions. Investigate.
Go deep into your experience and confirm for yourself one simple truth:
All you have ever experienced is your own mind.
The only thing that you can possibly experience is the content of your mind.
So what is the content of your mind?
Investigate further and confirm. The content of the mind can consist of only two things — Conceptions or Perceptions:
- Conceptions — ideas, thoughts, beliefs, memories, future projections, theories, thought experiments, imagination, language, words, images, etc.
- Perceptions — feelings, emotions, sensations, and intuition.
Now, if the content of the mind is the only thing you are experiencing, then what is the next implication for you? 👇
2. You never really know what the objective reality is.
Let’s take a deeper look at this.
The only reality you experience is subjective by definition. Everything you know about the “external” world comes from your 5 senses. You don’t experience the “external” world. Your experience is “internal”. Everything you are experiencing right now is your own subjective mind. In other words,
You are the subject experiencing your own perception.
You perceive the world through your 5 senses. The incoming information is passing through the mental filters you have — your subjective mental filters of generalization, distortion, deletion, and personalization. You are conditioned by so many different things:
- your culture and environment
- your society and your language
- your family and your upbringing
- your life experience and your concept of self
Now, if everything you experience is happening inside your mind then, what exactly is external reality?
Is there anything external about your being? Or everything that is happening is happening within you?
Look inside your mind and confirm:
As a person you are in the world.
As consciousness the world is inside you.
Whenever you are going somewhere, is it you moving through the space? Or is it space moving through you while you remain where you always have been — at the place of Here & in the moment Now?
Ok. I know this might be too much.
So take a pause to process this.
Zoom out from this for a second.
You see, I am not claiming there is no such thing as objective reality. Having my limited human experience as my only frame of reference, making such claims would be a foolish thing to do.
I wouldn’t dare to say that everything that exists, exists only in your head. This is the concept that people call subjective idealism.
If we get too fascinated by this idea, we can go down a real rabbit hole here🐇🕳️. We can start thinking that maybe this world is a Matrix and you are plugged into a machine that generates this dream. Maybe you are the only one thing that is real and everyone else is an NPC in this strange and twisted game called Life.
You see, this is not the purpose of this conversation.
The purpose is to establish your Truth about reality through understanding what is absolutely not true about it.
My goal is not to confuse you further.
My goal is to help you gain clarity.
Let’s reiterate on what we have established so far:
- you never know what the objective reality is as you learn about reality through your senses
- the only thing you are experiencing is your own mind
- the content of your mind is made of Conceptions & Perceptions
- your mind is the only reality that you experience i.e. you do not experience the world, only your perception of the world
- in other words, the map is not the territory
- your perception of the world is conditioned by all sorts of factors (the culture of the society that raised you, your language, family, environment, past experience, beliefs, values, the information that you consume daily, etc.)
- thus, you see the world not the way it is but the way you are
- there is no such thing as an external or internal world, you are the world
- everything is one within the consciousness that you are
Does it feel like your mind is stretching?
I really hope so.
If you have been following the logical chain and confirming it for yourself through your personal experience, you probably start understanding where this all leads.
Passing through the labyrinths of the mind through the thorns of accepting uncomfortable truths, you will arrive at some interesting conclusions.
- If you want to change your experience, shift your perception. You experience the world the way you see it. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
- Your experience is defined by your ability to manage your attention. They say — where attention goes, energy flows. In other words, what you focus on expands.
- Happiness is not an emotion. It’s a choice. There are many cynical people who say that they are not happy because they are smarter than the rest of the world and can see what others can’t see. I ask — if you are so smart then why aren’t you happy?
I can go on. But let’s pause here now.
Let’s say for simplicity purposes, we have agreed to use the “notion of separation”.
Let’s say we decided to look at your experience using the terms “external world” and “inner mind space.”
What can you confirm for yourself here if you look at your understanding of reality from this angle? 👇
3. You never control the external reality.
You never control the so-called external environment.
You can influence it but never control it fully.
Think about it.
You don’t even have complete control over your body. There is no guarantee that you wouldn’t get some nasty virus just by taking a short 15-minute ride in a subway.
Take a closer look at all the other things that you don’t control, and the list will become pretty long.
You don’t control:
- Where you were born
- The body you have
- The brain that you were born with (meaning your general cognitive ability)
- Your cultural background
- Your mother tongue
- Your parents or the family you were born into
- Your past
- The macroeconomic situation in the country
- The political situation in the country
- The pandemic
- The job market
- And you don’t control other people’s perception of you
Keep working through this list, and in the process, my friend, you will formulate for yourself the 1st Step of Self-Mastery.
If you want to take full control of your life and your mind,
Gain absolute clarity on all the things you control and the things you do not control.
The world can be a tough place. It will come after you. Sometimes some soul-crushing, mind-bending shit just happens, and there is nothing you can do about it. A lot of the shit that happens to you, you won’t control. Most of the shit, as you will discover through introspection, will be and has always been of your own making. But regardless of the type of shit that is happening around you, there is one thing that you always have control over. 👇
4. You have absolute and constant control of your perception.
No matter what is happening around you, you are always in control of the way you respond to your reality.
And that again is coming back to the point that your experience of life comes down to your ability to engineer your own perception.
You see the world not the way it is. You see the world the way you are.
The way you see the world defines the way you act.
The way you act shapes your ability to see and influence the world in a new way.
Create your own perception of external events. Write your own narrative for everything that is happening, and don’t let anyone hold the pen. Assign meanings to things intentionally, not randomly. Things don’t hold meaning unless you assign meaning to them.
Your brain is a meaning-generating machine. You either program it to generate desired meaning to life events to get desired outcomes or it will do so by itself — automatically (i.e. subconsciously).
Develop your Zen presence. And what I mean by that is — you don’t need to react to everything. A non-response is a response too. Having a reactive mind is exhausting. A calm mind is something that everyone has to earn, regardless of how much money they have or the status they hold in society.
Once earned, a calm mind is something that no one can take from you. Everyone can be free from compulsive behavior but you have to value the discipline of the mind enough to dedicate yourself to the process of building that discipline up.
A strong mind is a disciplined mind. It is a mind that is doing the work to heal its own afflictions. It is also a mind that has developed robust high-functioning mental systems that serve as a decision-making machine in the chaos of everyday life.
A strong mind knows how to:
- filter incoming information
- stretch the attention in the direction where it wants the attention to go
- prioritizes delayed gratification over instant gratification
- prioritize experiences that give good dopamine over experiences that give cheap dopamine
- on a trajectory of constant intentional expansion
A strong mind is a mind that understands itself at a deeper level.
This means that you have to be introspective, reflective, and self-aware.
The last one is important.
You can’t calibrate the functioning of your mind if you are not aware of what is not working.
In other words:
You can’t build your mind into an impenetrable fortress if you are not aware of what parts of your house are currently build of straw.
Lack of awareness is the primary reason why people struggle with creating change in their lives.
- If you don’t meditate daily, you have not yet developed your ability to stay as awareness and watch your own thoughts
- If you don’t journal/write, you have not yet understood the inner workings of your mind
- If you have never experienced the state of no thought, you don’t even suspect that the peace you seek is available to you at all times
You, just as everyone in this world, seek not the peace OF mind. But the peace FROM the mind.
This is what I love about coaching. It just works. Period.
You can’t get out of your head if you are constantly in it.
A coach is a perspective. It is a point of view on your mind from being outside of your mind. Something that is absolutely impossible to gain if everything you do all day long is thinking.
A coaching conversation is a lamp that illuminates the dark corners of your mind that are currently built of straw or you haven’t cleaned up in a very long time.
It brings dysfunctional thinking into the light of your awareness.
And once you are aware of what is no longer working for you, the whole realm of options opens up.
You can patch it up. You can burn the straw. You can fill the gaps with stones. You can build up your fortress.
Storytime: How I use the concept of Fortress in my coaching practice
I had a coaching client who first came to me to build up his self-discipline. But what we discovered in the first 10 min of the conversation is that he struggled with a different problem. He just ended what appeared to be an abusive relationship.
What started as a nice fling, ended up being a self-destructing nightmare. The woman he was with was terrorizing him for almost 3 years. Her own unstable and manic behavior left some serious damage to my client’s mental health.
She was exercising something that people nowadays call “gaslighting”. Going from “I love you and I can’t live without you” to “if we break up, I am going to kill you and then I am going to kill myself”. I don’t want to bore you with the details but it was bad.
My client experienced everything from your cinematic dish-shattering scenes in the kitchen to death threats with a butcher knife in her hands to calling the police and eventually enforcing a restraining order. Yes. That bad.
Therapy didn’t help. It just further aggravated the situation because it anchored my client’s attention into overanalyzing the situation. And this was precisely the problem he was suffering from. So he turned to coaching.
What we have established very quickly is precisely what we have been discussing here today. We found the beliefs that were “built of straw”. We started shining the light on the corners he hasn’t explored and discovered weak links in his logic. And there were many:
- Not having boundaries
(She was pushing and manipulating him and when he realized that she was controlling him, it was too late — he sustained some serious mental damage.)
- Lacking awareness and not taking responsibility that he has created this situation himself
(We unpacked the chain of events and he admitted that he ignored all the yellow flags, the red flags, the screaming-red flags, and everything that happened in between. Even the way the relationship started was alarming from the beginning, but he ignored that.)
- Lacking clarity on his values, meaning: lacking clarity on what exactly he is looking for in a partner.
(Not having clarity on what he wants in a woman and what kind of relationship he wants to build led to his inability to push back when he started to experience misalignment in values with his partner).
- His tendency to find a rational explanation for clearly psychotic behavior.
(He came to the point when he started to question his own sanity and perception of reality. He couldn’t wrap his mind around how people can treat each other in that way. By thinking this he unconsciously trapped himself in a victim mentality. He was seeing the story only from one angle — that he was the poor one who was mistreated.)
- Lastly, his Savior complex.
(He thought that by being with her he is healing her manic behavior. He thought that if he commits he will eventually change her and heal her psychological & mental problems whereas, in reality, he had full confirmation that the person doesn’t want to change. He wasn’t saving anyone. He just built himself into that belief. And it was just getting worse).
Why am I telling you this story?
This story is just one example of how the timely undetected weakness of the mind can break a man. But think about it. How many more stories like this are out there?
How many more people are not actualizing their full potential because of some incorrect thinking?
People need a crisis to start looking for a way to change.
Are you waiting for a crisis too?
You don’t need to wait for a Big Bad Wolf to enter your reality to pressure-test your house.
If there is a tiny little voice in your head saying that you are not living up to your full potential, listen to it.
Take action. 👇
Ok, I know the question that you want to ask me.
❓ Do you have any practical tips that I can actually act upon?
- Study your mind.
If you can take away only one thing from this article, it must be this 👉 Meditate daily. Keep staring into your own darkness until your darkness stares back. The cessation of thought is achievable. But it takes a disciplined mind to get to that place where you can enter a state of no thought at will. You are not your thoughts.
- Hire a coach.
A good coach will pressure-test everything you believe is true for you. The weak links in your map of reality that are built of straw will be brought to the light of awareness. You will burn them. And from ashes, you will rebuild.
Being a better writer makes you a better thinker. Writing is not a substitute for coaching by any stretch of the imagination but at the very least it will let you unpack and expose the functioning of your mind. When I say: “get your house in order”, I mean: “Write your mind down”.
- Study your negative emotions.
Negative emotion is an indicator that one of your Values is clashing with your life experience. Don’t go away from your negative emotion. Go into it. Ask yourself self-coaching questions: “Where is it coming from?” “What is the root of my experience?” “Why am I feeling what I am feeling?” “Why am I thinking what I am thinking?” “Where did it all begin?”
You need self-awareness to detect the incorrect thinking in you. But you also need to equip yourself with specific knowledge. Practical psychology, philosophical tools, and neuroscience research — everything will help you to tackle the issues within your own mind effectively. Knowledge is power. If you don’t have the language necessary to describe what you are going through, how do you plan to formulate a solution?
Let’s wrap it up.
The fable of 3 Little Pigs and a Big Bad Wolf.
What is it about?
The Big Bad Wolf is the entropy of the external environment.
The world of chaos with its opinions, its impositions, and all the countless programs it wants to brainwash you with.
The house is your mind.
You can build up a house of straw and sticks which will be blown away by any swing that the external world takes at you.
Or you can become a fortress.
Impenetrable. Unshakeable. Stoic.
Your mind is your only home.
Are you building a hut 🛖?
Or are you building a fortress 🏯?