Note: The following are excerpts from The Mountain is You: Transforming Self-Sabotage Into Self-Mastery by Brianna Weist.
If you’re stuck in life, it’s probably because you’re waiting for the big bang, the breakthrough moment in which all your fears dissolve and you’re overcome with clarity. The work that needs to happen happens effortlessly. Your personal transformation rips you from complacency, and you wake up to an entirely new existence. That moment will never come. Breakthroughs do not happen spontaneously. They are tipping points. Revelations occur when ideas that were sitting in the margins of your mind finally get enough attention to dominate your thoughts. These are the “clicking” moments, the moments when you finally understand advice you’ve heard your entire life. The moments when you’ve habituated yourself to a pattern of behavior for long enough that it becomes instinctive. A mind-blowing, singular breakthrough is not what changes your life. A microshift is. Breakthroughs are what happen after hours, days, and years of the same mundane, monotonous work.
As writer and media strategist Ryan Holiday has noted, epiphanies are not life-altering. It’s not radical moments of action that give us long-lasting, permeating change—it’s the restructuring of our habits. The idea is what science philosopher Thomas Kuhn dubbed a “paradigm shift.” Kuhn suggested we don’t change our lives in flashes of brilliance, but through a slow process in which assumptions unravel and require new explanations. It’s in these periods of flux that microshifts happen and breakthrough-level change begins to take shape. Think of microshifts as tiny increments of change in your day-to-day life. A microshift is changing what you eat for one part of one meal just one time. Then it’s doing that a second time and a third. Before you even realize what’s happening, you’ve adopted a pattern of behavior. What you do every single day accounts for the quality of your life and the degree of your success. It’s not whether you “feel” like putting in the work, but whether or not you do it regardless. This is because the outcomes of life are not governed by passion; they are governed by principle.
A faulty inference is when you come up with a false conclusion based on valid evidence. This means that what you’re seeing, experiencing, or understanding might be real, but the assumptions that you are piecing together from it are either not real or are highly unlikely. One example is a hasty generalization, which is when you make a claim about an entire group of people based on one or two experiences you’ve had. This is the bias at the base of a lot of racism and prejudice. Another example is post hoc ergo propter hoc, which is what happens when you assume that because two things happened around the same time, they must be related, even if they aren’t. A false dichotomy happens when you assume that there are only two possibilities that could be valid, when in reality, there are far more that you simply aren’t aware of. An example of this is when your boss calls you to a private meeting, and you assume you must either be getting a promotion or getting fired. A slippery slope, to play off of that example, is another false inference in which you assume that one event will set off a series of others, even if they certainly will not.
One of the most essential tenets of modern wisdom is the idea that deep down, you know the truth about everything in your life and, by extension, your future. The idea is that you are an oracle unto yourself, and your feelings are apertures into not only what’s happening now, but what’s going to happen soon. We’re not to blame for believing this. There’s a significant amount of research that proves the interconnectedness of our brains and bodies—explaining why when we have a “gut feeling” or an instinct that precedes logic, it is often correct. This is because the lining of our gastrointestinal system functions as a “second brain,” given how it stores a backlog of information that your conscious mind can’t recall faster than your body can sense. It is this incredible skill that makes your instinct almost always correct. Your gut is deeply connected to your mind. There’s a physiological connection between your gastrointestinal system and serotonin production in your brain. Your vagus nerve runs from your gut to your head, acting as a communication device to help your system regulate. Your stomach and your mind are inherently connected, which is why people allude to just knowing something “deep down” or explain that when they’re upset, they’re “sick to their stomach” or had a “gut reaction” to something.