This article was written by NF Team Member Staci.
Five years and over six hundred articles published, and not a single one about Star Trek. Seems pretty inconceivable. But alas, it’s true. So today we’re going to change that by taking a look at one of Star Trek’s most famous characters – the green blooded hobgoblin, Mr. Spock.
Spock is one of the most interesting (and, in this nerd’s humble opinion, greatest) characters of of all times. You see, it’s easy to pick Spock out from the rest of the crew. He’s a nerd; he doesn’t fit in.
If his pointy ears and upswept eyebrows aren’t a dead giveaway, his insides are pretty weird too. The blood in his veins runs green, as Spock is half Vulcan – a stoic species from the planet Vulcan, who follow a philosophy of logic, reasoning, and suppress all emotion.
Plus, Spock is a pretty awesome Rebel; he questions everything around him at all times, and never turns down a situation he can learn something from.
There are quite a few things we can learn from Spock and the Vulcan philosophy of logic and reasoning to keep us healthy in everyday life. Let’s take a look!
One common misconception about Vulcans is that they have no emotion; in reality, they experience extreme amounts of emotion, but they have learned to control it through meditation, discipline and practice of logic.
Before we dig any deeper, lets look real quick at what logic is. You may remember doing logic puzzles in school as a child, where you are given a set of statements that help you determine the the conclusion to a question. Logic works very much like “if this, then that.”
If (we know that) all Nerd Fitness Rebels are awesome, and you are a Nerd Fitness Rebel, then (we know that) you are awesome.
There is no emotion in logic. Logic is based on fact, and making smart decisions based on those facts. So step one of using Vulcan philosophy is to remove emotion.
Spock has it especially hard, as he is not full Vulcan – his mother is human. And while he chose to adopt the Vulcan way of life, there is still the human side of him which is full of emotion, trying to come out at any given moment. But Spock, unlike us, deals with this predicament of emotion with great skill.
“What you want is irrelevant. What you’ve chosen is at hand.”
How many times to hear people say “Oh, well, I was supposed to go to the gym but I just didn’t ‘feel’ like it.” Or that they didn’t eat their vegetables because they don’t ‘like’ vegetables. Or someone ate a huge piece of cake because they really ‘wanted’ it.
See all of those words? Feel. Like. Want. These are all words of emotion.
If you remove emotion, and follow logic, good decisions are much easier to make.
Is your goal to get stronger or gain weight? It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to exercise or clean up your diet. In order to achieve your goal, you must.
Is your goal to lose weight? Then when you are presented with the opportunity to eat a huge piece of cake, you would think first and foremost: it would not be logical (even if it is your co-worker’s birthday).
Removing emotion helps you differentiate what you’re trying to achieve (what you want in the long term), with what you want right now (which is the largest thing that trips us up). One thing that Joe said in his success story was, “Don’t sacrifice what you really want for what you want right now.” That was logic (and removing emotion) at work.
Have you ever had a bad day at work, a breakup, or a fight with a friend, and then eat a pint of ice cream to make yourself feel better? We all have, but it’s not logical. You may truly THINK you really want that ice cream or piece of cake, but after the immediate pleasure of having it is over, you probably wished you never ate it at all.
Wanting and having are two different things.
Let’s learn from Spock. There is no want, just doing what it takes.
There is no luck
“With each passing moment of your life, one event precipitated another, which made each subsequent occurrence more probable.”
How many times have you looked at someone, and said one of the following:
- “They are so lucky to be able to go to the gym whenever they want”
- “I could never eat like that”
- “They are so lucky to have a body like that”
The truth is – there is no luck. Yes, things can be difficult, but the vast majority of the time, not impossible.
If you watch Star Trek, every single time Captain Kirk asks Spock for the chance of something happening, Spock replies with an exact probability that it will happen. Throughout the episode, as the situation changes, the probability either gets better or worse.
The same is true with your life.
While we don’t to think about the EXACT numbers like Spock does, it is helpful to recognize that everything that we do, or want to do, has a certain probability of happening. By changing elements in your environment, and by making certain decisions, you can either increase or decrease the chances of that actually happening.
So, if you have 100 lbs to lose, and you change nothing, the chances of you losing weight are pretty slim.
However, with each positive decision you make – with each workout and each healthy meal you consume, the probability that you will achieve your goal gets better and better.
For example, if you want to go to the gym after work, but you keep forgetting your gym bag, the likelihood that you will continue to forget it is high. However, if you keep your gym bag in your car, or rent a locker from the gym (remember this from building your batcave?) you’ve removed some of the obstacles and you’ve greatly increased the probability that you will go.
When you look at that woman or man with an amazing body working out in the mid afternoon – don’t assume that they are lucky to be able to work out all day. They could actually be quite busy, and have three young children and a full time job. But by working nights and choosing a gym that has childcare available, they have increased the probability that that they can get their workout in during the day. Don’t surrender to circumstance.
Pain is an emotion. Control it.
[Spock]: “I am a Vulcan, doctor. Pain is a thing of the mind. The mind can be controlled.”
[Captain Kirk]: “You’re only half Vulcan. What about the human half?”
[Spock]: “It is proving to be an inconvenience, but it is manageable.”
Now, first, if you are in actual pain, stop and see a doctor.
But there is a difference between actual pain and mental pain that comes from doing something that your brain perceives as hard – the pain of pushing through the very end of your workout, or the pain of being hungry when you start eating less.
These are things that our brain perceives as difficult, and therefore is mentally hard. But when we view this pain for what it is, simply an emotion, we can recognize that this is our body trying to override our logic.
How many times have you been hungry, and then gotten distracted, and forgotten you were hungry at all? Keeping your brain busy helps you think about something else, and then you forget what you were struggling about in the first place.
In one episode of Star Trek, Spock, so full of emotion, and not knowing how to handle it, starts rattling off multiplication tables to keep his mind thinking about something else.
Many times when I am swimming, or rowing, or doing anything for endurance (which is extremely hard for me to get through mentally), I’ll do one of two things:
- Put on a podcast of something extremely interesting or extremely funny – because if I’m laughing, I’m not paying attention to how miserable I am that I’ve been going for 30 minutes and I STILL have 15 minutes to go.
- Take a page out of Spock’s book and start doing math. With rowing, it’s easy. If my goal is 10,000m and I’ve already rowed 7,200, I can start doing math related to what I have left: I am 72% of the way done. There are 12 minutes left on the album I’m listening to. How fast do I need to average rowing each of the final 500m sections to finish my row and my album at the same time? By the time I’ve figured out all the various answers, I am very often very close to being done.
- If math isn’t your cup of tea, there are a million other things you could do to keep your mind busy – get an audiobook, or a language learning CD. Write, draw, whatever it takes! My lifting notebook is full of drawings that I’ve drawn in between sets.
The same thing works with food – if you’re feeling hungry, very often all you have to do is focus on something else for ten minutes, and then you will no longer feel hungry. In fact, there have been studies that show that DRAWING the food that you are craving boosts your mood.
The more stressed out you are, the harder it is to make smart decisions
“Irrational fear is a construct of an undisciplined intellect”
As you know from reading our article on willpower, the more decisions you have to make, the harder it is to keep your willpower up and make good decisions later in the day.
This can also happen when you don’t get enough sleep or if you are stressed out. To combat this, Vulcans regularly practice meditation, and are taught this at a very young age as a way to combat the pressures of giving in to emotion. Vulcans also practice different methods to return control and balance to their minds when they are struggling. One of their chants:
“Structure. Logic. Function. Control. The structure cannot stand without a foundation. Logic is the foundation of function. Function is the essence of control. I am in control. I am in control.”
Now, while we can’t just dissipate all our stress (because we’re not Vulcans), we CAN understand it, and control how we respond to it. The first step is to accept the reality of present moment. Understand that everything that is happened is in the past, and that you can’t change it. Trying to, or stressing out about the fact that you can’t, is not logical, and not productive.
Many times when something bad has happened, and everyone is stressing out about it, you look over at Spock and he is already trying to come up with the next steps and moving forward. He knows that stressing out or continuing to worry over what has already happened won’t help. The present moment is a reality, and Spock always acts to make the future better. A mindfulness practice can help us humans enormously with this.
A few other ways to not let stress get you down?
- Focus on the big wins.
- Stop collecting underpants. Stress and compulsion often creates a situation where we are paralyzed by information.
- Understand that you have a willpower meter, and that stress depletes it.
- Don’t let a bump in the road slow you down.
- Stop doing workouts you hate. Stop doing workouts that feel like torture and stress you out from just thinking about them. Find any physical activity you love.
Sometimes showing emotion is logical.
[Spock]: “I am simply choosing to display emotion at those moments where it seems most appropriate, and likely to assist in achieving my objective.”
[Nimoy]: “In other words, you’re emoting when it seems like the logical thing to do?”
Being aware and controlling our emotions can be extremely helpful in actually following through and achieving our goals, but that doesn’t mean we need to ignore them when it comes to setting our goals and deciding how we want to live. In fact, emotion can be quite helpful in crafting our ideal level 50s.
And when it comes to emotion in our daily lives, this logic stuff can sound pretty boring. If I truly follow that chart, the following items would definitely be big no no’s:
- Going out and getting a few drinks with friends
- Staying up all night playing the new video game you just bought.
- Having a piece of cake at your best friend’s wedding
Here’s an example of when Spock thought that he had killed Captain Kirk, and shows an outburst of emotion when finding out that he is still alive:
The truth is, that like Spock, no matter how logical we train ourselves to be, our human side needs to come out, and we have emotional needs. Sometimes constantly suppressing our emotions can be our downfall; the turmoil within us and the constant thinking can bring us down.
Remember, our ultimate goal is to achieve the triforce of awesome – happy, healthy, and confident in your own skin.
Just like it’s okay to do something that’s not so healthy, sometimes you will need to let your emotions rule the day. Remember, we don’t call this cheating – but rather view it as a conscious decision and then return to our regular scheduled programming.
Sometimes it is only logical to take a night off from being so logical. And not only is it logical to let your emotion come through sometimes, but it is healthy as well.
Live Long and Prosper
Ahh, it couldn’t be a proper article on Spock without the classic Vulcan salute.
The overall philosophy of leading a logic centered life and controlling emotion logically can be a major tool for Rebels throughout our journey. If you give your life an honest review, you might be surprised how often emotion controls you.
Being in control of it doesn’t mean you need to be emotionless – it just means that you can make smarter decisions, weighing in all of the elements that go into it (including the emotional elements). It’s why getting healthy is a whole lot more complicated than “eat less and move more.”
We are an emotional, illogical species, and we could learn a lot from Spock and the ways of the Vulcans.
What do you think? Can you remove emotion and use logic to help you make decisions? How do you think Vulcan philosophy could help you?