Are you becoming the person you want to be?
“Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of everyone of its members.”
From a young age we are socially conditioned into paths, interests and personalities. You are this, Timmy. Jimmy is that. This and that are a farce. You are so much more, so much more flexible than the identity which society foists upon you, an identity, mind you, that is formulated on your most inchoate experiences. Instead of lifting limits as we develop, society creates them. So many good men are locked in the prison of social conditioning, behind cells named “introvert”, “clown”, “nice guy”, “loner”, “nerd”. And so effective is this confinement that even in solitude we find ourselves kept from escape. Society turns you into the prison guard of your own allegorical cave.
Society dictates your values, your culture, your ambitions, in essence your life. Go to school, get a job, get a wife, and raise some kids. Nowhere in society’s dictums do we find contemplation, passion, inspiration, or self-fulfillment. On the contrary, we may find pre-packaged thoughts, beliefs and routines. We are stricken with fear at the thought of realizing our potential, realizing our reality, because we have never seen anything beyond the purview of accepted sensibility. This is a state of arrested development.
How do we escape?
Cast off the chains of social tyranny. Reject groupthink, that is thinking in terms of what the group expects. We do this not for the sake of contrarianism, but rather, for the sake of personal development. In order to grow we must become free and uninhibited. You must stand up, reject the shadows on the wall and break free of your shackles.
Begin by accepting yourself. Your insecurities, your shame, your dejection, all of it is a function of fabricated constructs which we no longer oblige. You have been dealt these cards so you may as well play them. You can flounder when you’re dead. At this time you may have some reservations; indeed, without society, you may lack values, boundaries, and ambitions. Take time to reflect on these subjects, if necessary think back to your childhood. You may be surprised by what you find.
Realize that nobody owes you anything. Nobody is responsible for your needs but you. As the Bhagavad Gita tells us, we can choose our actions but not the results. To expect is to attach one’s self to an outcome. “Attachment is the root of all suffering,” said Lao Tzu. Instead of attaching the self to external transience, take validation from within. Seek action not for the result but for the intrinsic merit of accomplishment. Verily, inaction is a graver error than failure.
Learn as much as you can about the world, about its tyrants and heroes. Read. Reading is thinking with someone else’s mind. How can you know what you want from life if you haven’t discovered it? Use great men as your role models. When in doubt, consider what they would do in your stead. Be serious about taking action but blithe about results. Treat triumph and disaster just the same. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
How do we grow?
Become fearless. Hecato* of Rhodes said those who cease to hope will cease to fear, for fear and hope are two sides of the same bond. Realize each adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent advantage. Obstacles are in fact paths. Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Perfectionism is the enemy of greatness. Failures provide opportunities for growth. Rejoice in your setbacks for they are proof of progress. Laugh at yourself, life is absurd.
Believe in abundance. Your mind is a curious thing, it will focus in the direction it’s pointed. If you’re worried about scarcity, you will find scarcity everywhere. Conversely, if you believe in abundance, you will see opportunities everywhere. Eschew failure, think about success. Play to win, not to not-lose.
Become entitled. Understand that “life is a just employer; he gives you what you ask. But once you have set the wages, you must bear the task.” If you don’t feel that you deserve something you will never get it. Entitlement is like burning the ships behind you, you are left no choice but to strive for success. There is no greater motivation than to ‘sink or swim’.
Cut the fat from your life. Negativity is infectious. Negative people, like crabs in a bucket, will seek to pull you down to their level before you escape. They will do this furtively and perniciously. Weigh the effects of a person in your life not by the sentiments they arouse but by their objective impact – were you better off before or after they came into your life? You may be surprised by whom you decide to let go. Discontinue imaginary escapist diversions, viz. video games, television and pornography. You will not need them where you’re going and they will act more as a tether to indolence than anything else.
Develop self-dominion. Self-dominion is command over oneself. Learn to trust yourself, not arrogantly or combatively but inherently. Confidence is the reward for courage. Do things you fear. Cultivate self-discipline and willpower through keystone habits. Keystone habits are habits which impact all facets of your life e.g. regular fitness, diet, reading. The key to developing a keystone habit is replacing bad habits with good habits. For example, if you’re bored, instead of playing the newest Halo of Duty for stimulation, try hitting the gym or watching a MOOC. Over time you will build a craving for the latter that not only outweighs the former but is many times greater because it is rooted in something earnest.
Stop blaming. Blame transfers agency from you to someone else, it’s petulant and puerile, dangerous and ridiculous, vulgar and foolish. It connotes a lack of control over yourself and others, it telegraphs powerlessness. In fact it rarely serves to any benefit and more frequently exacerbates the issue. Don’t be mad that people are the way they are, they’re exactly as they’re meant to be – you are the one imparting unmet expectations. Keep advice to yourself unless solicited.
Live in the moment, be present. Excess attention on the future leaves you anxious and ineffectual. Excess attention on the past leaves you sullen and rueful. In reality we can never know what to expect from the future and the past is never quite as we remember it. There are times to look ahead, to plan, to deliberate and even recalibrate. Spend that time wisely and then look ahead no more. Likewise, there are times to reflect and perhaps repent. Make peace with your past and then focus on the present.
Spend time alone. The crowd brings out the worst in all of us. This is a natural outcome, for that which we have in common with most others is also that which we are least proud of – our baser qualities. Solitude affords a man communion with himself. His deepest motives, values and ambitions can only emerge through honest introspection. Ask yourself tough questions. Carry this composure of solitude with you everywhere, even in the company of others.
Ground yourself. Give way to neither love nor hate. Say nothing and believe nothing with unshakeable conviction. Take care of yourself first before you take of others. Finally, be positive and believe in yourself. For, if you already expect nothing, are planted in the present and grounded in your temperament the world will throw itself at your feet.
I’ll see you in Valhalla