So here we are. We understand that the life we have been living is one that we did not choose. We are working on forgiving ourselves for wronging others in the past as well as forgiving others for wronging us. We cannot and will not be victims, no matter how much cover it provides us. We understand that while the programming of our subconscious may be extremely difficult to alter, we have much more control of our consciousness and its interaction with our subconscious.
Our conscious needs and desires can override and even take control of those of our subconscious.
We have determined that we do not want to keep traveling down the path we are currently on. We want to travel along a path of our own design and we have the power to make that happen. The trick is how do we make that happen. While the answer to this question will be unique for each of us, there are a few questions that are more universal that we can try to answer.
Who Do We Want To Be?Up until this very moment in our lives, the answer to this question has always come from the person that has been programmed by our parents, our schools, our media, our government, and our society. And while we can never really escape this part of our nature, we can begin to question if who we think we want to be, better yet the life we want to live, is the life we really want to live, or just the one we are supposed to live.
A great start to answering this very complicated question might be to ask ourselves - what makes me happy? Not what brings me pleasure, but what activities would excite me, create peak experiences, or put me in a state of flow? Discovering what would make us truly happy will go a long way in helping us figure out who we really want to be. We mustn't take this question lightly.
Read more - Pleasure vs. Happiness (coming soon!)
We may not be able to completely change the person we have become, the person we were programmed to be, but we can surely change the life that that person must live. We are what we do. Our behaviors determine who we are. We can change, and to say that we cannot is just the rationale that allows us to continue on the unfulfilling path that we are currently on.
Are We Defined By Our Needs?We are all unique individuals, with unique tastes, and unique feelings, but we are also humans with core needs that transcend our uniqueness. When our uniqueness is in conflict with these universal needs, we find ourselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Truly understanding what our needs are as human beings can go a long way in helping us develop a lifestyle that is in harmony with our humanity and not in conflict with it.
Living a lifestyle that’s in harmony with our physiological needs, our need for safety and security, our need for love and belongingness, and our need to feel important (our self-esteem) will free up our energy to satisfy our ultimate need, our need to become the person we are supposed to be. This is our need to be self-actualizing, or our need to be living a self-fulfilling life.
The key components of becoming a self-actualizing person are:
- Having a purpose.
- Unifying our subconscious with our conscious.
- Taking responsibility for oneself.
- Listen to one’s self.
- Having peak experiences is a necessity (what would excite us).
- Learning what we are good at and what we like.
- Being ourselves.
Let us think of life as a process of choices, one after the other. At each point there is a progression choice and a regression choice. There may be movement toward defense, toward safety, toward being afraid; but over on the other side, there is the growth choice. To make the growth choice instead of the fear choice a dozen times a day is to move a dozen times a day toward self-actualization. Self-actualization is an ongoing process. - From The Farthest Reaches of Human Nature by Abraham Maslow
Figuring out who we want to be is not something that can be accomplished over a few pints at the local pub. This will take time, a long time, the longer the better. The thing to keep in mind is that, since the “goal” is not to reach some finish line, we don’t have a fixed target to aim for. But knowing what kind of life we want to be living, what the path should feel like, will give us an “endpoint” from which we can work back from.
How Do We Get There?Ultimately, our goal is to become a self-actualizing person, and the path to get there will be unique for each of us. So, each of us will have to figure out that path for ourselves and it could take some time, maybe a long time. But there are some valuable things that we can and must do in the meantime, and it’s those things that may provide us with the clues we need.
Before we can become a self-actualizing person, we must feel confident that we are satisfying our deficiency needs (our physiological needs and our need for safety and security) as well as our higher needs for love, belongingness, and self-esteem. Satisfying these needs present substantial hurdles themselves that many, if not most of us, will struggle most of our lives to overcome.
Understanding why we struggle to satisfy these lower needs could probably fill a small bookshelf in a therapist's office, but here are a few things we might consider to get started:
- Wants vs. Needs - thinking we are satisfying a need when we are really just satisfying wants will keep us on the dissatisfaction treadmill until we finally figure out how to be happy when we get what we need, learn to want only what we need, or learn to be ok when we don’t get what we want.
- Getting Stuck on a Need - Spending time and energy trying to better satisfy a need that we have already satisfied. Maybe we are afraid to move on to a higher need?
- Using the Wrong Need Tool - Each of our needs, whether it’s our physiological, safety, love and belongingness, or esteem, requires a different tool for their satisfaction. The tragedy is that by the time we figure out that we have been using the wrong tool, it could feel like it’s too late to change tools.
- Bypassing a Need Altogether (Coming soon!)
The one thing that we are guaranteed that we can control in our lives is how we think and feel. We may not be able to control every external stimuli in our lives, maybe not even most, but we can control how we react to those stimuli. Our reaction will play a major role in determining the outcome of that stimulus. Do we let it control our emotions, do we let it stomp all over us, do we take it personally?
Our attitude is how we act, react, and interact with the world around us. How we project this attitude towards life to the outer world will determine how we are treated by those around us. Interact with the world positively and we will attract positivity (mostly). Interact negatively, and that’s what we will get in return.
Side Note - There’s a lot of beauty in the world, and there’s a lot that sucks. If we focus on finding the good and surrounding ourselves with it, we can create our own oasis. If enough of us do this, maybe the bad stuff will run out of space and energy and decide to join the rest of us. There are a lot of people trying to fix what’s wrong with the world without realizing that it’s they themselves that are broken. We must fix ourselves before we can fix others.
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz - Jim’s Notes, Get The Book.
- Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl - Jim’s Notes, Get The Book.
Most of us are, or have been, fixated on what’s missing from our lives. We become so focused on what’s lacking that we fail to see just how much we really have. This is not a Developed World versus Undeveloped World thing. In the West we may have an easier time satisfying our lower needs, but this comes at the expense of our higher needs. Working harder to satisfy these needs doesn’t prevent one from satisfying a higher level, in fact it may complement it. Walking to collect water for the day may suck to us, but it certainly guarantees a healthy level of physical activity. Who will be healthier in their 40’s and 50’s?
We all have things that we feel are lacking. For some, sadly it may be food or shelter, for others it may be love, or loneliness, or maybe not feeling like the world cares about us or even knows we exist. And for most, we will struggle our whole lives feeling like we are just a cog in the machine. Is being hungry but loved worse than being fed but unloved and lonely? We can always find the good in our lives, and if we can feel grateful for what we have, then maybe we can see the world in a more positive light.
Developing Our Core Value Set (Our Character)
Our character is who we are deep inside. It is our self that only we can truly know. Our character is who we really are based on our morals, values, and beliefs.
Integrity is the degree that we live in accordance with the morals, values, and beliefs of our character.
The result of a strong character built on a high level of integrity is our self-esteem (how we feel about ourselves). Unlike esteem (how others regard us), which can come from external sources, self-esteem can only come internally.
There are many among us that are highly capable of projecting a persona of high morals and values that their character is lacking. They may be able to play out this charade, as long as things are going smoothly, but when a challenging situation presents itself, this is when a person’s true character will come out and their lack of integrity will present itself. In times of stress our true character reveals itself.
If we are living a life of integrity, our true character is always on display, and when things go South, the character that we project (our true self) will still be there. Failing to live a life of integrity will expose us for who we really are, for we can only hide the quality of our character, or lack of, for so long.
In the end, there is one person that has to live with the real you, and that’s you. We may be able to fool everyone around us, but we can’t fool ourselves, and living with a liar, or a cheat, or just someone we can’t respect will take its toll eventually. We can make all kinds of changes to how we live our lives, and who we live it with, but there’s one person we can’t expel and that’s ourselves.
If we violate our belief system and no one finds out, is it possible to judge ourselves less harshly than our friends and family would have, had we been caught?
Starting Over - Creating a New PathWhether we realize it or not, as we make improvements to our core values and beliefs, as we gain control over our subconscious, and as we learn to satisfy our needs, we will realize that we are not only becoming the person we want to be, but that we are already on our new path. But how can we be sure the path we are on will get us to where we want to be?
Our goal is not what’s at the end of the path, or even the accomplishments along the way, our ultimate goal is to become the person who creates their own path. A path where our true character expresses itself freely. A path where we are satisfying our needs without reliance on others. A path that not only allows us to live a self-actualizing life, but projects it. The path is the goal.
But what would that path look like? What could it look like? What path could make us happy? That’s the most important question we can ask ourselves. Without knowing the answer, we could end up going down a lot of dead ends on the path we create.
Trial and error is going to be a big part of this path creating process, and figuring out who we really are may help prevent the creation of some of those dead end paths, or at least help make those dead end paths a bit shorter. But before we even start creating the goals for our new path, we can start to figure out what kinds of things we would like to be doing on our new path. Maybe, before we figure out who we want to be we can figure out what we want to be doing, maybe even what we want. Eventually.
ConclusionThe most difficult question we may ask ourselves is - “who do we want to be?” Followed by the second most difficult question - “how do we get there?” But if we break these down into smaller chunks, we can get some very helpful hints.
- Do I want to be someone who is controlled by their programmed subconscious or do I want to live more consciously?
- Do I want to live a life of integrity, or do I want to spend my life trying to fool the ones around me?
- Do I want to live as a victim on the constant look out for villains to blame for my problems, or do I want to take on complete responsibility for my life?
- Do I want to spend my life on the treadmill trying to satisfy false needs disguised as wants, or do I want to focus my energy on satisfying authentic needs?
If we can find the answers to these questions successfully, odds are we will discover that we are already on the path that we desire to be on.
Life really is a game, and when we find ourselves losing, we just need to change the rules so we can win.