The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.
The direction which constitutes the good life is that which is selected by the total organism when there is psychological freedom to move in any direction.
— Carl Rogers
Our minds are not as trustworthy as we think. And the degree to which this turned out to be true for me was startling… but also liberating.
Richard Feynman once famously said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” If you take the little voice in your head that you identify with and externalise it for a moment—imagine it’s a close friend of yours that you’ve known your entire life—notice that this close friend has been giving you advice your entire life. This person has been telling you who to date, who to like and who not to like, what people think about you, what job you should take, what you should eat, what you should do. All this advice has been given to you by this external person. But the question is: how often are they right?
I notice just how wrong I’ve ended up about many things. The thoughts and feelings I’ve had about people or passions change all the time and I’m awful with the advice I give myself at times. Put another way: if I hired someone as my personal advisor or therapist, and they were myself, they’d be fired pretty quickly.
It’s not to say that we shouldn’t trust our minds or get someone else to make all of our decisions; it’s more about admitting that it’s very informative (and frankly liberating) to know that we can’t really trust ourselves and what we think.
Eckhart Tolle once said “I am never upset for the reasons I think I am”, sparking a realisation in philosophy that we are separate from ourselves and our minds change so often that they therefore cannot be completely trusted.
Change is nothing but a process because we are always going through it. You live in a constant state of flux and, more often than not, you and I are just as clueless and mistaken about ourselves as we are of each other. Many people live with the view that they somehow have a better view of the world than others. But in truth, we’re all as good at judging ourselves and others as they are at judging us.
We’re all on the same footing. Look back in time and you’ll find that people have always been the same. And they’ve been just as ever-changing and untrustworthy to themselves as we are now. Early philosophy from 3,000 years ago found evidence of people facing the same issues and concerns we face today and it’s nice to be able to resonate with that because it all leads back to the idea that we haven’t changed in nature. We’re just not as complex or “special” as we think.
And not only have our fundamentals stayed constant; our worldview has shifted completely. Nietzche once said that “All good things were once bad things; every original sin becomes an original virtue”, and if you think about how many times you’ve changed your mind over your life on so many “core” values and virtues you once had, this proves that no rules or opinions or thoughts or judgements you have are set in stone. The only constant is our natural instincts; the delta between how we are now and how we adapt and adjust to the world is always changing, but it’s our society that piles the pressure on staying the same.
So, the idea that we are not that trustworthy feels liberating because it removes the pressure off of your thoughts—good and bad—your achievements or losses, or your deductions. After all, they are constantly in flux and shouldn’t be judged as much as you might believe.
Change is a means to an end, not the end itself. In short: don’t get too excited about change; get excited about where it’ll eventually take you.
— Dr Steve Barlow
Ends are practically never final destinations. You may have goals or pick a place you want to be in your personal or business life, but you can’t stay there forever without running into problems. So does the emphasis on endpoints really make sense? They are goals; points along the way that have some benefit but are also good to eventually leave behind.
The stories we tell ourselves mirror the fact that ends are not destinations. We set goals that make us change and grow—whether it’s educational, employment, sporting, relationship, or focused on attainment—and we strive for them. In the process, we change; maybe a lot, maybe a little. But in the end, our language shrinks these goals and all the work we had to do to attain them to a single point. To “I went to university and got a degree”, and “I met my partner and we got married”. This simplistic view is contradictory to our thinking because after focusing on change as a process, we engrave it in ourselves and others as our one-time destination.
People who are fit for change have a greater ability to choose how and when they will change. The more capacity you have, the more ‘destinations’ you have. The good life, in Carl Roger’s words, is the process of movement in which a human selects when they are inwardly free to move in any direction, and the general qualities of the selected direction appear to have a certain universality. And he highlights three essential characteristics of this Process:
Increasing openness to experience
Increasingly existential living
Increasing trust in himself
So, change as a process and direction mean you learn to live in and with all of your feelings; being able to experience them, and being less afraid of them. It’s being open and engaged in the process of becoming yourself, being fully functioning and aware of your flow which freely moves in and through your experiences. And it’s about being liberated in the understanding that you are not your thoughts.
What I’ve Learned
Here are two more things I’ve learned recently.
Other people’s trauma is not your responsibility
I read a tweet saying that just because you understand the why of someone’s behaviour, doesn’t mean you have to keep them in your life or deal with the behaviour. It’s incredibly liberating because I spent a lot of time over the years as someone people who inadvertently helped people with their problems or trauma. Much of it was exhausting.
It’s not your job. It’s not your responsibility. Knowing your boundaries is key to this and it’s essential for your health to know where the line is.
Traits of a successful writer
The best traits of a writer mimic that of becoming a great listener, communicator, and person; that’s why I love writing so much:
They write every day
They talk to their readers
They publish without ego
They write concisely
They take long walks
They write even if no one would read
They crystalise new learnings by writing about them
They read broad and deep
They take feedback objectively
Even if you’re not a “writer” these characteristics could make a great difference in your life.
One Question for You
Some people say it is not the lack of intelligence, but focus that is stopping you. So, where are you lacking in focus?
Speak again soon,
Clarity/focus for an art 🎨 student over time ---- I got here--- in the beginning of 1956? Has been my choice over the years--- but at this particular point in time---'---- it is extremely interesting/intense-----. 👍 Yep----