There is no surrogate for your own mind.
At our fingertips we have an abundance external input, people we can call for advice, and endlessly googleable information which is often irrelevant. Through an endless series of distractions accessible via black mirrors, and automating away agency through work and routine, we can forget to think for ourselves. Without intervention, our mind gets pummeled like an orbiting moon by the asteroids of Instagram desserts, Teams meetings about other meetings, and news alerts reminding us we are one of the few not counting our crypto millions.
I believe a key component of living a meaningful life is pursuing our potential in something we choose completely on our own. Developing expertise in an area we have individually defined as meaningful. For this pursuit, how we protect, interact with, and shape our mind is critical.
Without the right perspective, without developing our mind into a useful tool which represents us, it is almost impossible to achieve challenging, deliberate goals.
Old Men With Beards
The feeling of you and your mind being separate entities is not a recent idea. For thousands of years people have documented the infuriating battle between who we believe ourselves to be, and the emotional junkie sitting up there somewhere next to the control panel. The guy constantly whispering inside our had that we should get pizza and then immediately calls us fat for eating that same pizza. Why. WHY?!
Left to run loose like a wild Mustang, our “minds” can quickly buck us off and figuratively kick our literal brains in.
This battle between us and what Naval Ravikant always refers to as “the monkey mind” is well documented because it’s often accepted to be the greatest barrier between us and living a deliberate, meaningful life. Between who we are, and who we think we could be.
Leaving out the endless supply of externalities and circumstances, the fundamental constant that prevents people from changing their lives for the better, however they would define, is themselves. Each of us is often our worst enemy.
Being unable to get out of our own way manifests within two critical issues:
- Being unable to define a vision for our life
- Not believing in ourselves enough to think we can achieve our vision
The absence of one of these things when trying to work toward a meaningful life can be a death blow before we even really get started. It’s like dropping a ship in the harbor for the first time with a piece of the hull missing. You might get a little ways out there, but sinking is inevitable.
I’ve often found that people only have one of these two things, myself included. They either know what they want to accomplish but don’t believe in themselves or the idea enough to throw themselves into it, or they believe in their own ability but have no clue how to go about choosing what to actually do and fear wasting time on the “wrong” idea, so they do nothing.
Those truly lost at sea struggle to gain either.
In thinking about vision and inner-confidence, we can quickly see how important it is to get our mind to an operating procedure we have defined. That we are holding the steering wheel and not simply letting our inner Tyler Durden grin as we veer into oncoming traffic.
We want our perspective – our inner operating system – to grow into a place which we have created, and which works for us. This requires a lot of deliberate work. We have to work hard to avoid letting the Mustang of emotions repeatedly buck us into bad narratives and circumstances.
American philosopher William James and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius both felt this concept was core to living a meaningful life. They believed that the outlook any person has formed on their own is directly responsible for the trajectory of their life and what they are able to accomplish. The more people let the external world and internal emotional turmoil dominate them, the further the potential of who they could become slips away. These men outlined how invaluably fundamental that idea is to life over 1500 years apart.
There really is no silver bullet to existence. Things take time, deliberate practice, and consistency. But without the proper vision and the accompanying belief, nothing else really matters. Nothing else matters because without a purpose dripping in conviction to guide us, we won’t do what we need to with enough tenacity or duration for it to matter. And without the belief that we can act on the purpose we have defined for ourselves, we’ll never truly get started and throw ourselves into the thing we think we want most.
We can’t live up to our true potential if our mind is too manic to establish both of these things – purpose and inner-confidence. The combination of non-existent goals and an abundance of self-doubt is what kills 99% of us dead in our tracks and always leaves us wondering what if.
“If you can change your mind, you can change your life.” – William James