We are all searching for something, it’s part of the human condition. We may pursue it through adhering to religious doctrine, forging an identity through athletic endeavors, or demonstrating our passion for a political ethos.
The search helps people to understand themselves, create an identity and accept their own mortality through contribution to the physical world. While most of us have numerous components to our search, often ebbing and flowing in different directions — the crash diet on Monday, which finishes on Tuesday, or the attendance at church on Sunday, which last for a few months — many show adherence to what they see as the end of the search; their reason.
Within that subset of people who are adherent to a specific philosophy or activity, falls another two subsets; the primary subset, which adheres to their reason because it fits with their global outlook, identity and values, and those who seek their identity within the reason. The second group, is not yet at the end of their search, but they may think that they are.
This isn’t to say that whatever religion, sport, personal development program, or job members of the secondary subset are involved in, is the wrong path for them, but rather, they are still waiting for something to happen. To use the example of a physical endeavor, such as going to the gym, there are those who work out with unbridled passion, internalized focus, and goals for themselves to reach. They pay no attention to others, choosing instead to define themselves by what they can accomplish rather than how they compare to the masses.
Then, the other group — still taking part in the same activity — is outwardly focused, engaged in a process of endless comparisons, and aspiring to look like, be like, or act like other people. It is through these externalized goals, and a focus on not achieving anything until there is a transformation into another person, either spiritually, physically or from a behavioral standpoint, that is the source of much misery for the secondary subset. Because of course, the basis for this kind of adherence, is dissatisfaction with self, not seeking to improve but hoping to transform entirely into another form.
So why do people find meaning in external reasons? Because, externalized goals are far more emotionally compelling than internal ones, and seem to be the solution to more problems than they are. The externalized search for reason, is less about finding answers, than identifying people who can potentially provide those answers. In this search, the questions themselves can become confused, and the person who was originally a source of knowledge, can become a figurehead for individuals or groups, meaning that the followers feel that they cannot be successful, happy, or content until they are like, or in some extreme cases, actually are, that person. Religious leaders through time, personal trainers, sportspeople, celebrities and others have become — often through no fault of their own — aspirational figures when in fact the searcher themselves should learn from these people, and continue the search with their questions answered. If not, the supposedly answers can become obsessions which can lead to fundamentalism, alienation of others, and the destruction of a sense of self, all on the altar adherence to the rules, as dictated by others.
To avoid ending up being led into an obsession-based reason, ask yourself if you are part of the primary or secondary subset; are you learning, growing and developing from an internal point of view? Or are you waiting to be told what to do, so that your actions can be adjusted in line with this new, and exciting ethos? In this, you will discover the difference between searching, and being led; and if you are being led at the expense of your own identity, continue the search.
Originally published at medium.com