"The definition of hell is meeting the person you could have been"
I’m sure this makes most of us feel uncomfortable, it certainly does for me yet why is it so many of us settle for mediocrity? If we are going to suffer (and living and operating below our potential is suffering), shouldn’t we choose that suffering?
Shouldn’t we suffer in the pursuit of something more aligned to who we are, our natural tendencies? I’m not suggesting we all quit our jobs in search of meaning, it doesn’t work like that – meaningful work is something which we must first internalise, something which aligns to our values and principles. We then have a solid foundation to base our next step on.
In order to work this out and as obvious as it sounds, we need to know who we are, who we really are at our core once we’ve managed to get past the layers of social conditioning and understand what actually drives our behaviour and what we stand for.
We are then in a position to make powerful choices and move forward in the right direction. This is what being purposeful is about.
Whilst the external expression of being purposeful can often look like donating to charity and doing social good, there's also a deeper element of being aligned to your unique purpose, what you are called towards. Everyone has a purpose but very few people actually believe this because they believe that if they did then they would know or it would be really obvious. But it isn’t, it’s simply alignment to your nature – following your natural curiosity, being open to different possibilities, letting go of this illusion of control in a world that's moving at rapid speed at all times. We owe it to ourselves, communities and world around us to move as close as we can towards this.
History is peppered with examples of people from all walks of life who against the odds persisted with what they were drawn towards and as a result made valuable contributions. The common factor between them all was making choices, which is surprisingly uncommon as many fear lack of certainty in an increasingly uncertain world.
As Humans we have the power of choice. We may not have choice over circumstances, the economy or people around us but we have choice over something way more powerful. How we interpret events, attribute meaning and therefore shape the course of our lives. This is what Victor Frankl referred to as ‘man’s last freedom’ in his classic tribute to hope titled Man's search for meaning.
The ability to choose the meaning we attribute to events and therefore the learning and growth we can obtain from this is a powerful one, yet despite knowing that nothing in life is certain (just look at the how much the world has changed in the last 2 decades alone) many choose to adopt a head in the sand approach (I’ve been guilty of this too!), running on auto pilot, not exercising an active choice and getting busier and busier doing things, buying the next latest gadget, reading the next book, planning the next promotion, the next holiday and so on without really stopping to really question why we do what we do and whether these ‘goals’ are really our OWN goals?
Deep down most of us know we have more potential but we carry on doing what we’ve been doing perhaps through fear, through not knowing ourselves, lacking courage, support, lack of self worth, laziness etc?
We say we don’t have a choice because of a mortgage, family, commitments etc yet fail to realise that non action is also a choice which carries it's own level of terror and dismay that we inadvertently pass to those around us.
We tell ourselves lies that it's other people and not people 'like us’ who go off and start doing things differently, yet it actually is! The world is not supposed to be filled with humans acting like robots. It's so ironic that many fear AI but cannot see how much of their decisions and lives are on autopilot and not really their decisions at all!
We keep ourselves ‘busy’ for the sake of it, silently fearing stillness in case something comes up which we believe we can’t face. The truth is that stillness is actually the key to our humanness and our potential but is often difficult to access for so many in this modern world.
Ego. This small but powerful word is what has us in knots a lot, it serves as a good survival mechanism but can also suffocate and act like an overprotective parent, stunting our growth.
Our ego and rational mind go hand in hand, our society celebrates the rational mind which Einstein reportedly stated that:
"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift"Einstein
This celebration of the slower part of our mind has a lot to be said for stunting creativity and growth. How many times have we heard someone say “im not creative?” - we are all creative by nature, the way we use language, the way we dress, the selections we make etc – these are all creations. People have started to believe that what their ego identifies with IS their true nature and identity.
BUT this ignores the wholeness of who we are – we aren’t just our rational minds or ego. We have a higher self, our intuitive mind which is a lot faster, more powerful and creative than we imagine. Because it is mostly unconscious we tend to play little attention to it yet this is the seat of creativity and innovation.
We are heading into an era where a lot of what our rational minds can do will be increasingly automated, enabling us to tap into more of our human potential, use our intuition in a powerful way to make connections, to understand one another and stimulate growth.
Our most celebrated inventors constantly the reference the use of intuition, gut instinct in their creative process and this is something which is available to all and advice we need to heed. The trouble is the moment we start realizing this conflicting duality (the ego and our higher self) the ego works very hard to keep itself in prime position. This often looks and feels like fear, procrastination, negative thinking and anxiety. An intuitive feeling is different – it may feel scary to follow our intuition but deep down we feel at peace, a knowing that we are on the right path.
The more we open ourselves up to following our own inner guidance and wisdom, the more we can tune into our intuition.
So how can we tap into this powerful source? I am not an expert by any means but am an avid reader on mindset, psychology as well as being my own guinea pig to see what works. I have found the following common themes which apply to the great thinkers of our time.
1) Meditation – allows us to slow down and isolate/see/feel our ego. For me amongst all the other benefits of meditation, this is the most powerful as we can literally start witnessing conflicting statements and our decision making process, enabling us to make more purposeful choices rather than programmed responses.
2) Morning routine – dedicate the first hour to yourself including some exercise, reading, meditation and reflections. Do your creative thinking first thing in the morning when your subconscious mind is active and alert, but don’t try to force stuff. A morning routine to stimulate our mind requires ‘letting go’, loosening the mind. Robert Greene in his book mastery calls this ‘negative capability’ and is something which all notable Masters have in common (Einstein, Faraday, Carnegie are some examples) As soon as we set a certain expectation, we are already narrowing the range of possibilities, so stay open.
3) Self Investment - All development of potential starts from the inside which then impacts our world. The starting point is honest and consistent investment in ourselves which over time, will allow us to see ourselves as we are – the good and bad. This takes courage as we open ourselves up to negative feedback but we choose how we attribute meaning to this. Many people don’t want to hear the bad but tapping into our potential means being able to see things as they are - the good and the bad, not just what our ego tells us. It can be painful but also very freeing.
By turning up for ourselves we allow our lights to shine, we allow our humanness to show and we give others permission to do the same.
This is the next stage of evolution where our rational mind, though useful and never redundant will be less of a dominating force and we will be able to tap into the wisdom which already exists within us and which ancient cultures have always stated from the start.