Live by Design, not by Consequence

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”
~Ernest Hemingway

Week Two is the hardest. This is the time after the initial surge of motivation has settled, but before the routine of writing every week has ingrained itself. Bad habits run deep, and they fight for their share of a finite reservoir of attention.

Today I’d like to talk about personal change. This is an enormously broad topic. For each of the countless aspects of life there are innumerable alterations that can be made, so I’m going to break up different types of personal change into three general categories.

The first category, and most superficial, is material change. This kind of change involves making changes to the external material world that we interact with day in and day out. Changes in this category would involve changing your style of clothing, the type of car you drive, your place of residence, what you buy, your hairstyle, the kind of food you eat, and the products you use. This category is summarized by the items you interact with on a regular basis. Your bank account and socioeconomic status greatly influences your freedom in this category. Fortunately this is the shallowest form of self improvement, and being limited in this category will not disqualify you from making the vastly more significant changes in the following two.

The second category concerns change involving the behaviors you exhibit, your customs, your routine, where your attention is focused, what your proclivities are, and how you spend your time. This category entails how you use the energy of each day. This is the classic New Year’s resolution category. Change something in this category, and you’ll be going to the gym more often, writing more, reading more, spending time with different people, sailing, scuba diving, high altitude basket weaving, learning to cook, learning another language, working on a car. Changes in this category can also be waking up earlier, making progress towards a goal, going to the bars less often, or quitting smoking.

The third category encompasses your patterns of thought and emotional impulses, your belief system, your identity. This is by far the deepest and most difficult category to change because it is extensively tied to ego. This third category’s realm involves qualities of character. Confidence, wit, charisma, humor, stubbornness, resilience, cheerfulness, irritability, charm, optimism and pessimism, gullibility, and attitude are all aspects of this category. All traits in the purview of this category are subject to manipulation.

The majority of people fail to realize change in this category because those qualities grow so steadily, so slowly, they seem inherent and unalterable. Their lives exist as a kind of self-proof of the correctness of their character. They’ve always been a certain way, so what possibility could there be for anything different? They are who they are, and remain stubbornly fixed even though this world is in constant flux. These are the people who have never felt suffering great enough to question their own dispositions. These are the people that lonely souls envy for their heedless joy. These are people who will never be capable of truly creating themselves. Their psyches are pure consequence.

Many will never make changes in this category because of the belief that change isn’t possible. It’s the “Who I am.” ultimatum. Many people resign to their weaknesses. They accept their faults. They live with their follies despite the superlative adaptability of the human mind. They label these apparently immutable traits as ‘human nature’, ‘who they are’, or a ‘genetic consequence’, and thus deem them unalterable.

The truth is opposite to this idiom. Human beings are the greatest agents of change in the known universe. Humans, in only 4 million years of existence, have developed into something unrecognizable as nature borne, conquering the planet we live on in the process. This adaptability, bestowed upon our species in its infancy, continues today with the same utility. Every new generation will contain individuals with an ever increasing capacity for self possession, and the greatest ever in history.

As sentient beings we are all capable of controlling the ideas we adopt, the beliefs we harbor, the behaviors we emulate, and even the emotions we exhibit. We all have the ability. But an untrained will cannot but acquiesce to instinct and submit to impulse and conditioning.

The purpose of this blog will be to uncover the mechanisms of the human psyche on a fundamental level. I will attempt to provide an alternative perspective on what consciousness is as suggested by the most recent neurological breakthroughs. It is my belief that by knowing how you’re put together, and how your brain operates, you will be empowered to make far greater and more deliberate changes to your life. You will be far less susceptible to the influences of your environment. It is my belief that wisdom can come from this awareness of self, not only from decades of trial and error. These beliefs are keystones in a system scrupulous in the making, and intentionally nurtured.

Thank you for reading.

-C

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