1. Ideals are cute, but without understanding the nit and grit of it all, that’s all they’re going to be.
As an idealist who sees the potential of this world and how things can be revolutionized for the better, I am no stranger to heartbreak. My heart has been broken a couple of times fighting for the changes I want to see in my life and in the world. Today, I do not fight for these things anymore. I work towards getting them, one reform at a time.
I have realized that the world isn’t centered around me. It will not adjust to my every whim and fancy. As a community of 7 billion individuals, beliefs and interests are bound to clash. If the goal is to coexist in harmony, then a middle ground has to be found. Resorting to black-or-white, all-or-nothing thinking will compel a party to either give up or eliminate the other. To do that, violence is in order.
Nonviolence is not an end in itself. If you think violence is the only viable modality for a certain cause, then prepare yourself for it.
2. Doubt everything. Even yourself and the things you believe in. Nothing’s more perspective-enriching than constructive self-criticism.
The amazing thing about laziness and idling is that it makes you question things. It makes you question why you have to live in a certain way, act in a certain way, respond to a stimulus in a certain away. A question will always lead to more questions, and then you’ll start to get a grasp of the arbitrariness of life in this world.
Who makes all these rules? Who died and made them queen? Why should I repress my individuality just to conform to their lives that they chose?
Questioning your common sense is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. What is obvious isn’t always healthy, just, or efficient. Even common sense contains ‘regimes of truth’ that must be deconstructed and challenged. Seek to wrest and destroy the rusty shackles and chains of outdated traditions, because they always encumber healthy expansion.
Sometimes, however, in order to get yourself to explore unmapped realms of ideas and thoughts, you will need to keep an open mind and challenge your own belief system and principles. I understand that this can be quite disconcerting for some, because for them, their principles are an extension of their ego.
But personal growth isn’t found in your comfort zone and emotional sanctuary. It is found in the diversity of the ideas and experiences that you allow yourself to wallow in.
As the great Bob Marley once sang, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”
3. Idealizing people is one of the easiest ways to a disappointment-laden life.
There’s nothing wrong with having ideals. It means you have an idea of what direction you’re going. But too much of it can be unhealthy. When you’re an idealist, you are wont to see things based on your standards of perfection, instead seeing them as they are. You see Prince Charming instead of a boyfriend or a partner. You see a Superhero instead of a best friend.
By doing so, you’re depriving yourself of that beautiful opportunity to get to know the actual human being behind your idealizations. You’re setting yourself up to a whirlwind of disappointments because of the expectations that are bound to be frustrated. Idealizing people is also fundamentally selfish due to the ridiculous amount of pressure that you impose on them.
When you idealize people, you treat them as perfect objects of your own perception, not human beings with their own quirks and fears.
I’m aware that it can be very difficult to rewire your mindset, considering the kind of society we live in where celebrities are worshipped and fairytales and romantic-comedies break box-office records.
But if you’re someone who seeks genuine human relationships and love, then it must be done. After all, you cannot have a human relationship with a perfect idea, nor expect a perfect idea to warm your hands with love and affection when you’re old.
4. Busy-ness doesn’t always make a fulfilled human being.
Some people find the need to busy themselves, because it makes them feel valuable. Whether or not that’s okay is debatable. But in my opinion, it says something about their self-worth. It is very symptomatic of how they perceive their inherent value and the quality of their personal relationships.
And you know what? I won’t be surprised if it turns out that those people who keep themselves busy are the same ones who have trouble making deep, personal relationships.
I know people who declare their busy-ness just to have control over a conversation, and to end it the moment the other person starts to speak. It’s funny, and it seems to happen with those who have problems building meaningful personal connections.
They are social butterflies and very shallow. They fear affection and intimacy, and if they stood still long enough, they might notice the utter truth that they hate themselves… so it is way easier for them to shut you down.
These kinds of people never recall the things you tell them, as they were not wholly present during the conversation because they were too “busy.” Never do they ask about your life, but give excessive amount of details about their own. When another person speaks, they zone out and they make these people feel as if they are holding a timer when they talk.
If you come across with someone from this ilk, be wary of them and, as previously mentioned, do not idealize them because you’re in for a generous amount of disappointments.
5. A life built on authenticity is a life worth living.
Living an authentic life means knowing what you desire separate from your environment and other individuals, and working towards getting it. When you’re doing something primarily for the societal validation it could incur you, then you’re not doing it for your authentic self, you’re doing it for others. You’re doing it to conform to their own idea of happiness, of a life well lived, not yours.
Due to the nature of my work, I am exposed to driven people who see the world as a competition. There’s nothing wrong with that. It becomes detrimental when I start to lose myself by adapting to this behavior. Because that is not my nature at all. Whenever I feel like my authentic train is about to derail, I do some introspection.
Being gifted with a brain that refuses to stop overthinking 24/7, too much pressure could be damaging to my well-being. So I try to let go of the imaginary pressure and expectations that do not contribute to my genuine causes at all.
Recently, I watched a documentary called Minimalism where a guy who used to be a Wall Street stock broker shared his experiences which resonated with me quite deeply. These are his words:
On December 31st 2007, my boss calls me into his office and he tells me that I’m getting a promotion, and this is it! This is the game changer. Everything that I’d ever worked for was going to be handed to me right then and there.
It was a bizarre, kind of ethereal moment where I was watching this happen. And I walked out of his office and I walked back into my own and I just closed the door behind me. And I just started weeping because I realized that I was completely and utterly trapped, and that I would never be able to walk away from that amount of money ever in my life. Any dream that I’d had of living a life of purpose and meaning and being an adventurer and somebody that would actually take risks and live a life that’s deliberate and intentional… those were gone.
When you see your life scripted out and you recognize that this is not anything that I… why am I doing this? This guy that’s handing me this promotion, I don’t want to be him. I don’t envy his life. Maybe this was never for me to begin with. And maybe if I don’t leave right now, I’m going to be that dude for the rest of my life.
I just took the elevator down 28 stories. Ever since then I decided that this life is going to be mine and it’s just going to be wildly and flamboyantly my life.
6. Empathy without understanding and intelligence can be dangerous.
Empathy is a good thing, but it can also be misguided and selfish. When you hate to see someone hurt and make mistakes, sometimes it’s not because you care about them, it’s because seeing them hurt makes you feel uncomfortable.
The truth is that it is not about them, it is about you. It is not because you care, it’s because you don’t like the uncomfortable feeling of seeing someone you love fail or get hurt. So you tend to alleviate that someone from the hurt. You mollycoddle them.
But you are forgetting that making mistakes and getting hurt can induce growth in a person. It can help them learn their lessons and become smarter and stronger. But you took away that opportunity from them, just because it made you feel uncomfortable. In this case, your empathy served nothing but your emotions.
7. Self-awareness will singlehandedly change your life. Strive to perfect it.
Self-awareness is defined as having a clear perception of your personality. It allows you to see the nuances of your strengths, weaknesses, values, motivation, emotions, and insecurities.
Having self-awareness doesn’t only allow you to understand yourself, it also lets you see how others perceive you and why you respond to them the way you do at any given moment.
Self-awareness is important, because it gives you that elusive power of mastering your own thoughts and emotions. Without self-awareness, most of the items written here will be rendered impossible to achieve.
Essentially, self-awareness is understanding yourself, and in the process, becoming mindful of your feelings, thinking, and doing. Just as ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu put it: “Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”