Each and Every One of Us...
We can have deep assumptions about anything, and they differ across cultures. For example, time is experienced in dramatically different ways around the world. According to Philip Zimbardo, some people live primarily in present-oriented cultures that value social interaction and leisure over efficiency, and hence have loose commitments to deadlines or arriving on time at gatherings. On the other hand, there are cultures that are future-oriented and hence are strictly dedicated to being on time versus indulging in long conversations or meal times. Were people from these two cultures to have dinner together, their personal assumptions about time and contingent values would likely ruffle the other party’s feathers. Another example is assumptions made under the premise of the American Dream. Americans are brought up to believe that if you work hard and never give up, you will be financially successful. This bleeds into interpreting the wealthy as deserving of their money through dedication and the poor as deserving of their poverty through laziness. Are these assumptions reliably true? When the economy crashed and this reality became inaccessible, many adults raised on the American Dream gave themselves to drugs and alcohol to quell the pain of a failure they did not have control over (“How America Rates.” The Week, November 2015 – insert JPG graphic of article clipping here). Please see Lenses of Perception for more culture-based examples.
In order to uncover our assumptions, I’m going to (ironically) invite you to assume they exist and begin looking for them. In the detective hunt for these ways of seeing/being, openness and curiosity are essential. By regarding our beliefs with curiosity around where they came from and what they implore us to be, we can release/alter concepts that do not serve us and open ourselves up to new ways of being and seeing the world.
An identity is _____ (Artist, Female, Tall, Bad at math, Caucasian, Agnostic)
- While attributes like those listed above are highly relevant to your worldview and contribute to your values/beliefs/dreams, are they truly who/what you are? We are attached to defining ourselves in a translatable manner, and therefore cling to concepts like these. But what happens when we strip away all of these components? If there is still a you when these concepts are gone, who it that you? I know for a fact that I am much more than a body, a gender, or a skill set. In some scenarios the labels and broad categories of identity can dictate our actions. I see many limitations in a reality of consciously making a decision based on the fact that I am defined by society as Caucasian female. Ideally my choices arise from a purer place than the expectations of these labels. This is not to claim that our choices are not influenced by these elements of our identity, because they definitely are, and noticing how is important to understanding what choices we want to make. Who are you without labels?
- Another way to use the labels in your life to your advantage is to inspect what you do, and do not, like about them (to varying degrees). Perhaps you enjoy identifying with these labels. If you go through the labels in your life, what do you like and dislike about what they imply about you? Consider gender, ethnicity, politics, age, stereotypes, profession, relationships, skills, and religion (to name a few). As you unpack each, it likely holds a spectrum of the rainbow, rather than black or white.
Money = Success
- We all want to be successful, but what constitutes success? The prominent theme of success in media is often financial wealth. Success is important to fostering meaning but in a totally different vein from correlating it with money (as anything regarding wealth past meeting our basic needs falls out of the realm of meaning and into the realm of pleasure, and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that either). Success as it encompasses cold, hard cash often exists in the future (rather than the now, which is where everyone is actually living their experience) and relies on achieving specific and limited goals (thus priming us for failure).
- Success as it relates to experiencing fulfillment is a way of being that is completely accessible in the present moment and only defined by YOU and not by societal pressures. This means acting in integrity with your values.
- It is useful to inspect exactly how we define success individually when we believe it is something that we want, as it reveals things we consider valuable. If you take money (and objects) out of the equation and imagine yourself at your most successful, what does that look like? When you imagine yourself successful, what are you doing and how are you focusing your time, energy, and thoughts? How does your failure relate to your success?
- When I picture myself successful, for example, I am contributing to something beyond myself, consistently fostering my skills and understanding in my topics of interest, and spending quality time with loved ones. This tells me that my definition of success includes dedication, contribution, and connection. The things that crop up here are elements that contribute to creating meaning in your life. Most likely they will be specific manifestations of the four pillars that are unique to you. Also, notice that dedication, contribution, and connection are nearly always available to you in the current moment in some capacity, which allows success to be both in the now, as well as combined with goals – see Elements/Goals.
- Discovery is a process that doesn't understand success, although success may inform discovery. How do you define success?
I Can't _____ Because _____
- There are obstacles to overcome in attaining the life we desire. Some of these are illusions based on our priorities. I invite you to question these priorities- are they really the ones you want determining the decisions you make? Some of them very well may be and it is powerful to understand what values you stand behind.
- They will think I am ______ (lazy, irresponsible, disrespectful, selfish, insane) If assumptions like these are keeping you from making changes in your life, please check out how this impacts you. These thoughts (which are not necessarily true; they are imagined possibilities) give your personal power away. By making decisions on the behalf of others’ preferences, who has control over your life? What would you do if no one could judge you?
- I cannot make enough money doing what I find fulfilling. Certainly, money provides for sustenance, shelter, and safety, and you likely have ideas about what each of those looks like beyond the most basic levels. Now, consider the cost, if any, in terms of a live well lived in meaning/purpose. Think of the expression “working for money” or “working for a living.” How does it feel to see your life lived through work, expressing yourself fully, being of service, and experiencing/expressing love?
- I suck and I will fail. Please see Fear and Self Acceptance topics. The language of “I can’t” also relates to goals. We might come up with particular goals in our life and believe that achieving them will lead to meaning/fulfillment. This framework of mind puts the creation of or access to meaning in the future instead of the present. This is not to claim that achieving these goals will not bring you meaning, rather to illustrate that often goals lead us to perceive fulfillment as inaccessible in the present moment. Please see Elements for a reframe on this idea.
Who are you beyond, and within, conventional labels? What new labels would you like to take on?
What implications of your labels would you keep, discard, or alter?
What is more important than money?
What would you do if no one could judge you?
Is doing something you enjoy or making money more important and why?
What would you do if you had no reasonable limitations?
Question everything and be open to being wrong.
Question why you believe in anything that you feel is limiting you.
Try something new: do a new activity, go to a new place or expose yourself to new ideas