I was raised in an impeccably positive household. I never heard anybody putting someone down. I never heard complaints about someone being more well-off or arguments about mistrust or misunderstanding. Smiling, complimenting, helping others and ultimately, having good intentions was a vital baseline for the principles that I lived by, growing up.
Despite this making up the foundations, who I am today isn’t defined by those past teachings. In my beginnings of adulthood, pernicious influences and dark natured experiences began to seep into a properly-maintained mental fortress. Like a tornado devastating the brickwork, my truths and principles were collapsing.
Following the disastrous events, I could not rebuild my conceptual fortitude with the same positive and frankly, innocent angle I once obtained. I found myself constructing my worldview with a new, darker outlook with hard-hitting truths that I explored brick, by brick…
I. You can’t control the temperamental dispositions of those around you.
‘Treat others how you wish to be treated, and in turn, they will treat you the same.’
If you’ve heard this line uttered, it’s probably due to an unexpected influence within history. Although your life may not have any direct bearing on religion, the story of Jesus inspired many, indirectly, to implement the nature of good-will. ‘What goes around, comes around’ is another phrase that stems from this same influence.
But this is simply not the case with humans. There are far too many variables that can take place in one life for you to be able to predict or even expect, good-will to ever be returned.
People are lazy. But understandably so. Our modern life demands us to be focused on the day-to-day and unfortunately, ourselves. We are demanded to make something of/for ourselves and to protect it at all costs before it’s taken from us by the competition. There is very little time to be fanatical about others when they spend such little time doing exactly that.
Nevertheless, there are outliers. There are individuals who choose to act on helping others, maintaining a positive and compassionate outlook and care for those around them._ These people should not be taken lightly. _They place effort in doing this, even if they believe that it comes to them effortlessly. They have subconsciously chosen to go against the common mindset and do what is in their power, to serve those that need it most: other humans.
Understanding this can give you the ability to spot these outliers, and can internally inspire yourself to behave in this way also. Acting without expectations, serving without demands and caring without want for the same can make way for an unstoppable character, filled with unlimited energy.
II. You can be easily labelled by the majority.
You: as an individual, actually have very little power in the ability to define your individuality. Labels and personality expectations are set by those who you do not know personally. As you mature, you start deciding your stance of certain beliefs and the position in which you choose to place yourself in society. But outside sources will categories these intricate and specific decisions and give others permission to believe they understand all of your perspective without having to query deeper.
In loss of hope, you will succumb to the majority and grant permission for the instant gratification of popular acceptance to take place. You will not truly feel yourself, but you will immediately feel like you belong. Deep down however, you know this doesn’t quite sit right. You desire close relationships to talk through psychological obstacles and inventive ideas; something you cannot get by conforming to group mentality.
Marcus Aurelius once said ‘The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.’ Be unique. Fight for your own right to be an individual and do not allow others to negatively undermine or label your own personal beliefs and life decisions. Its a long and hard battle, but the mental clarity and deep connections you will make with those who align with and truly understand you is worth every fight.
III. People will try to gain power over you and manipulate you.
A side-effect that comes from years of believing that the world is simply full of good intentions and compassionate people, is being incredibly vulnerable to those who wish to harm you. You can misplace trust in those who aren’t to be trusted and you can become an addict to those who sound commanding. Learning about the truth of these characters can be a hard pill to swallow.
To many, power is a goal and an approach which they practice on countless situations. They seek to destroy your good intentions, look for your weaknesses and court to them to gain power over your decisions. However, these actions of manipulation can often be rationally understood. As Niccolò Machiavelli once put it: ‘Men are driven by two principal impulses, either by love or by fear.’ Many of those who seek to harm you, are inspired out of fear. Your display of content or confidence in approach to life can intimidate those who lack that similar attitude. The fear of losing stature or relationships through exposure of their ill-means drives them to, rather than improve themselves, control and put down those who display anything they lack.
Know thy self. Know your weaknesses and let nothing move you. You must master your own domain and be aware of where you can be targeted. Becoming comfortable with exposure is a masterful way of avoiding the control others seek to employ over you. You must seek solace in knowing yourself, pushing your abilities to their limits and recognising that your flaws only allow your strengths to flourish.
IV. You believe your own lies.
The mind has an interesting control over itself. Convincing it that something was to be true, does not take much action. To lie, on several occasions, the same lie is one crippling way for you to invent a new truth for it to succumb to. Think of yourself rewriting over pages that had already been written and re-publishing that book; only to then destroy the original copy.
Although this is a foolish and often quite dangerous way to approach situations, this can actually be used to your own advantage. Horace once said ‘Rule your mind or it will rule you.’ Use this blinding technique to tell yourself the lie that you’re better than you already are. In doing so, you have already begun the path to believing the lie and living it. Your new life tied to this lie, will start to feel more desirable. Your decisions you make from then onward will serve this lie; which, in time, will transform into your new truth.
V. There is no ‘one thing’ to improve.
Self-improvement is an idealised approach that many people undergo. They seek shortcuts and hacks to evolve dramatically. Often they go looking for answers but look to external sources when doing so.
In your lifelong journey, you can be swayed by so-called ‘smarter’ people who have all the unlocks and keys to how you need to go about ‘succeeding’ in the world. Don’t be tempted by their apparent secrets. All the information you will ever need is out there. In the people you meet, and in the experiences you go about.
Reflection, self-awareness and a certain degree of persistent investigating is all you need. You must use all these constantly, with a high-level of self-discipline to win at your life. Notice the word I chose to use: ‘your’. This is your life and what success and improvement mean are chosen by you. It will be a long and uphill battle that you must fight with all your might; but fear not, the reward of unexpected, new ways of thinking and a pronounced contentment will make the fight — very much worth it.
VI. You have an addictive nature.
Humans are habitual creatures. You thrive off routine and your life spins on a cycle which you gracefully accept. These habits are inspired by simple actions, but they quickly lead to major behaviours which can impact your life decisions. If you allow yourself to taste one behaviour, your addictive nature can takeover, clouding both logic and reason.
There is no choice as to whether you can be addicted or not. _You have an addictive nature. _The only variable you have is choosing _what _you are addicted to. Seek out behaviours and lifestyle choices that you feel will make you a better person and choose to become addicted to those things.
VII. You are a very small person, in a very large world.
This is a scary thought that you can never be free from. The world around you is almighty. Its overwhelming number of species, societies, cultures, decisions, land and open waters can be a beauty to marvel at; but can also be a powerfully belittling feeling.
You are small and insignificant in the broader aspect of nature. You choose to allow this to target your self-confidence and belonging in this world. You are free and as so, you have the right to explore this vast and incredible world. There is so much to see, hear, feel, taste and experience.
‘Belie your national defects.’ Baltasar Gracian advises an unparalleled tactic. You must learn to become internationally fluid. Do not accept the norms of your given society and do not conform to the idea of blind patriotism if you have yet to see what else is out there. The old saying goes ‘we fear most what we don’t understand’. Well, place yourself in _culture shock and a_llow the world to teach you what it is that you don’t understand.
VIII. You are alone.
In your fight for freedom and true love for life, you must realise that you are alone in your fight. No one has any vested interest in doing everything for you, which is especially the case if you yourself are not investing all your energy in this battle. The dark fact is, even those closest to you can only do so much to help you, for everyone has their own demons in which they have to spend some time fighting. Dale Carnegie actually stated that ‘Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.’
You have friends, you have family, but you also have yourself. This is the very individual that suffers the consequences of every bad decision you make and feels the ecstatic joy after every success. You are alone because no one else can truly empathise with every single emotion you go through in your life. This is a daring call to action for you to accept your loneliness and tackle it head on. Become comfortable with the self and understand the means to develop a utterly self-sufficient nature.
IX. You will fail.
To be successful in life, you are often demanded to match great expectations; either by internal or external pressures. In attempting to do so, you will hit obstacles and often quite brutal hardships. At these stages, you will often choose the route of telling yourself that you have indeed, failed.
But this is not where your journey ends. Thomas Edison once said,_ ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’ _You are, in fact, even closer to succeeding and completing your project than you were before hitting the obstacle you recently faced. Understand that in tackling this mighty trial, you are becoming stronger and more capable for every upcoming challenge. Soon enough you’ll start to gain the knowledge, through your experiences, that you actually grow further when you seek out these challenges and tackle them early — and with all your vigour.
X. You are mortal.
Somehow the most obvious truth is also the most emotionally devastating reality that you must face in life. Your mortality looms over you like a dark black cloud that when at its worst can cause you great misery. On days in which you are at your highest emotion, you ignore this impending fate and move ignorantly through life. Even at the sight or utterance of death, you flinch and bury yourself in a duvet of positive ideals.
But ignoring the thought of your mortal end has its consequences. You are in fact, by turning a blind eye to the powerful truth, actually disregarding the incredible driving force that comes hand-in-hand with the acceptance of death…
Seneca once said, ‘It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.’ And this is exactly what you are doing. Whilst you may think that you are putting off the inevitable; you are really wasting precious, unretrievable time. Coming to terms with the hardest of all facts of life, you are enabling yourself the faculty to be focused forever without burning out.
In you, is the ability to accomplish a great ordeal of things. These proud achievements can sometimes even sit long in the minds of many; long after your death. Marcus Aurelius said ‘What we do now echoes in eternity.’ Every decision and action you commit must lean on this understanding. Make peace with your final enemy and grasp onto the truth that having an end to life lends motivation to achieve a lot in your given time. The truth is hard, but it’s ultimately empowering if you embrace it.
You are mortal. You will die.
But you will live first. So live a full life.