By Roland Watson
So far in Part 1 of the website, I have discussed behavioral form, fighting form, self-knowledge, and identity. Now, and with all of this as background, we can begin to address the question of purpose: of what you should do with your life. In other words, how you can find, and fulfill, your own unique purpose?
What I am talking about here is your process of personal development - in the simplest terms, how you change as you age. Obviously, you change physically, and in many different ways, but this is not what I am driving at. I'm talking about behavior, your behavior, and how you organize it into an overriding goal, or goals - you don't have to be limited to just one - for your life.
Your underlying goal, and you might never have thought of it this way, is to fight form and reclaim your free will. This is the prerequisite.
Once you have done this, you can use your free will to develop into a unique individual, who has a vision for his or her life, and the confidence to achieve it.
This is in fact the greatest challenge in your life. There is no greater task than finding this vision, and then bringing it into existence. There is nothing more difficult, nor more rewarding, than creating your own life.
Development is change, but what changes a human? In general terms, there are three separate processes by which people can be changed, which I term natural, unnatural, and purposeful.
Natural change is just that, change that occurs following the rhythms and patterns of nature. A clear example here is the aging process. As you grow older your genetic programming alters your body chemistry, particularly your output of hormones, and this changes you. Natural change is the normal progression a person takes through life.
Another type of natural change derives from your conditioning, where you adapt over time to the what is happening in your environment. For instance, constant exposure to love, beginning with through your parents, will make you a loving individual. Natural change is the outcome of gradual adaptation.
Unnatural change, on the other hand, is the product of forced adaptation. This usually occurs in a short time frame, such as the change that results from dramatic incidents and confrontations. I imagine you can think of examples of this from your own life. We all experience the dramatic, and which may alter our lives forever.
I also term unnatural the change that occurs gradually through exposure to negative environmental influences. For example, long-term exposure to hate and violence warps one's views such that they - hate and violence - become normal and acceptable. This is obviously the case in areas with long-standing conflicts, such as those in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. However, it also applies to the violence engendered by violent films, computer games, and television programming.
As another example, long-term exposure to stress, stress caused by failing to meet societal expectations, also changes people, making them unduly worried and even neurotic. For the United States, it is no accident that many people express great anger and frustration over events and issues of small consequence. Immersion in a stress and fear-ridden society leads one to react disproportionately to the most minor of inconveniences.
The difficulty of purposeful change
Lastly, there is purposeful change, change that you set out to accomplish, by working to achieve your goals and to overcome any hurdles along the way. I now want to examine why this, purposeful personal development, is so difficult to bring about.
In the next series of articles, about chaos theory and change, I will look at this question from a technical perspective. I will discuss how different things develop, and evolve, and for the latter what is required to initiate the phase transition to a completely new form.
Here, though, I want to address the question from a broader perspective. Specifically, I want to look at some of the other things that you will be faced with as you pursue your personal development, including barriers that might hold you back.
The simple explanation for why personal development is difficult to achieve is that since it took a long time to make you what you are, it will obviously take some time to reverse or modify this and make you into something new. To start, you have a whole lifetime of social conditioning to confront. And, let's not forget, personal development is work!
At a deeper level, though, personal change means changing your identity. It means leaving your current identity, including your characteristics and the history that go with them, behind. However, this is an almost impossible task. Your past is always with you. Because of this, personal change requires profound self-knowledge, and tremendous self-discipline.
Actually, there's even more to it than this. Accomplishing personal change also requires that you accept, and adapt to, the basic existential condition of universal chaos.
You should not have faith in fantasy, in sugarcoated fairy tales. Instead, you should accept reality, the reality that our lives are uncertain, and that they are governed by chance and probability.
There is no such thing as good luck. You can say that someone who has a series of good probabilities occur, concerning events over which he or she has absolutely no influence, is lucky. But, that is all in the past. There is no tie between that series of good probabilities, and what will happen in the future, at all.
On the other hand, you should have faith in the idea that if you work hard, things will work out for you. You might not get exactly what you wanted or planned, but you will get something good. As you work to achieve your goals, new opportunities, and allies, will present themselves. This is guaranteed. It is the positive consequence of chance and uncertainty.
This also means that you should grasp opportunity. Don't hesitate, and lose it. You need to be prepared - remember the adage, chance favors the prepared mind, which is the same as saying that you need to be open. You need to be open and ready to accept any new opportunities, and people, who come along.
Fear of the unknown
Unfortunately, though, even this is not enough. To change you will also have to overcome your fear of the unknown, and this is perhaps the greatest hurdle of all.
Indeed, this also raises the question: To what extent are we socialized to want certainty, versus innately - instinctively - desire it? In other words, to what extent is fear of the unknown a consequence of behavioral form?
Babies, of all animal species, do not know fear until they experience pain. Also, they do not know of death, much less fear it, until they learn of its existence.
Of course, once you do recognize the prospect of death, this naturally leads to fear, or at least to a little sadness and anxiety.
I want a certain food supply - granted. But do I also want or need a definite purpose, including both for me and the universe? Do we live out of fear, which is a negative approach to life, or curiosity, which is a positive one? The behavior of babies would suggest it is the latter. Life is a positive, and our quest for purpose is just one element of this.
Follow your impulses
One practical way to overcome your fear of the unknown is to follow your impulses. The key here is to recognize that change is healthy. It is actually absolutely necessary to living a full life.
You should shake yourself up periodically, reinvent yourself every few years. For instance, if you stop getting new challenges at your job, find another. We all need this change to keep growing, to prevent stagnation.
The nature of the change is not even that important. You do not need to move up, or follow some carefully charted course. The only thing that is important is that you change, and if you do not have any idea of how, then just follow an impulse. Don't agonize about where you are in your life and what you should do. Just act! Do something; anything. Keep moving. Wait for a strong impulse, any impulse, and follow it.
Still, there is the question of how do you take that step, the one over the precipice? The only guidance I can offer, if you will forgive me a personal anecdote, can be found in the following story.
When I was a boy, I used to go to summer camp. One year at camp, when I was eleven years old, we made an excursion to a nearby river, to an area where there was a series of cliffs. Everyone took turns jumping into the river. There were ledges leading up to about twenty feet, and then a gap to another which was forty feet above the water. I got comfortable with the smaller leaps, and then decided to go for the top. What the hell.
Standing at the edge, it was a huge abyss. I had no idea if I would make it, if I would break my legs or even drown. But something clicked in my mind. I realized that whatever happened actually was not that important. In order to live, I had to take that step.
Having reached that point, it was the easiest thing in the world to do. I walked forward, and rocketed down. I slammed into the water - my feet were bruised - but what exhilaration! It is amazing how exhilarating life can be, if you let it. The feelings we can experience, they are unbelievable.
But, you have to take that step, and that step is free will. Once you realize that, though, it's easy. We all have the courage. Walk to the edge sometime, and find yours.
To close this article, for another perspective on the idea of impulse and spontaneity, it is worth recalling the issue of control. We already saw that humans are not controllable. One of the consequences of this is that you should not always try to control yourself. This will only lead to frustration. It is essential to let go sometimes, to really let go. And, you should not feel guilty about it afterwards. That's just form. Social disapproval of your expression of liberty.
Finally, it is much easier to change if you let the passage of time be your ally. For example, if you start jogging or lifting weights today, you will be strong in a year. If you begin studying French or Spanish, or even Chinese, in one year you will be conversational and in a couple basically fluent. If you attend night school, you will have a degree in two to four years.
The important thing to recognize is that time will pass, these future dates will arrive, and in the process you will have acquired these attributes. You will have changed, and for the better.
In the next article, and with all of this as background, I will examine how you can develop a vision for your life.