It can be tough experiencing fulfillment in today’s society. Sparing you all the scientific jargon related to what it means to be a human being, we have collectively adopted some pretty distinct cultural behavioral patterns.
Cynicism is at an all-time high and given that we unconsciously model those around us, it can be difficult to adopt any other way of thinking. And once that cynicism spreads, distrust runs rampant.
In an age where trust is severely lacking, we’re constantly trying to read others in attempts to understand their motives. You can find countless videos online that showcase what it means when a guy doesn’t text his girlfriend back and why she should walk away or what it means when you get passed over for the promotion and why you should quit.
We look for ways out of doing shit.
When the possibility of failure, pain or injustice shows up, we sprint in the opposite direction like a freaking gazelle. Before we even get started or establish any momentum whatsoever, we’re already trying to let ourselves off the hook. Anything conceivable that allows us to bypass risk and become justified in our own resignation, we cling to with an impenetrable grasp.
Because this allows us to know more and live less.
The Information Age is based on a historical shift from traditional industry to information technology. Without advocating one as superior to the other, we now spend far less time in face-to-face interaction as a result. Not saying anything is right or wrong here; this is simply a by-product.
However, our insatiable craving for information is far less about learning or retrieving knowledge and more to do with our suffocating fear of failure.
Living is risking. And that scares the crap out of us.
By knowing, it’s already done. The hard part is over. We get to check out. Best of all, we don’t have to assume any risk whatsoever.
We don’t have to trust anyone if we don’t want to because we can access information, about them or about the situation at hand.
But the only way to operate without trust successfully is to avoid action altogether. And just because you become successful at not getting hurt, doesn’t mean you’ll be fulfilled. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite.
The biggest opportunity here is our cynicism has far less to do with what’s happening circumstantially and everything to do with what we do and say to ourselves.
By re-imprinting our thought patterns and making conscious decisions about what we’re going to focus on, the script can be flipped.
As if by magic, what we want to show up, shows up.
Contrast Is King
I recently was on vacation in San Diego and spent a day hiking the mountains near Mission Valley.
After a mile-long scale atop one of the hills, I arrived at the edge of a cliff and stopped to take in the view. From this perspective, I could see well into the extended wilderness and the people I saw walking on the ground level looked like ants crawling in the sand.
I began to play around with my imagination, thinking about what it would look like to see two people on the ground engaging in a fist fight from this high of view. I always hated being around fights growing up, as it often jettisoned my emotional discomfort to levels well beyond capacity.
Like the difference between ringside seats and the nosebleeds, I concluded it wouldn’t mean much to me at all being this far away. However, the same exact thing experienced at arm’s length would’ve shaken me to the core.
Consider this analogy with how you experience your own thoughts and memories.
Our internal representation of our thoughts is heavily reliant on images. We experience significant memories by magnifying its context in our minds, increasing the brightness, size, closeness and color-schemes. Whether the memory is good or bad, it’s intensified nonetheless. Conversely, if we deem the picture insignificant, we can push it further away in our head.
We have full control over this if we become aware. If the memory or image doesn’t serve us, we have the ability to shrink it down and extend it further out, as if we were viewing it from a mountain. We can’t keep the image from appearing in our minds, but we can shape and color it.
So consider these two image sets from their respective seats:
The fear of your partner leaving you, losing your business, or ending up alone — NOSEBLEEDS (shrink the image down, cut off the lights and push it far away)
A memory of when you fell in love, spent quality time with a family member, or meeting your best friend — RINGSIDE (blow it up, crank up the lighting and use all the colors in the crayon box)
Your Brain Can Read Body Language, Too
One of the most popular ways to get in front of experiencing people for who they are is by attempting to read body language.
I used to think I was pretty savvy in this area years ago. I studied every physical cue I could in efforts to better understand what people were thinking so I wouldn’t do or say anything stupid. With my desire to avoid rejection being far greater than any suggested learning curve, I got very good at this. I even got pretty savvy at managing my own body language in social settings to reflect what I wanted others to elicit from me.
However, I didn’t realize that by checking out of “performance mode” once I was alone and allowing my natural body language to take over would result in the very thing I was trying to avoid projecting.
When my body language returned to normalcy, my actual self-worth was expressed. Guess who was still taking diligent notes?
The neurological miracle responsible for every thought that was ever recorded took notice of my poor body language. And since my body was sending signals that I was in a depressed state, congruent thoughts began to run amok.
This was in extreme contrast to what my mother instilled in me as a kid. Whenever I would start crying when I was a little boy, my mom always advised me, “Look up at me.” I can still hear her voice now, as calm and consoling as it was back then. Although my mother was an excellent communicator and deeply caring parent, my mom was attempting to send my brain a command.
By lifting my head upwards, I communicate to my brain a state of empowerment. As a result, positive thoughts begin showing up in place of negative ones. Ultimately, I choose what I’m going to lean into but it’s far easier when most of what’s available is encouraging and uplifting.
“So long as we are in conflict with our body, we cannot find peace of mind.” — Georg Feuerstein
Our thoughts show up on their own volition based on the events we experience. There’s no stopping this process and we can only control what we focus on.
However, by presenting body language that’s in alignment with a particular way of being, different sets of thoughts can appear. This is characterized in a relatively new field of study known as embodied cognition, which argues that the motor system influences thought processing.
The Map Is Not The Territory
There’s a well-known presupposition in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) that metaphorically illustrates the differences between belief and reality, known as “the map is not the territory”.
Essentially, what this boils down to is what we see isn’t always what’s there.
With depression rates in America rapidly increasing (slated to become the 2nd most disabling condition in the world by 2020, behind heart disease), we can leverage this epigram in our favor.
Pain, suffering, and depression sets in when someone’s “map” doesn’t match their “territory”.
In other words, when what a person feels should be happening in their life isn’t actually happening, anguish becomes present.
“We see what we see because we miss all the finer details.” — Alfred Korzybski
When we understand that the map is indeed not the territory, we become far more grounded. We must recognize we will NEVER truly know the entire territory, only what we choose to see. We can continue to follow the current map (that was most likely forged between upbringing and early adulthood and thus, not very reliable), we can alter the map or we can rip up the map altogether and create a new one.
Many people are extremely reluctant to do this. Reason being: it challenges their entire belief system.
To quote Tony Robbins, “the strongest force in the human personality is the need to stay consistent with how we define ourselves.” Given that this is a natural tendency, like succumbing to fear, you can either give in or step out.
You either select a view that empowers you or one that handcuffs you. You choose anger or you choose gratitude. You see unfulfilled expectations or you see love.
When the loving, empathetic and understanding view is exercised at max potential, the results cannot be described with words—it’s usually just tears of joy.
It’s not always about right or wrong.
At the end of the day, everything we have come to know is constructed through our language. It’s nothing until we call it something. All the meaning we experience in life is the meaning we give it. What we say to ourselves and in what tone dictates what we experience.
Ask yourself, “What’s going well in my life?” and I bet you come up with a compelling answer.
Ask yourself, “What’s not going well in my life?” and there’s an answer for that one, too.
The answer that reigns supreme over the other dictates your fulfillment.
Create your context, magnify what you want to feel, put your body in accordance with your desired state and let go.
Watch what happens.