It is often difficult to distinguish between who we are, and who we’ve learned to be.
To begin to understand something, ANYTHING, I would suggest first understanding the nature of that thing. By nature I mean the underlying patterns of behavior and purpose of existence.
For instance, take a car. What is it’s nature… hmm… Well, first off it transports people. It does not move by itself, and only functions when someone uses it (a tool). It is also relatively sturdy and reliable. So it’s nature is as a reliable tool of transportation. It it is used as such, it will live a long and fruitful life. But if any of the aspects of its nature are violated, it will suffer. If it is not relied upon (and so not maintained) it will rust and slowly deteriorate. If it is not used as a tool, and left to drive itself, it will crash. If it is not used for transportation (maybe you decide to camp out in it) the battery will drain. It was built with a purpose and functions best within the perimeters of that purpose.
Now consider… what’s your nature? What do you do for a living? For fun? What are some recurring themes in your life?What you LIKE can be a consideration, but what is REALITY will give you a better idea of your current nature. Maybe you wont like it, but don’t worry, humans are capable of change!
Taking myself as an example… I work as a webmaster at a small company. I like all sorts of hobbies and learning things. My life goes through cycles of laziness/depression and productivity/excitement. So the webmaster and hobbies suggests that my nature is to think and learn. My cycles suggest to me that I am cyclical in nature. So my nature would be something like… one who thinks and learns steadily intellectually, but goes through cycles emotionally. That seems vague but accurate.
Now I can decide, do I like my nature? Well, the emotional cycles are not my favorites, but I do see them as natural and fostering of spiritual growth… so yea, I guess I do!
Doing this exercise, if you find out that your nature fosters poor relationships or is heavily influenced by something you deem negative, have heart! Identifying the problem is half the battle.
Here is something that I’ve been doing recently that has been a great mental technology for my decision making.
Next time you’re not sure what to do (maybe it’s whether you should go out or stay in, if you should talk to someone or not, spend more time on something, even what to wear that day) IMAGINE YOURSELF IN THIRD PERSON. This means imagine you’re standing on the other side of the room, or in the drivers seat of the car, WHEREVER, and imagine yourself as you would appear to others.
Now, from that perspective, KEEPING IN MIND YOUR VALUES AND WHAT KIND OF PERSON YOU WANT TO BE, ask yourself… What should I do? The answer should come to you much more clearly than if you stay up in your head.
This is a great technique to use when trying to figure out if your BEING LAZY or if you’re RELAXING, which, for me, is a dangerously thin line.
In this crazy world we live in, it’s often hard to know where you stand. The road of life is never steady, and we can rarely see very far down it. This has never been more true than today. With the job market uncertain and cultures rapidly shifting there is very little that anyone can hope to rely on. I mean, college degrees no longer offer any guarantee of a job! And, while people don’t blame themselves, seeing as how everyone is having these difficulties, it can still put a dent in your self-esteem. But I have the remedy for all these potential woes! Just remember:
WHO YOU ARE is (vastly) more important than WHAT YOU HAVE.
To clarify, WHAT YOU HAVE means what you have accomplished, achieved, earned, etc. as well as what you own. It means money, of course, but you can also have (or not have) the respect of others, a healthy physical body, love, a purpose to your life etc. But WHAT YOU HAVE DOESN’T MATTER, because all of those things can be lost. And when/if they are lost it will leave you wondering what you’re worth, if that is the means by which you define yourself.
In contrast WHO YOU ARE is something that can never be taken from you without your cooperation, regardless of circumstances. If you are a loving person, you will be loving if you are poor or rich, healthy or sick. If you are a righteous person, you will always do the right thing. If you are a courageous person, you will be brave, regardless of whether you’re facing an enemy army or terminal illness. The circumstances don’t matter IT’S HOW YOU RESPOND TO CIRCUMSTANCES that shows your true quality.
What you have can be taken from you in a blink of an eye, and if you don’t know who you are (or if you think that you are the things you have) you will find yourself in despair. I have heard many stories of financially wealthy people who build their fortune, only to loose it all in unfortunate circumstance. Often they just get back on their feet and EARN THEIR FORTUNE BACK AGAIN. It’s because successful is something that they are, not something that they have. I bet if you threw Richard Branson out on the streets PENNILESS AND NAKED he would be a billionaire again in just a few years! It’s because that is who he is at the core of his being. And like I said, WHO YOU ARE is something that cannot be easily lost.
So discover, or better yet CHOOSE, who you are. Pick a one (or a couple if you’re ambitious) virtuous qualities by which to live your life, (Are you: LOVING? DISCIPLINED? MOTIVATED? RESOURCEFUL? COURAGEOUS? CREATIVE? SPONTANEOUS? COMPASSIONATE? CONSIDERATE? UNSTOPPABLE?!) and start living your life by that quality NOW!
For me I chose DISCIPLINED recently. Now, whenever I am considering being lazy and ignoring something I should do, I remember WHO I AM. I am ONE WHO VALUES AND EMBODIES DISCIPLINE, regardless of the circumstances (including how I’m feeling that day). Discipline has always been a quality that I’ve wanted to associate with, but each person is unique in what they bring to this world and to the lives of those around them. I wonder…
What virtue will you choose to embody?