What if I told you that you aren’t the one making your own decisions?
Ok, now there’s a whole argument concerning determinism and randomness along with the whole metaphysical and quantum definitions of consciousness, but aside from all of that — what if you (I mean the “you” that you perceive as you) aren’t the one making decisions?
Initially, that doesn’t make sense. You might think that you’re the one making your career decisions, education choices, and other important decisions of your life — but the truth is that you’re actually not.
Brules and the Culturescape
“Don’t ever let someone tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period.”~ Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
What are you doing right now? Are you happy doing it? Do you wake up every morning asking yourself these questions? Or do you wake up, doing the same monotonous routine, repeating the things you don’t like?
When I was in 7th grade, I would get up at 5am every day. I’d learn some Rubik’s Cube algorithms or build some origami models or study for some chemistry competition that I was super excited for; regardless of what I did, I knew I was in control.
Yet — as I moved on to high school, I could feel that slowly slip away from me. That feeling of bliss was replaced by a constant struggle to be at the top, to prove myself, to be the best that I could be in front of other people.
A lot has changed for me in the past year, but today, I still see this happening to other people my age; they seem passionless. All they talk about are things like the statistics teacher coughing too much, or the math teacher being really bad. Once somebody mentions getting an internship, the other kids crowd around him or her, and then everyone’s trying to find some way to outdo that person.
That’s when I realized that society is talking through the mouths and actions of these teenagers. It wasn’t their choice to be so cutthroat competitive, it was because of societal pressure.
Every one of us has so much potential and yet we constrain ourselves to what the culturescape wants us to be. It’s crazy. Everyone in my school gets branded on what their specialty is.
For example, once you start preparing for a biology competition, you become the “bio” person and once you apply to a math program, you become the “math” person.
Once I was I was telling one of my friends over lunch about how I had replicated a machine-learning algorithm that does generative drug design and he gave me a weird look.:
“What does that have to do with chemistry? I thought you were the ‘chemistry’ person?”
Sometimes it’s less obvious than what you might see in a competitive high school, but it’s still true that each of us constrains ourselves to how we think society sees us.
The rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. The “smart” stay “smart” and the “dumb” stay “dumb.” Using Naveen Jain’s terminology from Moonshots, we’re acting out of a mindset of scarcity, not abundance. We act as though there’s a lack of potential and a lack of resources; yet, the honest truth is that a 6th grader can learn machine learning and completely understand it, online, for free.
I recently read the book Ultralearning, by Scott Young. Young was able to complete 33 MIT courses in one year. If one was to succumb to the rules and standards of the culturescape, then that would mean that you would have had to be 18 and go to MIT to actually accomplish such a feat.
Ok – so now you know that you aren’t defined by the rules and the identity that society pushes onto you, how do you realize your potential and define who you actually are for yourself?
There are three main ways to do this:
Habits and blissipline
There’s a whole science around habits, but one thing Vishen touched on which has changed the way I approach habits is creating “set points.”
For example, say that your goal is to wake up at 6 a.m., but one day you get up at 7 a.m. instead. What many people do is beat themselves up, pushing themselves into a negative feedback loop that causes regression rather than progression (I believe that this is based on another ‘brule’ in society; that progress must be in the form of constant linearity – it doesn’t.) Instead, the setpoint and correction mechanism is more realistic and works much better. It allows you to work your way back towards your goal if you slip, by setting an immediate goal that is slightly more ambitious than the set point.
For example, if your goal is to get up at 6 a.m., but then you get up at 6:30 a.m., then the next day you should aim to get up at 5:45 a.m.
This concept is crazy and yet, it’s probably one of the most actionable items you can take away from this article.
What if I told you that visualizing, and I mean just visualizing positive images of your future with your eyes closed, could actually make a positive change in your life?
I first saw examples of this in James Doty’s book, Into the Magic Shop. If you aren’t familiar with the book, Professor Doty is a professor at Stanford University who devoted his life to studying the science of meditation and compassion.
But he didn’t start out in the best of situations; born into poverty in a conflicted household, he was able to rise above it and go to med school, become an entrepreneur, and take over the reins of his own life.
He attributes the miracles that happened in his life to his creative visualization and meditation.
Creative visualization is nothing but visualizing your goals, aspirations, and dreams for the future. This technique allows you to transcend ‘brules’ because it shows you who you really are and who you want to be, regardless of what you still don’t know about yourself.
6 Phase Meditation
This is one of Vishen’s techniques that has changed my life over the past couple of weeks. It’s more of a creative visualization technique than meditation, but it works nonetheless.
The six phases are…
- Visualizing your perfect life
- Visualizing certain aspects of your future
- Blessing (supernatural power or religious figure)
Here is a recording of the guided meditation:
My Journey So Far
I’m a 16-year-old who wants to make a positive impact on the world. This year, I’ve raised the bar for myself and far exceeded what I thought was my potential initially. But the journey has been fraught with confusion.
I’ve realized that the things holding me back are…
- I’m doubting myself and comparing myself to others
- I tie results and my work to who I am
Reading The Code of the Extraordinary Mind and understanding how to truly follow your passion while transcending the culturescape has helped me grow so much. There’s still a long way for me to go, but Vishen’s book has definitely accelerated my journey of self-growth.
(This article was originally published by Mukundh Murthy on Medium.)