The age old philosophical question – how should we act within the world? Have you ever felt unsure of how to act, that is, what you should move towards, and what you should move away from? I know I have.
To determine how we must act, we must uncover what it is that we value for each action we take is goal-directed, explicitly or implicitly – pursuing a career for example. We are pursuing a career because we value the career itself (psychologist for example), and/or the benefits derived from that career – money and/or status, for example.
I used to feel incredibly motivated and ambitious, so much so that I was rigid and regimented to an autistic degree (I have ASD also, which helped). This ambition has served me well, and without it I wouldn’t be where I am today. However, this ambition has improved my life to such a dramatic degree (I originated in a world of pain and suffering, so I had an incredibly strong motivator – pain) that my life is comfortable and easy, to the point where my ambition is lacking to say the least.
Why is this?
Well, I am happy, wealthy, pursuing a career in clinical psychology, I live in a lovely place, I have good friends (though I am in the continual process of broadening my social circle), and my future wealth has been taken care of to the degree that the world does not fall apart, that is. So, in light of this, what ambition should I have if my life is already great, and I am content, happy and at peace? Ambition is a result of desire, and desire is a result of wanting something other than what one has right now. Of course, there is what you have right now, and what you will have in the future if you don’t maintain that – for example muscle mass. You may have spent years building a muscular physique, but during lockdown if you don’t continually make deposits in the bank of muscle hypertrophy, you will lose muscle mass and then you will turn to dust because you don’t even lift anymore (DYEL, bro?).
Determining our Values
To determine how we must act, we must first determine what we value, though this is no easy task. Some may say, Jordan Peterson, for example, that our values are evident in our behaviours, and yes this may be true, but first let us investigate. If I exercise 6x/week, one could infer that I value either the results of physical exercise, and/or the process of engaging in exercise – running or lifting weights, for example. If I am continually learning to increase my knowledge of the world, and as a result, increasing my ability to act within the world because of this increased knowledge, one may infer that I care about education. If I make investments and are engaging in continual learning of investing and economics, one may infer that I care about my wealth, now and in the future. If I spend a lot of time socialising, cultivating connections and fostering intimacy and love, one could infer that I value these things. You get the point.
But what if your actions aren’t in alignment with who you want to be?
What is from your behaviours one could infer a type of person, or a type of life that doesn’t resonate with you deep down in your heart of hearts? Is that all there is, are you doomed, or is there something malleable about you that could be tended to in order to create a different outcome, that is to say, a different life and a different person in the future? Of course you can, but you must change how you act, and to determine how we must act we must determine what our future state, that is to say, what kind of life we would like in the future, to parameterise our behavioural choices.
Who do you want to be?
For me, I want to be the father that I never had, and I want to be a resourceful and supportive individual, community member, and friend. So, what are the characteristics of this person? Well, a king, also known as the divine masculine energy, in my view, has the following attributes:
- Kind and empathetic
- Socially connected, and socially reciprocal
- Emotionally intelligent
- Can maintain order, but can also innovate and not allow order to degenerate into tyranny
A supportive and strong individual and community member, in my view, also has the above attributes, in so far as social reciprocity and being able to stand on one’s own two feet are concerned.
How do you take who you want to be, and bring it into existence in the present moment?
Well, firstly you must define the activities (behaviours) that would cultivate and develop the qualities and characteristics that you wish for you future self.
For example, to be a protector each day (or 6x/week) I could engage in strenuous physical exercise to challenge my body and mind, so that when the situation arises where I must protect and defend, I possess the body and mind able to resist the force of an attacker(s).
If I wanted to be a provider and be resourceful, each day I could constantly improve my skillset to improve my ability to create wealth and generate cashflows, so that I am able to provide resources.
Or if I wanted to be emotionally intelligent, each day I could engage in introspection, journaling and reflection to understand myself, why I do what I do, why I desire particular things, and the people in my life.
So, who do you want to be, and what can you do to become that person? How will you choose to act?