Most of us will argue that on those occasions when we reach critical decision points in our life we believe they are successfully navigated. Just as important we believe the vast majority of our decisions are based upon current data, the present state of our personal affairs and how it all fits in with our perceived life goals.
Quite frankly, for many of us this is an illusion we embrace in order not to upset our sense of self and our positioning within the ‘real’ world we call ours. In reality we rarely deviate much from our present path, a path more often chosen for us by opportunity and circumstance then by directed thought and conscious decision.
When do we ever pull back and thoroughly assess where we are and what we want, not based upon debt or family pressures or even what our employment situation demands of us, but upon what we really truly desire of ourselves? Until recently, for this author at least, the honest answer was not very often.
In fact the last time I conducted this type of thorough self assessment was back in 1990 when I completely changed my career and life direction. While the decision was right for me at the time, it was now well past stale and moldy, the ‘sell by’ date long past expiration.
Since that critical juncture in my life I had not considered conducting another self assessment of this sort with any real seriousness. If anything I would engage in fantastical daydreaming about how neat this might be or how liberating living that way could be. To be frank I did not want to back myself into a emotional corner, to come to a conclusion contrary to where I was presently positioned in life, and then not follow through.
No one wishes to face their own impotence, to fail their ‘self’ and then have nowhere to hide. It is best not to have tried rather than fail and be unmasked and miserable. Sometimes we are most embarrassed when bare naked and fully exposed to our self.
This is the deeply conditioned slave mentality which I and so many others struggle with, a perspective that helps to explain quite well the present state of the zombie nation. We dull the ever present pain of our own failure with food, drink, TV, work, whatever it takes to forget if only for a moment more.
I did know that I was growing increasingly unhappy with my chosen profession and I wanted out. But like a deer in the headlights I was frozen in place and unable to make any significant decisions because of all the entanglements, real or otherwise, that I thought were tying me down.
Some I believed were financial, some physical, some emotional, but all were blown way out of proportion to the reality I was trying to avoid. One must build the walls of our own cage higher than we are willing to climb if we are to remain safely confined within our own mind.
In short I was unhappy enough to think about radical change, but just content enough (‘sated’ is probably a much better term to use here) with the status quo that I didn’t wish to upset my carefully stacked house of cards. Who really wants to gather up all their Jacks and fling them high into the air in order to see what comes up when they all fall down?
Mostly this was because I had never honestly asked myself “What it is that I desire most” or “How would I like to live”? Instead I would ask myself the normal questions society directs us towards; what is it that I want to ‘do’, or what do I want to ‘be’ when I grow up, get out of school, change careers or retire?
Think about one of the first questions you ask a stranger you are meeting for the first time in a casual social setting. Or what is asked of you during that same social function. “So….what do you do”? The honest answer is that we live in our own mental straitjacket with our body and life dragged along, securely attached via our own carefully constructed ball and chain.
For most of us the ‘life’ decision process, at least initially, works in reverse. We start off listing what it is we don’t want and move forward from there. And the number one item at the top of most lists of undesirables is the following……“I don’t wish to be poor”.
Since we are forever focused on the ‘money meme’ every decision radiates out from that central focal point. It may help to remember that the all controlling meme permeates so deeply into our childhood that the tooth fairy brings money in exchange for recently removed used body parts.
Ok……….well if I don’t wish to be poor I will ‘need’ (as opposed to ‘want’) a good education followed by a decent job to start my career, then marriage, kids, cars, house etc. Before we know it our exercise wheel is up to speed and we are off to the races on our never ending run to nowhere.
Back in 1990 I changed everything in my life after nearly two decades wasted. Because I headed off the deep end just after graduating from high school, rather than money being my central focus it was another equally damaging obsession that I revolved around. Seventeen years later, my life in tatters by my own hand, but still well along in the process of living, I struggled to move forward while balancing single parenthood demands with the need to earn a living.
The decisions I made at that point suited my life situation, not my happiness. I did what needed to be done to finish raising my son, who was then only five years of age, and to begin the process of cleaning up the mess I had created which trailed far behind me.
When the time came for my son to leave home and move on, essentially thirteen years later with me still single and uninvolved, I settled in to begin the serious work of examining the world around me, something I never fully pursued earlier since life was demanding my attention after I got my act together.
Back in 1990 after I awoke from my stupor I saw contradictions and cognitive dissonances as far as the eye could see, but I deliberately chose not to look too deep in order to maintain some semblance of stability in my son’s life, not to mention my own. It was years, actually more than a decade, before I felt stable enough to really begin to deeply examine what I perceived as wrong with the world.
Once we begin the process of questioning everything, eventually we begin to seriously question ourselves, a course of action that often derives its value from the procedure itself rather than any actual results obtained. If we find the courage to travel far enough down the rabbit hole we find ourselves face to face with……….well, with our ‘self’. It is then that we reach a decision point unlike any we have encountered up to this point in our lives.
Do we travel a path, the path, any path that ultimately frees us from ourselves (or at least gets us a little bit closer), one which opens up an entirely new panorama of choices, the road less traveled if you will? Or do we look into the abyss, experience only disorientation and fear, then rapidly retreat to the perceived safety of our existing familiar surroundings.
If we have remained in a continuous state of low level pain for a long enough period of time, the idea of making radical changes in order to relieve that pain is not as inviting as it might seem at first blush. The elevated level of pain we mentally and emotionally project will result from the change is nearly always believed to be much worse than it actually turns out to be.
A perfect example of this is the person with a nagging toothache who is frightened of the dentist. On an accumulated basis that person might experience ten times more pain over a month’s time before finally capitulating to the inevitable trip to the dentist rather than if he had just ripped the tooth out at home with some pliers. Procrastination is just as much a process of bargaining with ourselves as it is fear and consequence avoidance.
This isn’t to say that one must change everything in order to begin the process of being true to oneself. Becoming personally sovereign in the middle of an insane asylum is a journey at best and not a destination. One can never be truly clean when we wash in filthy water, but we can begin to filter the water and improve the conditions under which we bathe.
The thing is that the end result for many who go down this road is not a product of any one decision, but of a series of half steps and reluctant conclusions that lead to a fundamental recognition. Eventually we come to understand that if we are to be true to ourselves we can no longer live in the manner we currently are. It is then that we discover if we have the courage to take a chance and move deeper down into the rabbit hole, or do we scurry away back to the perceived safety of the herd’s insanity.
I say this not to be judgmental of anything the reader is or is not doing. I live in a very fragile glass house with no intention of throwing stones or examining the quality of your life’s construction. Nor do I claim to have arrived at my destination and thus am qualified to give advice and direction. What I am doing works for me, and most likely will not work for you precisely because we are all unique individuals with distinctively different needs and life situations.
While I have clearly stated that personal sovereignty is a ‘State of Mind’, meaning we adopt a particular mindset that fully encompasses total personal responsibility for our ‘self’, it also requires that we be more centered than most of us presently are. If we are unhappy with our lives, or if we are in denial about our unhappiness, which simply pushes us further and further away from our center, trying to adopt the personal sovereignty mindset is nearly impossible.
Take that first step; reassess where you are and why you aren’t somewhere else. Look deeply, ask those difficult questions of your ‘self’, push your outer boundaries and scale those walls. You have little to lose and everything to gain…..including your centering.