Are We As Free As We Think?
The biggest obstacles are self-imposed and we need introspection
I am Kenta. I share my learnings on improving the quality of experience through this newsletter.
"The person is free who lives as they wish, neither compelled, nor hindered, nor limited - whose choices aren't hampered, whose desires succeed, and who don't fall into what repels them. Who wishes to live in deception-tripped up, mistaken, undisciplined, complaining, in a rut? No one. These are base people who don't live as they wish; and so, no base person is free." - Discourses, Epictetus
Are you as free as you think? How much are you free?
It's rare for us to feel any factor does not limit us. We can do some things. But, we can't do some other things.
We can do some things because we have done them in the past or know what it's like to do those things. Because we think we can do them, we do them.
Then we have things we can't do. The reason could be money, time, motivation, relationships, lack of skills, etc.
I have said: "It's just not my thing." They feel something out of our control. Something external. Sometimes, we wish things were different. But it's how things are.
I encountered this line from Naval. It questioned my usual way of mental processing.
In any situation in life, you only have three options. You always have three options. You can change it, you can accept it, or you can leave it. What is not a good option is to sit around wishing you would change it but not changing it, wishing you would leave it but not leaving it, and not accepting it. It's that struggle, that aversion, that is responsible for most of our misery. The phrase that I probably use the most to myself in my head is just one word: "accept." - Almanack of Naval Ravikant
I used to hate school work even though I liked self-learning. I wished I could enjoy studying, but it just wasn't my thing. I was saying that to myself. Because of my circumstances, dropping out wasn't my option. I had to do the work whether I liked it or not.
The quote made me realize I wasn't picking any of those options. I was just wishing the situation was different without changing it.
Then I tried to accept the situation and change my attitude towards studying. I said to myself; I can enjoy studying. I tried to find joy in the subjects I am learning.
After deliberately finding joy in studying, school work felt more enjoyable. It's still not like doing school work is my favorite thing in the world. But at least, I can find joy in it now. After all, I like learning.
The biggest obstacle was my assumptions about myself.
Just like my case, the most significant obstacles we face are often self-imposed.
It is rarely 'it's objectively impossible to do it.' It is almost always 'I don't think I can do it.'
Sure, we all have preferences and specialties. I can't deny that. But especially when we have to do something we don't want to do, it's not helpful to wish things were different without accepting or changing the situation.
Developing the Habit of Self-examination
Life is a single-player game from the beginning to the end. You were born as you and you will die as you. We don't get to be in someone else's body and compared their experiences with ours.
So it's easy to feel the way we perceive the world is the only way.
I felt everyone shared the same problems and worries. It's true that many on earth share the same issues and perspectives. But many others don't share the same outlook of the world.
One way to be someone else is by comparing yourself with your past-self.
What we notice is that we have changed a lot. 18-year-old me's assumptions about how things work feel pretty ridiculous. Then, why not expect our current beliefs about things to change?
We want to develop the habit of introspection.
Whenever you think you can't do something, ask yourself if that's true. Or that's your fixed opinion of it. You can at least give it the old college try.
Trust yourself but don't blindly trust every one of your thoughts and feelings. Questioning your opinions is the process of getting to know yourself.
Rational and Intentional Optimist
Examine your intentions. Then be rationally and intentionally optimistic.
Thinking we can do better than we believe would produce the best performance regardless of the fact.
We might fail terribly, but that's still better than thinking we can't do the task. We might be more than we think we are.
Something like affirmations works for this reason. Affirmation is intentionally being in the positive mode.
In the same way, intend to be more present and enjoy life more, and life would become more enjoyable.
I still have a long way to go, but I am more mindful than, say, a year ago. When I rush from one task to another, I can notice that more, and I deliberately slow down.
Because I couldn't imagine my mind being this calm in the past, I think I can be even more mindful in the future.
There's still a long time ahead of me, and you to be mindful.
It is getting more and more critical in modern days to train our minds like we train our bodies. Self-awareness is training. Being optimistic is training.
You can build habits that build you by the repetition of unlearning and relearning.
Are you the person who is free?
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