What is your idea of a good live? Much of our behaviour and whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’, is defined by three things:
1. The government: Is it allowed/legal?
2. Culture: Is it normal/accepted?
3. Family: Is it expected from your background?
At what age you may drink, how fast you may drive, even if you can be openly gay or which things you can say out loud, differs from country to country. Same goes for culture and even your family background defines what is expected from you and what not. But what is expected from ourselves? When you leave all the opinions and expectations of the outside world behind, some very astounding truths about yourself and what you really want can arouse. So let’s start digging.
HOW MUCH OF WHAT YOU DO IS FULLY BASED ON WHAT YOU THINK IS GOOD?
In the Western world we believe we live in enormous freedom, but how much of what we do, is actually based on our own free will? Without even knowing it, we blindly follow loads of visible and invisible laws without considering if we agree or not. We go to school, we get a degree, we get a job, we get a car, we buy a house and live there with a partner, we get some children and maybe a pet, we go on our annual holidays, we have some dinner parties with friends, after we retire we start to pursue a hobby and then, we die. This is a very stereotypical way of living I just described here, but more often than we think, we follow these structures when making big life decisions or when we judge our own or someone else’s quality of life. But what if we didn’t have these general structures? What if we didn’t follow the rules set by other people? What if we made the rules ourselves?
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” – Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor, 121-180 A.D.)
I quit art school. Moreover, I quit having a very adventurous and ‘cool’ lifestyle, living abroad in a big city studying at a very prestigious art school. Next week I’ll tell you more about the reasons behind my decision, but for now we’re only looking at doing things our own way, no matter what the reason is. So, I went back home to live with my parents again, planning to start at a middle of the road university near my hometown. Not very cool indeed. Not much like what all the people who admired my courage expected from me. Not very heroic. But it was very me. I didn’t listen to what people advised me to do (at least finish this year), I didn’t do as I told everyone before I left (never come back again, duh!), and I completely ‘failed’ at making the image others had of me ‘true’. But if I would have continued, I doubt if it would be the true me, the full me, that others would’ve perceived.
IF ANYTHING WAS POSSIBLE, LEGAL AND NORMAL, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
The decision to quit, was enormously difficult. And I can guarantee you that it is very hard to follow your inner compass, or even to know where it’s guiding you in the first place. The voice you need to listen to only whispers very softly and insecure, whereas all of the others shout confident and loudly. Be cautious and listen deeply. What voice have you been shushing down because other voices we’re screaming so loudly?
Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor and philosopher that lived thousands of years ago, had a very good way of describing why we shouldn’t get distracted by others and follow our own path instead. He urged that we should allow ourselves to have faith in our own ideas/opinions and that we shouldn’t get upset or change our minds because of the ideas or criticism of others. He said:
“when what you’ve done is good, take responsibility for it and let those critics be. They have their own inner compass to follow. Don’t follow their compass, but go your own way. Only then you’ll act according to the true Nature.”
And it does feel so natural when you do so. The interesting thing about Aurelius way of telling us about ‘following our hearts’, is that he saw it as a natural law (like how bees transport seeds and trees provide oxygen). Seen from a perspective like this, you could say that Marcus Aurelius told us that doing things our own way, is an almost divine law we should follow. Putting yourself first and do anything you wish (no matter what), could be seen as straight egoism, but I don’t think he meant it that way. I think he thought we should follow what we think is good to do. And yes, no matter what. This could perfectly be altruistic, like helping others or setting aside your dreams for a while. It just has to come from your own free will to do so and not from some kind of governmental institution or your culture.
“Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will bubble up, if you’re willing to dig.” – Marcus Aurelius
But what if you can’t hear what your inner voice is telling you just yet? More on that next week, when I’ll give you some strategies to listen deeply, so you can find out what your inner voice really wants.
Define your idea of good and become devoted to it. Don’t do things because you should, but because you want to. Don’t follow the rules, or at least not if your only intention is ‘following the rules’. Do it because you think is good and if not, don’t do it.
I’ve had this compass since I was very little and I have always been interested in the importance of direction. I mean, we can get lost in so many ways, not only on the streets. Ask yourself ‘where do I need to go’? Your inner compass will answer.
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