When we hear about people on unemployment, looking for work, or living on the street or in a shelter, having lost their job, lost their house, or maybe working 2 or 3 minimum wage jobs for 40, 50, 60, 80, 90 hours a week, we tend to tell ourselves and each other – ‘well, they can improve their situation; they just have to set their mind to it’, and ‘they just need to learn to have a positive outlook and then good things will come to them’, or ‘all they need to do is decide to achieve more, set goals and be disciplined, and they can change their situation’, and ‘it’s their choice to be poor’, and ‘it’s their choice to be on the street‘, and ‘they only work that minimum wage job because they have no initiative’.
But, within these types of statements, are we speaking from an actual understanding of the person’s situation? Or are we just accessing ideas in our own minds, based on an opinion?
I mean it’s important that when looking at the very survival and quality of life of a fellow Human Being, that we would understand the actual reality involved in their physical circumstance of existence, and not just make stuff up in our minds. To believe in an idea or opinion about how someone ended up where they are without investigating the actual dimensions of their relationship to the system, would just be Ego and Ignorance, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it just be laziness? A statement that one is not interested in putting in the effort to investigate the actual cause of a problem? A statement that one is not interested in understanding the actuality of the reality we are in?
Here, I suggest investing in The Life and Death of an Idea series on Eqafe, which assisted me to see a perspective on Ideas vs. Reality that I had not fully considered before.
When we ourselves have achieved a certain quality of life, a certain level of income, a certain security and comfort in our own lives, it’s very easy to look at our own circumstances, our own sequence of actions, our own opportunities we’ve had, and project them onto another’s life and say ‘well this is what I experienced, and this is what I was able to do, so the only reason that other person doesn’t have what I have, is because they choose not to’.
What we tend to overlook within this, is the extent to which our actions, our behavior, our motivation to change and develop skills within specific areas, is determined by the thoughts, emotions, reactions, fears, memories, and beliefs that come up within our minds, throughout our day, and how changing ourselves is not actually as easy as ‘changing your attitude’. What we also too often fail to consider when looking at other people’s lives, is how their entire life – their environment, their relationships, their experiences, have influenced / shaped their particular patterns of thoughts, reactions, fears, habits, beliefs, self definitions, self judgments, etc, and how — though we may have achieved financial stability — maybe we have failed to achieve relationship stability. Maybe we have certain thoughts, certain habits, certain desires, certain fears, certain frustrations that we’ve been unable to overcome, and which have caused problems in our relationships with other people – our spouses / partners, our family members, our children, etc.
When looking at poverty and unemployment, we like to very quickly jump to the justification of ‘it’s their choice’, but isn’t this strange because — we know we haven’t actually met those people and spoken with them, and investigated the circumstances of their lives from the point of their birth – and so, we don’t actually know how they got to be in the situation they are in.
We also fail to look at those aspects of our own lives in which we feel we ‘don’t have a choice’ – those aspects of our lives that we see as ‘just a result of my nature’.
For example, ask yourself how many fairly successful, financially stable people you know, or who you’ve heard of or seen in the news have relationship problems? Addiction problems? Bad habits? Probably a lot, right? I mean, people with money and good jobs are murdering and fighting each other every day. What about yourself? What are the areas of your life in which you experience a struggle? Difficulty? Frustration? Failure? Fear? Anxiety?
Now take a moment to consider the different types of jobs in the system, involving different kinds of relationships with other people — for instance sales jobs, public speaking jobs, being in a courtroom, being in a management position, doing hard physical labor 12 hours a day, being an engineer, a mathematician, a teacher? How about being a famous actor? A famous author? How about becoming a CEO of a large corporation? Maybe you had a series of opportunities that led you to be able to become what you are today — but do the conditions exist, do the opportunities exist right now for you to become let’s say — a famous actor? How about a city council member? Or, here’s a good one — since we believe it’s all about ‘motivation’ — we must really understand motivation, and therefore we would have no problem becoming a motivational speaker, right? It’s as simple as making the ‘choice’ to do it, right?
Obviously when we start to look at things from this perspective, we immediately can see how various factors like our personality, our strengths and weaknesses, our education, our specific skills and aptitudes, and our connections with other people in the system have greatly influenced what we do and what we have achieved. Suddenly, opportunity and achievement in the system is not as black and white as ‘taking initiative’ or ‘making a choice’.
Let’s take this point further and make it more interactive. Take a moment and identify something you feel you would be unable to do in the time you have in this life — something that you cannot imagine yourself putting in the effort of changing and improving yourself and studying a certain field and developing particular skills for — something you would experience great resistance towards.
Identify that point of resistance, that point of limitation, whether it’s a skill / career / job you feel would be impossible for you to do, or whether it’s a habit or addiction or desire or fear you feel would be impossible for you to overcome. Identify that point of resistance and ‘impossibility’ and we’ll continue in the next post.