"Life can be so easy once we stop trying so hard to complicate it."
Think about this question. Do you live your life? Before continuing reading, honestly reflect and consider if you are really living YOUR life.
Neuroscience studies suggest that we have around sixty thousand[i] thoughts a day. Assuming a night's rest of around 7 ½ hours, this would mean every waken second equals a thought. To make things worse, 95% of these daily thoughts are repetitive, the same as those we had yesterday. Most of these thoughts are about the past or planning for the future; they are rarely about the present moment. Are you aware of these over fifty thousand thoughts being recycled in your mind every day?
But it does not stop there. Beside this thought distraction, studies suggest that our minds wander at least 50%[ii] of the time, keeping us concentrated for less than half of the time. And it still doesn't stop there. It is suggested that only a fraction of those moments of concentration are experienced in full consciousness as we live 85% to 95% of the time from our subconsciousness. This subconscious level is formed by our past experiences and lessons. In essence, we live most of our lives based on the past, making rather automatic, hard-wired decisions in the present. Some people refer to this as "living on autopilot".
Have you ever felt that life lives you rather than you live life? And if we are living so subconsciously, then how sure can we be that what we perceive really is? If your initial answer was "Yes", do you still think you are living YOUR life?
Sooner or later we will come to realize that in life, we never really arrive. It is commonly said that life is about the journey rather than the destination. Life is not so much about what we achieve at the end but rather who we eventually become along the way.
Coming back to my nerdy hobby, let us have a look at the two key words of the person who we become. The word become goes back to the Proto-Germanic word bikweman which saw different developments in meaning. While the derived German word "bekommen" signifies obtaining or achieving something, the English word "become" means a transition in the state of being. In the English sense, we want to transition our being into a new person. The word person has its roots in the Latin word "persona" which referred to the mask actors wore during stage plays. The masks were designed in a way that allowed "personare", "sound to travel through" in an amplified manner. This ensured everyone in the theater could hear the actor's voice despite the mask. In that original sense, the person we become is based on the mask we are wearing. It is time to take that mask off to become a different person.
If life were a book, our life goals would be the chapters and our life mission the title. Many people, including me in the past, are busy writing their chapters without even knowing the title. Many of us rush through life on autopilot, trying to maximize pleasure and excitement, longing for success and happiness without knowing our mission. In other words, to answer the question "do you live your life?" with a solid "yes", it is important to find your title, your personal life mission. This life mission is linked to the person we want to be recognized or remembered as.
When you think of loved ones you've unfortunately lost, do you think of their achievements and possessions or the person they became? How do you want to be remembered?
Bronnie Ware, who worked for many years in palliative care, wrote a book on the "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying"[iii], which in summary, are:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
It is obvious that none of these regrets were about possessions, achievements, careers or short-lived excitement — and even vacations are mainly short-lived excitement. Instead, the regrets were about living true to oneself, spending more time to maintain relationships and slowing down. In other words, none of them are about "obtaining something" while all of them are about "being someone" — and the wish to have acted “differently”.
By helping you to find the title of your life book, you may rewrite some of your chapters after reading this book. Here are some different and rather unique How's of living your life:
Mainly induced by social media, there is a trend towards displaying personality rather than building character. While personality can be copied, character reflects our values and principles and defines who we truly are. If our personality were a company's products or services, our character would be its culture. Many companies do not focus sufficiently on the proactive creation of a trusted, engaging company culture and leave it rather to circumstance. Likewise, many people subject their character-building to external influences. Our character is the root that keeps us grounded. The stronger our character, the firmer we can stand and the easier we can flourish. To live our lives, we should focus on understanding and building our character based on solid principles that keep us grounded and guided through the complexities of life. Can you describe your character, not personality, and your core values right now?
While every one of us is unique and different, we went through molding processes such as upbringing, education and societal perception that stripped some, if not most, of our uniqueness away. Our innocence, curiosity and enjoyment of the present moment have disappeared. The way nature has built us and how the environment has nurtured us heavily influences the way we think, talk, decide and act. Instead of just nurturing more knowledge, we should know more about nature. Only through understanding how our own nature hinders our path to becoming different, can we intentionally become different. How difficult is it for you to stick to a new resolution or intention to change a habit? How often have you been able to create lasting changes in your behavior after attending a seminar or training?
Therefore, to live our lives, we should be encouraged to become intentionally different, to consciously become different from who we became. Since life is a journey, the destination is who we become along the way. By becoming different along the way, it is more likely that we become ourselves and not a copy of someone else. Genetically, humans are a herding species. We feel comfortable and comforted when we are part of a group in which we fit. Any rejection from a "liked" group causes discomfort in us, so we wear a false mask to fit in and be accepted. It is by swimming against the current, displaying different behaviors and mindsets, that we will generate lasting results for the better and leave us with fewer regrets. We can then comfortably take off our mask as we will no longer need it. We don't have to show a false face to impress the group as we have found our way. Becoming different, not only from most of society but also from our own, probably false identity, makes all the difference. Enjoy living your life, a life you don't need leave from. Differentiation is a key strategy for companies to gain competitive advantage. What is your differentiation strategy? In a world of ever faster changes, everybody is concerned about disruption and its impacts on companies and business. The wining companies in the game are those who foresee disruption and take proactive actions. Why don't you disrupt your life now to align to your true self and gain your winning edge?
"Intentionally Becoming Different" is intended to find your personal answers to each of the three questions on living your life:
1) By understanding how our character has been shaped and nurtured by external factors, it becomes easier to see where and why we need to make changes ("different").
2) By understanding how nature is practically running our behavior, it becomes easier to identify how to makes these changes ("becoming").
3) By declaring the intent to become different, we commit to what kind of changes we will make towards a more blissful life in the now ("intentionally").
Let us briefly trace the original meanings of those key words. While "becoming" has been explained earlier as "transitioning our being into a new person", "different" goes back to the Latin word roots "dis" and "ferre", translated as "carrying away from" in the sense of being out of the ordinary, or standing out, being special. The word "intention" finally is derived from the Latin word "intentio", which is a stretch effort. Some meanings attached to intent include purpose, will and thought. Doing something "intentionally" therefore means having a deeper insight into our thoughts as well as the will to turn our attention towards a specific purpose.
Declaring our intent is a key step towards becoming more committed. Intention requires attention, and by declaring our intention, we also give it more attention. Furthermore, declaring our intent makes us more credible, to others and ourselves. Let me introduce attribution bias. This bias occurs when we tend to judge other people based on their "not so good behavior", while we judge ourselves based on our generally good intentions. Unfortunately, our good intentions are not always displayed and perceived as good behavior by those around us. Once you declare your good intentions, others will see your behavior in a different light as they see the "good" in your behavior. It is therefore about "Intentionally Becoming Different" and not just "Becoming Different". Have you ever experienced a moment where your well-intended help or advice was not received as you had expected?
Now let's launch into your self-assessment and personal change journey. We start our virtual self-coaching approach by first introducing the underlying coaching model, the Wheel of LIFE model.