At the heart of every effort to transform ourselves into a better version of who we are lie two unspoken questions: A. How can I raise my baseline state so that I can be a better version of myself without having to struggle all the time? and B. How can I make the change I want to achieve stick?
We live in days where the functional activity of the brain is visible to our instruments of examination. We believe that we can, now, understand better how physical activity affects the brain and how brain activity affects the mind. This creates a scalable sequence of events that begins from a very tangible place (i.e. the physical space we experience and the input we receive at a physical level) and leads to the god-like ether state of our thoughts, ideas, impulses and motivation.
Psychologist Richard Davidson describes this sequence of steps in a lecture that focuses on the mind. What is interesting is that his journey began somewhat differently. When wellbeing, happiness and smarts are just skills the question that arises is why are not more of us not acquiring them? What exactly is holding us back?
Change, like self-improvement, is intimately linked with our personal sense of identity and self-belief. Reframing the questions we ask ourselves (and others), at times, is all that’s necessary to focus the mind on the things that really matter.
That suggests that we often cannot see the wood for the trees. As Alan Watts says, we get confused when we are unable to break free from our past and actually see our present so we can visualize our future.
Clarity of vision is the result of awareness of the self and the journey we are on as we go through life.
Raising the baseline of our being requires we embark on specific behaviors that give rise to different sensations and skillsets. Maintaining it requires a support network that exists outside ourselves. It’s no good becoming better versions of ourselves when the world is falling into ruin around us.
Alan Watts suggests that our very sense of being is an illusion. Losing our self allows us to experience a sense of flow. None of this is contradictory to becoming better versions of who we are. In losing our ego we lose much of what troubles us. In connecting with and raising others we find a purpose in life deeper than just the need to be.
No personal transformation can ever take place or indeed stick for purely personal reasons. Selfishness is a poor motivator indeed. Changing ourselves is a step towards changing the world because the world we want to change is, indeed, us.
I hope you’re looking, right now, at a pot full of coffee and a mountain of donuts, cookies, croissants and chocolate cake. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.