As you begin to read this, the proverbial “Chicken or Egg” analogy might come to mind. This is not about the question itself, but rather the analogy and its effect on a more relevant and crucial aspect of human beings that I personally call the “Mastery Model”, or how we accomplish our desired success in life, relationships, work and financial areas of our lives.
Analogous teachings are very useful to understand new concepts with similar underpinnings. However, an incomplete explanation can cause a great deal of suffering to all of us. I know this because I have suffered at this particular topic for many years. Until a week ago. Here, I clarify what really comes first.
Circular Causality without a clear origin is very confusing
If we ask that proverbial question: “What comes first, the chicken or the egg?”, the answer will not be easy to spot. In fact, if we attempt to discuss this with others, the elusive answer is so complicated that it could be so dramatic as to end relationships.
Think about it. A discussion of such a topic could extend for so long in so many complicated manners that the most common strategy ina social setting is to end it prematurely, with an “I don’t know”.
Now that we know what came first, it is then much easier to understand the processes that happen to give rise to a chicken, and all the consequences of the initial egg hatching.
What does this have to do with a Model for Mastery?
Now that we have established which came first, let us make an analogous proposition:
How do you define yourself?
Are you defined by what you do?
Or are you defined by what you have?
Many people can see the materialism trap of defining yourself by what you have. I think that the few that fall into this trap of defining themselves quickly learns that this is not realistic. Things come and go. Wealth comes and goes.
If you are not defined by what you have, then you clearly are defined by what you do! right?
Think about it. The actions you take (doing), can allow you to have many things. If our analogy as stated above is the case, then the problem is now solved.
The mastery model should then be:
“Just do something, so you can then have, and thus you can define yourself by what you do and ultimately have.”
This is partially true.
So, what is missing?
One element is missing in this equation, that will clarify everything even further. That element is being.
OK, so what is this being thing?
Being, or the act of just being (as in you are) is the crucial missing element for the mastery model. Suffice it to look at all our successes and failures as human beings: When we just do something, expecting certain results so we can have something as a consequence. Are you guaranteed a result? No!
This model yields too many random results. Too many unknowns. There is a profound lack of certainty in the consequences, causing us profound suffering and in many cases, leading to a string of failures which ultimately leads us to more problematic behaviors, and for some an untimely death.
The complete mastery model is thus:
The last two are easy to learn, but learning how to just be is not easy. Schools generally don’t teach it. They focus on the doing and having part. Think about this. All your education, from kindergarten to Doctorate level degrees, focuses on what you need to do to accomplish a certain result. The education you receive at home or even in religious institutions has a similar format, although it is geared to personal and spiritual pursuits. Regardless of the purpose, these are imposed from the outside. Sure, you can have choices, but oftentimes these choices are scripted, which interfere with just being. Clearly, there are several universal truths, common to us all, yet, our individual self recognizes that there needs to be a clear separation between me (I) and others.
This is the messy part. Few people allow themselves to be because as imperfect human beings, our caretakers (parents, surrogates, teachers) show us how to “be” from their own perspective, their own experience. This is passed unto us as a behavioral pattern. These behavior patterns were probably extremely helpful (adaptive) in specific situations, but in others they no longer are (maladaptive). Urinating is an extremely useful (necessary) behavior, but doing so in a crowded, public place is clearly not useful, it is even offensive and punishable by law (maladaptive). Urinating in the restroom, in private is the agreeable option (adaptive).
For something like urinating, the clarity is evident, but for other behaviors, there is no clear cut line or outside influences that hinder us from doing potentially damaging things to ourselves. This is when a choice to act out of self-discernment comes in handy. However, we have been programmed since childhood of many automatic behaviors such as brushing your teeth in a particular manner, or how you respond to compliments from others. This happens so fast, that you just “know” what will happen when you go to that next social gathering or job interview. These beliefs seem ingrained in such a way as to be “unchangeable”, hence so many sayings in our cultures, one of them being: The apple does not fall far from the tree!
Can the brain really change?
Complicating things even further, is the fact that these behaviors have strong neural pathway connections in the subconscious part of your brain. Thinking yourself to being different does not work, and will never work, because the part of your brain that thinks about these things has not much power over programmed behaviors. We can read a thousand self-help books, understand the science, but nothing will change how we are. We can also go to a therapist, and talk until our faces are blue, but changes are tediously slow and can be quite shaky. Or we can scratch the surface of one or two emotions, with some actions, but the changes are a bit slow. After many books and therapy sessions, the changes have been fairly slow. The only effective mechanisms for change at this level are acting first (Proof of this is in Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. The catch, is that many behaviors (acting) are automatic. If you try something new, you will absolutely feel like “I don’t belong here”, also known as shame.
If it is so complicated, how can I learn to be?
Shame is powerful. It really keeps us safe. and in order to deprogram it so you can first be, you have to use your body. A small change in body postures and activities(in private), can yield big changes. It thus follows that a systematic engagement of body and mind will yield quite dramatic results.
I have been doing the “small change” game for a while now, and the changes have been powerful. However, I do still have some troubles in many areas mentioned above, and wanting to change them once and for all, I opted to accept the gift for the opportunity to learn several of these methods through experiential learning that together comprise a solid toolbox that will allow profound and long lasting changes.
In general, I learned to understand at a gut level, the importance of awareness, of expression, and then of compassion & forgiveness, so that I can finally, comfortably, shift to a new adaptive (beneficial) behavior.
You cannot do only one or two of these.
All four are required.
It takes practice to learn, and once enough practice is had, these four steps become automatic, similar to the previously learned behavior patterns.
- The key is to begin with becoming aware of shame and those messages: “I am not good enough”.
2. Then you express the feelings (in an acceptable place and time for this) they provoke such as anger, frustration, exhaustion. with an emphasis on dramatically. We have been all taught and are expected to not show our anger, aggressiveness or sadness, yet it is crucial to do so! (again in an adequate place and time!)
Today we see too many people simply expressing their anger or frustration on their partners, their kids, family members, or innocent people. The key problem is this: they do not move to compassion and forgiveness, and end up stuck with a poisonous outlook on life, which inevitably yields to cycles of potentially ever-compounding angry behavior which results in violence of all sorts.
3. Moving to compassion and forgiveness happens naturally, but the key is this: all the emotion has to be expressed. How do you know when enough is enough? When you are completely, utterly, absolutely, positively, dramatically exhausted. Not sooner.
Periods of silence after the expression are essential for the neurons to finish “disconnecting”, and to feel an inner sense of peace and calm that you probably will discover you had not felt in quite some time.
Once you sense compassion or forgiveness, you can express it to yourself, again in an adequate place, at an adequate time. If it is related to another person, I have discovered that it is not necessary to express it to them. This is for yourself, to improve your own self. Something like writing a letter or hugging a pillow works wonders for this. You might cry or feel sad. This is OK! Remember: We can only change ourselves, not others! It is so powerful that when you see this other person, they will just sense that something has shifted in you. You might even get comments about your appearance! Again, remember to express the compassion until you feel exhausted, spent, “empty”. Once done, silence is crucial for your mind to finish processing completely. This will then yield a wonderful gift:
A sense of hope, of possibility, of opportunity. Just like when you were a kid.
This is Just Being
The final step, #4 is simply making any choice from this mental state. This will allow you to act out new behavior, which in turn will probably yield more of expected results than before. This gives you the Be part in Be. Do. Have.
These are behavioral stretches that engage your limbic or unconscious brain. Once you have practiced many times, the changes become ingrained. At one point you might not need to do the dramatic expression, since you will be “trained” to go through these four steps in a short period of time without too much drama. This is what prepares you for Being first and foremost!
Being comes first!
Since you have already done your practices, you can naturally be so you can focus on doing so you can have.
Try it for one day this weekend! I believe you will be surprised by the results.
One tip: Avoid alcohol, smoking, drugs, or other people while you are at this!