Dogma

Last weekend, I got the chance to meet up with a friend (A) I met over the summer on the Vipassana meditation retreat I attended. We spent the afternoon walking around the Lakeview neighborhood here in Chicago, discussing our take on the meditation experience and trading philosophies on the human condition. While talking, one idea kept popping up: the role of dogma in our lives and how that controls our decisions.

Beyond being a clever punchline for a bumper sticker and a great movie, if you simplify it down, dogma is all of the stuff that you think is true. The ideas that are so deeply planted in your head that you don’t even bother to question them. If you’ve heard — or have seen others do — something your entire life, what reason do you have to doubt it? If your family eats grilled cheese every night, then certainly there must be something wrong with all of the people who don’t do that. Right?

In response to my conversation with A, I adopted a decidedly military behavior this week. Challenging the dogma of burning the midnight oil to get things done, I decided instead to flip my clock. Where I’d normally stay up late chugging tea and coffee, I went to bed early at about 8pm and got up around 3am. Several times throughout the week, my dogmatic brain tried to stop me. “Isn’t it a bit odd that you’re 28 and going to bed at 8pm?” Sure, if you accept not doing so as the truth.

I wondered, though…what if you don’t? Speaking personally, I experienced an insane amount of productivity this week by getting up earlier and will be continuing the trend this week. Sharing my new behavior with a client who does something similar (he started the process in his mid-thirties), he suggested “if you keep that up you’ll be way ahead of other people.” Noted. While I try to challenge common thought as often as possible, my conversation with A and the results this week have made me a bit obsessed with the idea. What other conventions have I taken as gospel that are holding me back?

If you want to achieve different results than other people, look at the dogma you carry. Is there an idea that you’ve accepted as truth that you can challenge? Would going against the grain on something actually produce a threat, or just a perceived one? Try being that weirdo for a week and see if you like the opposite of what you think is right. Chances are you’ll end up better off than your brethren.

Lights out in an hour.

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