Be the Captain of your own story
There’s no doubt about it we’re all on a journey in life. Sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it’s a shit-storm.
Like the sea, life is unpredictable so there’s no point expecting our whole experience here to be pleasant. The problem is, as John Milton puts it, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
Once we grasp this we only need look for a way to become the master of it and not a slave to it like the majority of us.
Therefore the real goal should be to make ourselves in such a way so that we’re capable of handling and overcoming whatever life throws at us. But how do we do this? Well that’s what we’re here to figure out I suppose.
For me, this is a mission to be the captain — of my ‘self’ and my whole life situation. Let me elaborate and share what I think being the captain means to me:
To be the best you can be
One thing I know for sure is that life is about growth. From the birds and the bee’s, to hilltops with tree’s; everywhere you look life equals growth. People, economies, nature — whatever it is growth is central.
To grow is to continuously learn and to learn we often need to first make mistakes.
One thing is clear — we don’t get very far if we don’t venture beyond our comfort zone and push the boundaries every now and then. Resistance is futile when it comes to life, we can postpone it or press pause but we will eventually get swept along with the current one way or another.
To Just be
While this may appear to diametrically oppose my first point it actually supports it. Granted it’s an perspective that originates from a much deeper place. Beyond doing, achieving and even right and wrong there is being. Being is eternal and from here all action, accomplishments and achievements are just a temporary stitch in the fabric of existence.
Such a simple thing - ‘to be’… in theory. The clues are everywhere, hence why we’re called ‘human ‘beings’. The problem is it’s simplicity has allowed us to forget it’s importance and become so attached with ‘doing’ instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing — it’s just that ‘doing’ without being rooted in ‘being’ is a recipe for disaster.
Really this should be the first step — learn how to be. Once we do this we can move on to whatever it is we’d like to ‘do’ in the world. Because to be rooted in ‘being’ is to know your true nature. All action then springs from a place of truth — a solid foundation.
Instead we’re jumping straight to ‘doing’, ‘doing’ , ‘doing’. If we get better at doing we’re could ‘do’ ourselves out of a planet. It’s already happening in many ways.
So what’s the solution? I can’t say for sure but I have a hunch that we’re looking in the wrong direction when it comes to one. This is an inside job and once your facing the right direction all you have to do is keep on going.
And yes of course we live in the real world where we need to make a living and do a million other things to keep our external lives running smoothly. The key is to be rooted in being in all that we do. This is the main purpose of the mindfulness revolution is it not?
Rumi sums it up nicely and points the way when he said:
“Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself”.
Finding your path
Every journey needs some direction and to know what path to take in life, you must know what matters most to you. It doesn’t need to be some grand idea or extraordinary capability. Everyone isn’t born with a clear vision or purpose. Most of us have to search for it. I don’t believe it has to be clearly definable either. It is whatever it is right now. The thing that lights you up or makes you come alive, this is what the world needs — people who are fully alive.
I believe you don’t need a specific purpose in life. Life is ever changing and what you’re into now might change a year from now. What matters is that you do what matters most to you in life right now. Then you will at least live with purpose. If you don’t know or care to find out you may drift around a bit, possibly enjoying life but never really experiencing the depths of it. To be the captain, for me, means to find my path in life, then live it with intensity and with purpose.
To be the captain of your life means to take full responsibility for everything in it, regardless if it’s good or bad. When you are responsible you know that how you deal with whatever life throws at you is in your hands.
It doesn’t mean you are to blame for something. It’s just about having the power to take control of your actions instead of being reactive. It’s about seeing every obstacle as a challenge and choosing the best course of action to overcome it.
Knowing who you are — the big question
‘Who am I, really?’ — I believe this is the most essential question that everyone should ask themselves in life. So basic a question it’s often overlooked. Whoever doesn’t know who they are must be crazy right? Therefore everybody knows, or thinks they know who they are.
Knowing who you are is not about knowing your place in society, the roles you play or the persona you’ve adopted as a result of where you’ve grown up (your life experience). It is about knowing who you are at it’s deepest level. No one can answer this question for anyone else and it’s not something that can be captured entirely by words either — it must be searched for; felt or known at a deeper level.
The thing is we love to make conclusion’s, it makes us feel like we understand things. The problem is many of the conclusions we make, especially about ourselves and our capabilities, are bull-crap! The result of this can be the cause of much of our suffering.
Of course we’re not encouraged to think of such things either. Instead we’re bombarded with an endless stream of distractions so we don’t ever have to. We consume content in epic proportions and while it may make us progress in many aspects of life or give us the comfort to feel like we know ‘something’, without exploring the fundamental nature of who we are, it is just a sidetrack.
Throughout history there are whole cultures whose lives revolved around this question. Today it seems we may be more interested in virtual reality than actual reality; with colonising other planets rather than saving the one we’ve got. Anything but asking ourselves questions like — am I really just this body and mind?
It is a little strange to see such progress in science and technology while this fundamental question is commonly disregarded as preposterous or ‘woo-woo’. It’s not that I’ve anything against technology and science, it is truly amazing and making our lives better in so many ways. It’s just that I feel that we’re forgetting the essential first step — to ‘Know thyself’, as the ancient greek aphorism states. When we ignore it, it can be easy to make things happen in the world, but it can be even easier to lose our way.
Gautama the Buddha is meant to have said that the only two mistakes “one can make on the road to truth are not starting and not going all the way”. My guess is, the most common reason for not starting is down to this one conclusion: that the question of ‘who am I really?’ is either unanswerable or ridiculous.
I don’t have the answer myself, but I am sure it’s out there or should I say in there, somewhere. And I sure as hell think it’s worth the effort to find it. It is a pity we put every possible obstacle in the way of asking this question though. I’ve done it myself for a long time. By obstacles I mainly mean the endless supply of desires and dreams we have i.e. The idea that when I get/become/do this it will all be fine, life will be complete.
Luckily life has driven me to the conclusion that the answers are not to be found outside of ourselves — through accomplishments or achievements, there must be more. This is when the journey started to take a bit of a u-turn. Now it has become more of an inward journey. A journey toward being the captain. As with any journey it is on-going but it’s one I truly believe forms the foundation for happy and healthy life. I also think I now understand what Jim Carey meant when he said:
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
Working toward these ideals is my mission and the reason I created ‘The Captain’s Log — a Journal for Life’s Journey”. It’s a simple structured journal for men, packed full of positive psychology.
Generally, a captain’s log was used to help determine the distance and direction a ship has travelled. Of course this is not about the journey of a ship and I’m not an actual captain in real life.
This is about a journey of personal growth. Knowing who you are, the path that you’re on and your strategy for achieving your dreams.
Everyone is the captain of their own story so why not make it a journey to remember. Like Mohandas Gandhi said “Be the change…”. I’d also like to add “Be the captain!”
The Captains Log
Check it out here bit.ly/bethecaptain