How To Be Better at Being a Human Being
The diligent pursuit of knowledge and self-awareness is more important than ever.
After all, the Internet allows us to live in an echo chamber—a place that reflects back to us the things we already believe while filtering out the things that challenge our beliefs.
Individually and collectively, this is dangerous.
(Facebook and Google are already doing it by algorithmically offering back tailored search results and news feed impressions based on what you “like” and “prefer.”)
All humans have something in common — the human brain, which is the most complex creation the universe has ever seen.
We still don’t know exactly how the brain works, and many speculate we never will.
Either way, it’s unfathomably rad that nature has evolved a species capable of a consciousness that allows that species to question its own existence.
And you and I are each a lucky recipient of the Universe’s Most Amazing Creation.
It’s sitting between your earlobes right now.
But whether it’s working for you or against you is the question.
That’s the big question of human existence.
Your brain holds this thing called a subconscious which is, unfortunately for most, a drunk guy in the driver seat barreling down the road of life.
Your subconscious is like a wild animal—it acts out its primal nature to eat, sleep, wander and procreate with random bursts of unpredictability, irrationality, sadness and existential discontent.
The thing is, the REALLY BIG THING IS, the world we live in today requires you tame your wild subconscious.
There is too much glitter and glam vying for your attention, and its all poison for your subconscious.
The news, social media, celebrities, YouTube videos of people living more exciting lives, and the like, all conspire to confuse your primal subconscious.
Not to mention the insidious effects of advertising, cheap food ubiquity, and the multitude of things that call on your subconscious to take the path of least resistance while pursuing such behaviors as pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. (Hint: The 7 Deadly Sins.)
The deck is stacked against you. The world you and I live in today is the deck, and this environment that we were born into is seriously fucked as far as our genes are concerned.
And the only path out is through self-awareness.
Through self-awareness, we can acquire the (super) power to recognize the inputs coming in through your senses and your corresponding response to those inputs.
You’ll be able to better question yourself the world around you.
And the more you do each, the more control over your beliefs, life and destiny you’ll get.
This is the first step in breaking the bonds of servitude of the unruly master called your subconscious.
Only by becoming aware of your inner world will you become the master of our outer world.
By first regaining control, you will start on the path to reason and objectivity.
From here, you’ll recognize when your brain is taking you down the easy, safe, predictable route. Then you can decide if that’s the best path.
That’s what you are after; the best path for your life, not the easiest, cheapest or fastest—the best.
Most people take the easiest path in most situations by default, without much thought to the matter because that’s where their pain-avoiding, pleasure-seeking reptilian subconscious (Ego) takes them.
First comes self-awareness. Then comes the power to question your beliefs and the world around you.
This is why Self-awareness is the most important mental model the modern, connected human can posses. That and questions.
Self-awareness and questions.
That’s the start of a new life.
The more questions you ask, the less likely you are to fall into primal patterns that get you in trouble, like eating too much, procrastinating, avoiding though conversations/confrontation/the truth and so on.
We are lucky to be gifted with a brain that allows us to question ourselves and the external world, yet we generally suck at both.
Why is this?
In a nutshell, technology—agriculture, the wheel, the plow, money, cities—transformed human life faster than our genes have been able to adapt to.
Humans are simply not designed to be as in our heads as we now are.
Instead of wandering around nature hunting and forging, we sit mostly indoors at desks and work in factories or in conference rooms.
We eat by not directly collecting and preparing food, but by doing tasks that generate us money so we can then buy food and shelter.
But every gene in your human body is designed to be outdoors while walking barefoot (13ish miles a day) in between plenty of leisure time and always within close proximity of your tribe (social and connectedness).
Instead, we live in segregated households, we go entire days without being in nature, we eat chemically altered foods that have traveled around the world before getting to us (and thus lacking in nutrition and benefit), and so on.
Of course, I’m not advocating we all move outdoors and start living in the wild.
We now live the way we live.
What we need to do is better tame our mind because it is confused because it is prepared to live in the wild hunting, forging and living with a small group of loved ones.
The mismatch between our current environment and our body and mind is the root of all chronic disease. These effects extend into every facet of human health and longevity—acute/chronic stress, food, sleep, movement, exercise, relationships, everything.
Understanding this mismatch is a first step in the right direction to doing something about it.
The human brain fascinates me for many reasons.
The thing that really gets me is the fact that we all have brains yet we all think and see things in life so differently.
Part of what makes this so intriguing—and confusing—is there is no objective way to measure and compare individual human perception and experience.
It’s wild to consider the fact that you and I can both look at a thing—event, idea, object, experience—and come to a completely different conclusion about that thing.
What a mindfuck.
And all you have to do is look at the political landscape to see how mindfucked it is.
Considering we all have human brains, and basically the same set of genes, you’d think it would be easier to agree on things. Yet we live in a world that is largely divided by the incongruence of our beliefs.
At this point, there are a few forks in the road I could take while still getting to a point.
I could point out the fact that you and I will never, ever, ever be able to fully understand another’s point of view — human, horse, democratic, republican, sand flea — let alone the point of view of half of a country that votes one way or the other.
So perhaps we need to stop trying to get others to come to our way of thinking and start accepting the reality of the human experience—there are as many ways to perceive the world as their are humans.
Here’s the gist: For humans, perception is reality, but, to a profound degree, one can adjust her perception if she is first aware.
As a result, it becomes this: life becomes exactly what you choose it to be.
Since I love the Stoics, and consider myself a “Stoic” of sorts, here are a couple Stoic quotes worth repeating (copy/pasting):
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I’m not audacious enough to think I have anything to say that these great minds have not already said, but I will try to summarize some of what I’ve come to understand through study and life over the years about being more self-aware and better at life in general.
How To Be Better at Being a Human Being
The following are some ideas for being better at life, self-awareness and controlling your reality.
1. You choose everything in your life, whether you realize it or not.
Think about that for a second: you choose everything in your life.
You really do. So quell those victim excuses that might be welling up.
This inescapable fact of life is something most people are ignorant to and the rest forget all too often.
After all, most people let their friends and favorite YouTube or Twitter accounts choose their thoughts and beliefs.
What you watch, what you pay attention to, is your choice.
Which is why it always comes back to you: It’s all your choice.
What’s more insidious about human belief is this: most influence is done at the subconscious level—most are unaware they are being influenced.
(And this is really scary if you consider the recent political landscape and the prevalence of social media and “fake news.”)
I remember reading about the concept of “contagion,” in which the author asserts that we (basically) absorb the beliefs from people around us at the subconscious level, and that there is little we can do to change this.
But you can do something about it, a lot in fact.
First, you make the choice of who you spend your time with, what you read, what you listen to and what you watch.
Second, you choose to question and challenge your beliefs. Or you don’t.
Most people don’t.
Third, you choose to accept that the only thing within your control in life are your thoughts and actions.
Fourth, you make the choice — or you don’t — to be ok with not knowing things. As Socrates said, “I know one thing; that I know nothing.”
You choose to let you Ego keep you blind and sure of itself, or you choose to be OK with not knowing most things.
It’s all choice.
Unfortunately, most people go throughout life without realizing how their life is nothing more than the culmination of their choices.
To be a better human, to have a better life, to do more and better things, you have to first choose to do these things. Once you make that choice…
Choose to be ok with not knowing.
Choose who you spend your time with and who you let influence you.
Choose the say no to your natural tendency to be arrogantly convicted.
Choose to embrace I don’t know don’t know.
Choose to question more and talk less.
And Finally, Choose to become self-aware and choose to live better.