Unpacking – Who Are You?

We all look at the world through a prism of our own personalities, our own experiences, our own wishes and desires. We also carry with us expectations that have been instilled in us by others, both others that we know and by society at large.

Tell me if you have heard this quip – “Of course your parents know which of your buttons to push. They are the ones who installed them.” That joke is funny because there is an element of truth to it.

If you have reached a point in your life where you are faced with having failed to reach your goals, the first thing to decide is just whose goals you failed to reach. That is not as easy as it sounds. In some sense all of your beliefs have come from somewhere else. So were those goals yours to start with?

People are people everywhere. If you don’t believe that then there would be a good place to start examining your beliefs. Once you accept that, then it follows that the difference you see of the way people in other parts of the world, or even of the country, behave has to do with cultural norms. In other words, people are programmed to behave the way they do by the society they are immersed in. That is one reason that closed societies make it so hard to get information from elsewhere.

Cults operate the same way. They entice somebody into their circle and then work to become the only avenue for information and belief. Enforcing and reinforcing those beliefs is how they maintain control. You don’t have to look far for examples of how strong that control can become.

In some ways, you are surrounded by your own cult. From the time you are born you are exposed to the world view of those incredibly strong role models in your life, your parents. This set of attitudes is often reinforced by their circle of friends and acquaintances, and as you get older there is a tendency for you to reproduce that environment. In these days of social media and personalized news feeds, it’s even more common to find yourself insulated from other ways of thinking.

So in order to move forward, the first thing you need to do is unpack your world view. That project may be as big as it sounds. You really need to have a look at what you believe about yourself, who you want to be and how you want to live. You need to look at the “shoulds” in your life, what you should be doing, where you should be at this point in your life, how you should live in retirement.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s the shoulds that’ll kill you. Probably not literally, but they can sure wreak havoc on your self esteem and your general enjoyment of life.

You often can’t control the things in your life, but you can sure control the way you react to them. I am sure you know wealthy people in perfect health who are deeply unhappy, and poor people who by your standards ought to be miserable every day who are unexplainably cheerful.

You know. You know why that is true. The odds are that by the standards of people living elsewhere you are living an incredibly bountiful and blessed existence. The only reason that is not true is that you don’t believe it.

There’s a good chance that you don’t believe it because someone, somewhere along the way told you not to. That doesn’t have to be the case anymore. You are an adult, you get to decide. Should you retire and travel the country even if you don’t like to travel, should you have a huge house that you hate to clean just to impress the neighbors, should you maintain a social calendar that is so full that you are always bordering on exhaustion?

I don’t know. Do you?

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