We Are All Trying To Reach The Best Places

In his book Considerations, author Colin Wright addresses our conflicts over differing ideas and everyone’s struggle to make their life meaningful.  In particular Wright considers the way we act towards others who do not share our same beliefs and fight for ideas that we think are wrong. “Every one of us is building the best life we possibly can for ourselves.  We’re all just working from different sets of instructions.” The instructions Wright addresses are our varying experiences and backgrounds along with the education and training we have received.

 

What I like about this quote is that it addresses the fact that so many of us seem to act in ways or hold personal philosophies that don’t align and are unable to be merged with those of others.  When we all start trying to force our viewpoints and ideas on the world without considering others, then the conflicts between our viewpoints become major conflicts between each other.  What Wright would argue for is an increased effort to understand the views of others and the willingness to allow our views to change. When we become entrenched in our ideas and refuse to listen to the thoughts of others we risk alienating our fellow citizens by creating fractures in our communities and groups.

 

What I find challenging with this quote is relating it back to people around me who do not strive to deeply understand the world around them.  Those without self awareness, who do not strive to think critically about the world and society, and who do not spend time learning and driving themselves to grow can really grate on me in their conversations.  When I listen to people who have ideas and opinions that are fundamentally flawed by being one sided or simply a rehash of a major media story, I have trouble giving their arguments my full attention and respect. I believe that we are at a point where everyone feels entitled to an opinion and a political or social voice, but those privileges should be earned through study and self awareness, not through access to media and technology.

 

I believe that Wright would not discount the thoughts and ideas of others simply because their views were naive and not fully informed. For him, those individuals would be following and explaining their own truths and understanings about the world. He would probably encourage others to become more aware and thoughtful of the world by politely inviting them into a more considerate space.

World Views

Throughout the book Considerations author Colin Wright focuses on the importance of gaining perspective and building new perspectives into your personal philosophy.  Across every area of life that Wright addresses he highlights the importance of your perspective and awareness, and what benefits come from greater perspectives.

 

When addressing world views and our influences, Wright expands the importance of perspective to consider how we should think about the ideas of others.  He explains that our own thoughts and ideas are not completely independent of the thoughts and ideas of others since we are shaped from the time we are born by media, society, our parents, and experiences.  Each of these factors impacts the way we interpret the world, shaping our thoughts and feelings.  Wright continues to explain that as we get older and take in more media or gain experiences, these ideas become more independent of others, and become more unique.  He pulls in the idea of perspective by explaining that we cannot judge the decisions of others based on our perspective and world views for no one else can be expected to share our ideas, thoughts, and experiences.

 

Wright argues that once we understand the influence of our own ideas we can better relate and connect with others.  In his mind it is important to give up the idea that we are solely in control of our thoughts, actions, and perspectives, “we need to be aware that our view of the world is filtered through overlapping lenses made up of different influences. These lenses are so effective that you and I could see the exact same car accident and perceive it in different ways.”  All of the experiences we have and everything that shapes our thoughts and expectations become the lenses through which we see the world. We cannot always perceive what is shaping our perception, but it is important to know that we are driven in certain directions for reasons we cannot always control. Being aware of this helps us to make better decisions.

 

When Wright expands this idea beyond ourselves toward others, he shows how important it is not to judge others or think less of them for their thoughts or actions.  It is very difficult, especially with people we do not like, to pause and consider their background and what may be shaping their decisions and ideas.  However, if we can pause and think about why others have adopted their worldview, we can better understand their decisions and have meaningful conversation with them which will help us adopt new perspectives.

The End Goals of our Goals

Colin Wright focuses on self awareness throughout his book Considerations and he turns that inward focus toward our goals and desires for life.  Specifically he writes about bucket list items and goals we aspire to reach.  What Wright explains is that we often set up goals with the hopes of impressing other people. Our goals are chosen not because we actually want to achieve them or because we desire the things that come with reaching that goal, but instead we choose our goals based on how impressive they sound or how they will make us look relative to our peers. When comparing actual goals to bucket list items Wright states, “…rather than cataloging goals we actually have aspirations to achieve, we list things that are very impressive and intense-sounding for the sake of being associated with those types of activities.” What Wright is establishing is the idea that we are not focusing on ourselves in goal setting, but what others want or expect from us.

 

Wright continues to explain the difference between choosing goals that are for yourself rather than for others and ends this chapter in his book with the following, “in short, make sure your goals are for you, not for others’ perception of your. This applies to all goals, not just those on some sort of bucket list.”

 

I want to share this quote, or perhaps the entire section of Wright’s book, with every high school and college student in the country. So often it is easy to have expectations in your mind about what success is, but that vision of success does not always align with who you truly are, and what you truly desire.  Pushing towards success by achieving what others have decided is a worthy definition of success, as opposed to understanding and creating your own definition of success, can lead you down paths that are not enjoyable and do not lead to happiness.

 

For me, a major challenge throughout college was developing the self awareness to understand what visions of success I had and where those visions came from.  Growing up watching Top Gear had build success in my mind as a fancy sports car, and growing up in a nice house gave me certain expectations for how success translated into a home.  Evaluating myself and what my definition of success was allowed me to understand what was important in life and what was not. Once I decided that I did not need to achieve a certain monetary level of success, drive sports cars, or live in a giant house, much of the stress I felt melted away.  It is difficult to look inward and understand what sets the foundation for the goals we have, and it is even more difficult to begin to develop those goals on our own without feeling the pressure of what society and family expect from us.

High Performers

Throughout his book Considerations, author Colin Wright provides his audience with little pieces of advice from his observations about the world. His chapters are all short essays about a given subject ranging from branding, to personal development, to habits, and self awareness. What I really enjoy about each essay is that the insights and advice offered is not limited to just the topic being written about. His thesis and his interesting points can often be taken and applied to multiple areas of life.

 

In a short essay titled “Default to Action” Wright writes about how easy it is for us to hear about something interesting and plan to return to that interesting idea, but get distracted and never remember to look into it. He writes that our default when our interest is peaked should be to immediately act upon our interest and (in most cases) to dive deeper, finding more information. By acting in this way we avoid distracting cat videos and push ourselves to investigate and learn.

 

Towards the end of his essay is a brief section that I find to be an incredible idea for one to apply to life, relationships, and ones career, “One distinction between high-performers and those who tend to lurk around the middle or sub-average is that the former are willing to expend energy to pursue that which they’re not told to pursue…”

 

Recently at work I have been working to bring in more self awareness to my actions and habits with the hope of becoming better at what I do. Part of my goals is to stand out to have more opportunities in the future, and part of my goal is to simply do the best work possible.  When I look back at my performance and daily routine, I see areas where my lack of a default to action has left me in the middle or average range as an employee.

 

A way that I have found to motivate myself in changing behavior is to examine the identity that I want to have. If I see myself as a high performer and want to be a standout, it is helpful to imagine that identity and consider my decisions and actions as they apply to the identity I want. If I want to be a high-performer my identity should contain the default to action personality explained by Wright. Eliminating distractions can often be outside of my control, but acting immediately rather than procrastinating is within my control and can push me towards the identity I want. With the goal being to achieve a specific identity I am not driving towards a promotion or good evaluation, but instead I am working on character and habits, knowing that the benefits and rewards will follow.

 

Wright’s book is a philosophy book, but like the quote above, many of the examples and pieces of advice offered can be used and applied throughout life. This quote also fits in with relationships, organization and stress management, and academic pursuits. By reading Wright’s book with an open mind, the opportunities to connect new dots abound.

Testing Our Assumptions

As I have worked on self awareness and worked to be a more understanding person capable of seeing the world from multiple perspectives, I have become more aware of my first impressions and snap judgments of other people. An important first step in becoming a more integrated person is recognizing the impulse thoughts we have about others and understanding where those thoughts come from.  Colin Wright in his book Considerations addresses this idea and drives it to an even deeper level. He examines the structure of the brain and out thoughts to understand why we have developed these impulse thoughts, and he challenges everyone to recognize and push back against these often times hidden beliefs (emphasis mine):

 

“Testing our assumptions is an excellent way to see the potential in things and people we wouldn’t otherwise stop to notice.  A person with a black plastic trash bag could be a lot of things, and it’s worth considering more than just your first impression if you intend to be an active participant in your environment, rather than just a passive experiencer.”

 

When I first started working on mindfulness and recognizing my thoughts about others, including my immediate reactions, I constantly felt discouraged by my negative reaction to people of other races or who appeared to be homeless or in poverty.  I would scold myself for having a negative initial judgement, and then worry that my initial thoughts bled over to my outward attitude and behavior.  What Wright explains in his book is that these types of instant reactions are evolutionary left overs from a time when we needed to make assumptions about our environment and react quickly to avoid wild animals that could kill and eat us.  Our quick reactions, memory, and pattern recognition saved our ancestors, but now those same traits get in our way.  The best approach to improve our behavior is to recognize these thoughts and accept that we make poor initial judgments. Once we identify our behavior we can work to challenge and change our reactions.

 

I am particularly struck by the last part of Wright’s quote.  It shows that in order to be fully integrated with our environment and to find real meaning through our impact in the world we must challenge our beliefs to push ourselves to grow and have stronger interactions and relationships with everyone in society. The more we challenge our knee-jerk reactions and the more we push ourselves to be involved with those who we normally would not interact with, the more we will be able to connect with the world. Those new connections will shape us and push us to a point where we no longer need to worry about a negative emotion being noticed by people who are different from us.

Crossing Finish Lines

A difficult challenge on my journey has been shifting ideas, focuses, and goals.  I begin working towards something or I get an idea in my head, but I seem to often times end up moving in a different direction several months later. While maintaining a vision and having the grit to see it through is important, Colin Wright in his book Considerations addresses my concern in a direct way.

 

“Live your life and allow your goals and priorities to grow as you grow.  Otherwise you may find yourself spending all your time running toward a finish line you have no interest in crossing, for no better reason than you told yourself you would cross it.”

 

When I look at the ideas and goals I am working towards and ask myself why I am pursuing these goals, I can better understand the motivation and reason for my efforts. If there does not seem to be a meaningful benefit in achieving that goal, then I can move on and allow that goal to shift with me or fall by the wayside.  Wright’s quote from above shows that reevaluating our goals is a natural progress of life, and he explains that cultivating self-awareness  will help you see which goals can be shifted and which ones should be maintained.

 

I have often been afraid of reaching a point where I was not happy with what I achieved, what my daily regimen was like, or finding out that the goal I worked for was not as sweet as I had imagined. What Wright’s quote says to me is that pursuing growth is the most important thing we can do in our life. Fearing that we will end up in a place we dislike should not stop us from looking for the right path. We can begin down a path and decide that it is not right for us, but if we change direction we must look for a path that offers growth that is more aligned with who we are.

Reconsider

One of the ideas I loved in Colin Wright’s book Considerations is his approach to beliefs and belief systems.  Wright emphasizes awareness and flexibility in our beliefs, and encourages us to understand the assumptions and question we we unquestioningly take to be true.  For him, having a belief system that is locked in and unchanging can be damaging as it does not allow you to grow or let your viewpoint evolve.  In his book, the author writes about the value in actively challenging your beliefs and aligning your thoughts with things you learn as your perspectives grow.

 

Wright writes, “Only by establishing a habit of checking your own ideas can you be certain that at any given moment you’re making decisions based on the most up-to-date set of personal beliefs available.” This quote resonates with me because it aims right at self-awareness, which has been a major focus on mine the last few years. By focusing in on yourself and working to truly understand your thoughts you can find areas where you have opportunities to grow and become a better person. What Wright discusses in his quote is the importance of practicing awareness and making sure your decisions and actions align with your personal beliefs. Without a sense of awareness it is hard to develop a personal philosophy and act in a way that lives out that philosophy.

 

However, Wright is not just encouraging us to build a personal philosophy and stick to it as a rigid backboard for our life. In my previous blog post, “Valuable Possessions” I wrote about Wright’s belief that a personal philosophy that allows change and flexibility offers greater value to the individual.  Wright argues that we should constantly look for more information from valuable sources to learn and gain new perspectives. Through this process it is expected that we will begin to see the world in new ways, and as we take in more information we must allow our thoughts to shift so that we can grow. “There’s never a bad time to reconsider what you know to be true. Wright states, “No belief should be safe from your investigation, and all should be regularly revisited.” By continually pushing ourselves to challenge entrenched ideas, accepting that we can change and develop new viewpoints, and practicing self awareness, we can grow and develop in ways that make us more open and engaged in the world around us.