End Game Concept #4: Let Go

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”― Albert Ellis

I was walking down the street, doing a social exercise of saying “Hi” to random strangers, and I was suddenly in a place I had not been. I was not familiar with the place and was feeling out of my element. I wondered “What sort of meditation might make me grounded enough to be comfortable in this situation?”. Then I quickly realized how irrational that thinking was, and thought “well I’ll just say Hi and see what happens”, and so I did.

So if you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a long time eating up lots of information, trying different systems, and even various forms of meditation. You may have had varying levels of success, and perhaps some worked miraculously well even. You just want to run into the streets and tell all your friends and every stranger willing to listen how amazing this one thing you’ve discovered is.

This works as an excellent foundation, a sort of training wheels that allows you to get started down a path that might be foreign to you previously. Essentially to “fake it until you make it”. At some point you don’t need to worry about what the likes of Socrates or Jesus may have said, but you can believe in what you have to say.

There is a danger to all this too, and it is a pitfall I’ve fallen into several times, analysis paralysis. “The next book might get me over this one thing I need to learn”, “But wait, is that the right way to look at death? Let me read 10 more books on it from varying beliefs”.

Thus is what happened in my opening story, trying to think of what system, belief or strategy I may throw at the situation, when instead, the answer was just to do it. You do it, and you deal with it. You let go of your expectations or a particular outcome. You let go of the need to fully control yourself and others.

You learn and you learn, and you learn that you didn’t need to learn. Instead you remember, you remember how you were before so many ideas filled your head of how you need to be, how you need to act, how you need to present yourself.

This End Game Concept is tricky but also very liberating. It is to take all the things you’ve learned, all the things you do, all the things you want, and let them go. Not to stop what you’re doing, but to let go of all these things you’ve built up about yourself, and how you should be. It is like the number one thing you learn from self improvement, is that there is no self to improve.

If you are simply a person who does what they’re inspired to do, you don’t need to attach any of those things to yourself. You can take action which shows courage, but not label yourself a courageous person. For perhaps you end up in a truly dangerous situation, and you’re not a ‘courageous person’ and now you feel bad. Instead, let go. Do the act of courage when it feels right to you, but realize it can never define who you are. There is no benefit to placing unnecessary labels on yourself. Simply do. Let go. And do again.

End Game Concept #3: The Golden Mean

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha

“Always look on the bright side of life” the characters sing at the ending of the Monty Python film A Life of Brian, optimistic right until the bitter end!

Life isn’t so much about being optimistic all the time, but in finding a balance, while also holding onto the knowledge that to some extent, you will always dictate your reality. There have been countless times when I’ve made a biased decision about a situation that was decidedly negative or hurtful.

Take for instance something as common as your day job. Chances are, if you’ve worked in one place for a decidedly long time, your opinion of it is pretty concrete. Perhaps it’s ‘just paying the bills’ or ‘something you got forced into taking because of the schooling your parents made you take’. And so all of your life perspective surrounding your job will always be, to some extent or another, unpleasant. Just as a hotel cleaning staff can see their job as “picking up other people’s garbage” or “helping provide a clean and comfortable environment for guests”, it’s possible to see your job in a similar light.

If you view the above as lying to yourself, and impossible, you’re right. As viewed, so appears. Whether you’ve been working in a place for one year or five years, it’s still very much possible to change the story of your situation, or it’s not possible, if that is the story you’ve decided.

Storytelling is something we’re great at as a society. “I’m not good enough for that person”, “Nothing I do matters anyways”, “It’s too late for me to make that big of a chance at this age”. All of the above are decidedly, very real, and completely true for the people who are saying them. Though I’m not here to tell you to put on the sound of the ocean and chant “I am abundant”, that may not be the straightest route to changing your perspective.

Aristotle has a philosophic rule called the golden mean, that is, the desirable middle between two extremes.

The golden mean could be something like “I have goals and dreams, I’m willing to take action that matters to me to go towards those”. A realistic and humble story, is one that is much easier to swallow, and much closer to the objective truth. The ego loves the extremes, “Of course I’m a failure, look at all the times I messed up, pity me!” or alternatively “Look at how amazing I am, I can do not wrong, bow before me!” but it has difficulty inflating or deflating humility, there is little to corrupt in the truth.

You may not have the power to create massive change in your current situation right now, and perhaps aiming for massive change at the offset is a problematic way to start off anyways. It can take daily effort to stay out of one of the two extremes. If you proceed with the knowledge that you’re putting in the effort, and not doing so because you’re afraid of being a failure or trying to be the greatest ever, the chances of success in any aspect of life are that much greater. The grind is real.