Life is easy.
Almost anyone can do it, as evidenced by the now 7.5 plus BILLION people on the planet! Really all one needs is breath, a heartbeat, and the ability to, at least on occasion, feed and water one’s self. Throw in some shelter for protection from the elements, and ta-da! Life.
Living on the other hand is often hard and comes with loads of failure. It requires that one has, at least a nodding acquaintance with themselves, a sense of self value, an idea of why you do what you do and a reasonable ability to plan enough activities day to day to get you to some sort of goal. You then must muster all of that into some semblance of order that allows you to connect to some sort of system like work, school or welfare and sustain enough benefit from those systems to maintain a living.
Herein is the problem with living, far too many of us, as Henry David Thoreau so poignantly stated, “Lead lives of quiet desperation…”
We work very hard to live a safe, unexamined life without intention or any sense of purpose, a life that, too often, barely reaches the definition of living. The fear of failure, embarrassment, public ridicule or exposure and shame all combine to keep us stuck in the preverbal cave of perceived safety that is, in fact, a self-imposed prison.
You would think that an apex species like a human, with all of the successes we have chalked up in our history, would have a better perspective on failure. We would be, as is the current vernacular, “crushing it” on a very regular basis, rather than the rare exception that “crushing it” really is.
How rare? It depends how you look at it. If we look at wealth, a common “crushing it” matrix, money… lots of money. According to a factcheck.org report, about 6.5% of the US population makes $100,000 or more a year. To bring that to a real world number, this means that of the 322,762,018 people in the U.S. 301,782,487 are not “crushing it”.
What if we measured happiness? Well according to a recent Harris poll, we are not “crushing it” here either, with about 33% of the population reporting as happy or very happy.
Free-time then? Again, according to Gallop, worker productivity has increased 400% since 1950 yet wages have only increased about 2% over that time. (the economist.com “The Big Freeze”) We are working more hours than ever, for about the same percentage of the take, and with the advent of mobile technology we are virtually never away from the office. So much for “crushing it” in the time paradigm.
So what’s the deal?
Well, truth be known, the deal is a giant paradox.
For a population of 7.5 billion, we are really rare.
General consensus on the odds of any of us being born (give or take a few trillion) are 1 in 400 trillion. That’s a huge number! In fact, a big enough number to ensure there has never been anyone like you, nor is there ever going to be anyone like you. Each and every one of us is a one-off, unique. All the more reason to get after the “crushing it” thing right? Not so fast… there is a paradox, remember? You see for all of our uniqueness, we are equipped with a brain that hasn’t had a major upgrade in about 40,000 years.
Our brain, like the brain of our great-great-great…great grandparents still operates under a simple, basic pretense; find cave, find food (easier food is better), and be safe… Oh yea and mate. Which leads to bigger cave, more food and a higher stakes “be safe” game.
Food, shelter, sex and safety were, and still are, the big four and the brain obsesses on them to ensure survival. Fast forward to the world we live in today where food, shelter and safety are, at least at minimum levels, assured for most of us in this western society, and we see a brain still looking to keep us safe and fed.
The irony is this, it’s not “the man” who keeps us down, but the brain that keeps us stuck.
Our brain likes its world tidy, predictable, consistent and safe. Its number one weapon in the defense against the onslaught of the “Un-Safe” is fear. This explains why the act of simply getting out of bed on a cold winter morning can feel like a life or death decision. In the early days of the modern brain, failure was an important factor in a game called “Don’t Ever Do That Again”. Back then, life wasn’t all that easy and the brain frankly was more concerned with survival than quality of life issues.
But, before we get to feeling too hopeless on the state of our brain, there is another truth about the grey matter between our ears, it adapts to change fairly readily. In fact according to super smart researchers like Dr. Norman Doidge, the human brain has an amazing ability to change and rewire, albeit at times kicking and screaming. Understanding that plasticity and mylonization are really a thing, and that we do have more than a little control over our brain growth, just may kickstart that long overdue upgrade we have been waiting for.
Life is not about getting more stuff or better stuff, more time or more comfort, it’s about a better you. A better you that lives a life of purpose, on purpose. An informed “you” that understands what you value, where your discomfort really lies, what talents you possess, why you do what you do and how that is either serving you or enslaving you. A new you that is committed to a purposeful practice, daily, and an experience that is worth the amount of life you are trading for it.
The truth is, we live a life of basics. The stuff we should be teaching in school but somehow have traded for the ubiquitous “every ones a winner and should feel safe” mantra of modern society and current education, and the stuff of really, really, REALLY old brain programming.
It’s not about the easy path, or the quick path, or even necessarily the tried and tested path, it’s about your path. It’s the only one you can travel. On your journey you may find love, you may find money, you may find peace, or you may find confidence, you certainly will find some hurt and failure along the way. However, I am sure of one thing, your brain will never change and will never achieve any of it without a purposeful plan and a daily purposeful practice that you control to get you through the stuff we call life.