Correct your perspective, improve your life.
Our perspective on our world and ourselves is difficult to correct. Our brains automatically respond to new information that supports how we have already been determined by birth and circumstance and what we’ve copied, conformed to or are stuck with because of a reflexive timidity. We tend to dismiss contradictory information as irrelevant or unreliable.
Additionally, we’re preoccupied, e.g., with our electronic devices, and with the unstoppable anxiety-ridden drone in our heads. Even when we try to broaden our horizons, with travel for instance, we may spend more time inwardly shaping the story we want to tell about our trip than actually seeing, hearing and understanding what’s in front of us.
This is also true when we’re not in a foreign country but just, for the moment, challenged by the novelty of a new situation. Our everyday perspective and associated behavior can be clueless, even insulting, e.g., when we find ourselves with people not just like us. We are attached to the perspective, story and reflexive response we have and are inclined to protect them no matter how incongruent or inadequate. And, referencing our example, when we travel to “just get away from it all,” well, we take our electronic devices and anxiety with us.
This means that no matter how much education we’ve had, it is challenging to encroach upon the intellectual and emotional territory described by our “story.” But when we meet the challenge and create a connection with the world that goes beyond our habitual inwardness, the intimacy and sense of belonging are sublime and produce an authentic confidence.
One of our goals when we study autonomy and life is to correct our perspective. I refer to this effort as a quiet revolution in the prevailing culture of America’s autonomous individual. This correction does not require us to travel or to sit on a beach “away from it all.” It does require contemplation or focus, little or none of it digital.
When we correct our perspective, we recognize, perhaps for the first time, that much of being an autonomous individual is about the adequacy of our response to the behavioral challenges confronting us. What kind of disciplined behavior can we count on when we face conflict, belligerence or animosity? What behavioral resources can we create on our feet, so to speak, when our initial gut response to a provocation is anger, embarrassment, fear or passivity? And what kind of behavior can we call forth when we’re lonely, bored, disappointed or depressed?
I think of this recognition about behavioral challenges as an “about face.” Why? Because we start out thinking that life is about enacting our perspective, vision or dreams but with little understanding that the “enactment” is all about behavior. By correcting our perspective and seeing the challenges as a demand for a range of competent behaviors, however, we improve our chances for success.
As we rearrange our perspective from the ground up, it becomes a referential authority for our informed realization of how we are situated in America. But before this conceptual and dynamically organized correction is in effect, we may have no real sense of how to develop an original expression of our minding, speaking and acting. Indeed, as I said, before the correction is operative, our behavioral resources may be limited to those we haplessly acquired.
In short, our philosophy has demonstrated itself to be a transformative, yet practical course of study. Its perspective is inspiring, often thrilling, and produces a peace of mind, flexible homeostasis and sense of gratitude that enables us to flourish and contribute even when the conditions and circumstances aren’t ideal.
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Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes.
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