When my friends answer their phones, I’m likely to say, “My name is Bond, James Bond.” Then, after they say, “Malcolm, I know that’s you,” we get on to the real reason I called.
In my heart of hearts, I realize I’m not James Bond. For one thing, my psychologist Dr. No Way has informed me that it’s “wrong” to pretend to be who you’re not. Years ago, Kurt Vonnegut warned that such pretense is dangerous.
What is less clear is who I really am.
Yes, I do know my name and I’m happy to tell you I remember it most of the time. But that name is merely a convenient label, perhaps like a brand such as Coke or Pepsi and General Motors or Ford. You know what’s what with such brand names, but with Malcolm Campbell you may be less sure, and I would agree.
Masha Malka begins her beautiful little book The One Minute Coach with this question: “Whose life are you living?” I’m not sure I can answer this question correctly. What about you?
The psychologist Eric Berne, widely known for his work with games and scripts, suggested that when we were young, we accepted so many of the “you should” and “you ought” admonitions from parents and other adults without question and that we still accept them today as gospel. Consciously, we might exclaim: HOW CRAZY IS THAT while subconsciously we still believe “you’ll never make anything of yourself” and “dreams like that are only for rich people.”
In a similar vein, author Nancy Whitney-Reiter says in her recent book (Unplugged: How to Disconnect from the Rat Race, Have an Existential Crisis, and Find Meaning and Fulfillment) that there are reasons most people aren’t happy even though they’ve achieved many of the goals we set out to achieve. Among them is the fact that we’re shoved into the school system and then into the world of work with goals that are programmed into us by parents, friends and society. We don’t have time to ask, “Do I really want to be a highly paid CEO of a giant company who lives in a million-dollar house and drives a $100,000 car?”
How many of us are trudging ahead from school to marriage to kids to jobs following either the expectations of others or the expectations we accepted without question?
Reiter urges us to “unplug” from the hustle and bustle of every day life, take some time for ourselves, and learn who we really are and what makes us happy. Malka urges us to spend time each day taking action steps that will lead us toward an authentic life. Why don’t we do such things?
We just don’t get to them, right? Remember all the things you told your friends you were going to do some day: learn another language, go back to school, maintain a savings account, lose weight, stop smoking? Like New Year’s resolutions, they sounded good, but they took a effort and seemed to be such endless processes that we didn’t get anywhere. So, whose life am I living? Whose life are you living?
In his e-book The Principles of Successful Manifesting, Thomas Herold observes that we’re going to make progress in those areas where we place our attention. This echoes a question that has been asked by Silva Method instructors: “If you spend 15 minutes three times a day thinking positive thoughts about yourself and your goals, but then spend the rest of the day thinking negative thoughts about your life and your job and your relationships, what kind of result will you end up with?”
Indeed. If we’re not attending to ourselves and our dreams, I don’t think we’ll find either of them.
If we had started that savings account 25 years ago, it might be worth something now even though we could only deposit a little bit of money each week. If we had started learning another language ten years ago, we might have some fluency in it by now even though we only had time for one lesson a week. Had we placed more of our attention on learning who we really are and what we truly desire, we might now be free from parental admonitions, the un-verified assumptions, and the expecations of those who embrace the consumer matrix version of “life.”
Malka asks where we’ll be next year at this time. “Will you be doing the same things, going to the same places, spending time with the same people, wishing the same things, and realizing that with each year that passes, those wishes will probably never materialize?”
Those of us who have noticed that we might not really be who we want to be are told by friends and co-workers, “that’s the breaks” and “that’s just the way it is” and “you’re stuck now, so let’s just go grab a couple of beers and watch the ball game.”
We’re hearing more and more these days from more and more people that we’re not stuck, that we do have choices, and it’s not too late. In 1902, James Allen wrote his ground-breaking and inspiring book “As a Man Thinketh.” My father had an original-edition copy on his bookshelf and I read it as a young man thinking what a wonderful dream. Problem was, I saw it as a dream rather than a reality. One of the more positive developments I see in a time many are describing as chaotic, is that thousands of people are finally catching up with the beliefs Allen stated over a century ago.
Our choices are real and viable. Unlike tasks requiring bricks and mortar, Allen’s beliefs–and those of his modern-day counterparts–do not take years and years of painful 24/7 effort that are beyond are schedules and our capabilities. Seriously, they’re relative quick and painless if there’s a lot of passion behind them and oh, so little time.
- Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
- And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
- The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
- Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:—
- He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
- Environment is but his looking-glass.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Malcolm R. Campbell who takes this philosophy neither shaken nor stirred.
Join me on December 11th for a discussion with author and publisher Shelagh Watkins. She’ll be here to talk about Forever Friends, a new poetry and short story anthology released by Mandinam Press in October.