Mind-Blowing Epiphanies That Turned My World Upside-Down
By David Cain
Over the years I’ve learned dozens of little tricks and insights for making life more fulfilling. They’ve added up to a significant improvement in the ease and quality of my day-to-day life. But the major breakthroughs have come from a handful of insights that completely rocked my world and redefined reality forever.
The world now seems to be a completely different one than the one I lived in about ten years ago, when I started looking into the mechanics of quality of life. It wasn’t the world (and its people) that changed really, it was how I thought of it.
Maybe you’ve had some of the same insights. Or maybe you’re about to.
- You are not your mind.
The first time I heard somebody say that, I didn’t like the sound of it one bit. What else could I be? I had taken for granted that the mental chatter in my head was the central “me” that all the experiences in my life were happening to.
I see quite clearly now that life is nothing but passing experiences, and my thoughts are just one more category of things I experience. Thoughts are no more fundamental than smells, sights and sounds. Like any experience, they arise in my awareness, they have a certain texture, and then they give way to something else.
If you can observe your thoughts just like you can observe other objects, who’s doing the observing? Don’t answer too quickly. This question, and its unspeakable answer, are at the center of all the great religions and spiritual traditions.
- Life unfolds only in moments.
Of course! I once called this the most important thing I ever learned. Nobody has ever experienced anything that wasn’t part of a single moment unfolding. That means life’s only challenge is dealing with the single moment you are having right now. Before I recognized this, I was constantly trying to solve my entire life — battling problems that weren’t actually happening. Anyone can summon the resolve to deal with a single, present moment, as long as they are truly aware that it’s their only point of contact with life, and therefore there is nothing else one can do that can possibly be useful. Nobody can deal with the past or future, because, both only exist as thoughts, in the present. But we can kill ourselves trying.
- Quality of life is determined by how you deal with your moments, not which moments happen and which don’t.
I now consider this truth to be Happiness 101, but it’s amazing how tempting it still is to grasp at control of every circumstance to try to make sure I get exactly what I want. To encounter an undesirable situation and work with it willingly is the mark of a wise and happy person. Imagine getting a flat tire, falling ill at a bad time, or knocking something over and breaking it – and suffering nothing from it. There is nothing to fear if you agree with yourself to deal willingly with adversity whenever it does show up. That is how to make life better. The typical, low-leverage method is to hope that you eventually accumulate power over your circumstances so that you can get what you want more often. There’s an excellent line in a Modest Mouse song, celebrating this side-effect of wisdom: As life gets longer, awful feels softer.
- Most of life is imaginary.
Human beings have a habit of compulsive thinking that is so pervasive that we lose sight of the fact that we are nearly always thinking. Most of what we interact with is not the world itself, but our beliefs about it, our expectations of it, and our personal interests in it. We have a very difficult time observing something without confusing it with the thoughts we have about it, and so the bulk of what we experience in life is imaginary things. As Mark Twain said: “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
- Human beings have evolved to suffer, and we are better at suffering than anything else.
Yikes. It doesn’t sound like a very liberating discovery. I used to believe that if I was suffering it meant that there was something wrong with me — that I was doing life “wrong.” Suffering is completely human and completely normal, and there is a very good reason for its existence. Life’s persistent background hum of “this isn’t quite okay, I need to improve this,” coupled with occasional intense flashes of horror and adrenaline are what kept human beings alive for millions of years. This urge to change or escape the present moment drives nearly all of our behavior. It’s a simple and ruthless survival mechanism which works exceedingly well for keeping us alive, but it has a horrific side effect: human beings suffer greatly by their very nature. This, for me, redefined every one of life’s problems as some tendril of the human condition. As grim as it sounds, this insight is liberating because it means: 1) that suffering does not necessarily mean my life is going wrong, 2) that the ball is always in my court, so the degree to which I suffer is ultimately up to me, and 3) that all problems have the same cause and the same solution.
- Emotions exist to make us biased.
This discovery was a complete 180 from my old understanding of emotions. I used to think my emotions were reliable indicators of the state of my life — of whether I’m on the right track or not. Your passing emotional states can’t be trusted for measuring your self-worth or your position in life, but they are great at teaching you what it is you can’t let go of. The trouble is that emotions make us both more biased and more forceful at the same time.
- All people operate from the same two motivations: to fulfill their desires and to escape their suffering.
Learning this allowed me to finally make sense of how people can hurt each other so badly. The best explanation I had before this was that some people are just bad. What a cop-out. No matter what kind of behavior other people exhibit, they are acting in the most effective way they are capable of (at that moment) to fulfill a desire or to relieve their suffering. These are motives we can all understand; we only vary in method, and the methods each of us has at our disposal depend on our upbringing and our experiences in life, as well as our state of consciousness. Some methods are skillful and helpful to others, others are unskillful and destructive, and almost all destructive behavior is unconscious. So there is no good and evil, only smart and dumb (or wise and foolish). Understanding this completely shook my long-held notions of morality and justice.
- Beliefs are nothing to be proud of.
Believing something is not an accomplishment. I grew up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they’re really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because “strength of belief” is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you’ve made it a part of your ego. Listen to any “die-hard” conservative or liberal talk about their deepest beliefs and you are listening to somebody who will never hear what you say on any matter that matters to them — unless you believe the same. It is gratifying to speak forcefully, it is gratifying to be agreed with, and this high is what the die-hards are chasing. Wherever there is a belief, there is a closed door. Take on the beliefs that stand up to your most honest, humble scrutiny, and never be afraid to lose them.
- Objectivity is subjective.
Life is a subjective experience and that cannot be escaped. Every experience I have comes through my own, personal, viewpoint. There can be no peer reviews of my direct experience, no real corroboration. This has some major implications for how I live my life. The most immediate one is that I realize I must trust my own personal experience, because nobody else has this angle, and I only have this angle. Another is that I feel more wonder for the world around me, knowing that any “objective” understanding I claim to have of the world is built entirely from scratch, by me. What I do build depends on the books I’ve read, the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had. It means I will never see the world quite like anyone else, which means I will never live in quite the same world as anyone else — and therefore I mustn’t let outside observers be the authority on who I am or what life is really like for me. Subjectivity is primary experience — it is real life, and objectivity is something each of us builds on top of it in our minds, privately, in order to explain it all. This truth has world-shattering implications for the roles of religion and science in the lives of those who grasp it.
What have you discovered that turned your world upside down?
15 Quotes to Inspire You to Greatness in 2016
Sometimes we need an extra push to follow our dreams in the new year. Great quotes can inspire us, motivate us, and help us get through hard times. In 2016 it’s time to take your career to a whole new level.
No more making excuses for why you can’t go after your dream job or the title you know you deserve. Let these quotes from some great thinkers inspire you to pursue your dreams and make them a reality in 2016:
- “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.”– Corrie ten Boom
Lesson: Identify what has been holding you back from your career success. Most likely, it’s been worry and fear. In the new year, it’s time to leave fear behind. The things you are afraid of are often the things most worth doing.
- “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”– Alan Kay
Lesson: You can’t wait around for good things to happen this year; you need to make them happen yourself.
- “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”– Albert Einstein
Lesson: Bringing value to your company is the best way up the corporate ladder. Don’t play office politics, just make sure you bring as much value as you possibly can to your organization.
- “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”– Babe Ruth
Lesson: You can learn and grow from your mistakes if you see them not as mere errors, but as opportunities to grow as a professional and as a person.
- “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”– Abraham Lincoln
Lesson: Honest Abe’s productivity hack is a good one. Before you start a job hunt or a new project, make sure you’ve sharpened your skills so you can succeed.
- “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”– John Wayne
Lesson: In 2014, you should try to frequently do things which scare you and push you outside your comfort zone. Take on a complicated new project, offer to do some public speaking, or learn a new skill. You’ll never rise in your career if you don’t take the chance to fall.
- “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”– Henry Ford
Lesson: Sure the bottom line is important, but it’s not the only thing. A business should be more than dollar signs, it should give something back to the world and inspire passion in employees.
- “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”– Winston Churchill
Lesson: In the new year it’s important not to let the little things get you down. You won’t hit a home run every time, but if you bounce back you’ll come back stronger.
- “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”– Margaret Thatcher
Lesson: You might sometimes dream about a slow day in the office, but you know you thrive when things get crazy. In 2014, don’t rest on your laurels when you could be challenging yourself to do and be better.
- “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”– Nelson Mandela
Lesson: Nothing is ever impossible, even if it often feels that way. If you give up too soon, you’ll never know if you could have actually achieved your dream.
- “Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.”– John Maxwell
Lesson: Don’t write yourself off before you actually try. If you put in the hard work and effort this year, you’ll be closer to achieving your dream.
- “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”– Helen Keller
Lesson: There will always be negatives in your professional life. If you focus on the negative instead of the positive, you’ll miss out on great opportunities.
- “Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Lesson: The best way to succeed in 2016 is to marry pie-in-the-sky ambition with hard work. If you dream big and work hard, you’ll be able to make those dreams a reality.
- “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”– Roger Staubach
Lesson: Going the extra mile in 2014 is really the best way to arrive at your dream destination. No one ever made it to their dream career, got their dream job, or started a business without going above and beyond.
- “Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”– Gloria Steinem
Lesson: It’s hard to get anywhere in your professional or personal life without a little bit of dreaming. You need a destination in mind to start the New Year out right, so don’t be afraid to dream big in 2016
Peter Cobbe coaching
- NOW ACCEPTING NEW CLIENTS : Coaching via Skype / Facetime / 1 to 1 meetingsMy career experience includes HR Director and senior executive roles in Barclays plc and Tesco plc leading major transformation and complex change programmes reporting at Board level .I have an MBA, BA and I am a member of the Association for Coaching. I am an accredited coach with over 12 years of private client coaching experience and as an associate consultant with Penna (UK) dealing with career, life,executive and business coaching and counselling. I work in mentoring and coaching partnerships with executives to help achieve gains of importance to them.I help people of all ages, different cultures and job levels to understand more about themselves, their impact on others and how to develop across major dimensions in life.
I respect the integrity and confidentiality of my clients building on their existing great skills and abilities and evolving enhanced self guidance : ” No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts and abilities and possibilities.”Specialties: Holistic / systemic approach to coaching
- Remote coaching via Skype and Apple Facetime
- Coaching for Executive performance /High Potential including C level
- Senior Executive mentoring
- First 100 days
- Career Coaching/portfolio lifestyle
- Coaching for powerful presentations
- Life Coaching
- Executive advice on staff insight surveys
- Facilitating key meetings and C- level strategic retreats engaging around people decisions that flow from business choices
- Business/HR Strategy ,Change Leadership
- Communications strategy
- Psychometrics,NLP,Emotional Intelligence
- Confidence&Self Esteem
- Creativity coaching
- Independent Consulting propositions coaching
- Non Executive director coaching
- Business Report/White Paper writing
- Graduate career coaching
Just a thought :
Five frogs are sitting on a log.
Four decide to jump off. How many are left?
Answer: five. Why? Because there’s a difference between deciding and doing.