Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Is it possible to 'find' yourself?

Two thousand years ago, a succession of Chinese scholars did rather a lot of deep thinking. They posed questions and made statements that are eternally relevant. Their teachings challenge us to open ourselves up to possibilities we may never have even considered.

I recently had the pleasure of listening to a fascinating interview with the Harvard Professor of Chinese History, Michael Puett. He calls upon these ancient ideas and illustrates how they can guide us on to the path of a 'good life'.

"I'm trying to find myself", is a commonly used phrase and - for many - an attractive notion. Michael suggests that there is no core self to find. He goes on to explain that we are all a messy bunch of stuff. That we are fluid; ever evolving. As such, we cannot find ourselves. But we can be more mindful of how we respond to things.

He gave the example of someone who would label themselves as 'angry'. That they might explain this is as a result of a failed relationship. In labelling oneself we are saying, "This is what I am and will continue to be". 

He suggests that we make efforts to respond more positively to everyday occurrences. To think of life as training...something we can get better at - and by this he meant be happier.

By responding more positively to things life throws at us, we can make our lives, and those of the people around us, better.

He went on to explain that he is not suggesting we all pretend we are fabulous. That it is reasonable (and helpful) to realise that we are not extremely good at ________, but that we can improve. That we are fluid, evolving, improving ourselves.

This way of thinking and his clarity really struck a chord with me, which I thought I'd share. 

 "When you see a good person, think of becoming like him/her. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points."  -  Confucius

"The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials."  -  Confucius

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