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Credit: Danny P. Ocean

The World’s Greatest Lie

And the Path to Freedom

By Kendel J. Christensen

Part IV of VIII

 

Think Outside the Box

The world conditions us to think and act like we are victims. Entire schools of thought within psychology seek to reduce human behavior to simple stimulus-response reactions. Movements in biology seek to make our genes responsible for what we do. Media makes it seem like all our problems are due to incompetent governments and an uncontrollable economy. Popular culture suggests that we “cannot help the way we feel.”[1] Such messages are mainstream. They are pervasive and embedded deeply within our cultural DNA. To differing degrees, they all play a part in the Greatest Lie.

 

If we do not question the messages we receive, it puts our mind in a neat little box—a small space that makes us small-minded. Small-minded enough to be triggered by the next external stimulus that seems a lot more important than it really is. Combine this with the fact that we have an unconscious tendency to want to conform to our surrounding social groups[2] (who conform to the mainstream beliefs around them), it is no wonder we all love to complain. We live in a culture of victimhood! It is a cycle that feeds on itself.

 

It is a vicious cycle that acutely limits our vision, chaining our imagination inside a damp cave, doomed to watch the shadows of an elaborate puppet show which conditions us to believe that “this is all there is.” We are stuck in a slum, content to make mud pies, when we could be enjoying the fullness of life at the beach.

 

But there is another way. We can choose not to be victims by choosing to think outside the box. We can choose to shun the common worldview for one more rare. We can choose to take conscientious responsibility for our lives. Thinking outside the box means that choose to ask the questions no one is asking, even if they are uncomfortable or reflect poorly on us. If you are on the Path of Freedom, you will realize “who are we to not to ask these questions?”

The Questions No One Asks

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a Personal Constitution. It is a document that states the personal values that I publicly commit to live by throughout my life. Point number 10 states, in part:

 

10. I choose not to be a victim. Though I cannot control everything, I choose to proactively seek and take personal responsibility for the things that I can control.

 

I do not diminish the adversity, heartache, and truly tragic circumstances you may come from. But you, too, can make the same choice. You can think outside the box and become free. Unless and until a person chooses to fully embrace this idea and its implications, they will be a victim. And both their immediate self-worth and long-term happiness will be held captive by that choice.

 

Again, it is a difficult choice. I am not so deluded as to say there aren’t consequences to saying that your personal successes and failures are your responsibility. I am just saying it has brought me more happiness than I can articulate, and I invite you to consider the possibility.

 

While you do so, I offer a warning: do not dismiss this as more extreme than it is. We humans have a propensity to think in extremes. We tend to default to “all-or-nothing,” “black-and-white,” straw-man portrayals.[3] And it kills countless ideas and splendid plans that may have offered wondrous solutions, if we had simply given them a full chance.[4] All I am really advocating is that, before you complain, that you scrupulously look at how you may, in fact, be more responsible than you think for the situation.

 

If you are willing to continue, here are some of the paradigm-altering questions I have found helpful as I have tried thinking outside the box, and choosing freedom over victimhood.

 

…to be continued…


[1] This requires a bit more explanation to see why we are not victims of our feelings. For why I deem this particular worldview as incorrect, read chapter six of Crucial Conversations. Additionally, experts suggest that there is actually a lot we can do to affect the way we feel. See Noam Shpancer, Ph. D., “Action Creates Emotion,” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-therapy/201010/action-creates-emotion These ideas can even arguably be extended to romantic feelings. See also Dr. Jeremy Nelson, “Is Your Personality Making You More or Less Physically Attractive?” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-attraction-doctor/201105/is-your-personality-making-you-more-or-less-physically-attractive

[2] Sometimes to an absurd length, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conformity

[3] For example, one could read this and think, “He is saying that, if you have problems, you are a horrible, worthless human being!” I am doing no such thing. Sometimes doing all you can to take responsibility for your life is saying, “I’m going to try again tomorrow.” Sometimes, that really is all we can do. I’ve been there.

[4] “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” –Thomas Edison

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