Our ‘self’ is shaped by what we do all day long
Psychologist say that our personality or self is a set of traits greatly influenced by nature and nurture.
I have never been able to accept that my ‘self’ is just a bunch of traits, largely influenced by my early childhood. Instead I found greater resonance with the Buddhist understanding of self: ‘a constantly changing, becoming force.’
‘Becoming, becoming, changing, changing, becoming’: if you have been on a Vipassana retreat, you may remember these words as they echoed day and night in Mr Goenka’s voice during the course of the retreat.
So what is causing this changing, this becoming? Well, there are a number of answers to this but what I have started realising is that we are becoming what we do (think, act, watch, listen, feel) all day long.
Our waking hours
Since we have no conscious control over how the mind works during sleep, what we spend our waking hours on, defines us.
Using this lens of waking hours, I discovered that I spend considerable time watching OTT platforms and news on television, talking on the phone, discussing my problems, worrying about my job (or the lack of it) and money.
The more time I spend on a particular activity, the more I am defined by it. This is an authentic representation of who I am, my self is and where I am headed.
A friend once advised me while I was choosing between two job offers, to check what an average day at the job would mean? In other words what would I be spending my time on? Her wise advice: ‘Choose one that allows you to spend more time on things you like or are interested in learning’.
Try this exercise
- Write down a typical day in your life. Write everything you spend more than one waking hour on each day. Be honest and as detailed as possible, don’t just say I go to work.
- Think about the contents of your constant thoughts, the content of your conversations with friends and family.
- Go over what you came up with and put it in safe keeping. Look at it constantly over the next 7 days.
I discovered that coming face to face with how I spent my time and thereby what I was becoming, made me sit up and see my present and future. I was far from the best version of myself. I wasn’t doing much meaningful work, I was, in fact directionless, easily distracted and swayed by the strong winds of external circumstances.
I didn’t just realise this in one day, accept it all on the second, and start transforming on the third day. It has been and continues to be a slow, gradual process.
You might not instantly see the connection between what is occupying your waking hours and what you are becoming, but if you stay with the process, you surely will.
While the discovery of wakeful time felt like a big leap, the realisation that I was seeking transformation and not change was another leap.
Click on the next post to continue reading: change is not transformation