Personal Development and the Normal Mind

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Nothing is more frustrating than trying to better yourself and being constantly beaten backwards. Embarking on the adventure of personal development can sometimes seem similar to trying to scale Mount Everest and finding that, every time you make a little progress, you suddenly start sliding down the mountain all the way back to base camp. You’ve done the training, got the right equipment and tools but you just don’t seem to be getting anywhere – and fast!

The first thing to realize is that, in endeavouring to better yourself and your lot in life, you never ever end up back at base camp – it just feels that way. Once you’ve even open your mind to the possibility that life can hold so much more for you than the normal dead-from-the-neck-up person could ever imagine, there is no going back to the old life. Despite the apparent fact that you’re not making any progress, you always are – there is no step, however small, wasted on the journey towards self-fulfilment.

More importantly, however, you must understand that, in trying to open your mind to what psychology calls flow, you are up against it. You’re up against millions of years of psychological evolution that has rendered your very own normal mind a powerful foe. The normal mind is hard-wired to believe the worst. Psychology tells us that the subconscious mind is ever backward looking, obsessed as it is by its ‘stored knowledge’ – that body of learning which we all imbibed during our so-called formative years. This is your default state of mind and, no matter how hard you try, every morning when you wake up, your mind will have reset itself to these default settings.

Worse than that, research also tells us that, in looking backwards, the subconscious is predisposed to focus on our negative stored knowledge – the bad stuff is easier to believe, we are always more likely to look at the worst. It is this negative tendency that leads to the ubiquitous curse of worry. It is this self same negative focus that leads to feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy and low self esteem. And, remember, these are your default settings. Not only that, they are the default settings of all normal minds – they are all around us – so there is comfort to be gained in belonging to a herd of mindless idiots.

The problem most of us face is that we end up blaming ourselves for our own tendencies. But there is no merit in playing the blame game. You are not to blame for your default state of mind – it is simply the norm of the adult human condition. Nor are you to blame for the feelings of inadequacy that plaque your mind. These feelings – and your consequent day-to-day behaviour – are not your fault. They do not relate to anything that you have done – they relate to what was done to you or for you during those formative years. They are irrelevant to who you are now and, more importantly, who you could be now.

Faced with these obstacles, it is little wonder that we feel that we continually end up back at base camp. But these are obstacles that, in even exploring the possibility that you could get more out of life, you know you can overcome – and even do from time to time! The trick is not to become discouraged on your journey. The secret is to soldier on. And the true warrior is one who is prepared to persevere and, ignoring the passing trials and tribulations that today will inevitably throw at us, will pick oneself up, dust oneself off and start over – every single time he or she slips or falls.

In soldiering on, you must realize that your default state of mind will never change – as I’ve said, that’s the way you’re wired. You must also realize that your stored knowledge is well stored under the lock and key of your subconscious mind. Your formative experiences are part of who you are, they will not change nor will they ever go away. But that should not be an ongoing obstacle because, as one who is seeking to better themselves, you must understand that you have a choice as to whether or not you will give these out-dated subconscious snapshots your energy and attention.

This is a choice you must exercise in your favour – and exercise it daily, in fact, moment to moment. It is only when you fail to exercise this choice – and allow your subconscious mind make its default choice for you – that you slip and slide down the slippery slope. In other words, you must not just wake up but stay awake. You must be constantly on your guard, constantly aware of your state of mind and whether you are feeling deflated as a result of giving your energy and attention to useless and negative thought. You must maintain a constant awareness of whether or not you are present – in other words, focused on what you are doing and where you are in reality in the here and now.

In essence, the personal development journey towards self fulfillment is a lifetime’s occupation – and it is a journey without a final destination. For the normal mind cannot understand just how abnormally and effortlessly happy and successful we can truly be.