Thursday, 12 July 2012

What will I be thinking?

Despite the similar title this week's entry isn't going to have very much in common with last week's. However, before I give a more direct explanation I'd like to give a little background on where this entry is coming from. Just recently my life has been pretty turbulent. Work, as evidenced by my unreliable entries here, has been very hectic (and promises to continue to be for the next few months). I've fallen behind on a lot of my personal goals, particularly with regards to writing and finally I've had a few somewhat upsetting personal matters. All in all it's led to both my thoughts and actions being a little messy.
As a result of this, I came back to an idea which someone suggested to me a long time ago, that I think about all of my current problems, decisions and circumstances from the perspective of myself in four years time.

This is a similar concept to the one I brought up in the entry on Robert Anton Wilson (that by taking up a different perspective on life, or 'reality tunnel' as he called them, we can learn a great deal). I'm trying to consider everything in my life as though I am me in four years time looking back. The advantages of this should be obvious. Things which upset me now will hardly bother me in a few years time and there are pursuits which I might shy away from in the short term which would be wonderful in the long term (learning a language or instrument for instance), painful experiences may even, taking the long view, seem beneficial.
Obviously doing this is pretty easy in some ways, I can look back to four years in my past and see which things from then still matter to me now. However it is, in the way which many matters of the head are, dangerous and easily usurped. If I want to do something now that would probably be a bad idea in the long term, I may still be able to find an argument that it is a good idea, that the best possible outcome will have turned into a very beneficial one for future me. What this perspective is guaranteed to do though is enforce a certain patience. That is, whatever rash activity I'm planning can easily be done in a couple of week's time without any harm from future me's perspective.
What I want to stress is that actually forcing myself to take this position turned out to be far more valuable than I'd thought. I was already able to intellectually say to myself that painful things happening to me now are nonetheless beneficial, but knowing that in a purely reasoned way didn't seem to help. By playing the part of this future me I was able to feel that fact, to actually take on the benefits of that experience and point out to myself how influential it had been. It's a little like the difference between reading Shakespeare to yourself, seeing how Romeo feels and actually playing Romeo on stage, acting it out to precisely experience those feelings. Perhaps I'm giving myself too much credit, but I'm trying to point out how different it is to think about a situation and to actually feel it.

Having experimented a bit with this point of view I don't actually think it is a good place to live, mentally. There are a great many things from day to day which now-me may very much enjoy but which future-me would have no interest in. I'm sure future-me would prefer I ate only roughage and exercised every day, but that would be a very boring life, a little cake now and then adds spice to life, it makes it more joyful. However I do think this is an excellent tool to have in my psychological toolbox. A way of thinking to bring out whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or worried by my present life. Often I've found that it indicates much more clearly how little of a problem things are than they feel and gives me a good idea of the proper way out of the current situation.

The final thing I want to mention is that, having toyed with this point of view quite a bit recently, I've found that it has altered my perspective quite significantly on a number of issues. It hasn't done this in quite the way I expected however. I haven't thought much more deeply about my future career or the family I may one day have, those things both seem too random and too unpredictable to me. What it's really made me think about a lot more is the games of chance in every day life. That for every two hundred people I meet there may be one who turns into a lifelong friend, making each one of the potentially boring hundred and ninety nine conversations seem much more worthwhile. Equally it's made me consider self improvement as much more of a ongoing and valuable journey. I would like, eventually, to be someone who could be described as charming. That may not be possible, but I believe even more strongly now that socialising is just a matter of practice and pushing yourself. With this in mind, each one of those boring conversations is also a chance to practice, a honing of my skills and an opportunity to try something which, while it may embarrass me in the short term, may turn out to be a new skill I can use.
Both of these ideas apply to all sorts of areas of life and have left me thinking about, not so much where I would like to be in four years, but who I would like to be.

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