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  • Writer's pictureJosh Killam, LPC

Change Your Trajectory

There is meaning to this life. If there weren't, we would not spend a lifetime searching for meaning. If there weren't, the lessons we learned from yesterday's mistakes would not still be relevant today.

One question to ask yourself is how I can learn from yesterday's mistakes, personally and collectively. An idea worth considering is Carl Jung's concept of the collective unconscious and the building of community knowledge over the centuries. We take others' learned experiences from conversations, books, or videos and then build upon them in our life. We do this by trying on these different ideas and experiences, keeping the things that have value, and discarding those that don't fit.

The necessity to learn from others is a good argument for why families are essential for building meaningful lives. As children, we are the hardware that automatically downloads the software of our parents. The little nuanced behaviors trickle down unknowingly from parent to child. Which then are acted out by the child in the world. The world gives the child feedback, rinse and repeat; thus, a human psyche is born. Growing up is becoming aware of these learned characteristics and weighing them according to value and relevance in your life. We must become conscious of that software (learned behaviors) if we are to know them and change them. Mind you, not all learned behaviors need to be discarded just because they were learned passively.

We could talk for years about becoming aware of the maladaptive behavior learned from our families. It is tough to be human. It's tough to grow up. However, this challenge is part of what makes it meaningful to be human. We can find solace in the idea that life is challenging because of those that have come before us and have found a way to thrive. Marcus Aurelius, in his Meditations, states, "Well-being is good luck. Or Good Character." Our well-being (read mental health) is directly tied to how we live our lives. Whether you are plagued with maladaptive behaviors from childhood or not. Find peace knowing you can change through conscious awareness of yourself.

The empowerment you need to be reminded of is learning to pay attention to your software so that you can make updates where you see fit to improve your well-being. Paying attention means practicing self-discovery with the aim of being your authentic self. Listen with intent to those that have come before you. Whether that is family or a historic great like Marcus Aurelius or someone admirable, learn from them what made them great. Then, from their roadmap, find what can make you great. When reading this, if you said to yourself, "I don't know my authentic self," good. The first step in getting anywhere is knowing where you are. So find someone to admire, someone who inspires you. Take the risk. Be vulnerable and honest with yourself.

Despite the unfairness and tragedy of life, we can aim to be of high character, and this can be enough. The good life we are all pursuing can be achieved through good character. Start by emulating someone who leads a good life. Then seek a good life, and your well-being can improve. Finally, focus on yourself and practice asking yourself, "how am I responsible for the trajectory of my life, and who can I learn from to change it."

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