What Do You Want To Be Right About?
[Effectively Part 2 of “Everyone is Right”]
Everyone is right: so what do you want to be right about?
The crucial piece of this philosophy, and in everything being contextual, is that we each have control over our subjective reality.
In other words: we have control over what we believe.
It may be hard as hell, and challenge us to the extreme, but deciding what we want to believe is arguably the most powerful tool we have for getting what we want out of life.
The process of getting there is beyond what I want to explore right now, but is really at the core of my work around Inflection Points – about discovering the meaning that’s already in your life, and instilling meaning where it’s not – and requires both inner work and external changes (go to joshjoseph.com, take the quiz, get the guide, start the process…).
But right now my point is that once you realize you have control over what you understand as “Truth”, you get to ask: “What do I want to believe?”
And answering that question begins with: “What do I want out of life?”
This is what I call “The ends justifying the means.” We start at the end, what we want in life. For most people, the answer is a variation of meaning, fulfilment, and similar (also sometimes peace, or happiness, or money: but I’d argue those are variations, with varying efficacy…)
So start by asking yourself: What do you want out of life?
That’s your “end”. And then comes the “means” piece: Since you can decide what to believe, what are the beliefs that will point you towards that end?
For simplicity in illustration, I’m going to run with “meaning” as my end.
So to get more meaning in life, what should I decide to believe in?
In theory, this is where religion comes in – because believing in God and a divine plan provides a lot of meaning. The problem is modern religious infrastructure and institutions, that often don’t do a lot to actually provide meaning to people’s lives, especially on a regular and subjective basis. But, the point stands.
I often think of Plato’s myth of Er (from The Republic), and James Hillman’s interpretation: (oversimplifying) our soul chooses our life’s path, chooses our body, our parents, our traumas, all of it – to serve it’s needs. Therefore, all of our suffering and traumas (and Traumas) are for a reason – for the growth and service of something greater, which we can’t understand.
If we believe that, there is meaning in all of our struggles. As Plato wrote: “…it may preserve us, if we are persuaded by it.”
In other words: fate. A divine plan. “Everything happens for a reason.” Or “Things don’t happen to me, they happen for me.”
On the flip side of the spectrum: extreme atheism, and a mechanical universe. Ie, the only real things are what we can see and measure. Consciousness is a function of brain impulses and survival mechanisms. We are here by total chance. We are bags of meat.
Sure, that one is easier to validate with scientific thinking. But: what ends does it create? The belief of a cold universe like this implies that our lives have no meaning.
Therefore, if I believed in that universe, but I wanted a life of meaning, my next aspiration would be changing my beliefs therein.
So if you can get on board with subjective reality, and our beliefs being malleable (let me know if not and I’m happy to go deeper or discuss!), then the next question becomes what ends you want in life – which in turn leads to the question: what beliefs will get you to that end?
Start with knowing everything is context, so it’s all right (or wrong) – so you’ll objectively be wrong (or right) in any event. Then, stop being so attached to a Truth that makes you miserable. Start changing the stories you tell yourself to ones that feed you with what you’re seeking.