Today is October 4 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you experience yourself?” This entire Navigate the Chaos series is designed to help you experience yourself. By posing a question every day of the year to consider, you have the opportunity to reflect and look inside of yourself. Our lives are so busy, so hectic, and so disruptive that experiencing yourself might be the last thing on your to-do list. But if you want to navigate the chaos, translate one dream after another into reality, and practice the art of living well, experiencing yourself needs to be a consistent priority. As Helen Keller noted “character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” The experiences of our lives, on both the personal and professional levels, provide us with opportunities to strengthen our soul through trial and suffering, inspire ambition, and achieve success.
Experiencing yourself, however, requires an acknowledgement that you must step into your choices freely and without concern for what others think. As Neale Donald Walsch observed “Step into your choices and stop telling yourself that you can't, when what you really mean is that you don't want other people to feel the way you think that are going to feel when they see you making the choices you really want to make.” Walsch’s observation is a critical one as it reminds us to be scared of what others may say about your actions but do it anyway. You have to experience yourself; no one has to. Truth be told, those who would criticize you, or make you feel insecure or scared about your life choices, are most likely afraid to experience themselves so they take it out on you.
Philosopher and author Albert Camus wrote about experiencing yourself and reminded people to “Get scared. It will do you good. Smoke a bit, stare blankly at some ceilings, beat your head against some walls, refuse to see some people, paint, and write. Get scared some more. Allow your little mind to do nothing but function. Stay inside, go out – I don’t care what you’ll do; but stay scared as hell. You will never be able to experience everything. So, please, do poetical justice to your soul and simply experience yourself.” If you seldom or never experience yourself, you do risk causing damage not only to yourself but to others around you.
Do note, however, if you fail to experience yourself, and therefore, gain the self-awareness one needs to navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well, you fall prey to the observation by T.S. Eliot: “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” A lack of experiencing yourself is often attributed to a blindness of how one treats others. If you truly experienced yourself you would have at least an inkling as to how others see you. If you experience yourself you can help others understand how to work with you or even have a relationship with you. Ironically, experiencing yourself helps you think about others. That in and of itself is a critical point to today’s reflection.
To remind people to experience themselves, author Roy T. Bennett, author of The Light in the Heart wrote the following poem entitled “Don't Just”
Don't just learn, experience.
Don't just read, absorb.
Don't just change, transform.
Don't just relate, advocate.
Don't just promise, prove.
Don't just criticize, encourage.
Don't just think, ponder.
Don't just take, give.
Don't just see, feel.
Don’t just dream, do.
Don't just hear, listen.
Don't just talk, act.
Don't just tell, show.
Don't just exist, live.”
How often do you prevent yourself from experiencing life because you don't want other people to feel the way you think that are going to feel when they see you making the choices you really want to make?
How often do you get scared?
How often are you committed to doing poetical justice to your soul and experiencing yourself?
Do you have a need to feel important? If so, how blind are you to the damage you are doing to others around you?
How often do you change compared to transform?
How often do you think compared to ponder?
How often do you dream compared to do?