There is a lot of talk about self-realization. But I am not interested in the religious meaning, which is defined as the method to achieve complete happiness and freedom from all worldly bondage. Instead I am interested in the more practical definition which is the fulfilment by one’s own efforts of the possibilities of development of the self.
The process isn’t an easy one, of course. And when we do come to make progress towards self-realization, it often is in baby steps. We spend many hours thinking about the things that happened to us and why we reacted the way we did. We think about our behaviour and that of other people. It may be our time to reflect upon our day, month or life, or it might simply be the time to contemplate. Whatever the form, one way or another, we learn more about ourselves everyday. We take one tiny step in understanding the self better.
This learning is very important and it helps us tune ourselves to be a better person (or better waiter or better scientist). We will be aware of what we should do if we are faced with a similar situation again. The results of this encounter ought to be better, if not then it’s time for some more reflection.
I think a lot of what comes to this blog is sharing those lessons with you. What I am to share with you today comes from Seth Godin’s Linchpin. He puts forth a very strong argument for why we should understand our anxieties and fears and, more importantly, why we should learn to differentiate between them. He says:
Anxiety is needless and imaginary. It’s fear about fear, fear that means nothing. It focuses on possibilities in an unknown future, not a real and present threat.
On the other hand, fear is about staying alive. It helps you void actual threats. Fear should be paid careful attention.
Anxiety does not protect you from danger but keeps you awake at night and foretells a future that’s not going to happen. It is the exaggeration of the worst possible what-if, accompanied by self-talk that leads to relentless minimisation of the actual odds of success.
On careful thought about any situation in life that scares you, you may realise that a lot of it is anxiety and some of it fear. Overcoming anxiety will help you deal with the situation with a much more stable and focused state of mind. Learning about fear will help you face the real problems and do something about them. Clearly, even if difficult, being able to differentiate anxieties from fears is a very good investment of time before starting out to find solutions for a problem.