We are flawed by nature; that is our humbling, human experience. We all wake up every day not really knowing what the f*** we're doing, or how well we're doing it. Everything that looks like we do know what we're doing, is, in fact, just our best shot: some combination of willingness and determination to endure the unknown.
The only real metrics we can grasp, then, to measure how well we are doing anything in life (since there's no 'How To Do Everything Ever' book) are found through two types of signals: intrinsic & extrinsic.
- Intrinsic signals are how we feel about what we're doing. These are conversations we have with ourselves, the emotions that run through our minds and bodies, the inner voice, gut-instincts we feel.
- Extrinsic signals are how we feel about what the world thinks we're doing. These are the signals we interpret from the expectations and opinions of friends, family, coworkers, media, culture, and other influencing institutions in our lives.
Note: the extrinsic signal is not generated by what any of those institutions actually thinks, but rather, how we feel about the fact they they might be looking, judging us.
And so, our ability to feel content about anything we do, depends heavily on which one of the two signals we choose to deliver our energy and focus.
It's quite easy - actually, it's f***ing very likely that, by default, the extrinsic signals in our lives have a loud and dictative presence, and that is simply because it requires less effort to interpret them. Less effort is easier. Just like it's easier to listen to music than it is to write your own, it is easier to cling to extrinsic signals than it is to develop your intrinsic signals. Think of the last time you heard a song repetitively. You heard it once, then you started noticing it more & more, and then... it got stuck in your head, and before you knew it, you were singing it. You were singing 'Blank Space' by Taylor Swift, and you had no idea why. Do you even like that song? Do you even know what
you she just said?
That is how extrinsic signals work. Swiftly. And if we let such passive behaviors take the dominant role in how we feel about our own life choices, we are no longer making decisions for ourselves, but for the sake of something or someone else. The danger here is that we may not be aware that this is even occuring. We may even be convinced our actions are making us happy... until suddenly, in a brief moment of deafening silence, we are overcome with discontentment, formed as we opted to listen to a voice that was not our own. The only absolute way around this is to develop a louder, stronger, and more positive set of intrinsic signals that allow us to separate our feelings from the feelings that may not be ours.
For now, I will spare you my list of '14 Positive Thoughts To Tell Yourself Every Morning Before You Instagram Your Breakfast' & '6 Reasons Why Meditation Changes Your Life' (coming soon). Instead, from one flawed human being to another, I implore you to listen to the voice inside & turn off the music.
Write your own song. Listen to it on repeat. It won't have a tune that anyone else may recognize, & you might feel like someone out there thinks you're nuts, because 'OMG, how have you not heard the new [insert someone else]?', but I promise that you'll discover much more than a tune in the process. You'll discover how you really feel. And that will make all the difference.