Is there anything new in the field of personal development? Are there any developments to be made? Or is there nothing new under the sun, and we are doomed to repeat ourselves forever?
The answer is yes and no. We are indeed destined to repeat ourselves over and over, ad infinitum. Yet, at the same time, each moment happens only once. It is always changing. It is ever-emerging. We cannot predict the forms life will arrive in until they arrive.
Can any field of study ever really be complete? Is the point to complete them? Or are there some fields that are more fashionable than others? More hip and with the times? More beneficial to humanity? Is there any field that has a higher capacity for growth than others?
Obviously if you go very specifically about defining fields of studies, the answer to all of those questions is “yes.” 16th century English poetry isn’t exactly hip and with the times. Someday, coal mining won’t be either.
But those are too particular. I’m inquiring about general fields of study (I use “fields of study” rather broadly here), such as chemistry, physics, the arts, spirituality, philosophy, and personal development.
Some people might say that the field of chemistry is near-complete. The Periodic Table has almost been filled out. All the big discoveries have been made. Surely there is nothing new here.
But is this supposed “truth” reflected in the behavior of our society? If our chemistry is complete, why do we use it to create such harm? Think about most of the food on the market today. It’s either been processed, soaked in pesticides, or covered in preservatives. All of this is achieved via the use of chemicals. And these things are not healthy for us. People will defend it, and say that surely these things cannot be so bad if they do not kill us instantly.
Of course, neither do cigarettes. Or most drug addictions. There’s another interesting use of chemistry—the creation of drugs, licit and illicit. Many of those have not served us so well either. Need I elaborate?
So, what’s going on here? Obviously, we have a powerful chemistry. Do we have a powerful chemistry combined with weak ethics? Is it not chemistry that is in need of new truth, but rather, conscience? Or do we actually have a rather malicious field of chemistry, which is in dire need of upgrading and new discovery?
Or is it both?
Perhaps in this present reality, chemistry is complete. We can’t do much more with chemistry than we can do right now.
But that doesn’t mean that the ultimate potential of chemistry has been realized. Rather, we have come very near to the relative potential. We’ve figured out how to make weird food and compounds that keep bugs off the food. And we’re satisfied with that.
The key phrase there is that we’re satisfied with that. We determine the relative potential of our chemistry. If we are fine with where our chemistry is at, then there is no need for considerable progress. We can continue to make incremental improvements on the things we already use it for. As far as we’re concerned, there isn’t a whole lot else we can do with it anyway.
Again, the key phrase: as far as we’re concerned. If our chemical advancements are sufficient to what we ask of our reality, then they’re good enough. We’ve traveled down most of the path, and we’re toward the end now. We don’t have to think too much about this field anymore.
But what if a substantial shift was to occur in the collective consciousness of humanity? What if we decided that the uses of our chemistry no longer resonate with us? What if people no longer wanted to see processed, preserved foods that are covered in pesticides? What if people did not want to use cleaning substances that can be deadly if ingested? What if people lost interest in their consumption of pills?
What would happen? Would chemistry be left nearly-obsolete, with nothing left to do? Would it be able to carry on only if strict ethical standards were enforced upon it?
Or, would this be an opportunity to make new discoveries? Might this catalyze chemistry’s being kicked to the void? Would humanity be in a perfect position to re-imagine what is possible for this field of study?
Sometimes, we must upgrade our context of reality before the things within that reality can be upgraded. Right now, chemistry may appear mostly-complete. But if you give it another 10 years and a major shift in the way that humans think about life, we may find ourselves raving about innovation in the field of chemistry—much the way we do now about computers.
The idea that we are ever “done” progressing is, of course, stagnating. Potentially, it’s even dangerous. Obviously, in this present moment, we are perfectly OK. I would never try to dissuade anyone of that notion. But if we care at all about living intelligently, to say that we are “done” is downright denial. And denial is very well-beneath intelligent beings.
I said earlier that we are basically doomed to repeat ourselves. But that’s only in regards to the patterns of life. Life comes to us in cycles. Sometimes we are on cloud 9; other times, we have trapped ourselves beneath rock 8. We’ll go back and forth. It’s inevitable. Likewise, we’ll think about past experiences we’ve had time and time again. How many times have you thought about certain events in your life?
Yet, no two moments are the same. Each time we think about that past experience, the thoughts that we have are different. We see something in that experience that we didn’t see before. We consider a possibility that never occurred to us until this moment. We remember a minor detail that we had previously, in all other rememberings, left out.
Principles stay the same. The spiritual nature of our being stays the same. But a lot of things change. Prosthetic legs used to be a wooden stick. Now people can get prosthetic limbs that are robotic, and in so doing they become cyborgs. The average human lifespan wasn’t always 70 years. People couldn’t always buy Mcdonald’s. Gay marriage wasn’t always legal. It wasn’t always possible, in human history, to conceive of a person who is a fruitarian.
Lots of things change. Very few people were using the Internet when I was born 20 years ago. When I first began to use the Internet, the closest thing to social media was forums. Even just a decade ago, I had never heard of Twitter.
I can still remember when my sister used a pager. The
flip-phone was a huge advancement from that. Then the iPhone was an exponential improvement upon the flip-phone.
It’s not just our surroundings that change, though. Certainly not just the technology, either. We change, too.
I remember when a normal meal for me was a TV dinner from the freezer. I used to eat fast food on a weekly basis. It used to be normal for me to watch television for 4-8 hours a day, and to play video games for at least 2.
I remember when running a mile seemed like a major feat to me. I remember when I used to imagine myself as an athlete and I would wonder how it would ever be possible, because I was so unhealthy and unfit.
I can still remember when I rarely ventured beyond my own backyard. Joining the cross country team in junior high was a huge advancement from that. Running ultramarathons, even bigger.
Lots of things change, you see. If you ever feel concerned that the potential for change simply does not exist, I assure you, it does.
So, what do you do when you work in a field where the potential for innovation is either not obvious, or it will require years of effort and a mastery of the field just to even scratch the surface of that potential?
Information technology is the antithesis of such a field. People in their 20s have made major advancements in the way we use computers (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg). Silicon Valley is the hot spot of our nation. I’m not suggesting that innovation in the field of information technology is easy—it’s just that that’s where most of the innovation is happening.
To answer the question—first of all, don’t stay in a field that you don’t genuinely want to work in. Don’t squander your time doing what you don’t want to do. Desire is fuel. If you are lacking in desire, you’re unlikely to get anything done anyway. If you want to be an innovator, it’s not enough to just hop on the same bandwagons that most other people are, and hope that you can coast by using their momentum. You have to be in it for the long-haul. There will be times when the bandwagon is just a wagon, and you’ll have no music to dance to. That’s when you’ll know whether you really want to be there, because if you don’t, you’ll quit. If you do, you’ll ride it out no matter what.
What you do with your self must be, and can only be, a personal choice. If you do what you think you should do, or what you imagine other people want you to do, you’ll end up doing very little. At first, it’ll feel like you’re doing a lot. Then you’ll wake up one day and find out that you’ve been chasing your tail, imagining the whole time that it was some fairy-like creature about to whisk you away to dreamland.
So first, establish that you actually want to stay in your field where the potential for innovation is not obvious. Don’t run off to a more obvious field just because it seems like a “smarter” decision. But also don’t stay in your current field just because it seems more noble or rebellious. Do what you do out of genuine desire, and nothing else.
Once you have established that, it is very important that you not only devote yourself to mastery of your chosen field, but also that you stay true to your instincts. You will be tempted, time and time again, to bail, and go someone else’s way. People will wave shiny objects in front of you, and every now and then, you will be mesmerized by them.
That’s OK. As long as you don’t eat the shiny objects, you won’t die. Just come out of your hypnosis when you’re ready to, and then re-commit yourself to what you know is right for you. Purge all that is unnecessary from your life, and start the day fresh. Since you ultimately don’t need anything, if there are any life activities that you deem as absolutely necessary, you are either highly committed to realizing your desires, or you have been misled and deluded into thinking that you are a weak being. In the case of the former, you won’t have to ask the question.
When you follow the shiny objects, as you will inevitably do, you may even learn something valuable. You may have profound experiences in your state of hypnosis. Not just shiny objects-profound, but profound in a way that leads you to approach life differently. If you choose to follow the shiny objects consciously, then you aren’t really hypnotized at all.
You can go study IT for a while, even if that’s not your main field. I did. I chose to let other people show me the ropes and tell me what was up. At this point it’s hard to say whether or to what extent I will incorporate the skills I’ve gained into my life.
But, I explored, I had some new experiences, I learned about how a certain piece of reality works, and I used my brain differently than I normally do. So I attained the immediate effects I desired. Whether this all will play into my life in the long-term may be a different story. But the point is that it’s perfectly OK to hop on the bandwagon for a little bit. As long as you’re clear about your intentions for doing so, you’ll find no need for suffering.
Exploring other fields can help you to push innovation in your main field of study. You’ll be forced to think about things in ways that you normally don’t. This is especially helpful when your primary pursuit starts to feel stale. Take a break for a little while, dive into something else, and then return with fresh eyes.
That being said, being the king of dabblers may not be necessary to producing the progress you desire. You don’t have to explore everything, my friend. You can’t do that anyway. The experiences you’ve had can probably take you much further than you imagine they can.
One of the dangers in excessive dabbling is that your connection to your core weakens. You lose track of your purpose. You forget about higher principles. Your values wash away. You start to imagine that other people know things that you don’t. Then you start to imagine that other people are more powerful than you. Then you start to imagine that you’ve got a lot to learn, and you’d better sit down and start taking notes on what other people are telling you. Maybe you consider that you should even drop your primary pursuit entirely.
When you dabble and explore other fields, be sure to resurface periodically. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Make a new decision about what the purpose of your current activities is. If you cannot genuinely find a reason to continue these side explorations, then get out, and return to the main course of the buffet. If you’re anything like the Kim who previously ate fast food once a week, you probably don’t care much for side salads anyway. J
Truthfully, I have no idea where this article is going. I did not imagine that it would turn out this way. But it’s interesting. So I’m going to leave you hanging. You’ve got plenty to chew on (even if this just turns out to be a side salad). I can’t promise a Part 2, but, well, it’s possible.