3 min read

The Character Arc of Life

The Character Arc of Life
Photo by Li Zhang / Unsplash

A gem of wisdom from Dr. Andrew Huberman during his podcast conversation with Lex Fridman recently: 'there is no such thing as a transition from childhood to adulthood, your entire life is a single development arc'.

The Non-Sequitur of Life 'Transitions'

Classifying life in two stages, childhood and adulthood, is problematic for several reasons. The most obvious is that 'adulthood' encompasses the majority of your life, and is considerably more complex than the term appears.

Life as a young adult at university is vastly different to life as a young professional, as a parent, as a more senior professional, and as a retiree.

The idea that we transition between phases is simply a non sequitur.

Live in the moment, but not in the shallow sense

Recently, I've been exploring the idea of consciousness and our sense of self, primarily through Sam Harris's book 'Waking Up', and his conversation with Lex Fridman.

Harris proposes that our sense of self, when we use the term 'I', is independent of our broader state of consciousness. It follows that 'free will' is impossible because we cannot consciously predict the next thought to pop into our minds.

"Consciousness is the basis of both the examined and the unexamined life. It is all that can be seen and that which does the seeing."

Whether a serious decision to migrate to a new country, or remembering to message a friend, thoughts simply arise through no active effort of our own. This is quite a powerful statement, and is one with which I broadly agree.

This idea unlocks a sense of empathy for others and their actions. If nobody can actively control their thoughts from minute to minute, we become more capable accepting others. I find aspects of this claim slightly difficult to grapple with, but I'll leave that for another day.

Harris goes on throughout the book to promote the value of meditation, not for calming the mind, but as a tool to experience the present moment; to become more aware of the mind's transitions from one thought to the next. In doing so, Harris identifies an opportunity to glimpse, if only for a fleeting moment, the state of consciousness itself.

"Once one recognises the selflessness of consciousness, the practice of meditation becomes just a means of getting more familiar with it"

Meditation and mindfulness has been over-marketed in a manner which has distorted its true value. Improving the ability to focus is simply a positive by-product of meditation, not (in my view), its purpose.

A Process of Self-Improvement

Gary Vaynerchuk often states that he 'loves the process' more than the outcome or goal. This motivational mantra is a plea to spend more time pursuing objectives in which the pursuit itself is equally as rewarding as achieving the objective.

When you think back to any major milestone or achievement in your life, the rush of dopamine and endorphins associated with your success was probably fantastic. But even for your most coveted achievements, this rush of happiness and feeling of success lasts no more than a few days.

Most of your time is spent in pursuit of a goal, not celebrating its achievement.

It naturally follows that the time spent pursuing the goal should be as enjoyable and fruitful as it can possibly be, because this is where you spend most of your time.

My message from this short post is to be more present in the moment. Life is not a process of transitioning from one phase to another, or defining its value by achievements or career milestones.

Do not always use meditation to calm your mind, but rather to become more aware of your mind's point of focus or attention. Living in the present moment will help you to set goals worth pursuing, but also which are enjoyable to pursue. If life is a single character arc to be experienced as a whole rather than in discreet phases, then strive to live in the present. The present is the true experience of life that we all seek.

If you have time, please consider listening to the podcast above, as well as Lex's conversation with Andrew Huberman. I've found them very helpful when thinking about focus, stress management, the nature of consciousness, and spirituality without religion.

If you've made it this far, thank you!

Please consider subscribing to this blog in the bottom right and following me on Twitter at @xanderhoskinson for more unfiltered thoughts!

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