I’ve learned a lot during my college years, but most of my learning has occurred outside of the classroom. I am about to enter what is typically referred to as the “real world.” For many, this causes a gut-wrenching dread concerning money, stability and the future. As for myself, I’m not daunted; I’ve accepted the challenge. Listed below are the philosophies I’ve begun to embrace. They aren’t completely refined, but they might at least be worth pondering.
Do not have such certainty about your future.
Our habitual obsession with clarifying a certain future may be causing us undue stress. For example, think of yourself five years ago. Could you have foreseen yourself in your current situation? Personally, I am so vastly different than I was five years ago that that person seems almost alien to me. I believe most people have similar beliefs about their former selves.
The point is that we have to stop struggling for a certain definite future. As we all know, unanticipated events happen in life that completely cause us to become derailed from the path that we thought we were supposed to be headed down. This derailment causes us stress and emotional agony. Fortunately, remedying this situation is easy: embrace uncertainty.
Realize that problems are a matter of perspective.
As humans, we tend to deem anything unfavorable as a problem. This causes us to want to avoid problems altogether. Certainly there are cases where problems should be avoided—I wouldn’t recommend walking into a vat of lava because you’ll have a pretty serious problem—but there are many cases where a problem can easily be considered a challenge. This alteration in semantics can at first be difficult to adjust to, but eventually your problems will be approached with motivation instead of with stress. It’s simply how you frame a situation.
Be open to both those who agree and disagree with you.
No matter how intelligent, enlightened, cunning, clever or inspired you think you are, you mustn’t close yourself off from new ideas, concepts and perspectives. In doing so, you simultaneously confirm your arrogance and ignorance. Instead, it makes more sense to associate with both those who agree and disagree with your beliefs. This will make your understanding refined, similar to a stone at the bottom of a river that only becomes smooth through exposure to a constantly abrasive force.
Stability is not natural. Don’t define limitations for yourself.
Although we see things as solid objects, science tells us that everything is in constant motion. In accordance with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle—which exposes our inability to record exact measurements—reality is anything but physically stable. The microscopic nature of reality is a microcosm for the bigger picture.
If we apply this logic to life, we can begin to understand why it is so crucial to abandon the limitations we’ve set for ourselves. No, I am not one to assert the silly cliché that “anything is possible.” This type of abstract thinking is only another limitation: it dissuades us from realizing what is actually possible and attempting to achieve it. Many of your most desired accomplishments in life are possible, but they will require immense amounts of effort and concentration. These two tools—effort and concentration—are the devices you must use to remove the limitations you’ve set on yourself. But, it won’t be easy; that’s wishful thinking.
Look forward and accomplish forever.
Every moment is fleeting. As much as we enjoy a certain activity, object or thought, we must admit that it will only last for a finite period of time. As a child, this realization daunted me. It asserts that no matter what is accomplished between the times of birth and death, we truly have nothing to hang on to, to truly attach ourselves to. Even our bodies will one day escape us.
However, I’ve begun to realize that this sort of conceptualization about life is immature, undeveloped. That is, we mustn’t be so concerned with stringently attaching ourselves to anything, except for the notion of accomplishment. Accomplishments are the only things granted permanence in this reality. Inspect the history books to confirm this. The dead are not alive, but their accomplishments remain.
In this sense, we must shift our focus from self-grasping egotism to the greater reality that envelops this universe. As Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”