Do you want to get more of what you want with half the effort? Now, before we get into that, I want to tell you why we do want more. I mean, we seem to want more all the time. Most of us are smarter than we've ever been. Most of us are making more money than we've ever made in our lives, and I may not be talking about it this moment with the economy the way it is currently, but in general. Most of us are better positioned, we have friends, family; yet we want more.
I contend that, first, to want more isn't a bad thing; it's part of the human capacity. But we don't know what our capacities are. One of the most beautiful things when you hold a young baby is to wonder the capacity is that you're holding in your arms.
And that's our job in our lives, is to go through this life and find out what is it we can do, what is it we can be. How do we learn to think and behave in a way where we can find the happiness and higher level of meaning and fulfillment so that we can help others and feel good about ourselves in the meantime? That, I feel, is the mission.
We're the only species on the planet that has the capacity to consider ourselves and our situation. And we do so naturally. We think, "Oh, I'm hungry. What do I want to eat?" "Hmm, how do I feel about this?" We can be angry and think about ourselves being angry. We can be tired and think about ourselves being tired. And there have been many, many experts in the field of human growth who have tried to put different words on the different pieces of ourselves. For example, I think Freud used the id, the ego, and the superego. But if you say, "I think I want," there are two I's right there. There's the "I" that's considering yourself and the "I" that might want something.
So in this capacity to consider ourselves, we're constantly not only being ourselves in this world and experiencing our lives, but we're also considering who we're being in this world in our lives. And so what we're looking for is actually our meaning.
When we talk about getting more of what we want with less effort, the more that we're looking for is who we are, a definition of ourselves that we're happy with, a definition of ourselves that we respect, that we accept, and that we feel lovely about.
The ancient oracle said "Know thyself." The great philosophers said that was the answer to everything: "Know thyself." I agree how important that is to get to know yourself on a higher level. And in that process of knowing yourself on a higher level, you'll find that you're getting more of what you want with much less effort. You'll find that you don't want to fight half the battles that you were spending most of your time fighting before. Thinking that if you won those, if you could only have more attention from someone, more love from someone, more time, more cooperation, more money, more this, that that would solve your problems. You see, we're all looking for that higher meaning.
If you say, "Well, I kind of know who I am. I'm pretty sure I know who I am." Let me give you this simple test. If I asked you to write down on a piece of paper, "Who are you?" And I ask you to answer that question, not with an essay but with just a few sentences; however, in those sentences you couldn't use these qualifications: You couldn't use your relationships, your age, your hobby, your salary, your possessions, your job. Why? Because those are things that can, will, and do change without your permission.
You'll get older, whether you want to or not, unless you die. Family and friends can leave you. Jobs, we know what can happen to our jobs. And yet, when these things happen, circumstances beyond our control, change those things in our lives, we're still here. You're still you. So if you define yourself by those things fundamentally, I'd like to suggest that you're not quite sure of who you are fundamentally. And that's why you're looking. You're looking for that meaning, that meaning that makes you feel complete, fulfilled, and happy.
I speak at a lot of conventions around the country, and I always joke with the conventioneers that they shouldn't have nametags. You've been to conventions where the tags read, "Hi, my name is Steve." I don't think we should have those nametags. I think we should just have tags that have things like "dog lover," "vegetarian," "Detroit Red Wings fan," things we like. Because, really, that's what most of us do. We go about our lives, instead of trying to find our meaning, we go about our lives identifying ourselves by the things that we like.
Think about it. When you were 16, 17, 18, you went off to find yourself. Did you? Or did you find a job, a lover, and bills and roles and responsibilities and things you like and things you dislike. Aren't those the things that you've now used to determine who you are?
That emptiness that we feel is because we've missed the core of our meaning. We identify ourselves not from the center, but from the outside in. Think about those nametags. Steak eater, medium rare. Yankees fan. Toilet paper roll – over, not under. Do you like yours over or under? Oh, come on, like it's not important! These are little things that we do, things that we like, things that we do that we identify ourselves by. But we don't even realize we do it. You see, these — when you put them together — these are our stories. We are the stories we tell ourselves we are.
Looking at these things may not be comfortable at first, but, again, I'd like you to sit on the bleachers and consider them, and consider them as possible truths that if you could see the truth in them, you might be able to adapt that truth and use that truth as a tool to help you get what you want with half the effort.
One of those things that I'll say is we're born alone, we die alone, and in the middle part, we deny those two facts, longing to make a connection. We long to make a connection not just in an interpersonal way, but it's a biological need. It's a physiological need. It's how we actually find our meaning. The neurons in our brain need to connect with another set of neurons in our brain in order for us to find meaning, in order for us to know our dog's name, in order for us to remember where we live; that's how we find meaning. A set of neurons in our brain connects, makes a connection with another set of neurons in our brain. Boom. Meaning. Understanding. When we lose the ability to make connections in our brain, in our mind, we lose our meaning, and eventually we lose ourselves.
So we're born alone, we die alone, and we long to make a connection, not just on an interpersonal level; it is the way we are wired, if that's the term you prefer. It's the way we're built. It's how we process the world, who we are, and the world we live in. Connection is the essence of how we find our meaning.
Want to get more with half the effort? Know thyself.