The evolutionary path
I wish to make a distinction between the evolutionary path and the non-evolutionary path to provide some clarity for those who are seeking.
What is evolution
Evolution is the process through which internal change is achieved. Its outcome constitutes an irreversible change of a person’s fundamental life equations.
Some refer to this process as the personal evolutionary process, others term it spiritual evolution.
In biology, evolution is the change in heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. With each life and death cycle, aided by genetic mutation, organisms and populations evolve to be better adapted to survive, compete, and reproduce. A change in an organism’s DNA (genotype) creates a change in their external characteristics (phenotype) which leads to better outcomes for the organism and its species.
In personal evolution, a person’s internal change causes a change in a person’s external manifestations, which leads to better outcomes for the person.
An internal change in the personal evolutionary process constitutes a change in the person’s fundamental life equations. Changes in the equations cause a person to assert himself differently in the world, thereby creating better impacts for him both externally and internally as a feedback.
A person’s value and belief system constitute his non-physical “DNA”, and results in certain roles and positions the person is willing and able to take in the world.
What is a life equation
When we are born we are given a certain amount of energy.
How we use this energy, where we invest this energy, and what we get in return constitutes a life equation.
For example, a person who wants love, and believe that love comes in the form of recognition from others, may chase achievement. Therefore his life has the equation of
Achievement = recognition = love
This person then spends his life accumulating achievements in whatever form brings the most recognition. If he favours the intellect, he may become a hedge fund manager, earning money and status. If he favours the physical, he may become a body builder, entering competitions to gain fame.
However, as this equation plays out, the person may realise that these achievements didn’t bring him the happiness and love he wanted. Even with all the money, the person realised he didn’t have loving relationships. Success came at the expense of others, the result of a win-lose mentality.
What enables the life equation to change
To change the equation, the person must examine what caused the equation to take root in the first place.
There must have been an event in the person’s history that caused the person to arrive at such a conclusion. This event must have been significant enough to create an imprint in the person, causing the person to continually act out this belief.
Due to the event, the person came to a conclusion of “I am not achieving enough,” and therefore seeks evermore achievements throughout his life.
The equation is of course limited. It is missing factors of ‘other people’s success’ and ‘my own happiness’ among others.
Therefore, a person would never be truly satisfied with the outcome created by this equation, and has a natural impetus to seek something different once the equation proves itself inadequate.
To change the equation, the person has to confront the event which caused the equation to take root in his psyche in the first place. Whatever emotions or unprocessed material must be processed so that he can overcome the hold which the event (and therefore the equation) has on him.
As such it requires that a person has the courage and willingness to face his unconscious. It requires that a person takes steps inward and inquire into himself.
He must be willing to enter the darkest cave, and ask himself, “what if i do not achieve?” In the answer lies energetic hold for that equation. Facing the answer dissolves the hold.
Once a person is able to face his demons and let them go, the equation naturally gives way, and new perspectives can enter to form a new equation.
Expansion of possibilities with new equations
So the person now includes another factor in the equation. Whereas the previous equation was all about winning at all costs, the person may now include the factor called ‘other people’s success’.
The person now pursues love, but also wishes to help other people along. Therefore the equation changes to
Achievement + other people’s success = recognition + appreciation = love.
And so with subsequent ‘tries’ and their ensuing realisations, the person continually evolves his equation to reach the outcome he desires.
With each subsequent cycle, the person uses lessons learned from past trials, includes more factors into the equation, and comes closer to the optimal outcome.
Of course, this is not to say that the person now completely ignores achievement. Rather, achievement may now no longer only be in the material realm, but also includes considerations like, “how many people am I able to impact?”and “how deeply can I impact these people?”
Life equations evolve as we discover what works and what does not work to bring us the ideal outcome we desire.
Freedom to change
Inquiry into the self requires first and foremost that a person be willing to face his own truths.
Inquiry also requires a certain degree of psychological freedom, for it deals with the unknown. A person must therefore have the courage and be willing to travel into uncharted psychological territory.
The evolving person not only has to have psychological freedom to face his fears, he must also have the freedom to act upon his truths.
Once the person realises that ‘achievement’ is not the end-all-be-all, the person then shifts his equation to something else, perhaps ‘making a difference,’ ‘creative self-expression,’ or ‘personal mastery.’
When a person discovers these new values, he then desires to change his life to reflect his new values.
But can he make a change so easily?
Imagine, a person with a wife and two children, a mortgage, and monthly car payments. This person would feel compelled to take on a corporate job at a certain salary to ensure financial stability such that he can meet his obligations. He thus has a limited degree of freedom in his life to pursue his truths.
On the other hand, a person with no dependents, with low monthly expenses, with the capacity to make choices based on his true values, can pursue the path with more manoeuverability.
If a person evolves, and his fundamental life equation changes, yet chooses to do nothing about it, he gets stuck in a constant conflict between what he truly desires and the reality of his life. He ends up constantly fighting himself, and energy that could otherwise be used for discovery is diverted to forcing himself to do things he does not really want to do.
Why people do not evolve
Any person, in sub-optimal conditions, having to live every day in a non-ideal state, would be at least subliminally aware of his dissatisfaction. This is what is meant by “the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”
Evolution, being a natural process and a driving force towards objectively better outcomes, is a path that inherently calls to a person.
But most people, being too afraid to face the unknown, choose security instead.
Instead of investing their energies into the evolutionary path, most people spend their energies fighting their true desires and suppressing their general unhappiness with life.
While the non-evolving person clings to whatever security they believe they possess, the evolving person limits commitments that restrict his freedom.
The evolving person’s commitment is only to the evolutionary path itself.
The Evolving Person vs the Non-Evolving Person
Therefore we fundamentally have two different types of people — the Evolving Person (EP) and the Non-Evolving Person (NEP).
The EP and the NEP both feel dissatisfaction with life. However the EP, recognising this dissatisfaction, makes a conscious effort to face the dissatisfaction and make progress towards a better outcome. The NEP, fearing change, seeks to hold on to what he already has, and resists progress in favour of security.
The EP seeks uncertainty, whereas the NEP seeks certainty.
While the EP is constantly inquiring, trying to get to the truth, and therefore always making progress, the NEP faces stagnation. Even though the NEP looks like he is progressing externally, for example by accumulating more money or more Instagram followers, his internal equations do not shift.
The EP understands that to make progress, one has to be in a constant process of construction (acting upon one’s truths) and deconstruction (examining these truths and letting them go).
The NEP, on the other hand, seeks to make permanent whatever state he has reached in life, and constructs an edifice to protect his conclusions. He may find a stable job, get a house, get married, and have kids. He finds ways avoid facing the vagaries of life.
Therefore, the EP seeks everything the NEP rejects, and the NEP seeks everything the EP shuns.
External vs internal loci
At this point I would like to make a further distinction between the EP and the NEP.
The NEP seeks primarily to fulfil its needs through external means. If it feels a lack of attention, for example, the NEP seeks to do things to get that attention. If its desired object does not give the NEP the attention it seeks, it may even blame or spurn the object.
The EP, on the other hand, is able to look within to discover the source of its perceived lack of attention. The EP recognises that its reality is subjective, and may realise that he feels a lack of attention due to imprints from the past resulting in the conclusion “Nobody cares about me.”
This of course does not preclude the EP from making efforts to get the attention he wants externally; however, the EP seeks primarily to fill himself up from within through confronting his own subjective realities, and does not give away his power to an external source as a primary strategy for coping with life’s problems.
As a corollary, the NEP also makes major decisions based on how external objects would respond. For example, the NEP may choose a career based on the job stability, salary, and market demand of that function. He suppresses his own inclinations and submits to the demands of an external source (whether that source be his parents, society, the economy, its wife, its boss, and so on).
The EP first checks within himself to establish what is true, and makes decisions based on his own truths. The EP looks within to discover his own passions, talents and callings. He makes a career decision independent of the approval or response of external sources.
The EP is able to see himself as the source and cause of all his life’s outcomes, whereas the NEP looks externally.
The EP is therefore able to be responsible, and expand his range of impacts as well as domains of authority as he progresses along the path.
Stake life upon truth
The very essence of the evolutionary path lies in its uncertainty.
In pursuit of truth, the EP must be willing to sacrifice everything — all past achievements, all identities, all roles, all notions of what is true.
The EP must be willing to operate at his limit at all times, for only when one goes past his limit can he discover new vistas and transcend oneself. The EP gives all of himself at all times.
The EP stakes his life upon the truth, and has an unbroken receptivity to truth, whether that truth be ugly or beautiful. The EP never tries to protect, justify, defend, cling, or project an image. Truth is not a preference.
The EP’s path is never clear and never straight, for he is always forging ahead, discovering new terrains, blazing new trails.
For the EP, there is no path to follow, only the constant creation of his own unique path, and the fulfilment of his unique destiny.
Originally published at https://www.betterself.sg on January 27, 2020.