Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom helps people realize their unique importance. Using my knowledge of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, my experience with therapy, coaching, somatic healing, and personal growth I create products to help you discover, develop, and express the elements of your identity critical to your health and your contribution to our world. My goal is to research, develop, and disseminate these materials so that every individual can reconnect with their uniqueness, realize their passion and purpose, and live the life they were born to live.
I realized yesterday that the Are vs. Should Problem really started in Episode 42: Safety. I knew the idea had been rolling around in my head, but I didn’t realize I actually stated it formally in that podcast. So, really, the Are vs. Should Problem officially begin in Episode 42.
So it’s kind of like I was unloading ideas in Episodes 1-41, then made a sort of shift toward organizing the ideas in Episodes 42-49, then realized what I was doing by Episode 50. Not to say any of the Episodes were more or less important, just noting a definite trend.
So in THIS Episode examining the time we spend pursuing our careers vs. the time we spend loving each other, I was really getting to the meat of the Are vs Should issue. And that is, what do we value and how do we measure success?
What do we value?
And how do we measure success?
This Episode gets at the ARE and the SHOULD as terms we use to measure how well we are living our lives. And it’s confusing because so many people, and so much of the system, measures success in money, power, and accolades. Yet so much of what we NEED, and so much of what we are MISSING, is measured in love, and smiles, and calm.
Depending on how you define ‘uncomfortable’, 100-200 million people worldwide can’t meet their basic needs. Folks are born into societies and cultures where they are doomed to fail. Millions of people on this planet will live their entire lives worried about dying, finding food, or having a safe place to sleep. These are enormously huge problems that I truly don’t understand. Nor do I understand how complicated the solutions are.
But I do believe one thing: if we wanted to solve these problems, we could. We could at least make them better. And I truly believe that the solutions begin within each one of us.
To solve these problems we need to fix ourselves first. We each need to put on the proverbial oxygen mask so that we can take care of ourselves so that we can take care of each other. And right now there’s a lot missing from that equation.
First, many of us don’t care about ourselves. Some of us are so sad, stressed, malnourished, hungry, or whatever to take the luxury time necessary to change our beliefs, habits, and behaviors. And I’m not judging, that’s understandable.
Second, many of us who DO have the luxury of pondering our existence just don’t think it’s important to do so. Many of us are too wrapped up in our jobs, iPhones, addictions, or whatever.
And last, most of us wouldn’t know what to do if we DID figure out how to change ourselves because the rest of the world is out there running on autopilot. Once we figure things out, we need to share it with our community – and many of those communities just don’t exist any more.
What I’m trying to say is that I truly believe the Are vs Should Problem is the CAUSE OF and SOLUTION TO, all of our problems. That might be a stretch but let’s just go with the idea that this concept might help us solve some of our problems.
See, I think if we can figure out how to reduce our time spend doing things we feel like we SHOULD be doing then we would have more time to ponder who we really ARE. And if I think we can make that shift in how we spend our time, we will find out that we actually crave connections to our brothers and sisters. I think we actually are inspired to do good. I think we do actually want to share resources instead of horde them. I think we do actually want to take care of our planet. I think we do want to spend our lives finding solutions to issues like world hunger instead of becoming investment bankers and stockpiling financial wealth.
But I’m a naive naval gazer. Or I used to be. And now I want to be again.
I want all those things to be true so I’m believing all those things to be true.
And if you follow the assumptions I’ve made thus far:
DNA is the precursor to human magic and MUST be fully expressed.
Expressing our individual uniqueness is our human purpose.
Reducing the things we feel like we SHOULD do frees up time and space for us to do the last thing.
By becoming the people we are destined to be we will realize, as a species, the way things used to be.
Peace and happiness result from more ARE and less SHOULD.
The CHALLENGES we face as humans can be solved.
Then maybe you’re interested in learning more? That’s what I’m here for.
Please take the time and let me know how you feel.
Millions of people have no interest in the Are vs Should Problem because they can’t meet their basic human needs for things like food, clean water, and safe shelter.
These problems can only be fixed if we live more in the Are and less in the Should.
There are no two ways about it, I believe that we need to be more Are, and less Should. I am even starting to believe that the world’s biggest problems can only be solved by people who realize their full ‘Are’ potential. It seems imperative that we learn to develop our Are potential and to shun the Shoulds. Being in our Ares is what is going to fuel the creativity necessary to move forward as a species and solve our most pressing issues.
And, sure, some people already live more in their Are who have invented awesome things like rocket ships an iPhones, but many of these amazing inventions don’t mean much to a lot of people on Earth. I think much of the industrialization and consumerism we see today is fueled by the Should and not the Are.
Similarly, many people do not have the food, water, and shelter necessary to even ponder the Are vs Should Problem. I realize my white privilege is what allows me to even ask whether I am the person I AM or the person I feel like I SHOULD BE. I get that. Not everyone has that luxury. But we all deserve it. We’re all born to be who we Are, but our circumstances and opportunities available dictate whether we have luxury time to ponder such things. And the solutions to these food, water, and shelter problems is going to be found by someones’ (or many someone’s) Are.
Every person on earth deserves to have their needs met. We deserve to have food, clean water, safety, community, and all of the other basic needs. We also deserve to wonder and to be curious. We deserve to have the choice about whether we thrive or survive. We deserve the chance to be who we Are.
So I feel a sense of urgency around the Are vs Should Problem. We need more of us to think. To learn. To create. To figure out. But to do these things we need to allow ourselves to bIf more of us learned how to minimize the Shoulds, we would make more discoveries, invent more useful items, and more quickly solve the world’s most pressing problems.
Obviously this means that we, as individuals, need to work on this – and I promise, I will develop a “how-to” in the not-too-distant future, but we also need to pave the way for everyone else.
Think about it. We can put people on the moon. Entrepreneurs go to ‘space’ for fun. Most of us have the internet in our pockets. Don’t tell me we can’t figure out how to take care of each other. To give each other the opportunity to be who we Are.
Twenty years of training and working as an Ecologist and Evolutionary Biologist means I see everything as a system of interacting parts. I really can’t see the trees for the forest. When I look at a part, I see the system to which it belongs. It’s a curse.
An example is when I worked for a state environmental agency. I absolutely needed my manager to explain to me how my position fit in to the larger system (the agency). I needed to understand how the system worked, at least on a cursory level, to really understand what my job was. Even at one of my first jobs delivering pizza, it wasn’t until I had participated in the whole life cycle of phone order to ticket to cooking to delivery to balancing the drawer at the end of the night that the whole thing made sense and that I had a sense of purpose.
In the context of the Are vs. Should problem, the ‘system’ (and this could be many things, but here I mean American capitalism as an example) is waaaay to skewed toward the Should to the point that the Ares are steadily losing value. In this scenario, it becomes extra difficult to develop our Ares when the deck is stacked against it.
But more than that, the global system leaves too many people unable to even ponder the Are vs Should Problem. If you don’t have enough food, shelter, and medicine to keep you safe and healthy, you have no need to ponder life’s more philosophical problems. You care not for the Should nor the Are, as you are too busy trying not to die. This, I suggest, is a problem with the system that can potentially be solved by getting everyone more in their Are.
In other words, we need to look upstream at how the larger system works, and how it impedes our progress, to make it possible for us to change.
Inside each of us are several characters. These parts are all ‘us’, but they are distinct from one another. What distinguishes these parts is the roles they play in managing our lives. We are, at the same time, the nice guy, the responsible gal, the tactful them. We play many roles in different aspects of our lives. At work we are cordial and diligent. In bed we are adventurous and raw. As athletes we are courageous and assertive. These different roles help us achieve different goals and help us get along with the dynamic and varied people we interact with each day.
What’s most interesting to me is how these parts develop and WHY they exist the way they do. During my decade of therapy and self-help I have learned that my parts, or characters, were developed in childhood – mostly to alleviate some pain or fear. I learned to embrace ‘being smart’ and a part was born that felt better about himself if he reminded himself that, well, at least he was smarter than some people. I have other parts that similarly justify their pretentious or arrogant beliefs because they protect me from sadness, separation, or isolation. We all have these parts we’re not proud of, but they served us well during times of duress when there were no adults around to guide us or teach us a better way.
In other words, many of the parts we carry into adulthood are the result of decisions made made to help us survive a scary or dangerous situation in our youth. Again, at the time these parts were formed, they served their purpose most excellently in helping us survive, feel better, or to find peace. But as we grow, we can learn better ways and we have new experiences that can modify our behaviors. Except that’s not always what happens. Often, these parts become stronger through habituated repetition over time. Often times we DON’T learn and apply new information because these parts are so strong. Especially when trauma is repetitive and frequent. I was repetitively bullied, and relied on my ‘being smart’ part to make me feel better about being a weak target for bigger kids. This made me feel better throughout my youth, but as I grew taller and the bullies stopped picking on me, I was left with a pretentious arrogance that negatively affected me as an adult. It has taken a long time to understand this part, to console it, and to help it find peace. As I understand these parts I am able to make better choices when I interact with people, to feel safer, and to grow.
With apologies to people suffering from true multiple personality disorder, I offer an explanation about how we are comprised of many parts as a way of better understanding ourselves and how we interact with the world around us. In the context of the Are vs. Should Problem, it is essential to understand how we are organized so that we can better organize our beliefs and values.
In the content of the Are vs Should Problem, we have to look at our selves as being comprised of more than just two parts; the Are and the Should. In fact, there are many Shoulds. I’m not sure if there are multiple Ares because I believe the Are is defined by our unique DNA. So for now we’ll consider ourselves as being comprised of at least one Are, and multiple (maybe 5-25) unique Shoulds we have learned and developed as we became Domesticated.
In my personal IFS work I have come to understand this model and believe it is not only incredibly useful, it fits in very well with the Are vs. Should Problem. These parts have origins, develop distinct personalities, and seem present consistently enough to warrant focused consideration.
This week I’ll use the IFS model to describe our ‘parts’, how they relate to the Are vs Should Problem, and how these parts come to be.
This weeks’ FLASHBACK! is perfectly timed for the Are vs. Should Problem. In Episode 55 I introduced an idea that our uniqueness is related to our DNA and how DNA is really the underlying creator of our ARE. I’m now playing with an idea I’m calling the ‘Uniqueness Imperative’ that suggests that expressing our DNA in our passions and purpose is critical to solving our current human problems.
So this Episode is very timely and supportive of this emergent idea. I’m trying to express my belief that it is NECESSARY, and even IMPARATIVE, that we try as hard as we can to develop our AREs and suppress our SHOULD in order to move forward as a species. We need to lift up the millions of people who are starving, dying from preventable diseases, and experience unequal opportunity. We need to BE WHO WE ARE to unchain the creativity and new thinking that will allow everyone to explore their personal Are vs. Should.
In doing so, we will shift the balance from selfishness to connectedness.
The more the world can become the ARE, the more easily we can solve real problems.
As we release ourselves from the SHOULD, we reconnect with what is truly important.
Becoming more ARE will facilitate growth, for each of us as individuals and for the collective human species.
In this FLASHBACK, you will see the seeds of the DNA argument and understand why I believe we are each meant to express our unique selves into the world and share our individuality with each other. Increasingly, we are doing the opposite. And the suppression of our uniqueness, coupled with the worship of sameness, is destructive.
Don Miguel Ruiz, author of many books including ‘The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)‘ uses the term “Domestication” to describe the process by which humans are taught how to live. I have been fascinated by this process, whatever you wish to call it, for as long as I can remember. In fact, I still wonder, often out loud, why no one ever asked whether or not I was agreeing to this social contract. See, we are born into a world that teaches us many things before we even know what’s happening to us.
And a social contract is very much what domestication is like. We are taught so many things. How to eat, how to walk, how to speak, what to believe in, where Santa Claus lives, which religion is best, whether or not skin color matters. . . . The list is infinite. We are TAUGHT these things. Many of these things are opinions, some of them are factual, and very few of them are valuable.
Because some rules are totally important. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don’t spit at people. Don’t eat raw kittens. So, sure, some of the domestication process is good and even fundamentally necessary to a healthy society.
The PROBLEM IS, that much of the domestication process is not only unnecessary, it’s unfair. And in the context of the Are vs. Should Problem, domestication becomes the Should Bully by teaching us what to think, how to act, and what or whom to believe in.
And the WORST part is, much of this domestication occurs before we can consent. We are, in fact, brainwashed at very early ages to follow the rules. Again, some of this is good, but a lot of it is NOT. But it’s ok, IF we understand this and can go back and edit ourselves, or update what we believe, feel, and do as we grow and change.
The lucky ones, usually in our teenage years but often again in mid life, realize we have learned some weird shit. At certain times in our lives we QUESTION our own beliefs. We get CURIOUS about our thoughts. We WONDER who is really making our decisions. If we’re lucky something encourages us to question WHO WE ARE. It is at these times we have a chance to take back our lives, our minds, and our DNA.
This week I share my thoughts about the Domestication process, discuss the damages caused, and provide a warning about our future. Solutions are necessary and urgent. Please follow this series and help me find some.
But this week’s episode is specifically about the process we humans experience as we grow that essentially teaches us how to live. On the one hand this process is perfectly necessary and enables us to interact with our fellow human beings. Domestication teaches us the ‘rules of life’ so we don’t kill each other or eat each others’ french fries. There are some norms, rules, and even laws that improve both our individual lives and the lives of the human population. But some times we go WAY too far.
Domestication isn’t about teaching your kids the Golden Rule. No one is going to argue that treating each other like we want to be treated is not a great idea. It’s also not about us learning not to punch each other over every little disagreement. Nor is harmful to teach your kids to speak when spoken to and to smile when people are kind. These norms and rules just make sense so that we all get along and get our basic needs met.
Domestication often gets a little unruly after that, though. There exists some basic, and very short, list of the fundamental ‘rules of life’ that begins with the Golden Rule and ends 4 or 5 rules later, but as we add more and more rules we start to lose sight of the purpose of these rules.
And I’m not even talking about speed limits and seat belt laws. Those are probably pretty good laws/rules/norms that help keep more people alive. No, I’m talking about the little rules. The in-between-the-lines rules. I’m talking about traditional, conceptual ideas about how we ‘should’ be and live that start to push away from the Are and more toward the Should. This week I’ll talk a bit about that and much more as we continue investigating the Are vs Should Problem.
In this second part of the Bully vs your DNA miniseries I describe the DNA part. I will make the argument here, which is a fundamental element of my future work on the Are vs Should Problem, that it is our birthright to express our DNA as fully as possible. I hope you enjoy.
For many years I have heard things like, ‘Follow your passion!’ or, ‘if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life!’. And while I want to love these sentiments, I can’t get passed the ‘woo-woo’ or idealistic nature of the message. Can we really just do what we want? Is that somehow the secret to life? Is being happy really a function of having a job you love?
Now, the old Chris was incredibly cynical (see Episode 28: Doubt and Episode 25: I Suck At. . ) but I am trying very hard to be less so. In fact, I’m starting to see my cynicism as an opportunity for growth. And one of the obstacles I am tackling is this idea that following your passion (or following your ARE) is a worthwhile endeavor that isn’t necessarily sprinkled with rainbows OR unicorns.
So I asked the question as to whether there was any evidence that supports the basic human need of ‘being ourselves’ or ‘following our dreams’ or ‘being our Are’. I came up with what I consider to be hard evidence supporting a ‘follow your dream’ approach to life rather than a ‘put your head down and grind it out’ methodology. An Are vs a Should approach, if you will.
See, as an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, I studied a lot about DNA, evolution, natural selection, and the basic machinery available to all animals through time. I believe we understand how these things work inasmuch DNA is a genotypic (i.e., small scale internal biology) expression of sexual reproduction in a species that is expressed phenotypically (i.e., the outside appearance of that animal offspring) AND provides the basic instructions for living out that individuals’ life. So that individuals’ DNA is a result of reproduction, which rearranges the DNA of each parent to form a new ‘set of instructions’ for the individual offspring. THEN, that offspring, with their unique DNA instructions, lives in its’ environment. During the individuals life, it will express the DNA physically, emotionally, sexually, and all the other ways DNA can be expressed as it is translated from a script to a tissue or action or skill.
That’s a lot, and could be a book in itself, but the key here is that the DNA inside our cells is EXPRESSED outside in the world. This is the ARE. When we are in our Are, we are expressing our unique instructions into the world. We are reading the instruction manual the came with us, and only us, and to whatever degree we are then embracing, in the case of the Are, or denying, in the case of the Should, that uniqueness.
In short, I see the complete and total phenotypic expression, the realization, of our unique DNA as a fundamental goal of life. I’m not saying this is a requirement of being human, more like an opportunity. I see this as sort of a challenge that needs to be examined for evidence rather than an edict or, God forbid, rule.
I think it would be totally cool to take a subset of humans and prescribe to them three sets of treatments in an experiment. One group listens to everything they’re told. They embrace a lifestyle of the Should. They follow all the rules their parents, families, and politicians tell them to. They get the right job, the right partner, etc. The second group ‘follows their hearts’. Members in this treatment group ask themselves what they want and feel when making important life decisions, and try to stick to their inner voice when navigating their lives. The last group is the control, and they just sort of do whatever works without thought about Should vs Are. In fact, they should be sequestered from any talk about the Are vs Should problem.
And then we’d check in with these folks at maybe 18, 30, 45, and 65 to see how they feel about their lives and decisions. My hypothesis would be that the Are group is more fulfilled, calmer, less anxious, and more satisfied with their lives. I would also posit that the control and Should groups are not that different from each other as we seem to be on a trajectory where our knee jerk decision-making is more Should than Are nowadays.
Regardless of ever completing said experiment, I think it is entirely worthwhile to consider the amazing history of your unique DNA. Your DNA exists because your ancestors survived all of the natural selection filters to reproduce and create offspring. Those are all huge evolutionary wins. Each of those transactions, and all of the isolated behaviors during those individuals’ lifetimes, multiply to become what is now you. Part of me wonders to what degree we owe it to our ancestors to fully express the DNA they subconsciously worked so hard to guarantee.
To me, the idea that our DNA contains an historic message about how we can live our individual lives is encouraging. I am encouraged to listen more to my Are and try to suppress my Should. The idea that this may be biologically important reduces my fear that listening to my Are is going to cause me discomfort. The DNA is the Are idea gives me courage to resist the Shoulds in my life and more openly express my Are. If these ideas can help others do that then it is a good tool.