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.
If you are interested in therapy and coaching. Either for yourself, someone you love, or just because you think it’s cool. Gretchen Winterkorn is a wonderful person for you to meet, and you can check out her short video below.
I am very lucky to see some cool people doing these KEW interviews, and I really enjoyed listening TO and talking WITH Gretchen.
Relevant to the Are vs Should Problem, Gretchen and her family just simplified their lives in a huge way, moving from NYC to a flower farm in upstate NY. Pretty major life shift. Pretty awesome opportunity for simplifying things. For focusing less on the SHOULD and more on the ARE, huh?
And Gretchen is super at sharing her thoughts about this move, and the more general AvS issues in our lives.
You can tell she works with people. She is a natural. I hope you feel the same connection to her listening or watching her talk. It just feels good, and the information is helpful to boot!
Though the material Gretchen shares with us is relevant and helpful to our individual personal growth journeys, it is her relatability (is that a word?) that is going to win you over.
You can find out more about Gretchen, her family, her work, and her flower farm at www.birdess.com
The beginning of my investigation into the ‘Are vs. Should Problem’, or the struggle many of us experience between the person we ARE and the person we feel like we SHOULD BE.
Have you ever experienced this? Most people I ask say, ‘doesn’t everyone?’. But I really don’t know. All I can say is that I, personally, often feel like I have a natural reaction to a given situation or decision that is intimately coupled with one or more alternative decisions. Usually that first inclination comes from what I feel is ‘me’, while the alternatives come from . . . somewhere else.
I believe we get ‘shoulded’ by our families, our churches, our schools, our jobs, our neighborhoods, our cultures, and other ‘outside’ sources.
And by ‘shoulded’, I mean that we are taught norms and rules that we are supposed to obey, whether they make sense to us or not. And the struggle, or the dissonance, occurs when our ‘feelings’ differ from what we are taught.
The example I always use, and what started it for me, is about work. Most of us are taught that we have to work at least 40 hours a week at some kind of 9-5 job in order to live our lives. Personally, I have always rejected this notion and am convinced there is another way. I don’t understand why so many institutions impose this sort of norm. My ‘are’ says I can justify my existence, make a contribution to society, and earn money to support myself by working 20-30 hours a week on my own schedule as long as i get my work done. And usually this is MORE than most people would do in their 40 hour 9-5. But, the ‘should’ of the career world just doesn’t support this notion and I have a conflict. And a struggle.
Maybe that’s a bad example, but I go into much more depth in this episode and the following 18, so far, where I get into the details.
When I was a teenager I realized I would be working for the rest of my life. This hit me like a ton of bricks. This realization LITERALLY left me feeling like I had fallen out of a tree and couldn’t catch my breath. Though I’d experienced physical pain by this point in my life, fully coming to understand that I was going to have to spend a significant part of my life doing things I didn’t want to do was disturbing.
And it wasn’t so much that I had to WORK. I didn’t mind working. I had my first job at 13 and was gainfully employed when I had this epiphany about work. It was more that a big chunk of MY TIME was spoken for.
I felt like I was seeing my future, and part of it was already planned out. It wasn’t so much about the WORK thing, it was the CHOICE thing. My future was, at least in part, not my CHOICE. And I don’t know why this created so much dissonance. But this was a true blindside. I didn’t see it coming. I felt like I lost my whimsy.
And so that is, in huge part, what led me to explore the Are vs. Should Problem. Why do we struggle between the person we ARE and the person we feel like we SHOULD BE? A big part of this SHOULD is related to having to work and to have a career. A huge part of our youth is being on a path that gets us to that point successfully and to a greater extent than our parents or grandparents. From early on we are chugging along a course related to some place we will be in the future that will steal our time.
And the best we can hope for is to love the career so we are not wasting our time. To sort of ‘double up’ and get paid AND find pleasure in our job.
Well, how many of us got there? How many of us arrived at the place where we can’t BELIEVE we’re getting paid to do what we love? How many of us LOVED spending all that time studying, and interviewing, and kissing up, and missing out. . . . How fun was that?
Sure, some people do find a path they enjoy and a career that fulfills them. But most of us don’t. And this investigation intends to figure out why it happened and how we can change it.
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.
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.
In the second installment of this miniseries within the Are vs Should problem, I talk about the Are side of the equation. Whereas the Should part of us is an amalgamation of society’s worst elements, the Are part of us is uniquely US.
I can’t wait for you to see this episode because in it I fully integrate my scientific training with my psychological and spiritual healing journey.
See, for years I wrestled with the idea that we should ‘follow our dreams’ and ‘live our passion’. I got to the point where I found it incredibly irritating to hear these suggestions, because it seemed so impossible to actually do so. I was living in the world of the Should, trying my best to follow all the right steps that would guarantee me happiness.
Well, I followed the right steps and found myself more confused than ever.
So I had to revisit the idea of purpose, and wonder if I had chosen the wrong path.
Using my unique science and therapy Knowledge and Experience, I make the argument that following our purpose isn’t that far-fetched an idea, and that doing so might actually have millions of years of support in being the preferred method to live ones life.
Yes, this week I argue that your purpose is determined by your DNA, and that realizing this not only minimizes the human struggle, it does justice to your ancestors and our evolutionary history.
I’m struggling a bit at the beginning of the Are vs. Should Problem I have been discussing in Episodes 51-53. So far, I have introduced the problem; that we all struggle with the person that we ARE and the person we think we SHOULD BE. I have described the first step toward a solution in taking a Personal Inventory. Next, I tried to begin the process of examining the personal inventory by separating items as being described by Hard and Soft realities. This may not make perfect sense yet, but I promise it will.
In Episode 53, the fourth installment, I share a handful of examples and situations for you to ponder in your own life or others’ lives. Situations where you may experience the dichotomy of Are vs. Should. There are infinite examples, but this is one of those things that our minds, or our Ego, can talk us out of. We protect ourselves from being aware of the Are vs. Should by living in the Should. (I suppose there are those who live in the Are, and I am envious and very curious to know more about those people). The Should mind beats us up. It tells us we are not good enough. It convinces us that people look down on us and that our shortcomings are things we have to cover up or change. The Should mind is a bully.
The Are mind can appear to be a push over, childish, or be hidden from view by the overpowering Should bully. In other words, the Are side of us is sometimes hard to see. The personal inventory is one means of examining ourselves objectively, and determining whether an item or experience or belief belongs on the Are vs. Should side.
Hopefully, this weeks’ Episode will be helpful during the examination process. Full Episode coming Friday.
In this first of ten Curiosity interviews I introduce you to Paul Gadola. As I told Paul a few days ago, he is someone who has climbed the mountain, attainted Wisdom, and come back down the mountain to share the Wisdom with us. He has not only put a lot of energy into figuring some things out, he is putting a lot of energy into explaining what he has learned. Chief among his tenets is to Love yourself first. I think you get a pretty good glimpse at that person in the hour that we talked.
I’m proud to share this experience with you, and grateful to have come to know Paul as a colleague and buddy. We talk about Curiosity, but also about self discipline, integrity, and Love. If I never shared this interview with the world I would still be a better person for having experienced it. I truly hope you take the time to watch and to listen to what Paul shares. There is much to learn and more to think about.
I am also fortunate to be reading a draft of book Paul is working on. I will be sure to keep you posted as that evolves.
The concept of a personal inventory is common to many therapy, personal growth, and coaching approaches. Essentially, before you can implement a change, you have to know WHAT you’re changing. So the personal inventory is all your STUFF.
And so on. You get the picture. But what many of us DON’T GET is how complex this can be. We are a LOT more complicated than we think.
And before we can pursue the ARE vs. SHOULD problem (Episode 50), we have to know what (WHO) we’re dealing with (Episode 49: Who Are You?). The process of laying out your personal inventory is the first step.
Please subscribe to my YouTube channel or Podcast if you want to follow the development of the ARE vs. SHOULD problem. And more importantly, comment below if you have input, criticism, or insight.
In this ‘milestone’ Episode I’ll summarize a new direction for KEW. After 50 Episodes and 10 Curiosity interviews I have compiled, assessed, and researched most of the ideas, concepts, and thoughts swimming around in my head. I’ve discussed these ideas in real-time podcast format and learned a lot in the process. I appreciate you coming along with me on this journey.
Now that I’ve thought through most of what I needed to think through, I’ll spend the next 10-50 episodes narrowing down a more focused topic. I have realized that the message under my curiosity is fairly singular. It comes down to one phenomenon. Something I think may be fairly universal. Something it seems many humans suffer from. And I will start with one question:
Do you struggle between being the person you ARE and the person you think you SHOULD BE?
If you understand this question, or are at least curious about it, the next phase of KEW will be right up your alley. If you don’t understand this question you may be interested to pay attention anyway. If you are someone who ignores one or the other of these two ‘persons’, I may want to interview you.
From this basic question about the human condition I will develop a thesis.