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Ep. 5 — Who are you beyond your jobs, relationships, and results?

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David The Optimist owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Optimistic Perspective Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.

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This is a question that words can’t answer. Who you are is more than anything you can express through words and goes beyond words.

People usually get to strongly identify with their job title and what they do at their job, with their relationships and whatever happens in their family, and with their results and all the efforts associated with those results.

But is that who you are?

What happens when you have no job, no relationships, and no results?

For most people, an identity crisis arises.

When you don’t know what you do for a living or you don’t do anything to have an income, when you have no friends, no collaborators, and no life partner, and when you lack results, you get beyond all of it and a bit closer to who you are.

All these are just pictures of yourself that you keep looking at. You have a picture with your job title that you look at every week, from Monday to Friday. Sometimes more than that.

You have a picture with your friends and life partner and you look at it whenever you want to feel good or escape the routine of your job.

And you also have a picture with your results, which are your past experiences (cities you visited, marathons you ran, books you read, festivals you attended, etc.) that you look at whenever you feel like doing something new.

But none of these things are who you are.

Awareness can get you closer to the answer

While you are none of these things, being aware of it can get you closer to the answer you’re looking for.

But awareness is tricky and I’ll share with you more about the paradox of being aware. Because you need awareness up until a point and then it becomes useless.

Awareness can bring you closer to who you are than words can, but it is limited as well.

When you become aware that you are beyond the words you use to describe yourself, you get closer to who you are. And that’s how far awareness can help you reach.

Awareness can’t help you discover who you are, but can remove the layer of words that gets in your way.

As soon as you are aware of how words impact your reality and decide that you don’t want it anymore, there’s something else you need to do.

Staying present in the experience is the answer

For a second, imagine that right now you are eating an ice cream. It has your favorite flavor, it’s delicious and since it’s been almost a year without ice cream, you really enjoy the moment. You could say that at that moment you are happy.

Keep imagining yourself in that moment. You finish your ice cream and you go on to the other things you have planned for that day. You meet with a friend randomly on the streets and you tell them how happy you are because of the ice cream you just ate.

But are you happy?

In that specific moment, the happiness you’re talking about is connected to an experience that’s not part of the present moment anymore. You were happy when you ate the ice cream and you can still be happy about meeting your friend, but you’re not happy about the ice cream anymore.

The image of you eating the ice cream is a memory of the past and you’re using it to create the belief that you experience happiness in the present moment. But that feeling is gone and because you force yourself to experience something from your past in the present moment, you don’t get to live in the present.

Who you are is more than any of the roles you have

Let’s say your job is to cook and you started cooking more than 10 years ago.

Are you a cook? What makes you a cook?

Is it your knowledge about using different ingredients? Is it your experience of cooking food for more than 10 years? Is it the people who ate your food and told you that you are a great cook?

In case you are a cook in Rome, at an Italian restaurant, not knowing anything about Japanese cuisine makes you less of a cook?

Being able to cook Italian dishes is a skill you have and this skill is connected to a role you have. But you’re more than that.

We are playing all kinds of roles every single day and the mistake we make is to identify with our roles. As soon as we identify with what we do, what we know, and what we feel, we create a box in which we decide to live. The name of that box is reality.

When we identify with our roles, we create beliefs around them. And we’ll use those beliefs to punish people who don’t believe what we believe or reward those who believe what we believe.

The paradox of being aware

I was telling you earlier about the importance of being aware so you can move past the words.

We use words to describe whatever we feel and actions. We use words to describe what we observe. We use words to describe anything and everything.

When you’re aware of something, you tend to use words to describe that awareness. It’s pure instinct.

And that’s when the difficulty appears.

You need to become aware so you can move past your vocabulary, not to get back to it. You need to become aware so you can stay present in whatever you’re doing, instead of using words to describe what you did as a representation of the present moment.

Whatever we can say about the present moment is not about the present moment anymore.

If you eat a fruit and you try to describe eating the fruit as you eat, you don’t talk about the present moment anymore because in the present moment you don’t eat the fruit anymore, but you describe eating the fruit.

The purpose of awareness is to help you become the experience you have. Instead, most people use awareness to describe what once was a present moment.

Beyond awareness is a thin wall that splits your identity from reality

For a minute, look around you.

Take a moment and look around you.

For everything you see, you have words that describe what you see. There’s nothing that you see and can’t be described.

When you use words to describe what you see, you create your identity.

What happens if you close your eyes?

Nothing, really. You can still see all the things around you because that’s how strongly you identify with what’s around you.

But as soon as you let go of the words, you experience reality. You experience everything as it is, not as you describe it.

And considering the world we live in, that’s the biggest challenge you’ll ever face: the challenge to just live your life without describing anything to anyone, not even to yourself.

Fun Fact: 0 % More Pain Endurance

Did you know that optimistic people can endure pain 30% longer?

All right, what I shared with you until now was about the obstacles that keep us from and how words and descriptions are an important part of these obstacles.

From now on, I’ll go through some of the things I shared with you and give you some insights.

The first thing that I want to share with you is about maintaining a sense of self. So how do you maintain a sense of self when you face the absence of a job, relationships, and tangible results?

I was there and it was difficult. And it was difficult because I was identifying myself with my job, relationships, and results.

It’s like a vicious loop and as soon as you enter its process, it’s going to be hard to see a way out.

If you are in a place where, right now, you have a strong identity connected to your job, relationships, or results, become aware of it. Observe it. Look at it without describing it with words. Become aware of the energy behind it.

I would say that’s the first step. It’s the step that will help you maintain a sense of self beyond your jobs, relationships, and results in case you get to a point in your life where you’ll lose your job, hurt your relationships, or simply have no results.

In case that happens and you strongly identify with your jobs, relationships, and results, what can you do?

Letting go of whatever emotion and belief you may have about your situation is the best thing you can do, but it is also the hardest.

Another thing that you could do is to remember how you felt when you had the things you lost and focus on that feeling. Even though it’s a feeling connected to a moment from your past, it will help you put your life together. After all, whatever you want to change or improve in your life, it’s best to feel positive and balanced about it. Therefore, use the energy from your positive past to create a positive future.

Looking at your daily life, how can you enhance your understanding of who you are beyond words?

I have a method here that is quite simple to understand but it’s difficult to put into practice.

The method goes like this: whenever you do something (it can be walking, waiting in line, dancing, working – whatever it is) listen to whatever the voice in your head has to say about it, then say this to the voice in your head: Ok, I understand that’s your opinion about what’s going on, now I need you to be silent so I can understand something else.

Doing that should silence the voice in your head.

The voice may respond back and say that it has more insights or more words to describe whatever is going on.

If that happens, you can say the same thing: Ok, I understand that’s your opinion about what’s going on, now I need you to be silent so I can understand something else.

But remember that the purpose is not to have a conversation with the voice in your head. The purpose is to silence the voice in your head so you can have a better understanding of who you are beyond words.

Moving on, I want to share something with you about staying present

When it comes to staying present, people find it hard to have a method or an exercise for staying present.

They do something and then they ask themselves if they are present.

It happened to me as well in the past and we’re all going through it.

The paradox here is that when you ask yourself if you are present, you’re not present anymore. Maybe you were present until that moment, but when the process of thinking started, it replaced the experience itself.

Therefore, as long as you don’t ask yourself questions or you don’t have thoughts about whatever you do, you are present.

And I’m not saying that you should blindly do something. But if the thing you do doesn’t require any kind of thinking, then don’t think. Be there. Stay present. Let the experience run its course and then think about it and reflect.

When you spend too much time thinking, you eventually reach a point where you create expectations in your life.

In one of the previous episodes, I approached the topic of having expectations, what it means to give up expectations, and why is it so difficult.

The episode is called To give up expectations means to give up normality, and I encourage you to listen to it after you finish this one.

But going back to the connection between thinking and expectations, you get there because you describe everything.

For example, look at the device you use to listen to this podcast. It is probably your phone. The more you describe your phone, the more you’ll have an image in your mind of how that phone should look.

And that’s obvious. You want your phone to look a certain way so you can properly use it.

But it becomes a bit more challenging when we start describing others’ behaviors in a certain way and then that description turns into an expectation.

The more you describe something in your mind, the more it will turn into an expectation that you’ll have from the outside world.

With love and optimism,
David

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