I was recently involved in a conversation about someone and whether or not they were “doing their best,” that is, the person I was talking to was convinced the person in question was not doing their best and that this was somehow “bad.” Although “bad” was not terminology used in our discussion, the implication was obvious and I was inclined to share this post.
I believe it was Toni Robbins in his book “Awaken the Giant Within,” who said that “everyone does their best.” He further said that people are like calculators who only make mistakes when they have bad inputs, so if you push 2 + 2 =, you will always get 4, but if you hold down the 3 key while pushing 2 + 2 =, you will get something else.
In my forthcoming book, I have a discussion of what I call “operating levels.” Everyone has 2 operating levels:
1-their comfort operating level, (COL) and
2-their true operating level (TOL).
Their COL represents their current, practical ability at a given time, and their TOL is their potential ability, which can be looked at as God-given, but is also affected by their accumulated growth and karma from past lives. In any event, their TOL is determined at conception (their creative event, or when they were created) and their COL is a function of their TOL and their way of being (WOB).
WOB will be described in detail in an upcoming post on the “what and where-when context,” but essentially, it’s a construct in consciousness, a set of experiences and associated perceptions and attitudes, that affects how people relate to themselves and the world around them. If a person had (-) (negative, destructive) experiences, their WOB is (-). If they had (+) (positive, creative/nurturing) experiences, their WOB is (+). If their WOB is (+), they tend to project (+) energy into the world and at themselves, and if their WOB is (-), they tend to direct (-) energy out into the world and at themselves.
Someone with a (-) WOB has a COL far less than their TOL and a person with a (+) WOB has a COL closer to their TOL or only somewhat less than their TOL. Someone who is “actualized,” as Maslow described, has a COL = TOL. This is someone who is doing their potential best. A person with a COL < TOL is doing their practical best, but not their potential best, i.e. they are not living up to their potential. I have determined that knowledge and will, which are a function of ego, are not enough to determine behavior consistently over time. A person’s WOB (interpreted loosely as their experiences) is a far more reliable predictor of behavior over time. (See the post on the difference between knowledge and experience.) Of course, we are all unique at the selfish level (selfish means “of the self,” not “someone who doesn’t share”) and this uniqueness affects our behavior too.
The point is that most of us are doing our best (practical or COL) and not doing our best (potential or TOL). In order to engage our TOL and do our potential best, we must engage the growth process. This involves 1-being still inside and aware, (ego still and aware) 2-asking the right questions, and 3-living the questions until the answers present themselves, and we will 4-automatically behave accordingly. Behaving accordingly may involve slight application of ego (ego being active). Ego is part awareness and part will. (See full description in upcoming post on what, where, when context.) This slight application of ego involves ego 1-practicing awareness and stillness, and asking questions, and 2-focusing on habit and necessity. Practicing awareness and stillness is practicing watching what is going on inside and outside, while not judge-attaching to any realities. (There will be a more complete explanation in the what, where, when post.) This means being fully aware of one’s thoughts, feelings and impulses and what energies are affecting one, while not being attached to outcomes, or judging things as “good” or “bad.” Focusing on habit and necessity is realizing that these two things are major drivers of behavior and watching them and gently pushing to create (+) habits while gently pushing to resolve what’s necessary for you, but in a (+) fashion. Necessity is essentially our subjugation to pleasure and pain on a few levels and how this affects our behavior. We seek pleasure and seek to avoid pain. This is quite simple, but there are a few levels to our being and different types of pleasure and pain on these levels. There are other posts that explain this further, but necessity is primarily determined by selfish wants and needs, (described in another post) and physiological impulses like: 1-maintaining a constant body temperature within a specific range, 2-sexual release, 3-food, and 4-sleep.
So ego (awareness and will) has a role, which is to push gently towards (+) habits and the resolution of necessity in a (+) way. This means “you” (ego) “have to try” in some form. You have to be engaged in life. On one hand, you don’t let go completely as if you were a ping-pong ball, bouncing around through life. On the other hand, you don’t (can’t) control everything as if you were playing a game of chess, where you know all the factors and are rationally directing the outcome. This is a fairly tricky concept to grasp. I can hint around at it. The best analogy I can derive is that of sailing. Ego’s role is akin to a sailor. A sailor learns to use the sails, how to rig them, how to use the rudder, and most importantly, how to use the wind, currents and weather. The sailor must be very skilled if he wants to come back from the sea safely. But he cannot control the wind, currents or weather. These he must learn about and follow. For the sake of this analogy, let’s assume God is the wind, and currents, and let’s also say the sailor must do his best to go where the wind takes him (where God guides him). So on the one hand, there is something “you” (ego) must do, and on the other hand, there are things you are unable to do. Further, if you try and do the wrong things, or relate in the wrong way, you will create immediate and/or future difficulty and pain for yourself. There is an aspect of faith involved here. In another post, (meaning of life) I outlined my ideas as to why we are “here” or what the meaning of life is. If you read that, you may see that God would never allow us to “prove” his/her/it’s existence scientifically, but would always require a choice to have faith in him/her/it. This faith is a requirement for anyone who intends to attain enlightenment, or outgrow ego. The faith aspect of this discussion applies here because to follow God, that is, to refrain from taking control rationally of your life as if you’re playing a chess game, requires faith, or a confidence in God’s guidance. (Faith will be more fully defined in an upcoming post. Faith differs from belief.) Faith also implies an openness, to where God directs you or what God implores you to do. God can be found beyond the edges of the universe (or multiverse?) and can be found in the deepest recesses of your heart. (Further discussion on this in the what, where-when context post) So being faithful or open to God’s guidance is very similar to listening to your heart and being open to whatever is in your heart or where your heart guides you.
Ego gently pushing or “trying” is largely only effective when someone already has perceptions and attitudes that support the “desired” behavior. For instance; if someone really wants to lose weight and believes they can, and accepts themselves as they are, and doesn’t have any perceptions/attitudes that support them being overweight, then they can use the application of ego to break certain habits that support overweight-ness and instill others that support leanness. However, their ego will be useless to overcome the perceptions/attitudes that support obesity. Often times, obese people have invested in the obesity and believe it’s who they are to some degree. They may feel and think they don’t deserve or aren’t capable of, success or friends or whatever meaning they assign to being lean. They may have a very low perception/attitude of their worth, and/or perceive that food and eating is a primary way of feeling good about themselves. There may be any number of experiences they had when they were in developmental years and supporting ones after that, which created this relationship with food and a self image that includes them being obese. This person will not benefit from “willfully trying to change habits,” in fact, this may make them feel worse as they fail once more. They need much more work. They must go much deeper. Knowledge and will can help engage specific behaviors, but only when other, more significant things are already present.
So, it may be beneficial to realize that when you see someone behaving in a way that is destructive to them, they may see mentally what they’re doing wrong, but they are incapable of changing their behavior solely with that knowledge and the application of their will. When any of us behave, our behavior does not occur by accident or in a vaccum. It occurs due to perceptions and attitudes we hold in conciousness (our heart-mind), which are there due to experiences we had during our developmental years (conception to adolescence).
This subject deserves a fuller treatment, but the main point is that 1-most people are not practically capable of living up to their potential, and that 2-a person’s behavior is not a function of knowledge and will, it is a function of a complex process that begins with life energy coming from God, which is then given a unique spin at the selfish level (selfish=of the self; self is what others refer to as spirit or soul), then travels through consciousness via a construct called a WOB, and then is accordingly reflected back by ego and projected out by ego. Self has wants and needs, (explained in another post, but a want is an impulse towards pleasure and a need is an impulse away from pain) and these wants/needs create necessities or “must have’s” or “must do’s” which influence the flow of the aforementioned energy. (Self is what experiences pleasure and pain.) To expect ego (awareness and will) to force a behavior consistently over time is unrealistic. Only the most superficial behaviors can be reliably produced this way. Truly, most of us don’t realize that we do what we do, largely because of experiences we’ve had, and due to the corresponding perceptions and attitudes we hold.
For example, I had a motorcycle that I used to love to zip around on. People told me it was dangerous and I “knew” that, but I was enjoying it too much to stop and my perception was that I was a decent driver and my attitude was that I felt safe. One day, I crested a hill on a country road and a row of cars went by and I felt the force of the air pressure as they went by. It occurred to me that if they crossed the line, I would be road pizza and this was enough for me. I never rode the bike again and sold it several weeks later. I realized it didn’t matter how good a driver I was; someone could kill me by doing something stupid. If you told me before, “it’s dangerous, you shouldn’t ride,” that would not have been enough for me to stop. But as soon as I had an experience, with the corresponding perceptions and attitudes, my behavior reflected this.
As a matter of growth, what to do with the information in this post is to: 1-realize your potential is not limitless, but you probably aren’t living up to it, 2-engage the growth process and you may find an untapped reservoir of energy and motivation, and find yourself behaving in new ways that are more satisfying and gratifying (Needs are satisfied; wants are gratified.) as you bring COL closer to TOL, and 3-also realize that other people’s behavior is not as simple as them “knowing what they should do” and “doing it.”
I believe when your COL = TOL, this is supremely satisfying/gratifying; this is what Maslow called “self actualization.” You may find you’re not outstanding in certain areas (impossible to be so in all areas), but you will not be bothered by this.
Clearly, this post can be expanded upon, and maybe I will later. Some expansion will happen in the upcoming post on the “what, where-when context.” I hope this makes some sense, and apologize for the lack of any editing. I do these posts on my blackberry. Thanks for reading; I welcome comments.