White blossoms set against their own background

Choosing our focus & Gretchen Rubin

How are we supposed to relate to life, to others, to ourselves? As intelligent creatures, it seems fascinating that we stand within complex realities and decide what to make of them. Also, that the choices we make are subtly yet significantly impacting the world we’re living in while becoming the example we’re offering others. As if, as humans, we stand within reality and shape it (Notes One).

In light of that, what stance are we taking? How much are we accepting the world around us, its demands and obligations, and fitting ourselves to whatever it’s asking of us? How much are we thinking for ourselves what each thing means, how it all comes together, and whether we believe the arc of whatever spin’s being woven round the raw facts of reality? How we’re using our minds and judging our surroundings must matter.

There are various ways we might break down the complexity of being human into workable “models” that could help us live better (Notes Two), but one quite clear and versatile one seems to be Gretchen Rubin’s “Four Tendencies”. In its essence, this focusses on the relationships we have with reality, with ourselves and with others – looking at which kinds of obligations, outer or inner, we’re inclined to meet and let guide us.

It’s the idea that some will “uphold” whatever expectations are placed on them; some “rebel” against them; some “oblige” the expectations of others; and some “question” all outer expectations to see if they merit becoming inner ones. As a model for how humans stand in their world and the sorts of thought that convince us to act, it seems fairly comprehensive and purposeful.

Isn’t it about belief? About how much we trust our own judgement or that of others. How much we need to draw into question or whether we’re willing to go along with what’s around us. Almost a depiction of how we stand in relation to community: whether we believe in the steps which brought us here and trust those currently charting further steps on our behalf.

Maybe that’s “always” where we stand? Within structures – increasingly, of our own making – we seek to carry forward, strengthen, reimagine or cast aside. Don’t the things we agree to “become” life itself? The choices we make, ideas we accept and attitudes we express becoming the consequences we create and influence we’re having on others. (Notes Three)

In that, it’s perhaps interesting and important that we think about what we’re doing and how well we’re working alongside each other toward realising our highest ideals. If we’re pushing against one another, communicating in ways that don’t achieve what we hope or inspire others to similar outcomes, what are we doing? Presumably we’d mainly be causing stress and conflict between anyone who sees life slightly differently.

Finding ways to understand life and how best to work within it seems so fundamental. Hopefully we’re able to trust the wisdom of what’s around us, and ourselves for our ability to navigate it.

Notes and References:

Gretchen Rubin on the Four Tendencies: https://gretchenrubin.com/books/the-four-tendencies/about-the-book/ & her early thoughts on our world’s current situation: https://gretchenrubin.com/2020/03/coping-with-covid-19-four-tendencies.

Note 1: Understanding what we’re all part of
Note 1: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 1: Complication of being human
Note 1: Integrity and integration
Note 2: Ideas of agreement & mastery
Note 2: “Living Beautifully” by Pema Chödrön
Note 2: “Women who run with the wolves”
Note 2: “How to win friends…”
Note 2: “The Measure of a Man”
Note 2: Codes of behaviour
Note 3: What we create by our presence
Note 3: Will things change if we don’t make them?
Note 3: Losing the sense of meaning
Note 3: Situations which ask us to trust

Thinking of the influence we seek to have over other people was also one focus of Treading carefully in the lives of others.

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