Three out of every four adults can’t meet the mental demands of modern life. That is, their cognitive complexity — their way of making meaning out of their moment-by-moment experience, whether on Facebook, curating their kids’ education, or navigating a complex project at work — is lower than the level of complexity in the world around them. Their minds are drowning.
Throw in 50 years of globalization, a game-changing worldwide recession, and a widening “not keeping up” gap between digital natives and everyone else, and much of the world’s population — including the society-stabilizing middle class — feel like they’re on an out-of-control freight train: too much information available, too much economic volatility, too much values-deterioration, too many perspectives to digest, too many skills to master, too many choices to make.
The world is more complex than it’s ever been. So the average human brain is not keeping up. (My friends at the Harvard Mind-Brain Education project surmise that the human central nervous system has limits we may have already exceeded from an evolutionary perspective.)
Many people recognize we need to find simplicity on the other side of complexity. But how to do so?
At TED I talked about how the information age is now an anachronism. This era is about transformation, not information (in fact, information drives the problem). Many people think transformation means super-innovative, or really cool technology, or being really aware. Or, don’t laugh, thought leadership.
No. It’s about changing the shape of your mind, which in turn will change the shape of your behavior, attitude and life.
We’ll either transform our minds in seven fundamental ways, or our health, happiness, relationships, economic life and polity will continue to suffer large-scale byproducts (e.g., 25% unemployment amongst our young adults, an unstoppable obesity epidemic, massively underfunded social safety nets, etc.).
Here are the seven shifts that are critical. I may add to the list over time, but this is the foundation.
Live in service.
Wise people live happily in service. With 7 billion going to 9 billion people worldwide, winner-take-all mindsets, systems and ideologies will become obsolete. Instead, learn to live in service to other people while unleashing your life’s passion in the process.
Wise people are awake. You swim in waters characterized by large-scale systems that are well-funded, innovative and obey their own rules to engender addictive behavior and (intentionally or not) reinforce a mindset of scarcity within you — from Facebook to McDonald’s to Cosmopolitan. Master the self-awareness and self-control to benefit from modern systems without allowing their implicit “values-syntax” to become your own.
Stop seeking bliss.
Wise people don’t need bliss. And therefore they mostly lead blissful lives. Bliss can’t be bought or achieved, despite the thousands of messages that everyday tell you otherwise. When you stop needing bliss and start being present and grateful, you find that a subtle, calm, ever-pervading bliss really never left your side.
Make deeper judgments.
Wise people judge on real depth, not illusory surfaces. Grow in your ability to discern between helpful and unhelpful perspectives, products and people based on their inherent depth.
Know yourself better.
Wise people spend time and energy getting to know themselves. Know your core fear. Know what’s worth dying for, and therefore worth living for. Know your strengths. Know the basis of your philosophy. Know your passion. Know your reaction patterns, mistake patterns and misjudgment patterns. Know who you value and why.
Cast less shadow.
Wise people dig deep to dissolve emotional triggers. You have a lot more unprocessed emotional gunk inside you — shadow — than you realize, and you build more everyday. From every pang of envy to every passing negative judgment, you’ve built a veritable fortress of emotional material that distorts every perspective, twists every decision and undermines every step you take.
Wise people know that knowledge is insufficient for wisdom, and instead comes from living, daily practice that changes the brain. The only Path to embodiment is practice (which is why we built Chrysallis the way we did). The only path of practice is daily, and then hourly. The goal for the 21st century is to use the very technologies that have democratized power and knowledge to create a 21st century brain: capable of self-learning, discernment, focus, growth, mindfulness, love and stillness.