Is Our Need To Categorize Limiting The Buffet Of Life?


An Interesting Comment

Recently, I saw a comment on a social media post about insomnia. It got me thinking about how a simple categorization can limit our ability to be unique; to pick and choose what we want from the buffet of life. What’s more, it can limit our ability to make beneficial changes and expand our thinking to find new solutions.

The post I’m referring to suggested that getting out of bed when you can’t sleep is a good idea. Fair enough! I personally experienced illness-related insomnia for 18 months or so, and I was willing to try anything to allay the boredom of staring at the ceiling. As I browsed the page, a somewhat aggressive comment caught my eye, it read “I’ve been an insomniac for 25 years and I know that getting out of bed is stupid.” We’re all entitled to an opinion, and I can remember how bad-tempered I was when I didn’t sleep well for an extended period of time. Yet, there was something about this comment that triggered my curiosity.

Curiosity Brings So Many Questions

Instantly, my brain is filled with so many questions. Does this person ever get out of bed? Does this person like being an insomniac? I mean, they’ve been doing it for 25 years. What happens when you do something for 25 years, does it make you an expert? Is a 25 year old an expert on life? What value or belief system is causing this person to be aggressive, are they defending insomnia? Have they become so attached to their condition that it feels like ownership? What does the label “insomniac” mean to this person? And if it’s been such a big part of their life, is it listed on their CV?  I wonder whether an insomniac feels guilty if they sleep really well for one night. Is it ok to mention a really good nap if you’re an insomniac?

Now, since I don’t know this person, I have no relevant answers to my shower of questions. Although, it did make me wonder just how much I had limited myself by categorizing my own thinking in the past; and the present.

How Does Categorization Affect Us?

When I started thinking about all the categorizations we have in our societies I had a pretty alarming wake up call. Moreover, I’m pretty sure I’ve locked my brain in a box at least once per day for the last forty something years! In fact, I’m pretty sure we all have.

So what’s the problem? I hear you ask. Well, it’s the age of the ideas we’re chaining ourselves to that concerns me, and the mismatch to the pace of change that’s going on in the world right now. I honestly believe that we have to shake things up a bit and get out of our archaic mind prisons, addressing our limitations as we go.

Is “Professional” Written On Your CV?

How many of us have the word “professional” on our CV? I guess quite a few. What does it mean? Well if you ask the dictionary, it merely means someone who is paid to do a job or someone with a qualification or skill set relevant to a specific job. The thing is, we’ve attached so much more to the meaning in society haven’t we? Professional conduct and unprofessional conduct have very different connotations.

So, if I say I’m a professional, does that mean I’ve only ever worked when I’ve been paid? Does it mean that I’ve only ever behaved in a professional manner? Because, honestly, that’s not true.

I can recall a sales meeting I had in my twenties with a client where I had a fit of the giggles and had to excuse myself, under the pretense of my contact lens falling out. It would not have been considered professional! However, does that one incident make me unprofessional? Some of you might say ‘yes’, and so be it.

What Should A Yoga Teacher Look Like?

A few years ago, during my addiction to Bikram Yoga, I was pleasantly surprised to see a curvy teacher greet me for the 6.30am class one morning. I was surprised and delighted, due to the fact that any teacher I had met previously looked emaciated, and just a little bit gray, in my opinion. This new teacher made me feel really comfortable and I truly enjoyed the class. Why? Perhaps I realized that anyone could be a yoga teacher. Maybe I felt liberated in my mind. Actually, this is the first time I’ve really considered this experience and it begs the question, what must I have been thinking to go to a class twice a day when I was taught by skinny and slightly gray people? What was I trying to achieve? Funny!

Anyway, many years later we had a guest in Sri Lanka who wanted to do some yoga.  So, we sent off to see our regular yoga teacher. When I questioned him about his class he said “Yes, I enjoyed it thanks!  And she actually looked like a proper yoga teacher, so that made me enjoy it more.”

I’m sure you can guess which question I asked him next. So, what was his response? “well she was very thin and she looked vegan.” Mmm…. we could go on for hours here! He he he!

Our Lizard Brain Likes The Safety

Effectively, we have to get what we expect to feel safe.  Our lizard brain loves ‘known’ and safety.  Does that mean that we have been trained to consider everything that’s new, different or unexpected as “wrong”, “unacceptable” or “frightening”?

If that’s the case, then we might want consider a new approach if we’re thinking about moving to Mars!

Life Is A Buffet - Why Do We Resist?

Since there are so may behavioral choices available to us today, a variety of modes of working, a plethora of opinions out there in the world for us to consider, multiple places we can travel to, and a wide range of places we can choose to live - we'd benefit from relaxing the rules we create in our head, wouldn't we?  There are countless different clothes we can wear, copious colors, and numerous ideas.

So, what is it that makes us behave like warriors when we attach ourselves to an idea that feels safe? What triggers us to lock our jaws and refuse to compromise or expand our thinking? Well, it’s those teeny tiny seeds that were planted in our minds from birth.  We're told that love is like this, hard-working is like that, being good means this, being bad means that.  You get my drift, I'm sure. 

The cultural assumptions, the parental and familial values, the layers of beliefs that hold all of that childhood training in place.  In my mind, we can either work on breaking those chains voluntarily, or we’ll be forced to break the chains soon, whether we like it or not. I think we all have an idea as to which approach might be more comfortable.

At what point are we going to decide what a concept is for us, and us alone?  At what point will we define what love, partnership, healthy, unhealthy, successful, happy and everything else is for ourselves?

The Message Is Old - Are We Blind To Our Senses?

“The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who can read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” Alvin Toffler

Toffler’s message is not new. There’s nothing ground-breaking here. So, why is it that we’re still stuck in the mud in our everyday reality? What is it about Einstein that makes him so easy to ignore? There are so many more, what about all the others? Ghandi, Benjamin Franklin, Confucius, George Patton, Richard Branson, Jim Rohn, Lao Tse, Machiavelli are just a handful of the thousands who have sent the same message out into the world. And yet here we are still, in practicum, clutching onto 17th century physics and a Victorian social etiquette as if it’s the last food on the planet.

Now we could find people to blame. We could suggest that it has to start with education, and then go on a long process of changing education structures. Or we could suggest that social media is a trigger to conformity and should be controlled! Ooops, more limits!

Or, we could be bold, embrace self-empowerment, and work only on expanding our own thinking. We could weather the storm of the fearful feelings, of the ridicule, or the cold shoulder. We may want to go in search of our own authenticity. We might pick and choose from the buffet of life, rather than settle for the grey, perfectly shaped food we find inside the box. We could create new things to add to the buffet and really confuse some people!

As we expand, we may find we inspire just one person to come with us on a journey of exploration. And they, in turn, may choose to do the same.

Who knows! All I know, is that I’d much rather hear the words “weird, crazy, real, curious, eccentric, childishly enthusiastic, disruptive, experience-hunter, searcher, traveler, and gung-ho” at my funeral than something a little more ‘socially acceptable’. But what do I know? I’m weird!

Your life. Your path. Your choice.  Consider this interesting quote from Albert Einstein below and decide whether you're ready to break free from the flock.

“In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself.”  Einstein.

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This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.