By the time Freud dared to present his social views in writing, he was already 74 years old. His essay Civilization and its Discontents (1930) was radically different from his previous publications. In this ground-breaking book, Freud outlines his views on human psychology from the point of view, not only of individual history, but also of interpersonal behaviour.
Although the overall tone of the essay is cautious and conservative, readers noticed Freud's underlying criticism. Reviewers of the book had no problem with Freud's listening to patients and interpreting their dreams, but his latest opinions were out of the question. The essay generated such opposition that Freud never addressed similar subjects again.
Many decades have passed, but tradition has not lost any of its force. Its tentacles feed on the weak in order to starve the independent; it silences doubts and paralyses initiative; it renders questions inaudible and self-reliance unthinkable.
On the other hand, preaching change for the sake of swimming upstream makes little sense. Being like everybody else has substantial private and professional advantages. It would be foolishly for anyone to discard a secure position simply because it offers few challenges.
Boredom is one of the most destructive effects of passivity. Lack of variety is annoying; extreme repetitiveness drives people to despair. Passivity generates drudgery because it sucks ambition out of the environment. Little by little, routine turns to hopelessness. Life enjoyment wanes as individuals are emptied of their last drops of entrepreneurship.
Few people are completely innovative or passive. The majority of us oscillate between the two poles, gaining ground one day and retreating on the next. Although we are clever enough to see the long-term disadvantages of passivity, we move away from it only slowly, in careful steps.
Human beings require time to change essential thinking patterns. Even if a man exerts massive efforts, he will not transform his personality in a week. Emotional changes are the outcome of philosophical transformation.
A quick fix will not overhaul your personality, but for all practical purposes, you don't need it either. To improve your effectiveness, you just have to correct your thinking when passivity makes its appearance.
It only takes ten minutes
We can start the transition from routine to entrepreneurship with a mental exercise that takes only ten minutes, but if you perform it daily for several months, your attitude will change permanently. Here is how the process works:
Devote the initial two minutes to verbalizing the habit that you wish to be discard. Ask yourself why you have been acting and thinking in that particular way. What were you trying to achieve with such behaviour? Was it something that you learned in infancy or that you have picked up along the way?
If you perform the exercise while you are driving alone, take the opportunity to speak out your thoughts. In these days of ubiquitous mobile phones, nobody will be surprised to see a driver speaking aloud in his car. Who knows if he is dictating notes into a recorder or giving instructions by phone to his stock broker?
Take a deep breath a spend the next three minutes exploring your feelings. How strong is your motivation to change? What penalties would you incur if you drop tasks you dislike? Can you afford to quit what you detest? Are you afraid of changing? How justified are your concerns?
During the remaining five minutes of the process, paint a mental picture of the desired transformation. Name the benefits of the alternatives that you want to pursue. Think of the doors that your new behaviour will open. Speak out the advantages and let them turn around your emotions.
If your disputation is sufficiently strong, a feeling of elation should ensue. Make your defence of change passionate. Your speech should win over your heart, not justify the past. Let optimism burn down the remnants of boredom; let ambition bury passivity under the debris of broken routines.
Ten minutes of reflection can turn your mood around. A vigorous disputation can shift your views from passivity to entrepreneurship. Make this exercise a fun performance. Win yourself over with sound arguments and enthusiastic words.
If you do this once a day during several months, your thought patterns will change. Your alertness to opportunities will increase. Your willingness to seek alternatives will grow until you won't need those ten minutes any more. At that point, your ship will have successfully sailed away from the shore.
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