We ride between two very complicated worlds – the one around us and the emotional one inside us. You will find yourself in situations where the outside world, your gut, your brain, and your desires will all be chattering at you at full volume. It will be difficult to know what to do.
When in doubt –
Pay attention to the world. You are not alone. You are one among many, and while that can seem daunting, remember that we are a tribal species. We gather our strength from our numbers, and wisdom from the people who came before. When you are caught in a situation where you don’t know what to do: see what other people are doing. “Monkey see, monkey do,” little monkey.
Follow your desires above the world. The outside world may tell you what you want is impossible or too much for one person – ignore that. It may tell you that some hardship or cruelty imposed on someone else is natural and expected – ignore that. The world will often feel like the easier choice, and many times, it will be. This is the first challenge of living life as a person: knowing when to break away from the safety of numbers and make your own way in the world. It means valuing yourself enough to accept difficulty in exchange for pursuing what you want.
Follow your brain above your desires. Your desires aren’t always correct – we are whole creatures, and we can and will feel everything we can at one point or another. That means there will come a day where you may want to steal, or hurt someone, or manipulate people into giving you something they have. Think it out rationally. Take away all the names and reverse positions – would you want to be on the receiving end of the thing you’re about to do?
Follow your gut above your brain. Your brain, like the world, may tell you you can’t have what you want, even when you know deep down you need it. Or it may tell you that something is logically safe, but you feel otherwise. “Trust your gut” is a saying for reason.
Consider this the chain of command. At the top is your gut, and at the bottom is the world. Each tool should take precedence over the the ones below it.
Do not be comforted with only appeals to unity: “This is how everyone does it!!” “You’ll be much happier if you do this!” “Work hard now, you can enjoy life when you’re retired!” Remember that everyone is full of advice, but you will always live with the consequences of your choices. There will be failure and success in any decision: let it least be on your own terms.
Be careful, too, of tools disguised as their superiors. The world may approach you with logic and reason, and because of that you may think that’s your own brain, but it’s not. Your desires may try to roll over your gut and say “Everything’s fine! Let’s have what we want!” Literally ask inside yourself: where did this come from? Is this something I believe or something I was told? Is this something I feel, or something I want?
In the long run, take stock of all of these and see how they steer you. We’re all born with different skills, and not all of our resources will be equal. Even the best-intentioned choice, the most rational choice, the most instinctive choice, can be wrong sometimes. Use all your tools to know if something is working. If you are following your desires, but not achieving what you hoped from the world, consider re-examining with your brain and your gut. And most importantly, if you’re following the world, and you aren’t satisfied: re-examine.
Be skeptical, most of all, of your brain: it has a thousand ways to rationalize even the worst behavior toward yourself and those you know. It can whisper your deepest fear or dangle your most secret dream in front of you and say, “Surely getting what we want can’t be bad.”
Reasonably consider the consequences of your actions.
And always, always, always trust your gut.