Someone will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that this would be a disobedience to a divine command, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say that the greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living—that you are still less likely to believe.
The only means to understand our nature as humans is through doing, paying attention, and honest observation.
Doing, iterating, observing, deducing, over and over and over again. Like the mythical “happily ever after” there likely won’t ever be a time when you finally “get it.” Your idea of what “it is” today before you’ve gone through the trials and tribulations of hundreds or thousands of iterations will assuredly change by the time you finally realize your ambitions. But that’s how you work towards mastery, so acknowledge failure is a given, keep living on the plateau, and work work work.
Understanding our nature is an evolving process akin to the evolutionary foundation of being a living, dynamic being.
It is sometimes uncomfortably personal.
It requires observing our own behaviors honestly. At least as honest as possible. It’s hard calling ourselves on our own biases and half-truths, isn’t it? (It helps to have friends who can be honest with us). Useful observation demands we call a spade a spade, even when doing so isn’t politically correct or socially acceptable.
We’ve got to pay attention. The goal must be kept in mind — it’s not to find the answer but to seek actively that which improves our individual lives.
And what works for me may well not work for you. N=1 is just that. And by the way, what improves your life today may change tomorrow.
Thankfully, if we commit iterating on our own lives, we’re assuredly going to discover a few things that make us better.
Being human is a grand opportunity to experiment. The only way to fail is never to try.
So let’s get to it.