Thursday, October 8, 2009

Knowing and Doing

Discussions about Meaning and Value touch a chord with many people and here is another perspective that has a bearing on it.

Life itself does not mean anything. It simply is. What we do with our life is a matter of our own choices and our exercise of our free will. We are all born with the potential to do many different things, but until we act on that potential, it remains dormant.

How do we become excellent at a musical instrument? Practice. How do we become excellent at a sport? Practice. How do we become excellent at art? Practice. How do we become excellent at writing? Practice. How do we become excellent at carpentry? Practice. How do we become excellent at computer programming? Practice. How do we become excellent at designing homes, hair or clothes? Practice.

Once we learn the basics of any of these crafts from someone else who knows, then we apply ourselves to master the basics and eventually add our own touch, our own style to it.

The pattern is always the same. It is all in the doing. Whatever we want to become excellent at, we have to do more of it. Our desire motivates us to act. If we would rather be a pet groomer than a computer programmer, or a bartender rather than a nurse, or an auto mechanic rather than a salesman, it is simply a choice driven by desire.

How do we know what we are good at? We get feedback from others. When people thank us for what we have done, or compliment us on what we have done, then we know we are good at something. That is different from believing we are good at something or simply wanting to be good at something. We can identify honest compliments and false compliments even though it may seem tricky at times. When people find something nice to say about what we do, simply to not hurt our feelings, these are false compliments. Typically these come from friends and relatives. When strangers compliment us on a job well done, then we know that it is true because someone who is not a friend or relative has no good reason to pay us false compliments. When someone gives us an honest compliment, it is a sign that we know how to do something well and that our efforts to become excellent at something are proving beneficial to others.

So is this our purpose in life? No. It is something we have chosen to do, and we enjoy getting the positive feedback. Could we choose to do something else and get positive feedback on that? Yes. When we choose to continue honing our skills in a certain area and many people benefit from it, then we have a positive effect on their lives. Again, is that our purpose? No.

When we say that we believe something works, what we are really saying we don't really know. When we say that we know something works, we are speaking from experience.

When someone asks you, for example, if you can play the violin, you either can or cannot. If someone asks you if you can build a cabinet or create a software program, you either can or cannot. If someone asks you if to play a game of chess with them, you either can or cannot.

Experience leads to knowing, and the more we know what makes us happy or unhappy the more we are guided in choosing subsequent actions. We know what we are good at. We know what others appreciate about us. Most of us will choose to be happy. And even when we are very good at something, many of us will choose to change what we do in the course of a lifetime because we desire to experience something different. What we choose to do is a product of free will.

Can our excellence inspire others? Yes. Is that our reason for being? No. People who have achieved excellence in some skill did so because they wanted to. The inspiration we derive from their example is simply our choice.

Knowing that we are good at something and that others appreciate it are their own rewards. If we enjoy what we do, we enjoy our life. It is all a choice.

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