FLOURISH – Why I Think You Are Really Awesome

Introduction

Recently, I’ve increased my social media presence from none, to posting something every few days, and I’d like to explain why. You know, I’m not a big fan of social media – I avoid it as much as I can, generally. The kind of false images it creates of people’s lives can really grind on the mentalities of everyone else that sees them, not to mention the time wasting, the manipulation and the data mining. That all really sucks in my opinion. I don’t want to share my life only with the outcome of making other people feel shitty about themselves, I want to spread loving kindness, compassion, and motivation. That’s what this post is about, I want to convince you that you are worth investing in – you are worth putting work into, so you can flourish in the way I know you can.

I’ve been avoiding social media because I’ve never felt like any good could come of it, that I wasn’t worth being seen, that anything I put up would just be another brief flicker on the consciousness of those who scroll past. I’ve never been very interested in creating a reputation, I’ve just wanted to be me. Lately, however, I’ve become captivated by the idea of trying to contribute more to people’s lives, trying to unconditionally give, to help anyone I can to shake off their expectations and limitations and realise that the kinds of lives they could be leading have a lot less barriers to entry than they might have originally believed, if only they began to search. That’s why I’ve been more active online, because if I can even get one person to start thinking differently for one moment, it will have been worth it. It’s through this platform, Flourisch, that I hope that moment can arise.

There are a few consistent issues showing up in a lot of people’s lives in contemporary society, as a result of the culture and expectations of regular life. These include but are not limited to: lack of meaning in life, feeling like you have to follow an expected path (school, University, job, marriage, children etc.), manipulation by the media, companies and the government, financial illiteracy, constant need to consume unnecessary things, a focus on everything except right now, avoiding negative feelings and personal issues, general inadequacies, and an inability to get the hell off social media. Flourisch wants to address these problems, all of them and more, and give you the understanding to observe them, respond, and to move beyond. If you have noticed any of the above holding you back, continue reading, check out some of the other articles on here, and do some of the provided exercises.

Flourish? What do you mean, flourish?

Humans are great at rationalising. There are always a million excuses to give up, a million excuses not to do something different, a million to remain in the life we are in. Inertia is not just a physical law, it’s a personal one, too. It takes a jolt, or a collection of jolts, for you to realise that actually, you can make a life different from the collections of expectations that were constructed around you since birth. My theory is that, for a lot of people, the accumulation of jolts doesn’t reach the tipping point until about middle age. Hopefully I can pull that back a few years, with this and other pieces of work I’m going to create. In my opinion midlife crises should be ongoing for your entire life, from the moment of conscious waking (around puberty, when you gain fuller experiential awareness of the link between self and other) until death. These crises represent times in life that we take to self-reflect and realise what is important to us and whether or not we are actually pursuing it. They are the gateways to alternative phases of life. If we make self-reflection and observation a constant, what was a crisis becomes a steady background hum that ends up feeding our wisdom daily.

To flourish is to develop, vigorously and healthily, to grow, to adapt to life, to be resilient. The science of human flourishing is only just beginning, but the main areas of flourishing have been determined as: happiness and life satisfaction, physical and mental health, meaning and purpose, character and virtue and close social relationships [1]. Often, in the anxieties and pressures of what seems like banal existence, we forget that we even have the capacity to feel fulfilled in each of these areas, we forget how actually magnificent we are as creatures. Here’s the reminder: you are here, you are human, and you are absolutely phenomenal. Do you know how difficult it is for self-aware consciousness to evolve? Do you know how many billions of years it’s taken just for you to exist right now, a mixture of star dust, and prehistoric suffering, and existential bliss, just for the universe to be able to sit right there in front of this screen and read this article? You are made of flourishing, you are made of trillions of lives and an unfathomably large number of very minute probabilities all coming together. Slow down and just think about that for a second – fill yourself with the understanding of how improbable you are. The hardest part is over, now it’s your job to continue the process – it can’t be that hard in comparison to everything that led up to this moment, right? If you want to take a back seat and chill, that’s totally cool, this website might not really be your thing. But… just so you know – you have the option to really bloom. To throw off the shackles that are avoidance and to reject the antiquated notion that the most important thing in your life is ‘being successful’, and that happiness should ever be a pursuit.

The 1990s saw Martin Seligman begin the transition of the larger field of psychology from purely focusing on the treatment of mental ailments to one of positivity [2]. Psychopathology was the in thing, people liked to believe that everyone was nice and messed up, largely focusing on disorders, complexes and the controllability of human behaviour (all important things). More recently, however, with the acceptance of alternative treatments (like meditation), trying to move from neutral to flourishing has become a popular option, rather than solely working on making sick people less sick. This opens up the world of psychology to every person, rather than only those who need immediate help. People who once passed through their lives doing everything they that was expected of them and yet who still regretted it began to have the chance to develop themselves where previously only those with full blown disorders were treated. The practical applications of psychology have slowly broadened until they now encompass all of humanity.

Everybody deserves the chance to live the Good Life, and flourishing is doing exactly that. There is no single answer to the question of how to flourish – for each individual it might be completely different, but there are patterns. In a word, flourishing is about self-literacy. Understand yourself and the fact that you’re a valuable human with an infinite potential capacity, and then act accordingly.

It isn’t like to flourish is to be perfect, by the way. Sadness exists, loneliness, depression, other negative emotions – it’s not just about having good times. Actually it’s specifically about having both good and bad times. We aren’t looking to liberate ourselves from all suffering (yet), we just want to deal with life a little more smoothly, we want to experience fulfillment and love and feel as though what we are doing is actually worth something, like life has some meaning. So what’s it to me? Why aren’t I just focusing on my own development?

Let’s go, you and me, right here, right now!

The thing is, I unflinchingly believe in the potential of each and every person in the world, in the universe, to flourish in every moment. Hardships exist in everyone’s lives, and it is the hardships I have experienced that have shown me how to flourish. Let me give you some context. Early traumatic experiences with an abusive father and unstable home resulted in a period of elongated depression at the age of 15. This was followed a few years later by another bout of depression – this time with severe anxiety – and tail ended by an unfriendly form of OCD. A cocktail of suffering that is, unfortunately, not unique to me in the slightest. Years of learning to live in a mind that I had little to no control over steadily eroded away what I thought was my identity. Every morning I would open my eyes after a night of sleep, feeling exhausted that I had to live another day. Life was like that for what felt like an age. But things changed, as they inevitably do. Slowly, very slowly, I began to find the lessons in every moment, the opportunity that every instant provides to change, to grow, to feel gratitude for the life that I have. The knowledge gained from experiencing life yourself is wisdom, and a hunger for more began to develop inside of me. I was lucky. I am lucky. I began to truly believe in my ability to fight, to continue, and to flourish. I know that whatever life serves to me, I will continue to live, and I will beat it and become a new version of myself. As long as I keep working, keep striving, and sometimes even when I forget to do any of that.

Striving in one moment for you might simply be to wait, or it might be to give yourself some slack, it might be to live each day despite feeling numb to existence, or it might be reminding yourself of the gratitude you have for the people that are important to you. But first you need to become literate in yourself. Begin to observe.

After a few years of accumulating many and varied pieces of information, some of it wisdom, I realised that this information was too valuable to keep to myself. I want to show you why I believe you can flourish. It’s because I can flourish. I will continue to work, and I will flourish. If I am able to do it, I have no doubt that every person, if given the opportunity, can flourish too. That’s me. That’s what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to give you the opportunity to find your own flourishing.

Seriously, let’s go

Let me give you some facts.

  1. People exist
  2. You are a person
  3. People exist who have done amazing things because they have pushed through pain
  4. You can push through pain
  5. You can do amazing things

I’m not saying “you can be anything you want” – life has limitations, keep that bullshit in America, what I’m saying is the things you do, if you really try, CAN be amazing. I’m saying that the potential exists within you to flourish, to jive life. I’m saying that humans are really unbelievably spectacular creatures, and that you are a human, and I think you are unbelievably spectacular. You will flourish, if you try – if you’d like to.

The things you end up doing might be amazing. Think of how exciting and worthwhile the journey will be to find out what those things are! Think of how much you could learn about yourself and the world. People have been pushing themselves to do amazing things since people existed and the only difference between them and you is the amount of time and effort put in! That’s what I honestly believe. How could I sit around and watch people not flourish when I know they can? I can’t do nothing. I want to see you flourish – cause I know you can. I want to see you become an artisan of life, of a craft, of yourself.

Whatever you are doing in life, whatever point you are at, you can start. You can start right now. Forget career, forget money, forget family and commitments and everything. Just for one moment pick up a pen and ask yourself these questions – What can I do that will change me, that will make me grow? What environment will be really hard, but really good for me? Consider doing that thing, regardless of what your original life plans were. Stop avoiding existential crises in your life, stop using meaningless time wasting to ignore the things that are really important, stop avoiding the painful truths that you don’t want to look at, and look.

That’s the message of Flourisch. It comes in four tasty bites:

  • Meaning – You are worth the investment
  • Ability – You have the capacity
  • Awareness – Don’t ignore you
  • Grit – Continue to work

With compassionate love (Metta),

Josh Mason

PS. Please leave comments responding to the question – what do you think prevents most people from flourishing?

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