How to Get Out of Your Own Way
By Gary Z. McGee
“Do not compare, do not measure. No other way is like yours. All other ways deceive and tempt you. You must fulfill the way that is in you.” ~Carl Jung
How do you fulfill the way that is in you? Conditioned by the ways of others, how do you recondition your cultural conditioning to see your own way open before you? How do you get out of your own way long enough to see The Way?
The best way to get out of your own way is to upset your settled mind. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People wish to be settled; but only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”
Indeed. The only “hope” is found in the unsettled state. A state of openness, suppleness, and teachability. A state of transformation.
Now enter self-interrogation. This is a form of ruthless questioning that upsets the settled mind long enough to see the way. It is the most effective way to get out of your own way. It is a method that aggressively asks mind-opening, heart-expanding, soul-shocking questions. It proactively outmaneuvers cognitive dissonance by staying one step ahead of emotion through a ruthless form of higher reasoning that never settles on an answer.
Instead, it tears apart all so-called answers. It “entertains a thought without accepting it.” It decapitates the God of acceptance. From the carnage, it honors what validates universal law and discards what does not.
Thinking in this way is wielding a question-mark like a sword. It shaves away the superfluous. It replaces “belief” with “thought.” It nixes notions of certainty. It upends both stagnant apple carts and carts stuck in front of the horse. It opens the Self up to self-overcoming.
As Eric Weiner said, “This is exactly what Socrates aimed to induce: a state of ruthless self-interrogation, questioning not only what we know but who we are, in hopes of eliciting a radical shift in perspective.”
For it is only through a radical shift in perspective that “the way,” Your way, can be revealed. Because, before the shift, your perspective was weighed down by cultural, religious, and political indoctrination. Whereas, after the shift, your perspective can finally be turned inward to the latent hero within.
Self-interrogation compels your inner hero to recondition your cultural conditioning. Otherwise, you are overwhelmed by the tribe.
As Nietzsche said, “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
This way, you are neither restricted by tradition nor bounded by convention. You shirk both to remain open to what the vicissitudes of change have to teach you. Unbounded, you free yourself to become authentic. Through this authenticity emerges a new way of being human in the world. A uniqueness that both honors your ancestors and honors your unique place in time.
You want to get out of your own way? Ironically, you do so by allowing your uniqueness to shine its light through the cultural darkness. For it is precisely the culturally conditioned “self” that must be outmaneuvered. Don’t let anything else lay your uniqueness low, whether culturally, spiritually, or politically. This is your life. This is your story to tell. This is your hero’s journey.
As Friedrich Nietzsche explained, “the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests. Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself! And your way goes past yourself, and past your seven devils! You will be a heretic to yourself and witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and villain. You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?”
You become ashes through the fire of self-interrogation. You burn away the dross of cultural conditioning to reveal the dynamism of the inner Phoenix. You resurrect yourself through the uniqueness of your own heroism. Then you double down on your uniqueness. You individuate your individuality.
Your true value is your emboldened uniqueness. Everything else is moonshine. Everything else is procrastinating virtue. Everything else is faux medicine. Emboldened uniqueness is your potential. It’s your deepest longing to create and express your own values into the world. This uniqueness is your life’s purpose, your soul’s signature, your unmatched contribution to the human condition.
Don’t waste it. Embracing your uniqueness is all about becoming who you are and not merely defaulting to who your culture conditioned you to be. You are incomparable. Prove it! Kill your constructed and conditioned self and give birth to your discovered and reconditioned self. This is the way toward wisdom.
As Euripides said, “The wisest men follow their own direction.”
Having upset your settled mind and reconditioned your cultural conditioning, you are now free to walk the way of your discovered self, your own unique wisdom. For have no doubt, your wisdom is yours and yours alone.
If, as Michel de Montaigne said, “We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men’s wisdom,” then it stands to reason that your wisdom is yours alone.
Thus, it is your responsibility alone to magnify this wisdom. It is your responsibility alone to manifest it. It is your responsibility alone to let it shine despite either the knowledge or the wisdom of others. After all, this is your way not their way.
As Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Take this accomplishment and tattoo the world with it. Take the fingerprint of your wisdom and leave your mark. Transform your ashes into the shock and awe campaign of the Phoenix. Only you can do it. And only the You that has gotten out of your own way can do it properly.
Image source: Focused by Anthony Hurd
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (How to Get Out of Your Own Way) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.