Innate curiosity is a survival skill that helps people survive in a world with a lot to learn. But when you have all of humanity’s knowledge at your fingertips, it can be overwhelming.
To avoid being consumed by your technology, set aside some time to be alone with your own thoughts. Otherwise, you won’t be able to organize everything you’ve learned to reach your full potential.
What Makes You Happy?
The great ancient philosopher Plato described the self-reflecting life as the best form of life, and he recalled that his philosopher mentor Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.
Plato divided personality into three parts, where the dominant part defines what someone enjoys most. He explained that “each of the three mental categories has its own particular pleasure,” which correlates with your dominant personality. To be happy, you should do what you most enjoy.
What is Your Personality?
Plato’s division of personality shares some similarities with famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s division of personality into id, ego, and superego, but they are not exactly the same and do not interact in the same way.
The three parts of Plato’s model of personality are:
1. Philosophical and Intellectual
This is your conscious awareness; your inner monologue that takes in information, thinks about the past and future, and mulls over events to try and understand and plan. This understanding of yourself and the world around you can be strengthened with learning and practice, making it easier to plan for the future (or deal with the present.)
2. Competitive and Passionate
Also thought of as the spirited part of personality, this is the largely emotional force that drives people to succeed in business, fight in battle, or risk their lives to save someone from drowning. It is all energy and action, but can get out of hand if not pointed in the right direction through self-awareness or a good leader.
3. Avaricious and Mercenary
Finally, in something close to Freud’s idea of id, there are the basic bodily desires, such as hunger, lust, and the desire for comfort. These are base, animal desires in Plato’s view, which the trained mind can choose to ignore, if necessary. Of course, some desires, such as food and drink, do play a role in survival.
Unfortunately, there’s a limit to your enjoyment. In order to live your best life, you have to use the intellectual/philosophical part of your personality to organize your actions. Otherwise what you enjoy, such as eating, could interfere with future enjoyment, such as health problems. Plate explains how the intellectual/philosophical part of the mind is the most enjoyable because it can coordinate the other parts of your personality.
Has Modern Technology Silenced Your Inner Monologue?
Many people today don’t have time for their philosophical sides. Thinking about your life with its huge breadth of relationships, and all its success and failures can be overwhelming.
But before humans invented the numerous distractions of the modern world, people had no choice but to stop and reflect sometimes. Without any outside music or conversation, a hunter traveling in the woods would have a hard time avoiding his own thoughts.
Plato famously hoped that future societies would be ruled by philosopher-kings who would be guided by their intellectual, rather than their competitive or greedy sides. Second-century Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius may be the ruler who got closest to this ideal. While maintaining control over a violent empire, he even managed to write philosophy.
In his book Meditations, Aurelius wrote his thoughts on life while on military campaigns at the edge of the empire. But maybe so much time in nature was just what Aurelius needed to keep his thoughts in order. He wrote that “Nature’s inadvertence has its own charm, its own attractiveness”.
Humans are evolved for natural environments, and they’re perfect places for unstructured thinking. Nature is just interesting enough to let the mind wander without getting bored, but not so interesting to overwhelm.
With a phone in your hands, you can avoid your own internal monologue for the entire day. But if you don’t give your inner monologue time to sift through your thoughts, you’ll end up lost and scattered. Give yourself time, in nature if possible, to sift, organize and refresh. Even half an hour can be enough to clear the cobwebs.
The Fog of Life
The more you understand about the world, the less it will seem like a fog of unexpected and inexplicable events. The more you understand about yourself, the more conscious you will become of your own behavior.
The only way to fulfill your conscious potential is to be fully aware of yourself. Put your phone away for a bit and just be in the world. Then there will be room to figure out who you really are and who you want to be.