The idea that life is composed of many shades of gray is popular and is repeated often. It is very much a cliché and like many clichés that are repeated many times over, its meaning has expanded. The original intention of the phrase becomes detached from the original meaning as it is repeated from person to person. Soon enough, people are hearing and repeating the phrase with no base understanding of the original idea and intent behind the words. It is said in a manner that makes one feel like they understand an idea that they may not fully grasp or appreciate.
When looking externally, as in the case of a person looking out into the world, the concept of life being many shades of gray is accurate and succinct. As a single person in the world, one looks out into a vast sea of other people with varying perspectives, cultures, beliefs, and experiences. To try to project one’s ideas of what is right and wrong onto others is inconsiderate of all of the diversity that we are lucky to have. These are the gray areas that inform our view of the world. We, as people participating in the world, are affected and impacted by these shades of gray.
In trying to observe the surrounding world, there are shades of gray that cannot be argued against, but what about when we turn the view from looking outside of ourselves, to looking within?
When looking internally, one is not trying to assign order to the surrounding world; instead, they are trying to understand how they will interpret and react to it. In turning one’s view on themselves they are looking at their perspectives and opinions that are informed by their own culture, beliefs, and experiences. They are looking at how the outside world is interacting with and affecting them to sort out how they want to exist and respond to the world. When turning one’s view on themselves, there is limited value in continuing to acknowledge gray areas; to entertain gray areas in the context of oneself is potentially detrimental to one’s own progress and growth.
When deciding how one is going to respond to the world or when one is constructing a Philosophy by which they are going to navigate themselves through life, there is no room for entertainment of “gray” – such reflection requires one to drive to “black and white” answers.
Continue on if you’re not on board yet.
Basing one’s Philosophy on shades of gray leaves the Philosophy itself vulnerable to influence from the outside. Each indecision left in one’s Philosophy is a crack in the foundation that the external noise can fight through. Without one making a decision for oneself, they risk allowing the influence of others to direct their path. “Gray” is easily manipulated. It is soft and malleable. Exactly as buildings are built on firm, strong concrete foundations rather than sand, so, too, should an individual base their own Philosophy on a hard, strong foundation. “Black and white” Philosophical ideas are a concrete foundation whereas the “shades of gray” are sand. Whereas “black and white” is decisive and direct, “gray” will leave one lost, confused, and without direction.
Below is a strategy to successfully remove the gray areas of one’s Philosophy when looking within and helps in sorting through how one is going to exist.
Know and understand what needs a decision by knowing what directly affects you.
This strategy hinges on the base understanding that one is looking at how the external world is interacting with their own internal values and Philosophy; ultimately sorting out how one is going to respond to the external world. Only what directly impacts a person requires a response. Anything that lives outside of a person and does not impact their world does not require one to have a strong opinion on it.
The definition of what does and does not affect any one person is based on one’s goals and Philosophy. Each person can choose what does and does not affect their world, but the analysis must be honest.
Determine the degree to which you are really affected by it.
There are going to be topics that one encounters that are going to hit close to home and other topics that play out at the fringes of one’s existence. It is important to understand that there is a scale on which the goings-on of the world is going to affect an individual and it is important to place different topics on this scale to understand what the real impact to oneself is.
If an issue doesn’t play in one’s backyard, it is not close enough to make a meaningful impact on a person in the context of this reflection.
Have the depth of research, analysis, and decision be consistent with the degree to which you are affected by it.
Some things will directly impact one’s core beliefs while other things will be a mild inconvenience to the fringes of one’s existence. The key is to have very strong and well-thought decisions on one’s core beliefs while allowing those other things that only affect the fringes of one’s Philosophy to be of lesser concern. One cannot spend incredible time and resources digging into those things that hang around the fringes of one’s Philosophy, nor should they. It is pulling attention and resources from the larger, more impactful issues facing an individual. The fringes are far away from one’s core and do not require a lot of attention. Decisions and opinions on these matters can change without much impact to one’s Philosophy.
Remain open – know that one cannot have all the answers. Life is about continuous learning.
The promotion of “black and white” versus accepting the shades of gray carries with it connotations of arrogance and ignorance. This idea of drawing lines in the sand when it comes to one’s interaction with the world and the world’s interaction with one’s Philosophy is a paradigm shift when talking about this topic.
It must be understood that it is impossible to be unchanging and that as one grows there will be things about their existing Philosophy that do not ring true with the person they are growing into. There will be time and opportunity to tweak one’s Philosophy and interactions with the world as their perspectives and experiences grow and mature. This leads into the next item:
Don’t be overly vocal about your decisions.
When one is highly opinionated and very vocal about those opinions, they paint themselves into a corner both as they are viewed by the world and as they view themselves. The more vocal one is, the more challenges they put in their own way when they want to change their path. Not only will they need to sort out the change wanting to be made but they must deal with the pressures they have placed upon themselves to maintain an image.
Everything discussed thus far in the Transmission is about looking within and there is no discussion of taking one’s beliefs to the outside world. Even if one does choose to put their thoughts and beliefs in front of the public, it does not need to be in a combative manner. One does not need to take a position of one versus all. It is this approach to weaponizing ideas that makes people rigid in their ways because they are removing options – they have taken a combative stance and now must continue with that position to maintain their status.
Make one’s position known through carrying out one’s plan – let actions do the explaining to others. There is no advantage to over-communicating one’s intentions when compared to simply executing on those intentions instead.
When making changes, move from one decision to another.
Finally, the way in which one makes changes to their Philosophy must be addressed. As one grows and reflects on new information, there will be times when one will realize that their existing Philosophy needs updating. The approach to incorporating changes into one’s Philosophy must be to move from one strong foundation of decision to another. When one has done the work to get out of the gray area, the fog of indecision, they must be careful not to re-enter that arena when faced with information that challenges their held beliefs. Before one leaves a belief behind in favor of a new iteration, they must have that new iteration sorted out and ready to go. Avoiding the gray area is to keep one from being too vulnerable to external influence. Changing out old beliefs that no longer work for new and improved beliefs is healthy and a part of growing. One must be careful that they do not lose their way in the transition period.
Appreciate life’s shades of gray but understand when and where those shades of gray must be appreciated. The shades of gray are responsible for many great things when looking at the larger picture of the world. The many beliefs, perspectives, and experiences unique to each individual offer numerous opportunities for the larger population as a whole; however, with all of those perspectives being communicated between individuals, it may be difficult to find how one is to navigate the world when considering their own path and Philosophy. It is in these instances where those shades of gray are causing confusion and frustration. Removing the shades of gray for oneself provides clarity and drives focused progress where continuing to entertain shades of gray internally serves to increase one’s exposure to manipulation by the surrounding world. Such people will feel lost and out of touch with themselves. It is beneficial to drive to a “black and white” answer for oneself and how one will interact with the world. It is important to understand, though, that these decisions are made for oneself and are not intended to be projected onto others.
This is the proper application of another cliché – “live and let live”. To live ourselves we must be led by our own Philosophy and beliefs and we must allow others to do the same. The interface of two people’s Philosophies must be handled by each individual. The line between the two must not be crossed for it is the projection of one set of beliefs onto another that encroaches upon each individual’s ability to live themselves.
The shades of gray are great and beautiful from a global perspective, but as an individual navigating the world today, the gray areas must be clarified to something more understandable and actionable for an individual.
Yours in strength
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