Written by: William D. Anton, Ph. D., Founder of CEO Effectiveness
National Novel Writing Month seems like a great time to introduce my new book Ascend: Forging a Path to Your Truer Self (2015) by talking about some of the early thoughts that compelled me to create this book. Over years of practice, I have observed many good people on a quest to better themselves, their families and their companies. Yet they almost always focus outwardly. My goal in writing is to help illuminate the pathway a reader must eventually decide on to transition to their truer self, which is ultimately the key to unlocking that potential. When the focus is on self-knowledge, the change is transformational and profound. In writing Ascend, I wanted to offer an engaging way to share that path toward transformation with everyone. It is a novel embedded with powerful tools for the reader. Here are a few foundational thoughts:
Life starts out with abundant energy that can be directed in many ways. Think of it as potential energy that has yet to be converted into kinetic energy. How this energy gets expressed or suppressed is largely determined by how the child accommodates to parental requirements, imperatives and demands.
Because mirror neurons are active at birth, modeling is arguably the most powerful form of learning. Each child learns to model those around him or her and predicate their worth in relation to their parents. Children begin to define themselves based on what occurs in those early relationships. In essence, they construct a version of themselves that gets parental approval, or at least a reduction in parental disapproval.
This made up version can be thought of as the “idealized self” (not necessarily positive) and is a result of compromises made by the real self (who we truly are) to become what we perceive to be valued by our family, society, and culture. It represents the best adaptation possible at the time as perceived by the developing child. But like all compromises, there is a gain but also a cost. Problematic is that we assume the same cost-benefit structure of our early life will be optimal for negotiating the rest of our life. It is not.i
Over time, early beliefs about ourselves and the world continue to restrict access to our truer selves where our real power and genius patiently wait. In the words of David Whyte, “Be careful in casting out your demons, least you cast out the best parts of you.”
These beliefs become mental models that guide our transactions with ourselves and our world. Over time, we develop habits to insure that these illusions about ourselves and others remain unchallenged. Yet, at the same time, we sense that we are suppressing our most essential passion. Fleeing from our inner genius, we are tricked by our early beliefs and mental models into believing that we are powerless to fully awaken our potential.
The following quote from my earlier book Business Success Through Self Knowledge (2013) illustrates the conundrum: “In essence, our beliefs contribute to what we see, and we interpret what we observe as validation of what we believe.” This is part of the reason that our truer self remains so elusive. But our true self never disappears completely. It continues to send signals to our conscious mind that disrupt our mental models from time to time. If the signals remain faint or are simply ignored, life sometimes creates a crisis (Black Swans) for us. In that case, neither the process nor the outcome is likely to be welcome. From my point of view, it is better to heed the disruptive messages before our unconscious creates a crisis to awaken us.
Those who accept the invitation to ascend to their truer selves greatly enhance their potential to experience the fruits of greater self-knowledge: calm energy, humility, reality aligned thinking, abundant energy, clarity of purpose, passion, empathy and the ability to greatly influence others for the good. In essence, they re-acquire their own nascent potential and experience power beyond measure. They recapture creative potential left dormant on the life altering steps of early compromises ingeniously sustained by tacit mental models.
As expressed by renowned psychologist Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D. founder of Logic-Based Therapy (LBT):
Ascend is an engaging allegory that helps the reader identify and break through early childhood beliefs that limit their innate potential for human happiness and excellence. Valuable steps are offered to help a readers liberate that truer self, which has been held captive behind limiting mental models. This book has the potential to take the reader on a life-altering journey, by shining a light on a path that can help them grow cognitively, behaviorally, emotionally, and spiritually.
The holidays offer a great time to reflect on our relationships and on ourselves and start the new year with a renewed outlook and perspective on our own vast potential. Perhaps it’s a good time to start the climb inward to your true self?