“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Many of us are committed to a journey of change and personal growth. While these are traits to be admired and celebrated, they can also have a darker side. We can become a little militant and dogmatic when we’re on our journeys.
As we focus on our attempts to make changes in our own lives, our views can start to narrow and become very black and white. We become so tuned into what we are doing that we forget there’s more than one way to do just about anything.
We seek out others that agree with us to back up ‘our views.’ This may be part of our primal wiring to be part of a collective. We seek a tribe.
Being part of a tribe can be intoxicating. Being with people that share our passion is exciting. It’s great to have a common goal or view and be able to talk about our passions with others that really get it. We’re all in this together.
Being in a tribe can also distort our perspective. Only seeing and hearing a biased view. Ironically, we can lose objectivity as we seek clarity. Becoming more rigid as we search for methods and hacks.
Or maybe we enjoy citing this study or that to ‘prove’ our point. Using science (bad science oftentimes) as our weapon of choice to make ourselves feel and sound knowledgeable.
Both these traits can lead to us becoming dogmatic, thinking our way is the only way.
A Personal Example or Two
I notice this habit of falling back on dogma for a good reason—I do it myself.
An example would be my approach to exercise.
I choose to keep myself strong with my own bodyweight (calisthenics). The ability to use one’s own body through space is impressive to me and I feel it’s the ultimate expression of strength. Not everyone shares this view of course. Many others enjoy hoisting large amounts of iron or swinging a kettlebell.
As I have deepened my own practice of bodyweight training and enjoyed the benefits it brings, I have also found myself judging the way others exercise at times. Shaking my head at people in the gym I perceive to be doing something silly or dangerous.
Another favorite, quoting from a famous fitness authority or studies to hammer home a point, perhaps how repeated loading of the spine with weights can have negative connotations. Or how balancing on a bosu ball has little carryover to anything other than balancing on a bosu ball.
Why do I do this? I’ve chosen my route, why do I feel the need to judge the way others choose to exercise? I’m certainly no expert.
Another example would be my journey into simplicity and applying 80/20 principles to my life. Several years ago I realized I was accumulating more in my life. More things that didn’t really matter to me or speak to me on a spiritual level. Life felt more complicated than I wanted it to be.
In response, I started to make some changes. It’s a journey I’ve documented previously on Tiny Buddha. The upshot of these changes has been that the quality of my own life has improved significantly. There is more focus and clarity in my life.
Along the way, as I’ve traveled further down the rabbit hole of simplicity, I find myself casting a weary eye at others oftentimes. Judging them for complicating things, or not grasping the power in simple, or for not saying no to commitments they have no capacity to keep.
None of this is useful to them, none of it is useful for my internal energy. Yet, still I have to fight this pull to judge. Justifying it somehow as me now knowing better. How arrogant and self-righteous this all sounds as I write the words, and for good reason—it is.
Your Journey is Your Journey
No need to complicate things. Personal journeys should be personal. Let’s be clear, we’re not in competition and even if we are, it’s with ourselves.
You can call yourself a minimalist if you like, but owning less than your neighbor doesn’t automatically make you a better person.
You can call yourself a mindfulness advocate and commit to daily meditation, but not everyone needs a formal meditative practice to be mindful. Equally, not everyone with a daily meditative practice is mindful.
You can choose to strengthen your body by lifting your own body if you like, but it’s fine if someone else chooses to push weights or rocks instead.
You can choose to follow a Paleo diet without bashing vegans, or vice versa. People can, and do, thrive on many diets as the Blue Zones around the world already prove.
You can choose to follow a religion that calls to you, but you can do that without damning someone else who follows a different faith.
You can choose to do all of this quietly in your own way. Or you can choose to share what you are doing with others in the hope of inspiring them to join you, or support you on your journey. If you share, let’s drop any degree of superiority or smugness. No need to hide behind dogma or use it as a weapon to fire at others.
Follow your passions in life, embrace them, and really enjoy them, but be aware that others are just as passionate about their passions. Leave the dogma behind and remember, there are many routes to the top of any mountain.
Note: This post is as much a reminder to myself as it is to you. I hope to rid myself of this affliction to hide behind dogma at times. If you notice me doing it, please feel free to remind me of these words. 😉