Write Your Own Story: The Context
In this article, a definitive look at what philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and scientists throughout history have thought about the impact that taking conscious control of your own life and writing your own story has on your happiness and well-being.
Envision the Process that Will Deliver Your Desired Outcomes
It’s easy to envision what life would be like if you had a different job, if you had more money or if your health was better, but we often don’t take the time to envision each of the steps it will take to achieve that goal.
In a paper titled “Envisioning the Future and Self-Regulation”, Shelley E. Taylor, Ph.D. at UCLA distinguishes that it’s much more important to mentally map out the steps necessary to achieve a desired outcome than it is to simply imagine the rewards at the end of the journey. Not only did test subjects perform better on college tests/projects when spending 5-7 minutes per day mentally working out the necessary study time and research work, she found that simply imagining a good outcome on the goal increased the initial motivation to get started working on the task earlier. But did not lead to better outcomes. There are a whole host of reasons she describes that explain the underlying link between mental simulation and outcomes, including its constraints to reality, its link to problem solving activities, and many others.
This is why your Bodhi Band journey is focused on defining small steps that help lead you to the larger goals you define for yourself!
Imagining the Future Can Lead to More Far-Sighted Actions
We as humans tend to discount the rewards that will be received far in the future. This concept is referred to as “temporal discounting.” Unfortunately, many of the most meaningful goals in our life are achieved over a long period of time rather than overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day right?
In further support of Professor Taylor’s research above, a 2011 study titled “A neural mechanism mediating the impact of episodic prospection on farsighted decisions” by Roland G Benoit, Sam J Gilbert & Paul W Burgess draws links between imagining a future goal and taking actions that support more long-term thinking. It becomes a way for our minds to lessen the impact of temporal discounting, and assign more value to longer term decisions.
That’s why using an initial blend of goal setting followed by a switch to developing the intermediate steps is how you’ll be set up for success in achieving some of your long term goals!
Modern Philosophy, Psychology, & Science
Modern science and psychology also emphasize the importance of taking conscious control of one's life for happiness and well-being. Positive psychology, a branch of psychology that emerged in the late twentieth century, focuses on promoting personal strengths and positive emotions to improve well-being. Research in neuroscience and social psychology has also highlighted the importance of personal agency and autonomy for mental health and happiness. Modern science has provided evidence-based techniques for promoting well-being, such as mindfulness meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy, that emphasize personal responsibility and control over one's thoughts and actions (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 1-10).
Modern philosophy, which emerged in the seventeenth century and continues to shape contemporary thought, also emphasizes the importance of taking conscious control of one's life for happiness and well-being. Philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche emphasized personal autonomy and responsibility, encouraging individuals to think for themselves and create their own values. Contemporary philosophers have also explored the relationship between happiness, well-being, and personal responsibility, promoting the idea that individuals can achieve greater happiness by taking control of their lives and creating meaning and purpose for themselves (Kraut 1-10).
Axial Philosophies Overall
The Axial Philosophies, which emerged in the first millennium BCE, emphasized the importance of taking conscious control of one's own life and writing one's own story for achieving happiness and well-being. According to these philosophies, individuals should strive to live a virtuous life and cultivate personal autonomy, which can lead to a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This view is echoed in the teachings of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, among others (Eliade and Kitagawa 245-247).
Confucianism & Daoism
Confucianism and Daoism, two of the major Axial Philosophies, also emphasized the importance of taking control of one's life for happiness and well-being. Both philosophies viewed personal autonomy and self-cultivation as essential for a fulfilling life (Ivanhoe and Norden 1-17).
Hinduism & Buddhism
Hinduism, another Axial Philosophy, also emphasized the importance of taking conscious control of one's life for happiness and well-being. The concept of karma, which holds that a person's actions in this life determine their future experiences, encourages individuals to take responsibility for their actions and their impact on the world around them. Hinduism also advocates for the pursuit of dharma, or one's duty in life, and the cultivation of virtues such as compassion, truthfulness, and non-violence to achieve inner peace and happiness (Olivelle 69-86).
Buddhism, an Axial Philosophy that emerged in India, also emphasizes the importance of taking conscious control of one's life for happiness and well-being. Buddhism emphasizes the importance of self-reflection and personal responsibility, encouraging individuals to take control of their thoughts and actions to cultivate a positive, compassionate, and meaningful life (Lopez 3-22).
Traditional Western Philosophy & Stoics
Traditional Western philosophy, including the Stoic philosophy, also emphasized the importance of taking conscious control of one's life for happiness and well-being. The Stoics believed in cultivating personal virtues, such as wisdom, courage, and self-control, to achieve inner peace and tranquility, regardless of external circumstances. This philosophy encouraged individuals to focus on what is within their control and to accept what is not, promoting personal responsibility, resilience, and emotional well-being (Inwood 2-3).
Christianity, Judaism, Islam
Christianity emphasizes the importance of taking conscious control of one's life for happiness and well-being. Christianity emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility, promoting the idea that individuals will be held accountable for their actions in the afterlife. The concept of grace, or God's unmerited favor, is central to Christian belief and encourages individuals to seek forgiveness and redemption for their mistakes (Hauerwas and Wells 1-10).
Judaism also emphasizes the importance of taking conscious control of one's life for happiness and well-being. Jewish teachings encourage individuals to pursue a virtuous life and cultivate personal responsibility and accountability for one's actions. The concept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, encourages individuals to take an active role in improving society and promoting social justice (Biale 1-13).
Islam, a major religion that emerged in the seventh century CE, also emphasizes the importance of taking conscious control of one's life. Islamic teachings encourage individuals to pursue personal and societal excellence through the cultivation of virtues such as compassion, justice, and mercy. Islamic tradition also emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility and accountability, promoting the idea that individuals will be held accountable for their actions in the afterlife (Esposito 1-10).
We recommend Writing to Heal on APA.
- Benoit RG, Gilbert SJ, Burgess PW. A neural mechanism mediating the impact of episodic prospection on farsighted decisions. J Neurosci. 2011 May 4;31(18):6771-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6559-10.2011. PMID: 21543607; PMCID: PMC6632845.
- Biale, David. "Judaism." The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence, edited by Mark Juergensmeyer, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 1-13.
- Eliade, Mircea, and Joseph M. Kitagawa. "Axial Age." The History of Religions: Essays in Methodology. University of Chicago Press, 1959, pp. 245-267.
- Envisioning the Future and Self-Regulation Shelley E. Taylor, Ph.D. https://taylorlab.psych.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2014/11/2011_Envisioning-the-Future-and-Self-Regulation.pdf
- Esposito, John L. "Islam." The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence, edited by Mark Juergensmeyer, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 1-10.
- Hauerwas, Stanley, and Samuel Wells. "Christianity." The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence, edited by Andrew R. Murphy, John Wiley & Sons, 2011, pp. 1-10.
- Inwood, Brad. "Stoicism." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2016.
- Ivanhoe, Philip J., and Bryan W. Van Norden. Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy. Hackett Publishing Company, 2005.
- Kraut, Richard. "Happiness and Well-Being." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2017.
- Lopez, Donald S. The Story of Buddhism: A Concise Guide to Its History and Teachings. HarperCollins, 2001.
- Olivelle, Patrick. "Hinduism." The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 69-86.
- Seligman, Martin E. P., and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. "Positive Psychology: An Introduction." American Psychologist, vol. 55, no. 1, 2000, pp. 5-14.