"'Be sure you know your own mind, Jupe,' Mr. Gradgrind cautioned her, 'I say no more. Be sure you know your own mind!'" From Charles Dickens' Hard Times
Do you know your own mind?
On the surface, it might seem like a silly question, but the reality is that many people truly don't know their own mind. It's not always a simple or easy task. It can be a real struggle to know your own mind, when there is so much coming at you from other sources, be it family, friends, the media, or society in general.
However, even though it may be difficult at times, it's vitally important that you know your own mind.
This has always been the case, but it's even more important in today's world. In our current "always online" plugged-in world, many of us are dealing with information overload on a daily basis. We may be able to reduce some of this at times, through the deliberate choices that we make. But much of it can't be avoided in the course of our work and lives. This continual onslaught of information becomes dangerous when we fail to recognize how much it's affecting us; how much we're absorbing and internalizing it without realizing it.
What You Think is Your Own Mind Can Wind Up Being Something Else
Eventually, what you think is your own mind really isn't! It can wind up being something else; a reflection of all the information and messages you've been bombarded with.
In subtle ways, our minds are shaped and influenced over time. Even when you think you're taking in objective facts, those "facts" are often biased and slanted, in a deliberate attempt to steer you towards a particular opinion. And even when what you're being presented with is technically accurate, it may still be slanted by virtue of how it's presented or what it omits.
At a more personal level, there's no question that the views of the people closest to us — typically family, friends, workmates, and community/social circles — has a huge influence on how we see the world. When these close influences are combined with the aforementioned (carefully-crafted) information onslaught, it's no wonder it becomes difficult to know one's own mind. Indeed, you may at times feel as if you're losing your mind!
Practical Steps to Stay Focused and Clear-Minded
Fortunately, there are practical steps you can take to stay grounded, focused, and clear-minded. Take note when you're hearing a statement being repeated, perhaps word for word, over and over again. It could be from someone else, or it could be coming from yourself. That unchanging repetition is often a sign that things are running on auto-pilot, rather than truly tuning in and examining one's stance.
Don't rush. Give yourself the time you need to think things through thoroughly, in order to get clear on where you stand.
Also accept that knowing your own mind, and acting on what you know, isn't always easy or comfortable. In the scene from Hard Times quoted above, the character Sissy Jupe does indeed know her mind, and she makes her decision regarding what she needs to do quickly. But it's by no means an easy decision, as it entails leaving people she loves and heading down a path that proves to be quite challenging.
Likewise, in real life, knowing your own mind sometimes means facing harsh realities and making difficult decisions. In the long run however, there is a sense of personal strength, integrity, and dignity that comes from knowing one's self and staying true to one's self that makes the effort worthwhile.
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