The Key Historical Insight That Helps Us Change Our Future
When I was younger, history was my least favorite subject.
I don’t know about you, but I remember history being taught mostly by way of long lists of facts and short stories that, for me, lacked continuity, context and meaning.
Quizzes and tests always seemed to focus on remembering dates, names and places, which, for me, really sucked.
Ask any of my friends and family and they’ll tell you that my memory is not exactly… great.
Given that I can’t even remember people’s birthdays, I never got past that barrier of memorization to get to what truly matters about history - the insight we can glean from it.
Scientific History: Insight Into Our Present
Thankfully, I have since been freed of pop quizzes and think-inside-the-box education, and have rediscovered history in all of it’s juicy illuminating depth.
Two of my favorite books right now are Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you add them to your reading list.
One of the most striking things I’ve learned, especially in scientific history, is that at every point in time, humans have thought we were pretty close to having it all figured out.
We tend to believe that we're quite close to having everything optimized, explored and explained. And we like to compare how progressive we are to our ancestors without giving much thought to how limited we may be compared to our descendants.
I love the irony of the quote largely attributed to physics genius Lord Kelvin in the 19th century, “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”
The new field of quantum mechanics was discovered decades later.
There is always more to discover, understand and create. And there still is.
Said differently - we do not know it all. In fact, we likely know very little.
How exciting is that mindset shift?
This creates pronounced possibility that suddenly makes change all the more welcome and interesting.
As it turns out, we have not figured it all out, and there’s great opportunity to continue to improve our world.
Your Personal History: Insight Into Your Present
What if we took this insight - we don’t have it all figured out - and applied it to our understanding of self and others?
What happens when we embrace the fact that there’s so much more to discover and understand about ourselves? About others? About our relationships? Our behaviors? Our beliefs? Our life?
Suddenly, we get curious.
And when we get curious, we begin asking ourselves really important questions about understanding ourself:
Why do I believe what I believe?
Why do I think what I think?
Why do I feel what I feel?
Why do I do the things I do?
What is the purpose of my existence?
What do I want out of this life?
What truly matters to me?
Why do these things matter to me?
Many of us find that the answers to a lot of these questions which seek to understand lie in our own personal history.
We find seeds of wisdom and insight into our present day self in every stage of our past: our childhood experiences, our relationships, our trauma, our cultural norms and so much more.
And here’s the thing. I’ll bet that at many points in your past, you thought you were pretty close to having it all figured out.
Yet you soon discovered there was more to learn, understand and explore.
I remember feeling quite confident in my understanding of things at 13, 16, 18, 23…
Now I’m 100% confident I know very little.
And that excites me.
It creates so much opportunity for new growth, experiences and understanding. It’s a mindset shift that, when made, has the potential to change your entire life.
And that’s where our power to change comes in.
Choosing to Integrate Insight
Our history helps to explain our present, but it does not define our future.
That’s because we have this little thing called choice.
Choice is our ability to think, feel, behave, believe and show up in the world in a new way that is not defined by the programming of our past.
It is our super power.
Once you answer the questions that seek to understand your self and your world, you suddenly have a foundation from which you can make choices.
You can decide:
Are my thoughts helping me?
Are my feelings what I would like to feel?
Are my beliefs serving me?
Am I showing up in the world in the way I’d like?
Am I doing what I want to be doing in this life?
Am I giving enough time and energy to what truly matters to me?
Am I doing what I want?
If you decide that the answer to any of this questions is “no,” then congratulations! You’ve discovered that you have room to grow and improve your life.
Again, how exciting is that?! Wherever you’re at in your life right now… it could get better and more aligned with what you truly want.
And with that insight, we now get to choose how to move forward in order to make change.
You might not know “how” at this exact moment, but the awareness and understanding that you even want to make change is a powerful first step.
Thanks, history, for giving us the insight needed to release the delusion that we’ve already got it all figured out and make way for life-altering change.