100 Ways To Live A Better Life – 99. Get Rid Of Labels

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Things are what they are. Don’t use labels anymore, use directly the things. Your notions of “right” and “wrong” are nothing but labels. In a different country your “right” might be “wrong”. Don’t carry this unnecessary burden.

Use your own experience to assess what’s happening to you. Make your own opinions. And stand out for them. Take responsibility for what you’re thinking, saying and doing. Don’t hide behind empty and shallow labels.

Most important, go back and evaluate every now and then your status quo. Things are changing, you are changing, the world is changing. What was good enough yesterday may be obsolete today. Stay in sync.

Beyond the labels you use to describe yourself there’s an unrepeatable human being: you. 

The Power To Get Rid Of Labels

We don’t have a direct experience of reality, we use labels to represent it. The simplest labels of all are words, like “mountain”, or “road”, or “woman”. These words are very powerful. They can ignite in our heads – in a split of a second – the image of a mountain, of a road or of a woman. We can literally see a mountain in our mind, or a woman.

But there are also other types of labels, more complex, like “freedom”, “abundance” or “happiness”. Those labels are used to represent complex concepts. We still use words to bring them into awareness, but, when we represent them, they have very, very different shapes and structures for each of us.

Take “freedom”, for instance. For some people, freedom means the ability to move freely from country to country, to travel around the world. For other people, freedom means the right to speak your mind, or to say openly what you have to say about something. I know that because I’ve been there. I was raised in a communist country until I was 19. And until 19, freedom meant just to be able to speak your mind without being afraid. Then, the concept shifted towards freedom of movement, financial independence, and so on.

Or “happiness”, for instance. With “happiness” is even more difficult because this is the most custom concept of all. There are 7 billion people on this Earth and that means there are 7 billion ways to describe happiness.

Or, in other words, 7 billion labels for happiness.

That’s the power of labels. They have this capacity to ignite bits of reality in our minds. They can literally recreate contexts in our heads, things we said, we heard, stuff we did or visual memories. They glue to the experience so deep that, for a while, the experience is recreated only by using the label.

That’s pretty powerful stuff.

But there’s also some danger in here. Some real danger. If we’re not very, very attentive, if we’re not 100% presents in the present moment, something very deceiving can happen: we will switch reality for the first available label in our inventory.

For instance, when it’s raining outside, when it’s dark and cold, we may use the label “sadness”. At some point in the past we associated “sadness” with that specific context, and now, when parts of the context are available again, the label is triggered. But the trick is that the initial context of “sadness” will never be available in its initial form. Never, ever again. When we say “sadness” we are in fact referring to the label, not to the actual situation.

Are you still with me? Good.

Now, if outside is raining, if it’s cold and dark, we may be tempted to use the first available label to describe that context, OR we may just sit and see how the reality really feels in that moment. Maybe we feel ok. Maybe, despite of the fact that it’s really raining and it’s cold, we’re with someone special. Or we’re doing something special. So, the context is never the same, hence we don’t need to use the same label over and over again.

That’s the danger of labels. They work so well at recreating something in our minds, that we’re tempted to superimpose them on the current reality too. Of course, it’s never working. Not only we’re not describing the current reality well, but we’re also stacking up label over label, ending up by being surrounded only by concepts, and not in a true experience of reality.

That example is trivial, but we do this on so many levels. For instance, we may think we’re “poor” and “unhappy” just because we don’t have money. That’s the context that first triggered those labels. But no context is ever identical with another. So, even if we don’t have money now, there’s no need to use the label anymore. This situation is different. Quantum physicists have this saying: the cat that landed is different than the cat that jumped. Each and every second we’re changing.

And, to be very honest with you, the person that started to read this article is different than the person who finished it.

Right? 🙂

1 thought on “100 Ways To Live A Better Life – 99. Get Rid Of Labels”

  1. Love the thought of always changing… or even having the ability to change. I’d never thought of our labels as being the thing that stops us from that change. Thanks for opening my eyes!!


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