Some pursue individuality as the way to express themselves, to be different to everyone else.
What if there is a better way?
I’ve been pondering the difference between individuality and autonomy (the freedom to control and direct one’s own life).
Individuality does not necessarily lead to autonomy, but autonomy leads to individuality.
What individuality can lack is self-awareness – knowing what we’re good at and what energises us, also how we can best live this in an integrated way with others, with our world, and with our future Self. Individuality can fly in the face of each of these.
Self-awareness connects us with the elements and dynamics in our lives which are self-energising and self-rewarding – the things you’d do without being paid. When we don’t have this, we can substitute external or extrinsic endorsements – the people we connect with, the things we wear (labels on the outside, please), the possessions we must have to achieve.
Think of self-awareness as a compass providing us with our true north no matter the geography we find ourselves in or the map we are trying to make sense of. We know who we are and happily can depend on, or interdepend with, others.
Robert Greene offers a powerful picture of autonomous people when he describes how ‘they decide to forge their own route, one that others will see as unconventional, but that suits their own spirit and rhythms and leads them closer to discovering the hidden truths of their objects of study’.
He goes on to offer a wonderful story of how Micronesian sailors could make their incredible journeys through knowing their world so well, a picture of how knowing ourselves offers the best opportunities for great adventures.
Master navigators knew the sky chart so well that
with the sight of one star in the sky they could
immediately sense where all of the others were
located. They had learned how to read the other
navigational signs so well that it has all become
second nature. They had a complete feel for this
environment, including all the variables that
seemed to make it chaotic and dangerous.
These variables also include being able to sense the temperature of the water, the reflections off clouds, the phosphorescence of the water, the flights of birds moving to and from land at different times of the day, and more. All amazing.
The life of every person is as amazing.