Three-thousand-year-old honey was discovered in a pharaoh’s tomb, yet it was still edible. But adding just one element would cause it to spoil in days.
Honey is the only natural food that does not go bad, so when this cache of the golden nectar was discovered it was still good to eat. One reason honey lasts so long is it lacks moisture which bacteria require to grow. If you add water, honey spoils quickly just like any other food.
When it comes to bad feelings about ourselves, it’s easy to think that adding something such as more positive thoughts, or having more success or money, will make us feel better. Unfortunately, good feelings achieved that way spoil just as easily as honey doused with water. We need to subtract something to have a stable sense of self that we can rely on. One way to get this stability is with the no-meaning mindset.
The no-meaning mindset is the habit of dissolving meaning about events, especially meanings related to yourself. If you’re late to work and castigate yourself for being lazy, you notice this and then let those thoughts go. If you get criticized and start to think that something is wrong with you, you notice that one person’s words cannot tell you about your whole self. The no meaning mindset frees you from believing negative thoughts about yourself.
Self-esteem is usually based on doing something you judge as “good” so you can judge yourself as good. You might say to yourself, “This means I’m a great person” or “I’m deserving of these good things.” This only becomes a problem when the same judgment mechanism is activated when you fail. Then the mind thinks “This failure means that I suck” or “The fact that I lost money means I didn’t deserve it.”
The no-meaning mindset is based on recognizing the fact that nothing you do and nothing that happens to you reflects on your whole self, as a result, you feel free. You don’t have to do anything to be OK. You only need to drop illusions about yourself and see reality more clearly. And that is something within your control.
To do that you first notice an event in which you’ve judged yourself. Then you notice that the judgment and the event are two separate things. Finally, you notice if the judgment has dissolved or not.
Adam was a student in the Lefkoe Occurring Course last year. He noticed that his to-do list was growing longer instead of shorter. He judged himself as lazy for this. He then noticed that this judgment of laziness was separate from the event. He then realized that he’s been busy with several projects and had been using his time well. His self-judgment vanished and so did the stress he felt about not getting everything done.
Joseph was another student in the Occurring Course. He put his profile on a prominent dating site and got few responses. He felt hopeless and thought “I don’t measure up.” He then noticed this judgment and the event were completely separate from each other. Afterward, he decided to get help rewriting his profile. He got 20 responses in the next 12 hours.
By dissolving meaning, Adam, and Joseph were both able to feel better and take more effective action without trying to prop up their self-esteem. They didn’t need to create positive illusions about themselves to move forward. They just needed to see reality more clearly.
That’s a valid concern. When we’ve lived our whole lives responding to the carrot of self-praise or the whip of self-criticism it can feel like we’d have nothing to motivate ourselves to live well and work well without them.
Fortunately, our experience with students in our Lefkoe Occurring Course shows us that when people do make a habit of dissolving meaning, they don’t become immoral or lazy. In fact, they often get more deeply in touch with their values and do more of what matters to them. Very often judgments about themselves held them back from pursuing their purpose in life. Once those judgments fall away they grow faster towards the best versions of themselves.
- The no meaning mindset involved noticing judgments about yourself, then dissolving those judgments.
- This mindset is more precious than self-esteem because it is more stable and not based on doing “good” or having “good” things happening to you.
- You can dissolve self-judgments by noticing a specific event you feel bad about, then noticing your judgments are separate from the event.
- Dissolving meaning about yourself won’t make you immoral or lazy. In fact, most people become more focused on what matters to them when they learn to dissolve meaning.
By subtracting meaning, you can see events clearly because you are not judging yourself.
You can fail without self-criticism.
You can get bad news without blaming yourself.
You can be free to pursue the life you want to live without fear that your mind will spoil the journey.
For the past few years, I’ve been working on a book with my friend Vahan Yapremian on how entrepreneurs can overcome limiting beliefs that hold them back. It’s titled Self Made: The Surprising Solution to Success. It should be out in several months. If you’re interested, you can let us know by adding your email address to the form at this link:
We’ll then give you updates as we make progress on the book and let you know when you can get it.