Olivier Egli

The biggest problem in the world

I was recently asked what I believed to be humanity’s biggest issue. I knew that my interviewer hinted at common systemic problems like lack of access to resources, inequality, climate change, etc. And while I agree that these are issues that need to be tackled, I disagree that they are at the heart of the matter. As usual, we are mistaking cause and effect and solely focused on the consequence of our doing.

Humanity’s real issue shows in the questions we ask. We run around the world asking “WHAT should we do?” and “HOW can we change things?” The thing is, no real issue has ever been resolved by answering a WHAT or a HOW question. Those questions are only good for finding a quick fix that delays a real resolution. You see, WHAT and HOW questions satisfy our impatience.

But, we also ask these questions because something feels off. We are emotionally bothered by something and immediately ask WHAT and HOW questions. Oddly enough, we never wonder WHY we feel this way. We don’t ask WHY things are the way that they are? We ask WHAT and HOW because we agree that a solution needs to be found within the framework that is given. We want a comfortable solution that doesn’t stretch the boundaries of what needs to be done beyond the admissible. And by doing so, we don’t leave room for valid solutions. 

We want things to change, but not at any cost.

Little kids are obsessed with WHY questions. They are still connected to their natural curiosity, their openness, their sense of wonder. They understand intuitively that the magic of the world lies in the cause of things. And so they are unafraid of getting straight to the point. 

For us as adults, this means we must re-engage with our intuition and go back to WHY questions first:

What causes you to feel the way you feel about your work or your life?

What creates the reality of your work and your life? (Don’t be fooled. These questions are based on WHY. They are not asking “What should I change or how can I change it?)

These two central questions are deeply interlinked. Whatever you allow to create your work reality will create your emotional reality. If what you have embraced as the cause for your work reality is unnatural and even opposed to your own true self, then the work that ensues will take on an unnatural path- something you are bound to feel deeply.

This cannot be rectified with all the WHAT and HOW questions in the world because you first need to work at the root level and correct the cause. Of course this requires courage and desire.

All systemic issues have a cause that remains inaccessible to our current limited mindset. Without the courage and desire to shift the cause we will never be able to shift our actions. Rice bags, medical aid and weapons delivered into zones of crises will never be a solution, just like changing the way you go about your work today without daring to shift its cause will never change the way you feel about it…

Train all your muscles

When it comes to training our muscles, what images come to mind? Weights? Body builders? The gym card you never use? We know that keeping muscles well-oiled will help them function longer and even grow.

Sometimes we also remember to keep the brain trained through mental exercises like Sudoku and crossword puzzles. But what about those other muscles we have? We’re not made up of only intellectual intelligence- we have to look at greasing our other faculties as well. The most important muscles, the ones without which physical and mental muscles wouldn’t matter, are the emotional muscles. Yes, you heard right.

Since emotions lie at the very heart of the human experience (without emotional experiences life would be nothing at all), it is also the basis for everything of value in our existence.

That which gives our emotions depth and expression is not so much the intellectual and physical muscle, but the social one. When we are in charge of our emotional reality and we connect with our surroundings and the communities around us, only then do the physical and mental elements come into play. 

You could also say that the emotional and social layer represent the base of our impact in the world. The expression of our true self happens through actions and mental creativity, yes, but without them stemming from an emotional place of deep knowledge and social integrity, they are nothing but vain punches in the air. 

I recommend a strict regimen that takes all 4 layers into account.

When you wake up, first thing in the morning take care of your emotional muscle: Find gratitude for being alive, for waking up, for seeing the sun, for being at one with yourself, for a wonderful night’s rest, for whatever this new day might bring. Be respectful of your emotions, own them.

And if fear is in your heart, embrace it and understand where it comes from. This is also a good moment to voice an intention for the day ahead.

Only after you do this should you move forward with connecting to your surroundings to flex your social muscle. Look at the world in appreciation, wave at a neighbor, hug a tree or simply engage in constructive thoughts about the world. If social media has a tendency to aggravate you, reclaim power over your emotions and say no to it for now. If listening to the news brings anxiety, leave it out. Make this all about reconnecting with the place you are in and the people around you and do so in the light of the loving intention you have made earlier. 

Now that this is settled, you should wake up your mind. While reading is a beautiful way of kicking the machine into gear, the content of what we read impacts and can impact the delicate balance of a wonderful morning. This is why I recommend writing instead of reading, as this is a much more proactive mental exercise. Automatic writing allows the mind to pour itself onto a page and removes the blockages imposed by the conscious mind. Accessing the unconscious mind is much like purging and allowing for our fresh intention to crystalize itself. Once the conscious mind reads these outpourings, they are like an agreement we can hold ourselves accountable to. 

When all this is done, the physical machine is ready to warm up. This does not necessarily mean kickboxing and 500 push-ups. Simply use your body to express what you are feeling. If you feel fear, then move in order to free yourself of it. If you feel restlessness, transform it into body heat. If you feel happiness, express it by dancing in the kitchen. If you need to scream, scream. I implore you to allow your body to express all the energy it has built up inside, in ways that are not harmful, of course.

You are a beautiful, wholesome and complete being with parts that are deeply interconnected and should be treated as such. Don’t just train the obvious.

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