Becoming Your Best Self in the New Year: Lessons from Socratic Wisdom

As the calendar turns to a new year, many of us embark on the journey of crafting resolutions — promises to ourselves to embrace positive change and become the person we aspire to be. In the spirit of this transformation, I’ve personally been reflecting and drawing inspiration from a recent Hidden Brain Podcast episode, “What Would Socrates Do?” The essence of the episode lies in the simple, but profound concept: “Act as if you already were that which you wish to become.”

Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, left us with timeless wisdom that transcends the boundaries of centuries. The notion that “you are what you do” and “you learn what you live” underscores the transformative power of actions and experiences. This concept suggests that the repetition of certain behaviors can mold us into the very person we strive to become, and all of the modern science that Socrates would never have dreamed of having access to, from brain scans to hormonal assays supports his conclusion. When you act differently, you begin to feel differently, which reinforces more behavioral changes that ultimately shape you as a different person.

Socratic wisdom invites us to view resolutions not as distant goals (i.e. I’m going to get in shape this year) but as daily practices that shape our character (As an athlete, I’ll be exercising on a bike, treadmill or in a pool at least 30mins each day). Instead of setting vague resolutions this year, define clear and actionable steps that align with the person you aspire to be, and then act as if you already ARE that person.

I find myself talking to myself a lot in this process. “As an athlete, do you really want that third cookie Beck?”

The poetic beauty of “act as if” lies in its transformative potential. By engaging in behaviors as if you already possess the qualities you seek, you create a bridge between your current self and your aspirational self. Your brain begins to form new pathways to reinforce these habits and behaviors and before long, the distance between who you are and who you wish to become begins to blur.

Michelangelo, perhaps history’s greatest sculptor believed that the statue already existed within the marble.

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.

To extend his analogy,  you already are the masterpiece you wish to become. It’s simply your job to discover the new shape you want to be. All you require to chisel yourself into the more kind, patient, athletic, successful, (insert your goal here) person you wish to be is already within your possession.

Our actions, repeated and intentional, shape the essence of who we are. Embrace your resolutions not as distant destinations but as the compass guiding your daily journey toward becoming the best version of yourself. “Act as if” you already were that which you wish to become, and let each intentional step be a brushstroke painting the portrait of a transformed you. May this new year be a year of becoming — a journey of intentional actions and experiences that sculpt the masterpiece of your truest self.

Here’s to a fear(less), 2024!

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