There are two ways to live your life. You can live from the outside in, or you can live from the inside out. After years of research and practice in personal development, I can say without hesitation that this is one of the most important concepts behind it all.
When you live outside in, you are allowing what is outside of you to determine your reality. You form your self-image based on feedback from the external environment (people, events, society) and internal environment (your self-talk).
In this mode of being, you seek validation outside of you, and your identity is a question mark: “Is it okay for me to feel like this? Can I be this way? Do I have the right to believe in myself?” You lack a strong center, so you tend to gravitate toward other people’s centers, beliefs, and priorities.
On the other hand, when you live inside out, you determine who you are from within yourself, and express that into the world through your thoughts, words, and actions. You are clear on who you are and what you want, and no amount of external pressure can shake you.
In this mode of being, your focal point is internal, and you don’t need any external validation. You are led by your values and aspirations, not by the opinions of others. So your identity is an exclamation mark—“This is who I am!”. You are your own center of gravity.
“Outside in” is bondage; you are who your past conditioning shaped you to be, and you act as the present environment triggers you to act. “Inside out” is freedom; you are who you decide to be, and you act as your values guide you to act.
In the outside-in life you are reacting to the inputs of life, hoping that things will slowly get better. In the inside-out life you are responding to the present moment, making choices based on your core values, and creating opportunities when none seemed to exist.
In order to live inside out, you need to strengthen what I call the higher mind, which is the aspect of your mind where your values, goals, and aspirations live. It’s the part of you that has awareness, wisdom, and willpower. To the extent that you cultivate the higher mind, and harmonize your lower mind with it, you will be living inside out.
Affirmation, visualization, and goal setting are some of the key practices of living inside out, as they presuppose that you have the power to shape yourself, and your life, as per your will. Meditation is also essential, as it helps you discover your own inner world, enhance your awareness, and gain some freedom from the tyranny of your thoughts. All these exercises strengthen the higher mind, and thus your ability to be the master of your destiny.
Self-discipline is the art of living inside out. It asks you to take full ownership of your life—your past, present, future, successes, failures, pains, and dreams. It emphasizes willpower, proactivity, and empowerment. It invites you to be the conscious creator of your life—the god/goddess of your own universe.
This is how this translates to the three core pillars of Mindful Self-Discipline:
- Decide who you want to be (Aspiration)
- Remember and shift to it constantly (Awareness)
- Live accordingly, day after day (Action)
When you know what you want, believe in yourself, and choose to consistently live inside out from your vision, then your aspirations will bend reality. If not, reality will bend your aspirations.
Here are some questions you can take into your daily life to help you strengthen the inside out mode of living:
- How am I shaping my reality right now?
- What am I choosing to think, feel, and do in this moment?
- Who am I choosing to be?
After claiming back your power through these questions, remember your aspirations—the vision you have for yourself and your life. Choose to express it here and now as best as you can. If your aspiration is pointing North, then go North, even if your environment, thoughts, and fears are asking you to go South.
This concept of living inside out is explained in chapter 14 of Mindful Self-Discipline, and is the focus topic of my upcoming book, Wise Confidence. You may also enjoy the guided meditations of Shift Your Self-Talk and POWER Visualization in the app.