Facing The Modern Challenges

Written by: Ameneh Mottaghi

Published on: July 22nd, 2019

In the previous article, we mentioned some of the advantages of modernism such as expansion and the flourishing of various fields in science and technology, as well as the discovery of a lot of unknowns in the natural world. Additionally, it was pointed out that despite the achievement of such vast scientific developments and the ability to solve many challenges, there is a lack of diverse solutions for the spiritual and psychological crises faced by man.

Researchers have referred to the issue of self-estrangement in analyzing and exploring the roots of the dilemma of contemporary man. From their viewpoint, a great deal of these difficulties is ingrained in self-estrangement, leading to short-sightedness and a sense of loss of oneself. Generally, they see the basis and origin of these issues in the unfamiliarity and unawareness of the self. Naturally, in order to escape this predicament, one should familiarize man with his true self, given that the more humans are familiar with their true selves, the less of an “other” and a “stranger” is in them. The current article discusses the familiarization with and the construction of oneself from the point of view of some intellectuals and psychologists.

Ways to know the “self” according to psychology

The following methods as successful in relation to self-knowledge are suggested based on the psychologists and intellectuals, namely Dr. Waitley, Dr. Steven Covey, and Dr. Schwartz.(1)

1) The Search for knowledge

Research and study about the self and the surrounding world is a fundamental step in self-awareness. Without learning, awareness is not possible. According to some intellectuals “He who cannot study is no better than an illiterate person. Moreover, he who does not attempt to improve is no better than he who is not able to improve.” Essentially, expanding the range of knowledge leads to the domination of nature by man and distinguishes him from other creatures, thus setting him superior. Man can realize the wonders of his self by knowledge and intelligence combined with free will and higher cognition.

The center for investigation of brain functions in the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) has come to the conclusion that the ability of the human brain is infinite and has no boundaries. There are no limitations for our brain other than those we set. The brain is similar to a complete Xerox machine, a camera, a video camera, a projector, thousands of computers, and 10 million microfilms with a certain capacity that are floating in an electrochemical solution.(2) Dr. William James, an American psychologist and philosopher, stated, “The smartest and most intelligent people use no more than 10% of their brain capacity.” People can better control all matters in their life by gaining knowledge and awareness of all the aspects of their existence. Additionally, they can use the cognitive realm to achieve success and organize their lives. On this basis, an individual’s success is a product of his research, inquiry, and study and it is the individual who will write the future chapters in the book of his life.

2) Modification of views and beliefs

Thoughts and views are the basis of human feelings, emotions and behaviours. The views of man indicate his way of life. The present life of people is a result of past choices. Experiences of man are the manifestations of his inner thoughts. When thoughts are trans-formed, life consequently follows.

2a) Having a positive outlook

We should distance ourselves from negative thoughts about ourselves and others. Negative thoughts are damaging to our mind and cause anxiety, low self-esteem, forgetfulness and weakness of the self, leading us to ignore our talents and creativity. We should therefore deposit positive thoughts into our memory bank. Our self-confidence can be greatly increased by having a positive outlook towards our self, reviewing our abilities and successful experiences, and being grateful for our blessings such as our spouse, friends, children, and jobs. When our self-esteem augments, our abilities and health tend to flourish.

2b) Withdrawing only positive thoughts from the memory bank

Dr. Schwartz states, “a few years ago I collaborated with an institute for psychological consultation in Chicago, US. The director of the institute was speaking to me about his techniques to help people who were unable to adapt well. He said that if people attended to only one principle, there would not be any need for people like me. I asked which principle, and he said, negative thoughts should be destroyed before they become a habit. He continued, ‘As a psychologist, I may not be able to change things that are engraved in people’s memory, but I can change their view of themselves so they see themselves in a new light.’”(3)

2c) Discontinuing the use of negative thoughts

Discontinuing the use of negative thoughts and ignoring them lead to forgetting them. An optimistic view of the self and the future prompts the manifestation of a bright future, as one gains whatever one perceives.

2d) Thought and wisdom

People’s success does not depend on their IQ, but on the quantity and way of their thinking. As an Emerson said, “thoughts rule the world.”

2e) Discovering the wonders of our inner world

It is imperative that we strive to discover the inner world wonders including such distinct human powers like willpower, choice, free will, and thoughts. Upon our discovery of these we can come to believe in the superiority and the ability of man to transform the inner and outer state of the natural world. By increasing our faith in our beliefs and abilities, we can multiply our creativity and thrive, overcoming our inner and outer challenges.

As suggested in this discussion, it is the viewpoint and perspective of individuals that determines their growth, failure, happiness, sorrow, and fate. Dr. Albert Ellis, a famous cognitive behavioural therapist, developed a popular therapy technique called Rational Emotive Therapy (RET).(4) According to him, therapy consists of three stages:

i) Stimulating events act as a motive.

ii) A system of beliefs that is in agreement with the individual’s interpretation of the stimulating event

iii) Emotive response of individual

Ellis believes that it is wrong to assume that distressing issues in life (1) lead to emotive responses (3) such as depression and anxiety; rather, it is stage (2) that is the main cause of depression.

Different responses of individuals who encounter similar events confirm the accuracy of Dr. Ellis’ idea. For instance, a failure of a test is not a cause for depression; rather the belief that one’s absolute worth is determined by one’s success (B) is what causes depression.

3) The organization of one’s thoughts

Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Steven Covey believe that the organization of thoughts consists of setting priorities, particularly and especially with respect to goals. Initially, thought organization and practice help to replace previous habitual negative thoughts, with right, novel, and positive ones. Consequently, the organization of novel understandings and constructive thoughts into habits leads to “self-management”.

In psychiatry, this concept is known as control and correct decision making. Considering the individual freedoms and organization of thought in the scope of life, man can choose his path and be the planner and scriptwriter of his own life.

4) Discovering goals and establishing ends

“A person without a goal in life is a ship without a sail.” Dr. Denis Waitley states, “Two scientists named Thomas Carlyle and Earl Nightingale compare man with sailors, 95% of whom are in ships without a rudder and leader, and are exposed to winds and hopelessly have surrendered to fate. The other 5% of sailors are successful people who, with patience and study, have set a determined goal; they establish their path from sailing maps and set out to sail towards a final destination. The ship captain may not have seen 99% of his real destination and path, but he knows what the destination is, where they are right now, and prevents any disaster and reaches the destination with certainty. A per-son without goals is like a ship without a leader that can be swayed to every which way with a breeze. It is only the sail that directs the ship to a certain direction, not the wind. The paths of time are similar to sea winds.” Dr. Waitley continues, “It is the apparatus of soul and spirit of man that, in the course of his life, chooses appropriate ways and brings him closer to the intended goals.” Goals and ends in life are like a motor that empower individuals.

One should endeavour to set positive and valuable goals such as character growth, creativity, and loving, which distinguish humans from others. One should also think beyond hollow goals such as eating, spending the day, revenge, etc. Dr. Waitley says, “Goals and behaviours of people should be based on firm principles such as truth, honesty and integrity”.

Ways of building the self according to psychology

Self-knowledge is effective when it leads individuals to proceed and act on their beliefs. In other words, such knowledge is manifested, beliefs are applied to actions, and individuals become a symbol of their beliefs and goals. The ways to build and construct oneself are as follows:

1) Practice and creation of habits

Practice refers to the persistent continuation of positive novel thoughts via self-suggestion and dialogue. Creating a habit of repeatedly achieving actions and thoughts based on inclination, awareness, and incarnation of our goals, cannot be attained without knowledge and want of that habit. Likewise, knowledge and awareness of habits and the ability to change and revise them greatly help to control and erase negative thoughts and memories of the past.

2) Taking care and vigilance

There must be incessant and continuous care and control in the execution and manifestation of beliefs. In this regards, a scientists says, “endurance composes 95% of ability.” Usually, to achieve peaks of success, people remove obstacles one after another, and act on their hidden abilities through endurance.

3) Contemplation

While acting on the principles of self-awareness and constructing oneself, one should attempt to review and re-construct thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviours, so that thoughts and actions are refined. As put in the words of Dr. Stephan Covey, “imagine a person who is cutting a tree with a saw. You ask him what he is doing and he responds that as you can see, he is cutting a tree. You say that he looks very tired and ask him how long he has been sawing for? He says over 5 hours, and that it is really difficult work. When you ask him, ‘why don’t you give your-self a few minutes to sharpen the saw,’ he answers, ‘I have no time to sharpen the saw! Don’t you see I am sawing?’” One should allocate at least 30 minutes per day to re-construct the self in order to achieve goals and wants, as “a wise man is the ruler of his mind, and an unwise one is its slave.”(6)

Note: The Islamic perspective on the issue will be dealt with in the next article.


  1. Denis Waitley is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers and productivity consultants in the world today. He is one of the most prominent, high performance coaches in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Latin America, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and China. Denis has the #1 best-selling business book in the Chinese language over the past decade. Dr. Covey is the author of several acclaimed books, including the international bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It has sold more than 15 million copies in 38 languages throughout the world. In 1996, Stephen R. Covey was recognized as one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential Americans and one of Sales and Marketing Management’s top 25 power brokers. Dr. Covey is cofounder and vice chairman of Franklin Covey, the leading global professional services firm with offices in 123 countries. Dr. Covey’s organizational legacy to the world is Covey Leadership Center.
  2. D. Whitely, The psychology of success, p. 8.
  3. Schwartz, The magic of thinking big, p. 61.
  4. Amaanollah Khalaji, Self-knowledge from point of view of religion and psychology, p. 33.
  5. D. Whitely, The psychology of success, p. 124.
  6. Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.






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