You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago.– (mis?)attributed to Alan Watts
The upside of consistency
In some situations and areas of life, the kind and wise thing is to show consistency. It creates predictability and safety for ourselves and others, and sometimes, that’s just the right medicine.
Examining our shoulds
At the same time, we are under no obligation to be the same as we were, even a moment ago. Life doesn’t require it of us, and there is no should inherent in reality. Any shoulds around this come from an idea, and it may come from a wish for predictability and safety.
We all know that situations and circumstances change. We have new information. We have new insights. And that means we will change too. Our views, responses, wishes, strategies, and so on all change. Often, the responsible thing to do is change when our information, experiences, and situation changes.
If changing seems wise and kind in a situation, for instance in updating our view on something, and we notice a should in us holding us back, it’s good to look at this. We can examine these shoulds and find what’s more honest for us, and we can befriend the unloved and unexamined fear behind these shoulds.
How it’s already true
We can’t be the same as we were five minutes ago. There is always change. What’s here now has never been before in just this way, and will never be this way again.
If we look a little closer, we may find that the past doesn’t exist apart from in our memory. We cannot be what we were since that person doesn’t exist anymore. This is something we notice directly if we pay attention to our sense fields over time, for instance through a form of meditation. (Training stable attention, notice and allow, etc.)
Only our mind creates a sense of continuity. It creates a mental overlay of a timeline of past, present, and future, and what’s in – or may be in – each of these. Without this overlay, there wouldn’t be any past or future for us and no sense of continuity.
The truth found in the reverse statement
As hinted at above, there is also some truth in the reverse statement.
You are under obligation to be the same person as you were five minutes ago.
–> Sometimes and in some areas of life, it’s wise and kind to stay consistent. If I agree to something, and there is not a good reason to change it, then it’s best to follow through.
–> And if we are unable to change even if we wish to, that’s fine too. It’s understandable and natural, and it can help us explore what’s going on in more detail. We may discover something important.
What doesn’t change
The above is all about our human self.
At the same time, we are the awake space that allows this change.
As awake capacity for this change, we are the same even with all the change.
We are what the change happens within and as.
2 thoughts to “Quote: You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago”
Do you have the Alan Watts citation for the introductory quote, “You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were five minutes ago.”?
Hi Maria – no, I don’t and cannot find it anywhere. It may be misattributed to him, or paraphrasing something he said in a video or interview. I am not sure. Will change the attribution in the post.