The Train: Real Life Here we Come
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The Train: A Metaphor for the Good Life and Growing Real

Always be asking yourself: Am I on the Train or is this just a station?

This article is about living the Good Life and growing real by riding with reality.

It will help you to decide whether or not you’re on the right track (pun intended) by helping you to assess your progress by prioritising purpose and real growth at all times.

By using a really simple metaphor – The Train – we’ll examine your life from the inside out and help you keep building momentum, moving forwards, and smashing through your goals as you move towards the only destination that counts: wholeness via real purpose (aka your ‘realness‘).

The short version of what’s written below is pretty simple: You’re either on the Train (growing real through a value-based purpose that helps you find your edge) or you’re stuck at a station without even realising it (caught up in the ego).

Staying on The Train is real life because real life is about flux and change; getting off and trying to stay at the stations is a way of bullshitting yourself because the stations represent the illusion of stasis.

Real life is about constant motion and controlled change (aka. ‘Progress’); unreal life is about creating a little box for yourself and trying to stay there in the face of change. One of these ways of living keeps you growing, learning, and living; the other is a slow death.

If you stay on the Train you will:

  • Find real purpose
  • Grow through your edge
  • Maintain an abundance mind set
  • Know when to prioritise your time and how
  • Maintain good relationships and boundaries
  • Say ‘Goodbye’ to unhealthy and/or toxic relationships
  • Stay on track with getting to where you want to be (your real life)

Always be asking yourself: Am I on the Train or is this just a station?

This article will tell you how.

‘The Train’ = Your Real Purpose

The short version of everything that follows is pretty simple: You can only be on the Train if you’re moving forward towards the achievement of your purpose and vision for your life whilst, at the same time, growing real.

If you’re on the Train, then you’re on your purpose and you’re moving forwards at all times- even if you ‘fail’, as failure can be turned into opportunity; and even in the face of conflict, as conflict can be turned into learning.

Being on the Train is a mind-set and you can have it no matter how the outside world appears to be in a given moment.

The idea of ‘growing real’ is a good barometer for whether or not the activities that you’re working on day after day (riding the Train a little further) are your ‘real’ purpose, or just the espoused purpose of your ego. You can tell the difference because your ‘real’ purpose has its roots inside you and an unreal purpose is sourced on the outside (society, parents, teachers, external motivation over intrinsic, etc.).

The ‘easiest’ way to determine your ‘real’ purpose is to go through the process of determining your core human values (again: not your ego’s values that you took on board from a messed up external world) and to translate these values into meaningful action. The ‘easiest’ way to translate these values into meaningful action is to create a purpose around them by “making your values valuable to others” (to quote Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness).

For example, if one of your core values is ‘creativity’, you can work on designing a purpose for yourself that allows you to make ‘creativity’ more valuable to the people around you – maybe running your own art class, building a business that brings more creativity to organisations, or working with creative people to maximise their own creativity. The options are endless.

If you value ‘truth’, then maybe you can write books that share the truth as you have uncovered it with others, start some kind of discussion group, or work to build some kind of a movement around spreading truth with others in areas where you have seen it lacking (maybe in mental health services if you’ve been through the psychiatric system, or raising awareness about social collapse if you think more people need to know about that, etc.).

Whatever it turns out being, once you’ve determined your purpose in this way, you need to create a vision for yourself and then break it down into goals. This vision is where the Train is heading from one day to the next, and, every day, you’re either on the grind and dedicating yourself to the goals that will take you there or you’ve got off the Train and you’re hiding out at the station.

When you achieve one vision, you set the next one, and so on and so on, until you die (the Final Destination – see below).

As a human being, you need some kind of purpose that connects you to the world around you and its inhabitants and which challenges you enough to keep pushing through your edge and growing more real (every time you push through your comfort zone, the Train picks up a little more speed and momentum).  If you don’t have this sense of purpose – if you’re not on the Train – you will start to stagnate and feel a lack of vigour.

Always be asking: Am I on the train or is this just a station?

The Stations = The Illusion of Stasis / Distractions

A Station is anything that you get involved with that stops you from building the momentum you need to keep the Train moving forwards. In short, a station is anything that distracts you from your purpose and stops you from growing real in the way that you need to in order to live the Good Life.

On a deeper level, a Station can show you that there is a difference between growing real and the illusion of stasis: if you’re growing real, then you’re constantly moving, and shedding the layers of bullshit that stop you from being authentic as you push through your edge and learn to be more ‘You’ through friction and conflict.

Moving forward and growing is the natural state of a healthy, happy, human being. If you consciously decide to get off the Train and to stay at a station for too long then you’ve most likely become lost to your ego which is always fuelled by the illusion that you don’t need to change and that you can stay the same forever (in reality, it’s not about needing to change or not; it’s about either working with change and turning it into progress or resisting change because of ego and eventually becoming frustrated and then miserable as you bring friction into your life).

Examples of stations are myriad but here are some of the most common ones:

  • Unhealthy relationships or friendships where you use other people and they use you as an excuse to get off the Train for too long (because they don’t wanna pay the fare – see below).
  • Side projects or meaningless jobs that make you forget about your real purpose but which you dedicate yourself to because of external motivation (money, power, insecurity, whatever).
  • Addictions (to substances, bad habits, other people)
  • Times in your life when you stop believing in yourself because you lost something important and you don’t know how to handle loss because your identity is too invested in things.
  • Hobbies or empty activities that don’t really take you anywhere but which kill time (video games, jerking off, hanging out with people just because you’re bored or lonely, etc.)
  • Spending your time doing the ‘easy’ work instead of the things that you’re scared of (e.g. working on your website all day instead of selling, if you have a business).
  • Dwelling on the past instead of moving into the future (the Train only moves in one direction, anything else is a distraction).
  • Etc.

In short, a station is anything that distracts you from living the truth about yourself, the world, and reality and growing into: a) uncovering more truth about your life, and, b) putting this truth into action via purpose.

Saying that, if you can be real with yourself, then it is possible to get off at a station because there is something to learn there that will help you when you get back on the Train. In other words, though most stations are about distraction, there are exceptions to the rule, but it’s up to you to decide whether or not getting off the Train for a while is worth it.

This being the case, we can say there are two types of station:

  1. Those that recharge you and allow you to build more momentum when you get back on the Train (examples: a ‘healing’ relationship, a month out to learn more about your mission through reading and working on yourself physically and mentally so you’re stronger when you go out in the world again and get back on the Train).
  2. The stations we mentioned above (the most common type of station) that stop you moving forward and make you lose momentum (at the worst type of stations, people will vandalise your train which slows you down either permanently or for a couple of years).

The general rule is to stay on the Train as much as possible; if you do get off at a station, ask yourself which kind it is, and always be aware that you’re actually at a station (don’t confuse it for the Train and lose your progress).

 Speed and Momentum

The Train is always moving at least a tiny bit (even when you’re at a Station it is always moving away and calling you back in increments –  this is why if you stay at a station for too long, you’ll feel a sense of friction and restlessness as the Train pulls you away again but you try to resist).

The general rule about speed and momentum is pretty simple too:

The Train picks up more speed the more time you spend on it.

Spending time on the train basically means working your purpose and dedicating yourself, through continuous daily action, to the actions that will get you were you need to be (this is a process, which is why it should be a daily endeavour).

Because your purpose is fuelled by a process, you can increase speed exponentially by being disciplined enough to dedicate yourself to this purpose.  If you’re on the Train daily then it means you’re doing some kind of work towards your purpose every day. This is ultimately about having discipline, getting the right habits in place as a foundation for your life, and paying the fare to stay on the train in the first place (doing the necessary grind).

The final rule about speed and momentum is this:

If you stop at the station, it takes time to build momentum again when you get back on the train.

You need to realise this so that if you get derailed but find the strength to get back on again you don’t become disheartened when you have to get your mojo back and don’t start with the same speed or momentum you had when you got off the train (this is always the price to pay for getting off the Train – regardless of if it’s a ‘recharging’ station or a ‘distracting’ one: you have to take time to rebuild momentum).

Driver = ‘You’ (Your Realness)

You’re only on the Train if your realness is in the driving seat. If anything else is leading the way then you’re not on the Train, you just think you are (which will cause a sense of restlessness or confusion – or, in the worst cases, frustration and then misery because of the unnecessary friction between you and reality).

Here are the two main things that we let take us off course instead of allowing our realness to be in the driving seat:

  • The ego (in the form of lacking control over our biological wiring or having our cultural conditioning tell us what to be doing instead of acting on our realness and our real values)
  • Other people (when we submit to somebody else’s plans, either because we’re scared of our own vision, or we lack the confidence to make it happen because we’re listening to the ego and its self-limiting beliefs).

In short, you can only stay on the Train if you’re the one in the driving seat. You can’t control everything but you don’t have to be controlled by others either.

You know if your ‘realness’ is in the driving seat because you are growing daily, feeling yourself to be in a state of flow, and manifesting your core human values (truth, creativity, freedom, health, humour, etc.).

A good barometer for whether or not you’re in the driving seat is the amount of friction in your life: the longer you stay on the Train and build up speed and momentum, the less unnecessary friction there will be between yourself and reality (not healthy friction, see below).

If you feel this unnecessary ‘friction’ then you need to ask yourself who’s trying to drive your train. If it isn’t you, you need to make some changes – either internally because your ego is in the driving seat, or externally because the world is.

Internal Conductor = Boundaries

As you grow real, you will become more of a leader. This is because leadership is about improving people’s relationships with reality and helping others grow real.

Not only are you the driver of your train (in your realness) but you also have an internal ‘Conductor’ that allows you to make choices about who can share your journey with you and who can’t.

Making decisions in this area turns on knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what you want – but it also depends on having abundance so that you’re not scared to turn unreal people away from the real journey that you’re on.

In short, you don’t have to get on other people’s trains but your Internal Conductor can help you decide who you allow to get on your train or not.  If people add real value to your life (and vice versa) and care about your values and vision then let them on board; if they don’t, then they’re probably just a station, and eventually it will be time to move on again.

Parallel Tracks = Collaboration

Every so often, you might meet somebody else in life who is dedicated to their own purpose and decide that you want to go in the same direction as them for a little while.

This might take the form of joint ventures, side projects, romantic flings, etc. – basically, anything that allows you to come together for a little while but then go your separate ways again once the [project] is over (though you may still talk over the radio every once in a while or come together to work together again in the future).

In these cases, everybody involved is still on the Train but the trains are running together on parallel tracks. If the collaboration is a good one, you’ll move together at the same speed and with the same motivation and momentum. If the collaboration is a bad one, you’ll move at different speeds and will eventually lose the connection that linked you in the first place.

People who ride in the same direction with you on a parallel track never get on your Train and you never get on theirs (that’s an intimate relationship, where you create one train together by joining carriages, etc.)  – all that happens in the case of parallel track collaborations is that people ride besides you for a little while and then you both go in your own direction when the time comes.

 Rails = Truth

A train can only move forward if it’s on rails. In the case of our lives and this fancy metaphor we’ve got going, we can say that if you manage to stay on the rails then you’ve managed to align your thoughts about yourself, the world, and reality with the truth.

If your thoughts are not aligned with the truth, then you’ll end up either breaking down or going off the rails (which means you’ll still be moving but it won’t be a smooth ride as you go over rocks and through the overgrowth that keeps you from being aligned with the truth – surprise, surprise, we can call this ego).

Seeing as we’re all on our own train and we’re all linked through our ‘humanity’, we can say that all rails are connected to each other and to the whole (this is why we can ride in parallel with people that we collaborate with or join trains with those we are having intimate friendships and relationships with).

Even though the tracks are already set, human beings have freewill, and so you are able to change direction if need be (only forwards, not backwards – this train doesn’t go where it’s already been).

Even so, you have to follow the basic rules of nature and align yourself with truth if you want a smooth journey over a rough one.

To have smooth journey, all you really need to do is:

  1. Uncover the truth
  2. Live this truth to the best of your ability

Staying on the Train and living your real purpose ensures that you do this day by day – just check your internal compass every so often (always pointed towards the truth) to ensure you stay on track.

Fuel = Realness into Time

The general rule here is a simple one:

The more time you spend connected to your realness (choosing reality over distraction) the more fuel the Train has.

If you fuel the train with your ego, then you will appear to be moving – in the sense of taking actions – but these actions will be unreal and unmotivated by your real human values and connection to the whole. This means that you will take yourself further and further away from where you want to be: reality.

Fuelling the Train with your ego is like putting diesel in a petrol engine: it won’t get you anywhere. Ego will also take you off the rails completely because it is a denial of truth and will therefore take you in the opposite direction of the one you want to be in (fragmentation over wholeness).

Every moment of your life comes with an opportunity cost: the choice between making the most of the most valuable resource you have (your time) or throwing it away on things that don’t matter. To fuel the Train, you constantly have to be assessing whether or not you are moving towards reality or distraction in yourself and you do this by prioritising your time over anything else.

If you’re wasting your time (your life) or you’re letting somebody else have your time and attention when they don’t deserve it (because the situation is unreal in some way) then your train is gonna run out of fuel.

Healthy Friction and Unnecessary Friction

There are two kinds of friction that human beings can experience:

Healthy friction: This is the friction that exists because of the gap between where you currently are in reality and where you want to be in reality (your real vision and purpose that is driving you towards your realness).  This kind of ‘healthy’ friction allows you to move forward because of the creative tension that this gap brings to your life – you can use this friction to grow and to remove layers of your ego that prevent you from manifesting your purpose.

Unnecessary friction: Unnecessary friction is a kind of friction that is unhealthy because it doesn’t need to exist in reality – it only exists in our heads. The only reason it appears to exist is because of the beliefs and fears that prevent us from accepting reality in the first place. If we attach to these beliefs, then we put unnecessary friction between ourselves, the world, and reality and this resistance will make us miserable the longer that we cling to it. More often than not, this unnecessary friction only ‘exists’ because we identify as something other than what we are.

In relation to the Train, healthy friction is a vital part of growing real as you stay on purpose. However, if you resist the progress of the Train as it tries to move forward  – by attempting to stay in the wrong station for too long, forcing the Train off the rails, fuelling it with anything other than your realness, or wasting your time, etc. – then you will either become frustrated or end up miserable.

In short: when it’s time to move, you either go with it (healthy friction) or you resist it and suffer (unnecessary friction). The difference between the two is your mind set.

Train Fare = Hard Work / Grind (Time + Energy)

Even though the Train is always moving , you don’t get to move with it unless you’ve paid the fare and bought your ticket. The price that you pay to stay on board is simple but not always easy: hard work, discipline, and doing the grind that comes with growing real. In short, if you don’t invest time and energy, you can’t stay on the Train.

No matter how much you want to be on the Train and talk about your future plans and all the wonderful things you’re going to be doing in the future, without the action that will take you there then you won’t get shit.

If you’re not grinding every day (or at least most days), then you don’t deserve to be on the Train.

Staying on the Train will get you the Good Life – this doesn’t necessarily mean a life of riches or fame, but it does mean a life built around your values and where you respect yourself and are respected by others.

That isn’t just given to you: make sure you buy your ticket by investing time and energy by taking real action.

Final Destination = Death / Wholeness

The longer you stay on the Train, the more speed you will pick up, the more momentum you will build, and the more whole you will become as you push through your edge, shave off layers of bullshit and ego, and become more real.

The final destination is the same for anybody who stays on the Train: increased wholeness in the form of a better connection to your realness and then death (on a long enough timeline).

Whether you stay on the Train or not, you will die. The difference between those that spent their lives on the Train versus those that spent it hanging out at various stations and getting distracted is the difference between leaving behind a real life or leaving behind an unreal life.

We’re all whole whether we’re on the Train or not – those who are on it just get to be aware of this and express it in their lifetimes (and so enjoy life way more because there’s less friction, frustration, and misery as there is with a life lived off the rails).

The Final Destination is what unites us all – there’s a tunnel at the start of our lives (birth) and a tunnel at the end of it (death): what we decide to do in between is what makes us real or not.

Always be asking yourself: Am I on the Train or is this just a station?


Self-Guidance Questions

Take some time and sit on reflect on these questions (write your answers down) so you can internalise some of the lessons in this article and get on the Train:

Real Purpose: Are you on the Train or are you off it? What is your vision for the next year? The next two years? The next five? What goals do you need to achieve in order to realise this vision? Where is the Train headed? What values is your purpose built around? How are you making these values more valuable to others?

Stations: What stations has your Train currently stopped at? What do you need to do to be able to leave these stations? Which stations are for ‘recharging’ and which are merely ‘distractions’? How is your ego involved in keeping you where you don’t wanna be? What changes to you need to make in yourself and the world to get moving again?

Speed and Momentum: How are you slowing your Train down? How can you continue to build momentum? What stations have you just left so you need to work to rebuild momentum in your life? How can you speed up this process by letting things go? What continuous daily actions can you take to make this happen? What new habits do you need to cultivate? Where do you need to be more disciplined?

Driver / Realness: How do you know your realness is in the driving seat and not your ego? What frustrations in your life can be abolished by regaining control and driving the Train again? Where are you letting other people take you where you don’t necessarily want to be going?

Internal Conductor: Who do you need to kick off your Train that maybe got on board without permission? Who do you need to invite on board that isn’t coming along for the ride yet? How can you make the primary relationship in your life the one between yourself and your purpose? How can you use forward momentum here to keep the relationships in your life as ‘healthy’ as possible by setting better boundaries?

Parallel Tracks: Who do you know in your life that shares your values and might want to ride besides you for a little while? What projects can you work on with others? What collaborations are you currently working on that would be improved if you worked on moving at the same speed, motivation, and momentum together?

Rails / Truth: Where are your thoughts about yourself, the world, and reality taking you off the rails? What truth are you ignoring or neglecting that you might need to face in order to get back on track? How is your ego taking you in the wrong direction? How can you move towards wholeness over fragmentation? What choices do you need to make? What actions do you need to take? Which direction is your internal compass pointing you in right now?

Fuel / Time: How are you wasting time by not connecting to your realness? How are you holding yourself back by using your time for unreality instead of reality? What are you prioritising over your purpose? How can you shift these priorities by realising the value of your time?

Friction: What healthy friction do you have in your life? How aware are you of the gap between your vision and current reality? How can you start closing this gap? What unnecessary friction are you bringing to your life by denying truth at the levels of yourself, the world, and reality? How is your identity causing unnecessary friction, frustration, and misery in your life? What are you gonna do about it?

Train Fare: How are you paying your train fare every day? What time and energy are you investing in your purpose? Where are you investing this time and energy in places it doesn’t need to go? What changes might you need to make?

Final Destination: What do you want to achieve with your life before you die? How can you live a real life over an unreal one? What are the next five most important actions for you to take here?

Thanks for reading and good luck!


Check out Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness for more on this topic.

Let’s figure out where your Train is headed: To work with me get in touch about a Reality Check.

Oli Anderson is a fully-qualified coach working to help people close the gap between idea and reality so that they can live purposeful lives that make them feel truly alive. He is the author of Personal Revolutions: A Short Course in Realness.

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