It's time for a change

Making a Change for the Better

The realization last week that I need to accept my neighbor’s inconsiderate actions was pivotal. But just what do I do with that? As Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Knowing that I need to accept his poor actions as truth, to release the anger that is hurting me, and to embrace strong boundaries are just mental exercises. These are knowledge but not change. To go from knowing to applying, we need willingness and action.

If you're reading this it's time for change.
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Willingness

We can know that eating a more vegetable-filled diet is good for us, but the willingness to forgo a juicy burger for a handful of carrots may not be there. Knowing what is good for us is not enough. We have to be willing to act differently. Oxford Languages defines willingness as “the quality or state of being prepared to do something; readiness.” Synonyms are readiness, disposition, inclination, wish, desire, eagerness, and enthusiasm. That is a powerful list. How many times do you know something is good for you, but you lack the readiness, disposition, or inclination to act? When do you go into a new project begrudgingly instead of with eagerness and enthusiasm? Before we can act and make real changes, we need to have the willingness to act.

If there are changes you want to make in your life but you are not moving forward, explore your willingness first. What do you fear will happen if you make a change? Will you lose something? Will you feel unsafe? Will others mock or leave you? Are you just uncomfortable in the newness of it? Are you more comfortable with the devil you know? After looking at your fear, look at the rewards. What do you gain through the change? How would your life’s experience improve? Is the reward worth the effort and risk?

Take your time exploring your lack of motivation and willingness. Don’t gloss over it. If you don’t spend the time getting buy-in from yourself, you will never move forward or stick with your new way of being.

Action

Now it is time to take it to the streets. Making a mental change of attitude and commitment means nothing without action. What steps can you take to move forward into the new? Stay away from all-or-nothing thinking. There is no need to make major drastic changes all at once. What is the smallest most comfortable step you can take in the right direction? What is that one thing you can do that is contrary action to what you were doing before? These little tangible steps lead up to the major change you are looking for.

In my case, I realized that my obsession with the inconsideration happening next door was taking away my joy. A major change could have been for me to move. That was not necessary. What I started with was noticing I was allowing myself to be disturbed by his actions, even when he was not around. I became ready and willing to release my obsessive thinking about the injustice when it was not happening and then I took action. The first easy action I took was counting. On the first day, I counted how many times my mind replayed the story of injustice. This did two things. First, it stopped me from feeding or fighting the story; all I had was objective awareness. Doing this took me out of the emotion of the story. Secondly, it gave me something tangible to work on. Sadly, that first day I disturbed myself over thirty times with my story of injustice. The second day that number was just over ten. By the third day it was less than five. My circumstances have not changed, I still have an annoying neighbor living next door, but my experience has improved immensely because I have changed my actions and behaviors.

What do you want to change in your life? Do you have the deep-down inclination and true desire to make the change? What is a small tangible step you can take today?

support group

Learning from History

When I wrote my book, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It, I was sure I had a novel and new idea. But I did not. Turns out Epictetus, a philosopher from around 100 AD said pretty much the same thing. He thought philosophy should be lived, not just discussed. He taught acceptance of what is and releasing the desire to control things we can’t control. He believed in self-examination and self-discipline. Many of his quotes could have been easily integrated in my book like, “People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.” Or “Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.” And “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

At first, I was bummed that I was my writing was not groundbreaking. Then, after I accepted that there was nothing new under the sun, I started to see his writing as a validation of my thoughts. We saw the world similarly and having the same thinking as someone else lent credence to what I intuitively believed. This was no longer my experience but a shared experience.

support group
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Often when something happens in our lives, we believe it is new, novel, and singularly unique to us. The truth is that someone, somewhere has gone through what we have. It may not be exactly the same, but it will be close enough that we can learn from that person’s experience, strength, and hope. We can understand their challenge and how it relates to ours. We can learn how they approached the issue, and what worked, or didn’t. We can be inspired to act knowing how their actions netted a positive result.

Learning from history and from others’ experiences helps us to create our own plan of action. This is different than receiving some guru’s three-step plan to happiness. This is learning from someone’s experience, applying it to our lives, and discerning how we should mirror, or not, their choices. This is real life experience that can be applied, not some sterile one-size-fits-all expert formula. Learning from others is learning to fish, not being given a fish.

Learning from others can happen on many levels. It may be talking to others who went through something similar and discerning our options based on what they tried. Small and large business can learn much from the practices other businesses have had in the past. Learning from others can also be applied on a global level so we can learn from and not mindlessly recreate history.

It helps to go through this process with a confidant; to have an outside objective voice to work through your problem. They will be able to spot things quickly and more easily because they are outside the story, outside the emotion. If they have gone through something similar, it is even better because they will know what to watch for which you may not yet realize.

What is your current challenge? Are there those you know, support groups, or memoir books which explore your challenge? What can you learn from their choices? Is there a mentor who can help you navigate what you learn and how it applies to your situation? Knowing that others were able to rise above their challenge, are you ready to try to tackle your own?

walking in the good

Don’t Bring It with You

My life is perfect. I am blessed in so many ways. And yet I focus so much and so unnecessarily on the one thing that is not so perfect in my life. My neighbors smoke. A lot. All the time. Constantly. Which is their business, and they have a right to. But every time they smoke it comes into my house. I choose not to smoke. I don’t want it in my house. I don’t want it in my lungs.

Lately I have become obsessed with their smoking. I was as addicted to the irritation of them smoking as much as they are addicted to the nicotine. I was making myself very unhappy by constantly retelling myself about the injustice of them affecting my life negatively. I told myself I could not be happy until they stopped smoking. All day long I work in my home office and have to deal with their smoking. I felt justified in being angry. My wake-up call was when I came home after a beautiful walk with my dog through the local mountain trails and my husband saw the anger and upset on my face. When asked what was wrong, I talked about the smokers. Their smoke may be in my house, but I took my indignation about their smoking on my walk. I was making my life unpleasant even when I was not being directly affected. It was time to choose differently.

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We have a responsibility to speak up

Much of my anger came from the belief that they were doing this purposefully to me. I assumed that my life and my experience should be the first thing on their minds. False. Most of the time people hurt us, they have no idea they are hurting us and feel justified themselves in their actions because they are doing what they need for themselves. We all go through life this way. Even though I pride myself in thinking of how my actions may affect others, and sometimes see this belief going too far into the role of martyr, I still do not really know how my actions affect others. I am using my own filter, my own perception. We can never know how another is affected unless they tell us.

My first mistake was waiting way too long to tell my neighbors that their actions were affecting me. We can not expect change unless we make a change. If I don’t admit to others how their actions affect me, nothing will change. If we don’t speak up about injustice, injustice will still happen. If we don’t make a change, change can not happen. Look at your resentments, discomforts, and how you may be harmed right now. Have you shared this with anyone? Have you shared it with the other party affected? Have you changed how you act or react in the situation? If you have not, then expect the same scenario to play again and again. It did for me until I spoke up.

We can’t change others

Speaking up does not mean that our needs will be met. The other person may not be capable or willing to provide us with what we want. We can not demand that others will act or be differently. We can not make anyone do what we want them to do. What we can do is change ourselves. We can change how we act and react to others and the situation. In my case, the smokers still smoke but I have placed a fan in my window to keep the smoke from coming into my house. It has not solved the entire problem, but it has definitely made it better.

We can choose our experience

Whether my neighbors stop smoking, whether my fan works or not, none of this matters. What changes the experience most for me is how I think about it. If I continue to dwell on the inconsideration and injustice of the situation, I will continue to feel victimized and filled with self-righteous anger. Instead, I have chosen to embrace my power in my voice and in my actions. I have made my needs know. I have made changes to my circumstances in buying a fan and may invest in an air purifier. I consciously choose to celebrate and enjoy the clean air available to me when I am not at home. Most importantly, I embrace the calm and peace I want to experience, and as much as I can, I keep my anger at bay.

Where in your life do you need to acknowledge that your needs are not being met? Where do you need to use your voice to make your needs known? Can you stop expecting someone else to change and instead make changes to your actions and reactions? Can you embrace your ability to experience different?

peace

Let Peace Begin with Me

Ten seconds on Facebook or any newscast will find one instantly overwhelmed with fear, hatred, anger, sorrow, and hopelessness. For my own health and sanity, I had long ago decided to remove myself from the fearmongering of the media and the one-sided rants on social media. That does not mean I keep my head in the sand and hide from the realities that are happening. It just means I do not allow myself to be addicted to the negativity.

I do need to be informed and I also feel I have a responsibility to help bring a positive change to the world. The question I have is how do I best support the betterment of society. As duality is one of the world’s core issues today, it is hard for me to join any groups fighting for rights because, although their heart is in the right place, they are still caught up in the belief of duality. The question I posed to myself is how am I supposed to bring understanding, compassion, and hope to the world.

I learned long ago that we can not change others. In my coaching, I can only inform, provide objective insight, and introduce new concepts. We can lead the horse to water, but it is not in our power to make them drink. If you speak to any parent, they can tell you well that they are powerless to make their children act a certain way and in fact, their instructions and demands are often ignored or countermanded. I know I have often done the opposite of what my parents demanded, just to prove that they could not control me. In the same way, I can not make anyone change their mind or behaviors. What I can change is my own thinking and behaviors. The answer to how I can help change the world is by living the way I hope the world can be. What I can do is be the image of how we all can act if we choose, therefore encouraging others to join the peaceful bandwagon.

By changing my thinking and my actions, I hope to be a beacon for others. Not that I do it perfectly, but I can do my best to show a different way than hate and attack and separation. I hope that my focus on love, compassion, empathy, and understanding starts a ripple that will help at least one other individual to experience life more positively and at best creates a wave of change.

I can practice the nonviolence of Gandhi who said, “I am certain that if we want to bring about peace in the world, there is no other way except that of nonviolence. . . . The more you develop it in your own being, the more infectious it becomes till it overwhelms your surroundings and by and by might oversweep the world.” When I feel angry, instead of fighting, judging or labeling, I try to find common ground.

I can follow Saint Francis of Assisi who said, “Before you speak of peace, you must first have it in your heart.” My gut reaction is to look to the other – what they are doing wrong and what they need to fix. What is more productive is to look at my own thinking, my own anger, and to make inner peace first.

I can follow Thich Nhat Hanh and be the voice of reason and calm in midst of fear. Instead of focusing on my own fear and worry, I can think of others and make choices that benefit the whole.

In all the crazy that 2020 has brought us, I thought I needed to do. What I am learning is I need to be. Be centered. Be peaceful. Be compassionate. Be empathetic. Be present. My friend often says that waiting is an action and now I am learning that holding space, being present, and exuding peace is a powerful healing action too.

This week stop trying to change how others act and first change how you react and live. Are you spreading the acceptance, compassion, and peace you want to experience? If not, what can you shift to make your own footprint closer to that desired path?

“You may say I’m a dreamer / But I’m not the only one / I hope someday you’ll join us / And the world will be as one” – John Lennon Imagine

which way?

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

This year, I have been learning more about the Enneagram. It is a personality categorization system which has roots in ancient wisdom. What I like about the Enneagram is that it not only defines a person. The system also provides insight into what faults to watch out for, what things to strive for, and how to be our best self in relation to others.

It is no surprise that I am a One in the Enneagram. The perfectionist. We Ones believe our worth is derived by doing things “right” and being “good.” The good news is that means we are often “conscientious, responsible, improvement-oriented, and self-controlled.”  All things I am happy to own. However, as a One I am also judgmental and critical of myself and others, and often resentful.

Living life as a One is teaching me to live by the Serenity Prayer. A mainstay in 12 Step programs, the Serenity Prayer asks for the serenity to accept the things that can not be changed, the courage to change the things that can change, and the wisdom to know the difference. I have seen this prayer play out strongly for myself throughout this year.

Serenity is truly what I strive for; that feeling of being calm, peaceful and untroubled. Yet, my natural tendency is to look for the judgment and resentment which makes me feel anything but serene. What a beautiful dichotomy from which to learn. Here are a couple of points I have noticed:

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It is rarely either/or

When I first started to use this prayer, I thought the goal was to choose either acceptance or action. As my go-to response is to fight for justice, I thought the correct new response should be to accept everything. What I am finding is that it is not to either accept or change, but both. In every challenge there is something to accept and there is something to change. Usually it comes down to accepting the circumstances or actions of others. Acceptance means that something is currently happening, and I accept that it is the current truth. Then I look at what I can change – usually my viewpoint, expectations, actions, or reactions.

It is not you, it’s me

My gut reaction is to want to change you. If the government, my neighbor, the world was only different, then everything would be ok. Wrong. Change begins with oneself. I first need to change how I see and approach situations before I can make any positive changes for myself or others. It is easy to see what is wrong with someone else and what they should do (or at least we believe it is easy to change them). The truth is we need the courage to take a self-inventory and clean our own house before we presume to be able to change anyone or anything else.

Importance of action

The importance of action is another key lesson for me this year. The courage to change the things we can does not always mean attending a rally or fighting for the disenfranchised. Sometimes it may just mean doing something a little differently. If we normally turn right, the change may be to turn left. Action also means getting out of one’s head and doing something, not just ruminating on the issue. Real change happens in the physical world, not between our ears.

Using the Serenity Prayer

A recent example of the serenity prayer in action is in dealing with one of my husband’s vendors. I handle much of the ordering and billing for my husband’s business. One of the companies used frequently has issues with shipments and billing. At first, I was angry and resentful as if this company was purposefully making my life difficult. That line of thinking did not make me feel calm, peaceful, or untroubled. I began to accept that I could not change the way the company created their ordering and accounting systems. I accepted the employees that company chose to hire. These were things beyond my control and I needed to accept that reality. Then I looked at what I could change. If I could not count on the company to provide the information, tracking and clarity I needed, then I needed to change my expectations. I created my own spreadsheet to track orders, backorders, and charges. I took control of what I could control and released what I could not. Not only did I find more peace, but I improved efficiency.

As you go about your week, look at your challenges. What parts of the challenges are beyond your control to change? What do you need to do in order to accept this fact? Next, explore what is in your control to change and then actually take action. See if you can’t improve your relationships, your stress level, and your ability to make things go smoother.

student learning

Surrounded by Teachers

Seeing the discord in the United States is very painful for me, as I am sure it is with others. In a recent article from the Center of Action and Contemplation, Richard Rohr shared a practice of learning from others which really resonated with me at this time.

To me, attacking the wrongs of others, does not help. Debating the issues does not solve them. Voicing support for those marginalized does send some good vibes but does not seem to do enough. Blaming government or other institutions as the cause of this discord, resolves nothing.

If we want to make a difference in the world, the first and truly only thing we can change 100% is ourselves.

Instead of pointing at others, instead of feeling a powerless victim, instead of showing support but taking no action, look to yourself. Cultivate authentic solidarity as Richard Rohr recommends. Instead of speaking from a point of privilege, shift to understanding the world and experience of the other. Seek understanding and acceptance. Step out of the ego-role of being a savior, helper, warrior, or prosecutor, and instead be with the other.

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Try this today. Look at each person you meet – in person, online, in the news – and view them as your teacher. If they are inspirational, if they share knowledge you do not have, if they treat others as you aspire to, uncover what can you learn from them. How can you embrace their good qualities? Which ones are missing from your life that you can begin to adopt? The same goes for those acting in ways you do not condone. They are your teachers as well. Which of their negative characteristics do you have as well? Perhaps they do not appear in the same way, but how are you selfish, self-centered, dishonest, frightened, and judgmental? How can you change how you speak, act, and approach the world in a better way?

I used this same type of mentality when I was learning to be a theatrical director. By watching other directors – how they treated the cast, how they interpreted the text, how they worked with the creative team, how they handled pressure – I picked up clues about how to be a director. Honestly, I learned more from the less talented directors than I did from the good ones. It is like trying to learn how to play basketball from Michael Jordan. He made it look easy and magical. Instead, by watching someone who does not perform as well, it is easier to see what they are doing wrong or what they can improve. And then I look at making those improvements in myself.

Because my heart goes out to all those in pain and suffering right now, I find it much more productive and calming to focus on what I can change. I am learning of my own prejudice. I am learning how I assume I know how others should act and think I can make them act that way. I am learning how attachment to my expectation causes pain.

As you go about this week, instead of commenting on the actions or words of others, look to them as your teachers. What can you learn about yourself to help you be a better person?