We are motivated when the cost of achieving those things we want to achieve outweighs the cost of staying where we are and continuing on. Most of us stay where we are because it’s easy. It costs us nothing new to stay in the same position. It may be costing us something we don’t like, whether it’s happiness, sanity, or even physical things like money, but if we are staying the same what we are saying is we are comfortable with the cost. Change requires something different. We have to take on a new cost. We have to venture into the unknown, which is a cost. It’s scary. It’s even scarier deciding that we are going to become who/what we want to become knowing that there is a chance of failure. The fear of failure is what often outweighs the cost of staying the same. Although, sometimes it is the fear of success that does it. We feel like we want a change, but if we are truly willing to go through with it then we are admitting to ourselves that we are worth it. We are worthy of the success. We feel like we truly, honestly deserve it. And then we name the things we did yesterday that weren’t perfect. We go back to the times we made the wrong choices. We think about the issues we had and continue to have, and all in an effort to remind ourselves that we really aren’t as deserving and worthy as we wish we were. So we stop ourselves. We stay put. We want to be brave, but we’re not sure we should be. We want to try, but we don’t know if we should succeed or why we should succeed. We compare ourselves to everyone, whether we know them or not. And we remind ourselves that this is why we are staying where we are.
This is the circle. Or really the cycle. We get it in, and we don’t know how to get out. We are right there at the edge, waiting for the cycle to change. We want it. We are pretty sure we do at least. We know we don’t want things to stay the same. So the issue becomes figuring out how to break the cycle. And the answer is simple, but hard – it boils down to choice. To making a choice to change, and to continuing to make the choice to stay out of the cycle. And that’s hard. Habits form deep ruts. Our neurons know how to operate. Their grooves are ready and well-worn, so jumping outside of them and going off-road is not an easy task. Our brains have a whole lot of work that they do each day. They have to perform efficiently. They fight change because they have to do more work now. They have to rewire the way our neurons think, the patterns they move in. They are designed to know what we are going to do next, how we are going to feel next. So when we change that, they’re not sure what to do, but they know it’s way more efficient to go back to the old way and that’s what they try to do. It calls us back. We have to consciously choose not to let it. We have to consciously say, “I know these issues are here. I know they exist. I know why my brain is fighting me on this right now, but I’m going to choose to stay on course,” because staying on course, continuing to make the different decisions is the only way to create a new groove. It’s the only way to provide staying power. Constantly, consistently make the choice. That is how change occurs.
So if we go back to what we have written out now from Day 1 and Day 2, we know who we are and where we are right now and we know who we want to be and where we want to be. So we have to make a map to get from right now to where we are planning to go. We always go one step at a time, so we would work on our top priority first and move down the list from there. Often times starting one change becomes a catalyst for the others. The rules are to keep it simple and keep it focused.
The example I’m going to use is one of the ways I started to change my thinking. I touched on it a bit yesterday I believe. I was always pretty pessimistic and negative. When I was beginning my final semester of my undergraduate coursework I read a book (The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz – highly recommend it to everyone, seriously read it.) and in it one of the agreements is to Be Impeccable with Your Word. Part of this meant only saying things that were of value and true and that would pertain to growing and encouraging myself and others. During this point in time I started to notice how quick I was to judge others. I judged outfits, cars, imperfect speech, imperfect writing, anything I could notice to be negative about I was there. I began making a conscious effort then to replace those thoughts with positive thoughts. So when I would find myself thinking, “ewe look at those shoes,” I began stopping myself to disrupt the thought pattern and replacing it with something positive. It might have been, “we are all allowed to dress however we want to,” or “that is a person who I’ve never met and what they wear is not of consequence to me and I don’t need to judge it” or “I hope she has a good meal and that the rest of her evening goes well.” The last example became the one most frequently used as time went on. Initially it was hard. And it felt a bit daunting realizing just how much of my time I spent being negative. It was easy to try to say, “I must be a terrible person.” But that wasn’t helpful either, nor was it true. I was simply a human who had to work on retraining her way of thinking, and that was and still remains okay. But my way of thinking really did start to change. I became less negative and less judgmental. I focused more on encouragement and found myself a whole lot happier overall because of it.
The thing about being motivated to change our lives and take the steps we somewhere inside know we want to take is that we have to be willing to be honest with ourselves. We have to respect who we are enough and value who we are enough to say that this is who I am, this is who I want to be and I am willing to try to fulfill it. That first step is hard, self-worth is essential… and the journey is usually a lot longer than we hoped it would be. We have to be open to the fact that we are human. At some point things are going to get hard, people we hoped would help us won’t, things will probably get confusing and we will probably question why we made the choice in the first place and it is here that we have to go back to our map and remember where we really want to be and that there is a way to get there as long as we keep trying.
**** I know these were long and I apologize. It was hard to condense them, but it’s an issue people ask about a lot. The answer isn’t short, so thanks for reading them and I hope they helped. 🙂 and if you want a longer answer, you can look here…
Day 2: (Day 1 is here if you missed it) Now that we have had the chance to look at ourselves in an honest and open format, it’s important to understand also, why we are where we are. In reality, we are usually where we are because we choose to be there. We made the choices on our path, and this is what they equaled out to. There are certain issues that cause us to move in certain directions, and there are things in life that are not within our control, but for the most part we are the guiding force in where we go and what we do each day.
We now have to begin to understand why we make the choices we make that lead us to where we are. We all have inherent predispositions that we are born with. Some of us are more likely to be shy and some more likely to be outgoing. Some of us are more likely to be tall, some short. Some of us are going to be more likely to be athletic. Some writers, some business-oriented, some introspective, some narcissistic (if you’re reading this, you’re probably not really.). Some of us have the capacity to be born understanding that we are worthy. We know that we are with a life that is going to be worth living. We have something to contribute. We can share that which we have, and we can make things better for those around us. We are worthy of the good things life has to offer inherently.
That last sentence is true for all of us. We are worthy. But for a good many of us (myself certainly included) this concept is not something we carry with us throughout our lifetime. We instead struggle with worth. And this may be things that appear small in nature. We have a bit of a tendency to be negative; when we are trying to make small talk our jokes tend be more like a slight (not necessarily intentional) than a joke, and we look for reasons things probably won’t work out. We have a tendency to be scared of change. To be scared or unwilling to go after our dreams, the things we really want. We might not even know what those things are because we are so certain they won’t happen, what’s the point in letting them in. We thought about them years ago, but life has happened since then. We know exactly why no one understands us. We aren’t sure anyone ever will. We settle. We let go. We give in. We can see those who clearly should be succeeding and pretend we certainly can’t ever be them, because we don’t have whatever manufactured attributes they do. We feel like we might deserve good things, but can think of 100 things we could have done differently that would probably make us much more deserving, so it’s probably right that we don’t have the things we want. Or that life isn’t the way we really wish it would be. We self-sabotage. We keep ourselves down.
All of these things are born out of fear. Fear tells us we aren’t worthy. And it happily lists all the reasons why. And when a person is inclined towards fear, it becomes really difficult to outmaneuver it. It guides our steps, gives us stress, and throws in some confusion just to make it that much harder to even think that things can stop. We don’t know how to think that life can be different, because fear tells us it can’t. And the only way to move out of fear is to realize that we are worthy. That I, the person sitting here staring at this screen, am someone who has worth. Not just a little bit. Not fleeting worth. But permanent lasting worth that does not go away, and it is up to me to recognize it and utilize it. No one can do it for me. Even if I don’t see it, it is there.
As we look at ourselves today our exercise is this: As we talk again to our friend, the goal to write out where we are and why we are here. We want to uncover what drives our decision making. Are we making our choices out of fear or out of hope and love. So we again make our lists:
Things I want to keep about where I am: the place I live, my family, my relationship status, my career, my plans for the future…etc. Again anything at all you want to keep about where you are in your life.
Things I want to change about where I am: the place I live, my family, my relationship status, my career, my plans…etc. Anything you want to change, and prioritize them.
Then we go through any specifics we have about the changes we want to make:
I want to move from a to b. I want to change my career from employee to assistant manager, or from business to dance. I want to go from this terrible relationship to being single and being okay being alone.
And then as we did yesterday, we have a positive foundation for where we are at this moment, we have things we want to change and what we want to change them into, and we have the understanding that we are capable and worthy of making these changes.
(For a more in depth look at the way self-worth, impacts our every day lives, it’s covered in my book )
Truth is something that can appear to be quite elusive these days. It’s very easy to find half-truths or outright lies, misconceptions, misunderstandings; they are all sitting at our fingertips. So when I find truths that speak to me, that resonate within me in a way that I know in my core this is truth, I try to pay attention.
Maya Angelou was someone I had heard of in high school. We may have read a poem or two, if so I honestly don’t remember. It wasn’t until college that I took more of an interest in her, and in reality it’s probably because I saw her on Oprah. I have a tendency to cringe when speech is seemingly deliberate. When I can tell someone has thoroughly thought through what they are saying and they say it in a very matter of fact manner. I don’t know why. But I typically disengage. So to watch Maya Angelou speak and find myself literally on the edge of my seat feeling as though I am being pulled in a little bit nearer to her with each word was extremely unexpected. She spoke in a very deliberate manner, she knew what she was saying, but this time it was different for me. She was speaking in truth. Every word was one I wanted to hear, and I was glad she spoke with such clarity both in pronunciation and in point. And since truth, as I stated can be hard to come by, I wanted to make sure I shared some of it here, by way of Dr. Angelou.
1.“When people show you who they are believe them (the first time).”
I have found this to be true time and time again. Whether it is in a relationship romantic in nature, a friendship, family members, whomever we have in our lives, people will show us who they are. If someone tells you they are mean, believe them. If someone tells you they don’t care, believe them. If they say they just want to have fun, believe them. If they cheat on you, ignore you, make it a point to hurt you, believe them the first time. They are showing you who they are, and they are making it clear they have no intentions of changing this for you. Once a person shows us what they plan to do, and we stick around, then that is our poor choice. They will easily have the chance to say, “well you already knew” and use it as an excuse. And sadly, they won’t be entirely wrong. We have to learn that being a savior is not supposed to be the same as being a victim. So staying somewhere that is harmful to us to stick it out, to be strong, because we love them and we know they love us if we could just get them to change just one more time is never an excuse. We are saving no one and in trying to do so are only creating inequality within the relationship. We must pay attention to what people tell us about themselves and have enough worth about ourselves to be willing to let it go.
2. “…and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that as well.”
This quote comes from her essay titled New Directions. And it continues along very well with the previous quote. Many times we don’t leave a situation because we’ve planned out a future in our heads. We have something, and maybe we are only holding on by a rapidly fraying string, but we are holding on. There is something in front of us. But when our vision of the future does not match the reality of our future, there is a problem. If we truly stop and look down the road ahead, which most often will look like the road behind and it in no way is a path we should continue down, we must be willing to stop and change directions. We have to let go. We have to imagine a future that is different. We must be willing to try, and not only once, but as many times as it takes to get us to where the future we are imagining has the capacity to line up with the future coming to life in our reality. Whether it’s a career change, a relationship change, or even family that is harming us, we must care enough for ourselves to forge onward towards better things.
3. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
And on our path to our new places we must let go of the past, lighten our load and forgive. We must be willing to admit to ourselves that we acknowledge what has happened, we understand that we were deeply hurt whether emotionally or physically, whether from and outside source or something we did to ourselves, we must look at the moment for what it is and find a way to release it. It is the only way to move forward successfully. We cannot let those moments define us. We know that they exist. They aren’t likely to be things that we forget. But they are things that we can move forward from without allowing them to control us. Forgiveness is truly one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves.
4. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In life we all have choices that we make every day. One of the most important choices we make is how we treat others. None of us were immune to people coming into our lives and making us feel bad. As children someone hurt us. Well, in all likelihood, multiple people. Children can be cruel. Adults can be cruel. We are all humans exposed to other humans, and that means life isn’t always going to be pretty. So each day we must make a choice to treat others the way we truly want to be treated. So we must believe ourselves worthy of the treatment we extend to others. We must know that we have the chance to grow a person, to encourage them or to bring them down, and it is essential that we become growers of others. We know how people made us feel. It lasts. We remember being scared, we remember being hurt, we remember being outcast, feeling alone and desolate, that no one else understands or cares. We remember these things because they made us feel like we didn’t matter. And that is not acceptable. We cannot continue a culture of people whose only goal is to make people feel this way. We must do what we can to acknowledge and accept our own worth and love ourselves enough to recognize and grow this in others. To be encouragers and walk in light so that others may follow. So that we can all know truth.
This is an excerpt from one of my favorite parts of her Master Class with Oprah: “to be the best human being you can be” (in every situation)
Yesterday we left the house for lunch with the sun shining, and returned a little over an hour later to a flooded street that I couldn’t make it down. We didn’t get home until late last night when the waters finally receded. It was an unexpected turn of events.
I had a lot planned for yesterday, a good portion of which involved my computer and looking up stuff for school and for work online. Instead, Jack and I went to my grandma’s where the only internet option is dial-up for a computer that was bought somewhere around 1996. Sometimes it does turn on, though. And you can get a decent game of solitaire in when it does.
So instead of all my plans, we visited with grandma. And it was nice. I think it was easier to accept a break because I didn’t actually have a choice. It was not possible for me to do what I felt I needed to do. I had to take the time to do something else. I didn’t have an option. And, although today I feel behind, and I woke up in the middle of the night worried that I was behind on what I needed to do (if anyone knows of a great job…feel free to let me know – or if you know how to get a lot of people to buy my book, that works too!), I also feel glad that I had to take that break.
Sometimes it seems that I’m ignoring some of the things and people I don’t want to ignore. I think for so many of us our days are quite busy. And maybe that’s why I keep going back to patience lately, I’m not really sure. But it’s hard to fit everything is. And it is overwhelming trying to schedule in all the things we need to schedule in. But sometimes when the rain comes, it’s actually coming to provide a break. To provide some solace. Or to provide a new opportunity we hadn’t thought of or had time for before. And if we have no other choice, we can take the time to play in the rain, and see where it leads us. It’s interesting how much we love and want to play in the rain as kids, and as adults we spend so much of our time trying to avoid it. Maybe the rain makes a mess and can be cold or stormy, but maybe it’s there so we direct our attention to all of the things we aren’t paying attention to.
Whether we wear a raincoat, build a tent, or dance in it, there are certain things that are made truly special only by the rain.
I took Jack walking today, and we ended up out during an extremely hot point in the day. Originally there were lots of clouds around, but when we arrived they had all disappeared. We walked a little bit, and took even more breaks. He had a wonderful time, and I watched all the runners and cyclists as they rode around.
From all I could see the heat was pretty stifling. I remember when I was younger how much more energy it took to play games in the afternoon instead of in the evening. It didn’t stop us from playing, but I would dare to say that most of us held our stamina longer and made better decisions when we weren’t trying to win games in the oppressive heat. And this is true of many situations.
Sometimes we have to push through the heat. Sometimes there are no other options. But there are more times when if we would just wait it out and let the heat die down, even just a degree or two, it makes all the difference. Having the patience to not try to fight the fire is hard. We don’t know how long it’s going to last or what it might burn up in the process. When we are standing back and just watching from the sidelines, that urge to do more tends to kick in. We feel like we just have to do something. We have to fight through it, and make things happen right now. We have to stop it. We have to fix it. We can’t just sit there.
But patience is a virtue. (at least that’s what they say). And in reality, in a large number of cases if we decide to take on the heat, to run into the fire, we end up only feeding the fire. It billows up. The problems grow. Now everyone is at risk, when before we were in a position to do something once the heat died down. We have to be willing to wait it out. To have patience. To remain calm. To remain in control. We have to make sure that we only fight when necessary and that we are equipped to do so. Whether you’re shouting or quiet, whether you are explaining it away or searching fervently for the answer, if you are standing in a fire you are no match for the fire. Without the right gear, without a spare supply of oxygen, without other people helping you to work to put out the fire, you’re simply standing in the fire. And that heat, those flames will quickly consume you. You won’t know which was is up, much less out. No one will understand what you are saying. But if you stand outside, you wait it out and let the heat pass, suddenly the path has been cleared for you. So don’t buy into the fury. Don’t listen to the hate. Don’t participate in storms that will only get you clobbered. Stand your ground. Know your goal. And wait for the path to clear.
When I was working on my undergrad I had a class called motivation. In it we talked about something called “flow theory.” Flow theory talks about this thing that happens that people refer to as flow. Basically, you ask people why they like doing the things they like doing and what’s different about the things they like the most. People typically respond with whatever it is that they like the most, and state that “It just flows” for them.
This was a concept I immediately understand. I had always had things that just flowed for me. When I was younger it was sports. Particularly basketball and softball. For some reason, it just flowed when I played them. I had a natural talent for them. So playing them just made sense to me. I also had that flow with writing. There is a connection that happens when I write. And it just flows. It was nice when I was in school, because I could write papers the night before or in the morning when they were due. And well, procrastination flows for me as well!
But I’ve also found that we can use those things that flow for us to focus our minds. I am one of those people (which I honestly think is at least half of all people) whose mind is constantly going. Thousands of thoughts all going in all directions at one time. Spurred on by stressed. Making decisions nearly impossible. And finding a goal or a path in life nearly impossible. Clinically, it’s probably considered a low grade form of ADHD sans hyperactivity (except this morning when I had some coffee for the first time in a year and It was amazing!). When we can’t slow our minds down and we can’t stop the thoughts and focus we have an attention deficit. But like I said, I have found that I can use those things that flow for me to calm my mind. And if I can pay attention to the fact that my mind is calm, I can use that time to work to find a focus. I can prioritize my problems. I can make a list. I can organize my thoughts in a way that seems impossible otherwise.
It’s important that we pay attention to what we are doing with our time. It’s important that we utilize the tools that we do have at our disposal. We all have something (multiple things) that flow for us. If we pay attention and utilize these things, then we can use them to find our focus. We can use them as tools to guide our lives. We can calm our minds. We can find respite. We can search for the right next move. When we need to know where to go, because we can’t see any doors open for us we can use what flows for us. Let it calm us. Let it move us. Think about what flows for you, then try to see if you can use it to organize your thoughts and figure out different roads you can take. Use it to find a way to get to where you want to be. It may take some practice, but the payoff is worth it. And so are you! 🙂
“And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…” Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
I bought this book for Jack on Friday. It’s one of my favorite books in general. I hadn’t read it in years, and I was thinking about how frustrating it is to be waiting, when I came across this part of the book. Ironically what I thought about was the fact that Dr. Seuss, who I always imagine as being fun, and not having issues in life in general, he knew how I feel sometimes. He knew how hard it is to get out of a slump. He knew how frustrating it can be when you get stuck in that place where you are just waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting for someway to figure out what on Earth to do because nothing makes sense anymore and sometimes you don’t even know if you want it to.
It’s easy to get stuck in those places. Stuck in the darkness and end up waiting. I feel like I’ve been waiting a lot lately. And it’s a normal part of life. Now I know that I have to do things and be proactive. But a few years back I had no idea that it was even possible to not be waiting. I didn’t know that there was something I could do. I didn’t really think that there was something I should have to do, because I sort of decided that I was put in the place that I was at because of all the things that had happened to me. So I didn’t understand why someone couldn’t just come along, and see what I had to offer or show me that I had something to offer like these other people I saw had happen to them. So I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And nothing ever changed.
That’s the thing. Nothing changes if we don’t let it, but nothing changes if we don’t make it either. We all have things that we are waiting on, but sometimes we are waiting on everything. And we can’t do that. We have to be able to take control of our minds and our bodies and our souls. We have to get the help we need when we need it. And we have to put in the effort. Because, “You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend reading it. You can google it, and find the text. It has good advice. (The urge to rhyme here is really bad, but I’m going to refrain, he’s better at it than me!)
Stop playing the waiting game. Nothing worthwhile can come of it. We have to live each moment. No one can live them for us. We are the makers of our own decisions. And that gives us power beyond measure over our lives!