“There is only one way to happiness
and that is to cease worrying about things
which are beyond the power of our will.”
Epictetus, Greek sage and Stoic philosopher, born a slave (55-135 C.E.)
If we don’t like our world today, our tendency is usually to try to force things to bend to our will.
When things aren’t going the way we like, we immediately begin to fret and fume and cast blame upon others – as if this will change anything
Most of all, we worry over the most insignificant things,
an offhand remark
or some perceived slight.
All of this adds up to a mountain of ill-will, all of it negative and counter-productive
I would like to offer you one simple recommendation today
that I would like you to take to heart:
Stop trying to control everything.
It isn’t possible to control everything in our lives anyway.
We can only really hope to put into place changes in our own behavior, not someone else’s.
So, why take on the burden of the weight of the world?
Why add to our own plate what we think are the mistakes or missteps of others with whom we interact?
Who are we, anyway, to believe that we have all the answers or that only our way of doing things is the right way?
A good example of what I am meaning is the state of our Economy in the USA.
We can stew and fret over it all we want.
We can blame the politicians for overspending…
BUT, how are you doing with your very own finances?
Are you saving at least 20% of your income?
Are you sticking to a budget?
See what I mean.
We erroneously believe that griping and complaining about a situation will somehow magically change things.
We need to first get control of ourselves, before we try to control others.
I think that we have gotten the idea that we’re more important to the universe and the course of humanity in general than we actually are.
In fact, each of us is but a itsy bitsy part of a vast world.
That does not mean to imply that any one of us or our efforts, individually or collectively, are unimportant.
That is absolutely not the case.
But we are not responsible for the actions of others, only our own.
When we try to control what others say and think and do, we’re overstepping our boundaries.
Not only that, but it’s totally pointless.
When did it ever turn out that others who bent to our will and dictates ever…
a) Learned anything from it,
b) Felt good about it, or
c) Changed their actions dramatically as a result?
Now, compound the problem by continuing to fret over what we cannot control
and we’ve found ourselves in a vicious and never-ending cycle.
Why in the world would any reasonable man or woman want to do that to themselves?
Here’s another reason to stop trying to control everything:
It makes us exceedingly unhappy.
When we’re always looking at why people don’t do things the right way (aka, our way),
or become frustrated because we feel they aren’t acting fast enough,
Or decide to become offended because they don’t have the right attitude,
What’s the net result?
We continue to worry and stew, lash out verbally and possibly physically, and the situation never resolves itself.
If we are successful in bullying those whom we’re trying to control
and get them to somehow acquiesce,
they usually do so grudgingly,
and no doubt will be harboring ill will towards us as a result of our bullying.
That’s never a good sign!
So what should we do when we are finally able to acknowledge our tendency to try to control everything and have begun to recognize that this is counter-productive to our long-term happiness?
What can we do to stop this bad practice?
The first step in changing our behavior is always to recognize that we need and want to change it.
Then we need to identify ways in which we can begin to effectively change what we think and do to into a behavior that is something more proactive and desirable.
Then, of course, comes the hard part:
actually doing what we’ve identified as positive behavior
that will yield a more desirable outcome.
Another benefit of quitting our incessant need to control everything
is that we’ve freed up a lot of energy we can devote
to more meaningful activities and pursuits.
We have more room to fill up our soul with the joy of life.
I am a die-hard control freak.
In my twenties my friends and family used to make up jokes about how clean and perfect my home always was.
I never allowed one thing to be out-of-place for a minute…
Then I became a mother!
My perfect house went up in smoke, and I was forced to accept the fact that if I wanted my child to be healthy emotionally,
I was going to have to let go of my obsessive need for perfection all the time.
That was extremely difficult for me.
But, since I was so passionately in love with my little boy, I knew I had to learn to let go and stop controlling everything.
Now let’s fast forward to my forties…
I am no longer a slave to perfection.
Sure there are times when I long for the good old days when my house was perfect, my appearance was perfect, my life was all neatly controlled…
But then I get over it really fast…because my life is now filled with adventure.
(Sometimes the adventure is simply trying to walk through my children’s rooms and not kill myself)
But the fact remains that I am a lot happier now that I have learned to let bygones be bygones.
I used to spend the entire weekend polishing and perfecting my home, just in case “THEY” stop by for a visit!
Now I spend my weekends making memories with Jeff and the kids.
Together we explore the world, create projects, or just go for a ride together.
Incredible change happens in your life
when you decide to take control of what you do
have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.
Be willing to step outside your comfort zone
once in a while;
take the risks in life that seem worth taking.
The ride might not be as predictable
if you’d just planted your feet and stayed put,
but it will be a heck of a lot more interesting.
Edward Whitacre, Jr.
READY, WILLING & ABLE means to me
that you are driven by the simple premise
that work WORKS!
If there’s anything you want to change in your life, you’re going to have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and likely tolerate some level of imperfection.
This is scary for most of us.
It’s a comfort zone for a reason!
However, no change can come from staying in the same place that got you to where you are.
We all have our reasons and justifications, or perhaps we can call them excuses, for why we can’t make changes.
We defend our behaviors, justify our lack of action, or blame other people for why we’re stuck.
We complain that it’s too hard or give up because it takes too long.
Are three of the worst inhibitors of change.
Many of us have a tendency to want to spend the first hundred years of life ironing out all of the kinks,
And the next hundred years actually living.
Such an inclination to avoid risks,
to avoid doing anything badly,
Will only prevent you from doing things you might actually enjoy,
And will keep you from engaging in the regular practices that produce progress.
There are lots of reasons we get stuck in our rut and don’t make change, but the most common reason is fear.
Change can be scary.
It can be overwhelming.
It’s not always guaranteed to be what we expected or wanted.
What if you fail?
In order to grow and make changes, we have to be willing to risk failure.
You have to be willing to do the hard work.
And the hard work is stepping outside your comfort zone.
If you’re unwilling to perform a task badly, you can’t expect to make progress toward learning to do it well.
This is true for any area in your life that you want change:
Here’s the real kicker though: You can’t just step out of your comfort zone one time.
You have to be willing to continually push yourself.
It’s really easy to get discouraged because you didn’t see the change you’d hoped for right away.
I know it’s hard, but I promise that if you keep trying you will see change.
But there is more to it that just being willing…you also have to be READY.
The key to true preparedness isn’t to be ready for one thing.
It’s to be ready for anything.
How can you be ready for anything?
There are many things in life that require preparation.
Things we need to be ready for.
There are natural disasters,
(I think you get the point.)
But what about success?
Don’t we need to be prepared for that too?
How does one prepare for success?
When it comes to approaching a major performance test, most of us follow advice that can be distilled into three words: Focus on success.
We need to prepare ourselves by banishing doubt and visualizing the positive.
We vividly imagine ourselves making all the right moves with fluid grace, with zero mistakes or missteps.
And it feels good.
But that’s not what the pros do.
In order to explain what I mean I am going to use the Green Berets, the U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers.
Teams spend weeks training for a mission (most of which happen at night).
On the day of the mission, they follow a two-part routine.
First, team members spend the entire morning going over every possible mistake or disaster that could happen during the mission.
Every possible screw up is mercilessly examined and linked to an appropriate response: If the helicopter crash-lands, we’ll do X. If we are dropped off at the wrong spot, we’ll do Y. If we are outnumbered, we’ll do Z.
After some hours of doing this, the team members take a break and have lunch together.
They socialize, relax, and maybe take a nap.
Then they spend the afternoon in Phase Two, talking about everything going exactly right.
They review each move, visualizing each step, and vividly imagine it going 100 percent perfectly.
You might call this a Balanced-Positive Approach: equally split between negative and positive, and ending on the positive.
Notice the complete wall of separation between the two phases. The team doesn’t toggle back and forth between positive and negative.
The two phases are kept as separate as night and day: First comes all negative, then all positive.
In this way they are ready and willing to encounter anything.
Now it’s your turn.
Start with potential mistakes or mini disasters.
Think of a number of likely–and even unlikely–scenarios and determine how you will handle them.
Then take a break.
And then come back and rehearse–
but this time focus on everything going perfectly.
Hit your marks.
Roll through your day.
Nail your goal.
That way, you won’t go through your life feeling worried or anxious.
You’ll face your life,
Willing and Ready to succeed.
It is easy to forget how dark darkness can be.
Most people today live in places where real darkness is rare.
Our dark times are diluted with night lights,
lights over the door,
and other things that glow in the dark.
We turn our eyes toward lighted screens, hiding our faces from the power of darkness.
The place that I live is extremely remote and rural.
My home town only has 320 residents living there.
The cows out number the humans by a ratio of 8-1
(Not really, but if you were to drive through my hometown, you would probably agree. 😉 )
Where I live, the darkness is really dark.
Driving home at night after dark the only light anywhere is the headlights of your car.
They are literally the only thing you have to cut through the darkness.
There are no street lights,
no businesses with lighted parking lots…
there is NOTHING to illuminate the darkness at night in my hometown.
Every so often, in the distance, you can glimpse the lights from a barn or the window of a farmhouse and they seem to shine like stars.
One of the many things that I love about my hometown, along with the beauty and the silence is the rich darkness.
When I step out onto the porch of my home at night, it is dark.
You can hear faint sounds of the cows and other animals in the distance,
you can feel the wind,
and… my favorite part about home is the fact that you
can see all the stars.
The sky is filled with stars.
Connecting with your higher power is to me, like the light from a distant farm;
like a star shining in the dark night.
It is easy for us to forget that our spiritual life is usually born in the darkness.
It comes to us during those difficult times when we find ourselves surrounded by the darkness of confusion, or pain, or loss.
We do not know where we are.
We cannot ever seem to find our way.
We are afraid we may be lost and never find home again.
It is during those times when it seems there is no hope, no future, and no repentance
That the light begins to shine in the darkness.
We are finally able to realize that we have been wasting time looking for ways to dilute our darkness.
How often do we forget that the fruits of our spiritual life shine brightest where our darkness is the deepest?
Where are the dark places that your spiritual life has been shining
brightest for you lately?
How does spiritual life help you find your way?
Let me put it a different way:
When I was in the process of giving birth to each of my four children, I was terrified, in pain, and uncertain of how the next few hours were going to play out.
I was in the DARKNESS, so to speak.
But at the end of that road was a beautiful little baby that was my very own creation.
I had birthed that little person literally by the sweat of my brow.
Birthing is a celebration. It’s beautiful and sacred.
Giving birth to four children has been the most powerful and spiritual experience of my life.
It has deeply impacted my view of life and my work.
Why then is birthing considered to be hard and painful?
Because when you have fear, you contract.
Your baby gets stuck in the womb.
It then takes hours or days of labor and pushing.
The same is true for birthing a book, reinventing yourself, or trying to attain a goal.
Connecting to a higher power gives you faith, hope, and understanding.
It is literally a LIGHT in the DARKNESS.
It enables you to relax and lessen the
pain of the contractions.
Without faith, life for me would be utterly hopeless and impossible.
It would be devoid of any joy or purpose and meaning.
Learning to trust the natural process of life has made
my life into a beautiful work of art.
Let me equate life to the process of painting a picture.
I often find myself stuck. The painting is off somehow, and I
cannot quite decide what or where the problem is.
I literally have to stop painting completely, and step away
from it, and sit in a chair
so that I can study the painting itself to discover where the problem is.
Then and only then, am I finally able to see where the problem
area is and fix the painting.
Once I have taken the time to observe and contemplate I can
then continue creating the painting that I had originally
Life is exactly like that!
We all want to live lives filled with joy and satisfaction, to be fulfilled and go from triumph to triumph.
We recognize that challenges teach us important lessons.
We recognize we will be able to look back on these struggles with gratitude.
But the thing that I believe that we all really desire is to have already learned the lessons and be beyond the challenges.
We want the assurance that life will all work the way we hope it will.
We read books and see movies that tell us, over and over again, that “our lives will work out”.
We wait as patiently as we can, hoping it will not be too painful,
nor take too long, to give birth to the life that we dream of.
What can we do besides work hard, follow the rules,
and wait for things to work out for good?
I believe in finding the passion in my heart’s deepest desire and working to put them into practice.
At the same time, I know that not all the people who really want something will make it happen.
Even with myself, there are things that I desire, but do not yet have the courage or confidence to try.
I still lack the faith necessary to go with the flow in certain areas of my life.
But I am a work in progress,
and so are you.
The master is still adding more color to you, his creation.
He is still defining areas of my life, by adding shadows and highlights in order to create more depth in my soul…
My Life’s painting is not complete.
We all know people who have worked hard for a long time, but never gotten where they so desperately wanted to go.
For a long time, my reality was that life was not working the way it was supposed to work.
Deciding what to do when life does not work takes a lot of time and effort.
It is hard work.
Encouragement and support make a real difference.
Finding someone who will listen, ask insightful questions, and help you laugh is a big step.
(Thank you Brenda)
And I honestly believe that having a connection to a Higher Power will enable you to flow easily with the natural process of life.
Please share some of the ways that you employ to connect to a higher power in your life.
Let’s assist each other in this journey, shall we?
A lot of times we forget to have our own back.
We exclaim with pride and adulation,
“I got your back”,
to others, but we forget to express,
with the same sentiment and conviction
that we have our own back.
Having your own back looks like this:
protecting yourself from anything that is causing your spirit to be down,
it is nurturing you,
it is accepting you for all that you are(flaws and all),
it is speaking your truth,
honoring who you are(Every aspect of who you are),
it is keeping your heart clean and being aware of when things outside of you are testing you
trying to get you to cut your losses (with you) and run for the hills.
When we have the backs of others more than we do ourselves,
often times that indicates that we are looking for some other response or need,
from them that we aren’t able to give ourselves (approval, acceptance, worthiness, validation).
I know I have my own back when I am easily able to:
Honoring my truth,
Be impeccable with my word,
State my truth at all times,
I am not obsessed with people pleasing
And I am surrounding myself with people who are challenging me to be the best person I can be.
But for me the problem has always been that I’ve always been a fan of a good, solid self-flagellation session.
So learning to have my “OWN BACK” has been an uphill battle.
Self- flagellation is a technique I’ve utilized in one form or other, since I was a tomboyish kid who thought tears were a sign of weakness.
So instead of crying I self- criticized.
Harsh, Yes…but many of us are guilty of the same offense that I am.
We treat ourselves in a way we wouldn’t dream of treating others.
“It is not OK to be average, so we’re setting up an un-winnable game where you have to be better than others in order to feel good about yourself”
And as a perfectionist in an utterly imperfect body there has been plenty of opportunity to punish real or perceived flaws and failings.
So, there is some almost always some kind of internal resistance to words like ‘soften, allow, soothe’…
The very words that are necessary for you to speak to yourself if you are going to genuinely “HAVE YOUR OWN BACK”.
In fact, I find myself joking with friends sometimes that I have not been stroking my arm and whispering sweet nothings in my own ear often enough lately.
It’s not surprising then to discover I subscribe to many of the common misconceptions about self-compassion. And why this has been such a hard thing for me to master.
Some of the misconceptions that I have about self-compassion is that it has to be either passive or complacent.
I often confuse it with self-indulgence.
And I used to firmly believe that self-criticism was the key to motivation in life.
But the truth of the matter is that compassion is not passive at all,
compassion can be fierce – a powerful tool to alleviate suffering.
To say [a situation] ‘is not OK’ doesn’t mean we have to cut people out of our heart –
we can still have compassion for them.”
And for ourselves.
Imagine that you overhear someone verbally abusing your own child.
They are telling them that they are stupid, worthless, little jerks.
How intense was the emotion you just felt as you were reading those words,
and imagining that you heard a person saying that to your child?
See…compassion can be fierce!
Another powerful misconception that I had was
that “Indulging is actually not helping yourself,”
I had to learn that “Self-compassion wants long-term health not short-term pleasure.”
Self-indulgence, for instance, might mean gorging,
reaching for the bottle of booze over the glass and sliding into a slum of self-pity.
Satisfying in the short term perhaps, but not particularly helpful in the long-term.
Self-compassion, on the other hand,
is the art of having our own backs.
Sometimes that means being healthy when we don’t feel like it
or gently coaxing ourselves forward when we are hurting
and want to retreat.
It is treating ourselves with care and understanding rather than harsh self-judgement,
Treating yourself as you would treat a good friend you care about.
It is actively soothing and comforting yourself…
and framing your own experience and imperfection in light of the shared human experience.”
It is putting our own experiences of love, vulnerability, pain and pleasure in a universal context that prevents compassion from slipping into self-absorption or narcissism.
So today really pay attention to your thoughts and feelings.
Check in with yourself often. Make sure that above all else…
YOU HAVE YOUR OWN BACK!
Every morning before I start my day I give my self a pep talk with affirmations of how amazing I am. The truth is most days I don’t feel amazing and I don’t see amazing. Words of encouragement always give me the power I need to accomplish greatness. Sometimes I turn to friends or God to receive encouragement. When friends say all the wrong things and God is mute, I tell myself all the wonderful truths I need to hear. Then I am able to act confidently and conquer any task.
I am going to do a 30 day series on affirmations. With each image I am going to include a definition, instead of my usual comments, so we can meditate on what each word means and how it applies to who we are. Each image will start with the words I AM, because you are who you say you…
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