Just because you change doesn’t mean they will too

Child on the beach

Humans are scared of nothing more than they are of change. Over the past 12 months – probably longer – I have been on a quest to improve myself. I don’t mean self-help book improve myself. I have been on a journey of self discovery and change. It hasn’t been a comfortable experience.

So, you look inside and don’t like what you see

I’ve known for quite sometime that what I feel on the inside is not reflected on the outside. My reactions to external stimuli, my interactions with other people, my default behaviour are all out of sync with what I believe in my core. Discovering such a schism is uncomfortable to say the very least.

Upon further introspection and analysis, my little discovery has explained completely why some people think I’m quite a nice guy and others think I’m a complete asshole. It’s not them, it’s me. I’m glad I worked that one out. But a double-edged sword it is to understand that you are in total control of every aspect of your life. It means I can’t blame anyone but me and it means no external locus of control can take the burden of my mistakes. No, not even God can help me (and I’ve never felt this free).

Experiencing a moment of clear perspective

My moment of clear perspective was one of those last straw kinda things. I meditate semi-regularly, I spend a lot of time in quiet – and sometimes noisy – contemplation; I have been doing this for sometime. Yet, earlier this year in the comfort of some very close friends I spent about 45 minutes under a tree and realised “It’s all good.”

My epiphany was that simple: “It’s all good.”

The wonderful thing is that I’ve known this all along and I’ve been listening to artists sing about it since I was a child.

A child’s rhyme stuck in my head. It said that life is but a dream. I’ve spent so many years in question to find I’ve known this all along. – Tool

I find it truly fascinating that we often know the answers to our deepest, most sacred questions right from the start but are simply too blind or too preoccupied to realise them.

Back in the real world

Perhaps more confronting than the actual epiphany and deciding to make the necessary changes is coming back to the real world and finding that almost everyone else is invested in how they already perceive you. When you change your behaviour you do not conform to what is expected of you and this can cause others some trouble indeed.

You will get quite the shock when you do something from a place of compassion and understanding and still get a hostile response because the person you are interacting with expects you to be hostile.

Then my dad laughed at me

The most confronting and painful event since my little epiphany was enduring my father’s laughter when I tried to explain my new perspective. I readily admit that I have not been the most compassionate, understanding and tolerant man on the planet. Yet, to be laughed at by someone so close is intensely challenging. It took all my self-constraint not to respond with anger and frustration. It also took me about a week to process the event. Here’s what I learned:

  • not everyone will understand your new perspective
  • most people – even those dearest to you – will not believe you can change
  • your previous behaviour has imprinted on everyone around you
  • you have to be patient and understanding
  • it will hurt a lot more before it gets better.

I still haven’t talked to my dad about this. I don’t think he will get it. Why? His perspective on the world is set and he will not change it. I have to remind myself that I can change myself but I can’t change anyone else.

Prying open my third eye

Understanding yourself makes everything simple.

Through understanding yourself, you understand your interactions with the people and the environment around you. You understand that there is no need to wear a mask of confused and confusing behaviour.

Timothy Leary put it perfected when he said:

Learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable, open-mindedness; chaotic, confused, vulnerability to inform yourself.

It’s all good

What a trip.

These days I am seeing things from a completely new perspective. I like myself more this way. I don’t feel like I’m behaving as people expect. I am getting uncomfortable. I am challenging myself and my environment. I am learning.

I highly recommend it.

It’s all good.

Note: this post was first published in 2011. It has been reviewed and re-published here.

Clarity – the art of clutter-free living

water drip

The clutter in our lives is getting in the way.
Look around.
There is clutter everywhere.

We are continually inundated with thousands of marketing messages. Our work lives are filled with too many tasks to comprehend. We don’t have time to do what we want. We own stuff we don’t need. We are being swamped.

You buy furniture.  You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life.  Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled.  Then the right set of dishes.  Then the perfect bed.  The drapes.  The rug.  Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.  -Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

The clutter is responsible for our feeling overwhelmed, for causing worry and anxiety, for making us ill.

By removing the clutter and simplifying our lives we can remove many of the negatives that hold us down.

Here are a few ways you can remove the clutter from your life and gain some clarity:

  • Focus on the tasks at hand and do not concern yourself with anything else. Put the blinkers on and dedicate yourself to completing one thing before you move onto the next.
  • Clean up your desk. Remove all the items and papers that have nothing to do with your immediate task.
  • Clean up your computer desktop. If your desktop is cluttered you’ll become confused with where you’ve saved files and your computer will run slower too (it doesn’t like clutter either).
  • Don’t try to please everyone. Know who your friends are. Know who isn’t that important in your life. Still be nice but don’t kill yourself to make everyone else happy except yourself.
  • Create a plan and stick to it (unless it really needs to be changed)
  • Meditate for at least 5 minutes every day. You’ll start to work out what is really important to you.

The removal of clutter reduces complexity. Any reduction in complexity is a move toward simplicity. In simplicity, we find calm, creativity and peace.

Note: this post was first published in 2009. It has been reviewed and re-published here.

On letting go

kermit

Humans have an amazing ability to hold on to things – belongings, grudges, fears – that don’t bring about any positive outcome. In fact, we spend an inordinate amount of time clinging to these things when we would be well served to simply let go. Is this easy? No. Rarely will you find that the important stuff is easy.

You cannot control everything

Control is a myth. Every time humans try to control something disaster results. How many times have the human race tried to control nature with catastrophic consequences? Katrina. Monsanto…

The more we try to control, the more we lose in the process. We hoard goods we don’t need. We modify our food supply. We divert rivers. We manipulate others. To what end?

We significantly complicate ourselves by clinging to stuff. Yet, ultimately we don’t need stuff.

You will find, if you ponder things deeply, that those things that frustrate you most are insignificant in the grand scheme.

Possessions both physical and mental are restraints upon your freedom. By clinging to regret, anger, jealousy and bitterness you condemn yourself to suffering.

“It’s only after you’ve lost everything … that you’re free to do anything.”  – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Your brain’s primary function is not storage

Your brain is an analytical tool. It is not a storage device. Consider the CPU – or brain – of a computer, it does the processing not the storage. Storage in the world of computing is left to other devices such as hard drives and solid state storage. Were the CPU to be used for storage as well as processing its capacity and capabilities would be exceeded with detrimental results.

Your brain is no different. Should you try to hold on to everything you will soon find your brain is full and can no longer complete the tasks it was designed for. (I am obviously simplifying the brain’s memory functions for this discussion – please bear with me.)

Put simply, reducing the clutter in your brain can help you think more clearly. When you are able to think more clearly, you can be more efficient and creative, and best of all, easier to get along with.

It’s time to drop the emotional baggage

If you are clinging to negative memories and feelings it is time to let go. It won’t be easy. You must understand that this baggage will eventually smother you. To be free you must let go.

I do not have the answers regarding what you will have to do to let go. This is a very personal journey. Here are some ideas that might help you:

As always, search for the simple in everything. You will find that letting go is simpler than holding on.

Note: this post was first published in 2011. It has been reviewed and re-published here.