You Are Better Than You Think

1366 Relax and Succeed - You are not as bad as you think

Due to my sensitivity to patterns I’ve been noting one over the last year that I have been researching in various ways. It can involve physical, emotional or intellectual issues, but in many fields there is an increasing ratio of people who will plan to go through forms of training or treatment, but then quit before even starting.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to the people that have always needed to cancel with a doctor or personal trainer or counselor. Very reasonable reasons include; them having resolved their issue before sessions began, their job or financial situation changed, their schedule changed, or some unfortunate cases they take seriously ill. But this new rise in cases does not appear to be coming from those sources.

This has impacted everyone from personal trainers in physical health to psychologists to people like me. Despite care or fitness being more socially acceptable than ever, I have learned that people are often now prevented from attending not because of stigma –but rather due to a fear that the process might confirm their darkest fears.

This is unfortunate, because in almost every case, the result would be the exact opposite of that –the process of getting healthy shines a positive light on what we perceive are our ‘darkest corners.’

My concern surrounds the fact that many appear to back out out of a fear of facing the reality of their situations. This appears most prominent for those who dealing with the stresses relating to their transition from life as a student to the workforce, or from shifting from an early job, to a full career and more full-on ‘adulting,’ with all of its attendant complications. At that stage some people feel that looking closely at themselves will only make a bad story worse.

That is a tragedy of the spirit.

Too often, people start care for themselves or their relationships with the idea that they arrive ‘wrong’ or ‘broken.’ They weigh too much, exercise too little, have bad diets, or they self-hate their personalities every time they can’t offer just the right combination of human skills required for every single situation. But none of that is really failing, that is merely life itself.

1366 Relax and Succeed - I think the reward for conformity

We gain wisdom by facing hardship, yes. But we also gain it by insight. At the gym there is no getting around lifting the weights. Yes, they are obviously heavy. But as we grow stronger and feel better about ourselves, it shifts from feeling less like us lifting weight and more like an affirmation of our self-respect. What hurt can then feel good. The same should apply for psychological care or training.

Learning to be happier is rarely the sad and depressing experience that many people recall from old-fashioned psychological care. That was entirely focused on people’s problems as though they were real and needed to be overcome, rather than on discussing that they were impressions that could be reshaped with greater understanding. Even today a lot of psychology talks the wisdom talk without really walking the wisdom walk.

No matter what sort of care or training you require, be it medical, physical, mental or spiritual, these are not signs of failing any more than going to university to be a nurse means we need to learn how to care.

No training ever adds anything to anyone, it merely exposes, nurtures and strengthens our sense of our actual Selves in the world, whether that self is young and pondering a marriage proposal or older and facing cancer. There are healthy ways for every person to approach every thing. An approach obviously can’t guarantee external success, but a healthy one can ensure that even in failure, we leave the test with a sense of self-respect.

If you’re looking at doing any form of physical or psychological work with me or anyone else who would earnestly care about your outcome, that should not be seen a visit to some corrective force in your life. You are not broken or failed, you are just temporarily lost or confused. There is a massive difference.

Caring for ourselves through seeking care or guidance should feel like an embrace. We should feel safe and confident that no matter which versions of our Selves we are manifesting at any given moment, we will still always seen as being the strong and capable people we all truly are when we are not debilitated by weak and unconstructive thinking.

Wherever you are and however you get it, do not deny yourself the value and meaning of being around those who nurture your soul, be they friends or professionals. For there is no better sign of our overall health than when we can care about ourselves. And when we can’t, reaching out and asking for help isn’t weakness, it’s wisdom.

peace. s

A Life Made of Moments

1257 Relax and Succeed - What makes a life awesomeYou’ll find cases who are big stars, or some will be your friends, family or maybe a mentor or lover. They don’t feel like failures to you because they don’t feel that way themselves. Even someone with a small life filled with disasters can really like how it all unfolded, because they know that even most awesome-looking lives are filled with reactions to failure. What makes a life awesome isn’t based in our results, it’s found in the quality our interactions in pursuing them.

A good example of the results not mattering was yesterday’s post, where we looked a gold medal athlete who might move into retirement feeling sorry that they passed on a must-win attitude that makes both themselves and their child their worst, most impatient, critical selves. A gold medal can’t fix the fact that the quality of their daily interactions will have suffered to get it and, in the end, which is worth more when the athlete’s 50? Love and companionship, or ostensibly a necklace too ostentatious to wear every day?

When we hear of people shifting in this direction or that, extremely few of them are following some muse or calling, because, even if they were that does not remove the fact that life doles out a lot of punishment on its way to giving us its rewards. (Warning: movie spoiler alert.) This is what makes the ending of the film Arrival so beautiful; even though she knows she’s signing up to watch her daughter slowly die, and to be deserted by a beloved husband, when given the chance to do it all again, she joyfully takes it.

1257 Relax and Succeed - Successful people aren't betterMost of the moves we see people make in life are because of the punishment life delivers. Part of this life-game is down at the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid and we all need to eat, so some aspect of life is invested in providing for ourselves and/or others, and our comparative minds we tend to evaluate a large part of ourselves on the basis of how much ‘food’ we’re able to provide. Likewise, we judge others on much the same basis.

This means we can detect the possibility that a manager who moves into a lower position in a new company may have been fired by the previous company, but we don’t often realise that the creation of a new TV show was actually the product of someone having their previous show fail and be cancelled. We see the new show as a victory, not as a reaction to the failure of the old show.

Lawyers lose a lot of cases. Athletes lose a lot of games. Lovers have their heart broken, and a parent can move up or down in status in their pursuit to ensure they’re providing for their children. This means that lives that we may judge as failures are also filled with successes, just as the lives we view as successes are always also filled with rejections.

1257 Relax and Succeed - When your'e not concerned with succeedingWhat counts is: what did that person do in the face of rejection? Curl up and die? No, they move forward on whatever path is best, whether it appears to lead up or down? Because it’s not like we can tell where a path is going by how it looks at the start. No one begins thinking their wedding will lead to a legal nightmare, just like they won’t assume divorce is the greatest thing that will ever happen to their love life, and yet both things often happen just that way.

Our failures will come. Some we’ll see coming, some will be unexpected. The healthy reaction is to avoid turning that fact into a personally destructive internal narrative about failure. We must free ourselves by understanding that failure litters every life, and that the quality of your life will actually be dictated by how you react, and not by what happened.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Big Mistakes

1244 Relax and Succeed - there is always a simplicityIn life we will vary in our risk-taking. Some people have the sort of childhood that encourages them to be naturally bold, whereas others like things to be safer, with less risk of major downsides. It’s one kind of doctor that wants to deliver babies and another who will do your surgery. There’s some overlap, but they specialize for a reason.

Even if we’re the type of person that is careful about risk, our circumstances can alter our natural setting. Being unusually attracted to a person can lead us to be braver, romantically, than we might ever have been before. There’s entire industries built around offering the poor unlikely though not impossible relief from constant struggle. Even going a long time without a win can really motivate someone to take chances they otherwise wouldn’t.

The trick is, even when we’re reacting in-the-moment and we know our extra effort or courage is coming from a much-desired opportunity, we still must stay aware of how we have shifted our identity and what we have left at risk. That doesn’t mean you never take chances–you have to to live–but it does mean that they’re calculated. This not only helps you succeed, it also helps you fail.

1244 Relax and Succeed - Things are just thingsWhen answering readers questions about time management, I’ve posted before that sometimes a failure to succeed is not even within reach. I myself have very elderly and frail parents that often can’t wait, but I also need to earn a living and attempt to maintain the rest of life, including maintaining friendships, although that last one is often the sacrifice when caring for people who generally can’t be left alone for a long stretch. There is no amount of management that solves that.

The worst thing we can do is regret that we may not be able to avoid failure in some significant way. Either you’ll run out of time, resources or enthusiasm before you’re done or not. Understanding those limits allows us to act quickly, and with as much wisdom as possible, if things tumble out in unpleasant ways. This is inevitable in any life, so we can’t live seeking to avoid it, we must learn to surf the bad waves as well as the good ones.

The hardest part for people is their attachments. If we believe we need some object or amount or victory before we can feel good about our lives, we’ve lost control. But if we feel our duty is to say balanced and minimize damage, then we’re just doing what we’ve always done–we’re managing our life with the most balance possible.

1244 Relax and Succeed - The reason most people give upIf staying on your surfboard requires you to throw away some valuable weight, spending time assessing the loss will only delay your reaction and generate more pain. Conclude, accept, act and then move forward with grace and dignity. Ultimately there is no other way and resistance only creates more pain and delays things further.  It’s not like your priorities will dissipate just because you have. No matter how bad the work day was, your children or your parents or your other responsibilities don’t cease to exist. In fact, they’re a gift. Because when you can’t do much to improve your own life, a really great reaction is to try to improve someone else’s.

Don’t dwell on big mistakes, even if you worked hard to plan or work around them. Don’t get caught up in ideas of fairness or the volume of your effort, those are all irrelevant at some point. Take solace in the fact that the effort will still have helped strengthen you, even if the effort itself failed. Knowing how to face hardship is ultimately more valuable than any other life skill, and even there, you can fully exercise your character and values.

Everyone experiences hard times. If you’ve put in a good effort and tried your best, as the Dalai Lama notes, there is no basis for any regret. We can take a moment for the painful acceptance to sweep over us but, once it has, our duties are usually self-evident and there is little else to do but to change paths and begin walking anew. By that point, the only thing that will make it particularly painful will be your own voice, in your own head, discussing what-ifs. Those can be compelling, but they are also created by and for you. So you’re free to create them. But all your ego will do is keep you from the clarity you require from success. Even in the din, a quiet mind will stay closer to wisdom.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.