Yesterday we looked a bit at a conversation I had with a wonderful friend of mine. Today we are going to look a little more specifically at the issue she was having which very well might be an issue that you are dealing with as well. Yesterday we discussed what to do if you had an issue from your past that may be holding you back. We spoke briefly about guilt and regret which are two of the main past issues that affect people. Today we are going to look a little closer at her specific issue and what I recommended. This amazing young lady who has truly a heart of gold, was being poorly treated by several friends and even some members of her own family. She was trying her best to keep everyone happy, but their nasty behavior kept on. Sound familiar? We all have people who come into our life at some point, some who may have been in there our whole lives that mistreat us. The question is how can we not let the hurtful things they say and do affect us? In short the answer is you can’t. We are all human, we all have feelings. A point it always helps to remember when we are dealing with others as well. So if we can’t stop their arrows of hatred, jealousy and anger from piercing our hearts, what can we do? Ask ourselves the most important question “what does this all mean?” Sometimes the person we are dealing with is just having a tough time and maybe some issues we don’t even know about. It could be they are just unfairly taking it out on us. In this case although it hurts, it is a good opportunity to practice compassion and understanding. Another good question to ask ourselves is “What could possibly make someone act this way?” This is an especially good question to ask if this behavior is new. In this case we also have a chance to further practice our skills at politely asking people what does seem to be troubling them. Often times we may discover an issue we can either assist with or at least further understand the person we are dealing with. That act of caring can bring the relationship closer.
So what if we do all this investigating and compassion only to discover the person isn’t having a rough time, or dealing with an unforeseen issue? What if we discover their only issue is that they are an ass, what then? Great question! In fact, that happened to be one of the examples my friend gave me. She was fired from her job so the gentleman running the company could give a job to his mistress. Now on the outside she thought, and rightfully so, “How unfair is it that I work my butt off and this guy is cheating on his wife with this woman so I loose my job just so she can have one?” That is a fair question to ask, but it is not a very empowering one. If we asked what does this mean we could certainly come up with the answer that it means this man has lost morals and values his sexual gratification over a good employee. That is a true statement and may help us feel good…for the short-term. How can we use this to empower us more. This is why it may be important to revisit things that have happened to us that may have seemed ‘unfair’ at the time. I asked my friend if she really wanted to work for a gentleman with those kinds of moral standards. She replied no. I also asked her to share with me what happened to her after she left this job. She told me her very next job only lasted a short while, but in that time she was able to bring a lot of good to the life of a coworker who was struggling. The second job she had after that, which she currently holds. Allowed her to move out-of-state and be someone warm where she is considerably happy. These things would not have happened if her former boss had not let her go. Sometimes it is hard to understand why people do what they do or how we can benefit from it until far after the time it happens. Sometimes we may never understand but if we are always approaching life asking empowering questions and looking for ways to benefit and learn from every situation nine times out of ten we will. So don’t play the victim, play the master! Plus, trying to guess why other people do what they do is only slightly harder than guessing the winning lottery numbers.
This question, which is a very good one, came about in discussion with a friend who was in the middle of reading my book. She asked “What is your suggestion for someone who is trying to live a happy life who can’t let go of the past?” This is a great question that may be holding a lot of us back. Let’s say you make a decision to start living a more positive, rewarding life from this day forward. You try everything you can get your hands on and make a great effort. Still you have issues from your past that are still bothering you. Well that would be like starting a boat, pushing the throttle all the way forward, but leaving the anchor down. You may go far, you may even break free of that anchor, but not without a good deal of damage. More than likely you will stay attached and start going in circles.
So the question remains. How do you resolve an issue from your past that keeps creeping up? I would have to say the first step is to identify the issue you have that is holding you back. Is it guilt over something you may have done? Is it regret over something you may have not done? Once you gain some clarity on what exactly is the past issue that is preventing you from enjoying your future is, the next step is to get leverage on yourself. What exactly does that mean? Well any issue involving change whether it be moving on from the past or overcoming a challenge we are dealing with in the present is to clearly define the pain we are gaining and the pleasure we are losing by not changing. Sticking with the issue of overcoming the past you must look at what things you may have lost in your present and more importantly may lose in the future by not resolving this issue. Ideally you should write them down so they are staring at you in black and white. On another page or in another column you should also write the pleasure this issue has caused you to sacrifice and what pleasures you will have to give up by continuing to drag this anchor around. After composing these two lists is should become abundantly clear that your past is controlling your life and not you. Is this what you are going to continue to allow? No! You do not necessarily have to go back to the actual people involved. In many cases this is not even possible as they may have moved away or even passed on. What you must do is deal with the issue in your head. Perhaps writing an entry in your journal asking forgiveness or giving forgiveness to someone else or even yourself. Perhaps have an imaginary conversation with that individual. The important part is to change what your past means to you. Change whatever is holding you back into something that empowers you. Find the good, find the lesson, find whatever you need to cut the rope on that anchor and sail the seas of your future!
While having an inspiring and fruitful conversation with my friend Paul on how to get my first book I wrote and released last month A Happy Life for Busy People in the hands of as many people as we can. That way we can make the world a more positive place. In the course of bouncing around ideas for promotion he told me he had planned on writing a book on how to add more happiness to your life, but for children. My first thought for a split second was that children have a natural capacity for joy. Why would they need a book? Then it occurred to me, that is exactly why they need a book. As we grow up our parents and other adults, well-meaning as they may be, often cause us to lose that inner peace and joy. They warn us about the dangers and what is wrong with the worlds. They tell us we can’t do things often to keep us from disappointment. As an adult if you say you wish to learn a foreign language perhaps and another adult tells you that you can’t you surely won’t just give up on their word. So why do we often still accept limits and beliefs we received as children well into adulthood, sometimes all the way until the end of our lives? The answer can be found at your local zoo. Have you ever seen the elephants at the zoo with just a chain around their ankle not able to escape? I have often wondered why doesn’t this big elephant just snap the chain and say “Thanks for the hay, but I am on the first plane back to Africa!” then it occurs to me an elephant can’t go on a plane and airfare doesn’t cost mere peanuts. Ok, double bad joke there, but seriously why don’t they break the chain when they easily could? The answer is in their childhood. When the elephants are young and far weaker the chain is put on. For months and years they try to break it and can’t. So when they reach adulthood and develop muscles that could easily snap the chain they accept the limit of their childhood and assume they could not. After all they spent years trying before. Is this true in your life? Do you have chains that hold you back you may have tried before and failed to break? Do you now just accept them as limits? Perhaps you have developed muscles you may not have realized that would help you shatter those limits? Not just physical muscles, but perhaps decision-making muscles, or the muscles of wisdom and experience? Take a new look at limits you have accepted about yourself. Perhaps they are not so true as we might have thought.
Being weak does not necessarily mean being disarmed – Xi
This quote is from a very inspiring friend of mine. She has been having a very rough go of it lately to put it mildly. A lot of personal challenges have been thrown at her all at once. The least of which is she is currently sick. Still with a life filled with what many may see as obstacles, she has turned the tables and asked herself “how can I use this?” which is a very empowering question. Even the most stressful and heart-breaking issue she is dealing with she has used to put the others in perspective. Not only has this amazing woman figured out how to empower her own life, but she has went one step further and used the wisdom she has gained facing all of her challenges to inspire others. She has done so by not only leading by example, but offering words that can motivate and comfort people going through similar situations and just those who know her. Proving even in our most vulnerable states, when we feel the weakest, we are still armed. We may forget the resources we have when others have been taken away. So if you find yourself without money, without a job, or your health is failing, look at what you have left. Look at what you have to use, what you have to be grateful for. Remember the timeless words of my friend Xi, “Being weak does not necessarily mean being disarmed” It was David who killed Goliath.
“The fest of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
We have a Native American saying I like to use often. “Hoka Hey” loosely translated it means “Today is a good day to die” Now you may be asking yourself “Why would any day be a good day to die?” Fair enough question. Facts being what they are, we are going to all die sometime. A survey was taken of people who were in their final days here on this planet and do you know what their top five regrets were? They are as follows, in no order in particular:
1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
2. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier
These are the same regrets that often surface when someone we care for passes away as well. I recall this happening when my grandfather passed away. The following day we were supposed to go to a market he enjoyed. Being a young man I must admit I was dreading ‘wondering around looking at junk all day and never buying anything’ funny thing is as soon as he passed away not only did I feel bad about feeling that way, as the years have gone by I rather miss those trips. So much so I have even begun making trips myself to that very market. There are always questions left unasked, thoughts left not shared, moments left undone. One of the reasons this happens is quite often life gets in the way. I’ll take that vacation with my sister when work is less crazy, or I will buy that special gift for my spouse as soon as I save up a little extra money. Yet moments and lives can be stolen in the blink of an eye. Usually we never know when that may be. That is one of the reasons most people fear death, but this fear can also be turned into motivation. Why would a day be a good day to die? Answering the question we began with, a day where you have told everybody you love how you feel. Where you have used every skill and talent you have to bring the most to this world. When you have given of yourself freely and accepted all in complete gratitude, then it is a good day to die. So live every day as if it may be your last and if you every catch yourself feeling at peace with your life, you may want to emulate Chief Crazy Horse and yell “Hoka Hey!”
“Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great, because greatness is determined by service”
-Martin Luther King Jr
Don’t ask what if I fail. You will. A better question is when I fail, then what? This may not seem to positive at first glance, telling you that you are going to fail and all. Still, failure is only absolute if we learn nothing from it. Believe me when I tell you I was as guilty as anyone of being afraid of failure. I was especially afraid to try new things for the fear I may fail. Then I realized that by being a slave to my fear I was failing to try. Plus, what is the worst thing about failing? People laughing at you? Well first of all that seldom happens, we all have failed and know what it is like. Feeling like a failure? This is something that happens internally. We must understand failure is a lesson. Instead of becoming depressed we must learn to become curious. Why did I not succeed? What can I learn from this experience? These questions actually give us power when we do fall short and give us valuable lessons to move us forward. In fact failure is one of the best teachers. So when you fail realize you just became smarter. Like a lot of other things in life, the secret is learning to use failure, not letting failure use you. So this weekend when things do not go your way, get excited! Ask yourself what you can learn to make your future brighter and to limit or eliminate this sort of challenge from occurring again.