Understanding Our Stories

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you
don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have
problems with our friends or family, we blame the other
person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will
grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive
effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason
and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no
reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you
understand, and you show that you understand, you can
love, and the situation will change”

― Thích Nhất Hạnh

There are a lot of things about myself that I would like to change.  My eating habits, my organizational habits, my tendency to put things off, my fear of failure.  I have been going about the process with the idea that I just need more self control, or I just need more grit, or a commitment, or a magic word, or a rubber band around my wrist that I can snap every time I reach for a brownie.  And while these can be good things, they aren’t really working for me.  In fact, they never have.  Why then, would I continue to use methods that do not work?  Because I believe they work.  I have written them into my story.

From the moment we are born, we are writing a story, the story of our perception of reality.  This story covers every aspect of our lives, and answers questions such as “Can people be trusted?”  “Am I worth loving?”  “What is Truth?”  “What is Justice?” or “What will it take to make me happy?”  Most of the important questions are answered before we even know we are asking them.  Each of us has written a unique story, and none of them are perfect reflections of reality.

In the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant, each man experiences a different part of the elephant, and each man comes away with a different idea of what the elephant is, and what it’s for.  Each man possesses the same amount of truth regarding the elephant, but what they have to gain from each other is perspective.  So it is with our stories.  None is any more or less true than the other.  We do not need to seek truth from others, we have it within ourselves, but what we do need to seek is perspective.  With understanding, and without judgement, there is much that we can learn from our fellow humans, about life, and about ourselves.

But other people are not the only ones who need our understanding.  We need to stop judging and blaming ourselves.  There is a reason for our behavior, and if our behavior needs to change, it is easier done with love and understanding than with any amount of self control.

Help Yourself First

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I want to help people.  I want to make a difference.  My goal with this blog is to create content that encourages people, motivates them, makes them think, and reminds them of what is really important.

In my estimation, there are two main steps in writing this kind of material, and I have all but ignored the first.

Step 1:  Change Your Own Life

This is not to say I haven’t been trying.  Every day I strive to become a better father, a better husband, and a better person.  I work on quitting bad habits, eating healthy, being happy, and staying organized.  I have made vast improvements, but I am still on the first leg of my journey.

How can I be so bold as to say “This is what you must do to be happy” or “This is what you must do to have good relationships” when my own life is in shambles, and my relationships are unsteady at best?  I may very well be speaking the truth, but only as a spectator.  I might be giving good advice, but if I have not fully experienced the change in my own life, how can I speak it with confidence and authority?

So, going forward, I will be focused on my own continued improvement, until I reach a point when I am comfortable taking on Step Two (Using What You Have Learned To Help Others)

Plan Of Action

  1. Evaluate my current situation
  2. Find out what’s working, and what’s not
  3. Make a list of negative habits (over-eating sweets, losing my temper, spending too much time on social media, et cetera)
  4. Make a list of positive habits (Eating fruits and vegetables, meditating, exercising, and so forth)
  5. Choose one habit each month to work on, until I run out of habits, and thus become superhuman
  6. Save the world (or something)

Accountability

I have found that accountability is a very strong motivator for me.  So (whether you like it or not) you all are now officially a part of my accountability team.  Help me stay on track, and don’t be afraid to tell me when I am going astray.

I am probably breaking blogger etiquette by doing this, but if you made it through this post, and you’re willing to help me out, go ahead and leave me a comment or a “Like,”  just so I know I have your support.  I promise I’ll never ask again.

Thanks for reading.

Redefining Self Control

The idea that persons have varying degrees of self control, or that some may have none at all, seems to me a bit strange.  The way I see it, you are always in control of yourself.  Who wanted to eat seven doughnuts when all you really should have had was one (or probably none)?  Who’s idea was it for you to cut off that old lady in traffic when you were late for work?  Who decided to call your boss an impudent ass when you finally arrived?  Who yelled at the kids?  Who kicked the dog?  If not you, than who is controlling your self?  because it sounds like they might be ruining your life.

What if, instead of practicing self control, we practiced a little self observation, a little self reflection, and some self understanding.  Our emotions and desires are natural, and part of our humanness.  They do not need to be restrained or eliminated.  They need to be cared for.  But how can this be accomplished?

Practice mindfulness

Live in the current moment.  Whatever you are doing, be fully present, and aware.  What do you see?  what do you hear?  what do you feel?  You can do this while doing something as simple as washing dishes.  Instead of thinking about the project at work, or how you will get the kids to soccer practice, keep your mind on the dishes.  Feel the dish in your hand, listen to the water run.  When a thought enters your mind, acknowledge it, and let it go.  (Meditating is a great way to get good at this!)

Create a space between your thoughts and actions

Many of our so called “Self-Control” problems stem from immediate action, without taking time to process what is going on.  Put some space between your thoughts and your actions.  If you have an angry thought, ask yourself, “Why am I angry?  Am I overreacting?  Would it really be appropriate for me to smash this guys windshield in with a baseball bat?  How will I feel about this tomorrow?  In a week?  In a year?”  Give yourself some time to mull things over before acting.  You might just learn something about yourself.  (by the way, Meditating is also a great way to get good at this!)

Know you are going to mess up

You are going to fail, and that’s okay.  Its part of being human.  Don’t bother with beating yourself up, or getting all bent out of shape about it.  Treat each failure as a learning opportunity, another chance to observe how your mind works, and afterward, move on.

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” ~Lao Tzu