Positive life change is appealing.
For all the theories out there about how to change your life, experience is perhaps the best metric to gauge how valuable they really are. Experience is proven. The downside of course – experiences are not universal. What works for you might not work for me and vice versa.
Genetics and environment are two variables that do determine a whole lot about who we are. Some might even say that a person with a capacity to change for the better and “carve their own path” is genetically and environmentally predisposed to that way of thinking, that potential. I am in no position to refute that. Be that as it may, just because someone has the environmental and genetic potential for positive life change, (sadly) does not mean the potential will be realized. For those who have that potential (I believe most people do), I will reflect on what has worked for me in regards to positive life change.
It is true – Genetics and environment have a great effect on us – but it is still possible to break through those molds. I think of people like Stevie Wonder (Superstition is just plain good). But before you assume where I’m headed, I’ll pose the question – did he rise to musical legend status because he is blind? It is well known that the other senses are commonly heightened after the loss of one. Many would point out the wonder of a blind person rising to such success and ability despite their inability to see. Right now, I look at it from the other point of view – many people are motivated by their disadvantages, disabilities, failures, etc. Those who have average, normal lives will often be complacent. Real struggles and challenges can drive people to huge success.
If I find huge success one day, pencil me in as one of those people.
Things That Have Changed My Life (Positively)
Listing all of the things that have contributed towards my positive life change would take all day, so I’m going to cover the main ones that have produced the strongest positive life change.
It is funny to me how learning often entails seeing how everything is the opposite of what you once thought it was. I’m beginning to really appreciate failure. This blog would not exist if I hadn’t been unemployed since I graduated in July 2010 with a B.S.B.A. in Finance. It was my plan to get a degree so that I could get a good job. The degree and my “obvious skills” were my automatic get-a-job ticket. Oops. Hey there reality, I can’t pay rent this month (I will soon because I just got a job).
It is hard for me to look at this as pure failure, as I never was given a chance to fail. But I certainly felt like a failure. I’ll say it right now, job hunting is the most demoralizing and inspiring thing I’ve ever done. You can’t help but feel worthless as company after company notifies you that they are “pursuing other applicants.” More commonly, they’d ignore you altogether as you continue to beg for work. This experience has forced my hand and I am a different person now. I decided one month ago that I was sick of other people deciding what I was worth.
Since then, I’ve launched this blog and I’m working on another website with a couple of friends that has a lot of potential for success. Nine months ago, I was ready to get a regular job and just make money. Now I’m ready to pursue my dreams. I need this job short term, but I’m living my dream on the side (and I plan on living it full-time eventually). I can’t thank those companies enough.
The Hot Seat
The title of this one has you intrigued, doesn’t it? Don’t run off and sit on hot coals quite yet. The hot seat is a metaphor and you’ll soon understand why it is called that. A wise friend of mine (PsyD, married, 3 kids) told me about the hot seat.
Here it is – one person sits on a chair in the middle of a group of people (or in front of a semi-circle of people). While seated, the people surrounding this person will begin to be very honest with him/her. Major and minor flaws are exposed, and it is not comfortable, but I love it.
A couple years ago, I eagerly entered the hot seat because I knew it was a growth opportunity. At the time I was spouting the merits of brutal honesty, so here was my chance to not be a hypocrite. It was tough and I think there were 6-7 people in the semi-circle. After sweating it out, I learned a few very interesting things about myself.
- I added qualifiers to everything (a non-committal technique) – “I think I feel nervous right now.” “Yeah, I probably do that sometimes.” This showed a lack of confidence or a fear of offending people with opposing viewpoints.
- I internally screened everything I said (too much) and when it came out of my mouth, it was monotone. My goal up until that point was to control how people interpreted my communication to ensure accuracy. We discovered that I spoke in monotone so that people would only be able to listen to the words I was saying and not “read my emotions/tone.” The issue with this, as you may have guessed, is that a dull monotone voice does send a message and it was not the one I wanted to be sending.
- To go with # 2, I absolutely over-analyzed social situations. I felt I had to account for every person in the room. I would attempt to analyze how everything I said and did would affect each person in the room. Crippling.
Since the hot seat, I’m much more social (and laid back), confident, and I speak in a larger variety of tones! I may have never found these things out on my own. The hot seat is awesome.
There Are Others…
But I want to wrap this up because I’m tired (+ 3 honesty bonus). The different ways I’ve changed my life actually have two common factors – deep thinking and a change of perspective. That’s the theme of my blog and there is a reason for it. Below is the description for this website, the one that people will see when it ranks in Google for keywords.
“Humans change when they experience a paradigm shift in their belief and understanding of reality. Deep, critical thinking equips the mind for positive life change using this concept.”
The reason we change when our perspective changes is because we then see the world in a different way and respond naturally to that. If you’re trying to force yourself to change and you still see the world in the same way, you’re fighting a losing battle.
Example: I used to have to come up with motivational techniques and programs for working out. One I created was a complex point system where I could earn points and buy things (like ice cream) with them. The motivation would fade and I’d start over. However, my perspective of working out began to change as I noticed the positive effect it was having on my health, body, and life. Exercise soon became essential in my mind like brushing my teeth or eating are. You know the feeling when you forget to brush your teeth or it has been too long? I get that feeling if I haven’t exercised in a while. I wasn’t able to get consistent until my perception of exercise changed from something nice to something necessary.
Deep, critical thinking create opportunities to shift our perspective to one that aligns better with the reality of the world and the reality of how our current selves match up to our ideal selves. As you can see from the hot seat example, other people are invaluable when it comes to perceiving things you cannot yet see.
Find other people who are interested in living better by means of thinking about life, and spend time with them. These are the people you want to be around, because their thoughts and ideas might inspire you or provide the spark you need to start a wildfire of positive life change. The hot seat may have been that initial spark for me.