Hey, have I told you? I’m a big fan of yours. I mean it. I think you’re amazing.
But wait, you say, I don’t even know you! How can I be a fan? I’m a fan because I know you’ve been through some stuff and you’re ready (and willing) to make it different. I know you’re reading this right here because you’ve looked around and said to yourself, things don’t have to be this way.
You may be overwhelmed. You may struggle with discouragement. There are times you might feel hopeless. And yet you’re here anyway. You’re thinking about how to change it up.
Maybe you’ve tried a lot of things already.
Maybe you’ve tried self-help books and support groups and therapists and new work-out routines and new self-care practices and they haven’t helped as much as you hoped. Or maybe they’ve made a big difference and you’re ready for more. Good for you! Good for you for trying! Good for you for trying and failing and being willing to try some more! Good for you for trying and succeeding and wanting even more success!
You know what? Lots of people don’t try. Trying is hard because it’s risky. If you try you risk being hopeful and then being disappointed. If you try you risk criticism and ridicule. Some people will put you down for trying because your efforts make them feel defensive so sometimes trying is lonely. And yet here you are, trying again! Congratulations!
The trying in and of itself is worthy of applause because it’s so hard and because in trying we can learn so much. Every time we reach for something a bit past our comfort zone we stretch that zone. We learn about ourselves by pushing the limit. We learn what works and — this is so important — we learn what doesn’t work.
If you decide to wake up an hour earlier and set your alarm to do it and then you keep hitting the snooze and don’t get the extra hour you were aiming for then you’ve learned something and your efforts will get smarter and better! You may have learned:
- To move the alarm further away so you can’t reach the snooze button;
- To go to bed earlier so you’re not so tired in the morning;
- That instead of getting up an hour earlier to do the things you’d rather go to bed an hour later and do them then;
- That the things you wanted to do in that hour aren’t as important to you as getting sleep right now.
Isn’t it wonderful that you tried? Isn’t it especially wonderful and useful if instead of immediately lambasting yourself for your failure you look for the success in your efforts? That you try to come to the experience without judgment and see what it has to tell you?
Because the trying, the willingness to make the decision to try, to pick something out to try and then to do it? That’s why I’m a fan of yours.
I’ll tell you something else.
We are all of us, every single one, a work in progress. We are all growing and becoming and learning and changing — at least if we want to be. The growing and becoming and learning and changing means that we are always in the midst of something; we are never fully finished. Life is not a steady climb up from not-so-great person to perfect person. For one thing, none of us — not a single one — is born not-so-great. We are all born perfectly fine and fabulous and almost immediately life gets complicated and we get complicated. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
As life gets more complicated we remain perfectly fine and fabulous only we lose sight of it. We get knocked around and we knock back and if we’re brave enough we decide — as you have decided — we want things to be different. We want ourselves to be different. But that doesn’t mean we’re broken and need to be fixed. Do you hear that? Wanting things to be different, wanting to be different doesn’t mean we are broken and need to be fixed. It means that we’ve realized that something about the way we’re doing things doesn’t work.
Remember those knocks I mentioned? That life knocks us around? When that happens we knock back. We knock back at life and the people around us and we knock back at ourselves. If you want things to be different (if you want yourself to be different) then it stands to reason that you’ve decided that the way things are aren’t so good. I get that. But let’s think instead that the way things are isn’t serving us anymore.
The behaviors you’ve learned, the family patterns you’ve enacted, the thoughts and feelings that you’re used to having run your life, you can want to change them without feeling like a mess for doing them in the first place.
Or rather you can feel like a mess but you don’t have to believe it.
Our brains are super smart. We learn by example and we learn by experience and the things we learn make perfect sense in the context in which we’ve learned them. Take Pavlov’s dogs. He rang a bell then fed them and the dogs learned to salivate when he rang the bell because they associated that bell with food. Smart dogs! Not broken dogs who are too dumb to realize a bell isn’t food. Nope, they were smart dogs who made sense of the world they were living in. Until Pavlov changed the rules and rang the bell for no reason, the dogs were doing an excellent job of responding to the pattern they’d been given.
That’s how we are, too. It’s just that now you’ve realized that you don’t want to respond to things the way you learned to and that’s a big deal. That takes some gumption because to do that you had to realize that you have the capacity to change. You had to see the possibility of change and that takes some far-reaching vision. That takes some insight and bravery.
No wonder I’m a fan, right? And I know you’ve got the moxie to do it.