Here is a selection of items from my main pages of ideas, stories and questions that relate to issues around change. I hope you find them of help.
Sometimes, often, we can't affect the things that happen but we can have some control over our reactions to them. It's not an easy area, to react positively in a world that is often negative but it's a significant area of personal freedom.
Be certain only for yourself, not for others. Yes the world would probably be better if everyone believed the same as you but that is not because of what you believe but because it's the conflict between beliefs that causes suffering. Don't help create that suffering by believing things to be true for others.
Choice usually operates within a framework, eg, we have a choice of careers, a choice of films to see. Freedom, true freedom, involves stepping outside of all frameworks and creating a world entirely of our own making. It may still be like the one we are already living but we will own it as ours.
Sometimes that is the choice, do we cling on to our past beliefs long after they have ceased to support us or do we recognise life is a process and that our beliefs can be as subject to change as everything else?
If we hold on to being right we end up enslaved by our views and this can apply to the small beliefs we have, how we felt someone acted wrongly towards us, as well as to our beliefs about life in general. It is clear that events will be as they are and others will act as they do regardless of our beliefs about them. Let's work towards change in ourselves, if we are trapped by our need for things outside of us to be different we cannot call ourselves free.
Sometimes a bit by bit approach can get you where you want to be, such as weight loss, saving money, learning a language. Other times change requires a leap of faith, such as major career move, resolving a broken relationship.
It's good to be aware of which approach is most appropriate. Starvation diets rarely lead to consistent weight loss and those who edge towards marriage can find later they feel they never made a proper decision.
But not everything you want, there just isn't enough time. Our lives involve choices. Letting go of dreams can be painful but sometimes we have to do this so other dreams can thrive.
Since there is not enough time to do everything it is essential what we let go of is the trivial so we can concentrate on what makes a difference. There is no point in majoring in minor things.
Sometimes people think the answers to their problems cannot be simple because life is not easy. But simple and easy are very different words.
Answers can be simple, in other words straightforward, but acting on a simple solution can be very difficult indeed. It's an important distinction to make otherwise we may discount the simple answers.
We are the ones who make our lives more complicated than they need to be. There are, of course, some things we need to do but a lot of our activity is a choice. It's fine to take things on, to feel stretched, it's also fine to turn things down and to say no when that best serves us.
But that doesn't mean we can't improve things. One of the signs of flexible approach to life is a willingness to accept partial solutions to problems that can't be solved in their entirety. So when you're faced with something you feel you have to accept don't stop looking for areas where you can still make improvements.
The first part is a saying my mother used when I got impatient for something, which I frequently did. I was supposed to learn that if something was worthwhile it took a long time to achieve. For a time I thought this meant was all I had to do was wait, so I was both impatient and inactive.
As I grew up I realised that although "Rome wasn't built in a day" parts of it were and it was best to look at the small steps I could take. I came to see that many things in life are the result of a number of small actions, often on a daily basis.
A weight loss target is unlikely to be achieved in a day, but a weight reduction might well be.
Financial success is usually not achieved in a day, but a savings account can be opened in one.
A damaged relationship cannot be mended in a day but a significant start can be made.
An education cannot be acquired in a day, but new learning certainly can be.
This whole website wasn't completed in a day, but this section of it was.
This is a quote from a Leonard Cohen song "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in".
Leonard Cohen is a poet and so what he writes is open to a number of interpretations. But to me this quote is about how we deal with problems and difficulties of life. I don't hold the belief that everything has a purpose, that everything has a meaning, I just don't see life that way.
What I do believe is that all events, good or bad, have potential for growth and learning. I do believe that when things get broken, our relationships, our jobs, our health, along with the loss and sadness is the possibility of fresh light into the very core of our being.
Take a few minutes to look back on your life and see if you can identify some of your patterns in relationships, career, health. It's worth writing down a few sentences to capture elements that repeat themselves. Then ask yourself these questions:-
If these situations were trying to teach me something then what would it be?
What would my future the like if I had learnt the lessons that are presented?.
If you don't come up with anything move on, this may not be you. But if you do see a lesson to be learnt go back over some past events and think about how they might have turned out differently if you had already absorbed what you need to know.
A traveller comes across a swollen river that he needs to cross but the current is too strong for swimming. He builds a raft that carries him safely over. On arrival at the far bank he picks up the raft and carries it on his back for the rest of his life in case he has to cross another swollen river.
Let's look to see what we are still doing that served us once but is no longer appropriate and yet we hang on to "just in case". The way we had of dealing with a childhood fear which we still practice although the fear, and our childhood, are gone. The attitudes we had when we were poor which we no longer need now we are more financially comfortable, or perhaps the reverse now we have met harder times.
A workman is trying hard to cut a large log in two with a saw that a passer by notices is obviously blunt. "Why not stop for a while and sharpen your saw?" she suggests. "I don't have time, I have to get this finished as soon as possible." is the reply.
How many of our tasks in life would be completed more quickly and perhaps with less effort if we started in a good state, a positive frame of mind? But this can take time to achieve and sometimes we just have to plough ahead and get things done because of time pressures.
However more often than we think we can take the time to care for ourselves first, to spend more time in planning a task so we need to spend less on its execution.
A man is captured by enemies and thrown into prison. That night he is unable to sleep because he fears that the next day he will be interrogated, tortured, and executed. Then the words of his teacher come to him, "Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now." Heeding these words he becomes peaceful and falls asleep.
My first reaction, nice idea, completely impractical. But then I start to think about the small steps I can make to living in the here and now rather than agonising over the past or worrying about the future. I don't think I will ever get to the position of the person in the story but I can do better than I am doing.
From a distance a woman can be seen walking along a beach and regularly bending down to pick something up and throw it into the sea. As she gets nearer a passer-by sees she is throwing stranded starfish back into the water. "That's pointless" he says, "there are so many starfish stranded on this beach you can't possibly make a difference." The woman bends down and throws another one into the sea, "Made a difference to that one." she says.
Sometimes the problems of the world together with our own more immediate issues can seem so overwhelming we just don't think we can make a difference to anything. But a kind word to a friend or stranger, a smile at the supermarket checkout does make a difference. Can you remember when someone paid you a casual, sincere but unexpected compliment? Well others remember what you say just as you remember what they say and you do make a difference.
At a lecture on time management the lecturer takes a large bucket and fills it to the brim with rocks and asks "Is there room for any more?"
Thinking she means more rocks the students say "No, it is full." The lecturer then takes some gravel to fill in the gaps and the same question is asked with the same answer. The process is repeated as she adds both sand and lastly, water.
She asks, "What is the lesson here?" Various answers are given along the lines "You always have more time than you think"
"The lesson", says the lecturer, "is that it only works if you put the big rocks in first." (Stephen Covey)
Its not for anyone else to tell you what your "big rocks" are or should be, you need to decide that. But it is fair to ask if they get the priority they deserve. Amazingly the routine of life always seems to get done or if it does not it never seems to matter as much as we thought it would. A week and in some cases a lifetime can easily pass without time being given to things that are important.
A child is told to keep clear of the cellar door and above all never to open it because what is behind is frightening and dangerous. When she is a bit older and her parents are elsewhere she decides to open the door and look for herself. She is scared but determined to be brave and as the door opens she sees....green fields, other children playing and the sun shining. (Based on an Emo Phillips joke)
We all spend some time trapped in cellars which others have made for us or sometimes in dark places of our own making. Try opening the door, peep in, look inside. Perhaps your courage will be rewarded and what is on the other side will turn out to be less a fright and more a delight.
"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" asks the tourist of the New York cab driver.
"Practice, baby, practice" he replies. (Very old joke)
Yes it is a very old joke but still relevant. We know we have to practice to learn to speak a foreign language or to learn to dance well, but what about learning to be confident, to be more loving? The answer can be the same, "practice, baby, practice."
"Look around the room" said the therapist, "and try to remember everything coloured green." She even helped by pointing out things that might have been missed, an ornament, a part of a picture. "Now shut your eyes" she said, "list out loud everything in this room coloured blue"
We remember what we focus on. Describe your day so far in terms of what has gone right for you. Start with I am still alive, some people who woke up this morning at the same time as you won't be able to say that. Now describe your day in terms of what has gone wrong and it will feel very different.
We need to be aware of the difficult things in life but they don't need to be what we focus on all the time. We have a choice.
He had finally achieved all his goals, not surprising, he had devoted almost all his time to them. He had the job and the income he wanted, the level of fitness he desired and an apartment in the best part of town. It had all been worhtwhile, the personal sacrifices, the postponement of pleasure. At last he could look forward to enjoying life. He was so busy looking forward he did not see the truck that hit him from behind.
It's not forever. By all means have plans and objectives but enjoy the present moment. You may never have another.
It is said that if you put a frog in cold water and gradually heat the water the frog will stay in the container and boiled to death. If you put a frog into hot water straight away it will jump straight out. The reason given is that the frog cannot detect the slow change in the temperature. (I've never tested this.)
If you take a few minutes right now to look at some aspects of your life, relationship, health, finances are there situations that have taken you over so slowly that you haven't noticed the process. If you had no personal history and had the shock of suddenly arriving in the life you now lead what are the situations you are in that you would welcome and what are the ones you would jump away from.
Write down three quick answers and then look to see the clues they give as to what else you might want to do in your life; perhaps a first small step, perhaps a big leap. We all have more potential that we actually live.
"Ships in harbour are safe...but that is not what ships were built for"
This is a question you can ask of yourself, or others, when the first reply is "I don't know."
For example, often these questions lead to a "I don't know reply"
"Do I want to do this?"
"Am I in love?"
"Is this the right action for me?"
Asking the question "What would I say if I did know?" can sometimes reveal some deeper feelings and understanding.
The worst that can happen is a reply "I still don't know"
Perspective changes experience! Problems viewed when we have slept well can feel very different from when we are tired. We have choice over how we see things and it pays to look at situations from a number of different perspectives, even if, at first, we have to play 'make believe.'
So often people are reluctant to ask others for help, they use phrases like; "I don't want to take up their time" or "They already have enough to do".
The same people, if asked to help someone else use phrases such as; "I'm so pleased they asked" or "Glad I could be of assistance"
Why not treat yourself as well as you would treat others?
A fun idea. If you could summon up anyone, living or dead, real or fictional, to help you, who would it be and what help would they offer? Note what insights arise, recognise these are really your ideas and see what these new ideas might lead to.
You can have most of the things you want if you are prepared to pay the price, and usually the cost is not financial. You have the power to ask in any situation "Is this what I want for myself?" If it is not you don't have to put up with it, you just have to pay the price to change things. Sometimes the price will be too high and that is fine, at least you know you had a choice.
It's very easy to confuse important with urgent and the result can be that we spend most of our time dealing with things that are urgent and rarely get to the things that are important. Sometimes those close to us, important people, suffer because we are taken up with 'urgent' trivia.
An alternative question we could ask is
"What would happen if I did not do this thing I think of as urgent and instead did something I consider important?
"Can I live with the consequences of this decision"?
The business executive was deep in debt and could see no way out, creditors were closing in on him. He sat on the park bench, head in hands, wondering if anything could save his company from bankruptcy. Suddenly an old man appeared before him. "I can see that something is troubling you," he said.
After listening to the executive's woes, the old man said, "I believe I can help you." He asked the man his name and wrote out a check. He pushed it into his hand, and said, "Take this money. Meet me here exactly one year from today, and you can pay me back at that time." Then he turned and disappeared as quickly as he had come.
The business executive saw in his hand a check for $500,000, signed by John D. Rockefeller, then one of the richest men in the world! "I can erase my money worries in an instant!" he thought. But instead, he decided to put the uncashed check in his safe. Just knowing it was there might give him the strength to work out a way to save his business.
With renewed optimism, he negotiated better deals and extended terms of payment. He closed several big sales. Within a few months, he was out of debt and making money once again. Exactly one year later, he returned to the park with the uncashed check.
At the agreed-upon time, the old man appeared. But just as the executive was about to hand back the check and share his success story, a nurse came running up and grabbed the old man. "I'm so glad I caught him!" she cried. "I hope he hasn't been bothering you. He's always escaping from the rest home and telling people he's John D. Rockefeller." And she led the old man away by the arm.
The astonished executive just stood there, stunned. All year long he'd been wheeling and dealing, buying and selling, convinced he had half a million dollars behind him. Suddenly, he realized that it wasn't the money, real or imagined, that had turned his life around. It was his newfound self-confidence that gave him the power to achieve anything he went after.
As nice as this story is, I doubt if it is actually true. However, like a lot of fables, it makes a great common sense point about career and life success. If you believe in yourself and your success, you are likely to find ways to make that belief come true. Think about it.
Asking questions can be the answer to many issues but they need to be the right questions. There's a big difference between:-
How can this be solved? and How can this be lived with?
Why did this happen to me? and What can I do about this?
Does my life have a meaning? and What meaning can I give to my life?
Why do people hurt me? and How can I be less affected by others?
Our imagination is a wonderful gift and with it we can summon anyone we want to help us.
It takes a little practice to get fluent at this, here is what to do:-
Sit quietly for a few minutes and then create a picture of yourself in a favorite location.
Imagine being joined by the person from whom you want help and advice.
Tell them, quietly in your mind, what your situation is and ask for their thoughts.
Then sit still until your imagination lets them speak and listen to what they have to say.
They can be real or fictional, experts or friends, family or famous, even from another planet.
It's OK to have fun with this.
Goal setting does not work for everyone, some people just want life to take them where it will and enjoy the journey.
For others it can be helpful to have an idea of where they want to go before they set out.
Once you know what you want in your life you can ask a further question about everything you do:-
Does this activity move me towards or away from my life's objectives?
There are some problems in life you just have to take action on, things you can't live with or things that will get worse if you leave them.
There are also times when solutions take more time and energy than accepting and living with the problem. The world is never going to be perfect. It's good to make a distinction so we can get on and enjoy the experience of being alive.
It can be of great help to look at the past, particularly the important events of our childhood, and to arrive at an understanding of how we got to be the person we have become.
But if we stop there our journey is incomplete. The purpose of looking back is not to understand but to change and this requires action here and now. We may need the understanding to make the plan but without taking action it's like buying a train ticket and staying on the platform.
We usually need make a lot of assumptions in order to feel upset about something. It seems as if there is a part of human nature which is programed to take things personally but it's not our best guide to what is going on. We assume other people have the same reasons for acting as we think we would have if we acted in the same way.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when challenging the assumptions on the basis of which we react is this "It's hardly ever about you" So here's a question to ask when someone or something pushes your buttons, "If I assume it's not about me then what could it be about?" The answers could save you a lot of suffering.
The answer, more often than most of us think is this, "You do!"
We live in a world of easily available 'experts' who offer advice on almost every problem. Much of what they have to offer is positive and of help but that does not mean that it will work for you. You are unique and that means that while you can benefit from the views and insights of others the final decision as to what works for you is yours. Don't give away your power. Here are some thoughts on this issue:-
"If someone throws you a ball, you don't have to catch it." (Richard Carlson.)
"Vote with your feet, it's best to avoid people and situations you know drive you crazy." (Stuart Wilde.)
"If you want the world to be kinder then be more kind." Dan Millman
Many 'people of courage' say the same thing, it's not the heroic act, the risk of life in an emergency, that defines true courage, although lets not discount that. True courage involves the day to day facing of difficult problems and still getting on with life despite often feeling despairing. So each time you keep going despite your feelings you belong to the ranks of the true heroes.
"Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." (Ambrose Redmoon)
We all like to take big steps, move fast towards where we want to be, it's exhilarating and exciting. However sometimes the way we feel will not support any major advancement but that does not mean we cannot make any progress. Perhaps the smallest action is all you can manage today but it's still worth doing.
A 15 minute walk or a good stretch to further a fitness goal.
Not buying something you can do without to support a financial goal.
An offer to help despite not feeling like it so realise a relationship goal.
Leaving something on a plate to move towards a weight goal.
It's surprisingly easy to read this title without realising the inherent contradiction.
The fact is, if you're looking forward to being able to live in the present you've missed the point, the present is only here and is only now.
Being fully in the experience of the moment is, for many people, a skill they have to practice because so much of their life is spent either reviewing the past or planning the future.
Often when something dramatic happens, and it can be positive or negative, we don't have time to review or plan, we just have to live, here, now. These can be times when we feel fully alive, fully present.
Wouldn't it be great to have such feelings as part of our regular lives, to not need a drama in order to fully appreciate the moment.
This is not one to think about too much, just decide what number best sums up the last twelve months.
The ask yourself three more questions:-
1. What will have to change for me to chose a higher figure in a years time?
2. What decisions do I need to make right now to support this process
3. What action do I need to take today to start moving in that direction?
It's almost certain you will arrive at a point twleve months from now.
How you will feel on the journey and on your arrival is up to you.
I'm not a fan of bumper sticker philosophy, I don't take to easy solutions and I find it annoying when problems are dismissed with a catch phrase like "The longest journey starts with the first step". What's even more annoying with this one is that it's true, it's simplistic, it doesn't tell a full story but however you look at it it's accurate and even insightful.
Whatever it is you want to achieve, relationship success, financial success, health objectives etc you won't get there until you start to take action, you can't plough a field by turning it over in your mind. Now your first action might well be planning and preparation, changing your attitude, making a decision, but until it's expressed in the outside world it won't feel real.
So. here's a challenge to take any objective you have today and right now take the first step towards its achievement. It may be a short journey or a long one but it's unlikely to become easier if you delay starting.