Writing Our Lives

Some of the joys of traveling are, getting to go to new places, see new things, meet new people, and for me, to have time to read something I might not have had time to.  I was browsing through the Airline magazine in the back of the seat in front of me, I was stuck in the seat for the next few hours, so I leafed through the glossy pages, looking at fantastic restaurants in cities that I wasn’t going to, and sparkly jewelry that I could see myself wearing, when I came across a little snippet on the actor Forest Whitaker.  Now, first I have to say that I have always like this actor, which is probably why I stopped upon seeing him on the page.  But, as I read the article, I was impressed by the sort of person he sounded like he was.  The quote from the article that most captured me was: “My work is a way to explore and connect and grow as a human being.  Each new character is a new life; it’s a reincarnate moment over and over again, a chance to live a different lifetime and, hopefully, become more centered.”

I love that idea, creating the character of my life.  And, wasn’t I sort of doing that superficially as I thought of myself in other places, wearing sparkly things as I looked through the magazine?  Obviously, most of us don’t have the opportunity to be actors, taking on new roles and trying them on for size, and getting paid to do it.  It does beg the question however, how can we take on the role of ourselves more fully?  If you were playing the character of your life, what sort of responses and reactions would be important for you to grow as a human being?  What goals would you want for this character?  How might you look objectively at your characters past, and then how would you use this information to make your character stronger?  These are rich ideas.  And, maybe a little shift in perspective might help us to be better people, writing a story of our lives, one that we actually want to live.

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The Kindness of others

Last week I was in a training in Minneapolis MN, I had flown into MN on Weds, and I left late on last Monday evening.  I was blessed with the generosity of a fellow traveller, I caught  a cold, flying in from Albuquerque.  So, my entire training, I was dealing with ‘said cold.’  And, may I say the cold has been a doozy, stuffy head, sore throat, general dismay, the works.

The reason that I am even bothering to mention this factoid, is that I have been reminded through this last week, of the kindness of strangers.  I came to this training, very far from home, carless, friendless, and I have been the beneficiary of many acts of kindness.  And, in a world where we often are reminded of the poorer actions of our fellow peoples, I thought it relevant to be reminded that nice people do exist and in fact most people are nice.  I have had the pleasure of meeting quite a few of them here in MN.

I think that when we don’t see nice people around us, a couple of things might be going on.  First, I do think sometimes there are not nice people around, be aware of that, but be realistic.  Second, I think what we want is for others to ‘notice’ our need, maybe read our minds and when they don’t we feel rejected, unimportant, or unnoticed.  At that point, it’s not an issue of other people being mean, it’s an issue of us not asking for what we need.  This week instead of an unrealistic expectation, I did something completely revolutionary… I asked for help.  And, each time I asked, “Could you please take me to Walgreens?”  or “Wholefoods?” I was cheered to hear the response of “Yes.”  Granted I wasn’t asking for anyone’s first born, but in a world filled with so many responsibilities and obligations, people are still willing to help out strangers.  Because I am so invested in the idea of ‘take aways,’ my take away from this experience is… recognize the good, and find a way to pay it forward to some next traveller who crosses my path, in need of something, when they are so far from home.

In the famous words of Buckaroo Bonzai…

no matter where you go… there you are.

It seems to be a theme this week, talking with clients about the idea of wanting their lives to change, by moving physically away, quitting a job, or maybe even leaving a relationship.  The underlying idea being, maybe if the situation changes, it will be different or easy for me.  Let me start off by saying, there is nothing wrong with leaving a situation, if you recognize that you take your baggage with you.  Leaving the situation can give you a break from whatever rut you find yourself, but if you have a pattern or habit, most likely you will find yourself running around the same tree very soon.  In order to break a habit or change a situation, you need to start with yourself.  What do you need to focus on in order to really change whatever dysfunction you find yourself in?  That’s a big question.

The first question to think about is: What is the pattern?

Awareness can make a huge difference in outcomes.  In fact, Awareness makes ALL the difference, with awareness we can begin to understand our patterns and what motivates us to behave, speak, fight, make choices, etc in certain ways.  With this insight, we can begin to choose differently.

The second questions to think about is: What sort of person do I want to be?

Awareness let’s us know what’s going on, but in order to know what to choose, we have to have an idea of where we want to go.  Steven Covey talks about in his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, to begin with the end in mind, and that’s the truth, we need to have a direction.

I was talking to a client yesterday, she gets into patterns with men, where she is in financial crisis and wants someone to ‘save’ her.   But, men don’t tend to want to financially rescue women for free, so she ends up with the cost of what she has to do to keep the guy engaged.  She feels like crap and ends up hating the guy.  So, there’s the pattern, now what does she want to move towards.  “I want to feel safe and like I don’t have to worry that creditors are knocking at my door.”  My thought to her was, “If you want to truly be ‘safe’ you’re going to have to deal with the financial drama you create, it will allow you then to choose the people/guys you want to spend time with, based on liking and respecting them, not because you have to put on a show to get them to do what you need… like save you.”

One of the problems in life is that we can’t truly hide from ourselves.  So, leave if you must, but if we have the courage to pay attention and stop running away from our stuff, life gets less complicated. It’s sort of like that quintessential picture of the newlyweds driving away in the car looking over waving at the crowd with little cans hanging off the back, those little cans are actually baggage, the cans say things like: problem managing anger, commitment issues, fear, wants to be saved, and I’m not feeling so confident. The problem with the little cans is your dragging them along with you.

Learning New Things

There is something interesting that happens when get new toys and want to play with them. We unwrap them with all sorts of anticipation. The excitement of the new experience coursing through our brains and giving us little adrenaline bursts. Only to find that learning something new isn’t always so easy.  All that excitement can be transformed into frustration, because the new thing doesn’t come so easily.

There’s a really important process that we need to understand. It’s called the “Learning Journey.”  The learning journey is made up of four stages, Unconscious Incompetence; Conscious Incompetence; Conscious Competence; and Unconscious Competence.

The first stage, Unconscious Incompetence: What this means is that we don’t even know what we don’t know. So, like a child who’s learned how to speak, but doesn’t understand how  to write, the child is ignorant of all that is involved in writing.  but, as soon as the child goes to school, they begin to move into the second page of the learning journey, which is called Conscious Incompetence.

The second stage Conscience Incompetence, is the stage in which the begin to know what we don’t know. This can be incredibly frustrating. We’ve begun to have a clear understanding of what’s expected, but we really don’t yet understand how to make that happen. In fact, this is the stage in which most of us give up. This can be true of the new game, it isn’t so easy to figure out so we quit. Or, it can apply to a new way of doing something, for instance, changing our diets or managing our anger. But, if we can make it through this stage, will have the benefit of moving on the third stage of the learning journey.

The third stage is conscious competence. In this stage we now know what’s expected and we know how to make this happen. It still takes a lot of energy to do the new task, but we are starting to feel confident.  Neuroscientist, have taken P. E. T. scans of the human brain during stage II and stage III. What they have found, is that the brain uses a tremendous amount of  glucose as it is learning, and concentrating, on new tasks. For this reason it benefits the brain to get into habits of thinking. This is what occurs in the fourth stage of the learning journey.

The fourth stage is unconscious competence. This is the stage in which no longer have to think hard in order to do the task, but rather our brains can shut down as we go into automatic drive. This is the stage in which we feel the most competent doing our task.

Remember these four stages. Because, as we decide to learn new things or would change patterns of behavior we will find ourselves moving through the first second and third stages again and again. It’s helpful to understand the process, so that when you find yourself doing something new or learning some new behavior, you can recognize and understand what stage you may be in.  It’s all about giving yourself a break.  Honoring that you are even trying something new and that takes time and fortitude to master.

Looking backwards as you are moving forward

This weekend my husband Michael, best friend Michele, and I headed to the top of Sandia Mountain to do a little snow shoeing.  It has been a mild winter here in New Mexico, and last week we finally got a bit of snow.  So, up to the top of Sandia for a few hours of snow shoeing.  Several things tend to be part of the snow shoeing experience, often while shoeing through wood you walk in single file, which is fine, but it also makes the person at the front very difficult to understand.  As we were clomping along, Michele had something to say, which I couldn’t hear, due to the above issue.  Without pause, she swivelled her head around to restate her message, at which point she tripped on her snow shoes.  I have to say that her speedy reflexes allowed her to regain her balance, instead of falling.  But, for me it was a good reminder of the dangers of looking backwards whilst moving forwards.

I think this is a bit more of the ‘It is what it is…” conversation.  I know that I have moments when I lose track of the present moment and in looking backwards, continue to propel myself forward without awareness.  I seem to forget what I was doing and that the doing requires a certain amount of attention.

The Preto Principle says that for many situations, there is a law of averages that states that 80% of results come from 20% of causes.  So, for an example: In any work force 20% of the people do 80% of the work, etc.  In John Gottman’s work on relationships, he has found that you need a 5/1 imbalance towards positivity in a relationship, in order for people to feel really happy.  Roughly 80/20.  I think this applies to us personally as well.  If 80% of the time you can work on moving forward with awareness, you be able to recover the 20% of the time you forget or get distracted.  But, if 80% of the time you are looking backwards, you may find yourself in for a fall.