Why is it so hard to change your life?
Because it’s hard to change your mind.
This year I’ve devoted a lot of time reading and thinking about how we change our minds. Specifically about how we change our thinking to see things more clearly and accurately.
The quest began a few years ago, likely motivated by where I’m at in life. Four years ago I sat down to really figure out what I wanted to do professionally. I had stumbled into executive coaching, focused mostly on leadership. Namely, the skills required to become effective in serving others to be their best.
It was becoming the most rewarding work of my life, made possible only because I had spent my entire life operating in the real world. I had spent many years operating businesses and leading people. My leadership wasn’t always perfect, or even ideal. But I was always devoted to being better.
I was also devoted to serving the people under my employ, obligated to do what might best help them perform at high levels. Sometimes I succeeded. Other times I failed. A few times miserably.
My intentions were always good. Through the years I had fully devoted myself to the study and practice of leadership. Now, as a mature and experienced businessman, I was pleased and proud to devote myself to helping others. Some were like me, mature and experienced. Others were emerging leaders, many just starting their own leadership journey.
Men. Women. Experienced. Inexperienced. All of us plagued with a common challenge – how to improve (change) our lives professionally. But I quickly discovered with every client engagement it was never limited to professional. Our lives don’t happen as cleanly as we’d like to think. It’s not like we can remove our personal life hat when we walk into the office. Or like we can remove our professional life hat when we walk into our homes.
It’s hard to let go of the past.
How we see ourselves determines our present. And our future. That’s why change is so hard. Because it means we let go of the past. Easier said than done.
The present, determined by our past, often determines our happiness. Call it contentment or satisfaction if you prefer. I do. Because happiness is just too temporary and largely fueled by our emotions. That’s why I can be happy one moment, sad the next. It’s why I can ride the same roller coaster you do, soaring to happiness, then spiraling down to sadness and despair.
Contentment and satisfaction are longer-term sensations. Within the context of those, I can ride that roller coaster, while still truthfully feeling contentment or satisfaction. Or while feeling discontentment and dissatisfaction.
How dissatisfied are you?
True confession: I’m often dissatisfied. With myself. With my accomplishments. While simultaneously being completely satisfied and contented. I can hold both at the same time because of one big element, gratitude. Thankfulness!
Only an ingrate could fully embrace complete dissatisfaction. Which may prove that we’re often surrounded by ungrateful people who live miserably. How can a person be grateful and miserable at the same time?
This isn’t about complaining. Fact is, it’s the opposite of complaining. But first, let’s consider how miserable, complaining people CAN be in love with their lives. Got anybody around you like that? I do.
People who embrace drama and attention because of the constant issues in their life that you just must know all about. Because they’re going to tell you.
Center of the universe syndrome.
But it’s not really a syndrome as much as it’s a self-obsession I think. People so consumed with their own lives they can’t even see the lives of anybody else.
Yet people who thrive on it all. The complaining. The suffering. The disappointment. All the bad things that may happen to them. As long as they have you to talk to, their life is good. 😉
I wish they’d at least be thankful for the time and attention I give them. But alas, I know I’m being greedy. Asking for far too much.
Let’s pull the car back onto the road. The shoulder is making me tense.
Past. Present. Future.
We love a grand story of somebody who rises above their past. Redemption and other themes shine through and capture our imaginations. They give us hope that we too may be able to rise above our past. Or climb higher in the future than we’ve ever climbed before.
Mostly we judge it on the superficial. Money. Job titles. Fame.
How else could we judge it anyway?
We’re certainly not going to trust them telling us how they feel about their lives. Boy, what a ridiculous standard that would be. They’d just lie to us anyway, right?
Let’s beat this about shall we?
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