Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Teach Yourself "Down the Line" Perception

What in the world is that, "Down the Line" Perception? Well, I think I just made it up, not the concept but the title.

It's a way of thinking, of catching certain types of thoughts and swapping them out for others. I taught myself to think this way for practical reasons. Why suffer if you don't have to?

Hindsight is 20/20
What lead me to this way of thinking was that I suffered a lot from believing that I had lost things or that I had missed things in my life. However, when I really looked at all the experiences in my life, I noticed that once I had gotten far enough past most difficult situations, I saw how beneficial those experiences turned out to actually be. After reviewing a certain number of experiences, large and small, that I had been disappointed about in my life, I realized that what had seemed awful at the time turned out to be, not just "not-so-bad" but, truly a good thing.

Example: A devastating breakup back in 2001 had me depressed, bitter and shunning men for over 2 years. At the time, it seemed like I had lost something really precious that I would never be able to replace. In the long run, I was right, I was never able to replace that relationship... and THANK GOD for that!

The person I was with had a permanently dissatisfied disposition. He was never happy, always looking for better, never convinced I was good enough, didn't really see what was good in me or our relationship. I exhausted myself mentally and emotionally in trying to keep up, be better and "improve" to suit his idea of what I/we should be. It was a huge blow to my self-esteem being with him. Now that I'm many years "down the line", my perception of those events is very different than it was at the time. I look back and am incredibly grateful that we weren't together longer than we were. I now feel blessed that things fell apart as I feel I was spared even worse self-esteem issues and wasting more of my time on a relationship that was deeply unhealthy for me.

What this and many other events that I am now "down the line" from have taught me is that very few things that have happened or which I have "missed" are as bad or disappointing as they seemed at the time. Because of that, I am teaching myself to assume that what is happening to me in every moment, however seemingly disagreeable and apparently "wrong" is actually "right" and that I will be able to perceive it in that light once I am "down the line" enough from it in the future.

My thinking now is: Why wait? Why wait to be "down the line" to see what is almost always the case? Why not assume right away that what is happening is actually the "right" thing and stop the suffering before it starts? Suffering comes from our perception and judgment that the experience is happening in the "wrong" way. Start thinking of ways, right now, that it could be interpreted as "right".

We are always a work in progress but more and more often I catch myself if I begin to feel disappointed about something and flip it off like a light switch. When I hear thoughts like: "things don't work out for me" or "I never catch a break" or "I've missed my only chance", replacement thoughts pop into place. "Maybe I just missed being in an accident" (if I'm held up and I leave later than I wanted)", "I wonder what the Universe has in store for me that's even better than that?" (if I seem to have missed an opportunity) or "These people needed a more personal touch to get the learnings" (if a class I'm giving doesn't fill up as I would have liked it to).

Being able to do this type of reverse thinking means that things that would have previously been upsetting aren't. I can let them go with little or no disappointment or sadness. In fact, in some instances I actually get excited when things don't work out as I wonder, "Something better than THAT is coming my way? Fantastic!" And it almost always does.

I can't swear to you that everything I miss out on is always replaced by something better but if my personal past is any indication of my future, a really large percentage of the time that will be the case. I don't see a point in feeling bad 100% of the time when such a small number turn out to be truly unfortunate events. This has been my personal experience - your life may be different but have you ever really evaluated it. I can always feel bad about those few times later if I "need to".

Give this method a try. Start asking yourself: "If this is actually the right/better way for things to go for me then why/how could that be or what would that mean?" See what answers you get. Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Redefining Success

How do you measure or define success? 

I measure it in units of freedom. 

Freedom to do what I want, when I want, with the people I want? 

I consider myself highly successful because I have greatly gained in freedom over the past few years. 

Not in money, not yet. I admit that hasn’t been as abundant as I’d have liked but my life is becoming more and more something that is fun, interesting, stimulating and exciting.

Generating extra money is taking a bit more time but it, too, is coming. When you are making a new trail that you have not gone down before, it may take a while to figure out which direction you want to go and to cut down the trees blocking your way.

Certainly, money can have an effect on our freedom (below certain levels, choices can be extremely limited) but for most of us in western cultures, money is not the issue we believe it to be. Understand that I am not independently wealthy. I am simply able to live the way I enjoy with a salary that is on the lowest end of the lower middle class income scale.

I've made many choices in my life that others might not have made and the quality of my life has gone up, by MY standards and my measurements. Mainstream society might not agree with me.

My unusual choices:
  • I have never wanted nor had any children
  • I have an old car
  • I live in a very small apartment
  • I do not have a romantic partner at the moment
  • I work only 3 days a week at a "normal" job
  • I do not have a TV, I have a computer with internet
  • I do not have cable or Netflix
  • I do not have a landline, I have a cell phone

My unusual results:
  • I work two days a week at a job I adore
  • I volunteer two hours a week at a holistic cancer wellness centre
  • I occasionally give evening or weekend classes on subjects that I'm passionate about
  • I can have breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea with friends, colleagues and family members pretty much when I want
  • My colleagues in my beloved work are also often my good friends
  • I'm mostly on the road at non-traffic times
  • I get massages in the middle of the day in the middle of the week
  • To create long weekends, I can switch around my days off when I need to
  • Four out of seven days a week, I can pretty much go to bed and get up at any time I choose
  • I attend conferences, talks and trainings that interest me a few times a year, both near home and further afield

These choices may seem unappealing to some of you and impractical for others. I only illustrate my life and my interpretation of success as freedom so that you understand that we can deviate from the TV stereotype of a "good life" and we can be happy, satisfied and live wonderful lives anyway. Probably, in many cases, BETTER lives.

We can question cultural norms about the expected size of our home, the quality of our car, what is "acceptable" work and what is not. We can question these social ideals and decide that we don't share them and that we don't need to do things the way everyone else does. In doing this, we can choose differently and create lives for ourselves that WE prefer, that make us more happy than the big house, fancy car or high paying job ever could.

I've never had a family who tried to make me conform so it has been easier for me to be different and choose differently. I encourage you to begin to consider what your own idea of success might be if not for these social pressures.

If you decide that just maybe you would like to be successful in another way, start small. Make little changes at first, if you need to, but figure out what you want more of and what you want less of in your life and multiply the more and subtract from the less.

One tiny change at a time, we can carve out lives that are fulfilling for us and model that freedom of choice for our children and all those around us. If we value joy and satisfaction above money and perceived prestige, we can change our personal worlds to ones that we appreciate more.

For a fulfilling life, please consider all your options, not just the typical ones.