It’s okay to be pessimistic, especially if months or years of optimism don’t work. In this episode, we go over the underlying strategies or “programs” you have deep down that motivate you to move toward things you want and away from things you don’t want.
Wait, did I say it’s okay to be pessimistic? Yup. When what you’re doing doesn’t work, do something else. Better yet, be “realistic” to create the most change in your life.
When you figure out what motivates you in life, you’ll figure out how to create the life you want.
(The following is a transcript of episode 47)
So what are the resources that we have inside of us anyway? When I say I’m here to help you discover the resources you need to create the life you want, what I’m really saying is that you have within you everything you need to live a happier and more balanced existence.
Depending on what situation you are facing in life, you are either moving towards something you want, or moving away from something you don’t want. You may have heard other personal growth speakers talk about this, but as usual, I will put a slant on it. Or, if you’re not familiar with this concept, let me break it down for you right now:
A Towards strategy is when you are making decisions and moving in a direction towards something you want. For example, I want to own a house on a lake some day. So, I find myself saving money and making decisions that bring me closer to that reality. The “towards” things I am doing right now are writing a book, living in an area with lots of lakes, looking at properties, and always thinking about how I can make more income to make this happen.
An Away From strategy is when you are making decisions and moving in a direction away from something you don’t want. A real example of that is something I’ve brought up a few times on this show. And that is that I will never stand in line at a soup kitchen again. I will never go broke again. I am motivated by the images and memories of standing in line at 6 AM on a cold morning waiting to get fed and picking out expired food for the week. It’s definitely an away from strategy that I’ve used for quite a few years.
And what motivates you is what defines your towards and away from strategies. These motivation strategies are just a portion of the resources you have inside of you to create the life you want.
If you want to make more money, you will be motivated to take steps towards things that make you money. If you want to avoid being broke, then you will be motivated to take steps away from poverty. Our motivation comes from these strategies (and other things, but we’ll stick to these for now) and our decisions come from our motivation.
So we’ll talk about that today, along with pessimism and optimism, and how those two things coincide with the toward and away from mindsets. There’s absolutely nothing wrong about either way of thinking, it all has to do with the results you are getting in life.
If you never get the results you want, maybe it’s time to change your strategy. I’m telling you, a simple shift in your perspective can create a whole new reality for you.
By the time the episode is over, you’ll learn new ways to create new outcomes in your life. If you’re always getting the short end of the stick and have a lot of “bad luck”, then a slight course correction may be all that’s needed to get you to where you want to go. Or, if you have a lot of “good luck”, and things always seem to work out, maybe you’ll now figure out how to lock that in and keep that momentum going.
This episode does cover a lot around perspective and mindset. Perspective is the filter from which you view the world, and mindset is your behavior. But, it’s not what you do that gives you your results. It’s why you do what you do. I love finding out the “why” of something, because it reveals to us the reasons and stories we’ve made up about the “what” we are doing.
And sometimes those stories are true, sometimes they aren’t. But after today’s episode, maybe you’ll figure out what’s really true for you.
When I was about 28, I started having nightmares. I’m not sure why, but I have a feeling it was mainly due to the fact that I repressed my negative emotions all my life. When you’re not fully expressing yourself and honoring your boundaries, you develop little quirks and compulsions, along with a very active imagination. Since dreaming is like a fully interactive imagined scene, and those negative memories had to express themselves in some form, I’m thinking that’s why the nightmares started.
Well, I’d wake up full of anxiety almost every day because of these nightmares I was having. I’d go to bed feeling great, not thinking too much about anything, and somewhere in the night, a monster I saw on a movie would start chasing me. Then when the morning came, I would be sweaty, and full of anxiety to start my day off right! Nothing like starting your day having just spent the night running from aliens or being chased by some psychopathic person.
For about two years, I kept having these dreams, and kept waking up feeling anxious. I couldn’t shake them. I studied them, learned from them, and did what I could to avoid having them, but they still came. Every night, I’d resist them, and every morning, I’d wake up feeling bad.
So, one day I decided that whatever I was doing always led to the same result: Morning anxiety. I figured out no matter what I tried, I still had nightmares. Since I really wanted to figure this out, I decided to take a more analytical approach.
I was like, “Okay, these dreams are going to happen no matter what. I’ve tried everything, and they still occur, so let’s drop my emotions about them, and instead look at this analytically.” And I asked myself, “What is common about every bad dream I have?”
I came up with all sorts of things that were common, but not with every dream. For example, it was common I was being chased. But sometimes, I’d have a falling dream. Like, driving off a cliff. So, being chased wasn’t really relevant for this particular question.
Another commonality was that I couldn’t scream in my dreams. I tried to scream loud, but couldn’t. But since I didn’t attempt to scream in every dream, I figured this was irrelevant as well.
So next I thought about my environment in the dream. Was I always in an enclosed place? Was it always outside? So on and so on. Nope, nothing common there either. So when I couldn’t figure out what was common, I started thinking about what else, besides imagery and situations, what else was common about the dreams. I asked myself how I felt about the dreams. And I finally found a commonality that applied to every single dream: I didn’t want to have them.
That’s it! It’s sounds so simple, and common sense, that it almost slipped my mind. Of course I don’t want to have them, so what? Who wants to have bad dreams? But as silly as that sounded, it was one of the few things, if not, the only component of these dreams that was true every time.
I didn’t want to have a bad dream. I didn’t like them, and I did everything I could do to prevent them. You could say I had an away from strategy, where I did whatever I could to move away from having bad dreams. I started thinking, if I am moving away from having bad dreams, and they continue to happen, then maybe I’m going in the wrong direction!
So I made a decision. That day, I decided that I was going to alter my course, and set sail towards my bad dreams. I told myself I wanted to experience the worst dreams, and bring the most fear I could bring, into my nocturnal excursions. I wanted to make these dreams so powerful and so scary, that I’d wake up full of adrenaline, and ready to blast off into my day.
I accepted that I would continue to have the dreams. I accepted that I would continue to wake up with anxiety. But I also decided that I was going to make them the most scary, most exhilarating dreams I could possibly have. After all, if I’m going to go through it, I might as well treat it like a high-risk sport like skydiving or mountain climbing and get the thrill of an adrenaline rush out of it.
So that night, I went to bed with all these thoughts. I was like, “Bring it on. Bring on the worst of the worst dreams. Scare me so bad that it wakes me up in a sweat and I won’t be able to go back to sleep.”
I actually felt excited that this was going to happen. My fear turned into an anticipation. It was almost like I accepted death. And since nothing could possibly be worse than death, it didn’t seem so bad.
It’s odd, I know, but I still felt better going to bed. I felt like I was about to be in the greatest horror movie of my life. Hey, if I’m going to experience these scary dreams, I want the full force of everything my brain can create.
I was saying, “Come on brain, shove all that repressed stuff in my face. Bring it on. Let’s make this the scariest night ever.”
I’m being serious too. I actually said stuff like this because I had had enough of the scary dreams. You know how it is. You reach a breaking point where you finally say, “That’s it! I don’t care anymore. Bring me the worst you got!”
And the night came, and I went to sleep.
And when I awoke the next morning, and every morning after that, there was no doubt that something had changed. After years of waking up feeling anxious, I now felt… different.
Let’s get into what we’re here to discuss today, and that’s optimism and pessimism. I talked about the toward and away from strategies already, and you may have already figured out that optimism and pessimism are closely tied to those internal programs.
I call them programs because, in a way, they are always running in the background of our mind. A “program” is something we don’t think about, we just act on. Like when you blink your eyes, you don’t have to think about blinking your eyes, it just happens automatically.
These unconscious programs are always running. Some are helpful, like the ones that keep our heart beating and lungs expanding and contracting while we’re asleep. Others are not so helpful, like the ones that cause us to keep getting into bad relationships or making unhealthy choices. All of these programs are things we don’t think about, because they’re on 24-7. They are consistently running, therefore they are never thought about. Like the sound of a fan. Unless it’s annoyingly loud, the noise a fan makes just disappears into the background, so you never think about it.
We have programs running all the time. Some are hardwired, and will always run until we die. And others get created over time. In today’s episode, we’re talking about the programs that drive our behavior. These are the ones that get created over time. We’re talking about the optimistic attitude versus the pessimistic attitude, and the behavior that motivates us to go towards what we want, or away from what we don’t want.
We are fortunate enough to have the ability to change the programs that were created over time. If we have a program that motivates us to take action based on something we want, then we are always looking ahead, moving towards it and thinking about how to get it into our lives.
If we have a program that motivates us to take action based on something we don’t want, then we are always looking behind ourselves, moving away from it and thinking about how much we don’t want it. It’s driving forward into life while watching the rear view mirror.
There’s nothing wrong about either perspective, as long as you are getting the results you want and you are not in a rut.
If you are motivated to run away from poverty and are always finding ways to make money, or at least make ends meet so you are not in poverty, then you are getting the result you want.
If however, you’re continually on the brink of poverty because it seems that you can never get ahead, then you are in what I consider a rut. You are not in poverty, but you are not out of the danger zone either. But, because you’re not in poverty, you are not as motivated to do anything more than you are now to get even further away from poverty.
In other words, if your attitude about being wealthy or poor is driven by an away from strategy, then you are not seeking to be wealthy, you are seeking not to be poor. And this can carry with it a huge distinction, making your results vary wildly.
I still have some of the old programming in me that says, “I will never stand in line at a soup kitchen again.” That has had a huge impact on me, causing me to work really hard to save money. And now I’m getting to the point where I notice I have leveled out, where I’m not making more of that money. I’m not struggling by any means, but I certainly want that house on the lake. And that is something that may never happen if my only goal about making money is to avoid standing in line at the soup kitchen.
Does that make sense? My away from strategy absolutely got me into a position where I was once again comfortable, and able to afford food, shelter and some of the luxuries in life. This turned out to be a fantastic strategy for me, it was what motivated me to get what I wanted.
But you’ll hear some personal growth speakers tell you that you should only have toward strategies to get what you want in life. I just don’t think this is true in every case. In fact, I know it isn’t. When I was married, my wife adopted a toward strategy for everything. All of her readings and personal growth education told her that this was the only way to health, wealth and success.
Well, four years went by and we both watched her passion for life decline. Four years of moving toward what she wanted instead of moving away from what she didn’t want caused her to be in a stalemate. The towards goals weren’t motivating enough to propel her into massive action, and she no longer had the fuel from the away from stuff. She got into a rut.
Which brings us to the first item for discussion:
There’s a difference between being in a groove and a rut
When you’re in a rut, then no matter what you do, things never change. That is, when you want things to change, but they don’t. Whether you’re in a job you don’t like, a relationship you don’t like, or any of a number of situations that don’t seem to change no matter what you do.
When you’re in a groove, it’s like the groove of a record of your favorite music. I know no one talks records anymore, but I’m sure you know how the groove of a record keeps moving towards the center. I liken that to your goals and aspirations. When you’re in the groove, the music is playing, you’re feeling good, and you’re always moving towards something that is productive and satisfying. Even if things are the same day after day, it doesn’t feel like a rut. It feels good.
So a rut brings you down, and a groove brings you up. Regardless of the metaphoric references to ruts and grooves, you know when you’re in either state, because of how you feel every day. So it’s important to understand that even though you could be doing the same thing everyday, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in a rut. I write about personal growth everyday, but it feels like I’m in the groove. It feels like I’m doing something of value and that I enjoy.
But there are days where I’ll start writing, and I just can’t think of what to say next. A creative roadblock comes up, and I am at a loss for words. It’s at this point I know I don’t want to write about what I’m writing about. If I have to force the content out of my brain, I delete everything and talk about something else. I’ve deleted pages of material simply because it felt forced.
Being in a rut feels forced, and being in the groove feels like you’re in the flow. So that’s how I determine if I’m going in the right direction. Not everything flows, because challenges do have to come up in order to learn and grow. But the majority of the time, you’re going to feel the flow. Even if times are tough. If you’re not as healthy as you want to be or wealthy as you want to be, as long as you’re moving in the right direction, you will feel the difference between being in a rut and being in a groove.
So where does optimism and pessimism come in? Being in a rut typically makes you respond to things more pessimistically and the opposite is usually true when you’re in the groove. And both will build momentum depending on the direction you are going.
Have you heard the term: “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer”? I’ve seen this in all aspects of life. The healthy get healthier, the happy get happier, the mad get madder, the sad get sadder… it’s the momentum of where you are coming from, moving towards where you are going.
This is where your programs step in. You are either moving towards something you want, or away from something you don’t want. You are either optimistic about the future, or pessimistic. The rut usually kicks in when we continue running a program that no longer serves us.
The program I had running where I never wanted to live in poverty again has run its course. I have reached a point where my fears about being impoverished are no longer a concept I need to put a lot of effort into thinking about. This program served to help me get out of a situation I didn’t want. But now I’m at the crossroads of choosing to stay on the path I’m on, where I’m always beating poverty, or I can choose to run a new program that moves me towards wealth and prosperity.
I learned that I was in a rut. It wasn’t a debilitating rut, it was just a rut that kept me from growing into the person I wanted and needed to be. And as long as I stayed on this course, I’d never reach the levels I want to reach in my life.
Are you in a rut or a groove? When you think about the different aspects of your life, your relationships, your career, your finances, your health, and even your spirituality, do you feel like you’re always moving forward in each one? Or is one or more lagging? And when you think about the one that is lagging, what is your strategy in that area of life?
Are you moving towards something you want, or away from something you don’t want? Really consider the answer. Because how you answer is the answer. If you say, “Well, I’m moving towards great health. I’m doing this by exercising and eating good foods. But I still get tempted by cheesecake and other amazing tasting foods that aren’t so good for me. So losing weight has been difficult.”, then you have a towards attitude to health. You are moving towards exercise and eating good foods. But, your temptations kick in, and alter your path.
So as an experiment, switch that program to an away from for a month and see if that changes how you approach health. Instead of saying, “I want to feel healthy and exercise as often as possible”, instead say something to the effect, “I don’t want to gain weight and be fat. I don’t want people to look at me and judge me. I’m going to do whatever it takes so that I get away from the person I don’t want to be.”
Now, I realize I may be pushing some buttons out there, and I’m sorry for that. If you don’t like the words I use, use your own words. All I’m trying to do is give you permission to try something new to motivate you into a direction that works for you.
We’re always taught to “think positively”, but if you’ve been doing that for years, and nothing has changed, then “think negatively” and see if that motivates you.
I really believe that a lot of people need to get over a hump before positive thinking kicks in. A lot of people resist what they really want to tell themselves, so they get stuck in the rut of positive thoughts or one strategy or another, and they keep repeating the same behavior and never getting different results.
When you get stuck trying and trying to think a certain way and behave a certain way, then it’s time for a change, at least as an experiment, to find out if your motivations change. As soon as I decided to stop my away from thoughts about standing in line at the soup kitchen, and turned them into towards thoughts about generating a real income because I want that damn house on a lake, my decisions changed, my motivation changed, and especially, my behavior changed. I got serious about writing my book which could generate a repeating income. I got serious about getting a company to sponsor this show, which would generate an income as well.
Regardless of whether any of this happens in a month or a year, I am now moving in the direction I want to go, and especially, making decisions and taking action from a whole new way of thinking. I have a new foundation of motivation that is fueled by something I want, not something I don’t want, because at this time, I am driven to take action because of one over the other.
My word to you are to go with the strategy that drives you to take action, not the one you believe you are supposed to act on. If you believe that moving towards what you want is putting you in the groove, then don’t change a thing. If you believe that moving away from something you don’t want is putting you in the groove, then don’t change a thing. If however, your motivation strategy is getting you nowhere, then it’s time to reverse what you’re doing and build a new foundation from which to make decisions.
This includes optimistism versus pessimism. If you are always optimistic knowing things are meant to be and will always turn out the way they’re supposed to, but you feel like you’re in a rut, maybe it’s time to throw on your pessimistic hat and be a little more skeptical. Your beliefs can change, and when you change, your life changes.
When you don’t change and stay on a course that just isn’t getting you to where you want to be, then something’s gotta give. And it could as easy as swapping one belief you have with another, to remove what’s holding you back from creating the life you want.
But let’s move toward the next item, which is the third category after optimism and pessimism, which will simply blow those other two out of the water so you can make decisions based on facts, not wishful thinking.
You can be optimistic, which is when you hold a positive outlook of the events in life and you believe that things will work out. And even if they don’t, everything is still going to be fine.
You can be pessimistic, which is a more skeptical and judging place, where you don’t believe everything will always turn out as planned, and you can’t really see what’s good about a situation.
Or you can be neither, and just choose to be realistic. This is when you drop what you believe about the situation and don’t assume anything. When you choose a realistic perspective, you choose not to give meaning or make up a story of what’s happening. Instead, you subjectively observe events unfold. You see neither something that is good or bad, you just see what is.
When you’re optimistic, you might say, “I’m sure everything will work out”
When you’re pessimistic, you might say, “I don’t think it’s going to work out”
But when you’re realistic, you might say, “Let’s see what happens”
Though there is very little agreement in the world about what reality is, no one can disagree that they are experiencing something! It’s when you attempt to give meaning or judge that “something” when it becomes something to be optimistic or pessimistic about.
Our fears and anxiety, and also our hopes and dreams, are created when we give meaning to things.
So with a realistic outlook, you are simply observing without judgment. You are soaking in the facts. There’s no need for an emotional reaction unless someone is in danger or needs help. You’re just gathering information.
But here’s the one challenge you’ll have about being realistic:
Most egos cannot handle a realistic perspective
In a previous episode, I talked about the worst job I ever had, where I had to answer phones for an alarm monitoring and installation company. Many customers were already angry by the time I answered the phone, and those angry people always wanted a technician to show up at their home or business immediately. I never had enough resources or technicians available to send to all the people that needed help.
To reject angry people all day long is a very, very difficult job unless you have the skills to do it right. And back then, I had no such skills.
So one day the president of the company rushed into my office. He said, “I just got a call from this customer, and you need to send a technician out there right away.”
I calmly looked at him and said, “Alright. I’ll take care of it.”
He said, “What do you mean ‘you’ll take care of it?’”
I said, “It’s no problem, I’ll take care of this, not to worry.”
He said, “They are angry, and they need service now.”
I was compliant. I knew that if the president of the company wanted something done, I was going to do it no questions asked. I didn’t make a scene or anything, I just said, “I’ll take care of it.”
I turned around and immediately took action to get a technician out to the person’s house. Well, the president left the room. What I didn’t know was that he went straight to the general manager, my boss, and said I wasn’t treating the situation seriously enough, and that he wanted the general manager to go in there and talk to me.
So Jim, the general manager at the time, walked in and said, what’s going on with so and so’s alarm system? Walt said you aren’t taking it seriously.
I was like, “Huh? I’ve already made the call to a technician, and he is going to start driving over there right now. Did he go in there and tell you I wasn’t doing anything?”
Jim said, “Yeah, he came in and said it didn’t looked like you cared at all, and he thought you were just going to take your time and get to it later.”
I said, “He said that? I told him I’d take care of it. I even turned around to make the phone call to the technician to get him out there.”
Jim, the general manager, was nice. He wasn’t angry or anything. In fact, from what I remember, he was just as calm as I was when he came in to talk to me about it. Well, maybe not just as calm, but pretty calm nonetheless. He walked out, and I sat down trying to figure out what just happened.
What happened is that I responded realistically. I understood what the president of the company wanted, and I took action. I didn’t act all dramatic and fearful like he was, I just took action! That’s it. His ego could not comprehend that someone who wasn’t reacting would actually act instead.
And that’s a key difference between being optimistic or pessimistic, or realistic. Optimistic and pessimistic behavior are reactions. Realistic behavior is action.
In the case of the president of the company freaking out about a customer and expecting me to freak out too, he was involving his ego and reacting. His ego created fear and made him pessimistic about, well, all sorts of things regarding this customer. But my non-reaction, and total focus on solving the problem couldn’t satisfy his expectation of an emotional response.
There’s nothing wrong with an emotional response as long as it doesn’t cloud your judgment.
But when I chose not to react, and instead chose to act, which was actually a faster way to solve the problem, he didn’t understand. After all, if I’m not emotional about the situation, it must mean I don’t care.
The fact was, I cared so much that I chose to act immediately instead of delay the situation with a reaction. However, his ego wanted me to react. He wanted me to be just as fearful and excited as he was, otherwise, I didn’t care as much.
I might go out on a limb and say that I actually cared more about that customer than he did. Because when our ego takes over, it’s never about someone else, it’s always about ourselves. He was fearful for whatever reason… maybe because he believed that if he didn’t satisfy the person calling him, that customer would talk bad and tell 10 of their friends, eventually leading to a negative view of his company, which would lead to less business, which would lead to him having to close the doors. I’m being extremely presumptuous as I often do, but I’m sure his fears led him down a road like that.
However, if he was really concerned about another person, his compassion would have kicked in. He would have come over and said, “Wow Paul, this guy’s really upset. What can we do to help him? What can we do for him?” This would have told me where his heart was. But instead, he rushed in and showed me his fears.
I didn’t think I’d be talking about ego in this episode, but it does sneak in everywhere we look it seems. His ego kicked in, and he was concerned about what would happen to him or his company, instead of focusing on the needs of the customer. Well, he was still getting the needs of the customer met, but not without a lot of drama, AKA, ego, in the mix.
And I’m not saying I was the perfect picture of compassion back then either. I was excellent at responding to crises, but not so great at handling angry calls and high-level demands all day, every day. My ego certainly kicked in at those times, and I became pessimistic about going to work every day.
So when it comes to acting and reacting to things, what do you think you do more of? Are you the type that does more reacting than responding? Or, do you take action, and maybe think about the emotions later.
There’s no wrong way to be, as long as you’re getting the results you want. Remember that. I’m not here to change who you are, unless who you are is in a rut. If you’re in a groove, then all of this info is just brain food about people you know. But if you’re in a rut, keep these things in mind as you travel through life.
I know you always hear, “Be optimistic!”, but I say “Stop being what doesn’t work. Stop doing what doesn’t work. And especially, you don’t have to do what other people tell you to do.”
What I mean by that last statement is that just because you’re told to “Think positively”, or “Be optimistic” doesn’t mean you have to. To me, that’s an immediate invalidation to what you are thinking and feeling.
“Aww, just be optimistic. Everything will be okay.”
“No dammit, whether that’s true or not, I feel like crap, and it really seems that this isn’t going to work out!”
Don’t get me wrong, there is an advantage to having an optimistic viewpoint. I consider myself both an optimist and a realist. But, when the optimism doesn’t work, I will sometimes revert to pessimism.
I do whatever it takes to motivate me to take action.
When I used to fear confrontation, I just reverted to optimism. People would cross my boundaries, and I’d let them. And I’d say things to myself, “Well, that didn’t feel very good. But I’m sure he means well.” And I’d swallow the negative emotions I felt.
Then, when I learned to honor my boundaries, I became action-oriented, either being realistic, or pessimistic. I would say things like, “Wow, that was rude. I am offended by what you just said.” Or if the person was being a real jerk, I might be pessimistic to the point where I believed there was no hope for this person to ever change, and get them out of my life.
Alright, I gotta tell you one more story in this segment because it’s so relevant. I was renting a car at an airport one day, and as I was standing at the counter, this man comes up to the counter, right next to me. And I mean, I could feel the heat off his body he was so close. I immediately felt like my personal space was being violated. He was determined to talk to the clerk, whom I’d been conversing with. He chose not to wait his turn, and was just being very rude.
I figured it would only take a moment, so I waited for him to move. But no, he didn’t move. In fact, the clerk starting talking money, and I had to pull out my credit card. Well, the guy was standing right next to me. He could definitely look down and read my paperwork, and catch the numbers on my credit card. I not only felt my personal space being violated, but also my privacy.
So I chose to be realistic. I didn’t react, I just acted. And I turned my head and said to the man standing next to me, “I am uncomfortable that you are so close to me, can you please move back a little.”
He was surprised I said that, but seeing that I was serious, he took a step back. I do believe he was just so determined to get his needs met, that no one else mattered but him. So, he probably wasn’t even thinking about how close he was. After I said that, he moved, and everything was fine. I calmly asked him to move. I didn’t turn it into a dramatic event, I just knew what I needed to do.
At the same time, even though I felt a bit of pessimism kick in, I responded realistically. You can choose your response in any situation. And each one will give you a different outcome. There’s a lot of deeper meaning in what I’m talking about, and it can be applied to any area of life, but because my goal for every show is a half-hour, and I usually run it to an hour, we better move on to the last segment.
In this last segment, I want to cover what I introduced in the beginning, which is creating the outcomes you want in life. We’ve been talking about how we are programmed at a pretty deep level. I mean, an attitude and behavior of optimism or pessimism, or towards or away from strategies, is deeply rooted in us, and comes from many, many years of programming. In the sense that the people we were around, and the environments we grew up in helped us create programs to survive in our environment. Well, survive is a strong word, let’s just say, “adapt”.
Learning to adapt is how we got through everything in our life. Those who don’t adapt, have a miserable life. What I’m really talking about here though is embracing change.
Ouch! Change! That is one word my mom does not like at all. After 40 years with an abusive alcoholic, she chose not to change her situation for one reason or another. And believe me, there was always a reason she didn’t want to change. She came up with story after story about how she couldn’t possibly change her situation.
When I finally told her, “Mom, you wouldn’t leave this situation if someone handed you the keys to a new car, a new house, located in another part of town, away from him, away from danger, and behind a gate with a guard, because you are too afraid of change.”
She thought about it. She really weighed her options. If someone gave her the solution to every challenge she came up with, would she leave…
Her answer, “You’re right. I wouldn’t. I’m too afraid.”
Even with a guard protecting her 24 hours a day, she would be afraid. And when she could no longer use the excuse that she was afraid of her husband, she finally realized she was simply afraid of something different.
When you want to create the outcomes you want in life, you must be willing to embrace change. You must be willing to get uncomfortable. The reason so many people are in the ruts they are in, is because they choose to not leave their comfort zone. I’m not saying everyone, I’m saying ‘many’. I realize that some people simply have it bad, and they are down and out. I’ve been there, and I know it can take moving heaven and earth to get out of that situation. But there are people that can absolutely do something different to change their situation… but they don’t.
Whether that’s because they are using the wrong strategy (towards, or away from), or they are simply too optimistic, or too pessimistic, or whatever, when it comes down to a lot of the reasons people get into ruts, it’s because they don’t want to change.
I know someone who hates his job. He hates his work, and the people he works with. He comes home, and drinks his anger away every night. But, he refuses to quit. He’s actually quite skilled at many other things, but he refuses to quit his job. I haven’t talked to him about it, but from my perspective, it really appears that he feels like he’s invested so much time into that place, that quitting would be like giving up on himself.
But the reality is, he is actually investing into his misery.
Refusing to change when things are bad is an investment into your misery.
Think about that for a moment. When things are bad, but you feel like you’ve invested all your time, money and energy into it, and by quitting or changing, it would feel like you’ve wasted most of your life, you instead choose to trudge forward into more misery. You are essentially investing into your misery!
I’ve felt this way before. When I owned a condo in Florida and chose to rent it out, the tenant tore it up, smoked in it, broke a window, destroyed the brand new carpets, and on top of it all stopped paying rent, and I had to evict her. Then, the mortgage crisis hit, and without an income coming in from the property, plus all the costs involved in having to renovate it again, I simply could not afford it.
But while the tenant was still there, I chose to invest in the misery. Month after month, I would give the tenant a chance to come up with rent. Well, let me rephrase that, my property management company would give the tenant a chance to pay rent, and they kept convincing me she was a great tenant.
They were very wrong, and the whole thing simply fell apart and got worse and worse the longer it went on. But I was so determined to keep this place so I kept working with both the property manager and the tenant. And after she was evicted, I was struggling with the bills, and everything started adding up. No matter what, I was getting further and further into debt. I wanted to keep that condo, but it kept costing me more and more. It was a wreck, I was paying mortgage, I was paying homeowners association fees, property taxes. It was a lost cause, and giant source of stress, yet I persisted.
Until one day I realized that I was actually continuing to hold on to something that caused me misery. I held on, and kept investing my time, money and energy into misery. It was then that I realized that I needed to let it go. I did what I vehemently rejected for so long, and filed for bankruptcy.
I was against bankruptcy, because I am a man of integrity. But, I could no longer afford to be miserable. It was affecting both my mental and physical health. So I invested in me, and I released the condo, along with all my promises to repay my debts.
My integrity took a hit that day, as did my ego because I was losing my “investment”. But, within a matter of a day or two, for the first time in a long time, I felt a sense of freedom. Suddenly what I was hanging on to for dear life was out of my life, and also out of my mind. I had the realization that all this time, I was investing in something that made me feel terrible. No matter how much money I poured into it, I felt bad having it in my life. Letting go of that attachment, embracing change so to speak, is what changed my perspective.
It’s true, the outcome I wanted didn’t happen. I wanted to keep the condo and keep renting it out to make an income. However, when I chose to look what I was getting in return for my investment, the scenario no longer made sense. It made misery. And it was only going to stay the same, or get even worse.
That decision to let it go freed me from the turmoil I was putting myself in. I could blame the mortgage crisis, I could blame the economy, I could blame the renter and the property manager (actually, they did do me a huge disservice, but that’s not my point), but really what it all came down to regardless of how I got into this situation in the first place, is that I had a choice on how I was going to get out of it. And I chose to let it go.
It doesn’t matter how you got into a bad situation, it only matters how you choose to get out of it.
This is where you can choose to embrace change, which can be really hard sometimes, I know, or stay in a rut.
When things need to change, but you don’t change with them, that digs the rut deeper and deeper. Relationships go through this, jobs, and other life choices can create this scenario for you too. But what are you going to do now to make something happen in your life?
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a theme to this entire episode, and that is if you are doing the same thing time and time again, but hoping the outcome will be different each time, you are simply driving yourself into insanity. It’s the quote often attributed to Albert Einstein, something along the lines of ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’ However, it’s now agreed in many circles that Einstein never said that. Regardless of who said it though, it’s still a great mantra to live by, because the longer you are in a rut, the quicker the path to unhappiness. Hey, maybe that should be the next Einstein quote. Ha ha! Naw, it’s not powerful enough to stand on its own. But in this context, I think it fits perfectly.
So today we talked about toward and away from strategies. A toward strategy is when you are moving towards what you want in a certain aspect of life. For example, you may be working towards a promotion.
An away from strategy is when you are moving away from what you don’t want in life. So instead of working towards a promotion, you are moving away from getting fired. Two very distinct directions in life. And depending on which one you adopt, will yield very different results. Because the mindset determines your behavior and actions.
Choose the one that not only makes you feel better, but also gives you the results you want. There’s no wrong choice. But if you’re in a rut, then maybe the other choice is the right one to get you in the groove.
We talked about the optimistic and pessimistic mindset, and how both create a reaction instead of a realistic action. Again, neither is right or wrong, it’s all in the outcome. If your outcome is unfavorable, switch your mindset and see if that motivates you into action.
Both pessimism and optimism motivate you in some way. If one doesn’t work, try the other until you get the outcome you want.
If you really want to get results though, go for the realistic approach. This is where you simply take action if you need to, or not. You add no drama, you just respond as needed. It is from a place of cause and effect. You experience what’s happening, and make a decision based on what you experience.
Emotion tends to step in and cloud our responses. If you choose to respond realistically however, then you’ll be better prepared if things don’t turn out as planned. Well, prepared as in not setting up possible unfulfilled expectations because you are emotionally charged by the situation.
You can call it the calm, rational approach. But I realize you can’t be calm about everything. So, just know the choice is there to help you get the results you want.
Another thing we discussed was embracing change. This can be the hardest part for a lot of people. We are hardwired to seek and embrace comfort. Comfort is surviving and thriving. Comfort is an away from strategy to avoid pain and discomfort. When we are comfortable, we can be in a groove, or in a rut. When we’re in a rut, it’s time to change.
You know when it’s time for a change, but sometimes you create denial. I’ll admit, my ex-wife knew when it was time to change before she wanted a divorce. She realized that the relationship she was in was not helping her grow, it was keeping her from growing. She honored herself and moved forward without me. It hurt for a long time knowing she didn’t want to be with me, but I really did want her to be happy and continue her evolution into the person she wanted to become.
I had to embrace the change, even though I didn’t want it to happen to me. I wanted to continue the relationship, she didn’t. In a relationship, when both of you aren’t in the game, you both lose. So it’s better to cut your losses and move on, even though it can be incredibly painful. I’m not saying don’t try everything you possibly can to resolve the issues first, but when it’s time, it’s time.
And of course, it’s not only about relationships, it’s about everything in life. Embrace change when it’s time to change. So many doors open for you when you do this. Every material possession I let go opened a new door of opportunity. Every relationship that ended, opened a new door. Every time I left one job, a new opportunity presented itself.
Embrace change, and you invite opportunity.
And finally, what are you investing in? Are you investing into a situation that continues to bring you misery, believing that someday it will change? If so, how long has it been? And when are you going to create a deadline?
Be careful of what you continue to invest your time, energy and money into, as some things should have ended long ago. Sometimes, all that ends up happening is that you invest in your misery.
You are worth so much more. I don’t care how much you’ve invested into something, if all it does is make you miserable, maybe it’s time to embrace change, and invest in yourself.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how you got into a bad situation, it only matters how you choose to get out of it.
My nightmares used to cause me to wake up feeling anxious. But after I realized how much time I spent trying to move away from what I feared, and instead chose to move towards my fears, in one day, all my nightmares disappeared. Years of waking up with anxious thoughts and feelings gone in a matter of 12 hours.
From that point on, I might have had maybe one nightmare a year. And those nightmares were typically repressed subconscious thoughts and emotions that I had not resolved yet. You know the emotions that you swallow that always sneak up on you later right? If you try not to think about them or process them, they hang around in your subsconscious just waiting to come out in a dream some night.
But the nightmares were gone. In fact, you know that feeling you get when you’re about to hiccup, but the hiccup never comes? It’s like, you’re expecting it, because you’ve been hiccupping this whole time, but it never arrives. That’s what my mornings were like for a while. I was expecting to wake up anxious, because that’s how it’s always been. But the anxiety disappeared.
All the time I had it, I was using an away from strategy. I wanted to get away from the nightmares. I didn’t want anything to do with them. But, because my bad dreams never went away no matter what I tried, I stopped resisting them. I chose instead to go full force into them, and see if I could just get it over with. I was like, “Just take me! Do your worst!”
But the problem was, my fears and resistance actually energized the bad dreams and made them more powerful than ever. I’d fear going to sleep at night because I didn’t want to have a dream. My fears manifested as sounds and imagery in my subconscious mind, and came out as these very scary, realistic dreams.
Resistance to a thing gives power to a thing.
That doesn’t mean you should never resist anything, nor should you always give in to everything. But it does mean that when you’ve been doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result every time, it might be time to rethink your approach. I chose to move into what I feared most. I had reached a breaking point, and didn’t care anymore. But by doing that, it revealed that my resistance to being afraid was what caused the problem. Sure, I could have had unresolved negative emotions at the time, but I was getting sick of my dreams sending me that message. And when I opened my mind and my heart to the full brunt of the message, it was as if the dreams never existed.
What are you moving away from that never seems to work out? What are you moving towards that never seems to work out? If you find yourself in a rut, and no matter what you do, it never seems to go away, maybe you just need to adjust your approach. Switch that program inside your mind that motivates you to go in one direction or the other.
Always keep your health and safety as your top priority of course. Like, I wouldn’t want you to give in to an abuser or anything! But use my story as food for thought. Who knows, maybe a small adjustment is all you need to change your entire world.
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This episode is over, but your journey never ends. I am optimistic about something, that’s for sure, and it’s your evolution. It’s the fact that you actually want to improve yourself in some way. That’s when you really feel alive, when you are always moving towards improving yourself.
There’ll be times when you move away from the stuff you don’t want in your life, but having a vision for what you want in the future keeps you moving in that direction. When you have direction, you have purpose. When you have purpose, you feel there is meaning to everything you do.
I believe in you. You are worthy and unique. The light inside you shines brightly, and when you see you as I see you, you’ll soon realize the truth, that you are amazing.