Ever wonder why is it that you keep cycling through the same issues over and over again? On the personal level, you may be repeating familiar relationship challenges, getting stuck in recurring emotional patterns, or even bumping into oh-so-familiar job issues. Nationally, the same tired issues recycle almost daily, whether in the form of racism, recurring financial train wrecks or that theatre of the absurd, also known as politics. The reason? People keep trying to rebuild their lives using the rubble from whatever collapsed rather than choosing new materials instead.
In many respects, the myth of the phoenix bird rising from its own ashes works to sustain the illusion that you can rebuild using ashes and rubble. Last week we asked if you are really awake, consciously thinking and making choices rather than simply reacting emotionally to what happens around you. Today, the question goes even deeper, is even more challenging, and requires still greater awareness if you are to rise from the rubble of what has collapsed around you. It's time to construct a new reality, or more to the point, return to what has been real the entire time.
Hampton Sides, author of "Hellhound on His Trail The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt For His Assassin" quotes Martin Luther King at a 1967 SCLC conference as saying: "For years I labored with reforming the existing institutions of society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values." Forty years ago, Dr. King was telling us that you can't rebuild out of the rubble of failed practices, that putting lipstick on a pig doesn't change the pig.
While you may not be living under the same kind death threat as Dr. King, you may be dying nonetheless. By surrendering to the seemingly daily collapse of our failed institutions and societal values, and falling into the failed cycle of blame and complain, you may be dying a death of your own choosing. You may not get to choose the circumstances which befall you, but you do have powerful choices nonetheless.
Are You Tired of The Blame and Complain Game?
Ask yourself: Are you yet tired of living in the self-made prison of blame and complain? If blaming and complaining were the answer, surely all would be well. Are you ready to begin changing what you can?
To create the life you prefer rather than the one you settle for requires that you acknowledge your external circumstances, eschew the blame and complain game, and focus instead on how you are choosing to respond. Simple? Yes. Easy? Not so much.
The fact that you choose your own responses in life is an ancient truth I first discovered many years ago while reading "Man's Search for Meaning." In this powerful treatise on life and choice, Viktor Frankl shares how he not only survived but transcended years in Nazi concentration camps by mastering the one freedom he had left, the freedom to choose his own response to whatever they did to him next.
You may be pretty disillusioned with what's going on out there in the political and economic world and that would be more than understandable. Our "leaders" are basically trying the "little change here, a little change there" approach Dr. King found so wanting coupled with a whole lot of blame and complain. To me, this approach is a bit like trying to reconstruct a collapsed building out of the rubble left behind. As ridiculous as that sounds, we have politicians once again blaming all the other politicians, each telling us that they're not really politicians, while our bankers and Wall Street want you to believe that you really do matter. Uh huh. Nice lipstick, same pig.
Even if you have lost a job, a relationship, or endured some kind of physical tragedy, you still have some choices. You can hope someone else will come along and fix things; you can pretend that it's all lovely, or you can choose to address what is yours to change. Choice works better than the alternatives.
The principle of personal choice is profound and timeless. It has been framed by many wise teachers over the years in terms ranging from the spiritual to the day-to-day practical. The underlying truth, hiding in plain sight all around: how you respond to what happens to you is your critical lever of choice, and yours alone.
These ancient truths are constantly being repackaged, bringing important lessons into contemporary language and metaphor in order to assist those currently struggling to move forward in their lives. You can find one of the most compelling and practical examples of this ancient truth about choice in a powerful book by W. Mitchell, "It's Not What Happens to You, It's What You Do About It." Mitchell shares lessons he learned after enduring a blazing motorcycle accident and a subsequent paralyzing plane crash, only to discover his own version of choice and personal response-ability. This book should be required reading if you think life is determined by your circumstances.
Another version of these ancient truths is encapsulated in a simple but elegant principle of practical spirituality in a lovely book, "Loyalty to Your Soul." My friends and colleagues, Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick write that "How you relate to the issue is the issue and how you relate to yourself as you go through an issue is the issue." The Drs. Hulnick suggest that you explore the question of choosing how you relate to yourself and the issues you face in life by looking through what they call "soul centered eyes." It would be an immense disservice to try and expound on this principle here, but I love the metaphor and suggest that you consider reading this profound book if you appreciate the notion of practical spirituality.
If you would rather experience something different in your life, ask yourself: what choices can you make starting today to move forward on what is yours to choose? Don't worry about betting it "right," or perfect, just get moving. You can always choose again!
I'd love to hear from you so please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your own life, how you can take a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your own life, please download a free chapter from my new book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.