How much do you want to avoid war and conflict? Can you spend your entire life in peace, not raising your voice, not crushing anything nor anyone? Do you even want to?
It is only in recent years that most societies started to despise or demonize war. Most major civilizations in history valued war as a noble activity. It was depicted an a way to exercise courage, bravery, loyalty, respect and more.
Men are at war with each other because each man is at war with himself.
I’m not advising you should go to war with your neighbor (after all, he’s taking care of your dogs when you’re away), but maybe you should reconsider war as a valuable activity, especially the ones within yourself. Depending on the circumstances, going go war might be the best thing you can do.
I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.
Ulysses S. Grant
Struggle of Wills
According to Carl Von Clausewitz, war is a “struggle of wills”. According to me, it’s a learning experience, an opportunity to be better. Not better than an enemy, but better than oneself (some will argue that oneself is usually one’s worst enemy, but I digress).
An internal war is visible as an internal conflict. Maybe you want something but you can’t have it. Or you struggle with a choice, a job, or a relationship. Basically, you desire a life that’s different from the one that you have.
You have two choices. You can either whine and hope to be rescued, or you can…
Fight to win
Why don’t you want to do what you know you should do? The reason you don’t is that you are in conflict with yourself.
When you have a problem that you want to solve, your mind automatically steps up and go into problem-solving mode in order to find a solution. If it works, great, you won! If it doesn’t, well… a new war begins.
What does all that mean? That your ways may have been good before, but they’re not anymore. The war calls to you and allows you to grow. You work to solve the problem, so you can exercise your muscles, whatever they are. Maybe you need more courage to fight head on with the enemy, maybe you need to learn more about your subject, maybe you need to call up the whole Scooby gang to win the war.
In any case, if it pushes you out of your usual ways, it will most certainly help you grow.
If everything is always right, you never grow. Why do you think monopolies stop innovating? Because they don’t have to! And when corporations are challenged by competition, the whole system benefits. That is the same inside one’s mind.
Fight to lose
Now, you might not want to go to war, it’s scary, and you might die.
A part of you anyway. The old one. The one you don’t need any more. The part that represents who you were, the one you’re desperately holding on to. That’s how you keep yourself from changing. But once you’re on the battlefield, you realize that some things aren’t that important anymore, they don’t serve you, so you transition to a new state of being. You test the limits of your beliefs, actions and habits. And you can become a better you.
Use the anger! The anger is what gives you the strength to make changes you’re afraid to make. When you can’t really stand your situation, you do anything necessary to change it. You summon all the energy and resources you have to modify the circumstances.
But you have to channel that energy in a constructive way: destroy only what truly isn’t good for you, like your limiting beliefs, not other people or yourself. Once you’re free of these old limits, let the desire to build take over, decide what your life is gonna look like and start to make it happen.
Every conflict is an opportunity
Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.
William Ellery Channing
Have you ever noticed that the most caring people were the ones who had the hardest time in life? They had to fight to live, and that experience made them grow. You can be a victim and suffer all your life, or you can be a hero and step up. You can use your potential, or let is go to waste.
Whatever you decide, the fight will come to you eventually, so you’d better accept war as a gift rather than a curse.
What’s your next fight?
I’ve been travelin’ on this road too long (too long)
Just tryna find my way back home (back home)
The old me is dead and gone, dead and gone
And oh (eyyy)
I’ve been travelin’ on this road too long (too long)
Just tryna find my way back home (back home)
The old me is dead and gone, dead and gone, dead and gone
Lyrics from Dead and Gone by T.I.
We’ve all chosen different paths because of situations, opportunities, courage and fear. And we’ve all been traveling a path that’s not ours, because of habits and constraints we decided to conform to. But in every life, at one sacred point, there’s a little voice that shouts:
What the hell are you doing?
It can be because of a workshop, a song, a conversation, a person doing exactly what you want, a layoff, an accident, almost anything that can shake you. All the frustration accumulated over the years brought you to the edge. Then you realize “that’s not what I want, that’s not who am I”. You can’t help yourself thinking about it, and if you’re courageous enough, you also start taking actions.
Time to think
It’s not that important, I can’t do it anyway, it’s too difficult.
But it IS important, and I CAN do it, if I really want to. But I have to make some changes.
Maybe you have to change your job, your relationships or take some classes. Whatever you feel or know has to happen for you, accept that. It is going to be hard, otherwise you’d have done it way earlier, but it is also vital. Be completely clear with that.
Time to act
There are basically two things you have to do:
- Disconnect from what conflicts with your dream
- Start traveling on the road leading to your goals
That means saying no to any optional commitment on your old path. You’re probably used to saying yes to anything that you think might be good for your career, finances or relationship, thinking it will bring you closer to happiness. It won’t.
Saying yes to things you don’t really want or like is a waste of time and energy that could be used to build something much more meaningful and fulfilling. Once you acknowledge that fact, you can start with a small step, maybe don’t go for a drink with your colleagues tonight, and take a walk in a park, or go explore the possibilities that excite you. When you accept your situation, you will come to the conclusion that your old you has to disappear and make space for the “new”, real, you. It is a process that has to happen. Let it take the time it needs, but don’t simply sit on your ass until it does.
The other part of the equation is to actively start researching new commitments, relationships, opportunities that will mechanically move you forward on your new path. The simplest is usually to take a class to learn a new skill, because it will commit you to that path, as well as allowing you to meet new people who will strengthen your connections to that path. But if classes are not your thing, the Internet is full of communities that can give you the knowledge and connections that will push you forward, you just need to stop identifying yourself as your old you, accept who you are right now, and start feeling who the future you, the one home, is.
An example: losing weight
Let’s say you want to loose weight and improve your health.
First, disconnect from your old patterns: lay low on the donuts and snack eating in front of the TV (you know you do it).
Second, go to the gym (or elsewhere where you can exercise and meet people), and start connecting with people there. These connections will pull you in the direction of your goal. The more you hang out with people already doing what you want, the more you’ll be comfortable on that path.
A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.
What is home? Home is who you are deep inside, once you’ve removed all the habits and constraints. Home is when the person you are on the outside is exactly the same as the person you really are deep inside. Home is when you do what you love. Home is when everything seems natural and easy. You can fight to stay on your old path, or work to build the path back home.
I’m heading back home, where are you heading to?
© iStockPhoto - PeskyMonkey
Get a job without a challenge, fill your life with enough habits, never confront what frightens you and devise good excuses for everything you do. It’s pretty easy, lots of people do it.
Someone’s boring me. I think it’s me.
Step out of your boring life
If you got used to a boring life, puting your desires for adventure in a box and trying very hard to keep it closed, you’ve probably already started to want everyone to do the same. You’ve become disconnected from what really mattered to you, doing things because you’re used to, or because the external rewards seem appropriate. You might run after money, fame, sex, without ever getting really satisfied because you abandoned a part of yourself. Where are your dreams?
Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity
If you’re at the point where you don’t know what you like or what you really want, the solution isn’t to not do anything, patiently waiting for the answer to come to you. It won’t. Ever.
You have to try new, different things, as much as you can. It is only through experience that you will reconnect yourself to your dreams and your unconventional, or more accurately, unexpressed, desires of adventure.
You’re not what you do
Change jobs, houses, or hobbies if you want to, do anything that will change your life. You are not your job, your money, or your relationships. Be who you want to be, do what you want to do, share all that you can. Call a friend and propose a 1-day trip to do something you’ve never done. If you’re used to do something, do the opposite. If you’ve always went on vacation in 5-star hotels and with organized trips, go to another country, in a cheap hostel, or try CouchSurfing. Don’t get bored and you won’t be boring.
Do what you are
But if you know what you really like and are not doing it: what are you waiting for? If you want to play an instrument, take a class; if you want to discover a new country, book a plane ticket. If you feel it’s important, you owe it to yourself to do what’s necessary to accomplish it. However uncertain the result might be. What’s important is the journey, not the destination. If you’re still too anxious, find a way to reduce your stress, address your worries, but be clear in your mind that you have to go through.
It is time for a change
A finished person is a boring person.
It is way too easy, too convenient, to keep doing what we’ve been doing, complaining about how it’s not what we wanted. If you feel you can’t make things better, think outside your box, doubt yourself, learn a new skill. Do anything but what you’ve been doing. Excitement is just around the corner. Don’t keep it waiting.
What are you gonna try today to make your life more exciting?
© iStockPhoto - iofoto
Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.
Freedom… This word takes you back to your last vacation, where you are reminded of the absence of constraint, the feeling of able to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Very rarely this sweet vision includes a crying toddler, a boss or client screaming for changes to be done this very day, or any other pressing commitment. At first sight, freedom is pretty antagonist to the very concept of responsibility. Maybe it’s because we think about it wrong.
Freedom lies in responsibility
The absence of freedom
Let’s say you’re a freelancer, working at home. Your kid is crying, you have to change a whole design before 5, the house is a mess, your in-laws are arriving tonight and your spouse won’t be back from work until 7 or 8. Meaning you’re stuck. You would like to get unstuck, but what’s really interesting is how you feel and why.
You don’t decide what you do, you do what you have to, the most urgent, given the situation. You don’t feel free because :
- You are tied to constraints rooted in external circumstances
- You believe you have no choice
- You are unable to change the parameters of your situation
- You wish things were different
And that’s the problem. You believe and wish things could be different, but at the same time you act like you don’t have any responsibility. Things are done and happen to you. You are a victim of circumstances, of other people, of life (or God) itself. Victims have neither responsibility nor freedom. It’s easy to be a victim, it doesn’t require an effort, you can just feel down.
On the plus side, having no freedom/responsibility has its advantages :
- You have the sweetness of not having to do anything
- You can complain about the situation and feel ok about not trying to change it (you can’t)
- Your decisions don’t impact much, so hopefully no disaster will happen because of you
- You take refuge in passive activities like TV, games, browsing the Internet, without the craving and responsibility to contribute
It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.
If you want freedom, you’ll need to take responsibility.
When you take full responsibility for your life :
- You see the consequences of your actions
- You feel empowered
- You stop complaining about what could be and start making changes and going forward
- You adopt a learning mindset and learn from your mistakes
- You focus on what you can do to improve your life and not on what’s wrong with your life
- You accept what comes to you, deal with it, and use it : you turn problems into opportunities
- You take your power back
- You can be proud of what you do
But how to do that?
First of all, you have to separate things that are out of your control from those upon which you can act. For example, you can’t change the weather, but you can take an umbrella.
Once you’ve done that, you have to consider the potential consequences of each and every action and project you undertake, and assume responsibility for them, whatever happens.
I personally don’t believe in what I call “divided responsibility“, meaning each person involved has a tiny responsibility in a given situation; I believe in shared complete responsibility, closely related to collective responsibility, each actor having full responsibility over a situation in which it could act upon, and assume its consequences. Some among you might think I’ve lost my mind putting such a burden on mine and everyone’s shoulders (that’s ok, I don’t mind), but I think it’s much better to have full responsibility than non-existent one. If you take into consideration the fact that one has a large range of possible actions (from indifference to engagement and self-sacrifice), do you still think you’re not responsible of anything?
Once you’ve clarified what you can do or not, you have the power to change the situation, or at least your perspective on the situation, which actually, for your brain, means changing the situation. You can either feel very bad because your in-laws will see how much a mess your house is, or accept the fact that you prefer to make your client and kid happy and deal with the mess later, and still feel good about your decision.
When you take responsibility for your job, your relationship, everything that goes right and everything that goes wrong in your life, something happens: you realize you have the freedom, and power, to change everything.
What are you taking responsibility for today? What can’t you take responsibility for, yet? Answer in the comments below!
© iStockPhoto - wh1600
It’s starting to get really hot, you’re with a zillion others on the streets, defending your rights, sticking it to The Man, building a better future. You’re chanting. You’re not sure what exactly, with all the noise and lack of coordination (it definitely looked easier on the movie last night), but you’re chanting anyway. You feel proud, and good, and somewhat angry (yeah, I know…). Everything seems to be going great, you’re in the flow, you don’t have to decide anything, it’s as easy as it could ever be. But then, you see at a distance, a small, little shop with a giant poster of your favorite band. It’s getting closer, but you aren’t. A strange feeling arise. You’re starting to wonder.
Where’s the crowd going? And why you shouldn’t follow.
Following a crowd is exhilarating. As part of a movement, we feel empowered, nothing can stop us. Crowds have overthrown governments, crowds have stopped conflicts, but crowds have also started wars and induced the death of many people. When you’re part of a crowd, there are questions you should be asking yourself, and others.
The advantages of being in a crowd
- You’re powerful
- You can fight for your rights, or justice
- You don’t have to decide everything, you can rely on the crowd
- You’re part of a group with similar values or interests
- You benefit from what the crowd provides or obtains
- You share with the crowd, and it shares with you, you’re not alone
The disadvantages of being in a crowd
- You act differently than when you’re by yourself (you are less inhibited, maybe also more aggressive)
- You’re a small fish in a large pond, you may not be able to voice your opinion (or concerns)
- Unless you’re at the top (if there’s one), you don’t decide much
- You become less aware of your actions and their true implications
- You probably don’t know where you’re going
- Your interests might diverge from the leadership’s or the crowd’s and might end up helping changes against your values
- It’s not always easy to get out once you belong to a group (and/or to realize you’re not a good match for it anymore)
Two faces of the same coin, obviously. When you commit to a group action, it is important to keep the goal in sight. Both yours, and the group’s. If it’s a one-time thing, no problem, but if it’s a long-time relationship, there might come a point when you don’t totally agree anymore. If that happens, and you still follow the crowd:
- You might feel bad about the path you’re on and start building resentment
- You’ll engage in actions that don’t match with your values anymore
- You’ll work towards a goal that won’t satisfy or fulfill you
- You’ll lose interest in the group’s activities and will not help the group anymore
- You’ll miss opportunities to do things that really matters to you
Basically, you give up control over (part of) your life.
It is important to join a movement boasting our values, it can even be life-changing, but beware of getting caught up in the action. It might not do you only good. Follow your heart, follow your values, join a crowd, but don’t simply follow it.
Let’s say it’s a day like any other. You’re behind schedule on a big project (who isn’t?), your account balance seems to decrease by the minute, you wonder if it was your turn to grab the kids from school (hopefully they’re your kids), and you hope it wasn’t because the car was making a funny noise on the way to work this morning. Okay, maybe it’s not a day like any other. It’s worse. You feel stuck. Things don’t go as planned, you don’t know how to proceed. In a word, you’re overwhelmed and can’t go forward. You’re lucky, you can stop wondering
How to get unstuck
Whether it’s a big or a small problem, it doesn’t matter, the process is the same. The first step is always to acknowledge that you have a problem. Do you? Great! Good work. Now,
1. Step back
There’s no point trying to dream up a solution standing where you are, if you want to have a chance at making any progress, you have to step back, take a deep breath, then look at the current situation. If you can’t see the beginning or end yet, go further away.
2. Assess the situation
From here, you should have a better view of what you’re doing. It’s time to find out where you’re going and if it’s close enough to where you want to be going. If you’re killing yourself working, maybe you shouldn’t. See what’s working, and more importantly, what’s not working. Once you have a clear view of the current situation and what you want to achieve, it’s time to
3. Brainstorm new ways
Write down any and every idea you have that may (or may not) improve the current situation. Don’t disregard anything, be creative and not judgmental. You want to open up new possibilities, new ways to go forward. Just write an idea per line, or draw a mind map, whatever feels easier to you. The process will help you gain more perspective. After 15 minutes to an hour (or more), if you feel satisfied,
Review all the ideas you have, maybe give them a note, according to how fulfilling they are, or what they can give you. Eliminate those that won’t work or won’t give you what you want or need. Keep the rest. You should still have multiple ideas left.
You now have several ideas that you like and that might help you achieve your goals (if you don’t, go back to step 1). Decide and commit to those you want to pursue right now. Put the others somewhere safe, you might want to go back to them in the future.
It’s good to gather some ideas, and commit to them. But now, the real work begins, it’s time to act. Start with one little thing you can do right now, make a phone call, order a book or research a subject, it’ll build momentum. Then identify one action that you can do every day to bring you forward, and do it.
7. Continue.. and repeat
Now that you’ve expanded your world a little bit, and sailed on a new path, you have to continue on your way. Once a certain amount of time has passed (a week?) or you want to re-assess the situation go back to step one of the process, and repeat.
There are multiple ways to get unstuck, but each major overhaul of the current situation follow the same path as this article. The basic idea is to get out of the hole, think, then hop on a new way. Ready? Go!