Reflection Archives

 

***

This is my journey
and that one is yours.

The destination is important
yet the journey even more.

***

I am – We become.
I observe – We are.
I learn – We observe.
I discover – We learn.
I understand – We discover.
I become – We understand.
My better Self – Our conscious life.

***

No silence without words.
No freedom without structure.
No music without soul.

No growth without acceptance.
No expansion without limits.
No love without choice.

***

You are well equipped
to travel your path.

Be present in this moment.

This is all you need 
to follow it
with all your heart.

***

Accept what is
and what is not.

Test the limits, 
and the other side.

Choose to love
God, yourself and others.

***

Yes.
It is really that simple.

***

My path is my alone.
Chosen
to travel it with joy.

***

Your path is your alone.
Chosen
to travel it with joy.

***

Neither is worse or better.
Just different.

***

 

change_is_difficult

Most people are afraid of conscious change. They would rather stay in their comfort zone than take steps into the unknown. As a result, life controls them.

Things happen to them and they respond to the circumstances. They become reactive instead of proactive and they become victims of the circumstances instead of their co-creators.

Yet the world keeps changing all the time. Both the employment of ideas and development of technology have been very fast nowadays. And we, as individuals, change every day.

We are bombarded with new information, new knowledge, new structures, new technology as well as the new challenges they pose. We collect new experiences, we learn new things and we change our minds. We evolve and change in response to the changing world.

Conscious change is often difficult. It may also be easy, if we encourage the right circumstances and apply the right strategy. An effective change can be implemented by simple and manageable steps. Change does not need to be a painful process, either. On the contrary, it can be pleasurable when we are enjoying the process.

Most people fear change and consider the fear of unknown as the major obstacle. I don’t think it makes change that difficult though.

Why is change difficult?

In my opinion there are two reasons:

  1. we don’t want it badly enough (motivation) or
  2. we don’t know how to make it happen  (techniques).

We don’t want to change

How many times did I want to become an early riser? Countless, I have to say. Have I been successful? No.

There were many times I committed to getting up at 4:30am or 5am and although I succeeded in a short term, I’ve never made it a habit. Why? I can give you various more or less valid explanations, but the truth is simple. I didn’t really want to.

I thought I wanted it because there was a logical explanation, a social pressure and a strong evidence of an organized and successful life from the early risers I knew. I understood all the benefits of becoming an early riser, too. But such a change required a major shift to happen – going to bed early to get enough sleep.

I simply loved the quiet atmosphere of the night and the focus I could get in the evening hours. The morning hours were unattractive to me because they kept introducing the pressure of the tasks to be handled in the day. I failed because I couldn’t sustain both processes: working late at night and starting fresh and energized early morning. I simply did not want to become an early riser if I had to give up my quiet evening hours (this is my secondary gain). So, I ultimately chose not to become one.

How many times did you want to loose weight, stop smoking, get fit, become debt-free or earn extra money aside? Even if you initially succeeded, have you been back to the old patterns?

It is quite common to be excited for a change, seemingly commit to it to get the short term result, only to find yourself back where you started some time ago. At the moment we take conscious action we are likely to stick to the process for a while. The moment we stop paying attention we are back on the old tracks.

Going against homeostasis and a staying both feet in the stretch zone requires much more than the initial intention and enthusiasm. It requires a conscious shift to happen.

Coaching

I love coaching because we get to know ourselves and we grow enormously through asking the right questions, committing to right action and evolving through experimentation. Through self-coaching and coaching others it has become crystal clear that most people don’t really want to change. They want a magic button instead so that the change will miraculously manifest at the door. But there is no one like that, I’m afraid.

We say we want to change and we may even think or believe so with our hearts. In reality, however, this is often untrue. When you dig deep enough, you will often want the result but not the cost to be paid, learning to go through nor the shifts required for this change to happen. We want the result, the magic pill, but not the process. As if being fit or wealthy, having an interesting job or great family was a one-time event that could have been extrapolated to a lifetime.

Change is about learning new skills or forming new habits that have to be managed and maintained.

There are three main reasons why we don’t welcome change:

  1. We lack understanding.
  2. We are not ready.
  3. We want the result but not the process.

We lack understanding

Forced change or lack of communication. This usually happens when a change is forced upon us, in a company, between peers or friends, or by some forms of social pressure.

For instance, the company has to go through a process of structural changes that will affect employers on all levels. Perhaps some positions will be threatened, new tasks introduced and new teams created. Everything is uncertain.

The lack of honest and effective communication from the CEO to the leaders, from the leaders to the managers and later co-workers will provide a fertile ground for false ideas, assumptions and speculations. This leads to the lack of trust, and ultimately creates resistance.

In addition, we also lack understanding when we have an inaccurate perception of who we are, what we want and what is our reality. This actually challenges us to dig deep to know ourselves.

Secondary gain. When we have a negative habit or a habit we would like to change, there is usually something beneath the habit that serves us well. It is called the secondary gain. We may perfectly understand the reasons and circumstances for a change to occur. We may clearly see the benefits, yet resist change from our heart.

Why?

Because deep beneath there is an additional gain for this habit to function. It may even be completely illogical.

For instance, a child may start wetting in bed simply because his secondary gain is to attract attention from the busy parents who (by default) dedicate majority of their attention to the younger siblings. Stopping this habit will withdraw the attention back to the sibling, something a child doesn’t want. And in some cases, any dedicated attention is better than no attention.

You may choose to smoke because you seek acceptance from the peers and you get it by joining the smoking circles at school or work. There are usually some interesting conversations going on. Quitting smoking would mean staying outside these circles and becoming “less cool”. You don’t want that, hence you will sabotage your approach to stopping smoking.

You may choose to over-eat because you don’t feel lonely during eating. With cooking, cleaning and eating there is always an activity to be done, so your mind (or stomach) is occupied.

We are not ready yet

Any change to happen needs to be accepted on the emotional level. In order to change we need to leave the comfort zone and taking steps into the unknown. And this bring forward our basic fear – the fear of the unknown. We are born to maintain the homeostasis, the status quo, and resist those things that we cannot easily predict the outcome. Change is uncertain and will lead us through new avenues and new learning. It invites tension and requires extra attention and focus for the new learning to occur.  It also requires new energy levels for maintaining the process.

For a change to happen we need to accept it. Not only by logical reasons, but also through the act of facing our fears that will surface on the way. We also need to give ourselves permission to make errors, choose suboptimal strategies and solve problems inefficiently. This means we grant ourselves permission to learn even if these are baby steps. Such an emotional preparation will allow us to embrace the change together with the underlying process.

We want the result but not the process

We want a quick fix without hard work. We want to become fit, healthy or wealthy overnight or in to weeks, (let it be a month but no more, ok?) without taking the necessary actions or establishing long term habits. This is again related to our inborn difficulty to think and predict trends long term. We are good at short term perspectives choosing an immediate gain (oversleeping, eating cakes, drinking coffee, buying stuff, etc) over the delayed gratification. And for these reasons, we will succumb to marketers who offer us shortcuts: one click to become a millionaire, a pill to a perfect body or a car for a perfect self-esteem.

Yet, change is a process. And we need to understand this fact.

We don’t know how to change

Change is difficult because we focus on the negative aspects of the change. We follow a wrong strategy. We want to stop habits or patterns and focus on what we don’t want. Effectively, we want to uncreate the very thing we have, but instead we usually add more features.

As we know from experience, when we have a poor product or a computer program then adding more features or creating fixes will usually not lead to a better product as a result.We will only get a complex solution, overcomplicated for the tasks to be done, counterintuitive, having too many preferences and unclear choices to be made. And perhaps even conflicts between the existing features.

It is much easier to create a new product from the scratch with the essential features only. It is then well-thought and optimized for the task, hence simple, fast and working like a charm.

The same applies to a change. If you focus on uncreating your unwanted habits by introducing fixes, you are likely opening yourself to pain and frustration.You need to replace one habit with another. But this is often difficult too. The right approach is to focus on creating a new product – the New You.

It is much easier to imagine the person you want to become and set up the conscious habits from the scratch that correspond to the You 2.0 :). This requires a cultivation of an ideal self-image, setting up right values and right beliefs, and starting small with right actions in order to built habits that serve us.

Finally

The truth is this:

If we don’t manage change, change will mismanage us.

If we don’t take the responsibility for change to happen we will become shaped by the external circumstances. Not to our liking :(.

Obviously, we can’t manage every change possible, but the essential ones. It is our task to choose the changes that matter and make a difference.

Make a choice to change. Understand the why’s and the circumstances. Get ready. Implement!

***

Photo credit Fe Langdon, available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

***

the-letter-to-the-king

It is a deep night, long time ago. Five young men are keeping vigil in a chapel. There are on their knees, lost in darkness with some shadows cast by a pale flame. They are not allowed to talk, neither to react to any noise from outside. They must not open the door.

This is their last challenge before the important event that awaits them. Tomorrow they are to be knighted! It is such a longing of these young souls. It is the greatest honor to be a knight in the empire of the King Dragonaut.

Tiuri is especially excited. He is the youngest among them, with perhaps the biggest hopes. His father, Tiuri the Brave, is going to become proud of him. Greatly.

But then…

In the penetrating silence, a knock at the door. A voice from out of the darkness: “Open up in God’s name!”

Tiruri hears the voice, but others in the chapel seem to be unaffected. “Are they also hearing the same noise?”, he wonders. Or, is this his imagination, oversensitive in these circumstances?

Tiuri wants to neglect the noise. It is the safest thing to do. Just to pretend he doesn’t hear anything. In the end, it may be a servant of the king to check upon the young men.

But then …. again…. a strong whisper “Open up in God’s name!”

“What to do now?”, Turi wonders.

Tiuri is not allowed to open the door. “But what if it is an emergency, someone in need, being pursued and seeking a place to hide?” Tiuri is hesitative.

But it doesn’t take long. Turi makes a fast decision. He opens up the door….

***

For sure, the life of Tiuri is not going to be the same now. He broke the rule, so even if there is a real emergency he cannot become a knight tomorrow. And it is a true shame.

Even worse, if nobody is out there, but the voice in his imagination, he will still break the rule. There is no way he can lie about it as knighthood and honesty go hand in hand together. His decision creates a conflict.

How would he explain to his father and his king that he failed the final test? Perhaps it is the biggest failure in his life. But perhaps it is not.

What if it leads to adventures and transformation that only few can aspire? His decision is a turning point. And there is a story of development he can now tell to himself….

You tell yourself a story of your life

You also tell yourself a story of your life. It can be an encouraging story or a disempowering one. Everything depends on your interpretation. The same event can be interpreted differently depending on the context or circumstances. Even a simple event such as rain.

Heavy rain may make you unhappy if this is your wedding day and your party is planned in the fresh air. Or, the same heavy rain may make you relieved if you are a farmer and this is the first serious rain after many days of draught.

There is what happens, an event in your life, and there is what you tell yourself about it. And these two things can be totally different.

What you tell yourself usually focusses on a few aspects of the event intertwined with some emotions. And this is all taken from a particular point of view. It strongly depends on your interpretation which, in turn, depends on your perception, mood at that time, overall well-being and many other factors.

Your story is about the meaning you attach to the event or its characteristics.

If you doubt that, you can easily check how facts trigger a story to emerge. Just ask two different people taking part in the same event to tell you what happened. Even views on a movie watched together by the same people may differ greatly. The more complex or emotional the event, the bigger variety of interpretation.

And there is one thing even more appealing.

You believe in a story of your life

You believe in a story of your life as if it is the only and ultimate truth. But, in fact, what you tell yourself is an interpretation, a point of view from a particular angle. There exist many other interpretations depending on your criteria, point of focus or a time scale. Your life story is just a way to look at the events. You can have another look.

There are things that happened in your life that have been very touchy or emotional. And it colored your life. There were habits of your parents, teachers and authorities who influenced you deeply. There were circles of peers that shaped you accordingly. There were rebels who inspired you to explore beyond the rules.

There were songs, stories, books, games or movies, which helped you built your identity.

What has been impressed on you as a child has often been carried with you for years in adulthood, sometimes a lifetime. And these early experiences and conditioning, often through the means of simplification (omitting facts and some details) and generalization made you believe in the story about yourself you developed at that time. It is a story of the past.

Your story can change

Yes, there is a story of your life. But there are many other stories at the same time. You are the one who attaches meaning to the events and chooses which ones to emphasize and how.

The way we tell ourselves a story is in fact not in the telling. It is more in a mixture of our imagination, hearing or feeling, depending on our preferred processing and learning styles. We mostly see the events, hear the accompanying words or feel the related emotions. And these events become like glimpses of a story we have built for ourselves.

For example, you may tell yourself a story about being a looser or incapable of learning. And this story is being reinforced by the memories you hold about your father’s harsh criticism or your mother’s reprimands. And you remember the tone of the voice with the bitter words “You’ll never learn anything” after you have broken their favorite tool / blender / cooker / washing machine, etc, remove the plants instead of the weeds in the garden, or spoiled a meal. And this made you feel like a child, indeed incapable of doing anything well.

Your story of being a looser lives on such events. And instead of perceiving this particular story as an example among many others, you take it as the only story and the only interpretation of who you are.

It is the time now to re-evaluate the story of your life, who you are and how you are with respect to people, money, skills or achievements. Recognize that a story is just a way of looking at your past, perhaps even a childhood. This story is not an ultimate description of you. You are a conscious being ever developing and growing. Anything about the past is only a static glimpse. You are much more than that.

The challenge is to perceive yourself as a Process, capable of making choices, being who you are and becoming a better conscious Self.

Use another story

How to change your story into a process? I believe that another influential story can help us to do it.

Strong stories move us, both emotionally and to action, shape us and inspire us for growth. These are the stories of the past but they are based on universal struggles and confrontations. We can recognize these universal patterns and relate them to our lives. In addition, stories carry seeds of values that can be transferred and implemented in our lives, as well.

Stories speak to us in indirect, metaphorical ways, and allow us for multiple interpretations. They allow us to subconsciously recognize what is important and what is not. They speak to us in images and emotions and allow us to grasp new meanings. Stories and, especially, life stories make us grow.

The letter for the king

This time I want to encourage you to follow the story of Tiuri, who will be given a task of delivering a very important letter to the king. This children’s book, “The letter for the king” (De brief voor de konig, or Der brief für den Köning) is written by the Dutch author Tonke Dragt, and is is truly captivating. It was voted as the best youth book in the second half of the XX century. It really means something!

The English version is currently hard to find, unless you search Ebay or second hands books such as AbeBooks. I expect a new edition soon, so stay alert.

***

With the opening of the chapel’s door, Tiuri begins a secret and dangerous mission. He has to deliver a letter of the utterest importance to the king of Unauwen, from the neighboring empire. This is a story of dark forests and high mountains, filled with secrets and spies, treason, friendship and love. All attributes of a great story!

And the story is captivating, indeed. The plot is developing fast. There is little analysis of emotion, but yet, at the same time you feel the tension of the turning points and the moments the choices have to be made.

It is a book where the characters face dilemma, are forced to make choices and follow the consequences, and constantly seek who they are and what they are up to.

It is a book which shows you that friendship is not a candy-sweet, but lives on discussions, disagreements and bonding.

It is a book which shows you that good and evil are not necessarily what they seem to be and that events can be interpreted differently from a different context.

It is a book which tells you that transformation and development is the only path in life. That is, an interesting life 🙂

Overall, what is so permanent on all levels in this book, it is the issue of trust. Many times, at the moment of conflicts, Tiuri shows trust or is being trusted. Sometimes it leads to dangers, but overall it shapes Tiuri to become a man. And this is one of the multiple messages of this book: trust is necessary for a conscious development.

Tiuri develops as a conscious person and his adventures can be metaphorically related to our lives, where trust and honesty are ones of the most important principles to live by.

Read the book

Read the book. And if there are insufficient reasons for you to read this book, consider the issue of trust as being the important one!

It is a great book that can help you to see your life’s dilemma or struggles from a different perspective. It can help you to find a new motivation. It can help you to develop trust. Obviously, I recommend it for children. But it reads so well for adults! I read it originally dutch, only before my 30.

Stories and metaphors touch us more than facts, arguments and any type of reasoning. Read “The letter for the king”. If not, choose another inspiring book for youth. There is no substitution for becoming who you desire to be.

***
The book is 50 years old as of 2012.  Amazing!

There is a sequel to this book, “Secrets of the Wild Forest” (“Geheimen van het Wilde Woud“).

***

Other inspirational or educational posts:

***

serendipity

James at loss

James is a very smart and creative guy. He has grown as an independent thinker and prepared himself for a university carrier. Fast and original thinking was his main asset. It was clear that James was a good fit. Not only was he able to conduct high quality research, but also enthusiastically teach and supervise both students and PhD students well. James applied for a position at a good university.

It was not an arbitrary position, but a specific position toward which he had grown for years. The position was created as a continuation of work that was close to his heart and expertise. He was not only experienced with the work, but more importantly he adored it and was good at. Everybody knew about it.

One day there was an interview for this position. The interview went OK, but despite all the hopes, James was rejected. There were many international candidates. All smart guys. He made a good impression but not the best. He was simply judged to have been missing both managerial and networking skills. Indeed, he was not good at promoting, or selling research or project proposals. It was something to learn.

So, although he hoped for this position, it turned out it was not for him.

It was a hard pill to swallow for James. Much harder than he had imagined.

Disappointment was real and touched James deeply. Very deeply. James did not know what else he might have been doing. It was a dream position he hoped for and prepared for.

What else was to happen to him?

Letting it go

Slowly, he started to look for other positions. And again it became clear to him how much the managerial skills were important. “Too much” he was thinking. After many enquiries, he finally found a job as a college/university teacher. This gave him some joy as he loved to teach. It gave him challenges too. Many students were unmotivated and usually unprepared, unfortunately. So, oftentimes, he had to behave like a policeman forcing knowledge on students. What a pity!

He gave everything to have become the best teacher. He was liked and appreciated there. Yet despite the good results, he was missing the joy of creative thinking. He knew that he was capable of much, much more. He was a scientist in every cell of his body. He wanted to do research. He wanted to create.

And at the moment he thought he was destined to work as a teacher, a little miracle occurred to his surprise.

The little miracle

Thanks to the contribution of few people at the first university a new position was created especially for James. It was an exception on all levels. A specially crafted position. It was created in a way that seemed impossible within the university structure, yet it was possible. As a result, James has become both researcher and teacher doing the work he has loved so much.  He has been fulfilled ever since.

Isn’t that great?

Jack at a crossroads

Jack is a very smart and creative guy. He has grown as an independent thinker and prepared himself for a university carrier. Similarly as James, he was working as a college teacher, but he did it for an additional experience. He choose to work at a university.

His path toward a fixed appointment was long and adventurous, even though he was delivering and producing high quality research output. Much higher than many professors around. Yet, similarly as James, Jack did not like to promote himself. He was a modest person.

After many years at the university, Jack was offered a fixed appointment. It was OKish but not just with respect to the quality and quantity of work Jack was delivering. Jack was simply very good.

Yet, when Jack inquired about the conditions necessary for a promotion he was told it would impossible for him. There was no way for him to fulfil the key responsibilities for the department and it was unclear for Jack why it was so. These were the managerial tasks.

It was a hard pill to swallow for Jack. Much harder than he had imagined.

Disappointment was real and touched Jack deeply. He really wanted to continue at the university where he was. Jack had already gone through may trainings, multitude of university tasks and managerial responsibilities. And it seemed impossible to continue it further on.

What was he to do about it?

Letting it go

After some deep thinking, Jack decided to apply for a higher position at another university. This would have introduced additional challenges for him, including extra travelling, but he was prepared for that. He went for an interview and was judged as very good. And when he was about to have been offered such a job there, the interviewing professors asked for references at his current university.

Surprise

And then, to his surprise Jack was considered as a pure gold at his own university, not to be lost to another one. What a surprise!

Jack was offered a promotion. A promotion he clearly worked for, longed for and fully deserved. And he has been enjoying it well.

Isn’t that great?

***

Moral

What is the moral of these stories?

When you really, really, really want something badly, you must give the best of yourself and, yet, be willing to accept the loss. You have to want it desperately and work towards it, but when the time comes, you have to let it go. Push hard, yet withdraw from the outcome.

You may live through the loss and perhaps investigating alternative routes before you are ready to enjoy the gain.

Why?

Simply because you can only truly win when you are emotionally detached from the outcome.

Intention, passion and action are necessary.

Yet, it is the detachment from the outcome or letting it go that is the last ingredient in the ultimate formula of success.

It does not guarantee the final achievement or result, but it keeps you at the center (between the opposites), where happiness is practiced through the learning and the journey and not because of the results.

When you detach from the outcome, you add some degrees of freedom to your life. And this freedom, counterintuitively, increases your chances of the result.

***

Photo copyright by Moyan Brenn. Photo available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

***

A beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See www.ingeduin.nl.

When I was a student I was working in Germany during the summer holidays. Some years I worked on farm fields. It was a hard, physical work, usually 11-13h daily, six or seven days a week. My goal was to earn money so that I had enough to cover my expenses during the following 9-month study.

No doubt, working on field abroad was a life changing experience. Not only tested it my weaknesses and hardened my Spirit, but made me deeply appreciate the luxury of learning (instead of doing the mundane work, of course). I have never forgotten that.

Every year I had a big challenge though. It was accommodation. A basic hotel room was very expensive and although I could have afforded it after the first month of work, I still did not have enough to pay in advance. Money was tight. So, I usually borrowed the money from the farm owner after the first week of work.

This was the time when Germany only started to accept legal workers from East Europe. It was unsure how much trust they had. In addition, spending 1/3 of my earnings on accommodation (and another substantial amount on food + gas) was an inefficient strategy to maximize the savings.

There were better solutions.

One year my boyfriend and I met a German family who was renting a small flat at that time. They offered us a beautiful room of their 1-year old daughter in exchange for the basic utility costs. It happened because a co-worker we had met the previous year simply inquired by this family whether they would be willing to help us. Amazingly, they were. So, they hosted us that year and the following year – the last year of the study.

They did not know us, yet they welcomed us, complete strangers, to live in their small flat and to spend the little free time we had with them. It is true we were mostly out, but when we were in, we were a disturbance. We were bringing smells and dirt from the field. We were cooking dinners in the late evenings. We were making noise. And we were no entertainment, whatsoever, as we even felt too exhausted to talk.

They had trust. They had love. And they had a strong sense to share what they had. I find it remarkable to this day.

When at the end we asked them how we could return the favor, they simply said:
“Help one person in need.”

And this was a powerful moment in which I learned about giving and receiving.

I have practiced that ever since. I’ve learnt to appreciate gifts that come my way and to value them. I say “Thank you” and I mean it.

I’ve been taking initiatives to help people in need, offering books, time, advice, attention, accommodation, money, and so on. I challenge them to give back what they can offer to another person who is yet to cross their life path. Kindness is contagious.

There is a natural flow of value exchange we want to maintain. We may want to reject a gift when we feel we have nothing to offer in return. No need for that.

The key understanding is that you can perfectly give to one person and receive from another. As long as you maintain both inflow and outflow, you stay your healthy and balanced Self.

Give with joy and receive with appreciation.
Give and receive.
Maintain flow.

***

A sequel post on giving and receiving is here.

 

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