Chapter 4 – Making Change Easy(er)
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”– C.S. Lewis
As long as we breathe and are alive, we have the opportunity to begin right where we are and thus change the ending. Why not make it a Great finish instead of settling for something mediocre? Change may not be easy, but it can be “easier” if we use some basic concepts. One of the best concepts has to do with Mindfulness and, of course, primarily, your Attitude. This chapter will explain some basic concepts of Mindfulness, REAL Success, and Attitude.
I will start with Attitude because it may be the most straightforward subject here. One of the biggest struggles I have experienced with Attitude is the emotion of it. When I am in a disagreeable mood, I don’t want to have the initiative to change my Attitude, which makes it incredibly difficult to take any step in a positive direction. I don’t feel like putting forth the effort, so I get stuck in a cycle of “poor me.” This is one tiny example of what I refer to as the “Want-To” syndrome. The Want-To syndrome is something I made up to explain the phenomenon that occurs when we Want-To do something and when we don’t Want-To do something. This behavior occurs with two-year-old children who go into a behavior mode of saying, “NO!” and rebelling at almost everything. They throw a fit if they want something and don’t get it. They throw a fit if they don’t like something and yet must do it. Adults demonstrate much the same behavior but have learned more acceptable or at least creative ways to throw a fit and have a meltdown.
What is the best way to deal with moodiness, anger, frustration, jealousy, rage, etc.? I’m sorry, but this will be simple and seem a bit obvious. STOP IT! 😊 You don’t need someone to restrain the bratty part of you. Be an adult and take authority over your temper-tantrum child who wants to throw a fit. I am aware that there are situations involving physical aspects of the brain that make it difficult or impossible to change without intervention.
I am not telling people who struggle with these issues to say to themselves, “Stop It!” and the idea is meant to be more humorous than anything else. When someone is struggling with, for example, addiction, just saying, “Stop It” is not going to do it. Sometimes, telling yourself to “Stop It” is effective, and I use it occasionally. However, it takes work to get to that point. Saying “Stop It” and never dealing with the underlying issues is not helpful or healthy. The reasons for our behavior are usually deep-seated and take a focused effort to overcome. I talk more about overcoming in Part Two. Before we leave the subject of Attitude, let’s discuss how to change Attitude.
- Awareness. It takes an awareness of what is going on in yourself and then situational awareness concerning the accuracy of what we have experienced: the external circumstance or person. Everyone filters incoming information through their individual framework, which means our interpretation of the situation or person may not be accurate. Five people may witness something and report differently based on their physical position, angle of view, and cognitive biases. Some of us played the “Telephone” game where children (or adults) stand in a circle, and one person is given a sentence to whisper to the next person. When it comes around to the last person in the circle, the message is compared to what the first person received, and it is usually not the same at all. What we experience may end up somewhat corrupt based on our situation at the time, and we tend to react based on our interpretation of the situation.
- Desire. Secondly, once we take time to process our own biases and reactions, there needs to be a desire to change something, if necessary. Changing our behavior in every case is unnecessary just so that other people will be comfortable and like us. Part of being aware is assessing to determine if anything needs to change. A desire to change something external, for instance, another person, is not the best starting point. This is the hard part. If you have a roadblock in this step, the best thing you can do is give yourself time and space. Mindfulness deep breathing can help, or even pausing during a conversation as if in thought and taking a breath before continuing can help.
- Practice. If you want to play the game passably, learn the rules, practice a little, and maybe you can wing it. But it will take intentional daily practice if you want to play or perform well at a professional level.
People may say, “You can’t change your attitude.” Here is a famous quote about Attitude from Chuck Swindoll, and I see a lot of wisdom in what he says.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say, or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.— Pastor Chuck Swindoll
The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes”
The bottom line for Attitude is that you can change your Attitude; it takes work to do it, and it is a critical component of making life easier.
Can Mindfulness Help?
There are currently many arguments about the practice of Mindfulness, and I would not attempt to sway someone one way or the other. Some folks feel Mindfulness originates in Buddhist traditions and practices, and others would disagree. I have looked into it in some depth and can speak to it from a somewhat neutral point of view and the benefits that I have experienced from it.
Mindfulness involves living in the present instead of reliving the past or anticipating the future. Most of us spend an inordinate time dwelling on past events or worrying about what may happen in the future. This is not to say that we should not plan for the future or think about the future. However, obsession with the past or future to the exclusion of the present can be disruptive. The past is important as it is relevant to the present and future planning because we learn from history. We get into trouble with the past, present, and future when the past or future begins to take over our present ability to enjoy the present.
Think about the last 24 hours and how much time you spent either dwelling on something that occurred in the past (a conversation, event, emotions) or thinking about something in the future. We all do this a lot. I know people who have trouble falling asleep at night because their mind is filled with all kinds of thoughts about the past or what to do in the future. When you lie down to sleep, nothing positive can come from dwelling on past or future events. It will only continue to interrupt your dedicated time for much-needed rest.
Another possible reason we spend more time in past or future thinking may be due to a level of pain. When we stop obsessive thoughts and begin to be aware of this moment, we may realize that we have some emotional or even physical pain that we could not ignore prior. Research seems to indicate that mindfully focusing on the area of pain is more effective in relieving the pain than trying to ignore it.
I have found the benefit in taking time each day to rest my mind by setting all my busy thoughts aside and taking five minutes to relax and think about the present moment. The sound of the wind, a dog barking, the ringing sound in my ear from tinnitus. When other thoughts intrude, I gently refocus on what is happening right now. This, along with prayer and meditation (different from mindfulness practices), invariably helps me be calm and effective during the ensuing day. If we continue to pile up concerns and issues every day without time for cleaning and rest, at some point, everything comes crashing down like a game of Jenga. The trash must be taken out continually, or it begins to stink. Mindfulness can help with that much-needed space, and I will provide additional information on mindfulness in a later chapter.
REAL Success – The Basics
The last key in helping to make change and life easier is something I learned from John Maxwell and is reiterated in his book, “The Complete 101 Collection.” REAL is an acronym that provides a way to remember the basic concepts we must practice on our success journey. The four parts are:
It is a natural tendency to think of ourselves first and other people secondarily. Since everyone typically has this self-centered framework, it does not work well to approach or lead people from your self-centered framework, thinking only about yourself, what you want, or how you feel. Instead, this quote from John M hits the mark:
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.“John Maxwell
If you want to experience daily success and enjoyment, just trying to get what you want will not work. That’s how little children operate. Observation and research show that being “other-centered” brings the most satisfaction to both parties. The disclaimer is that your behavior and method must be authentic; people can quickly spot a fake. If you are pretending to care about others, you only do it to benefit yourself, and, in reality, you don’t care about them.
I will say that to care about others authentically; you must care about yourself and have your foundation solid first. One of Jesus’s statements was in response to a question about the most important aspect of personal behavior. Out of all the laws and statements he could have made, he said this, “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” I used to joke, “If I loved my neighbor as I love me, I’d be in jail,” meaning I didn’t love myself very well. However, in reality, I take pretty good care of myself. Much more is to be said about Relationships, but I’m just repeating what John already wrote.
Equip yourself first, then equip others. How do you equip yourself? You are doing it right now, being open to new ideas, perspectives, and viewpoints. You don’t have to be perfect before helping others. We learn along the way. When we make mistakes, we “Fail Forward,” get back up, and keep going. The most significant growth can often occur in learning from our mistakes. Here are ten principles from John Maxwell:
- Make the decision to BUILD
- Gather the BEST
- Pay the price to DEVELOP the team.
- Team is TOGETHER
- EMPOWER team members with responsibility and authority
- Give CREDIT
- OBSERVE and ADJUST
- Stop Investing in low-performers
- Create OPPORTUNITIES
- CLEAR OBSTACLES so the team has the best possible chance to work toward success
This is not only for the workplace and teams. For instance, when was the last time you expressed appreciation to someone you care about in a way they would understand? In his book, “The Five Love Languages,” Gary Chapman outlines how he discovered people have five primary languages in which they feel appreciated. One person may appreciate hearing affirmation, while another may not like it but would rather see action vs. telling. The five languages are:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Physical touch
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
I know a couple where his language is words of affirmation, and her language is acts of service. For a long time, he would “tell” her he loved and appreciated her, and she would “do” things for him. Neither one was connecting until they figured out they were communicating the way THEY wanted to be communicated, not how the other person would appreciate it. They read Gary’s book together; it was a revelation that helped change how they communicated with each other and with other people. Here is a fun conversation in later life.
He: “Oh, hey, I was listening to a book by Gary Smalley about love languages. We should read it together.”
She: “That’s Great! By the way, we read that book together about fifteen years ago. Did you forget?”
He: (sheepishly) “Ahh, yeah, apparently I did. What’s your love language again?”
It is a continual activity to equip yourself and others. When you do this, you will learn new ideas daily and leave yourself open to continual growth and the following maturity. Remember, it doesn’t do a lot of good to equip someone with something they can’t use and don’t want. Most people have heard the story about David slaying the giant. But you may not know a conversation that occurred just before that. David was trying to convince King Saul he could win this battle with a massive giant of a soldier. Saul was skeptical but out of options. Finally, Saul tried to minimize his risk by outfitting David in his heavy armor. David was smaller, not used to it, and couldn’t move. He opted, instead, for his slingshot some stones, and he was able to kill Goliath with one well-placed stone to the head: no armor, no sword, just confidence. Equip people with what THEY need, not what you want them to have.
I spoke about Attitude earlier and above. Here are some additional points learned from the Maxwell Leadership team.
- It is impossible to perform consistently in a manner inconsistent with how we see ourselves.
- Nothing is more challenging than changing outward actions without inward feelings.
- How we see ourselves reflects how others see us. If we like ourselves, it increases the odds that others will like us.
As you can surmise, changing our Attitude toward ourselves and others takes work. However, it is well worth the cost and much easier if you know the target zone and where you are going. No fighter pilot would ever go out and hope to find a target. Those details of the strike zone are very well planned.
“For some, attitude presents a difficulty in every opportunity; for others, it presents an opportunity in every difficulty.”
The fourth foundational premise for REAL Success is Leadership. Not everyone wants to be a leader in the sense of leading organizations or others. However, if you don’t lead yourself, you will find yourself repetitively falling into a ditch and often the same trough. Another phrase for leading yourself might be the exercise of self-control or self-regulation, which concerns your decision-making process. This is critical to your daily success, well-being, and happiness.
Here is an example I have experienced. You know you have to work in the morning but spend most of the night playing a game or catching up on a video series. In the morning, you are too tired and call in sick. A faulty decision-making process could cause other people to take over your work. It’s not helping you or anyone else. You commit to running a marathon and set your alarm to exercise every morning to prepare. When morning rolls around, the warmth of the bed wins out, and you sleep in. Do that often enough, and you won’t be able to participate in the marathon. Life is very similar and requires us to be leaders of ourselves first. Make the difficult choices. Grow and mature, and you will find great satisfaction in life.
We have discussed three ways to help make change easier and experience daily satisfaction: Attitude, Mindfulness, and REAL success.
As you practice positive attitudes, you can view new perspectives, giving a sense of wonder as you see from new horizons. Mindfulness can allow your brain and mind a much-needed break from the grind and is restful, helping you see situations and people clearly and respond appropriately. REAL Success provides the basis for understanding your success journey and lends to your overall mood improvement.
- Make life easy on yourself by learning to accept life as it is, finding how to change what you can, and the difference between the two.
- A change in Attitude can be a slight shift with ever-increasing benefits.
- Daily Mindfulness can help bring peace and calm, giving you extra capacity to handle problems with minimal stress.
- REAL Success provides the basis for a successful journey every day. You only have one moment at a time and one day to make a difference. Give it ALL YOU GOT!
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Authored by H Mark Taylor – An Independent Certified Coach, Teacher, Trainer, and Speaker with Maxwell Leadership Certified Team
Copyright © 2023 H Mark Taylor. All rights reserved.