Being Present

Tearing up the contract: How to be your true self and end outgrown friendships

Tearing up the contractThe Facebook Unfriend Dilemma

When Facebook first came out, one of the first friend requests I received was from an old second grade classmate.  I think we all got a lot of those.  So in next days and weeks after I accepted her friend request, I was inundated with images, her thoughts and just a general intimacy of somebody that I didn’t know.  To be honest, I never really knew her in second grade.  

I can’t remember if I didn’t know how to or it didn’t yet exist, but I wanted to hide her and couldn’t figure out a way.  So after really wondering how I could get out of this new “relationship” and thinking I was a horrible person, I just deleted her.  And despite initially feeling bad, it felt pretty good, pretty quick.  

We have contracts with people

At certain points in our lives, we have a specific types of a relationships.  In some cases, they are our best friends, spouses, partners, peers, casual friends and even those in our lives that we don’t care for.  These relationships are often unspoken but defined by our actions and the energy we spend on maintaining them.  Some are enriching, some are neutral but often many are draining and regardless of what they contribute to our life, they take up energy.  The question is “Do we want to spend our energy on this?”

However, as we change in life (as do they) it also makes keeping that initial contract we have with them difficult.  It is like 2 business partners that agreed to open a vegetarian restaurant, but then ended up running a slaughter house.  The initial bond that brought them together has disappeared yet the only thing holding them together is an outdated sense of loyalty, fear and/or an unwillingness to look at their current reality.  All that is left is an outdated “signed” contract.  

Avoiding old patterns

When we keep showing up to that person out of respect of how things once were, we are potentially creating a great deal of stress.  We end up reverting to old patterns of the way we used to be and not our true, present selves.  Of course, if we go into the relationship with the aim of positive nostalgia, then it is completely healthy.  However, if the relationship is one that makes us behave in ways that we no longer enjoy, find possible, drags down our positive improvements and/or unconsciously (perhaps even consciously) impedes our growth, then it is time to tear up that contract.  In short, we deserve better.

Obviously, it is not as easy as the “unfriend” option on Facebook, but nor is it usually that complicated.  The key lies in speaking our truth and when we do, one of two things will happen:

1.  The person will adapt to our present self thus creating a new contract or, 

2. The person won’t adapt and they will start to fade into the past.  

Be Honest

The key here is being honest.  If we don’t agree with what they say, then speak up.  If we don’t want to do something, then don’t.  If our whole reason for keeping a bond with a person is simply out of obligation, then it is not a relationship. It is a job.  So the choice then becomes, do we want to redefine our contract or quit.  If we speak our truth (a tall order I know), then the rest quickly falls into place.  

The Heath brothers in their book Switch talk about keeping our environment as resistance free as possible.  In some cases, that resistance is people that no longer deserve our attention and energy.  If we use truth and honestly as our method of cleaning up the path, we then minimize the resistance and ultimately stress in our life.  

Our self imposed limits

ElderlyA beautiful, powerful reminder by Susan Sontag:

A lot of our ideas about what we can do at different ages and what age means are so arbitrary — as arbitrary as sexual stereotypes. I think that the young-old polarization and the male-female polarization are perhaps the two leading stereotypes that imprison people. The values associated with youth and with masculinity are considered to be the human norms, and anything else is taken to be at least less worthwhile or inferior. Old people have a terrific sense of inferiority. They’re embarrassed to be old. What you can do when you’re young and what you can do when you’re old is as arbitrary and without much basis as what you can do if you’re a woman or what you can do if you’re a man.

 

The mechanics of listening

ListeningIf you watch a very good mechanic, they often just listen to an engine.  This audible peak into the health of the engine gives the mechanic incredible feedback into what needs attention. 

On the path of becoming your true self, you have to let your self simply idle much like that of an engine and listen to what is inside; what is on your mind, the cadence of your breath and how you feel in your body.  You don’t need to judge or run away, but like that mechanic hunched over the hood, just give it your attention. 

Start small with a minute.  Close your eyes.  See what comes up.  See how you feel.  See where it leads and why.  

The importance of sharing our devils

Our devils

What is in the shadows

It is a hard thing to open up and sadly, often impossible for some.  We are so afraid of what would happen if other people saw just how different we were.  Just how fucked up we think we are.  

We’re not so different, though.  Our devils may have variations but at the core we are all the same.  We all have fears, an ego, shortcomings, apprehensions, weaknesses, doubts and a very large part of us that is scared.  Very, very scared.  

But when you let the devils out into a conversation, you are no longer that avatar or facade that you have been promoting. You’ve let your true self out.  You’ve connected with another human being on the most human of levels; letting them know that they are not alone.  That what they think and feel and wake up at panicked with at 2am is exactly what keeps you up as well.

It is what keeps us all up.

We are one

The sharing of our devils connects us to the whole of humanity but does more than simply remind us that we are not alone.  It also shrinks the size of our devils.  It puts them in their place because it is no longer them against you.  It is them against all of us.  And there are a lot of us.  

Becoming your true self is a journey of honesty with yourself and others.  So it is essential that these devils we all work so hard to hide get brought out into the light.  

We’re in this together.  

Don’t be afraid to share what is in your shadows because an honest life is so much more fulfilling than living with the devils.  

4 steps on how to be true to yourself

1882317616_9f2d324636_zThis is challenging.  No doubt at all.  

But, it is possible. Personally, in the past few years, I’ve found myself in may situations where I do feel like it would not only be easier, but necessary to sacrifice what I want.  In some cases, I did and overall the results were poor.  

Sacrifice is an essential part of being a good human being, but it is the extent of the sacrifice you make that you have to keep in check.  You can’t give yourself away and here is how not to:

  1. Be honest.  
    1. To yourself–If it feels like you are getting pulled in a direction that you are uncomfortable with, vocalize to yourself what feels hard and why.  Answer the question “What is it that I want?”  This act of labelling what it is that you want quickly strips away all the bullshit.
    2. To others-Don’t underestimate other people’s ability to empathize.  Tell them when you are struggling. You’ll may  surprised at how human and understanding other people can be.  
  2. Educate rather than isolate–When other people question what it is that you are doing, don’t see it as a challenge or disapproval (even if it is).  Use it as a time to educate them on what it is that you are doing and why.  Remember that you have had a lot more time with your thoughts and idea than they have, so they need time to get up to acclimate.  It may feel that you need to cut them off or isolate them from your lives, but what if you just took more time and patience with them while still nurturing your bond? 
  3. You can’t be wrong–If you are acting from a place of honesty and being true to what it is that you want, you cannot fail.  Your truth and ideas are essential to who you are and can’t be ignored.  Trust this deep inner honesty and truth.  It won’t steer you wrong.  Believe this.  
  4. Focus on the direction rather than the destination-It is much more important that you are letting your honesty and truths move you in the right direction rather than arriving at what you see as the destination.  Being on the path of your truth is much more valuable than being at the destination of a lie.  

And when all else fails and/or it gets confusing, see point #1.  It is never wrong.  

How to move past the hopelessness

Acknowledging how you feel

HopelessI’ve often found myself with a very heavy sense of hopelessness.  In some cases, feeling a very powerful sensation of not having a way out and I need to be very proactive in keeping this emotion in balance.  If I’m not careful, I can easily jump to many worse case scenarios that can overpower my current thoughts and cripple me into inaction.  At that point, I’m not going anywhere and moving more into my true self is halted.

Therefore, I work very hard with myself and clients to find bright spots.  Bright spots is a term coined by the Heath brothers in the book Switch.  Simply put, it is noticing what exists in your life when you feel things are working, and then replicating it in all areas of your life.  So for example, if I feel good at the end of the day, I often ask myself “What was different about today?” Or if I had a good conversation with somebody that really challenges my patience, I reflect up on what made this encounter special.  It is finding those mindsets, attitudes, situations and feelings deep from within and applying them to all areas of your life.

How to start

  • You have to be honest.  Gentle and kind, but honest.  A true moment of honesty produces very moving results.  
  • If you feel nothing is working, then find the areas of your life that are the least uncomfortable and analyze them.  They might not ideal, but they are more so than others, so deconstruct what it is that allows you to feel better about these areas.
  • If your life has a real range of sensations and feelings, then target those true bright spots.  Put them under a magnifying glass and see why they are so special to you.
  • Start to feel areas of your body as you think.  Notice where your emotions settle into your body and how the body changes depending on your emotional state.
  • Spend more time alone or at least quiet.
  • Take away judgement.  Think “no thought deserves a gold metal or a reprimand”.
  • Be gentle as you apply the bright spots to the dark ones.
  • Go slow.  Change is slow but the process can very be enjoyable if you give yourself a reasonable timeframe.
  • Keep at it.
  • Keep at it.
  • Keep at it.
  • Be frequent with your reflections and don’t shy away from it when it is uncomfortable.  That is where the really good stuff is; where all the learning happens.  You can learn more about yourself in a  few minutes reflecting on the challenging issues than a life time on the easy ones.
  • Be emotional.  Let yourself cry (even if your a guy.  Especially if you are a guy).
  • Look at your language.  How do you label events in your life?  How do you talk to yourself?  Others?
  • Get support.  Other people can listen, offer support and insight.  A change in perspective can jump you in an instant to a completely new way of thinking.

We are not alone in sharing a sense of hopelessness.  It is a very valuable emotion.

However, like all emotions, it needs to pass and not become a lifestyle.  Start the work and uncover the learnings that hopelessness has offered you and enrich your life with it’s teachings.

Developing life skills requires patience

Skills are not instant

Learning how to either develop new habits and/or leave other ones behind takes time.

Creating your own Personal Development and Sticking with itI know that might seem like an obvious statement, but one of the most common things I hear from people is: “I tried that once and it didn’t work” or “It was way too hard, so I just stopped”.  Having “it” not work or feeling that it is too hard needs your re-evaluation of how you are going about it.  You need to think of it as developing a skill. And like all skills, it requires that you:

Go at a reasonable pace where you are challenged, yet not frustrated.

Pick a starting point that represents your current abilities and tolerance for change.

Realize that it is not an all or nothing endeavour.  There are shades of trying and it does not need to be like a light switch where it is either on and bright or off and dark.  Your efforts are more like a dimmer switch for that light.

Consistently keep trying and growing

If you were teaching a child how to dive into a pool,  would you take him/her to the top of a cliff and say “After you jump, just make yourself go in head first”?  Of course not.  You would start slowly at the edge of the pool or dock and encourage him/her to take steps that challenge them but that do not frustrate them to the point of quitting.  Over time, you will see their skills increase and with diligence everyday, they will be able to dive from much higher up.

Your development, your skill

Whether you’ve wanted to start yoga, quit smoking, drink less, write more and/or just be nicer to yourself and others, ask yourself this: Have I thrown myself off the cliff when starting change? Or have I treated it like a skill and slowly but very steadily tried to increase it?  I have a book out entitled “Creating YOUR Personal Development: How To Do It Everyday and Thrive“.  It is an eight chapter guide that works with you to create, sustain and continually grow your personal development endeavor.  It is available on Amazon.  I’d love your feedback and hope that you find it a valuable tool.