There’s no other way to start this piece but by stating that it’s how we live our lives each day, decision by decision, that determines how we create our lifetime – nothing else. I know I keep on repeating myself on this note, but I firmly believe that it’s our decision and not our condition that determines the outcome of our lives. The very fact that I’m writing this post to you right now is proof that it doesn’t matter where you came from or what you go through, you can still pick yourself up and make your way towards your purpose in life.
Our life events are no coincidence; every situation we encounter is there to build our future and we will – of course – engage with these events positively or negatively, which will be determined by the quality of the decisions we make on the way. My ultimate hope is that by reminding you of this reality, you will become more aware and more careful with every decision you make in your life. The bottom line is that you can’t change the fact that you’re building your tomorrow today – even as you read this article. This is an unchangeable fact.
A bit of background before I dive into the topic I want to cover; I’ve been designing financial systems for a long time. Over my career, I have worked closely with the “Know Your Customer” components. The name sums it up- we have a set of algorithms responsible for identifying, quantifying and qualifying any of our customers and that generates a customer risk profile. Every interaction between the financial institution and the customer is based on the aforementioned profile. The most disturbing part of it all is that the algorithm can predict who you will become based on where you are right now. The algorithm leverages from your nationality, your culture, your date of birth, your education and all of the other external factors that contribute to your current situation. This is just more proof that if not careful, we become a product of our environment. As human beings, we became predictable – we’re all the same.
By analyzing the data, I’ve realized that the world population is divided in two groups: those that fulfill/fit the statistics (another brick in the wall) and those who don’t (those that aren’t predictable). While you consider which group you belong to at the moment, let me continue.
Statistics say that 99% of people that have gone through the exercise of setting goals for this year have now (last week of Jan) already given up and gone back to their former ways. Look around you; you will see that your friend that committed to being healthier is now posting photos at McDonalds on social media. You can perhaps see that the person that committed to studying harder is now looking around for the next series to binge on. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, we can identify a pattern here; you will see that the sense of “must do” has now become a sense of “should do”; but to change behavior and habits our brains are only geared to respond to the “must do”; therefore, the very motivation for change is dying out as we turn away from our goals.
Why does this happen? Why do we keep on fluctuating between “must do” and “should do” and therefore living an inconsistent life without a set direction? What is the source of it all? Well, though I don’t have the answer right now, I think I have a fairly good guess: most of us are hostage to our emotions. They control our every move, rather than us being in control of them. They are the responsible factor for turning “must dos” into “should dos”. We start to nourish excuses and reasons to stop, such as: “what I felt then isn’t what I feel now and therefore I will withdraw”, “I thought it would be easier, but it’s way harder now”, “there’s no hope in this, it’s not even worth trying”, “I’m too hurt to try again”, “I don’t want to get disappointed”, “I am not capable of this”. The big question is: Why?
Benjamin Hardy suggests that I should stop listening to the lies my fears are trying to sell me and that I should silence the chattering voices of the naysayers and critics. I should quiet my very own doubts and disbeliefs. I like his advice. In essence, I should harness my emotions to steer my behavior towards my goals. In order to move forward, we must take hold of our emotions. Period.
Perhaps, now is the perfect time to ask: do you want to repeat last year this year? Do you want to produce the same results? Do you want to experience the same things? Do you want to be the same person?
Of course, most of us will say “NO” to most or all of the questions above. As a matter of fact, those are the same questions that were fueling our “resolutions” in the beginning of the year. We had our answers. We had our plans. But now they are starting to fade. Why? Stop for 30 seconds and think about the trajectory you’ve traced this month, where is it taking you? Same?
It’s an environmental issue.
I once read an excerpt of The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer, and he makes a very valid analogy. He speaks of a man with a thorn in his arm. He lived with it. When anything touched the thorn, he would feel excruciating pain and he would be unable to move. He would scream and suffer.
In order to avoid this and alleviate the pain, this man organized every aspect of his environment to protect the thorn from being touched. He concentrated all of his efforts on moving things around to avoid this pain and suffering. Does that sound similar? If you look around, what is your environment like?
This analogy made me think; have you seen someone walking with a thorn in their foot? Or even better, how do we expect to run a race with a thorn right there? Managing the thorn would be more of an effort than running the race; and yet the chances of success are very low. You’re impeded. Think about that.
My point is that most of us are creating our entire environment around our thorns – to alleviate the pain. Those feelings or situations that we are not so keen to face, so we accept and hide them. We are trying to run the race of life with thorns in our feet. It becomes painful. We are left behind and we can’t do anything about it. We feel victimized by our condition and we decide to accept it. We run on our tippy toes and even though we want to do our best, we feel like we just can’t. We withdraw. The question is why?
Don’t ever build your life around your thorns. Take a deep breath. Pull them out and build the life you want. Stop adjusting your life to avoid the pain of a thorn. Face it. Change it. Pull it out. Move forward. You can do anything you set your mind to. You can overcome. You can live the life you want. You can have a better year. You can hold your motivation. You can do it.
Where are you? How are you living your life?
Influenced by our environment, emotions have the power to steer us away from where we should be going. If you want to experience change in your life, change the way you make decisions. Change your environment to challenge your thorns. Make it so uncomfortable that there’s no other option but to deal with it.
Don’t ever build an environment that supports that thorn. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. The reality is that things will not improve if you just ignore them. They will not change until you face them. Why wait for another year to face it; you can always do it now.
I hope that you can spare some time today to ensure that all your “musts” are in place and aligned to your decisions about your future. I hope that you can assess your thorns and environment.
In all of this, the intention is that you align yourself to make the decision to exit the “predictability” of the mass and that you may walk into your full potential.
Meredith Wilson once said that “pile up enough tomorrows, and you will find you’re left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays”.
I hope that you may live everyday of your life.
Remember, it’s your decision and not your condition.