MARLENE AND DAVID DIDN’T GET IT
Marlene was furious at David, her husband. It was 7:30 at night and he still wasn’t home. She had made a lovely dinner and had prepared his favorite dessert. Marlene and both children had waited until 7:00 o’clock, but they finally gave up and ate without him. With each passing minute Marlene became angrier. She complained to the children about their father’s irresponsibility, and after dinner she impatiently paced the floor. When David finally arrived, Marlene exploded with a flood of accusations and belittling remarks.
Was Marlene’s behavior justified? Maybe David had promised to be home at 6:00 pm and this was the fourteenth time he was late. Maybe it was the first time he was late. That doesn’t matter. The question is, should David’s behavior determine Marlene’s reaction?
If Marlene understood that we are responsible for our emotions, regardless of the words or actions of others, perhaps she would have handled it differently. Her children certainly would have learned a far different lesson that night. This is how the evening might have looked if Marlene didn’t blame David:
Marlene thought, Darn, David is late again. I wonder what happened. I hope this dessert will taste as good when he gets home. “Well, kids,” she remarked cheerfully, “It looks like Dad won’t be here for dinner, but look how delicious this looks! Hop up to the table and let’s eat.” Then instead of focusing on David and the possible reasons for why he wasn’t there, Marlene focused on the children. She asked each one about what they learned at school that day, she shared her experiences of the day, and she genuinely enjoyed the meal. After dinner Marlene read stories to the children.
Does understanding the principle mean that we never get upset when things go wrong? Of course not. The difference is that we don’t blame others for our reactions. We learn how to control our emotions and we wait until an appropriate time to discuss the problem. And when the time comes to talk about it we communicate in a way that doesn’t create more problems.
Another unhealthy scenario occurs when people choose not to say anything, but instead harbor negative, critical thoughts.
A LESSON LEARNED
Joseph and his wife Sharon love their family, and stay in close touch with their children and their grandchildren. When their daughter, Jody, began having marital problems, they were concerned and supported her the best way they knew how. After her divorce, she began dating heavily and brought her two young children to Grandpa and Grandma’s house often. Joseph and Sharon wanted Jody to be happy; but as time went on, they felt more and more used. They began resenting the grandchildren and became angry with their daughter. However, they didn’t say anything to her and continued to watch the children each time she asked because they were afraid she’d be upset.
How would Joseph and Sharon handle this situation if they understood that
1) when we allow someone to make us a victim, it’s our choice, and
2) we’re all responsible for our thoughts, words and actions?
As soon as Jody began bringing her children too often, Joseph and Sharon could have started a calm discussion with their daughter. “Jody, we love you and want you to be happy, but we’re not comfortable tending the children as often as you want us to. We’ll be glad to watch them one evening each week.” Then (and this is important) Joseph and Sharon would likely begin to think more kindly about their daughter and grandchildren. If unkind thoughts crept in, they would label them as such and work on replacing them.
Does this take mental strength?
Yes. Can it be done? Absolutely!
Let’s examine one more example:
TWO ENDINGS TO THE STORY
Diane thought she should be promoted at work. She was qualified, she worked hard, and she did everything she was asked to do. However, when promotions were announced, Diane was overlooked and Steven got the job she wanted. Diane told every co-worker, “I am way more qualified than Steven, and I’ve been here longer!” She repeated her disapproval for weeks. Then she began coming late to work, and not giving 100% of her effort when she was there. “Well,” Diane reasoned, “Why should I do my best when it doesn’t make any difference? If those executives had given me the promotion, I would’ve been great. It’s their fault I’m turning in lousy work.”
If Diane understood that when you take responsibility for your thoughts, words and actions, you don’t blame others, her behavior would have been far different:
When she heard the news that Steve got the promotion, Diane could have swallowed her pride and congratulated him. Although she may have been disappointed, she would have understood that it wasn’t Steve’s fault, or the executive’s fault. “You know,” Diane thought, “There must be a bigger picture that I don’t see. Oh, well, there will be other promotions, and I’m going to work really hard to qualify for the next one.”
BUT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!
As you read those examples, you may think, “You don’t understand! I have some real challenges in my life. And there are genuine toxic personalities I have to deal with on a daily basis! It’s really NOT my fault that my life is the way it is. It’s my parent’s fault – or my wife’s fault – or my boss’ fault.”
OK, let’s go there.
First, let me console you by saying that it is at the very core of human nature to blame other people. It’s like “survival of the fittest” – self-preservation – to try to escape accountability. You don’t want to be responsible, because if you are, you’re accountable. Then you have to experience the consequences of your mistakes, every time. You’re where the buck stops.
It’s far more difficult to accept accountability for your life. But once you “get it” and grab hold – taking responsibility for the results in your life – you’ll begin achieving as you’ve never achieved before. If you truly want to progress, you must go to work and take control of every part of your life.
However, let me be very clear: Until you stop blaming others for your problems; until you stop convincing yourself that you are a victim, you will never progress. You will remain in a backwards-focus, finger-pointing mode that spells f-a-i-l-u-r-e. No growth. No achievement. No extraordinary life.
On a plaque that hung in Mother Teresa’s Calcutta orphanage, Kent Keith wrote the following words:
People are often unreasonable and self-centered,
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you.
Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
TO MOVE FORWARD, EMBRACE THIS
To move forward with your life you must fully embrace the fact that the solutions to each and every one of your life’s challenges lie within you.
Remember the examples above? Since Marlene understands that she creates her own results, she doesn’t believe that her husband’s behavior justifies her losing control; so she chooses to focus on enjoying the meal and her children.
If Joseph and Sharon accept accountability for their lives, they’ll take control of the situation as soon as it becomes uncomfortable for them and create a positive solution.
When Diane accepts accountability for her life, she is then able to take her loss in stride, with graciousness and dignity. She can move forward in her life, free of anger and envy – two “companions” of those who don’t accept responsibility for the results in their lives.
You may believe that something in your childhood, which was far beyond your control, caused you pain and that’s why you are troubled.
How about the little girl who was raped, or the little boy who was molested? How can they possibly “create their own results?” People who have had their childhoods stolen, for any reason, often feel that since they were wronged, they aren’t accountable for their own behavior as adults.
No one will disagree that hurting children is a grievous sin. The adults who caused such pain are depraved and should be punished. However, you will never fix your problems blaming someone else. When you were a child, you didn’t have the power to choose the events in your life; but things have changed, and you are an adult, now. As an adult, you can choose your reaction to those childhood events and circumstances. To move past the past, you must understand that in the todays and tomorrows of your life, you can gain control by accepting responsibility for your thoughts, words and actions.
Relative to unfortunate events in your past, you have choices. You can re-live them, focusing backwards with a pointed finger. Or you can face forward, replacing past sadness with positive beliefs about who you are now, and with positive goals to create the successful person you’ll be tomorrow. The choice is yours. I’m guessing that since you’re reading this, you’ve already made the right choice. Let’s move on to how to replace past sadness and damaging beliefs with positive ones. Later, we’ll talk about those positive goals.
RELEASE YOURSELF FROM DAMAGING BELIEFS
We each carry with us mental pictures of ourselves; our “self beliefs.” These beliefs may be unclear to our conscious mind, but they are there, down to the last detail. They are our ideas about who we are, formed from past experiences, successes and failures, embarrassing moments, achievements, (both big and small), and the way people have treated us, especially during our childhood. From all of these experiences, we mentally create pictures of ourselves. Once a belief about ourselves goes into this picture, it becomes a “fact” to us and we don’t question its validity; we act as though it were true.
Your self beliefs form the foundation for your personality and your behavior. Therefore, these self beliefs are the key to change. This is true for two reasons:
• First, your actions are always consistent with your beliefs.
• Second, your beliefs can be changed.
Simply stated, we act like the person we believe ourselves to be. We literally cannot act otherwise, in spite of our conscious efforts. Because our actions are always in harmony with our beliefs, ideas which are inconsistent with our beliefs are rejected (by our subconscious minds), not believed, and therefore not acted upon.
It should be clear, then, only ideas that are consistent with our core beliefs will be accepted and acted upon.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz , author of Psycho-Cybernetics, underscored this when he wrote: “The man who conceives himself to be a ’failure type person’ will find some way to fail, in spite of all his good intentions, or his will power, even if opportunity is literally dumped in his lap. The person who conceives himself to be a victim of injustice, one ’who was meant to suffer,’ will invariably find circumstances to verify his opinions.”
For example, many people are told, when they’re young, that they’re no good in math. Parents say things like, “None of our family is good in math. We just don’t understand it!” Other parents make similar comments regarding music, athletics, etc. Remember back to your own childhood. Did anyone ever tell you that you weren’t a good singer, or that you couldn’t draw well? Or perhaps you were told that you’d never be a good basketball player, and so on. Most adults can easily remember stinging comments like these.
Children who hear such remarks, day after day, soon come to believe them. They create negative self-talk (how we talk to ourselves in our minds). They think, “I’m just no good in math, none of my family is.” Or, “I could never make the team, so I just won’t try out.” Or, “Since I can’t sing, I shouldn’t take chorus, and I’d make a fool of myself if I tried out for the school musical.” Then, sure enough, these same children don’t excel in those areas, and usually their report cards verify their beliefs. Children then have “proof” that they’re failures. And because of this objective “proof,” they don’t question their incompetence. Sadly, these young people don’t ever think that the trouble may lie in their own beliefs about themselves.
And yet, tell a young person who is failing in math that he only “thinks” he can’t understand it and he won’t believe you! He’s tried and tried, and still his report card tells the story. Often he gets a low score on a test, and instead of saying, “I failed that test,” he’ll think to himself, “Yep, I’m a failure!”
And perhaps the saddest fact of all is that we carry these negative beliefs throughout our lives! We develop limiting beliefs about who we are and what we’re capable of from our earliest years, then we carry those negative self beliefs for decades. Based on past failures, we believe we’ll fail in the future. But the wonderful news is – the past doesn’t equal the future!
How about the businesswoman who believes she can’t sell? Oh, she’ll agree that she has good people-skills; she’s friendly and personable. But this woman was rejected by the first six people to whom she tried to sell a product, and now firmly believes she’ll never be a good salesperson. “I’m just not good at it,” she’ll explain. Additionally, she believes that she will never earn more than a certain figure, and her paycheck proves it month after month. And sometimes, instead of saying, “I’m not a good salesperson,” she says, “I’m a failure.” And then she allows her failure in one area to affect other areas of her life.
Our life experiences confirm, and thereby strengthen, our self beliefs, and positive or negative cycles are created.
Most of us recognize that we have a few negative self beliefs that impede our progress and personal growth in some areas. But the good news is that negative self beliefs can be changed! We’re never too young or too old to reverse our negative beliefs and start living a life full of extraordinary achievements!
MORE THAN POSITIVE THINKING
What we’re talking about is more than “positive thinking,” however. This is about changing your core self beliefs. It’s not about someone gritting his teeth and thinking, “I will make this sale!” Rather, thoughts about ’self’ are altered. He thinks, “I am a successful salesman. In fact, I do quite well at most things!” Pessimistic, harmful core beliefs need to be fundamentally changed into positive ones.
Dr. Maltz wrote, “It is literally impossible to really think positively about a particular situation as long as you hold a negative concept of self. And numerous experiments have shown that once the concept of self is changed, other things consistent with the new concept of self are accomplished easily and without strain.”
When you change your negative self-beliefs, which underlie all of your negative actions, you increase your ability to act in positive ways. Then, achieving your goals – in every area of your life – becomes easier and easier.
Let’s get real clarity about a few points we’ve discussed:
1. You are who you are because of the dominating thoughts you permit in your mind.
2. You can either choose to attack yourself with negativity or affirm your abilities.
3. Positive mental picturing is a key to healthy change. You are the writer, director and star of either an Oscar-winning epic (an extraordinary life) or a Grade ’B’ movie (less than your best). The person you see in your imagination will always rule your world.
The key is you. You must:
• Believe you can change, and want to change your negative self-beliefs
• Identify the beliefs you need to alter
• Learn and use key skills
BELIEVE YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR NEGATIVE SELF-BELIEFS
To take control in any area of your life, the very first step is to create a belief that says with certainty, “I can do this!” When you develop this sense of certainty, you can accomplish virtually anything.
People develop this certainty in different ways. Some people take the first step and realize on their own (before life becomes painful) that change is not only possible, but highly desirable. Other people have family and friends who lovingly point out the need for change, and encourage them in positive directions. Still others don’t have a support system; they “go it alone.” Then, when the pain becomes too great, they find the courage within to change. Many look to God for additional strength to move forward and break the cycle of negativity or destruction in their lives.
Those who struggle to believe they can change their negative self-beliefs, and develop a powerful sense of certainty, may be encouraged by those who hurdled similar barriers.
Tawni, from Utah, desperately tried to overcome her negative feelings. She shares her story:
“I had absolute terror panic attacks which would render me completely sleepless and immobile. This fear would drive my decisions about activities, travel, work, etc. What got me through it? The number one thing was my desire. Down to my toes I desired to be free! I’m now 46 years old, and it took approximately 44 years to achieve, but I’m here! The second “help” was my total belief that God would help me. Third, were friends, and learning about kinesiology. I learned about how the brain/body is organized and balanced. I worked hard at this, and eventually my old patterns of fear went out and I put calm, new ones in. My advice to others who want to accomplish this is to believe it can be done, trust God, and get educated about your problem. Celebrate your baby step improvements. I can now stay alone, travel alone, and I think completely differently. I am finally free.”
Sara, age 23, from California, described her struggles and accomplishment:
“Since childhood I have been a compulsive overeater. It was the compulsive overeating combined with depression and extremely low self esteem that led to my eating disorder of Bulima Nervousa. I was bulimic every day for almost two years during my college years. It was then I became completely powerless over binge vomiting. It was something I could not give up. I would wake up in the morning praying for the strength to make it just one day without binging or vomiting, and by lunch time I had already succumbed to the disease. Every day was a struggle to survive. After seeking professional help, I was led to Overeaters Anonymous (OA) and they helped me believe I could do this. I became abstinent after two weeks of attending the program. I relapsed six months later but was able to regain abstinence. It has been nearly three years since I’ve been in recovery.”
The answer for me was believing I could change, sharing my thoughts and feelings at the OA meetings, and being accepted unconditionally. They knew how to cure my unbelieving heart. Also, picking up the phone and talking to others brought my despairing mind back to reality. Another thing that helped me is service. Doing charitable acts of kindness for others always helped me feel better. Lastly, journal writing, reading good books, and praying have been things I’ve done to get me through the hard times.
One of my heroes, the ever-positive Walt Disney, once said, “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.” I would like to urge you to believe in your power and ability to change; believe you can turn from negativity and from every damaging belief that pulls you backwards; believe you can replace harmful beliefs with new, positive ones that will catapult you forward to exhilarating success.
~ Dr. Paula