I’ve been reflecting on change quite a bit recently. This year has been full of changes for me and my family. The two most significant and emotional changes have been the loss of my sister Lori back in January and the purchase of our new house a few months ago.
My counselor Eleanor recently said to me, “Mike, if you’re trying to prove something, it means you don’t actually believe it yet.” Her words hit me right between the eyes, as they often do. She was right and as I reflect on certain aspects of my life, I can see that where I’m overly attached to proving myself, it’s because I don’t actually believe in my own skill, talent, or value (i.e. I’m looking for outside validation to “prove” my worth)…maybe you can relate to this?
In this week’s video blog, I talk about this phenomenon and how we can move from “proving” to “believing” in an authentic way.
Check out the video below and feel free to leave a comment here on my blog about it. You can share thoughts, questions, ideas, insights, or anything else that this video inspires.
In December of 2011, I decided to head up to Calistoga for a few days. Calistoga is a small town in Napa Valley, about an hour from where we live. For the past few years, Michelle and I have each gone up there occasionally by ourselves for some personal retreat time. It’s been a great self-care practice that has benefited us both individually and as a family. It’s amazing how taking just a few days away can help me put things in perspective, recharge, and reconnect to what’s most important in my life.
That December was an emotional time for me. It was the end of what had been a tumultuous year, filled with big highs and big lows. My mom had died in June, we did the short sale on our house in August and moved, and life had changed for us in many significant ways. Even with the difficulty and intensity of the year, a lot of really good things had happened, too. It felt like life was moving in a really positive direction for us.
As I took some time to reflect and go within, I realized I was carrying around an enormous amount of resentment, most of which was directed at myself. I took with me to Calistoga some old cassette tapes of an audio program called “Forgiving Yourself,” which I’d actually never listened to when I’d purchased it many years before. The tapes talked about being hard on ourselves, and being critical and harboring resentment toward ourselves—all things that I’d done quite a bit throughout my life. Based on the suggestions of this audio program and my own insight and awareness, I spent a lot of time over the course of those few days writing in my journal and meditating, all with the specific intention of forgiving myself.
I started to write down a long list of things that I wanted to forgive myself for—being harsh and critical of some of the people closest to me, being annoyed and unkind to my girls at times, worrying about all kinds of superficial things, doing harm to my body over the years, not taking good care of myself, making mistakes in my business and with our finances, not practicing what I preached in my work, and on and on the list went.
As I wrote these things down in my journal, initially I was concerned that it was simply just my gremlin taking over and listing out all the things that were “wrong” with me and all the reasons why I was “bad.” But as I allowed myself to engage more deeply in the process, I realized that what I was doing was simply telling the truth about all the things I’d been judging myself for. This was my attempt in some way to let go of the resentment I was holding toward myself. I was trying to move into a place of forgiveness and, ultimately, freedom. And while I wasn’t sure if I knew exactly the “right” way to forgive myself, I decided to simply ask, in my writings, my prayers, and my meditations, to be forgiven. Before I went to bed at night, I would ask for the weight of this self-criticism and negativity to be lifted off of me.
By the time I left Calistoga, just a few days later, I felt 50 pounds lighter. Just a few weeks after that, I had my very first session with my counselor Eleanor. As Eleanor and I began to work together, which we’ve continued to do over the last few years with wonderful results, she began to explain to me the nature of growth and change.
“Mike, as you grow, change, and evolve, here are the basic steps involved in the process: recognize, acknowledge, forgive, and change. First,” she said, “you must recognize what’s going on and what you’re doing. This is about seeing and about authentic awareness. Then you acknowledge the impact of what you’re doing with compassion and without judgment. This is about feeling your emotions and owning the impact. Then,” she said, “the most important step in the process is forgiveness—a willingness to forgive yourself. Self-forgiveness isn’t about letting yourself off the hook, it’s about caring enough to take a deeper level of responsibility. And when you do that, you’re able to forgive yourself authentically. The fourth step,” she continued, “is change. However, if you genuinely recognize, acknowledge, and forgive, the change pretty much happens on its own, and you don’t have to—nor do you get to—control it. Change is the result of authentic forgiveness and authentic forgiveness is about releasing the past and all the stories you have associated with it.”
Then she followed up with the kicker: “Unfortunately, what you often do, Mike, and this is true for many people, is recognize, acknowledge, punish, and repeat—instead of forgive and change—which keeps certain negative patterns in place in your life and causes you a great deal of pain and suffering.”
The truth of what Eleanor taught me resonated deeply and we continue to talk about it in our sessions today. Since that initial conversation, I’ve been consciously focused on forgiving myself as well as releasing the past and all of the stories I have connected to it. Given that I’ve got many years of experience of not doing this and still have a tendency to be hypercritical of myself, as many of us do, self-forgiveness continues to be a challenge for me, although it’s getting easier. It’s a practice, and like any practice, the more we do it, the easier it is and the more effective we become.
The more willing we are to take an honest look within—to recognize and acknowledge our self-sabotaging ways and to forgive ourselves for them—the more likely we can begin to change in an authentic and powerful way. Self-forgiveness makes it possible for us to forgive others and to live our lives with a genuine sense of freedom, peace, and love.
This is an excerpt taken from Nothing Changes Until You Do, by Mike Robbins, with permission. Published by Hay House (May 2014) and available online or in bookstores.
I was talking to a mentor of mine a few weeks ago and I asked him, “Do you think I’m on the right track?” He said to me, “Mike, the issue isn’t whether or not you’re on the ‘right’ track; it’s that you think there’s a ‘right’ track to begin with.”
As we talked about this more and I began to think about it in a different way, I realized that so often I find myself striving for this insatiable “right track,” as if there’s some place I’m “supposed” to be and some outside authority who can validate it for me.
While there’s nothing wrong with us seeking guidance, feedback, and support from mentors, friends, family members, coaches, counselors, teachers, experts, and more – the deepest truth is that our deepest truth comes from within. It seems to be less a matter of making sure we’re on the “right” track and more a matter of living in alignment with who we are and what’s most important to us.
With all of the ideas, opinions, and influences around us (and in our own heads) living in authentic alignment isn’t always the easiest thing for us to do. Here are a few things to think about and practice to deepen your capacity for this:
1) Listen to your inner wisdom
How many times in your life have you thought to yourself, “I should have listened to my intuition on this?” Often in hindsight after we’ve made a mistake, had a lapse in judgment, or experienced something painful, we realize that at some level we already knew it would turn out that way, we just didn’t listen to our instincts. Whether it shows up as a gut feeling, intuitive hit, or just a thought, our inner wisdom is keen and important. The more willing we are to listen to this inner wisdom and pay attention to it, the easier it becomes for us to live our lives with authenticity, truth, and alignment.
2) Trust yourself
It’s one thing to pay attention to your inner wisdom and a whole other thing to actually trust it. This same mentor of mine said to me a while back, “Mike you actually do trust yourself at a deep level, you just don’t trust that it’s safe to trust, which then causes you to doubt yourself.” So often we let our brain, our logic, or the feedback of others override our deeper knowing and gut instincts. While it’s not always easy to do, trusting ourselves and our inner guidance is essential in our journey of life and growth. The more willing we are to listen and to trust the wisdom that comes from within; the less likely we are to give away our power to others and to the circumstances/situations of our lives.
3) Be willing to change
Change is a funny thing in that most of us seek it and fear it simultaneously. As much as I like to think of myself as someone who embraces change and is flexible, I often find myself quite resistant to changing. And, one of the biggest things that can stop us from going for things, being bold, and making commitments in life is our fear of changing our minds. Ironically, the more we embrace change the more authentically we’re able to commit and go for what we truly want.
Right now, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, however you’re feeling, and however “good” or “bad” you think you’re life is going, you’re not on the “right” or “wrong” track – you’re simply on the track you’re on (i.e. your life). When we let go of our judgment about where we are and where we think we “should” be; we’re able to appreciate our lives, the people around us, and ourselves in a genuine way. And, if there are changes we want to make that we believe will enhance our experience of life, we can make them from a place of truth, love, and wisdom.
In a recent session with my counselor Eleanor, she said something simple, but profound to me; “Nothing changes until you do.” She went on to say, “Mike, you keep trying to control and manipulate the situations, relationships, and outcomes in your life – thinking that if they changed in the way you want them to, you’d then change and things would be better. It actually works the other way around.”
The truth of Eleanor’s feedback resonated deeply with me and I’ve been contemplating it for the past few weeks. I realize that much more of my attention than I’d like to admit is focused on my attempts to change the circumstances, situations, and people around me – instead of focusing on the only thing I can really change, me.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
We’ve all had this experience in our lives in both big and small ways. Do you ever notice how when we’re having a bad day or a rough time in life, even the people and activities we normally love, don’t bring us the same amount of joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction? On the flip side, when we’re having a great day or things are going really well in life, even people or circumstances that might normally upset or annoy us, somehow seem much more manageable and less stressful. In those simple situations, our perspective and our own internal state, has a big impact on how we experience life, not the other way around.
What if we put more attention on our own growth, change, and transformation – and less attention on trying to fix, change, and alter the people and circumstances around us? This doesn’t mean that we’d stop caring about what other people do or say. It also doesn’t mean we wouldn’t give feedback or make requests of those around us. And, we wouldn’t stop working towards specific changes, goals, and dreams related to the most important aspects of our lives – our work, our health, our finances, our family, and more.
However, by letting go of our insatiable desire to fix and change everyone and everything around us, we give ourselves the space to focus our attention on the true source of our own happiness, success, and fulfillment – ourselves!
As we come to the end of this first month of the new year, many of us are still quite focused on our intentions, goals, and resolutions for 2013. As great as the accomplishment of any specific goal may be, what we’re almost always after with our resolutions, is positive and sustainable change.
As the saying goes, “The roots create the fruits.” This means that it’s our job to focus on our own growth, development, and internal transformation – and in so doing, we put ourselves in the best possible position to create the kind of change we truly want. Nothing changes until we change!