May 8, 2014
(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)
With my new book, Nothing Changes Until You Do, just released I’ve been reflecting a bit on the whole experience of writing this new book and now putting it out into the world. As with my previous two book writing and launching experiences, it has been exciting, challenging, fun, vulnerable, and growth-inducing on so many levels.
This experience, however, has been quite different in many ways. Maybe it’s because I’m a few years older and have a little more perspective or maybe it’s because the focus of this book is on our relationship with ourselves, but what I’ve learned this time around is that it really is all about me! What I mean by this is that writing and promoting a book are actually relatively easy things to do, it’s dealing with myself that’s the hardest part.
I think this is true with most of the things we do in life – even the most challenging ones. It’s usually our own fears, doubts, insecurities, attachments, and resistance that makes things difficult, not so much the things themselves. Whether it’s our jobs, our relationships, our goals, our physical health, our finances, or anything else that’s important to us – regardless of the specific circumstances we’re facing, when we make peace with ourselves and what’s going on, life tends to flow with more ease, joy, and grace. When we’re not at peace with ourselves or life, it doesn’t matter how “good” or “bad” things may be circumstantially, we suffer.
Three of the main themes of my new book are also three of the main things I’ve been learning in the past year as I’ve worked on this book. I’m no longer surprised when this happens (i.e. I end up learning exactly that which I’m attempting to teach). I realize this is all part of the process for me and I actually enjoy and appreciate it.
Here are three core lessons for how we can make peace with ourselves at a deeper level:
1) Have Compassion For Yourself – Self-compassion is one of the most important aspects of life and growth, but is often something we either overlook, think is “soft,” misunderstand, or simply don’t know how to practice. There are three key elements to self-compassion. First of all, mindfulness and awareness for how we’re treating ourselves. Second of all, a sense of kindness and forgiveness towards ourselves. And, third, a realization of our common humanity with others (i.e. remembering that we’re not alone in our experience). As I was writing the book and as I’ve been promoting it, when I’m able to be gentle and kind with myself and reduce my self-criticism, it has been way more fun and I’ve had much more success.
2) Surrender to Life as it Actually Is – Surrendering isn’t about giving up or giving in, it’s about making peace with what is (even if we don’t like it.) A big paradox in life is that until we can be at peace with what’s actually happening in the moment (i.e. letting go of our resistance and of our obsessive focus on how things should be), we’re not able to make the changes we want or to experience the joy we desire. During the writing and editing process, as well as in the ramp-up and launch process with this book, whenever I’d resist, judge, or fight against what was happening, I’d suffer. However, when I was (and am) able to allow things to be exactly as they are, it has been remarkable to me how easy things have flowed.
3) Take Ownership for Your Life – Ownership is about taking full responsibility for our lives and for what shows up around us. This can be tricky for a few reasons. First of all, we live in a culture that loves to blame and make excuses, so we’re swimming in that ocean all the time. Second of all, there are a lot of things that happen in and around us that we don’t have direct control over (other people, economy, weather, and many circumstances and situations). However, we always have a choice about how we relate to what’s going on and how we interpret the things happening around us and even within us. When we take ownership for our lives we let go of blaming and excuses (or we notice as soon as we can when we’re heading down that negative road.) And, we make a commitment to ourselves that we’re going to create the life we truly want – not simply react to life as if it is “happening to us.”
These are all fairly simple concepts, but like many things I write and speak about, understanding them is quite different than practicing and embodying them (i.e. they’re easier said than done.) When we’re able to have empathy and compassion for ourselves, and remember that truly nothing can change until we change, we’re reminded that we’re the source of our own pain, joy, difficulty, and success. It’s both sobering and liberating when we embrace the idea that it truly is all about us. And, paradoxically, when we get this and live this way, we actually end up releasing ourselves from a great deal of unnecessary stress and make ourselves available to show up for others and for life in an open, authentic, and empowered way.
Let me know your thoughts about this and how this relates to you. Leave a comment here on my blog – let’s engage in a conversation with each other about this.