It’s Always Time to Change

by Gary on December 13, 2015 in

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time-for-a-change-fish jumping

Learning is my top value.

I think learning is what our species is supposed to do. We are built for perception and we are able to expand our perception over our lifetimes if we seek better and better explanations.

Everything good emerges when we learn.  Everything bad gets repeated when we refuse to learn and instead insist on clinging to our inadequate explanations.

I don’t mean what most people mean when they talk about learning.  Most people are talking about gaining information about the world outside themselves when they say they are learning.  This kind of knowledge may be helpful as we make our way in the world,  but merely adding information to our brains is pretty easy and doesn’t require us to change.

And the information that we embed in our brain can actually be completely false, more hindrance than benefit.

My qualifier for learning is change.  We can claim that we have learned something if we are now more aware—if we think differently and behave differently than before.  It’s my observation that most adults don’t learn much in these terms.  Most adults I know are thinking and behaving just as they have for a long time.

So most adults are predictable.  Once you know how they think and behave, you can know what they are likely to do next.

Few people seem to be aware of what real learning is—a process of self discovery that begins with attacking one’s weaknesses.

Does learning, then, sound unpleasant?  Apparently, most men and women find it quite unpleasant and thus avoid it all costs.

But, actually, nothing is more exciting and valuable than learning about ourselves and emerging into our potential.

If we’re poised, that is.

Poised people are always ready and able to learn.

A learning self-assessment
What are your weaknesses—your patterns of thinking and behavior that limit your potential? Maybe you still have unaddressed fears that limit you, or perhaps you feel sorry for yourself and create victim stories that blame others for your problems.

Your list of weaknesses is your personal case for change, your explanation for where you are stuck in your development.

I’ll do this exercise with you as we go.  My own self-assessment is in italics:

Assessment question # 1:  list and explain your most limiting weakness here, the key learning that you must address if you are to emerge into your next level of potential.

My most limiting weakness is: I have been unable or reluctant to overcome my addictions and excesses even though they are threatening my longer-term health and longevity.

 At this stage, I’ve already overcome my fears.  I fear nothing, so I feel buoyant and clear.  I have also realized that my clarity, which made me think for a long time that I saw everything, was a mistake.  I learned that there was much I didn’t see, especially about judging people and how to love them instead. Then I learned about the necessity to keep my power in check by relentlessly questioning the need to feed my ego and to stop doing it.

I can easily identify my main weakness here in the last fifth of my life: as I confront aging, I want to rest, to take it easy, to enjoy my gains.  My life is a constant joy, so it’s hard for me to convince myself to confront my remaining weaknesses.  Why bother, I argue, when I’m happy, happy, happy?

But I want to live a long time—forever, actually—and my weaknesses make that goal less likely to be achieved.  My body, like all aging bodies, is in decline.  Happy, happy, happy can easily become discomfort, illness, and premature death.

My decline is slow, thanks to good diagnoses and meds, but now new diagnoses require that I learn and change.  I have been diagnosed with type 2  diabetes and yet I quickly failed at my recent attempt to quit eating great amounts of processed sugar every day.  My recent commitment to skip sugary treats and desserts lasted about 3 weeks, and then I returned greedily to my daily indulgences.  On this challenge, I haven’t learned and I haven’t changed.

This week I learned that I have a genetic trait that over a lifetime causes the body to retain way too much iron in the blood.  For the few people with this genetic disorder, excess iron eventually damages organs like the liver, heart, and kidneys.  The treatment required: frequent blood letting (phlebotomy) and dropping alcohol.  The first is an easy treatment to achieve.  The second requires me to change, but I haven’t given up my beloved half bottle of wine with dinner.

I haven’t learned much about why I persist in these health threatening behaviors, and I haven’t changed a thing in spite of a compelling case for change.

I cling to my pleasures, even though they may prevent me from achieving a vibrant, healthy, and long life.

Assessment question 2: What is your vision for your life after you’ve learned and changed in this part of your life?

My vision:  I put only healthy food and drink into my body.  As a result, I feel good and have all the energy I need to fuel a vibrant life for the next 20 years or more.  I’m rarely or never sick.  My glucose and iron numbers are normal.  Beginning January 1, 2016, I treat myself to a glass of wine only occasionally with dinner, and I treat myself to a dessert once per week or even less often.  My body has adjusted to these changes, and I have only minor feelings of deprivation.  I’m delighted how easily I made this significant change.

Assessment question 3: What strategies are you using to learn and change?

My strategies:  I will make a (I was going to say “an iron clad,”)  commitment, thus inviting even Providence to support me, remembering Goethe’s alleged statement about commitment:

    “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

I assume that Providence has something to do with what wants to emerge in the universe.  My changes are what wants to emerge in my life right now, so maybe I’ll have some invisible forces on my side as I learn and change.  I will be pioneering on the frontiers of human emergence and thus in harmony with my top value, learning and the pursuit of better and better explanations.

I will think about an intellectual divorce: I’m leaving behind a bad explanation—my idea that I won’t suffer any negative consequences from daily doses of sugar and alcohol.

I will announce my new commitment to Mary, friends, and the physicians who are treating my symptoms—just to build up some accountability.

I’ll enlist Mary to partner with me on menu planning.  I will ask her to help me keep sugar treats out of our house.

Assessment question # 4:  If you have tried to make this change in the past but failed, what’s different this time that will allow you to succeed?  Have you really learned anything new?

I have tried to make these changes in the past and succeeded only briefly before returning to my old thinking and behavior.  

So I have to ask myself if I’ve really learned anything new since my last attempt to change.

Well, I’ve learned that my body is in a steeper curve of decline than I had previously realized.  In other words, I have learned from the medical test data that my need to learn and change has become more urgent.  These habits of mine will likely shorten my life or cause me lots of trouble in the future.  I want to prevent those outcomes.

My observation of myself and others teaches me that even the most powerful evidence that change is urgent isn’t sufficient to overcome our resistance, lassitude, delusions, and self-indulgence.

So, given my ineffectual efforts to change in the past, and given my reluctance to interrupt this happy life of mine with any serious, self-imposed challenges, what’s new?

What’s new is that I—really for the first time—understand that every time I addictively gobble down a huge, sugary dessert or swash down a few glasses of wine, I am losing my poise!

The master of poise, author of a book and many blog posts on the subject, loses his poise almost every day when his addictions come calling.  Suddenly, I’m not present, not connected, not creative, not grateful, and not lighthearted.  Instead, I’m deadly serious: got to have my treats and stimulants.

Gadzooks!

What’s new is that from now on, at the moment of temptation and desire and habit response, I will apply what I know about poise.

I haven’t used this strategy before.

I assume that for some time—maybe weeks and months—I will crave the pleasures of sugar and alcohol.

After a while, I will not crave, but will be completely comfortable with my new lifestyle.  I won’t be tempted much.

But until then, every time I want to break my new commitment, I will take a breath and return to a poised consciousness.

Poised, I will be satisfied in the now, connected to my healthier self, grateful that my cup is already filled to the brim, creative about how to fill the next minutes and hours with some other form of life’s sweetness, and lighthearted, laughing with delight that I can still learn and change.

Poised, we can learn and change faster
Poised, nothing has power over us, even old, negative habits.

Poised, we’re awake, humble and alert, nimble and brilliant, able to discover the best explanation for what is happening.

Poised, we don’t need our habitual excuses and self-deceptions.

When I’m poised, I have my love at my disposal and can call it up for any challenge.

In this case, poised, I’ll remember that I love my body enough to take care of it.  I’ll remember that I love this happy life of mine.

OK, Providence, here we go.

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Here is the assessment, in case you want to try it:

Assessment question # 1:  list and explain your most limiting weakness here, the key learning that you must address if you are to emerge into your next level of potential.

Assessment question 2: What is your vision for your life after you’ve learned and changed in this part of your life?

Assessment question 3: What strategies are you using to learn and change?

Assessment question # 4:  If you have tried to make this change in the past but failed, what’s different this time that will allow you to succeed?  Have you really learned anything new?

by Gary on December 13, 2015 in

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