Friday, June 6, 2014

Become The Person You've Always Wanted to Be

For most of my adult life, I longed to be a “better” person – more kind, more loving, more patient, more affectionate…

I kept putting off becoming all those things. I told myself I didn’t know how to be those things yet. There must be some secret principle I didn’t know about, because I sure didn’t feel I was ready to be all those things!  

Maybe this new self-help book would help me? Maybe I needed to “grow up” a bit more, or wait for something within me to magically change? Maybe I'd better just wait a bit longer...

I read countless books, listened to pod-casts, I watched Dr Phil and Oprah faithfully, but somehow I couldn’t figure out how to get from here (impatient, selfish, often yelling at my kids) to there (serene and loving and patient). 

And one day, I finally got it.

And "it" was so ridiculously simple!

The only way to become a better person is to…start being a better person. 

As much as we’d like to believe there’s an easier, more convenient way…there’s not. Reading another book won’t do it. Attending another seminar won’t do it. Signing up to another workshop won’t do it.

Doing it will do it!

Waiting until we feel “ready”, or until we have “enough” knowledge or resources, or until we’re “old enough” are just forms of procrastination. I’ll tell you a little secret. You’ll probably never feel ready. There’ll always be risks and unknowns and excuses. 

Self help books and listening to motivational podcasts are great for providing ideas and inspiration but the only way to make real change in our lives is to start doing.

If you want to be more patient…just start being more patient. When you start to notice your frustration levels rising, do something different rather than following the same old script. Instead of raising your voice, choose to take some deep, calming breaths and get your temper under control. Yes, it may seem harder at first, but practice makes habit.

If you want to be more loving, just start doing more loving things. Don’t wait until you feel more loving, because you might be waiting a long time. Just start doing small kindnesses for your spouse or your employees or your children or your neighbors. 

Don’t limit loving actions to your partner or your immediate family. Love is so much bigger than that!

If you want to be kind, just start being kind! Our power to choose is undermined while ever we justify our weaker points by saying it’s “just the way we are” or “it’s who I am”. 

Your kindness (or lack thereof), your patience (or lack thereof) is not who you are, its how you chose to act. Sure, some folks are naturally more inclined towards patience or gentleness or affection, but this doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t choose to behave that way.

Personally, patience is something I've had to cultivate. It doesn't come naturally to me, but I wanted it enough to work on it. I made the mistake of waiting for years to "feel more patient" until I realized that if I chose to think more patient and act more patient, I would become more patient. And it worked. I'm now able to accept situations and setbacks, where once I would have stressed and fretted.

Our feelings always follow thoughts. When we learn to control our thoughts, we gain control of our emotions by default.

So, if there's qualities that you wish you had more of, don't wait for those qualities to be magically bestowed upon you, or to wake up one magical morning and suddenly feel patient and loving and kind...just start embodying those qualities. Think them and act them, and with practice they'll become habits.

All habits are like muscles. They grow stronger with practice, and not by merely hoping they'll come naturally to us some day.

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