You have an awesome ability to change your thinking, attitudes, and perceptions about the people and circumstances in your life. Economist John Maynard Keynes summed it up—“When somebody persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?”
Indeed, what do you do? The ability to change your thinking is a wonderful skill. As with any skill, it can be learned, practiced, and even mastered.
Those who can’t manage a change in their thinking, or their perception of the world around them, can find themselves in a number of tricky situations:
· Fighting needless battles—not against the world, but against themselves
· Investing tremendous energy and time attempting to solve the wrong problem
· Working very hard for success but not getting the expected emotional payoff
· And yet the same unwanted event or situation seems to happen over and over
Change can be physically uncomfortable. Even when desired, it is still fraught with anxiety—and a real, tangible, physical sensation. You can prove this yourself.
A Little Exercise
Hold your hands apart and wiggle your fingers. Now, clasp your hands together, interlocking your fingers. Notice which thumb is on top and which little finger is on bottom. Now, separate your hands.
Clasp your hands again—BUT—shift one hand so you interlock your fingers such that the other thumb is on top and the other little finger is on the bottom.
Congratulations! If you managed to clasp your hands the “other” way, how did it feel? Odd? Awkward? Yes. Did it hurt? No. Did it feel right? Not exactly.
Let’s examine that odd sensation. Take a close look at your hands and fingers. Same hands, same fingers, same action—clasping your hands together interlocking your fingers. Yet why did you have a peculiar physical sensation the second time?
You changed the way you clasped your hands. Certainly a simple change—yet one with a distinct physical sensation. And an uncomfortable one at that.
That unique sensation was a result of consciously changing a simple action. If such a minor change can produce that level of sensation, imagine the discomfort you could sense from a larger change in your experience. And that, of course, is the point.
Hang on to this little exercise and use it often. If the mere act of shifting your fingers about one-half an inch produced such a distinct sensation, then the greater sensations of discomfort and unease can be put in perspective.
It is possible that much of the discomfort, unease, and restlessness that people experience are side effects of some change occurring in their lives. The less you are aware of the change, the more confusing, and perhaps scary, is the sensation.
It is said that change is the only constant in our world. It is the only aspect of life that you can bank on—nothing remains the same. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted that it was impossible to step into the same river twice. Even when something appears stable, it is in fact changing. Nothing escapes evolution, or movement, including your perception. The rate of change may be exceedingly slow or unimaginably fast. Change may occur in levels of experience beyond consciousness. But there is always change.
Our human experience is, for all practical purposes, a reaction to a given moment. That reaction is all we have to work with to manage the present.
A moment passed and I looked back to pick it up
and correct it.
Such is the mischief of time
that in the present I cannot.
Once an action, a feeling, or a thought has occurred, it slips away from you. This is good, actually. It permits you to replace one bit of energy with another, perhaps better suiting your immediate need. Of course if someone is clueless about the nature and process of change, then a world of mischief may surround him or her. The knack is managing the process of change.
But first, an observation and the first of several adages that we will encounter: People resist change. This is automatic. The first response anyone has to a change is to fight it. We do not like it. We develop an attitude. The resistance is fueled by the human reluctance to adjust our habits and ways of doing things. In a sense, we want to be lazy.
Would you just as soon have the world around you remain the same? It would be a familiar world, an experience with known fears, known dangers, and thus a comfortable place. It would also be stagnant and stifling. If the metaphorical river ceased to flow, it could turn dank and unpleasant.
Nothing about your life can remain the same. Regardless of how much physical, mental and emotional energy you throw at it, the process of change cannot be stopped. That doesn’t mean that you can’t influence change, quite the contrary – you literally create the reality you experience with your thinking. Yet how many lives are devoted, enslaved, in an attempt to fortify the status-quo of some mental or physical moment? “My mind is made up; don’t confuse me with the facts!” The secret is changing your thinking and not other people or conditions. You can no more change them than they can change you.