I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul
– from Invictus by William Ernest Henley
In the life-long search for personal development and growth, we try to find support for our actions, beliefs and attitudes towards life. Many people think we form our beliefs based on what happens to us, but it is important to realize just how much the things that happen to us are influenced by our beliefs.
Most people think that what they believe is set in concrete and is beyond their ability to change. Humans always have explanations for why they think the way they do. Whether it is genetic inheritance or a result of something that has happened to them in the past, it is there and untouchable. A fact of life.
I always say to my clients, “If you have only happy, joyful, loving, understanding, accepting, forgiving, kind and healthy beliefs, I would not change them if I were you. Then, the idea of them being unchangeable is great, but if you are not happy about something, it means you hold a belief that is causing this and it is better to change it than to keep it”.
This is a pretty big statement, I know. I have had many chances to debate it, so I am familiar with all the arguments. I claim we can change our life by changing our belief system and the counter claim is that our belief system is formed only after things happen to us and since things already happened and cannot be changed, our thoughts cannot be changed. As a coach, my clients tell me why they cannot change some beliefs and my job is to convince them they can. Whenever I win the argument, they win a new life.
Last week, I went to an event, where a woman from the Department of Education asked about all the things I was doing. I told her I was a life coach, author, teacher, journalist, public speaker and at one stage, she asked, “So what is you DO?” in a confused tone of voice.
I said to her, “I’m a convincer. I convince people they are awesome, wonderful, smart, capable, friendly, creative, forgiving and strong” (it is no coincidence my daughter learned about clubs at school and, while her classmates formed the Writing Club, the Drawing Club and the Five-letter Nickname Club, she formed the Awesomeness Club).
The woman from the Department of Education smiled.
“Of course they do”, I said, “This is why they come in the first place – to be convinced”.
“What if they are not? There is nothing to convince them if they are not that wonderful. Don’t you ever have doubts about them being awesome?” she asked.
“No!” I told her confidently, “Not a shred of doubt. They are all awesome. They just don’t know it yet”.
I have a fascinating profession, don’t you think?
She smiled and said, “It’s not an easy job!” Well, she did not take much convincing, because she did not argue it was impossible. Believing we have the power to change our life by changing our beliefs has a scary part and a fun part.
I had a chance to see the two sides of this belief at the age of 16 when I made the change from the dark days to the bright days. From riding the scary Ferris wheel when things were overwhelming and painful to climbing the Ferris wheel of success. I built this belief when I was 16 and was kicked out of school (don’t feel sorry for me, I deserved it). I realized I had no control over what was happening to me, I had painful thoughts and I needed to change the way I thought if I wanted things to be different. It is scary to discover you are the reason bad things are happening to you. Obviously, as I shifted my mind and wonderful and happy things started happening to me, it was uplifting to know I was also the reason good things happened to me.
Whether you think you can do it or you think you can’t do it, you are usually right
– Henry Ford
Hell and Heaven
The relation between what we believe and what happens to us is a cycle, never ending cycle, much like a Ferris wheel. The only question is which Ferris wheel are you on, the one on which you feel like flying, see the sun shining and clouds look like cotton candy or the one in which you feel hot and sticky, see fire and smoke and are choking. I call it the Ferris wheel from Hell or the Ferris wheel of Heaven. Some of our beliefs sure feels like Hell, but others are heavenly.
Success in life is the number of days, hours and moments you spend on each Ferris wheel. The more you spend on the heavenly Ferris wheel, the more successful you are. The real challenge is recognizing which one you are on and when you start choking (from too much smoke), that you need to get off.
Our body is a very sophisticated machine, fitted with gadgets that give us an indication which Ferris wheel we are on. Our body is talking, all the time, we only need to listen.
Most times, it happens gradually. We hear a whisper in the form of discomfort and we ignore it. It is very important to listen to the whispers and recognize when we have this feeling of discomfort. For some, it is a bit more obvious than others, but with time, practice and willingness to master this, everyone can learn to identify when the body is using our senses to direct us. Naturally, it gravitates towards love, happiness, beauty, harmony, sense, success, comfort, understanding and balance and when we stray from that path, it sends us messages of discomfort to remind us that what we do, think, have, feel, say and hear is not taking us to a good place.
Since our body has all the gadgets needed to protect us, it is almost certain it will escalate the message in order for us to discover we are going towards an unpleasant ride. If we ignore the whisper, the following message will be stronger, louder and even a bit painful. It will be in the form of unhappiness.
You may be unhappy with something you have done/thought/said or not. You may be unhappy with something others have done/thought/said or not or you may not be happy with circumstances. These are signs you have climbed on board the Ferris wheel from Hell and pushed the “go” button.
Recognizing this message is very easy. You either like or do not like something. Yes, it may have different levels of happiness or unhappiness, but in every mind there is a point when every event is either labeled as “Happy” or not. Each person must find his or her own point. The level at which the brain decides to categorize an event as happy needs to be low (easy to feel happy) and the level at which the brain decides to categorize the event as unhappy needs to be high (hard to feel unhappy). Every person is the own master of his or her mind.
Learning about happiness is a long mission and most people are at this stage of life. They think that unhappiness is part of life and that we need to learn to accept it. They even come up with excuses, like “You can’t be happy about everything” and “You can’t be happy all the time”, which is all true as long as you do not compromise. I tell my clients that feeling unhappy is wonderful, because it means we listen.
I always give the example of us as a family discovering that Gal and the kids were sensitive to dairy. Each of them reacted differently to dairy products (Eden developed pneumonia). For about 17 years, I kept looking for a solution. Some people (who shall remain nameless) said to me I needed to learn to accept it. “Be happy you know it is not healthy”, they said, but I was still unhappy.
This unhappy state made me look for ways to change it and when you seek, you find. One visit to a kinesiologist fixed it totally and that was the end of 17 years of not having the food we loved.
Make a list of all the things in life you are unhappy about, acknowledge the message your body is sending you and do not compromise! Life is too short, too important and too good to compromise!
The third sign our body uses is health. Much like unhappiness, it has levels. The more you ignore it, the more painful the next message will be. Remember, the gadgets you have in your body are there to protect you. Most of the time, they protect you from yourself.
Health problems are strong messages that are harder to ignore. The body will usually start with messages of tiredness or a light illness we get over quickly. If we neglect to recognize them as a way for our body to tell us to stop-revive-survive, they escalate. Your body is trying to convince you that you need to relax, be happy, succeed, excel, love and share, yet many people kill the messenger and ignore the message.
Have you heard people refer to life-threatening events in their life as “wake up calls”? Trying to get rid of the symptom is like breaking your alarm clock and continuing to sleep. We have wake up calls many times in our life, we only need to hear them.
Listen to your body. Ask yourself, “What is perfect health for me and what is happening to me that does not fit?” Change it! Do not compromise! How many days have you taken off because you have exhausted yourself? How many sick days have you taken from work? Is it not better to take a day off when you are healthy, energetic and happy and to have fun than to be forced by your body to take that day off and stay in bed? Remember, if you do not listen, the next message will be tougher to deal with.
Health is an easy way to discover which wheel you are on. Healthy life only means you spend more time on the Ferris wheel from heaven.
First, you need to discover which wheel you are on. Then, learn to get off the one from Hell. For that, you can use any of the convincers I have prepared earlier as inspiration articles. You can purchase my new book In the Outback with Jasmine Banks. If you are a parent living in Brisbane, come to our next parenting workshop on 14 March 2010, to any of our programs for parents, couples or individuals, or book any of my presentations where I will do the convincing for you.
Wishing you a happy ride and may you spend most of your days on the Ferris wheel from heaven.