I felt stuck. I was miserable. Nothing was going right and I didn’t have hope that it ever would. My best-laid plans fail to achieve the desired results. If it turns out there is a hell, I think it will look a lot like the life I was living about 20 years ago. Fortunately, I don’t live there anymore. I learned how to challenge and change the mindset that had me so stuck.
I have successfully transformed as the result of doing growth mindset work. I struggled with jobs, relationships, parenting, money, self-esteem, faith, judgment, and mostly fear. My opinion of myself depended upon the view of those closest to me. I was a mess. I had already been sober and clean for 18 years. But I was recently divorced, struggling in a new career and felt powerless, lost, and confused.
Blame Doesn’t Fix Life
I blamed myself, the economy, the people I worked with, my neighbors, and my second wife for my unhappiness. I just wanted to feel better, to get some relief. Surprisingly, I didn’t consider drinking again. I was re-engaged with my recovery program but found it lacking. I had begun a meditation practice but couldn’t sit still. In fact, paying that much attention to my thoughts was driving up my anxiety instead of making it better.
I would make up reasons to explain why nothing in my life was working. I placed blame where it didn’t belong. I thought blame would make me feel better, but quickly learned it didn’t.
In 2002 a friend and I drove to Seattle to check out Byron Katie. It was a profound turning point in my life. Overnight, “The Work” caught fire inside of me. I realized I had believed my thoughts without question. I had been reacting to every thought as if it were true. No wonder I had been so hot and cold, so up and down! No wonder I blamed, felt like a victim and had no power in my life.
Stories and Judgments Cause Suffering
I resisted the idea that my judgments were causing my suffering. I was convinced that my misery was caused by the circumstances in my life. You would be unhappy too if you had my problems! Or so I thought.
I learned to separate the facts from my thoughts or “stories” about the circumstances in my life. Becoming aware of my own thoughts was a new skill that took a while to develop. Because my thinking had been so automatic, I was rarely aware of my thoughts. Once I began to see my own stories and judgments and compare them to what was actually, factually happening in my life, I saw the true cause of my suffering. I began to change and grow as a result of this awareness. Gradually, I developed a growth mindset because I had become aware of the difference between my stories and reality; between my thoughts and the facts.
A Growth Mindset – Beyond the Power of Positive Thinking
Slowly, I began to accept that it wasn’t what was happening in my life that caused me to suffer. It was what I thought about what was happening in my life that determined what I felt and how I reacted to life. I began to see that I was responding to my view of reality – not to reality itself.
I had always resisted “positive thinking” as phony, inauthentic. “At least I am real” I would proudly think. Not like those phony people. Positive thinking seemed disingenuous, and I didn’t want to be a part of it.
Questioning my thinking and having a growth mindset is not about painting over rust. It is far more than merely thinking positive thoughts. I experienced a change as I disarmed thoughts that had never been questioned. And in that change I found clarity, peace, power and access to wisdom. and in the absence of blame and complaint, positive thinking emerged naturally.
Accepting Responsibility Means Accepting Power
By using suffering as my cue to do The Work, I began to transform. I saw what I had never seen. I accepted responsibility for how I felt, what I did, and for the results I created. How thrilling to experience the flow of power into my daily life!
This transformation has not been a straight line from hell to heaven. There have been many setbacks. For a long time, I automatically believed that circumstances had to change for me to be happy. This still happens. I still want to play the victim sometimes. I still want to indulge in the delusion that I have no power and that life is happening to me. As strange as it seems. there are times that I still want to suffer. Perhaps you, too want to enjoy a tantrum as you go through the personal growth that taking full responsibility for your life brings about.
Life is not heaven now, but it isn’t the hell that it was 15 years ago. I have successfully transformed. I barely recognize myself and my life. I get to do what I want to do. I love what I have, who I am, and who and what is in my life. When I don’t love what is I am willing to do my growth mindset work.
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