I recently worked with a client who saw herself as having caused her mother’s unhappiness, thwarted her mother’s creative expression, and impeded her mother’s freedom to enjoy her life more and go out and make her own way.
Here’s what I told her:
If you believe you could cause your mother’s unhappiness, you will also believe others can cause your unhappiness.
You will spend your life thinking you should have done this or that to make your mother happy.
You will spend your life thinking, _________ should do this or that to make you happy.
However, if you believe that you are 100% responsible for your own thoughts and feelings and, thus, your own happiness and experience of your life, then it will follow that your mother was completely 100% responsible for her own life, happiness and results.
When you do not take 100% responsibility for what you think and feel, then what goes unclaimed is the only thing that you (and only you) own: your thoughts and feelings which create your life experience.
You cannot control the weather (or any other natural phenomena for that matter including the force of nature known as “traffic”), but you are in charge of your thoughts (your perception) about it.
You cannot control what your mother, father or siblings did or thought or many of the family circumstances you experienced, but you (and only you) are in charge of what you think about your family and the events that happened.
You cannot control your friends, boss, co-workers, economy, clients, etc., but you (whether you claim it or not) are responsible for your thoughts about them.
Completely and entirely.
And your thoughts about them will create your feelings. So the feelings of happiness and peace are your and yours alone to create for you, and only you, and not any other family member. Others, including your mother, are completely responsible for the thoughts they think and for the feelings they feel. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness and peace.
When you claim to be responsible for someone else’s (your mother’s) unhappiness, you have claimed that which is theirs and theirs alone. It is not even yours to claim. To think you can do so is not just inaccurate but impossible, all the while causing a great deal of pain for you.
If you put your attention on claiming the full breadth of your own thinking and all of your feelings, you will be doing the work of your life.
When you feel a negative emotion, do not look to anyone else or your circumstances for the cause, look for the thought. Find the thinking causing the negative emotion. Take responsibility for those thoughts and the emotion they cause. Take responsibility for changing those thoughts to ones that create the emotion you desire.
With this perspective, nothing outside of you or in your past will ever need to change in order for you to be happy.Read More
Gary Paller, an artist I know, was recently giving a painting demonstration. He was discussing the creative process and how painters must decide what to add, subtract, mute or emphasize in their work.
As he painted over some of the brushstrokes he had already made, he said something profound and true.
I thought it was great advice not only for creating a painting but for creating one’s life:
Sometimes you have to get rid of things you thought you believed in.
Sometimes you do.
Sometimes what you believe in feels true. As if it is a fact and set in stone. Sometimes you can’t remember where you picked up that belief. Who knows? Maybe you inherited it. Maybe it’s always been in the family. A cherished keepsake that you have been caring for since you can’t even remember when.
Sometimes you don’t realize how tightly you are gripping what you think you believe in or that you are defending your right to keep believing it, even though it puts distance between you and what you really want.
Sometimes you have to get rid of things you thought you believed in.
Gary Paller, #25, 2011
Some things (thoughts) I’ve gotten rid of that I thought I believed in – fill in the blanks where applicable:
I’m a loser.
My father didn’t love me.
My father loved his other children more.
I’m screwed because of my childhood.
My childhood should have been different than it was.
I have to lose weight before I can________.
I have to ________ before I can step up and pursue my dreams.
No one gives a shit about me.
If I do ________, ________ won’t like me.
If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.
I don’t want to do ________ because people will judge me.
________ should acknowledge what I just did.
What ________ thinks about me is more important than what I think about me.
If ________ isn’t happy, it means I have failed.
If _______ doesn’t approve of me, that means I suck.
What thoughts might you want to get rid of – not by rejecting a part of yourself but from a peaceful and calm perspective…like a painter consciously creating a work of art?
She came over and guided me through the process of determining my color palette. (Soft Winter, if you must know.)
Once we had my palette decided and chosen, she helped me edit my existing wardrobe.
We slated a few things for the donation pile, and then she started to coordinate some outfits from the existing clothes in the closet.
She grabbed a pair of black velvet pants along with a bright teal jacket and said, “This would be a great outfit, and you can also combine the pants with these and this” as she grabbed my zebra-print flats and threw a beige cropped jacket over the pants which were lying on the bed.
“But those are my Party Pants,” I said in response to her “way out in left field” suggestion.
Heretofore, I had worn these pants once a year at the annual company holiday party.
“But look how nice these outfits are?”
“Yes, but for a party maybe. Not for work. Those are my Party Pants,” I reminded her.
What she was suggesting seemed inconceivable to me, but she wasn’t having it. She challenged what I thought I could wear. What my standard had been. Whether I was ready to step up to a new level. (And I was paying her to do this, mind you.)
And you know what? I tried it. Both outfits.
Totally rocked it.
Powerful. Sharp. A New Me.
My Party Pants have now become my everyday wear.
What might your version of Party Pants be?
A piece of jewelry
A special coat
Your best China
A recipe you only cook once a year
A restaurant you rarely treat yourself to
Stationery you love
A wonderful journal that sits on a shelf
What could you incorporate into your day-to-day living that would elevate your life, help you be more You and stand in your highest vision of yourself or help you claim more of your Future Self right now?
What do you reserve for once a year or ultra-special occasions that you just might consider wearing or doing or being every week or every day rather than just once a year?
Maybe, rather than just taking a moment to give thanks on Thanksgiving, you could make that a nightly ritual.
Maybe, rather than only taking stock on New Year’s Day of what you’ve achieved and where you want to go and what you want to become, you could incorporate that into a weekly practice.
Create a new standard for yourself.
Put your Party Pants on!