It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. Alan Cohen
Yesterday, I taught a self-esteem class to clients at the homeless shelter where I work. Twelve men ranging in age from 22 to 45. Carpenter. Truck driver. Plumber. Labourer. All of them felled on the road of life by circumstances they could not imagine, and yet, circumstances they helped create. Circumstances that have become their reality for today.
"I don't like this reality," one of the men said. "It really sucks."
"I can understand that," I replied. "Living in a homeless shelter. Having 1200 roommates, none of whom you chose. No privacy. No ability to make choices about what you do and when you do it. that would really suck." I paused. "And what can you do about it?"
"Get out of here," someone replied.
"That's a great goal. But while you're here. Right now. What can you do?"
"Nothing." One of the older men replied. "Hate it and shut up."
"What if you didn't have to hate it?"
"Like, you'd not hate living here?"
"What if living here [at the shelter] was the best place for me to be in that moment? What if living here was a safe place for me to be? It gave me a chance to catch my breath. To work on my job certificates, like you're all doing. To save money. To regroup. To plan what steps I need to take next."
"I'd still hate it," the same man replied.
"How much energy does it take to hold that hatred in place?" I asked.
He thought for a moment. "A lot. I'm always thinking about it. It makes me angry."
"How much energy would it take to let the hatred go? Rather than waste time and thought on hating what you cannot change in this moment, what if you were to simply accept, Here is where I'm at. Now is not forever. But, in this moment, I need to be here. I accept where I'm at as I do what it takes to move towards where I want to be."
The group sat silently for a moment. "Like, just not be angry?" a younger man asked.
"Is anger getting you more or less of what you want in your life?"
He laughed. "Anger's gotten me into jail. It's never got me more of what I want."
"So, anger isn't working for you?"
"Not even a little bit."
"What if you chose differently?"
"How? I always seem to be making stupid choices."
"Did you choose to come to this course to get job training?"
"Did you ever choose to do this before?"
"What made you make a different choice than sitting on the second floor."
"One of my buddies took the course. He got his certificates and is now working at Fort Mac. He's out of here."
"Was this a stupid choice?"
He laughed. "No. It's going to give me the job certs I need to get a good job so I can get out of here."
"So you made this choice not knowing the outcome but believing that if you did something different, you'd have the tools to make better choices in your life."
He smiled. Big. "Yeah. I guess I did."
"Then maybe it's not the choices you make that are the problem. Maybe it's the story you tell yourself about the choices you make."
I have made a lot of 'stupid' choices in my life. Stupid choices that lead to big and small mistakes. Mostly, those stupid choices were based on my fear of letting go of my story about how I am a victim, weak, incompetent, unable to make decisions, incapable of doing something different, incapable of.....
When I give into my victim story there is always a perpetrator making me the victim. The perpetrator is either 'out there' or inside of me. I cannot be a victim without someone else being blamed for where I'm at.
When I tell myself stupid I am, how weak, incompetent, incapable, I am giving into my fear of never being enough. Of never being able to change, of never having the courage to claim my power and grow up towards the sky.
Sometimes, the simplest choice is the hardest. Letting go of my story. Letting go of my victim's voice that keeps reminding me of why where I'm at is not my fault, moving from my victim's place filled with my limiting belief that dictates I cannot live the life of my dreams -- those are simple choices that I make difficult when I spend my time reminding myself of why I cannot change them.
I can always live the life of my dreams.
It is my choice.
And when I'm not choosing to live the life of my dreams, I am choosing to live in the shadows of freedom, skirting the fire, hiding in the darkness of my fears, blaming the world for not seeing my light flickering in the dark.
The question is: Are you hearing the stories you tell yourself about where you're at in your life? Are you listening to your limiting beliefs?