Hi, All! Spring is sprunging, here on the south tip of Vancouver Island.
It comes in surges, and takes a while to fully unfold. But days like today - sunny, bright, calm - bring out more flowers, more buds and more leaves.
It's quite amazing to watch spring unfold like this, as if we're in a slow-motion movie.
I hope you're having good weather wherever you are! -----------------------------------------------------------------
THIS WEEK'S FOCUS: "OBLIGATION? OR FREELY CHOSEN RESPONSIBILITY?" ———————————————————————————————— I recently received an email from one of our readers, commenting on one of my essays, and asking me what I thought about this quote:
"I have an unshakeable belief that each of us has not only the potential to live a rewarding and purposeful life but also the responsibility to do so." — Bill Strickland, Making the Impossible Possible
I thought about it for a while, then sent Mary Anne the following reply.
Hi Mary Anne,
Great comments. I'm gonna buy Strickland's book. Thanks for pointing it out! http://bit.ly/zUAfEU
But there's something about the above quote that bothers me.
Something I think is relevant to writers such as yourself — and to other creatives, including those wanting to create career transitions, or small or home businesses or rich, and rewarding relationships, or whatever….
"Responsible" can mean "the ability to act independently and make decisions."
And it can mean "liable to be called to account."
Strickland, I believe, uses it in the second way. He implies that we "should" act responsibly, that it's not our choice, but our obligation. "We have the responsibility to do so."
But that, I think, could preclude us from acting in the first way.
Such an obligation can get in the way of us acting independently and making authentic decisions.
Freedom of Choice To act independently and make good decisions, it helps to be able to freely choose our decisions and actions — without being called to account by others.
To live a "rewarding and purposeful life," requires, I believe, that we have the freedom to make our own choices about what kind of life we want to live.
If we want to lie on the beach and drink rum, we're free to do that. If we want to ruin the planet, we're free to do that. If we want to disappoint our parents and become "writers," we're free to do so. If we want to invent a way to save humanity from global warming, we're free to do that.
It's the freedom to choose our responsibilities, I believe, that gives our choices power. And makes our actions effective.
Without that freedom, we may do what we think we "should" do, but that choice is going to be far less powerful and sustaining than choosing what we truly "want" to do.
Struggling With A Dilemma Many of the creatives that I coach struggle with the inner dilemma of being true to themselves vs. living up to other's expectations; i.e., between freedom and obligation.
I think one of the greatest blocks to creating anything is the notion that we "should" do it, or that we "have to" do it. Or "ought", "must" or "need to" do it.
And not just because it takes away independent choice and action. Because it also makes us feel like crap! Although doing what we "should" do may motivate us at first, over time, it actually gets in our way, and sucks down our energy.
"Shoulding on yourself," as psychologist Albert Ellis said, is the basis of "three nutty beliefs" that he thought caused most of the emotional dysfunction he saw in his nearly 70 years in practice.
Three Nutty Beliefs Ellis, founder of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, and co-founder of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, claimed that the three dysfunctional and self-defeating beliefs are:
o I should do well,
o You should treat me well, and
o The world should be easy
These demanding beliefs, and variations on them — substituting "must," "ought to," "have to", for "should" — put people into conflict with reality. Whenever they don't do well, whenever people don't treat them well, and whenever the world is not easy — but they think it should be the opposite — people get upset. They lose focus. They lose motivation. They lose energy. They fail to produce desired results.
Ellis called this kind of thinking "musturbating" or "shoulding on yourself, others and the world."
Shoulding On Yourself Is Self-Defeating Let's put this in the context of creating what matters.
If an aspiring writer, for example, believes that she should do well, or that people (such as agents, editors and reviewers) should treat her well, or that writing should be easy, she's likely in for a world of disappointment and hurt.
Keep up that kind of thinking, and it'll lead to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair. Ugh!
When people experience emotional conflict of this sort, they usually forego independent choices and actions, in favor of reacting to the emotional conflict they feel.
They divert their focus from creating what matters to getting rid of (or relief from) bad feelings they create by imposing their nutty beliefs.
When we react, the power is not in our own hands, it is in the circumstances. We lose our own power, and become vulnerable to a sense of obligation that we should do what others think we should do.
"I so want to be a writer but my parents want me to be a lawyer, and I don't want to disappoint them."
When they come to me for coaching, many people are stuck in this kind of "I want to do this but I think I "should" do that" kind of dilemma. It's frustrating. It makes them feel poorly about themselves. And it is self-defeating. It prevents them from taking action to support what truly matters to them.
Getting Unstuck If you want to get unstuck, and put power and responsibility back into our own hands, I recommend psychologist Karen Horney's advice, "Cherchez les shoulds!" ("Cherchez les" is French for "find the.")
To get over self-defeating emotions — feelings of upset because you believe you're stuck, stalled, and struggling, or worse! — find those shoulds and musts (demand words!). Then turn them into true desires and authentic choices. Instead of "I should do this", think/say, "I really want to do this, and I choose to it."
Freely Choosing What Matters — And Doing It! This brings me back to Brickland's quote, and my sense that he's saying that we are somehow obligated to live a rewarding and purposeful life — and will be called to account if we don't.
I think this is another version of "should." "You should live a rewarding and purposeful life."
And, adopting it can lead to its opposite occurring. It can lead to emotional conflict and wasting your life trying to get relief from that (mostly) self-created conflict caused by "shoulding."
But what if we take Brickland's quote, and change it slightly.
What happens if we just change "responsibility" to "choice?" Try it.
"I have an unshakeable belief that each of us has not only the potential to live a rewarding and purposeful life but also the choice to do so."
Say it to yourself both ways, and see which makes you feel more empowered.
Which version helps you to make your own decisions and act independently.
Becoming Fully Human Philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich summed up the importance of thinking and choosing freely for me when he said, "We become truly human only at the moment of decision."
So freeing ourselves from "shoulds" and "musts" allows us to make more authentic decisions, take effective action and become more fully human.
And if you want — desire — to be responsible in the other way, to be accountable to God, the Universe, the Earth, other people, your parents, whatever…, you can still realize that you're are not obligated to do that either. You can freely chose to accept and act on that obligation.
Freely choosing either version of the quote to guide you will give you much more power than shoulding on yourself. And make you more fully human!
What do you think? --------------------------------------------—
VIDEO: Albert Ellis's 3 Nutty Beliefs ————————————————————————–——— This weeks' video briefly outlines the three self-defeating "demands" that cause us to get off track, fail to produce desired results, and feel badly.
It's short. Less than 2 mins. And it underscores what I said above. "Cherchez les shoulds!" --------------------—
QUOTABLE QUOTES ——————————————————————————— "Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning." – Winston Churchill
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. – Alice Walker
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare
"The thoughts we choose to think are the tools we use to paint the canvas of our lives." – Louise Hay
"The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts." – Marcus Aurelius
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." - Steve Jobs ------------------
FURTHER READING: SIMPLICITY, RESILIENCE & SUCCESS ————————————————————————————— You can access my book: • Simplicity and Success: Creating the Life You Long For!
Here's what one reader said about Simplicity and Success, this week:
"I found your book Success and Simplicity [sic] through a friend, and I think it might actually be the most important book that I've read in my whole life."
WOW! Did that make me feel like I was contributing something worthwhile to the world!
Also, check out my ebooks: • THRIVE! Creating What Matters in Challenging Times & Beyond! • Emotional Mastery: Manage Your Moods & Create What Matters! • The ABCs of Emotional Mastery: A Workbook • Creating Sustainable Success: Five Problems with Problem Solving - And What We Can Learn From Them About Creating Rich Yet Simple, Healthy, and Sustainable Lives!