“We change, but always at a cost: to win this you lose that.”

manwithblinders cartoon

Nick eats eight meals a day. He has little containers of food that he brings to work. He goes to Sam’s Club to buy the big bags of broccoli and diapers.

Kevin takes long bike rides with a group. They stop at a buffet after their rides.

Rick has 2 dogs which he misses every day when he comes to work.

So my story is… these people. Their stories become part of my story. The story of our lives is the background in our lives. The stuff that gets blurred out as we acclimate to the noise or don’t bother to ask.

As we get more focused on getting from point A to point B…apartment to house, house to bigger house, less pay to more pay, this partner to that partner, single to married, searching for the cool place to go and hang…we miss all the infinite points between. Those points are the people, places, and opportunities. They form the canvas of our life. When they’re connected, they become our life drawing.

That’s why when our actions are made without context, without others, without a why, without looking around first, then those actions become indefinite, their borders hazy, and after years of this, our life ceases to be meaningful.

The aim is not make a straight line. The point is not to hit each point, each milestone, checking the box, then seeking the next one. The point is to expand over our canvas, not stay isolated in our office, career, home, or family. The intent is to learn, and absorption doesn’t work unless you’re listening and putting yourself out there.

We do need goals. But what are the goals? Career, personal life, family life…how much effort to spend in each bucket? The tangibles can be met fairly easily, especially here in the US, but what happens when you realize that you’ve lost years of experience, potential friends, lovers, and new places, because your goals became your life, and living the moments fell off the list?

“We change, but always at a cost: to win this you lose that.”
– Geoffrey Wolff

Choose carefully, but just make sure you choose. The tangibles are easy to measure. The intangibles are not. Thing is, we’re here for the intangibles.

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Not getting any love? I’ve got an answer for you.

Love your self

As I started my gratitude meditation, my cat came exploring around me. He sniffed my knees, then my hands which lay upon my knees. I watched him, thinking I would need to send him away, but I stopped, and let him climb up into my lap and find a place to settle there. He started purring after a second and I smiled and thought, “This is exactly what the gratitude meditation is about”.

Gratitude means showing some love. And that’s how you get the love.

Let me explain. In my gratitude meditation, I go through all the things we often overlook as we focus on the negatives in our lives. We can’t help it. It’s what drives us to be better people, but also it makes us depressed. It can turn us into unhappy seekers, always looking ahead to a future point, never satisfied, or maybe it can overwhelm us, as we see so much danger around us, that we never bother trying to get what we want.

So the gratitude meditation for me is usually a thanksgiving (without the huge coma-inducing meal to distract me) for what I tangibly have. The roof over my ahead, the dependable car, the job that allows me not to worry about my bills, and so on.

But a large part of gratitude is seeing that there are people in your life that care about you. These could be the unconditional investors in you, like your partner or parents, and maybe an old friend. But it also means the people who you bring value to in their lives. At work, you have an opportunity to be a contribution, not just in completing assignments, but in how you conduct yourself. Do you remember the person who is always on diligent and reliable so you can get your work done easily? What about the person who takes a moment to ask how you’re doing, how your week is going and shows interest in you?

Like a lot of things in life, what we have in hand is less important than the attention we are given and the appreciation we are shown. This morning, my meditation allowed me to not only reach the awareness of what positives things I have in my life that I overlook every day, but also the awareness that I need more than those things. And now I realize that the value we seek from others is something that comes from putting ourselves out there, and providing some value to them, too. A value that could come from a skill you develop, but also just showing interest in them first. Why?

Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves.

Just listen to most any conversation around you. “I’m doing this…I did that…I think that…” So if you find your gratitude waning in the love department, just ask yourself whether the love you think is lacking from others couldn’t be because you’re not putting any out there yourself.

The secret to truly changing yourself

When I was in middle school, I noticed that I was smaller than most of the other kids. And I hated that. I hated my skinny arms and legs. So I started lifting weights. And eating… and taking supplements. I got bigger, but I always found fault. Even throughout college, I compared myself to other guys.

For years, I forced myself into this lifestyle until it became a habit… until one year. I stopped working out. I had met someone, the first person who showed care for me. We moved in together. I soon realized that I had never been training for me. Now, years later, I exercise for myself, for the good feelings I get. And I focus on getting fit, not big.

Changing something in your life means taking control. And where does that control come from? Your personality, values…your attitude, right?

So the first step in changing our actions is finding out what values are driving them. Is it because we’re unhappy with ourselves? Because no matter how much you “improve”, you will never become happy with yourself if you’re not already content with life.

Once you gain this self-awareness, then whatever changes you want to make aren’t hard, because…well…because you want them. When my goal changed from getting validation to being fit, it was almost unconscious. I didn’t obsess over becoming healthy. I didn’t hold myself to a strict program. I didn’t read books about why it was better to be more fit. I didn’t do those things because I didn’t need to do those things.

A measure of the value of a goal is how much you want to do the grunt work. But if the drive to change comes from inside you, you will embrace the grind and it will cease to be one. Facing the challenge of something new will become exciting, not paralyzing. The sacrifice won’t feel like a sacrifice.

But it won’t really work if you’re doing it because you think you must or you have no choice. You can’t do it if fear is driving you, or if you’re forced to.

People do change. We evolve. Just don’t force it. Evolution is natural. Other people and your environment can supplement a change in your values, but the truest values, the ones that drive us to do the right thing, always come from the inside.

So what’s the secret to really changing yourself?

Let go of what you think you need.

Free yourself. Because no one else will.

We were meant to evolve. And we have the self-awareness and freewill to do exactly that.