Can Intuition Be Wrong?

I am exploring a more intuitive way of living and decision-making, and in general I feel comfortable letting my sixth-sense take the lead.  But this question has always nagged me.  Can intuition be wrong, and if so, how can I trust it?  I don’t know if I have the answer, but below I’d like to outline my current line of thinking on this.

Logic Can Be Wrong

First, let’s be honest here.  We humans are perfectly capable of coming up with some pretty far-fetched, faulty logic.  We can prioritize wrongly.  We can justify wrong purposes.  Relying on things “making sense” is finding comfort in deceptions — we can make sense out of anything.

Experience Informs Both Logic and Intuition

A lot of times, we base our assessment of future on our past.

Now let’s examine the statement there.  We are basing our future on our past — but yet, future is always a wide-open book.  There’s no guarantee, obviously, that what happened before will be what happens again.  Is it likely that future will be like what happened before?  That depends on the situation, but yes, I can agree with that.  But there’s always a margin of error.  Meteorologists often get forecasts wrong.  That’s because they base the forecasts on analysis of the past.  Are they allowed to forecast based on intuition?

But that being said, my experience is that experience informs our intuition, too.  When I encounter a familiar situation, intuition seems to form stronger and quicker.  I may be mixing up intuition with instinct — if you encounter certain patterns often enough, you naturally jump to conclusions more and more, and rightfully so.

So either way, we’re casting our past into the future.  It’s a risky business, but we don’t know any better.  Or do we?

Predicting vs. Deciding

When we’re trying to make decisions, I think it’s helpful to know what we’re trying to do. Most of the times, we’re trying to predict the future and making decisions based on that prediction.  As I established above, predicting is unreliable at best, but we don’t know any better.

But is predicting really necessary to make decisions?  Can we feel comfortable deciding, even when we can’t really predict how things are going to turn out?  I would say that deciding without predicting in many cases are better than prediction-based decisions.  Here are some reasons why:

  1. You are not locked into certain outcomes.  This allows the paths to unfold more organically.
  2. You are more adaptive.  Because of #1, you know and are ready for uncertainty and unexpected even if you feel that you made right decisions.  There are less surprises, less assumptions.
  3. You have less tainted view of the reality.  Again, when you don’t put on the colored glasses that are your predictions, you can assess situations for what they are more easily.

An Example: Intuition Seems to Do an About-Face in Assessing a Job Opportunity

Here’s a situation I’ve been in.  I was in an interview process for a web development project.  At first I didn’t particularly feel good about it, my intuition was telling me that this was not a project to pursue.  There was lack of clarity in terms of the specifications or the scope, but yet they had firm deadlines and budgets.  But there were other qualities that were very attractive about the job, too.  So instead of turning it down I pressed on with the interview process, asking many questions.  Which brought out clearer answers than I was predicting to find, and my intuition began to change.

So, was my intuition wrong to point away from this project in the beginning?  That depends on how you frame that question.  Had I turned the project down in the beginning, that would have been perfectly right and correct — there are abundance of web development projects out there, I would have found good ones sooner or later.

But was I wrong to pursue the project further despite my intuition telling me not to?  That’s what I am still trying to figure out.  Clearly, when the circumstances changed with more information, more exposure to the vibe of the factors involved, my intuition started pointing in a direction that seems contrary to my earlier inclination.  Perhaps I jumped to the conclusions earlier, perhaps I didn’t explore it enough — for example, I failed to ask myself, “can this situation have any chance of changing enough so that I feel comfortable taking on this job?”

Note that what ended up happening with the job is not the point here, as whatever results come out, we can always interpret that as a positive outcome.  If the deal didn’t end well, I can chalk it up to “that was the lesson I needed at the time.”  See, how murky it is to judge a situation by predicting the result and deciding whether it’s good or bad?

Another Example: Buying a Camera in an Intuition-Led Splurge

A couple of years ago I bought a DSLR camera.  I had always been interested in photography, but the decision to buy one at that point in time didn’t make sense to me.  I was coming off of a full-time employment and having another go at making a full-time work out of my music.  Why would I need a DSLR then?

But my intuition was so strong, that the longer I put off the decision to buy, the worse I felt.  To the point where I started feeling ill.  So I finally forked out a few hundred dollars and bought one, and I immediately felt better, relieved.

The camera arrived and it was great.  I played around with it — but soon I lost interest.  I had a tool, yes, but I couldn’t make heads or tails about how to use it to create the kinds of images I was interested in capturing.  I knew I could take classes and perhaps invest in more equipment, but at that point I realized I wasn’t that interested.  My camera spent more time hanging on my wall, and I eventually sold it.

Today I am at peace with my decision to buy the camera and explore the photography terrain.  In the end, I realized that I’m more interested in the end result of getting access to some cool images, than the process of creating them.  But how I interpret my intuition and the journey it led me to, is still a picture I can’t make complete sense of.  Yes, it was a learning experience.  I tried it, I don’t need to try again in a hurry.  If I thought my intuition was a reliable prediction machine, then my intuition failed miserably.  But my intuition led me down a path that I did need to explore and experience.  It did not yield the outcome that I was hoping to produce — but I could argue that that’s what I needed.

Can Intuition Be Wrong?

It depends on how you frame ‘wrong’ but I do believe in the notion that nothing is perfectly infallible.  So then it follows that intuition can be wrong.  But then, so can logic. None of us are perfect.

A better question to ask is, can I trust myself?  Do I trust my logic or my intuition?  Obviously we have both play a factor in our decision-making.  If they seem to be in a conflict, the situation needs careful assessment.  As a man living in a developed society, though, I would say it’s much more acceptable to ignore intuition and follow logic.  We have established methodologies for verifying and reviewing logic, much more so than evaluating a situation energetically through intuition.  But seeing that we are all dealing with energy fundamentally — today I still feel that it’s in my best interest to develop and learn to trust my intuition.  If the two sides are equally developed, intuition points to the right direction faster and more reliably, because of this access to the layer much deeper than human logic.

So — can intuition be wrong?  I would say yes.  Proceed very carefully where your head and your heart don’t match up.  Intuition is a skill, too, so depending on who you are and what paths you traveled — it may be less developed than the other.  But once developed, intuition can help us navigate by detecting the deeper energy of the terrain, in areas where logic can tie itself in knots that it can’t get out of.  Of course, the ideal is that you explore every situation until both sides come together to point to a singular direction.  But to me, operating from the head without regarding your intuition poses a greater risk.

What Do You Think?

So, that’s where I am today, and having written these thoughts out I feel more at peace with where I am today on this issue.  I contend that this is not a well-researched essay that consults other sources and stories, but doing so turns this post into a novel.  I felt it best to just share my inner thoughts and see what one man’s experience inspires in your life.

If you have any opinions on the issue of intuition, please feel free to share in the comments below.  Thanks!

Posted in Decision Making, intuition, Questions to Ponder | Tagged | 5 Comments

A Cautionary Tale about Financial Problems: A Reader Testimonial

Living above one’s means is surprisingly easy.  I’ve been there, done that — it just takes some time of not facing the reality, just conveniently avoiding to check the books.  I received the following testimonial from Katie Lupo about the trouble she got in:

I have to say that in my mid- to late twenties, life was really good. Well, I thought it was. I had a great job that paid well above what I should have been making at the time and I seemed to have the world at my fingertips. My main focus was climbing the corporate ladder and impressing the people I worked for. I wanted to prove that I “belonged” with them. I bought high-dollar work clothes, to impress. I bought rounds of drinks after-hours, to impress. I bought lunches, to impress. There was this incredible feeling of not only being able to keep up with the Joneses, but to BE the Joneses. For me, impressions were everything and I had the bills to prove it.

Obviously, it caught up to me. There is only so long you can continue kidding yourself — you have no business living a lifestyle that you can’t afford. I was ignoring the fact that as much as I wanted this to be my lifestyle, I couldn’t afford it. I truly had no concept of money management.

I can appreciate what I did wrong and what I had to do to fix it, but, it still stings, I enjoyed living large. Most of my friends are from “those times” and still live the lifestyle that I was trying to. It is hard to watch while friends take lavish vacations, buy new cars, and get other “toys” while I work my tail off to get out of debt and into a better place financially.

It is what it is. It took a couple of hard falls to realize that I couldn’t bounce right back up. I reached a point where I had to step back and determine my goals. What is it that I want now, and will it be the same goals five years from now? I had to appreciate the fact that at any moment things can change. Those people you were trying to impress move on. From a professional standpoint, I finally figured out the way to impress was not through money and expense accounts; it was through knowledge and experience.

Socially, it was a little hard to swallow. I won’t lie. It is still a struggle. I liked hosting great parties. I liked giving great gifts. But, no one is impressed by things that I can’t afford. I know that now.

I wish we could change the saying from, “Keeping up with the Joneses “to just, “Keeping up with ourselves.” Don’t worry about what they do and don’t do, have or don’t have; there is a pretty good chance that they have just as many struggles as you do. I know I can make my own lifestyle when I am debt free. One that suits me and is affordable for at least the next 50 years.

Thanks for sharing your story, Katie.  This reminds me of a time when I got into a financial trouble myself.  My wife and I were building a natural house (a tiny cottage, really) out in the country in our late 20s, and we were going, predictably, severely over budget.  But we just kept going because we told ourselves “but we need this.”  A few months of doing that, and we were deep in a 5-digit credit card debt.  Thankfully we never went so far as to not being able to make payments and now we’re completely recovered, but it’s a bitter memory in my book.  What we should’ve done was to take a good, hard look at what we were getting ourselves into, and adjusted our plans to a more sustainable direction.  Even if we had gotten into a hole, it wouldn’t have been quite as deep.

Katie is currently enrolled in the CareOne Debt Relief Services Debt Management Plan (DMP). You can read more about Katie’s experience in the My Journey out of Debt blog, within the CareOne Debt Relief Services Community. In her blog, Katie explores life without credit cards, living on a ‘real’ budget and making that adjustment from spender to saver.

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7 Life’s Lessons I Witnessed at Wormen’s World Cup 2011 Final

I’m a big soccer fan and am quite high from witnessing Japan lift the World Cup trophy for the first time ever.  That being said, US played better football over all and my opinion is that luck wasn’t exactly on their side.  I didn’t foresee how the game would end, but having watched the entire game, I saw ample opportunities to draw life’s lessons from the excellently-played World Cup Final.

1. Envision Success.  Vividly.

The Japanese captain Homare Sawa was quoted in interviews saying that she imagined herself lifting the trophy, in her blue home uniform.  Notice the last part there — she envisioned her success vividly, down to details.  She said that that was the only end result she could imagine.  (She is quoted saying in English media saying that she couldn’t have imagined this result, but that was referring to her winning MVP and Golden Boot.)

Now, that’s not her being cocky.  Rather it’s a great example of Beginning with the End in Mind.  Stephen Covey in his classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said that results are always created twice — once in your head, and then in reality.  In that order.  Sawa did exactly that, and even when the situation made it seem unlikely that she’d be able to produce that result, she didn’t lose sight of it — evidenced by her dramatic equalizer late in overtime.

2. Always Be Yourself.

Coming into this final, Japan had firmly established its style, one that relies heavily on teamwork and short, accurate and quick passing.  What was praiseworthy was that even when behind, Japan simply did not change its style.  They knew exactly who they were and they stuck to their guns.  Is it wise to be making short, side passes when you’re behind and the clock’s winding down?  It’s a debatable tactic, yet, if that’s how they play and how they play well, perhaps that’s the only way, as going about it in a way that’s not really you would have had a small chance of producing the desired result, too.

3. Make Do with What You Got.

Which brings me to the next point, and that is, why does Japan play the way they do?  Because that’s what they’ve got.

Japanese women are tiny.  Physically, they are not as tall nor fast as many of their opponents.  But what they do have is that they have a fine technique, agility, and solid team-oriented mentality.   That’s why they play that collective style of soccer.  Other teams, like US and Brazil, have killer individual talents in their forwards, and that’s their strengths, too.  Japanese doesn’t have such individualistic talent.  Other country’s media has praised Japan for its beautiful passing style.  The Japanese coach Norio Sasaki responded, well, this is the only way we can play.

4. Be Patient — Your Time Will Come.

When I say be yourself, that applies to even, or particularly, when things are not going your way.

Of course, it’s easy to be yourself when things are working out.  How do you persevere though, when obstacles are stacked against you?  It’s easy to second-guess ourselves and start mucking up our styles, but that’s precisely where you need to be patient, resilient and stick to your guns.   Japan never lost their tenacity, and they were rewarded by dramatic equalizers, despite going a goal behind twice with not much time left.

5. Smile.  Laugh.  Crack a Joke.

So, you just fought hard for 120 minutes, and it’s down to penalty shoot-out.  You came from behind and tied twice, but if you mess up these penalty kicks, you still lose.  All that effort –for nothing.  Penalty shoot-outs are tests for nerves, precisely because kickers are expected to score.

That’s why I was super impressed, because when the camera panned to the Japanese players’ circle I saw smiles on their faces.  Starting with their coach Norio Sasaki, no less.  And the first kicker he selected — tiny yet talented Aya Miyama — she never lost composure or sense of humor throughout.   When I saw those smiles, and how the American players’ faces looked in contrast, I became certain of which side would rule the penalty shoot-out.

Laughing is good for you.  It relaxes your body and helps you see good in any situations.  Grace under pressure not only is a good display of character — it actually helps you produce results.  Apparently, two of the players, Kawasumi and Nagasato, exchanged remarks saying “it’s fun this way” when US got the coveted leading goal in overtime.  It’s a great example of how maintaining your sense of humor can help maintain your focus and composure.

6. Be a Gracious Loser

Now, as I said above, based on the content of play I felt Americans certainly didn’t deserve to lose.  Yet, both forward Abby Wambach and coach Pia Sundhage were classy and gracious in their bitter loss, not making excuses, calmly accepting the result.  Nobody likes sore losers, and life goes on.  For Women’s soccer, the other big tournament — the Summer Olympics — is only next year.   US women played their heart out, there’s nothing for them to be ashamed of.  The result could have easily gone the other way, and because they kept their poise and composure even in their loss, I am certain that more success will come their way down the road.

7. There’s Always Room to Improve

And in contrast, how did the Japanese react their win?  By keeping their head down.  Both Coach Sasaki and Captain Sawa, in their jubilant post-game interviews, mentioned that they saw places where they could improve and had their sights set on their next competition — the Olympics.  Winning the World Cup is a magnificent accomplishment, but yet, it’s just a milestone.  You celebrate it for a moment, then you put it behind (just as you do any losses) and then go back to improving your game.

Conclusion

Yes, the luck was on Japan’s side that night.  But I am convinced that luck is not outside our influence — by being yourself, staying in the game, sticking to your guns, and keeping your sense of humor — you have the power to create the results you’re after and sometimes it even involves pulling luck to your side.  I am grateful for these hard-working women for providing much hope and inspiration to my battered home country, and I am going to take what I learned from them and apply to my own life.

If you drew any other great lessons from the game, please feel free to share in the comments.  Thanks!

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A Simple Phrase That Will Help You Not Take Things Personally

Did someone hurt your feelings?  Do you get annoyed or frustrated?  We all do from time to time — I certainly do, and while I keep telling myself not to judge others too hastily, I still find myself full of judgments and wraths for everyone around me.  Obviously there are moral and religious arguments against judging, but ultimately, such a thought disturbs inner peace.  It’s just not good for your own well-being.

But there’s one phrase I keep going back to, to mitigate this tendency to get worked up.

There must be a good reason.

It brings me back the story about a father and his sons on a train from Stephen Covey’s classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The kids were acting up badly in public and the father seemed to do nothing about it, so Stephen confronted the man — only to learn that the mother had just died that day.

When people or situation get you worked up, you are choosing to interpret it in a personal way.  And while you have the right to think what you think — and you may even be correct in your assessment — the judgment, frustration, and resentment, they all disturb your peace.  It becomes your burden, because holding such a feeling inside is unhealthy and can build up to harm your health, mental and otherwise.  You then have to work to purge it.

One of my current annoyances is my 15 year-old cat, who wakes up every morning at 5:30am and starts meowing loudly, demanding fresh food and attentive company.  Many mornings, the first thing I do when I am awakened is to scold him for being so loud and obnoxious.  But while I haven’t figured out a way to reason with my cat that 5:30 is simply too early, I have been making efforts to understand his needs, which makes this morning ritual less annoying, and it’s definitely improving the situation.  Previously part of the reason he complained loudly was because he was constipated — so I took him to a vet and am diligent with administering herbs and supplements to aid his digestion.  And I feed him more at night, so that he is less hungry in the morning.  And when I do wake up, instead of scolding, I get down on the floor and spend some time being close to him.  This last act always gets a quick and dramatic change in his behavior — from loudly demanding to soothingly purring — apparently he really enjoys the connection of being close to our head/face.  He must feel distant and looked down upon, because most of the time we look down on him from some place much higher.

All right, I may be personifying my cat a tad too far, but what I did was to switch from annoyance/anger-based reaction to more open-minded inspection.  By assuming that there must be a good reason for his behavior — I was able to see beyond and understand root causes, the deeper needs.

Few of us aim to cause anguish, frustration or annoyance in others.  Actions are not born in a vacuum.  When you start from “there must be a good reason” you are:

  • being compassionate, which is a feeling more soothing and comforting to both the other party and yourself
  • showing openness and inquisitiveness to see beyond just surface actions and understand deeper needs
  • refusing to allow burdensome feelings into your system
  • practicing patience, and not rushing to conclusions tends to yield better outcome

As you can see, this is just a better place to start from all around, both for yourself and others.  It’s a simple phrase you can keep in the back of your mind, and liberally bring it out every time you encounter situations where you react negatively.  If nothing else, it helps you go about your day without straying too far from your sense of well-being.  And when you are calm, compassionate and peaceful, you have more capacity to make positive impacts in the world around you.

There must be a good reason why people do what they do.  Instead of getting annoyed, see beyond to the deeper reasons.  It helps you enjoy your day.

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The Damage of Judgments

Judgment hurts.  This is a lesson I’ve been reminded of in multiple ways recently.  In any relationship, the kind and loving thing to do is to meet the other person where s/he is.

Let me illustrate that point, with a story about me and my cat.

Expecting Human Reasoning out of a Cat (Yes, it’s futile!)

I have a cat named Jean-Luc (yes, we’re Trekkies).  He’s been with us all 15 years of his life and he’s really a grumpy old cat.  Well, he was grumpy way before he was old — he’s just a very vocal, expressive, smart and demanding cat, able to use his meowing to make his feelings known rather clearly.   When you listen to him, you can usually tell how he’s feeling, though it’s not always clear what he wants.

Every morning around 6am, he starts roaming around the house meowing loudly.  The human portion of the family starts the day around 7am.  We homeschool and value our sleep a lot, so generally we don’t wake up kids until they awake on their own.

Except that Jean-Luc meows so loudly every morning, demanding something.  I am always awake at this time already, but I’m afraid he’s going to wake everybody else up.  And my usual response was to scold and berate him, sometimes even hit him lightly, trying to communicate to him that I’m not pleased and he needs to be quiet.

That’s not a very productive way to resolve a conflict with your cat.  He usually complains even louder, unabashed and unashamed of his demands, though he can tell I’m mad at him so he gets restless and more agitated, too.  I do know that he’s hungry, so I feed him some of the days — but other days I don’t even bother to do that, because feeding him only stops him temporarily.

So yesterday when he started, I finally got down to his level.  I got on my hands and knees and asked him gently “What do you want?”

Jean-Luc seemed surprised at first, I’ve never really come down and allowed him to just state his needs.  He’s always had to demand aggressively to get our attention. The tone of his meowing changed immediately to a softer and less edgy one.

And I just followed him around on my fours for the next 20 minutes or so, telling Jean-Luc “tell me what you want — I’ll give it to you.”   That led to a generous amount of petting and scratching, getting his breakfast, to drinking water in the bathroom.  The last bit was particularly revealing — I learned that he doesn’t like his water in a deep bowl, as he has to stick his head into a narrow area.  He likes it on a shallow, wider dish.

The morning was a quieter, if not completely quiet, affair.  And I learned a valuable lesson.

From my point of view, I know what Jean-Luc should do.  Wait until everyone wakes up, wait quietly and be satisfied with whatever water/food I give him.  Hey, it’s not like he’s earning his keep here, right?  He should just be grateful I meet his needs at all.

Except that you can’t just expect a cat to follow such a human reasoning.  A cat is a cat, he’s just following his instincts.

Knowing the Answer Doesn’t Mean You Should Demand It

But this doesn’t apply just to a cat.  I saw so many other situations in my life where I was just on a high and lofty platform, looking down, judging everybody else as below me, expecting everyone else to “catch up.”

Like my 4-year old son and his picking up his toys.  He can do it if I remind him right after he’s finished playing with a toy — but if I let him go on and pull out more toys, then after that he can’t pick up.  There are too many out and he gets overwhelmed at the prospect of picking up so many toys.  Forcing and threatening may get the job done for a day, but it doesn’t really solve the problem — the next day, the same situation.  In fact, threatening with punishment makes it worse, because then he learns that he doesn’t have to do it unless he’s threatened.

The grown-up me knows the right thing to do.  But it’s not right of me to demand that out of my son, because he doesn’t have the capacity to think and operate from the same place I am.  Instead of berating and scolding him, the kind thing to do is to meet him where he is.  To know where he’s at and what his issues are, and work with him to instill good habits in a way that is compatible with his stage in development.

Even with grown-ups, though, this still holds true.  I was so busy judging and criticizing everybody around me, wondering why they haven’t figured out all the lessons I have learned, repeatedly reminding them what the right answers were.  I thought I was helping, but in truth, I was just being arrogant and lazy.  Instead of meeting others where they are, I just stayed in my own spot, expecting everybody to come to where I am instead my going to them.

Conclusion

Judging hurts.  Criticizing — pointing out where they are doing wrong — does more harm than good.  A truly kind thing to do is to meet them where they are and help them take a step forward from that point. If they are in earlier stages of development, it’s really not useful to point out or demand implementation of answers that are many stages ahead of where they are.

It’s a simple lesson, but hard to practice — because meeting them where they are takes more effort.  But I am learning that it’s really the only way.  Demanding others to change and come to where you are just isn’t fair, nor is it productive.  But you can change yourself — you can travel the distance, and meet them where they are.

It makes a huge difference, like night and day.  It was an important lesson for me to learn.

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Problems Are Opportunities. Mistakes Are Lessons.

I’d like to banish those words from my dictionary.  Problems are opportunities.  Mistakes are lessons.

Problems arise because something needs to be solved.  That solution has the potential to benefit you and everyone around you from that point on.  I’m trying to figure out how to make it as a rock musician while providing a stable life for my family, after wife and kids came along.  It’s a challenge, but the solution, if I come up with one, will be useful to everyone else in my shoes.

Mistakes are lessons.  They occur because there’s something you haven’t learned.  Learn it, and you won’t make the same mistakes.  But don’t worry if you fail to.  You will have the same lessons until you learn them.  Life is very persistent.

Do you see themes and currents in your life, areas in which you keep having problems and mistakes?  I do.  Forgetfulness is one of them, so is my absent-mindedness.  I need to learn something there, that I’m not learning yet.

We tend to decry a life filled with problems and failures.  But replace those two words with the ones above.  Is it really a bad life?

No, it doesn’t have to be.

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You Take as Much Abuse as What You Do to Yourself

One of the key lessons that stuck out from Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz was the truth that we only take as much abuse as what we do to ourselves. In the other words, I am my own worst abuser.  Nobody abuses me as badly as I do.

Wow, really?

As I reflected upon the thought, I realized how true it is.  If you have a healthy respect for yourself, you simply will not tolerate abuse from other people.  You simply walk away.

If you stay in abusing relationships, it is because it somehow reflects your self-image.  You take the abuse because it confirms what you believe about yourself and the way life is.

That’s a really scary thought, and I’d like to make it clear that I’m in no way justifying abusers for doing what they do.  I’m just trying to point out a new depth of realization — to rid abuses permanently from your life, you need to love and cherish yourself more.

One of my tendencies when I’m feeling insecure and threatened is to revert to being a people-pleaser.  If I become blameless, then people can’t get mad at me.  When I’m in that state, I become a doormat, a puppy who keeps wagging his tail even when he’s kicked and harassed.  Because it reflects what I call my existential shame.  There is a very deep sense of shame that has me believe that somehow I have to beg to be accepted, somehow I need to please others so they will like me.

Ahem.  I am working on that.

The important thing to note here is that while I am mad at my abusers, I also realize that I have the power to change that situation.  No, not somehow fixing the abusers, though my head gets filled with things I’d really say to them if I felt free to say so.  (And why am I not free to say them??)   If I increase the love and respect for myself, it’ll build up power to simply walk away from those situations. I can’t change others, but I can choose not to tolerate them.  I don’t need their company, so I stop hanging around with them.

I have to be careful not to use this realization as yet another excuse to berate myself, scold myself for being a coward to get into and stay in such situations.  That doesn’t really help.  Rather, it’s more helpful to forgive, cherish and treasure yourself.  So you’re not perfect — so what?  None of us are.  We make mistakes sometimes.  That doesn’t have to define who we are.

If you don’t like the situations/relationships you’re stuck in, first look to change how you treat yourself. That’s one area where you have complete control. Stop abusing yourself and that eventually leads to your not tolerating others to do what you’re doing to yourself.  I’m really liking the words cherish and treasure here — treat yourself like a parent does to his/her precious child.  You are precious. Don’t let harm get in your way.

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Using Pride and Hollowness to Separate Good Work from Hard Work:

First the definitions:

  • “Hard” Work: work that is done at such a pace, amount, or intensity that it strains you.
  • “Good” Work: work that is self-rewarding.  You have much higher tolerance for this work.  Even when you do it at a level where it’d be Hard had it been other kinds of work, Good Work doesn’t strain you because the act feeds energy back to you.

In the book “The War of Art” Steven Pressfield identified that when you give in to Resistance, it produces Hollow feeling.

So let’s say you start out your day, and you do nothing.  You’re just lazy that day.  But you don’t feel good about it.  Your choice makes you feel Hollow.

So you grudgingly start some Work.  You don’t know if you Enjoy your Work but You feel better.  There is a sense of Pride about the choice to do the Work.

But Work takes longer than you expected and after long hours of Working, you start to feel fatigued.  The original goal you set yourself was too ambitious.  But instead of adjusting your expectations, you keep going.  You finish your Work, but it’s very late at night, and you don’t have any time left to relax or do anything else.  You are left, once again, with a sour taste in your mouth. You were once proud of having chosen to do the Work, but you don’t feel that way any more.

Sounds familiar?  It does to me.  What happened?  I thought it was a good choice to do the Work?

Well, to an extent.  The Art lies in the Balance.

At any moment, you have a simple choice.  Do the Work, or not.  One choice takes more courage than the other.  One choice makes you feel prouder than the other.  That is the right choice.

But don’t assume that the same choice will be the right one the next moment.

Any Good Work turns Hard when you overdo it.  It’s never a good choice to strain yourself, without leaving room in your day to recover.  Because that leads to burn-out.  It’s like running a car without refueling.

So before you begin, you sense Resistance against the Work.  Resistance opposes all good things.  You overcome it and start, and you feel proud.

When you have worked enough, though, then you’ll have Resistance against Rest.  Because Resistance opposes all good things.  Then at that moment, Work turns from Good to Hard.  You still feel proud about having done the Work thus far, but the choice to keep going doesn’t feel proud.

That’s when you need to stop.

Remember that your success depends on Good Work, not Hard Work.  Even if you are being productive, if it’s straining you it’ll have a detrimental effect in the long run.

Just do the Good Work.  That’s enough.

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Go Where You Are Insecure

Self-confidence is the hardest to come by in the area of your greatest potential.  You see the vast ocean that lie between what you are and what you can be that it’s easy to feel insignificant.

But if you want to fulfill yourself, then that’s precisely where you need to go.

It’s a system designed to make us face and conquer our greatest fears on the way to greatness.

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