We all hear that when we get angry at others, it is something in us that is being reflected and that we need to learn from. We all hear that other people are in our lives to teach us a lesson. We all know the saying that if we want to change the world, we must change ourselves first. I have been the one who recited these things to others as much as I recite it to myself. When reciting it to myself it was usually in a “what lesson am I supposed to learn” way. Most of the time I couldn’t see the lesson.
I have heard and repeated all of these “budha-isms” for a long time, possibly more in the last year and a half, but they’ve been with me most of my life. I never truly grasped them though, and they were often more words uttered as a desperate hope that something big will appear in front of me, like a genie perhaps, and show me the lesson. You know when someone gives you a riddle and you know the answer should be obvious, but no matter how hard you try you just can’t get it? When they give you the answer your response is, of course, I should’ve known that! That has been the meaning of these truisms in my life.
Until the last month that is…
A couple of events in my life are changing the course of my life, or let me say, if I am willing to change how I behave, CAN change the course of my life. I’ll talk a bit about each to give context.
I have become more vocal to people that surround me – work and family. More vocal in the things that I am not happy with. These have always been words and thoughts that I kept behind a closed heart in fear that I will upset people and push people away. The first time I verbalised my unhappiness and how I plan on actioning them was a bit of a disaster, I did hurt some people in the process, but received some very valuable feedback that I can learn from. My initial response to the feedback was self-pity and the typical “I’m gonna eat some worms” response, blaming everyone around me. I have known for probably about 3 weeks now that this is my response to difficult situations and this is my numbing mechanism to make the pain go away – courtesy #OLCBreneBrown. I still don’t catch myself the instant I go down this road, but I do catch myself after the first three steps or so down the road. Here is the interesting part about this behaviour. I have a family member who does exactly the same thing, and I get extremely angry with them when they do it. I want to talk open-heartedly to this person (I’m omitting names to keep these people safe), but taking the feedback from my first open hearted talk, I decided to write my message first, and to write it in terms of “what about their behaviour do I feel is not according to my expectation of our relationship and how does it make me feel”. That’s when I realised that a lot of the behaviours they illustrate that I don’t like, are behaviours I have too. We had a family blow out a couple days ago, because one person (call it person A) was carrying negative feedback towards another person (call it person B) since the week before. Instead of talking about it, person A carried this with them and their grudge against person B became bigger and bigger. Person B did something out of the goodness of their heart, and person A blew up against B unexpectedly. Only once these two people started talking could they each do something with the feedback. Again, the person I need to talk to….I’m doing exactly the same, and no matter how hard this person tries, in my eyes they can do nothing right, because I’m bottling all the things about this person that makes me unhappy.
The third case is at the office. I expect my team to support me and my decisions. I am doing the best I know to do with the information I have. Sometimes I am right, sometimes I am wrong. Sometimes I have their support, sometimes people may be implementing something they don’t agree with. In all my time at the JSE I have been pretty much managing myself, and for a short period I had a lead who I highly trusted and we thought the same way, so implementation was easy. I am in a situation right now where I often don’t agree with the way a certain person in my team wants to implement. I have to give this person an opportunity to implement work the best way this person knows to, and to do this I sometimes have to do things I don’t agree with. In effect this is the perfect opportunity for me to learn how to support my leadership, the same way I expect my team to support me. It has been a very bitter pill to swallow, and I’m still chewing very hard on it. But I acknowledge that if I want to learn this life lesson, I need to commit to it with full integrity and commitment, without trying to sabotage it.
So for the first time in my life I am looking through crystal clear lenses at events unfolding around me, and seeing what it is I am walking into. I don’t necessarily know what the end outcome will be, but I know very deep in my gut that the most difficult paths are the ones that will serve me the most. In some instances it isn’t even about a difficult path, but rather seeing behaviours in others that I see in myself and think: “oh my hat, that is exactly why certain things happens the way they do, and I have been contributing to it”. It does sometimes make me feel ashamed of my own behaviour, that is when my self-pity starts, and that doesn’t serve me either. For the first time I can now see what it is I can change in my life.
I have been wondering for a while what in my life has changed that now serves me so well. The truth is that I don’t believe there is one specific event that has brought about this change. But there are two very big specific events I believe has had some input into it. The first is that I have finally started accepting myself for who I am today, seeing my beauty, seeing how powerful I am, acknowledging my own achievements and saying to myself “you know what, that was pretty amazing, not many people are willing to do that”. The second event is one that is directly related to changing the world by starting with yourself. I have started with myself. I have thrown myself in pretty dangerous water at work, but now I am learning how to start smoothing the edges. And the interesting thing is, the universe is giving me plenty opportunities to fine tune it. I have many hard talks lying ahead of me in the very near future, never mind the ones I don’t know about yet. But it seems I have a little bulk of them that needs to happen right now – they’re either there because I’ve been shying away from them all my life, or they’re there to teach me how to do them in a gentle non-destructive way. There is a third one as well. I have called out to the universe, some call it God, some call it Ancestors, I haven’t decided what to call it yet, but I know I can close my eyes and ask for the global consciousness to listen, and it is there. I have connected to this consciousness and believe that answers will come to me and guide me as I go.
My biggest change has been to change myself. What is fascinating to see is how everything around me is now also changing. I can say I really deeply grasp now that the first step in changing the world, is to start with yourself.