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“Go over and over your beads, paint weird designs on your forehead, wear your hair matted, long, and ostentatious, but when deep inside you there is a loaded gun, how can you have God?” ~ Kabir

We are nice to our coworkers – until that one jerk steals our idea. We patiently run our errands – until the woman with 20 items is ahead of us on the express line. We are courteous drivers – until the turkey in the giant SUV cuts us off. We go about our days following the usual childhood rules – until something pushes our buttons and compassion goes out the window. You can call that something Satan, or evil, or human nature, whatever. But that devil is us. We choose our behaviors, there is no way around that. We allow the fear and anger to take over for a little while, and after we mess up, we ask forgiveness. We are forgiven. Then we go right back to our usual patterns of thinking of ourselves as the center of the Universe.

With effort, we can break out of the cycle. Mindfulness is a difficult path to walk, but it works. All those self-help tricks: deep breaths, counting to ten, thinking of a STOP sign when you feel the emotions coming… they all help to snap you out of the moment, push that evil away and stay focused on the way you want to behave.

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I ran a Professional Organizing business for a few years, and one of the things I learned is that mental and physical clutter are absolutely linked.

Most of the time, people called me because their physical clutter had become an unbearable obstacle in their lives. While everyone’s definition of unbearable is different, people almost always felt the same way: all this stuff is in my way (either at home or at the office) and I can’t move ahead with my life when I can’t find what I need. The physical clutter blocks their mental flow and they feel constricted.

Sometimes, when I speak with someone who has reached out to me for help I can tell just by what they’re telling me about their lives that their mental state is causing physical clutter. Someone who feels lost, out of control, or depressed often mirrors those feelings in their physical environment. Occasionally the physical clutter is soothing to them – like a wall they’ve built around themselves for protection, but the physical mess just ends up adding to their mental stress. Many people who call Professional Organizers express feeling ashamed and embarrassed.

Getting organized – both mentally and physically – isn’t about baskets and totes. It’s about habits, goals, and rewards. Establishing a habit takes about 30 days. Choose one small thing to change and try doing it for a month. When you get to two weeks, give yourself a little reward. If you get off track, don’t give up and don’t let that mental bully visit – just go back to trying. Enlist some support from a trusted friend or relative. Eventually you will reach your goal!

When you see the physical clutter building up, ask yourself what might be bothering you. When you’re feeling like your head is clogged with things to do, look around and see if getting organized can help you feel less stressed. Take small steps – every step is a step forward!

The BP oil spill in the Gulf is truly a disaster. The impact to the environment, wildlife, and economy in the area will be felt for years to come. I believe BP should be held accountable for cleaning up it’s mess, they were smart to go along with Obama’s $20 million+ request – its the responsible thing to do, and good PR which they certainly want and need. I understand, in fact I’m in full agreement, with the horror, frustration, and anger that is felt as we watch billions of gallons of oil turn a beautiful body of water into a tar pit.

What I can’t agree with is the emotional knee-jerk reaction leading to the “Boycott BP” and “Bankrupt BP” sentiments. When people hurt, no matter if its physical, emotional, in sympathy with another’s pain, or whatever… often the immediate feeling is to hurt back. However, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, when we are emotional our capacity for making clear choices is destroyed. Its a function of our lizard brains – filled with instincts that served our ancestors so well when fight or flight was a matter of life or death. Nowadays, matching hurt with hurt is a useless, vicious cycle that does nothing but add more suffering to a bad situation.

Boycotting BP stations  is emotionally fulfilling on a personal level, but does nothing to hurt Corporate BP. Corporate would shrug off the failure of a few individual BP stations like an elephant swats at flies with his tail, just a minor annoyance. Boycotting individual stations does hurt the station’s owner, however. This guy has invested thousands of dollars into his franchise, and paid top dollar for the right to put BP’s logo on his pumps. In fact, I’d bet he’s got a contract that says he’s pretty much stuck with BP for a certain number of years and breaking that contract would bring the wrath of  BP’s legal department, ending in bankruptcy. The station owner pays his taxes and plays his part in our economic recovery – we don’t need more small businesses failing right now. All the station owner wants to do is pay his mortgage and feed his family like anyone else. He didn’t know this disaster would happen, and it really doesn’t matter which oil company he went with because they all play the same games – it just happened that BP was the unlucky schmuck to get shot playing Russian Roulette.

Oh, so that leaves us with somehow bankrupting Corporate BP, you say? Again, while emotionally fulfilling this would also bring it’s own flavor of disaster. Besides the fact that BP is a huge part of Britian’s economy – which is tightly knitted to ours (and the world’s), BP is one of the blue-chip, supposedly stable giant corporations that pension funds and IRA managers love. When our economy’s near-failure shook the globe, we rattled the economy of every other country on the planet. They don’t need economic instability any more than we do. I’m no expert, but BP might be one of those companies that is too big to fail – or at least would cause one hell of a huge ripple if it did.

So what to do with the anger? Well, I don’t know. I’d love to travel down to the gulf to help wash pelicans but my own economic recovery requires me to work my 9 to 5 every day. And since I haven’t seen requests for lay people to come down and help, I suppose you’d need a certain level of training to be qualified to bathe wildlife. Maybe less for scooping up tarballs? I suppose the best thing we can do – as lame and emotionally unfulfilling as it feels, is to make a hell of a lot of noise demanding Congress put some regulations with teeth in place and clean up the bureaucracies that were supposed to be watching these companies.

Janet just couldn’t keep it all flowing the way she wanted it to. At work, she would set up meetings, but her coworkers wouldn’t cooperate with her. At home, she would clean the house and put the groceries away only to find her 6-year-old had again dumped out his bin of toy cars, and her husband kept putting the croutons back on the shelf with the soup. Whenever she made a schedule, it was inevitable that some problem would crop up resulting in someone being late. Janet was tired, frustrated and disappointed.

Janet needed to learn the lesson.

Sometimes you really have to take a step back to see the lesson that life is trying to teach you, because once you learn that lesson you can move on. When it seems that something you do always turns into a disappointing mess, stop. Take some time – just 15 minutes – to think about what is common to the situations that have gone awry. Is there a theme? Is it always the same people, the same topic, the same time of day?

Once you think you have figured out the commonality, try to follow it back to its root cause. Often, the cause is you, painful as that may be. However, this realization is a good thing because we can always change ourselves. We can change our actions, or change our reactions to others. Every thing we do is a choice that moves us farther and farther down our path, with the destination being determined by the sum of those choices multiplied by our intentions.

In Janet’s case, she was trying to control the details in areas that she was not in control of; a pattern she saw in her mother and never recognized in herself. Both at home and at work Janet can set up rules and expectations, but she needed to accept that others in her life might not be able to meet those expectations or cooperate with those rules. Janet can only control herself, not others. Once she was able to grasp that concept and let go of some of the “little stuff”, she was able to find a greater sense of peace, gratitude and satisfaction. And with the little stuff out of mind, she could focus on letting go of some bigger things, too.

Do you find yourself facing the same challenges over and over? Give yourself the time to sit quietly and let your mind ponder the similarities of each situation. When you have an idea of the root cause, challenge yourself to learn the lesson and change what needs changing.

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