Behavioral Change Step 3: Cultivating Perspective Change

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. In the first two blog posts on this subject I wrote about how I first try to cultivate and increase my awareness, where after I reach a point where I consciously aim to integrate the newly gained perspective in to my life. In this third and last blog on the subject I will explain how I try to cultivate a change of perspective.

First off, I think it is important to consider that any change I make is part of a bigger process. This is important to me because what on one day might seem like a life altering outlook can be normal the week after. If I want to optimally profit from the alternations I go through, seeing things for what they are will allow me to take appropriate steps to keep continuing the road I am on without getting lost in the moment.

Being conscious will also allow me to put setbacks in to perspective. If I am solely focusing on the present, disregarding the bigger process, a setback might really feel as a setback. Whereas, if I look at the bigger picture, a setback usually is an opportunity to learn.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to integrate anything learned directly in to all parts of my life. There were so many times I had to reinforce certain decisions after being caught by the novelty of a situation. When other parameters in my life differ from the regular, I find it hard at times to reproduce a satisfying decision based on my values. For example, going out to eat in a different country, with a different language and food culture, there might be signals that might normally make me say I do not want to eat that. Whereas, in this case there is so much new that I perceive these signals differently. The same goes for responding in a preset manner to friends or family just because there was a time specific interactions were bothering me. Having set the intention to put these interactions in to a different light does not mean I solved the issue forever. This is definitely the case with patterns within a family. Having lived together for so long, there was a lot of time for patterns to get intertwined in a lot more ways than we tend to be aware of.

On a more material level, to make any changes last, I believe it best to literally start living them. If I talk about them in my social environment they are already more real than if I would keep them to myself. Asking for support to help me maintain a certain direction can be as simple as telling me when I am off, but also conversations about obstructions can be a great way to redirect intentions.

Taking this one step further, I believe that a set of values will make life inevitably lighter to manage. It is easier to make decisions in relation to a certain context than when I am simply drifting from stimulus to stimulus. However, by this I do not advocate blindly subscribing to a religion or becoming a full blown radical left-wing supporter, nor does it need to be a fixed set of values. Rather, if I figure out what is important to me and my happiness, I can relate my decisions to that.

From my own experience I have noticed that if I stick to my values this generally gets accepted by the environment I am in. Even when the values of my environment are entirely different. I have been in a lot of situations where I deliberately had to emphasize that I do not eat any animal products, nor can you make me happy with a glass of Coca Cola. When I communicated these intentions clearly, I never had the idea people thought me unthankful, something a lot of people worry about in this regard. Nevertheless, if I would be in a less confident state of mind my intentions were bound to be received with more apprehension.

The take home message for me here is, that if I live my change, my mindset and my values, I believe people will realize that that is who I am. The form of feedback originating from this makes the cultivation of this same change more sustainable. Ultimately, strengthening the fundament any authentic life can flourish upon.

Behavioral Change Step 2: Changing Perspective

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. Last week, in the first blog on this subject, I broke down how I execute the first step in this process. I try to increase my awareness by maintaining a questioning attitude in the present, at the same time using passed experiences to better direct the already achieved mindset.

So, once I am aware of something that requires change, like the way I eat, the way I feel when somebody talks to me, or how I perceive the relationship with my friends, this is easily kept at the front of my mind. However, to actually do something with this newly acquired perspective, asks for a different plan of action.

Before I can use any of the newly acquired outlooks, I believe it is necessary to accept this new information. As things go, we have a tendency to resist change. Both our minds and bodies thrive on structure, rhythm and safety. A change of perspective however, puts all of our habits under pressure. Therefore, our first line of defense is often any form of denial.

Where it might be hard to actually keep questioning to increase awareness and change perspective, it often is not that hard to come up with alternative views just to keep our current state of mind in place. I know that next to accepting a newly perceived view I also have to accept any forms of denial that follow. Just like I try to not let fear dictate my decisions by accepting the sensation when it occurs, I know that dealing with denial is best done the same way.

The way I follow up on a change of perspective, is to consciously revalue a certain mindset. One time an increase in importance of a certain idea might be needed, whereas in another moment it’s importance should be decreased. I remember one time where I did this with a lot of purpose. There was a time when I was feeling guilty for my “laziness” (I also wrote about this in an Instagram post). I had the feeling I was not being productive and therefore should actively pursue a goal to change this. Until I realized, that this idea and the feelings resulting from it were nothing of my own creation. Instead I worked out that it was rather the way the society I grew up and worked in were making me think along these lines.

When I arrived at this point I literally had a f*ck that! moment with so much presence that it never returned. Here I succeeded in revaluing this feeling and therefore changing the way it affected me. After that, I never felt lazy again. In the beginning there were some moments where I had to reinforce this outlook, but apart from that, it stuck.

In this case the life I was living was fully supportive of the ability to change. There were no stimuli from my environment confusing my thoughts and there was sufficient support around to talk about these subjects. Before I started traveling though, this was not the case. Work, sports and day to day sucked up a lot of my energy. Even though, I was being aware that I disagreed with the reigning work ethic, I did not have any headspace, nor energy left to get to the bottom of this feeling.

The optimal state to use newly acquired awareness, seems to be one of tranquility and ease. In my last blog I actually concluded that a similar state is also where an increase of awareness is achieved. However, when we are living our everyday life this state of mind rarely occurs when we not actively seek it.

The idea that we are only doing something when we physically move or are working towards a goal is something deeply wired in our society. Not only does it discredit the value of doing “nothing”, it also seems that when we live as expected there is hardly any space to form ourselves along a trajectory that we want. Fitting in is more important than personal authentic growth.

I know that it is up to every person for themselves to ascribe the value that they think any idea is worth. What for the one person is a life altering perspective change might for the other be just another day in the life. I believe it important though, that the values should be of my own creation. Not from my parents, nor society, nor my friends.

Regardless of the value I end up giving to any idea, there is no good or bad. Also, it does not need to be forever. I am free to change my mindset any time.

How Fear Influences Your Everyday Life (2)

This is the second post in a two part series on a how fear influences your everyday life. In the first post on fear, last week, I tried to dissect how fear is wired in to our current lives without a valid reason. In this second part, I will explore how society is actually stimulating this fear-based lifestyle at the same time offering us a solution in materialistic form instead of supporting us to deal with it internally.

Where our society has developed faster than anybody could have imagined, our bodies like plants, take a little longer. Our society requires us to behave and learn in a certain way to keep it’s materialistic parts in place. Leaving little space to actually learn to interact with ourselves. Where society stimulates us to externalize our problems, the real solution always lies within ourselves. In Buddhism for example, it is being tought that the origin and solution of our problems can be found within ourselves. This is also the case with fear-based behavior.

Fake Security

Nevertheless, we have created material constructs to give a sense of security to reduce our fears. We have insurances for health, cars, houses, belongings or even parts of our body, so that we do not have to be afraid before something happens. Still, we end up being afraid when something happens, because it might just be that the insurance will not cover the incident.

I remember sitting in a public hospital waiting room in Buenos Aires. I could barely walk, I could not stretch my left knee and I was hurting like hell. The day before I had twisted my knee provoking a sensation unfamiliar to me. The first thing my Physical Therapist brain told me, is that I injured my meniscus. This would mean long recovery and possible surgery. I wondered if my insurance would cover this, and I realized that to resolve this injury I might need to fly to Europe to do surgery.

Anyway, after waiting for three hours the doctor showed up. He assessed my knee doing two tests, and told me I might be lucky and that I probably sprained my medial colletaral ligament. Even though, the doctor did two assessments that I know to be very unreliable, my perspective changed and my fear subsided. All of a sudden everything seemed managable again. Even though, nothing about my situation had changed.

With a calm mind I realized that the doctor’s diagnosis was probably right. Nevertheless, during the 24 hours before, fear had kept me in a tunnel. Only worrying about one possible outcome even though there were more. In this process I was in touch with my travel insurance agency. They told me that I would have to pay the first 900 euros of whatever treatment would be done.

Where everybody usually takes a travel insurance, if they can, it does not prevent any accident from happening. It shows here that my organized materialistic protection did not aid me in resolving my fears after suffering my injury. It was just a monetary protection generating a false sense of security.

Everyday Worries

Furthermore, worries like: will I have enough money for next month? Will I be able to participate in the next exam? Am I strong enough to win this contest? And, can I stick to my diet change?, might provoke feelings of fear and a sense of insecurity. If we do not become conscious of the limiting effects of these feelings, we might make such feelings a foundation to decide upon. Fear seems to force our attention towards it’s origin. Therefore, it does not go well with balanced thoughts, planning capabilities and weighed decision taking.

However, a large part of our society keeps thriving on this primal emotion. A new alarm at home will make sure the thieves do not get in to the house and a new smoke alarm will prevent the house from burning down. Both of these alarms are there to protect our possessions. Interestingly, the idea that something is “ours” after we have acquired it is a human invention. Where after, a fear for losing these possessions might arise. To take this fear of losing away, we created insurances and alarms.

The Flip Side of Possession

Possession and dependence are among the most freedom undermining concepts. Where in reality we are free to begin with, these posessions actually take away our freedom after we generate the idea that we depend on them.

However, if we manage to detach from everything we have, we also lose the sensation of fear and dependence connected to it. I personally experienced this during my travels. At home, I was thinking about everything I was not taking with me in my backpack, and how this would limit me. Once I was away though, I ended up using half of what I was carrying. When I realized what this meant, a greater sense of freedom dawned on me.

Fear provokers, like possession, dependance and fear of loss are a product of society rather, than they are of me. When I realized this, it became easier to deal with them. Part of them not provoking feelings of fear anymore. Where in other situations, fear might still be present. In these situations though, I try to value it differently. In anyway, fear can and is allowed to always be a part of an emotion. It is up to us though, how we respond.

How Fear Influences Your Everyday Life (1)

This is the first post in a two part series on how fear influences your everyday life. In this first post I will try to dissect how fear is wired in to our current life without a valid reason. In the second part I will explore how society is actually stimulating this fear-based lifestyle, at the same time offering us a solution in materialistic form, instead of supporting us to deal with it internally.

Fear in Everyday Conversation

We all experience a sense of fear on a regular basis. Popping up whenever we see something happen we do not like, or when we think of something that might happen in the future. We are afraid of an exam, afraid to tell the truth or afraid to change the way we act. The feeling of being afraid is so normal that there are sentences like: “I am afraid this is not going work” or “I am afraid I am not going to make it on time”. Whereas, these sentences are used as messages, the words they contain are connected to feelings deeper rooted in our organisms.

The simplicity of these messages and the frequency with what we use them is a sign of how deeply rooted fear is in our behavior. If we do not pay attention a lot of our behavior and decisions, unknowingly will be based on fear. I for example, notice that I often feel stress and act stressed when I have to get too many things done in “too little” time. This is an example of fear-based behavior. As soon as I realize that stressing it does not support me to achieve my goal in any case, and that time is a subjective phenomenon anyway, it becomes easier to let go of these feelings.

In general though, we might be afraid to engage in new ventures, relationships or a change of life direction, all leaving us paralyzed in the present. Regardless of the probability of success of the desired choice, the result will always be the same; no change.

Origin and Consequence

Fear can be the consequence and origin of a wide variety of feelings. Fear by itself, awkwardness, shame and insecurity are definitely feelings that are connected in a lot of situations. While these feelings are usually blacklisted in our life – we do not want to feel them – they corrupt our decision making and behavior even more this way.

I for myself, can feel insecure before engaging in a conversation, definitely when I do not speak the language fluently. Another reason might be, when I have to tell somebody something I think they will not like in that moment. I experienced this both in my personal life as at work. Whereas, in the former this would be about speaking true to my feelings, in the latter it usually meant speaking the truth, and supposedly provoking a feeling of disappointment in my client. On both occasions though, these short-term “negative” effects do not mean anything when compared to what is to be gained from knowing the truth.

Essential

However, fear is probably the single most essential feeling to ensure the progression of our physical life. This sensation focuses all our attention in the present, diminishes the importance of any other feeling, heightens our essential physical abilities, and inhibits conscious decision making. Because, it is time to run away from a charging lion, safe a child from a speeding car or to steer clear of a creepy person in the night.

Nevertheless, we now connect these primal feelings with none life-threatening situations. Feelings of insecurity and lack of confidence supported by unnatural expectations from our environment constantly trigger fear(like) responses. School, work, schedules, planning, culture, social values and traffic together with constructs like time and money create an environment full of “dangers”.

Where fear might be experienced as it is, it might also develop into different behavior. This makes it harder to see where the origin of the discomfort is. Possibly, even developing in to chronic health problems. Take a look around your social environment (including yourself), and you will definitely encounter somebody that lives a fear-based life. It should be no surprise that these people look and act tense, and eventually live tense, marking their body and behavior with fear.

Acceptance

Where it is hard to block out all sensations of fear, it is the blocking of these types of emotions that actually strengthens them. To me though, it makes more sense to feel the fear and then deal with it, instead of steering clear. As soon as we get comfortable feeling fear it gets easier to deal with situations that arouse it. At the same time, allowing us to question both the situation and the feeling itself. Where after, it is possible to see this feeling for what it really is, and we might get to a point where we realize that it is actually provoked by something else.

Next week I will continue with what “something else” might be. Please come back next week to read on.