Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's My Mom's Fault

OK, so when was the last time you blamed your upbringing, your environment, your culture or something that happened to you when you were a kid, for something you were thinking, feeling or doing at that moment? A year ago? A month ago? A week ago? This morning?

Based on my experience over the last couple of weeks, I would have to say that for most of us, it was probably this morning. Within the last three days, I've heard people explain their self-doubt as the result of failed efforts in the past. I've heard people explain their lack of energy and enthusiasm as a result of the culture in which they grew up. I've listened to people express fears about their current relationship, based on bad experiences with past relationships.

I've even heard people explain their lack of empowerment as result of their parents never having empowered them. Forgetting for the moment that this represents a complete lack of understanding of concept of personal empowerment, the attribution is in the past.

Do You Have Free Will?
So, my first question is this: do you believe in and have free will? For the purpose of discussion, we can leave out the whole debate about the universe being deterministic or not. I mean, from an everyday perspective, do you make decisions based on a live and active you, or are you simply doing what you do as a result of programming?

If you do have free will, then read on. If not, well, we'll have to take that up in another blog.

Do You Use It?
Now, if you do have free will, the next question is: Do you use your free will?

I know, this is kind of a silly question. By definition, having free will mandates using it. Even when we say that we're responding to something because of our past experience, we're not. Instead, we're actually using our free will in the moment to go with past experiences, expectations, and decisions.

The past actually has nothing to do what we're doing in the moment. Even when we act based "past" experiences, we're not; we're actually acting based on "current" beliefs that we built in the past. The events that helped us create those beliefs occurred in the past, but the beliefs themselves are ones that we are holding the moment.

Why is this important? It's important because although we can't change past events, we can change current beliefs. Imagine if we were really doing things today because of events in our past. We'd be stuck. We could never actually change. However, if we're really doing what we're doing based on beliefs we have right not, then the possibility for change is infinite.

There is No Middle Ground
From a physics perspective, there's actually no middle ground: either everything is deterministic or everything has the potential to behave in a way that's not deterministic. From an everyday perspective, there are actually two fundamental choices: either there is nothing I can do to change anything about myself, ever, or, I can change anything about myself anytime I want to.

I imagine that some of you are probably thinking, "change anything about myself? There's no way I could change anything?"

Here, it's important that we not confuse knowing how to do something with being able to do something. Any significant breakthrough starts with the belief that the breakthrough can be made, not with knowing how the breakthrough can be accomplished.

So Far...

In summary (so far):
  1. We either have free will or we don't.
  2. If we have free will, yet appear to be operating based on past experience, we're not.
  3. Instead, we're actually using our free in the present to guide our actions based on current beliefs (built on past experience).
Resuscitating Our Free Will
How do we apply all this to situations where we feel depressed or we lack self-confidence or we're fearful about our relationship or we can't find the inspiration to do what we want to do?

The first question, which we often skip over, is: do I actually want change? be depression free? exude self-confidence? engage fully in my relationship without fear? have inspiration in abundance?

Oftentimes, our unhappiness is there for a purpose. We may lack inspiration because we're afraid of where the inspiration may take us. We may use depression as socially acceptable reason to avoid doing something we don't want to do. So, it's really useful to decide whether or not I want to change, before getting into how to change.

The second question is: given that I want to change, why am I not changing? Remember, the answers to this question are a current belief. The belief itself is built on something from the past, but the belief is current.

As you explore the second question, you may find yourself bringing up past experiences. Great! Delve into them! Dredge them up with great clarity and specificity.

But then, after you're through, ask yourself, "even if all this happened in my past, what does it really have to do with who I am now?" Ask yourself, "how is it helping me to hang on to that old belief?" Ask yourself, "what beliefs might be more useful in accomplishing what I want to do?"

Don't let the past hang around. Explore it and get past it.

Free Will Defibrillator
If after all this you still feel stuck, here are some ways that you might jolt yourself back into the present.
  1. Go on a past diet.
    Spend a week where you never bring up anything prior to that week when talking about why you do what you do. Make every decision a current decision. If a week seems a little tough, stretch it back to a month or a year. But definitely preclude any data from childhood.

  2. Conduct a deep dive into your past.
    So often our beliefs based on the past are murky at best. We talk about our environment or our culture with a few vivid images and the rest blank. If we are going to use our past as motivational, then it's really useful to dive in deeply and explore everything with as much detail as possible.

    Often, the when we compare details from the past to details from the present, we see clearly that the past has nothing to do with our present situation. So, shine a bright light on your past and engage it.

    Note: This exercise might best be done with someone else who can help with questions.

  3. Give yourself a new birthday!
    You pick the month, day and the year. Decide that nothing actually happened to you prior to your new birthday. Celebrate it big time. Let everyone in your life know that, the new you began on that day. Invite them to point this out each time you bring up a reason you're doing what you're doing that occurred prior to that day.


  1. Awesome! I love the concept of a "Free Will Defribellater"! For some time now I have been very impressed by wild changes in my behavior and attitudes and watched myself be dynamic sometimes, depressed sometimes, adventurous and listing for life sometimes and just holing myself up and wanting to hide from life sometimes; living life zestfully sometimes and seriously committed to slow suicide sometimes. I feel like there is an "aliveness" switch in me that I turn on or off and that when I have it turned off it's really hard to find it to turn it back on again, like teyimg to find the lightswitch in a dark room. Going back to this article at those times will really help me find it, will be my emergency flashlight. Thank you sooooooooooooooooo much!

  2. I love this, did not think that i good ever look at my past and smile about it.
    I am having so much fun, thank you for making me making this choise.

  3. I am a little slow... I decided early this year that the new york marathon would be the day where I would "give up the past". So for me this year has been a funny way of playing with old behaviours - being curious about how and why I do things - and nowing that I will change then - I am changing all the left overs from my past.

    I could turn it into my new birthday: Nov 1st 2009 - so I not yet born - which means I'm not slow but fast. Wow - I'm looking forward to my birthday - I'll be 0 this year!


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