Monday, October 17, 2011

You Are Not You Path

My friend Scott is an expert stucker, i.e., he excels in remaining stuck in various areas of his life. Scott's chosen method of sticking is different than that of my friend Mark Kaufman who has mastered all forms of getting unstuck yet nonetheless remains steadfastly committed to stuckedness. Scott's method is different than my own which draws liberally from Einstein's definition of insanity; I always know that if I try just one more time...

If I were going to align Scott with anyone, it would be Iris. This is a good news kind of alignment since Iris seems to have all but forgotten how to get or remain stuck. The method that Scott and Iris share is that of consistently referring to events from their past when asked questions about something done in the present. Both Scott and Iris experienced events in childhood that most of us would not want our children to experience and many would call traumatizing.

Used to be when you asked Iris a question about why she did this or that, she'd bring up something that her mom or dad or brother did or said to her when she was a child.

Ask Iris about why she hesitates or holds back when singing and she says, "When I was a small child, I loved to sing. When my parents would have parties, they would ask me to sing for everyone. People would listen, smile and laugh. After a while, I realized they were laughing at my speech impediment and that the reason my parents wanted me to sing was my flawed pronunciation."

Ask Iris why she doesn't drink, smoke or use drugs and she tells you about growing up in a household where the air was thick with smoke there were more than ample drunks and drug users.

Similarly, Scott explains hesitation, fear and doubt with stories from his past: a grandfather who berated him or missing a critical high note during an important concert where everyone was relying on him.

I gotta say that when I listen to Iris and Scott tell there stories it's hard not to buy into their logic. Their experiences have certainly influenced who they are today. However, past experiences are not the reasons they make decisions in the present. The reasons for decisions in the present are always in the present.

You might say, "That's ridiculous. Traumatic events from childhood often stick with people throughout their lives. Some people never get over them."

I would agree that some people never get over childhood events. However, the actor is not the event, but the individual. Events don't stick to people; people maintain events.

You might say, "Ask anyone and I'm sure they can come up with things that they do today because of events in the past."

I would agree that people would say that. However, that's simply a result of not fully understanding the anatomy of influence.

Let's say that whenever you fail to eat a good lunch your blood sugar levels crash around two-o'clock. So you decide to always stop whatever you're doing at noon in order to eat. Clock chimes twelve and whether you're alone or in the middle of a conversation, at home or in a meeting at work, you head out the door to get something to eat.

You leave a friend mid-sentence and he follows you out the door. "Hey, I was just about to tell you something important and you walked right out on me. What's up?"

You say, "Look, I've had these terrible experiences after not eating a good lunch. My blood sugar levels drop through the floor and I become a completely different person. Once I fell asleep in the middle of an important meeting with all the big bosses. Another time, I yelled at my kids when they were just being kids. I've gotta get something to eat right away."

At first blush, it sounds as though your motivation is based in past experience. It's not. Your motivation is to maintain your blood sugar today; it's current. You're not trying to fix your past; you're trying to maintain your present.

So what's the past got to do with it? The past contributed to your beliefs about eating and blood sugar levels. It also helped you establish your priorities for dealing with it. The past has nothing to do with your current motivation which is to... Well, that depends upon your day. You might have an upcoming meeting or a school event or a race to run: something that you want to do well. Your belief is that skipping lunch will cause you not to do well or that eating lunch will help you to do well. So, you eat.

Even if you flip everything into negative motivation (i.e., avoiding past experiences that were "bad" rather than moving toward current/future experiences that are "good"), your motivation is in the present.

Nowadays, you'll almost never hear Iris refer to her past when asked "why?" She keeps things in the present and the transformation has been remarkable. Turns out that attribution to past events did more than to keep her stuck; the focus precluded her from looking at current motivations and challenges. She now breaks through issues like gangbusters.

Indeed the path you've followed has led you to who you are. Thing is, you are not your path.

Happy Monday,

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