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Moving Mountains/Magical Choices For Empowering Your Life's Journey
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Chapter 7
By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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How We Approach the
Circumstances of Our Life -

We are so anxious to achieve
some particular end that we
never pay attention to the
psycho-physical means whereby
that end is to be gained. So far
as we are concerned, any old
means is good enough. But the
nature of the universe is such
that the ends never justify the
means. On the contrary, the
means
always determine the end. 
-Aldous Huxley         

We have explored the universal obstacles in our lives. We have discovered how these obstacles stimulate our own man-made obstacles. But knowing  that they are there and working through their presence are two different things.

In this chapter we will talk about some of the ways you can transform the residue of wrestling with these obstacles into a small garden of hope and personal empowerment. Before we get too far into this chapter, let me make two points.

First, there is a side effect from creating the new path you have chosen. It grows out of the emotional rhythm everyone experiences when starting to transform and empower their life. Nobody but nobody is immune to it. It affects the best and the brightest people I know. If you stick at working with what you are starting in this book, you will experience it as well.

I saw it the other day when I was with a good  friend of mine, Stephanie Phillips. She’s two-years old and one of my most cherished teachers. I am always learning something new when I am with her.

She was sitting on the floor reaching for a puzzle piece in front of her. The piece was just out of her grasp. She could see what she needed. She could see where it was, but she couldn’t reach it at that moment.

My small friend moved a little and sat. She tried to reach further but couldn’t get what she wanted. She sat some more. She thought for a while. Then she sat a little longer. Then my little Stephanie slowly took a deep breath and let out a long deep cry of disgust.

Some people call what I’m talking about frustration. Others call it discouragement. You may have another name for the negative feelings that come from not being where you want to be, when you want to be there. But remember, it affects all of us at one time or another, and you must never underestimate the power of this force in your life.

This discouragement is an abiding condition that can seep into the fabric of our existence. It can be the companion of anyone making the pilgrimage from who they were to who they would like to be. And it manifests itself in so many ways that sometimes it is impossible to notice unless you have a guide along the way.

I suspect this emotional undertow is responsible for many things that are hard to explain. It may unconsciously be responsible for those times when a mother shakes her baby in the aisle at the supermarket. It may be the reason some people sit and stare at the ground all day in the park near my house. And in the most extreme cases, I think it may be the reason some people choose to end their lives early.

I know these are extreme examples, but I think it is important to remember just how overwhelming discouragement can be.

The second point I want to make is to guard yourself against another little monster. It is not nearly so dramatic as discouragement, but it’s equally important. I’m talking about one of the waste products that develop from any soul under construction. I’m talking about cynicism.

Cynicism is what happens when you abandon creativity and optimism in favor of despair. It can be really funny to listen to the words of someone who is cynical, but the truth is, most of the time cynics are just looking for center stage by trading angry remarks at the expense of others.

Think about the stereotype that artists face. You know, when you get into a discussion of creative artist, someone will say “Well, I’ve heard all artists who are good suffer for their art.”

What that statement reflects is the conflict and pain involved in any true creative process. Despair and cynicism are real, honest problems faced by anyone who tries to do anything new. That includes any creative activity, and transforming your life is the most creative act of all.

Now that we have touched on one side of the coin, what’s left?

The flip side to all of that pain and discouragement is hope. But it is a special kind of hope. It is personal, it is constructive, and it is fun. The flip side of this all is inspiration and play.

This hope is the joy expressed in a wild- abandon dance in the middle of a driving rain storm. It is the magic moment when a young girl discovers the surprise of spinning circles in a long summer skirt for the very first time. It is the joy of a son laughing at the face his father makes as he peeks over the cereal box at breakfast. And it should be a bigger part of your life today.

Creative freedom comes from inspiration. Inspiration means giving yourself permission to play. Inspiration means making time for goofing with no apparent reason. It is a process you must be willing to invest in. It is a commitment you must be willing to make.

One of the best ways to start the process is to let go of as many of the cynical fragments as you can and have some fun with this stuff.

I have put together some of my own springboards to play and I will share them with you now. For many of you, I know this will seem awkward at first. You can trust in the fact that you will get used to it. And it works!

Just for now, I want you to sit back, roll your shoulders in big circles from front to back several times and take five, long deep breaths.

Notice the tension in your shoulders? As you feel your shoulders roll, let the tension go. Take five minutes to allow yourself to relax in that fashion before you go on .

Now let’s move on to five unusual exercises to begin to generate the mindset we want.

PATHFINDER’S EXERCISE -
Amaze yourself.

Think of the ordinary things you do everyday and then realize how incredible these accomplishments really are.

For example, if you walk, normally you will walk about three miles in an average day. Yes, if you add all those trips to the kitchen, bathroom, and out to the car you really cover about three miles in a day. That means you walk over one thousand miles in an average year. If you have children or an active lifestyle, triple that number!      

Start examining other aspects of your life. How much of what you have created in your life do you view as ordinary, routine, even mundane? We all become blinded by our lives, the sense of routine and ordinariness they take on.

We all need to be able to step back and celebrate who we are today and what we are capable of becoming tomorrow. I am always astounded when what I perceive to be the most profound examples of courage and creativity are just shrugged off by the people whose lives embody such a spirit every waking moment of their lives.  

This simple act of reflection has always been a great source of renewed energy and pride for me, when I just examine my life -- from where it has come and to where it has the potential to go if I would just allow it to happen.

It’s all very simple! Honor yourself. Honor all aspects of your life. There really is nothing ordinary or mundane about who you are.

Your life is an absolute monument to yourself. Make-up your mind as to what you want that monument to be and how you can think about what that monument is. We all need to celebrate who we are before we can embark fully on the journey to discover what we are most capable of becoming.      

PATHFINDER’S EXERCISE -

The next time you're driving your car, sing your favorite song. Really loud!

The point of this is important for you to grasp. Music allows us to transcend ourselves. We cannot experience our personal power without transcending the self-imposed limits we have created for ourselves.      The path to personal empowerment is paved with spontaneity and feeling connected to the possibilities of what we can become. The creation and expression of music is the embodiment of that process. 

Music allows us to experience the possibilities of what we are capable of becoming. Music is the coordinated instrumentation of the collective creativity that lives within all of us.

By singing at the top of our voice, we are able to experience a sense of freedom and connect to the sense of the possibilities that exist for us, if we choose to capture the spirit that lives in those songs that are nearest and dearest to us. We must continually plug ourselves into those things that are the embodiment of possibilities. Start with music! It can be fun and send you on your way!

PATHFINDER’S EXERCISE -
Make friends with an old person.

The value of this exercise is greater than the  mere act of doing it. It’s priceless. Some of my most cherished moments have come while interacting with the elderly.

One of my friends lives next to a government-supported, assisted-living residence for the elderly. One day, he walked in and asked how many volunteers they had. The director of the place looked up and smartly said, “Counting you, there would be one.”

He made arrangements to start and began walking from apartment to apartment introducing himself. That simple act on a Saturday afternoon has turned into three years of volunteering. He has made great friends and has amazing stories to tell. From what I can tell, they have great parties too.

PATHFINDER’S EXERCISE -
Affirm yourself and live your affirmations.

Affirmations have been given a bad wrap. People make fun of their simple nature, but remember, if they were not so effective, they would not have become popular.   

Take a few minutes, find a spiritually safe place and let down your guard to try these powerful affirmations. Inhale and exhale five long deep breaths and say out loud:

“There are miracles everywhere.”

“I deserve the success I want so much.”

“I am lovable.”

“I let go of negative thoughts and embrace the creative.”

“I embrace laughter.”

“I give myself permission to try.”

"It’s O.K. to play.”

"I deserve happiness.”

Try this exercise every morning. It can really have amazing results. I have seen them. As you get more accustomed to these affirmations, you can add your own special affirmations to the list.

Our discouragement and despair has deep routes. As children, everything we need to survive is given to us, otherwise we die. And as children, our world is fairly small and complete. We have nothing to compare our existence to--no standards to uphold.

As we grow, we see the world around us and we begin to make choices for ourselves. However, for many of us, the fulfillment and happiness most of us took for granted as children gives way imperceptibly to despair.

And the consequences of that kind of despair can be seen if you know what to look for.

Years of choosing incorrectly leads to disillusionment, alienation, depression, and anxiety. Eventually, for most of us, the pain becomes an expected part of our day. After a while, it goes unnoticed and we lose sight of where we first began.       Then, instinctively, we look for something to make the pain go away. Most of the time substance abuse, compulsive behaviors such as eating, drinking, sexing, and shopping are inevitable distractions we turn to in order to fill the holes left by our despair. It never fails, if you find someone who is a big mess, you will also find that they are in deep pain.

But the helplessness and the passivity that grew from those helpless feelings can give way to a life of empowerment and growth. The learned helplessness of our childhood no longer has to permeate our existence as adults.

You can envision a place you want to be. You can start to let go of all the toxic parts of your life. You can leave behind feelings of discouragement and helplessness. You know you can move forward one step at a time to make these things happen, so do every one of them, and DO THEM NOW!!

PATHFINDER’S TOOLBOX -

The remedy to our discouragement and cynicism is our mindset. Our mindset can immunize our spirit from the ravages of discouragement and cynicism. Our mindset is the most potent weapon we have against discouragement. It is our mindset that allows ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary achievements.

Our mindset can enable us to lift a burning car off a trapped child. Our mindset can enable us to run a marathon. Our mindset can enable us to enact countless acts of heroism and compassion, if we know how to use it for that end.

We cannot empower our lives until we change how we think about ourselves and the vastness of our potential.

The truth is, knowing how to do something to empower your life is not enough. The fanciest techniques in the world are rendered impotent without a mindset that recognizes the potential of the possible.

PATHFINDER’S TIP
Action without commitment renders your efforts ineffective and impotent.

The point is very simple. Anyone can learn the simple steps to personal empowerment. However, these steps are rendered impotent without the appropriate mindset. So often we all pay lip service to the means of personal empowerment without enacting a change in our spirit.

The result is always the same: you will feel frustrated and say, “This just doesn’t work.” Or, “This is hopeless.” Often your words can become a monument to frustration and an obstacle often encountered in your future journey.

So what’s the secret to avoiding this dilemma? It is one of the most provocative yet valuable challenges anyone can master who is entrenched in the process of growth.

Here are three tips that will melt the bonds of your discouragement and cynicism. If you can set your mind to these tips, you will find there is no amount of discouragement that can come between you and where you want your life to be.

PATHFINDER’S TIP
An empowered mindset transforms "I want to" into "I am willing to."

A clinical psychologist I know taught me that when someone trapped in the cycle of failure, or alcoholism/addiction sits down to talk, they almost always say the same thing. “Doc,” they say, “I don’t want to drink or use drugs.”

What he told me next will stay with me forever. He said, “The best way you can help them at that moment is to clarify one of the most important principles in the world.”

"Tell them,” he said, “I believe you when you say you want to stop, but are you willing to stop?”

At first, I didn’t get the beauty of what he was saying. He went on to explain, “You have to help people understand the difference between wantingness and willingness. You may say you want to lose weight. But if you are not willing to do what you need to do to lose weight, is wanting to lose weight going to get you any closer to losing the weight? Are you willing to exercise on a regular basis? Are you willing to improve your eating habits? Are you willing to give-up your double cheeseburgers and tacos for skinless chicken breast or turkey sandwiches?”

Before you move onto the next tip, take some time and think about this for a moment. What are all the things you want for yourself? Go back to school? Learn how to play the guitar? Take up jogging? Learn how to use a computer? Take that painting class you always wanted to take? 

Now make a list of each thing you want and what you will have to do in order to have it.

After you make the second list, check off after each item on the second list what you are willing to do. See what you can learn from this exercise.

PATHFINDER’S TIP
An empowered mindset believes "the only way out is through."

A friend in college once looked up at me from across a library table and said, “You know Steve, I can’t believe how messed up my life looks sometimes. I was just thinking about the way my girlfriend and I fight so much, and I hate the way I am. I wish I could just wake up tomorrow and be a different person altogether.”

He paused and said, “But I don’t think that will happen. I think I have to try and wake up tomorrow and act a little differently. Maybe I can try to change one little thing. Then the next day I can change another little thing. If I keep it up, in about a year, I will have changed several hundred little things and I may have a shot at being the person I want to be. I really believe I can’t zap myself out of this situation like magic. Sometimes, the only way out of a difficult problem is through it.”

My friend realized that day what we all intuitively understand. This is all a lot of hard work. As tempting as it would be to ignore it. As tempting as it would be to do it differently. As tempting as it would be to have someone else do it for us.

The truth of the matter is that the only way out of the circumstances is to go through whatever it is we have to go through. It is the only way to create the circumstances we want. It is the only way to create a feeling of personal empowerment in every fiber of our bodies.

PATHFINDER’S TIP
An empowered mindset maintains an unabiding belief in yourself and your journey. Your unabiding belief is the antidote to discouragement and cynicism.

Faith is the wings upon which our journey flies. Without faith; without the belief there is a light at the end of the tunnel; without the understanding that you can achieve whatever it is you can conceive you will experience your efforts undermined by discouragement and cynicism. Faith, belief, and hope are the most powerful agents of change we have at our disposal. I have seen those three agents melt people’s shackles, unlock the doors to self-created prisons, and transform despair into a life of plenty for those who would but believe in themselves and the power of their own unique journey.

I hope you are able to tap into your own well of faith, belief, and hope as well.

G.B.U.

Steve



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(847) 604-3290.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.

 


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