One of my clients asked me how I changed. Slightly puzzled I asked her exactly what she meant. Turns out she was referring to the transformation after my father died when I made the decision to stop engaging in the escapist compulsive behavior and start living a more purposeful life. My answer was a little scattered because there were many reason why I changed but below is a list of the things that lined-up for me in order to begin living a life that I was a cause for:
Making the decision to do new things – regardless of what they were or what I thought about them (how scary they may be) I knew that I needed to do different things to have a different life. But knowing wasn’t enough, I needed to actually do them. I made a decision one moment and that was when things began to change.
Noticing that I have everything in my life that I believe I need to have and realizing that if I started to believe that I needed other things, I would do whatever I needed to do to get them.
Seeing my life as being a part of something bigger that involved other people. Some would call this spirituality or a sense of community or interconnectedness, but by realizing that everyone is part of the same thing, my role changed immediately. Instead of being a floater, wandering the earth, I was able to see the impact that I had on other people and the impact that they could have on me.
Realizing that there was more to the experience of life than what I had been getting. The compulsive behaviors created a predictable state change and I liked the certainty of that. But it was boring because I was doing the same things over and over again. After almost 20 years I was getting tired of it and I was becoming increasingly aware that other people were doing some pretty cool things.
Honoring my dad’s final requests of me. When I asked my dad if there was anything he wanted me to do with my life he said “look after your mother” and “figure-out what I love doing and make a life out of those things.” Looking after my mom was a no brainer, she has always been amazing so I was going to do this anyway, but the other part of it took sometime to process. The truth was that I wasn’t sure exactly what I loved doing because I spend a lot of my time out of my head. But behind all the fog and compulsions were a few things that I did often in a natural state. Those were the things that I spent more time of as a result of his recommendation and they have proven to bring me a lot of joy and gratification.
Examine my thoughts and internal dialogue to uncover generalizations, errors and negative patterns. Thoughts impact feelings that shape behaviors. These unworkable thoughts lead to behaviors that make them real. When I made a list of these things and a list of the possible outcomes of what would happen if I was to stop them, the loop was complete. My behavior was obvious and what I needed to do to get different results was equally clear.
Take a disassociated inventory of my life, my behaviors and my beliefs to bring to light any incongruities between my internal understanding of who and what I am and an external view of what I am. People said things to me that didn’t connect with how I viewed myself. I asked the question “what if they are correct and I am not correct?” and then tired-on how life could be if I decided to let them be right and just let go of what I believed. It became funny after a few minutes because I realized that both sides were right and that it didn’t matter anyway. I was telling myself a story, a rather elaborate and convincing one and at any moment, I was free to tell myself a different story. The reality is that human beings are animals that possess a keen ability to interact with their environment and make predictions about that environment based on past experiences. The other stuff I had been telling myself about it was unnecessary and was only serving an antiquated identity.