It’s About the Inside, Not the Outside

I have been reading a lot about Neurolinguistic Programming lately. In fact, I absolutely love the subject. Some of the insights are changing the way I view life. Among other books, I have been reading Get the Life You Want, by Richard Bandler.

NLP has changed my view on the causes of my emotions. I used to think the world outside determined my view of life. If I got angry, or discouraged, or whatever, it was because stimulus A or B, in the outside world, made me that way. I also viewed my lack of opportunities the same way. If I wasn’t successful, it was either the government’s fault, corporate America, etc. I even blamed my graduate school for my lack of opportunities. However, I missed one key factor in all of this: me. (I should note I still don’t trust the government, the Academy, or big business; however I no longer believe they have any noticeable effect on my future).

Nobody has to react a certain way. Granted we will all face pain (something author Rick Hanson, in Buddha’s Brain, calls ” first darts”), but how we react to, and deal with that pain, depends on how we respond internally. Hanson mentions that we often throw “second darts” at ourselves, self-inflicted pain that is caused by continually reliving past pain, or, in some cases, inventing pain (for example, when there is no actual pain involved, like when we enter a messy room and explode on our kids for making it that way). In other words, our response to just about anything is really an internal issue, not an external one. It is easy to say “I have to be angry, because look at how I have been treated,” but do we really have to be anything?

This is why you can line 100 people up, and an annoying guy can walk up to them, and 40 will get angry, 50 will remain calm, and 10 will just laugh it off and maybe even make friends with the guy. This is very good news really. It means that the big, bad evil world out there doesn’t control us. We can change our perceptions and change our life. Related to this, one maxim I now live by is “there is no failure, just feedback.” Think about it. Successful people take failure, learn from it, and get back up. They may “fail” multiple times, but they know that by coupling determination with a desire to learn from mistakes, they will be successful eventually. People who view their mistakes as “failures” rarely learn, and are so drowned in self-pity that it creates a downward spiral of even more failure. I used to feel this way, and was kind of proud of how “beaten down” by the system I could be.

Again, this is great news. The power to succeed is inside, not outside. It is great news because I can’t control outside forces. If I believe I am a victim (as many in education want us to believe), then I’ll be a victim. Do you know how many times in grad school I was told how awesome it was to be a victim (even if they preferred terms like “oppressed”). Sadly, for many years I pretty much agreed with them and took jobs that didn’t pay me enough, etc. The funny thing is that the tenured professors who told us how great it was to be victims were making great money and living in the best neighborhoods with great security systems.

I am not saying it is easy to feel a different way than you are used to. Most of us have spent a lot of time feeling ways that don’t work for us (if your head is sore from beating it against the same brick wall, it might be an indication an approach isn’t working!). We have literally built careers and lives based on fear, anxiety, etc.  I now believe it doesn’t have to be that way.