We just celebrated Independence Day – a day bought and paid for by the lives of people who loved freedom and fought and died for it.
We get together with family and friends and enjoy the fireworks displays that were a culmination of the day’s festivities.
But what does freedom mean to you?
“What alone remains is ‘the last of human freedoms’ – the ability to ‘choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” Victor Frankl
Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist and Jew who lived during the Nazi regime in Germany. He along with his entire family was sent to Nazi concentration camps. He was taken to Auschwitz, one of the most dreaded of these camps. Except for his sister and himself, his entire family perished in those camps. Every possession was taken from them, and the Jews who weren’t shot or sent to the gas chamber endured years of unspeakable horror.
Yet, in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Frankl writes:
Years ago, when I was helping design and write a ten week class on living with chronic illness for a large HMO, I designed the following handout. I share it with you today.
LETTING GO – TAKING CONTROL
“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.” Victor Frankl
To experience freedom and create meaning in our lives, we must “let go” of the past while taking “control” of the present and future.
Years ago, I struggled with a degenerative disk in my lower back. We had just finished building our new home and were in the process of unpacking boxes and putting things away.
Walking around was painful and sitting was never my forte. But now surrounded by work I was anxious to do, I was frustrated. What could I do while I waited for my surgery date?
“I know what I can’t do but what can I do?
I didn’t just want to sit there doing nothing and I wasn’t able to unpack boxes and put things away.
Then it occurred to me. I had a couple of boxes of prestigious cooking magazines I had wanted to go through and remove articles and recipes I wanted to keep but never had the time. Now I had the time. In fact, this was “the” perfect time. It not only kept my mind occupied with something useful and productive but completed a chore I had wanted to do but may never have gotten around to. I still have those selected articles and recipes and continue to use them.
Learning from our past
As I recover from a fall that wrenched my back last week, I thought of that earlier time. How could I use this time productively while giving my back time to rest and recover? I realized this was a perfect opportunity to look through the articles and blogs on writing I had saved to review. I could think about how it applies to me and my writing.
Acceptance means we let go and stop struggling so we can make new choices. We consciously acknowledge the situations we find ourselves.
Acceptance is where we stop fighting the reality that my spouse has died, my marriage is over, my teen is hooked on drugs, my finances are in the tank and the outcome of my medical tests was not what I wanted to hear. Nothing I do seems to work out. The list goes on and on.
Acceptance is not dismissing our loss, pain, anger or frustration. It just means we stop fighting or resisting what has happened, and recognize the reality of our circumstances.
Your world may have been brought to an abrupt halt. It is often a painful place full of unanswered questions, confusion, and doubts. It isn’t denying how we feel but purposefully moving through the pain. In coming to terms with whatever has happened, we find new ways to take charge of our lives.
Acceptance says I don’t have to have all the answers or need to pretend that I do.
Acceptance is not the end. It is the beginning. It is where we take from the ashes of our tragedies and losses and begin the process of creating something new. Letting go does not diminish what we had. It doesn’t mean we are giving up. It just frees us to take the next step.
When I took some of my son’s art in to be framed, I was surprised at what a huge difference each frame made. Even with the black and white pictures, each demanded a border that would showcase that particular picture, highlighting the important elements.
The wrong frame would do the opposite. When the right frame was put together with the picture, it was one you wanted to hang on your wall to look at over and over again.
How we frame the events in our lives can also make a huge difference in the outcome. We can take that slice of life that challenges us and put a frame of strength, perseverance, and problem-solving around it. Situations that seem impossible can be turned into a major centerpiece of triumph on the wall of our lives.
Wide Angle vs Telephoto Lens
Habits – they can work for you or against you. They can either be an asset or a deterrent. Over time, whatever we do on a continuous basis becomes a habit.
Our habits become a lifestyle.
But are you achieving your goals? And if not, why not? Have you considered how you currently spend your time and energy? Do you have good intentions, but fail to follow through?
So, how do we move from good intentions to productive habits?
We continue doing the things we do because we get some kind of reward. If our rewards are immediate and pleasurable they soon dominate our life and we don’t bother with long-term goals. We grab a bite to eat at the deli instead of fixing dinner at home. We are tired after work and spend time on social media or mindlessly play video games. We convince ourselves we deserve this downtime. However, it is easy to become addicted to doing whatever feels good at the moment.
Sometimes it seems no matter what we do there are lingering doubts, fears or anxieties that won’t go away. How should we respond?
Emotions give us valuable information. It is important to pay attention to them. They tell us to stop and think before acting. They warn of danger, tell us to be careful, and to tread lightly. We may experience a gut feeling that is telling us something isn’t quite right. Before dismissing your feelings, take time to assess the facts surrounding them.
What is your brain telling you
Our brain is wired to keep us safe and prepares us to fight, run or stay frozen in a matter of seconds when it senses danger. We need to pay attention to authentic doubts, fears, and anxieties. Stop and question. What is happening? Why am I concerned? Am I over-reacting, or should I investigate further?
Past experiences teach us to be cautious. What did I learn before that can help me make a better decision today? Is this an appropriate response to what I am currently facing? Unless we stop and consider thoughtfully, we can become so reactive that we turn every little thing into something bigger than what it is.
We are constantly communicating, whether on our cell phones, facebook page, twitter or socializing over a glass of wine. But are you aware that you are also constantly communicating with yourself?
From the time we wake up in the morning to when we go to sleep at night, there is an internal dialogue going on inside of us.
What are you saying to yourself? Are you hearing affirming words that encourage and motivate you? Or do you hear words that constantly sow seeds of doubt, misgivings, and fears?
Your Internal Critic
Each of us has an internal critic, some more aggressive than others. It tells us how bad we are, how incompetent and unreliable. You might hear things like, “you can’t win, you are not good enough, blah, blah, blah.” The critic’s job is to remind you of all the reasons why you can’t succeed, so don’t waste your time trying. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
An internal critic has been around a long time and simply keeps repeating messages it has taken from our past and put onto a continuous tape. The messages are always negative, pessimistic, demeaning and discouraging. This internal critic has been around a long time and it has nothing of value to tell you.
Doubts and Fears
It is normal to have doubts and fears. Like all emotions, they have a purpose and it is important to pay attention to them. They warn us to stop and investigate before going on. They keep us from making knee-jerk reactions.We need to be able to assess and evaluate the information they are giving us.
Not everyone will like what you do. Not everything you say will be received the way you intended it to. You will not get all the breaks – in fact, you may think you have been short-changed. Others get all the breaks – you get all the leftovers.
Success isn’t about what others think about you. It’s not about what you have or have not been given. It’s about what you do with what you have been given.
Too often, we blame everything or everyone, including ourselves for our perceived lack of success. When this becomes a solidified mindset, we become our own worst enemy.
The greatest roadblock to success in life is often ourselves.
When we play the blame game, we remain stuck. We dimish our capabilities to succeed. We focus on the reasons why we can’t, and then, give up as soon as the road gets tough.
Bridges. They are incredible feats of engineering and ingenuity. I am fascinated by how lofty and expansive they can be – rising above deep gorges and over wide rivers or bodies of water.
In our early days of cruising the San Juan Islands, my husband and I took our sailboat under one of those amazing bridges that spanned Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island. The beauty of the area had competition from the grandeur of the bridge that rose high above us. How were they able to build such a structure?
Later, visiting the area by car, we stopped at a lookout at the entrance to the bridge and read the history associated with it. Early settlers would take a small ferry boat to get from one island to the other until the 1930’s when construction began to build a permanent bridge. It remains a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of men and women able to construct something of such stature that could withstand extreme weather and support heavy loads.