Digging a little deeper...
Posted on 26th February 2020 at 07:15
Since the start of the year – and brand new decade (!) – we’ve been looking at our tendency to always look outside for the reasons for whatever’s going on in our lives. Suggesting that, perhaps, we’ve been looking in completely the wrong place.
Instead of looking outside ourselves for the reason – “It’s nothing to do with me, honest Guv” – we should be looking inside. And, this is where it can start to get quite scary for many people.
Before we pick up where we left off a fortnight ago, we’d like to take a quick look at WHY we find it so scary.
Well, the simple answer is that it’s another one of those cunning little tricks, the Little Monster in our heads plays on us; which stops us from making any changes.
It’s all to do with one simple word and the many – negative – connotations it carries. Responsibility. Or, more precisely, taking responsibility for our lives. Deep calming breaths all round…
If we dig out our trusty dictionary, it’s easy to see why responsibility is “one of those” words:
“The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.”
“The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.”
From many conversations with clients over the years, these two definitions seem to be the way most people view responsibility. Duty. Being accountable. To blame. Particularly, the blame aspect.
In other words, responsibility is seen as being negative, heavy and onerous. An unwanted burden.
Even worse, it quickly leads on to other unwanted connotations. Being wrong. Looking stupid, to ourselves and others.
And so, a downward spiral begins, aided by the Little Monster in our heads. It’s little wonder we can become so stuck in our ways. Or so adept at looking outside for the reason(s). Making sure the finger is firmly pointed elsewhere.
But, when you stop and think about it for a moment, this logic simply doesn’t make any sense at all. While we may not like to admit it, nothing in life is fixed – or forever. Life is all about change. Or, to use a well worn cliché, the only constant in life is change.
While it may be a radical thought for some, it’s never wrong – or too scary – to take a look at what’s going on in your head. Or your life. To see whether it actually works for you at this point time. Gives you the results you desire.
And, if it doesn’t, then maybe it’s time to make some changes.
So, isn’t it time for a completely different understanding of what responsibility is all about? One that actually helps us, rather than keeping us stuck, making the same mistakes over and over again.
Here are two more definitions of responsibility, which put it in a much more positive light:
“Something that it is your job or duty to deal with.”
“The opportunity or ability to act independently and take decisions without authorisation.”
Seen in these ways, responsibility suddenly becomes much positive and – dare we say it – empowering. Something of value to us, putting us back in the driving seat, in control of our lives.
It’s amazing how often just getting out the dictionary – or going on line (!) – can radically change our understanding of a word and, so, the way it affects our lives. Particularly those words where we’ve simply accepted the consensus view of its meaning without ever having checked for ourselves. And responsibility is a great example of this.
The good news – yes, it is (!) – is that there’s only one person responsible for ourselves and our lives. Us. And, while this may seem scary to start with, there’s no reason why it should be. Instead it’s about being captain of our own ship, deciding what we want to do and how we want to live our lives.
Having digressed a little to put this very cunning little trick in the spotlight, let’s pick up where we left off a couple of weeks’ ago. Looking at beliefs. The software, hidden in plain sight, running the show in our heads.
And, for those who’d prefer a less computer orientated description, here’s a great one we came across recently. Imagine a nightclub with the biggest Bouncer you’ve ever seen guarding the door. Deciding who comes in and who doesn’t. There’s no discussion – or right of appeal – whatsoever. The Bouncer’s decision is final.
This is exactly how our beliefs work. If you don’t meet the Bouncer’s criteria, you don’t get over the threshold. Full stop. End of story.
Or, put another way, beliefs are like a sieve or filter. Determining what gets through and what doesn’t.
All going well, one of these descriptions will give you a great mental picture of what’s going on in your head. So, let’s get back on topic.
While it may sound over simplistic – or, perhaps, a bit too “new agey” – our beliefs have the power to literally create our own little world. Our reality.
Beliefs are just a set of assumptions we’ve made – or, more often taken on board from someone else without any conscious thought – about ourselves, the world around us and our place in it. Once taken on board, they’re quickly incorporated into those we already have in place and, in the process, become invisible to us.
And, as an added twist, they may not always be consistent with those we already have in place; which can cause all sorts of additional problems as we try to reconcile them. It’s also why we can have completely contradictory beliefs about many different things.
Once accepted – whether consciously or unconsciously – they, in turn, become the foundations on which yet more beliefs / assumptions are built. And, so, the process continues ad infinitum... The question is how solid are the foundations on which we’re building?
But there’s one more twist. A real sting in the tail. Our beliefs then determine how we process – and so react to – ALL the information we encounter each day. Whether by thoughts, words or deeds. Apologies if this sounds a bit biblical, it’s the best description we could come up with (!).
In other words, what gets past our Bouncer and, just as importantly, what doesn’t. And, if it doesn’t get past the Bouncer, it’s completely invisible to us.
And this, finally, creates our own little world. Well, more accurately, it strengthens how we perceive – and so experience – our own particular little world.
If this all sounds a bit too abstract, here’s a simple example. Say two friends are out shopping together. One has a more positive approach to life; their glass is always “half full.” The other has a more negative, glass “half empty” approach.
Now, before we go any further – and without any other variables being added – do you think this simple difference in their approach to life would have any effect on them? And, more importantly, how they experience life? Of course it would. It will affect how they think, what they say and how they then act. Their thoughts, words and deeds.
So, let’s say that they now encounter a less than customer focussed Shop Assistant (!). How would their approaches – and so the end result – differ?
Let’s take the positive friend first, whose belief is that people are usually helpful. So, how she approached the Assistant would reflect this. She’d be more positive and friendly. Perhaps giving them a friendly smile as she approached. A quick greeting before asking for help.
At the same time, she’d be much more likely to notice if the Assistant looked tired, ill or had just had a difficult experience with another customer or colleague. Perhaps give them a few kind words before asking for help.
A potentially difficult situation would quickly be turned around and the Assistant much more likely to be helpful. The positive friend’s belief – in this case that people are usually helpful – would be reinforced.
And, just as importantly, if there were any less helpful aspects from the encounter then she wouldn’t focus on them as they did not accord with her belief. She’d be much more forgiving and remember the positive aspects.
Now what about the less positive friend? Say her belief is that people are generally rude and unhelpful. It’s then easy to see how her initial approach would be completely different. Perhaps she’d be sharper, less forgiving, more confrontational. Which, most likely, would be the response she received (!).
This, in turn, would quickly reinforce this negative belief. Leading very quickly to the “poor me” response. “Why does this always happens to me?”
And, so, a downward spiral quickly ensues. Her belief – that people are generally unhelpful and rude – would be reinforced.
However, as already mentioned, there’s also another factor at play here. With her belief that people are unhelpful operating, anything that contradicts this will simply be ignored. It won’t get past the Bouncer guarding her door.
So, regardless of how helpful the Shop Assistant might have been, this simply won’t be noticed as it isn’t in line with her current belief. So, ironically, while her friend may notice it – and, perhaps, draw it to her attention – she’d be completely oblivious to it.
This is the reason why people can have such radically different experiences and memories about the same event. Their beliefs determine what gets past their Bouncer. And, we’ve all had experience of this, whether in the smallest – or largest – of ways.
The scenario may be the same, but each person’s particular beliefs determine how they interpret it AND then react. As well as those on the receiving end, in this case the Shop Assistant. Again, by thoughts, words or deeds.
Each friend will have had many similar experiences which “prove” – to them – that their belief about people generally are an indisputable fact about reality. However, as this simple example demonstrates, while this may the case for them it isn’t automatically the case for everyone else.
It also makes it easy to see how people can end up saying “I knew this would happen” or “It always happens to me.” Once you start to look at the starting point, the cause – their beliefs – the effect becomes all too obvious.
Equally obvious is how we each create our own little worlds in a myriad of tiny ways every day without ever realising it. Ah, now the recent post about Cause and Effect makes sense (!). In case you missed it, you can find it here.
Once again, we know this different perspective can feel rather strange at first. So, we’re going leave it there for today to let it sink in for a while. Give you the opportunity to start noticing your own particular set of beliefs – often for the first time – as well as those around you (!).
The important thing to remember is that this is NOT a blame game. It’s about noticing what’s been going on in your head without you ever having been aware of it.
And then, in a couple of weeks, we’ll give you a simple way to turn the spotlight on individual beliefs. Decide whether they really do work for you and, if not, to replace them with ones that do.
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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