Looking back, I had many years of feeling lost, unloved, confused, and unhappy. During these times, I didn’t know what to do or turn to for love, support, or guidance. Nothing I did seemed to help. Each day left me feeling worse than the day before, and my situation – although it should have been joyous – was miserable.
I had to make a change. And changing involved, among other things, self-acceptance, acceptance of others, situations I found myself in, accepting where I’m at, and where I’m not, accepting that where I’m at is a limitation, but more importantly, a point of departure or an opportunity to grow. It all depends upon my mindset or perspective.
My journey felt like a struggle. Any personal journey, by definition, can be a struggle, a beautiful unfolding, or anything else, really. We define the meaning of our particular passage for ourselves. The meaning we land on brings a unique emotional quality that we experience, similar to taking a drive that we haven’t taken before. We can ask Google maps for the shortest route, but what if we could ask for the most scenic route, the most fun or exciting route? As a younger man, I most frequently took the shortest way, which ultimately was experienced as the most difficult and treacherous. I lead my life more recently according to what I find most interesting; I follow my passion, what’s most meaningful, not money. Because there’s always money, but not always an enjoyable journey.
Are you on a journey that gives you difficult feelings to experience? Write down several perspectives that a person could theoretically take, NOT just your own. If it helps, don’t think of writing about your difficult journey, but that it’s someone else’s journey. Write both positive and negative ones. Be thorough and creative, making one perspective reflect life “before your difficult journey began,” and another from the perspective of “after it was resolved.”
Acceptance & Transitions
Accepting the reality of my situation was the first step in the journey. As I said, I had many years, especially in my teens, that just weren’t great. But accepting that life will unfold all on its own without any other input or effort from me ultimately led to a sense of power. The power that comes from giving and receiving love. I began loving my life, and something changed. Finally, I was alert and listening when love found me. I recognized it, reciprocated, and have felt as though I’ve been saved ever since.
I came to realize that my job in life had less to do with trying to change or control life, make it bend to my will, but to decide how I will interact with life as it presents itself. This perspective generates a fresh state of mind that enables me to see the positive in any situation. I have decided to be positive, regardless of the situation that life offers up, not by merely masking disappointment with a smile but by discovering a new perspective on life. I find this mindset far more authentic and valuable, given the alternative that I have already experienced.
As a Psychologist, I often deal with another person’s underlying struggle. Accordingly, I encourage them to accept their journey for what it is and ask them to consider what they might have control over. If they have a goal – and there is always a goal – I suggest that they find an action that might lead directly in the direction of that goal. We cannot eliminate life’s challenges, but we can strive to focus on what is going best and what is most important to us in life.
Professional athletes practice and sports psychologists understand that we and our performance benefit by creating a “memory bank” of positive outlooks and perspectives. All we need to do is employ them for our own benefit according to the situation at hand. Unfortunately, too regularly, we allow ourselves to believe that “we simply must” focus on controlling situations that are normally outside of our control or are secondary to our goals. Too frequently, our “memory bank” of outlooks is populated automatically by unhappy experiences. “Forget about it.”
For me, due to a change in perspective, problems often change by becoming less essential, tertiary to a more valuable objective, or in some cases, give way to an unexpected opportunity. At least that’s how it sometimes feels. New perspectives, attitudes, or paradigms seem to bring new strength, clarity, and optimism toward the right journeys.
These fresh ways of thinking are the very things you do have complete control over. So don’t waste your time and effort struggling to control outcomes and people that are outside of your control. Adopt a fresh new way of looking at your life that makes the pain or struggle worthwhile for you. For a personal example, read my previous post titled Continuum of Leadership Correlates. Am I lucky? Perhaps. As Tiger Woods has said, “the more I practice, the luckier I get.”
The right mindset or fresh perspectives often leads toward multiple opportunities. They also boost self-confidence, allowing me to focus inward more easily and become more honest and vulnerable with myself and my life. One important aspect of my present reality is that my business is evolving, similar to being on a personal journey. I own the company, so I can help to mold its identity. Refine what it’s all about, who its primary clients are, as well as its business values.
A business, remember, reflects its owner’s reality. It is not a creator of your existence, which means that I must garner strength and confidence elsewhere to feed the business at certain times. At other times, the clinic will feed me. Exercise, meditation, music, personal friends, and reflection. These are a few of my resources that mentor me down a trail to creating my masterpiece with my business. They inspire me. Hopefully, they will also stimulate the clinic’s evolution. Perhaps.
Whether this is true or not can be tested out. After considerable reflection and consulting my statistics, I can honestly say that my business has changed significantly in its first ten years. Where its clientele comes from and the concerns they bring reflect a critical component of change.
Today, the clinic sees many private clients who hear of us online or through word-of-mouth — no more advertising budget. Client concerns continue to vary somewhat. However, everyone wants to feel and experience happiness. Currently, client concerns are more professional than in previous years, and clients have more formal education. They are more psychologically informed when they come in, as compared to our early years.
However, one thing feels clear and right. My business is successfully evolving. It is on its own journey, to be sure. My clinic is changing, as am I. I feel more creative, confident, and better equipped to provide a highly customized therapeutic approach to my clients. Strategic goals include continuing to stretch beyond my comfort zone. I have additional skill sets now, relative to 10 years ago. Because I have grown and behaved differently, those around me reflect those changes back to me.
As a result, our clinic now has four conveniently located offices in and around our downtown core. Other Psychologists offer counseling services alongside me. Leadership coaching and high-performance coaching stand out as specialties for clients in various cities, states, provinces, and countries. I publish and regularly speak, with occasional training. Annual earnings remain steady. Projections indicate a 20-30% annual increase over previous years. Most importantly, the quality of our focus has evolved more than anything else. Plus, new opportunities continue to present themselves.
Learn, Grow, Change, Evolve & Improve
Entrepreneurs might engage in the process of lifelong learning and best practices. As a Psychologist, I must work my business as if I were a gardener. Work the soil. Care for plants with water and sunlight. But I cannot insist that plants grow more or differently than they will. I just love them as they are and accept how they grow on their terms.
There is something quite magical about creatively loving life as it comes. A business requires great technical and business acumen, a commitment to forging greater connections with individual clients, the business community, and a growing culture. Activities that I understand how to do but are sometimes outside of my comfort range – and so here, I stretch myself again. I am an extreme introvert – which is excellent – as confidentiality is critical in a therapeutic setting but limiting in promoting a business. Perspective definitely comes into play here.
My professional journey (and that of my clinic), at least for the time being, seems to be about perspective, acceptance and promoting well-being whenever and wherever I can. Sometimes I think this is all life is about – accepting the things we cannot change, stretching beyond our comfort zones, and being patient for the life we long for. Acceptance, patience, perspective, and stretching, I should remember, reflect both a limitation and a point or opportunity to grow.
“That’s it!” Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip once sung. We’ve got to engage in “a collection of things.” We’ve got to learn to love the life we have. Then it might change and become something more. Something not quite so “Tragic.”