I know, I know. January is almost over. I shouldn’t still be thinking about New Years Resolutions. Well, starting them, anyway. I’m sure plenty of people have already both started and stopped thinking about theirs, but that’s not really what I mean. So yes, I’m still thinking about mine. “Resolutions.” Not really the right word, but we’ll use it anyway.
I wanted to talk a little bit more about how I decide what serves me and what doesn’t. These realizations were a long time in coming, are still evolving, and probably will always be. Honestly, what I have to say might piss some people off. You might think, “Ugh! Heathen!” or “How could you possibly believe that?” That’s ok. I would have thought that, too, before I started down this journey. You don’t have to agree with me. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t.
I no longer believe in right or wrong.
No should or shouldn’t.
Good or bad.
All of these words are definitive. You have to pick a side. There’s no fluidity, no movement, no room for free thought or changing your mind. They are claustrophobic, requiring you to slam your fist on the table saying, “I am right!”
Right compared to what? And right for whom? And why?
Makes you stop and think, right?
Then there was the discovery of dialectics. What does that mean, exactly? Dialectical Behavioral Therapy defines dialects as “two seemingly opposite things can be true at the same time.” For example, “I am doing the absolute best that I can at every moment, and yet there is always room for improvement.” Seems like one cannot be true if the other is true, but that’s not the case.
We get so entangled with being “good’ or “bad” and doing something that’s “right” or “wrong” that we forget to think about what those words mean to US. There is no thinking. There is rule following.
I say enough with the rule following. So what do I believe? What feels true for ME? I get to decide. I no longer need to rely on anyone else’s opinion, nobody’s man-created dogma to tell me what I should or should not do, think, believe, read, or write.
Instead of using the black and what words, I use “effective” and “ineffective.”
Let’s look at this a little closer. If you do something “wrong,” there’s the end of the thought, right there. “What I did was wrong.” Period. (Although you can insert some unnecessary guilt here, most likely). Rephrased using my new words “What I did was ineffective.” That’s an open ended statement, ready for thought, mulling-over, and self-discovery. “What was my action ineffective at reaching? What was I trying to accomplish? What can I do better next time? Is there a different way to do it? What was my GOAL in the first place?”
Using the words “effective” and “ineffective” requires you to make goals. It requires you to look ahead, to be aware of the whole of it, not just the minute details. It requires you to use your own thought power to be in control of your own life. It can be as simple as “my sleeping late was ineffective towards my goal of taking my time getting ready and having a relaxing morning.” It automatically sets you up for making a different choice next time. (Note I said “different’ not “better”). “I should have gotten up earlier” and “Sleeping in was bad” do not automatically offer the same direction. See the difference. Labeling something as effective or ineffective automatically sets up the question “towards what?” That’s where growing happens.
Nobody likes to be wrong. That’s where guilt and anger and defensiveness come in. Negative feelings. (Ain’t nobody got time for that). You have to work really super hard to get a positive from a negative. Nobody wants to guilt themselves in to making better choices. There’s enough guilt in the world already– don’t add it on yourself! (Note: there is often good cause for guilt, when it is EFFECTIVE as a learning tool, but most of the guilt we feel is unwarranted).
I hope that this post made some sense. It was a concept that took me a long time to digest and implement, and I’m still learning how to do it. I promise, though, if you really make an effort to change your thinking and try this concept, you will notice positive changes. I promise. I was the queen of self-criticism and self-shaming for doing things “wrong.” Once I discovered that those black and whites just do not exist, a whole new world opened up. One where I set goals and work for them and I do not get punished for not meeting standards. I AM the standard. I get to decide.
Yes, there are social standards and laws, but more than likely, your goals will line up with the big ones. For example, if my goal is to not end up in prison, shooting someone would be ineffective towards that goal. If I really want to go to prison, though, shooting someone would be a highly effective way to achieve that goal. See? Perspective. The decisions is yours.
Everything in life is a continuum. Do not sell yourself short by blindly following rules that were handed to you by someone else. Set goals. Reach them. Your life is your own, and it’s up to you to decide how to live it.