“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor E. Frankl
One of the biggest changes I have made over the past year has been in the way I talk to myself. Last summer as we made the first trek across the country I got tuned into the world of podcasting. For hours and hours everyday I listened to spiritual teachers and entrepreneurs speak. It filled my head with what truly felt like a second education. Spending all of that time outside my regular patterns of thought, simply consuming information was a huge relief for me. I feel like it broke a lot of bad habits. Emotions and experiences that used to just repeat themselves were put on pause. And the thoughts that simply reinforced the story I would tell myself about my life were silenced. Somehow just putting my thoughts on hold and listening to people who had found success and happiness (as defined by them, not media) was so helpful. And the one common denominator that I heard again and again was their ability to be kind to themselves. All of them at some point or another had choosen themselves.
My first introduction to this concept was in school. I read about Dr. Viktor Frankl who had not just survived the holocaust but thrived afterward. Dr. Frankl shares about the way he continued his work as a psychologist even while imprisoned by the Nazis. He continued to watch people and engage himself in learning. He shares in his book that the people who often died in the camps had let their context dictate who they were. They were imprisoned so they became prisoners. Dr. Frnakl recalls realizing that many continually relied on the past to inform their present and their future. And that human beings in general tend to constantly go back to past experiences to make decisions in the present moment. But he found the people who survived the holocaust, were people who used the future to inform their present. A future or a dream based on what they wanted kept them going through hard times and made them resilient.
Using a desired future to inform my everyday life has changed my life. I used to spend so much time hoping to “work through” or “heal” some part of myself and somehow the simple act of giving myself permission to only look forward has been all the healing I have needed.
What precipitated this blog though, is how quickly I lost that focus recently. My first ultra-marathon felt like a physical manifestation of all that emotional work and growth I had been experiencing. And I think a part of me had hoped for that same result from this race. But instead, this ultra sent me right back into old habits. Comparing myself to others, repeating stories in my head about how I am not an athlete, and a general sense that maybe things weren’t going as well as I previously thought. And a short spike in my business followed by dead silence really exacerbated it all. Suddenly all those emotions of not being good enough and the collective voices of colleagues and media telling me how hard times are and the impossibility of a successful cash business became so loud.
So, I find myself seemingly at the starting line once again. Making time to think and dream about the desired future instead of the unwanted past. Setting intention each day to be present in the moment and that this inner work is imperative to providing effective therapy to my community. It is part of what makes my therapy hour worth $100. I don’t just blindly ascribe to “standard of practice” but instead I tune into myself and help others tune into themselves. I believe when we all tune into that deeper part of ourselves we are far more resilient than we realize. We live in a culture today that is constantly bombarding us in hopes that we forget that inner-self and instead buy something we can’t afford.