Monday, September 22, 2014

Suffering

No one will deny that a certain amount of pain, even some form of suffering, seems to be a part of life. Yet when we look a bit closer we see that many forms of personal suffering may not be necessary. Of course, if we knew they weren't, we wouldn't endure them. Or would we? We might have to allow some embarrassment to emerge before we're ready to confess that we have more say in our distress than we're willing to admit. The embarrassment is itself one form of suffering, even if it's relatively insignificant and manageable. The point here is that most of our fears, reactions, upsets, longing, thwarted desires, anger, stress, anxiety, doubt, worry, embarrassments, and other painful experiences are very often an unnecessary consequence of personal and cultural assumptions.
- Peter Ralston, The Book of Not Knowing

Starting now, I intend to live my life as though it is an incredible treasure.  By this I mean, that whatever remaining time is afforded me in this life will be managed as though a divine gift. How well I make use of what time remains is going to depend entirely upon whether I am capable of looking back at my life and honestly assessing and learning from the combination of my joys and sorrows, successes and failures, and my wounds and necessary healing. For me, there appears to be no better way to gain a true understanding of who I am, how I have become the person that I am today, and how I can best go about transforming myself into the person that I choose to become with a newly found purpose, direction, commitment, and by consistently taking personal responsibility for all of my actions. What I am in pursuit of most is a more balanced and integrated life.

“The balance between career, calling, and family will naturally change over time, so reevaluating and fine-tuning this balance can help transform midlife crises into mid-course corrections and create a space for refueling and recharging. Maintaining such balance involves a process of self-examination and insight that ripens over time (Millman, Dan. “The Four Purposes of Life.” H J Kramer Book, 2011)."

More than two years ago, I left the banking industry after spending the last 15 years with the same company. I held the title of Vice President throughout my tenure. However, over the course of the last three to five years my performance unfortunately began to steadily decline in a number of areas. By the time I came to recognize this, accept responsibility for, and commit to correcting the situation it had already led to a number of recurring problems negatively impacting my employer, colleagues, clients, and myself.

According to Baumeister and Tierney (2011), “…most major problems, personal and social, center on [a] failure of self-control: compulsive spending and borrowing, impulsive violence, underachievement in school, procrastination at work, alcohol and drug abuse, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, chronic anxiety, [or] explosive anger. Poor self-control correlates  with just about every kind of individual trauma: losing friends, being fired, getting divorced, winding up in prison. It can cost you the U.S. Open, as Serena William’s tantrum in 2009 demonstrated; it can destroy your career, as adulterous politicians keep discovering.” (P.2)

It is far too late for me to change the outcome in my last job. However, it is not too late for me to make the inward changes that will prevent me from succumbing to the same poor decisions, behaviors, and consequences going forward. That is what my present journey and this personal message to you is essentially all about.  You may be at risk of experiencing similar negative outcomes in some important area of your life right now.

If you are, then it is just as important for you to learn how to effectively resist unwelcome desires or momentary urges by remaining diligent, energized, focused, and productive in fulfilling your obligations. “Your body may have dutifully reported to work on time, but your mind can escape at any instant through the click of a mouse or a phone. You can put off any job by checking e-mail or Facebook, surfing gossip sites, or playing a video game.” (P.2)

Warding off temptations starts by accepting personal responsibility for your actions. It does require “willpower”.  But you can do it. So practice, practice, and practice some more! And, don’t be surprised as you begin to find yourself showing up more reliably for work and in all of the other activities that constitute your daily life.