One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. “One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. “The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
What about you? What habits and patterns are you “feeding?” In other words, what thoughts, emotions, and actions are you reinforcing in your life? The habits and tendencies you feed through repetition will grow stronger just as the fable implies. For instance, the more angry outbursts you have the more this tendency is being strengthened neurologically. Each time you blow up on your spouse, or yell at your kids, it is becoming more and more of a natural tendency to do so. Fortunately, for most situations you have a choice in how to respond. Instead of reacting unconsciously you can learn to respond intentionally. One mental shift I make on a daily basis is deciding (when I remember of course) that I want to bless people instead of criticize or judge them. This is particularly the case when I am driving behind someone who I “know doesn’t deserve” a drivers license! Fortunately I have become much more aware of this tendency, and when I am mindful enough to notice my judgments, I bless the other person and wish them good will instead. I have learned that all my judgmental thoughts do is erode my joy and peace of mind, so instead of mentally strengthening judgement and criticism, I decide to cultivate compassion, patience, and understanding. The driving situation is a small example, but it adds up over time. Practicing patience in that moment grows my patience and understanding for other situations as well. How we respond or react in a given moment is literally shaping your brain and person you are becoming. What is a mental shift that would drastically change your life for the better? Here are a few life-changing shifts to think about.
Hope vs. Discouragement
Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” – Martin Luther
We all have moments of disappointment and discouragement. It is these moments where we will either strengthen our tendency to experience defeat, or decide that our outlook for the future will be brighter. Hope is a state of mind where we believe things will get better and it is hope that keeps us moving forward. Next time you encounter discouragement that you want to shake, turn instead to hope. Shift to hope: Set a clear, specific, and achievable goal that you can focus on. Keep taking small steps to create what you want.
Flexibility vs. Rigidity
The world is full of people who have never, since childhood, met an open doorway with an open mind.” – E. B. White
There is a saying that “the only thing constant is change.” When unexpected change happens it is often stressful, but at the same time it is an opportunity to adapt and expand our worldview. Next time you notice yourself acting and thinking in a rigid way, and it’s not helping, decide to loosen up and let go of the need to have control. Shift to Flexibility: Break out of rigid thinking by spotting certain warning words. If you notice you’re using words like “always” “never” “terrible” or “awful” you’re probably thinking in an all-or-nothing type of way. When things aren’t how we think they “should” be try to notice this demanding language.
Boldness vs. Fearfulness
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” – W. H. Murray
For many people, reacting out of fear is a deeply ingrained pattern. We feel fear and naturally react by avoiding what we’re afraid of. Next time you’re faced with a challenge to push yourself past your comfort zone, chose to be bold and take the step! Shift to boldness: Feed the pattern of being bold by doing one thing that scares you today. Take one small action that feels uncomfortable. Don’t take the easy way out next time you have a challenge to face.
Acceptance vs. Judgment
The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.” – Brian Tracy
We all naturally judge others. It comes from assuming we know what is right and that there is a certain way things “should” be. Expectations lead to disappointment. People won’t always do what you want and situations will take unexpected turns. Choose to expect less and accept more. Accept peoples’ differences and be willing to acknowledge other perspectives. Shift to acceptance: Surround yourself with people who have different points of view. Intentionally spend time with a more diverse group of people to help you become more open-minded.
Gratitude vs. Envy
Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.” – Doris Day
When having more is our motivation we will end up dissatisfied. We will focus on all the things we don’t have, and neglect all the great blessings in our life. Chose to be grateful instead of envious. Shift to gratitude: Take a few minutes right now to make a list of five people, events, or situations that you encountered today and are thankful for. Repeat this exercise once a day for at least one week.
Forgiveness vs. Resentment
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes
Is there someone in your life you need to forgive? Or maybe someone who needs to forgive you? When we hold onto resentment and bitterness we are strengthening this negative pattern. Even when someone doesn’t deserve forgiveness do it for yourself! Forgiveness is freeing and opens up the channel to more positive emotions. Choose to forgive instead of holding on to resentment. Shift to forgiveness: Pick one person to forgive. Write a letter of forgiveness to this person. You don’t have to read it to them. It is for you to express what you need to let go of. Say what you need to say and let go of the negative baggage.
Determination vs. Surrender
A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” – Colin Powell
Where have you wanted to give up recently? Whether you gave up or persevered, you were strengthening that behavior and attitude. You can grow your resiliency and grit by deciding to to persevere and stay determined instead of giving up and surrendering. Shift to determination: Pick one challenge you are facing and decide how committed you are. If you are 100% committed be willing to fail and learn from these mistakes along the way. Next time you encounter a dilemma like the ideas listed above, decide to feed your positive side instead of your negative side. Remember you are actually instilling a new habit in the process. The more you take the high-road the more natural this path will become, and the happier you will be!