Becoming Better

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A Brief Parable About Change

Here is a quick story about behavioral change from Portia Nelson:

This is a story about quitting a bad habit, which is also a story about becoming an active agent in life.

In Chapter I, she is a passive victim of her circumstances. She has no control over her situation and no capacity to help herself.

In Chapter II, she is beginning to recognize a pattern, and she is clearly unhappy with it.

In Chapter III, she sees the truth – her own choices are the cause of her suffering. She takes responsibility for her situation, and she becomes response-able.

In Chapter IV, she makes a better choice, resisting the temptation to fall into her old routine.

In Chapter V, she makes an even better choice, avoiding the very place where that temptation resides.

This is the pattern by which all such changes occur: Ignorance gives way to frustration, frustration produces awareness, awareness leads to empowerment, and empowerment creates freedom.

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What do you choose to focus on?

Consider for a moment, this photograph, taken from the deck of my apartment in late September:

What do you see?

Do you see a gorgeous, sunlit tree whose leaves are starting to change?

Or do you see a city street, parked cars, and an orange traffic cone?

Do you choose to appreciate the subtle beauty of the leaves’ colors as they transition from green to yellow to orange to red?

Or do you choose to be annoyed that your view of the tree is obstructed by powerlines?

The details you pay attention to affect your thoughts, which, in turn, affect your emotions and actions. If you want to take control of the feedback loop that controls your life, you must take control of where you put your attention.

You can choose what to focus on. Some objects of focus make you feel happy; others make you feel upset.

Choose wisely.