By Joel Matthews
Are they not the same? Most people, if asked, would say no. So what is the difference? Is it semantics or will it make a difference in my life or lifestyle? Huh? Anyway, since this is my article I will use my definition as the basis of this debate. My life is the whole of my existence, which includes but is much more than my lifestyle. My lifestyle is the outer expression of my total existence – my morals, judgments, habits, tastes, preferences, the things I buy and surround myself with, possibly limited by my economic level. How I choose to comport with my physical existence. Yet, if you ask the same people what would make their life better or improve their life, many invariably will reference a more physical aspect of their lifes: lose weight, better relationships with a partner, friends or family, having a partner, a new or better car, nicer place to live, better job, MORE MONEY.
But all these things are actually changes to our lifestyle, not our life. If we want to change our lives, changes to our lifestyle are not the answer.
But if our lifestyle, that which is outside of us, is only a part or even half of the whole that makes up our life, what else is there for one to change? If not outside, then it must be inside. Look inward. Will changing something inside possibly make my life better? If you believe changing something on the outside affects the whole, then would a change on the inside affect the whole? If I am currently unable to affect an immediate change to any of the major outer physical aspects of my life, then why not change something inside? What do I mean by change? In general we would want to change something from a negative to a positive.
Ok, smart guy, you ask what are some of the things inside that I can change? How about an attitude? Want to start small? How about your attitude about the remainder of today or tomorrow? Is it negative? How would changing it to positive make you feel? If it is negative, why is it negative? What are you expecting to happen? Is it inevitable? If it is then what is the point in starting the negative feelings early? They will come if they are needed. No sense in calling them in ahead of schedule. Instead, use your imagination to create the positive feeling you would like to have right now. If a negative outcome is not inevitable, then why are you imagining the worst? Envision a better outcome, the best. Embrace those feelings and send them out to the universe.
Feeling like taking a bigger bite? How about how you feel about yourself? Ooooo, don’t choke on that one. That is a big bite. But remember, we are working on the inside, not the outside. Don’t worry about the body, the encasement, the vessel you currently reside in. What about your attitude about who you are inside? What is your balance of love and hate? Compassion and indifference? Respect and disdain? Acceptance and rejection?
What’s that? You don’t hate yourself, you say? I’ll bet you hate it when you lie to yourself like that! We all have personality traits we are unhappy with. If you think “hate” is too strong a word that is ok. Just recognize that which you wish to change. How? Slowly. Sorry no Rx twice daily for 30 days remedy available. Change that which you hate, (sorry – are not happy with), with a little love. Begin to understand the constructive side of yourself.
Fear? If you are walking along and a grizzly bear steps out in front of you or someone brandishing a knife, a little bit of fear can motivate a proper response to the situation. But fear, out of control can paralyze us, cause us not to go on that nice leisurely walk at all because of what might happen, even though it may never happen and we deprive ourselves of the walk. Take the things that fear brings in and make notes in your awareness. Graciously thank the fear and let it know that you are aware and that it can go sit down and relax, because you are now aware.
Anger an issue? Again, out of control, reactive anger is destructive, both to yourself and to others around you. But being able to express the feeling in a thoughtful controlled response will almost always yield a constructive result to that which upsets you. Even a joyful reaction, without thought, can result in unintended destructive consequences. See how many football players have physically injured themselves this season by “celebrating” a single play. Which also obviously hurts their team and brings ridicule and disappointment from their fans. Emotion without forethought goes easily out of control.
If there is one thing I would like to integrate into my life, it would be to be thoughtful about everything I feel. To observe and understand why I feel what it is that I am feeling and to then express it in a thoughtful, constructive manner, not only for my own benefit, but also for the benefit of all around me.