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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Growing up in 2013.

Wow - What a year 2013 turned out to be! This was the year that I found out who I really am and finally admit to growing old up.

Last year, when my indicators of success were in the red - the money, job security, relationships exploded in a grandiose failing flop - it was really a blessing in disguise. I found my breaking point! (Yes, you can imagine me writing that in a positive excited tone not sarcasm and not negative) Instead of wasting more time on a downward spiral that wasn't beneficial to anybody involved - I had reached ground zero. The free falling had stopped and there was no way dig deeper. I'm sure that without the extreme circumstance I wouldn't have known the following: When you find out how fragile you really are, how your life could end in an instance, and how little or no control of everything and everyone else you have - it was quite clear what the only option was. Focus on yourself and regain control of yourself. The great thing about being on the bottom is that the only way to go is up.

The only things that are in your control are your thoughts, feelings and actions - not much else. Just like you can't force your body to digest that Christmas Turkey dinner without packing on the pounds, you can't command your body to stop growing cancer cells or to stop being intolerant to glucose. I hope that other people don't also have to go through extremes to know, take care of yourself - you're the most important person in your life.

I've had trouble writing this blog post for about a month now, and I think it's because when I write the words growing up, taking responsibility, being self aware and grounded - it sounds like I've mastered it. But in truth, I haven't, I have just started to understand what these words and behaviours really mean. I think the more you think you know, the more there is so much more to learn and understand. It's just like when you start getting the travel bug and make it your life's goal to reach every continent or country, and think you've set foot on quite a few number of places. If you sit back and count, you realize how many places you've yet to make it to and people you haven't met.

All year, I feel that I have all gained all these insights, and yet all year long I continue to make a ton of mistakes. I'm new on this path of self-awareness and the fact that I'm still attempting to write about it, makes me know where I stand, according to Lao Tzu: "Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”  Although, another quote from him is quite encouraging:

 "Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment."

I take pride in being a connector - in being able to relate to others, read them, pick out their strengths, accept their weaknesses, and set up situations to help them learn or succeed. It's much easier to help solve other people's problems than tackle my own and it's also easier to be rational and focus on truth not emotions when it has to do with other people. My hobbies include reading autobiographies, learning about psychology, loving frameworks of how to classify people through Myers Briggs, Strength Finder and even Numerology. I love trying to understand people's beliefs, religions and political views. I've spent so much time getting to know other people and putting myself in their shoes, and I thought that to be a better connector, I had to continue being a bigger sponge to absorb it all.

However, this year I realized that to become a better connector, I actually need to work on me. When you interact with other people but are not aware of what your own thoughts, feelings and what you're projecting outwards, you can be quite ineffective. A common reoccurring problem for me was that I would immerse myself in other people's emotions and problems, inheriting them as my own. I wouldn't rest until I made their problems go away and we'd both feel good. (That never worked out to well :)  I couldn't distinguish the boundary of what was my own problems/thoughts/feelings and what were others. What a relief it has been - the more I'm getting to know myself, the less I need to inherit other people's problems and actually the more effective I have been at helping and connecting.

Look it up, you'll find a ton of articles about how self-awareness is a key to success, but the funny thing is, unless you're already on the path of self-discovery and self-awareness you glaze over it just like I did.

I've also realized that everyone learns and works through life at their own pace. It's so tempting to turn on the preaching/lecturing mode especially when you see clearly what mistakes someone else is making or about to make. But if I have learned anything, it's that you can't assume anything. The person you see in front of you is complex and ever changing - there may be cycles they're stuck in from childhood or trauma. There may be lessons that they've yet to master. And really, there is no such thing as common sense. Rumi says it best,

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

I've tried and failed this year on multiple occasions to "help" others by dishing out my new found wisdom ;) Of course, it never worked on anybody. So of course, the old proverb was right, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear". You can't force anybody to change or learn anything, they need to be ready to find their own motivations, or breaking point. Ironically I'm probably writing this to try to reach people who don't yet want to read it.

When I finally realized I needed to change, the right people appeared. It's like you open your eyes to a different subset of stories and resources on your newsfeed and more importantly, you realize that you're not alone. I'm really optimistic about the future, as more and more people become self-aware, the support and resources are definitely there when you need it. It really does take a village to raise a child - and in this day and age all villages are tightly connected across the globe. We benefit as a whole to support each other in our journey to grow up, discover who we are, and contribute our own unique gifts.  The Dalai Lama summarizes it best,

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”

As eventful as 2013 has been. I can't wait for the adventures that 2014 will bring as we keep practicing self-awareness and living authentically.