Conflict Part Three: Make A Plan

Image9Conflict is like a washing machine.  What goes into the machine is agitated but it also comes out clean.  Stop the washing machine too early and it’s a wet soapy mess.  Conflict interrupted just builds up to create more conflict.  Conflict resolved produces creative results, deeper understanding, intimacy and personal growth to name just a few of its benefits. Yesterday we explored the first step in the conflict process is to ask questions. Questions create awareness. “Those with the greatest awareness have the greatest nightmares,” Mahatma Gandhi. Sometimes as we become aware we may feel shame, guilt, embarrassment or a host of other fear based emotions; thus the nightmares Mahatma refers to. Push past this and keep doing this good work. “Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness,” James Thurber. Step Two: Make a plan. Awareness without action is just intellectual theory. It is only when we create a plan and put that awareness into action that we can gain experience. Experiences are vastly different from theories. Knowledge of itself has little meaning until it is applied. So many of us get stuck on theories and philosophical ideas. We can talk all day about how to run a marathon, how to train, what to eat, what shoes to buy, where to practice ad infinitum. None of this knowledge will compare to the actual experience of running the marathon. This knowledge came about by others experiences and sometimes just by theory alone which is why things taken as scientific fact are proved incorrect all the time (see the articles below as an example). Many of us tell others how to run a marathon but we have no idea how to actually do it ourselves, we just pass along knowledge. Our goal should always be to pass along experience. Experience is knowledge into action and that is far more valuable. Plans help us define goals, stay committed and move us forward. Here are some things to consider when developing a personal plan. Keep a Journal or Mindfully Track our Thoughts Track how often throughout the day the mind wanders to these random thoughts which shift our state. Be a journalist and explore those thoughts, what are they focused on, what triggered them, how often do they appear, what state are we in when they pop up and so on. Make a conscious effort to shift those thoughts to thoughts of empowerment. For example, flip “I can’t believe they just did that” to “for what purpose does this thought serve”? Then what would be a more creative or productive thought to put in it’s place. We may think “my goal today is joy, let me turn my thoughts to a joyful event.” Or if the goal is joy what next thing or thought will bring the mind to a joyful state. How long am I committed to this process? Will I commit to doing this everyday for 21 to 30 days? There is an idea that habits can be changed in just this amount of time. However, new science has showed that once a habit is formed and pathways are established in the brain, then they can easily become reactivated which is why people will often relapse. There are two interesting articles about this. The first article talks about steps to break habits and reprogram the brain pathways, and the second article from MIT shows why it’s tough to break old habits. Having the knowledge that relapse is easy will perhaps give us comfort instead of guilt when we fall back into our old ways. The key to any plan is to stick with it. If we relapse, we can just think ‘how interesting’ instead of ‘how bad’ and that should set us free to move forward. The judgments and labels keep us stuck. However, if we just stay committed to the process and don’t get hung up on small set backs we are sure to experience some powerful results.  Another step that may be helpful is to establish a declaration. More on this monday.

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