Photo Credit: Keoni Cabral , Creative Commons
We spend a lot of time and energy hoping tomorrow will be better. We hope our marriages will be better, our finances will be better, our health with be better, our friendships will grow deeper, our family relationships will include less drama, and our careers will become more fulfilling or exciting.
If we’re optimists, we spend our energy talking about how it will be better, it’s already getting better in fact, and how, if “you just wait, you’ll see” because tomorrow is going to be a new day.
If we’re pessimists (or, as pessimists like to call themselves, realists) we just complain about how crummy the situation is, and how maybe we’ll be one of the lucky ones who catches a break. But probably not.
Either way, I wonder how often tomorrow is actually better?
Doesn’t it seem like, most of the time, for most people, tomorrow is pretty much the same? Or (heaven forbid) worse?
It occurred to me recently that, for all of the energy we spend hoping things will be different, we are very rarely willing to do the most obvious thing required in order to make those things different.
We are very rarely willing to change ourselves.
In order for our marriages to change, or our careers to change, or our friendships to change or our finances to change, one very crucial thing must change, first. We must change. It’s true. If “something” has to change in your life, or my life, it almost always starts with you changing, or me changing. We must change the way we think, feel and behave.
There are very few exceptions to this rule.
Before I met my husband, most of the dating relationships I had ended in confusion, pain, disappointment and (honestly) dishonesty on both sides. Several years ago, when one of these relationships was ending that same way, I lamented to a friend: This “always” happens to me, I told her.
She asked me a question I hated at the time, but now, with hindsight, I see as really wise. She said:
“Who is the common denominator in each of those relationships?”
Her advise, once I had the humility to accept it, was really helpful. The common denominator in each of those relationships wasn’t the guys (each guy was different). It wasn’t timing or circumstances or surroundings (all the relationships happened in different stages of life, in different locations).
The common denominator in each of those relationships was me.
Which meant, if I wanted my romantic life to change, I didn’t just need to change my circumstances or even choice of dates or the way I talked about dating, nearly as much as I needed to change me.
If I wanted my romantic life to change, I needed to change.
One specific piece of advice she gave me at the time was to stop being so afraid to speak up about what I wanted. She recommended that, no matter what happened with this particular relationship, I find a way to speak my mind before it was all over. I liked her idea. It sounded nice. But I was also nervous.
This was different than anything I had ever done before.
But isn’t this what we have to be willing to do if we want things to turn out differently than they ever have before — to do things differently?
I decided to take her up on her advice, just to see. I told her I would have the conversation, say my piece as kindly as I could, and let her know how things turned out. The conversation happened, the relationship promptly ended, and in my mind I felt like saying, “See, there’s nothing I can do!”
But then three weeks later, I met my husband.
These two occurrences — the conversation where I spoke my mind to an ex-boyfriend, and meeting my husband — weren’t connected in any specific sense. They weren’t externally linked. But they were internally linked because the change in my circumstances started with a change in me.
If you ask me, the same is true for all of us. If we want something in our lives to be different, we can’t just hope and pray they will become different (although hope and prayer are good things, they are not like magic wants).
If we want something to be different, we must learn to act differently, think differently, respond differently and, as a result, feel differently than we’ve ever felt before.
Something does have to change.
But usually, it’s me and you.