31 December 2014: 13 Steps to live by–with practice

13 Steps to live by–with practice

Bookends.  My first column of 2014 was about ten maxims to live by.  Over the ensuing period, I’ve added a few more, which I’ve dubbed my 13 Steps.

On the surface, the 13 Steps seem simple enough, but living up to them takes practice, lots of it.   The third one, for example, suggests letting go of anger and like emotions, which can be a challenge for me when it comes to fighting for justice and fairness.

In last week’s piece about CDOT’s handling of the I-70 Corridor, I expressed my anger in no uncertain terms.  Before sending the draft, I debated whether that was appropriate or wise in that I was calling down nameless individuals for their dismissal of the concerns of the County and the people living here.

In the end, I chose to go with the piece as written, including pointed barbs, as I felt it was important for readers to feel the intense frustration and betrayal many are feeling.  I decided it was imperative to express unequivocally that anger and frustration rather than let it go because it was for a higher purpose: to impress on CDOT decision makers their credibility in Clear Creek is pretty well shot.

Fighting for social justice is part of my needing to accept reality, which is step number one.  Whether the notion is ingrained, being part of my genetic makeup, or has formed as a consequence of my life experiences, is irrelevant.  It’s a passion of mine, but like with all passion, reason needs to hold sway.

In addition to accepting the reality of one’s life experiences, it’s critical to acknowledge one’s “darker side.”  The problem is most are reluctant to acknowledge uncomfortable truths about themselves.  For me, a rise to anger from zero to sixty seconds is one.

The second step is about allowing one’s self to be vulnerable, such as I am in writing the above.  Being vulnerable is a healthy practice since the individual puts less away into his/her shadow, where we relegate unfavorable attributes to which we prefer not owning up.  Whatever one tries to hide in his/her shadow will surface in more detrimental ways.  If one is seething inside but opts to put on a happy face as a matter of practice, at some point that anger will erupt probably towards an innocent person who happens to cross his/her path at the wrong time.

Step three, as I note above, deals with letting go of negative emotions.  Every emotion is irrational and arises from chemical secretions in response to learned stimuli.  They’re important in that they make us fun or not-so-fun humans to be with.

There are times, of course, when anger is appropriate, but hate, which emanates from the same realm as anger, never is.  Hate is pointless and energy consuming, and when it becomes part of one’s modus operandi, it takes control of the individual.  The Islamic extremists, with whom we’re engaged in a protracted conflict, are driven by it.  Responding in kind is pointless as it plays into their hands.

Number four encourages the individual to detach from outcomes, for in the end no one can control another or dictate how events will unfold.  Peoples’ behaviors and event outcomes might be predictable but never guaranteed given the infinite potentials that exist.  Thus, since it’s counter-productive, all one should do is to do his/her best.

The fifth step encourages the individual to imagine and project what might bring him/her authentic, genuine happiness and fulfillment.  Authentic and genuine are key words in that “plastic desires” are a waste of effort.  Money, as we know, can help us have fun, but in the end it can’t buy happiness.  Hard work and dedicated effort, on the other hand, whether for a living or for an interest such as quilting, running, or gardening, can bring about a sense of fulfillment.

Once one has identified that which can bring him/her happiness, it’s important for him/her to acknowledge his/her worthiness to receive it.  It’s empowering in that helps build self-esteem, a feel-good attitude about one’s self.   It also helps move one past the notion of victimhood, the “poor me” attitude.

It might be helpful to reflect back on 2014 through the lens of these six.  Next week I’ll transition into 2015 with the final seven, which can serve as a platform for personal growth in the New Year.

On that note, have a Happy New Year and thank you for reading.

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