The active pursuit of a great life

You can be discouraged by failure, or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes, make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success — on the far side of failure. Thomas Watson, IBM

Pathfinder teaches how to take command of the stories in our head. There are times when this can be useful, and times when it can be transformational.

Over the past twenty years or so of making Pathfinder available to individuals, teams and organisations I have noticed a handful of patterns in the shifting stories that our clients have made.

The most obvious one is the shift from feeling fearful to being courageous — by noticing the things that make us anxious and actively stepping through those moments to feel the fear and do it anyway. This is more than just a coping mechanism — repeating the deliberate act of stepping forward gradually reduces our underlying capacity for anxiety and fear.

When our own fears begin to subside, we often find that we become more focussed on reducing the anxity and fear in other people — largely by making the shift from critisising to praising. We only feel the need to be critical when other people don’t match our needs or expectations and it helps to ask the question why should we expect others to do the things we do or do them the wy we do them? Isn’t this an intolerable arrogance?

Another big change that takes place is the shift from being realistic to dreaming big hairy audacious goals. This can be hard in a society that is persistently encouraging us to be realistic, know our place, know our limitations. There really is very little value in these exhortations to limit our potential except, perhaps, to protect us from disappointment. I am not sure i want to be protected from dissapointment or from my failures. My wrong turns contain more learning than almost any other outcome. Without my mistakes and failures I would remain weak, immature and undeveloped.

The biggest transformation I made personally was to shift from blaming others to taking responsibility for the circumstances I was in. It is easy to blame someone else, the government, the economy, our teachers, parents and society for the messes we find ourselves in. It is harder to face personal responsibility for the choices we have made but exceptionally liberating to do so.

It seems to me that we have — largely accidentally and societally — adopted countless ways of actively pursuing unhappiness rather than the opposite. To actively or unconsiously chose to be anxious, fearful, critical, realistic and blaming is not condusive to health, happiness, success or fulfilment.

Fortunately we can choose how to be.

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