Evolving Personality

You and I are shaped by our environment: the family we have, where we grew up, the people we hang around with, the job we chose or fell into. All of these things work, sometimes very subtly, to mold us into the persons we are today. The environment helped to shape our experiences and those experiences our helped to form our personality. And so here we are, very unique personalities. And there’s not much I can do to change that is there?

“If your environment is disorganized, so is your mind. Everything is energy. Your environment is constantly influencing you whether you’re aware of it or not.” Benjamin Hardy

In his book Willpower Doesn’t Work, Benjamin Hardy posits that if we change our environment, we can change our personality. While the current self-help trend focuses on changing our personalities to become more of who we want to be, Hardy tells us to focus on what in our immediate environment is preventing us from changing. If I want to become an organized person then I need organize my environment.  I want to become a student of life, then I have to organize my space so that it is conducive to that study. If I want to be a successful person then I need to hang out with successful people.

I’m don’t know who first said it, but the idea is that if you want to know who you really are, look carefully at the five people you are closest to. Change your friends and change your personality. It’s not a far stretch for me to see the results for this suggestion. When I first came into recovery I had few friends and the ones I did have were those who were as in need of recovery as I was. I had to get new friends. I needed to change my environment to find success in this new way of living.

men having their haircut

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If you don’t want a hair cut, stop hanging around the barbershop. Will power alone will eventually weaken. Strength will fade with time until it seems like a good idea to get into the chair and under the clippers. I had to change my environment: where I was hanging out, who I was hanging out with and what I was doing in order to have any success with sobriety. I am grateful that early on I learned that I didn’t have to be a martyr. I didn’t have to make it more difficult for myself. I didn’t have to test my new found way of life.

“Surround yourself with people who remind you more of your future than your past.” Dan Sullivan

When I first came into recovery I was told five things: Don’t consume. Go to meetings. Get a home group. Get a sponsor. Work the Twelve Steps of Recovery. All of these five things were instrumental in changing my environment. I was hanging around with people who were living what my future could be. The bar stool philosopher had to give way to the meeting room student if I was going to have any chance at this thing called sobriety.

I had some misgivings about leaving friends behind but I soon discovered that those who really were friends were glad that I was making this change. The backroom buddies only missed me when they saw me on the street and they suddenly realized that they hadn’t seen me for a while.

I am still working on changing my environment. For the most part right now it is the mental environment. I am changing how I think by focusing on what I am thinking about. I am reading and studying quality material rather than simply passing time with social media or the endless task of finding the perfect thing to watch on Netflix. With time the changes to the environment and therefore the changes to me are happening. I am a work in progress taking the next right step for the evolving me.

Essentialism

“When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and time, other people–our bosses, our colleagues, or clients and even our families–will choose for us and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.” Greg McKeown, Essentialism

My life is sometimes not my own. It’s my own fault. I have several apartments that I look after. There is always something that needs to checked on or repaired. Tenants have reasons why the rent is late. The short term stay apartment has to be ready at a moment’s notice. There’s always the pool to vacuum, plants to water, decks to wash. It’s never ending. I can go from one task to the next and not stop. The big maintenance projects, well, they’ll just have to wait for another day. If I don’t watch it, my whole day is consumed with solving little things and not getting to or being too tired to start the things that I really need to do as well as things I want to do.

Life is like that. We go from one thing to the next and one task to the next without really thinking about it: I have to do it. And gradually the day is done and I haven’t accomplished but half of what I wanted to do.  Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism suggests that if we are going to get to do what we really want then we must begin by deciding what is important to us. What is it that I value? What am I trying to accomplish here? What are my goals and where do I want them to take me?

Few people take the time to sit down and make this evaluation. As it often goes, we spend 80% of our time doing things that are not important to us, not essential,  and 20% of our time, if that, doing what is. Everyone will ask us for our time and our talents. There are always going to be little fires to put out here and there. It would probably be a better solution to discover the source of those little fires in the first place.

Essentialism often means saying, ‘No!’ I can’t be everything to everyone. Yes I want to be the nice guy and help out but if it’s not important to me and if it’s not my responsibility, I have to ask myself, just why I am doing this? If it is taking my focus away from my priorities then I can say no to joining yet another committee, or going organizing another office function. And yes, the first time I give a firm no! I may ruffle a few feathers, especially if I have always been the one to say yes. But sticking to the essentials will allow me to use more of my time to on my priorities.

I would rather do one thing well than divide my attention and try to do several things just okay. Perhaps that’s the reason why I am running around trying to solve a whole lot of little problems. Rather than let work, friends, and even family decide where I want to focus my energy, I purposefully and deliberately choose where I will focus my energy.

Essentialism won’t solve all the challenges in life. There will always be things that broadside us when we least expect them. But if we have the majority of our lives organized then the chances of it knocking us of our balance are much less. In the end it will help me to accomplish much more.

What’s important to you?

Solitude

“People who take time to be alone usually have depth, originality, and quiet reserve.” John Miller

In my disease I spent a great deal of time alone. I also spent a great deal of time feeling lonely. And I spent a lot of time wishing it wasn’t so. I hadn’t completely isolated myself.  I wasn’t barricading myself in my room and hiding under my bed–yet. I still went out occasionally, but not really to socialize, more so to get what I needed. I preferred my own company and loathed it at the same time. I wanted friends but didn’t want them around me.  Addiction is full of contradictions.

I have always known that I need time to myself. It’s how I process my thoughts. I am an introvert and I know I need to be alone to recharge. My energy comes from silence. I need my Fortress of Solitude in order to restore myself. It’s not being alone and wishing I wasn’t. That’s loneliness and loneliness is an ego driven downward spiral. The times when I feel lonely are the times when I would rather not be alone. I can solve that. I can pick up my phone and chat with someone or go down into town.

Solitude is a time for repair of the body, mind and soul. My cell phone is in another room and away from the temptation to pick it up at every beep or burp it makes. I prefer the ambient sounds of where I live when I am in my solitude, but some may like some relaxing music. I like to have a notepad nearby should a thought pop into my head that I know will slip out as quickly as it came if I don’t write it down. I can use my solitude to read. I can use it to think. I can use it to meditate. In solitude I unplug and detach from life.

Solitude, used in this way, is a contradiction. When I am in solitude I am making and restoring connections. I connect with myself. I use my morning time to analyse how I am feeling about myself and life. I use it to think about what is important to me. I believe that it’s important to think about things, mull them over in my head, question my beliefs around a particular topic. I need to do that for my writing as well as for my sanity.

abstract break broken broken glass

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Sometimes solitude takes planning. Depending upon your life, you may need to schedule this time alone. In my readings of the past year I’ve learned that people who are successful in many aspects of life make time for solitude because they know how important it is as part of their creativity and drive as well as in maintaining balance in their lives. They do this as part of their daily routine as well as taking vacations from their job whether it’s an afternoon away or a sabbatical year. I really ‘need’ that time in the morning from 5:30 to 7:00 and I see the difference when I don’t get it.

I live a fairly quiet life but even so, I can fill a day with odd jobs and tasks. I am conscious of the amount of time I spend on social media, watching TV (How did we survive before Netflix?)  and the ubiquitous cell phone with all of its apps and time wasters.  I need to unplug from the business of life in order to tune into what’s really important and I’ve learned that I can’t figure that out on the fly.

I need my solitude.