We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.
The basic principles and rules of living can be confusing. Because children lack experience and judgement, we are taught spiritual principles and rules as absolutes. Something is right or wrong, good or bad. In school, answers are correct or incorrect.
There are some guiding spiritual principles that you may feel are absolutes and that the more consistent you live your life abiding by these principles the better your life will work. As an example, I believe in unconditional love. I accept that the more I practice unconditional love the better my life will work. I also understand I’m a flawed human and will never attain total mastery or perfection.
Viewing everything in black and white, absolutist terms is a hard way to go through life; it makes for a difficult journey. A better approach is understand that you never know all there is to know and have a willingness to be open to new information and fresh perspectives. Accept that total clarity is not always possible. Many rules for living effectively are relative. Context often determines appropriateness. The challenge is to balance and reconcile these conflicting guidelines. If I were to ask you if killing people was a bad thing, an immoral thing, you would probably say yes, absolutely. But then if I were to ask you about self-defense and point out to you that people are given medals for killing in wartime, the question becomes more difficult to answer. The realm of truth becomes a little murkier.
What needs to be addressed is where you are living arbitrarily and rigidly by a set of rules that really have no spiritual underpinning, where you are living unconsciously and adhering to unquestioned and unexamined beliefs. The $64,000 question you need to ask yourself concerning each belief is whether it is empowering (good for you) or disempowering (bad for you)? This is why awareness plays such an important role in personal development.
Next it is necessary to have effective strategies for eliminating or revising beliefs that harm or limit you. Why is this so critical? Whatever you are feeling or experiencing is usually preceded by a thought. If you are experiencing a positive emotion and are feeling good, loving or confident, this feeling has been preceded by a positive thought. If you are experiencing some negative emotion (fear, anger, feeling of inadequacy, depression etc.) you have probably been having a corresponding negative thought. Thoughts precede feelings and feelings precede action (or lack of action). The sequence of events is beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and action.
Here is an example. Let’s say you are single and your social life is languishing. You find yourself sitting home alone on too many Friday nights. Although you know you aren’t going to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right traveling from the couch to the refrigerator, you can’t seem to break the pattern. If you have thoughts such as “I’m overweight and nobody will find me attractive” or “I’m too old” or “There is nobody out there for me,” what emotions and feelings will this kind of thinking trigger? You will probably feel either down, depressed, angry, frustrated, upset or some combination of these feelings. What actions will this negative feeling trigger? Probably inaction; you will want to stay at home and do nothing. If you had positive thoughts, positive beliefs, you would feel better and would have a higher probability of taking some type of action that would change a pattern that isn’t working for you.
Personal growth requires that you develop the awareness of identifying your disempowering thoughts and learning methods to create empowering thoughts. Empowering thoughts lead to good feelings and good feelings are the springboard for positive action.