We cannot change the outside world. We cannot stop someone from cutting us off in traffic or stop it from raining on our vacation. What we can change is the way we respond to those situations.
Dr. A: Alright everybody. Welcome to the Conscious Leadership Forum. I’m Dr. A. I’m very excited about being here with you today and I’m going to spend a moment. Our topic today is: Do you want to be happy? Or do you not? I mean, it’s a pretty simple question, but we really convolute it, and we’ll talk about that in just a few moments. So, I always like to start off by kind of going over what we’re doing today. This is a forum and a forum is really, basically, by definition, a place, meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged and so a very important part of this is interactive. In fact, for me, it’s a constant learning curve where I’m learning more and more about the human experience and the things that we struggle with, our challenges, our successes, the things that really make us human. And we’re complex beings.
We’re the only ones with a prefrontal cortex, and we still have the traditional animal instinct, so to speak, the limbic area of our brain which prevents us, originally against real threats, 10,000 years ago, but really, in the modern world we live in, those threats are mostly perceived. They’re things that we make up. They’re things that affect us, and it creates suffering and pretty much, you could probably ask this question to yourself. Sometimes, is it not so great up in there? And the answer for all this is yes because we were designed to protect ourselves against these things that were going on. Not put ourselves in position to actually worry about everything in the world and trying to change the outside world, to make it work for us.
So, we’re going to talk today about the exploration of self. I talked about this last month, and I want to set it up because we started this discussion. Today, we’re going to get really specific about you. But basically, the exploration of yourself, your mental health, is vital to the quality of your life, and it’s essential to take steps to maximize it. We’re in a time now where emotional mismanagement is a major issue. I mean, you’re hearing all the time about people really struggling to find their way in the modern world, and all the things that are happening, and the connection with media, and all the input we’re getting, and all the different things that are going on. We’re mostly struggling with that, and the adaptation of that is going to require work.
But it’s going to be some of the best work you can ever do. Because if you’re thriving, you’ll experience a crystal-clear vision to empower, to create your life the way you intend, and see life as full of opportunities. You’ll be working enthusiastically towards your goals and dreams, doing what you love, and feeling grateful for your life and yourself. That’s what I want for you, and that’s why I’m doing this work and it’s work I’m committed to for the rest of my life because I find it is the most important work. It’s the work inside and learning how to have the tools, the strategies, and the experiences to now kind of change our story and move into full flow, full thriving, in the world we live in.
But on the other hand, if you’re mental health is being compromised, you may feel knocked back by life’s challenges, lack of clarity and focus, feeling scattered and uninspired, and be more volatile in your emotions and I think we can all say that we’re experiencing some of that. So do you want to be happy? Or do you not? We spend so much time during our day focusing on the burden of choices about the things we ought to do, the things we’re supposed to do versus the things we desire, the things we love to do. When we’re really focused on the creative process— and it’s been an important part of my life, and meeting many years ago a gentleman named Robert Fritz, who’s one of the top people that really understands the creative process, and he learned that through art. And if you think about it through our world, to the history of our world, art has always been this ubiquitous thing that we all experience. We remember the Monet’s, we remember— we don’t remember much about Napoleon, but remember a lot about art, and we last— Mozart and Monet’s and all these incredible things.
So the creative process is what makes us happy. When we’re doing something, living our highest values, the things that are most important to us and being unencumbered by that voice in our head, which is always telling us what we should do or what we ought to do. So if you make that choice, your path through life becomes clear. Do you want to be happy? If that’s the north star that allows you to really focus on the things you value most and put you in position to now follow and live those things throughout your day, you can make that choice to be happy. So that is a specific choice and we’re going to talk about why that’s so important because true freedom only comes when you decide you do not want to suffer anymore and that choice is available to all of us.
It’s not, well yeah, I grew up in, my past was, I had a bad childhood. I had bad stored trauma in there from that. Those are things from the past. They do not define where you want to go in the future and it’s so important to make that decision that you want to be happy. So decide you want to enjoy your life and remove the fear, the inner pain and the stress. You just have to mean it when you choose to be happy. No matter what happens. So, it’s easy. Staying happy and open to life when everything’s going well, right? Unconditional happiness is when it’s going well or it’s going poorly. Life is intrinsically unstable. We’re all going to have things happen to us, but if we make a decision to be happy, to fully witness these things and not let them encumber us into this huge level of stress and anxiety, we can change everything, and it’s pretty exciting.
So here’s a great way to— as an example, because the outside world, we have very little control of, and our ego, our personal mind is trying to create the world outside that matches the world we want inside. It’s just not going to happen. So, I love this. This was a song, Always Take the Weather With You by Jimmy Buffett, but let’s take that as an example. I think it’s a great example because, well I’m looking outside, I’m up in Vail, Colorado and it just dumped six inches of snow, which is great, but the wind’s blowing about 30 knots and so I can’t do anything about that, but I can make the adjustments. I can decide, okay, yeah, we’re skiing today. I’m going to go out after this and go skiing or I’m gonna wait because tomorrow— it’s supposed to snow all day today— and tomorrow is going to be better. So I can basically make the adjustment. Is it too hot? Is it too cold? You know, those are things I really don’t have any control over, but I can make the adjustments.
So one of the key focuses, always, is things are going to happen. It’s how you respond to them that makes the difference. That determines the outcome and we have full control of our inner world. So one of the things we want to do is we want to look at how do we do that, day in and day out. So, happy. When you’re happy you’ll feel it. Think about something, I’d like you all to think about something that really makes you happy something, that’s happened recently where all of a sudden you felt your heart open and energy was rushing in. You feel fully connected to what was going on in your life and you basically felt great. Just spend a moment and think about that because I think it’s important. So just think of something where you just felt a rush of energy because that’s the state of being happy. That’s the state of being involved. That’s the state of living our values and doing the things that organize our life around what matters most and that’s so critical because your top values, the things that are really important to you. If you’re filling your day by making decisions that those are what you want, then it becomes very easy to stay happy. But when you’re unhappy, you feel your heart close and no energy comes up so you know something will happen rather than respond to it by being open and curious and want to think, Hmm. I’m interested in why that’s happening and being curious and allowing it just to happen.
We try to stop it. We try to resist it. We try to move away from it, or if it’s something great, makes us happy, we try to cling to it. So either way what ends up happening is it stresses us out. So practice when you’re open. You know, I mean, as you go through your day today, and you can do this, it’s not easy by the way. It is not easy. The voice in your head is going to want to create stress. It’s going to want to change the outside world. It’s going to have a lot of anxiety about the future and those things you have no control of. You have no control over the future, you can plan for the things you want, and you can inform yourself that during the day to do those things, but you really have no control. But a great way of starting to practice this, and it’s practice, practice, practice because your body’s going to respond through what I was talking about earlier, that ten-thousand-year-old stress that came from being worried about, you know, going down a trail and there’s a rattlesnake or a sabre tooth tiger around the corner, and your body responded, and you ran like hell because if you didn’t you got eaten.
Those things are mostly perceived. It’s these voices in our head that makes up stuff and, basically, when you feel yourself happy and— you’ve heard me talk about Stop. Challenge. Choose.— so when you feel that you’re happy, you’re in a great state and all this sudden it starts to close. Now you can shift, and you can shift by just being aware of it. Understanding, and then thinking something positive. Switching something positive, or accepting what’s going on, and just let it flow through you versus just resisting it or clinging to it. So be aware. When your heart starts to close the thing to do is to relax and decide this is not something [unintelligible 00:09:18] your happiness, and think [unintelligible 00:09:20] don’t you feel— and when I say, happy, I’m not saying– you know, some things are going to happen. You may have a loss of a loved one, you may have somebody crash your car.
So I’m not saying be oblivious, but the word equanimity means that no longer am I allowing this to emotionally throw me off track and make me unhappy. I’m simply going to deal with it. I’m going to observe it, and I’m going to move forward, and the best way is when you start feeling that anxiety, is just relax and decide, you know what, I’m not going to let anything or anybody take me off this track of being in this incredible world I’m in, that I’m so grateful and have such gratitude for, and I’m going to move forward and not sacrifice my happiness. Where my— you know, as a physician I talk a lot about coherence and when we have physical, emotional, and cognitive coherence we’re in flow, and we feel great, and we’ve all had that.
[00:10:12] Seeing a beautiful sunset. Watching a grandchild walk for the first time. It doesn’t matter what it is, but when we’re in flow, and we’re relaxed, and just understanding that life is happening and we’re part of that process, and not resisting it, and just taking some deep breaths, relaxing, everything can change for us. So practice not closing, and what I mean by that is when you start to feel it. Where you can feel your energy starting to shift, and you’ll sense it because that coherence is like an orchestra. If you have an orchestra, and you’re the conductor, and you are the conductor of your life— by the way, when you’re doing this [Dr. A. gestures with his hands], everything is in harmony. If one of the instruments goes off, and you can hear it, it goes out of harmony and it becomes dysfunctional, and then there’s a downward spiral that leads to anxiety and stress and all these things that are so unhealthy for us.
So practice not closing during your day. You know, I can practice today about my anticipation, what I thought the weather was going to be like and the snow conditions were today. Now, I mean obviously, that’s a fun, easy thing, but works for everything in our life. Stress basically, we create stress. So rather than, again, talking about the obstacles the way— think of it as when something happens, wow, what an opportunity to relax and just observe it. Observe what’s going on and then relax and respond to it in a logical way using this part of our brain. So, there are things in your life you’re trying to push away and others you’re trying to pull towards you. Basically, rather than trying to cling onto something or resist, just take some deep breaths and observe what’s going on.
So that is the foundation of stress and anxiety. And is it worth it? I can tell you as a physician that emotional mismanagement is the leading cause of death, and I mentioned that earlier, but most people don’t get it. They actually think that when they get stressed out, or they’re in the work environment, and they’re hyped up, they feel this euphoria, the release of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol and they can feel the juice, right? That rush, and they think, wow, this is making me alive. Actually, it’s slowly but surely killing you because these are the things that we want to work on. So ask yourself, is it worth worrying about these things? Are they important? And intuitively say, I’m going to observe it. I’m going to become curious but I’m not going to absorb it, and cling to it, or resist it. I’m going to simply let it happen.
So, you know, with that in essence what I mean by this is honor the flow of life. You know if this was your last week on earth, would you need that experience of death to make everything all right? And that’s how we should feel about it because we— not only as a physician, you know, rather than write you a prescription and say, take this pill and call the doctor in the morning. What I’m talking about is more important than anything. Of becoming the locus of control, inside. Taking the responsibility and starting to understand the mechanism that these things occur because they’re part of the life experience and the more we make the decision that I’m going to weigh being happy, which puts myself in flow, in coherence, allows my body to be in harmony, or I can resist it. Get mad about it. Get emotionally disturbed about it and it’s going to slowly, but surely, put me in a position where it is going to create disease and potentially death for us. That’s not the main reason you should do it.
The main reason you do it is we only have so many years of life and if this was your last week, you would suddenly think of everything differently. So maybe today that would be my suggestion to you, ask yourself, if this was my last week in life, where would I focus? And you would focus on the things you value most. So hopefully this has been helpful. Let’s basically end by saying— I show this slide all the time and this is the mechanism we want— we want internal stability, so no matter what comes in, we can respond to it in the way that doesn’t sacrifice our happiness, allows us to address certain things that happen but not put us where it throws us off the track, off the rails, takes us down into the Drama Triangle and all the things, because what that allows you to do, and for you as an individual, the external equilibrium, but being able to deal with others in that relational health that comes as a result of that is so powerful. So with that, Rachel, let’s open it up for some questions.
Rachel: All right. First up we have Natalie. Natalie, can you unmute yourself and come on camera?
Natalie: I can!
Rachel: There you are.
Dr. A: Hey, Natalie.
Natalie: Hi, Dr. A. How are you?
Dr. A: I’m great.
Natalie: Good. Good. So, I have been listening to Jim Rohn and I’m slowly discovering that I have a lot of weaknesses. The biggest one being self-discipline. I am a habitual self-sabotager and that is something that I’m definitely working on and getting under control, but I really want to know, how can I work on my self-discipline in a way that is not going to benefit just me on my personal journey but benefit the people around me? Because I want to add value to people. I don’t want to take. I want to add.
Dr. A: Beautiful. I love that and by the way, you use the keyword: values. Values are, you know, there’s so many really wise practitioners that really understand, Barrett’s one of the example of looking at values, the things we value most, and the things are really important, and we have limited values, and we have values that move us forward. The key part is being fully aware of what you value most and so a great exercise is to kind of sit down in all the key areas of your life, what you do for a living, your relational health, your financial health, obviously your physical health, and looking all those key areas, you know, which is part of the trilogy, and basically say, “Okay, what are the things I value most?” Because when you really value something you do it automatically. You don’t need a lot of motivation and self-discipline comes because you recognize that it supports something you value and so obviously the two things I heard is, you know, you’re— and Jim Rohn was way ahead of his time. A brilliant guy, incredible. I mean he’s like a like a whily poster, one of the old sages, has some great ideas but we’ve come a long way. We’ve come a long way from when he basically taught, to understanding interpersonal neurobiology, the things that revolve around how our emotions work, the stuff I just talked about, about being happy, it’s not about positivity, it’s actually about understanding what we value.
We can make stuff up and, you know, look at TV, and see somebody driving a sports car, or living on the ocean, or skiing, and we think, “Oh, man. That’s cool. That person looks happy.” But that’s not us. We need to really do some deep, deep-dive into the pool and figure out what is most important, and we know what’s most important, either directly or indirectly. So let’s say that you value very much your growth, and it sounds like you’re really working on that, so if you value your growth. So in terms of that, what are the things I can do that help me? And then help me be a better person helping others? Right? Does that make sense? So the journey— and that’s this journey. This journey for me is one of self-exploration. Of learning to really understand how my, you know, my job is a critical care physician and running the ORs was very different than where I am now.
I used to say, “Jump” and then they ask, “How high?” after they were in the air because someone died if we didn’t make instantaneous decisions. So it was very much a dominant up one, down one and I was good at it. I was real— I spent, I went to the best program in the world. I basically trained under the best guy in the world and I was very good at it. This role where we are now is about really understanding the human connection and understanding how we help people and from our orientation, if our personal mind is getting in the way, which can include beating yourself up, you know, our personal mind says, “well, I can’t do this. I can’t do that.” Those things are not helpful because if you look— and I wrote a book with Robert Fritz called Identity and we talk about the creation and the creator. So the creators here [Dr. A holds a hand up], and the creation is this big thing you want to create.
So. Figure out what you value most. What are those key areas? That is your creation. Those are the things that are critical. You basically are focusing on this [points to the air where creation is implied], not on yourself. If you focus on yourself, right? About how bad I am, everything, then you’re this big thing and the creation becomes this little thing, because everything you do reflects on what you are and if you do that then you never get anywhere because you’re always struggling with yourself, trying to be better. It’s not about being better. It’s about getting better. It’s about learning the skill sets necessary to self-manage through self-awareness, and then self-management, and then putting yourself in position to help others do the same. So it’s all part of one continuum as we work on ourselves and work on— and so the things I’m talking about today, do you make the decision, Natalie? Have you made the decision to be happy?
Dr. A: I mean, I’m talking fundamentally at the very core. Have you made that— not intuitively. Not in here [Dr. A. points to his head]. I’m talking about in your heart. Your soul. Have you made the decision to be happy?
Natalie: Not yet, but I’m working on it.
Dr. A: But okay, and so okay. So, decision comes from the Latin word decidere, which means to cut all other possibilities. See, so until you make that decision then your outta, shoulda, coulda. What I want it to be your desire, to be your love, something you really want and once you make that decision then everything is comparative. So when you start going down the Drama Triangle, down the hole, you decide, “no. I’m not going to let these things take me off what I’ve committed to,” which is to be happy and I’m not, and I’m not saying, happy, happy. If you see someone die on the side of the road, I’m not saying you’re happy then. I’m talking about your general decision that I’m gonna live my life as a conscious observer of everything around me and I’m going to manage those things. I’m going to be aware of them, but I’m going to choose to follow the values that move me forward. To become everything I can be, because once you align those— so an analogy I use sometimes, it’s so obvious, if you’re a mom and you’re in a hotel room and you have a suite, and around the corner are your kids and a fire breaks out and you can’t go this way because the traditional way into their bedroom, but there’s a ledge outside 80 stories high. You will go out on that ledge, despite certain death if you fall, and you will go, because it’s highly valued. Your kids are highly valued to you and you’ll make that sacrifice, and that’s what I’m talking about.
[00:20:27] Be so true to yourself. Figure out what you value most and then basically make the decision to follow those values and then it becomes easy because now you realize that number one, you probably value, most people do, they don’t support that because they’ve never really dialled that in. They do value and they would love to create Optimal Health and Wellbeing. They don’t value it enough because they don’t think they can do it, or they haven’t really focused on it, or they’re just reacting through life, but once you make that decision is be— deciding to be happy, to be involved, to follow the things that are most— and you’ve heard me say it a million times, organize your life around what matters most. That means what do you value most? And then become the Dominant Force in your life.
Where you stay dialled into those values and one of the things that I highly suggest in your values is, “I want to be happy.” Situational things will happen that will make you sad. We all have those things happen but we’re not going to let them take us down the rabbit hole, we’re simply going to experience them and then look in terms of how we move forward, and we’re observing them, and observing how we respond to them in a way where I’m saying, I’m going to be curious— you know, wow, here’s a stressful thing that’s going on, that I’m— the only one that can stress you out, by the way, is who?
Dr. A: You. Every time. So if you read about Jim Rohn, he says this and then say, oh, God. I don’t think I’m worthy in the area, how is that helpful?
Dr. A: So, if you get— you said you’re getting the point. You’ve got to make the decision that you’re cutting all other possibilities and you are saying, I decide I’m going to be happy. I’m not saying situational things, we all have these things happen, but I’m going to respond to them in a way where I can determine the outcome and so that I move forward in a place where I’m in power. Taking a locus of control inside. Does that make sense?
Natalie: Absolutely. I like the analogy of self and creation because I think I do a lot of these self-reflection, and I don’t focus. I’m focusing on myself and not focusing on the creation. [crosstalk 00:23:02]
Dr. A: Yeah, you got to focus on what you want to create. That’s what, you know, that’s the whole thing about “organize your life around what matters—” Figure out what you value most. We each value, and by the way, helping others, it’s not from your orientation about what you value, what do they value? That’s how you awaken them. That’s how you help them move forward. That’s how you help them build the same self-discipline you’re working on because it’s something they highly value, doesn’t take a lot of motivation, and they do it specifically. Intrinsic motivation by definition: find something you’re passionate about. Find something— and when you’re passionate about it, you want to get better at it so you build the capacities, and the third part is you want to relate to others. You want to share with others. That’s the definition of intrinsic motivation. Cool?
Natalie: Awesome. Thank you so much.
Dr. A: You are welcome. Okay, Rach, who else we got?
Rachel: All right, next up we have Jan.
Dr. A: Hey, Jan!
Jan: Hey, Dr. A, how are you?
Dr. A: I am fantastic!
Jan: Oh, good. I’m glad. I’m glad you’re enjoying the skiing.
Dr. A: I am.
Dr. A: And it’s great because I’m out here doing this amazing thing and then going out with, by the way, being very happy doing this and going out doing something else that I enjoy doing.
Jan: Love that. Love that. Well, I just want to, first of all, say that this work that you’ve done and that I’ve been— I’ve been privileged to be learning for all these years has been such a huge blessing.
Dr. A: Go ahead girl. Let it come. [Jan begins to cry].
Jan: We got life going on over here and I have been doing this work on a daily basis to lean into it, to step away from it, observe it. Breathe. Focus. Make the choice to be happy. I don’t know if you remember months ago when I called in and asked you, you know, in regard to watching something difficult happening that I didn’t have any control over and it was to do with grandchildren, you know, dealing with a child of mine that’s struggling and you said, “Hey, just give it your best when you have the opportunity and you gotta just let it be.” Well, life has happened and my child continues to struggle and now we’ve been granted guardianship over our five-year-old and two-year-old grandchildren for a time, and so lots has shifted. Lots has shifted in that time frame and this has been since December, and a lot of life has happened, and every day I find myself waking up and trying to find the joy in it, and there is so much joy in it, but it’s challenging because it’s changed everything about our flow, you know, it just has, and we’ve had to team up and I have to choose, make that fundamental choice, every day to choose the happy, and feel it, and not just fake it. Sometimes I fake it, not gonna lie, but also, sometimes I get weary. It’s like this effort, like my question is, over time can you get to the point where you just, and I think I know the answer, but I feel like it is something that I could become unconsciously competent at just naturally being in that space where I can do this without having to feel like I’m working hard all the time to do it.
Dr. A: Yeah. No. I totally get that, and Jan, you know, you’re a beautiful human being and you love those kids, right? And, you know, they were in a hostile environment when it wasn’t working for them and that’s one of the things you value. It’s not easy. I’m not saying any of this work is easy. It’s not as simple as you say, “Oh, just be happy.” You know, there’s lots of songs on that, right? Just be happy. Don’t worry. No. It’s not that. It’s understanding the things that are most important to you, you’re allowing yourself to be part of that, despite the struggles and because it’s something you’re passionate about and something you’re providing value to, you’re doing that naturally. But it’s not that you shouldn’t feel these feelings. It’s just deciding that it’s not— how are they helpful for me? That’s the way you should kind of look at it. If you see me, and I’m going to show it toward— I showed it towards the end there, Internal Stability and External Equilibrium, right? You’re sitting there now becoming a role model and you’re able to influence these young kids. I mean you’re having such a powerful thing in reflecting on that. That is something that you value highly, but you’re dealing with the external world, which you have very little control over.
So the happiness that comes from within is your decision. Is it, you know, there are things I have to address. There are things that are happening. They’re painful. They’re things— but we make them painful because we basically somehow think— our personal mind gets in the way and it says, “Wow. I’m doing these things at great sacrifice for the other things.” You’re doing it because it’s one of the things you value most and where it’s come from, when we talked several months ago, to where it is now, by nature, by you just doing your best, it has actually led you to one of the things you value most, right? Now, remember before you were so frustrated because you didn’t have influence over those kids, right? You only saw them for a little bit. Now, almost through manifestation, you have now taken care of them. So it goes exactly along the line what we talked about, but with it— so when I say, make the decision to be happy, I’m not saying that everything that we experience makes us happy, but rather than pulling it in or pushing it away, just experience it and have a good cry. Have a cry where you realize that, God this is really hard. I’m not— equanimity by definition is not ignoring reality or faking it, it is actually understanding it and making the decision that, you know what? I am doing the things that matter most to me, and with it come some difficulties. And so that’s the difference, because if you think about— as being a grandparent, for you to be the most effective your equanimity, your ability to be balanced and having them see you as this calm mentor is so critical for their development, and yet you can go to the side and have a good cry and there’s probably things in there that are part of your stored trauma.
[00:29:32] Let them come up, have a good cry. Talk it over with the people that are most important to you and just communicate you’re a human being. We have the human experience, which is sadness, fear, hope, joy, all these things that are part of our human emotions, and I’m not saying that you should fake it. You should say, okay right now I’m feeling overwhelmed. Why am I feeling overwhelmed? And get sad, get happy, get over what’s necessary, and then let it flow through you and then it will literally, it’ll dissipate. It’s when— we’re like coiled springs. We push this stuff away and say, “I’m not going to let that bother me.” That’s when we’re not being true and that’s when we’re being disingenuous to ourselves.
Jan: Right, and I’ve felt that too and as I’ve gone through it, there’s points where I do feel like there’s this piece, like everything is flowing like I can do this and other days where I feel like holy criminy sakes, I don’t know how I’m gonna make it through the day, and I guess that’s just part of it, right? [crosstalk 00:30:35]
Dr. A: You’re human, okay? That’s a human experience. Don’t— and what you’re doing, this work isn’t about becoming impervious, it’s about understanding how our mind works, how our personal mind works, our psyche, right? Which is based on our experiences of the past and what we developed of what should be, and what shouldn’t be, and our personality, and those experiences, and the understanding is if we can start to separate those and get those— kind of like we were talking with Natalie — we can get those things off, put them on the bench, and focus on full awareness of what’s going on in the present, it allows us to now be great with the kids and knowing that you know what? Right now, I’m a human being and this is overwhelming. Listen for me, one of the most amazing things on the earth is when parents are born with a handicapped child and they really have to take, because of their love, they have to experience a lack of many things they may want to do because they decide that they love, and here’s the difference, it’s not that they have to, they ought to, they do it because they love to do it, and you can see that love come through and that’s kind of a good analogy to work in the situation because later on in your life, all of a sudden you have an adaptation of what wasn’t your plan, and now is part of your plan, and so these skill sets you’re learning, Jan, are what allow you to build that emotional agility, and that stamina, that you can pivot and handle them.
It’s not to say you shouldn’t get sad or have any of those emotions because you are a human. It’s about observing them, witnessing them, and then letting them move through you so that your heart isn’t black. When they talk about flow, the heart energy, right? Being open. That’s when you look at that and then you see these amazing little human beings that are benefiting so much and you feel that flow. I can just see you starting to smile and feel it, right? And then you have the point where you’re feeling a little sorry for yourself and that’s okay. We’re humans. We’re humans and as we go, so that our kind of, you know— we started off in life where— and certainly as a parent in our country, is our egos are in service of our self-interest. To the point where our ego becomes in the service of our soul and that’s where we have that resonance, that coherence, where you’re doing it because it means a lot to you. It’s not easy, but you’re continuing to work on it.
Jan: Well, I appreciate your words of wisdom and I appreciate this work. I will tell you that it’s given me the tools that I can have conversation with my daughter. That I can listen to her. That I can let this be her experience. That I’m not making about me, and I’m trying to do my best over here in my lane and I’m not trying to control, which is something I’ve always tried to do. [crosstalk 00:33:30]
Dr. A: Yeah, and that’s the biggest lesson for you is to know you don’t have control over the surroundings. You don’t have control over your daughter. In fact, you’re projecting those things on your daughter that are things inside of you, and the more we do this, you know, I like to say put on a lab coat and your goggles and do a really deep-dive into yourself and let go. Stop resisting, be aware, accept, have gratitude for the opportunities you have and move forward, because— don’t beat yourself up. You’re having human experiences and what we’re doing is not saying Cinderella, like they try, and actually in some ways, as kids, it’s great to have those dreams, come up with Cinderella, and this— but the reality is that’s not how the world is. The world isn’t little birds putting on your ribbons, pulling your hair up, and putting ribbons on, I mean, I remember those things. The world is intrinsically unstable. It’s how we respond to it that determines the difference. Whether we can thrive or whether we go down the rabbit hole and we struggle, and so that’s really the difference. So thanks, Jan.
Jan: Thank you so much. Appreciate you and the whole community, you guys. Love you all so much. Thank you.
Dr. A: Thanks. Cool. All right Rach, who we got?
Rachel: All right. Next up we have Amber. Amber, can you come off mute and— there you are.
Dr. A: There she is! How are you? [crosstalk 00:34:55]
Amber: I’m doing good. I think Jan’s got me a little emotional now. I love you, Jan. She’s one of my sisters and you know, I was going to ask a question that was very similar to the other two so I think I’ll just pivot but you know, over the last 14 years, and being in Optivia and doing this work with you, Dr. A, I just want to thank you so much, and one thing that I found is that, as you do this work, sometimes you start making changes in your own life, and how you do things, and how you show up, and other people don’t always like that, and they have expectations for you and how you should be, and so I guess my question is, what’s the best way to handle that? What’s the best way to handle other people’s expectations, when it’s people that are really important to you too?
Dr. A: Yeah. No, that’s a great question and you know, understand from their perspective, they’re doing the best they can do and their level of self-awareness, I mean obviously, you’ve made a decision to make this your life work and to really understand the power with the struggles you’ve had. It’s so critical to do this work because it makes it work for you. It creates that internal stability at a time when, if you respond like most to the drama of it becomes a whirlwind of suffering inside, and the first part is to understand is that we have very little control over anything that’s happening outside of us and if you can help someone be awakened— but I think for the people that you care about, the most important thing is to hear them. Acknowledge them, but you don’t have to agree with them, you have— the locus of control is inside of you. You have the radical responsibility to take responsibility for all those things, and in your relationships, bottom line is, hear them, so that they felt heard, but you don’t have to agree.
There’s nothing that says that you need to agree and usually because they have a strong personal mind, they have the way the world should be and they’re seeing you pivot from that and become different than that, and it’s like the old analogy of the crabs in the pot, right? The one wants the hell out and the other ones are pulling them back in. So that’s their ability to cope with the external world and they’re trying to get you— well, and what you’re doing is, you’ve made a conscious decision to become a spiritual person. A person that no longer is letting these struggles and all these things affect you in a way where they undermine you and incapacitate you, and you’re building the ability to deal with these things, and they don’t have that ability because they haven’t decided— these are not natural things.
I just want to be so clear, the natural human response is about threats and our personal mind, our ego is there to protect us against threats and so it creates an artifact official, pseudo world where it tries to create the way the world should be and when the world’s that way then everything’s great. When the world’s not, it’s kind of like— again, we’ve talked about the broken clock. It’s right two times a day, right? But other than that it’s not right. And so understanding, and equanimity being the highest level of growth, is where we understand that people, just like things— I mean things going on in Europe right now, I mean they’re just— in 2023 that these things can be happening is incredulous to me, and those things are based on individuals and powers, personal minds which want the world to be a certain way. That’s on the biggest scale but on the smallest scale our relational health is based on from our orientation and our work inside, of building that agility, that adaptability, those things allow us, even though it makes us sad because we would like to see them grow, and it hurts us because we love them very much. That loving them very much is different than agreeing with what they say and to be hurt by it is you projecting something that’s inside of you and don’t do that anymore.
Just experience them. Love on them. Again, the highest level of motivation is love. Next is to have fun and stay away from these beliefs which are dividing it. You know, I always talk about that, right? Your values bring you together and to stay focused with them on the things that you commonly value and the things that are beliefs, where they’re different, just stay away from them. That’s why the oldest thing in the world is don’t talk about politics or religion because those are very much beliefs and if someone has a different belief, you’re not going to be able to open them up to that, because it’s a very strong conviction they hold on to those concepts because they’re important for their foundation of security and those are the things we want most of security. So they see you as you evolve and react, and behave differently, they see it as a threat. They don’t get it and they’re, “Oh, I wish you were the way you used to be,” because, you know what? That fits into their story, their concept of how the world should be and now you’ve kind of gone beyond that. You’re rising, becoming more conscious and as a result of that they would rather get you to be the way you were than actually do the work on themselves.
Amber: Yeah. No, thank you, Dr. A. It’s huge and I think the biggest thing for me is just, I feel the peace when I am in line with what my values are. No, that’s where I have to go like I cannot not do that. [crosstalk 00:40:27].
Dr. A: Always. That’s because you— that’s your highest values and though your family— so here’s the other thing about family, and people that, you know, I mean, I don’t know who we’re talking about, but probably your family, because that’s the kind of thing we’re born with, or close friends, it could be close friends you grew up with, right? And you were in a certain paradigm and now your paradigm shifted. But bottom line is, you have to basically look at the things you value most and stay true to that. When you compromise those things that creates dysfunction for you and that will take you off of purpose, and that will create disassociation from the things that are most important to you. So, I’ve been saying it for almost 20 years but first of all, organize your life for what matters most to you, and that’s not what someone else wants you to do. It’s like the story about the doctor family that wanted their kids to be doctors and their child went and became a doctor and was miserable, really wanted to be an artist, right? Projecting or interjecting onto others basically, is not a healthy way and not something we want to do.
[00:41:29] We don’t want to interject into ourself things that we don’t— that aren’t important to us, or it interject something that someone else’s values into us, and as long as— I always say self-styled obligations. Again, going back to, we’ve talked a lot about it, but as long as the language is future generative language, you’re focused on what I want, what I desire, and what I love, then you’re intrinsically motivated. Finding something you’re passionate about, something you want to continue to get better at, and something you want to share with others. That’s the essence of life. When we’re in that space, when I say make the decision to be happy, it now becomes very clear, in this situation, this person that’s trying to get me to be something else. That does not make me happy and I’m not going to allow them, because of their things, allow that to take me off purpose of the decision I made to be happy, and it’s just as simple, fundamental, as that. I’m not— I’m not, equanimity says “aware of these things.” You can be sad about something, you can grieve about something, you can be happy, you can be fearful about something, but understanding it is just a limit of something that is a normal human paradigm that we have inside of us, but once we understand it, we just let that happen.
It takes 90 seconds. We’re in this situation, they say something, you go, no, that’s sad. You know, that’s sad, but, it’s okay because I had my marching orders of what I’m doing, which is leading me to the things that are most important because the only thing we have control over is right now and if we decide to stay in a place of happiness we’ll simply look at these things observationally as, that’s interesting, or I wonder why? But not resisting it or clinging to it. We’re allowing it just to happen as it is, because remember the other thing— you know, it’s interesting, but we’ll take something, internalize it, and then we churn on it versus experience it in the moment. Say, you know, “I’m curious about why you feel that way,” If it makes sense, if not it’s an internal dialogue, I’m curious why they feel that way, and then to realize, recognize they haven’t done the work. They haven’t made a decision. They’re living in a default future. Your default— everybody has a default future of how their life’s going to move forward and it is based on our past behaviors. It’s only three things we can control: our perceptions, which is how we view the world. Second, and changing those, and that’s what you’re doing, is where you don’t— I remember when I first met you, you used to get mad at me all the time and— remember that?
Amber: Oh, yeah. For sure. [crosstalk 00:43:59]
Dr. A: Yeah, and that’s okay [Dr. A and Amber are laughing], and I looked at it and said, okay, all I can do is love on her and hope over time that she basically sees how much she can stop bothering herself about these things and now fully live your life, right? And so I mean, you’re a great example of that and now you realize that these things bother me still, but it’s because I love them. I want— I wish, it’s just like, if someone’s really overweight you know you can help them, but bottom line is, if they’re not ready all you do is push them away and build in their story more about, “Oh yeah, people don’t like me and I hate myself because I’m overweight,” you know, it goes on and on and on. The way we help others is we help ourselves.
Amber: Absolutely. Thanks, Dr. A. 14 years of this work and working with you and being one of your partners, I just really appreciate you.
Dr. A: Appreciate it. Okay, Rach, who we got?
Rachel: All right. Next up we have Kristen. Kristen, can you come on camera?
Kristen: Hi, Dr. A!
Dr. A: Hi, how are you?
Kristen: I’m great, thank you. I just love, I love this so much because I feel like I’ve gotten chunks of my answer from every single question that has been talked about before.
Dr. A: Before you go on, it’s because you are a human. You are a human being that is designed for ten thousand years ago where the threats were real and now we live in a very different time where technology is creating adaptation where we don’t spend that time working and that’s why this is such important work because it allows us to start to realize that we have these things and we can do something about it.
Kristen: Yeah. Absolutely. So, 14 months ago I sat on this call with you and I felt like you cracked my chest wide open. First of all, I didn’t know that they were going to bring me on camera for you to answer my question and I was a wreck, but we talked about my cycle breaking with people-pleasing and proving tendencies and I have done so much intentional work for myself in that, leading me up to yesterday, where I put an extremely necessary, big boundary in place in my life with a relationship that gave me life. That is not serving me as a person in my business, in my life. My biggest question is, I am very confident in the boundary that I put in place. I know it’s necessary until the other person if they’re willing to do the work, comes back, but I’m— how do you stand firm in boundaries like that? When there’s just this constant pushback and like they don’t see the boundary?
Dr. A: Yeah. Well, I mean and like you said, what Amber just talked about, what Jan talked about, basically everybody, Natalie talked about, is that— first of all, good for you, setting boundaries because I talk a lot about our surroundings, right? And we don’t have a lot of control over the behaviors of those surroundings but we do have control how we handle it. So one of the things, just a real simple thing, is you create your self-discipline at the grocery store, right? So if you’re at the grocery store and you buy Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and chips, and stuff, and you bring it home, if you have some susceptibility because of cravings, or triggers, or whatever and it’s home, you’re more likely to do it. If you don’t buy them and you have to get in the car and drive 15 miles then you’re not going to do it.
[00:47:49] So your boundaries are set up so that you set limitations and if this is someone that’s important to you, is that you let them know that you care about them. But these are the things where, you know, I need to set boundaries and then you don’t cave to them because you may, well we’ll go back to what this whole forum is about, you’ve made a decision. I can just see, even though where you’re such a mess, you’re not a mess. You’re able to set boundaries and live by it. You’re learning, you’re doing the work. Remember, making the decision to be happy, which you have, is a decision, and the decision is, you’ve cut all other possibilities. So everything is compared to you being happy. So you make a decision that I’m not going to pull these things in. I’m not going to have these issues with this person that I set the boundaries. I’m just not going to let that happen. I will listen to them. I will acknowledge that you hear them so that you’re not ignoring them, so you’re not creating more resistance, but then you have full decision over what you’re doing. And so by caring about people you are simply— and because they haven’t done the work, yeah, they’re going to make a story up about it, and they’re going to play the victim role. I mean that’s why we spend so much time— they’re going to be the victim and they’re going to put you in the villain role, but if you don’t act like a villain then basically they’re saying something which isn’t true and over time they’ll start to get it and so just say be so confident in your decision that, I made a decision to be happy and I’m not going to let this person pull me back in the pot, pull me into the Drama Triangle and instead I’m going to challenge them. I’m going to basically coach them. I’m going to empower them. I’m not going to take the bait. Ever. And eventually, if you’re like this [Dr. A. bumps his fists together] and you go down here, and they’re doing this, they’ll get you tired. [crosstalk 00:49:40]
Dr. A: Yeah. They’re gonna get tired every time.
Kristen: That’s really, really good. It’s— and it’s challenging because I have a hard time— communication is my top strength, and so I have all of the answers to the questions that are being asked, you know, about why I’m putting the boundary in place, but I don’t, it’s me answering those questions isn’t what’s going to make them change. [crosstalk 00:50:06]
Dr. A: Again, the Drama Triangle is closed, defensive, and wants to be right. I mean all the things you’re learning, trust them, and it’s not, by the way, being above or below the line. It is simply understanding where you are and where they are, and if they’re below the line, they’re into the Drama Triangle. It’s just as simple as that and even though you could help them, when they ask these questions if they’re not opening to listening and they’re simply using it as a way to politicize or empower what they’re actually doing is enabling themselves. They’re actually trying to stay in a space, their ego, their personal mind, is trying to maintain its balance and they’re listening to that and so what you respond, which you could do if they were conscious, they’re not conscious, they’re unconscious. So if they’re below the line they’re coming from the experience of closed, defensive and wants to be right, and you’re above the line and you want to be open, curious, and want to learn how you can help them. Well, those are dichotomies, right? Those are opposite polars and so what you’re looking to do is just do this [Dr. A makes a gesture with his fists] you can’t— here’s a lesson for everybody— you can’t get anybody to do anything. All you can do is awaken them and understand why this could be important to them. Why this surrounds the things they value most and you’re here, you’re going to love on them, you’re going to care about them, you hopefully can have some fun with them. Take the seriousness out of the way and have them seeing— but you cannot, if I had to pick— two maxims for me is, number one, stop trying to give yourself a better past and two is, stop trying to get someone to do something you want them to do, because basically neither one can be done.
Kristen: Yeah. Thank you for this.
Dr. A: You’re welcome, you guys [there is a man on screen with Kristen]. Cool. All right. Who we got, Rach?
Rachel: All right. Next up we have Julie. Julie, can you come on camera? There you are. Oh, and unmute yourself, Julie.
Julie: Yes, ma’am.
Rachel: There you go.
Dr. A: She’s like, Rachel’s like the mom.
Julie: And a great mom she is! Hi. Good morning and I’m on the West Coast and thank you so much. My question is that there are times when a stressful situation isn’t just stressful, or a situation that someone would see as stressful, but when you have several crises happening at once, I know this has happened to me before, and I have other friends that have gone through this. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to get my friends to do anything, but how to manage it when you have really big things happening at once? For example, I can think of a couple situations where, like for my own life, my father died, I was going through a divorce, I had a serious health issue going on, and my sister had breast cancer, and it was like I didn’t know which way to— which way was North. I mean, I didn’t know even— it was like being in a washing machine and you’re just getting Maytagged around and around and around for not just myself, but for other people I think as well when we have a lot of really serious things happening at once, a child who’s refusing anorexia treatment, you know, all sorts of things. How do we figure out which way is North? How do we preserve any sense of happiness, as well as figuring out what we’re going to deal with?
Dr. A: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:53:48]. Julie, that’s a really great question. So, it’s important to realize, again, that life is intrinsically unstable, and you just mentioned several ways it’s unstable. It’s not— and what I mean, make the decision to be happy, I mean give yourself the guidance where you’re going to experience, as a witness, these things. And the way we’re designed is we have this incredible thing called the prefrontal cortex but when stuff happens to us and life does get in the way, we have a tendency to go into the emotional drama area and we perceive ourselves as a victim because from our perception, our personal mind is now having to deal with all these adversarial things and they can overwhelm us.
So the whole idea of this work is to build that emotional agility. So no matter what happens you can deal with it, right? And basically, I know that this work works because I’ve had some— in the last few years— I’ve had some pretty significant things happen and I’m not saying that they don’t create angst, that they don’t create sadness, or fear, or anxiety. I’m just saying, understanding you can become resilient and have that emotional agility so that these things are happening, you’re able to respond to them in a way that allows you to be empowered by this [Dr. A touches his forehead]. So if you know, a big one is if your father dies and you have to deal with the logistics of everything. Yeah, if you’re overwhelmed by it, and I’m not saying grief isn’t something— listen, we are all affected by grief, but you know, I lost my wife and instead of—I mean, being sad of course, and there’s sometimes, even today because she loves to ski, I’ll have a moment, 90 seconds, of sadness but then I have the other side which is this amazing joy that we got to enjoy those things together.
So what you’re learning is that your experience in the moment empowers you to be able to handle effectively these things, rather than being overwhelmed by them. Does that make sense? So, understanding each one of these things, if you think about your dad and the amazing— and I don’t know your history, but if you have these amazing, and you’re sad, you have these amazing experiences, your father didn’t die. He simply left this physical world but his influence on your memories, on your brain, on your experiences are still there, and you can enjoy those things. It’s not just sad and, “Whoa, I lost my dad and I feel sad,” no because what that then becomes a conceptual thing where your personal mind takes over and then you become depressed.
We make, you know, I’m not saying, I’m not talking about chemical imbalances, but for most of us depression is running rampant in this world because we are resisting and we are ignoring reality, and when I talk about happiness and having this amazing flow of energy— so I’ll give you an example. So I’ve talked about this before but I think it’s a great example, so you know, one of the things in our life is we want love and what we really need to have is unconditional love because conditional love means your significant other has to be a certain way and you’re not happy with them. So early on in a romance people are you know, “Oh, I really like them. They make me think of how my parents were together,” or whatever, or “a movie I saw that I love,” like The Notebook” and, “God, this person reminds me of The Notebook and I’m in love,” and then a month later, once you get settled in, and then the true behaviors come out and you remember how they were last month, or last year, and they’re not like that anymore and so now it’s conditional love and, “I’m trying to get them to be something else,” like they were before, right? That doesn’t work.
So the most important thing is to have love emanate from you so that you recognize and realize in this relationship is that I had a lovely relationship with him. I’m picking your father because that’s a pretty traumatic one and that they’ve given me so much in life. They’ve given me so many life experiences. There’ll be a time when the memory will come up and I’ll be a little sad, but I’m now, I’m the Dominant Force of my life and I allow it, and smile, and be open to it, and experience that emotion for 90 seconds and it goes away, and then I go on with my day, and I do the things based on what I value, how I want to move forward and not allowing that experience of that thing that happened in life to overwhelm me and incapacitate me. Because again, if you have, you know, let’s say a guy’s girlfriend breaks up and he’s miserable, right? And now he’s depressed, and he’s got pizza boxes on the floor, and he hasn’t washed, hasn’t taken a shower in two weeks, and so he’s depressed, “Oh, I’m depressed,” and that energy flow is blocked, right?
So you have no energy, you know, you’re drinking coffee to stay awake and then all of a sudden you get a call and you look down and my girlfriend now said, “Hey, listen, I made a mistake. I’d really like to see you. Can I come over?” Right? And in an instant, like that, man you’re cleaning up the boxes, you’re taking a shower, you’re basically— and all of a sudden the joy and the flow of energy is back. So, what I’m saying is, you are the master architect of your life. You are the one that can build the emotional agility. You’re the one that can take control and work on this. So when I say being happy, I’m using that as an inference point, where I’m no longer going to let these external things make me unhappy. I’m gonna be curious about them. I’ll address them. I may feel these emotions but I now can manage them and I’m going to continue to move myself to be open, curious, and above the line, identify when I’m below, and then shift back to the above. Does that make sense? [crosstalk 00:59:42]. That’s your north star. Your north star is based on what we’ve been talking about all morning: is your values. The things that are most important. Those are the things that you do effortlessly. Figure out what those are, stay true to those, and then you’ll be able to move forward and handle all these adversarial things that happen in life like water on a duck’s back. You’re not going to get caught down in the cycle. The vicious cycle of the Drama Triangle.
Julie: Thank you.
Dr. A: You’re welcome. Cool. [crosstalk 01:00:11] Awesome. I think we’re out of time, aren’t we Rach? Yeah, we are.
Rachel: Yes we are.
Dr. A: All right. Well, listen, thank you. These were amazing questions. Thanks for sharing, being vulnerable to reach out and hopefully for everybody on the line, this has made sense to you guys and you’ve enjoyed it, and I certainly learned a lot today and I thank you for your participation. So, let’s go out. Again, be happy. See ya.