I HAD the opportunity last weekend to reconnect with an organization that has had a tremendous impact on my life since I joined their seminar programs around seven years ago. In fact, one of the reasons that I am now a columnist is the result of a dream and a goal that I set during a coaching program with them. At that time, I simply had the goal to write a set number of blog entries on a certain theme.
Around a year or two after that, I expanded the goal from being just a write-whenever-you-want or a write-whenever-you-feel-inspired kind of writer to one that can write and produce articles on a regular basis -- putting aside excuses such as “I’m not inspired,” or having writer’s block or having nothing to write about. So here I am at 4 a.m. Thursday, on the second paragraph of an article that I still do not know how I will end. But I’ll worry about that later. Let’s go back to what happened during the weekend.
This time around, I was not in a seminar as a student but as a volunteer staffer. Together with other volunteers, we helped facilitators create the right conditions for a successful session, which included room setup and assistance with some activities. Nevertheless, it was a great experience and was as close as possible to a re-audit of the course.
One of the lessons that struck me most was that every choice we make has both a benefit and a price. Now, people are often used to thinking in dichotomy, in terms of either/or, good or bad, light or dark, black or white. So when one hears that statement for the first time, one usually understands it as “every choice we make has a benefit OR a price.” It usually takes a little more time for one to fully grasp the lesson.
For example, there are people who are always angry at something or someone -- it may have been someone who physically, verbally or sexually abused them in the past, or it may have been someone who betrayed their trust, or someone who hurt them in a very deep way. Almost every time you converse with this person, the object of their rage eventually crops up and they go on a mini-rant about it for a few minutes.
Why do they hold onto their anger and rage? What is the benefit?
The automatic answer is often “none,” but that is wrong. People cling to their anger derive some benefit from it whether they realize it or not, whether consciously or subconsciously (but often times it is the latter).
The benefit is this: that they have someone or something or some circumstance to blame whenever their life goes wrong. “I am like this because of that bully who kept hurting me and calling me names in 4th grade,” or “I am emotionally unstable because I was raped in high school,” or “It’s the president’s fault” and so on. Not that I am belittling those circumstances or saying they are insignificant, but it is startling that people will hold on to some circumstance that happened years or even decades ago as the one thing that is ruining their lives, totally ignoring all other positive experiences or opportunities for growth and happiness.
Here’s another benefit, they become the star of their own soap operas. First time listeners, especially, will hang on to their sob stories and will often fawn over them, or offer consoling words, or also get mad at the object of their wrath. They get some much needed attention.
But what is the price? Well holding on to rage causes a lot of stress and takes a toll on the body. The person’s demeanor also suffers. While it may be interesting for a few minutes, no one wants to be around an angry person for long because everything feels so tense and unrelaxed.
So anyway, I had a chance to revisit that lesson last weekend, to review my own life and examine what I hold on to and what I have let go of, and to ask myself that question again about my life choices. What is the benefit AND what is the price of my choice?
Many thanks to Rey Inobaya and Chona Santos of OCCI (Organizational Change Consultants Inc.) for your love and dedication to creating “a world that works with no one left out.” The program mentioned is ALC or the Advanced Leadership Course -- which is the second of a trilogy of courses offered by OCCI -- the others being FLEX (Foundations of Leadership Excellence) and LEAP (Leadership Excellence Achievement Program).
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.