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2009’s Personal Journey: Awareness vs. Acceptance

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

A funny thing has happened to me over the past year. As part of my constant, burning desire to learn and improve myself, I wanted to focus on and become more self-aware. While this has mostly been a good thing, it’s also led to a challenge I hadn’t expected. A challenge of acceptance.

Awareness is an amazing thing. As Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” I agree. You can also learn a lot, and change a lot simply by observing – by being aware.

As soon as you become aware, in most cases you make a change. If you’ve ever driven past one of those signs that flashes your speed, you’ve seen how this works. What do most drivers do the second they see their speed flash up on the sign? They slow down. They make a change. Why? Because the speed sign made them aware. Had they not become aware, there wouldn’t have been any change.

So, in my ongoing attempts to make changes to improve myself, I’ve simply focused on being more aware.

For example, when making a speech, rather than trying to not say, “umm,” I simply became aware of how often I used this useless, filler word (if you can call “umm” a word). By being aware, I said it less – I changed my behavior.

And that’s where the challenge occurred: As I became more aware of how I behaved, how I acted, how I responded, how I moved, and so on, I also became more critical of myself.

I had to learn to be more accepting of myself.

As I became more aware, I made small improvements. As I improved, I became even more aware of how much more I had to improve – I became hyper-sensitive to all my faults. I became overly critical. But I was becoming aware of this over-critical behavior. Which made me change, since I could see that it wasn’t a good thing. I then became aware of how accepting I was of myself and my areas for improvement.

It became a bit of a cycle. A good cycle. But a challenging cycle. Fortunately, I like challenges.

I’ve had to force myself to be more accepting. When I’ve felt myself becoming overly-critical, I’ve had to remind myself to be accepting. I’ve used mental imagery to program a trigger. The trigger is simply the word “Accept.” When I say that to myself, I can let go and become more accepting. I feel myself let go and relax and just be.

That’s not to say that I accept a fault or an unwanted behavior. No, I’m still aware of it; I’m just not going to beat myself up over it. Interestingly, when I get the balance just right – the balance between being aware and being accepting – I perform at my best. When either one takes control, my performance suffers. That, I’m aware of.

Awareness and acceptance. Two words that will be at the forefront of my mind going into 2010. This past year has been a great one for me personally and professionally, and I know that what I learned about balancing awareness with acceptance, and how they interplay with each other was part of the reason for this.

Wow, imagine that! I learned something! Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

2010… awareness and acceptance, here I come. Happy New Year!