Think back over everything you’ve learned in 2020. Or all the lessons you’ve learned in the past few years. Or, the lessons you’ve learned as an adult.
Have you noticed there are some lessons you had to learn “the hard way?” Maybe you had to keep learning a lesson over and over? Or maybe you were metaphorically kicking and screaming as you learned the lesson, and when you finally did calm down, and realize the lesson is the way it is, you could relax into the truth of it?
I have examples of this in my own life- and I’m watching some of my coaching clients week after week as they relax into the truth of some lessons they’re learning. I just find the whole process so interesting!
Why do we figure some things out so easily.. And for other things, we really do have to learn the lesson the hard way?
What do I mean by the hard way?
Obviously, since my favorite topic is resistance, one way we make it harder on ourselves as we’re learning lessons is our own resistance to the reality of what we’re learning.
But, I think a more traditional example of the phrase “learning something the hard way” is when it’s painful, or when it takes longer than necessary.
Today, I want to share with you 4 lessons I now know and respect in my life that I feel like I had to learn the hard way. I’m curious if you’ve learned these lessons for yourself already. Or, if you never even needed to learn them, maybe they were just obvious to you.. Or if I’m introducing these lessons to you for the first time and now you can consider them and learn them for yourself- and maybe, if I tell you my struggles and resistance to them, you can skip the hard parts and just get the value out of learning the lessons from my experiences!
No One is going to Legislate for Me
The first lesson to talk about is something I mentioned in the Modern Day Fairytale post. No one is going to legislate for me.
This lesson really shocked me because I spent so much time thinking someone should make things right. Some authority figure should solve this injustice. A knight in shining armor should swoop in and fix this problem.
I think learning this lesson was kind of a sad realization – maybe even painful for me- when I realized, “Oh, this is how it actually is. Other people don’t care about this like I do. I can either expend all the effort and energy to fix this, or, I can just decide to accept what’s happening and drop my resistance to it.”
This understanding kind of goes along with the awareness that “life is not fair.” I heard this multiple times as a child when I would complain to my mom that “this isn’t fair” and she would respond letting me know life isn’t fair. Maybe I understood that logically, but it’s possible that I still didn’t believe it for individual situations – like, yes, I know LIFE isn’t fair, but shouldn’t this hiring decision be fair? Or yes, I don’t expect LIFE to be fair, but it really isn’t fair that those employees aren’t held to the same standards and expectations that my team is being held to. Oh really, aren’t all those work situations part of life?
How Did I Learn This Hard Lesson?
How did I finally accept that no, life isn’t fair, in general and it’s not fair in this specific instance either and no one is going to legislate it for me! It was probably noticing my repetitive thoughts of fairness and should and legislate so frequently in a short amount of time, coupled with my newfound awareness that I get to choose the thoughts I believe and want to continue thinking.
Even though that period of my life was a little mentally painful, because I was so committed to thinking “this situation isn’t right, someone needs to come make it right.” When I finally noticed and relaxed, I was able to come to acceptance (versus resistance) so much faster. And I dropped so much mental anguish along with it!
I’m Responsible For My Own Feelings
The 2nd lesson I want to describe that I learned the hard way is also so obvious, but for some reason, I felt surprised when I finally learned it. The lesson is that I am responsible for my own feelings. I know, elementary, right?
But, in case anyone’s not exactly sure why this turned out to be a profound lesson for me, and why I had to learn it the hard way, let’s break this lesson down word-by-word. I am responsible for my own feelings.
The first part of the phrase: “I am”- means me, not other people, not outside circumstances. For most of my life, I probably unconsciously thought that other people controlled or impacted my feelings. I probably also believed that some situations were joyful, and some outside circumstances were tragic. And now as I’m saying it out loud, you might be getting a little glimpse of how this has been a lesson to learn. Because you might think – wait! An outside circumstance like death is sad! And a situation like a party is joyful! Sometimes, circumstances do cause feelings!
Circumstances Do Not Create Feelings
My belief here is that circumstances do not cause our feelings. Our thoughts about those circumstances cause feelings. If I said: ”there’s a party tonight,” one person might feel joy because they think parties are fun and they are ready to celebrate, another person might feel worried because they think parties are dangerous during a pandemic and people might not stay far enough away from each other and may not wear masks and someone may get sick and there could be really disastrous consequences. A third person may feel anxious because parties carry so many expectations – what to wear, what to say, what to bring, what time to show up, who to talk to, what if they’re awkward, and how soon can they leave? So- same situation: a party, 3 different feelings- all 3 feelings caused by what the person thinks about the party.
The other piece of this part of the lesson “I’m responsible for my feelings” implies that not only is a circumstance not responsible for my feelings, no other person can be responsible for my feelings- only me.
If my husband wants me to feel relaxed about our renovation and our move and instead I feel stressed, no matter what he says, or thinks, or does will change how I feel- unless I change my thoughts. He can’t inject any emotion into my brain to feel- no matter how many times he tells me to relax! We will revisit this emotion-injecting idea in a moment.
Responsible for My Own
Let’s move on to the next word in this lesson: responsible. Remembering that I’m responsible for my feelings gives me the power, but I have to be careful here because sometimes when I think about or remember my responsibility, I can judge myself. I can use this lesson to blame myself for how I’m feeling- which is actually more harmful than helpful.
So, instead, more intentionally, I can translate the words “I’m responsible” to mean “I have control or power over my own feelings- which is actually helpful and liberating. Doing this translation reminds me that I get to choose how I want to feel. If I’m noticing myself feeling a way I don’t want to feel, I have the power to change it if I want.
Just because a thing happens, doesn’t mean I have to stick with the first emotion that pops up for me. Just because a situation occurs, doesn’t mean I have to feel how society, or my family, or my younger self or my husband suggests I should feel.
Getting even more specific, my own means just mine and no one else’s. Going back to the beginning of part of the sentence “I am,” this part, “my own” suggests the same thing. I can’t make anyone else feel anything. I can’t inject an emotion into anyone else’s brain.
But, it’s possible that we try to do this all the time, right? We want to make people like or love or accept us. We hope people feel ok with our decision. This lesson learned the hard way reminds me that I’m responsible for my own feeling and no one else’s.
The final word of the lesson is feelings. This includes all of them- good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant.
Of course I want to create feelings of joy and excitement and motivation for myself. If you’ve read or listened to my early posts or episodes, you know, I want to feel engaged, inspired and delighted. But, I don’t want to feel those feelings when they would be inappropriate.
As I was thinking about being willing to feel the spectrum of emotions, I realized, I have no resistance to feeling momentarily sad or worried when I hear bad news about someone very distant from me. If I hear that an 80-year old game show host has died, I feel sad, and maybe nostalgic, and maybe concerned for his family and then I go about my day, and the sadness, nostalgia and concern doesn’t really stay with me, and it certainly doesn’t affect me.
But, I do (currently) notice that I do have resistance to feeling those emotions (sadness, worry, concern) more frequently and more often about circumstances that seem more directly related to me, like if a member of my family is in the hospital or is in pain or if someone I love got some bad news.
And then I can remind myself, if I did find out someone I love is in pain, I wouldn’t want to feel delighted. If someone I love got bad news, I hope I wouldn’t feel inspired- that would be weird. I’m so grateful I have learned the lesson that I am responsible for my own feelings.
Prone to Flattery
The 3rd lesson I’ve learned the hard way may only apply to me. It may not be a lesson for you, but I still share it, just in case you can take anything from it for yourself. Maybe a similar lesson applies to you.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize over the past few years, after agreeing to things that I really don’t want to do. I am prone to flattery.
I can look at my past and figure out that I’ve done things when I felt flattered, that I know I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Things like taking a job I didn’t really want, agreeing to a board position I didn’t feel equipped for and volunteering for something I didn’t want to do.
Why?!??! Why would I do these things? Is it because I want the flattery to be true and if I don’t “accept the offer” I’m negating the offer?
Or do I feel I owe it to the flatterer or do I accept because of or in exchange for the flattery?Or, is it people pleasing? Not wanting to disappoint someone who paid me a compliment?
I don’t know that I actually need to dissect and understand the why as much as just be able to recognize and be more intentional about the actual lesson.
Now that I know that in the past, I’ve gone against my own intuition and better judgement, and when I revisit my decision-making process, I realize that the reason I said yes was because I was feeling flattered in the moment, I can be on the lookout for feeling flattered.
Keep the Flattery Coming
Don’t get me wrong, I want to continue to feel flattered! Keep the flattery coming!
I just don’t want to make decisions while I’m basking in flattery’s golden glow. I want to say yes to things that are important to me, to things that align with my own vision for myself, to things that I’m interested in and curious about. I don’t want to say yes to something because someone tells me I would be so good at it or because someone could really use my help.
And why am I saying that I had to learn this lesson the hard way? Being flattered doesn’t sound so bad, it sounds lovely, right? The way I learned this lesson is because I would find myself in situations I didn’t really want to be in. I would realize I was responsible for something I didn’t want to be responsible for, and then I needed to extricate myself from whatever it was, which brings me to the next lesson I learned the hard way.
Dread Makes It Worse
If I’m dreading something, I make it so much worse by prolonging it. This is about the extrication I just mentioned but can also be about so many other things.
I specifically recognized this lesson in Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed when she described the “paralysis of waiting for the shoe to drop.” That paralysis feels like the worst for me -and I recognize that it’s usually self created, because I can “drop the shoe” whenever I decide to but I’m afraid, or unsure, or dreading what might come next.
I especially saw this play out earlier this year in a situation of my OWN making that I wanted to get out of and I created so much drama and resistance for myself around it – and why?!? Because of how I thought someone else would react? Because I was afraid of feeling the discomfort of what I knew was about to happen? What did I do? I traded that future spike of discomfort for a long-drawn out run of discomfort! And I was miserable. And as soon as I felt the liberation and freedom once I had extricated myself from that situation, I realized I could have had this so much sooner and I could have saved myself all that dread that I experienced as I waited, and decided, and figured out how I would do it and worried. I just increased my own negative experience by prolonging it. And my dread about finally doing it was so much worse than actually doing it.
So my question to you about this lesson is: what are you prolonging out of fear, or worry, or dread that you could actually just be done with now? What might you be making worse for yourself by holding on instead of letting go?
Lessons I Learned the Hard Way
Those are the 4 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way – with what felt like a lot of pain and misery and discomfort. Hopefully I’m saving you from some of that pain and misery and discomfort if by hearing the lessons from me, you can recognize if you need to learn them for yourself and skip the hard parts.
Think about lessons in your own life. What lessons have you learned the easy way? And what do you think is an easy way to learn something?
What have you learned the hard way? And was your hard experience similar to one of mine or completely different?
Were your lessons the same lessons that I mentioned? Or other lessons?
What lessons are you still learning? What do you keep learning over and over again?
The Lesson I Keep Learning Over and Over
I’ve noticed that the lesson I keep learning over and over again is recognizing my own resistance. I’m recognizing so many versions of it. I’m finding it in unexpected places. I’m seeing it where I thought I had already released it.
And, I don’t even mind that learning the lesson of resistance repeatedly seems to be “the hard way.” It’s helping me become intimately aware of my own thinking. Learning this lesson repeatedly the hard way is providing me with so much content and so many examples that I can share with you.
It’s helping me become a better coach- because when I recognize resistance in myself, I can also recognize it in my clients.
And just to offer a little bit of balance, and hope, that you don’t have to learn everything the hard way, I thought of a few lessons that luckily, I seem to have learned very easily! So, as a bonus for today, I recorded a quick video of 3 Lessons I Learned the Easy Way! If you’re one of my favorite people, meaning you’re on my email list, I sent you a link to that video in your email this week. If you’re not on my email list yet, join now!