As a special addition to our U.N. International Day of Happiness celebrations, we are delighted to have a guest post by fellow Happiness writer, George Kimeldorf, author of From Seeker to Finder: Discovering Everyday Happiness.
Thank you, George, for your insight and wise words!
How to Make Changes
In order to progress from where we see ourselves to be (Point A) to where we want to be (Point B), we have been taught to reject Point A and crave Point B. But that strategy is ineffective. I have discovered that what works is to love and accept myself exactly as I am while preferring Point B to Point A. Change comes from perceiving and accepting, not from avoiding and rejecting. The renowned humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change…. We cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.”
For example, I recently tried playing the lovely second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #8 (Pathétique, Op. 13). Not having played this piece in over a year, I played it haltingly and unevenly, with many mistakes (Point A). I was pleasantly surprised that my body could still unconsciously translate the black dots on paper into finger movements on the piano. I realized that I really enjoyed playing this piece and would enjoy it even more if I could play it smoothly with few mistakes (Point B). I accepted that I could play the piece only as well as I played it, and didn’t need to berate myself as motivation to learn to play it better. I decided to spend some time over the next few weeks practicing this piece until I could play it reasonably well.
We have been taught from early childhood to judge ourselves harshly when we err. This critical voice of self-judgment—our inner critic—is our constant companion. Rather than trying to appease your inner critic, you can learn to love and accept yourself exactly as you are at any moment. Rejecting any part of yourself masks the truth that you are perfect the way you are and alienates you from the reality of the present moment. The statement, “you are perfect the way you are” may seem absurd. When I first encountered this idea, I used to get upset because I could list numerous aspects of myself that I didn’t like. If this statement were true, there seemed to be no reason to change. It took me many, many years to realize it was true. Even now, there are times when my mind resists this truth. If you reject this statement, that is fine. You really are perfect the way you are, even when you deny it.
I cannot change something of which I am unaware, so that awareness is necessary to effect change. Surprisingly, I have often found awareness to be sufficient. With awareness and intent, change frequently happens gradually and effortlessly. Think about some aspect of yourself that you reject—some part of yourself you think you need to change. Can you learn to love that aspect of yourself? If I can do it, you can do it. Can you discover a sense of spaciousness in your life in which you are not always controlled by your inner critic, and out of which change happens naturally? You can learn to love and accept yourself exactly as you are. Will it be easy? I do not know. Can you do it? Absolutely.
George Kimeldorf has mastered and taught the skill of happiness. His book, “From Seeker to Finder: Discovering Everyday Happiness,” describes what he learned and how he learned it. It also explains why seekers, despite doing all the “right” things, rarely find joy, satisfaction, and peace of mind. George is a retired professor who lives with his wife in Dallas, Texas.
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