Recently, I attended a seminar that was touted as life changing – I was going to walk out of there understanding how I, too, could make as much (or more) money than the people putting on the program. I was going to learn how I could have anything, be anything, do anything I wanted. Sure, I thought. But at least it’s free and I’ll meet a lot of new people. I sat through the first couple of hours, and although the speaker was very dynamic, he wasn’t saying anything new. I’d been there, done that, bought the book and still wasn’t rich, world renowned, or truly content with my life. Then something happened.
Maybe because my mind was more open that day; perhaps I was ready to really listen to what was being said. But, maybe what was being said was different in some way from all the stuff I’d heard before. All of a sudden I started to sit up straighter, listen more closely, and really absorb the message.
What changed my attitude, my perception? It was what this guy was saying about how we are a product of many generations of conditioning to one way of thinking. He offered examples of clichés I’m sure you have heard as many times in your life as I have in mine, such as:
“The early bird gets the worm.” Then he said, “What is this? There is only one worm and all the rest of the birds are going to starve?” This guy was starting to talk my language. That saying had never made any sense to me. “Money won’t buy you happiness.” You can’t “buy” happiness. It’s not the money, it’s what you do with it that can bring you happiness. Does that make having money a bad thing? “Money is the root of all evil.” When he said this, he went out into the audience, and asked a total stranger, Jerry, to stand up. He handed Jerry a $1 bill. Then he asked if Jerry would like to exchange that $1 bill for a $10 bill. Jerry said, “I’m no fool,” and traded for the $10. Then the presenter said to the audience, “Does this make Jerry evil?” He repeated the exercise by trading Jerry a $50 for the $10, and asked the same question. Then he traded Jerry the $50 for a $100, and once again, asked, “Does this make Jerry evil?”
How were we, the audience, to respond? We didn’t know Jerry or the presenter, but we were fairly sure neither of them was evil. Did that make an impact on me? You bet it did. It was like a slap in the face to me. These were the clichés I’d grown up with. While growing up, I heard these phrases over and over, yet never questioned their origin; never asked what the phrase meant. But I was confused by the contrasts I saw all around me. My peer’s parents had other clichés – some just worded in a different manner – but most with negative connotations. These words were not said to be cruel or hurtful; just out of habit. Once again, we were being affected by our environment.
What I learned
We can’t blame our ancestors for our own shortcomings, but we can accept that we have been conditioned by generations of beliefs, words, and people around us. Unless we want to continue along the same track for generations to come, we need to change our thought patterns. Yes, it will take work. Yes, it will take diligence and lots of practice. But is it worth the effort? I believe the answer to that question is a resounding YES. Yes, because I’m worth it. Yes, because I now see that changing my way of thinking about myself, about the world around me, and about where I fit in that world, I can accomplish anything I choose. I can change my life . . .you can too!
The next time you hear one of those old negative clichés, don’t take it as fact. Accept it for what it is – a cliché – not a way of life. You (and only you), can determine how you live your life. You can break generations of conditioning. You can be a better you!
Linda Thompson is the author of Planning for Tomorrow, Your Passport to a Confident Future, a common sense approach to life planning; and A Caregiver’s Journey, You Are Not Alone, a survival guide for working caregivers. Every Generation Needs a New Revolution, How Six Generations Across Nine Decades can Find Harmony and Peaceful Coexistence, is Linda’s most recent book. To find out more about Linda and her work, visit: http://lifepathsolutions.biz/.