Chapter 6 Lessons Learned:
Understanding Change

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I was sitting here watching TV recently, and it constantly amazes me the challenges people seem to face in communication. You see it all the time. Have you ever noticed people who are limiting their own perceptions as to what an experience means, and then trying to force their viewpoint on others? Have you ever had a discussion with someone, and no matter how eloquently you tried to express your point of view, they wouldn’t even listen? It seems to me that more and more people are becoming closed to the idea that there could be more possibilities than the ones they come up with on their own. We see it in relationships, in business and lately it is really being seen in politics. What has to happen to break that pattern?

If you are a person who has gone out looking for information on self-awareness and personal development, I doubt very much that you fall into the category of the closed minded. I don’t use the term closed minded to demean anyone, only to state my observation of a unique difference between people. It seems that the world is sharply divided between those who are locked into a specific way of thinking, and those who are looking for new possibilities. The good part, I believe, is that if you choose to be the latter, it is possible to make that switch which will open you to a world of new opportunities. It’s not like being closed minded is some genetic thing that keeps people from opening themselves to new possibilities. It is about making a conscious choice to open yourself to new experiences. At the core it is about making a choice to move to a higher awareness, and a higher level of consciousness.

I have had many people ask me, “How can I get my friend to get into these things that you are talking about? They need it so badly.” My response is to plant the seed. It has been my experience that unless people have some dramatic or traumatic experience in their lives, a large number of them will continue doing what they have been doing because it is comfortable for them. Comfortable? Yes. I know from your perspective, it may seem that they are in a great deal of pain, or in a place where they need to change. But until they are ready, until they make the decision that a change is needed they will not fully make the effort.

There are ways that you can help someone become ready, but that is not something that I want to go into in this section, because without the right understanding of the mechanisms involved, and using the right approach, you can do more damage than good. My point lies in the statement of their being “comfortable”. It is with this understanding that you can help them the most.

When I was in the deepest depths of my drinking and drug use, I continued to run the same destructive patterns over and over because the idea of facing the world without alcohol and drugs as a crutch was scarier to me than the blackouts and the other consequences that came from my drinking and drugging. Therefore, I was in a sense comfortable. Things were bad, don’t get me wrong, but at that moment in my life, from my perception, they weren’t bad enough that I would risk the unknown to change them. And even though I took my situation to an extreme, the underlying psychology is the same for most people.

The idea is that even though people may not be happy with the way things are in their life, the fear that comes with making a change is more powerful than keeping things the way they are, so they don’t make the effort to change. The fear of the unknown is more painful than the discomfort of the familiar. Does that make sense?

So how do you help someone in this situation? My first suggestion is to work on your life first. You can only lead by example in this life.

All of us, no matter what position we hold in life sometimes have to ask this question. “Do I have the right to judge this other person? Am I doing all I can in my own life to be the best example I can be?”

There even came a point in my coaching where I had to stop, and ask myself if I had the right to teach what I was teaching. There are so many people out there “selling the dream”, teaching others about personal development, persuasion and sales skills, financial theories, about relationships, and when you look at their lives, they are falling apart in those same areas that they are trying to teach others.

At one point in my coaching career I was in the middle of a financial crisis and I had to stop and ask myself if I had the right to teach what I was teaching. How could I teach people how to be successful, if I was on the verge of bankruptcy and facing eviction? And what I really looked at, and made the shift in, was that I was qualified to teach how to live life through all the obstacles.

I was not teaching people how to make a million dollars in the stock market. I was teaching people how to understand themselves better, how to communicate more effectively and how to make their world a place of harmony and peace. I knew with 100% conviction that I was capable of doing this myself; I had these skills and used them daily. I was a living example of those principles, and by sharing what I was going through with my clients, I was able to be more than someone sharing “theory” with them. I was walking the talk in respect to how the skills worked. What better way to allow those around you to become inspired to change?

My financial challenges came from a lack of financial intelligence, which led to making less than perfect decisions when it came to my life and business. But as for being able to guide people to a better understanding of themselves, I had earned my PhD in that course material.

The subject of Financial Intelligence is a whole chapter in itself. When we are in school we focus on the three “R’s” and miss out on some of the most important areas that need to be taught. How about learning how money truly works? How about classes that teach how to take control of your thought processes and understanding what drives human actions? How about classes on truly effective communication? How about required courses on understanding how to build healthy relationships?

Yes, I believe that we need to know how to read, write and do arithmetic, but how much do you really remember from Calculus? And how much of it do you use in your daily life? I believe that I will come back to this in depth in a future chapter, but right now I want to return to the idea of helping another person make changes in their life.

Again, how do you help another person change? First, you need to work on yourself. You cannot inspire another to change and grow, if you are not willing to do it yourself. And what you will notice is that as you change, if and when the other person is ready, they will have recognized that you have changed and come to you to ask how you did it.

Now I want you to also prepare yourself for the other possibility. That your changing, may scare the hell out of them. This does happen often, and when it does, they may do everything they can to prevent you from following your new course of action. Because, when you change, you truly prove that it is possible to improve yourself and your life. By doing this, you put them in a position where they have to question their own identity. As we talked about before with belief systems, when you do something that confront a person’s core Identity, they will sometimes defend that Identity to the death.

This is where your second tool for helping a person to change comes into play. Learning to practice patience, tolerance and acceptance. It is my belief that these 3 attitudes are key to a happy life, and a fundamental tool for helping to affect change in anyone. We have to understand that “our time” for them to change, may not be “their time”. Each person will walk this path in their own time, when they are truly ready and not before.

You see, one of the biggest challenges when it comes to doing anything, is you MUST do it for your own reasons, not anyone else’s. So many people try to quit smoking, or lose weight, or change something about themselves to make someone else happy. The reality is that lasting change will never happen when you are trying to do it for someone else. And more times than not, in the long term, there will be resentment by the person who makes the change for feeling “forced” to change, even if no one ever forced them. If it wasn’t done because they were ready to make the change, and ready to do it for their own reasons, in their perception they are having something taken from them rather than giving it up as an opportunity for something new and different. So patience is necessary. You need to allow them to grow at their own pace.

As you practice patience, you will also need to learn tolerance. As you change, you will become aware of new distinctions and start to view life differently. This will have the possibility of turning into a problem, if you do not practice tolerance. You must understand that just because you see these new things, not everyone else will.

It can be frustrating because as you embark on this journey, you may also be new to the idea that everyone has different perceptions of what they experience. So it may be very easy for you to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t see things the same way you do. You’ll find yourself thinking that it is so clear to you now, why can’t they simply understand? This is where tolerance will need to be practiced. But remember, as you start to change, many times, the people around you try to pull you back to your old ways. Not because they want to hurt you, but because as you change you are causing a shift in their world and it is throwing them off balance. Over time they have become so used to you acting and reacting in a specific way, that when you stop… they have to find new ways to act and react, and that is something that is outside of their comfort zone.

So many times, these people, with all the love in the world for you, will do everything they can to get you to “Stop all that silly stuff”. So patience, tolerance and acceptance need to be applied.

One of the best examples I can think of at this moment is when a person stops drinking or using drugs. What I usually see happen is that all of a sudden this person decides it is time to make a change in their life. They see that what they are doing is no longer the way that they choose to live their life. So they stop going out to the bars, or coming home and following their normal routine of drinking and using that they have followed for years. As they do this, life starts to become normal for them in some senses. They realize that much of their time that was spent in that former activity now needs to be filled. They may even start becoming responsible in the sense of paying bills, picking up the kids from school and getting involved in planning family events and taking care of business that they used to care nothing about.

As this begins to happen the people around them, although welcoming the positive changes, are forced into an uncomfortable position. They now have to give up some of those responsibilities. And even more uncomfortable for them is that they have to trust that these responsibilities will be handled. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it stirs up a lot of fears. And it’s not something that they are even conscious of. But all of a sudden, the person who has been handling all these responsibilities for years finds their daily routine is thrown into turmoil because of the other person who is making a change in their own life.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the following experience from someone making a monumental change like quitting drinking or doing drugs. They come to me and say, “I can’t believe what my wife/husband/parent/child/boss just said to me. They said they liked me better when I was drinking.” And the person telling me this is crushed. They are trying so hard to make a positive change, working to make a better life, and the person they look to for the most support has just told them that they wish they were the way they were before.

After some discussion I am able to get them to see that just because you make positive changes in your life and start to grow it doesn’t mean that those around you are going to accept it. Whether we want to admit it or not what we do affects everyone around us. And this leads to the third attitude for helping to affect change and live a happy life. Acceptance.

Acceptance is key. Acceptance of others in regards to where they are in their journey. Acceptance of your own growth and how it affects you. Acceptance that ultimately, some people may not find it in themselves to change. And acceptance that those specific relationships, as you currently know them may come to an end.

I‘m sorry to not be all happy and cheery here, but we have to discuss this honestly. This is a possibility that each person who embarks on a journey of change must open themselves up for. I know many people who have set out on a course of action to change and along the way they have lost some dear friendships. And it ends up having one of two effects. 1) They go back to their old way of life in an effort to keep the other person around. Or 2) they realize that they must continue the journey they have begun for their own benefit and do their best to part ways in a way that will keep the door open if the other person ever decides to accept their new lifestyle.

It is my belief that if you are ever going to be truly happy you need to accept that this is a part of life. No matter how much you love them, some people are going to stay so stuck where they are or their journey is going to take them down another path. What I have found that works best for me and has also worked for millions of others, is I have learned to accept that a relationship is an experience. An experience that we need to cherish, to love, to nurture and also that we need to recognize when it is time for it to be let go. Granted, sometimes that can be hard. It doesn’t always mean that the relationship must end, but it may change form.

Just as everything else in life, relationships are a process of evolution; they can never remain exactly the same. You are either growing closer, walking the same path, or you are growing apart. Learn to accept people where they are, do what you can to make it work, and if it is not going to serve you in who you want to become and the person is not ready to grow themselves, accept that they are where they need to be and adjust the relationship accordingly.

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The Warrior Sage Part 2: Lessons Learned Chapter/Section

Lessons Learned Through Sacred Scars
Chapter 1: Understanding The Power Of The Sub-Conscious Mind
Chapter 2: Discovering Peace
Chapter 3: Living In The Now
Chapter 4: The Gift Is In The Present Moment
Chapter 5: It's About Choices
Chapter 6: Understanding Change
Chapter 7: The Power Of Modeling
Chapter 8: Being Human - What Does It Mean?
Chapter 9: The Cost Of Living A Dual Life

The Warrior Sage: Sacred Scars Chapter/Section

Who Is Willard Barth?
Author's Notes
Preface - Exploring Strength And Weakness
Chapter 1:1 - The Process Of Self-Awareness
Chapter 1:2 The Stages Of Child Development
Chapter 2:1 The World Changed Forever
Chapter 2:2 The Vicious Cycle Begins
Chapter 2:3 Losing Faith
Chapter 2:4 My Dark Secret
Chapter 2:5 Where Is The Love I Was Promised?
Chapter 3:2 The Road To Alcohol Dependence
Chapter 3:3 Leaving My Childhood Behind
Chapter 3:4 Escaping Responsibility; The Joy Ride Ends
Chapter 3:5 Living A Duality Begins
Chapter 3:6 Out Of Control
Chapter 3:7 Crossing The Line To Insanity
Chapter 3:8 The Black-out Drinking Begins
Chapter 3:9 Facing The Music
Chapter 3:10 A New Beginning
Chapter 3:11 More Lessons To Learn
Chapter 4:1 The Final Party
Chapter 4:2 A Moment Of Clarity
Chapter 4:3 My New Life Begins
Chapter 4:4 Sober, Time To Face The World
Chapter 4:5 The First Year Of Sobriety 
Chapter 4:6 Major Change Comes In Year Two
Chapter 4:7 My Daughter Is Born April 20, 1992
Chapter 5:1 Life Changing Decisions Follow My Daughter's Birth
Chapter 5:2 Recognizing The Voice Inside
Chapter 5:3 The Empress Hotel
Chapter 5:4 A New Chapter In My Life Begins
Chapter 6:1 Finding My Way Home
Chapter 6:2 Falling Into Place
Chapter 6:3 A New Awareness
Chapter 6:4 Personal Finances and Personal Development
Chapter 6:5 The George Washington Story
Chapter 6:6 Letting Go So Others Can Grow
Chapter 6:7 The Wrap Up

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