The War Within Me

My journey in writing my new book

Image by author | Cover Art for The War Within Us

I am nearing the release date of my next book, set for 4/15/2023. It has been an interesting next chapter of my writing journey. I am getting more comfortable with people reading my writing, but I still have mixed feelings.

I have had a mixture of fear around thinking people will not want to read what I have to say and a bit of impostor syndrome. I’ve realized it’s therapeutic when I write. It is something I look forward to. I used to dread the thought of writing, but now I don’t feel that way.

If you have been following me for the last six months, you will know that I published my first book, Always Improving: Lessons from the samurai. That book summarized how I use the 8 virtues of the Bushidō code to create Work:Life Harmony for myself. I’ve had great reviews from those who have read it, and writing that book, inspired me to write another book. The new book’s theme is learning acceptance, building resilience, and creating Work:Life Harmony.

Accepting situations as they are with no judgment

We are not born with the ability to accept situations and circumstances as they are. Instead, those around us influence us to adopt attitudes and responses to what happens around us, and we form habits and behaviors by copying them. If those we learn from practice acceptance, we will realize that skill. Otherwise, it will be difficult.

This is something that I have had to come to grips with in my own life. My habits and behaviors around situations were colored by the different responses I saw others having to circumstances. I wish I had learned long ago that everything that happens is neutral. Our perception is what adds a negative or positive slant to it.

Acceptance is about receiving all situations and circumstances as being neutral. If you want to build more Work:Life Harmony, recognizing that the only thing you can control is your response will make a massive difference for you.

One practice I have adopted into my routine is a self-reflective practice from the Japanese culture called hansei. Hansei is a beautiful tool to help you learn how to lead yourself by reflecting on how you show up in your day-to-day world. Through this practice, I’ve learned how I have been neglecting different aspects of my responsibilities. For example, I needed to do more to plan future meetings and events for the projects and people I lead. So, I changed my routine, and it feels much better to me, and the outcomes are much better for those involved in the work.

S​ee below in the Chapter Excerpt for an example of a hansei practice.

Improving our acceptance will increase our resilience

We become more grounded when acceptance becomes a part of the natural flow of our days and weeks. We can deal with situations in a less emotional state and can think clearly. When adversity comes, allow your resilience to strengthen. Rather than us creating false narratives around our conditions, face the truth of the moment. Growth is possible when we lean into the adversity in front of us. Trees or plants growing at higher elevations must be resilient to face harsher conditions. Over the years, the roots become strong, and the ability to endure is possible.

I have found that it’s best to accept that adversity will happen and build your muscle of resilience to face adversity head-on and not back down. When we understand that adversity is a part of life, we are less likely to assume we are the only ones going through this trial. Instead, we recognize that many others have gone before us and faced similar resistance, and we realize that it will make us better. That is if you allow it to. Learning acceptance and building resilience helps you avoid feeling bitter when approaching different situations.

“​When you are distressed by an external thing, it’s not the thing itself that troubles you, but only your judgment of it. And you can wipe this out at a moment’s notice” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 8.47

The trials I‘ve experienced on my improvement journey have created resilience in the face of adversity. I face my situations head-on and realize that I am not alone in my struggle and will get through this circumstance. It also helps me live with empowerment and not as a victim of the life around me.

Learning acceptance, building resilience, and creating Work:Life Harmony

Y​ou may have heard of the Karpman Drama Triangle, also called the Victim Triangle. If caught in such a loop, you will play one of three roles: Persecutor, Rescuer, or Victim.

Image by author

I​f you have ever looked to find fault in someone else; you were probably playing the Victim looking for a Persecutor. When you are hoping that someone will come to save the day, you are waiting for a Rescuer. I won’t go into much detail about the triangle here, but I want to mention that we risk living as victims without developing acceptance and resilience.

When you adopt a kaizen mindset of continually looking for ways to improve yourself daily, you regain the power and feel less like a victim. You look for ways to empower yourself rather than looking for a scapegoat or making excuses. This is the path to Work:Life Harmony because it is where you will feel you have control. Control over your time, your decisions, and your future.

Since I’ve learned the power of acceptance, my tendencies to make excuses and play the victim have diminished significantly.

I​’d like to share an excerpt from my new book, Chapter 1. Enjoy!!

Chapter 1: One Simple Thing to Live Happier

“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will — then your life will flow well.” – Epictetus, Enchiridion, 8

In the past, I would often have black-and-white conversations. Getting into some discussions with people that would become heated because of my reluctance to see shades of gray was common. Sometimes that still happens, but I recognize those times more easily now and can quickly correct them. For example, going back about ten years, when working for Starbucks Coffee & Tea, I had a boss with the managerial courage to tell me that he saw something in me.

It was towards the end of the summer and our annual review time. “Joe” set up a meeting with me in his office, and we talked for about an hour. We discussed some projects and initiatives I had led over the past year. We discussed how there were opportunities to adjust on all those items despite the favorable outcomes — In essence, looking for Continuous Improvement opportunities within our work.

The part of the conversation that sticks with me even today is when we got to interpersonal communication and relationships. I had a blind spot that no one had ever talked to me about, even though it was there. Joe leaned in toward me. “I’ve noticed that sometimes you can get frustrated with others because you see things so black and white. Then you show that emotion quickly, and it’s obvious. Learning how to control that emotion and turning it into a good outcome rather than a negative one will serve you well in your career.”

What I didn’t see in myself was the frustration with progress or the lack thereof on different projects that were obvious to others. As a result, it would bring down the morale of those around me, including teammates, project team members, & leadership. My black-and-white view, although helpful at times, wasn’t helping me meet people where they were at. I was thinking about how the circumstance was affecting me, and I wasn’t doing well with accepting situations for what they were.

How That One Conversation Changed Me

Since that conversation with Joe, I’ve focused my fight on myself and am working on the concept of acceptance. Learning that situations are neither positive nor negative, but I attach the meaning to them, was the first step. My old thinking would connect the outcome to a problem before understanding what was happening. My snap judgment would lead me to behaviors and actions that would visibly show others my frustration.

I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered my feelings and my outward expression of frustration. But, I am much more able to notice when those times are happening or about to happen and can course-correct them. There are now more instances of accepting situations as they are and staying curious about what makes them unique. Staying curious has given me some relief from the frustrated state I used to live in and helps me remain more connected to my authentic self.

Building this competency of acceptance has allowed me to feel much more confident in my ability to lead a happy life, which leaves me feeling more fulfilled. I don’t enjoy getting into arguments with people, which can often leave me feeling a sense of guilt. When those moments of frustration are caught in real-time, it leaves me with a much better view of myself. It also avoids the guilt associated with those times when frustration comes out. Showing up this way for others makes my relationships with them much more pleasant. As a beautiful byproduct of this, we can also get much more work done and accomplish much more than before.

Are You Staying Connected to Yourself?

Are you hoping to live a fulfilled and happy life? Fulfillment and happiness can be different for everyone. What one person finds fulfilling or joyful will differ from the next. That’s okay. It’s what makes the world a beautiful place. But, I’m sure very few of us are secretly hoping for a life unfulfilled and to get to the end of it all, only to be bitter and empty. So, here’s an important truth: Don’t strive to be a carbon copy of someone else. We are all unique, and we are all working toward our purpose.

But just because we are all unique doesn’t automatically mean that we will see that purpose come true. Consider that when we go against who we are at our core, we ignore our calling and deviate from our authentic selves. This, in turn, will prevent us from seeing that unique purpose come to life.

One of the best ways to stay connected to your authentic self is by accepting the truth — acceptance of yourself, your surroundings, and your current situation in life. Without acceptance, we risk trying to go against the nature of things. Miyamoto Musashi, a prolific samurai, philosopher, and poet in the 16th and 17th Centuries, wrote about this in his final manuscript, The Dokkōdō, right before he passed away. The Dokkodō was a collection of 21 principles that Musashi instructed his students and fellow samurai to follow and pass on to others to live an honorable life.

Dokkōdō Principle #1: yo yo no michi o somuku koto nashi (世世の道お背くことなし)

English translation: Do not go against the way of the human world that is perpetuated from generation to generation.

In this first principle, Musashi says we need to accept ourselves and what is happening around us and not deny being whom we are meant to become. To learn acceptance and learn to take everything the way it is. The samurai practiced arugamama (在るがまま), a Japanese concept that emphasizes the naturalness of feelings and the acceptance of one’s emotions as they are, non-judgmentally. Let a situation be what it is and not attach any other meaning.

The Challenge of Acceptance

This can be a challenging thing to do. It requires practice and discipline to accept a situation in this manner. But, like any other skill, hobby, or activity, the more intention you put behind practicing something, the better you will get at it. But, practicing arugamama is a skill I have found helpful.

In my 30’s, I was striving to be something and someone I wasn’t. I was working in a job that didn’t completely resonate with who I was, I wasn’t participating in the hobbies I enjoyed, and was living in a relationship that wasn’t healthy. That left me feeling hollow and not at all my true self. Deciding to change and embracing my true self changed everything. The hollow feeling faded, and experiencing hope for my future became a new reality.

You might think, “So, how do you live with arugamama?” Well, in short, learn to practice self-reflection. To look inside and ask, “Am I embracing my surroundings and authentic self?”

The Japanese concept of hansei is a self-reflective practice that encourages you to make subtle changes in your life. But it isn’t only a set of questions you ask, although it is a big part of it. Hansei works if you think about the questions from the perspective of opportunities for change. Admitting that you have a gap in your life is the first step. Then you view it with a sense of emotional connection. If you aren’t connected to the fact that there’s a gap, and you are not invested in closing it, you won’t ever do it. When you are emotionally connected, you will look for opportunities to improve.

The message here is: Rather than trying to go against your human nature, recognize it’s much easier to embrace it. Looking inside to understand your authentic self is the way for you to be able to embrace your true nature. It’s going to be a lot of work. It will take discipline, accountability, and dedication.

Hansei Questions

  • What did I say I would do today that I didn’t?
  • What did I actually do instead?
  • What am I proud of that I did today?
  • What am I not proud of?
  • How did I lead people?
  • How did I follow others?
  • If I could do today over again, what would I do differently?
  • Looking to tomorrow, based on what I learned today, what will I do differently?

After integrating a hansei practice, keeping the idea of Work:Life Harmony at the forefront of the mind becomes natural. It’s about fitting work into life rather than trying to fit life into work. Some people’s lives are constructed so that they live to work. However, there is a better alternative: Constructing your life in such a way to work so that life can be truly lived. Take the time to regularly reflect on current situations, and ask: “Is the work I am choosing to get paid for leaving me feeling empty or fulfilled?”

Don’t Live to Work, Work So You Can Live

I have had jobs that didn’t leave me with a great feeling inside. I was sacrificing my health and happiness to be devoted to the job. At the end of the day, if the work doesn’t support me feeling more connected to myself, it is time to look for something new. I strive to find harmony and do my best to remove things preventing me from feeling that connection.

The Japanese kanji character for harmony is wa (和), which can be interpreted as seeking harmony and peace in the world around us. I have been writing this kanji at the end of my morning journal entries for the last year. It has reminded me to strive to find harmony in whatever situation every day. Over the years since my conversation with Joe, finding little ways like this to remind myself to accept things as they are has been helpful. It reminds me to consider what is in my direct control and which is not. The things I have the power to change to find more harmony are the things that get done. Where there is no direct power to change, shifting my perspective to change my thinking is the goal. There are a few things in the world I have direct control over. The most important: My response to a situation.

Through this practice, I can process my frustration with more ease than before. Of course, I still get it wrong; this is a challenging process. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement each day.

I will leave you with a quote from Ken Mogi, a leading researcher on neuroscience and ikigai: “Accepting oneself as one often involves releasing yourself, especially when there is an illusory self, which you hold desirable. You need to let go of the illusory self, to accept yourself to be happy.”

Acceptance of things as they are can give much insight into protecting your mind against seeking the wrong path. Staying true to yourself will better equip you to resist those temptations. What will you do to build more Work:Life Harmony for yourself?

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