Living With Grace

This week I’m just going to share this a wonderful passage about grace from the book Fortytude by Sarah Brokaw.  It struck me as a perfect way to look at life when things don’t work out as expected.

“When we make peace with life events, even when things don’t go the way we want, we exhibit grace.  When we manage stressful situations with humor, we exhibit grace.  When we are accepting of others, we exhibit grace.  Grace is not about physical beauty or having a ballerina’s poise.  It is composed of generosity, forgiveness, and equanimity in the face of trying times. 

Behaving with grace can prove challenging when we feel vulnerable.  These are the moments when we must dig deep, appreciating what we do have, reaching out to our loved ones for help, and trusting in our higher selves to get us through.”

 

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #9 Stop Trying to Control the World

BossyDon’t you just love it?  That feeling that everything is going as it should?  In my blog post The Illusion of Control I talk about how we fool ourselves into thinking we’ve got things under control.

As “J”s we have a natural desire to arrange circumstances, correct problems, make sure that things run smoothly.  Add our “F” energy to that, all that mushy desire to make sure everyone is happy, and we can end up really overdoing it.

It feels good from our end, arranging things for other folks, but I can tell you from personal experience, it’s not fun to be on the other end of that energy.  When I was growing up my father used to decide what was best for me and then badger me endlessly until I did things his way.  I’ve never felt more disempowered and small than I did after giving in to his pressure.

I talked about defining and protecting your boundaries a few weeks ago, but my topic today is about identifying and respecting the boundaries of others. Because, really, the only person we need to control in life is ourselves. The only circumstances we are entitled to arrange are our own circumstances.  The people in our lives have their own approach to solving problems and if they need our help they’ll ask for it.  And yes, we can organize the heck out of committees, events and special occasions, but the only way we can make sure we’re not overrunning everyone else is to ask permission and accept the answer.

Exercise:  Practice Letting Go

This exercise requires that you step out of your routine and pay attention to your assumptions.  This can be difficult for an INFJ, there is often an inherent feeling of correctness to our opinions, they can feel so right that we forget there are other perspectives.  You can overcome this “assumption of correctness” by stepping out of your personal perspective and taking on the perspective of an “observer self.”  As an observer self, you become neutral, watching yourself interact with others as if you’re watching a movie.

  1. Over the next week, start paying attention to the small decisions you make where you assume that your way, or the way it’s always been done, is correct.  These are the little things, like making the assumption that you and your friend will always have lunch at your favorite restaurant, automatically planning to arrive at a movie 20 minutes early, assuming that you and your neighbor will walk at the same time every day (these are all, by the way, examples from my life).
  2. Start letting the other person decide.  Check in with them to see if they want something different.  A casual way to do this is to say something like “We always go to lunch at Scotty’s, would you like to try someplace else?”  or “What time would it work best for you to leave for the movies?  If you’re in a group and plans are being made, try staying quiet and let the group make the decisions without your input.
  3. For each experience ask yourself the following:
      • What was it like to give up control?  Uncomfortable? Scary? Or was it freeing, a relief?
      • What was the outcome of the new decision?  Did things work out worse, better or the same?
      • How did the other person/people respond to being consulted or making the decision?
      • What did you learn?

Exercise: Who Do You Want To Be?

Who do you want to be when the time for decisions to be made?  Think about your role in your family, friends and co-workers lives and design a set of rules for where you want your limits to be.  By deciding before the fact you’re more likely to be aware as you navigate through this tricky terrain.

As an example, here are my rules:

  • Don’t try to “fix” anything for my adult daughter.  This means that if even if I see her struggling with something I don’t jump in with a solution unless asked. Letting other adults work out their own issues is a sign of respect, not neglect.
  • When I’m planning something as part of a group:
      • Voice my opinion as an opinion, not as a declaration of the way things should be.
      • Listen to the suggestions of others openly, recognizing that their ideas might be better than mine.
      • Step back from the desire that everything be planned, stop worrying about what might happen and just let it happen, knowing that I can handle whatever comes up.
  • Ask for permission before planning, “fixing” or taking over someone else’s effort.
  • Take “No” for an answer.
  • Recognize the fact that just because I think my ideas are right doesn’t mean that they really are.

This is the ninth installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

Letting Go

I’ve lived a life that was very different than the life I’m living now.  I worked for a major corporation and earned a six-figure salary. I owned a convertible and my vacation souvenirs were diamond jewelry.

Then I was laid off.  Even though my co-workers and I had been warned that there were going to be layoffs, I somehow assumed that my assortment of skills and reputation for high quality work would protect me.  It didn’t.

As I write this its several years later.  By now I’ve been joined by many, if not most, of my friends in this world of layoffs.  Although we all talked about the possibility, none of us truly expected it.  And when it hit it was devastating.

When I consider my friends’ and my reaction to the loss of our jobs from a broader perspective, I realize that our pain isn’t just a result of what we lost, it’s also a reflection of our attachment to what we had.  The reality is that most of us live day-to-day with the unconscious assumption that things will never change, that what we have now is somehow permanent, ours to own.

The end of the assumption of “forever” eventually comes to all of us in some form, whether it’s the loss of a job, or a loved one, a relationship, a lifestyle, a home – the list goes on and on.  After we lose what we thought we would always have we recognize that nothing is forever.  And, because we’re human, our first reaction to this new reality is fear.

What drives this fear is the belief that if we lose what we have now there will be nothing to replace it.  We cling to the present not because we love it, but because it’s what we know.  In reality, I had come to hate the job I lost. I was no longer growing and learning – by the time I was laid off the only skill I was still sharpening was tolerance.  But when I walked out the door for the last time I still felt as though I’d been gutted.

Trying to lock down today into forever is futile, frustrating, and foolish.  The desire to hold on to an ending career, relationship, or lifestyle doesn’t serve anyone, not you or the people who are in the game with you – your co-workers, employers, partners, family members or friends.  By focusing on what was, we close ourselves off to what could be. We never get to experience the rich world of possibility that exists outside the limits of our present life.

Now, my life is almost the opposite of what it was five years ago.  I don’t have nearly as much money but I’m rich with new friends and experiences.  Starting my own business has increased my self-confidence and I’ve discovered a love for writing that feeds my soul.

I won’t lie, sometimes I look back and miss those fat pay checks.  But most days I’m deeply grateful for the freedom I now have and for all that I’ve been able to explore and accomplish in the last few years.  With this love for my new life comes a new awareness that things won’t be like this forever and the knowledge that I need to enjoy them while they’re here.