That’s what the 3×5 card taped to my bathroom mirror says. It’s a reminder that what I choose to do with my life and how I choose to live it are just that: choices. Choices I get to make every day, every moment.
Or, at least I like to think so...
I recently listened to an episode of Invisibilia, a podcast that has become one of my favorites, that suggested that personality may not be as fixed as we often think it is. The main story focused on a woman who was doing work in a prison, but felt conflicted when she learned about the violent crimes one of the inmates was doing time for. She felt confused because she couldn’t line up what she knew from interacting with him with the person she felt he must be to have committed that crime. She decided to have a conversation with him, to try to understand who he had been and how he had been capable of such violence and how he could seem so different now.
What she learned was that in an effort to change himself he decided to change who and what he surrounded himself with and that changed him. He lost all of the friendships he had in prison, changed who he spoke to, what he did, where he spent his time. He changed his environment, and this is why he was able to change how he acted and who he was.
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On the one hand, I was surprised by the theories about personality that I was hearing, but they aren’t new ideas. On the other hand, all of this made sense to me. In my work as a coach there are a few core principles that I hold to.
The main one is that everyone is already perfect. I don’t believe in “fixing” people. I believe everyone possesses everything they need already. You are already strong, you just need to locate and access that strength so you can use it.
The second principle I follow is that if people are given an encouraging environment and simple tools they will be able to locate and use the amazing gifts within them. I have never met a broken person, or someone who is hopeless. I have only met superheroes who are temporarily blind to their own powers.
So while I have long believed that our environment can make the difference between realizing our strengths or continuing to look elsewhere for them, hearing this podcast gave me a deeper perspective on that. If our environment, including the people we surround ourselves with, the ideas we hear and the images we see, can create our personality then we truly belong to our environment. Our environment influences us, but we can influence it, as well.
In an effort to be our best selves, which sometimes require that we change, looking at who and what we surround ourselves with has got to be a part of the equation.
The great thing about this is that while we are adjusting our surroundings to be conductive to us being at our best, we are also becoming part of an environment that influences others in a positive way. We truly are all in this together and our struggling and striving can have a positive impact on those who in turn have a positive impact on us.
We do decide and we need each other in order to succeed at putting those decisions into action.
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