December 2012: I Wonder What They Will Think

by Brad on December 1, 2012


“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” — Nietzsche.  

 Do you care about what other people think? To some extent, most of us do. Throughout life – first from parents, then from teachers, workplaces, media and our institutions – we learn that it’s important to be liked, not rock the boat, be seen as a nice person, etc. Yet have you ever stopped and examined your own sense of worry, as well as the thinking, beliefs and assumptions that reside underneath? The results of that self-reflection may surprise you.

It seems worrying about what others think has become rather an epidemic in our society. This includes things like political correctness (what does that even mean anymore?), avoiding touchy subjects (what makes them touchy, anyway?), saying “yes” while meaning “no” (to avoid judgment), most forms of generalized fear (fear of perceived negative consequences of your actions). If you were to stop and look closely at any of these, you’d probably see a huge percentage of your energy going into a futile attempt to manage their impact. This is energy, by the way, we say we never have enough of. I’m not suggesting you stop caring, but that you become more aware of why and how you do.

First, the personal view. Over-caring about what others think is often a cover-up for lack of self-trust, and with it, the perceived loss of your own personal power. In so doing, you buy into someone else’s idea of who you should be. By “proving” yourself to others in this way, you give away the very personal power you then “wish you had.”

Next, the big picture view. Because nearly everyone is worried about what others think, the people you worry about don’t even notice your worries; they’re too busy worrying about their own! If you think about this, aside from a lot of energy being wasted, there’s no one left to look out for what truly matters to you.

With this as perspective, what path might lead us beyond the worry? Experience (both in my own life and in work with my clients) has led me to a simple answer: clarity of intention. Those who inquire deeply into their own inner truth discover what really matters to them. By gaining a level of clarity uncommon in most aspects of daily life, they tap into a source of energy so powerful that they can devote nearly all their energy to its fulfillment. As they do, their worries about what others think simply melt away like a spring snowfall. It’s been said that if you know what you want, nothing can stop you; if you don’t, nothing can make you. Looking at those in history who stand out for their contribution, we find just this clarity of intention. Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Thoreau, to name a few. By the way, these people cared deeply, for and about others, yet not so much about what others thought of them.

Exercise: Toward clarity of intention. Releasing the energy drain from worrying about what others think doesn’t come from “trying” not to worry. It comes from replacing it with energy more powerful and positive. You might envision a see-saw from playground days. If pressure from others weighs more than your own truth, you’re left up in the air, with no place to go. It’s time to shift the balance. This exercise has two parts.

  • Discover what holds you. Replay in your mind situations from throughout your life where your choices were determined by your concern for what others thought. After doing this for several situations, see if you can name just how, when and why you became deluded into believing you’d be better off giving up yourself to become someone else. Just name it; all that’s required here is clarity of “what is.” 
  • Reclaim your power. Adopt a regular daily practice of quiet time. During 15-20 minutes of undistracted silence, simply listen for the energy inside you, the smoldering of your deepest desire in life, desire wanting to express itself through the way you live. Just name the desire as you hear it. As you do this practice daily, add to the clarity and energy of your desire, building up a powerful sense of self/purpose/essence, the power of you, the power you “wish you had” (and do). As you continue, you’ll soon “discover” that who you are is bigger than who they are; you begin to make bold, new choices in your life, with ease. Furthermore, “they” never had to change, or agree to play along with your game.


A River Runs Through It  [Life lessons offered by nature]

If nature worried about what we thought of her handiwork, she would never have created earthquakes, wildebeests or mosquitoes. The majesty of nature’s creation is driven by one question: what’s possible? Nowhere in her consciousness is the concern: I wonder what they will think. This, perhaps, is one of the reasons I experience my true essence by being alone in nature. Unencumbered by the opinions of others, my deepest truth reveals itself with clarity and beauty. All I need to do is listen. By “re-membering” myself in this way, I can then return to the everyday world with both clarity of intention and the sense of personal power this month’s exercise suggests as its reward. Nature has “known” this for eons. She has always offered it freely for our discovery.


Openings to New Possibility


My book: A Field Guide to Life: How to Live With Authenticity and Freedom – The only thing that can stop you from creating and living an extraordinary life every single day is a belief that it’s not possible. This book offers a path beyond that belief, and the ways of seeing and thinking that derive from it, so you can reclaim the authentic power of your deepest longing and create a life you love. Offered as an e-book for purchase, or free of charge as an on-going series of blog articles to which you can subscribe.

11 Years: This issue of Purposeful Wanderings marks 11 full years of monthly newsletters from The Road Not Taken. If you’d like the full set, (132 issues), it’s available for purchase on my website, here, as a single pdf file. And to those of you who have been readers for much or all of these past 11 years, I’m deeply grateful for your being part of this community. Sometime write and tell me of the changes you’ve made in your life.

Gift ideas for the season (or anytime):

  • Each year, I partner with one of my clients in bringing the magic of her nature photography to the world in the form of a desk calendar. Her photos; my words; great gift idea. Check it out for online purchase here.
  • In my spare time, I lead nature tours to some of the world’s special places. I’ve selected a few images from my travels and make them available here on a variety of fun products from note cards to coffee mugs.

An invitation to bold possibility: I love to write about life-changing possibility, yet I am aware that most people will not integrate these perspectives into their lives on their own. I’m here to help. Good ideas are just that – good ideas. They become your own good ideas by developing personal felt experience of them. It’s often a struggle creating this personal experience because, left to ourselves, we use the same thinking that got us where we are to get us somewhere else. If, despite workshops, programs and reading you’ve done, life still falls short of your dreams, consider a “guide for the unexplored territory” of your future. I’ll meet you wherever you may be on your path. Together we’ll challenge the thinking that holds you back, discover what matters most to you and chart a course into the territory of your potential. Contact me, and begin to shift forever your view of what’s possible.

Join The Road Not Taken Community, a no-cost subscription offering giving you an opportunity to stay connected, interact, be challenged, learn. Gain access to articles, these newsletters and blog; you’ll find “new stuff” here on a regular basis. I welcome comments on anything you read; this kind of dialogue is an example of how we may all learn together. If you already subscribe to this newsletter, you’re enrolled.

Book of the month The Fifth Agreement, by don Miguel Ruiz and don Jose Ruiz. This beautiful little book invites you to adopt five deceptively simple promises in your life, five ways of being in the world: (1) be impeccable with your word; (2) don’t take anything personally; (3) don’t make assumptions; (4) always do your best; (5) be skeptical, but learn to listen. Ancient wisdom; powerful standards; a world of possibility. If you’ve read the earlier The Four Agreements, this one adds significantly to that work, so it’s decidedly worth reading. … And, if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book available at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons – 508-539-6985.


Download December 2012 pdf


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