I recently read the book “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life” by Marilee Adams. She has built a model called the Choice Map, wherein you see the differences between judging and learning mindsets, each option leading to vastly different outcomes. When you are on the judger path, you can’t learn new things. It may feel good, temporarily, to think that other people’s decisions don’t make sense (the corollary being that you would always make the best decisions), but it won’t get you anywhere. In fact, it can only lead to more negative self-talk and unhappiness.
Adams proposes an alternative: the learner path, wherein you ask yourself questions like “What am I here to learn right now?’, and “What is my responsibility?” By focusing your efforts and energy back on to what you can do and who you want to be in the moment, you can respond constructively to any situation and contribute to positive outcomes. Doesn’t that sound more fun?
One thing I would add to this model is the importance of loving yourself (and yes, even your limits). If you are not in a place where you are being kind and compassionate to yourself, then you can hardly expect that you will always practice compassion towards others. In my experience, compassion is what allows us to switch from the judger to the learner path.
You might be quite hard on myself. This is what tells you it’s okay to be hard on others, keeping you stuck on the judger path. It can be quite easy to let your inner critic run wild and berate yourself for eating that piece of cake, for neglecting a week of gym time, or for the fact that your energy level has limits. Most of the conversations we have are with ourselves. So, if you are having such critical interactions with yourself, how ready would you feel to be compassionate with others who make decisions with which you don’t agree? If you focus on ways to be kind to yourself, you are in the right frame of mind to be kind to others as well.
Someone once told me that with empathy and compassion, there is no room for anger or defensiveness. We must apply this perspective to ourselves before we can apply it to the outside world. If you are angry with yourself for no accomplishing as much as you think you should, then how can you have empathy towards others?
I’ve learned a lot on this from my personal experience with my own limitations. I promise you that once you accept – and even love – your own limitations, room opens up in your heart to have more empathy and compassion towards others. It’s much more fun to think about what we can be learning and contributing versus what’s gone wrong and who’s to blame.
So let’s choose fun, shall we?