Monday, April 25, 2011

Lesson #1: Seek Not To Change The World, But To Change Your Mind About The World

I have shared on this blog and in "Absolutely Should-less" that there was a time in my life I struggled with crippling depression.  I believed that it was up to certain people and situations to change in order for me to be happy.  I actually thought that by hurting myself I could punish others and change minds.  Fortunately, an intuitive voice communicated to me, "Focus on changing yourself, not the world."

By making just a small shift in my thinking, I was able to alter my focus in a way that enabled me to accept circumstances in the here-and-now while maintaining hope that things would get better.  As I found more peace in the present, I actually started finding myself being able to make more friends, get better grades, and have less negativity directed in my direction from others.

This flies in the face of the conditioning I have received.  I am told by right wingers that how I feel should be based on the fact that I am a sinner/deviant. I am told by left wingers that how I feel should be based on being able to marry and join the military.  I am told by the media that how I feel should be based on looking young and staying thin.  I am told by "news" sources that how I feel should be based on the fact the world is a violent and scary place.  I am told by soap fans that how I feel should be based on cruel decisions made by corporate heads at ABC/Disney.  I have been told by the U.S. government for most of the past ten years that how I feel should be based on the "terrorists" out there.

So now I use this lesson instead to maintain a sense of serenity and acceptance about the state of the world. It makes it a lot easier if I replace the word "world" with whatever appears to be troubling that day.  For example:

"Seek not to change Sarah Palin, but to change my mind about Sarah Palin."
"Seek not to change the guy who just stepped on my foot on the subway, but to change my mind about the guy who just stepped on my foot on the subway."
"Seek not to change my sinus pain, but to change my mind about my sinus pain."
"Seek not to change the weather, but to change my mind about the weather."

And so on.  Anytime you notice yourself blaming someone or something else for how you feel, try replacing the "world" in this lesson with that person's name. 

There will always be individuals and systems in the world who will instruct you to feel depressed, scared, and wrong.  It is not your job to change them, simply to change your mind about them.  When you change your mind you do in fact change the world.  Making one small shift from a fearful angry thought to a loving peaceful thought can have an impact on others that you can not even imagine.  Every thing that I have written about here was a result of someone teaching me something.  They had to have changed their minds first in order to communicate an important and useful ideas. 

All 40 of these lessons have been predicated on the idea that changing your thinking about the world can be the most empowering and loving thing you can do for yourself and the people around you.  If even one person reading this is able to use a lesson to make their thinking a little gentler, a little kinder, a little more compassionate, with a little more humor, then I have done my job.  I thank everyone who has read this series, and profoundly we all continue to be agents of change in our own lives. 

Press here to view a copy of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret To Living The Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, body image, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

1 comment:

Bryan Herb said...

Thank you for creating these blog entries. They were really helpful.