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Leaving the Familiar Behind

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It is hard to let old beliefs go. They are familiar. We are comfortable with them and have spent years building systems and developing habits that depend on them. Like a man who has worn eyeglasses so long that he forgets he has them on, we forget that the world looks to us the way it does because we have become used to seeing it that way through a particular set of lenses. Today, however, we need new lenses. And we need to throw the old ones away.
While it is wise to accept what we cannot change about ourselves, it is also good to remember that we are never too old to replace discouragement with bits and pieces of confidence and hope.

Leaving the comfortable and familiar behind can be a frightening ordeal. Will I ever get used to changes in my life, or should I just find a way to be comfortable with them?

Entrée: Growing with Change by Jim Clemmer
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Change happens. And while we can't control much of the world changing around us, we can control how we respond. We can choose to anticipate and embrace changes or resist them. Resisting change is like trying to push water upstream. Generally we're quick to point to others who resist change. It's much harder to recognize or admit to our own change resistance.

Some people call change "progress" and celebrate the improvements that it brings. Others curse those same changes and wish for the good old days. Same changes, different responses. The choice is ours: We can be leaders, or we can be followers.

To embrace change, we need to concentrate on five areas.

1. Focus on a vision. Our vision or imagination guides everything we do. Helen Keller once said, "Nothing is more tragic than someone who has sight, but no vision." We can't leave the incredible magnetic power of vision unharnessed. Our thoughts often pull us toward the reasons why we can't succeed rather than the many reasons we can. To increase our effectiveness, we need to consciously attract into our lives what we truly want. We need to ensure the picture of our future is what we prefer, not the dark images of our fears, doubts, and insecurities. Personal, team, or organizational improvement starts with "imagineering."

We find what we focus upon. Whether I think my world is full of richness and opportunity or garbage and despair - I am right. It's exactly like that because that's my point of focus. Our vision is led by a set of core values. Without a strong set of core values, passion is weak and commitment is soft. We're more likely to lead ourselves from the outside in, rather than the inside out. Core values provide a context for continuous growth and development that takes us toward our dreams. Our core values project forward to become our vision. How we see the world is what we project from ourselves.

2. Choose your outlook. We reach another milestone in our growth when we accept responsibility for our emotions. We choose to lose our temper. We choose to become jealous. We choose to harbor hatred. It's much easier to give in to the victimitis virus. It's less painful to believe that anger, jealousy, or bitterness are somebody else's fault or beyond our control. But that makes us prisoners of our destructive emotions. We hold grudges, let resentments build, and become cynical. We stress ourselves out. We stew in our own deadly juices.

Holding on to destructive emotions is slow suicide. Studies show that stress from negative emotions presents a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than smoking cigarettes or high cholesterol foods. We must take responsibility for our actions in response to circumstances for which we are not responsible. The only thing we can control is ourselves, so when we choose our thoughts, we are choosing our future.

3. Seek authenticity. To create something we must be something. For example, becoming a parent is easy; being one is tough. We can't teach our kids self-discipline unless we are self-disciplined. We can't help build strong teams unless we are strong team players ourselves.

This timeless principle applies to every facet of our lives. We can't help develop a close community if we're not a good neighbor. We can't enjoy a happy marriage if we're not a loving partner. We won't have a supportive network of friends or colleagues until we're a supportive friend or collaborative colleague. David Whyte writes, "All things change when we do."

The big (and often painful) question is: What do I need to change about me to help change them? Instead of just wishing for a change of circumstance, I may need a change of character. Good intensions are useless if they stop there. One biggest difference between most people and authentic leaders is action. Real leaders make it happen.

4. Commit ourselves with discipline. A key difference between real leaders and those who struggle to get by is self-discipline. As Confucius wrote, "The nature of people is always the same; it is their habits that separate them." Successful people have formed the habits of doing those things that most people don't want to do.

Good and bad habits are tiny daily choices that accumulate. Like a child that grows a little each day, our tiny choices accumulate without much notice. By the time we realize we have either a good or a bad habit, the habit has us.

Most of our daily choices are made automatically without even thinking about them. To change our habits, we first need to be aware of them. Then we need to work backward from the habit to the daily practices that form it. To change the habit, we need to change those practices.

Still, if discipline is a key to success, the fact is that most people would rather pick the lock. Less successful people can't pass up instant gratification in favor of some prospective benefit. It's much easier to live for the moment and let tomorrow take care of itself. But it takes discipline to forego the immediately pleasurable for an investment in the future.

Discipline means having the vision to see the long-term picture and keep things in balance. A Chinese proverb teaches: "If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow." We all want more patience - and we want it now! Most of us would like to be delivered from temptation, but we'd like it to stay in touch. Discipline is what keeps us going when the excitement of first beginning a task is long past.

5. Continually grow and develop. Most people see others as they are; a leader sees them as they could be. Leaders see beyond the current problems and limitations to help others see their own possibilities. It's a key part of their own growth and development.

We continue to grow when we help others grow and develop. The cycle of growth and development has two parts, and the first is our own growth and development, since we can't develop others if our own growth is stunted. These two parts depend upon and support each other. We develop ourselves while we're developing others. By developing others, we develop ourselves. It's a growth cycle that spirals forever upward.

Another part of the growth process is seeking to be more effective. As the pace of change quickens, it's easier to fall into the trap of confusing "busyness" with effectiveness. Like the wood-cutter who's too busy chopping to stop and sharpen his ax, we get caught up in a frantic pace that may be taking us to the wrong destination. Reflecting on our progress is as rare as a proud man asking for directions. But to be more effective, we need to step back, take time out, and assess our direction. It will help us grow and keep up with change.

Change forces choices. If we're on the grow, we'll embrace many changes and find the positive in them. It's all in where we choose to put our focus. Even change that hits us in the side of the head as a major crisis can be full of growth opportunities - if we choose to look for them.

Many people who have weathered a serious crisis look back years later and point to that event as a significant turning point. Most would rather not go through that pain again, but it was a key part of their growth.

Crisis can be a danger that weakens or destroys us. Or crisis can be a growth opportunity. The choice is ours. Whichever we choose, we're right about that crisis. We make it our reality.

The point is, change is life. Successfully dealing with change means choosing to grow and develop continuously. Failing to grow is failing to live. 

About the author:

The above was excerpted from Jim's fourth bestseller, Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success. View the book's unique format and content, Introduction and Chapter One, and feedback showing why nearly 100,000 copies are now in print at Jim's new companion book to Growing the Distance is The Leader's Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success. Jim Clemmer is an internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, workshop/retreat leader, and management team developer on leadership, change, customer focus, culture, teams, and personal growth. His web site is

Second Helping: Enjoy the Ride! by Mark Susnow
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Many people have been saying that this era is different, there’s more stress and more to worry about. We all have concerns we’re dealing with but so did past generations. No matter what our challenges are, the decisions and choices we make on a day to day basis will determine our ability to enjoy ourselves.

I recently wrote, in Embrace Change that my son, Josh, graduated from high school and was off to college. I was reminded of how anxious I was to get out of high school, get away from home and begin college even though it was just across the bay in Berkeley. I believed college would be the answer to my problems. It was for a brief period of time but soon I started to experience the same disenchantment and longing that I had experienced in high school. My focus shifted again to the future which was getting into law school. And of course once in law school my new focus was graduating and passing the bar so “real life” would start. And what I called “real life” began… I was out of school, making my own money and involved in an intense love affair.

There’s no question I was excited when I began my career as an attorney. I was on a mission to change the world through the legal system. After a while financial realities set in and I began to struggle in business and in love. My mindset was that when business picked up and when I met “the one” I could start to enjoy life again. My concerns about the future clouded my ability to enjoy the present. I was repeating the familiar pattern of making an unknown future better than the present. For many of us this is a never ending pattern.

I’ve always been a firm believer in synchronicity…those chance encounters that change your life…those remarkable meetings. A friend told me of a magical swimming hole along a river in Humboldt County and my intuition told me to go find it. Off I went with my guitar, my dog and sleeping bag and drove North arriving at the river just as the sun was setting. In the morning I awoke at the crack of dawn in search of the swimming hole. I wasn’t making much progress as there was no real trail and you had to hike in the river. As I continued on the way to my destination I barely noticed a few campsites until a camper offered me some food and coffee. Although I found myself getting hungry and a little bit tired I said no thanks to the kind invitation—I felt like I just had to get to that swimming hole. After another twenty yards I turned around and said “that coffee sounds good.” It was what the camper said in the next few moments that has perhaps made the greatest impact in my life.

Say man, the journey you take is probably more important than your destination. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy the journey. From that moment on I did. I enjoyed my breakfast, enjoyed the rest of the hike and of course the swimming hole was fabulous.

I can honestly say it was that experience which transformed my ability to enjoy the present moment.

At a recent retreat I heard this same message in a different way. “The past is history, the future a mystery and the present a gift.”

Imagine your life in a new context and shift your paradigm about how you relate to the future. Imagine the following. Instead of waiting to arrive at your destination before you begin enjoying your vacation, you actually enjoy packing and the trip to the airport. Instead of waiting for that big opportunity or break to occur you are enjoying exactly what you’re doing. Instead of feeling despair about finding meaning and purpose in your life you’re enjoying the inquiry. Instead of waiting for something to change you are enjoying what is. Instead of waiting for that ideal relationship to happen you enjoy life exactly as it is.

Here’s a suggestion. For the next month or so experiment with completing the phrase “Life is….” in the following way. Try ending it by saying Life is… an adventure or Life is…. exciting. If you look at life as adventure rather than struggle, you will begin to live an inspired life.

Let me know what it is you discover and what living an inspired life means to you? I love receiving your many responses and feedback. Thank you and keep them coming. Feel free to pass this letter on to the friends in your circle and let them know about the advantages of being on the journey. And as my friend Roy says enjoy the ride. 

About the author:

Mark Susnow has a unique background. A former trial attorney for 30 years and musician, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. His articles reflect this journey in an inspirational and motivational way. Call Mark at 415 453 5016, email him at or visit his website at

Soup to Nuts: From the Feedback Button
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SAM pointed out to me that my address may be available in Google if someone searches using my phone number. This means the telemarketers who aren't allowed to call me anymore can come to my house, using a map that Google provides, and not even have the decency to bring donuts!

To test whether your phone number is mapped, CLICK HERE! Type your phone number in the search bar with dashes (i.e. 555-555-1212) and hit enter.

If you want to BLOCK Google from divulging your private information, simply click on the telephone icon next to your phone number and follow instructions. Removing your name takes 48-hours. If you are unlisted in the phone book, you might not be in there, but it is a good idea just to check.

A Halloween suggestion from another reader: "It's trick-or-treat time! What better opportunity to help Friday's Inspiration support CASA than to print out, copy, and hand out the CASA information page when you and your ghoul-friends go out? Here's the plan: If each reader of this newsletter hands out 5-10 copies of our CASA page, and each recipient of the handout donates just $2, we could conceivably raise over $2000 for National CASA!" Great idea, I say.... Click here to participate!

Everyone can make a difference. In the United States over one half million children are in foster care because they cannot safely live with their families. Nearly 70,000 National CASA volunteers serve approximately 280,000 of those abused or neglected children every year. Please join the National CASA Association in their mission to make sure every child in need has a voice. A child should have a childhood and a safe, permanent home.

Click to send your FEEDBACK to me right now!

Main Course: The Changing Landscape
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Letting go of what is comfortable and familiar, and stepping into the Unknown has often happened at important times in my life. Sometimes, I can see it coming, and at other times it has blind-sided me. Looking back on the experiences, I believe that some powerful forces of the Universe were marshaled to assist me in discovering the new. It was difficult to understand that at the time I was going through it.

I have often changed jobs, or job locations, in the last 4 years or so. Too often, for my taste. I have released myself from relationships, for one reason or another, during that same period. I have moved several times, to and from Washington, Oregon and Colorado, and even worked for a month in the Gulf of Mexico's sweltering summer heat. I have not yet learned how to enjoy these occasions of life disruption. Yet, I have done my utmost to remain as positive as I could about "embracing change as a means of growth." Yeah, right.

Letting go of a job I really enjoyed, extricating myself from toxic relationships, or leaving familiar surroundings can really hurt. It can be very scary. It turns my life upside down in the process. It was during times like those that I went back to the basics. I had, for the most part, learned the lessons of being gentle with myself and exercising patience and faith, while I go through changes. It was absolutely necessary to remember my own self-care - to eat enough, to sleep enough, to talk to people I trust and keep expressing my feelings, as best I could, rather than stuffing them. And to maintain an attitude of gratitude, not for what was lost by moving on, but for what was gained before having to move on. I have had many opportunities to practice all that.

I didn't need to see the "big picture" of what the Universe had in store for me to get through those periods of change. I didn't have to understand my place in the Universe, or whether that place is somehow changing, either. It would be nice if I did, but it doesn't matter, because my Path will take me where it takes me, and I will be offered the needed challenges and their subsequent lessons. I must trust in the wisdom of it all, no matter how difficult that is. Soon enough, I will see the "big picture" - even if it comes to me after the changes are "completed." Hopefully before the next round, anyway.

At times, the process of watching life's changing landscape can seem ominous and frightful. It can feel like being kidnapped, but not completely blindfolded, just enough to be really, really terrifying. OR - it can be an adventure - a delightful detour through something or somewhere, to some thing I need to experience, to somewhere I need to go, to do what I need to do. Once I figured out that the loss, the change, the challenge, the "opportunity for growth" was not going to kill me dead, once I got past doing the basics of self-care, I was able to find things to appreciate about the changing landscape of my life.

Changing landscapes can bring pleasant surprises, too! Just like the project I have been working on since the end of May (after a 5-month period of unemployment), a life transformation can just pop up, out of the blue. Somehow I just knew, when I got the call for a job I had not solicited, that I would get the job. It sounded really challenging, but not beyond my capabilities. Career growth and new experiences for my résumé. Opportunity had just driven up with the truckload of blessings I was hoping for, and my empty hands were not holding onto what was. I had let it go, and I was ready to set to work unloading the Blessing Truck. Yes sir, you've got the right address. Here, let me help you with that one...

It was at that moment I knew that my trusting, my positive attitude, my gratitude and my self-care had paid dividends. Tired from leaning into the winds of change, I just leaned back and enjoyed the view.

Michael Rawls, Friday's Inspiration © 2003

Just Desserts - Also Highly Recommended:
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There have been more than 400 NEW AND UNIQUE visitors to the website during the last month - Thank you for your continued support! Over 400 of our partners on the Internet graciously recommend visitors to Friday's Inspiration. Please take time to visit the "Highly Recommended" links below. :Stories that touch the heart and the mind, stories that bring a smile to your face, or a tear to your eye, emailed each Friday morning. By sharing stories of compassion, understanding, and creativity, you and create a kinder, better world in which to live. Good enough to pass on! Get a FREE Subscription to 52Besttoday. Kindness has been Shmuel Greenbaum's personal response to terrorism. His wife, Shoshana, was murdered by a suicide bomber, one of over 100 victims that were killed or injured at 2:00 P.M. on August 9, 2001 at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem. The result of his response touches many lives through Kind Words, a free weekly email that contains inspiring stories along with successful techniques and exercises to improve your own ability to perform random acts of kindness.

Check, Please! Brought to you by F.I.'s *Shameless Commerce* Division:
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