Childhood has a profound effect on all of us, for a long time, for our whole lives if we let it. It amazes me as a doctor, as a family member, and as a friend how much the things from childhood continue to affect the people I care for and love every day. Think about it a little bit, is there a behavior or pattern you have that keeps recurring?
If you can’t quite figure out what I’m talking about, here’s an example from my life. I realized last year that all my top values (that I was actually living, not my ideal ones) were my dad’s top values. How did that happen? As a kid, I didn’t get to see my dad for almost half the year. He’s a farmer, and he would spend 16 hour days at the farm in the spring and the fall, sometimes more. Sometimes he would sleep at the office. Even the days he did come home, it would be after I went to sleep and he would leave before I got up in the morning. I missed him a lot, my mom tells me as a toddler I would cry and say “I want to see my dad.”
Because of that I craved my dad’s love more, because I didn’t get to see him often. When I did get to see him, I tried to emulate him, I took in all the things he said and tried my best to be them. Some things my dad said often growing up were “Always work hard, be successful.” And “Just get over it,” that one he said for almost everything. If you fell down, just get over it, get back up, brush yourself off and keep going.
How Those Values Served Me
Because of this I had some excellent values that served me well throughout childhood and in college and through grad school. I indeed became a hard worker, and I strived to be successful all the time, with every action. When a problem arose, I wouldn’t dwell on it. I would get up, brush myself off and look for a solution. Due to those qualities I accomplished some great things. A chiropractic degree usually takes 8 years, but I applied and was accepted early, and finished my undergrad degree while working on my chiropractic degree. I graduated as a chiropractor in 6 years, and received my undergraduate degree and doctorate degree on the same day. In addition, during chiropractic school, I spent weekends getting trained in acupuncture, and went to animal chiropractic school. As a result, when I graduated, I was also board certified in acupuncture and animal chiropractic. Then I started my own business.
All great things right? I am so proud of those accomplishments, I worked REALLY hard. I am grateful for those values that I mirrored from my dad that helped me accomplish all of those things. P.S I also got excellent values from my mom, my parents actually have those values in common. Surprisingly though, just simply because my dad was gone a lot as a child, I felt the drive for those more from my dad than from my mom. It’s hard to explain, it was just kind of built into me. One of those childhood things that just sticks with you.
Why Would I Want To Change That Pattern? It's Been So Useful
You may be wondering why I would want to change those values that have served me so well. It’s not that I want to completely get rid of those values, they are so ingrained into me that I will have them forever. However, there are some other values that I have felt in my soul should be a part of me that weren’t making their way to the surface because they were drowned out by those other values. Ones that are truer to my core being. Things like love & warmth, faith, gratitude, awe, wisdom/insight, playfulness… the list goes on. These are the things that feel true to my core. Just reading those words gives me a warm feeling inside. Because they are me, those words make my soul happy, those values are what fill me up.
But What About Hard Work, & Success, & Solving Problems?
Reading my new value list you may be thinking, “Ok, but none of those are about hard work, or being successful.” If she’s just loving and has faith and gratitude and awe and wisdom, how will she get anything done? Will she work hard and be successful?” And the answer is YES!
Yes, even more than before. Why? Because I still have those great values I was raised with, but I also now have fulfillment and calm and peace. What happens then? I still have the drive to do those other things, but now I feel more content while I am doing them. Before I was so driven to be successful that no matter what I accomplished, I always felt unsuccessful. Can you imagine how much that kills your drive?
Now I feel much happier more often. When you feel happy, you want to work harder. Because it’s EXCITING! You have drive, and motivation, and just joy about what you’re doing instead of worry and anxiety and fear.
Do You Feel Like That All The Time?
No, no one feels awesome all the time. We all have ups and downs. The distinction is how long do you feel those downs? And how often? For me, now it’s a lot less often. And when I do feel those downs it doesn’t take me very long to start thinking of all the things I’m grateful for, and to have faith that things will work out like they should, and to think of all the love I have in my life, and that picks me up out of my slump and I go on with my day, feeling better.
I used to have an underlying current of worry, despite working hard and also being happy at the same time. Now that current of worry hardly shows up anymore. If it does, it doesn’t take long for me to tell it good bye. But really, it hardly ever shows up.
How Does It Feel?
Freeing, so very freeing. Light. Happy. Calm. Secure. Like I’m where I’m supposed to be. Great.
How Does This Relate To You?
I bet there is a pattern in your life, maybe several from your childhood. My guess is they are a bit of a double edged sword. They have probably served you in some way, maybe made you independent, or helped you serve others, or made you strong. But I bet there is another side to them too, maybe it’s made it hard to connect to others, or you serve others so much that you don’t take time to care for yourself, or made you so strong that you can’t ask for help when you need it.
Believe me, you’ll keep the good parts. Even if you change your values, or let go, or become more true to yourself, those good parts are still in there. They will always be a part of you and help you to be a good person.
But, it’ll help you get rid of the bad parts. It’ll help you let go, and move on, and grow and be stronger because of it. Take the good and leave the bad. Leave the story behind. If you find yourself saying “Well I do this because that’s what my parents taught me,” or “well that’s because this happened to me as a child.” How old are you now? How many years have passed? Don’t you think it’s time to let that go? Don’t you want to be free of that story?
How Do You Do That?
It takes practice, everything worthwhile does. But you can CHANGE it, you can MOVE ON, you can GROW. When you feel that story coming up, think to yourself, that’s who I used to be. Then practice that new value you want. Write out those new values you want, put them in order from the most important to least. And practice them, live them.
To live new values, you have to let go and be vulnerable. And I know that’s hard. It’s so hard to be vulnerable. Personally, I hate to do it each and every time. But every time it gets easier. And you know what, when you are vulnerable, people naturally want to reach out to you and help you. And that feels SO GOOD. The pain is totally worth the reward.
I think breakthroughs always require crying. Which is tough, because I don’t like to cry. But every time I have a breakthough, I cry, and I’m vulnerable and it’s uncomfortable. But then you GROW and that feels amazing. And you feel supported and comforted and that is worth it every time.
How Many Breakthroughs are Possible?
Endless amounts, there are no limits. I’ve had countless ones so far and it amazes me that there is always something else to let go of, and another way to grow and another breakthrough to have.
So it’s time to change your story. The thing that you keep going back to, the thing that’s easy to blame. Time to let it go. You’ll feel so much better when you do. First it’ll be hard, but then it’ll be so much easier. And each time you’ll get closer to the true you, and that feels really good.
Take some time to reflect, to be open, to think, and then practice change. Happy Thursday everybody!