A work in progress

I once worked with a disagreeable fellow named Doug. Colleagues sometimes referring to him as Old Thunder Head as he seemed to walk beneath a small, dark thunder cloud. We worked in a large building and my department had little interaction with Doug’s. It wasn’t until the company did some renovating that I began to encounter him in the hallways. For a couple weeks, he was kept busy transporting items from his old office to the new one.

“I am perfect in my imperfection. A magnificent work in progress.”

— Kate Spencer, senior producer/writer and on-air correspondent for VH1

I once worked with a disagreeable fellow named Doug. Colleagues sometimes referring to him as Old Thunder Head as he seemed to walk beneath a small, dark thunder cloud. We worked in a large building and my department had little interaction with Doug’s. It wasn’t until the company did some renovating that I began to encounter him in the hallways. For a couple weeks, he was kept busy transporting items from his old office to the new one.

One day I happened to be in Doug’s area of the building and found him carefully hanging a number of plaques on the wall of his office. Each was small and black with gold writing — the types you see in gift shops. When Doug left the room, I walked in and had a look. There must have been a dozen or more plaques each with an uplifting or inspiring message. It occurred to me that many of the messages seemed in contrast to Doug’s usual demeanour at the office.

I was about to leave when Doug returned. He seemed annoyed at first to find me there.

“I’m sorry,” I said, pointing to the wall. “I was just admiring your plaques.”

He looked at the plaques then back at me.

“I like the messages,” I said and smiled.

He stood there for a moment then walked over and pointed to one of the plaques.

“My wife started giving me one each year on our anniversary. This is her favourite.” He pointed to a plaque that featured the quotation, “Just be patient. I’m a work in progress.”

“And how is the work progressing?” I asked.

“Pretty slow,” Doug said and smiled. “But my wife says I’m worth the investment.”

For some people, change is unlikely if not impossible because they choose to be unchanging — locked into old ways of thinking and being. For those of us who embrace change, being a work in progress is a life-long mission — a journey toward a bright, new future.

What a great way to think of ourselves and the journey of self-esteem: a work in progress. I like the message because it acknowledges that this journey requires effort and commitment. If we think of ourselves and others as works in progress, we’re likely to be more forgiving and tolerant. Not only with ourselves but with others we encounter on the path.

Many people avoid change and prefer to stay in their comfort zones, but I believe that once you get the courage and take the first step, your life changes dramatically. As for me, I realize now that many of the good things in my life are the results of past changes I embraced.

Those of us on the path know the benefits of positive change are innumerable.

Growth: We grow and learn new things every time something changes. We discover new insights about aspects of our life. Instead of being angry or frustrated, we learn valuable lessons even when past changes did not produce the results or lead us in the direction we expected.

Adaptability: Change helps us adapt more easily to new situations, environments and people. As a result, we’re less likely to lose our footing when something unexpectedly occurs.

Improvement: We all have aspects of our lives we’d like to improve – finances, jobs, relationships, etc. Most of us know that few things will improve on their own. We need to do things differently if we want a different outcome. Without change, there can be little improvement.

Perspective: From time to time changes prompts us to re-evaluate our live and look at events from a different perspective. Depending on the change, it may also reinforce life values.

Opportunities: We never know what each change may bring. When we depart from our old and familiar path there will be plenty of different opportunities awaiting us. Changes often brings with it new opportunities for happiness, fulfilment and awareness.

Beginnings: Each change turns a page. It is about closing one chapter and opening another one. Changes bring about new beginnings and adds excitement to life.

When I think about expressions such as “a leopard can’t change its spots,” I think of the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza from his book and now DVD Evolve Your Brain — The Science of Changing your Mind. Says Dispenza, “Cells that fire together, wire together.”

According to Dispenza, over time we actually wire together neural networks of associated memories, feelings and experiences that support a particular way of thinking and being. We can wire together memories that support our success and progression or a network of disempowering beliefs.

Take the emotion of love for example. We might assume that love would be represented by the wiring together of gentle and affectionate associations, and for many it is. For others, however, the emotion of love may be comprised of memories associated with broken relationships and broken promises — with feelings of anger, bitterness, and heartbreak.

Each time we think of love this network lights up. Not only that, each time it lights up, the connections grow stronger. As with the love example, the lighting up of this neural network will create joy for some, anxiety and despair for others – both impacting choices and perception.

Despair not! Dispenza claims the opposite is also true: “Cells that no longer fire together, unwire.” By applying perseverance and dedication toward positive change coupled with a growing sense of self-awareness, we can actually create a new neural network and dismantle the old. When an old network has failed to be energized for an extended period of time, the cells begin to lose their connection or commonality and eventually disconnect.

How long the process takes and how effective you’ll be in building new networks depends upon your level of commitment and understanding of techniques, principles and yourself.

Mark Twain said, “The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application and perseverance under the prompting of a brave, determined spirit.”

Forge on and be a proud work in progress. After all, you’re worth the investment.

Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.

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