The Path of Self-Improvement

What’s the right path for you? Where are you going—in terms of your self-improvement and personal growth? And how are you going to get there? Is there only one way, or many?

Charting your own course

This is kind of how I think about psychotherapy, as a chance for each of us to chart our own course. To do this we need to take into consideration where we’ve been, what resources we have, what additional resources we need, where we want to go, and to what degree can we trust ourselves. Then the question is, “What’s the best way for each of us to get where we want to go?”

I was recently helping a client chart his course and he accused me of being “discordant.” When I asked what he meant he said, “You espouse ideas about how pretty much everything is subjective, everyone has to figure things out for themselves, but then you go on and tell me the best way to live my life as if you know what’s best for me.”

Guilty as charged

Basically my client’s criticism is valid. I am quite emphatic about how I think we should live our lives if we want to create certain results. And, I don’t often enough remind people that I’m always talking about my view of the world and what works for me—as well as many of the people I’ve worked with. I really should preface more of my sentences with statements like, “I have helped myself by . . . ” Or, “If you want your romantic relationship to be easy, Hannah and I have learned what works for us is . . . ”

So, let me set the record straight. I don’t think that there is one way or one path that is right for everyone. I think that part of growing up and taking responsibility for our lives is deciding for ourselves what practices to pursue, what workshops to attend, and what teachers to study. We each need to lay the bricks that create our paths.

I have another client who has recently made a remarkable and positive transition in his life. When I asked him what was most helpful, he said, “All the different pieces have come together for me—therapy, homeopathy, my Buddhist practice, my 5-rhythms movement practice, and the Live Conscious retreats I’ve attended with you guys.”

And what I realized as he rattled off these different methods is that each one built upon the others. The similarities in his different practices reinforced what he was learning, while the differences in the practices required him to explore himself more deeply and find his own resolution. As a result, he has charted a course that works for him.

This is what I want for all of us; to chart our own courses—that lead us toward health—emotional, mental, physical and spiritual.

What helped me the most

I want to practice what I said earlier, so instead of telling you that Perception Language will greatly help you, I want to tell you that Perception Language has greatly helped me—probably more than any other single tool. So, no matter what path you walk I hope you will explore using Perception Language as a complement to what you already know.

Why did Perception Language make such a difference for me? Because when I talk to myself or other people using ordinary language, I speak (at times) as if I’m a victim—without even realizing it—because that’s the structure of ordinary language. Ordinary language encourages us to hold other people responsible for how we feel.

Learning to use Perception Language helped me discover and own my feelings. And it helped me learn to have a whole other level of conversations with people—conversations that feel easier, clearer, and create deeper connections.


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8 Responses to The Path of Self-Improvement

  1. Emily June 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    I think it is equally important to ferret out the phrases we use that attribute our positive feelings to others (not just the negative feelings). i.e. “She makes me happy.” or “He makes me feel safe.”
    We are responsible for our feelings always, not just when we shoulder the power of our bad feelings to others.
    I empower myself around him.
    I enjoy myself around her.
    🙂 Emily
    (I know you know that, I just noticed it so I encouraged myself in my own growth by posting.)

  2. Jake Eagle June 15, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Emily, thanks so much for joining the conversation. I agree with you completely. Whether we are talking about positive or negative feelings, we don’t want to attribute them to other people.

    I like seeing your examples, which show how we can use ReSpeak to own our feelings.

  3. Bruce Taylor June 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Speaking of “paths” — I read a piece in today’s NYT about a federal judge in New York who says that the law is often like the cow paths that became Boston streets — winding, meandering, crooked, without particular apparent rhyme or reason other than at some point one cow decided to meander that way, and then another and then many more over the years until that path became a road with continues to exist today. (And, actually, it may well be that before the first cow trod the path, a deer had ambled that way searching for berries or water.) This judge likened much of law-making to come from this, but it’s not much of a leap to suggest that this is how our lives form, we amble the same paths that others before us have ambled, we had in a few twists and turns of our own making that become how we see ourselves in the world, and then we think all of that is the “truth” of our lives. And that is pretty much how we live our lives. Most of it on automatic pilot — “that’s-just-the-way-I-am” or, even more removed, “that’s-just-the-way-life-is”; hard, unfair, cruel, against me. Just as I put the period on that sentence, a small bird perched on the limb of a tree just outside my window and let forth with the most joyous song; and in that moment, I was washed over by the sense of how exquisitely beautiful this experience I call “my life” is. Re-speaking myself to put me firmly at the controls of my life calls me to action today. And my life is exquisite.

    • Jake Eagle June 15, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

      I amuse myself with the cow path metaphor, Bruce. I also momentarily discourage myself with the metaphor—but then I remind myself that we are aware of this tendency to drift. That’s what Napolean Hill called it: drifting through life. And the opposite, he called, definiteness of purpose.

      If we can wake ourselves up to this tendency to drift, and ask “Will this path take me where I want to go?” we have an enormous advantage.

      Finally, some much needed rain moisture is coming to Santa Fe in the form of a hail storm. And like you, I realize how exquisitely beautiful this experience I call “my life” is.

  4. traveling woman / sabine June 16, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    “All the different pieces have come together for me—therapy, homeopathy, my Buddhist practice, my 5-rhythms movement practice, and the Reology retreats I’ve attended with you guys.”

    dear jake, i could not have expressed myself any better than in exactly those words !
    with the exact same choices (my way of course) i have transformed ,and still AM shaping, my life into a free, dynamic, self-empowered state , in which i feel better and better each day.

    Indeed, i sense more EASE and lightness when awakening now every morning – bcs I AM, and FEEL really responsible for my own happiness !

    ever grateful for my reology discovery path – ongoing in training 🙂 love from austria .

    • Jake Eagle June 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

      Sabine, I delight myself to hear you write about EASE in your life.

      This is the link that is so clear to me—that as we take greater responsibility for our lives, we are more likely to feel ease and happiness.

      Some people think this is counter intuitive because taking “responsibility” sounds like a burden. Yet, what I witness time and again is that when we accept greater responsibility for ourselves, there comes a pureness to our actions. We are no longer living in reaction to others, but living according to our own values.

      This is partially how I create my own ease.

  5. Bruce Taylor June 17, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think and what you do is who you become.
    — Heraclitus

    • Jake Eagle June 17, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

      Thank you for that, Bruce. I love that quote.

      John Weir liked Heraclitus for his ideas about “the unity of opposites.” I have always appreciated him for what may be his best known saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”

      But this quote you shared is my new favorite.

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