In a short while, I will be making my way to my first empowerment class, which I hold ever Sunday morning. The first of my two classes is held at the drug rehabilitation center in a county jail.
The population here changes somewhat frequently. There are some that come in and go our relatively quickly. There are some that remain for a while and await their sentencing. There are others that are looking to leave and end this portion of their life as quickly as easily as possible.
I admire these men. All of them. I understand where they are. I understand that no, no one goes to jail for excessively good behavior.
I understand that no one goes to jail to win a merit badge for the Boys Scouts of America. Of course, they have a past and of course they have a story—then again, all of us have a story and a past and all of us have reasons that explain why we act, think, and why we behave the way we do.
I do not come to this group or any of my groups to talk about recovery. I seldom mention drugs or alcohol. The focus is not on sobriety, drinking, or drug use at all.
I do not believe in being disorder-based. Instead, the focus in our class is goal oriented. To empower and inform is to change and encourage. I find this method more effective than other self-help programs that are shame based instead of action based.
Instead of placing the focus on judgement or regarding (or should I say honoring) the deadliness of drugs or alcohol, the behaviors, and all that’s involved, we disarm the argument and focus on the real task at hand.
- How do we live our life?
- What do we need to build?
- What do we need to do?
- How do we change?
- How do we disconnect and make new connections in our thinking.
- How do we keep us from going back to the old norms of our behavior.
- How do create a new norm so that we won’t ever find ourselves, here, back in the same old places and doing the same old things?
- How does change really occur?
I want to address these bullet points in the easiest way possible.
Change needs fuel. Just like a car need s fuel and just like our body needs fuel, and same as a fire needs three components to burn, which are fuel, heat, and oxygen; our personal change needs all of the above as well.
We need a goal, which will change from time to time—or better yet, perhaps, I should say our goals will improve, because of course, our lives will improve.
We need fuel, which is purpose. We need to find our purpose and understand what this means. We need to know the “Why?” and understand what drives us to reach our goals.
What it is that we want?
Why do we want this?
Then of course, we have the ultimate question with an answer that may vary. How badly do we want this for ourselves?
Next, we need the heat. The heat is our passion. The heat is what we have, deep within us. This is what causes us to salivate. This is what grinds our teeth and makes our mouths whet with an appetite. We need these three things.
We need to have our vision and build it so crystal-clear so that when we close our eyes, we can literally see what we want.
We can see the way we want to live and what we want this to look like. Once we envision the way we want this to be, then we can build it.
Next, we give ourselves value. Next, our hopes become priceless to us. Our aspirations become invaluable and beyond an appraisable value.
Our dreams become priority. Our drive becomes a machine, and next, we do what we need to do in order to build our dreams, brick by brick, and one piece at a time.
The first question in bullet points is how we live our life.
Rather than emphasize the obvious and rather than focus on the past or the reasons of which we all understand have led to our mistakes or transgressions, we have to look forward.
We have to look ahead.
Back when I was an apprentice in a plumbing and heating shop, I worked with a few mechanics that were rather loud and somewhat aggressive. My job was to hand them their tools when needed. Sometimes, I spaced out and my mind wandered off.
However, I was quickly redirected by a loud, screaming, and, angry voice that shouted, “Ain’t ya watchin?” which meant, I should be paying attention to the job.
This meant I had to be one step ahead of my mechanic. This meant if I saw screws, I should be ready with a screwdriver.
If I saw bolts, I should have the open-end or socket set ready. If I saw pipe work, I should know to have the pipe wrenches handed and ready to be placed in their perspective positions.
“Always pay attention to the job,” is what I was told.
Trust me, this is good advice.
The same thing goes for daily life. We have to know what we need. We have to stay one step ahead of the job, be prepared, and pay attention.
We cannot space out while we’re on the job. Our focus and attention is crucial to the completion of our tasks.We have to understand that the depth of our commitment is equivalent to the amount of our success.
If we space out while on the job, this will only make the job run longer and seem more painful. However, if we base our focus on plans and strategy, the job gets done, and we’ll have time to relax or space out later.
The second question is what do we need to build.
We need to build our life the same as we need to build a model. We need to pay attention to detail. We need to place the pieces of our life where they need to fall, which, by the way, I get it, —life is not always so easy and not all of the pieces fall into place.
However, for this bullet point, we need to realize this is our vision. This is our hope. This is our goal and our dream, which mean the pieces of them are all perfectly shaped and perfectly aligned with where we need them to be.
Now, of course, real life is not this way. So let’s be honest. Things go wrong.
Or wait, no. Let’s be brutally wring.
Shit goes really wrong sometimes!
We get frustrated.
We want to curse
We want to scream.
“life ain’t fair, kid,” which is exactly what I was told.
This is what I learned when I was an apprentice in the plumbing and heating shop. We planned out the job but not all things go as planned, which meant we needed to improvise.
We had to adapt our plan to make this fit the drawings we were giving. We did not have the luxury of being intimidated. No, this was not an option. We had to adjust and re-route, but we were never allowed to say, “Oh well,” and then just give up.
The third bullet point is what do we need to do.
In order for us to live out or dreams, we have to understand the ingredients to our recipe. What tools do we need?
What tools do we already have?
As well, what tools have we been burdened by and carried around, when in fact, we don’t even need them anymore?
What can we do to make ourselves more efficient?
This can be easily defined by an honest list of soul searching. There are people in life that benefit us others that might degrade our purpose. What is our distractions? How can we alleviate them?
There are behaviors in life that get in the way of our goals and interrupt our determination. We need to see them and create a way to rule them out.
We need to look at our life as a plan, just like a wiring diagram. Plug this in here. Unplug from this. Attach this part to this and detach from that (because that part has no business in my life anymore.)
Next, how do we disconnect from old thinking and old behaviors?
This is where the work comes into play. First step is to understand our thinking. We need to take an honest look at us and steer away from the deception of our perception.
We need to see where we come from and what happened in our life that created our core values and what built (or disturbed) our moral codes.
If everything we do is done to honor a need, thought, want, or a feeling, then we have to ask ourselves what we are honoring.
Is it fear? Is it loneliness? Is it anger or pain or are we just trying to replace the previous with a sensory of pleasure?
Our thoughts travel through a habitual tunnel, which is what we call our personal default settings. The idea is to create a new pathway by understanding the old ones. Now, we can create a new plan and mold ourselves into a new setting.
This way if we have bad day or if things are tough, our default settings are not what they were. This way, we improve, one day at a time.
This takes work. So it is important to be realistic about our efforts. Honesty is key here. Dishonesty within ourselves or in our game plan can and will often lead to the abandonment of our mission, which, essentially, is us abandoning our hopes and our dreams.
Lastly, the final bullet point is how does change occur?
We need motion. We need movement. We need action. We need that three sources, heat, oxygen, and energy.
We need reason. We need to feel, think, and see the value of our efforts. We need to stay away from distractions and head continuously in the direction of our goals.
We need to create a plan. We need to understand there will be alterations that have to be made on site. There will be things that work smoothly and times when nothing fits at all.
There will be times when we need to step back and take a few breaths before revisiting the work that needs to be done.
There will be times when we need to rest. There will be times when we have to change plans and times when our plans will fit perfectly.
This is basic self-coaching 101. And it works anywhere. Not just in jail. This works with anyone so long as the process is given the proper attention. Anything and anyone can change so long as the change is held to a persistent and consistent basis.
I notice how frequently and quickly people are to judge others and their backgrounds. I notice how quickly judgement destroys the ability to move forward in conversation and more and more, I notice how beneficial it is to disarm the argument. This way we can all move forward and create a plan to mutually improve.
I have given presentations regarding this subject in front of different groups. And yes, the jail is one of them. I have discussed this in high schools. I have discussed this in middle schools. I have discussed this as a keynote speaker at a toastmaster’s event in Corporate America.
The truth is anybody and everybody can, should, and has the right to improve. This should be us on a daily basis. Nothing and no one has the right to stop or deter this.
I will be getting ready to go in a few minutes. I will be heading out for my first of two classes to work together with people instead of work to instruct them.
God, I love my Sundays
I hope you do too