Change (Hmmm…)


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Author’s Note: I’m feeling off today. This morning, I got a reminder that life is indeed short so I’m asking myself again – why am I wasting my time to things I’m not passionate about. To somewhat uplift myself, I read this thing that I wrote almost two years ago. This was inspired by the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and a training/seminar that I attended in my previous job.

My significant other asked me if I’m a principled person. Without thinking I automatically said “no, I’m not”. After careful thought, I am actually a person who is very grounded by my own principles. My principles are probably different from most people and they are not the best but I live with these principles and I try to enhance them as I go through life.

I am mostly governed by these three which are actually quotes from various sources, not in order of importance:
1. The biggest competition I have is versus myself (this is from an athletic apparel commercial, I forgot which brand exactly but I think it was Nike)
2. My laziness is my most fearful enemy. Defeat is acceptance of my own laziness (from Lim Yo Hwan, a legendary Starcraft Pro-gamer)
3. Do you not know that a life not dedicated to a great idea is a useless life. It’s like a pebble lost in the field than being part of an eddifice (from Simoun Ibarra from the book El Filibusterismo written by Jose Rizal)

Do you see some commonality in these principles? How about flaws?

I attended this training today where the speaker was talking about most people tend to be more horizontal than vertical. What the hell does that mean? In a nutshell, horizontal people are so attached with their past resulting to so much baggage in their lives. They couldn’t wait for tomorrow because they are also attached to the future. They are having a tug-of-war with past and future, hence, horizontal. They forget that what’s important is now. “This is it!” – this is the secret as what the speaker has said. Vertical people, on the other hand, tend to focus on what’s happening now, have open hearts and know how to manage their own minds. Horizontal also try to change and control the world because they are mostly controlled by their amygdala which is a part of the brain that shows animal instincts for animals to survive. Vertical know how to manage their amygdala and use the prefrontal cortex instead.

I might lost you with the brain stuff but the concept also says that horizontal people have so much negativity, anxiety, depression, resentment, and arrogance. They are mainly motivated by fear and/or greed. Vertical people, on the other hand, have optimism, peace, joy, freedom, and openness. They are focused on their purpose, committed to excellence, and constantly improving.

I’ve been through hell when I was searching for my passion. I was at my lowest when I couldn’t find answers. I thought to myself, what could be worse than this? Another failure? Yes, another failure was worse but the worst part was when I had to cope with death of a loved one at the same time. When I thought things could not get any worst – then BOOM! Here’s work-related stress.

This was a long 2+ years which I consider my lowest so far. I was definitely a horizontal person during these times. I was depressed, I was frustrated, I feel imprisoned. I was searching and longing for freedom. I was still very much governed by my principles despite these tough times but I found the flaw in my principles. They don’t include the two most important things that I need during these times – hope and positivity. I was stuck but when my mom passed away, it just hit me. Life is too short. Why am I wasting my life? What the hell am I doing with this negativity? Why do I dwell with my insecurities that started during mid 90s? Decades have passed, move on! Will I just cry about losing my mom? That was the time that things started to finally sink in. It’s time for me to take control, I realized that I have to do something about it. I have to create – a word that also keeps on popping up during the session. Creating rather than informing, rather than teaching. Creating is to take action and to execute – this is it! It is now!

It is tough. When I was trying to look for rainbows and was trying to be more positive – work dragged me down. Work-related stress is difficult to bear especially when so much things are also going on in my personal life. Well, it makes sense when study shows that 60% of our lives are actually spent on work. When I reached a crossroad and my frustrations at work peaked, I was probably at the lowest level of being horizontal and that’s when I realized that I cannot control things. I can only change my mindset. It even surprised me that when I look back during my teen years, I was actually a very optimistic person – a vertical person. I have to bring back this old me. No one can change what’s going on in my surroundings but I can change myself. It all depends on me. You know the song Man In The Mirror by Michael Jackson? Here goes…

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
No message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself then make that change…
You can’t close your… your heart!

It took several years and many ups and downs, mostly downs, but I finally found the answer that I’ve been looking for. I also found my passion. Did I get freedom? Not yet. But what’s important is that I’m getting there. I was able to step-out from being horizontal. I am confident that I am in the vertical zone again. I am always a vertical person, the downs just dragged me down for a while then I got stuck.

I think we all experience being horizontal at some point in our lives. Being horizontal is not that bad, it’s having a comfort zone. It’s probably fine to some people, it is also good in some circumstances. There’s nothing wrong with surviving but it will keep one person from improving. Changing mindset is tough. Sometimes, you need to be at the bottom to find eureka. But it’s always up to you to deal with it. You can cry and pity yourself or jump over the cliff or you can choose to snap out of it. It’s not an overnight process – it is an evolution. I am not there yet. I am not perfect and I am not striving for perfection but I am excited to improve myself, accumulate more knowledge and eventually apply them. Knowledge is wasted if it’s not put into action.

When I keep on failing and failing and it seems like I was in an endless loop, I asked why. I was looking for reasons. But the truth is, I got stuck because I was just asking questions, no action was done, no change was done. It’s understandable to ask that question but learn from it. Don’t dwell or you’re going to be stuck. You have to embrace it, change your mindset, and start creating. After finally learning to accept my life that’s when I realized that those failures, that journey, that climb or whatever you want to call it is a key experience to my life. It helps me become a better person. It helps me shape my principles.

As what the speaker has mentioned during the session we need to learn to survive and be horizontal because survival is part of everyday life but after that, we have to evolve and become vertical. He also said that when the mind is no longer holding back, you’ll experience freedom. I agree, it’s similar to what Walter Mitty did. He lost the most important film for the last publication of the magazine where he works and that’s when he finally started to let go, to not hold back, and to live his life. I want to reach that state. I’m excited to be more inspired, to be more positive, to find more meaning, and to keep on progressing. You know the song Let It Go from the movie Frozen?

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

– May 15, 2014