Judgment-Free Zone

With all the recent emphasis on the many ways in which we humans are different from each other, it seems like an appropriate time to remind ourselves of all the traits we share.  For example, we all have the capacity for joy and pain.  Few among us enjoy being miserable. Most of us want to be happy, comfortable and safe.  In general, we all want to survive and thrive.  We may have different ideas about what will make that happen, but the goal is still the same.  Survival is an instinct we share with every other living thing on the planet.

Yet each of us is also unique.  We come in different shapes and sizes.  No two humans are exactly alike, even identical twins.  Our ages might be similar, yet we can still be at different stages of our lives.  We come from different backgrounds experiencing varied ways of viewing the world.  We might even come from the same family and still have dissimilar viewpoints. How often have you recalled an incident from the past with a sibling or other family member and found that your memory of what happened is totally different from theirs? Both of you might have been present at the same time and place yet your perceptions of the event were different.  There’s a clue:  it’s all about perception.  As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Of course, there are ways in which perceptions can cross a dangerous line, especially when a focus or belief becomes so narrow and fixed that other ideas, no matter how rational, simply can’t penetrate.  But my point here is not to preach or point out all of the ways in which humans treat each other badly. I don’t think any of us needs any reminders of those things.  Instead I’d rather see us all at least try to focus on ways in which we are all similar.

Again, it’s all about perception.  Rather than viewing our differences with fear, envy, self-righteousness or self-deprecation, maybe we can try celebrating our individual uniqueness while still recognizing that we are all fallible human beings.  Of course, it would be ideal if everyone treated each other that way.  None of us has any real control over how anyone else views the world.  In fact, we often have little control over the circumstances in which find ourselves. But no matter where we’re at or what we’re facing, we can always change our perception.  It might not be easy, but it’s always possible.

The problems of the world may be overwhelming, but if we each make our own contribution to perception improvement there’s no telling what effect it might have.  My own small attempt at this is to provide a judgment-free zone in all of my classes.  No matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, your choice in partners, your beliefs, your physical abilities or dis-abilities, you will always be welcome in any of my classes.  We’re all seeking the same thing – to be healthy and to feel good about ourselves – even if we look differently while we’re doing it.  No judging allowed. We can each move in whatever way works for us as individuals while still enjoying the fact that we are all moving together. Everyone does whatever they can do to the best of their ability.  And if you’re reading this but can’t come to one of my classes, seek out a judgment-free zone near you.  It might take a little effort, but I’ll bet there is one somewhere near you.  There’s nothing like moving your body to help remind you that good feelings are still possible in our troubled world.


Ban the Blame Game

My soapbox has been dusted off and is now ready for my latest rant.  Don’t worry – I’m not going to spend much of time on it, but I feel the need to speak out.  For some time now I have found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with blamers and excuse makers.   You know the type:  everything is always someone or something else’s fault.  When something doesn’t happen exactly the way it was laid out these people never just say “I’m sorry.  It just didn’t work out.”  Instead they find it necessary to deflect the attention from themselves to some external source responsible for the shortcoming.  They are always right; it was something else that produced the wrong result. As Flip Wilson used to say, “the devil made me do it”.  (Does anyone remember Flip Wilson??  Or am I hopelessly out of date?  Hmmm . . . probably.  But I’m sticking to my premise anyway!)

This is not to say that there are never occasions when circumstances get in the way of the best intentions.  Of course, this happens all the time.  The best laid plans can get derailed by any number of occurrences.  But instead of launching into a lengthy story about what or who is at fault, a simple acknowledgement that whatever it was just didn’t happen would be so much easier to accept.

Unfortunately, right now we don’t have many good role models for people who are just willing to acknowledge that something went wrong and find a way to fix it.  Instead there is a whole lot of finger-pointing.  In fact, that practice has become so prevalent that inaction often results simply because people are too afraid to be blamed for something that might go wrong under their watch.  So doors get locked and insulating walls are built around these folks and the things they are responsible for that become impossible to scale.  As a result they can smugly say, “Nothing will go wrong now.”  Or my favorite line of late, “This will never happen again.”  Wouldn’t life be lovely if we could find a way to prevent every bad thing from happening ever.

OK – you get the picture.  I’ll climb back off the soap box now.  But if you haven’t stopped reading yet, here are a few more thoughts along this line that may be more relevant to my favorite subject:  exercise.  Have you ever made an excuse for not adhering to your exercise plan? Maybe you finally made that decision to go to a class or begin a walking program.  The day arrives and suddenly the weather is bad.  Or the dog gets sick.  Or your exercise clothes are still in the hamper waiting to be washed.  Something distracts you and suddenly you find the time has come and gone and you never managed to stick to your plan.  There are a couple of different ways you could react to this realization.  For example, you could think “I knew I couldn’t do this.  I’m not cut out for it.  There are two many problems standing in my way.”  In other words, find someone or something to blame.  If it weren’t for all those forces pulling you in another direction, you would be able to do the things you said you would do.

But wait!  Think about that.  This implies that you are powerless and your fate is totally out of your hands.  Do you really believe that?  Of course, there are many factors influencing our lives that are beyond our control.  But, to me, this makes it even more important to take control of the things you can control while you can control them.  When it comes to how you treat your body and your mind you have much more power than you think you have.  It’s all about perception. There will always be unexpected roadblocks in your path.  If you feel like you have to wait for those roadblocks to clear before you can move forward, you might be waiting a long time.  And you will again be dependent on external forces for your own progress.

Perhaps there is another way to view this situation.   Maybe there is a way to get around the roadblocks.  So you stumbled.  We all make mistakes.  None of us is perfect.  Whatever happened, it’s not the end of the world.  But you will find yourself faced with a decision:  should I give up?  Or try again?  This may not even be a one-time decision.  You might find that you have to make that decision again and again.  But that’s OK.  As long as you’re still on the planet and able to move and breathe, it’s not too late.  You can always start over.

So next time your tempted to make excuses for an effort gone awry – even if the excuses are valid! – how about simply acknowledging the malfunction and vowing to do better if given another chance.  Depending on the circumstances, another opportunity may or may not be possible.  But either way, leave it where it belongs.  In the past.  Once the moment is passed you can’t get it back.  So move on.  One thing you can be sure of, there will no doubt be other challenges ahead.  You will have another chance to acknowledge whatever curves life throws at you and still keep moving to the best of your ability.