In Part 1 we talked about how you end up in the box you are in and how important it is for you to take control of the shape of that box!
What expectations do your friends and family have that do not match your expectations of and for yourself? This mismatch of expectations can be a source of frustration for both you and those around you. Talking about these expectations can really help identify the cause of frustrations.
Timing is important when broaching a potentially sensitive subject as this, so be careful. The worst time to do this is when frustrations are high and one or both of you is upset or tense.
When this happens, make a mental note of it and when things are more relaxed then the topic can be brought up. Do this in a way that does not throw blame around and does not raise the other person’s defenses.
By bringing up the incident in a neutral, inquisitive manner you may be able to get to the source of the mismatched expectations. You can start with something like “Earlier, when we were talking about _____ it seemed like you were expecting something different than what I was. What did you have in mind?”.
If you are calm and truly want to find the answer, you may just find it. However if you approach the topic knowing that you were right and they were wrong and you just want to justify your actions, the answer will be elusive.
If your family and friends are putting you in an ill-shaped box, then you need to work with them to help them understand the dissonance, the clash from mismatched expectations. Sit down with them and talk about how they see you and why they have that vision of you.
What are their expectations of and for you? Why? Are they trying to live vicariously through you? Are they trying to give you a “better life” than they had by a rigid set of expectations? Do your friends just always see you as the “class clown” or “the strong silent type”? Try and help them understand how you see yourself and ask them to help you get out of that box.
the biggest step forward in getting out of the box that they keep you in.
After talking with your circle of friends and family, if you can’t get their help you have a couple of options. The most dramatic is to slowly and quietly remove yourself from their influence. This is a dramatic and difficult solution, but it is the one that will be the biggest step forward in getting out of the box that they keep you in.
My wife has had to fight this battle with her parents. She is grown and has been out of their house for many years. Yet they still treat her like a little girl that is incapable of making her own decisions.
After raising this issue with one parent, they have started to realize this and they are starting to see that she is not the little girl that used to live in their house any more. The other parent hasn’t yet made this leap and has not changed their view of her. Fortunately we do not live close to either of her parents and are not under their constant influence.
(After reading this, my wife was concerned that it might upset her family if they read this. But she feel that it is too important not to share this if it can help you, the reader. As she thought more about it, she realized that asking me to remove it would mean she was climbing back into that box that she has fought so hard to get out of. She feels that being true to herself is more important than conforming to the expectations of others. Even if those others are loved ones.)
The other option if you can’t get your family and friends to help you change the shape of your box is to overcome their resistance and change it in spite of them. This will be a much longer, harder path.
However, you can take small steps to make the change and they will either adapt to it, or they will choose to move on. Again, this sounds dramatic, but you have to ask yourself which is more important, keeping the friends you have and staying in the box they put you in, or changing the shape of your box and having friends that accept the shape you decide.
What shape should your box be?
That depends on what your Dreams are. How do you see yourself? What kind of person do you want to be? What will it take to achieve your dreams? If you start with the end in mind, you can then determine what it will take to get there.
… determine what does not belong …
When shaping your box it is important to determine what does belong as well as what does not belong. This helps you to set your own boundaries that you can then communicate to those around you. What do you not want to do any more? What should those around you not expect from you as you construct your new box?
Once you answer these questions, you can start to build your box by living each day deliberately. New habits are built on repetition. Each day you will be faced with situations that will provide you with opportunities to act or react based on your new box. Your old habits may be hard to break. After all, they have been with you for a while. That does not mean that they have to continue.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
Before long, you will have reshaped your box and those around you will have changed the shape of the box they see you in. Now you can live up to your full potential with the support of those around you.
What shape of box do you see yourself in now? What shape of box do others see you in? How are these boxes a bad fit? What are you doing today to get out of these boxes and get into the box that is right for you?