This statement about avoidance came back to me recently, and I have chosen it for this week’s quote because it seems to flow nicely from another quote of mine on “mistakes” (“A mis/take is just an action that we took or ‘take’ that missed.” In that discussion, we talked about how our tendency to achieve success by avoiding mistakes is not only impossible, but not even a very good idea, because it has us focusing on avoiding the problem versus creating the solution.
Of course, there is the idea of avoiding dealing with certain people or situations that are truly unimportant to you, and, when this is the case, avoidance can be an effective strategy. Unfortunately, many people find themselves trying to use avoidance as a way of life in almost all situations, and it is this that I feel is something to avoid (pun intended).
Another quote I find valuable is from Albert Einstein who says, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” I believe this increased awareness of avoidance could serve us well as we strive to create more purposeful lives.
For example, we’ve all heard people speak of their desire to avoid feeling bad. They speak of how they want to feel less stressed, angry, depressed, overwhelmed, anxious, etc. While on the surface, this makes sense, I have found that focusing on what we want to feel “less of” as a way to change our experience of life is often less than successful. The reason is (a) we are focusing on what we don’t want versus what we do, and (b) what is generally produced by avoiding anything is a void. This “void” then is filled with fear…fear that if we aren’t worried about life, we will be unprepared, fear that the bad feelings will return, fear that there is really something wrong with us, etc. This fear then produces the same feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, etc., that we have been trying so hard to feel “less of” in the first place, and the Cycle of Stress is born.
This also applies to other aspects of our life that we try to deal with through avoidance. Generally, when we are uncomfortable with examining some aspect of our life, there’s something we are afraid of. In fact we often use the phrase, “I’m afraid that . . .” in justifying our avoidance. This can range from our avoiding going to the doctor when our body is giving us signals that something needs our attention, to our avoiding examining those parts of ourselves and/or our past that we would rather forget and hope no one else discovers. The problem here is similar to what happens when we try to use avoidance in other aspects of our lives. That is (a) thinking this way first necessitates the need to identify what we want to avoid, and thus has us creating mental images of what we don’t want, and (b) we are using fear as an energy in life which often creates a frightened, or at least, “less aware” experience of life.
So, what can we do instead? Well, remember the quote from Albert Einstein, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them?” If we can acknowledge the value of becoming more aware (versus seeking the decreased awareness of avoidance) as a way to create our experience of life, then we can shift our purpose from avoidance to awareness. We can shift our focus from what we don’t want to what we do. Rather than trying to avoid anger, stress, anxiety, etc., we can focus instead on what we want to feel, such as more joy, accomplishment, peace, self-confidence, etc.
Basically, rather than avoiding those aspects of life that we are afraid of, we can courageously choose awareness and truth as our guides, and disempower the fear that hides there.
We can then create a vision, or a picture in our mind, of how our experience of life would be different if we were able to produce these feelings and follow these more purposeful guides. Next, we can begin looking for opportunities to practice these feelings, and this new vision of life, and the good news is, life will always give us plenty of opportunities to practice.
You see, we are always practicing something. We will either practice avoiding stress or producing peace. Avoiding anxiety or creating joy. Avoiding fear or invoking love. The bottom line is that we are always either creating a life, or creating “a void.” Here’s to a life of awareness versus avoidance, and the joy, peace, and satisfaction of creating our life “on purpose.”
~ All the best, Dr. Bill