LIVING A LIFE THAT MATTERS
You and I wouldn't be here if we were not contemplating some need for change - a conscious or subconscious recognition that smoking is in some way not or at least no longer enhancing our Quality of Life. My own personal reason for facing change was due to a diagnosis of COPD - a chronic, progressive incurable smoking related illness. My Hope for you is that you haven't waited until you were looking bulls-eye at your own mortality before you thought about the need to change. But even some of us who have been confronted with this reality sometimes unfortunately don't have the skills needed to Succeed in Smoking Cessation and fail to acquire them!
I had been intermittently listening and shutting out pleas for my own change from Family, Friends and Loved Ones. I would compromise with my Addiction, quitting for Months even Years at a time but always with the understanding that I "get to" go back to my Addiction once I cleaned up my lungs and breathing issues. Just like a "dry Alcoholic,' I was a smokeless Smokeaholic! I temporarily changed my behavior but not my Mental, Social and Spiritual status.
So what obstacles kept me from making the more fundamental life-enhancing change that I later was able to access? I believe that I wasn't able to confront my Fear of Change and tap into my Sense of Courage and of Hope!
When I was confronted with my mortality I had to re-evaluate what living a Life that matters means! I came to the conclusion that reinspiring myself with Courage and Hope was an important aspect of facilitating my fundamental change. But how could I bring about a new perspective that stimulated the Courage and Hope that naturally lived in me but had up to that point remained unaccessable?
Each of us as individuals decipher the nature of Courage and Hope based on their own unique belief system. This belief system is influenced by their religion and spirituality, ethnicity and other multicultural influences. So I can't tell you what Courage and Hope mean to you but I can show you the process that I EXperienced and hopefully illuminate how you can find your own way.
Many definitions of Courage have been presented and depending on your cultural traditions and personal spiriual beliefs some of them ring true for you. One definition that fits my belief system says, "Courage, a moral virtue, is defined by the character strengths of bravery, perseverance, authenticity, integrity, and vitality." Now when I thought about my own Addiction, I realized that Nicotine Addiction had chipped away at my bravery to face my problems head-on; my perseverence toward stress-related issues; my authenticity due to the thousands of lies I told the World but even more damaging - to myself; my integrity since I chose daily to deny my body, mind and spirit; and my vitality that was being sucked away with every puff I took! No wonder I wasn't tapped into my God-given Courage! My Addiction robbed me of a crucial element that could lead to a path of Recovery!
One famous psychologist (Tillich) defines Courage as “…the power of life to affirm itself in spite of this ambiguity…” Thank God! Now that I had to actually EXamine the meaning of LIFE itself and MY LIFE in particular, I was stimulated to affirm Life itself in my search for the road of Recovery!
Courage has a revealing power via our participation and individuation - it is a motivating emotion - the concept of will toward power. Courage implies ‘self actualization’, as an expansion of one’s self. “Courage is not the absence of despair; it is rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair” (May, R. 1975, p.3). Well. I can't think of too many situations more despair provoking than being told that my Quality and Quantity of Life had just been severely downgraded. Yes, I like most folks receiving a davastating diagnosis felt despair! Yet, deep within me lived the power of Life to affirm itself (my God-created Courage!) i found that, yes, I DO have the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair! I re-discovered the courage to meet the demands of work, love, and friendship. I re-defined my own personal meaning of living a Life that matters.
Courage, a mature virtue, is preceded by Compassion and Wisdom. I learned to have Compassion for myself and others with smoking related illness and yes, for all Nicotine Addicts, as well as their Family and Friends who long for the day that the Addict discovers his/her own Recovery Path. I learned to nourish that Compassion by reading many stories of survivors and victims of Nicotine Addiction and the personal suffering that they and their families suffered. Wisdom, led by Passion (soul of life), leads to Courage by rejecting the worldly values of wealth and power. Such discernment is based on an Integrity in knowledge and the Gift of the Holy Spirit known as Grace.I learned to nourish that Wisdom with a fundamental EXamination of Holy Scriptures and Conscience - by saying "YES, LORD! Here I am!" to the gift of Grace!
I also learned to embrace Simplicity, Patience and Compassion that the Taoist masters outline as a moral or ethical code along with the Judeo-Christian values of Faith, Love and Hope! Mantras such as N.O.P.E., "one day at a time", "today is the most important day of my Recovery,""the future is a series of NOWS" all reflect that Simplicity that keeps me focused on the Goal of FREEDOM from Addiction. And here we are back to HOPE!
Psychologists say “Hope, optimism, and future-mindedness are a family of strengths that represent a positive stance toward the future” My own Hope could only thrive in the face of despair as a way of coping. Despair provided that change motivator that provided me with the desire and drive to dig deep inside and to overcome.
" Hope is a concept that allows an individual movement toward a goal" (Erikson), and Hope is a way of thinking and believing that is goal directed that produces routes to desired goals with the motivation to use those routes (Snyder). Without Hope, there can be no change - why bother? Hope is both a cognition and an emotion. Having a sense of Hope is in the affective domain, and yet acting on the Hope requires motivation and a plan that is actively carried out. Sound familiar? Didn't I just say something very similar when looking at Courage? Both Courage and Hope are agents of change!
Now sometimes I possess a high degree of the affective domain of Hope [I hope I win the lottery!] but an inability to take action [I don't even buy lottery tickets!LOL!], while other times I seem to possess neither a sense of Hope nor the motivation to move forward in a Hopeful way - that was the rut I was into as an Addict for Years (both my using years and my dry years.) Only in the most despairing of times did I access the power of choice and go through a great deal of humbling, if not outright humiliation, before I came to the Simplicity of Hope in Action! Hope is a choice and the more dire the circumstance the more likely I was to make a choice to Hope.
COURAGE AND HOPE IN CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL CONTEXT
After reflection, I came to the conclusion that I had to know and acknowledge my signature strengths and use those strengths in my relationships and in service of others in order to acquire a good Life, to fulfill my meaning of Life and to embrace authentic Happiness.
I have from conception had the belief in the Christian virtues of Faith, Love, and Hope. Hope and Courage are both spiritual gifts in Christian tradition. Hope and Courage can produce endurance and encouragement for individuals in the face of fear and despair. To conquer fear, Courage becomes an expression of Faith. Please remember that I'm speaking only of and for myself! It is when we are most vulnerable and powerless we are given the most profound opportunities to risk believing that we are born in Love, of Love, and for Love. The Courage of Faith allows the Holy Spirit (the Comforter) to do its work: Grace brings us Hope as a manifestation of God’s most Supreme Love! I believe this and although I haven't always consciously dwelled in this First Principle to Life's meaning, it defines who I am. I have also learned much later in Life from the oriental theme of Perseverance and Patience of soft Courage EXpressed through Christianity as acceptance of God's Will and in the Eastern Religions as a path of least resistance. In my mind, it is clearly shared in the Christian virtues of Faith, Love, and Hope. Hope implies waiting and stillness. "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalms 45:10)
THE CHANGE PROCESS
So how did I recover Courage and Hope? I had redefined what living a Life that matters means to me and I humbly admitted that I need help to motivate my Courage and Hope. I was searching for an optimal level of functioning for the life tasks of work, love, and friendship by use of Encouragement. I acknowledged that I needed support to motivate change and improve my behavior but also to improve myself! For the first time in my life, I surfed the internet looking for Encouragement and I came to BecomeanEX. I was literally driven by despair! When defined using the root meaning of Courage, Encouragement is, “the process of facilitating the development of a person’s inner resources and Courage toward positive movement.” Encouragement is a natural way to find Courage in times of despair.
Rogers, the famous behavior psychologist, states that there are three critical conditions for accepting Encouragement and facilitating change - acceptance, genuineness, and unconditional regard. I found all of these here at BecomeanEX. But I also discovered other attributes such as Patience and Hope that gave me Courage. These attributes facilitated my change by “locating” and enhancing my EXisting desire to be Hopeful that I already possessed. Obviously change does not come easy. By facilitating Hope in and of itself, the Become anEX Community created the opportunity for change. For that opportunity to be realized, it requires Patience and that's especially what I could find here more than with my non-smoking Family and Friends - more than anybody in my 3-D World! These are the gifts that Tommy refers to as Collateral Kindness!
I was able to set achievable short-term (obtainable within one-year), middle-term (obtainable within five-years), and long-term (obtainable within my lifetime) goals. This activity was the beginning of “locating” what Hope resided already within me waiting to be utilized and to reclaim the bravery, perseverance, authenticity, integrity, and vitality that I had forfeited through Addiction. I became more willful , thus connecting me to the emerging Courage and Hope that I possessed all along!I am bringing my overall life ideal to progressively manageable goals! I am living that meaningful Life that matters to me!