Over my time spent as a songwriter, I’ve thought a lot about how other people write. Do they wait until they’re inspired? Or do they treat it like a 9 to 5 job, hammering out song after song hoping for a gem along the way? I’ve also thought about what they write. Pop songs, ballads, two-parters, songs with bridges, songs with five verses (ahem - James Taylor). I’ve even spent some time thinking about where and when others write. Home studio? Out in nature? On the subway ride? 3 am in the morning? In the evenings after a long day at work? But one thing I’ve never really considered is why do people write songs? I know for me it’s a variety of different reasons but let’s analyze a few motivating factors to find out why people write.
Have you ever heard the saying that goes something like “You can’t control what happens to you, only your reaction to it?” I love the way Victor Frankl puts it:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” - Victor Frankl
I’ve thought about this concept a lot, especially when it comes to relationships and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve realized along the way. We all have relationships that challenge us. Often they’re in our family, sometimes they’re in the workplace or sometimes they’re your partner. Either way, they’re relationships that we are in some way forced to resolve our differences in, which is fortunate as that helps us grow and mature. In hindsight, I’m most thankful for the challenging relationships I’ve had as they’ve held the biggest lessons.
I used to be triggered so easily by certain people in my life. Some small thing that was said could send me into a fit of frustration. It’s interesting to note how that no longer happens. It was a gradual change that happened over a few years and was the result of the inner work I was doing on a whole, not anything directly related to the people I was interacting with. I was starting to take responsibility for my responses to everything in life. My responses to situations and people but also my responses to my habitual thought patterns and my emotions.
There were some key pieces that helped me go from having knee-jerk responses to being able to more consciously choose my responses to others.
#1: Realize that oftentimes it’s not about you
Only someone who is hurting or frustrated or feeling threatened feels the need to lash out or blame. When you make the conscious connection that they must be feeling pretty crappy inside and that you’re just witnessing the tip of the iceberg you can have compassion for their pain. Just knowing this in the moment takes it out of the space of “I must have done something wrong” to “This person is hurting and I’m just witnessing the effects of that.”
#2: Don’t fuel the fire
Recently I saw a short video clip that spoke about responding to contempt with warm-heartedness. It’s interesting to see what happens when you don’t respond to negativity with more negativity. It’s like pulling the gas away from the fire. I think every argument stems from two people who both need to be right. What happens when you no longer need to prove someone else wrong? There’s no foundation for an argument. They say “You’re wrong - THIS is the way it is!” and you say “Okay.” Argument over.
#3: Don’t expect others to recognize your response
In order to offer compassion or love in an unconditional way, we have to be completely untethered from people’s response to our responses. It would be nice if everyone would acknowledge and praise us every time we choose to respond and not react but that won’t be the case. Choose a compassionate response not for anyone else’s sake but for your own. Choose to be compassionate because anything else feels less than the goodness that you know yourself to be.
I go into greater detail and get more into the nitty-gritty of challenging relationships on my Patreon page where some of the Patrons have been sharing their thoughts and have had some AWESOME additions.
"If I 'meet and greet' as my true Self, all will unfold as beautifully as possible! Do we meet in fear, or do we meet in Love?!" - Mark Zanger
Can you think of a challenging relationship that forced you to examine your reactions/responses? Tell me how you dealt with it in the comments section below OR join the conversation over on Patreon.
For more content like this check out my blog post "How is this helping me?"
Over the past few years I have experienced a large increase in my awareness of my intuition. The way I think of intuition is “Inner tuition.” The innate wisdom that is softly guiding us to our highest good and best selves. Key word being ‘softly’. In my experience my intuition never yells. Sometimes it’s stronger than others but in every instance it is something that could easily be ignored or rationalized as something other than intuition.
I first started noticing that I had this sense of intuition when I was reading a lot about using my emotions as a guide map in life. I was learning that I could rely on my joy and passion to guide me towards activities and life paths that would serve my highest good. This idea of having the ability to guide my life from within rather than relying on the outside world to determine my actions and decisions was very intriguing. For a while I really dedicated myself to following my joy as often as possible. I let the fact that an action felt joyful or exciting be the reason for pursuing it rather than thinking about what the action was going to net me in terms of results or rewards. This was the extent of my experience of intuition between the years 2011 and 2014.
In the summer of 2014, I started having bouts of intense anxiety and my world was turned upside down. I no longer felt that I could rely on my former stance of, “I’ll just follow my joy at every moment and everything will be hunky-dory.” If that were so why was I now experiencing this intense anxiety? This led to me getting in touch with myself and my intuition on a much deeper level.
While I go into more detail about my anxiety attacks in the blog post Why do I suddenly feel like crap?, the only solution I found that helped was slowing down. I started going through my days at a more conscious pace in terms of the speed of my thoughts. Whenever I noticed my thoughts starting to ramp up to speeds that were uncomfortable I would take a few moments to breathe and regain clarity.
I noticed that approaching life at this slower more easy pace made me much more aware of my intuition. Those slight internal nudges or words that came from other people that felt like they were spoken just for me were no longer being drowned out by a mind that was traveling at a million miles an hour. Being in tune with myself in this new way greatly boosted my confidence. I knew that if there was a challenging decision that I had to make that I already had the answer at some level. It was just a matter of getting quiet enough to hear it.
These days I rely on my intuition to guide me in every moment. From the ‘big’ to the ‘small’ decisions I follow what feels right. If something feels like it was said just for me then I take notice of that. If a word or phrase comes up 10 times in one day and feels as if it’s life’s way of trying to get my attention then I take notice of that too. Living this way is so much more rewarding for me than trying to figure out which direction to go based on external influences. It has led to a sense of confidence that no matter what comes up I have the wisdom and wherewithal to navigate through it.
Some practical tips for tuning into your intuition:
Set aside some time each day for quietness. This can be a formal practice of meditation, prayer or reflection or just simply a block of time that you dedicate to relaxing and being more open.
Notice times in your life when you have had to make a decision based on a gut feeling or instinct rather than tangible physical evidence. Maybe you’ve already been noticing and following your intuition without knowing that that’s what you were doing.
Do something creative or fun. Often I find that when I’m being creative or just having fun with no specific agenda I get insights about things that are related to my work life or questions that I have about impending decisions to be made.
Ask a question. If you have a specific question such as “Should I leave this job/partner/situation?” try putting the question out there and seeing what you get back. I’ve been surprised at how useful this tactic is. Just asking the question will make you more aware of when you’re getting slight nudges to go in a certain direction. Sometimes things that people say will feel like they were meant just for you or a word or phrase will come up repeatedly throughout your week for you to take notice of.