I bumped into a colleague I haven’t seen for almost twenty years. I remember him as being a miserable prick, never taking responsibility for anything, constantly whining that his ex was screwing him over, belittling people around him. He was like a seagull. He would swoop in and shit over someone’s happy day, and then swoop off again.
As you can imagine, we never got along.
When I saw him on the street, I tried to avoid him, but he saw me and called out to me. We chatted a bit, and it slowly dawned on me that he wasn’t complaining about anything. In fact, he seemed quite jovial and positive. He is doing contract work that he likes, is working out at the gym regularly, and is training for a half marathon. He is an Oilers fan and is ecstatic that they are finally in the playoffs again after so many years. He said he is pretty happy in life.
So I, being the sensitive soul that I am, told him, “You’ve changed so much in twenty years. You used to be a miserable prick and I could barely tolerate being in your presence back then. What’s changed?”
He laughed. “Yes, I was a prick, wasn’t I? And I knew I was a prick, but it was at a point in my life that I didn’t care. I could see I was hurting people, my kids especially, and I just didn’t care. My life sucked, and I thought everyone else’s should too.”
“But then one Saturday, I woke up and crawled off the couch in my apartment, and just decided to make a change. I always knew that I was responsible for every shitty thing that was going on in my life. I was responsible for the problems in my marriage. I was responsible for alienating my friends. I was responsible for the lack of progression in my career. So, I just decided to take responsibility to make it right again.”
I asked him how he made the transition. Did he go for therapy? Did he take any courses?
“Nope. No therapist. No self-help books. I just decided to change, and so I did. Sure, I slipped occasionally, but I figured out what my triggers were and then I forced myself to be more conscious of my behaviours at those times. I quit smoking, I started exercising, I stopped complaining, and I started feeling better about myself. My wife took me back and we’re still together. The kids are grown up, so now we’re saving our money to try to retire early and travel.”
What an inspiring story, I thought, as we parted. In a single moment, he had made a decision to transform himself. In a single moment, he had decided, ‘never again’, and he had stuck with it. In a single moment, he made a permanent choice that he was to live by for the rest of his life.
And it has been serving him well ever since.
The lesson, of course, is that we can all do this. We can make the choice to transform ourselves. Lots of positive changes could be accomplished in an instant, simply by making the decision to do so.
Is television spoiling your life? Cancel the cable or get rid of the television.
Being late for your commitments hurting your reputation? Decide to never be late again and make changes to ensure you’re always on time.
Your money problems keeping you up at night? Decide to not spend a single unnecessary dollar until you’ve got your debt sorted out.
Too much fast food making you unhealthy, overweight, and lethargic? Decide to cook all your meals at home for the next three months until you develop better eating habits.
Internet porn hurting your intimate relationship with your partner? Go cold turkey and turn off the porn forever.
Whatever your problem, you can turn it around. You just have to decide.
And if you commit, you can make your life that much better.