I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend about the many challenges facing humanity. Global warming. Overpopulation. Droughts. Poverty. Hunger. Wealth inequality. In each example, I was struck by his over-all sense of powerlessness. We moved from challenge to challenge and each time I suggested a possible solution, he would remind me of just how powerless we were to fix the problem.
- The challenges were “too big”.
- People would never embrace “that kind of change”.
- “That would never work because………..”.
Each time I would ask him “how would you suggest we deal with the problem? What do you think we should do?”
Each time he essentially told me there was nothing we could do. He ended the conversation by telling me “the world is going to hell in a hand basket” and there is “nothing we can do to change the future.”
One of the more important things I do as a life coach is encourage people to exercise their power to make choices. But I knew the conversation had ended. He was convinced we are powerless to do anything but wait for the inevitable consequences that are coming. There was nothing I could say at that moment that would change his fatalistic view of the future. We left the unsolved “hand basket” in the kitchen and headed back to the living room where our wives were chatting and enjoying a glass of wine together.
The conversation in the living room droned on in the background, but I was still thinking about the unfinished conversation in the kitchen and how I might have helped him overcome his sense of powerlessness. I continued to wrestle with this question for the next several days.
One of my internal “rules” is, never tell another person they are wrong. I might disagree with them, but I try to respect their beliefs. Telling my friend that I thought he was “wrong” that night in the kitchen would only have hardened his position on the subject and negatively impacted our friendship. It’s human nature to feel overwhelmed when confronted with challenges that feel too big for us to deal with. But I also know that happiness, healthy relationships with others, achieving success in life, and creating a more meaningful life, are all but impossible when we feel powerless. The answer I eventually came up with was a simple teaching model. I call it the power of “Y” model.
It would not have helped my friend that night in the kitchen because it would have felt too “lecturing”, but it was a model I could use to help my clients deal with their powerlessness when confronted with difficult challenges.
The Power of “Y” Model: A Teaching Model With The Power To Change Your Life
The “Y” model is comprised of three very simple concepts. The first is life is a journey. The second, we are all fully responsible for the life we are currently living and the life we would like to create, and third, we all have an emotional “life-story” we tell ourselves and others about who we are, and what happened to us when we were little.
When we “see” life as a journey, every moment of every day is an opportunity to make new choices. When we are willing to take full responsibility for the life we are living and the life, we would like to create… every moment of every day gives us the opportunity to make those new choices. And one of the most important choices we are given is the choice to re-write our emotional “life-story”. Why? Because every emotion we experience in life is embedded inside a “story”. The moment we begin to describe a feeling, we are compelled to tell a story about why we feel that way. But the opposite is also true, the moment we begin to share our emotional “life-story” we begin to re-experience the emotions embedded inside that story. And unfortunately, too often our “life-story” tends to be about sad, powerless times from our childhood. The story about why we are who we are.
THE POWER OF “Y” MODEL
The power of the “Y” model clearly illustrates the three points above. The bottom of the “Y” is our current life path. The top of the “Y” illustrates the concept of choice that’s possible in every moment of every day. We can choose to ignore the possibility of choice and continue on the left path called our same old, same old life path, or we can make a choice based on taking full responsibility for our lives and choose to change our life path. The choice to re-write our powerless, sad “life-story” and turn it into a story that is based on gratitude. A “life-story” that re-interprets our childhood experiences as powerful learnings that helped to make us the strong, competent, compassionate person we are today. The choice to re-define our dreams, our life goals, the values we want to manifest to the world, and most importantly, begin moving toward a life that embraces deeper meaning. The life we’ve always dreamed of living. The life we were born to live.
So how would the “Y” model have helped my friend? It would have reminded him that “choice” is always available in every moment, and in every life experience.
The challenges that face our world today are almost entirely created by our collective failure to take responsibility for the world we are creating, and the failure to embrace change. We have collectively unconsciously chosen the easy path, the human tendency of our primitive childhood ego to prefer the same old, same old life we lived yesterday. It’s human nature to avoid change and the frightening unknowns that are always embedded in change… even when the same old, same old clearly has us on a path toward crisis and human suffering. The same old, same old path that says the problems and challenges are too big to solve… so why bother. Or as my friend would say, why get all worked up worrying about something I can’t fix anyways.
The “Y” model changes that kind of thinking. The “Y” model reminds us that we do have a choice. It awakens us to the reality that the opportunity to make new choices is available in every moment of our lives. It reminds us that we can choose the future we want to live. We can choose a different path. We can begin to take responsibility and move toward a new and different future. And if enough of us begin to work collectively together toward that different future, we can literally change the world. We can change the future.
It’s our choice. It’s our responsibility. We’re not powerless. We have the power to “choose”… in every moment and every day of our lives.