LIFESTYLES

Once upon a time, people just lived. Today, we have life- styles.  Many life styles.
<?xml:namespace prefix = o /> We live in a multiple-choice world and, while that affords us many opportunities, it also means plenty of "trick” questions. In short, it can leave us feeling like dieters at a mile-long buffet, not quite knowing what to sample... and in what order.
 Perhaps a life-style is best considered the sum-total of one's work, family, social and recreational activities. In that sense, everyone has one. However, consider another dimension to the word: The implication that a person has selected those areas of his life in which he has committed himself, rather than having drifted into them; that through choices represented by a variety of states, he has taken from the buffet exactly those dishes which best suit his taste. By "states" it is meant the sum total of our experience at any moment. Most of our states occur out of our awareness. We see or hear something and respond to it by going into a state. It may be a resourceful state replete with accessible, richly rewarding past experiences; or an unresourceful and limiting state. Curiously, most of us do little to control it. The difference between those who lead productive, satisfying life-styles and those who drift into limiting, unfulfilling ones is the difference between those who consistently create supportive states that enhance their achievements and those who fail to do so.
 Some people are limited in their awareness of choices. They work at their jobs rather than enjoying career satisfaction; they "hang-out" while others enjoy creative recreational activities; they fight constantly with their mates and struggle to raise children, who often drive them to distraction, instead of becoming active in their communities or aware couples who attend educational and experiential training groups. Individuals limited in this way may feel they somehow got the bologna and hot dog end of the buffet, while others manage to find the chateaubriand. The states containing their choices are running them!
 In order to expand a life-style, it is important for you to take charge-- accept the personal responsibility---for constantly generating new choices. Consider the word, "responsible." It really means, "response-able"; the ability to respond: As your brain becomes able to access more useful states, you expand the variety of choices available in which to respond and thereby select a life-style. The key to accessing more desirable states in which to generate a satisfying life-style is to learn to run more effective internal experiences. We all receive and represent information about the environment through specialized receptors and sense organs. Information about the environment is transmitted to the brain which, through a variety of filtering processes (generalization, deletion and distortion), creates an internal representation of that environmental experience. Thus, we might represent a given experience, internally, as a picture, sound or feeling; or a combination of these. While interacting with our physiology at any given moment (i.e., posture, breathing, degree of muscle tension and biochemistry), these internal representations of experience creates the state we are in; and this determines the type of behavior we produce!
 For example, how do you treat your spouse when he or she comes home much later than expected? This depends on the state you are experiencing when that individual returns; which is a function of how you have been representing the reason for the delay. If you had been picturing the person in a terrible accident, bloody, in a hospital while your stomach felt queasy, jaws clenched, and body filled with anxiety, the person might be greeted with tears or sighs of relief or questions. A quite different reception might have been the result had you created an internal experience of a late meeting at work accompanied by calm physiology. Since we have all at times been able to create useful internal representations of experience-- focus on the events that work well and make us feel good-- why not select representations which empower us rather than creating limitations? People with satisfying life-styles can access their most resourceful states on a consistent basis. Let these states help you explore novel ideas, methods and avenues which lead you down a road you have never traveled. In expanding your life-style, this process may seem confusing or even frightening at first, as uncertainty often is. Yet, if you can consider the state of "confusion" a signal which is followed by the opportunity to learn something new and exciting, the world could become your oyster...