Changing our inner state changes everythingApr 13, 2022
As thinking humans, we understand that problems need solutions. We reason and solve. It’s how humans became so successful as a species. What we don’t realize is that our inner state dictates what we observe and how we decide. Changing our inner state changes everything.
Here’s an example: We’re (in person!) at the office and our perpetually untidy co-worker has again spilled coffee and left a sticky mess. Now that just p*sses us off. What a slob.
How do you react? If you’re like me, finger-pointing and angry words will fill the stagnant air.
Then, as usual, nothing changes. The coworker is still a slob and like the Peanuts character Pigpen, a mess follows them wherever they go. The sticky mess will return and the scenario will play out again and again.
So what just happened?
We tried to solve a problem while in a state of anger. Our state is our way of being and often shows up in our mood. Finger-wagging is never a solution, but it does make us feel better.
Anger is uncomfortable in our body and that energy must be discharged. Like lightning traveling through metal, our angry state shoots toward an object or person. When it’s out of our body, we feel better, and things become more tolerable. That mess is not so bad.
Our agitated state may be calmed, but the problem is not solved. It will happen again. Guaranteed.
State drives choice
Our inner state is comprised of two elements: how we orient ourselves (our story) and how we orient our body (our soma). Story and soma are different sides of the same coin. A shift in one impacts the other.
Inner state can be contracted or open. When we are contracted, options close down; an open state invites more options, thus different choices.
In this case, anger eliminates options. Because our energy is engaged in lashing out, we are closed and don’t have the bandwidth to solve the actual problem.
We can’t, in fact, even see the problem. In this case, the problem is the sticky mess, not the person. Finger-wagging feels better but does not, however, generate a solution.
We arrive at the best solutions when problems are addressed from an open state. A closed state limits options. Had we shifted our state before responding, an actual conversation could have taken place that might have invited lasting change.
Change your state, change your life
Our state impacts our ability to navigate our world. We often don’t realize the effect we have on others, or how our state impacts our surroundings. Our state puts out a vibe that others can sense, consciously or not. Our state influences how we are treated.
The reality is that life is VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) and our state constantly changes in response. It’s best to adjust our state before reacting.
To change your soma:
Attend: Focus on your physical sensations. What is your breathing like? How about your posture? Where does the tension reside? Shoulders? Gut? Jaw? Scan your body and observe. Just notice what’s true in this moment without judgment.
Adjust: Return to your breath and take a few really deep breaths. Straighten your spine and shift your weight so that you feel solid in your chair or on the ground. Fill the space around you with your presence.
To change your story:
Attend: Notice what thoughts are active right now. What meaning do you give them? What’s your mood? Just notice what’s true in this moment without judgment.
Adjust: Recall what you care about, what you love. Bring your attention back to this moment. Choose an interpretation of this moment that supports your values and what’s important. Be grateful right now. Choose actions that support your new story.
Because soma and story are interchangeable, we (thankfully!) need only to focus on one at a time to make a powerful difference.
We are all works in process. Start where you are and do this as frequently as needed. And notice, you’ll begin making different choices that lead to profound solutions and magical places. Changing our inner state changes everything!