Being in control of your life is a tough task and is not for the faint of heart. It takes facing hard truths and opening yourself up to criticism. A good place to start learning how to be better at being yourself is through reading and learning from other people. As you all may know, I am finishing my bachelors degree and in one of my classes this semester I was required to read a book called The Art of Possibility by Benjamin Zander & Rosamund Stone Zander. This book talked about a number of ways to change your approach to life but one that stuck out to me the most is “Being the Board.” The idea of “Being the Board” is what the Zanders called the hardest of the principles to learn but the most important.
The Art of Possibility was written by Benjamin Zander who is a conductor and teacher at the Boston Philharmonic and psychotherapist Rosamund Stone Zander. The book explains that everything in life is an invention and if you look at your life in a new way not pursued by society that you can remove your problems. If you want to know more details, read read read this book. Whether you agree or disagree with the overall theme there are a plethora of great examples of being a better version of yourself.
“Being the Board” is outlined in Chapter 10 of the book, which I highly recommend you read. The Zanders say that Chapter 10 is the graduate course in the Art of Possibility.
When relating ourselves to chess or even checkers, we oftentimes we see ourselves as a player or piece on the board without considering that we are in control of the game or the world around us. How many times were you disappointed by expectations YOU set on someone else? How many times have you blamed someone or something else for YOUR issue? How many times have YOU assumed something? How many times have YOU thought to yourself, “How did I get here?” How many times did YOU suffer the consequences from your own actions? I’m sure I would be rich if all the times you and I both thought of was a dollar.
Part 1: Repeat after me.. “I am the framework for everything that happens in my life,” now say it again! Keep saying it until you understand and believe it.
This means that you see challenges and roadblocks as a part of you and not another person. You understand that only YOU can fix them. Now, this does not mean that you can control the weather but you prepare yourself for the weather and minimize being caught in the rain without an umbrella.
Example: I was dating this girl and she happened to spend the night. In the morning before I left for work something happened that made me mad. Honestly, I don’t remember what even happened for me to be mad which also speaks to this point. I left the house mad and 5 minutes after leaving the house I was pulled over for speeding. I started to blame the ticket on her, you know, “If she wasn’t trippin’, I wouldn’t have left the house with an attitude and I wouldn’t have been speeding,” but I stopped myself. I told myself that EYE was speeding and EYE deserved this ticket. I took a moment relaxed and realigned my day and ended the day far better than it started. From that moment I made a conscious decision to stop letting my attitude affect me so much that I speed or do something else.
Imagine that, taking responsibility for my actions instead of succumbing to giving out blame.
Part 2: Answering “How did this get here?”
By answering this you will become able to see how things you previously would do could get you into the situation you are currently in and how you can fix it. When something happens, ask yourself “How did this get here?” This could be the situation or even the feelings that you have. Think this question all the way through until you get to the end. My boss always tells me to ask why 6 times and you will find the root of the problem, the same concept works here but with a different question.
Example: Since we are family, I will share in this example. I was in a relationship for about 5 or 6 years. We dealt with infidelity, and at that time we were maybe 3 or 4 years in. Nothing makes what she did less wrong but the “How did this get here?” question was asked, even though I did not know that was what I was doing. She explained that she felt neglected by me. She believed that I did not care, pay attention or tell her she was beautiful which are many of the things she needed to feel loved. This situation got here because I was simply too busy, detached and not present in my relationship. Once again it doesn’t make the issue less wrong but I am the board and can only be responsible for my actions in the relationship and in my life.
This example is hard for many people because most of us can see what someone did or did not do to us but if I am the board I need to be responsible for my actions. My actions were simply not being present in my relationship and I needed to hold myself accountable for that. For her being her board would be dealing with the consequences of her choice and once again being accountable for her actions.
As the board you are in control of your own actions and responsible for the things you do or do not choose to do. At that point, things simply are the way they are and you can turn the board and move the pieces how you see fit to change your outcome.
Two things to remember: One, accept responsibility and be accountable. Two, brush things off, remember you cannot control the weather but you can prepare for it.