“A beautiful environment starts with you.” – Unknown
Knowing Your Environment(s)
We all have two environments that affect how we live from day-to-day. Most of us only consider the external environment, which, is often out of our control and comprises external forces that influence us. The external environment comprises things such as traffic, weather conditions, and even the ongoing global pandemic we are facing. When this environment changes, they have the ability to change our plans. Plans have had to change in the wake of the current global crisis. Our external environment plays a role in shaping our behavior and actions whether for better or worse.
But few people are aware that we all have an internal environment as well. While we may not have much control over our external environment, we have a controlling interest in our internal one. And the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat drives this point home.
I never knew the extremes of cold and heat until I moved to the USA almost twenty years ago. I also came to discover the importance of a thermostat. Where I live in the Northeast, we get a taste of all four seasons (spring, summer, fall, and winter), which calls for a way of keeping a constant temperature setting during the changing effects of the seasons. While a thermometer reads the current temperature, a thermostat is a mechanism that allows you to set a consistent temperature inside the home, no matter the temperature.
We can regulate the internal temperature of our lives when the external temperature is vacillating. In this concluding post of the S.H.A.P.E. series, I will share three ways to keep your internal environment in an optimal setting.
Read the Current Temperature
Like many people, I got caught under the tidal wave of wanting to know everything that is happening when the global pandemic first hit. I found myself being swept into the undercurrent of fear and anxiety as my inner world began to be infected by the compounding reports of a spreading virus and rising death tolls.
I was inviting too much information into my inner world, and the effects showed. I started thinking of worst-case scenarios. I needed to know what was happening but not to the extent I had reached. Reading the current temperature or being current on the events happening around us is important. Contrary to common belief, ignorance is never bliss. But when we overload on the news, it can overthrow our inner world where peace, joy, faith, and hope should reside. A thermostat not only reads the current temperature, but it also gives you the option to determine an optimal setting.
Determine Your Optimal Setting
Knowing that I can control my internal environment tells me that I don’t have to be a victim of my external environment. A lesson I learned in my pre-teen years.
I got into trouble at school for throwing rocks at a window with other school mates. Eventually, one stone (not mine) did the inevitable damage. The school principal caught up to us and asked why we were throwing rocks at the window. Two of us explained that we found the other boys throwing rocks and joined in. My principal’s response has stuck with me all these years. “So, if you saw people jumping into a hole, would you jump in too?” “Of course not,” we rebutted. As I thought of the absurdity of jumping into a hole simply because others jumped in, it dawned on me that I was controlled by where I was not who I was. Choose and set your inner controls based on your character and values, even when your external environment does not encourage it.
Set Your Internal Controls
Reading the current external temperature and deciding your optimal inner settings is part of the course. The test is whether you will set the right temperature. Your level of intentionality is crucial. It is tempting to let external circumstances rule your life. It can be as easy as just going with the flow and allowing the current of the day sweep you in whatever direction it so chooses. But nobody has ever accomplished anything worthwhile adopting this approach to life.
One of my first new outdoor experiences, when I came to America was whitewater rafting. I am still not sure how I got talked into it (I went because my workmates were going too!). The reality of my decision struck when we headed downriver in our raft. It was the point of no return. Donned with life jackets and armed with oars, the thrill of navigating strong water current was coupled with the threat of capsizing (hence the lifejackets). Using our oars, we had to maneuver the raft through rapids, which had some heart-stopping drops and rocks. We were drenched, but we all remained in the boat. Our efforts in the boat kept the external turbulence from overturning the boat. If we just allowed the turbulence to influence the state of the boat, we would have had a very different outcome.
How can you keep the turbulence and pressures of the outside from upsetting your internal environment and capsizing your life? First, stay grounded. As much as the raft rocked, the best place to be was in it. It was tempting to jump in the water, but the best way to survive was to stay with my teammates in the boat. Don’t jettison your hopes, goals, and dreams. Review them. Think of how they can still happen, even now. And do what you can, no matter how small. Second, keep steering. As plausible as it may seem to allow inertia to take over during this downtime, find ways to intentionally grow and get better. Read a book, listen to a podcast, take a walk, exercise, take a course online, write in your journal, or encourage someone. I have been amazed at how companies that are reeling from the economic downturn have found ways to stay open by using what they have to serve by providing meals and making masks. The nature of the environment pales in comparison to who we choose to be in the environments we find ourselves in.
Final thought: Awareness of your S.H.A.P.E. has life implications. The combination of your standards, habits, attitude, personality, and environment form the edifice from which growth can be seen. Small changes, similar to those made on a thermostat, in one or more of these areas, can mean a higher quality of life. Do you know your S.H.A.P.E.?
Keep on Keeping on!