Believe in nothing, no matter who says it, even if I say it, if it does not agree with your own experience and your own common sense ~ Buddha

Over the weekend I was talking with a Life Coach, and I mentioned that I felt that the ability to be outside oneself was pretty much the only way I knew of to be happy.

If you know anything about Life Coaches, you know this is like waving a steak in front of a grizzly.

Casually, because Life Coaches don’t believe in direct confrontation, she pounced:  “I hear you say,  “Outside yourself.” Don’t you believe that you control your own happiness?”

First, some definitions:

Happiness doesn’t mean “free from suffering”. It mean fulfilled. Contented. At least in this context

Second, being an observer in your own body doesn’t mean that you aren’t in control.

Third, control doesn’t mean what you think it means.

To continue…

Perhaps you’ve heard of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? In it, Stephen Covey posits that there are three ways of interacting with people and the world at large; dependent, independent and interdependent.

I think he’s basically spot on, but his terms are boring, so I’ve replaced them with my own: Child mentality, Commander mentality, Yoda mentality.

The Child mentality is characterized by emphasis on how things relate to you. Bad things happen to YOU. People are mean to YOU. Very few things that go on in your world are directly related to anything did or should have done. They are caused by forces entirely out of your control. The economy, the government, your Homeowners Association, your family: They contribute the conflict in your life and directly affect your quality of life.

The primary difference between the Commander and the Child is that the Commander does not acknowledge that much of anything is beyond their control. They are typically effective, lead well, but their ego is very much involved with paradigms of achievement and control. They can be generous, gracious, and benevolent, but these emotions tend to be tied to supporting their own good opinion of themselves. It’s still all about them (or their families, or their tribes, which they tend to see as simply an extension of themselves).

Finally, you have the Yoda mentality. At this point, you have transcended any notion that you are separate from creation. Because you see reality, conflict or drama as only a mirror of your own state, you have cultivated compassion. Insofar as you cannot totally divorce yourself from your perceptions, you acknowledge that you have no control, that in fact control is a meaningless term, and that everything you think you know is an illusion. This is an exceptionally liberating state.

Back to the Story

I said to Kimiko, “Control is really a red herring, isn’t it?”

I have the Commander mentality most of the time. I am practicing the Yoda mentality when I can get out of my own way enough to do so. I have no memory of being in the Child mentally, although I most assuredly was at some point. But I lacked the consciousness to frame it that way.(I think. Maybe I just don’t remember, period.)

In my world, control means that your actions and reactions are yours to decide. Shit happens, and you manage it. You do the best you can with what you have, but you don’t make excuses.

When I’m in this state, “happy” only means “temporarily free of anxiety” “confident in my belief that I can handle anything that gets thrown at me.” Neither of these are true happiness.

However, when I make that little shift of focus that puts me outside myself and my need for control and achievement, I glow with the light of transcendence. For only a moment, perhaps, I make my piece with the fact that control is really only my poor ego’s attempt to claw its way out of total irrelevance.

I think it’s an very important distinction to make: You cannot skip a stage. You must first take responsiblity and wear the Commander hat before you can relinquish control and step into Yoda’s green skin. Do you see what I’m saying? You have to have it before you can give it up.

I’m not sure if I made myself understood that day, but I’ve been worrying at it like a dog with a bone for a week.

If you’re not in control of your life, taking responsibility for your choices,  don’t worry about transcendence.

Get things under control, first. Feel secure in your own personhood, first.


What do you think of this theory? too simplistic? too harsh?

Comments on: "Defining the Process of Growth" (9)

  1. When I read the first paragraph, even before seeing your reasoning, I thought “yes, being all wrapped up in yourself is a fast track to misery.”

    Your interpretation of the different stages makes sense to me and your assertion that they’re linear is supported by observation.

    Like you, I am working at stepping into the Yoda-mind more often if only for a brief respite. It’s not an easy thing!

    • Thank you for a refreshingly left-brained reply. I truly appreciated it. I’m a thinker, not a feeler, and I sometimes feel out of place amidst so many other feelers.

  2. Hmmmmm. and Hmmmm……….

    On first read, it ‘feels’ like there’s a stage (or part of one) sorta missing in your ‘Three Ways’ list – but I do love your less-boring categories!!

    Perhaps, Ego needs/wants to be dealt with, with more compassion, too? (Machete is a very useful (and fun to use) tool, but X-acto knife or scalpel can be wielded with far less ‘collateral damage’.

    @Monette – thanks for pointing up the ‘linear-ness’ — I hadn’t recognized it, and it sure illuminates why I often get the “Hunh?–Whaaa??” look, when I try to share the marvels of Yoda-state with folks who are steeped in modern-American “It’s ALL because of the OTHER GUY, and *I* have No Power or Ability to change anything! Wah! Wah! Wah!”

    (Shanna – now, I’m re-thinking my first paragraph here, but I gotta get outta the house – got a mundane, paying gig on Friday’s!
    Fabulously ponder-provoking post, as usual! Will be interesting to see where discussion goes with this!)

    Bright Blessings, y’all!

    • (Note to Self: Compassion for where the ‘other guy’ IS, too!)

    • Actually, I highly doubt the stages are as clear-cut as they are in this model. Like most psych models, they take place a long a continuum.

      That situation where you were frustrated by people in the child state, is exactly what I was trying to convey. I realized the life coach thought I was in that stage (maybe she was generalizing because of my age, or perhaps she just generally works with people at that level) But I was really trying to figure out why we we at such cross-purposes in our explanation of control.

      Hopefully this post answered that.

      I also feel compassion for the ego…and also for the person the ego runs.

  3. Shanna,
    This was a terrific post. I think you explained Covey’s ideas perfectly. I liked your take on it even better. I think many of us in the self-improvement blogging world are constantly in that dance between the Commander mentality and the Yoda mentality. I try and like you have my moments and then slip right back into the Commander. Awesome!!

    • Thanks Angela! That’s high praise indeed. I think 7 Habits was the first self-development book I ever read, and I still recommend it to people who are looking to start their journey.

  4. […] crucial understanding — that stages are not RANKS — was what I had felt was missing from Friday’s post.  had felt very vulnerable posting it because I thought my words were very much open to […]

  5. […] crucial understanding — that stages are not RANKS — was what I had felt was missing from Friday’s post.  had felt very vulnerable posting it because I thought my words were very much open to […]

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