How I Finally Changed My Life and Achieved Happiness: Guest Post by Gregg Stetsko, Ph.D.

Gregg StetskoHow many articles, stories, books, seminars and private conversations include a discussion of “change”? There are many- most with a specific target change in mind. Such as, change your life, change your diet, change your habits, change your career/job, how to manage change, how to lead change, etc. etc.

Yet, these discussions persist because many try to change and fail or never actually try hard enough to achieve the change they seek. Although well intentioned, they eventually give up. Resistance to change, for numerous reasons, is a huge issue for people all over the world. There is enormous inertia that stands in the way and many distractions and “urgent” matters that people attend to every day that prevent them from having the focus they need to overcome the inertia.

So, I asked myself, what is the key to meaningful and permanent change? I asked this because in the past 18 months I have experienced a number of significant changes that I have sought all my life. I am now trying to unravel the process that I followed, which was not planned or conceived in advance in any way. However, it is clear, that for the change to be permanent, it must progress through a series of small but connected steps.

Why bother?   I feel compelled to share my experience because I have discovered my true purpose and that is to help others change their lives, in either some small way or a significant way. Although I realize that these worked for me, and that everyone is different and faces different issues, some of these ideas might just resonate with someone reading this. That is good enough for me!

Upon reflection, I realized that are some key elements that caused me to get to where I am now. These are:

  • Self-love
  • Finding my Purpose
  • Living without expectations
  • Listening deeply (to others and self)
  • Acceptance
  • Slowing down
  • Gratitude

I will cover each of these briefly in this article and I hope to follow up in future posts.

SELF-LOVE

It has been said that you cannot love someone else if you do not love yourself. Loving yourself is not narcissistic, it is not being self-absorbed at the expense of others; it is that you simply appreciate your strengths, forgive yourself (not beat yourself up for mistakes, however minor or major they may be), and to nurture yourself with healthy thoughts, food and habits. You want only the best for yourself but also coexist peacefully with others. We are human; we are not perfect, so accept it already!

People can be very hard on themselves. Even minor errors can be replayed over and over; creating a negative mindset that generates frustration and unhappiness. It is really wasted energy. Once a person realizes that they are human and that means errors are made and they can accept them, they can become more peaceful. I believe that we are all basically good, but some errors do occur. Errors can help one learn but should not be used to bring someone’s spirit down and cause them to withdraw and lose track of the path they chose to follow (see Living without Expectations below). This is also the key to self-love. Forgiving yourself for errors in a gentle way allows you to create a more positive mind and allows you to love yourself and others and to continue to head in the correct direction without getting diverted down a negative detour.

FINDING MY PURPOSE

I wondered about this for many years. I was very good at my job, a natural talent, or so it seemed, but I did not really enjoy it- it was a way to make a living using skills I was good at. I was watching a TED Talk by Simon Sinek and he was explaining his “Golden Circle” theory about how leaders of successful companies lead and why some companies beat their competitors. He explained that people do not buy what you do; they buy why you do it. As an example, Apple Computer wants to challenge the norm and improve the lives of people through their technology- not just make computers. It occurred to me that this is true for leaders too- employees and customers do not follow you for what you do, they follow you based on why you do it. Investors typically care more about what you do, that is, make them money.

So, I thought a lot about this. Why have I been in executive positions? Originally, it was a good way to make a nice living. Then I did if for the challenge and to learn. Then I did it to improve the lives of patients who would use the medicines I helped to develop and bring to market. But other leaders and companies are doing the same things, so it did not seem so unique. After reading more about leadership and listening to Simon Sinek’s talk, it occurred to me that my purpose could be simply to “change the lives of others”, and then I added, “expecting nothing in return”.

I pondered this for some time and decided to try to stick with that thought each day when I got out of bed. The changes could be very small or very large- it did not matter. The most important part was to not expect anything in return. That way, people would be more willing to let the change happen or participate in the change if they knew it was not linked to some “quid pro quo”. The effect on me was quite surprising- I felt renewed each morning, excited to see what situations would arise for me to help someone change.

LIVING WITHOUT EXPECTATIONS

This was pretty easy for me to do. I had observed over the years with friends, family and work colleagues, the disappointment and negative thoughts that arose because people had a preconceived notion of certain things happening a certain way and when they did not go as expected, they would moan and groan, or say negative things about themselves or others. They ended up in a bad place mentally and it was quite counter productive.

The fact is, that no one can predict the future. I think most people accept that. However, they persist in trying to do just that by planning for a certain thing to happen and then expecting it. Life situations change all the time, unexpectedly and, therefore, things do not always go to plan. So, being laser focused on a certain outcome is not an ideal agenda. This does not mean that you do not plan- you plan to go in the correct direction but also be ready to alter you plans based on what occurs. In that way, your direction is still correct and you make progress- it is just that you need to deal with reality along the way. This minimizes the potential disappointment yet keeps you on the right track.

I joke sometimes and say, “If you live without expectations, you will frequently be surprised.” Because people are basically good, I am usually surprised.

LISTENING DEEPLY

It is said that most people listen just enough so that they can respond. In other words, as people are listening, the are thinking about what their response will be at the same time (not listening deeply), so they miss the point of the other person. They also are living more in their head then in their heart and do not really connect with the essence of what the other person is saying and the emotions behind their words.

Another aspect of this is that people have so much going on in their heads; they do not take the time to reflect and truly listen to themselves, their emotions, needs and dreams. This means that they miss opportunities to connect with their inner self and instead, deal with external matters that may seem urgent but may not be truly important. In some people this habit can be a way to avoid dealing with the inner self due to past trauma, emotional pain or lack of self-love.

ACCEPTANCE

This element connects with a few of the other points already made. As we go through each day, unexpected events will occur. This is just the way the universe works and it is important for us to realize this and “accept” that it is so. There will be good events and bad events; it is all just part of the web of life. Just as we are all not perfect, we do good things and make mistakes, the world is the same. It consists of humans after all!

Circumstances may cause us to alter our plans, but if we are living without expectations, we will not be disappointed. We will just accept the situation, be peaceful and continue to point in the general direction we have chosen. In addition, Accepting that we are human and will make errors and need to forgive ourselves and learn is very important to remember.

SLOWING DOWN

I am sure many people are like I used to be. Always trying to keep busy and mostly TOO busy. Something was always going on. I was always running off somewhere, events always seemed to be last minute. I would be forgetful and that would lead to negative opinions of myself for screwing up. So many things were buzzing in my head; it was difficult sometimes to think clearly or quickly, leading to frustration.

I have found that by slowing down and taking more time to reflect on things, I am happier. I see things and hear things that I missed before. I can listen to others better and listen to my inner self. Just sitting and thinking or listening to music or watching a few YouTube videos can be very relaxing. I seem to get new ideas and to recall things that I had enjoyed only in passing before. It is similar to stopping to smell the roses- I get the full impact of my surroundings.

So slowing down has many benefits and fits in with the other points I have made here.

GRATITUDE

There are so many things in life, great and small that we can be thankful for. However, there are so many destructive forces reminding us of all the bad things that can happen. I stopped watching the TV news because every single station uses the same approach to bombard us with terrible things from all over the world, when in reality, there is an abundance of good things that happen everyday all over the world. However, through some twisted logic, they are not considered “newsworthy”.

There have been studies done that instructed people to write down on a piece of paper, three things they are grateful for, everyday. After 60 days, their thought patterns were altered and their outlook was much more positive. Being in this more positive state then enables some of the other points made above to more readily occur.

In summary, taken collectively, all the things I have learned have allowed me to change my outlook on life and, thereby, more readily achieve my purpose- To Change The Lives of Others.

I hope that this short article will enable some of you to begin to bring yourselves into alignment with a more positive path and to allow you to find your purpose.

 Gregg Stetsko, Ph.D.

Gregg obtained a Pharmacy degree, followed by a PhD in Pharmaceutical Development, a field that combined medicine, engineering and pharmacy. Over 31 years in the pharmaceutical industry developing pharmaceutical products for the prescription and Over the Counter (OTC) markets, his experience progressed from a leader of a small group of three to Chief Scientific Officer, from large multi-national corporations to small start-ups with two people. His experience included direct supervision and/or collaboration with staff in the UK, Ireland, France, Switzerland and Germany.

His most recent experience as Vice President of R&D at a French company, sparked a deep interest in fostering personal change, leadership excellence and developing the right brain in left-brain centric people, like himself.

He is now embarking on a effort to describe the key elements behind his success in collaborating and leading others. His writing is a vehicle for sharing his personal experience in a way that can contribute to meaningful change for those who read his work.