Written by: Christina Marlett, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Marriage can be challenging. When you see it as an opportunity for spiritual growth, it takes on a whole new dimension. This series explores a variety of lessons learned from a long-lasting, happy marriage.
The second spiritual lesson
This week is all about having a growth mindset and doing your own work. When you’re growing and expanding, you’re in alignment with your soul and the very nature of the Universe, which is also always expanding. Living with the intention of having a growth mindset in your partnership is satisfying and fulfilling at a deep level. It also makes life interesting and fun. There are a variety of aspects to cultivating a growth mindset that are important so let’s dive in.
You can’t change each other (So don’t even try)
Have you ever tried to change someone? If you’re familiar with that experience, you’ll likely know that it doesn’t work. The only person you can truly change is yourself. Fortunately, I didn’t go into our marriage with the intention of changing Paul. He was spectacular to start off with. Sure, he ate too much fast food but that was about it. Along the way, we both discovered things about each other that I’m sure we wanted to change but we’ve always directed our attention toward personal growth and learning, which I believe has helped us stay together for so long. We encourage and accept each other’s growth. Many years into our marriage, Paul started carving. He travelled several times to study with elders on Canada’s West Coast and spent several hours each week on his craft. I enthusiastically accepted this significant change because I could see that it made him happy to express his creativity. Paul has also accepted a lot of growth and shifts in me. I left my career as a teacher to have our kids and then blossomed into an accidental entrepreneur along the way. This journey had me studying all over North America (at great expense) and he graciously supported and encouraged me, even when it took years to figure out the income piece. We support each other’s big dreams as well. I have 100% confidence in Paul’s vision for himself and will do whatever it takes to help make it happen. He does the same for me. We share our ideas, ask each other for advice and know that if you can dream it, you can do it. You can only have dreams that are meant for you; it’s just a matter of taking the steps to get there and trusting in your vision.
Your work won’t be the same; Follow your inner guidance
Paul and I both love learning. We’ve read all sorts of books, taken courses, watched videos and had coaches with the intention of bettering ourselves. When we first got married at the ages of 21 and 22, I (naively) thought we were both going to read all the same books and discuss them in depth. I remember feeling quite hurt initially when Paul didn’t want to read one of the books I loved. (Isn’t the young version of me so adorable?) He chose his own books and I realized that I didn’t want to read some of those, which helped me understand that we are our own people with different interests. Sometimes our learning intersects and other times it’s more individual. Gradually, I learned to treasure both experiences. How to choose your next learning adventure? We’ve always followed our hearts and inner guidance (which I didn’t know was even a thing for many years). One time I went to a 3-day course where a much bigger ticket item was offered at the end. I felt compelled to register, even though I didn’t know where the money was going to come from. I trusted my heart and went for it. (Of course, I called Paul first before making the purchase. I didn’t just go home and say, “Surprise! I just spent $10K!) Although he had agreed to it, Paul was not thrilled with that decision. He did his best to be supportive, and yet, he had a lot of anger about the year-long course I purchased for us. Over time, he came to appreciate my daring investment and ultimately, he agreed that it was the best thing we both ever experienced. So, following your heart will never lead you astray.
Stay in your own energy
======== One of the most powerful concepts I’ve learned that has been so beneficial to our marriage is staying in my own energy. I used to think it was my responsibility to make Paul feel better if he wasn’t his usual happy self. Basically, I wanted to fix his emotions if they seemed uncomfortable for either of us. It was exhausting! Over the years of learning, I was exposed to the following super-helpful idea. (I don’t recall who shared it so I’m sending out a blanket of gratitude in hopes it will envelop the right person.)Let’s say that someone you love is down in the dumps. You could picture them at the bottom of a well. If you jump down into the well with them, emotionally speaking, then you will both be there with no way of getting out.
If, however, you offer a rope from the top, you stay up there and are much more helpful and supportive. Emotionally speaking, a rope from the top means that you stay in your own energy. Here’s an example. During one of our moves (I like moving as part of my growth mindset to get all sorts of different experiences), it was an extremely hot day. We pushed a bit too hard, didn’t eat much, didn’t drink much and ended up exhausted. By the time we got our bed built and were ready to go to sleep, Paul was beyond depleted. Our new place was scorching, it was next to a street with a remarkably active nightlife so it was extremely loud and it was too much for Paul. He became very upset. An older version of me would have tried to talk him out of it and/or gotten very upset myself (aka jumped down into the well). Instead, I applied what I had learned about staying in my own energy. I sat next to him, stayed calm and focused on taking deep breaths (Central Channel Breaths that I learned from my mentor, Dr Sue Morter, to be specific). I let him have the emotional experience that he needed to have and I remained present, peaceful and loving. I was very surprised by how easeful the whole experience was rather than working really hard to change it. Paul has done the same for me when I’ve been in the well and it feels incredibly supportive. We’ve moved through a lot of ups and downs by staying in our own energy as a couple and as parents.
Know your values
Another aspect of having a growth mindset is knowing your values. When you’re clear on what’s most important to you, both on your own and as a couple, you make better decisions. For example, one of my top values is connection. It’s very important to me to feel connected to my higher self, to the divine, to my husband, to my children, to my body, to my other loved ones and to nature. Another one of my top values is freedom. I do not like too much routine or too many rules or constraints. Paul, on the other hand, values security. He likes to feel safe whereas I like to take risks (like with money, career and other big life decisions). However, he’s more open to taking physical risks – he loves rock climbing and winter bike riding – and I prefer physical safety – yoga is great for me! It’s so helpful to know each other’s values because it helps us be compassionate, understanding of each other and interested. It also helps us accept our differences. Plus, we can help each other grow. I’ve shown Paul that when we take risks with money, it works out 100% of the time. He’s helped me stretch my comfort zone in other ways. Knowing your values enhances your ability to complement each other and create a cohesive bond. Not sure of your values? Here’s what to do.
Check out this list of values.
Write down your top 10 from the list.
Narrow it down to your top 5 by weighing which ones are the most important to you.
If you could only have 3 of your top 5, which ones would they be? Write them down.
If you could only have 1 of your top 3, which one would it be? Write it down.
If you’re in a relationship, invite your significant other to do the exercise as well and then have a discussion about what you uncover. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of each other and where you’re coming from. Knowing your values will greatly enhance your life.
Become a level 10 person
At one of the courses I took as a result of shelling out all the cash I talked about earlier, I learned an idea from T. Harv Eker that I refer to often (so the investment was worth it!). Let’s say that there’s a scale out of 10 for the level of person you are. There’s also a scale out of 10 for problems. If you’re a level 4 person and you have a level 6 problem, it will take you out. It will be a really big problem. If you’re a level 8 person, though, and you have a level 6 problem, it’s way less of an issue. If you’re a level 10 person and you encounter a level 1 problem, it’s pretty much a non-issue. It barely registers as a blip. If you’re a level 1 person, though, that same level 1 problem is a big deal. The idea here is to continue to grow as a person so that you can handle bigger problems with grace and ease. As you evolve, your problems decrease in intensity. Here’s an example. Many years ago, I came out to the parking lot of our building one morning to find that our car had been broken into. The steering wheel column was dismantled, some money was stolen and the car smelled like cigarettes. I could barely handle it. I felt violated and sat there in shock for a while before I realized I could call someone. I was upset for weeks. The problem level was higher than my level as a person. Fast forward about 10 years. On the street outside a different building we lived in (about 3 moves later), our car got broken into in broad daylight. I believe I left it unlocked by accident for about 15 minutes while we were inside. Some money was stolen (didn’t learn that lesson the first time), as were my husband’s designer sunglasses (that he had found in the ocean in Hawaii). The bigger deal was that our garage entry key for the entire building was also gone. This time, though, my emotional reaction was completely different. I blessed the person who needed our money and other stuff more than we did and felt completely fine. We quickly resolved the garage key issue, paid the corresponding money for that mistake and went on our way. In this very similar scenario, my personal level was much higher than the problem level. The levels are a great incentive for personal growth, plus they help you track where you’re at in your evolution. You’ll notice as you grow that what used to be a level 8 problem for you is now a level 2 or 1. It’s a simple concept that has made a big impact in my life. Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful too.
One of our mentors, Brendon Burchard, talks about the importance of emotional control, meaning that you don’t take out your emotions on others. Ideally, you want to treat your loved ones the best, but the opposite can happen. Emotional mastery is when you have matured emotionally to the point where you have a different strategy when big emotions show up. This practice has been a game-changer for me. Over the course of my personal and spiritual development, it came to my attention that I had a whole lot of anger buried inside that had been suppressed for a very long time. Often I turned that anger inward toward myself (not so healthy) and sometimes it escaped and got unleashed on Paul or the kids (also not so healthy). I was so grateful to learn about emotional mastery as a new alternative. From another mentor, Leela Francis, I discovered that emotions have corresponding physical sensations in the body and when you pay attention to them, the emotions can move through more effectively. For example, my throat often gets tight when there’s anger and my chest tightens when there’s fear. Since emotions are simply energy, they’re meant to flow through the body rather than get stuck. They’re not meant to last for hours, weeks, or days. Ideally, they are energy in motion. Here’s a great practice I use for emotional mastery to prevent big emotions from getting stuck.
Notice the emotion.
Ask your body where that emotion is alive as sensation.
Pay attention to the sensation; not to make it go away, but to love, accept and embrace it. It has information for you.
Breathe into the area of sensation to get the energy moving.
Optional: you can even move that area to encourage the energy to flow. Dancing with your emotions is very powerful.
When you maturely address emotions in this way, you don’t need to release them on others because the intense energy will already be dissipated. In our home, we really value peace, harmony and calm. Emotional mastery helps to ensure that most of our communication reflects those ideals. Sure, sometimes we don’t quite get there but we always come back to that happy medium thanks to understanding what to do with big emotions.
How can I?
The last part of having a growth mindset that has been so helpful in our marriage is asking the question: How can I? Personally, I rarely say, “I can’t.” Instead, I say, “How can I?”
Paul and I are both devoted to creative solutions. No problem in your life will ever appear that doesn’t have an answer.
During one of our moves, a whole bunch of problems appeared in quick succession. The moving company gave away our truck by accident, we weren’t allowed to move on a different day because we had to hire a guy from the building to supervise the doors, there was a neighbour who was watching like a hawk and was ready to report us if we did anything against the building rules and it was insanely hot. Essentially, we were trapped in our home with our furniture, sweating profusely.
Paul and I looked at each other in disbelief and said, “What are we supposed to do?” At that point, it occurred to me that the Universe was giving us a really big compliment. So many things got thrown our way all at once and I knew there had to be a solution that it felt like the Universe was saying, “You are more resourceful and creative than you even knew.”
I had very deep faith that there had to be a solution and sure enough, we figured it all out. Paul worked some magic and ended up finding a different moving vehicle (even though there was nothing left in the whole city that day). We lifted our smaller furniture over our ground-floor balcony, parked the truck down the street, stayed out of sight of the hawk-eye neighbour and got as much stuff out as possible. The next day, Paul miraculously found another van (albeit a very small one), the hired guy watched the door and our family helped move what was left. All sorts of creative solutions appeared because I knew the problem couldn’t be bigger than our resourcefulness. We just continued to ask “How can I?” rather then say, “I can’t”.
So there you have it. Having a growth mindset has been a powerful contributing factor to the success of our marriage. We don’t try to change each other and focus on ourselves instead, we do our own work and follow our inner guidance. We endeavour to stay in our own energy and know our values, we grow ourselves as people and decrease our problems, we work on emotional mastery and we ask “How can I?”.
Individually, these practices have dramatically improved our lives and collectively, they’ve made 25 years feel fruitful, fulfilling and rewarding. What a gift to be able to grow individually and together.
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Christina Marlett, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine As the creator of Courageous Self-Care, Christina is passionate about helping stressed out high achievers learn to lead their communities, families and themselves from a place of wholeness, overflowing energy and deep self-respect. She excels at helping overwhelmed leaders revitalize their energy from the inside out so that they can be productive and peaceful at the same time. Christina is a certified Embodiment Coach, Body Awake Yoga teacher, Happy for No Reason Trainer, Energy Codes Facilitator and BEST Practitioner who helps you take inspired action so that you have epic relationships, vibrant health and so much energy that people will ask you what you’ve been doing differently.