Not long ago I visited a workshop on self-development which I found quite inspiring and the essentials of which keep resonating with me.

At the core is the profound distinction between “outside in” and “inside out”. I am picking up on this now because, once aware of this distinction, I find it hard not to observe how our world is full of the belief that life is “outside in”.

From how I understand it, “outside in” means that you perceive things happen to you and do something to you. The responsibility for what happens to you is thus perceived in the outside, with someone or something other than yourself. That could be your boss treating you inappropriately, giving you too much work or too little respect, or stressing you, or the job as such being stressful on you, or your partner not being appreciative enough of your efforts, being egoistic, depriving you of your happiness, or your kids being too noisy or stressing you, etc. I think you might get the idea.

Another way of looking at it is the following: The world is not “happening to you”. Whatever you perceive as happening to you is actually just what you make of it. It is simply the result of the stories or thoughts that you have in your system, be it from prior experience with that same person and/or situation, or totally other persons and/or situations, or simply made up afresh. It is you who chooses how to actually react to any given situation. That is why it can be called “inside out” – the world and what is happening is a result of your own subjective reality , thoughts and (re-)actions.

To give you an example: I watched a TV programme the other day on primary school policies. The school little Prince George recently joined allegedly goes so far as to prohibiting the concept of “best friend”, so that those children not considered best friend will not feel bad. Several adults discussing the issue agreed that while it was important for a child to have a best friend, it was really tough on a child not to be considered best friend. I couldn’t help but sit there wondering, perceiving the adults’ reasoning as an example of looking at the world from an “outside in” perspective: In which the child that declares another child her or his best friend is doing something to all the other children.

How about educating children to live their world inside out, to teach them about responsibility in the best of its meanings – as the power to create their own reality? So that their happiness won’t be dependent on being declared a best friend by another child.

There is a video circulating in the web just now on an Auschwitz survivor sharing how she forgave the Nazi doctors that undertook medical experiments on her when she was a child. It is the same principle, and it is truly powerful.

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