The Oxford dictionary defines immutable as “unchanging over time or unable to be changed.” An immutable law is a truism that guides your thoughts, actions, and feelings. They tend to stow away in our subconscious, but if we coax them to the surface, we can learn to rely on their wisdom. Learning to tap into them, and trust in their guidance can bring a level of serenity into our life that we never thought possible. Today, I thought I would share my 5 Immutables with you, and I invite you to consider what your immutables are.
1. Adversity is not an obstacle in my path, but rather a stepping stone to catapult me to further growth.
It’s taken me 47 years to figure this one out. Luckily learning to lean in to adversity pays immediate tangible dividends that make the initial discomfort more than worthwhile. I studied Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in school, yet it’s only recently that I discovered I had misinterpreted his premise. I had convinced myself that his theory proposed that “only the strongest survive”. It turns out, I was completely wrong. Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
I’d like you to close your eyes and think about the biggest secret you have; the one that you would be mortified if people ever discovered. It’s the one thing you’ve buried deep inside, refusing to acknowledge it or to let it see the light of day. Well, I too had a secret like that, and I hid it from everyone for 35 years, even those closest to me. When I finally decided to disclose this secret, I learned to embrace my First Immutable, and this adversity became a stepping stone to dramatic personal growth. In essence, I was living proof of Darwin’s theory. As an added bonus…. the best part about being open to vulnerability is that it is contagious. You’ll be amazed how your courage to be vulnerable and honest opens the door for many others to connect with you at a level of authenticity you never thought possible.
2. Self-care is nonnegotiable. I need to carve time out of every day to do the things that make me spiritually, physically, and emotionally healthy.
Just the other day, my wife mentioned to me that she was “jealous of my ability to prioritize self-care in my life”. I had never really thought about it before because it’s become an unconscious routine like brushing my teeth. When I finally decided to get clean and sober 16 years ago, I started training for a marathon with two gentlemen I met in AA. Running became my time to clear out my head and process a wellspring of emotions percolating up to the surface. I credit much of my recovery to my prioritizing time each morning for a minimum of 2 hours of running and yoga. It doesn’t matter what the weather is or if we are on vacation or not, I always start my day off by grounding myself in this self-care ritual. I learned a long time ago that when I don’t feel good about myself, I’m not much use to those around me I care deeply about.
3. “Family” does not only include my relatives; it encompasses everyone in my “tribe” of friends, inspirers, and truth seekers.
I would describe my relationship with my birth family as torturous at best. For years, I beat myself up because I didn’t have the loving connection with my family that I perceived in other families. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned has been to treat my relationship with my mother and siblings with what Buddhists refer to as “benign acceptance”. I no longer have a visceral hatred for my mother or embedded anger towards my siblings; today I simply choose not to have them in my life because I know that I don’t feel healthy when I am around them. My “family” today encompasses my supportive in-laws, my dearest friends, my running mates, and most recently, other adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
4. Negative energy breeds negative energy, so surrounding myself with positive people has a huge bearing on my mental wellbeing.
We all know them, and at times we’ve all been that person before; the “Eeyore” that brings everyone down and spews pessimism in all directions. I’m known for my irreverent sarcasm and ability to bring levity to even the most grim situation. Only recently have I realized that my sarcasm can be just as destructive as another person’s negativity. If I want to be surrounded by positive and engaging people, I need to contribute my positive energy to that environment. This is by far the most challenging of my Immutables to maintain because the second I drop my vigilance, that is the time when I become a negativity vampire. In AA, we have a saying that, “If you hang around a barbershop long enough, you’ll wind up getting a haircut, so if you hang around bars and alcohol, eventually you’ll pick up a drink again.” I guess the same rule applies to those you invite into your life; positive people breed positivity.
5. Identify your "X-Factor" and embrace it! For me, it’s my resiliency.
The last of my Immutables requires lots of self-exploration and honesty. I invite you to take a piece of paper and spend 5 minutes jotting down adjectives you would use to describe yourself. Next, get a red pen and cross out all of the negative adjectives you’ve written down. Now, imagine that the world is facing an imminent catastrophic event and only 100 people can be saved. You are standing in front of the selection committee and you have to sell yourself as worthy to be saved using only one adjective. For me, I am resilient. I’ve faced a lot of adversity throughout my life and I’m still going strong; I’ve managed to stay married for 26 years; I’ve helped raise an incredible son; I am a positive contributing member to my community. What’s your X-Factor? How can you harness it to make your life the greatest it can be?