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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The DMV, And My Folks: Lean Into The Light With Compassioned PRRRP

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how to achieve success

A couple years back, I got a speeding ticket. Rather than add 3 points to my driving record, I opted to take the Department of Motor Vehicles online driver re-education class, and of course, like most of us, I simply wanted to get through the class and do my best to be more aware of my speed in the future. Big whoop, right?! Well, to my astonishment, during the course, a simple psychological concept was offered that could have possibly prevented me from obtaining the ticket in the first place. The idea was “Reflect, Reframe, and Refocus (RRR),”  a way for a driver to grab a hold of and redirect negative and unpleasant thoughts, leading to a keener awareness, better habits, and smarter choices while driving.

It seemed to me that this same RRR concept could be used to improve the totality of one’s life by directing it in a more desired direction, a promising possibility of altering the day to day, the bad habits, and the unfortunate choices that are holding us back on a regular basis. I was ready to apply the RRR concept in my life by adding it to my normal thought process. However, it felt like there was something missing from the concept, so I took further pause before I began to reflect. Eureka! Pause! I then realized that before one could begin Reflecting on how to replace negative thoughts and habits with more positive and desired ones, one had to stop the momentum of the current thoughts.

So, one of my new guiding concepts for life improvement became Pause, Reflect, Reframe, and Refocus (PRRR). Nonetheless, I continued to feel that a step was missing, and I just wasn’t able to figure out what that was at that moment.

A few weeks after I had revised the DMV’s RRR method to my personal PRRR method, I was invited by friends to attend a casual gathering recognizing Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. It was an event that brought together a diverse group of individuals to help heal a community after an incident occurred that had the potential for sowing feelings of racial division. The entertainment for the gathering was that of education, given via art, music, and poetry, to Reflect upon the struggle African Americans had gone through and some of which they still go through to this day. They also spoke of the actions taken to simply hold on and empower each other in ingenious and creative ways during their time of extreme struggle. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the initiatives he took to free his people was a discussion as well. It was a powerfully positive and very memorable evening for me.

Looking back a day later, reliving the energy and joy of that evening, I thought about King and what he represented to his people at that time, what he represents now to all people, how he had gotten there, and what made him a leader that people chose to follow through a long and agonizing struggle. I saw it was his capacity to develop and communicate a vision of his movement’s ultimate goal. He learned and developed his craft of telling a story. No less important, he had learned how to listen so that he could best tell his story. He may or may not have utilized the PRRR method, but I am almost certain a method similar in nature was utilized in the manifesting of his great vision.

However, Dr. King did not merely offer a vision and develop actions to make that vision a reality from a safe distance. Like a fighting general leading at the front of his troops, he was always on the frontline leading the way. He was Proactive in making his vision a reality. The Pause, Reflect, Reframe, and Refocus components for achieving change are largely mental components. Mental exercises alone are rarely successful in altering negative thoughts, changing bad habits, or achieving a vision. One must take action, that is, be Proactive. Feeling the missing piece fall into place, this life improving concept solidified: Pause, Reflect, Reframe, Refocus, and be Proactive (PRRRP).

In regard to King’s message, I would argue that he had compassion for all people, not just for those of his color. I believe he saw all people as his people. I feel he knew that while many on the oppressor side wanted to change, they were very much bound by over a hundred years of a broken framework that they did not know how to get out of and lacked the courage to do so. Even more were dutifully practicing what they had been programmed to believe from past generations. I feel Dr. King knew that he, along with many others, would have to teach both his people of color and their oppressors new ways of thinking and being. While resistance was needed, it would have to be done patiently, and it would have to be done compassionately through non violence. I feel such a compassion could only come from a love for all.

Historically, we know that Dr. King heeded the call of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, to protest and take a stand against the Vietnam War. I sense King knew he would be ostracized by his peers and those of his own race by doing such. However, he was willing to be at the forefront of simultaneous two battles, a challenge King took because he was driven by his appreciation and love for all people. In times of great turmoil, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. showed it was possible to not only lean into the light, but to be the light.

During my own Reflections, I realized where I’d had first hand experience of the traits of being proactive and demonstrating compassion to others: at home while growing up. I recalled that when my father had a vision, he took proactive steps to make it real. Achieving his visions rarely happened overnight because they were very ambitious. His visions often stretched the imaginations of those who lived with him, myself included. However, he had laser-like focus and always, bit by bit, achieved them.

Like Dr. King, my mom’s compassion and love were demonstrated on an almost daily basis. In regard to her capacity to have compassion and love for all, I specifically remember a story she told me back during a time when she was a teacher assistant. She was given the task of taking an ethnicity census of all the children in her class. She had to really take the time to go and look at each one, because she saw no color and no ethnicity. She only saw these little energy filled beings that wanted to play, explore, love, and be loved. She was actually quite annoyed because she had been forced to see them as ethnic entities rather than simply as children.

The insights provided by this Reflective moment was one of clarity for me. In my younger years and early adult life, I had the Pause and Reflect down like nobody’s business. However, it took me a stretch to figure out how to Reframe and Refocus. It took me even longer yet to build the confidence in order to truly be Proactive in my own life. I also saw that I was trying to merge the best parts of each of my parents into my own life approach. The practice of being compassionately proactive had slowly emerged from within me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as human as everyone else, and I still have my foibles that I too constantly work through. But, I am now more able lean into the light and go in the direction that I actually want to for the benefit of myself and hopefully many others.

If you’ve made it this far, I will now give you the elaboration of Pause, Reflect, Reframe, Refocus, & be Proactive so that you may find yourself more able to successfully be, have, and achieve:

PAUSE

  • ‍The best way I can describe this is to bring all current thought and emotion to a standstill. There is breathing deeply, specifically in through the nose and out through the mouth. Meditation is a great way to achieve the Pause. Getting out into nature by one’s self is a means that I find brings awesome results. I have yet to try, but from what I’ve heard, yoga is also excellent. Cardio exercise can clear the mind as well. As you can see, there are many paths to bring one’s self to a productive Pause state. Also, please remember that the best path is the one that works for you. So, take some time, test some methods, and determine the best route for yourself. This experimentation will pay off in spades, because essentially, one is creating a launchpad for redirecting thoughts, emotions and actions. If you are not able to put yourself in a sort of flow, at the very least, do things that put you at ease and that relax you into a more calm space.

REFLECT/REFRAME

  • ‍After the Pause step, I find that approaching the Reflection/Reframe steps by asking questions of myself to assist in better identifying negative thoughts or self-defeating habits. Questions during Reflect look backward into the past while Reframe questions look forward. I combine Reflect and Reframe because one must often oscillate between the two in order to get real traction. There are a plethora of questions that could be asked, but, in any case, all will be relative to the situation and emotions you are experiencing. For instance, If you are in search for something and are feeling lost, you may begin to ask yourself things such as: What do I like? What do I want? Why do I want it? If you are trying to change your relationship with an individual, you may try asking questions that empathize with that individual. Most of us focus on what we want in a relationship with an individual, but this only gets one so far. Try getting beyond your needs and compassionately focus on the needs of others. Journaling is a great way to go through the process of Reflect/Reframe without asking yourself a ton of questions. If you’re stuck in rumination where you are still seeing little to no hope, are angry, are upset, etc. you probably need to go back into Pause. Then from there, you’ll probably want to ask yourself questions that relate to a much broader perspective as opposed to those that focus on details that previously stopped your progress and blocked your insight. I think one of the most important things to keep in mind during this process is that it is your journey and the answers you find will most likely be unique to you, and this a good.

REFOCUS

  • This is where the action lists and strategies come into play. This is still technically Reflect/Reframe, but this stage is after you’ve received clarity as to what you want. You are now developing a roadmap to best guide your efforts toward the desired being, having, and achieving. Questions might include: Will the people that I currently have surrounded myself with help me get there? Do I need mentors (the answer is always yes)? Where can I find my mentors? What resources will I need? Besides questions such as the previous, it is a good idea to break down your life changing plan into the smallest tasks possible. This will help in turning what may appear to be a massive mountain into multiple molehills. Prioritizing the tasks is something that I also find helpful. If, at any time, you start to feel yourself getting overwhelmed during this time of change, you can go back to Pause. However, never give up, and you may very well get yourself to where you want to go if you are patient.‍

Be PROACTIVE

  • You have now developed a plan and a roadmap to guide your change. You can now apply everything learned/created from the Reflect/Reframe and Refocus, and ultimately, turn your thoughts into a reality. If you’ve made the list or map, have the dream, have the knowledge, have the drive, or have the vision, but don’t do anything about it, nothing will change. If you find yourself unable to launch, you may want to go back to Pause or Reflect/Reframe. If you need to, in the Reflect/Reframe mode, ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen? What would I do if the worst happened? Is there anything I can do to limit the damage? What is the best that could happen? Is there anything more I can do to feel more confident in the execution of what I want to accomplish? Change can be difficult, but you have the capacity to positively evolve and achieve something you desire.

Lastly, I challenge you to add some aspect of compassion to some element or perspective of your visions.

You can do it!

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Best and Happiness,