Landmark Forum Leader David Cunningham Interviewed about Responsibility and Completing the Past

The following article is from a recent interview of Landmark Forum leader David Cunningham conducted by Nigel Pierce for a Cape Town, South Africa radio station.

Nigel Pierce:     This is Good Hope FM with Nigel Pierce, Monday morning. We’re talking to David Cunningham, communications expert and leader for Landmark Education. David, good morning and welcome to the show.

Cunningham:   Thank you very much, Nigel. Good morning.

Nigel Pierce:     How do kids or adults realize their potential in a world tha’s riddled with a lot of negativity?

Cunningham:   The first thing that’s very important, Nigel, is for people to be able to separate out what actually has happened in their life from what they’ve made up about what happens – what they’ve added to what happened in their life – because the one thing that holds people back is what they’ve added to it. So, for instance, if somebody fails in school, that’s one thing, but then, they add that they’re stupid. That’s a whole other matter. To be able to really separate out what literally happened from what you’ve added to it and get that what you added to it just isn’t true. That takes away the primary barrier to people’s effectiveness in life.

Nigel Pierce:     There are a lot of people who’ve failed at school, failed at university, and they’ve failed to pick themselves up. How do they do that?

Cunningham:   The first thing that people have to do is be willing to say that no matter what the past, the past does not determine the future so that anything and everything is possible, and it takes courage for somebody to keep saying anything’s possible. You know, Nigel, sometimes it’s easier to say, “Oh, that’s impossible.” If I go, “Okay. Starting my own business, that’s impossible,” then nobody expects us to do anything about it. But the courage to simple go “Okay. Starting my own business, possible,” or “Getting along with my parents, possible,” that very first act of being willing to say it’s possible opens the door and starts somebody being in action.

Nigel Pierce:     This is Good Hope FM with Nigel Pierce. David Cunningham, communcations expert and leader for Landmark Education. How do people get past the blame game for their lack of progress in life? We blame our parents. We blame our teachers. We blame our wives, our husbands, partners.

Cunningham:   The most important thing is for people to ask a question that’s a very new question, which is “Who have I been being,” or, “Who have I become as a human being,” and you’ll see that , literally, 99 percent of what we are able to do in our lives and our performance in life is impacted by who we actually are being. There’s ways of being, like geing generous, being creative, being outgoing, being forgiving, and its’ the ways that we’re being as human beings that set the stage for all of our performance. So, it’s an improtant thing to examine. Who have I been being? When you examine that question, blame of another person just literally isn’t relevant. It just doesn’t make sense.

Nigel Pierce:     Why do some people always land on their feet?

Cunningham:   I don’t know, Nigel. If anybody always lands on their feet, I think what happens, in my experience with people in our Landmark programs, for instance, I think what happens for people is there’s a capacity to not get dragged down by the circumstances of life. If the circumstances can be the circumstances, and you know that the circumstances don’t dtermine who you are and what’s possible for you, then the circumstances don’t get you no matter what.

I’ve got a good example of that if you want one with my own mom. My mom and my step dad, Nigel, were married for 30 years. They had a beautiful marriage, and in the last six years of my step dad’s life he forgot who my mom was. He had dementia and forgot who my mom was, and in those six years, if you watched my mom, while those were terrible circumstances, my mom, the quality of her life wasn’t given by those circumstances because she was clear about one thing – who she was going to be as a human being. And given she was so clear about that, the circumstances aren’t what governed her, and she was able to have love and joy in her marriage even after her husband forgot who she was.

Nigel Pierce:     So, you have got to tell yourself as a human being, “I’m going to be a doctor.” “I’m going to open up my own business.” “I’m going to make this marriage work.” “I am going to be a better person, a more loving person.”

Cunningham:   Nigel, it’s not quite positive thinking like that. It is more in the domain of possibility. It’s one thing is to say that it’s possible and another thing to really be able to get a view of situations where the circumstances don’t weigh you down. And again, it’s for people to get that literally 1 percent of the quality of our life is given by what happends, and 99 percent of the quality of our life and what impacts us is given by what we add to what happens. And for people to do that very simple but straight forward exercise. Sometimes I haev people take out a piece of paper. What literally happened to you? Good. And that’s usually one or two things. What did you add to that? “I’m a failure.” “I’m not successful enough.” “People don’t like me.” “People won’t give me a chance.” And what people add is usually much longer than what actually happened, and when pepole can separate that out and deal with simply what’s happened in their life, they’re very effective.

Nigel Pierce:     So, in other words, once you’ve failed or you’ve landed in prison, end it there, and move on.

Cunningham:   Yes. I know it sounds a little bit oversimplified, but it actually is very accurate. It’s called being complete with the past. When a human being is complete with the past, their future’s free. So, it’s important always to be complete with the past. What happened, happened. What didn’t, didn’t. It’s complete, and then, you still have your freedom and your choice and your power as a human being for the future.

Stay tuned for the next part of Nigel Pierce’s interview with David Cunningham, where they discuss overcoming fear, having abundance, and the opportunity of making a difference.

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