There is a shadow outside your window.
If you think the shadow is a burglar, you will instantly feel afraid.
But, if your first thought is that it’s your kid sneaking out you may feel anger or disappointment.
Or, if you interpret “the signs” in such a way that you think it’s your friend pulling a prank, you may feel mischievous.
Your thoughts (perceptions) exist as they do at any moment based on your incredibly unique combination of past experiences, knowledge, beliefs, DNA, family history, muscle memory, and so on. Every moment is a combination of factual information combined with a story that your brain is automatically writing (based out of all the above variables) to make sense of that moment.
The instant you get a piece of information that changes what you think something means, your feelings will instantly change.
Let’s say you quickly and easily assume the shadow is your kid because he has a history of sneaking out, you told him no today, and you don't have a history of being robbed.
It’s only after you check your kid's room and see him sprawled out asleep that you think, “we are getting robbed,” which creates fear. With trembling hands, you look out the window again but this time you notice your best friends car parked in front. Your brain makes a few connections and you instantly remember how they threatened to get you back for your great prank on Halloween. You feel relief.
You quickly think about how you can’t let them one-up your prank which creates the feeling of motivation in your body to start plotting a prank on their prank. You are proud of yourself for catching them and imagine yourself boasting when you beat them at their game. You're amused until you hear glass shattering in your living room.
In the split second after hear shattering you think, “That’s not my friend; they would never destroy my property. I’m being robbed! We could all be killed” and this creates feelings of sheer panic. Your next thoughts may be hopeless thoughts that create despair and propel you to shut down. Or, you may think thoughts of yourself as the protector and feel a brave drive that causes you to charge the living room.
You charge the room. All at once you simultaneously recognize the figure of your friend, process that the living room window is intact, and hear your child laughing on the stairwell with a sound machine. You let go of all those previous thoughts and eventually join them in relieved laughter, or yell at them in anger, depending on what you are choosing to think about their taste in pranks!
This is a silly story (about a very bad prank idea) demonstrating:
How changeable thoughts are
How changeable your feelings are
How you are the creator of both of your own thoughts and feelings, and they aren’t based on facts or circumstance but how you interpret facts and circumstance.
Lack of awareness or accountability for how you feel is what keeps your habits and cycles comfortably hamster-wheeling, always coming back around again. Most of you are convinced that if only something or someone else would change, then you could show up different, behave differently, and feel different.
- Is how you are feeling right now about your life useful?
- What if you could create feelings that propel you to the actions you want to take?
- What if you could believe new thoughts that allow you to make more courageous choices or to feel more loving?
I was recently at a weekend event, and I’m not proud of this, but I kept thinking that the others present just weren’t 'my people' and that I didn’t have much to gain from them. I noticed I was repeating these sort of thoughts to myself and not only were they judgemental but they left me feeling bored, reluctant and aloof.
While journaling I “woke up” and was honest about how my thinking was affecting my experience. I was there no matter what and decided I would rather feel warmth and interest in others. Determined to shift the experience I was creating, I forced myself to think thoughts that were curious about who people were. I thought about creative questions I wanted to ask, and I planned to strategically to start conversations.
I instantly felt better. Not only that, but the next conversation I started ended with my own tears streaming down my face as I listened to an incredible story of someone else’s childhood experience. From that moment on my experience was different. I choose that positive experience just as much as I was choosing a low-quality one in the beginning.
Managing your mind takes a simple choice, over and over again.
It can be done through specific journaling exercises, meditation, specific ways of praying, being picky about what you consume, and investing in coaching or any help that pushes you to see yourself in new ways and be ruthlessly honest with yourself.
What is something you want to do differently?
Name something, and then examine how you think and feel about it currently. What do you need to think and feel to stay motivated to do it differently then you are now? Practice those thoughts. Choose them, again and again, and see what you create.
I know how challenging this work can be. I also know the payoff is priceless and support makes all the difference. That's why I offer a free 30-minute mini-coaching sessions to my blog readers. Shhhh!!! Check out my calendar here.