It's such a strange idea, that our own minds shape the very experience of our lives. Yet it's the very foundation of the science of NLP, that actually it's not what happens to us that counts, but how we interpret the events in our lives, that decides whether experiences are positive or negative, challenging or destructive, joyful or miserable, help or hindrance. The fact being that the things that happen to you just ARE. And, in many respects, whether you want them or not, they are most often personally invited guests (yes, I mean by you). Even so, it's not the events themselves that are important; it's what you make of them that really counts.
So how are you allowing events to sabotage your life? And what can you do to take back control?
1. You feel like everyone is out to get you
This is a common problem and even though, at first glance, it sounds like extreme paranoia, it's incredibly typical to see people quickly becoming defensive when there really is no need.
For example, if your boss asks what you've been doing today, you can read that in a number of ways. You could decide that she is really interested in what you've been doing, that she'd like to hear your ideas, that she's lining you up for promotion or that she's worried you have too much work and is considering enlisting some help for you. On the flip side, you could assume she's questioning whether you've been working hard enough, or on the right things; perhaps she even thinks you've spent all day surfing facebook and buying Christmas presents on ebay. Can you see how the interpretation you choose to put on this interaction, will significantly impact your feelings about, and reaction to, the question?
Actually, your mind can come up with all kinds of reasons for this innocuous question, but it really doesn't have a clue what your boss's true motivation is (unless you're a telepath). You may try and read cues from her body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice but, unless you straight out and ask her - and she may be so taken aback that she won't give you the truth anyway - you have no way to identify what's going on in her mind.
So, how can you avoid sabotaging a perfectly good day? Well, the trick here is not to try and mind read at all. Your brain is pre-programmed with a negative bias so, unless you are extremely in tune with your gaffer, chances are you'll pick one of those dodgy scenarios that causes you to get all defensive and over-think yourself insane. Instead, take the question at face value, and don't bother trying to understand the context in which it's being asked. Just give a friendly answer and forget all about it. Easier said than done? Believe me, it gets incredibly easy with practice, and the fact that you won't waste precious brain power stressing over it, will allow you to stay more productive and optimistic. Also, if there are any negative concerns behind the question, your boss will likely dismiss them due to your easy open approach. So, from today, make a deal with yourself to take people at face value and stop mind reading people's intentions. Think of a recent situation where you could have used this technique to completely change your reaction.
2. You see more obstacles than opportunities
If every time you want to try something different, you find yourself coming up with a reason (or 20) as to why you can't, then you are falling into this trap. The most common obstacle we trot out is that we're not good enough, clever enough, fit enough, charming enough, experienced enough, young enough, creative enough, confident enough, knowledgeable enough, pretty enough, tall enough, wealthy enough, slim enough. We also tell ourselves we don't have the time, or the energy, the contacts, or the gift of the gab. We complain that women never reach board level, that if we didn't have bad luck, we'd have none at all, that our face doesn't "fit", and that we couldn't possibly take a different path now after putting so many years into our relationship/education/career/(insert word of choice), regardless of whether it's what we still want. Are you getting the picture?
What you say, aloud or in your mind, whether you notice it or not, becomes a formidable power in your life. Every event you experience will be filtered through those beliefs, and distorted (yes, falsified) by your mind, to ensure that it fits within your belief system. You will actively (though often subconsciously) seek out opportunities to further strengthen your beliefs, and so will find yourself inviting more and more negative, self-sabotaging experiences into your life. Is it starting to become clear that if you're holding any of these types of beliefs, then you can pretty much give up on ever making real progress in your life?All is not lost though, if you are feeling unfulfilled by your life, and are beginning to hunger for change, then it is absolutely possible to start turning these things on their head.
In order to do that though, you need to become acutely aware of what's going on in your mind. Pay major attention to the babble that constantly rattles on inside your head and, when you hear yourself saying "Oh, I can't do that because....", ask:
"But, what would happen if I did?"
"When did I decide that I couldn't/wasn't _____ enough?"
"What would it take to change that?"
"When have I done something similar and had it work out?"
"What have I got to gain?"
Another great way to turn such narrow minded thinking on it's head is to go out and take an action (just a small one) to prove that the opposite is true. For example, if you think you're not confident enough to talk to strangers, then go to a coffee shop and force yourself to walk up to someone sitting alone, ask to join them and strike up a conversation. Ok, it's going to make you CRINGE inside, but if you do it every day for a week, you'll soon get over it and, before you know it, you'll realise that actually you have stacks of confidence and are completely capable of speaking to strangers. What else could you do to address your particular hang ups?
3. You see life as something to be endured rather than enjoyed
This is a particular hotspot for me personally. For more than a decade, I prided myself on how hard I worked, how busy I was, how difficult my life was, how I couldn't get enough rest, never had enough time with my family, was constantly playing support to people, and never got any "me time". And I was rewarded for it!
People were shocked at how much I did, reminded me I needed to take some time to look after myself, put me on a pedestal as some virtue of dedication, told me "I honestly don't know how you do it!" I acted like I was wonder-woman, but inside I felt like an empty shell. The glorification of busy, simply encouraged my martyrdom and so, for many years, I actually got lost in thinking that this was what life was. Make sure everyone sees you grafting your backside off, while holding it all together, and that means you've made it in life. And then, I cracked.
And, when I did, I began to realise that I had wasted so much opportunity for joy and love and happiness, while I'd been wrapped up in being this long-distance-slogger.
So, if you're living your life like an endurance contest, I urge you to stop immediately, before you burn out. So often I see people throwing personal pity parties, reminding everyone of how difficult their lives are, and lapping up the kind words and stunned admiration of all around. But, life is not about winning the suffering contest. And if all of your focus is on how difficult things are, then you will never make time to smell the roses.
If this is ringing any bells for you, change it immediately by putting focus into the positive things in life, and reminding yourself daily of how good they are. Get yourself a notebook or diary, and write down all of the good things in your life. Each day, add what particular things you're proud of or grateful for, and take time to enjoy the company of your loved ones and yourself.
Think you don't have the time? Try switching your phone off in the evenings. And the TV. Life is for living. So get on with it!!!
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