It's All in Your Head
On a recent coaching call with a client, he started the conversation by exclaiming “This has been the week from hell!” I immediately felt empathy and was curious about all of the awful things that had happened. As he explained the events of the preceding days, I never heard the catastrophic crisis I was expecting. Yes, there was an argument with his wife and a tiff with his boss, but by and large nothing had really changed from the previous week’s session in which he had begun by telling me how wonderful things had been since he started working with me. So what was the difference? His language gave it away immediately.
“I’m so fed up,” “She ruined my whole day,”
"He doesn't appreciate anything I do," “My life is never going to change.” The story he was telling himself had completely turned around. The hopeful, positive comments from the former weeks were absent:
“We've had some really good discussions and were able to reach a compromise,” “I feel like these new tools are making my life infinitely better,”
"I'm excited to try this," “I take what he says with a grain of salt." What had changed was not on the outside. He had problems and difficulties that we discussed every week. The change was in the thoughts he was allowing in his mind.
You see, most of our life is played out in our heads. We pretty much have the same physical experiences from week to week with small little nuances here and there; what we tell ourselves about each of those occurrences, however, makes up our reality. Those who feel they have terrible lives have a stream of negative thoughts consistently passing through their minds. Those who see the world as an amazing place have a different set of thoughts. Every challenge is a new opportunity versus one more piece of crap to pile onto the heap of all the unfair things that have happened. I am not minimizing bad things happening. Trust me--I have had my share. In fact, the last few months I have lost a considerable amount of income due to Covid-19. That is a real external occurrence. However, anxiety, anger or sadness do not have to be part of my reality. Have I had some worries about how I’m going to pay for my daughter’s college? Sure. Have I felt disappointment that we will not be taking a vacation this year? Of course. But I still feel really good most days. I have been experiencing a lot of peace and satisfaction. That is because I have made the conscious decision to focus on what I do have, to make a plan for additional income instead of just wringing my hands about it, to use the extra time for reconnecting with friends as well as enjoying time outside and to feel hope believing better days are ahead. Every day we have a choice.
We wake up and have the opportunity to choose our thoughts the same way we choose what we are eating for breakfast. You can wake up and tell yourself that your life is boring because you’re doing the same thing you did yesterday. You can tell yourself how awful your circumstances are. You can believe that you would be happy if you just had x, y or z.
Or... you can choose door #2: you can look around and see the things about your home, your life, your relationships that you love and enjoy. You can feel hope and excitement for the experiences yet to come. You can feel gratitude for the hard times you have endured that have taught you lessons and made you into the person you are.
One of my heroes Nelson Mandela sat in a prison cell for 26 years because of the color of his skin. Had he not made the choice to control his thoughts every day and stay positive and hopeful, millions of people in South Africa would have never been able to taste freedom. If he could control his mind under those horrific conditions, we can certainly take charge of ours. I challenge you to try these two things today: 1. Track the thoughts running through your mind. What is repeated most often? Are they positive or negative? 2. Challenge yourself to change the narrative and replace the negative thoughts with positive, uplifting, productive ones. You can literally change a bad day into a good day in a matter of seconds by turning around what’s happening in your brain because happiness, misery, excitement and dread are all...in your head!