Last month my family went down to Arches National Park. You have to book a camp site at Arches 6 months in advance. And you can only do so during peak season since they leave all the sites open for walk-ups in the off season (I’m not a fan of walk-ups, whole different story). I’ve been wanting to take my boys there for ages and this year I was finally able to make it happen.
There are two things you need to understand to really get the full impact of this story. First, is how excited I was for this weekend. I love camping. I love traveling. I love exploring the world with the people I love. I love seeing the beauty of God’s creations. I love hiking. I love being out in nature. This kind of thing is as good as it gets for me. It’s my absolute favorite. And I look forward to each and every excursion we take.
The second thing you need to know is that I’m a planner. We don’t just show up somewhere and wing it. I research. I know the very best things to see and do and I make a plan to ensure we see and do all of them. I leave nothing to chance. I plan for even the smallest details (like which row of a roller coaster to sit in). Our trips are epic because I plan them that way. I put a lot of effort into each and every trip to give us the highest chance of success. My excitement and anticipation are even higher because I’m not looking forward to some vague, general idea. I’m looking forward to very specific things for very specific reasons.
So, back to Arches. We’ve done all the hard work of gathering supplies, packing up, and driving all the way to our destination. I’ve done all the research so we have a perfect weekend planned. We are going to experience the very best Arches and Canyonlands have to offer. It’s going to be amazing and I’m super excited. We arrive at our campsite. It’s beautiful. The weather is perfect. And I feel contentment deep down into the very depths of my soul. Until…
My husband can’t find the keys to the trailer. We keep all our camping gear in an enclosed trailer. He finished packing up the trailer, locked it up, and hooked it up to the vehicle. We keep the trailer keys on a lanyard so they are easier to keep track of and they should be hanging around his neck. But they aren’t.
We turn the vehicle upside down, checking every nook and cranny. They aren’t there. We don’t have access to our tents, sleeping bags, food, etc. And the sun is setting. Our options are pretty limited.
What would you be thinking right now?
The first thing my brain offered me was outrage at my husband. Why can’t he be more responsible? Why do I have to do everything? This is all his fault. And when I think thoughts like this they lead to frustration, annoyance, and anger. Towards the person I love most in the world.
The second thing my brain offered me was thoughts that led to disappointment. I had really been looking forward to this weekend and now it was all ruined. We weren’t going to experience Arches and Canyonlands. Finding another weekend that worked and that we could actually get a campsite was going to be impossible. I wasn’t going to see Delicate Arch at sunrise the next morning. I wasn’t going to spend the weekend taking in all the breathtaking scenery and exploring with my family.
Are you with me?
I’m sure you can all commiserate with my predicament and you totally understand my thought process here. This is what our brains do. But here’s the magic I want to show you. This process lasted less than 5 minutes.
Before I found thought work, I let my brain run on default. I would’ve just accepted the thoughts my brain offered me and it would have been a miserable drive home. I would’ve either been fuming with rage/annoyance/frustration or I would have been settling into depression thinking of all the things that were now gone forever. Or possibly both.
Instead, I chose on purpose what I wanted to think in this moment. My brain offered me thoughts because that’s what brains do. But I could see immediately they weren’t thoughts that would serve me. I didn’t want to be annoyed with my husband. I just want to love him. Always. And I did’t want to feel disappointed in our missed experiences either.
I chose to believe that something terrible was going to happen this weekend and the keys were left at home to save us from this horrible fate. Maybe one of the kids would’ve fallen off a cliff when we were hiking. Maybe one of us would’ve gotten West Nile Virus from a mosquito (there actually was a case of this on the news the night before — in Moab). And the moment I decided to think this, all the annoyance, frustration, and disappointment vanished away and was replaced with gratitude.
I’m sure many of you are thinking this is delusional. But here’s the thing. We don’t know either way. We could’ve had an amazing weekend. We also could’ve had a horrible weekend with a tragic accident. Both are possibilities. There is absolutely no way to know. So one option isn’t any more delusional than the other. Thinking we missed out on an amazing weekend doesn’t serve me. There is absolutely no upside to believing that. None. Who cares if it’s true or not?
Choosing how to think on purpose means I drove home in peace, contentment, and gratitude, so thankful that the people I loved were safe. Thankful for a loving Father in Heaven who watches over my little family.
This is how your life can change when you learn how to manage your mind. And now that I’ve been practicing for a while, I don’t have to analyze everything after the fact to see how I created my own problems; I can change things right in the moment and create the life I want to live in real time. It is truly the most amazing thing I’ve ever learned how to do.