Do you ever look at Facebook or Instagram and wonder why everyone else seems to be much happier than you? Well, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is life is 50/50. You are completely normal. No one is happy all the time; social media is just an illusion. The bad news is life is 50/50, you’re never going to be happy all the time. It’s always going to be 50/50.
There is opposition in all things. To know what happy feels like, you have to know what sad feels like. To know peace you must know conflict. This is how the universe works. The fact that you feel negative emotion is not a bad thing. You are completely normal. You aren’t doing it wrong.
So why does this matter? Why is this useful to know? So you can stop resisting negative emotion. We spend so much time trying to resist and/or avoid negative emotion. This only intensifies the negative emotion. Let’s say I have to speak in front of a large audience. I’m feeling nervous. I don’t like feeling nervous so I resist it. Now I feel anxiety on top of nervousness. I’ve doubled my negative emotion. What if instead I just said to myself “I feel nervous and that’s ok?” I relax into it. I find the feeling of nervous in my body and I just let it be there. It’s a completely different experience.
Another option for my nervousness might be buffering. I feel nervous so I grab my food of choice. Eating decreases the vibration in my body so I feel a little better. But now I’ve eaten more than I need to eat for fuel and I gain weight. In order to avoid feeling nervous, I’ve added more negative to my net result.
When you truly understand that negative emotion is nothing to fear and that it’s completely normal, your experience with negative emotion becomes so much better. You will still experience negative emotion half the time, but it won’t be nearly as intense of an experience and you won’t be adding more negative emotions on top of it.
Another pitfall to avoid is beating yourself up for feeling negative emotion. Over the past few weeks I’ve been telling you all your emotions are created by your thoughts. Let’s say my kids do something and I feel annoyed. Since I know I’m creating the feeling of annoyed with my thoughts, then I get mad at myself for creating annoyed. This isn’t helpful. We’re humans with human brains. Our brains are always going to offer us thoughts that don’t serve us. It’s not a big deal.
My favorite tool in scenarios like this is “I’m annoyed right now and that’s ok.” I know I’m creating it. I know it’s not anything my kids are doing. I know that my human brain is just being a human brain. And it’s not a big deal. When I’m ok with feeling annoyed, I’m almost immediately much less annoyed. It’s only when I try to resist being annoyed that feeling annoyed feels unbearable.
How can I use this 50/50 rule to my advantage? This is one my favorite tools. If I’m going to feel negative emotion half the time, what negative emotions can I use to my benefit? At the Life Coach School we like to say “Discomfort is the currency to your dreams.” As you set goals and work towards being the person you want to become and doing the things you want to do, there is going to be a lot of discomfort. When I purposely put myself in situations that will challenge me, I know I’m going to have thoughts that will create discomfort. Rather than waiting for life to throw something at me, I choose. Can I really just choose my negative emotion like this? Why not? It’s going to be 50/50 either way, why not choose negative emotions that will get you the results you want?
Here’s another way to think about this: I’m trying to lose weight. I’ve set a protocol up for myself and I’ve committed to follow that protocol. And then I have an urge to eat something that isn’t on that protocol. Maybe someone brings something delicious into work and offers it to me. Here’s the fun part: in this scenario I’m going to feel disappointment no matter what I choose. I can stick to my protocol and feel disappointed that I didn’t get to experience the delicious treat. Or I can eat the delicious treat and feel disappointed that I didn’t follow my protocol and that I’m not any closer to reaching my goal.
Disappointment is part of the equation no matter what. So why not choose the disappointment that serves me? If the reason to give in to my urge is because I don’t want to feel disappointed, there isn’t any reason to give in. Because I’m going to feel disappointed anyway.
Negative emotion isn’t something to fear. It’s part of the human experience. And it’s going to be around about 50% of the time. If we can embrace it, allow it to be there, and use it to our advantage, it’s kind of like tricking the system. If the negative isn’t so negative anymore, we kind of tipped the scales to have more positive.
Give it a try and tell me what you think.
When I got remarried, we kept my house. My husband had been renting a condo temporarily and had only lived there for a year. My kids had lived in this house for most of their lives and was all they had ever known. While it would have been nice to start over somewhere together, and make it ours, it just didn’t make sense to uproot my kids.
So I decided to redecorate the whole house so it was “new” to both of us. Hubby started finishing the basement so there would be more room for all of us. So half the house was already taken care of in the “new” department. Meanwhile, I started on the upstairs. I haven’t finished all the rooms yet. Some of them are on hold until the kids move out of them and into the new basement. But everything I’ve finished I LOVE.
One of my projects was a gallery wall of our extended families in the hallway. Every time I walk down the hall I think to myself “Dang, this looks good.” It’s just a hallway. And I LOVE it. Each time I walk down the hall I get a little boost of dopamine to brighten my day.
I love what I’ve done with my house so much that I don’t care what anybody else says about it. My best friend could look at my gallery wall and tell me it’s awful and I wouldn’t care. An interior designer could come in and tell me every single thing that’s wrong with each room in my house. Wouldn’t care. I love it. It brings me joy. And nothing anybody else says can change my mind.
As I was enjoying my hallway this morning my brain had an idea: This is how I need to love myself. If I just loved every single thing about myself, nothing anyone ever said about me or to me would matter. I love me. I know I’m amazing. Your opinion of me? It just doesn’t matter.
Can you imagine how freeing that would be?
My mentor at the Life Coach School, Brooke Castillo, gave an example once that has really stuck with me. If someone walked up to you and said “I hate your blue hair,” what would be your response? You’d be like, um, ok. I don’t have blue hair, but whatever. It wouldn’t phase you emotionally. You wouldn’t be offended. You wouldn’t feel defensive. (Unless, of course, you have blue hair, then this analogy obviously doesn’t apply).
We feel offended and defensive because part of us agrees with whatever the person is saying to us AND thinks that thing is a problem. But what if I loved myself like I love my decorating?
If someone says, “Mindy, you’re a terrible mother,” I can reply with something like “That’s true. In some ways I am a terrible mother.” I’m not offended. I’m not defensive. And I love myself so much that it doesn’t bother me that I’m not a perfect mother. Does that mean I think I’m a terrible mother? No! I think I’m an amazing mother. But in some ways, I’m really not the best. And that’s ok. I’m the exact kind of mother my kids need to be the people they are destined to be. So what?
Did you know there are people in the world that don’t like pizza? I know, right? Imagine I’m the best slice of pizza in the entire world. There are still going to be some people that don’t like me. Some people just don’t like pizza. And that’s ok. Everyone isn’t going to like you. It doesn’t say anything about you. They just don’t like pizza.
Stop making decisions on what other people might think. You can’t control that. When you try to be someone you’re not so that other people will like you, do you want to know what happens? You don’t like you. And in reality, they don’t like you either because they don’t know the real you.
Do you like the clothes you’re wearing? Do you like your haircut? Do you like your decorating? Do you like how you’re showing up in the world? Do you like the kind of mom you are? The kind of wife you are? That’s all the matters. Love yourself. Love how you’re showing up. Love the person you are and the person you’re becoming. Love your reasons for the choices you make. And forget the rest.
A few weeks ago I wrote a letter to myself, from my future self.
I know, it sounds weird. And when I started, I felt kind of ridiculous. But it turned out to be an amazing, unique experience, unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
Before I started writing, I imagined the person I want to be in the future. The me who has achieved all my goals and is the product of all the things I’m trying to create in my life right now. She knows every pitfall and trial ahead of me. And she’s made it through all of them.
After my original hesitation and awkwardness, the words just started to flow. It felt like I had tapped into who I really am, at my core. And the advice I gave myself was exactly what I needed to hear.
A lot of emotion came up while I was writing this letter. I felt unconditional love and compassion for myself. I felt understanding and empathy. I felt wise beyond my current life experience.
When I was done writing, I went back and read it to myself. This time the emotions were somewhat different because I was now on the receiving end of this letter. I felt like I was getting advice from the person I trusted most in the entire world. Someone who loved me unconditionally and would never lead me astray. I felt deeply comforted and at peace.
So often, we worry about what everyone else thinks. We get advice from people who can’t truly know what we’re going through and what it feels like to be us. Even when it’s someone we’re really close to, they still can’t really know. Getting advice from my future self was a spiritual experience for me.
The other thing I found incredibly fascinating was what I chose to give myself advice about, the things I mentioned specifically. It clarified what things are the most important to me, and what things don’t really matter that much. Too often we spend all of our energy on things that just don’t matter.
My older boys spend all their free time playing video games. The youngest doesn’t have the same love and wants them to stop and play with him instead. They usually don’t. But sometimes I’ll say “what if he died in a car accident tomorrow? How would you feel about your choice to play video games instead of playing with him?”
All of us do this. It might not be as obvious. And it might be on things we deem more worthy of our time than video games. And yet… are they really that important?
I challenge you to try this. It was a life-changing experience for me. And it’s an experience I plan to repeat as I go through the trials of life. I will always turn to God first. But from now on, I think I’ll turn to me second.
I hate waiting. I’m sitting in my car in the back of a Walmart parking lot, waiting for my friend to arrive. She’s always late. I even told her 15 minutes earlier than I planned to be here and she’s still late. Why can’t she just be on time for once? At least if I was at home I could be getting stuff done. Now I’m just sitting here. Waiting. I wanted to just meet her at the party for this very reason but she wanted to ride together. Why does she think her time is more important than mine? It’s so disrespectful.
When we find ourselves in a situation where someone else’s behavior is violating our personal, physical, or emotional space most of us will do one of two things: stay silent and build resentment or act out passive-aggressively. Neither of these behaviors strengthen relationships.
The truth is I love my friend. I don’t want to feel resentment towards her. I just want to love her. I also want to love myself. My time is important. I don’t like being treated like this. This feels like a violation of my personal space.
For the past couple days, we’ve been discussing how to take responsibility for our own results without trying to control other people. One of the tools we can use to do this is setting boundaries.
Setting a boundary means deciding what you will do when someone violates your personal, physical, or emotional space. It’s NOT a way to control or manipulate someone else. It’s not an ultimatum. It’s not a threat. You aren’t telling them what to do, only telling them what you will do. It’s not something you do out of fear, anger, frustration or resentment. To set a boundary properly, it needs to come from love. Love for you and love for the other person.
We set boundaries because of what we are willing to stand for in our lives.
In this case, I might tell my friend: Hey, I know you struggle with being on time. I’m going to wait 5 minutes and then I’m going to leave. I love you. I’m not mad at you. This is just what I need to do for me. And then I follow through 100% of the time. She can choose to behave however she wants to. I don’t make it mean anything about me. I don’t get emotionally invested in the outcome. I just follow through.
Most people aren’t willing to have conversations like these because they’re afraid of hurting the relationship. But setting boundaries actually increases intimacy in relationships. I told my friend the truth. Staying silent means I’m lying to her. She probably doesn’t even know how much it bothers me. She doesn’t even know there has been a boundary violation. Now that I’ve taken care of myself, I no longer feel any resentment towards her. I live my life the way I want to and I’m free to just love her, exactly as she is.
Everyone has different boundaries. Many of you won’t think being late is that big of a deal. It’s not a boundary violation for you. But my time is part of my personal space. You’ll likely have other things that wouldn’t affect me. We usually don’t need to tell someone where our boundaries are until they have been violated.
If you hit me, I will call the police.
If you speak to me like that, I will leave.
If you have sex with someone else, I will file for divorce.
If you don’t call before coming over, I won’t answer the door.
The person must be violating your personal, physical, or emotional space. We don’t set boundaries just because we want someone to behave differently. “If you don’t stop playing video games I’m not going to have sex with you” is NOT a boundary. That’s a threat. It’s manipulative and trying to control their behavior.
Just saying NO is not a boundary. Saying NO and telling them how they should behave is not a boundary. Saying NO and threatening them is not a boundary. You must follow all of the following steps to set a boundary.
Step 1: Get to love
Step 2: Make a request
Step 3: Set a consequence, something YOU will do
Step 4: Follow through 100% of the time
As a final note, boundaries are rarely needed. Most things fall within The Manual rather than Boundary Violations (see my post titled The Manual). I always refer to The Manual and clean up my thoughts before I decide to set a boundary. Usually that’s enough and the boundary isn’t needed. But it’s a great tool for situations that call for it.
Yesterday I told you I like asking myself “How is this my fault?” because it helps my brain find solutions that I alone can implement, without having to rely on anyone else to change. It gives me all my power back. If I had to wait around for my kids to love doing their chores before I could feel better, I fear I would be waiting for a very long time.
There are two very important steps you must implement before using this tool. First, you must love yourself unconditionally. You are completely worthy, good, capable, lovable and amazing EXACTLY as you are. There is nothing you can do or not do that will change that. This is NOT just one more thing you can use to beat yourself up.
In fact, I’m going to go ahead and insist that you never beat yourself up again. Ever. Decide right now. Make a commitment to yourself right now in this moment that you’re done with that.
When I say “How is this my fault?” I’m not blaming myself, berating myself or beating up on myself. I’m simply asking my brain to get creative and find some solutions for me so I can get the results I want. I’m taking responsibility for the results in my life, not for other people’s behavior.
If you ask yourself that question and you feel shame or self loathing, don’t ask yourself that question. You may just not have learned to love yourself enough yet. There was a time when I beat the crap out of myself all the time and this question might not have worked for me. Today it works great because I love myself unconditionally and no longer believe anything is wrong with me.
It could also just be a question that doesn’t resonate with you. Humans brains are so fascinating. What totally resonates with one person may not resonate at all with another.
In coaching, we talk about trying on new thoughts, like a new pair of clothes. You have to see how it feels for you. If it doesn’t feel good, by all means, throw it out. You may just need to reword it to something like “What can I do that could help this situation?”
When I ask that, my brain is like “Nothing! You’ve done everything!” And then I’m stuck again. When I ask “How is this my fault?” my brain finds much more creative solutions because it looks at everything in a different way.
Your brain could be completely opposite. There isn’t a wrong way or a right way. There’s only the way that helps your specific brain. Play around with different wording and see what feels right.
The second thing you must understand is that what someone else does or says has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. You can’t take responsibility for someone else’s behavior. It isn’t about you. It’s about them. Let’s say my hubby is angry with me and tells me it’s because I didn’t do something. That’s still not about me. It seems like it’s about me, but it’s not. He’s not mad because of what I did or didn’t do. He’s mad because of what he’s thinking about it. I can’t control that. I could be the most perfect wife in the world and he could still choose to think I’m horrible. I could be a pretty crappy wife and he could choose to think I’m wonderful. No matter what he chooses to think about me, positive or negative, it’s about him. A different husband may see the exact same circumstance, think completely different thoughts, and have a completely different experience.
We can’t control other people. So when I ask myself “How is this my fault?” I know someone else’s behavior is not my fault. I could be the best mom in the world and my kids may still behave horribly. They have agency. They get to choose. And we can’t control that.
But I do get to control my results. So “How is this fault?” doesn’t mean how is this person’s behavior my fault? It means how is my current result my fault? For example, if my number one goal is to have peace and harmony in my home, and the chores are currently causing yelling and contention, I could hire someone to clean my house. That’s not taking responsibility for my kid’s behavior, it’s taking responsibility for my results.
Your brain might be rebelling right now. I don’t have money to hire someone! It’s not fair that the kids can act like that and then get out of doing chores! The kids will never learn responsibility! Our brains don’t like us to change. They like to do things the same way they’ve always done them. When you try to change, your brain is going to throw a little fit.
In those moments I just say “Calm down brain. I hear you. It’s going to be fine.”
Here’s the bottom line: I choose my results. I am not a victim to my circumstances or to the people around me. When I truly understand that, I realize I can whatever life I want. And when I ask my brain empowering questions, I find that it comes up with all sorts of creative answers that I may have never considered before.
When I ask myself “How is this my fault?” I do so with unconditional love for myself. I’m not beating myself up over my children’s behavior. I’m not making it mean anything about me or about the kind of mom I am. I’m not blaming myself. I know I can’t control them and they get to choose how to behave. But it is my fault if I continue to live this way; if I decide to be a victim.
This is worth repeating: If you ask yourself “How is this my fault?” and you feel shame or self-loathing… don’t use this question yet. Practice loving yourself unconditionally. Remember that you aren’t taking responsibility for anyone else’s choices, just your own results.
I know some of you are going to the extremes so I’m going to address this tomorrow. If my husband hit me, that wouldn’t be my fault. It has nothing to do with me. It’s completely about him. And because I love myself, I would then decide what I was going to do about it. We’ll talk about boundaries tomorrow!
My children hate doing chores. Actually, my children loathe doing chores. Their chores aren’t hard. And they don’t take very long if they actually get to work. But for some completely unfathomable reason, they think their lives should consist of video games and You Tube. Anything outside of that is a battle.
We’ve tried so many different systems I can’t even remember them all. Different types of chores. Different ways to assign chores. Different ways to track chores. Different rewards. Different consequences. Different conversations.
But the battle rages on.
My natural tendency at this point is to throw my hands up in the air and be done with it. But then what? My brain on default only sees three options.
Option 1: Be content with a messy house.
Option 2: Clean up everything myself (and, let’s face it, resent my children in the process).
Option 3: Continue to be frustrated, yell at my kids, not have the family environment and culture I desire
Thinking these are my only options makes me feel completely defeated. I hate all of them. I feel stuck. I am a victim.
In reality, I have TONS of options. Let’s explore a few them.
One of my favorite questions to ask myself is “How is this my fault?” Most of us have lived our entire lives making sure nothing is our fault, always on defense. But if this situation isn’t my fault, then I’m a victim, helpless and powerless to the choices of my children.
If it’s my fault, that’s the best news ever because it means I can fix it. I have all the power back. When I ask myself “How is this my fault?” my brain starts looking for answers. Our brains love to find answers to questions. Ideas start flowing. I’m already coming up with things I can do differently. If I follow this route I don’t have to throw my hands up in the air at all. I just keep trying new things until something finally works. And I can treat it like a science experiment without all the added drama and frustration.
Next, I could question all my thoughts regarding my “messy” house. It’s clear that I believe a messy house is a negative circumstance. But all circumstances are neutral… until we have a thought about them. There are thousands of people, maybe millions of people, who don’t think a “messy” house is a problem. I know it’s my thoughts causing my problems but when I try to have a positive thought about a negative circumstance, it just doesn’t stick. I have to get to a place where I truly understand the state of my house is completely neutral before I can start to change my thoughts about it. I understand this intellectually but it hasn’t actually clicked yet. Once it does, I can start practicing new thoughts that make the state of my house not that big of a deal.
Alternatively, I could decide I don’t HAVE to clean it up myself, I WANT to clean it up myself. I love having a clean house. It makes me feel amazing. And let’s be honest, it looks 1000 times better when I clean it anyway. The rest of my family doesn’t have the same experience. I’m the one who enjoys it. I could decide I WANT to clean it. If I choose this route, I can drop the resentment and the frustration and just love my kids.
Notice in all 3 of these scenarios I take responsibility. There is nothing worse than feeling like a victim. If I lived my life on default this situation would continue to be a problem and I would probably never have the result I want. I would feel justified in my frustration and resentment. But who cares? If I don’t have the result I want, why does it matter if there’s a good reason for it?
I really do get to choose. If a family culture of peace and love is what I want, I can have it. If being a mom who teaches her kids work ethic and responsibility is what want, I can have it (notice I didn’t say they will actually learn it. We can’t control other’s results, only our own).
When I manage my mind, I realize the only problem here is the one I’m creating. That also means I have the power to change it whenever I’m ready. What problems are you creating for yourself? Are you ready to take your power back and get to work?
“OK Mindy, I did what you said yesterday, I felt fear, now what? I’m still afraid.” Step 2 is figuring out why you’re feeling fear in the first place. If you try to skip step 1 it will probably be harder to make progress (go back and read yesterday’s post if you haven’t yet).
All our emotions come from our thoughts. Did you get that? Every feeling you have is because of a thought you are thinking. So if you’re feeling fear, it’s because of a thought in your head. And thoughts are optional.
Take out a pen and paper and write down every single thing you can think of regarding whatever it is you’re afraid of. Really empty out your brain so there isn’t anything left.
Now look at your thoughts. Remember, you are not your thoughts. You are the watcher of your thoughts. Look at your thoughts with curiosity, not judgement. No matter what you’ve written down on that piece of paper, it doesn’t say anything about who you are. Step outside of it and just be curious.
I wonder why I’m thinking that?
Is it even true?
Can I find any evidence that’s it not true?
Is it possible the opposite is true?
Is it serving me to think it?
Who would I be if I didn’t think it?
So many of us think our fear is outside of us. That we can’t control it. That it comes whether we want it to or not. That we are powerless against it.
I have good news for you: you’re creating it.
Why is this good news? Because it gives you your power back. If you don’t want to be afraid anymore, you can choose different thoughts that don’t create that fear. Sometimes it takes time to rewire our brains, so be patient with yourself. You’ve probably been thinking these thoughts for a long time. And your brain wants to do everything the easiest way possible.
That means your brain is going to keep offering you those same thoughts because it wants to do things the same way you’ve always done them.
But you get to choose if you want to listen or not. You get to choose if you want to believe them or not. Just because your brain offers something, doesn’t mean you have to believe it.
I’m sure some of you think I’m crazy at this point. She wants me to just think something different? And then I won’t be afraid anymore? Seriously? Yes. It’s really that simple. Simple, but not necessarily easy. Practice thinking a new thought over and over and over again. Put it on sticky notes all over the place. Use courage to give your brain evidence to believe the new thought (see yesterday’s post).
And if you still need help, hire a coach. Sometimes it’s difficult to see our own thoughts because we’re so wrapped up in them. Having a coach help you navigate those waters will make all the difference in the world.
My heart is beating so fast it feels like it might burst right out of my chest. My hands are clammy and there are beads of sweat under my eyebrows and across my forehead. I find myself holding my breath and have to remind myself to breathe. I’m ok. I’m ok. I’m ok. I just keep repeating it to myself.
I’m at a reptile place called Scales & Tails with my kids. And I’m holding a freaking snake.
I grew up in Utah where most of the snakes are completely harmless. Sure, we have some rattlesnakes but we rarely come across them. The snakes in the neighborhoods are just water snakes and garter snakes and when kids find them, they play with them.
Every year for my entire life we visited my grandparents down in East Texas. The snakes down there aren’t harmless. They could kill you. So my parents, not wanting us to act like Utah kids and play with the snakes, pounded the danger of snakes into our heads from the time we were born.
Fear is a natural part of the human experience. Our primitive brains are designed to protect us from danger and they like to pretend that fear is helpful. But in today’s world, there aren’t very many things we actually need to fear. In most cases, the things we fear aren’t dangerous at all.
We fear being embarrassed or humiliated. We fear failure. We feel being vulnerable and showing people who we are. We fear asking for a promotion. We fear our partner leaving us. We fear spiders, snakes, mice, needles, heights, etc. Even these things aren’t usually dangerous.
The definition of Fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat.” Fear is just an emotion y’all. And an emotion is just a vibration in your body.
I’d like you to find a comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes and think about something that terrifies you. Really imagine it so you can conjure up some fear. Now find the fear in your body. Describe it to me.
Describe to me what fear actually feels like.
When you do this exercise, you’ll find that fear isn’t nearly as big a deal as we all make it out to be. It’s just a vibration in your body. That’s it.
It’s ok that you’re afraid. Congratulations, you’re a human. Your brain is doing exactly what it’s supposed to. But that doesn’t mean you should let that fear stop you.
This is how I found myself at the reptile place. My kids aren’t afraid of snakes; I was careful not to pass on that particular phobia. And they’re boys. Of course they want to go play with snakes. I took them because I don’t let fear stop me from living my life. I held the snake just to show myself I could. No one dared me. No one forced me. I just did it. Because I could.
And guess what happened? The fear went down a notch. How is that possible? Because I gave my brain evidence that it really wasn’t dangerous. That everything was fine.
COURAGE doesn’t exist without FEAR.
When you feel fear…
The more you practice this, the more confident you will become. You will know that you can feel fear and be just fine. You can feel fear and take action. You can feel fear but act from courage.
EXERCISE: If you really want to make progress in this area, have someone close to you start daring you to do things. For example, they might dare you to stand up on your chair in a restaurant and sing a song. Sound terrifying? After you do it, you’ll have given your brain evidence that it wasn’t dangerous, and therefore, that there wasn’t really a reason to be afraid. The more you do this, the more confident you will become.
More on fear tomorrow, stay tuned.
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.
I want you to think about the person you love most in the whole world. Think of a time you felt totally consumed with love for this person. Maybe you’re thinking of the beginning of a relationship or perhaps your wedding day. Some of my favorite moments are just the ordinary everyday moments. We’ll be driving down the road, or sitting on the coach, or watching tv in bed and I look over at my spouse and I’m just overcome with love for him. It feels up my entire chest and then spreads to every cell in my body.
I have similar moments with my kids. I think of their birth and the moment they were placed in my arms. I couldn’t believe how much I loved them already. And I knew that this love changed everything, that my life would never be the same.
Love feels amazing! Of all the emotions I feel on a regular basis, love is definitely one of my favorites. When I’m feeling love, I am the very best version of myself. Love drives the actions that help me to be the kind of wife I want to be, the kind of mom I want to be, the kind of daughter I want to be, the kind of friend I want to be.
So here’s the thing. My hubby can’t feel my love. In those moments when I’m looking at him and feeling totally consumed by love — he doesn’t feel anything. He might notice me staring at him and ask what’s up. But he can’t feel my love. Only I can feel it. Certainly if my kids could actually feel how much I love them, things would be different, right? But they can’t feel it either. Only I can feel my love.
Why is this important to know? Too often, we withhold our love. When someone doesn’t behave in the way we think they should, we withhold our love. Maybe we think they don’t deserve it. Consciously or subconsciously, we’re punishing them for their “bad behavior.” But they can’t actually feel our love, remember? So who am I really punishing? Who do I really think doesn’t deserve to feel love? Me feeling awful doesn’t make them feel anything. It just hurts me.
Love is something I do for myself. I’m the only one that gets to feel my love. And it feels amazing! Why would I choose to not feel it? In addition, love helps me be the person I want to be. Why on earth would I ever choose anything else?
Here’s my challenge to you. Choose love. Every time. It doesn’t matter what your spouse did; what your kids did; what your neighbor did. Choose to love them for you. If you’re coming from love, you’re going to show up as the kind of person you want to be. And you get to feel love, which feels amazing. Just choose love.