One of my classmates at the Life Coach School starting talking about things as BLC (before life coaching). I love it because it’s so true; we see everything differently now. BLC, this headline would have infuriated me. So what? Seriously?
Losing a job
Special Needs Child
One of my biggest paradigm shifts ACL (after life coaching) was when it finally clicked that circumstances are neutral. I can already hear you arguing with me. My brain argued as well. How can any of those things be neutral? Here’s what I mean: they are neutral until we have a thought about them. It’s our thoughts that make them negative or positive.
Infidelity is neutral. One person might be completely devastated by the news that their spouse cheated on them. Another person, who is unhappy in their marriage but is afraid to leave it, may be elated because now they have a reason to leave and can feel justified. Another person may feel relieved because they’ve been cheating too and now they don’t have to feel guilty anymore. If the infidelity (the circumstance) caused the emotion, all of us would have the same emotion.
The difference in these people is their thoughts about the affair. When I say “so what?” I mean “what are you making it mean?” What are your thoughts that are causing you to feel the emotion you’re feeling?
Here’s another infidelity example: I have a client going through a divorce involving infidelity right now. She’s heartbroken. She told me “when it was good it was really good.” But the infidelity was happening long before she found out about it. She thought things were really good while he was doing the same things that she thinks are making her feel awful right now.
If it was the infidelity causing her negative emotion, she would’ve felt that negative emotion when the infidelity started. Since she didn’t know about it, she didn’t have a thought about it, and her marriage was “really good.” After she found out she had lots of thoughts. Her thoughts are causing her heartbreak, not the infidelity.
Why is this important? Because after she’s processed her grief and is ready to feel something different, she can. We can’t control other people. Oft times we can’t control our circumstances. But we can control our thoughts. Knowing that our thoughts create our emotions means we have the power to feel differently anytime we want to.
That doesn’t mean she should just hurry and change her thoughts so she can feel better. She may want to feel grief for a while. There is power in allowing your emotions. But knowing your feelings are created by your thoughts means you have the power to feel better whenever you want to. It also means you can write your past any way you want to.
What do you want to make it mean?
How do want to feel about it?
It will be better when I’ve lost the weight.
It will be better when my kids are a little older.
It will be better when I’m married.
It will be better when I’m married to someone else.
It will be better after I’ve graduated.
It will be better when we’re out of debt.
It will be better when I get a new job.
Stop. It won’t be better. Would you like to know why? Because YOU will be going with you into that new place. Why did I feel pain in both of my marriages? Because I went with myself into my new marriage. My thoughts created my feelings, not my circumstances.
If you think everything will be better when you lose the weight you’re kidding yourself. You’ll get there and realize you still don’t love yourself and you’ll wonder what the heck went wrong. And then you’ll probably put all the weight back on because you didn’t deal with what was causing the overeating in the first place.
The only reason things aren’t amazing right now is because of the way you’re thinking about it. Here is some of the best advice I can give you: learn to be happy exactly where you are right now, and only then decide what you want. Don’t leave a marriage until you’re happy in that marriage. Don’t leave your job until you’re happy in that job. Don’t make any decisions because you think it will make you happier. Circumstances don’t create happiness. Thoughts do.
Our brains are always on the look out for danger. We aren’t being chased by tigers in our day-to-day lives anymore so our brains think a lot of things are dangerous that simply aren’t dangerous. What that amounts to is our brains looking for the negative in every situation.
If you don’t learn to manage your mind, that next thing that you think is going to fix everything isn’t going to change anything at all. Your brain will just find more negative things in the new circumstances.
So what does this look like?
If you want to lose weight, learn how to love your body exactly as it is. Understand that you are perfect, worthy, and lovable exactly as you are. And then decide if you really want to lose weight. Just because you can. Just for fun. Just because you want to take care of yourself. But not because you hate your body and you’re desperate to feel better.
If you’re miserable in your marriage, learn to love your spouse for exactly who they are. No expectations. No manual. No conditions. And learn to love yourself in the same way. And then decide if that’s the kind of partner and the kind of life you want. Don’t leave because you’re desperate to feel better. The circumstance isn’t what’s making you miserable, it’s your thoughts. And those thoughts will be going with you into your next relationship.
If you’re wishing your kids were older and didn’t require so much attention from you, focus on all the amazing things that their age offers right now. Don’t let your brain run around like a toddler with a permanent marker. Choose to look for and focus on what’s good about their age now. What advice would your future self give you about this time? Otherwise, when your kids actually older, you’ll still be finding all the negative things and still wishing for something different.
It will be better when you decide to think about it a different way. That’s it. If you keep chasing a change in your circumstances to feel better, you’re always going to be left disappointed and confused as to why it didn’t work the way you thought it would.
What do you wish was different? Can you be happy with the way it is now? Schedule a FREE mini session with me and let's work through it together!
My brief jaunt into the singles world after my divorce was fascinating. I don’t do anything halfway so after my divorce was final I went all in. I signed up with a bunch of dating apps, joined some Facebook groups, and started going to mid-singles activities.
Let me digress a little here for those of you who are like “mid-singles activities? What the …?” I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We don’t believe in sex outside of marriage. And we don’t drink, “party,” or go to bars. So what exactly do we do? And how do we meet other singles? We have activities. Some are church-sponsored, most are not. They are just planned by members of the “group.” A mid-single is between the ages of 31–45 (18–30 are YOUNG Single Adults”, over 45 are just “Singles”). And these activities include all sorts of things like dances, volleyball, plays, game nights, hot springs, hiking, movies, speed dating, etc.
It was weird. I was almost 40 but felt like I was thrown back into the teenager world. Whenever my kids were with my ex, I was putting myself out there. So I met a LOT of single people. Some had never been married. Some had been divorced. Most were members of my church with extremely varied levels of belief and activity in the church. And most of them did NOT enjoy being single. Most of them were not thriving.
At the time, I was somewhat baffled as to why everyone else seemed so miserable. I didn’t love everything about being single but for the most part, I felt like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was free to be me, totally and completely. And it felt amazing.
Now I know exactly what was going on. Are you ready for another gem that completely changed my life? Circumstances are neutral. Being single isn’t positive or negative. It’s completely neutral… until you have a thought about it. Most of the singles I came to know thought being single was negative. Their heads were full of negative thoughts about being single.
Positive affirmations are all the rage these days. But you can only think a positive thought about a negative circumstance for so long before your brain rejects it. It just won’t ever stick and you’ll find yourself back where you started. The very first step is understanding the circumstance is neutral… and that you can think whatever you want to about it.
I loved being single because of my thoughts about being single. Most of the people I met hated it because of their thoughts about single. It’s that simple. Unfortunately, some of those same thoughts that served me tremendously when I was single are the very ones that made things difficult for me after I got remarried.
Here’s a great example: my ex was not the cleanest person. One of the things I enjoyed the most, from the moment he moved out, was how clean my house stayed. It was amazing! I love having a clean house and it was so easy to keep it clean. Focusing on how much I loved this and how amazing I felt when the house was clean helped me love being single. I was completely in control of how clean my house was. Remember, I still had two young children and they didn’t exactly pick up after themselves. To keep my house clean, I was constantly cleaning up after them. But it was MY house, and MY responsibility. There was no one else to have expectations of. It was all up to me and when I cleaned it I did so with joy and energy and light, because I loved the result I was creating.
Fast forward… I’m married again. And my new husband is not the cleanest person. Instead of just cleaning up with joy like I did when I was single (taking care of my own needs) I have expectations (the manual) that my husband will clean up after himself.
Guess what? I can still take care of my own needs! Being married doesn’t make me incapable. I’m the one who enjoys a clean house. And I am still “completely in control of how clean my house is.” Why on earth would I choose to foster resentment towards my hubby when I can choose to clean up with joy and energy like I did when I was single?
Our human brains are so fascinating, right? Do you see how I’m making myself miserable? My husband doesn’t feel my frustration, my annoyance, or my resentment. Only I can feel my emotions. So I’m choosing to feel those things instead of choosing to feel joy. All because of my manual.
I know some of you are thinking, “but that isn’t fair. Why should you have to clean up after him? He’s a grown adult.” Believe me, I know exactly where you’re coming from. I can’t even count how many similar thoughts I’ve had. But here’s the thing… let’s say that’s true. Let’s say that it’s a fact that I shouldn’t be expected to clean up after him. So what? When I think that, I’m miserable. I’m frustrated. I’m annoyed. I don’t think loving thoughts about my hubby, and I don’t show up like the kind of wife I want to be. So who cares if it’s true?
When I choose to think about how much I love having a clean house and how amazing I’m going to feel when it’s clean, I feel motivated and maybe even a little excited to clean up. Then I clean with joy and energy and light. And I have the clean house that I wanted in the first place without a side of frustration, annoyance, and resentment. And to top it off, I show up as the kind of wife I want to be.
This is what happens when you throw away your manuals. Having expectations of how someone else should behave means choosing to have negative emotions. When I don’t expect anything of my hubby except to be there and let me love him, I take all my power back. I am in control of how clean my house is. I get to feel the emotions I want to feel. I get to be the person I want to be.
Let go of what you think is true and choose thoughts that get you the results you want.
As I pull into my driveway I’m thinking about how awful my day has been. The commute home from work was a nightmare. My boss was on my case all day. He can’t give me 12 projects to do and then expect them all to be done in 15 minutes. A headache has been building for hours; I really hope it doesn’t turn into a migraine. I just want to lay on the couch and watch Netflix for a few hours while I decompress. I sure hope my wife has something already made for dinner; I’m so hungry.
I walk inside and the kids are immediately begging for attention. I talk to them the best I can while I try to find something to eat. She didn’t make dinner. Of course she didn’t, she never does. Isn’t that a wife’s job? She’s been home for hours and she’s just sitting there reading a book.
Ok, clearly that isn’t me speaking above, seeing as how I’m the wife in this scenario. And by the way, I totally made this up. I have no idea what my husband was thinking in the story I told you yesterday. But let’s just pretend this is exactly how it happened. When he came home and didn’t greet me, it had NOTHING to do with me. It was 100% about him and the day he was having. I’m the one who made it mean something. And notice his manual for me. I HATE cooking. I despise spending time in the kitchen.
How does it feel to be on the other side of the manual? It’s awful. It makes me feel like I’m less than simply because I’m not his picture of a perfect wife. But I’m not less than. I just don’t like cooking. (For the record, my husband has never even hinted that this cooking thing is in his manual for me. He likes to cook and I’m eternally grateful).
If you want an amazing relationship, throw away your manuals and start loving people for exactly who they are. This is a complete game changer.
Ok, but how do I have the kind of relationship I want if I don’t my expect them to do anything differently?
Simple: you take care of your own needs. If I want to have an affectionate greeting when my husband gets home I am more than capable of instigating that myself. I don’t need him to do anything differently at all. All he has to do is walk in the door and I’m there to greet him with a big kiss. And if he doesn’t react the way I want him to, I don’t make it mean anything about me. That’s about him, it has nothing to do with me, and I go on being the kind of wife I want to be.
If I want to hold hands when we’re walking around, I take his hand. I don’t need him to do it. And I certainly don’t need to resent him for not doing it. If I want to go out on a date, I can plan a date. If I want to have a romantic anniversary, I can make it romantic. These are all things that I want. And I’m capable of taking care of these myself.
When we expect others to take care of our needs we will almost always be disappointed. We cause ourselves pain and often hurt the relationship. It just isn’t necessary.
I love my husband, unconditionally. The only thing I expect of him now is to be there so I can love him. Exactly as he is. Doesn’t that sound amazing? To have someone love you exactly as you are, not wanting or needing you to be anything different than you are? That’s pretty much the only thing I’ve wanted my entire life. So now I’m learning to give that to everyone else in my life.
Try it. You’ll be amazed.