There is something to appreciate in every day.
Ugh! That old adage? Yes. But, only because it works. As a society, we have become spoiled. You know it’s true. The people around us are quick to point out what they deserve, and what they demand. Have you ever had this experience?
You are enjoying your meal at a restaurant, when the patron in the booth next to you begins his litany of complaints. The soup was too hot, the bread was too crunchy, the butter was salted, the ice water was tepid, the steak was too chewy, and the fork was too heavy, and so on. Suddenly, you find yourself looking at your meal with appreciation. You feel bad for the server, who has to listen to the complaints. You make sure to compliment the meal, the server, and the restaurant as you leave, because you don’t agree with the complainer. You just practiced appreciation my friend.
Simply put, the bad side of things can force us to recognize the good side of things. We appreciate electricity when we have been without. We savor foods, when we are hungry. We tell our loved ones we missed them when we’ve been apart. It is not the nice stuff in life that makes us feel appreciative; it’s the not so nice stuff. It seems backwards – right? We like to think that the positive makes us more aware of the good things in life. The truth is, when things are going well, we tend to just relax into it. We let go of the stress. We don’t feel so defensive. We just feel good. When things are going well, we like it. Being in a state of bliss, however, doesn’t force us to seek out positivity, unless we have made it our practice.
If you study the lifestyles of the truly happy, you might be surprised to see that these people have not lived a charmed life. In fact, most truly successful people have a background in pain and suffering. Horrible childhoods, poverty, personal failures, and epic career mistakes are usually the main theme of the successful. So, what makes their life so different than your? Mindset.
Your mindset will determine so much more than you understand. Think of it this way. Your mind is like a magnetic force. It is constantly seeking out experiences that line up with your unconscious thoughts. So, let’s compare two mindsets:
1) Why does this always happen to me? – This mindset operates in victim mode. Everything that happens is taken in and processed as an attack by the universe.
2) What can I take away from this experience? – This mindset operates with intention thinking. Everything that happens is taken in as a learning experience, and filtered appropriately for the individual.
I’ll be honest. I operated in victim mode for years. I believe it’s a default thought process for most of us. It’s easier to focus on what went wrong, than search for the positive. I also believe that the media we surround ourselves with highlights the negative via sensationalism. The news focus is primarily negative. Your social media is no doubt filled with the negative experiences of your peers. And your inner voice has had years of experience pointing out your flaws. Negativity attracts more negativity.
Surely, you have seen an unhappy group of people. They all complain. They all sulk. They all seek each other out. Rarely do you find a happy member in the group, at least not a long term member. It is said, that we become the average of our 5 closest relationships. So if 4 members of your inner circle are critical and negative, you have the same tendencies.
Now that we are all depressed, and really rethinking our friendships, let’s focus on the other side of the coin. I mentioned that I operated in victim mode for years. Past Tense. I am happy to say, that if you find yourself stuck in victim-ville, you can escape. For me, it all goes back to that first heartbreak I wrote of in my last post. And chances are, if you wrote down your memorable moment, you can find your escape route also.
After my first heartbreaking encounter with attraction, I would love to report that I became a self assured young woman, and no longer allowed myself to be vulnerable. That would be a lie. I spent the majority of my school years, trying to navigate though the halls with as little attention as possible. I lived on the outskirts, and cringed when the spotlight came near me. I spent hours looking at myself in the mirror, and hating everything that was reflected. I dealt with pressures to fit in, and an inability to do so. I was unable to look at the positive side of things. I instead focused all of my attention on what could go wrong. What could happen to me. I wondered why everything was so hard for me.
It wasn’t for many years that I found my voice, and changed my life. But it was during this time, that I experienced the laws of attraction. With all of my thoughts on negativity, and fear, my mind worked to provide a match to my internal dialog. I saw all of my physical flaws. In turn, the school bullies were quick to see them as well. I worried about embarrassing myself. I embarrassed myself. There was a pattern, even though I didn’t recognize it.
My negative mindset assured that my world view matched. I became the victim I thought I was. I often wonder if I had been shown how to practice appreciation in those early years, how much more would I have experienced? I’ll never know, but I know this. I am thankful for the painful moments that exposed the beauty I see now.
Because my heart was hurt, I learned how to process emotional pain. I didn’t learn by processing it in a healthy way, but rather by letting it consume me. Heartbreak number one was devastating to the 11 year old girl. Heartbreak number 2 was even more devastating to the 14 year old girl. Heartbreak number 3 was crippling to the 16 year old girl. Each heartbreaking experience further fueled my negative dialog. I went into experiences with a predicted outcome, a negative outcome. And, I always got it.
Wait a minute! I thought you were going to tell me about intention thinking?
I am. Intention thinking is my default thought process…now. Those years I spent being the victim in my own life, taught me how to use appreciation as a plot twist. In the middle of any melodrama I find myself, I can immediately change the direction of the story by choosing to shift my focus. I apply the following techniques to my situation, and re-create my story.
1) Pause. I actually say this out loud, most of the time. This is the cue I give myself, that I need to stop the current direction of my thoughts.
“I woke up late, and now my whole day is shot…”. >>Pause<<
2) Survey. When you pause your dialog, you can take notice of your surroundings. Look only at the facts. Those things which are concrete and true.
Fact: I woke up later than I would like. Fact: I have less than my normal amount of time to prepare
3) Reframe. The original dialog that was paused was not a picture I wanted to match. Reframing, is a way to rearrange the dialog into a positive frame.
“I woke up late, but that’s ok. I can make up time by skipping my morning latte, and have coffee at the office instead”
4) Praise: Tell yourself what a great job you did. As juvenile as it may seem, we all still love praise. We cannot count on society to deliver our praise, so we must acknowledge it on our own.
“I am getting so good at this mindset stuff!”
Hopefully, you can see the importance of your mindset. It’s one of your most valuable tools, so use it regularly. Now then, let’s talk homework.
Take out that horror story you wrote. Last week, you put it down on paper, and forced yourself to notice how small it appears on paper. Writing it down, takes it out of the large storage area in your mind, and condenses it. That doesn’t mean it didn’t matter, or that we think it was insignificant. It means that we are refocusing our attention from the negative fame, to the positive frame
Using this paper, I want you to find a highlighter. Any color you want. I want you to highlight the negative.
For instance, I wrote: Who else would risk their reputation to be, in way, shape, or form, associated with me?
Those words described what was going on in my mind, and none of it was positive. Those thoughts were labeling me as a victim.
After you have highlighted the phrases, it’s time to practice appreciation. I want you to ask yourself these two questions: 1) Are these words fact, or opinion? 2) Do I want my world to reflect these words? Once you have those answers, it’s time to write your appreciation phrase.
“I’m sorry I believed this about myself, but I am thankful that I know these statements are not true. I know that I am an amazing person, and I am surrounded by people who can see that.”
Appreciating the past, for its lessons is an important step for all of us. We cannot learn without mistake and failure. The painful moments brought more than bad memories. They brought experience. They brought knowledge. And with intention (or intentional) thinking, they now bring power. You are now, re-scripting your brain. This is your story to tell
And telling your story is exactly what we will discuss next time