Sunday, May 29, 2016

"Change your thoughts...

...and you change your world." -Norman Vincent Peale

I am amazed at how true those eight words are.  Our thoughts are, quite simply, our life, and everything we see, say, do, and feel, comes from and through our thoughts. If you walk around in the world thinking that you are a beautiful, successful, unstoppable person, then that is who you are and people will respond to that. If you think of yourself as a small, shameful, unworthy person, then that becomes who you are, and the outside world will most definitely respond to that as well.

Champion athletes have proven the concept of visualizing themselves crossing the finish line or kicking the winning goal.  Their thoughts drive them toward triumph and what they ultimately want to achieve. The same goes for successful artistic performers, business leaders, public speakers, and anyone else who goes through daily preparation focusing on their next accomplishment and the subsequent higher place they want to be.

Conversely, people who are constantly consumed by the thoughts of their past failures or disappointments can never be content in the present or hopeful for the future. People who in their minds "think" they have no friends are generally correct. People who "think" they are losers will configure their daily energies to make sure that's true. We live what we think, and our thoughts shape our actions.

To that end, I've also been realizing that nearly all of the time, we interpret other people's actions based on our own thoughts and feelings. However, these thoughts and feelings usually have nothing to do with the intention of the other person's actions. So many times the intention of any given person is NOT to be hurtful or offensive, but we choose to be hurt and offended based on our thoughts. 

In short, no one is hurting me, but me.

The same can be said for when we choose to not follow our dreams. Or when we choose to remain miserable instead of seeing all of the good around us. Or when we assume that someone is going to let us down even if they have shown all evidence to the contrary.  Most of the time the only one who is standing in the way of us achieving our full potential for happiness and success is ourselves.

Now this is not to say that there aren't mean, vindictive people in the world who do their best to cut other people down on a regular basis. (See prior Nellie Oleson posts.) But it seems like so often, a person makes a decision based on what is right for him/her at the time, and without meaning to, he or she hurts another person's feelings.  For example, someone could have arrived 15 minutes late to a lunch meeting with a friend.  She didn't mean to be late, but because of unforeseen circumstances, she was.  Now, this lateness might not bother someone who had nowhere else to be afterward and did not have an particular issue with someone being late. However, someone else might be extremely upset that the other person showed up late because of a reason present only in her thoughts. Such as, her mother always showed up late to pick her up at day care when she was little and she went through her childhood constantly feeling embarrassed and like a low priority to someone who claimed to love her.  These thoughts, which have no correlation to the person who is late today, make the on-time person exceedingly upset and frustrated whenever anyone is late.  Another person might feel angry when a person is late because she is on a tight schedule and her mind is already racing ahead to what she has to get done after the lunch is over.  This person feels like the late person isn't taking her own circumstances into account and paints the late person as "inconsiderate and selfish." Meanwhile the late person might have gotten unavoidably stuck in traffic or missed an elevator, or misplaced her phone, all the while actually doing her best to try to get to the lunch on time. Then the late person, who was trying so hard to be considerate is shocked and annoyed when the person she meets is so upset.

This is one example of millions of misunderstandings that cause irreparable rifts in friendships, work relationship, and even marriages, all due to what each person was thinking.  Alone. In each one of their solitary heads.

Henry Ford famously said, "Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right!" I believe this wholeheartedly.  Not in the sense that "If I think I can be a movie star, I'll be a movie star," because there are always outside components playing parts in a person's success. Not to mention the copious amounts of hard work that go along with the positive thoughts and visualizations.  But if you think you are deserving of all of the good things life has to offer, then you will receive them. If you think you are worthy of being treated with respect, then you will not put up with anything less than what you deserve. If your thoughts tell you not to settle for even one iota of less than what you want, need, and desire, then you won't.

Our thoughts drive our actions and they absolutely drive our emotions.  And just because something has made itself into a permanent neural pathway in our brains over years of thinking it doesn't mean it's true. It takes a lot of work, but neural pathways can be changed, and indeed, if we change our thoughts, we absolutely change our worlds.

What thoughts need changing in your world?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

No pain, no gain.

I feel like my soul got stabbed yesterday.  It was an old wound, one that had been ripped open countless times and covered over with decades worth of scabs and scar tissue.  It was one that I actually thought had been just about healed for good.  So when the knife went in, cutting so cleanly through the callouses, deep down to the core of my being, I was both saddened and surprised to feel how familiar and comfortable it felt.

And man, did it hurt.  An intense pain that made me almost physically fall over.  It made me catch my breath and for a moment made me wonder if I was really feeling what I was feeling and actually revisiting this ancient place of grief and despair.  When I realized that indeed, I was in this place again, the devastation was palpable to those around me.

But here's the interesting thing about severe emotional pain combined with age.  There was a time when this would have shattered me for days, even weeks, and it would have consumed my mind and made it difficult for me to function.  But now, after so many years of learning how to heal myself and deal with others' disrespect and disregard for my worth as a person, I'm able to see the hurt for what it is, note the source of where it came from (not me), and begin to build up the scar tissue again. More quickly and effectively this time.

This is a choice.

I can very easily choose to wallow in my misery, taking everyone around me down with me, focusing on the pain and the betrayal and frustration that this situation is happening yet again to me.  But the sun came up this morning, there are birds literally singing outside my window, the people that I love are thankfully well, and I have much to be grateful for.  What could have been a fall from a cliff that left me broken and bleeding is instead a pebble that I tripped over on the sidewalk. Did I skin my knees and pull some muscles? Sure. But I'm able to pick myself up, patch myself up, and keep on walking. I may walk more slowly for the next few days, but I'm upright and choosing to continue on my journey.

As strange as it may sound, there is a certain benefit to when you have been hurt so deeply that you drown for months in acute pain and sorrow.  When you DO get through it, you can never be hurt that profoundly again. You do get stronger in the broken places and when something close to it happens, there is an odd comfort in knowing that you will never be quite that devastated again.

In The Princess Bride Wesley famously says, "Life IS pain, highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something." In a way that's true.  But on the other hand, "No pain, no gain." I would not have the strength I have now, to deal with this latest challenge, had I not gone through the pain before and come out stronger on the other side.  It made me wiser, tougher, and more resilient overall.  I'm not saying that I'm glad I've had to go through these things in my life. But these things are going to come our way, no matter how much we try to dodge them,  and we have to make the choice to either let them destroy us, or let them be experiences which we can learn from and which will ultimately make us happier and healthier people overall.

You can get bitter or you can get better. I'm choosing better.