Today I met 12 other amazing women at an event I hosted this afternoon to have a conversation about this very topic. I wish all of my friends could have joined us! That’s why I want to share this article with you. I hope we can continue today’s conversation here!
Many people go through life creating by default; they just aren’t clear about what they really want. They become hung up on how much is going wrong in their life or in the world. And once that happens, they start to tell a story—they construct a narrative around the grim details that have captured their attention. “People ask too much of me.” “My house is a mess.” “I don’t have enough money to do what I really want.” We’ve all heard these tales, and what’s worse, we’ve all told them. It’s really easy to let those thoughts weigh us down and sap our creative energy.
So how do you say “Cut!”? How do you stop telling the bad stories and start telling the good ones? To begin, you need to understand that events are not part of a narrative, that they simply happen. When you see that all events are neutral, you then recognize that the stories you see behind them are your stories—good, bad or indifferent. If you can reserve judgment, you give yourself a chance to let events unfold.
Once you do that, you can move on to create another story, one that feels better, one with a chance at a happy ending. That choice may seem to be a stretch sometimes, but like any exercise, it will become easier with time. Soon it becomes second nature to reflect on what you’re perceiving, see the tragedy you’ve started composing in your head, and then move on to craft that better-feeling story. The peace that comes with that choice is its own reward. But it gets even better: in time, your new story will have a ripple effect, creating positive results that will astound you.
Research shows that when you consistently engage in the practice of identifying your stressful, negative thoughts and find alternative and better-feeling thoughts you are creating new neural pathways that will lead to long-lasting benefits – decreased anxiety and depression and increased ability to find creative solutions, and ultimately satisfaction and happiness.
Of course, it’s not realistic to think that you can go immediately from a bad-feeling thought to a happy place. More than anything, you’re looking for a feeling of relief from where you were a moment ago. Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or depressed by what is happening in your life right now is only a problem if you can’t think of what it is you want to be different. Still not sure? Let me walk you through an example from my own life.
Quite recently, an administrator in my hospital announced that at best, everyone in the hospital would receive a minimal raise this year. Even if we did everything right, all we could hope for was 2.5%, when exemplary employees would normally get 5%. After I heard this, I had some pretty stressful thoughts – among them were fears that the hospital was going to lay off employees—and that I could be among them! I also told myself that I had been counting on a raise, and everyone needs at least a 3% increase in salary every year to just meet the rising cost of living.
After a few minutes of those thoughts (a few very painful minutes), I realized that I was telling a story. I then challenged myself to find an alternative, better-feeling story; here is what I came up with:
“I don’t know that the hospital will need to lay off employees. In fact, I know they recently hired new employees. They are probably cutting back on raises so they don’t have to lay off people, or cut salaries (and I know many businesses are doing both).”
“I am grateful for my job and will keep appreciating all of the good things that I enjoy about it. If I need more money this year, I can always find other ways to make it or I will find ways to spend less. I trust that I always have whatever I need.”
I felt so much better after this internal self-talk. It made me feel powerful and abundant at the same time. And the facts hadn’t changed: all I had done was realize that the facts were neutral, that they included a few things I had chosen not to see, that I was telling a story I didn’t like—and that I had the power to tell a different one.
How about you? Have you ever been aware of a negative thought and tried to “talk” yourself to a better-feeling place? If not, are you willing to try now?
This week I'm rejoicing in meeting 12 amazing women to share our powerful stories - and that I always have the ability to tell the better-feeling story!