How to Make Life Easier- Instantly!
Today we are going to talk about your reaction to things that happen in your life and what you can do to create less stress and keep an open mind.
This is an important topic for you to be aware of because it's quite likely (unless you are already aware of this) that you waste a lot of time and energy trying to control things you can't, such as; how other people behave, the weather, or traffic. A better option is to use this energy to control the one thing that really is up to you - your response! It also influences how much stress affects you and how easy it is for you to regain control in the heat of the moment.
My Favorite Parable…
If you've been to any of my presentations then you have a good chance of having heard this story before… it's about a Chinese Farmer and his son who lived a long time ago and were very, very poor. The only thing they had which basically kept them alive was a stallion that they would breed with the neighbour's mares in exchange for food, clothing, etc. One day the stallion jumped the fence and ran off.
The neighbours all came over and said, "This is terrible, this is very bad!"
To which the farmer replied, "Maybe good, maybe bad – we'll see."
The farmer and son went about their tasks, fixing the fence, cutting the hay and so on. Suddenly one day they heard a whiny (neigh!) and across the field galloped their stallion with a whole herd of wild mares running behind him. The farmer and son opened the gate to the corral and in ran the horses!
The neighbours all came over and exclaimed, "This is good, this is very, very good!"
To which the farmer replied…"Maybe good, maybe bad – we'll see."
Well the farmer and son started training the mares and one day, the farmer's son was thrown off the back of a horse and landed on the fence breaking his femur bone (the main bone of the leg) right in half.
The neighbours all came over, "This is bad, this is very, very bad!"
To which the farmer replied, "Maybe good, maybe bad – we'll see."
Recovering from a severely broken leg is not easy, but the farmer and son worked at it and eventually the son was able to walk again with the help of a cane. One day there was a knock at their door. It was the Imperial Army recruiting every able bodied young man to fight in a war they would end up losing. The farmer's son was spared because of his leg.
I love this parable, because to me it clearly shows a very important point.
There is nothing good or bad about anything that happens in life… in other words events are neutral, WE give them meaning and with that label decide how we feel about them. This is a huge deal, because it means that we have far more control over our thoughts, feelings and behaviours than we might normally believe.
Just for the record, in case you are still thinking about the parable, I want you to understand, allowing events to be neutral doesn't means everything will go in a positive direction in life. We grow and evolve through adversity so it is a natural part of our journey. If that story had been real, I'm sure there would have been plenty of challenges while the stallion was missing or after the son broke his leg. Even having so many mares to train could have created difficulties.
By allowing events to be neutral you will find it easier to deal with all challenges because you are holding onto your power rather than giving it away to an event.
Making it real...
Think about something that has happened in the last few days in your life that you labeled as bad and still believe was a bad thing. It could be your child throwing a tantrum in the middle of a store; it could be the fender bender you were in or the flat tire that you had; it could be missing the finale of your favorite reality show.
Now think about how that situation made you feel. Angry, embarrassed, frustrated, disappointed…
Take it a step further and try to recall what thoughts came up as a result of those feelings… maybe you even said some of them aloud. "No way! This sucks! &#$%@!"
What other feelings arose as a result of these thoughts? Did your frustration, embarrassment or disappointment turn to anger… or maybe your anger to rage?
The point of this exercise is to show you that it's your thoughts… which are based on what you believe about the event that are making it worse. If, on the other hand, you felt the initial disappointment the moment you realized you had missed your show (or your PVR hadn't recorded it properly!), but you took a deep breath and accepted it as reality, you would not escalate into anger and as result would find it much easier to move on. Either way, you missed the show.
In later podcasts we're going to talk about how your feelings might be misleading you, as well as how all these things influence your vibrational energy, which in turn affects what you're attracting into your experience... but for now, I just want you to understand that the event itself is always neutral.
3 tips to help you put this skill into practice...
1. Put on your Detective's hat:
If you recall, back in the intro podcast, I mentioned that my youngest son is a transboy. There are many people out there who want to label this realization as good or bad. When my son told me about it, which was only a few weeks ago, I felt fear in the pit of my stomach. For many, this fear would naturally lead to a label of bad, which could have brought me to tears, caused me to rant and rave at my son and to feel embarrassed about sharing this with other people.
Rather than allow this to happen, I put on my detective's hat, took a deep breath and asked myself what the fear was about. I realized instantly that I feared for the life of struggle my child could be choosing. This raised a feeling of compassion and with it a strong surge of unconditional love. I realized my son was very brave to tell me and that he didn't take this announcement (and the decision to transition) lightly. He'd already given it a lot of thought, and decided his life would be filled with struggle either way. By embracing his desire to realign his body he could at least find happiness in his own skin rather than constantly struggling to be someone he was not.
The result, I still have to work at it to see him as my son, but at no point did I feel angry, hurt or betrayed.
Curiosity is a wonderful way to neutralize strong emotions and to see things from a more objective stand point. So get curious rather than defensive and see where it takes you.
2. Shift your perspective:
This tip is similar to the first in that it really is about seeing things in a different way. In this case however, I'm talking about flipping a situation on its head so you can find the good in it. Let me use the wisdom of a coin to help illustrate. We all know that a coin has two sides and even though the tail side might be facing up, the head side is still always there. What this means, is in any situation involving opposites the reverse chance must always be present as well. So, when you flip the coin and heads comes up…you know that tails is right there on the other side.
This means when a situation feels bad… good is also present. The flipside is also true; when a situation feels good… bad is also nearby.
Use this knowledge to seek out what the good is (we don't have to seek out the bad – it tends to show itself quite easily). Here are some other words to show you what I mean.
On the flip side of negative is positive; awful is awesome; impossible is possible; undesirable is desirable; obstacle is opportunity...
It is our beliefs about something that limits our ability to see both sides at once. I urge you, if you tend to see things in black and white, which most of us have been trained to do, to start searching for the gray. You might actually take out a coin (or even just a piece of paper and write the opposites on either side) then challenge yourself to debate both perspectives. The more you do this, the easier it will be for you to remain objective, to destroy limiting beliefs and to open your mind to a variety of new information.
3. Train your brain to NET the positives:
Dr. Rick Hanson, a psychiatrist, wrote a book called Hardwiring Happiness and in it, he talks about the fact that our brains are actually wired to remember the bad and let go of the good. He says our brains are like velcro for negative experiences (they stick around easily) and like teflon for the positive (they just slide on through).
I was really excited to read this, because prior to picking up his book I had noticed that people seemed to dwell on bad things that happened and just let the good moments sail on by. As a result, I created a system I call NET which is an acronym N-E-T to help people recognize the numerous little pleasurable moments that they experience in a day and NET them so that the positive feelings they create stick around longer.
I want to teach you this process, because the more you focus in on those pleasurable moments, the easier it will be for you to be at your best in life….which includes being able to reserve judgment and view events as neutral.
A simple process:
N = Notice; when a pleasurable moment arises in your day, take a moment to really notice it. These moments can be super tiny…so if you don't zero in on them, they will simply flit on by. Examples of pleasurable moments for me: sun on my face; laughing with someone; cuddling with my dog; talking with a friend; sitting down with a fresh cup of tea; finishing a presentation; gazing at a flower; eating dark chocolate; hitting a string of green lights; taking a shower … The trick to noticing, is to allow yourself to become fully present in the moment – forget your 'to do' list; block out other distractions and just fully immerse yourself right there.
E = Expand the Emotion… shift your focus to how this moment makes you feel (grateful, content, relaxed, lucky, excited, loved, turned on) locate it in your body and actually help it expand. See it getting bigger. This will be difficult at first if you've never done this before, but with practice it gets easier.
T= Tie it down with Thoughts… the thoughts we have about any event, especially when they are coated in strong emotion, help to embed it in our memory, so come up with thoughts that fit the moment and tie them to it in your mind (I picture little kite strings)…"What a great day; I love my life; I'm so grateful for this dog; This is such a precious moment." Because you're doing this in a moment of expanded emotion, it doesn't take a lot of thoughts, so add as many as feel right for you and move on. The more you do this, the more you will attract these kinds of experiences to you and the easier it will be to hold onto them. This might not seem like a big deal, but in reality it can be the difference between neutralizing a bad day and believing that your life sucks.
So, there you have it, 3 things you can do to help you bring more neutrality into your day and perhaps truly believe the notion, "Maybe good, maybe bad – we'll see." They help you to open your mind and be at your best no matter what the circumstance.
So play around with these…have fun with them and let me know how you do. I love feedback and would be thrilled to hear your thoughts on this.
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