‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’ – Shakespeare
What kind of story are you telling? What type of narrative streams through you? We all have certain filters and lenses that we view the world through. And we all accept or determine what happens in our world depending on what we see. Maybe you’re 20/20…or maybe you need a new prescription.
The story that you are telling is directly related to the thoughts you are having…so it’s really the story that you’re telling yourself. When you open your eyes first thing in the morning, what are your thoughts? Are they positive and ‘bucket filling’ to coin a term used by my neighbor, or do you start the day off with negative ’emptying’ thoughts? “If you win the morning, you win the day,’ according to Tim Ferriss, and understanding the start to your day may help in determining how you feel when you lay your head down at night. In this sense though, the morning is a defining moment…you’re still hatching, and your mind is a blend of subconscious and conscious thought. You are the true sense of yourself, and don’t yet wear the mask of the day. If you’re not aware of your own thoughts, and you’re trying to build self-awareness, this is a good place to start… write down what you’re feeling, or at least notice…do I feel good, healthy, ready, depressed, lethargic?
For the most part of my life, I told myself stories that weren’t helpful. I viewed the world as a place where things happened to me…some good things yes…but mostly a bunch of small, negative things. I often found a routine of complaining (to myself and out loud), being annoyed at the system and at other people (mostly people I envied), and wondering why me? and why don’t I get the breaks that others find so easily?
My mornings were dreaded, and I wasn’t excited to start the day. I didn’t enjoy being around other people too much…especially anyone who challenged me. And even things that were achieved that I thought would get me beyond that story were short lived…and it started all over the next day. Writing this sounds depressing. But interestingly enough, I would say that I view my entire life as being ‘happy’. I guess I just thought that’s how everyone lived and that it was out of my control. I wasn’t sad about it, but I knew there was another way.
I also noticed many others doing the same thing so I didn’t feel alone. For the most part, the two negative emotions commonly threading through most people is anger and fear. Tony Robbins talks a lot about these. The place I noticed it most often, and a good test site for you…is driving in the car. Driving is so unique in that we’re boxed in, somewhat secluded, a little bit hidden, but also interacting and dancing with other people…how crazy! I can think of many instances while riding with others when the driver of the car I was in immediately created a negative story about what was going on around us. Someone riding a bike on the road and the driver would say something like, ‘what does this ________ think he’s doing?’ Fill in the blank with your favorite vulgar term. Or at a 4 way stop…one car chooses not to obey the unwritten rule of ‘if we arrive at the same time, the car on the right gets to go first’. ‘What the _____ does that _______ think he’s doing?’ Car talk is a great way to check yourself and listen to the story that is being told. Ultimately, the tale is up to you.
I used to drive like an idiot. It’s actually embarrassing to think about, especially with the loud and obnoxious vehicles I chose. I would often try to ‘get people back’ on the road, teach them a lesson, and get places as fast as humanly possible. It basically resulted in more stress, more speeding tickets, and a feeling of always running late. These days I drive slow. I try to avoid all stress and people that are clearly in a huge rush. And I never get upset about what others are doing…well almost never. It’s a work in progress ok? What I came to realize though, is that a lot of what makes up our day, our feelings, our happiness or lack thereof, our relationships…is simply based on our thoughts surrounding them. A more important realization for me though, is that we get to decide on our thoughts. And based on those thoughts, we get to create actions and reactions.
Like most things, this isn’t a quick switch. And it can take a lot of practice. A lot of changing habits. And a bunch of self-reflection. You may not love what you see! But that’s a good time to put some work into drafting a new story…one that doesn’t have to speak of the negativity and anger and fear, but one that will tell of all the joy and love you have in your world.
There are many ways to start drafting that story. One theme that has worked for me, and that I see threaded within other folks that I’ve been reading about, is gratitude and appreciation. Finding ways to incorporate these ideas into your thoughts will radically change your perspective and give you a new lens prescription. Tony Robbins says ‘Turn your expectations into appreciation and your whole life will change’. By appreciating the things you have, and the people you know, you continually tell yourself an enriching and fulfilling story. You frequently remind yourself of the good, and strip away a lot of the bad. And you find that you can fill your own bucket so to speak.
How to we start though, and how do we practice often? Some ideas that come to mind…1. Write in your journal every night or every morning 3 things that you’re grateful for. 2. Sit and think of a person you appreciate. Remember back to things that they’ve done or said that you loved, and just hold on to those thoughts for 10 minutes with your eyes closed. 3. Wish happiness on others. Simply choose a person. This can be someone you know, or even a stranger walking by. Take a deep breath, and wish for that person to be happy today. Do that for 3 people every day. 4. Write a handwritten thank you note to someone and snail mail it to them. Everyone has someone right now that they can thank for something. If you can’t think of a ‘thank you’, send a ‘You’re cool’ or ‘thinking of you’ card to someone…just letting them know that they’re in your thoughts and you love them! These may seem daunting to you at first, but honestly, these are very simple to execute. And the return on investment is outstanding…immeasurable.
Movie: Stranger than Fiction. Click here for a great clip from the movie. This is Will Ferrell in a serious role. He hears his life being narrated by an author, finds out about his ‘imminent death’, and must decide on what story to tell himself, and how to live…great connection to my post! I have the movie if you want to borrow it. And just like I said in my Reading List, I will barter for fine coffee and pastries! Joking…unless you have some.
Music: Gregory Alan Isakov. Soft acoustic. California. Song Writing. Emotions. Click here to listen…and love it.