Don’t Believe Everything You Think
Today’s One Minute Mindset is about noticing the difference between the facts of a situation and the story you tell yourself about that situation. Sometimes it’s important you don’t believe everything you think!
I’ve mentioned this before but there’s a huge and very important difference between those two. The facts are what’s actually happened or what is happening. Our stories are our interpretations and the meanings we give to the facts. I’m telling you, you can’t believe everything you think. Sometimes these stories are just made-up fantasies. They’re not “facts”.
Have you heard the story about the little boy who woke up on Christmas morning and found a pile of horse manure rather than toys under the tree? He laughed and started shoveling the manure like crazy saying, “With all this manure, there must be a pony in here somewhere!” That’s definitely an optimistic kid, right?
The point is that he looked at the facts and, rather than interpreting them to mean that Santa thought he was a bad boy or that Christmas was going to be awful, he looked at that pile of poop, and decided it meant something great was coming!
The Buddhists say that all of our suffering comes from our thoughts. I don’t think they’re saying that we don’t have painful or difficult facts we’ve got to face. But, what they’re saying that our real suffering comes from the stories we tell ourselves about those difficult facts.
For example, I’m sure most of us have gone through breaking up with someone we were in love with. It’s tough, right? But it’s the story we tell ourselves that can cause us to really suffer. If we tell ourselves, “This means I’m not lovable” or “This means I’ll never find someone to love again” or “This means I’ll die alone and lonely.” Those stories cause us to suffer.
But what if we tell ourselves, “That must mean that he or she wasn’t the right one for me and there’s someone else out there who is perfect for me just around the corner.” We’ll still feel some pain but we’re not making ourselves suffer unnecessarily. Our positive story makes us hopeful and optimistic. So, let’s look at what’s happening right now in our world: We’re stuck at home, our economy is a mess, people are getting sick and dying. If this isn’t a pile of poop, I don’t know what is!
The facts of this situation are painful. But if the story we tell ourselves is, “So, I’ll never feel safe again” or “So, I’ll never be able to bring back my business or build my career” or “So, my kids will have a rotten childhood and be scarred for life.” I was just talking to one of my team members today. I had called her just as she was having an emotional panic attack. She was worried about her world falling apart.
Thinking about what had happened back in 2007 and feeling as though it was all happening all over again. I listened, told her to take a breath. Let her know that it was o.k. To have moments like this, but it would be in her best interest to not make up stories that have yet to come true.
Drumming up all the negative worries wasn’t going to help her. I asked her to try to think about good things and focus on that. When we don’t We’re causing ourselves unnecessary suffering. And setting ourselves up for making those stories come true. If we interpret it differently, we’ll have different results.
If we interpret this situation as, “Okay, so something good will come of this. I wonder what it is?” Now we’re focused on figuring out how things could be better in the future. We’re looking for possibilities. We’re not making ourselves suffer. We’re looking for the pony like the little boy at Christmas. This isn’t just airy-fairy thinking, it’s smart thinking.
Have you noticed that even in a horrible economy, some people can make money? Have you noticed how after a really painful loss, some people can blossom and become stronger and better? They’ve chosen to tell themselves a different story about the facts.
So, what kinds of stories are you telling yourself right now? Mark Twain wrote: “I have known many sorrows, most of which never happened.” Are you telling yourself stories that are causing you sorrow or suffering? Or are your stories helping you look for the pony? The stories you tell yourself right now will not only affect your mood and mindset. They will definitely affect your actions and your results.
We can’t change the facts, my friends. But we can always change our stories about them.
So, remember don’t believe everything you think!
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
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