We’ve all heard that if we just think positively everything will be better.
We have journals and lists that we create every night or morning of how we’re blessed.
Then there’s the mantra, “Change your thoughts, change your life.”
And sometimes when I see these things I get a little ragey because it isn’t always that easy. It’s hard to always think positively when your dog has just died or you’re in a war zone or your being hurt.
We’re all allowed to be a little ragey sometimes or sad or gleeful or even covetous. That’s because we’re human, but it’s also because of something even more important that we all need to remember.
WE ARE NOT OUR THOUGHTS.
We can think, “I am Jesus” all day long but that doesn’t make us Jesus. We can think, “I am Beyonce” or “I am the president.” But it doesn’t make us so.
What makes us who we are?
The things we do.
I have a friend who does one act of kindness after another, who cares passionately about the people she loves. But people can annoy her sometimes. Injustices REALLY annoy her.
And after she has a judgement-free rant, she’ll say, “I’m so awful. I know! I know!”
But that’s the thing.
She’s not awful. She’s amazing. She’s one of the best people I know. And that’s because who she is isn’t just about her thoughts. Who she is stems from her actions, her choices, her decisions.
When she needs to persist or overcome, she doesn’t give in to her thoughts of doubt, her insecurities, or even her anger. She acts. She makes a difference.
How cool is that?
Yes, it’s important and super healthy to have a positive outlook. But it’s not always possible, and when you don’t achieve that? It doesn’t make you bad. If you think you’re bad, then you’re just going to end up in another negative thought spiral.
You’re too awesome for that.
And you can’t sit around waiting to be happy, hoping that this will be the day where you aren’t in pain, or someone isn’t a troll, or the basement doesn’t flood. You have to make the choice to be happy and take the actions that help you feel that if that’s what you want to feel.
You can think about changing all the time, but actual change come from doing the work, the actions, making the choices and going for it.
You can do that.
So, how do you do that?
Acting/doing/participating in something takes you away from negative thoughts and thrusts you into the action, gives you focus. People in Asia and Europe have talked about the flow state for a long time. People in sports tend to call it being in the zone.
But it’s a place, and damn it’s beautiful.
To get there though, you have to do the action. That might be running, writing, painting, climbing, figuring out a theorem, creating a blog post, but it happens because you are doing an action. Do the things.
PUT YOUR THOUGHTS IN THEIR PLACE
Really. This isn’t new either, but it works. When you feel that negative thought spiral coming on, call it out. Say, “Yo. Negative thought. Just because I forgot to close the bedroom door before we made the sex and forgot my avo and Aunt Rose Marie were coming over does not mean ‘I am so stupid.’ It just means I was so in the moment that I forgot to close the door.”
You’ve got to try to see those negative thoughts for the bullies they are and sometimes all they need to chill out is just to be noticed.
I have wicked social anxiety. It’s like a weird kind of stage fright. And the only way for me to battle it is to just act right through it. So I get in the car and drive to the party and tell my negative thoughts that nothing horrifying will happen and my actions won’t make people go to jail. I go to the board meeting. I do the live podcast. I buckle up and stare down the negative thoughts and once I’m doing the actions? It helps tamp down the anxiety. But if I hesitate? That fear builds up and up, gaining so much power that it’s a vicious battle to tamp it back down.
And I love people. I love the joy of public speaking. I love moving people and inspiring them in person, right? So, it’s almost like my fright is excitement gone terribly wrong. It’s almost like a part of me thinks, “Who am I to get to do this? To be this happy? To have people listen to me?”
For a kid with a speech defect (and now an adult with one), that’s a pretty amazing thing. Middle-school Carrie would have never imagined it.
Pay Attention To The World Like A Tourist or a Poet Would
I know! I know! Poets and tourists don’t seem to go together, but they both search for experiences and explore their worlds.
A Roman emperior, Marcus Aurelius, would detail the world like the best of writers or artists. Ordinary things became extraordinary under his pen.
Noticing things is an action. Seeing things is a gift. Empathy and understanding can be byproducts of observation. Be present. Don’t overlook the ordinary. You’ve got this.
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