How many times have you mentally replayed a situation that annoys you, frustrates you, in some way causes you distress? Silly question? How many times have you replayed celebrations, joyous moments? Most people revisit painful memories multiple times and overlook the ones that could actually help.
Sure, we’ve all experienced disappointments, hardships, even tragedies. Likewise, we’ve all had pleasing and gratifying experiences. We get ourselves in trouble when we start to quantify them, such as, “Well there’s been more hardships than pleasantries.” That statement alone indicates where we put our focus. We get more of where we keep our focus.
Even if the happy times have been few, by mentally replaying only the ones that cause pain and sorrow acts as an eraser, or at minimum a barricade, to locating memories that allow us to smile and feel joy. At any moment in your life you can check in with how you feel. Then ask yourself, “Does that thought, word, or action serve me well?” Here’s what’s interesting. You don’t have to identify the cause – thought, word or action. You simply need to recognize you feel less than desirable.
I know I’ve been annoyed at a person/situation and let myself dive into an emotional funk. Something tells me I’m not alone. Notice we do this to ourselves and in many cases for long periods of times – days, weeks, months, even years. Then we think we have no control over our thoughts when in reality we’ve made it easy to think detrimental thoughts from our participation and repetitive practice!
When in a distraught state (in varying degrees) we no longer are effective. Ineffective means we aren’t thinking well which also means we are unable to make wise decisions. We can make all kinds of excuses or justifications about how we feel and why we feel the way we do. However, bottom line, we harm ourselves and lose valuable time.
Once you get that far ask yourself another simple question, “What can I think, say, or do that will help me at this moment?” The moment you ask this question you begin to shift the focus and energy! You may need to ask multiple times to stay redirected – AND you don’t have to “figure out” the new thought, word, or action. All that is required is a willingness to ask and the way will be made. You can, if you choose, return to your painful thought any time – why would you though?
Learning to redirect our thoughts, words, and actions can feel like a tennis match; even as grueling as the recent eleven hour Wimbledon match! First we must accept that ALL improvements in life are an inside-out job. Then we need to examine and modify the invisible (thoughts) to change and create the visible we desire. This for many is the problem as they are adamant about only focusing on what they see.
Using the questions, “Does that thought, word, or action serve me well?” and “What can I think, say, or do that will help me at this moment?” is working on the invisible. The challenge may be remembering to do so. Here are some ideas that will help:
- Post the questions where you’ll see them regularly
- Team up with an accountability partner
- Work with a coach
- Listen/read self-development material minimum weekly, preferably daily – this is a necessity, NOT an option if you truly want to improve your life in any capacity!
- Send yourself a text message (you’re texting everything else!) a few times a day as a reminder
What pleasant or enjoyable memory can you recall at this moment? How long can you hold your attention? Notice how you feel. If you start to feel anything negative – regret, resentment, fear etc – you have shifted; though probably subconsciously; and to achieve a better outcome you need to consciously choose to redirect your thought and focus on the more pleasurable. Remember you’ve had a lot of practice with thoughts that aren’t serving you well. Be patient and determined, practice will make progress!