Here in the 'personal growth' sector I see quotes and aphorisms floating around all the time. I like them because they can be great reminders and perspective shakers. Depending on the day or the time that I see them, they help me navigate my way around life's little speed bumps, nudge me to check in with myself or simply remind me how grateful I am or how awesome it is to be alive in the world. Even though I am a coach and I teach people all kinds of tricks for staying present and shifting their thoughts, those quotes can be good self-coaching tools for me.
Recently I found myself in a situation that required me to use some serious self-coaching. There was a conference that I was beyond excited to attend. A gathering of coaches whom I love and respect - one of my tribes - and we only meet every 2 years. I'm not sure how to fully convey how magical these conferences can be. There are great speakers and workshops full of like-minded souls and inspirational teachers. The last one I attended was so energizing and uplifting that I spent the weekend alternately beaming and crying and I wanted to give the whole wide world a giant hug. I was blissed out for weeks afterwards. So imagine my disappointment when I found that this year's gathering had been accidentally scheduled on Passover - one of the most important and meaningful holidays for another of my tribes. It felt like a gut-punch.
The scheduling was a snafu - a total oversight that apparently was not fixable. It was not deliberate, it was not a snub and it most certainly was not personal. In my heart I knew all of that. But my mind kept leading me to a dark place where I was surrounded by thoughts like "It's not fair", "This shouldn't be happening", "I am heartbroken" and "How could they?" - thoughts that left me feeling angry and isolated. Plus I was berating myself because I am a coach and I was "supposed to know what to do." I was cutting myself no breaks.
All in all it was a yuck-fest.
This went on intermittently for a while until one morning I was perusing Instagram and saw a quote that said something along the lines of "what you put out is what you get back." I've seen quotes like that about a million times before, but on that particular day at that particular time that quote reminded me to see things from a different angle. If I wanted to start feeling better it was time to change what I was thinking.
Even if I was still having some FOMO around missing the conference I did NOT have to let those feelings drive my mood.
I knew this already but I was finally ready to let it go.
I deliberately sat and got quiet and focused on how much actual love I have for these people. About how I have made mistakes myself many times in the past, and how I am sure to make more in the future. I sent every one of them love, love, love. And I felt light starting to creep into that dark place. I went on Facebook and "liked" a whole bunch of posts about the conference - posts that I had previously been avoiding. In that moment I began to start feeling better.
When I decided to change how I was seeing things, the things I was seeing started to change.
I would be lying if I said that it was a complete and total fix from that point forward. I had to coach myself several more times before I felt like I was over it. But when I felt sad I let myself have a few minutes to just be sad. Sitting with the sadness instead of whispering useless thoughts like "it's not fair" helped me move through it and be better equipped to start shifting my perspective.
If there is something going on in your life that you can't stop fretting about or obsessing over, here's what can you do today, right now, to start moving through it.
First get clear on exactly what it is that's bugging you and why. If grief or sadness is fresh then it might not be the time to do this exercise, but if it's something that's been lingering, sit with the feeling for a minute and don't push it away. Then write down what comes up.
Next, start making a list of all the ways you might benefit or learn from what's happening. The list can include things as simple as "this is reminding me how to find compassion" to "maybe it's happening for some reason that has not revealed itself yet". Try and come up with at least 10 things and if you have more keep going. I typically try and go for 20. It always starts off feeling like there's no way to come up with that many reasons and yet they are there. I promise. Stay with it and when you are done take a look at your list and see how things have changed.
What we feel is a direct result of what we think, which is great news because it means that when we are ready we can start to make some shifts.
In my experience, when you focus on the positive you start to feel more positive, because what you put out there really is what you get back.
What you see is what you get.