Most of us generally spend our lives playing the "outer game" and allowing our lives and our moods to be governed and run by events and peoples actions outside of us - the "externals". The danger of that approach is that we are allowing our joy and happiness and success to be dependent on outside forces over which we have no control.
It is almost impossible not to be affected by what is happening around us. I am not suggesting that we live in some sort of sheltered and unrealistic "positivity bubble" and deny that a problem exists, because simply ignoring an external problem does not make it go away. At best, it reduces it to an even more insidious place in our sub-conscious, leaving us with a vague sense of unease but "nothing we can put our finger on" and the more we try to ignore it, the more it gains energetic force.
We can, however, make a conscious choice to take back control when confronted with external interference by learning how to consciously control our own internal thoughts. Inspirational author, Louise Hay, said "You are the only thinker in your own mind." We can shift our thought defaults to ones that serve us. We can CHOOSE what we put our mental focus on. That is entirely in our control.
"The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind." - William James, American psychologist and author, 1842 - 1910
5 STEPS TO TAKING BACK CONTROL WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE CONTROL
As the Zen Buddhists advise when confronted with external interference, "Turn your head to it, nod in its direction and then turn your head and ignore it". The critical point being that you first need to acknowledge something in order to truly be able to "ignore it" or "let it go".
Write a list of everything that is currently standing in the way of your peace, joy and happiness. Consciously give a big "NOD" (acknowledgement) to everything on that list and then incorporate structured "obsessing time" into your day. Set a timer, and then for 30 minutes, you MUST obsess about those things that are really bothering you. Don't allow yourself to stop obsessing until the time is up. The hitch? Once the time is up, you cannot allow yourself to obsess about it until your "structured obsessing time" on the following day.
2/ Reality Check
Look at that list carefully. How many of the items on that list are within your control?
Put the "in my control" list to one side - we will deal with that list in another ezine (or click here for a free chapter download on DO-ABLE GOAL SETTING" from my book, Harmony from the Inside Out).
Now, look at the "completely out of my control" list. Ask yourself what you are feeling when you think at each item on that list - eg/ are you sad, terrified, frustrated? Simply notice the feelings, and jot down the emotions that arise.
3/ Flip your Focus
Where do you place your mental focus? Is it more often on what you have and what you want in your life, or, is it on what you don't have and don't want?"
Focus your thinking right now to one of the challenges on your "completely out of my control" list. Think about what you don't have, or don't want around as it pertains to that challenge. What happens to you? What happens to the problem? Does it go away? I doubt it!
When you are focused on what you don't have, or don't want in any situation, you are absolutely stuck in the land of scarcity and consequently have nowhere to go or no way out of it. Feel what happens when you FLIP your focus to the opposite side of the ledger - to the "what you do have", or "what you do want" side. Think about that same "challenge" and ask yourself what you have, or what you want around that challenge. How does that shift the way you are feeling?
For example, let's take my coaching client Barb's current work struggle as she deals with incredible downsizing and staff job cuts at her place of employment. Before she flipped her focus, Barb had been stressed out, worrying and focused on the very real possibility that her job might be next on the chopping block. I asked her what was all of that middle of the night worrying doing for her and how was it helping her? Was it helping her "keep" her job? Was it making her "happier"? Well of course, the answer was NO. She was focused firmly on the "what I don't have and what I don't want" side of the ledger and it was making her miserable. When she flipped her focus, her thinking opened up to what she wanted and there were possibilities. She wants to keep a similar job in the future. She wants to ensure she has enough to pay her mortgage. She wants to set herself up for a financially stable retirement. She could then ask herself ; "Okay then, considering the current job climate, how do I do that?" Barb's shoulders relaxed, her countenance changed. Now she was strategizing for a goal (and she knew how to do that!) instead of being held hostage in a helpless reaction to an external circumstance outside her control.
4/ Feed your Mind
It is critical to create a "positivity bank" that you can draw on when particularly stressed. Incorporate some of the following techniques into your daily life to help build up your own personal bank.
- Begin the day by creating a positive intention (what will this day be about for you - joy? love? peace? fun? ease?) Remind yourself of your intention throughout the day.
- Surround yourself with positive messaging and with reminders of your fabulous-ness. Fill your home, your office, your car with positive messaging - photos of people you love, of things you love doing, with inspirational quotes.
- Remove yourself from all negative conversations and/or situations as quickly as possible. Notice when you are the one who initiates the negative conversation and flip it.
- End the day with gratitude. Spend the last few moments before sleep writing a list of what you are grateful for, and what of value happened that day (could be as simple as having a good conversation with a friend, or the sun coming out, or getting a smile from the cute Starbucks barista). Those positive thoughts will stay with you and amplify as you sleep.
5/ Look forward
Put aside at least 10-15 minutes per day for mindful self-care. Slow your thinking mind (the place where all of your fear or negative thoughts exist) by focusing on your breathing and a positive word or picture that you hold in your mind. Give yourself some space to dream and reconnect to the YOU that you are, and the brilliance that is your life and future. (read last month's ezine feature article for how to reconnect with that feeling of aligned balance). Smile! You are in complete control again.