In life, we think that if something changed, we’d be happy. If someone changed, we would feel so much better. If something hadn’t happened, we could be who we want to be. If our circumstances were different, we could show up in the world and be the best versions of ourselves, ready to make a difference for ourselves and others.
One of the best concepts I have come to understand in life is that NOTHING outside of ourselves needs to change in order for us to live the life we want to live.
The most effective way to be who we want to be, to live the life we want to live, to feel better now, to play full out in life, isn’t dependent upon waiting for something outside of ourselves to change. The most effective way to shift things up, especially if we want to feel better, let alone make a difference in the world, is to BE the best version of ourselves. Now.
So, then the question becomes, how do we step into who that is?
Change your thinking, Change your life
It is human nature to see what’s wrong in life. It is not common to automatically see what’s possible. It’s simply the way our brains are wired. If we didn’t understand what was wrong, we wouldn’t be on the lookout for what could contribute to our end, like the bear that is coming at us in the forest. Our brain’s most important job is to keep us safe. Our minds are always on the lookout for problems, and yet bears are not around every corner. Looking for problems is very helpful, and yet, in our modern world, when we are unaware that this is the background chatter of our minds, it can also be very unhelpful and disempowering.
Our background thoughts provide what we call a “context” for living. We often (most of the time, actually) don’t see what these background thoughts are. Yet, they determine how we RELATE to the world, which isn’t helpful when we see situations as difficult, confronting, and problematic. Maybe we have a “difficult” child. Perhaps we have experienced situations in life that many would agree are not “ideal.” As humans, we lump these situations into the category of “problems,” and our brains go to work trying to solve for them, and yet, the unsupervised brain’s approach is often not very useful.
Background chatter and parenting
Let’s take parenting, for instance. When parenting a child that requires more of ourselves to be patient and to be more intentional in our approach, we have background thoughts that we have thought for so long, have practiced for so long, that these thoughts occur to us as beliefs and as being true. Here are a few examples of what I am talking about:
· My three-year-old is driving me crazy.
· She won’t listen to me.
· He is a difficult child.
· If he did what I ask, life would be so much better.
· I don’t know what to do.
· I’ve tried everything.
These thoughts feel true, right? When we live our day to day lives with these beliefs as our background (our context), we get stuck. We get results that will be very different from a context that may prove to be more useful. The context, or mindset, that will be much more helpful will be one where we approach the situation with neutrality, where we see the situation very factually, where we learn to accept “what is,” as if it is neutral, not negative, not a problem.
· Here are a few thoughts that reflect neutrality and leave us open for what’s next:
· She’s three. She hasn’t learned the skills yet to manage her emotions. That’s where I come in.
· She’s three. I’m looking for ways to teach her valuable skills.
· She doesn’t listen to me, and that’s probably pretty normal for three-year-olds.
· He isn’t “difficult.” He is who he is doing what he does.
· My happiness isn’t dependent upon someone else’s behavior. His behavior has no inherent power to cause me to feel anything. I am responsible for how I think and feel.
· I don’t know what to do yet. I’m learning and can find answers.
Neutrality is key
When your brain isn’t hooked by “what’s wrong,” it has the space needed to consider what’s possible, and you don’t get stuck. When you can approach any situation from a neutral place, your brain will consider other options that move you towards the results that you want. It is helpful to reframe your thoughts into more neutral sentences, or even positive sentences, and start to think these new thoughts intentionally.
I also like to use the phrase, “I GOT IT. NEXT?”, which is a phrase I teach all of my clients to use to help them view circumstances as neutral. When we accept a situation and stop resisting it, our minds are capable of seeing what is possible more readily. Accepting a situation does not mean that we “condone” or take a “laissez-faire” approach — quite the contrary. When we “acknowledge” the situation very factually, and see the circumstance as neutral, we start to live our lives from seeing what is POSSIBLE. It doesn’t mean we give up what is important to us. It just means that we stop seeing the situation as a problem, something that’s WRONG and needs to be fixed. (I know. You are probably thinking, “BUT SUE, YOU DON’T GET IT! This IS a problem.” I encourage you to hang in there with me.)
Our background context determines how we relate
When we define a situation as a “problem” that needs to be fixed, we are creating a context for living, that while it feels TRUE, may not be the most useful way to approach the situation. What researchers have found is that is when we can see anything that has “happened” in the world or anything that “IS” as NEUTRAL, factual, then we are much more capable of living lives that we WANT to live. We are much more capable of getting results that we want in life. When we discover that refraining from defining situations as “problems,” we find that we don’t have to create meaning around those events and make them significant. They simply are “what is.” At this point, we can consider that which we are committed to and step into being a stand for that. We become our commitment, actually. Our commitment is who we are.
Tame the Primitive Brain for better results
Our natural “this is a problem” mindset, while useful in a forest that houses bears that like to eat humans, isn’t always helpful in our modern world. We serve ourselves better when we choose a mindset where we are looking for what’s possible, where our primitive brain is tamed. Our brain’s job is to solve for problems, and when it is left unsupervised, it looks for problems from this default context, which doesn’t allow much room to see helpful solutions, let alone room to BE who we want to BE in the world. Add to this our human nature to justify our thinking, avoid pain, and find the easy button, and we knock ourselves out of the game. Why not become the best versions of ourselves? Why not live larger than when our primitive brains run the show.
Stop and think about what I am saying. It is worth consideration.
When we don’t define what has happened as “significant,” then we have the opportunity to say who we want to BE in life, and we can honor our commitment. We are capable of BEING love, connection, passionate, creative, whatever it is we choose to be. In other words, we are capable of being the best version of ourselves, able to BE in life the way we want to be. When we become who we intentionally choose to be, we are much more capable of being a stand for others, too, where we can have an impact upon them, to teach them what they have not yet been able to see for themselves. When we teach from a neutral space, we become much more effective parents, and we become much more effective human beings.
When dealing with a child that feels hard to parent, often these kinds of feelings show up: shame, anger, embarrassment, helplessness, overwhelm, vulnerability, insecurity, frustration, judgment, discouragement, depression, and often we feel ashamed of our behavior. When these feelings show up, they naturally drive behaviors that keep us off the court, so to speak, and we don’t honor who we want to be. Becoming aware of these feelings is the first step in changing the usual scenario, the same ol’, same ol,’ that too often keeps showing up, knocking us off our game.
When we see a circumstance (our child) as “neutral,” then we can take our own “ego,” out of the equation. We can avoid getting hooked and show up in a much better position to make a difference for ourselves and others.
Which feeling will drive the action that will create the result you want?
Anger or connection?
Our children will benefit more when the best parent possible shows up. When we can let the “something is wrong here” conversation settle out, our minds can see things very differently from when we are consumed by what occurs to us as the problem. We free up thinking space and see creative alternatives that we wouldn’t see otherwise. We are also in a position to see what it is that we are committed to, and we can more easily step into being a stand for that.
Drop the need to have things solved
Often my clients decide that they want to take on being DETERMINED in their parenting. That feeling is VERY useful. VERY, VERY, useful, indeed. And yet, while I encourage my clients to keep that feeling, they need to examine the thinking that is driving that feeling very carefully. If the thought is coming from “this needs to be fixed,” that may not help in the long term. Often this indicates that they may inadvertently be hooking the thought to an outcome or an “in order to.” When we live life from an “in order to” context, we think there will be a place where we “arrive,” where what we want is sure to show up, right? And then when that doesn’t happen, we get stopped. We get knocked off our game. We often end up becoming resigned, cynical, depressed, frustrated, and annoyed, which certainly doesn’t drive any action that will be useful. We may even just want to give up.
Letting go – A helpful solution
There is a simple solution to this situation. We can learn to let go of attaching ourselves to the outcome. When we DROP our expectations, while still being a stand for what we want, we stay in the game. When we do this, we can remain passionate about creating what it is that we want to create and possibility thrives.
Let me say that again.
Possibility thrives when it isn’t attached to an outcome.
We don’t get thrown off when things don’t show up as expected. Our commitment to who we have created ourselves to BE remains constant. Who we are in the world, and what it is that we are committed to, is no longer subject to whether or not the result that we want is showing up. The WHEN is no longer relevant. We get to BE our commitment until we take our last dying breath if that’s what we choose, and it isn’t dependent upon the outcome.
As Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson describe it, we tame the shark music that is running in the background. The waters we find ourselves in are calm, calm due to the background chatter we choose to have running the show.
And when the result does show up, HOORAY! And yet, until that day arrives, we are not thrown out of the game by resignation and cynicism, which are too often byproducts of our belief that we haven’t gotten to our self-subscribed finish line. Who is to say what that finish line looks like, anyway?
What are you committed to?
Failure isn’t a failure until we quit. Or get sidetracked.
When you can be a stand for what’s possible, without hooking it to an expectation or an outcome, then that is where possibility has the chance to stay ALIVE. Where life, when it doesn’t turn out the way you are hoping for, truly doesn’t throw you out of the game. You become immovable. Unmessable, Where what may seem impossible, impractical, improbable has a chance of actually coming to be, because you are that large in life.
Choose life, exactly the way it shows up
Take a few moments to consider this concept of being neutral with what “is.” An even more powerful practice is when we step into actually CHOOSING life, exactly the way it shows up. Choose it as if you had chosen it on purpose. Sounds wacky, right? There is so much power in this concept. Don’t just stop resisting reality, actually lean into it. Choose what “is” freely. THIS is where the true power of life resides. Living in that space is where we become truly capable of making a difference for ourselves and others.
Deep stuff and totally worth doing some deep thinking about!
And yet it is quite simple. Stop resisting what is. Choose any circumstance as neutral in your life. Try it. Possibility opens up like crazy. We feel better, and we afford ourselves the option to SHOW UP in life as the best version of ourselves. We are not easily sidetracked. We don’t lose sight of who we are. We stay in the game. We show up and live a life that we intentionally create, not just one that happens to show up by default.
We live life powerfully when we sum it up with these three powerful words: “I got it. Next?”
If you would like a little help getting to the next best version of yourself, I am happy to show you how. Click on the link on my homepage for a free consultation.