A couple of weeks ago I could see one of my main goals coming to fruition. I was revelling in the fact that it was getting closer and closer. My enthusiasm was at an all time high. “Not much longer to go now,” was the phrase that ran through my mind, stirring powerful emotions of extra happiness at the very thought of living in the outcome I had set for myself.
Then exactly a week ago today, out of the blue and far away from my thought process, came a horrendous body blow, the one that can shatter the hopes of the strongest of fighters in an instant; a massive, unexpected right hook to the kidney’s.
The shape of this devastating blow came in the form of a massive delay to my dream. Only two weeks before I was expecting everything to work out in around 6 weeks time, give or take a week or two. Suddenly, I was hit with the prospect that it is realistically going to be next March.
And that’s a whopping 8 or 9 months away. Now please bear in mind that I have already been waiting for this goal to materialise for about a year, so this is not a case of me succumbing to my weakness, namely impatience!
It is much more than that. I cannot go into specific details here about what the goal is. And to be quite frank, those details are not important.
What is important is how I dealt with this major setback.
At first I had the initial response of anger and immense frustration. The usual initial and natural reaction to bad news is emotional. Yet I have found in most circumstances emotional reactions aren’t always the best strategy to deal with events of this nature.
In fact, emotional reactions can be devastating.
Now this sucker punch, which is and was beyond my control, had the power to send me into dark times. If you have ever suffered a major setback, you probably know what I mean.
Two Minutes Later I was Feeling Somewhat ‘Guilty’
Fortunately for me (Although fortune has nothing to do with it, I’ve trained myself) I can control my thoughts. So after about 2 minutes of anger, my emotions running amok and holding back tears, I suddenly felt perfectly Okay.
I felt so okay about it that I almost felt guilty for doing so. I was actually asking myself, “Should I be really feeling like this? Shouldn’t I be upset for longer? Shouldn’t I be raging mad for longer? Throw something across the room?”
That is certainly how ‘old me’ would have reacted for sure. And I would have sunk into dark times for at least a week, probably longer.
(I still amaze at the how the mind can conjure up old thinking patterns. How it (My mind) still wants me to return to former thinking states of yesteryear. It also shows how the mind never really rids itself of old destructive thinking patterns but merely replaces them. I have seen this same mind resistance strategy of an old way of thinking resurfacing and ultimately ruin their belief in being able to change and indeed, returning to their old ways)
Old thinking habits lie dormant in our subconscious mind and are never actually erased. Only replaced by new, more dominant thoughts
How I Changed My Thinking
So how did I go from raging mad and deeply upset to feeling absolutely fine about this major setback? I used the following:
- I am extremely mindful of my feelings. Usually, feelings follow thoughts. Being aware that I was feeling irate, hopping-mad and in a bad mood I quickly realised that my thoughts were creating these feelings
- I turned my attention to my thoughts which were extremely negative. “This is not going to work out” “All your other goals that are tied to this goal are not going to happen now either” “You shouldn’t be thinking this BIG” Were a few of them.
- I intervened in my thoughts which were spiralling downwards. I asked myself the question, “Wait a minute, back-up here” This always slows up my thought process and gives me back control so I can choose what to think.
- I realised that I cannot control external events. What has happened has happened. It cannot be undone. “I cannot control the uncontrollable,” I told myself.
- Giving myself some breathing space (By backing-up with my thoughts) I then asked two questions that I learned from Tony Robbins a long time ago.
- What is great about this situation? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that was actually great about it so I asked the milder version, “What could be great about this situation?” and I also added, “Could there be any positives about this situation I find myself in?’
It took a few minutes longer than expected, but eventually I found some. This technique is extremely powerful and empowering. Why? Because it gets the mind not just focusing on the positive but prevents the negative from spiralling out of control. It renews optimism that whatever the obstacle is, it is not necessarily the end and that it can, more often than not, be worked through.
Plus I did find some things that I can view as ‘positive’ and ‘great’ about the situation.
I also reminded myself that time can go quickly and that I have gotten through tough times like this before.
Now I prefer to think like this. I have two choices. I can follow the destructive and harmful thoughts of ‘all is lost’ etc etc, and dive into dark times that could lead almost anywhere uncomfortable; or I could choose to try and find something positive about it all.
Whichever way I choose to think does not alter what has happened. As I said it was beyond my control anyway. But how I choose to respond with my thinking of what has happened I do control.
Which is more likely to get me through it happier, with less stress and carry on working the best I can? Which way of thinking will serve me best? The answer is easy.