Letting Go and Moving Forward
I’ve been grappling with bad habits the past few days. Mostly, I’ve been fighting the tendency to wallow in self-pity; something I am rather good at. It’s been a slow, clumsy process, and I am not quite to the other side of this yet. However, I am hopeful that with practice and a conscious effort to change my thoughts, I will be closer to achieving and sustaining a lighter state of mind.
The thought that has occupied most of my time is the thought that I am not good enough. It manifests in the form of the belief that I am inadequate, incompetent, and less intelligent than I think I am. It carries a lot of weight, and last Saturday and Sunday, I struggled under that weight unable to do more than just the bare minimum. It was not a very good place in which to be, and yet I had convinced myself that it was the only place in which I could be.
On Monday, obligations got me showered, dressed, and out of the house and incidentally out of the funk that I was in over the weekend. Once I got out of the house and into a space psychologically where I could observe my situation, I allowed my rational, clear minded self to weigh in on my current predicament. I started by asking questions. I asked myself, What if I am really stupid? What if all my fears are true? Well, facing my greatest fear didn’t turn out so bad; in fact, I began to ask myself other questions such as, How do I determine my self worth?; What is important to me?; What are my objectives and does being stupid stand in the way of my achieving my goals?; Had it stood in the way of my achieving my goals before? As I answered these questions, I felt myself getting lighter and lighter, and I felt that thought which sat on my heart like a giant anvil get smaller and smaller until it no longer mattered.
Last week, in my coach training, I learned about the difference between significance and lightness. I learned that significance and lightness are states of mind. They are as big or small as we choose them to be. Really, the negative thoughts that I have are merely as powerful as I allow them to be. It is easy to get ensnared in my own beliefs. Thoughts to which I assign great power become beliefs and those beliefs become significant. They weigh heavily on my heart and mind. When those beliefs are beneficial to my life and they enrich and empower me, their significance is life affirming, but when those thoughts hold me back and keep me from moving forward they form the bars of the prisons that I construct for myself.
Escaping these prisons is not easy. Sometimes I think I’ve escaped a prison only to find myself back in there months or years later. It is at these times that I remind myself that this is a process, and that I can get myself out of those prisons with just a shift in my perspective.
Until recently, I had no idea how to maneuver my way out of my self-made prisons. I used to think that every thought I had was important, and that the ones that really stuck around were there to teach me something. I believed that if I spent time examining and experiencing the unpleasant emotions that these negative thoughts carried with them I would learn something profound about myself.
Last weekend, I learned that such behavior is counter productive. I realized that the way out is not to dig deeper into the emotion or thought trying to pry something good out of it, but rather to use the emotion as a point of departure from which will begin a quest toward the solution to the problem that the emotion signifies. In other words, it is not the emotion or thought on which I should focus, but rather the way forward to which the emotion points.
If I were to use the analogy of driving on the freeway, my thoughts and emotions would be the signs providing information about possible destinations. When I’m driving on the freeway, I don’t stop my car, get out and examine the road signs. I don’t contemplate the material out of which they are made, or the hands or machines that painted them. The very idea is absurd.
So why do I do that with certain emotions and thoughts? I think it because I had no idea what the purpose of emotions and negative thoughts were. I believed they were some kind of mysterious, magical beasts carrying with them a riddle that when solved would reveal some spectacular truth about myself. Once I realized that that is not at all what they are, and that it is not the thought or emotion that matters but the message that it carries with it, I was able to develop a strategy with which to handle negative thoughts and unpleasant emotions.
Whenever thoughts of inadequacy and worthlessness arise, I will take a deep breath, and maybe smile. Then I will ask myself the following questions: “What if this were true?”; “What if this were completely false?” “What are my objectives?” “What does this mean to my achieving my objectives?” “What do I want to do now to move forward?” After answering these questions, I will move forward leaving those thoughts behind knowing that if others like them should arise that I have the tools I need to continue to move forward.
I feel fantastic right now. I feel like I have everything I need to face any challenges I might face. I believe that I have the answers to all my problems, and since I started coach training, I realize that now all I need is the right questions.
May you find all the right questions to your answers.
Until next time.