Recently my client, Christine, called for an emergency session. Her business was in danger of going under and she couldn’t think straight. The mind monkeys, those fearful and critical thoughts that can chatter incessantly in our heads, were distracting her from problem solving a way out of her predicament.
When she showed up for her appointment the next day, it was obvious that she hadn’t slept well. Christine was living on fear-fueled adrenaline, unable to light anywhere long enough to see past the fear.
What’s the worst thing that could happen to you? I asked her after she brought me up to speed on what had been happening since our last appointment. Christine responded with a litany of the potential but terrifying personal and financial outcomes that had been tap dancing through her brain for the last week.
Interestingly though, as we talked through each one of those scenarios—ranging from owing a huge debt to having to stay in a loveless marriage—we uncovered some important truths hidden underneath all of the awful possibilities that her mind had been busily fabricating:
She had an amazing work ethic and an engaging, positive personality—she could get a job and work off the debt if necessary.
Her parents and friends were very supportive and would give her a place to live, if she needed it.
She had some options and resources she hadn’t explored yet that might allow her to sell her business and clear her debt.
She’d been through a lot worse and survived. She could make it through this crisis
Christine had been so caught up in her fears that she was “living” in an outcome that might not happen. She was imagining what it would be like to have to have that much debt or stay married to someone she no longer loved or respected. You can imagine how horrifying her imagined scenarios were.
So, I reminded her of one of the most important strategies that, in a crisis, can help you go from bad to better.
Don’t live in an unwanted outcome before you get there—Our thoughts like to take us into hypothetical and disastrous scenarios and pretend that they are real. But the reality is, you don’t know for sure what will happen until it does. You are wasting your time and scaring yourself by spending time visualizing yourself in a situation that probably won’t happen! When you find your thoughts drifting into potential but negative outcomes, just ask yourself the question, “Do I know for a fact that this will happen?” If the answer is no, then redirect your thoughts.
Three ways to redirect your thoughts are:
Meditate—The process of breathing slowly in and out and emptying your mind each time a thought shows up strengthens the muscle that allows us to ignore unhelpful thoughts.
Journal—Writing down your thoughts helps you look at them more objectively.
- Read—Find a book that is engaging and let it distract you.
- Ask yourself, “what can I do right now that will help?” and then go do it.
Leave the mind monkeys to their own devices. And whatever you do, don’t feed them!
Next week, I will cover one of the greatest strategies for moving from bad to better—Find the Positive. Until next time remember Byron Katie’s great quote:
“I love what I think, and I’m never tempted to believe it.”