Step Two on the Mind TRACK to Happiness process – Reality is all about acceptance, forgiveness and letting go of the past and of present thoughts that are in conflict with the reality of what is happening right now in your life.
Whether you are facing challenges with your child, a relationship problem, financial issues, or any other problem in your life, the first stage to changing these situations is to acknowledge and accept that they are in your life.
Resisting what is happening in your life right now is what is causing your stress. Focussing on how things shouldn’t be the way they are, or how they shouldn’t have happened will only keep you stuck in the past and consumed by the now.
You absolutely must accept the reality of your current situation before you can move past it.
This may be the hardest step to do in this whole TRACK process, which is why I’ve spend the last three weeks on this step alone. Often we don’t want to believe that these things are happening in our lives, and we don’t want to accept them in our lives. Often we believe that if we accept that they are here in our lives then we are somehow say that it is okay that they are here.
It is neither okay, nor not okay that your problem is in your life. It is reality.
The reality of this current situation is these events are in your life because of how the past has unfolded leading up to this event and this cannot be changed. What we can change, however, is what you do with what is now occurring in your life.
It’s important to remember that this reality step is only the second step on this process. The next three steps are about creating solutions to your problems.
Because the second step is so crucial to you stopping your stress, depression and anxiety and because I spend so much time talking about the reality of your situation, life and self-worth, I often get people who feel disheartened and down by their reality, feeling like ‘this is it’, or that they just have to ‘suck it up’. Accepting reality is not the end of this process however. Once you have accepted the reality of where you are at now, you will then go onto shift your focus onto ‘…so what am I going to do about this reality’.
You don’t just have to lie down and take whatever your current situation is giving you, the final three steps of the process are going to help you to change your current reality.
But before you venture into the world of ‘what do I want’, you must first make sure you have a healthy understanding of ‘what I’m currently getting’, because you cannot change what you don’t acknowledge.
Quite often we try to set aims for ourselves, but end up back where we started. This is particularly common in depression sufferers, or those who swing between depression and anxiety, because they haven’t yet accepted the reality of life’s ups and downs and don’t yet have an accurate understanding of self-worth. If you continue to have your self-worth attached to getting life right, and whatever that entails for you, then everytime you cannot get life to go to plan, you will revert straight back to that conditional thinking that you are a failure.
Also, if you don’t continue to stay aware of your thinking (step one of the process) and change it where necessary to be in alignment with reality (step two) than it can be easy to slip back into our past conditioning and start attaching our self-worth to outcomes, achievements and goals again, which is only going to cause us stress.
So let me recap for you how to use the Reality Step in your life.
After recognizing your thoughts and how they are in conflict with reality, bring your awareness back in alignment by using the reality thinking model. What you are trying to do is take your mind away from being consumed by this one event that is occurring in your life (the small picture) to viewing it in the context of the bigger picture. You are widening your perspective by expanding your mindset by first acknowledging:
The reality of the situation: What is going on in your life is already here. You can’t change what is going on right now, you can only change what happens after this moment. What has happened in the past has happened and no amount of thinking or wishing it wasn’t happening is going to change this reality. Whether we are talking about a child who has woken up before we wanted them to, a relationship that is going through some struggles, your toddler’s tantrum, a lack of communication between you and your child, not being able to breastfeed, having depression, losing your job, having a sick child, experiencing a trauma in your life, or whatever is going on in your life that you are seeing as a problem, the reality is that this event is occurring in your life.
The reason why it is here is because of how things unfolded in the past leading up to this event and that can never be changed. Every event leads to the next and we cannot control how life unfolds. There are many factors that contribute and add to how your current reality has unfolded, just like this current situation will add to something that happens further down the track too.
In this part of the reality thinking model, this is where you would add in your forgiveness of what has happened in the past. Remember that forgiveness is not about the other person, it is about you and your relationship with your past events and being able to release yourself from past events. That is you accepting the reality of the situation.
If you are working on forgiving another person for something that they did to you, then try to understand what drove them to behave the way that they did. What was their self-worth aspect? What were the beliefs that caused them to behave this way? You are not trying to condone their behaviour and say that it was okay, you are merely trying to understand their behaviour. Realise that their behaviour was not about you and all about them and their priorities for protecting their self-worth or trying to increase it, all because of incorrect understandings of self-worth to begin with.
If you are working on forgiving yourself for something that you have done in the past, then seek out what your priorities were at the time and realise that there were priority beliefs that were activated in your mind IN THAT MOMENT due to the information you had IN THAT MOMENT and how you interpreted that information IN THAT MOMENT. This is what drove you to behave the way you did, or make the decisions that you made. Everything that occurred in your past leading up to that moment contributed to the final outcome that you are now experiencing and it could not have happened any other way.
Let go of the past. It doesn’t even exist until you create it in the present with your mind. Forgive to release yourself from hurt or pain and stop your mind from engaging in any thoughts about how this current event is wrong, shouldn’t have happened, is someone else’s fault or how it should be another way, because this is just in conflict with the reality of what is.
The next step to acknowledge on this reality thinking model is:
The reality of being a parent: Expand your attention towards looking at this situation in the context of the entire parenting experience. There will be good times and bad within this role. Sometimes you will go through phases where life is flowing smoothly with the kids. They are over their last challenging developmental stage. Then there will be times when they are entering into a new developmental stage that is doing your head in. All of these highs and lows are what make up this role. During your time as a parent you will be learning lots of things about how to be a parent and also about yourself as a person.
Try to compare this role to your career/job. In our jobs we learn, develop skills, seek help from experts in order to learn what they are doing that is successful, we make mistakes, sometimes we feel organised and sometimes we don’t, sometimes our work colleagues are co-operative and other times they are in bad moods and we have to deal with that. Over time and with experience we get better at our jobs and learn the ‘tricks of the trade’ which helps things run a little smoother. Throughout this journey in our career there is lots of trial and error. Parenting is the same.
Hold onto this perspective when you are experiencing these challenges, as this will stop you getting consumed by this moment. Everything rises and passes away, so too will this challenge.
You also want to start changing your perspective of this challenge, by changing how you look at the situation:
Where is the hidden good in the bad here?
What am I getting? (rather than concentrating on what you aren’t getting & what you’re missing out on)
How is this event contributing to my development? What is it teaching me?
How is this event contributing to my child’s development? What is it teaching them?
Is this situation an opportunity to learn and grow from?
The next step to expanding your mind from being consumed by this situation is to acknowledge:
The reality of life: Now we start to look at the bigger picture of life. Consider a storybook. There is a beginning, an end and all the highs and lows that occur in between. This situation is just a part of your unique story in life. You were born and you will die and in between that there will be many different experiences that will occur. Some of them will be joyous and make you happy and excited, and others will sadden, disappoint or challenge you.
Every event that does occur in your life, whether it be a joyous one or not, holds value. We have been conditioned to search for what is missing from our lives, but the key to happiness is to be able to search for what you are getting in your life. Find the value, find the hidden good in the bad of all events and you will cease even rating these events as good or bad, but simply realise that every situation that occurs gives you an opportunity to learn, grow and experience different aspects of life.
Find what you are grateful for. Know that even though there may not seem like anything in this particular situation that gives you much comfort, there are always other things going on in your life that you can be grateful for – a happy relationship, a healthy body, a roof over your head, money in the bank, having a car, being able to have children, the quiet times that sometimes occur amongst the loud times, the days when you are organised, or up to date with the washing, the times when you got to sleep in. There is always something that you can be grateful for and once you start training your mind to look for it, you will start to feel very differently about your life.
Finally, look to upgrade the self-worth component to your stress, because all stress comes down to you feeling worth-less because this situation has occurred. You are rating you and your life as being worth-less. You need to upgrade this thinking (such as I’m stupid, useless, an idiot, loser, failure etc) with the:
Reality of Self-worth (the final part of the Reality thinking model): You are always 100% worthy because of your very existence. Your existence gives a part of you to the world around you and the people in it. Just by going about your daily life you contribute to the circle of life. You pay bills, talk to people, make choices, set goals, achieve some of them, don’t achieve others, make mistakes, get better at things and basically live life, constantly sharing your experiences with those around you. By doing this you contribute to how other people’s lives unfold. Without you their lives unfold in a different way and they don’t learn from you what they would if you were around. You are valuable to everyone else’s lives just by being in it.
Just by existing and participating in the events of your life, you are learning more about life and further contributing that learning and knowledge to those around you. These things are what defines true self-worth.
However we are constantly rating ourselves (self-esteem) as being worth-more or worth-less because of our beliefs. Our beliefs about worth have been heavily conditioned in us from a young age, and by living in this current ‘get your life right’ world, we can easily rate ourselves as only being valuable (worthy) when we are achieving, meeting expectations or living up to the labels that we have been conditioned to believe defines our worth.
We must continue to see how we are always contributing to the unfolding of other people’s lives and their development and also how our learning is adding value to our lives. The purpose of life is to learn, grow and experience life and we will continually do that with everything that occurs in our lives. Both adversities and triumphs teach us the lessons we need for our lives to develop. Every event links to the next one and leads to either a good time or a challenge.
You can see that this one problem, or situation that initially caused you stress has now been given a different perspective. You expand your perspective so that you are now looking at what this situation really means in the bigger picture that is your life. You learn to see things differently to how you originally (habitually) saw it. This alignment with the reality of the situation and life’s bigger picture will be what stops your stress, depression and anxiety in its tracks. Then you can go onto set goals for how you will move past this challenge (steps 3-5 of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process)
Finally, let your emotions guide you
The way to apply steps one and two to your life is to take notice of how you feel. Sometimes your thoughts can be difficult to catch, but you will always be able to recognise what you feel. Remember, your feelings will always be triggered by your beliefs first.
This is why when you change what you think about, you change how you feel too.
Whenever you feel anger, this is you believing that things should be another way. You are still attached to your expectation of what was ‘supposed’ to happen and are in conflict with the new reality playing out in front of you. Accept, let go and forgive, for what is done, is done. Focus on what you can do now with this new reality, what you can learn and how it now benefits your life.
Whenever you feel blame, this is you believing that someone should have done something different. Understand that we are all operating with our own interests 100% of the time. The reason why you or someone else behaved the way they did was because there was a priority belief activated IN THAT MOMENT that was all about them and not about you. Should they have done it? Probably not, but the reality is that they did. If you hold onto blame, it only hurts you and stops you from moving on with your life. Accept, let go and forgive, for what is done is done. Focus on what you can do now with this new reality, what you can learn and how it benefits your life.
Whenever you feel resentment, this is you believing that you have missed out on something. You believe that life should be unfolding differently, however the reality is that it isn’t unfolding differently. This is what you are currently experiencing due to all of the events that occurred leading up to it. You are not missing out on how your life should be, you are getting the experiences that you are meant to be getting and the proof of that is, because this is the experience that you are getting. What can you be grateful for about this moment? Even though you aren’t getting what you initially wanted for your life, you are still getting an experience. What is the hidden good in the bad that has occurred from this experience? Accept, let go and forgive, for what is done is done. Focus on what you can do now with this new reality, what you can learn and how this new situation benefits your life.
Also think about the emotion of happiness too. You feel happy when life is meeting your expectations or your rating of what is a happy event. Not all events will make you feel happy, for the reality of life is that we are all experiencing highs and lows. That doesn’t make your life unhappy, it just means that right now you are not experiencing the emotion of happiness. There is still value in the times that don’t make you happy, so this emotion is not indicative of you having a more or less worthy life.
Having a happy life will be about having a healthy mindset towards the ups and downs that occur within your life, not how often you feel this emotion of happiness.
We now come to the end of our explanation of the reality step. After tomorrow’s exercise where you will put forgiveness and letting go of your past into practice, we will begin to shift our focus towards the solutions to the problems that occur in parenting and in life. However steps one and two do not just stop there. Throughout this entire Mind TRACK to Happiness process you will continually be checking your thinking against reality in order to get what you want, understand the choices you make towards getting what you want and planning how you get what you want.
Remember the Mind TRACK to Happiness process is not about trying to fix your life. It’s about changing your mindset towards life, so that you can live a fulfilled life full of value and lessons while feeling 100% worthy everyday. Because when you understand how to use this kind of mindset for yourself, this is what you will be able to pass onto your children, so they don’t have to live their lives with stress, depression or anxiety.
Tomorrow’s exercise will be the first day of the rest of your life where finally, you can learn how to leave the past behind you.