Step Two of the Mind TRACK to Happiness Process is all about expanding your perception of what is happening in your life to a healthier and realistic understanding of it.
When you’re feeling low, stressed and depression, you are stuck in this limited mindset that is in denial of the reality that you are facing. Your perception of the situation is all about how it is wrong, how you are missing out, how it should have been different and how worth-less you and your life is now that you have experienced these events.
Remaining in this kind of thinking will keep you feeling bad about the situation and about life.
You need to shift the direction of your attention and begin looking at the situation differently. The reality thinking model reminds you of how to do this.
As you can see, in the centre of this model, this is where you have the thoughts that create stress, depression and anxiety. This is what you might call the small picture. It is a limited view of the situation.
In order to begin expanding this perspective, you need to first learn to accept:
The reality of the situation
When stressed our attention is focussed on what’s NOT happening, how we are missing out and what should have happened that didn’t. We are in denial about what actually is.
Once you’ve come aware of this thinking, you first need to accept the reality of the situation by recognising that it is here in your life. This is the experience you are having, like it or not.
If your child is misbehaving, then they are misbehaving. If your relationship with your partner is not in a good place, then this is where you are at.
It is like this because of how everything has unfolded leading up to this event occurring RIGHT NOW. This is reality. You cannot change the past, and every present event is occurring the way it is because of what happened in the past.
All you can do is accept that it is here and work on how you are going to handle this situation (which of course is where the next three steps of the TRACK Process come in).
After accepting the current situation, you then have to change your view on it, so we expand our mind even further by looking at:
The reality of being a parent
It is a very new and completely different stage of your life when you become a parent. Every area of your life is affected and changed. This can be difficult to come to terms with.
Nonetheless, you must come to terms with the changes that it does make. You do this by holding an accurate view of situations that pertain to parenting (and even some that don’t).
In terms of raising your children, you need to understand that there are going to be a lot of ups and downs. There are going to be times where you feel an enormous amount of love for them and times where you could just throttle them for their behaviour. But isn’t this true for almost anything that we encounter in our lives? Our work? Our relationship with our partner? Our friendships? Projects, hobbies etc? Why is parenting any different?
Parenting has somehow been construed by society as being all ‘warm and fuzzy’, so when we aren’t experiencing things this way, we feel like something is wrong. However we need to look at our parenting experience as no difference to any other experience that we have. Full of highs and lows and lots and lots of learning taking place.
Remember to think about parenting, just like a job. Over time you get better at your job with practice, new information, mentoring and learning. You don’t just start your career knowing everything there is to know about your field. You develop this knowledge over time.
Being a parent is no different. You need to let go of this idea that you need to get parenting right in order to be a good parent. You will never get it right because there will always be something to learn.
Likewise, your children won’t always get it right either. By aligning with this reality, you will see that what you are experiencing is not wrong. It’s an opportunity to learn. Accept what is currently happening and then work on the solutions to the situation by using the following three steps of the TRACK process (aim, choices & know your plan).
The next step to expanding your mindset is to accept:
The reality of life
When you are looking at the small picture, you start to feel like this event defines your life somehow. You become consumed and overwhelmed by what is happening, because all you see is this bad, wrong event interfering with your happiness.
You’re not looking at what else this situation has to offer. This part of the reality thinking model gets you to start looking at this event in the bigger picture. What does this event really mean about your life?
To answer that we need to expand our mindset.
The whole purpose of life is to learn, grow and contribute. Through EVERY experience you have, you learn something, grow as a person and then contribute what you know to other people around you through your behaviour, choices and advice that you give. You play a very important part to how the world’s collective journey unfolds and how you personally grow as a person.
You are on a journey through life and on that journey there will be highs and there will be lows. Reflect back on your entire life. Has it all been bad? Haven’t there been some good times too? Every event that we experience leads to either an enjoyable experience or a non-enjoyable experience.
If you are going through an unenjoyable experience, then this will undoubtedly lead you to an enjoyable experience and vice versa. Everything rises and passes away, EVERYTHING!
When you are going through those rough times, know that they are not forever and could just lead to something incredibly fulfilling. The direction your adversities take you on is just another part of your unique story through life. It doesn’t mean your life has failed. It is just one small event of moments in time from when you are born to when you die.
Along the way you will keep learning, growing and contributing.
The reality of self-worth
There is a self-worth component that lies in all human conflict, stress, emotional disorder and undesirable behaviour.
Everyone behaves out of the best interest of themselves and the preservation of self-worth. All of our decisions and actions are all derived from the same agenda to survive and thrive.
Understanding why you are worthy just the way you are can dramatically change your actions and your reactions because you start avoiding the need for approval, or the need to defend your worth to other people.
Why you are worthy just the way you are!
You being alive makes you automatically 100% worthy. Why? Because your existence has an effect on how life unfolds for everyone you come into contact with. You are an influencer in life’s journey as a whole. Everything you do contributes a part of who you are to the world and the world is the way it is, partly because you are in it living, behaving, thinking, speaking and doing.
Without you the dynamics in the world shift ever so slightly and you no longer provide your knowledge to other people. You contribute to your partner, your kids, your friends, your family and even strangers on the street.
You see each of us are learning off one another and helping each other to grow, learn and experience what we do in our lives. Every single one of us contributes to another’s journey, just by being alive.
You are enough, right now for this reason alone. There is nothing you need to do, or need to be that is more important than what you are right now. What you are right now is enough to provide others what they need for their development. Because by being alive you are contributing what you are supposed to in the world. Right now.
When you truly get this concept and are able to apply it to your life, everything about your life will change and you will find yourself in a very happy place.
What makes you believe that you are not worthy?
How did you learn to believe that you were not worthy? Where does it come from? Why do some people have self-confidence and others don’t?
The answers, again lie in your conditioning – the pathways that have been formed in your brain through repetitive exposure to the same information. That’s all. It’s not because you are not worthy, but because you have been taught to believe you are not worthy.
Worthiness is intrinsic. It cannot be added to. It cannot be taken away. You are ALWAYS 100% valuable 100% of the time.
What changes though, is our self-esteem. Esteem means to rate, or regard something. We learn to regard ourselves in either high or low esteem based on our beliefs.
How you feel about yourself in any given situation will always depened on how you are rating yourself and what beliefs have been triggered by this event. Continually staying aware of your thinking and changing it to be in alignment with the reality of self-worth (that is, you are always 100% worthy because you are learning, growing and contributing) will be how to lessen the severity of your rating of yourself.
You will always go through life feeling good or bad about yourself because of your rating system, based on your beliefs. This does not mean you are not worthy. Again, let your feelings be your guide to what is going on inside you and continue to change your thinking and gain a different perspective of the situation as much as you can, for this will be what stops you feeling so bad about yourself and the unwanted situations in your life.
Attaching your self-worth to labels and other things
Everyone in society is exposed to the concept that you have to be, do or have particular things in order to be deemed valuable or successful amongst your family and peers. Depending on the environment we grew up in, the details of this concept will differ.
However the underlying danger will be the belief that there is something that you have to live up to in order to have or maintain your worth, so you begin to attach your worth to living this way and feel like a failure or worth-less to some degree when you can’t get there.
You could attach your self-worth to money, identity (being a ‘good parent, being the career woman), labels that you have been taught define you (organised, caring, self-less, dependable, funny) and having certain possessions. Even certain things like feeling the emotion of happiness 24/7 can be attached to your self-worth, so that everytime you feel disappointed or down about an outcome that you wanted to be different, you punish yourself for this feeling.
This can be particularly common in people who practice spirituality, because they believe in order to be ‘enlightened’ they have to walk around with this zen like persona all the time. This is not only unrealistic but it is near impossible. I say near impossible only because we are capable of achieving anything and if you put enough time, effort and consistency into the practice of zen-like behaviour 24/7, then you probably would achieve it.
But for most of us, we have a lot more going on in our lives and do not practice this mindset 24/7. For the most part you won’t feel the emotion of happiness every single minute of your life because the reality is, some things don’t make you happy. When life doesn’t go to plan, it does not make you feel happy. You feel disappointed, annoyed, angry, sad etc. There is nothing wrong with this.
The problem comes when we get overly stressed or depressed by these events, because we are unable to align with the new reality that has just occurred.
No matter what is happening in your life, you are always worthwhile. Attaching happiness, identity, labels or anything else to your self-worth is incorrect. Your worth stays the same because no matter what you are doing in your life, you are of value to someone else’s life because you are contributing to their devlopment and influencing how their lives unfold. This happens whether happy or sad, angry or calm, doing or not doing, achieving or not achieiving. We all play a unique and important part in life, period.
Extra tips on how to change your perspective in alignment with The Reality Thinking Model
Understanding the concept of the reality thinking model is the easy part. Applying it to your life can be somewhat more challenging. Here is a summary of a few ways that you can keep applying this thinking to your life.
Finding the hidden good in the bad
Often we spend so much time on what’s wrong, what’s missing and how life isn’t going the way it’s should be going, we often neglect to find what’s good about this new unwanted situation.
Finding the hidden good in the bad is working out how this situation is valuable to you or to the experiences of someone else. There is value in everything. It all depends on how you look at it.
For example, being bored at home helps you to step outside your comfort zones and meet new people, or start a new project. Having a chaotic, messy house can help you to learn how to be more organised. Having your children misbehave, gives you an opportunity to teach appropriate behaviour and helps you to learn how to remain calm under demanding situations.
Once you begin to search for what’s good about a situation, guess what your mind will find?
Practice an attitude of gratitude
This is another way of looking at the hidden good in the bad, except you are not looking for how this situation benefits you, you are also looking for what you are thankful for.
Being grateful keeps your attention focused on what you do have instead of what you are missing out on. This is a great little exercise for those who are notoriously focussed on what their lives are lacking (for example, missing out on love, approval, people being kind to you, not having enough money, not getting the opportunities you are looking for).
The more you put your attention on something, the more it expands in that direction and you find more and more to be grateful about.
Here’s a reminder of some questions to ask yourself that will help you to expand your mindset in alignment with the reality thinking model.
- What am I getting? (not what am I missing out on). What am I gaining from this situation?
- Is this situation just one of the low times that form my ups and downs?
- Is my entire life really only about everything going wrong? Or are there some good things in my life? Are there times that I sometimes laugh, or have things go my way? Have I ever received good news? Have I had great things happen to me?
- What am I grateful for in my life? What do I really appreciate?
A word on forgiveness
One of the most important parts of doing this reality step can often be to forgive. It is common to hold onto blame and resentment for what has occurred and for what it has brought to your life, but doing this is still in conflict with reality.
What has occurred in your life has happened. There is no mistaking it and there is no turning back. It’s done now. You have a choice to either accept it and move on by dealing with this new set of circumstances or you can continue resenting and wishing it didn’t happen. As always, the choice is yours.
Forgiveness is not about the other person, nor is it about condoning someone’s behaviour. It is about acceptance and letting go in order to free yourself from pain.
Start by using the reality thinking model to expand your thinking on your new reality. How has it benefited your life, what has this experience taught you, what can you be grateful for. Align your thoughts with the reality of life’s ups and downs and the fact that this event is just one of many on your life’s journey.
Also, it can be helpful in your quest for forgiveness to look at one of the basic instincts of human beings and that is to survive and thrive. Every decision we make and action we take is in the best interests of ourselves, every single time.
Understand that you do this and everyone else does this too. If someone did something to you that was abusive, nasty, hurtful, demeaning, deceitful or any othe undesirable behaviour, know that their behaviour was not about you and all about them and their desire to feel worthy.
Everyone interprets life differently through the beliefs that they have. If they’ve been given incorrect beliefs about their self-worth, just like you have in order to do stress or depression so well, then that is what underlies their behaviour too.
It’s important to remember what you learnt about what drives behaviour. In every moment we are analysing situations against what we believe and determining what the response should be, also deciphered from our beliefs. In every situation, every belief that is accessed is weighted with importance and only one belief can be selected at one time in order to influence the appropriate response.
The decisions we make and the actions we take depends on the priority belief that was selected IN THAT MOMENT. Whichever belief was accessed in that moment, will be why the behaviour occurred.
Let’s take a cheating husband for example. Perhaps he had been feeling unloved (for whatever reason. This would be his legitimate assessment of the situation from his perspective, not necessarily because of your neglect), or perhaps he craves the attention of women in order to validate his appearance, and thus his worth. Let’s say that one day a work colleague came onto him when he was feeling particularly low because of the thoughts that were going on in his mind and his lack of self-worth. One thing led to another and he cheated on you. IN THAT MOMENT, his need to feel worthy (due to his beliefs about being worth-less to begin with), drove his behaviour to cheat and overrode the beliefs he had to stay faithful to his wife, regardless that neither you or him would have thought in a million years he would ever cheat.
What he did was not about you, it was all about him and the beliefs he had about his self-worth and the desire to make himself feel worthy
Being able to assess the self-worth component to behaviour is not condoning that behaviour, it is merely understanding it. Understanding someone’s behaviour can make it easier for you to free yourself from it. You may still feel the hurt and the sadness over their behaviour, but you will be able to forgive that behaviour because we all behave in the same way. Not necesarily when it comes to cheating, but in other areas where we feel like we either have to defend our self-worth (when arguing with someone), or attempting to increase our self-worth (boasting, preening ourselves when around the opposite sex, attention seeking behaviour).
It doesn’t matter what the behaviour is, desirable or not, it will always be about self-worth (or more so our perception of our self-worth: that is, our self-esteem).
When you really get that, then it becomes simply disappointing when someone behaves the way they do and you don’t like it, rather than soul crushing and leaving you holding onto resentment that only hurts you.
Forgiveness is about letting go of the resentment you have to the way your life has unfolded, being about to accept what is here now, and understanding human behaviour in order to realise that you cannot control someone else’s behaviour and that you are NOT responsible for how another person perceives life and chooses to respond to it.
This applies to your relationship, family, friends, strangers and your children.
All we can do when presented with an unwanted, unexpected situation is learn to accept. Is it what we desired for our lives? No. Is it the plan we had in mind? No. But it is here now and we cannot go back and change it.
There is indeed value in everything that we experience and when you can retrain your brain to stop entering into the stressful thinking of how wrong something is, how you are missing out and how it should be different, and instead send it in the direction of finding the value, being grateful and seeing how it benefits your life, even though it’s not what you originally wanted, you will stop yourself from feeling completely overcome with stress or depression.
Will you still feel emotional about it? Possibly, depending on the issue that you are dealing with. This is okay. This process is not about trying to stop emotions, it’s about trying to stop these emotions turning into stress or depression.
We will probably sit in denial, blame, resentment, anger and guilt sometimes, but when we decide that we have done that for long enough, then it is time to apply the reality thinking model and use the next three steps to decide what you are going to do about the situation.
Which is exactly what we are going to discuss in tomorrow’s lesson – Step Three: Aim – What do I want?