Step Two of the Mind TRACK to Happiness process is where change occurs. It is when you take the thoughts you have become aware of in step one and change them to be in alignment with reality.
You have learnt that wherever you put your attention, it expands in that direction and gathers momentum. In this step I am going to teach you how to deliberately send your attention in the direction that will make you feel different to how you have been.
As you saw in the few examples I gave you in yesterday’s lesson, your thinking begins first by interpreting the situation – what is happening. You interpret that it is going wrong because it hasn’t matched your expectations (beliefs). You think about how it differs from how it’s supposed to be. This thinking is in direct conflict with the reality of what is actually happening (for example my child is not behaving the way I expected her to. My baby didn’t sleep for as long as I expected him to. I didn’t get as much work done as I would’ve liked etc).
Your attention progresses in this direction as you interpret the situation some more. You start to associate this situation with your new life as a parent (after all you never came across situations like this before you became a parent). You start to miss all the fun times you had, all the free time you had to pursue your interests. You start to think about how hard being a parent is and how there now seems to be so much work to do. You may start to think that you should be like other parents who seem to manage it all so well. Here is where the emotions come in to play, as you start to feel anger, followed by guilt for feeling this way.
Then your attention starts to expand in the direction of what this situation means about your whole life. What does this mean about my life if I’m feeling like this all the time? You start to think that you are missing out on your time, your freedom, being the happy person you used to be, having a life that you enjoy. All you see in this phase is more and more evidence of events causing you to feel this way. You are totally oblivious to the fact that it was your thoughts that got you here, not the events. All you see is that your life is not going the way you had planned. Very quickly a simple challenging event can expand into your whole life being hopeless.
Now your attention turns towards questioning your worth. What am I worth if my life is like this? What does it say about me that I have become this person? What does it say about me if I can’t get the house in order, if I can’t get my child to behave, if I can’t get my baby into a sleep routine, if I can’t breastfeed, if I can’t get my partner to support me, if I can’t be a good mum/dad or if I can’t get my life to go the way it’s supposed to? I must be a failure, stupid, weak, incompetent, undeserving, not good enough, selfish etc. You will have your own pre-conditioned judgments (memes) about yourself for behaving the way that you are, feeling the way that you do and experiencing life the way you are right now.
If you follow this pathway of thinking often and with many of the challenges you encounter as a parent (and there are many) it is no surprise that you are feeling so stressed, depressed or anxious.
Of course this pathway of destructive thinking differs in severity for each person and in this example it’s possible I have painted a more extreme scenario than you can relate to. However regardless of how high or low your level of stress is, you will see that there is a very specific course of thinking that leads to how you feel and we can use this same path to change your thinking using an alignment with reality instead of being in conflict with reality (see the diagram below).
The reality thinking wheel
You can see that in the middle you are only look at the small picture – the thinking about the event that is causing you the stress. As you put your attention on the reality of the situation, then put your attention on the reality of being a parent, the reality of life in general and finally the reality of your self-worth, you will have expanded your thinking so that you are looking at the bigger picture of what this event really means and you will find yourself feeling very differently about it.
First of all you have The reality of the situation: When you are stressed, you are thinking about how the situation is different from what is going on. You have all sorts of opinions about this new situation and how ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ it is. These thoughts are in conflict with what is actually happening, so the first thing that you need to do is accept the situation.
If your child is crying, then that is what is happening right now. Any conversations that involve not accepting this reality is going to lead to stress. If your child is having a tantrum, then that is what is happening. If the house is messy, then it is messy. If you are having marital problems then this is where your marriage is at based on everything that has happened before.
Begin to accept that whatever you are experiencing, this is your reality. It doesn’t matter how you got here, because that is all in the past. The past only exists when you create it in the present with your mind. You only ever have the now so don’t let your mind enter into conversations about how you got there and how if you could’ve changed this or that you wouldn’t be here. Because that is in conflict with reality and will only cause you stress. The reality is you are here. You arrived here because of beliefs you had, because of actions you took and because of how life has unfolded right up to this current moment in time. You don’t have to like your reality, but you must accept it for you to move on.
Look around at what is going on. Look at your child screaming and rolling around on the floor. Look at your baby crying. Go around and look in every room and see the piles of washing without resistance. This is the reality of the moment right now. Don’t allow yourself to judge it, just look at it and accept this reality. You have to accept before you can change.
Now you expand your mind in that direction further by thinking about :
The reality of being a parent
Throw out all of your preconceived notions of doing things the way that you used to and start to accept the reality that life has changed. Becoming a parent changes you mentally, physically, emotionally, morally and ethically. You will never be the same person you were pre-children, however you can be just as happy. This happiness will start by accepting the reality of being a parent.
There will be some wonderful moments with your children, but there will also be some challenging ones. You need to accept that you cannot control how your children behave. You need to accept that they are going through developmental stages and that they will present you with some challenges.
You need to accept that sometimes you are going to be able to get the house clean, but other times it will be dirty, or become dirty moments after you’ve just cleaned it!
You need to accept that you are learning a new skill. You don’t just have a baby and know everything that you need to know about your child. You are getting to know your child. You are learning how to be a parent. You are learning how to communicate with your child, understand them, guide them and love them.
You are learning how to integrate your working life with your new family life. You are learning to juggle old situations with new situations.
You are a human being who has just undergone a major change in your life and you are learning to adjust to this change. Give yourself some time to do this without judging yourself and expecting to get it right every single time. Give yourself the space to learn the skills you need to breastfeed, get your child into a routine, become organised and even the space to like this new role, because the changes can be so major that there may be periods of time where you don’t like aspects of being a parent.
Once you start to look at the reality of being a parent, then send your thoughts towards the next phase of this reality wheel:
The reality of life
Now you start to expand from the small picture (this current situation) to the bigger picture of your whole life. You need to start seeing the reality of what every individual goes through in their journey through life. This will take you out of being consumed by this moment and help you to widen back from it instead.
Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes we get what we want, other times we don’t. Sometimes we enjoy life. Sometimes we don’t. This is true when we work, have relationships, be a parent and any other experience we have. There are highs and there are lows. It doesn’t mean life has gone wrong. It is simply the reality of life.
During these highs and lows we are continually learning. We learn about how to do things better, we learn what not to do and we become ‘older and wiser’. Our adversities often teach us our most valuable lessons and when we can start to teach our mind to look for the hidden good in the bad by identifying how this situation is helping us to grow and learn, then we will cease rating events as good or bad.
And finally, change the way you view yourself by understanding:
The reality of true self-worth
As we expand our viewpoint from the reality of the situation, to the reality of being a parent, to the reality of life, we now come to the most crucial phase of changing how you feel – Understanding the reality of true self-worth. This is something that will take some time. You have had many years of believing that you are worth-less, or believing that your worth is attached to achieving certain things in your life. You have physical connections in the brain that are likely to be very strong and will come up to resist what I am about to say.
However, I will be spending two weeks on exploring this self-worth topic, so by continuing this program you will begin to see more and more evidence of why you are 100% worthy all of the time which will help you to grow this new belief about yourself.
But for now I want you to know why you are 100% worthy, so you can begin contemplating this new idea.
Your worth comes from your existence. A cliché, I know, but let me explain. By being here on this earth, alive in this moment in time, your presence, your behaviours, thoughts, actions and interactions with others all contribute to how the world is.
We all learn and grow from each other and we learn and grow through our experiences (the highs and the lows). Just by being here you are always contributing something of value to someone else. You may say something that contributes information that someone needs to make a decision. You use utilities, pay bills and are a consumer which contributes to the successful businesses of others. Just by being you, you contribute to the journey of your children, your partner, your friends, family and even complete strangers.
Whatever you are doing, regardless of whether you rate it as good or bad, you are contributing something of value to the world.
Being angry can show other people how to deal with angry people. People observing others being angry often see themselves in that person and learn how not to be. Experiencing an angry person can cause you to walk in another direction, causing you to have another experience that you would not have had if you didn’t come across that person. This doesn’t condone being angry, it simply shows you how that it can be looked upon in a different way. No one wants to be angry, however we can learn from these things so as not to repeat our behaviours in the future.
Making mistakes in your life can help others to not make the same mistakes. You talk to others about what you have done and what has been happening in your life and they take that information and store it in their brains. You could have taught them some valuable lessons that they will follow in their lives or contributed information that they may need to use and access later in life.
Everything you do can be looked upon as being valuable to society. Similarly other people are always valuable to you because of what they teach you.
We are all learning and contributing to others around us and it is this learning and, consequently contributing that learning to the people you encounter, that defines your worth. You are here, alive, doing what you do and being who you are and that is why you are always 100% worthy.
Take you out of the equation and the world becomes a slightly different place. You contribute links in other people’s journeys and to the way their lives unfold. Without you their experience of life is different. Not good or bad, just different. Without you they may not get the lessons about life that they would have got from their experience of you – whether you are their friend, foe or a complete stranger.
How does this reality of true self-worth concept work when dealing with a crying baby? Well as we explore this self-worth further in week five, I will help you to apply this concept to specific circumstances related to parenting.
The topic of self-worth is a massive one so I do not expect you to grasp this concept straight away and feel great about yourself immediately.
How to apply this step:
Once you have become aware of your thinking, as often as you can start following each phase of the reality step to expand your attention in another direction.
Look at the reality of the situation and accept it. It is what it is and that cannot be changed right now in this moment. You can only change the way you look at it and then what you are going to do about it (which comes with later steps of the process.)
Start looking at the reality of being a parent and the ups and downs it incurs. Look at your child’s behaviour as developmental, not an indication of your worth. Stop comparing your current life with the life you used to have and start embracing this new stage of your life.
Understand that every aspect of life you encounter comes with its ups and downs. Parenting is no different. With this understanding keep a look out for the good times you have with your kids as well – the laughs, the smiles from your children, the cuddles and kisses. Putting your attention on what you are getting instead of what you aren’t will send your attention in the direction of finding more of what’s enjoyable about your life.
Try to find the hidden good in the bad – the benefits of your situation that initially seemed like a hindrance. How is this situation contributing to your learning? How does it improve your knowledge about parenting or about life in general?
And finally, know that you are 100% worthy by trying to practice seeing how you are contributing to the people around you. Being able to identify how you are contributing will be the key to starting to feel worthy and good about yourself on a regular basis.
To help you begin, finish these sentences to start thinking about how you have benefited your friends and family.
Without me, my kids wouldn’t have…….
Without me, my kids wouldn’t learn how to……
Without me, my partner wouldn’t have…..
Without me being alive, I would not have experienced……. which taught (name of someone) (something you have taught them)
Without me, my friends wouldn’t have ……
Also think about – things you have organised that wouldn’t have happened without you, things that you have done or things that you have bought that have contributed to society, businesses, culture, schools. Everything you do makes a difference. Think about good advice you have given someone because of some knowledge you have gained through your life. Think about what you do around the house that contributes to the functioning of the household and helps everybody healthy and keep their bodies working.
Once you begin seeing it your attention will go in that direction and you will continue to find more and more ways that you are contributing to the world, JUST BY BEING YOU!!! Observe how differently you feel just by doing this exercise.
Remember, this week is just an introduction to the Mind TRACK to Happiness process. We are going to expand further on the how to apply this method to specific circumstances of being a parent.
Tomorrow we are going to move into step three of this process – Aim. Just because you are in alignment with the reality of your situation and the big picture reality of what this situation means about your life, it doesn’t mean that you won’t want to change or improve the circumstances of your life. The next step starts to move into a solution focusd approach to handling your challenges.