Can Positive Thinking distort your view of reality and make life appear worse?

shutterstock_117450436

Positive Thinking blocked my ability to be objective.

Why I needed to think positive and set goals.

Thirty years ago I fled a marriage from domestic violence.

Alone with a toddler I felt guilty about the predicament I’d landed us in.

I was ashamed I’d ended up a single mum.

And worried about what the future held.

The Power of Positive Thinking offered the perfect solution to transition from victim of circumstance to a confident woman in control of my destiny.

I learned how to control life so life couldn’t control me.

I studied the Law of Attraction, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and visualized my happy future by reciting Affirmations.

Inspired and motivated I strove forward to create a bright and happy life.

No longer a victim of circumstance.

Visualization helped me create goals, form plans, then write to do lists.

This guaranteed my focus on success.

Smart goals assured a fast route, increasing my sense of achievement.

My contribution would be valued. From mid-life I would luxuriate in all my success.

My mid-life reality.

By mid-life I was so embedded in creating positive outcomes, it became me, the finder of the perfect solution.

Whilst this had excited me earlier in my career/life I now felt drained and ready for others to provide their own outcomes.

Though all of my positive goals had eventuated in the form of meeting my perfect man, my daughter growing into a fine young woman, a job and home which I loved, in my fifties I began to develop doubts. I suspected that all of that ‘looking on the bright side’ may be hiding a different version of reality.

So I began my journey to uncover my truth. First step was to look behind my positive thoughts to uncover my dark side.

The hidden truth behind my positive facade.

Let me be clear, I did not have an intentional facade, the power of positive thinking hid my truth from myself.

A new reality slowly unraveled.

Positive thinking had kept me so focused on solving problems,

I’d never noticed that my original problem had long ago resolved.

Instead of being satisfied I was looking for solutions to prevent every bad outcome.

This disassociated me from my present reality, increased my fear of the future and left me with an inability to be objective.

Working toward successful outcomes was ingrained in my psyche, an insatiable master, always wanting. No matter how hard I tried, I would always need to do more.

I was now out of control trying to be in control.

There was no time to enjoy life as I was too busy keeping everything in order so that life would remain secure and predictable.

Externally all appeared fine, internally life had shifted. Acquiring predictable security also left no room to enjoy the loving predictability I already had. Instead, I spent most of my time working for others who were not so secure or predictable.

The pursuit of happiness requires concentrated effort with short-term rewards.

  • The relentless pursuit of positive outcomes requires that you continually keep moving along the treadmill of life, there’s no getting off.
  • You feel depleted so you need something to sustain you.
  • You seek the quick reward of a feel good item such as a great night out, junk food, alcohol, a new gym outfit.
  • This type of reward is short-lived. After consuming you feel guilty for letting down your guard and allowing short-term gratification to impede on achieving your positive outcome.

You can’t save money if you spend it and you won’t get healthy if you don’t eat right, you feel bad for not living up to expectations, back on the treadmill, now you need to work harder to undo the damage.

Short term goals help you stay focused but being positive over a long period is not sustainable.

Just as continual growth does not sustain the planet, continual striving will not sustain you. Just like the planet, you need time out to rejuvenate and replenish.

This includes time to recover from hurt, disappointment, rejection and pain. Just as the planet needs time to recover after a wild storm we need time to recover from our own storms in life.

Your paying a high price emotionally and physically.

The law of attraction states that our thoughts create our reality, when things go wrong we feel overly responsible. This places stress on our bodies and we know what that does to our health.

Accept that at some point, each of us will take a wrong turn and fail.

Give up self-improvement and Practice Loving Kindness.

Step off the Self improvement treadmill. Take a break and relax. Be kind to yourself by accepting that life has been difficult and you’ve done your best.  Jack Kornfield has a wonderful Loving Kindness meditation to help get started. This is a powerful meditation on forgiveness and self acceptance.

Emotions add depth and quality to our lives. Suffering opens our heart to empathy for ourselves and others.

Your quirks are what make you unique.

Replace controlling your thoughts with observing them.

Practicing self-awareness is an alternative to using affirmations and positive thinking.

Instead of trying to produce positive thoughts, allow all thoughts to flow through.

Mindfulness uses an analogy of you being the sky and your thoughts are the clouds.

This helps you detach from your thoughts as you notice them flow by like clouds in the sky.

Separating thoughts removes their power because they no longer represent who you are. Your not your thoughts, your having a thought. You may have made a bad choice but that does not mean that your incompetent, you may have a thought that your incompetent, you now can decide to make another choice.

Self acceptance and non judgment.

Replacing self-improvement with self acceptance brought about profound change.

The belief that I’d been the instigator of bad karma disintegrated.

I was simply a naive and trusting young woman who’d stumbled on one man who mistreated her.

From this perspective it was far easier to forgive, feel empathy and recognize young innocence.

I’d been overly zealous attributing The Law of Attraction to a bad outcome.

I was just a young woman who’d made a bad move.

I now forgave that vulnerable young woman.

And accepted her as a part of me along with her fragility and shame.

I now truly understood despite her fear she had acted courageously.

Accepting the dark side broadened my ability to be objective.

And discovered life was better than it had appeared.

Today I’m participating in everyday life, there’s no need to worry about future outcomes, they can take care of themselves.

Let’s boom on with an open heart.

Your brain won’t retire if you give it a rewire.

Why you need to rewire and not retire?

Life is busy, too demanding? Your asking too much of yourself?  So your weighing up whether it’s time to retire and  ‘get a life’.

But your not ready, you’ll get bored, your brain needs to be stimulated, not stressed.

You don’t want to retire, but you need to rewire.

Mid life is your time to leave the busyness of life to get on with the business of life.

It’s time to ‘Boom On’ to the most satisfying and productive years of all.

Not long ago we believed that our brain cells formed by a certain age.  As we aged these cells deteriorated. Our days to fully participate in life were numbered.

So Boomers lived life to the fullest.  We knew that we only had a short time to have a good time.  Many of us willing to forgo the loss of a few brain cells using alcohol or drugs to enhance a good time.  To quote Jim Morrison from The Doors, “I want to get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames”.

Life’s stages were clearly defined. Young age for learning, early adulthood for earning, late adulthood for leisure before we lost our faculties.

Now that boomers have reached mid life, life’s ‘boomed on’,  just like us.

Computational Neuroscience.

Neuroplasticity has now replaced the formerly held belief that the brain is a static organ. We now know that the brain changes throughout the whole of life. By changing behavior, neurons learn to process information differently building new pathways to replace old worn out paths.

The ageing brain.

Our brain thins with age. This affects our short term memory. It is why we can’t find our car keys.  But a thinning brain does not affect our capacity to process new information and learn.

The good news is that our brain improves with age in important areas. Mainly in the area of competence, the ability to compare the old with the new. From this we develop wisdom which is our enhanced capacity to solve problems.

And better still, those years of mental activity in early adulthood have provided a strong foundation.

But here’s the problem. Whilst we’ve been actively involved in delivering the goods, after all of these years we’ve become bored.  That’s why it’s time for reinvention.

The time has come to reignite our brain and recover our passion.  Sitting around doing crosswords and brain puzzles is not the solution.

10 ways to rewire so your brain won’t retire.

Mindfulness Meditation- Practice mindfulness meditation.  Filling every moment of the day is what your accustomed to.  Developing the discipline to sit still for 10-40 minutes, working through the boredom and discomfort of a mind used to ‘always planning’ will exercise your brain.  This exercise improves your brains capacity to pay attention and remain focused. You will develop awareness of how your mind works.

Journaling- Writing things down helps you remember better.  Journaling will organize both your business and personal life.  Freewriting is a great way to start unraveling brain clutter, it enhances emotional wellbeing and gives insight to problems.

Develop the mind of a Scientist- How long has it been since you’ve been curious?  Efficiency and time management replaced curiosity.  Start exploring life like a scientist, you’ll uncover new connections, make breakthroughs, provide new outcomes .

Stop working to a deadline- A busy schedule trained your brain to focus on the deadline.   Your brain learned that the quickest route was the priority.  You stopped gaining insight to new possibilities.  Focus on the job to gain a deeper perspective.

Get into the flow- Much of early adulthood was outcome focused.  External focus was needed to provide to survive.  That job is done, it’s time get into the flow of life.  Flow is the state where you become so fully immersed in the enjoyment of an activity you lose a sense of time and place.

Move on from your story-  You’ve been telling your story for so long you may have no idea that it’s no longer true.  My story was implanted thirty years ago when I separated, it was my story of struggling to make ends meet.  I had not stopped to realize that I had been making ends meet for twenty years.   This story needed updating.  Once this came into my awareness, I became unstuck from this story and my brain automatically updated.

 Exercise -Mid lifers who take up cycling, mountain climbing or running are not crazy.  Physical exercise improves brain health as much as body health.  Stop reading the news and go climb a mountain.

Face your fears- Are you afraid of public speaking? Join toastmasters.  It turns out that facing your fears, even after one exposure, can reset your brain. Imagine all of the new possibilities if you discovered that you actually are quite capable of building your own website.

Artistic pursuits-  Keith Richards got it right, artistic pursuits fire the brain. You never had the talent to make it.  Your rock star/painter/author didn’t provide enough income.  So you moved on from following the  rock star, actor, painter or author dream.  Now you’ve acquired skills and hindsight.  Use your wisdom to pick up where you left off.   A rewire will fire the rock star or artist in you.

What fascinates you? - Unleash your talents with what fascinates you.  Mark S. Walton, author of Boundless Potential describes a 3-step process used by those who successfully reinvent themselves in mid life.  Ask

  1. What fascinates me?
  2. Translate this fascination into action in the real world.
  3. Determine what type of structure you can use to bring this into reality.

Are you now ready to rewire your desire? 
How will you get on with the business of life?

Would love your comments.

 

 

 

 

Are you ready to give up the fight and give peace a chance?

That drive to survive, wanting to win, are you fighting a losing battle?

The fight to the top.
Life presents many obstacles. Overcoming each strengthens us, gives us a sense of achievement and confidence. Conquering each challenge develops character and makes us worthy. Fighting our way to the top feels good.

But what if you left the battlefield?
What if you stopped and asked ‘what am I fighting for?’

Suppose they gave a war and nobody came.
Expression used by hippies during the early seventies in protest against the Vietnam war.
Worn out from years of fighting to reach the top, improve life, have enough saved for tomorrow, boomers are again asking this question. ‘What am I fighting for?’.
I was one of those boomers, was this my ‘mid life crisis’?

The mid life crisis.
I had a mid life crisis and did what you do in a mid life crisis. I went back to my younger years, before I entered the battlefield, back to the peaceful hippie. I took a gap year, like the year between leaving school and entering college, when life was still fun, before the battle of adult responsibility begun.

Then, this ex hippie did what one does when the fight can’t be won.
Turn on, tune in and drop out.
In mindful contemplation, I began to understand that there was nothing to fight for.

Imagine all the people living for today, you may think that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
I resolved never to go back to a war, decided the War is Over. I’d stay in that place where they gave a war and nobody came and Give peace a chance. Imagine.

Why do humans fight for what they want?
Fight or flight is our biological response to acute stress, not only in humans but for all animals. In our caveman days, we were surrounded by predators, we had to fight for survival. We naturally perceive life as threatening, we have not left the jungle.

Why it is essential to try and give peace a chance.
We’re all well aware of the detrimental effects that living a life in heightened anxiety (stress) has on our bodies but believe we have no choice. We try everything to prevent stress, and gain control of our environment. Living like this often goes unnoticed in early adulthood but in mid life symptons arise as a consequence, it’s time to leave the battlefield.

Mindfulness will help to get back to that hippie and give peace a chance?
Mindfulness meditation is a great way to stop the fight and give peace a chance. It might take some time to recover but you can start by slowly introducing some of the following into life:

  • Stop worrying about the future or ruminating over the past, instead stay with the present.
  • Meditate for ten minutes each day, sit or lie down and  bring your mind to your breath, feel it coming and going through your nostrils, when your mind wonders to the worries or to do’s, gently guide it back to your breath.
  • Take a mindful walk through the park, feel the earth, rocks or grass under your feet. When your mind wonders bring it back to the present, the sights and sounds of nature, the sensations of the breeze, the sun on the side of your face.
  • Become aware when participating in gossip or judgment when talking to others.
  • Stop striving to improve yourself, you’ve already improved with age, like fine wine.
  • Stop trying to improve others in your life so that you can help them win the war, instead accept and support them through life’s ups and downs.
  • Decide to not read to know more, stop brain cells from deteriating or to be more employable, read for pleasure.
  • Do not exercise to stay fit and young, but to enjoy the wind in your hair and trying to catch your breath.
  • Do not eat to lose weight and look better, instead enjoy the flavour.

By practicing the above you will lose that drive to survive, but will go on living. You will flow more easily through life’s ups and downs. As others fight their wars around you, you’ll have empathy, but feel at peace.

Are you now ready to give up the fight and give peace a chance?