"Now, before we get too excited, I want to pause for a moment and ask you to consider all the negative conclusions that I could have drawn about this incident, had I been in the mood to ruin my life."
We all might want to read that again. That wonderful sentence is from Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic." It made me instantly want to write to you, and myself. It made me want to explore this further. What is this thing we do to ourselves all too frequently?
What story have you told yourself in your head lately about events that have happened to you? How quickly do you think the worst and make yourself miserable? How fast do you project a poor outcome into the future? How much does your own negativity and the stories you tell yourself in your head spoil the good things you have going on?
At first look, it is not our fault. We are hard wired in our actual brains to be very aware of the bad things that might happen or could happen or possibly will happen. We look for the most negative. We look to see the disaster before it comes, and we prepare ourselves for the worst possible outcome. It is as if thinking the worst ahead of time- keeping our guard up and our fists clenched- will keep us safe. We are wired that way because in more primitive times we needed to be on alert to survive. We needed to constantly be on our guard so that we would not get jumped on from behind by an animal with huge claws. We needed to mistrust other tribes, anyone different from us. We needed to sleep lightly and close to the campfire and wake up on high alert at the smallest sound, hearts pounding, ready to fight or run.
None of us live that dangerously now.
And yet the caution persists. We are often so frazzled we do not take the time to think about it. We have not been taught to question it. We are so busy doing it about tiny little things and also the big giant huge scary things that we do not have the time to even start the wondering about it.
There are many lovely reasons to take the time to start the wondering.
I am asking you to question how you think.
I am asking you to wonder what questioning your thoughts might look like.
Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, was waiting in a long line at the Post Office. Stamps had changed and so everyone needed penny stamps for accurate postage. I can imagine the dialogue each mind was having, they did not have time for this, why do stamp rates go up, why is the Post Office so.... you get it.
When it was Seligman's turn, he bought dollars worth of stamps. Then he stood in the post office and called out, "Who needs penny stamps?" Within a few minutes a grumpy line became a festive circle of happy people being gifted the stamps they needed.
So simple, but so magic.
Can you shift your thoughts about something today?
Take a day to be thoughtful. The rest of your life is here.