This is the sixth of a 12-part series titled “Baby Steps.” On the first of each month, I post 1 tiny step toward better health that you can take every day for that month – practically without trying. Soon, that tiny step will be part of your daily routine, and you won’t even remember you never did it before. The next month, add the next baby step. By the end of 2016, you’ll have accumulated 12 new healthy habits, and you’ll notice a difference – not day to day, perhaps, but definitely between any before and after photos you might take and any journal entries you might make. Check in during each month with a comment below and/or on Facebook – I’d love to hear about your progress!
It’s June, so time for Baby Step #6! If you’ve been taking baby steps with me all along, that means that by now, you should already be in the habit of starting your day with lemon water, pausing to breathe, eating your greens daily, turning off all screens at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime, and switching to sea salt in your kitchen. How’s that all going?
This month’s baby step is perhaps a bit tougher and might take you more practice, but that’s what this is all about and you’re almost half way through the year and up for a bigger challenge, right?
Ready? This month you’re going to practice “flipping your thinking” when something “negative” happens.
What exactly does that mean? Think about how we tend to react to what we perceive as a negative event, whether it’s almost insignificant (like getting a splinter) or quite major (like losing your job). Usually, our first reaction is to wail and gnash our teeth and look anywhere but inside us. “Why did this happen to me?” “Why does this always happen to me?” “My life sucks!” “It’s not fair!”
And so the negative downward spiral begins, and you’re locked into the feeling that you are powerless to change – your situation and sometimes even yourself.
This month, try catching yourself just before (or even just as) you go into that tailspin. Then take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Why did this happen for me?” rather than “Why did this happen to me?”
It sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? I can hear you thinking, “What difference is that going to make?” Well, bear with me and try it: you may just be amazed.
This is just one of many positive mindset exercises I do with my clients, and it happens to be the one that most resist at the outset…and really embrace after a while, so much so that they bring it up in conversation long after our sessions are done!
What does it do? It makes you look at events from a different perspective, often a more positive and objective one, and it opens up the possibility that you have options, perhaps even better ones.
A somewhat humorous example
I was preparing for a cooking class a few months ago, and it was not only going to be a fairly large class – it was also being videotaped. Everything was going just fine until five minutes before people were due to arrive…and then I cut myself. Badly.
This may sound really crazy, but my first thought was not, “Oh no – I’m dripping blood all over the place, and I’ll have to wear a bandaid on camera!” It was, “Oh my gosh – that’s right! I forgot to print out the waivers that students have to sign in case they cut themselves!”
Is that stupid? Maybe, but I also know that it could have been a negative moment that really derailed me. Instead, I grabbed a glitter bandaid (yeah, that’s all we had at the time) and got those waivers printed without dripping blood on the computer.
A more serious example
I had wanted to drop to part time at my “day job” as a grants manager for a while in order to build my health coaching practice, and when the opportunity arose to supplement part of my income with work that was more related to my coaching, I took it.
But a few months into the project, for various reasons it suddenly felt like I was pushing a boulder up a hill all on my own. I was faced with continuing the struggle or taking a sizeable drop in income. I walked away from the project and felt not terror but an incredible lightness.
A few years ago, I would have been wailing, “Why is this happening to meee???” But because I developed this one positive mindset exercise, instead I thought, “Why did this happen for me?”
The moment I asked it, I realized that this was really the Universe’s way of allowing me to work part time. Taking on the new project, while it promised slightly more relevant work and a comparable income, was taking as much time as the day job had and it was not moving my practice forward.
I never would have dropped to part time if I hadn’t had the safety net that I thought the new project offered, and now I had the chance – and the confidence – to actually walk away from the project and really dedicate myself to building my practice.
You can see that once you develop this habit of asking why something happens for you rather than to you, the downward spiral of negativity is halted; instead, your eyes suddenly open to the potential in your situation, and that’s when even greater change can happen.
So give it a try this month: start with really small “negatives” and see how you can flip them by asking that one simple question.
And in the meantime, I’ll be trying to figure out what the Universe is telling me by having not one but two people damage my parked in the space of a month…. Maybe it’s that I need to start taking advantage of the public transportation that now extends out to my neighborhood? I’m game. 😉