Almost all of our emotions are attached to the meaning we give to situations, people and things. We make a decision about how certain experiences affect our lives and go on feeling good or bad about them. Quite often we mistake the way we feel about something as the absolute reality.
This process of assigning meaning to everything is actually quite natural. It is the way humans go along interacting in the world. It is only when we don't recognise our experience as our mere perception that it can become an obstacle in the way of our growth and happiness.
If we think carefully, we will realise there is actually no meaning to anything – as abstract as it may sound, meaning lives in our thinking. It is our judgement that labels everything as this, that or the other. We make decisions about people and ourselves according to our own experience of the world – a combination of inherited views, our past, our fears, our goals, personality, etc.
But what if we could re-tell certain stories and try to see them as neutral or perhaps even give them a different meaning? Try to think about any upsetting situation in your life. What is the story you told yourself that make you feel this way? Is it possible that whatever happened is simply the way you are choosing to look at it? You may be calling it a disaster, blaming yourself for your choices or even saying it is bad luck. You may even be blaming another person for whatever happened but the truth is there are infinite ways to look at a situation. In reality, none are good or bad, only in our own view and experience. I'm not saying our feelings aren't true and I am not invalidating anyone's trauma. Neither am I saying it is easy to see it in any different way. What I am suggesting is that is possible.
It comes down to mindset, as I often say. Majority of our stress comes from what we think and not from actual events, so by training our mind to not attach definite meanings to everything, we allow ourselves to act more freely when making decisions. That is why some people experience a challenging situation and turn it into their best teacher while others make it a barrier, resulting in limitation. When we label people and situations we limit our perception and consequently, the space for it to be any other way.
You may have heard about the story of the farmer whose horse ran away and a sequence of events start to happen because of it. Every time the villagers came to pity or cheer each occurrence, the farmer simply said: “maybe”. If you haven't heard it before, look it up. The moral of this tale is exactly our point here. Everything has the meaning you give it.
We tell many stories to ourselves and other people without even realising.
Perhaps you have decided it is too late to start over. Or that you will never be able to travel the world now that you have kids. Or that you would be better at a particular skill if only you had started younger. There are so many things we can keep repeating to ourselves. But the truth is: They are all a bunch of stories we decided to believe! What to say about people like Judy Dench who became a famous actress at the age of 61? There are so many other brilliant examples out there. I personally know quite a few extraordinaire stories of people in my business community who not only started something completely new later in life but are also doing it successfully. Some of them are parents who are now travelling to more countries than they used to when they didn't have kids. Myself included!
Behind every successful story, there is a person who decided to “label” themselves as courageous. Capable. Resilient. And whenever doubt and fear comes to mind, they'd remember it's nothing more than a thought, not the reality. Reality we create with actions. People who can take consistent action have mastered their thinking skills.
So before you start repeating that your child is very shy or that you are over reactive or that your colleagues are annoying, have a think about why you are experiencing things this way and allow other points of view to be true to you. You will be surprised at how our eyes open to other possibilities when we do. When we change the focus of our conversation we actually truly start seeing things in a different way.
If we are going to think and judge, why not assume the best? Manage your thinking and you will manage your meaning and life may be a lot more joyful and enjoyable.