I woke earlier this week in the middle of a beautiful forest, surrounded by birds with rich indigo feathers chirping their hellos and crisp, clean water flowing in the creek nearby.
I had just arrived on a short camping getaway with my family, taking our son out of school for a couple of days to get unplugged while his daddy had time home between work trips.
We had spent the evening prior sitting in our camp chairs around a crackling fire, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows to indulge in ooey gooey s’mores.
If you’re still with me so far, you’re probably thinking “what a perfect trip.”
But of course, it wasn’t perfect…we realized upon arriving that we forgot to change the batteries in our flashlight, so we had to rely on backup lanterns to get us around after dark.
Of course, there was also the less than stellar sleep one experiences on the ground and the unnatural positions your back and neck find themselves in over the course of the night.
But the biggest obstacle came when my phone began displaying all the urgent missed texts and calls during our drive through town on the way to a hike, unnoticed prior as the campsite was blissfully free of cell phone reception. As the medical proxy for my dad, I had to step out of vacay mode and into high gear to coordinate with his care team and ensure everyone had the information they needed to get him through a mini-crisis.
And despite all of the above, I am so glad we went, the experience simply reminding me that this is LIFE with all of its imperfections.
When we’re in the thick of things, it’s natural for our negative thoughts to take over, but as healthy as I believe they are (and they are helpful – more on that below!), it is important that we don’t get too carried away with them.
Here is a simple process that you can use in those moments when you find yourself getting fixated on the negative thoughts around all that’s “going wrong:”
- Take a pause and get anchored to the present with a few deep breaths.
- Ask yourself “What is working, even in some small way?” It might seem like nothing is working…but stay with it. Something always is. Even if it is simply the fact that you are still breathing.
- Keep tapping into that creative and connected part of your mind that sees beyond the frustrations and disappointments in front of you, then visualize energy flowing into all that is working to amplify it in your mind. Breathe.
- With the energy shifted, you can once again bring awareness to what wasn’t working and ask yourself “How can I accept this too and allow it to be a part of the whole?”
As you play with this practice, another perspective to weave in is the reality that it’s healthy to create expectations that include some of our fears and negative thoughts.
What I mean by this is that no opportunity, no relationship, no journey is without its messy parts, so rather than beat ourselves up for noticing the perceived flaws, we can bring gentleness to our minds, and let these moments either pass through or become useful fuel rather than zapping the energy out of our plans.
A recent episode of the podcast “The Happiness Lab” with Dr. Laurie Santos called “Don’t Accentuate the Positive” dives into this research, along with a few great processes where you can apply the power of negative thoughts.
When you learn to work with your negative thoughts and inner obstacles, you can use that energy that is freed up to create a vision that feels more aligned and rooted in reality, rather than idealized and perfect.
I would love to hear from you:
“What feels imperfect in your life right now? How can you shift your expectations to include these imperfections and bring more energy to what’s working for a fuller vision of what lights you up?”