Your daily challenge is to notice if an unwelcome “passenger” or “guest” is lurking around. It can be really easy to stay connected with your values when you have someone pestering you! Instead ask yourself, “is it more important to get rid of them, or to do what matters?” Rather than spending all your time and energy fighting with them or trying to get rid of them, see if you can shift focus back to what is important for you and why. Then think about how you can still #MakeTodayMeaningful even if that means this unwelcome guest hanging around.
For today’s challenge, see if you can identify what passengers turn on your “struggle switch.” Then try to turn it off by saying to yourself, “Today I notice that I am feeling [insert emotion]/having the thought of [insert painful thought]….AND… I’m going to do [insert values-consistent goal] anyway!” Notice the crucial word here “AND.” You don’t have to get rid of those experiences to do what matters. Turning off your struggle switch means noticing that they are there, without directly trying to influence them, and then choosing to do what matters anyway by bringing them along for the ride.
Sometimes it can be really hard to decide if we should make a change or not. Part of meaningful problem-solving involves evaluating the possible solutions you’ve identified in order to help you choose the best one for that problem. A Decisional Balance Worksheet like the one under Webinar #5 can be helpful for this! Try using this worksheet to identify the pros and cons of making a change or staying the same. Remember the key word is “meaningful” problem-solving, so as you evaluate whether or not to make a change, consider your values and try to catch any sneaky passengers disguised as “reasons.”
As we are coming out of a pandemic, your summer plans may look a little different than usual this year. It’s common to have thoughts like “It’s not the same, so why bother?”, “It just doesn’t matter if I can’t do what I really want!”, or “I’m just so tired of this!” Notice that these are your mind’s reaction to a difficult situation. Even though these are unprecedented times, you can still find meaning in each day! It just may involve some meaningful problem-solving and a sprinkle of creativity!
Use the Goals Worksheet under Webinar #5 to start thinking about what values you want to pursue this summer and start setting some initial goals. Reflect on what kinds of “passengers” may show up. What uncomfortable emotions and thoughts you are willing to experience in order to achieve these important goals in a way that is consistent with your values? Also think about what tools we’ve talked about in the webinars that you can use. Planning ahead like this will help you be more prepared to cope with these experiences when they show up!
Get some distance from your unhelpful thoughts by turning them into a song!
- Start by identifying the thought or stream of thoughts
- Then pick a popular tune (e.g., Happy Birthday, Jingle Bells, Baby Shark)
- Now, sing your thought to the tune
Notice how your experience with the thought changes. If the thought shows up again, remember it’s “just a line in a song!”
Here’s another great trick for taking your thoughts less seriously! Pick your favorite cartoon or movie character- try finding one with a very distinct voice (Like Dory or Batman or Yoda). Then turn your challenging thought into a short statement (e.g., “I can’t do this”, “I am a failure”, “Things are too hard”). Now imagine: how would that character say it? Try saying it out loud just like the character would! Notice your experience with the thought as you do this…
- Are you holding the thought more gently?
- Are you laughing/taking it less seriously?
- Are you focusing more on how to say it rather than on what the thought means?
[speaking whale] “iiiiiiiiii….cccccaaaannnnnnttttttt….ddoooooooooooo…ttttthhiiiiiiiiiisssssssss” [deep voice] “I am….a failure”
“Too hard things are” [Yoda laugh]
For today’s daily challenge- watch this video that discusses a helpful metaphor for how to observe your thoughts from a distance. Bon Appetite!!
Humans are pre-programed to pay attention to language. From the moment we learn to talk, we not only listen to the sounds and syllables that are being said, but also automatically assign meaning to the words that we hear.
Sometimes our internal dialogue doesn’t match up with our valued goals, and taking these thoughts too seriously can prevent us from moving towards what matters!
Another great way to get some distance from these unhelpful thoughts is to remove the meaning from the thought. You can do this by hearing your thought in another language you do not know.
- Try this out by typing your thought into a language translator (https://translate.google.com/)
- Then listen to the computer say the thought back to you in unfamiliar language
- As you listen, pay attention to the sounds and intonations of the words
- Notice your reaction as you listen- how is it different than when you focus on the meaning of the thought?
“I’m a failure!”, “I’m incompetent!”, “I’m ugly!”, “I’m a bad person!”, “I don’t matter!” are all examples of very common self-judgments. These types of thoughts can be particularly painful and hard to get distance from because they say something negative about us. And our minds love to drudge up the past giving us lots of reasons for why they are true. As a result, they take up a lot of mental space and energy, and often distract us from being able to make TODAY meaningful. One way to get some distance from these types of thoughts is to stop treating them like facts and start treating them for what they are… just thoughts! One way to do this is:
- Step 1: Put the thought into a short sentence- “I am X.”
- Step 2: Add the phrase “I’m having the thought that…” in front of it (e.g., I’m having the thought that I am X.)
- Step 3: Lastly, add the phrase “I notice I’m having the thought that…” in front (e.g., I notice that I’m having the thought that I am X.)
You may notice that your mind tries to respond with… “BUT it’s true” and continues to give you reasons why. If that happens, that’s ok! Remember our minds are judgment machines!! Try the exercise again. The goal of the exercise is not to erase the thought from your mind, but to stop arguing with it. When you do that, it frees up mental space to focus on the present moment and take action towards the person you want to be, not the one your mind says you are. #MakeTODAYMeaningful
Sometimes it is really hard to separate you, the driver of your VAN, from your painful passengers. This exercise can be used to help you get better at distancing yourself from your painful thoughts and struggles with them.
When you notice a painful thought, maybe a story your mind likes to give you a lot (e.g., “I’m never going to get better”, “I’m a bad person”, “I’m unlovable”), see if you can close your eyes and imagine that thought on the floor in front of you. Once you’ve gotten out on the floor, answer the following questions about it:
If it had a color, what color would it be?
If it had a size, how big would it be?
If it had a shape, what shape would it be?
If it had power, how much power would it have?
If it had speed, how fast would it go?
If it had a surface texture, what would it feel like?
Now you can really visualize what your pain creature looks like- you can even draw it if you are feeling extra creative! Look at the object and see if you can reduce any struggle you are having with it by letting it go. Is this thing and all its shape, texture, color, etc. something that is worth your energy? Take note of any thoughts or feelings you have about your pain creature. If you are having a hard time letting go of that struggle, do this exercise over again by visualizing your struggle on the floor in front of you.
When you are ready, invite the pain creature back inside you. Try to do so in a loving, welcoming way, demonstrating your willingness to have them. You don’t have to like them, just be willing to have them.