How much time do you spend in thinking about events, situations and circumstances that have already passed? How much energy do you give to these things? Are there unresolved relationships that need your attention? Are there unfinished tasks that bother you each time you think of them? All these things need taking care of….and, as soon as possible.
The brain operates on a binary system. It can only pay attention to one thing at a time. True, it can move from one idea, perception, thought to another very rapidly, yet, it can only pay attention to one thing at a time. You choose what it pays attention to. True, too, it often does not seem that way. Your mind races. Thoughts come so quickly they are fleeting. You do choose where the mind will dwell, though, don’t you?
Do you choose to stop on the good times or the distressing events most often? Do you focus on when you felt strongest or weakest? Do you think about what you have done well or when you have made mistakes? If you think about a mistake, do you think about it to create a plan of action so that it will not recur, or, do you beat yourself up about it? Two very different ways to use the past!
Do you have an Inner Critic who seems to always be on duty? It is that voice that sounds so sure and authoritative as it tears at your self-esteem and whittles away at your self-confidence. You can actually look spectacular, healthy and fit and it will fixate on the part of your body you like the least. Sound familiar?
It is not the exact words that this voice utters that matter. It is the quality of the energy behind the words…and it is often not positive. Interestingly enough, the voice is usually not telling the truth. In fact, it is not even close to being based in reality. It is such a strange phenomenon. A hundred people could tell you that you look terrific today, and that one lonely, miserable Inner Critic can cause you to decide that all one hundred of those folks are wrong! When you look at it that way, it seems ludicrous, doesn’t it?
Let me tell you a story from my own life. From the time I was nine years old , I was told that I needed to diet, change, do more, do less, reach, settle, conform, stretch. The message from my folks was that no matter what I did I would never be good enough. Sound familiar again? Once I was an adult, the content of that message shifted from my weight to my career and mothering ability, but the outcome was the same–no matter what I did I would never be good enough. If I paid attention to my career–and, as a single mother of three, there was no choice if we wanted to eat–my parents insisted that I was not giving my children enough of my time. If I paid attention to my children, I was wasting my life being a mother. What a Catch-22! My parents were invested in control. Making it impossible for me to “win” allowed them to think they were in control. Fortunately, I saw their game when I was seventeen and gave their opinions less weight than they thought. Or, at least, that is what I thought!
At forty or so, I was making photograph albums for my three children. As I went through all the photos from my parents’ home and mine, I found myself in tears. Why? Because, in looking at forty years of photos of me, I could see no evidence of the person they described when I looked at myself. The person in those photos was just fine just the way she was. And yet, that Inner Critic had been well-informed with those repeated messages. My tears were for the early years of striving to gain the approval of folks whose opinions I really did not value. I tell that story because I know it is a common one. Fortunately, at age nineteen, Maxwell Maltz and I became friends through his books. Everything changed!
If your Inner Critic has way too much to say, consciously turn it off. When it begins, change the channel to one that is supportive, one that encourages you to live fully, stretch and grow–all on your own terms. You can do this!
Many times in seminars I will ask participants to state what they most want in life. Most folks are quick to say what they do not want, what they never want to happen again. It seems, for them, that the past has been a great teacher of what to avoid!
What DO you want? Focus on IT!
ALWAYS REMEMBER—-WHAT YOU PAY ATTENTION TO EXPANDS!