Sometime back, I wrote a blog in which I spoke of letting go of the past and living in the now. I also spoke about how human beings are notoriously in love with the words ‘then’ and ‘later.’ It’s the side effect of an evolved consciousness: the ability to imagine several possibilities at once. It’s a gift, and a curse. It’s a gift if one uses it to visualize positive scenarios and work towards them. It’s a curse if one uses it to worry because worry, as know, is a waste of the imagination.
Research indicates that over 47% of people actually spend more than 50% of their time thinking about an unhappy event from their past. So if I were to make a loose theory here, that would mean about 50% of people are unhappy 50% of the time, due to their past.
Now that’s a lot of unhappiness.
So here’s an idea: What if every negative feeling came with an expiry date? And what if it was up to us to set that date?
What does it mean to set an expiry date for all negative experiences?
It means that
1. When we are upset, we will not be upset for too long. We will forget the incident or situation and get back to what is important. This knowledge during the negative experience enables us to see the experience for what it is: something temporary.
2. For every negative experience we have, we must spend time to figure why we went wrong. The purpose of this activity is to ensure we will not repeat the same mistake again, so that the next time it confronts us, we know what to do and can reduce the expiry date still further. If not, we get into a negative pattern of negative experiences – largely controlled by us, not ‘fate’.
How does one achieve this equanimity in the face of negativity?
1. Acceptance: Don’t resist the negativity. Accept that it is happening. A man does not learn to swim by telling himself the water is not there. He learns to swim by embracing the cold, choppy water.
2. Don’t demonize: Avoid words like “this is terrible” in your inner voice. Stop demonizing people or incidents. A man does not learn to swim by hating the water. He learns to swim by loving water. Don’t be a victim.
3. Express your feelings: First to yourself, then to others. Label your feelings when you are in the middle of this. This kind of conscious naming creates useful distance. Help others label their feelings. Express them. Don’t bottle it up.
4. Forgive: If someone has caused you pain, forgive them and try to understand why they did it.
5. Live in the present: At all times, use the past or the present only to gain insight or inspiration. Otherwise remember it is always now. And now is all you have.
Start right away. Think of something painful that’s happened in the last 3 months. Now decide now as by when it is going to expire. Once that is done, use the above mentioned principles to move on.
As Master Oogway says in Kung Fu Panda, ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery. But, today is a gift, and that is why it is called present.’
So, don’t mess with the present by thinking about the past or the future.
About the Author:
Sandhya Reddy is a Life coach and Leadership coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.
Sandhya, a life coach in Bangalore, who runs a life coaching academy, can help individuals with a desire for change to examine their beliefs – or their ‘stories’ – and change them for the better, so they can achieve their goals.
Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.