Lately, I’ve been finding that there are certain conversations that repeat in my head on a loop. I wake up with these thoughts and go to bed with them and no matter how much I try, I can’t seem to snap out of it.
It might be obvious but I’ll mention it anyway: these are negative thoughts that do not serve me. Some are complaints about how my life is stuck in certain ways I don’t like it to be. Some are frustrations of hard work (or at least consistent work) not paying off as much as I’d like. And some are just good old whining.
None of these are making my life better.
In fact, they make my days worse. I get caught up in the chatter and the negativity encompasses all of my brain. Next thing I know, the day’s over and I’m all bitter. And if there’s one thing I hate almost as much as sarcasm (which I despise) it’s being bitter. I think that being bitter doesn’t serve me at all. It sucks all the joy out of my life and leaves me nothing. I refuse to have my life be that way.
But no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t get these thoughts to stop. I could quiet them down a bit but then they’d come back full-force. It’s like when you trust someone and then they do something to betray you. From there on the seeds of doubt are inside you and infect every single moment. That’s how these thoughts were for me. They were taking over my thoughts and emotions and infecting my days.
This morning I got up and asked myself a crucial question.
“What do I want?”
For each of these issues that were driving me mad, I wanted to know what I was seeking. What my true, realistic goal was. For me the first answer is always flippant. It’s rash action that’s just not realistic or even ideal. It’s just an extreme that would immediately make this nagging thought disappear. Like “move away” or “quit that commitment.” etc.
But this time I didn’t let myself off the hook. I just kept asking. What do I want here? What’s an outcome that would make me happy? Or at least content enough to have the nagging thoughts out of my head. How can I change this situation/worry/problem so I can be at peace again?
When I really sit to think about it, this is not an easy question. Because realistically, if this were an easy problem to solve, I would have solved it already. And clearly there’s some emotional issues here, too, since it’s getting in the way of my peace. So it’s hard and emotionally loaded. But I still kept at it. What do I want? I asked myself.
The next set of answers that came to me involved other people. I might want so-and-so to fix the problem for me in some way or another. But, as I know quite well, the only person I can control is me. I am the only one I can change. And since these are my personal concerns and are messing with my peace, well I should be invested in fixing them myself.
So the question morphed a bit and became “What do I want and What can I do about it?” What are some actions I can take to make the situation better for me? To change my reality, my perception, and my ability to not let it get to me. Those are the three things I can adjust.
1. I can take action.
2. I can change my point of view.
3. I can change the value I assign to this issue emotionally. (As in how much I should/will worry about it.)
I can change one of these, all of these or any combination.
So for each of the items on my nagging list, after I already figured out what I wanted (which is the HARD part) I wrote down which of the three I could change and how.
Just writing it all down made me feel better already. We often tend to get upset when we feel like we have no control over things in our lives. We get into these cycles where we forget that at some point, this was a choice and now it feels like a trap. But we do have choice. We have the choice to decide what we want. We have the choice to take small actions in the direction of our wants. We have the choice to change our perspective. And we definitely have the choice not to let it nag us. Even if it feels impossible, all of those choices are there, available to us at all times.
And they all start with the magic question:
What do I want?