“You can’t go to the team celebration,” I was told by my boss. “You’re a contractor and contractors aren’t allowed to attend employee functions.”
I put my own business on hold to work at a big company. Now I felt like quitting. Our team had a big win and we were going to present our work to the whole division. Then we were told only full time employees were allowed to go. No contractors. I was crushed.
How could they not appreciate my hard work?
I started down this mental path then I decided to just explore these feelings. At first my expectations were that I should be applauded and appreciated, then it quickly turned to rejection. Now I felt shunned.
It opened up a new mental door for me. It showed me how quickly my mind can turn around in a good or bad way. My expectations are why I get mad when I’m in heavy traffic. My expectations are why I struggle with my spouse. My expectations are why I struggle to fall asleep. This moment helped me understand how deeply my expectations go. How automatic they are and how they can often dictate my happiness if I’m not aware of them.
I decided to use this sadness to explore how I can create expectations that will allow me to be more thankful for what I do have. With a lot of practice I’ve figured out how to create neural pathways that allow me to dip into gratitude when I need it the most. This attitude has taken me a long time to foster, but I know I can help you move efficiently through this process. If your anger is an issue then you know why you want to get started on digging into your thoughts and feelings. Listening to and appreciating your feelings, even the uncomfortable ones, is the best way to grow stronger.
It’s all about baby steps. Start by getting curious about what thoughts trigger your emotions and why this happens. Try not to judge this part of yourself. It’s very hard not to judge, and if you are anything like me you’ll still judge yourself. If this happens, just notice it and then focus back on thoughts and emotions.
At the end of every night, think of a person/situation that you’ve struggled with recently. Then ask yourself these four questions:
- How difficult is this situation on a scale of 0 - 10? (0 - Easy to 10 - Unbearable)
- Why do you feel this way? (Truly feel how you feel. Let it soak in.)
- What were your expectations of the situation?
- What is one small thing that you can appreciate about the situation?
- What opportunities could come out of this situation?
Watch how you react to each answer. What emotions arise as you process each question. I recently hurt my back, and this is what I did whenever I got angry at myself.
1. How difficult is this struggle on a scale of 0 - 10? (0 Easy and 10 Unbearable)
It’s a 7. My back pain can be intense, but it’s not debilitating. If you are at 100% then you aren’t ready to process these difficult feelings. When you are at a 90% then there is a crack that you can widen and explore.
2. Why do I feel this way?
I feel this way because I’m angry that I was stupid enough to try to catch the bags of dirt falling out of the wheel barrow, when I could have just let it topple over and picked them up off the ground. I was angry at myself for stacking them too high. Angry for jerking my back to catch something that didn’t matter if it fell to the ground. This surprised me. I didn’t realize that I was being so self-critical. My inner bully was pushing me around, and noticing it helped me appreciate these emotions.
3. What were your expectations of the situation?
I expected my back to be better by now. I didn’t think it would take this long to heal. Most of the time my back heals within a few weeks. This is dragging out and I keep hoping that it starts to feel better soon.
4. What are a few small things that you can appreciate about the situation?
I’m still able to slowly walk and ride my bike. I’ll tweak my back every now and again, but I’m still able to move. I’m able to eat good food. I’m still able to practice light Yoga. I’m still able to meditate. I have my wife and two boys. I get to laugh with them at the dinner table. I get to write these words to help others. There are many other good things in my life.
5. What opportunities could come out of it?
I’ve gotten a lot of self-awareness out of this tough situation. I see my body more clearly. I’m getting older, but still in good shape.
I also need to work on my anger issues. I know that I have anger inside of me that I’m still afraid to face. This back pain gives me a chance to get a better understanding of how I let my anger overwhelm me.
I’ve also been able to show my sons the value of doing more Yoga. It has helped me improve how I feel and it helps my sons see the value of stretching their bodies.
You want to uncover your truth. The more truthful you are with yourself and how you understand the world the more honest you will be with others. You won’t hesitate to speak up. Studies have shown that it’s not the couples who tolerate each other that thrive. It’s the couples who communicate well that do. They share their annoyances, love, dislikes, etc. in a constructive way to help the relationship improve. It’s because they feel comfortable in themselves and each other. They aren’t afraid of retribution and want the relationship to grow stronger.
The same goes with the relationship with yourself. When you admit mistakes you begin to learn from them. You get curious about why they happened and how you can improve them. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about enjoying the process of growth. Where you are at today and where you are heading.
Notice how you felt as you went through these questions. Did any tension release? Do you feel more or less stressed? Do you want to go and eat a piece of chocolate or watch your favorite show? Notice all the subtle feelings. This step of reflection will help deepen the experience and help you learn from it. There are many different ways to feel. The more you dig, the more likely you’ll become uncomfortable, but this is where you can learn to fly. When you stop hiding and open yourself up to your struggles, you’ll find the growth that helps you create more success and happiness than you ever thought possible.
There are limitless ways to look at a situation. When you open yourself up to all the possibilities, you realize you can choose the one that is the wisest. This wisdom takes practice and you gain more wisdom as you improve on your ability to self-reflect and make adjustments to how you think and react to situations.
Remember not to compare yourself to anyone else, not your spouse, your friends and definitely not your parents. You are on your own journey. After 30 days of this process, reflect and see if you’ve had any small wins. Celebrate these small wins because this will spur you to keep making progress.
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels