Life is going great when bam! The earth quakes and a landslide comes tumbling down, burying everything you had worked so hard on.
And without warning, as if on some internal cue, you are assaulted with doubts and misgivings. Buried under an avalanche, hidden from view, out of sight are all the things you have accomplished. You no longer consider and appreciate all the things you have done and are capable of doing. The rubble is not just life happening, it is a reminder of the bad choices you made and how inadequate you are.
In the blink of an eye, an old and unwanted visitor has just returned.
The voice is loud and clear. “You just won’t learn – you will never amount to anything, no matter how hard you try.”
Taking charge of your time and your life requires not only being aware of your current habits, but knowing how to replace habits that aren’t working. Taking charge means putting in place a new time management schedule that meets your purposes and goals.
It will require self-regulation and self-discipline. The word “discipline” often triggers a negative response based on our childhood interpretation of discipline. But now it is a positive tool allowing you to do the things you want to do.
Self-regulation doesn’t mean every moment is regulated in some way or that we lead a regimented life with no pleasure or down times. In fact, when you put a time management plan in place, you will find you have more time than you did before. You are able to schedule in fun and pleasant times as well as the accomplishment of tasks and chores.
But habits and behaviors have consequences. They might make us feel good in the moment but have a negative long-term cost.
To make habits work for you, it is important to know which ones keep you from maximizing your time and efforts.
For example, you may decide that this is a good time for you to go back to school and get an advanced degree or training. Before you do, it is helpful to know how you currently use your time and what you do on a regular basis.
What wasted time can be redirected?
What current habits would interfere with completing your course work?
While it might be difficult to grasp the concept that setbacks can be one of our greatest life opportunities, it is when we are forced by circumstances to stop and evaluate that we can reflect, examine, and discover what works and get rid of what hinders our progress.
When we know what isn’t working, we can replace it with a new program that gives us the tools to succeed.
How do we start over when we feel there are no solutions to our problems?
When we get knocked down, we not only get discouraged, but waste our creative energy striking out or blaming others for our difficulties or distress. Remaining in that mindset takes away our personal power, and as we learned in the post on forgiveness, we can remain in a never-ending toxic cycle of bitterness and anger. Our focus remains on what we can’t do and not on what we can do.
Bridges are incredible feats of engineering and ingenuity, rising high above deep gorges, over rivers and large bodies of water. I am fascinated by the ingenuity required to design such lofty and expansive works that are both practical and majestic; a combination of beauty and strength.
I like to use the analogy of bridges because we are constructing them every day. They make connections between couples and families. They bridge the gap between our past and future and expand our possibilities as we move from one venture to another.
We’ve been thinking about the stories we create to define what we are going through. We learned that we can change the narrative to work for us instead of against us. Setbacks do happen. But we can turn them into opportunities.
Traumatic events, whether they happened today or in the past, represent an ending of some kind. Something you valued was taken away.
Grieving is coming to terms with those losses. It is finding a way to reconcile unfortunate or tragic events. If we hurry from that ending before putting to rest emotional turmoil and unanswered questions, it can make it difficult to create a new beginning.
When I began this series on “Picking up the Pieces,” I asked you to consider the stories you tell and become aware of the narrative you use. The way we describe our circumstances can make a difference in completing an ending and beginning a new chapter in our lives.
“Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back – in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.
The chief drawback is what youare wolfing down is yourself.
Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). We take it as a moral imperative.
But it isn’t just Jesus that tells us how important forgiveness is; science confirms it as well. In fact, to not forgive is putting a slow death sentence on ourselves, as the theologian Frederick Buechner so aptly describes.
Writing about our stories helps us see what happened, and our role in the outcome, from a new perspective. It also gives us the opportunity to take away nuggets of learning and wisdom.
Yet, there might be things that happened that make it difficult to let go and that continue to spark your anger. You still feel betrayed and taken advantage of.
Forgiveness is out of the question as far as you are concerned and you are not ready to acknowledge any participation on your part to what happened.
Resentments continue to burn deep within your soul and spirit and an internal dialogue repeats, “I have a right to feel angry and bitter. I was taken advantage of and made to feel stupid. If I simply accept and let it go, won’t I be admitting that I really am a fool? How can I come to terms with that?”
The words we repeat over and over again have an emotional effect on us. They can hold us hostage to everything that is going wrong. When things go well, our stories are upbeat and hopeful. When life takes a downturn, so does our narrative. The focus shifts to what we lost and how miserable we feel.
Step out of the emotional arena, take a deep breath and think about the possibilities you have. Change your narrative from what you can’t do to what you can.
Here are seven ways you can change a pessimistic narrative to an optimistic one.
Become aware of what you say to yourself.
Unexpected catastrophes and setbacks due to illness or losses result in drastic changes. Our first reaction is feeling overwhelmed and helpless.