I was in Florida recently to run a couple of marathons. It was 80 degree weather almost every day, and just beautiful. It was my first holiday in a long time; an opportunity to be away from everything, to read a good book. It was a perfect vacation.
At my holiday ended, I drove to Tampa so I could return my rental car and catch my plane the next morning. On the flight home, I began to feel rotten. I also started eating all kinds of junk food, like potato chips, cola, candy kisses; all the stuff I’ve told myself I don’t want to eat. While I didn’t make myself wrong for it – I just noticed it and kind of smiled at myself – I definitely knew that I was ‘off.’
When I got back home, I thought about what had happened. And what came to me was something I had heard in a seminar many years ago “Who you’re being is determined by the future you’re living into.”
When I was ‘living into’ the future of going to Florida, running two marathons, experiencing the sunshine, the warmth, the beauty, and having time away, I was feeling great. I was eating well and taking care of myself. But when I got onto that plane and was heading home to mounting bills, needing to find more work, and no more marathons for over a month, I began living into a different future. Now my thinking was more like, “It’s a cold winter there. My holidays are up. And I don’t want to go. Why do I have to go home? I’d rather be here.” I felt restless, irritable and blasé. And I wanted something to escape that.
The easy way to do that in the moment was to eat some junk food – and give myself a temporary ‘feel good.’ The more challenging way (though it didn’t occur to me then) would have been to say to myself, “Okay Scott, what empowering context could you create here? Now that you’re going home, what kind of thinking could you choose that would inspire you?” Instead of that, my mind went to what I didn’t want (going back at home), or to what was easy, familiar and comfortable (like eating junk food). But I wasn’t really ‘choosing my thoughts’ at all.
I believe certain habits of thought leads us into our unwanted habits and addictions: negative thinking, blaming and complaining, focusing on what’s wrong, seeing ourselves as victims, seeking something outside ourselves to feel better, etc. If these are the habits that take us into our “bad” habits, then it becomes self evident what habits we need to develop, to move us in the opposite direction. Let me illustrate that.
One habit we do is focusing on what we don’t want. It sounds so simple; but that’s the thinking of people who are stuck in any kind of negative pattern, or resigned to something they don’t want in their life. If you look at their thinking, they’re generally focused on what they don’t want.
Take a moment and think about that for yourself. Whatever your unwanted behaviour or negative pattern is right now – whether it has to do with money, relationships, drugs, food or something totally different – is your thinking primarily about the “problem” you have? About wanting to end it, but being unable to, and feeling upset that you can’t. That’s the kind of thinking I’m talking about. So what would be the opposite of that?
Take a few moments now and focus on what you do want. I know your mind will probably resist doing that. But give yourself permission to imagine – even just for a few seconds – the kind of life you’d have or the way you’d feel if you weren’t doing the behaviour that’s concerning you. Would you be happier and more accepting of yourself? Feel freer and more alive? And what might you be doing – getting out more, connecting with people, taking more care of (and time for) yourself? Would you be helping others, making a difference, growing new work, dating more, or entering a new relationship? (There are no right answers here, just the ones that are true for you.) Watch how you start to feel when you think about these things.
After imagining that way for a short time, then what happens? Does something in your mind try to cut you off by saying, “Hey wait a minute, you can’t do that.” Or, “Dream on; you’ll never be able to have that.” Or, “This exercise makes me feel uncomfortable, because I can never accomplish my dreams.” If that kind of thinking pops us, don’t worry about it. It’s simply the ‘old and comfortable’ part of your mind reacting to being taken out of its comfort zone. We’ll get into how to deal with that in the next chapter.
Your Guidance System
What I’ve come to learn, after years of avoiding them, is that our feelings are our soul or our guidance system speaking to us. If we’re having thoughts or acting in the direction of what we don’t want – or if these are coming from a place of fear, desperation or scarcity – then we are going to feel bad. But that bad feeling is actually God, spirit or our human guidance system letting us know that we’re not on track with the life we really want.
Feelings themselves are neither good nor bad, although we label them that way. They’re actually a gift; an opportunity to make a different choice. For example, if we’re feeling restless, irritable, discontented or uncomfortable, as soon as we notice those feelings, it’s an opportunity to say: “Hey, I’m off. Something I’m thinking or doing is making me feel bad. What would make me feel better, stronger or happier right now?” Through practice, the sooner we start to notice our “off” feelings, the sooner we can start to do something that makes us feel better. In other words, if we notice our restless, irritable and discontented feelings now, we don’t have to wait our whole life (or until we get a serious illness, disease or accident) to change.
This awareness has become a key one for me. It’s the way I’ve started to live my life. I’m certainly not doing it perfectly. Every day there will be times when I’m not feeling great, and have those moments, like everyone, when I’m feeling off. But what I try and do now is to pause and ask myself: “What am I doing or thinking about right now that has me feeling this way?” And when I get some clues into what that is, I make a decision to choose differently.
You Will Know What’s Right for You...
If we were sitting together right now, here’s what I’d say to you.
“I believe so strongly that, if you are in my chair, life or God has put you there. There’s no accident about that. And I know that the end result you’re going to have will be a profound, life-altering experience. I believe that you can have anything you want in life. And YOU will be the one to discover exactly what’s required – how to follow through and get those results – in a way that you don’t become dependent on me at all.
“What I see is your perfection. Where you are now. Where you’re going to end up. And the bondage inside of you completely gone. I don’t know how long it’s going to take. But this isn’t about my success or how fast ‘I get you’ there. This is your journey. And you’re the one who gets to choose.”
I know that might sound crazy or pie in the sky to some. Yet something in me knows that it’s true, and I’m profoundly in awe. It’s such a privilege to be used by life this way – to help another person, especially someone who is hurting, feeling locked on a path of destruction and hopelessness, or living a deteriorated life. And to think that I can help them release that, and that all the freedom, joy and possibility they may never have thought was possible can actually be present in their life. That truly leaves me in awe.
And that’s what I want for you.