Back in July 2011 I wrote a blog post about Setting Your Intentions. The general idea was to focus on what you do want and not on what you don’t want. Sounds simple enough, but it is very easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and only focus on the impending doom and gloom that seems inevitable.
Last month I was reminded of the power of setting your intentions. We were driving my father and daughter to a theatre in Toronto to see Les Miserables (it was our Christmas present to the two of them). We were making good time until we got caught up in some really nasty traffic. It was getting really close to the start of the show (less than 15 minutes) and we weren’t getting anywhere fast. Tension in the car was heating up. My mind started racing with thoughts of how we were going to be late and they were going to miss the beginning of the show. I was going into panic mode when I remembered the Setting Your Intentions lesson. Although it seemed highly unlikely, I started saying to myself “Kathryn and my dad will be comfortable and relaxed in their seats when the show starts”.
There was a really big part of my brain that did not believe this to be true but it did feel better to have something to do with my brain other than panic and freak out. It helped me calm down. Somehow the traffic eased up and we made it on time. Kathryn and my dad were comfortable and relaxed in their seats when the show began.
It takes practise to recognize when we are heading down a negative thought path because it is so natural for many of us. I really like Brene Brown’s idea of saying out loud “I am feeling vulnerable” when you recognize that you are starting to panic about something that hasn’t actually happened. Saying it out loud makes a huge difference. It slows the panic down enough that you can redirect your thoughts – because that is all they are, crazy thoughts about everything that could go wrong – nothing has actually happened yet (we were not yet late for the show, it was just a possibility). Or as Brene Brown describes it, “It takes me out of my fear brain—i.e., off the crazy train—and puts me back on the platform, where I can make a conscious choice not to reboard.”
Now I’m not saying that I created the outcome in our situation. Maybe we would have had the same outcome even if I had continued to panic and freak out. But I can tell you that stopping the panicking and the freaking out, and giving my brain something more positive to do, was a much more pleasant way to spend those last 15 minutes in the car. So even if I didn’t create the outcome, I did create my own experience of the situation.
Lisa Ivaldi is a Virtual Assistant and the owner of Forestview Business Services in Guelph, ON.