I sometimes find myself in a mental rut. Filled with frustration, doubt or a draining bitterness I can never really describe. It slows down my progress or causes me to lose motivation. I sometimes have a difficult time overcoming these mental roadblocks; overthinking everything.
One afternoon, after watching my favorite soccer team play, I was angered by the negative remarks from the results. The feeling bothered me all day, but rather than falling at the mercy of these emotions and allowing them to control my state of mind I decided I wanted to release it. I wanted to clear my mind and just “let go”. But I stopped to think about what was bothering me and realized I wasn’t even sure what the issue really was.
So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I stopped to really think about it. What is really bothering me? Were the comments the real issue? I mean, it certainly is at the forefront of my mind and I keep thinking about it, but why am I even thinking about it?
So I decided to ask myself why I felt this way. Really ask myself why I was allowing these feelings drag me down.
Start With The Most Basic Question
“You must first realize the prison of your mind, before you can escape it”
I took a moment and opened up a word document. I’m all for putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and letting my thoughts flow. But I wasn’t in the mood to write a novel. And quite frankly, I still wasn’t really sure what was bothering me. So rather than writing out my emotions, I decided to have a conversation with myself. In a word document, not out loud, just to be clear.
I started with the most basic question: What’s wrong?
I describe this as basic because I thought about it already. Obviously I had thoroughly thought it through. I was upset because of soccer and what I felt were negative comments, totally reasonable. End of story! Now I just need to figure out how to get over it. But it’s not the end of the story. In fact, it’s not even the real issue.
Usually what happens next is I convince myself that it really is that simple. Because I asked myself, and truthfully answered (because it is the truth), my feelings are validated.
This then leads me to believe my problems are solved, when in fact, they’re not and I’m now walking away still feeling down and telling myself I just need time to get over it.
The problem will resurface, and not necessarily this identical scenario, but the same feeling, unless I get to the bottom of what triggered it in the first place. I have to get to the source. As simple as this particular example may appear, these are the emotional symptoms that cloud judgment and fuel doubt.
Getting To The Source
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ― Dr. Seuss
So I took a moment to really think about it, and I followed up with more “why” questions. “Why does that bother you? Why are you upset about it?”
I pondered on those for some time, and I suggest you take as much time as you need to uncover the answer. Once I arrived at an answer, I asked why again, and again.
Simply arriving at the first emotion allows it to become a scapegoat. I misattribute the symptom for the cause and believe that the first, surface emotion is really the problem, and because I was able to express it, my work is now done. But it’s not, and that’s why the feeling will continue to recreate itself.
This exercise taught me that I’m rarely truly honest with myself, about what I’m feeling, and for many reasons I have convinced myself of; shame, pride, denial or fear.
So I continued until I got to the root cause and soon realized that with everything in life, any thoughts, issues, insecurities, we have two choices:
- Allow it to happen, which is OK, but if I do, I have to be 100% OK with it.
- OR I can change it. Which may not always be possible to physically alter the problem before me, but what I can change is how I react to it. How it makes me feel. That part is totally and 100% within my control.
I know, it sounds obvious; there is nothing new or groundbreaking about this method. What was new to me, however, was recognizing that my surface emotion was just a symptom. Until I was able to identify and admit the truth of the matter, I would continue to be haunted by these feelings and emotions (whether with this example, or another).
Telling yourself “I’m over it” because you don’t know how to express the true emotion or are too ashamed or prideful to even admit them, doesn’t help. They’re weightless words. By getting to the core and understanding the source is like taking the weight off your shoulders. I had to learn to admit to myself that I do have insecurities, doubts and feelings of defeat and that’s OK as long as I’m not directing them harmfully or allowing them to negatively impact my life.
Just Go With It
Our true emotional state is not always obvious. We have built so many layers covering the truth, either because we feel we have to or because we want to as a defense mechanism. But we can gain direct insight into what those feelings really mean and begin directing those feelings effectively.
There is no reason to be ashamed of your emotions. You’re the one allowing yourself to feel them, so you’re allowed to stop them, you’re the only one who can. It’s a mindset, and the power to shift is always with you.
Once you begin redirecting your emotions, you are making a conscious effort to change your attitude. Once you get in the habit of it the minute you feel doubt overcoming your mind, it becomes second nature and the need to think through these will no longer be necessary because your subconscious will eventually align with your new attitude.
It can be very simple, but you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Whether you’re in a slump at work and no longer feel motivated. Or it may be a matter of the heart. Or maybe you just cannot seem to identify the source of the feeling. Don’t focus on what got you there, focus on why it did.
It can seem easier said than done. I’ve read so many quotes about “choosing your path” or “taking control of your destiny” and I realized I was just reading these quotes and thinking “yes I want this to happen” but never really thinking about it again until another inspirational quote crossed my path.
I realized that, just like everything else in life, I have to put effort into it and put it to practice. I need to get to the core of my feelings and then remind myself of that answer on a regular basis; consistency is just as important.
Remind yourself daily of what makes you truly happy, or to let go of minor emotional barriers.
Consistency Is Key
“In the process of creation two of the most important questions to ask ourselves are: Am I being true to myself? Am I following my heart?” – Daniela Nikolova
Be patient with yourself; change doesn’t happen at once. It’s a process and a commitment. And once you believe that process exists, just allow it to happen.
This can also be applied to daily life. We hold back and don’t reach our full potential for various reasons. We need to rediscover what our goal was to allow us to keep going. Really think about it and understand what it is you truly want out of life, love or anything. These steps are not meant to get you the career you want tomorrow, it’s intended to help you rid yourself of the emotional distractions that are clouding your judgment.
Talking out your thoughts with friends and family is just as important; this guide is not intended to alienate you from others and only have conversations with yourself. But it is truly important to really get to know yourself on a deeper level without the distractions and opinions from the world around us.
But don’t get caught in an analysis paralysis by sitting down and doing a root cause analysis on each thought. Choose your battles wisely and move on quickly. Once you learn that many issues are exactly the same and only a matter of changing your attitude towards them, you’ll soon learn to distinguish between those you should take time and think through, versus the ones you should really just move past. Once you’ve locked that process down, those thoughts and feelings will no longer become an impediment.