I am stepping out of my sexuality niche for just a minute on today’s podcast. Episode #107 is all about your thoughts. I will discuss your higher and lower brain, and describe characteristics of each level and help determine where you are functioning. Are you suffering, surviving or thriving during this unique time? Do you want to switch it up? I am also sharing tips on how to give positive thoughts an equal amount of brain space if you are consumed with the negative and what does that look like? My hope is that today’s episode will help you see a best case scenario more often than not and clean up your thoughts to serve you a little better. Enjoy.
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So today’s podcast is going to be a little bit different. I was asked to teach a virtual Relief Society lesson this week on Uncertainty and Unmet Expectations because many of the women in my ward are dealing with this for themselves and their families. So while it is far from my usual topic of sexuality, I think the information is valuable so I thought I would pass it on to you!
As a Certified Life Coach, I help people be more intentional with the way that they are thinking, and help them see where they are getting in their own way so that they can create the life that they actually want. I truly believe that as you use your AGENCY to redirect your brain to thoughts that are more helpful for you, that you can create the results that you want in your life. In order to do that what I mainly focus on is thought work.
Thoughtwork – what you are focused on, what you are thinking, and what you are believing.
So throughout this podcast I will share with you different thoughts and beliefs that I have that have helped me and my family have peace during this time of uncertainty.
We want loss and sadness
Right now there is a lot of loss.
- Lives lost
- friends lost
- family members
- Job loss
- lost experiences
And it is natural and normal as humans to mourn the loss. To go through the grief process. And we should expect this to happen. To not fight it. To not push it away or resist it or avoid it. Not to think that we or our children shouldn’t be going through it. But to welcome it and to experience it in its fullness so that we can move through it.
And why do we need to just go through it? I believe that as a society, we have a false notion that we are supposed to be happy all the time. When I ask people what they want for themselves and their kids they say “I just want to be happy” or “I just want my kids to be happy.” And while this sounds nice, it’s really not true. Because what we really want for ourselves and them is to have the full human experience. Just as Adam and Eve had to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil so they they could experience all that this world has to offer, we must do that same. We cannot understand the good without having the bad in our lives. So we need to go through times of hardship, pain, sadness, grief, and mourning in order to fully appreciate and experience the goodness that this life also offers. So while we don’t love a lot of the unexpected pain and loss that we have right now, we actually do want it. But, instead of just experiencing the pain and loss, we compound that pain and turn it into suffering, we make it worse when we tell ourselves that this shouldn’t be happening. Because the reality is, it is happening.
When you argue with reality, you are going to lose every time. – Byron Katie
So we want to go through pain and hardship and we want our children to go through that as well because that is how we grow and develop as humans. We don’t grow when everything is happy and easy. We also don’t need to solve for our children’s pain and discomfort and hardship because then we are taking away the opportunity for them to grow and develop as they should.
As part of our baptismal covenants, we covenant to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.
Nowhere does it say that we to solve other people’s problems for them so that they don’t mourn anymore.
This is definitely a time where people are going to struggle and they are going to be in pain and it is our job to be sad and mourn and comfort them during that.
Our brain is fairly complicated, but I want to teach just some basics. We have what I call a lower brain (our reptilian brain) and our higher brain (neocortex). The lower brain was developed back in the caveman days and it’s job is to keep you alive at all costs. It really hasn’t developed much since then. The lower brain is motivated by 3 things:
Your lower brain will try to do these three things at all costs. It will offer you thoughts that direct you to these three things. It is always on the lookout for danger – what might hurt you physically or emotionally so it can keep you alive. The lower brain wants things to be as easy as possible
The lower brain is where all of your negative thoughts and emotions come from. Ones that contain negative, pessimistic, rejecting, critical, and self-critical messages are created there. These thoughts and emotions are more primitive, immature, angry, fearful, and impulsive. The thoughts exist to be heard as loudly as possible with no regard for consequences and outcomes.
But, as as human we also have the neocortex – the higher brain. This is the part of the brain that wants us to grow and make good decisions based on what we really want in life. Positive thoughts and emotions come from the higher brain. These are more optimistic, accepting, grateful, emotionally mature, more internally cooperative, mindful of consequences, have a wider perspective, and are more encouraging. The higher brain is home to intellect and intuition.
Our lower brain is constantly offering us thoughts, and we just believe them. We don’t even question them. In order to be more intentional with the way we are thinking, we need to be aware of the thoughts our brain is offering to us about our circumstances and DECIDE ON PURPOSE if we want to believe them or not. It is optional to believe any thought you have. We often think we ARE our brain – which is why we just believe what it tells us. But we don’t have to.
Suffer, Survive, Thrive
When things happen – people tend to be in one of three different buckets
There is no judgement for where you are. I have all the compassion in the world for all three. Sometimes we need to suffer. But I want you to know that it is a choice of where you want to be. We are all in the same circumstance right now and we can choose how we want to move through it.
Suffering: If this isn’t you, then you probably know someone like this.
- Hoarding – cling tight to what they might need because their brain wants to know that it will have what they need.
- Self-centered – again, not judgmental. We have to be self-centered if we are suffering. If you think you are going to die your brain has to make sure you (and your immediately family) are protected first. Your own oxygen mask before anyone else’s.
- Externally blaming – looking for who’s fault is this. Global, government, family, etc.
- Pessimistic about future
It’s ok – but not very fun!
- Resisting feelings
- Over-consuming – news, food, Netflix
- Waiting – just hold tight and brace ourselves for the storm
- Confused and overwhelmed about the future
- Not self-aware: they aren’t examining their own thoughts and feelings
- Disconnect from self and others
- Seeking answers externally
- Allowing Feelings: allow themselves to feel scared and worried without pushing it away
- Compassion for self and others: everyone is doing their best (even if that isn’t very good) and people are handling this in their own way
- Contribute to solutions: Job, Making Masks, things with your family
- Find awareness and solutions internally
- Prioritize self care
- Maximize Time
Really – it’s ok to be in any of these. There is nothing wrong with it. But if you are suffering and want to survive, or you are surviving and want to thrive, by changing the way you are thinking, you can do that. And I’ll explain a little bit more how to do that in a minute.
Going back to that primitive brain, our brain likes to know what to expect. Human nature is to want to know what’s coming next. Our brain thinks that if it knows what’s coming next then we can:
- Prepare for it properly
- Change course and prevent something we don’t want to happen
- We can mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for what is happening next
So if you, or your kids are struggling with things happening right now, and not knowing what is coming next, that is totally normal. Nothing has gone wrong. Some of us have this need to want to know what’s next wired in a lot more than others. You may notice that some of your kids are more go with the flow and some are more high anxiety.
So here are a few ideas that might help you and them right now.
The FUTURE is always unknown.
I hear so much that this time is so scary because we don’t know what the future is going to bring. We don’t know when the kids are going to back to school, when we can go back to church, what’s going to be happening in the fall with our college kids, when things are going to back to “normal”. But what I like to remind people is the future is always unknown. Always. It always has been and always will be.
This thought brings me so much peace, because when my brain wants to spin out on
- We don’t know what the economy is going to be like
- We don’t know what school is going to look like
- My daughter thought she’d be heading off to college in the fall and we don’t know what that is going to look like now.
- We don’t know if someone we love is going to get sick and die
- WE don’t know! And we’ve never known!
We thought we knew what was going to be happening. Maybe we made plans for what we thought was going to happen, but we were wrong.
- My daughter thought she was going to be in Paris right now for her senior trip
- We thought we would be buying her a dress for senior prom and going to her high school graduation
- Back in December we thought we’d be taking the kids on a trip to Mexico in June
We were wrong. We thought we knew what was going happen. But it was never going to be like that. It was always going to be this social distancing where we were trying to stay healthy and keep our friends and family healthy and none of that was ever going to happen. We just thought it was. We thought it was going to be different. And it’s ok that we thought that. But the future is always unknown.
I know a lot of us get scared thinking about friends or loved ones dying from this…but they could always die. It might not be from Coronavirus…but it could be from a million other things? But we didn’t walk around thinking about that all the time because there was no upside to it.
Did you know there are 150,000 people that die every day in the world. That’s a lot of people. And if we went around every single day worried about the 150,000 that were going to die today and every day, we’d go crazy. We don’t go around looking at charts and graphs every day thinking about people dying. If we lived our life focused on how many people were dying every day, we’d live a shell of a life.
The future has always been unknown and it always will be. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to think about the future and try and create a future we want, but we just need to understand and help our kids understand that things don’t always go according to plan.
Focus on what you can control (thoughts, feelings, actions)
So when I am teaching about the lower brain, I like to compare it to a toddler. It asks a million questions, It doesn’t like being ignored, and if you try to take something away that it wants, it throws a fit.
So your brain wants to know what’s going to happen in the future. So it’s constantly asking questions
- What is going to happen with the economy?
- When are we going to go back to church?
- When are we going to back to school?
- What can I do to not get sick?
And just like a toddler, it’s ok that it asks questions, but if you don’t have an answer or the RIGHT answer it kind of throws a fit. So how do we deal with a toddler throwing a tantrum to doing something that we don’t want it to do? We gently redirect it. And you have to do the same thing with your brain. You gently redirect your brain back to what you DO know and what you have 100% control over.
There are have always been things in the world that we don’t have control over. As soon as we fixate on the things we don’t have control over, we feel terrified, we feel out of control, and in a state of chaos and panic. So we want to redirect our brain to what we do have control over, which is:
- Your thoughts
- Your feelings
- Your actions
Focusing on those 3 things is NOT insignificant, it is EVERYTHING.
In November 2019, Elder Uchtdorf gave a devotional to the missionaries at the Provo MTC. In it he said ““My beloved friends, be successful missionaries by doing well those things over which you have control: your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions.”
Understanding these 3 things, thoughts, feelings, and actions is how I have created some pretty amazing things in my life,
- The relationship I have with myself and my confidence
- My relationships with my parents, my spouse, my kids.
- My business
All of it came from focusing on these 3 things. Not focusing on things outside of me. Not focusing on what other people, think or say or do. Not focusing on Coronavirus, or what the President of the United States or the Governor is doing wrong. Focusing on those things don’t serve me.
What does serve me? Focusing on what I want to THINK about
- My life, my relationships, my money, myself
- How do I want to feel
- What do I want to do
- WHO DO I WANT TO BE????
Because that is 100% within my control in any circumstance. Not that my brain doesn’t think about those other things. Everyone does. But when you gently redirect it to internal you get all of your power back because you realize you are in control of the results that you get in your life.
Make Peace with Your Word Case Scenario
Another way I have peace when there is a lot of uncertainty is to make peace with imagined worst case scenario. What’s the worst case scenario that you are imagining? What does your brain think is the worst thing that could happen? Then what?, then what would happen? Then what would I do? Ultimately we would be ok. That’s how you get to peace in worst case scenario.
- Lost Job
- (we lose all of our money)
- Lose all investments
- Lose retirement
Own or loved ones health (we die!)
- If I die – then I would be at peace
- If someone else died I would be sad, mad, grieve
- Most terrible thing would be emotions
- I would be ok…Ultimately
Not that we want any of these things to happen, but ultimately we would be ok… maybe better because of what we learned from that experience. Make peace with it.
Spend equal time thinking about best scenario
Is worst case scenario possible? Yes, but so is best case scenario. It’s probably even more likely
- Make more money on the other side of this
- A different job that you love more
- Start a business that you’ve always wanted to start, more fulfilled
- Spend more time with family
- Economy thrives in the future
- We make changes for the better
- More connected, closer to families, more appreciative of things that matter, reset priorities, declutter our homes, reconnect with God, ready to move forward
- What if you’ve already been exposed and now have antibodies and can’t get sick
- Never get sick and get the vaccine
Your brain will go to the negative automtically on it’s own, so you have to give best case scenario on purpose.
What we focus on, we create in our lives. We all have crazy random thoughts. It’s all ok – just notice it and then give equal air time to the opposite. Focus on TFA 100% control over, choose those intentionally, then you focus on things that will serve you really well in the end.
We think that our life is what is going on in the world and how we respond to it. So when there is so much uncertainty in the world then we feel uncertainty about our life. But that just isn’t true. Our life is what we focus on and create. We are not at the mercy of our circumstances. We can create anything we want to by what we think, feel, and how we act.
Imagine your life 3 years from now. If you have a hard time imagining it, it’s because you are defining yourself based on the world. Based on externals. Now I want you to think instead What do you know will be true about you no matter what?
For myself, I know that whatever comes in the world I am always going to make it the best that I can for me, for my family, for the people that I love. That’s just who I am. That is what I value. That is who I have chosen to be. That is not determined by anything external. So I may not know the exact circumstances but I know that I will be ok because no matter what, I’ve got me.
If you are struggling with uncertainty and unmet expectations, I invite you to come to a mini-session with me and see how you can learn to create the life that you actually want through coaching.