The English are great at complaining. When I visited the UK back in May, many people were lamenting the harsh and long winter that had blighted much of the previous 10 months. When I visited two weeks ago, several were moaning about the recent heatwave being too hot. Apparently, it’s awful.
Contradistinctively, some residents of Los Angeles tend to pretend that everything is awesome, all of the time. Who cares if much of it is completely disingenuous; there is a value of faking-it-‘till-you’re-making-it. Or maybe, like Python’s Brian nailed up on his sun-kissed crucifix, the Californians are perpetually looking on the Bright Side of Life.
An ancient formula suggests a new way of seeing our life, telling our story and creating our state. When presenting the first produce of a new fruit-bearing tree, farmers would have to explain how their forefather was a ‘wandering Aramean’, how their ancestors were put into slavery for 210 years, how they prayed for relief, and how they were brought to their current state of freedom and opportunity, living “in a land flowing with milk and honey…and have brought the first fruit of the soil” (Deuteronomy 26: 5-10).
There is a deep, timeless power in all of this. When talking about our life and articulating our experience, we have an incredible choice before us. We can layer our narrative with value judgements – “I have had an awful life, my leg has been aching for years, my relationships are all failures”, or we can just recount the facts – “My dog ate the cat, my leg got severed and the computer chip in my artificial prosthetic limb keeps crashing and my ex-wife was getting more than just a weekly botox injection from her cosmetic surgeon”.
When we pack our story with judgments, especially negative ones, we pay the price of losing our power. If we talk about our life as awful and only lament the bad weather, we can fail to see the good things that are in front of us. If we pretend that everything is wonderful when there are some negative experiences, we also suffer by not recognising and naming things as they actually are. When we can tell a story with just the facts, we open up a whole new realm of possibility.
Today, consider re-telling your story. Keep it to the facts. By all means mention how your first business when bust and your first husband ran off with the Rabbi, but try omitting the value judgements, cutting out all negative statements beyond the facts, i.e.‘business went bad and my life sucks*’. Instead, try concluding your story on a note of opportunity, focusing on what is currently working, or an opportunity that is front of you. What is your current land of Milk and Honey, and what are the first fruits of your labours? What is going well for you at the moment?
The rain will always rain heavily on a rain-covered isle and the sun will always shine too much during heatwaves. When we zero-in on the facts of our life and focus on the opportunity ahead, we free up a huge amount of energy to see that in most cases, our lives are awesome.
*US terminology. ‘Sucking’ is a metaphor, unless you are a vacuum cleaner. UK common usage: ‘my life stinks’. Stinking is a metaphor, unless you are a rubbish tip. ‘Rubbish’ is UK usage for ‘garbage’, or ‘trash’, which in turn are US metaphors for rubbish. ‘Rubbish’ can also be used in the phrase ‘my life is rubbish’, which would be UK usage for ‘my life sucks’. Writing this footnote is giving me a sucky rubbish headache. You?
HOW TO USE THIS IN YOUR BOARDROOM: Tell the story of your business three times in succession. Each time, just focus on the facts. Notice how each re-telling will reduce the value judgements. Draw out the current opportunities – what are the big things that you are up to at the moment? What is in your power to achieve?
HOW TO USE THIS ON THE YOGA MAT: As you practice your postures, notice where there are old aches and pains. Focus on your experience and reduce the inner voice of negative judgement. Finally, focus on the things that are working. What is currently the most functional part of your body? What is working best?
HOW TO USE THIS ON THE MEDITATION CUSHION: Drop the story altogether. Notice the stories arising in your mind. Focus on the sounds and what is on the outside. Continually divert your mind away from your inner thoughts. Regular training and continual practice will yield deep and powerful results.
Marcus J Freed is an Optimizer who helps people sharpen their creative edge when launching & growing purpose-driven businesses.