Two Ways To Train Your Mind for Optimism?
Would you be surprised if I just said “follow the yellow brick road?”
I was listening to my 12 year old niece tell her younger brother:
“before I go to bed each night, I think of the best case scenarios.”
Her brother said “huh?”
She explained “before a dance audition or even before a performance or even a test, I think about all the things that could happen if I do really well. I think about how I could get the lead in the show, or score a 100 on the test. I often get a bit overly excited just before I go to bed thinking about all of these ‘best case scenarios.’”
“You mean you don’t get all nervous and your mind does not get all racey thinking about all the things you should have studied or prepared for?,” he asked.
I get it, you’re thinking — boy his niece is pretty advanced. And she is. I agree. But she is on to something that seems quite obvious when you hear it but it isn’t most folks’ approach:
You can train your mind to be optimistic! Here is How I do it.
First a little background,
Do you remember what Dorothy says at the beginning of the Wizard of Oz?
Sure you do — she sings the famous song “Somewhere Over The Rainbow…”
[Insert your best rendition singing this great song]
The song is Dorothy’s “I wish” statement.
It is her statement of her dream and where she wants to go in life. Then, the big tornado comes and probably knocks her out and the rest is history, right?
Here, write this down: Today, I wish __________ [ FILL IN THE BLANK].
That was pretty easy wasn’t it? You must have an I wish statement EVERYDAY.
Did you hear in your mind what just happened as you were writing it?
Your mind kicked up “but, I can’t because I have school, can’t run fast, already have this job or are married.” The “but’ sentences your mind kicked up are simply fear masked as self-limitations. And, with this little practice I am going to teach you how to get past the “but” statements.
The sooner you train your mind to not let the “BUT’s rule the “I wish” statements that you will get on your own journey down your own yellow brick road.
We can all take Dorothy’s advice and train our mind’s towards optimism and we can do it with this simple two-step practice:
- Step One: First we state our “I wish statement.” Writing it down is even better.
Write a list of answers to this one question:
Before my next big birthday, I wish I could __________________.
Here are some early pages of my “I wish” journal. Feel free to make your own.
Everyday, start off with a simple, “I wish” list. Be concise but state them simply.
- I wish I could write a fiction novel.
2. I wish I could run my five mile loop faster.
3. I wish I could be a better listener.
There are two rules though.
Rule Number 1: You cannot end your sentence with a BUT.
Rule Number 2: You must write out five I wish statements and then on the second page write out WHY you really wish for each item.
Here is an example of my second step. You’ll notice that I write about the “why” for each item. How it makes me feel because if I want to feel that way, I am more likely to be able to embed the wish into my emotional self.
And, if it is linked up with my emotional self, then — well, your gut will lead you there. Of course, during this process you may determine that well, the I wish statement does not link up with your gut and thus, you may simply discard it as an I wish statement (which is a good result too.)
2. Step two: Watch out for BUT…..
In Dorothy’s song, she does not say “somewhere over the rainbow blah blah BUT I cannot go there because rainbows are not real, I have to feed the cows, who would watch toto…” etc. etc.
So, why do our “I wish” statements always end with a BUT?
Simply because fear and anxiety often prevent us from our goals by injecting the word “BUT” into our “I wish” statements. With a little practice, though, we can catch ourselves injecting these limits — fear dressed up in the word “BUT.”
Once we acknowledge the fear, delete it from our narrative.
Let me show you how I do it. Here is my page of limitations.
Afterall, there should be no limits.
Here are some I wish statements that I thought of. For example,
I wish I could be a doctor….BUT I’m 50 and going to med school at this stage of my life is impossible.
I wish I could run a marathon…. BUT my knees have really been hurting me and I can’t imaging how much they will hurt after 26.2!
If I take away the BUT part of the statements and change it to AND the statements go like this
I wish I could be a doctor….AND I am going to get my tactical first aid certification so that I am ready to help anyone and myself.
I wish I could run a marathon…. AND really loved running the half so I am signing up for another one and will run again today because it felt great.
or try let’s map this to the one’s I wrote up top.
Remember: Once I write them out, I map them back to my I wish statement changing the word “BUT” to an “AND” as follows:
- I wish I could write a fiction novel, AND I am going to write 100 words a day towards that goal from 9:15 am until 10:15 am and have now calendared that on my calendar.
- I wish I could run my five mile loop faster AND first I am going to start timing my one mile intervals and see if I cannot start sprinting for a count of ten at the start of each mile starting this morning. I will make a check mark every day I do the spring for 10.
- I wish could be a better listener AND am going to hold my right index finger to my right thumb as a reminder to be aware of this when I am with others today.
How does that sound to you? Don’t they sound reasonable?
BY acknowledging that our “BUT” statements are simply FEAR AND ANXIETY we can begin to put a stop to the biggest impediment to our goals in life — and thus our happiness.
Wanna practice for the next seven days?
Everyday before you lie down to go to sleep, I want you to ask yourself to answer the question:
I wish I could…. and tell yourself that you cannot end the sentence with a BUT. You can use the word “AND” though.
Ask your mind to help you to find a path to your I wish statement. Keep a notebook like what I started for yourself for the next seven days of your I wish statements.
Think about all of the things that got in Dorothy’s way. Remember how scary and hard it was for her?
Will you join me in ending your day with an I Wish Statement? Let me know if you begin to see a path to goals you never thought possible (and a way to keep your BUT statements at bay).
By training our minds towards optimism, we can begin to see only the best case scenarios and who knows, maybe find our own yellow brick road.
Good luck out there. Let me know how it goes. And, remember to search for joy
Gregory Rutchik is a LA-based writer and a lawyer that proclaims that anxiety and fear are two of the biggest wastes of time and energy. If someone had only told me earlier that among all of the wonder of the world that I would see, that I could learn some techniques to create more space in my life… With more space created by these techniques, anxiety and fear occupy much, much less space. So Gregory created www.thepanicproject.com to share what he has learned.