How can one expect the unexpected? How can we expect something, by definition, we did not expect? Regardless of semantics, the sentiment of the expression is to be open or prepared for the unexpected. If you’re expecting the unexpected, you’ll be ready for any changes to your plans.
While having plans and goal setting can provide structure and help us reach our objectives, we also need to be flexible and adaptable when our plans don’t unfold in ways that we expect.
When we are convinced that we should be able to control the outcome of events, we set ourselves up for disappointment. What may be unrealistic expectations can lead to feelings of failure when the anticipated success doesn’t happen. Any problems may be quickly compounded if we are not prepared to take action on unexpected challenges.
When you are too tied to a specific outcome, you limit your possibilities and options. Allow yourself to be delighted – rather than annoyed – by surprises that happen to what you envision as your perfect plan. Approach these surprises with curiosity, wondering where they lead. Recall a time in your past when a surprise led to a much better outcome than you could have planned or imagined.
Action in response to the unexpected will bring new options and will open possibilities that may have been previously unavailable. Think of your life as a puzzle and each time you take action, you are given a new puzzle piece. Many action steps will give you more puzzle pieces and gradually, your picture will become clearer and more identifiable.
Adjusting to the unexpected can be a challenge but it is easier if you maintain an optimistic attitude, a belief that your experiences are helping you stretch and grow as a person. You might even admit that your imagined future was safe and comfortable and would allow less room for personal growth. Look back on your life at those times when you were challenged in a way that you would not have chosen for yourself. From your vantage point now, would you give up the wisdom you gained, despite the costs to you?
Keep your options open and expect the unexpected. Be especially gentle and kind to yourself when life is not following your blueprint. Congratulate yourself on your efforts and consider your life a great adventure rather than a life measured solely by defined and carefully planned outcomes.
Do you have a habit on dwelling on the same negative thoughts? Do the same discouraging thoughts constantly play over and over again in your mind? There are strategies you can use to break this cycle and restore your peace of mind and happiness.
Before looking at ways of tackling incessant negative thinking, let’s acknowledge that it isn’t necessary, or probably even desirable, to monitor every thought you have and to eliminate every negative thought. A more balanced approach, in fact, would be to let emotions, thoughts, and sensations rise and pass, regardless of their content. However, if you are plagued by incessant negative thinking, there are techniques to turn down the volume on them.
Here are some action strategies to reduce your repetitive negative thoughts:
Do something else!
It can be easier to change your actions than your thoughts. For a quick fix to break a cycle of negative thinking, do something else. Distract yourself from what is worrying you by doing something completely different. The mind cannot entertain two thoughts at the same time. Give yourself an easy task, watch something funny, go for a walk, or do some simple exercises – anything that will engage your mind in a different way.
Recognize that you can change your thoughts!
Your thinking contributes to your feelings more than any other factor. People generate negative thoughts so automatically they are unaware that it is happening and that it is actually a choice they are making. While negative thinking is a very strong thought habit, it is very possible to control the quality of your thinking.
Identify your pattern of negative thinking and substitute more positive thoughts.
What is your pattern of negative thinking and what triggers it? Do you focus more on problems than solutions? Do you constantly berate yourself for your shortcomings? Do you focus on the worst possible outcomes?
Once you identify your patterns, the next step is to replace your negative thoughts with more positive ones. For example, instead of thinking “This is a disaster” change it to “I wish this hadn’t happened but what are my options now?” and instead of “I’m an idiot” change it to “Good for you for trying!”
As you create more positive thoughts, avoid over-the-top, unrealistic proclamations. It may make you feel worse if you replace “I’m an idiot!” with “I’m the best!” because really, you don’t believe it. Keep your new, more positive thoughts consistent with what you think is possible or real.
Use these strategies to reduce the volume of your negative thoughts. Remember, your goal is to reduce incessant negative thoughts rather than trying to banish every negative thought you have. For even more peace of mind and happiness, begin to detach from categorizing your thoughts as negative or positive and adopt an attitude of non-judgment.
Do you hold yourself to a measure of happiness that you think you need to obtain and maintain? How is that working for you? Do you become angry and judgmental about yourself when you aren’t able to maintain the level of happiness you think you should have?
What if you no longer equated unhappiness and failure?
Maintaining a happiness high is unrealistic. And, as long as we judge our emotions as good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable, we are refusing to embrace all the aspects and parts of ourselves that make up our wholeness.
All feelings, including happiness, sadness, anger, fear, joy, grief – every feeling! – is impermanent. Every feeling is there so we can experience life to the fullest.
As humans, we want to embrace and enjoy those feelings that make us feel good and we tend to avoid those feelings that make us feel bad. We push away those bad feelings and try to escape them as soon as possible. But – as the saying goes, what we resist, persists.
I have found that if I stay with the feelings that make me uncomfortable, they transform and release. In much less time than I expect, they release their grip on me. If, however, I try to ignore those feelings, they hold a grip on me that I can’t shake. It is only by facing them that these feelings transform.
Imagine loving every feeling because it adds to the richness of your life. And imagine, loving yourself for your ability to have and experience all of your feelings.
Join the Friend Yourself Project and commit to treating yourself as well as your friends and loved ones. Visit www.FriendYourselfProject.com for more information.
Seek not outside yourself;
Heaven is within.
Mary Lou Cook