Feb 22 2010
How do you deal with disappointment? While watching the Olympics I have been fascinated with the various reactions to winning and losing. Some lucky ones say, “I’m just happy to have been here and had the Olympic experience.” Others, who expected to win gold and won silver instead, experience a bitter disappointment that will forever affect them. Yet other athletes who won the same medal are overjoyed and will carry that joy the rest of their lives. It is our thoughts about what happens that affects us more than anything else.
We don’t have much control over mistakes, slip ups, going off track — life happens; but we do have control over how we choose to perceive it. How we look at things has a huge impact on the quality of our lives. Scientists have found that our perceptions affect us on a cellular level. Our brain cells, our bodies, and our lives literally rearrange themselves according to our beliefs. If we think we’re a failure, our brain cells and body will reshape themselves around that belief, and our lives will draw in experiences that confirm it. It is the beliefs we hold, the stories we tell ourselves that shape our lives.
That is the true Olympian challenge we all face. Life’s disappointments offer us the opportunity to go for the real gold – the ability to direct our thoughts to positive, life-enhancing perceptions.
As a child I adopted an attitude of thinking negatively; I figured that way I wouldn’t be disappointed. It didn’t work. I was often disappointed. My negative attitude arranged my cells and myself into one big disappointment magnet! I finally wised up to how my thoughts were creating my reality.
It has been my Olympian challenge in life to transform my attitude from negative to positive. My recent experience with cancer has been a test for me – do I get caught up in the draining, complaining energy of “poor me” down the drain? That’s no fun! Though I did dip my toe in that energy a bit, wondering what I did wrong. But then I chose to shift to a higher perspective, to look for the gold in my experience, focusing on positive perceptions, which generate healing and good feeling.
I’d like to share with you some of the ways that help me shift to a higher perspective. When you find yourself dwelling in disappointment you can do the following:
1. Remind yourself that it is your thoughts that are making you feel bad. It is not another person or event that is causing you to suffer, it is how you are perceiving it. I recite to myself Shakespeare’s quote: “It is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so.”
2. Choose encouraging thoughts instead of blaming thoughts. For instance, tell yourself that you did the best you could at the time, and when you knew better, you did better. Appreciate yourself for trying.
3. Question your negative thoughts. Byron Katie has devised four questions that help jog our thoughts loose from their rigid position. Ask yourself: “Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true? How do you react when you think that thought? Who would you be without this thought?” These questions open us to a whole new way of seeing the situation.
4. Become thoughtless — shift to your right brain. Negative thinking happens in our habitual left-brain chatter. Singing and other acts of creativity, like dancing and play, shift us to our right brain where we are in the present moment and see the bigger picture. When you find yourself sinking in stinking thinking, come into your ‘right mind’, into the Now — sing a song of self-love and encouragement. I like the song, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.”
5. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Search for the learning in your experience the way you would search for a treasure. The real gold medal in life is the learning we acquire. Focusing on what we have learned makes us a better person, instead of a bitter person.
6. Cultivate an attitude of loving kindness towards yourself. How would you talk to a child who is suffering in disappointment? Address your own self the same friendly, loving way. A much better goal than being perfect is to learn to truly love ourselves AS IS. That is a major life accomplishment worthy of a gold medal!
7. Go for the gold! Find the gold in the experience — how has it made you a better person, a stronger person, a more empowered person? For instance, many people who have had challenges such as cancer, including myself, have been awakened to the preciousness of life, and galvanized to live our highest purpose. What a gift! You can multiply the gold by sharing it with others, so that they too can benefit from your experience.
Life, like the Olympics, tests our metal. I remember a past Olympics when Russian Bela Karoli, the American gymnastics coach, was encouraging Keri Strug, who had sprained her ankle, to do her last vault to help the team win the gold. “You can do eet Keri! You can do eet!” And that diminutive, determined dynamo did it!
We can do it! We can be winners in the Olympics of our life! All it takes is to choose how we think about things. With Olympian determination we can keep coming back to choosing self-loving thoughts over self-castigating thoughts, focusing on what we have learned rather than what we have lost, creatively shifting into new perspectives instead of staying stuck in old thought patterns, dwelling in the present moment rather than wallowing in disappointment, and finding the gold in every situation and sharing it with others.
Are you facing a challenge right now? Flex your muscles, activate your determination, call on your Olympian courage, and with all the power that is within you commit to focusing on life-enhancing thoughts and perceptions – you can do eet!