As humans, we behave in mysterious ways. It isn’t often that we stop and ask ourselves why we do what we do, act the way we act, and believe what we believe. What is even more mysterious is why we continue to do what we’ve always done, act the way we’ve always acted, and believe what we’ve always believed, even when things continue to go wrong in our lives.
We get so emotionally attached to our beliefs, that we can’t see things any other way. And we let things move us emotionally, shaping how we feel, think, and act day in and day out. It all boils down to the meaning we give things. That is a VERY important statement, worth repeating… It all boils down to the meaning we give things.
Imagine that your spouse or a friend is supposed to pick you up for dinner at 6pm. By 6:30pm, if they are not there, you will start to have a certain set of emotions. If you think they don’t care, or don’t value your time, you might feel anger. If you feel that they are with someone else, or doing something else, you might feel jealousy or resentment. If you feel they are tied up because they are so busy and their life is so hectic, you might feel sorry for them. And if you think they may have gotten into an accident, now you worry about them. Your thoughts will determine your emotions and state.
Now imagine that person showing up at 6:30pm, and realizing after they reminded you, that you agreed on them picking you up at 6:30pm, not 6:00pm. Oops! You forgot. So you were feeling a specific emotion (or several of them) based on a faulty belief that whole time.
I remember a person giving me a hard time for participating in Halloween. They could not believe I would have my kids involved with such a holiday. They were very religious and told me that it was “the devil’s holiday,” and that I should not acknowledge that day. Now, if it were the devil’s holiday, and we were celebrating that day in acknowledgment of the devil, that would be a problem. However, it could also be a day when kids dress up for fun and go out to get candy. The meaning we give things matters!
Now, here is something that could be a game-changer for you and your life… reframe the question. Stop yourself in the moment of frustration, anger, or even fear, and ask yourself… What else could this mean? I had heard this before, but heard it again on a podcast this week. I had a quick Aha moment. I decided to apply it right then.
I had just received a text from my daughter telling me she was able to take a test on Friday instead of on Monday, thus was able to come home from college a few days earlier. She asked what time I could be there to pick her up. One problem… it was Thursday night… and she was four hours away.
My immediate thought was frustration. I had things going on, would have to rearrange my schedule, and drive eight hours round trip. I also felt like she was being presumptive and likely did not value my time. So… I asked myself, What else could this mean? My daughter was excited to come home, excited to see everyone, and knew I didn’t see patients on Fridays. Instead of a burden, I looked at it as an opportunity… to get my daughter home safely, spend some quality time with her in the car, and show her how important she is to me and how important it was that she be home earlier. By simply asking, What else could this mean, I was able to turn what could have been a miserable, frustrating situation into an opportunity.
I hope that this gets you to think about things in your life, to think about the meaning you give those things, and to think about how accurate that meaning you give really is. Take a situation you are currently struggling with and ask yourself… What else could this mean?