Have you ever encountered a friend while you were out, waved and said “Hi”, but they just kept walking without acknowledging you? In the following days, did the thought that they might be mad at you arise? Did you think that for some reason they didn’t like you anymore? This is just an example that most people can relate to, but it is these kinds of thoughts that often keep us in a state of discontent. The problem is that some thoughts have been playing in our mind for so long that we aren’t even conscious of them. When you catch yourself thinking these negative thoughts, it is a good time to question them. For example, if you find yourself in the above situation, you could stop and ask yourself, is it possible that she was so deep in thought that she didn’t even notice me? Is it possible she has something serious going on in her life right now? Then you conclude that maybe you should call to check on her. You call your friend, and she confirms she didn’t see you and had some stress at home that day. Sometimes we miss the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others because we are too worried about what they are thinking about us. What if you had asked yourself the same questions right at the moment she was passing?
Quite a few years ago, I was certain that my boss wasn’t happy with me. I was struggling with a situation that was outside my control and wasn’t happy that I couldn’t produce the results I had hoped for on a project. Let’s just say it caused me a bit of strife. A few days later I got the fateful call that my boss’ boss wanted to see me. I thought “oh no, here we go.” When I got to his office I was a bit nervous. I sat down trying to remain calm, but all the worst thoughts were coming to the surface. Thankfully, I must have hidden it well. The reason he called me was to announce that I was being given a promotion as well as a new project. He told me that my boss mentioned to him how great of a job I was doing. My problem was just a story that had been playing in my mind that caused my panic, and had been since I was very young. (More about that in another post.) In retrospect, I remember several people telling me how difficult the project was. I also remember some positive comments from other colleagues. If I had only stopped to question the story I was telling myself, then I may have realized that all that worry was for nothing. The truth is that we all have reason to distrust what we think about ourselves or a situation. This is something that has been incredibly freeing for me. At first it made me uncomfortable, but now it has opened up a whole new world to me. I learned that just because I believe something is true doesn’t make it true.
Not long after I had this epiphany, two friends called me. One of them is politically liberal, and the other is really conservative. I would never willingly put the two of them in the same room to talk. I had a similar conversation with both of them about the details of a current political issue and was incredibly surprised that they both said almost the same thing. I realized that unless we question what we believe, we will end up being so invested in what we believe that we won’t even be able to hear the other person. If you have been to a counselor or life coach, you may be aware that most of the progress that is made is the result of the counselor or life coach asking questions, not giving advice. Do you think that learning to question those negative thoughts could possibly help with something you are going through? If it would alleviate the issue, would it at least be worth giving a try?