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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Does your life feel out of control? Question it.

We all can create our best lives by questioning our thoughts and designing them to serve us. The most powerful thing we can do as humans is to manage our minds consistently.

When my life seems out of control, I question it.

I have a lot to do this week. My house is a mess, the cupboards are bare, and Christmas is just days away. I haven't unpacked from my last work trip, and I am just getting over being sick. My workload is doubled, and priorities are unclear. I am behind schedule on writing this blog and several other tasks in my business plan. No wonder my life seems out of control, but is it? While I can't change some of these things, these things are not my life. They are just my environment and the situations playing out in it. Some of these items result from my decisions or actions, and some are just the world being the world. And whether I like it or not, it is what it is. Even if I can't change it, I can shift my thoughts and feelings about it, lose the drama and get things on track.

Do you know it's helpful to name your emotions?

Many of us don't have the awareness to name what we feel. We use words like glad, sad, and mad. Or maybe happy, depressed, or furious. Try it, get curious and practice. What is this that I am feeling? Or, more likely, resisting if it happens to be one of the negative ones like overwhelm, doubt, anxiety, or guilt. The truth is that our thoughts cause emotions, and most of our thoughts pass through our minds unnoticed. Many of them are not our own but rather loops of programmed hearsay picked up innocently over the years and recycled ad nauseam. To catch a thought, we must be aware and our emotions are like an announcement asking us to pay attention. When you notice a feeling, name it and ask yourself, "Why." This will uncover the thought.

Why does it matter to understand the thought-feeling connection?

Our behaviour is affected by our emotions. If we are happy, we act one way; if we're angry, we act another. Even those of us who think we do an excellent job hiding our feelings operate from our emotional set point. Instead of stuffing our emotions, we can pause, breathe, and welcome them in. Look at them and begin to understand how this all works. Most people will never take the time or spend the energy. It is much easier to blame the world, our spouse, the cranky barista, or any number of circumstances for how we feel. We have been taught to externalize the source and we have made it a habit. In this state, we are being reactive, a victim and at the mercy of our environment.

If we want to take control, we must stop attributing our feelings to a mood we distract from. Instead of buffering by eating, drinking, watching TV, or scrolling media, think about what you are thinking about. Are you spending your time resisting what you feel rather than looking at your thoughts? If so, you're not alone. Our brains don't like to do hard things. Staying aware and curious about our thoughts and behaviours takes effort. It is also where our power lies. Take a minute to think about this. Rather than distracting from emotions, embrace them. They are your alert system of what is going on in your influential mind.

So, how do we see what our thoughts cause us to feel?

Let's take our example: I think, "My life is out of control". I run it through my mind noting all the reasons why.  I notice the tension in my body. My jaw is clenched, and an uneasy tightness is pulsing in the pit of my stomach. I name the feeling. "I feel overwhelmed." I focus on the vibration in my body; it makes me think of the colour blue, and it seems cold, and I realize I am holding my breath. I take a deep breath in. I pause, then slowly let it out. I repeat a few times, feel my body relax, and within moments the discomfort lifts. Feelings are energy that needs to be processed. What I describe here is processing. It is not reacting, resisting, or ignoring. Acknowledging the feeling is how we transform the energy and allow it to dissipate. This is a skill that will serve you well. Practice it.

Knowing isn't enough; we need to engage.

We all can create our best lives by questioning our thoughts and designing them to serve us. The most powerful thing we can do as humans is to manage our minds consistently. Isn't it interesting that positive emotions can be as scary as the ones that feel bad? We tend to cling to the good ones, afraid that they will not last, and push against the bad ones, refusing to feel them at all. Do you see how this doesn't work? How feeling bad about feeling bad compounds the bad and how acting without awareness will not get you the results you desire?

In my example, I get to decide how to think about everything on my plate. I put most of them there myself through the choices I have made. I am not helpless against these external things, and it's up to me to navigate through the mental noise so I can show up in a way that serves me. Through committed attention, I determine what is most important and what I will let go of. Notice the feeling, check the thought, and contemplate the action. Then choose again, this time thinking something like, “I will do the most important things first and the others will wait.” From here I get to move forward rather than be stuck in overwhelm.

We get what we expect, and we expect what we think. 

Look around at your life; it is the mirror that reflects the theme of your thoughts. Do you like what you see? If not, change it deliberately with awareness and your powerful mind. Test this for yourself and see what is possible. You get to decide the results you want. There are laws in our world. When we can understand the causes and effects and stand in our power, we get to choose.

This is the best news. My life is not out of control. It was just a thought.



Marie McInnes

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