Six Words that Changed My Life (#862)

A few years ago, I had a client who felt he was being held back in his career by his worry about dying prematurely. It obsessed his thinking and stopped him from making clean decisions about what direction to take his company in case he wasn’t around to see things through.

I was only just beginning to bring the inside-out understanding into my coaching at that point, so we initially looked into his circumstances, making sure he had a full physical examination (he was relatively healthy and well for a man his age), that his will and life insurance were up to date, and anything else we could think of that might “cause” him to worry.

When none of that made any real difference to his levels of concern, I offered up what seemed even to me to be somewhat lame advice.  “You don’t feel bad about things when you’re not thinking about dying,” I said, “so don’t think about dying.”

Funnily enough, that helped him more than either of us expected, and he did manage to focus more on the positive things in his life and things got better.

The next time I had a session with my mentor coach, I asked her what she would have said or done in that situation, and dutifully wrote down her words of wisdom in my notebook.

“I would have told him, ‘You don’t have to think about that’, she said.

I left the session disappointed that she had come up with the same lame response as me, and in our next session together, I brought it up again, arguing that there must be something which could be said or done to improve my clients plight beyond simply telling him to avoid thinking about the situation, regardless of the fact that it seemed to be working.

My coach looked confused.

“What do you think I said?” she asked.

“I have it written down,” I replied. “You said that you would say ‘You don’t have to think about that.'”

She smiled.

“That may be what you wrote down but it’s not what I said.  I said ‘You don’t have to think that.’

Somehow those six words rocked my world. While the idea that my “reality” was made up of thought wasn’t new to me, for the first time it dawned on me how fluid and changeable that meant my experience of life could be.

After all, if I didn’t have to continue to think about things the way I had always thought about them, I was free to create a whole new world for myself.

Things that had previously seemed set in stone were suddenly up for grabs, and I could feel the fabric of my reality dissolving  as I wondered things like:

  • Am I really a shy person?
  • Does taking on big challenges really have to be stressful?
  • Is death really a bad thing?

I sat in stunned silence for what felt like hours as all of my previously held notions of how life worked went from solid “facts” to fluid thoughts, and was simultaneously scared and excited at the freedom and possibilities of living in a completely thought-created  reality.

As my thinking began to settle, I saw clearly how valuable it was to have things I could rely on in a world that was in a state of continual flux:

  • The presence of Mind – an energy and intelligence behind life that acted as both catalyst and guide for the unfolding of life.
  • The fact of Consciousness – a capacity for experience that allows us to be aware of our reality and brings our thinking to life via the five senses.
  • The gift of Thought – the divine “play-dough” out of which our reality is being created and re-created moment by moment and day by day.

I could see and feel in that moment that all any of us are ever suffering from is our innocent misuse of the “play-dough” of Thought.  When we use it to create insecurity, worry, and fear, we live inside a cage with bars of our own making.  But like a child who gleefully creates and destroys animals and people and monsters and flowers every time they take their play-dough out of its container, we’re free to change our mind and think differently about absolutely anything in absolutely every moment.

I don’t always remember this, and there are certainly times where my reality becomes very “real” to me and I feel the walls closing in on my self-created cage.  But then a new thought comes along and I’m once again reminded that I can roll up the bars of my cage into a lump of divinely neutral play-dough, change my mind, and begin the game of creation all over again.

Have fun, learn heaps, and happy exploring!

With all my love,
Michael

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