Too many rules makes people unhappy.
It’s true. Rules are the ideas and expectations you have for your life. They are the things that you say have to be a certain way and if they aren’t right - anger typically follows. The longer your list of rules, the harder it is to feel good. The more hurdles you have to feeling satisfaction and fulfillment.
I think the first time I ever really considered that was when I read the book; Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. The book; if you have never read it, is FULL of things people can make a big deal over and why doing that is ultimately not just a waste of time, but legit stealing the joy from your life. If you haven’t read it I certainly recommend it. It’s a quick read.
But being a flexible thinker isn’t just about being flexible with your “rules”. It’s also about being amenable to what is going on around you and finding ways to just make shit work. (sorry Rosie!)
In her book Everything Is Figuroutable Marie Forleo goes over this in great detail. (this is another good book if you haven’t read it). While I believe this skill comes more naturally to some than others I also 100% believe it is a skill. You can get not just good at it, but great. And when you are great at flexible thinking a new world opens up for you. Suddenly you see solutions and possibilities, not problems and obstacles. Things get exciting and interesting. If you really start to enjoy it you make it into games. I frequently find myself asking how many ways can I get something done. LOL
**Fair warning - this can be really overwhelming for some people. Just FYI***
Today I want to share some ways that being flexible can add fulfilment to your life and also some simple ways to start practicing in the hopes that you will feel inspired to try working on that skill for yourself. You totally deserve to have more moments of joy. 😁
Let’s start with why it matters. Little stressors in your life come and they go. These can be little things; the cable person doesn’t show up when they say, your child spills milk on the couch, your dog is barking uncontrollably at the mailperson...the list goes on and on.
You have zero control over these little annoyances from occurring but what you do have control over is how you respond to them. Research shows that when we let these little stressors stack up it can create chronic stress. That can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and weakened immune systems. That is no bueno.
The stacking of small stressors that you continue to let bother you can add up to be the equivalent to a huge event from a physiological perspective. The body essentially doesn’t know the difference between one big thing and 15 little things. So there is a real reason to try and not stress on these little annoyances.
Add to that the fact that it just takes away your fun. Dude - can you imagine what it would be like to NOT CARE if the cable person was late?
I really want you to take a moment and think about that. Think about the little things all day that happen that make you irritated and imagine what your day would be like if you just didn’t CARE anymore. At least, not care enough to need to talk about it or even acknowledge it except for just dealing with it. Can you even imagine that?
Well I can tell you it’s amazing. If you have ever spent time with someone that really lets everything bother them you know immediately they aren’t really happy. I mean life happens guys, and sometimes it’s shitty, and you almost never have control over that - but to not be concerned or stressed about it is like a weight lifting from your shoulders. It’s like being able to breath.
Outside of the lessened stressors when you become more flexible in your thinking and more relaxed you can get more things done. Like in a practical sense you just get more productive. It’s AMAZING
For one thing you aren’t squandering your time thinking about crap that’s irritating you can’t do anything about anyway.
And for another you become nimble in being able to find out of the box solutions. You just make the things happen - all the things. Like Hannibal (the Cathaginian General) said, “I will either find a way, or I will make one”. That is for reals man.
This space frees you up to be more spontaneous and positive. And when you bring that attitude to where you are it’s easier to find solutions. It really is very cool. I promise you - try it. Give it a month. You will be amazed.
Alright - so how do you get there? What do you do to help become more flexible in your thinking?
I have 4 things that can help.
Find another word
Focus on solutions
Learn to trust
Find another word
Ok, on this one, you just need to trust me. This is generally when people start saying things like, “but that’s not how I really feel!”
Yeah I get it - it’s just not relevant. Not for this. Not at this time. Sometimes your feelings DO NOT help you. Sometimes the really fuck you up. (yes - I just went there).
See here is the thing. Your feelings are always real. They are a part of your personal truth. BUT - your feelings don’t always accurately describe reality. And sometimes that can make you feel things that do not get you to where you really want to go.
A very simple way of helping yourself out is to simply find another word to describe how you are feeling. Fair warning - you will likely feel like you are minimizing your feelings by doing this. You are not. You are reprogramming your brain to create a new association for the feeling and the intensity of that feeling.
If someone cuts you off in traffic and you experience road rage and get pissed and speed around the person and try to give them the finger then get to the office and say “I am so pissed! How dare that guy cut me off! Who does he think he is?” You are going to act and feel enraged. That spikes your stress and steals a piece of your day.
If on the other hand when someone cuts you off you take a breath and then say, “God that was irritating. He could have hurt someone.” You will eventually be LESS angry about the event. And the change doesn’t take that long. A few weeks of changing your word choice and you really won’t feel as angry anymore.
Do it long enough with some of these other techniques and you’ll get to a place where you are actually concerned that this dude that cut you off is ok and not be angry at all. A completely different experience.
I will say this again - you are not lying to yourself. You are deliberately choosing another word to get you closer to what you want - feeling better and not being so pissed. You are minimizing your feelings a little - but again, this is a decision with purpose. It’s to get you closer to how you want to be.
This approach shifts your personal truth into something that creates the reality you want to actually experience. I will give fair warning on this that you don’t want to ignore all your feelings. This is just about reworking something for the little stuff that ultimately doesn’t matter.
This works - it is powerful - it is easy.
Close to the first strategy, reframing is seeing things from a different perspective. It’s an acknowledgement that your way of seeing something isn’t the only “right” way to see something and maybe, just maybe, another way might be better or even more accurate.
The first time I heard about reframing I thought it was complete bullshit. I was listening to one of my first self-help courses and the author was discussing how to see challenges and failure as opportunity. I was immediately against this idea. It felt like I was fooling myself. Trying to spin something that wasn’t real.
SMH - oh how much I have grown.
The truth is reframing is similar to choosing another word because of this feeling of being “fake”. But listen, if you don’t make that last shot at the hoop and your team loses there is an opportunity there. You can see it in a more empowered way. You really really can. And doing so saves you so much ache and pain. It preserves your joy.
Reframing helps you relax the brain by forcing you to focus on something other than what is making you angry. The goal is to see things from another lens. To find another possibility. It’s looking for silver linings. This isn’t denying anything. It’s another choice to help you not waste time and energy on things that don’t help you out.
If you are at an appointment and you end up in the waiting room for 15 extra minutes, reframing is being able to say, “I got some extra free time today that I wasn’t expecting and it was nice.” Not saying, “I can’t believe what a waste of time it was going to that appointment today.”
It’s such a little thing that can make such a big difference. Together with choosing another word these two strategies will make an enormous difference in how much stress you feel during the day and will ultimately help you be more flexible.
Focus on solutions.
I’ll admit it. This one is my favorite. I don’t like problems - I like solutions. I’m a far cry from thinking that a problem is really a problem anymore. Most of the time I really feel like a problem is just a puzzle I need to figure out. How many solutions can I find is the name of the game.
This is where being a flexible thinker really gets you places. You honestly just don’t believe in the impossible. You learn to only believe in finding a way. There are very few things that can’t shift or happen given enough time and the right energy or attention.
The key to this strategy is in expansive thinking, reflection, and persistence. You have to understand and be ok with things being a little different then you thought they would be but ultimately leading to the same place.
Examples of this are limitless. It could be a situation at work that puts you behind schedule on a due date. Instead of being angry or upset about the situation you ACTIVELY look for ways that being behind can be helpful. Then you build on that to achieve your end goal.
It could be your babysitter is running late and that makes you late for an appointment. You can get pissed and focus all your energy on how angry you are - or you could take all that energy and find a solution. Text your babysitter and have her meet you some place.
Just asking yourself the question, ‘how am I going to fix this?’ helps your brain lower the volume on the stress levels. Remember that’s the point of these strategies. It’s to help you maintain as much joy and good feeling in your day to day as possible. It’s about not letting circumstances steal your joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction.
What I like about finding solutions is that it is helpful not just in keeping you from stressing about things that aren’t really a big deal, but it also helps you accomplish the things that are important to you.
Here’s a personal example. A few years ago my partner was out of state for some military training. Not terribly far away - it’s driving distance. So one weekend he asked if it would be possible to visit him.
Guys - I WANTED to make that happen - but I have two kids, and two dogs. I couldn’t bring them with me.
UGH! What was I going to do?
Well because I’m about finding solutions I was able to make things work. And it took some fanagilng. I needed two sitters cause of activities my kids had going on that weekend. I needed to coordinate with several absolutely amazing people in my life to make sure my son got to baseball, my daughter got to cyber security class, and someone was able to stay with them that night. And I got it done. I made introductions, exchanged phone numbers, found an audio book and got down to the base. BOOM!
I do need to give a huge shout out to the people that did help me get that done. It was so hugely appreciated. 😍
Last one - learn to trust.
This one is harder but it’s critical. I honestly don’t think the other ones come as easily until you really get this one down. First I want to be clear about what you are trusting in. It doesn’t matter.
Let me say that again. It doesn’t matter WHAT you have trust/faith in, but you have to have it.
Some people trust in God. Some people trust in themselves.
I trust in the process and myself.
It really doesn’t matter, but you must trust in something that things are possible. Einstein is reported to have said that the most important question you can ask yourself is if you live in a friendly universe or a hostile one. Your answer to that question is EVERYTHING. That is what I mean by trust.
You have to believe that good things are possible. That life isn’t out to get you and take you for everything you’ve got. You need to believe and TRUST that things are going to work out. In some way, at some time. It always works out.
When you have that trust it makes other strategies for redirecting your annoyance into something more helpful and empowering so much easier. And the reverse is also true. When you start using some of these strategies your trust in life increases. It’s a beautiful circle.
Ok there you go. Give these things a try guys. Life is so short and you only get this one experience to be you. You DESERVE to feel as fulfilled and satisfied with your life is possible. And a lot of that has to do with how you choose to engage with the shit that is irritating. Don’t let those little things steal your potential moments of joy. Don’t be so focused on what isn’t working the way you want or think it should keep you from having a laugh, or a smile, or anything.
There’s a lot more in this so if you are interested in learning more or if you need help getting there schedule your appointment now for a free discovery session.
Give this all you got guys. It makes such a difference in how you feel.