The Russian playwright Anton Chekhov is alleged to have said, “Any idiot can face a crisis — it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out”. We can all recognise this. You see mostly people can endure major traumas and heartaches with great resilience. They may have a rough time in the process, but invariably they end up in a stronger position. We are pretty robust creatures when it comes to the big things that happen to us.
What do you value in your life? You won’t need reminding that you only have one shot at it. Miss it and it’s gone for good. In 2012, an Australian nurse, Bronnie Ware, working in palliative care, wrote a moving book called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”. She found five repeating themes when people near the end of life talked about their life regrets.
When did you last discuss something with someone and came to the conclusion that they were right and that you were wrong? For many of us the answer to this question will be, “Not for a while”. We all want to be seen as open-minded, but in reality, humans struggle to change an opinion once they have mentally signed up for it. We tend to defend our position even in the face of many contradictory facts.
I was ten minutes late for a dental appointment last week. It had been a fraught journey. I explained to the dentist that I had been stuck at a level crossing, held up behind a learner driver and then couldn’t find a parking space. This was all actually true, although, if I’m honest, I was also slightly over-egging it. To give reasons for our actions is very normal. And, our brain can fire out these reasons all day long. We give reasons in order to be reasonable. If I had been asked why I was late, and replied, “No reason”, then I would have been unreasonable.
Our thoughts are not to be trusted. This may sound a little extreme, but learning this fact can be tremendously helpful. The normal human brain provides a relentless ongoing commentary about the world and what we are doing. Sometimes the stories in this commentary are factual. But more often than not, they consist of judgements, evaluations, predictions and protests. For example, I had one client whose brain would routinely call him a ‘stupid, useless moron’ every time he made a mistake. (He was in fact a university lecturer!).
What do we look for when we meet someone for the first time? Apparently, research tells us that we make fairly instant judgements about new people. For example, research around job interviews suggests that decisions are often formed in the first few minutes, sometimes even before we have had the chance to sit down.
Many modern therapies now focus on helping people do things differently in their lives, rather than just talking things over. Talking can make you feel better, but it is action that leads to change. In fact, we all know this, but we struggle to put it into practice. There is a gap between what we know and what we do.
Did you know that we have two completely different ways of thinking? One is automatic, fast and unconscious; the other is the complete opposite.
To understand this, answer the following questions. 1. Mary had a little ……..? 2. Roses are red and violets are ………..? 3. Blondes have more …………? 4. What is 54 times 37?
Do you have expectations that are unrealistic? The late psychologist, Albert Ellis, said, “there are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy." These expectations may look reasonable enough. However, if you hold them too tightly they really can hold you back.
Some people are really down on themselves. They seem to have a constant nagging voice that is always being self-critical or planting a seed of doubt in whatever they do. This constant doubting and self-denigration makes a person anxious and miserable.
Sometimes, this way of talking to ourselves comes from our past. We forget that the way we talk to children over a period of time will eventually become their inner voice. But wherever this voice comes from, is there anything we can do to get a more positive sense of self-worth? Two strategies can be helpful.