The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more I am repelled by absolute certainty. I don’t mean about things like math equations or gravity. Those are examples of concepts few people disagree over. If you state 2 + 2 = 4, there will be little energy or debate about the validity of that statement.
This article is about the positions people take with certainty that fall in a grey area. A neighbor recently brought up the topic of housing prices in Austin. She emphatically listed several things that are leading to the cost-of-living rise in the last couple of years. In her opinion, the changes are disastrous and ruining the experience of living in our area.
Your unconscious Formula
In her mind, there is a formula for how life should be. Since that is not playing out, she is angry and feeling threatened. I don’t think she is conscious of it, but she has a belief that the Austin population should not increase or at least not to a level that inconveniences her. She believes that the price of homes should stay level or only have small increases over time. Her formula for a good life in Austin does not include more people, more cars on the road, or the need for reservations at restaurants.
What is the result of her unconscious formula: frustration, anger and the feeling of stress every time she drives on a congested road. Listening to her talk, she sounds like the tragic victim of external forces determined to ruin her life.
The way she prefers things to be – the formula – is leading her to resist reality and get stuck in a mindset of disappointment, frustration, and dread. There is a better way! My neighbor and the rest of us have the ability to change our experience of life.
To move out of a place of frustration, the first step is to gain awareness of the assumptions that are leading to her negative feelings. This is not easy for many people. We usually need to slow down and get still to reflect on the assumptions that drive our thinking. I wonder when you, dear reader, last made time to consider your assumptions and put words to the formulas driving your expectations. It can be a powerful shift to question our assumptions and the stories that support them.
Facing reality is hard. Doing so often brings up emotions we try to avoid like sadness, regret, and anger. In addition to pausing the auto-pilot of life and gaining awareness, we need to learn how to be comfortable with a wider range of feelings. In learning how to be more comfortable with uncomfortable feeling we strengthen our skills to emotionally regulate. There are many ways to soothe strong emotions and we do well in life to figure out what works for us to return to a neutral emotional baseline.
The two most basic ways to get comfortable in the midst of discomfort are to 1) take some deep breaths and 2) to move your body (as simple as changing your posture.)
Alter your mindset
After doing this two steps, I shift my mindset by considering perspectives that enable me to avoid “formula frustration” regarding the recent changes in Austin:
- I don’t expect the place I live to stay the same. As the saying goes: “Change is the only constant in life.”
- Since the media has been trumpeting the praises of Austin for decades, I am not surprised that significant growth has occurred. The reality is that I live in a popular city. Is it realistic to expect no one else to move in?
- I am not a victim to congested highways. Yes, my schedule needs to adjust for longer travel times but life requires ongoing adjustments in many ways. Being able to adapt is an important life skill.
- I see myself as a problem-solver or rather one who looks for new opportunities when things in life change. Longer travel times become time to call family or friends, listen to a podcast or audio book.
- I remind myself of my overall life goal and what I am creating in the world: To expand Peace, Joy and Love in the world which starts with expanding those in my experience. I often ask myself questions to keep on track: How can I adjust in a way that protects my inner peace? In what way can I model joy and hope to foster connection with others? If I am not feeling peace, joy or love, what formula am I trying to apply to life that is leading me to disappointment?
Resisting reality by blaming, complaining, or criticizing very rarely improves our experience and will usually expand our negative feelings. Release the formula that there is a way life SHOULD be.
Accept what is here, look for good in the midst, reach out to contribute and connect with those around. Often deep satisfaction and joy is found in helping to create positivity for others.
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