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October 26th, 2019
Major setbacks in life are going to show up. More than anything they present the opportunity to be crushed, reduced to an emotional mess and potentially totally incapable of taking the next reasonable step.
So how do you prepare for something like that?
Like anything else, you start small, with micro-setbacks.
Let’s take the smallest, and most literal set-back possible:
Stubbing your toe.
It sucks, it happens frequent enough and until now it might seem like one of the most senseless and unnecessary pains life has to offer on the regular.
It’s the mosquito of moving through physical space.
But unlike the frail, flying vampire, stubbing your toe is an opportunity to prepare for things that are much much worse.
Imagine it for a moment. You are stopped in your tracks. A pain shoots up your leg, and crashes back down into a super-concentrated point. You curse, or yell, and perhaps you have the thought that you now have no choice but to endure this dumb pain for a while. We usually move on from this moment in an attempt to drown the pain by ignoring it and concentrating on other things.
But, you can do something else. Instead of just registering the annoyance of pain, you can look down at your foot and
imagine something worse.
You could say, imagine that your foot is now missing because some powerful piece of machinery hooked you at just the right angle and amputated it. How much worse would that be?
If you are lucky enough to have two working feet, just imagine for a moment going through the rest of your life with just one.
Take it a step further.
. . . . figuratively – of course –
Imagine having no foot and remembering that you used to stub your toe on that missing foot. What would you give to have to put up with the inconvenience of pain when you stub your foot. Would it be worth having the foot. Of course.
This exercise is a mental reframing trick. It’s a way of putting things into perspective by willfully shifting perspectives.
Our imaginations can conjure all sorts of terrible things with which we can torture ourselves, but that same mechanism can paradoxically be used to create a sense of gratitude for what we still actually have.
There are innumerable tiny setbacks like this that punctuate our days and weeks like bullet holes. Each is a pain, an inconvenience, but each is also an opportunity to practice how to deal with setbacks.
This sort of reframing, once well practiced can be used to respond to a setback of any size. When a major setback finally comes along, It can be dealt with as efficiently and effectively as a mere stubbed toe.
This sort of practice offers one other benefit. We aren’t simply equipped for the big stuff.
We’re equipped for everything, and the daily annoyances melt from their prior status.
Our experience of day to day life improves,
and in an age of so much aggravation and frustration. . .
what could be better?
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