The way we present our story directly influences who we are and how we feel. At a discovery session yesterday, a client talked about her feelings of ‘being stuck’, ‘lost’ and ‘moving backwards in life,’ listing all her past trials and ‘failures’. But when I asked what’s happening now, a very different story emerged. She has taken charge of her life on all levels and is going forward however slowly – all in recent weeks. What she did ‘fail’ is to recognise on the emotional level that she has already moved on. And that’s a trick our mind often plays well: it likes to get attached to particular points in our past and dwell on them making us feel the way it was then.
Our mind is a perfect time machine. We don’t need portals and sophisticated technology; it’s all included in our brain. In our minds, we can live in any part of the world and any time past, present or future. The most exciting part: we can feel anything our mind thinks about (that’s what many schools of coaching advise: to dream and visualize your future and attach certain feelings to it in order for the events to happen your way). While this technique really works I don’t advise my clients to use it as there is a price to pay that no one mentioned in ‘The Secret’ book. This is a topic of another blog post on the ecology of success and the answer why the secret works for some and not the others. Back to time travel, I love how this different time dimension is called ‘psychological time’ in ‘The Power of Now’ by Echart Tolle. Our mind can go there any moment and make us live in this alternative reality and feel accordingly.
Like my client’s story was associated with the past few months and years of her life so her current feelings of general unhappiness and dissatisfaction were coming from that period of time. Her mind was disregarding completely what was going on right now right here and prevented her taking it in emotionally. Once we had an inspection of what was actually happening her whole disposition changed in a second, and the shift was palpable even though we were in different continents separated by a mighty ocean conducting our Skype conversation online. She is now free to look forward and create a compelling future for herself starting from today, not from a decade or some months’ old day in the past.
(Claude Monet with ‘The Magpie’ 1868 – 69 and the impressionist who followed suit were the first artists who wanted to have the present moment’ impression and nothing else in their paintings).
So this exercise called Reality Check is almost always the first thing we do when starting coaching. However uncomplicated it sounds, people often have trouble leaving their ‘psychological time’ and starting to recognise the real physical time and their own full presence in it. It took me, like many other people, several years to get out from my own past story-expectation and realize that nothing is real except for the present. The past is mind’s ability to remember and the future is its ability to imagine. And those abilities are always skewed by our current outlook. If we are positive and upbeat, the mind will fetch good memories or even paint bad memories good. And if we feel optimistic in the present, our future will look bright. When we are experiencing a low point, the past will make us depressed or nostalgic, the future prediction often will be doom and gloom and make us feel uncertain and even panicky and incapable to act. The reverse is true, as in my client’s case, when we go over and over the situations in the past, we re-live and feel those situations instead of what’s happening now.
Another way our mind never lets us live right now is that we react from the past experiences and project from our fears of future, we almost never deal with and create from what it is. That’s why we need shocking amusement park experiences, boot camp endurance exercises, or like in one woman’s case, her husband’s mountain climbing ‘addiction’ – to force the mind to pay attention to the here and now. The bliss and happiness associated with those extreme life situations we often attribute to the feeling that we achieved something, when in reality we just had a glimpse of present moment and the emotion of awe and serenity attached to it however briefly.
Failing to organise all those unusual activities, we need a reality check as a daily routine in our life. So we are always grounded in the here and now and get the feeling of it systematically. Once this is in place we can live more or less consciously and have adequate perceptions of the events and interpret them in the way that help and empowers us. This way we can use our mind as a practical instrument for getting useful information we know from the past, planning and assessing current tasks and future goals, and we then can own our feelings of joy and happiness, unhappiness and anger and the whole rest of the emotional pallet of what is happening right here and now. That’s called living, everything else is remembering and imagining.