Choosing How You Feel

I keep experimenting with the process of creation. It’s so much fun to see yourself as a creator!

From that perspective, I realize that I’m creating all the time: creating movements with my body, smiles, meals, conversations, articles… the possibilities are endless!

But what I’ve found most amazing is realizing that I can create my own experiences, choosing , in any moment, how I feel about something.

If I’m upset, for instance, I realize that I can choose to feel differently. I realize that I can choose to let go of my anger and change my attitude. I can even go in the opposite direction and choose to feel connected to the person or situation with which I am upset.

How can I do that? Linda Pransky explained it beautifully in a talk I attended last week:

Do you think you have to take seriously every thought you have?

If something feels hard, it’s because you made it meaningful to you. You gave it meaning.

And meaning is given. Meaning is a choice.

All thoughts are neutral until you give them meaning until you judge them. And that’s just a habit.

Linda Pransky

This quote makes three assumptions:

1. Your thoughts create your experiences.

2. All thoughts are neutral until you give them meaning.

3. You can choose which meaning you give to every thought that crosses your mind.

Do you believe these three assumptions? I do. Because I believe them, my life is changing. I’m realizing more and more that I have the last word about how I feel. That feeling happy or sad or frustrated about my life has more to do with myself (and the meaning I’m giving to whatever happens to me) than with external circumstances.

Some will argue: Anything? Do you think you would be able to feel happy if you lose someone beloved?

To be honest with you, I don’t know the answer to that. But what I do know is that there are people who have created beautiful purpose after a beloved one has passed away; some have decided to create organizations to help other people or they’ve donated money to research efforts dedicated to solving the problem that took away that beloved person. They have the power to choose to give meaning to a loved one’s death that is different than simple sorrow. (As a side note, it is healthy to grieve, but at a certain point, one must decide to feel something else.)

In any case, we could use the analogy of weight lifting: just because you are not able to lift 100 pounds now does not mean that no one can and, what is more important, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get better at weight lifting. You can start by lifting 20 pounds, continue to practice, and eventually, you can increase your maximum weight. There will be one day when you will be able to lift 30 pounds and then maybe 40 pounds. And you’ll feel much better when you reach that point than when you started.

It’s the same with choosing how you feel. Start with small things: small conflicts, decisions, events. Maybe it’ll be something as small as when someone at work upsets you, or when another driver does something that makes you mad, or when your partner disappoints you. In these kinds of moments, exercise your ability to choose to feel differently. Instead of following your habit of feeling disappointed, upset, mad, or undervalued, choose feelings that are more appealing. And keep practicing, keep “lifting weights” until you feel stronger and become more aware that you are the creator of your life.