Remember the classic 1939 film, Wizard Of Oz, when Dorothy and her sidekicks sing “We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz,” hoping he’ll give them something they already possess but don’t know it? On the way, they cower at the booming voice of the wizard who turns out to be nothing more than a small man behind a curtain. Yet they gave him all their power, allowing him to become master of their fate.
Too many of us play out similar scenarios in our heads when we’re faced with life’s obstacles. Even though the answers often lie between our own two eyes, we don’t see the water we’re swimming in. And we look outside ourselves for answers. The booming voice in our heads can easily become the dominant force in our lives, leading to unhappiness and stress and burnout. Chances are, that “Wizard voice” dominates when you’re trying to stay on top of your game. It belittles you, says you can’t do it, and goads you with name-calling. You believe its negative message, thinking it’s you, but it isn’t. It’s your “mini-me.”
Happiness is an inside job — knowing the difference between you and your mini-me. Think Wizard Of Oz, and you’ll recognize when your mini-me bludgeons you with oppressive mandates such as must, need to, should, ought, and have to: “I must win that contract”; “I have to get that promotion”; “I should be a better parent”; “People must do as I say”; “Others must see my point of view”; “I should have performed better on my team.” When your mini-me eclipses you, you unwittingly relinquish your personal power and become slave to internal pressures and external demands. You grow so accustomed to being on autopilot that you’re unaware of your surroundings, loved ones, or yourself. It’s likely that you hit the ground hurrying and rushing from the moment you wake up, shaking your fist at the clock because there aren’t enough hours in the day. As you frantically and mindlessly toil on tasks — especially with added pandemic pressures—you’re out of your present mind, stuck in future worries or past regrets. These external and internal pressures backfire, undermine your confidence, and can create unnecessary stress and burnout.
Making a Mindful Shift
Anybody can be driven by mini-me. It’s easy to live on autopilot. The major tool to happiness sustainability, work/life balance, and stress management is to identify that booming voice and ask who’s in charge here: you (uppercase self) or your mini-me (lowercase self)? Contemplate how much of your life is led by your mini-me. Then go high when it goes low and ask how you can cultivate mindfulness living. Every time you feel pressured by your mini-me, take these steps to bounce back from its grasp:
- Avoid blowing things out of proportion.
- Look for the upside of downside situations.
- Focus on the solution instead of the problem.
- Pinpoint the opportunity in a challenge.
- Be chancy in new situations instead of letting survival fears hold the cards.
- Step back from roadblocks and brainstorm possible stepping stones.
- Hang out with positive people.
On a personal level, I refer to my inner negative voice as “mini-me.” Other well-known personalities have names for their mini-mes, too. Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, calls her mini-me “The Obnoxious Roommate.” And well-known consumer advocate and author of the new book, Superman’s Not Coming, Erin Brockovich told me she calls her mini-me “Negative Nancy.” Giving your mini-me a name raises your awareness of its presence and that it’s separate from you, enabling you to reclaim your power.
Once in control of your mini-me, you’re master instead of slave to a happy life. You live from a centered place aware of your busy mind so you don’t succumb to external or internal pressures. You’re attuned to yourself, those around you and your surroundings in a calm, non-judgmental way and focus on what’s happening right now. Anchored in the present moment, you’re the guide in a peaceful observation of everything you do. Regardless of the circumstances, your self-talk morphs into compassionate, supportive, and empowering messages.
Your positive words put you in charge of your mini-me instead of at the mercy of it—could instead of should or want to or choose to instead of must or have to: “I can do my best to home school the kids” or “I’m choosing how I want to handle that challenge.” You value “great work”—not simply doing a task to complete it or to produce a product but being in the process as you go through to completion. You’re a master of self-correction and live from integrity, admitting mistakes and fixing them. You focus on the opportunity nested in an obstacle instead of the difficulty. You approach challenges with eight “C” words: calm, clarity, confidence, curiosity, compassion, creativity, connectedness, and courage. As you make conscious choices, your acceptance of obstacles, difficulty, and disappointments with calm and clarity gives you the ability to scale them.
Once you realize the voice isn’t you and that you don’t have to live up to its demands, you can take a breath, step back and chill. And you become stronger, calmer and more self-assured. Five minutes a day in which you still your busy mind and center on the quiet places inside sets the compass of your heart so you can connect with yourself, even in times of upheaval. Your heart and respiratory rates slow down. Muscles loosen. Your mind is calm, open, and clear. Decisions and actions are reflective, even and balanced. You have better sleep, increased immunity, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, and a sense of well-being. And your happiness soars. May you find that place within yourself where happily meeting life’s challenges and peace of mind coexist — where you have more idle moments to chill without imperatives, nothing to rush to, fix, or accomplish. And you’re able to relax into that sweet spot where you’re mindfully in charge of your life in each moment.