The Past Is Just A Chapter, Not The Whole Book

Tips to Inspire A New Storyline After Unplanned Change

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By Jane Enright

The first step to getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.

J.P. Morgan

Envisioning a fresh start after an unplanned change involving any kind of trauma can be very challenging. This is because it is common for us to become defined, or labeled, by our experiences: I am a widower, I am a divorcee, I am unemployed, etc. This thinking, combined with fear of the unknown, can lead to a cycle of predictability and a pattern of rewriting the same chapter of our lives over and over again. Consequently, we become a receiver, not the quarterback, of our life. Rather than making things happen, we let things happen, avoiding change rather than navigating it. The good news is shifting our perspective can help us change our habits and enable us to write a new and improved storyline for ourselves—no matter what the circumstances.

Nonetheless, unplanned change with unpleasant circumstances can often interfere with our ability to focus on positive thoughts rather than negative ones. This is because, as humans, we are programmed to feel rather than think our way through life. There is a direct link between our thoughts, feelings, reactions, and actions. If we experience something negative, then we are likely to feel negative in some way. In contrast, if something positive happens, then we are likely to think positive thoughts and feel positive as a result.

Understanding the link between your thoughts, feelings, reactions, and actions is important when you are visualizing a new and improved storyline after an unplanned change. Visualization is essentially using your imagination. It is a dress rehearsal in your mind for what comes next. Research has shown that, when done well, visualization techniques can help individuals improve how they feel and move forward towards their goals, which is essentially successfully navigating change. Olympic and professional athletes are perfect examples of this; they have been using visualization to see, believe, and achieve success for decades.

Imagining success comes more naturally for some than others. Children, because of their innocence, have unlimited capability to visualize and believe. Until someone plants a seed in a child’s head and tells them they cannot do something, they naturally believe they can do anything. However, what most people fail to grasp is that to be effective at visualization, just seeing what you want to happen in your life is not enough. You have to have faith and truly believe what you want to happen actually can happen. The more details you can visualize about your goal or desire, the more real it will seem. When this occurs, your brain’s natural problem-solving processes go to work to help you develop a plan to successfully obtain what you want.

For some people, seeing is believing. This is where a tool such as a vision board can be useful to organize your thoughts and help kick-start your imagination in a more positive direction. A vision board is a collage, a snapshot of words and pictures that represent the goals and dreams you are aiming to achieve (planned change). The purpose of a vision board is to prompt your imagination so you can bring everything on it to life. You can use vision boards for inspiration to identify—and initiate—planned change.

Vision Board Tips To Inspire A New Chapter

  1. Think about different areas of your life that you would like to see change in, such as relationships, career, finances, home, social life, spirituality, and personal growth.
  2. Handwrite your goals on a piece of paper.
  3. Understand that each area does not have to be covered in the same detail.
  4. Using pictures from magazines or the Internet, hand-drawn images, or your own photos, create your collage. Organize into categories or be more free-flowing—your choice!
  5. Your vision board should reflect the types of goals and dreams you have. It can be themed, organized into categories, or a little messy. It’s really up to you.
  6. Personalize when possible; use affirmations or key words to describe the feeling you will have when you achieve your goal.
  7. Let your creativity shine! For example, if you want to sell your house, take a picture of your house with a SOLD sign and a great selling price. If you are publishing a book, tack up the cover with a critic’s 5-star rating underneath it. Do you want to play an instrument? Put a picture up of yourself playing it. If you want to adopt a healthy lifestyle, include pictures of yourself being active and photos of nutritious foods.
  8. Display your vision board where you can see it daily.
  9. Look at your board for a few minutes each day so you can visualize your progress, get inspired, and think about how you will feel when you accomplish your goal.
  10. Consider pairing your board with a journal to track your progress. 

When we go through unplanned change with lots of trauma and drama, it is hard not to be defined by it. Nonetheless, if you accept and believe that all of us have choices and deserve to be happy, you begin to live life more intentionally. You become more careful of what you let in, and do not let in, to your life. In turn, this can help you move forward and make things happen instead of letting them happen. This is when your past becomes a chapter, not the whole book.

Your past is just a chapter, not the whole book.

Jane Enright
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