Everyone wants to enhance their quality of life. Everyone wants to be more fulfilled. But almost all of us get stuck at times in our limiting beliefs and emotional patterns. We make habits out of feeling frustrated, worried, sad or overwhelmed. But it is these disempowering habits that prevent us from doing what we are really capable of — even if that something is just being happy.
While we cannot control the events that happen in our lives, we can master how we experience these events. People are always going to encounter stressful times. It could be losing a job, losing your health or even losing a loved one. Something happens that is outside our control, and it knocks us down. But stress, anger, sadness — these feelings don’t come from the facts, they come from the meaning that we give the facts. Of course, the terrible things that happen are real. But the question is, how are you going to allow that to shape your life? Are you going to let it tear you down, or are you going to use it to empower and enlighten the way you go through life?
It’s all about the meaning that you give the events and experiences of your life. Because when you come up with a new meaning, you can get a new perspective, and, ultimately, a new life.
THE STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES
We unconsciously decide what events and experiences in our life mean; we do it all the time, but may not be aware of it.
Take a downturn in the economy, for example. One person could interpret that as, “I’m going to be broke.” Another person, though, might say, “This means I’m going to work harder and I’m going to be more creative about saving.”
What do you think the outcome of this thought pattern will be for each of these individuals? Pretty different, right? Is it apparent why each will have very different approaches to life, and why each will experience very different emotions? That all comes from the meaning each person assigned to the event.
Now, let’s move to something a little more personal. Consider a woman who had been adopted as a baby. One path she could take is to devalue herself, to believe that because she was adopted, that she wasn’t good enough to be loved. She could also take the opposite approach, and consider the fact that someone chose her and chose to love her. What’s the significance of her decisions over what story to choose? How will this impact her decisions in her daily life? How will it affect her bigger decisions?
The former story creates a sense of loss, while the latter celebrates her life and her worth. And the story she chooses will impact her whole life — because the decisions that control us are the decisions about meaning, and meaning equals emotion.
TRADE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR APPRECIATION
If choosing the disempowering story sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. We all tell ourselves stories that make us miserable when we could be feeling joy. We make ourselves feel sad, worried, anxious, shameful, guilty, fearful and enraged on a consistent basis. Why? Because we are wired that way.
The human mind is always looking for what you could lose, what you could have less of or what you could never have. It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s a matter of survival and of protection. You are biologically wired to prepare yourself for the worst at all times. That is why it is up to you to take conscious control over the stories you tell yourself and the resulting emotions you experience.
The secret to doing this is to trade your expectations for appreciation. If you do this, your whole life will change in that moment. And if you keep doing it, your life will change forever.
Go back to the woman who was adopted. She had an expectation that her biological mother and father should have kept her. And that expectation could have tainted her entire life. But if she shifted her expectations to appreciation that somebody picked her consciously and loved her, without the obligation or the biological imperative to do so, her entire life would change. This is the power of trading expectations for appreciation.
TAKING BACK CONTROL
The choice is yours. What are you going to focus on? What story are you going to let guide your life? You get to choose what meaning to assign. This is the one power that you have right now in this moment that can change everything.
The only thing keeping you from getting what you want is yourself. The only thing keeping you from the joy you deserve is the disempowering story you keep telling yourself. But what if you decided right now to offer yourself a new core of belief? What if everything in your life, including the most painful and traumatic events, was happening for you, not to you? What if everything was designed for you to actually have a greater life and have more to give and more to enjoy?
If you want real freedom in your life, you must make a decision to stop allowing external events to shape your happiness. And that is only done by becoming the master of meaning and finding the empowering meaning in anything and everything that comes your way.
This post is authored by the Tony Robbins editorial team and first appeared on the Tony Robbins blog.
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com