Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Where's Your Head?

Last week, I found myself cleaning kitchen renovation mess for the zillionth time, and the next thing I knew, I was on the computer Googling "Sisyphus."

If you're not familiar with Sisyphus, he was a king in Greek mythology who thought he was more clever than Zeus. Zeus, of course, disagreed... As punishment, Sisyphus was tasked with having to roll a boulder up a hill each day—but just as he was about to reach the top, Zeus would enchant the boulder and make it roll back down. And so, Sisyphus would begin again from square one the next morning. And every morning after that.

In my mind, I was Sisyphus.

Me and my yellow rubber gloves and cleaning rags were rolling boulders up hills every dang day. I had a story in my head on repeat about how infuriating and hard and not at all fun home renovations and clean-up were.

When we tell ourselves stories like this over and over—building bulletproof thought patterns—we're actually rewiring our brains. 

We're creating neural pathways that are paved with frustration.

I don't know about you, but I'd like my brain to be filled with unicorns burping up rainbows. Not Sisyphean stories of dissatisfaction and defeat.

So how to twist the mental wiring back to something that feels better than a frustrating story? 

Seek evidence on the contrary.

For me, this meant looking for reasons why cleaning dust and dirty hand prints in the kitchen again represented wonderfulness, ease, and fun. As I tried to reframe my story, I admitted to myself that the work I was doing wasn't actually hard. I wasn't sweating or straining. I wasn't doing math... The objects I was cleaning were beautiful—marble and glass and stainless steel. I recognized that creating the end product—a glimmering new kitchen—was kind of fun after all and would be extremely enjoyable to look at when it was all done. I realized that it was really only the second time I had cleaned that particular area of the kitchen, not the zillionth. And finally, I remembered that I had asked for this. I could have chosen to keep my old kitchen, but I (and my husband) wanted to upgrade. Bed made. Lying in it.

Do you have any stories of defeat on repeat in your head right now? 

Before this, some of my old favorites were:

I'm never going to meet the right guy.
The guy for me doesn't exist.
I can't find a job that pays well.
Working for myself is difficult.
Living alone is hard.
It's going to take forever to get to where I want to be.

It was only when I consciously started seeking evidence on the contrary of those—trying to turn them around—that my actual life turned around.

Seeing starts with believing.

And belief starts with a story.

What new stories are you going to use to pave your neural pathways?


  1. I commented, but I don't know if it stuck!

  2. Oh- now it did. I had said that I liked this post, a lot. And some old stores I told myself were things like- I'll never find a good guy, or the right nursing job, or I'll never be able to travel to all of the places I want. New stories include- hard work really does pay off, small efforts towards our goals each day really matter.