Teachable Moment – Reversal


If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.  ~Mary Engelbreit

For those of you who have quiet moments, what do you think about?  When you have had the absolutely worst day, week or life you could ever imagine what do you focus on?  Where you are?  How you got there?  Where you wish you were?  How bad your life is?  How or when will things change for the better?  How many mistakes you made and how impossible it will be to get out of whatever it is you got yourself into?

It’s so easy to get into a situation and only focus on the bad or about the worst that might come and then to also couple those thoughts with all of your self-doubt and self-perceived weaknesses and how life is never going to change.  It’s called a rut and sometimes the only way to get out of it is to change your location/position or shift the way you are thinking or as I like to call it reversal of thought.

I remember a time long ago when I was struggling with something.  I don’t even remember now what it was. I just remember being distraught.  I was in great emotional distress and  pain.  My oldest daughter was very young and I had what I remember to be the weight of the world on my shoulders.  One night I called up my older sister and was explaining in details the dramas and traumas of my life.  I now know in retrospect that it could not have been that bad because the only thing now I remember about the conversation is that it had been going on for over an hour and then in the end it went something like this:

Me:  It’s terrible.  I just don’t know what to do.  Every night after I put Miranda down to sleep I start a very, very hot bath, I get into the tub and in less than a few minutes I am crying.

Sister:  That is terrible.  Do you know what I think you should do? Stop taking hot baths.

I know that some might think this a very unsupportive remark, cruel even but the truth is I started laughing.  It was exactly the remark I needed to really start thinking about my situation in a different light and it helped me realize that maybe my problem wasn’t that big.  That’s where my personal reversal of thinking started for that particular situation.

Different situation.  It was brought to my attention by my younger sister that I was, let’s say, living several levels below the poverty line.  I really didn’t realize it at the time until one day I get a call from said sister asking me tons of questions like, “How can you possibly be living how you are living with so little?” Well, I never thought much about it at the time as I chose not to think of myself as living in poverty. I chose other words to describe myself like: “minimalist” “gone green””less is more”. Get it, reversal.

One last example about me.  After 20 years of minimalism I land a job that .. .. .. paid. This job required me to move to my current location (Venezuela – if you haven’t read any of my last posts or saw my countdown timer on my main page.. I can update you later).  I was super excited and started buying all of the things that I didn’t realize people with more means than I already had .. a vacuum cleaner, a blender, professional work clothes, dishes.. etc.  All of these new belongings were placed in a container and shipped to Venezuela.  Well, 4 months after arriving in Venezuela (remember I’m only here 2 years) the day arrived and I was giddy with excitement.  I thought to myself, “This will be like Christmas.  I spent so much money.”  I get home to receive my container and this is what awaits me.

My worldly goods

Apparently, and no one knows how it happened, everything I owned had been sitting under sea water for about 3.5 months.  Everything was pretty much destroyed.  Obviously I was a bit upset, but not as much as one would imagine, but still upset.  So I call my dad and the conversation goes something like this:

Me:  Yeah dad, it’s terrible.  EVERYTHING I owned was in that container and it was all destroyed.

Dad: Well, why did you spend so much money to get all that stuff?

Me:  Because I didn’t have ANYTHING dad.

Dad:  Well, you don’t have anything now either do ya?

I know that some might think this a very unsupportive remark, cruel even but the truth is I started laughing.  (Are you seeing a pattern?  I have a very demented sense of humor).

When I taught English in Korea one of my favorite assignments was about how changing the way you say something or think of something could change everything.  I called it “The reversal” I used this video in my class and sometimes go back to it to remind myself how easy it can be to simply reverse your way of thinking to re-motivate yourself and change your own life and possibly the lives of others.  Enjoy

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2 thoughts on “Teachable Moment – Reversal

  1. What an amazing article. Could it be that I really needed your reversal method? Actually, yes. This is a perfect reminder that things are not as bad as we sometimes think they are. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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