August 20, 2010Seth Godin inspires me. A lot. He makes the Pollyanna-like positivity in me, stand on its head. I read Seth’s blog several days ago and have had repeated occasions this week alone, where life experiences have completely illustrated his position: without a doubt - no question about it - we choose exactly the feelings we want to feel.
This brilliant inspirer provides the edgy comment that: “…more often than not, we encounter fear or aggravation or delight because we seek it out, not because it’s thrust on us.” So, even if I think I am feeling swell, I can consciously or subliminally, CHOOSE to feel crummy? Yes.
Seth believes that: “The states of your emotions (your moods and passions) are like rooms in a house.” He maintains that we make choices when we go there. We consciously choose to feel joy or sadness just as we choose to go into the family room, sit on the couch, and watch our flat screen TV. This makes some of us uncomfortable: this notion that we are completely, 100% in charge of our emotions; that somehow there is not an emotional autopilot switch over which we have no jurisdiction.
Fellow Psychology Today colleague, Dr. Srikumar Rao, maintains that mere positive thinking, the-putting-on-a-happy-face mantra, will only get us so far. Dr. Rao suggests that positive thinking can actually hinder us, and while that is a controversial thought – like attacking “motherhood or apple pie -” he prompts us to examine our labeling of “bad” things that we perceive.
And like most Coach Poppy newsletters, it got me to some mindful thinking about how we might allow ourselves – often by default thinking – to pre-package our daily experiences with good and bad labels. I am reminded of the time 6 years ago when I was working with a social service agency in the Gulf Coast of Florida, as a counselor for at-risk teens. I enjoyed this work immensely and when knee surgery came about abruptly, due to a small: I-played-a-lot-of-tennis-and-there-is-a-piece-of-my-femur floating into my knee, I had to take leave.
The position needed to be filled immediately. While I lamented for a total of about 7 minutes over the loss of working with the adolescent population – and a group I had so thoroughly enjoyed - I quickly righted my thinking to embrace new and unforeseen possibilities. There would be new opportunities and relationships to forge. I put on a new label.
And there were. And there are. What if I hadn’t sought out the “good” labels? I would have spent a lot of time in a room without a view. Seth offers: “…you realize that there are some rooms you’re spending way too much time in, that these choices are taking away from your productivity or your happiness. Every time you go to that room you short-circuit the gifts you give to the rest of the team.”
How we label, package and perceive our daily interchanges have everything to do with the quality and value of the experience, our “gifts” to ourselves and others, as well as our engagement in our interpersonal relations. How might we re-package, re-frame, or re-label a room without a view, so that we open the shutters in order to broaden our view, and discover a plethora of “good” labels to place on our life experiences?