It may be time to fine tune your Meaning Making Machine.
Joe received an email from his company, notifying all employees of an impending effort to downsize staff. Unwilling to let go of his current joy, he carefully filed the email in his “can’t control it” folder and went about his day.
William received the same email and his emotions quickly snowballed into an all-out panic attack.
Have you ever wondered how two people can experience the same life event, yet their responses are entirely different?
Some would argue that each of us is born with a genetic predisposition to either optimism or pessimism and that Joe obviously received the optimism gene. Others would argue that William’s response was solely based on the type of day he was having and that his response may be much different in the future.
I’m not a big fan of arguing, so I’d like to introduce you to a unique approach to mental fitness. Conditioning for your mind, if you will. It’s called fine tuning your Meaning Making Machine. I can assure you that regardless of your personality type, this process will almost certainly lead to more optimistic thinking.
Think of your mind as a computer, or a machine. You’re born with a hard drive already installed, which provides the basic functions, but what makes your computer unique are the various programs you’ve downloaded throughout the years. Some of the programs are designed to help your machine run more effectively (positive thinking), while others clearly act as viruses and begin to corrupt the machine (negative thinking).
One of the fundamental purposes of your mind is to assist in the process of attaching meaning to each of your life experiences. Put another way, each time you experience something, your mind’s job is to answer the question, “What does this mean?” The answer often derives from the millions of programs you’ve downloaded over the years. After a while, these programs begin to act on autopilot, thus causing the meaning making process to happen automatically, and out of your awareness. However, there’s no need to worry. Whatever you’ve downloaded can be changed with a little bit of awareness.
Here are two ways to fine tune your Meaning Making Machine.
Turn the mountain back into a molehill.
Have you ever noticed how a relatively minor event (molehill) can quickly turn into a catastrophe in your mind (mountain)? I’ve always said that having a creative mind can be both a blessing and a curse. The curse occurs when you use your imagination to think of all the disastrous things that COULD happen as a result of this event.
The solution for this mountain (or catastrophic) thinking is to simply recognize it for what it is – your machinery. It’s likely that you’ve downloaded a virus at some point in your lifetime and it’s simply doing its job. When you focus on a solution, or various actions you might take, the mountain will quickly become a molehill again and the virus will lose its power.
You will always feel the way you think.
Many of us have downloaded the virus that feelings are a result of things. In other words, it’s rather simple to blame your feelings on certain life events (i.e. He/She made me angry). The fact is that other people or things do NOT have the power to make you feel a certain way. Rather it’s the meaning you attach to these other people or things that influences your feelings.
I invite you to download a program called feelings are a result of your thinking. When you do this, you’ll notice that your feelings will carry much less power. Only when you’re able to recognize the fact that you are actually creating the feeling, can you begin to change it. When you change your thoughts, you change your feelings.
If you’re like to learn more about how to fine tune the meaning making machine, I encourage you to order my book, Seriously, Dad? An empowering conversation that will change your lens on life. In it, I dedicate an entire chapter to helping kids understand this process.