I am so glad you are here reading this post today! I have so many things bubbling over in my heart to share that I pray will resonate and inspire you. As we journey this path of life together, isn’t it often easier to share the happy things, the good days, the successes? But what do we do in those hard times when we feel punched in the gut, when our grief threatens to choke us, when the fear of tomorrow dawning more difficult than today effectively robs us of the energy we desperately need to function at our best?
Which is the pace I found myself last November as we prepared to embark on our family cruise (read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). Two specific thought patterns alerted me to the depravity of my condition; however, I was not yet physically, spiritually, and emotionally prepared to fight them effectively. The thoughts (lies) were these:
1) I have nothing to offer, and
2) Life is not getting better; it’s getting sadder.
Although I had been radically transformed in various seasons through the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2) and the intentionality of focusing on things which are true, honest, and just (Philippians 4:8), my first step toward a better attitude was to admit my extreme laziness in regard to my thought life. Of course I could blame my bad attitude on circumstances, emotions, hormones, other people, darkness, icy roads, hunger, or exhaustion, but the truth is that my thoughts are the ONE SINGLE AREA over which I have complete control. That is the honest truth. Even if everything around me is falling apart and I can’t see the light, God has given me the tremendous gift to choose, each and every day, the attitude I will embrace in that moment. And although I have believed this to be true most of my life, I had become outright, downright lazy. I had let disappointment wrap itself around me like a cloak, I had allowed it to whisper justifications in my ear, and then I had passively marinated myself in its defeating lies and poisonous intent.
My thoughts were the first thing I had to change. I simply could not play the justified victim role anymore if I expected to see change in my condition. Responsibility started with myself and my own head. So, I made the decision to strategically fight for the battle of my own mind. Here are the Stages I developed for my new morning routine:
I made the decision to “Bring the Joy” into my days from the moment I awakened in the morning until I went to bed at night. Did you know that you have complete control over the first thoughts going through your mind when you wake each morning? You do! And if you’re anything like me, “Bring the Joy!” is not the first, naturally-occurring thought when you first become conscious. But I disciplined myself each morning, regardless of any anxiety or concerns already in my mind (and there were several) , to immediately force “Bring the Joy, Bring the Joy, Bring the Joy” into my consciousness. It didn’t take a lot of effort, but it effectively replaced my negativity or despairing thoughts long enough for me to get my cup of coffee and begin Stage 2 of my morning mind battle. (Bring the Joy is a term I hijacked from Brendon Burchard’s book High Performance Habits as a means of setting intention every time you walk into a room. Although perhaps cheesy in its terminology, this simple mental exercise has been tremendously effective in helping me take every thought captive immediately because it’s short and easy to say quickly. I resort to this mind exercise several times throughout any given day.)
While I am slowly gaining consciousness over coffee and inwardly chanting “Bring the Joy, Bring the Joy,” I open my planner to the first page and read my personal affirmations aloud. Affirmations are not new for me, but these particular statements were designed to specifically pull me out of my dark-thoughts place and intentionally redirect my intent and purpose for the day (I chuckle each time I read my typo “head-over-hills in love with Fireman”). I included a picture of the actual page in my planner so you can see and read the affirmations yourself. (You will notice I do not have an affirmation for my intent and purpose with my 3 kids because, interestingly, serving them well comes more easily to me than most other areas of my life. I only focused on areas here that needed more of my attention and improved attitude.)
Finally, my morning strategy for creating a mindset full of expectation and purpose includes 3 specific questions I ask myself during my shower time:
1) What am I excited about today?
2) What challenge might I face today and
how will my best self handle it best?
3) Who can I bless today with a Thank You,
a Gift, a Note, a Text, or another Kind Act?
I typed these three questions on my computer, printed them, and hung them with packing tape (love this stuff) on the glass block wall in my shower so they are directly in my view as I shower. I intentionally ask and answer them aloud. Did you know that brain research shows the act of speaking aloud something you’re excited about creates an automatic dump of dopamine (a feel-good chemical) into your brain that immediately improves your mood and sense of well-being? It truly does, and it truly works.
So there you go: The first 3 Stages of attitude change I implemented to strategically battle my Bad Attitude of 2017.
Even if I did not implement additional strategies, even if I did not look next at my physical health and eating habits, these 3 intentional disciplines made an immediate difference in my attitude, outlook, and well-being each day.
I often repeat this profound quote by blogger Seth Godin:
“You don’t need more time. You just need to decide.”
If you pause to consider the truth of this statement, you recognize it applies to every aspect of our lives. For me, I needed to decide I wanted to change my attitude. That was Step 1. Next, I set about devising a plan to do so, which was Step 2. In my next post, I’ll share a few changes I implemented in regard to exercise and meal planning to ensure I was bringing my A-game to those in my life who needed it most: My family and my students.
Thanks so much for reading today. I would love to hear the strategies you use to keep your mind energized and focused on good things. Please comment below with your insights and experiences!