Circumstances vs. Thoughts

grettascholtenMay 24, 2020

There are circumstances and there are your thoughts about the circumstances. All circumstances are neutral, our stories about them are what make them "good" or "bad."

Before learning about thought work, I, like most people, thought circumstances caused my feelings. My dog is barking, I'm annoyed. I booked a photography job, I'm happy. Someone cut me off in traffic, I'm mad. But, it doesn't actually work like that.

There are circumstances, and then there are our thoughts about the circumstances, and those thoughts are what cause our feelings. Let's pick a benign example. Warm weather, specifically an outdoor temperature of 90 degrees. Now, if you ask my husband. He would say 90 degrees is hot, uncomfortable. He's not a fan. Me? I love it. I love warm weather. I feel comfortable, happy. The temperature is completely neutral. Your thoughts about the circumstance is what makes a circumstance "positive" or "negative."

Let's back up. What are circumstances? Circumstances are outside of our control. They're other people, events, our past, and the weather. Circumstances are boring facts. What are thoughts? Thoughts are merely sentences in our mind. and our thoughts are the meaning we give to these boring facts. We have both conscious and unconscious thoughts - meaning, there are some we're aware of and some we aren't.

The underlying issue with any problem is our thinking, not our circumstances. One of my favorite exercises to get clarity around any problem I'm struggling with is to write everything down that I'm thinking. I don't edit myself, I just write until I get it all out. And then I go back through and highlight only the facts (the circumstances). Remember, circumstances are boring and everyone would agree on them. If a camera was there, what would the camera have seen? What did they say, exactly, word for word? As an example, "I'm overweight." is a thought. I weigh x number of pounds is a circumstance. Or, he said, "I'd really rather wait to buy that," and "He wasn't supportive." is a thought.

This exercise alone is incredibly insightful. It's why I do it every single morning and anytime I'm experiencing a problem. There are many times that I just laugh at myself because I've filled up two pages with words and I have maybe 1 or 2 sentences that are facts. The rest is my story about those facts. It can be incredibly relieving and freeing to gain just that little bit of awareness about what you're creating for yourself. And to realize you have a choice in the matter. That's where all of your power is - always.

I'd love to know what you think of this exercise if you try it!

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