There is a small, hidden room. It conceals itself within its surroundings among the bolder, brassier or more appealing places. This room is often overlooked, rarely entered for the routine de-cluttering and cleaning that it needs to be a working and functioning space. Over the doorway, the brass sign reads, “Your Mindset”. Despite it being horribly neglected, it is always operational, taking in information and outputting information, influencing every other room it connects to, and it connects to EVERYTHING.
With all the decisions, choices, challenges and obstacles our brains have to navigate, it is quite easy for us to focus on the urgent and obvious, ignoring or becoming oblivious to the thoughts, beliefs and words that create our mindset – the very thing that activates and inspires emotions, attitudes and quality of life. Our cluttered mindset drags us down, traps us in troubles, creates over-reactions or under-reactions, bogs down creativity and halts growth.
Our mind can become our friend, our champion, and a partner for growth, but maintenance is required. Has your mindset room become cluttered up with messy, broken, and decades old thinking patterns? Take an inventory and make sure to discard any of the following items:
I called my son to the kitchen today to give me a hand with rolling out the tortillas for our lunch. Wearing his roller skates and carrying a paint brush, he whizzed up to me and asked if he could continue working on his important task instead of helping. He was busy painting a broken metal blade from a chainsaw he had found in November. Anyone who has the blessed fortune of living with an active-creative boy would know that it was in everyone’s best interest to send the roller skate-clad-boy back down to finish his project, allowing me a rare few moments of quiet peace, rolling tortillas for lunch.
It was what he said right before he headed to the basement that gave me pause: “Mom, I know what you should make!” I figured he was about to request a pan of brownies. “You should write a book called, ‘How to Control the Uncontrollable Child. I know you could write a book like that! It would be really good.” This is my youngest child of four, and I’ll just say that he isn’t the only child of mine that would at times be considered “out of control”. This boy has lived with three older siblings, watching them (and hearing them) move through teen years and even into adulthood. So, he has seen real life. I’ll also say the kids in this house aren’t the only ones in the house that are sometimes “out of control”! This family of mine, adults included, are far from perfect.
So, when he looked at me with a confidently cheerful face and proclaimed I could write that book, what made me pause is the reality that my son, who knows he is a mess of active-creative energy, believes that his mom hasn’t lost control of the situation. He can roller skate and paint a chainsaw and trust that his mom will guide him and teach him on how to develop self-control while loving and valuing the unique essence of himself. Even though we have lived some years of serious chaotic mayhem, there has been enough love, honesty, grace and growing here that he believes this mom of his could write a book.
Are you thinking...thinking...always thinking? When something happens, could happen, may happen, we can't help but think a lot. When these thoughts are circling our kids? Talk about relentless speed of thought after thought, until we've covered every option imaginable!Have you ever thought about this, though: In our efforts to figure out, plan, prepare, control, and predict, we often recycle the same thought patterns over and over again. As we spin through the cycle, fear sneaks in (fear is a very, very sneaky fella). We can find fear when we feel restless, unsettled, dissatisfied, irritable, angry, or sad. Our mind (the way we think and talk to ourselves) influences our feelings. Our feelings then spill out in a variety of ways in how we conduct our day, speak to our family, and even how we sleep.
Moms, we often try to control the uncontrollable, especially with our children. We want to KNOW that this will be, or that will be, and we want a guarantee that for sure THAT will NOT be. But, I think deep down, we know parenting isn't safe and secure. We will get hurt. We will become confused. We have limits. We actually don't have super powers. We all face this fear-control struggle to differing degrees through the years of life. It is important to learn how to question your own thoughts and identify the patterns that get you stuck. A happy mom is the mom who owns the skills which enable her to capture her thoughts and make her mind her friend. The outflow of which is patience, love, kindness, joy, and contentment.
In a moment of frustration, The words flooded out of my mouth before my filter could grab them: “I just want to figure out a way to live life without leaving a deficit!” What was that? I stood there puzzled, silent for a few seconds, realizing that I had just articulated a deeply seated belief, staring at the words as they hung boldly in space. “Well, that is impossible,” I thought out loud. I quickly added that not only was this notion impossible, but expecting such a life for anyone would be unkind, unfair, and even dehumanizing. Yet, I had in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways, placed this expectation on myself.
I wanted a zero-negative life, where my choices and actions would never cause a ripple in the pond.
If you find a way to balance two on top of each other and free up a hand, you reach down and grab another one. It’s never ending. It’s your routine. It’s your normal.
There are times in life when we load up heavy and do what we must to barrel through. We arrive, then, either by the skin of our teeth or in an amazing thunder of awesome triumph! We sigh the contented breath of relief and get back to a more balanced rhythm. It’s like the day of rushed errands and more to do ahead, so instead of making a few painless trips from the car to the house, you load up the grocery bags five per arm, two by each fist, and one more hinged in your pinky fingers. It’s a “One Trip Wonder” miracle as you somehow open the door with your knee and make it to the kitchen counter. Maybe you can identify with having some one month, three months, or six months’ wonder runs. We power through the struggles, sacrifices and pain because we know it’s for a time; it’s a planned madness with a clear end in sight.
There is another loaded type of life so similar on the surface to the One Trip Wonder, that it is quite dangerous. Often, those caught up in it exhibit the symptoms of the lifestyle, bear the scars, and exhale the toxic exhaustion, but can’t pin point the source. Or worse, they feel each effect in isolation and are unable to find causality. These people are loaded up in life with work, obligations, commitments and energy consuming luggage that continues on, and on, from one life season into the next. It becomes the normal. It becomes the way it was and is and will be. It’s like standing in a crowded place filled with people and packages and people holding suitcases. Every time you see one, you pick it up. Every time someone hands you one, you grab it. You keep taking more and more. If you finally set one down, another one is handed to you. If you find a way to balance two on top of each other and free up a hand, you reach down and grab another one. It’s never ending. It’s your routine. It’s your normal.
If we have so much already, why do we pick up more and take what is handed to us? I also wonder, why is it that we can’t see what we are doing, often when we can identify this behavior in others? As a woman, mother, wife and Christian, I ponder this through my own lens: it’s important to work hard. There is a lot at stake (and a lot to do) when you are responsible for others’ lives. It’s nice to help people. It’s noble to be self-sacrificing. It’s God-honoring to carry other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). There are endless causes and organizations that need help. Oh, and isn’t it a fact that you can’t criticize something if you aren’t involved in making it better? You may have some reasons to add to mine. Considering this, it seems almost impossible to avoiding an over-loaded life. So what do we do?
If we could find a definitive way to make sure that we are doing enough, but not doing too much, wouldn’t that feel nice? Someone could create an app for it, or maybe there could be just one self-help book that would finally make it all clear on how to order our lives. The perfect balance of saying YES and NO. But it’s just more complicated, isn’t it? We all have different levels of energy – what fills us and what drains us. We all have our different core values or world-views which shape our thoughts and influence our decisions. We also have our own patterns of thoughts and behaviors to deal with. Together, this makes each situation unique, because when we reach out to pick that up or take it from someone else, our energy, values, past experiences, thinking patterns all come in to play and advise our hand to either grab that thing, or leave it alone. We say yes because we want to please, struggle with false guilt, have a fix-it-all complex, or enjoy the rush of saving the day. We say yes and take it on, and then we, and those we love, pay for it dearly as we become impatient, resentful, over-stressed, anxious or neglectful, as we strive to accomplish everything.
If you can relate and want to learn how to let some things go, it’s time to get honest with yourself. If a quick fix worked, there would be just one self-help book, or there would be an app for that. Lasting change requires some reflection as well as some hard work. If you would like to engage in a first step, here are some powerful questions to think about:
There will be times of loading up our arms and charging through. But we are not designed physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually to continue on like that. Wayde Goodall bottom lines it for me: “If we don't control our schedule - our schedule will control us. If we don't find a way to live a balanced life -our lives will get out of balance.”
Kerri Goodman kerrigoodman.com