newilluminati/Flickr
Source: newilluminati/Flickr

Pointing out that your thoughts create your reality is hardly to say anything new. But as a psychologist, I’m constantly reminded of how crucial it is to keep this fundamental truth in the forefront of your consciousness. Why? Because so many things in your life can change once you change the way you look at them.

The common expression, “Keep an open mind,” hints at the value of not clinging to old assumptions and beliefs. For the willingness to reexamine former conclusions, or what you may simply have taken on faith, enables you to explore new possibilities. And if your life has been lacking in novelty, adventure, satisfaction, or fulfillment, it may be because—in order to safeguard a sense of personal security—your thoughts about life’s possibilities have stagnated.

Sadly, so much of what people most want lies just outside their comfort zone. Or, to use Jack Canfield’s words, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” And that’s why, at every opportunity, it makes sense to question limits you may have set for yourself when you were younger, maybe as far back as childhood. For I know of no better way to expand your comfort zone and to, self-assuredly, enter a new, expanded reality.

Here’s one example to consider:

Say, you’ve been holding onto a grudge against someone who, previously a close friend, hadn’t come through for you when you were in a crisis. Ask yourself:

  • “Had I made sufficiently clear to that person how much I needed their help?”
  • “Might they have been swamped by things in their own life so that it just wasn’t practical for them to be there for me (and, at the time, I lacked empathy for them)?”
  • “Was their letting me down really part of a larger pattern of their being inconsiderate or uncaring toward me?”
  • “Overall, in rejecting their friendship, has this been a net gain for me—or loss?” And finally,
  •  “Having, angrily, let them know months or years ago that I didn’t want to continue our relationship, could I swallow my pride and see whether I could get back in touch with them (and risk their possible rejection)?”

The point I’m making here is that if you’re willing to look at things afresh, you may perceive your former friend in a different light—and reach out to them. And renewing the friendship could enrich your life. New opportunities for satisfaction, laughter or joy open up whenever you’re willing to make the effort to understand people differently. And that's true for past situations and events as well. For with each re-interpretation of earlier experience, you create a new set of possibilities: in effect, a new reality. And ultimately, would you really choose to live a life that was static over one that was invigoratingly dynamic?

Not that you could be faulted for lacking sufficient motivation to reexamine conclusions you came to originally—to revisit, that is, what has felt “settled.”  For it’s typically a relief to put something behind you (especially if, back then, it was quite disturbing). Doubtless, a sense that you’ve laid past conflicts and self-doubts to rest feels positive. So it’s only natural to want to maintain closure on what’s bothered you, especially if you’d anguished about it earlier.

Moreover, if you’re like almost everybody else, you’d like your life to be predictable, to know what’s coming next. After all, isn’t that the greater part of what it takes to feel secure? And yet, once you can “calculate” everything in your life, you’re likely to experience it as, if not downright boring, at least routine—and certainly not very challenging.

Even beyond this reservation toward changing your thoughts and behaviors, it may be that, till now, you’ve refused to let your mind return to something in the past because of safety concerns. If that’s the case, might you now be able to appreciate that what you’ve so far refused to reconsider may no longer constitute any meaningful threat to you? So that, right now, you can give yourself the chance—and choice—to “go for it,” to eliminate a cautiousness that's probably out of date.

It hardly matters whether the experience you’ve shied away from was initiating a conversation with a stranger you found unusually attractive. Or dropping your self-protective guard with your partner and making yourself more vulnerable (in the hope of engendering a closer, more intimate relationship with them). Or opening up to a friend about an experience you’ve long felt too embarrassed or ashamed to share. Or, for that matter, sampling a dish of sushi (particularly if eating raw fish has always felt somewhat scary to you). Or learning a new skill that you’ve been afraid you’d fail at. Or simply agreeing to go on a river rafting trip with friends. And so on.

The main consideration is whether you now have, or are willing to develop, the courage to try out new things, to look at things differently, to introduce all sorts of unpredictable elements into your life because you’re wanting to create more novelty, excitement, and vigor in it. That is, to revise and re-energize it. It makes little sense to hold off embarking on various ventures until you've developed more confidence. For it’s precisely in doing such things which previously felt too intimidating that will enable you to grow your confidence and resolve.

So, if you dare, start this transformative journey today. And pay attention to how, virtually each time you review a past decision and explore less fear-based alternatives, your reality expands. For the life rewards you’re likely to experience from entering new territory may surprise you.

NOTE: I’ve written many posts on the idea that it can be invaluable to return to your past, and reevaluate it. Here are a very few that immediately come to mind—and they take up different “how to” elements of the subject that haven’t been covered here:

“The Past: Don’t Dwell on It: Revision It!” (Parts 1 & 2), “How Is Rewriting History the Goal of All Therapy?”, “Did You Get the Parental Guidance You Needed Growing Up?” and "Make Time for the Pain."

© 2018 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

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