By: Brianna Weist
This post was originally posted on Thoughts Catalogue.
There’s an old adage that you should “promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.”
It’s not only a nicer way to exist in the world, it’s also really the only way to accomplish anything.
Some people have realized this. Others remain stuck.
When people are dissatisfied with their lives, they usually can only identify what it is they don’t want to feel.
The same thing happens after a break up, when everyone’s telling you to “let go” and “move on.” But how do you do that? How do you come to a place of neutrality over something that all but cut you in half? How do you suddenly find a sense of peace when all you can do is rack your mind over what you did wrong and what it means that the future you once imagined is no more?
The answer is that you do not decide to “let go” one day. You focus so much of your attention and time on other things, and projects, and tasks, and goals and people that, eventually, the pain fades from your memory.
This is what mentally strong people understand: change is what happens when you start building a new city, rather than standing in the ruins of what’s collapsed.
You change your life not by focusing on what you want less of, but what you want to take its place.
You figure out what you really want not through desire, but through discomfort. You identify the exact opposite of your greatest fears and worries. That’s your true dream.
You cannot release anything from your life without something to put in its place. Some people do this in a healthy way, consuming themselves with behaviors that improve their lives long-term. Others turn to coping mechanisms that ultimately erode their mental and physical wellbeing. Either way, it’s the same thing, just with different results.
It’s like if someone tells you not to think about a white elephant. That’s the only thing you’re going to want to think about.
The only way to not think about the white elephant is to think about something else.
So when it comes to enacting real change in your life, stop worrying about what you want less of, and start focusing on what you want more of.
Instead of trying to lose weight, reduce calories and generally become smaller, focus instead on having more healthy foods, more movement, more wellness, more rest, and more positive thoughts about yourself.
If you do this earnestly, the weight will take care of itself.
Instead of trying to get out of debt, focus instead on having more financial freedom, more flexibility, more peace of mind and a greater measure of security.
If you do this earnestly, the debt will take care of itself.
Instead of trying to “let go” of the past, “overcome” your greatest and deepest hurts and anxieties, focus instead on connecting with people right here and now, placing your energy into learning new skills, having more interesting experiences, and doing what makes you feel good each day.
If you do this earnestly, the grief will take care of itself.
You will never be able to lessen yourself into the life that you want. That is not how this works. You cannot expect to focus constantly on what you don’t like and don’t want and think you’re going to magically create what you do like and you do want.
The work is in understanding that your discomfort is the shadow side of your greatest desire.
If you want less weight, you want more health. If you want less debt, you want more stability. If you want less anxiety, you want more peace of mind.
When you focus on the positive aspect of the transformation, you’re actually able to achieve it.
The truth is that you can mourn, grieve, cry and revisit the details of your traumas again and again and again, but the only way you heal them and truly recover is by creating a new experience in the present moment, one that immerses you so deeply, you don’t have the mental bandwidth to even recall the past.