When I was a kid at summer camp we started every morning with a big dose of positive thinking, usually accompanied by a funny story and encouragement to have good attitudes and be our best.
“Greystone girls, what kind of day are you having?” the head of the camp would ask with gusto.
“A GREAT DAY!” we’d yell.
“And how do you feel?”
Do not underestimate the power of positive thinking. I’m not trying to go all name-it-and-claim-it on y’all, but it really does influence your day if you tell yourself that you feel terrific. If you smile, it does make you feel happier. You don’t have to be fake about it, but little bits of positivity do help in life.
The converse also holds true. I have noticed over time that when I am feeling overwhelmed or out of control I tell myself, “I’m so tired.” I didn’t even notice it at first, but once I started paying attention I realized I had a habit to contend with. As a parent of three kids barely 5 and under let me tell you that I feel overwhelmed and out of control a good deal of the time. Frankly, in the past five years I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep either so there is some truth to my quick refrain of “Oh I am just so tired.”
The thing is though, telling myself I’m tired doesn’t really help matters much. It just makes me remember that I am really stinking tired, yo. And that doesn’t make dealing with a temper tantrum or gigantic mess or the pain of stepping on a Lego minefield barefoot any easier.
Gretchen Rubin talks about this concept in her excellent book The Happiness Project (my review here). She calls these little repeated axioms “True Rules,” and identifies them as the things you find going through your head a lot. As with any bad habit, the key is to replace this unhelpful mantra with an equal and opposite good True Rule. I spent some time identifying True Rules I think would be more helpful to repeat to myself than “I’m so tired” or the other one I’m guilty of overusing, “I’m in a really big hurry.”
Here are the things I’d like to say to myself more often to make them good habits and replace the unhelpful lines:
- I have enough time and energy for all I am called to do. If something is really important, I can make time for it. If it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things, I can let it go. Just because something is important in some other family’s life doesn’t mean it has to be a priority in mine and vice versa.
- Less of me, more of Christ. Sometimes I think this one can be misused to justify a martyr complex, but I mean it in the context of not getting overly worked up because my own plans are being unwittingly foiled by someone else – I have a tendency to value efficiency over relationships. I’m working on it.
- Mind the joy. In the midst of the gajillion puzzle pieces all over the playroom and requests for the 18,947th book of the day and potty training accidents and fixing (literally) 105 meals a week, it’s often hard to keep perspective. I’m trying to get better at reminding myself to remember the joy in those moments. It’s not all clean-up and breaking up fights. It’s also the baby kisses and sweet funny toddler sayings and seeing a face light up at some new accomplishment. Children are blessings, parenting is a privilege, and I want to be mindful of these precious years.
- Be luminous. In college my friends and I used to exhort each other to be luminous, by which I think we meant the kind of sparkle that someone has when they are truly being themselves and seeing the possibilities and excitement possible in every day. Sometimes I get bogged down and try really hard to be what I think other people want me to be, to the exclusion of being who I actually am, which is who God made me. I love that old school Amy Grant song that says “All I ever have to be is what You made me; any more or less would be a step out of Your plan – as You daily recreate me help me always keep in mind that I only have to do what I can find and all I ever have to be is what You made me.” Luminous is having the great day and feeling terrific because I’m being myself and doing what I’m called to do in the way God created me to do it.
Do you have little lines you find yourself saying (good or bad)? What are some of the helpful things you remind yourself of often?