Two people can experience exactly the same event but attach a very different meaning to it.
The meaning you associate to or connect with an event or experience can have a large influence on the quality of your life. Assigning different meanings to experiences, whether pleasant or distressing is a very powerful factor in determining the quality of our lives.
How we process information and apply meaning to events will affect the way we feel about ourselves, the people in our lives and the world in general.
Think of this . . . you’ve agreed to arrange a meet up with a friend – but it wasn’t specific who would do the arranging. So a week or two goes by and you recall the conversation and realise that nothing has happened.
So, do you:
- Start thinking that your friend has forgotten about you and you feel those emotions start to rise as you get angry they haven’t reached out and organised the catch up?
- Think to yourself, oh, I must check in with them and confirm the date for the catch up?
- Wonder if something else is going on in their life that has caused them to forget and start to worry that something is wrong, really wrong and that’s why they haven’t called? OMG! What could be wrong?
- Decide to just ‘wait it out’ and see how long it takes them to finally reach out to you and as each day goes by you get more angry, resentful, upset or withdrawn from them?
- Realise that you’ve been really busy and only just remembered, so maybe they’re just busy with life too, so you quickly send them a text or email?
- Call your local bar/café, book a table for next week and send the details to your friend asking them to confirm that it’s a good time to catch up?
This example shows how you can attach different meanings to the same event.
Which one did you associate the most with? What was your default, ‘go to’ response?
How is that response helping or hindering your ability to remain balanced when things don’t go as planned? You have choices as to what you can make this experience mean.
You can apply the meaning that will reinforce feelings of unworthiness or insignificance and start to get angry with your friend or you can stop, consider what else might be going on for them and gather more information by sending them a message or giving them a call.
Consider your natural reaction when something you perceive as “bad” happens. Do you have a negative response that keeps going, and you spiral down into more negative thoughts, which causes you to have intense feelings of bitterness, anger, hate, frustration, distrust or jealousy rise up in you?
Or, do you recognise and allow yourself to have those initial feelings of disappointment, hurt, sadness, worry, but then pull yourself out of it and look for “what else could this mean” or “what is this event allowing me to see or do things differently next time?”.
If we want to create wellbeing and a sense of self-confidence, trust and positivity then we need to recognise our natural reactions to things and then stop, think and review whether there could be a different meaning we can attach to an event.
We need to experience the lows to enjoy the highs, but we don’t need to dwell down in despair, we need to feel the feels, move through it and look for a different meaning so we can take back control and get out of that downward spiral.
You can choose to look past the initial response and assign more reflective, peaceful, considered meanings to what we experience.
When we recognise the patterns that aren’t serving us and bring awareness to what we are making things mean, we can be surprised by how old habits and thought patterns keep us stuck in past events.
These automatic reactions stop us from letting go and living in today and when we recognise this, we can be shocked at how we’ve been feeding ourselves these ‘meanings’ which are not helping us live our best lives.
Next time you’re experiencing a challenging event, feel your initial reactions, then check-in and if necessary, take back control of your thoughts and assign a kinder, more considered meaning to the event in your life.
Sometimes the universe trips us up or pushes us “off course” so we can discover a hidden valley or treasure that we wouldn’t have stumbled upon, had we not experienced falling down the hill.
Stop, think and review what meaning you’re applying when you trip up, stumble or fall.
Then look for the lesson or opportunity in the situation and see what you might not have seen before?
Start creating a mindset of learning from life’s experiences.
What’s an event, that at the time you thought was horrible, but with hindsight you can see that it’s made you stronger or you’ve learnt a valuable lesson?
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