Why Can't Life Be Like TiVo?
Reset Your Preferences
If you wrote down a list of pessimistic proverbs, it's time to adjust your inner TiVo's search function. You can do it with the touch of a (metaphorical) button: gratitude. The act of giving thanks programs your mind-DVR to record moments of grace and good fortune rather than pain and disappointment.
From the list of sayings you compiled above, choose the most negative. Then think of any positive event, no matter how small, connected with that topic, and compose a short thank-you for that experience. Scanning for small blessings quickly tends to attract large ones.
Master The Replay Function
Your mind-DVR also lines up educational programming. Automatically. Even if you hate it. This function is why you keep losing jobs or falling in love with histrionic martyrs. There's something you're trying to learn, and your unconscious self will keep reproducing similar experiences until you finally get the point. To block unpleasant themes from your Now Playing list, you'll need to identify the lesson, learn it, and act on your new understanding.
How does one make a high-quality recording of a glorious day? The long answer: Be fully present when it happens. The short answer: Breathe. The next time you begin wishing something—a meal, a child's graduation, an all-expense-paid week in Acapulco—could last forever, inhale deeply while thinking the words, "Breathing in." Exhale completely while thinking, "Breathing out." Instead of distracting you, this simple focus anchors you to the present, heightens perception, and creates memories you can access with remarkable vividness.
Pushing away painful experiences isn't the way to erase them. Fortunately, you can remove the part you don't like about these difficult memories: the pain.
Think of a time in your life when you suffered deeply. Now picture all the nameless people who may be suffering in a similar way. If you take action (say, by comforting victims of misfortune or correcting social injustice), you'll find the memory of your own awful experience gradually becomes one of the most useful and treasured programs in your archives.
When you're trapped in tedious situations (gridlocked traffic, a crushing job), you may want to fast-forward your inner TiVo to a more interesting point later in your life. Ask yourself: What do I want out of life? Now put it a different way: What do I yearn for? Yearning comes from a different place—not from the mind and will but from the heart and soul. You may want fame but yearn to feel valued, you may want revenge but yearn for peace.
Keep your attention on this yearning while pressing another button labeled "trust." Sometime today spend five minutes believing that whatever you yearn for is what you're meant to achieve. For five minutes, don't listen. Trust. I used to think that this was the way to get your hopes up and your heart broken. Now I believe it's just a practical method for enjoying previews of your right life, and inviting grand experiences to arrive sooner than they otherwise might.
More Martha Beck Advice