In a State of Flux? Don't Worry, Life Is How You Look at It
Career flux: Feeling that the career ladder you're on is very wobbly beneath your feet.
Love flux: Believing Cupid rhymes with stupid for good reason.
Money flux: Sensing you should rename your Amex Green Card your Red Card.
Maternity flux: Taking baby steps into a whole new life by creating a whole new life.
Home flux: Questioning where you're gonna be resting your weary head in the future
Education flux: Going through first-degree or second-degree college degree brain burn.
Technology flux: Enduring an upgrade you hope won't lead to a breakdown.
Yes, there are many varieties of flux. Yet it only takes two words to describe all of 'em: Flux sucks!
Thankfully, it also only takes two lenses to see your way clearly through flux—a long-term lens and a short-term lens. Basically, if you're enduring an anxious trip into the Land of Change and Uncertainty, a bifocal lens will ensure you better enjoy your travels. How?
A long-term lens will help you keep your eye on the prize of your ultimate goals of happiness and fulfillment, while a short-term lens will help you keep your eyes on your feet so you don't get tripped up by fear.
By seeing both points of focus, you will navigate at your least clumsiest and most wisest—making decisions from your most confident self.
Unfortunately, people sometimes can get stuck viewing flux with only one lens, which creates problems. For example, if you only view flux with short-term vision, you'll be focusing too much on present fears, obstacles, failure and disappointment. As a result, you'll choose habits and thoughts from a low-level place of negativity. Likewise, if you only view flux with your long-term vision, you risk becoming overwhelmed by the gaping distance between what you have now and what you desire in the future. As a result, you can get confused by which steps to take because there appear to be far too many.
However, when you choose to view flux with a bifocal lens, you will reap the benefits of seeing both the first few steps in front of you and the top of your goal illuminated in the distance.
This bifocal view will allow you to better aim your daily steps in the right direction. Plus, when you're bifocally blessed, you will have the happy choice to swap to a different lens when one is needed more than the other.
How visualizations can help you refocus
I'm a big believer in the power of visualizations. And so are neuroscientists. Numerous studies have proven how merely imagining positive circumstances sends blood flowing from negative brain regions to positive ones.
In fact, when you visualize doing an action, you stimulate the same brain regions as you do when performing that action. For example, if you visualize lifting your left leg right now, you will stimulate the brain region that gets activated when you truly lift your left leg. Because visualization is so powerful, many professional athletes have trained for events by visualizing successful results, thereby increasing their likelihood of attaining them.
If you're in the midst of flux, and feeling stressed because you're hyper-focused on short-term problems, you can benefit from this proven science of happy future visualizations. Simply take five to 15 minutes to refocus your attentions on attaining your long-term goal.
I believe a lot of what contributes to the sadness and downward-spiraling in our lives is a sense of hopelessness. We become resentful when circumstances aren't unfolding as we want, leading us to doubt whether we will ever get what we want. Unfortunately, if you spend too much time thinking negative thoughts, you simply refuel your hopelessness by sending a surge of blood flowing into brain regions associated with depression and anger. However, if you want to feel happier immediately, you can create a brain environment that supports clarity and solutions by spending time doing happy future visualizations, which sends blood flow to the positivity regions of your brain.
A favorite book of mine, A Course in Miracles, says: "Patience is easy for those who trust." The more you do happy future visualizations, the stronger your patience muscles will become. Basically, fear and emotional pain have a harder time existing when your long-term lens is focused on a confident belief in happiness and success.
Likewise, if you feel overwhelmed by the long road you know you must take to get to your long-term goal, it's time to tap into your bifocal lens and refocus on your short-term vision. Ask yourself: "What I can do right here, right now to feel better right here, right now?" "What are some tiny steps I can do today that will get me closer to my goal?" As the Buddhists say, "The 1,000-mile journey begins with one step."
Keeping with this theme, the Japanese have a wonderful word, kaizen, which means "small habits over time which add up to large results over time." A good example: If you were training for a marathon, you might wake each day and run for small bits of increasing time (10 minutes, then 12, then 15, etc). Eventually, you'll find you can run for marathon levels of time. Ditto for all those different flavors of flux. Each day you can awake and focus on small, easy goals you can accomplish in the short term—goals that, over time, will lead you to your long-term goal. For example, if you're in career flux, you can write three emails to past business colleagues and take one hour to scan job websites. At the end of the day, you should write down your daily progress in an appreciation journal. Whenever you feel weary, repeat the following mantra, "I have it within me right now to get me to where I want to be later."
Why you need to remind yourself to stay focused on the bigger picture
Speaking about those blessed nine months of pregnancy, I confess that right now I am in maternity flux and sometimes find myself overly focusing with my long-term lens on worries about how greatly my life will change once my baby boy arrives in August. When this emotional overload sneaks up on me, I consciously switch to a short-term lens, refocusing on what I know can do in my present to help me best bloom into an über-prepared mommy in my future. For example, I recognized the importance of finding a crib that is both highly safe and very beautiful. With this in mind, I spent the day researching the best cribs until I found the perfect one for us. Next, I found a stroller that was lightweight and foldable—one that would easily collapse, so I wouldn't. I gotta say, these two small kaizen habits absolutely created a cheerier day for me!
Plus, there's an added bonus I now have by being surrounded by terrific baby gear. I use it to help me with my long-term lens and create very strong happy future visualizations. Whenever I feel the stress in my maternity flux, I look into my new crib and imagine my baby boy giggling within it. Ahhhh, the joy! Or I practice putting on the sun shield on my stroller and imagine taking my baby for a sunny stroll through the farmer's market. Ahhhh, the bliss!
In summary: If you're feeling as though flux sucks, first take a deep breath. Next, ask yourself, "Is my negative short-term lens or negative long-term lens giving me this stress?" Then, refocus on the lens that will empower you to feel at your happiest. Your bifocal lens goal is to enjoy your journey in the present while feeling confident that your journey's taking you to exactly where you want to go!
Karen Salmansohn is a best-selling author known for creating self-help for people who wouldn't be caught dead reading self-help. Get more information on finding a loving, happier-ever-after relationship in her book Prince Harming Syndrome.
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Here's how to be happy, dammit!