When you’re disappointed, does your mood plunge downward like it’s on a roller coaster? Yesterday, my new client, let’s call her Susan, had plummeted like she was on the Coney Island Cyclone. She’d sought coaching after a string of business failures. She suspected she might be doing something to attract this pattern into her life.
In a voice awash with misery and despair, she told me how she’d been incredibly happy this morning at the prospect of landing a fat new contract for her business, but a half-hour before our appointment, she received an email that the deal had fallen through. She was crushed and depressed, and beating herself up.
“So what changed the way you feel?” I asked.
“The company changed its mind,” she stated dully.
“How would you feel right this minute if the email had gotten lost in the internet’s parallel universe, and you didn’t know about it?” I asked her.
“I’d feel great,” she said glumly, “at least until I found out.”
“So what really changed?” I asked.
With some coaching, Susan realized that her thoughts about herself had changed. When she believed she had the contract, she thought she was smart and competent and valued, and she felt energetic and excited about life. When she got the email, she told herself the company had rejected her and she was incompetent and useless. She became listless and empty.
As Susan discovered first-hand this morning, if we attach our happiness and self-worth to external circumstances, like a big contract, a promotion, or our children’s grades, we climb aboard life’s roller coaster. When circumstances are favorable, we are high, excited, exhilarated; when things change, we nose-dive to the bottom.
We hop on a roller coaster to take this ride when we lose touch with our true nature, what Martha Beck calls our Essential Self. Our Essential Self knows that we are always sparkling jewels, treasures of infinite value and worth. This has nothing to do with success in any external form–contracts or promotions or our kids’ grades or any other person or circumstance outside of us.
When we lose touch with that part of us, that all-knowing, peaceful, secure place deep in our hearts, we are at the mercy of life’s roller coaster. Our self-worth gets buried by an avalanche of neediness and insatiable hunger for positive attention and rewards from others.
People change their minds, contracts fall through, and others get selected for partnerships, promotions and awards. That is the nature of life—change and unexpected circumstances are the only constants we can count on.
When we are in deep touch with our value, our worth, and the joy that lives deep inside us, we survive setbacks and challenges with peace and security. A contract can fall through, and we can put it into perspective. We’re disappointed, of course, but we can regain our positivity and hope, and we don’t slide into abusive or self-defeating thought patterns.
Sure, it feels fantastic to land a big contract. But when we are in deep contact with our Essential Self, we never lose touch with our worth and our value, and we can regain our energy and hope. We might even understand that the loss of the contract could, in some as yet unfathomable way, be in our best interests. We save the roller coaster ride for fun and games at an amusement park. And, we realize that the next gift from life may be just an email away.
Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re on the Roller Coaster
1. Are you having any negative thoughts about yourself?
2. Is this an honest, factual assessment of this situation?
3. What happens to you when you hold on to these negative thoughts?
4. Imagine being in the present situation without the negative thoughts and judgments. Does anything shift for you?
5. Is there a stress-free reason to keep the negative thoughts about yourself?
6. What is an honest assessment of the situation that doesn’t include any negative or abusive thoughts about yourself or others?
7. Does this change the way you feel?