CREATING NEW BEGINNINGS BY BEGINNING AT THE ENDING Part 1
Randy W. Green, Ph.D.
“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears this is true.”
You secured a position with a large company and settled in the area. As years passed, you married, began a family and, perhaps, bought a new home. Your family became integrated within the community-- education, service and health organizations, children's activities, friends. A firm foundation had been poured; a stable future constructed. Then one day, due to a pervasive economic crisis, the company decided to tighten its belt and shed excess weight: You! Your jaw clenched, stomach tightened and heart raced, as you shook your head in disbelief, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. That little voice inside began generating a host of pessimistic, disastrous outcomes. You arrived home, aware that a dark cloud of uncertainty had just cast its giant shadow over that future you had built...
When threatened by events in the environment, animals and human beings both produce "fight or flight" responses. For example, increased heart rate, blood pressure and release of adrenaline; rapid shallow breathing, constricted ("tunnel") vision, and generally heightened senses. But humans go a step further: They create pessimistic, worrisome, internal thoughts that tend to sustain fight-flight behavior. This internal activity can also delay or prevent useful action. At times, people tell themselves devastating things that lead to their becoming confused, immobile, depressed and unable to act effectively. Believing the worst will happen, some face a catastrophe more than a crisis; a roadblock instead of a challenge, or hopelessness rather than opportunity. Without a doubt, a sudden uprooting from a formerly stable position can leave you feeling like your feet are firmly planted in mid-air. A job loss sends shock waves through the entire family. Adults and children experience a wide range of emotions such as, denial, anger and fear. The situation is only exacerbated when adults at work and children at school amplify their uncertainties. Yet, tough times call for tough decisions!
Repairing the damage wreaked by the winds of change involves a variety of specific activities from systematically seeking new employment through emotional family support and reassurance. In order to respond appropriately and effectively to the situation, it is important to summon the positive resources used at other times in your life when you needed to "get going" and achieve a constructive outcome. You need to develop a powerful internal motivation strategy based on positive beliefs. The limits of the situation handed you is but one determinant of the choices available. Your belief system is another. So much of how you respond is determined by what you believe, expressed as internal sensory experiences (visions, sounds, feelings). These internal events organized into a sequence-- for example, a bad picture, then a feeling followed by an internal voice-- makes up the way in which you get motivated.
At issue is the fact that when facing serious choices, many of us implement motivational styles that get in our way. Some people begin by imagining the entire task as being one huge insurmountable obstacle that needs to be accomplished now. Believing themselves incapable of performing this overwhelming task, it gets put off. A related strategy consists of creating internal beliefs about what its like during the actual performance of various tasks, as opposed to experiencing them as already completed. The steps needed to rectify the problem are perceived as insurmountable chores rather than something inherently more positive. This strategy also inhibits effective action. Others attempt to motivate themselves using the "Or else!" strategy. That is, by creating internal experiences of disaster leading to panic unless some action is taken. Although this strategy can produce effective actions, it frequently also produces highly stressful emotional side-effects.
In summary, many individuals go through life believing that getting motivated first requires adverse circumstances which generate a lot of internal experiences about "shoulds" and possible disastrous outcomes. The by-product is usually stress. Be ready to consider an alternative strategy for producing effective action next time!