156 days

Change your thoughts, change your life. But how does that really work?

156 days
Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

156 days — that's how many days are left in this year.

I don't know why I thought to look that up. Perhaps I was reminded of a 100-day challenge that some people undertake for the last 100 days of the year, beginning sometime in late September.

And it occurred to me that perhaps we're around the 200th-day mark. We've already spent 209 days of this year, I found out when I asked Google.

I am not too bummed by that or anything. 156 days is also a great number of days to practise something. It is not necessarily whole and satisfyingly round like 100, 200 or even 50 or 30 would appear to be. It's just a number, and any number ought to do, really.

Besides, 156 has a pattern all of its own. 1 + 5 = 6. Yeah, I love math and number patterns that way.

So how can I make the most of what remains of this year?

Shedding False Beliefs

2023 has certainly been an eye-opening year for me. I began this year determined to improve my mindset around life, writing and parenting.

looking back and looking ahead in preparation for 2023
My plan for 2023 is to develop a healthy mindset as an author-entrepreneur and build my writing and publishing business on this robust foundation.

We're more than halfway through the year, and I find that in order to improve my mindset, I've had to first shed some utterly wrong beliefs about the past that I had been clinging to.

For a very long time, struggling with writing and parenting as I did, I kept assuming that I could have achieved a lot more success if only I had a little more help, a little more support, a little more friendship, a little more time, a little more encouragement.

Turns out I had been living in lack, focussing on all that I didn't have but thought I ought to have in order to live a productive and successful life.

This kept me conveniently in 'victim' mode where I could point the fingers at others and blame them for not helping me, for not cooperating with me, and for essentially being the hurdles in what would otherwise have been a straight, smooth path to unbelievable success and glory.

Only my ego kept getting stoked as a result.

I learnt the lesson that life had been trying to teach me all these years: that life would not have been any easier or more fulfilling had I made different choices than the one I did.
Nor would life have been any easier or more fulfilling had my circumstances been any different.
No matter what life throws at me, it is my response to it that determines everything.
Not necessarily the outcome of the situation, but the outcome of me, the person I am becoming in the process of showing up and facing and responding to life day after day after day.
life lessons on choices and consequences
Learning that life would not have been any easier or more fulfilling had we made different choices than the ones we did. We’d still have had to learn the same old lessons the hard way.

Our Thoughts and Our Destiny

I've been listening to a lot of Dr. Joe Dispenza lately.

He says — and this is nothing new really — that our thoughts determine our choices, our choices determine our behaviours, our behaviours in turn determine our experiences, which in turn create our feelings and emotions that we anticipate from these experiences and which are also the payoffs that drive the same thoughts over and over again.

He goes on to cite research and say that of the 50,000—60,000 thoughts we think every day, 90% are the same that we thought about in the previous days. Is it any wonder then that each day of our life is identical to the ones that have gone by?

Emotions are a record of the past and our brains are hardwired, over the past several decades of living the same patterns day after day after day, to seek out what's familiar, which means the emotions and feelings and brain states we are most familiar with, whether or not that serves us best.

When we seek to make a change, build new neurological pathways, so that we can make different choices and experience different outcomes in life, the pull back into the familiar is very strong.

Unless we face that discomfort, unless we show up over and over again and make a different choice, we'll remain mired in the same patterns and in the same unfolding of our lives that we've been living all along.

Steven Pressfield calls this discomfort 'resistance'.

Becca Syme calls it 'essential pain'.

What intrigued me the most was what Dr. Joe Dispenza said about how 90% of our thoughts repeat themselves every day. Wow! I mean, no wonder life has been unfolding the same way for me day after day, all these years.

I think I've known this at some level, but this makes it very obvious. That each day is identical to the one that came before it because we've been thinking most of the same thoughts and subconsciously making the same choices and exhibiting the same behaviours and seeking out the same, familiar feelings, which in my case are failure, lack of success, unworthiness, and regret.

This is why we reach for our phones in the morning, check email and WhatsApp, even though there is nothing of real consequence in all these messages from other people that we're so eager to read and invest our energy, time and attention on.

Choosing Empowering Thoughts

Now that I know this, what changes can I make?

Instead of thinking, 'No one's going to read this book, why bother writing it in the first place?',
can I instead think 'My writings are changing the world, one reader at a time.'?
Wouldn't the latter thought motivate me to spend every precious moment I can manage at the writing desk?

When we were in the UK, my brother-in-law bought a new LEGO set for little D as a birthday present. Our days in the UK were fairly busy, and D rarely had long stretches of uninterrupted time to build his new set. But he kept chipping away at it, a bit a time.

If we had plans to go out, he'd get ready and spend the 15 minutes it took everyone else to get ready to complete a few more steps of the instruction manual.

We'd come back, and he'd immediately get to his unfinished piece, adding a few more bricks to it.

Bit by bit, he built the entire set.

I observed that and was greatly inspired. Instead of waiting for the perfect stretch of uninterrupted time in which to do my writing, I could chip away at it, bit by bit by bit too.

I don't have to only wait for D to be away at camp or at school in order to add a few more words to the manuscript.

Right now, he's watching TV on this rainy Saturday afternoon, and I'm here writing this because I feel it is important for me to get these thoughts out there, both for the sake of my sanity and for the benefit of anyone who's reading these words and feeling inspired to take action in their own creative life.

Nothing Else is More Important

Dr. Dispenza says that the role of meditation is to make ourselves more familiar with our own thought patterns and develop the habit of sitting through discomfort.

He says this inner work is much more important than reading and responding to any text or email message from anyone.

This resonated with me strongly because email and WhatsApp are the places I go to when I'm stuck in the manuscript.

I worry that unless I reply quickly to the person in question, they'd be waiting with bated breath for my reply and that their lives would be hanging in abeyance!

Obviously that makes my ego feel very happy in a twisted kind of way. It's probably also my #4 Responsibility (in my Clifton Strengths) that makes me feel beholden to other people.

It's time to turn that #4 Responsibility inwards and remind myself that my first and perhaps only duty is towards myself. (D too, because the latter is my child, and KrA too because we've chosen to live together and that comes with certain commitments but KrA demands nothing of me, and I am a very lucky person for sure.)

But I digress. My first and perhaps the only important job for me in my life is to write my stories, tell them the best I can, and keep doing so.

There is no email or text message that requires my response within 24 hours! In fact, I can easily go 2—3 days before replying unless it's to do with making plans to meet someone.

Most, if not all, virtual communication only creates the illusion of companionship. I'm better off being present to the people who exist in my reality right now, in this framework of space and time.

I've begun to get into the habit of meditating now. It's good practice for sitting with discomfort, for reminding myself that I can do hard things, and for coming back to what and who is important.

Simple reminders. Simple reminders.

My time for my work and D and KrA.

How simple is that! How difficult is that to remember!

I have 156 days left in this year to practise this: to change my thoughts and actions to reflect the life I wish to create for me.