Are you being run by that crazy voice in your head? You know the one.…
What if I told you you were a meaning making machine?
You go around through your day making meaning of all of the things you see and that come into your life.
In every situation your mind is giving meaning to the things that are happening in your life.
Good or bad. Positive or negative.
Your mind is attaching meaning to everything.
At first this may sound a little odd or unusual if you’ve never thought about it, so let me explain a little.
Life is happening. Trees are growing. The sun is shining. Babies are being born. People are surviving, healing, helping, criticizing, competing, hurrying, relaxing, beaming, hiding, soaring, worrying, thriving, blaming, and all sorts of other adjectives we can imagine. It’s happening around us all the time.
But if you stop for a second and step back what’s really going on is just this moment. This now is all that’s happening. You sitting here reading these words. You’re reading. You’re not dancing. You’re not jumping You are reading.
What’s going on in your head may be a different story.
You came here to read possibly this laced with a few feelings from your past. They could be emotions like fear, hope, overwhelm, exhaustion, longing or even boredom.
All of those feelings you brought to your now and how you perceive even what I’m saying is largely based upon what you felt when you started to read this. That’s your mind and emotional guidance system working together to help you survive. We bring our feelings with us to each moment. Every step of the way.
You have a built-in system that is designed to give meaning to what’s going on around you. I think it has something to do with our ancestral roots and fight or flight so that it protects us, but can’t say for sure.
What I do know is that it is always on (sometimes you can detach from your thoughts like when you meditate). Your meaning making machine of a mind is always interpreting what’s going on in your life against neuro-associative patterns (like a belief, for example) from your past that help your mind identify whether the situation is positive or negative, one you should feel good about or run away from.
How Our Meaning Making Machine (Mind) Works
Maybe an example will help here.
Imagine you’re talking with your Mom on the phone and she asks how you’re doing. You share that you are having a hard time at work with a co-worker and things aren’t going very well. She offers some ideas for how you might approach the situation. You flip out because you don’t need her meddling in your work life….“I’m fine. I can handle it myself” is your response.
What just happened is your meaning making machine of a mind made up something from the situation and the exchange with your Mom that triggered you to respond defensively. Your Mom was triggered herself to say what she said out of a lot of history with you, with her own life, with her love for you and a mixed bag of emotions and flood of meaning that she gave to what you said. She said some things – probably thinking what she would offer/say would help you.
How you respond to what your Mom says has everything to do with you and nothing to do with your Mom. Your mind put meaning into what she said and what her advice or ideas said about you. You may have made up that she still thinks of you as a little girl; you’re not capable of taking care of yourself. You may have told the story that people are meddlers in other people’s business and you don’t need your Mom meddling in your affairs. You might have even had a flashback to a time when you took her advice and it caused tragic consequences.
Whatever the case, I want to highlight here that in the moment something happens our minds attach meaning to things – generally speaking to protect us. It definitely works to keep us where we are – in our comfort zone.
What happens though is we develop patterns and limited beliefs that sort of straight jacket us into always responding to a situation based upon the meaning we give what happens and what happened in the past.
Possibility thinking – or empowerment thinking – is something I encourage you to re-learn. I say re-learn because you came into this world a possibility thinker and through the living of your life, and the sometimes not-so-possibility-thinking of your teachers/loved ones, you were trained away from remaining open to what was possible for your life and not based upon what had happened in your past.
Empowerment thinking takes practice. Recognize before you begin that empowerment thinking is like training for a marathon. It takes practice, repetition, commitment and inspiration. The inspiration comes from what your life could be like and the dramatic shift of experiences you could have if you weren’t living from your past.
How Do I Become An Empowered Thinker
Here are a few ideas for how to become an empowered thinker:
- Be Aware – the first step in creating change is to become distinctly aware of what is. Start to be aware of your thoughts and the meaning your mind gives to things that happen every day. Notice when you lash out or overreact to something it’s probably because you just assigned meaning to the situation and replied in fear. And that’s ok. It’s just not what you want to keep doing after you finish reading this.
- Question Your Thoughts – one of my favorite techniques for interrupting your limiting beliefs and patterned thoughts is by asking yourself “is that true?” This question comes from the work of a teacher named Byron Katie. When we instantly assign a story or make something mean something it’s a conditioned response. To have an alternative outcome, we start with questioning whether what we just said or thought is true if you live within a world of limitless possibility. If you can stretch your imagination to comprehend that you can be, do or have anything – that’s limitless possibility.
- Explore the Possibilities – once you interrupt your thoughts and can create a doorway to a new option, a new vision, you allow in possibility. Begin to explore for yourself what of the possibilities your mind and heart come up with that feel the best. Sounds a little like…“is it possible my Mom gave me advice because she loves and not because she thinks I’m not capable of taking care of myself?” or “could my Mom see something I don’t see and if I learned more about what her perspective is I could start to see a new way of handling this co-worker?”
- Choose Powerfully a New Possibility – this, my dear, is where you get to powerfully choose your life. After exploring the possibilities and sensing deep within yourself from a place of empowered self-love and self-worth, you begin to choose what’s next for you with a detachment from your limited beliefs of the past. Choosing how you respond in the moment from a place of “I’m good enough. I deserve good things to happen. My life is supposed to be joyous and fun.” When you choose a response from those places that live deep within you the results of your decisions and actions will reinforce your worthiness. In every moment ask yourself what’s the best feeling thought I can have about this.
- Practice, Practice, Practice – practice doesn’t make perfect it makes permanent. The meaning making machine of your mind has practiced limiting your vision and has you living from your past experiences all of your life. Just as you were able to practice living that way through years and years of reinforced patterns, your new muscle of empowerment thinking will need the same amount of love and support. Practice identifying when you’re assigning meaning, asking yourself is there another possibility, and choosing to respond in an empowered way.
Empowerment thinking isn’t something I want you to do perfectly. If you set out to do it perfectly you’ll fail because we’re human. We don’t do things like this perfectly. We do them imperfectly as part of our continual learning, growing and evolving-ness.
I want you to set out to practice this from a place of having fun with it. Making this new way of looking at yourself as a meaning making machine your playground and understand that it’s pretty much how everyone does it.
It’s ok that you’ve been doing this. Really, it is.
Now, you can try something else on called “I choose the meaning I give to something and I choose to give it a meaning that supports and empowers me.”
Living in this new way will create some interesting situations and people will have to adjust to your new way of responding to them. You may find the drama queens (or kings) in your life who were used to being able to spill out their drama all over you will have to go elsewhere for their kicks.
You, my dear, are on a course to release the drama to those who want it and instead start living a life of empowerment. A life of choice. A life of infinite possibilities. A life worthy of the precious hours you have to live.
Be aware of when you’re telling a story about something that happened, what meaning you’re assigning to it and then make sure the story is one that empowers you, brings you closer and more connected to people, and assigns lots of love and worth to you as a beautiful being.
I wish you the best with this new practice and I always love feedback. So, try this new way of being on for the next 30 days (or more) and share what shifts you see in your life.
p.s. love this quote to leave you with..Things are coming into your experience in response to your vibration. Your vibration is offered because of the thoughts you are thinking, and you can tell by the way you feel what kinds of thoughts you are thinking. Find good-feeling thoughts and good-feeling manifestations must follow. Make a decision to look for the best-feeling aspects of whatever you must give your attention to, and otherwise look only for good-feeling things to give your attention to—and your life will become one of increasingly good-feeling aspects. -Abraham