In the “Life is 50/50” article I highlighted how life flows between moments. There are moments when everything is going great - whether it is succeeding at work, in romance, or health. Then there are moments when something comes out of left field, leaving us shocked, shaken and unsure of what’s next. There are so many negative experiences that everyone faces, like the loss of an important job, as I share below. Or it could be needing to have a cyst removed - not life threatening, but scary and shocking. Or even just the stress of everyday life - those times we feel we don’t have enough time to do it all and are completely burnt out. At these times, we may feel we have fallen into a deep valley we see no way out of. But… What about during those positive times? Do we truly allow ourselves to stand on that mountain top (the same one we fell from in the negative) reveling in our success? We hardly ever truly stop and pat ourselves on the back for handling life. And yet for some reason, when we are in that negative 50% of life, we allow ourselves to delve into the darkness of that situation.
Well, the reason for that is not so elusive. It’s our biology - we are actually wired to think of what bad things could happen in order to survive. Think about it, fear and anxiety are way more stimulating than positive thoughts and emotions. So, yes, that’s how we are wired, but that part of our brain doesn’t need to rule our lives. This post is to remind you to let go of the obsession we have with the negative side of things.* Awareness precedes change, so rather than thinking “oh no, I’m doomed!” you can think “phew! I’m normal, we all have that reptilian brain that wants to survive!” Okay, now what?
I’ll tell you: If you want to shift your perspective on the negative 50% of life you must first commit to wanting to be more positive and then take aligned action within yourself in that direction. Let me give you an example of how I realized I needed to do just that.
In 2017 I got fired from my ‘dream job’, I found myself in a valley of shame, guilt, humiliation and defeat. I couldn’t see a way out. I felt like my life was over. I had let down my family, my clients, my partner, my mentors and most importantly, myself. Everyone had invested so much in me and I let the dream slip right through my fingers. I’d had this dream private banker role in my sights since I was 17 years old and after 14 years of diligent work, I was finally THERE. Smug and cocky AF (that positive 50% of life, of course). Losing that job was like losing my whole identity; I was devastated. “I can’t believe this is happening to me” was the soundtrack of my thoughts for days, weeks and months after being unceremoniously let go.
The expectation-hangover was real. It was only a few months before that I’d been screaming from the mountaintop, “look mama, I made it, we made it, we’re never going back to poverty ever again!” Then, in what felt like the blink of an eye, it was all gone.
I felt completely hopeless. The life, persona and success I had spent years working tirelessly to build for myself were all dragged out from under me and I had no idea who I was without them.
During that period, if someone would have told me that getting fired was the best thing that could have ever happened to me I would have likely punched them right in the face. No joke.
Well, with a little perspective granted by our faithful friend, time, I now realize that losing that job was exactly what I needed back then. But of course I could not possibly see that while I was going through it. It was like I was in a bottle of strife labeled “path to growth and true joy” and I could not get myself out. I was IN IT and could not read the label from inside the bottle.
I share this story with you to show how that negative 50% of life seemingly comes out of nowhere and knocks the wind out of us leaving us curled up in a fetal position wondering:
“When am I gonna catch a break?”
“I’ve been through so much already, life isn’t fair”
The reason getting fired was the best thing that could have happened to me was that that fall from grace was the impetus to examine my beliefs about myself. It forced me to look within and realize how all my experiences had impacted my life up until that moment. And trust me there was plenty to grapple with - childhood trauma, toxic relationships, PTSD, anxiety and depression.
Before that dark night of the soul, I had been repressing brutal memories and ignoring the lack of positive experiences I had had growing up. I had convinced myself that my past did not matter because I was successful by all external measures.
By the age of 29, this daughter of underprivileged Salvadoran refugees had a six figure salary, amazing benefits, a Range Rover, a 3 bedroom apartment in LA, a cleaning person and I hosted billionaire clients at events like the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. During my three weeks of annual paid time off (a true luxury in the U.S.), I traveled the world, and dined at Michelin star rated restaurants. In short, I had truly accomplished the American Dream. For myself and for my family.
For years, I was highlighted as a success story by the Fulfillment Fund, a respected L.A. nonprofit focused on giving first generation, at-risk youth access and resources to attain a higher education. This organization had played a crucial role in my success, and helping them raise $1.2MM at one of their annual Stars Gala by sharing my story of overcoming adversity was something that caused me to feel great esteem.
It was only after losing everything I had worked for that I was forced to reevaluate my life. Thirteenth century poet Rumi gracefully expressed what was happening for me and for so many of us when he wrote: “The wound is where the Light enters you”.
And that it did. During the four months after my traumatic loss of identity, I chose to delve deep into personal development work. I realized I had a lot of healing to do and embarked on what I came to know as my shadow work journey.
It was no easy feat but having my life turned upside down, I knew that I needed to build a new, solid foundation for myself moving forward. It felt like the universe was screaming loud and clear that it was time to shift my focus from external validation to myself. Through years of small, consistent changes in my daily habits I was finally able to see and love myself for who I truly am and was.
During this pivotal time I felt overwhelmed with the weight of it all, so I started working with a life coach and other professionals to parse through my life and to understand the meaning I had given to everything. Most of that work started (and continues) through developing a keen awareness of my emotional habits. By consciously choosing to take stock of my feelings and reactions to my environment I was able to figure out where I “lived” emotionally. It won’t come as a shock that I lived in the negative perspective. The good thing is that I discovered that I could use tools available to me to shift out of those negative states. By consistently making small, positive changes, I was able to rewire my brain permanently.
Doing ‘the work’ shifted my perspective and that changed the course of my life, how I viewed my past experiences, and how I now view challenges and obstacles, big and small. The bulk of the work happened because of the strife I had to face and the realization and acceptance that it takes work to maintain our joy for our entire lives.
That epic failure shoved me in the direction of my purpose: using my experience to help others. To share the medicine I had made to heal my wounds and show others how to make their own.
We’ve all experienced or had friends or family members get hit with a life-shattering health diagnosis that shifts our perspective about what’s truly important in life.
People die, pets die, relationships die, houses burn down, car accidents happen, people go to jail… the list of tragedies and suffering goes on and on. We can choose to be inspired by tragedy or we can choose to make it worse by marinating in it. By consciously choosing to shift our PERSPECTIVE on how each of these events influences our lives, we can build resilience and thrive. We each have the power to decide to live with a positive perspective.
When we practice viewing each negative experience from a different, more optimistic angle, we build our confidence that [just as the good times never last forever] the hardship we are facing also won’t last forever.
The choice is truly yours so … what’s it going to be?
In one of his books, retired Navy SEAL turned author and podcaster, Mark Divine talks about the secrets for mental control to thrive no matter what challenges we encounter.
“Success is defined by choice and it’s the small choices, not the major ones, that make the difference between good and excellent. The first secret to mental toughness, as simple as it may sound, is to recognize and embrace the power of choice and how that power can shape our lives. And perhaps one of the biggest choices you must learn to make is how to think of and deal with stress.”
Okay okay, you get the picture. Only we can change ourselves. But… how do we actually “do the work” of shifting our perspective?
Through all my years of work, I learned that our thoughts and emotions are HABITS that we are capable of changing. We need to realize that we became negative, hypercritical, and fearful over YEARS of practicing those emotions and thought patterns. Once our brain has a story it’s told itself about something, it looks for clues to support the story and so the disempowering cycle of negativity continues.
Accepting that it’s going to take a huge amount of work at first to rewire our old thought patterns for the better will make the process a lot less daunting. For a more optimistic perspective to be sustained, we must patiently practice choosing our thoughts and actions for the rest of our lives. But don’t worry, it gets easier and more automatic with time and effort.
Awareness always precedes change so knowing you’re in a rut is the first step.
From there, you can begin to challenge the negative thought/emotion/situation by asking:
Are things really that bad?
Do I need to be this dramatic/upset/hopeless?
Could it somehow be worse?
Okay, maybe things do feel that way right now… But zoom out in the grand scheme of your life and ask if any of it is going to matter in five hours, five days, five months or five years. And don’t worry, I will share a tool that you can use to help you feel relief soon.
The good and bad thing about life is that it can always be worse. Once you realize that it could be worse and it isn’t, it’s a lot easier to accept what is**, be strategic, optimistic and keep making forward progress. With consistent practice, you can learn to identify when you are struggling and then quickly shift into gratitude for your circumstances. Trust me, there is always something to be grateful for, even if it’s just recognizing that you need help to get through the most trying times of your life.
Yes, all of this is a bit overwhelming, I know. Don’t worry, I’m not just here to talk about my story, I am here to share actual tools you can use in your everyday lives in order to start this difficult process. You may be in the valley or on the mountaintop on any given day, sometimes going from one extreme to the other in a span of hours, but knowing that this too shall pass and looking for the gift in every situation will help you be present in the moment.
When we are present in the moment we can choose to focus on joy, love and all the blessings we DO have. Being in the present moment allows us to take aligned action by asking “what’s the best next step I can take to help myself?” – it may be booking a call with me or simply counting your blessings. I know people say “be in the present moment” and “count your blessings” all the time. And if that is something that feels hard for you, rest assured I will be sharing more about how to do that in future blog posts.
Today I want to focus on one of the tools I teach called The Three C’s - Catching, Challenging, Changing. Inspired by The 3 C’s of Cognitive Therapy, with this method you start by catching the negative thinking and emotions (identifying what caused them), challenging the thoughts or emotions (Am I thinking helpful thoughts? What is this emotion trying to help me realize?) and then changing them (once you realize that you could be thinking more helpful thoughts, you can actively change them).
This method can help you view your experiences in a new light by giving you a structure that you can execute as often as you are able to. Oftentimes when we are undergoing stressful or challenging situations, we are unable to think clearly, so having The Three C’s memorized can help us think logically once the shock of whatever has happened starts wearing off. The biological lifespan of an emotion is 90 seconds so you can actually start implementing the process rather quickly.
Know that you’re not alone on this journey. Even if you are not yet ready to invest in a life coach, you can follow me on instagram to get inspirational reminders and tips on how to do this work every day. Another way you can find free support is by watching the inspirational show my sister and I created called Estrada Sisters Connect on Instagram.
I would love to hear if you implement this method and what impact it has on your life. If you try to implement it and have trouble, it would be my pleasure to work with you one-on-one to help you “fast forward” some of these processes.
Remember, awareness precedes change. We know that we are wired to plan for the possible negative outcomes in life in order to survive. But we also know that we have evolved to the point that we can choose to change that and rewire our brains to focus more on the positive 50% of life. Just as we know the good stuff is bound to end, we must also be certain that there will be relief while we are going through the negative 50%. And we are not unique in our experiences and do not have to go it alone.
On this full moon I'm sending you so much love and compassion. You are seen and divinely supported.
Your Virtual Life Coach,
Big Dream Consulting
Support for this article provided by Patricia Estrada
* I like to use the moon's natural cycles to remember to check in with my progress. This article was all about letting go of the obsession we have with the negative side of things, and it was not a coincidence that I put it out during a full moon. When the moon is full, it’s a good time to let go of the things that no longer serve us. My next article will be live when there is a new moon and we will focus on planting seeds that we want to see grow.
** Hopefully, whatever is going on in your life and mind isn’t life-threatening… If it is, my hope for you is that you find peace and manage to enjoy the life you have NOW. Depending on how serious your situation is, the bright side is that you or your loved ones are still alive so anything is possible. And if you are suffering the loss of a loved one, please seek help and support. Here is an article about bereavement. If you are grieving a loss you are experiencing in your own life, here is another article on how to cope with grief. If you have a friend that is grieving and want to support them, here is a TIME article that forces you to log in with social or google, but that shares 21 tips on how to best support your grieving friend.