Imagine this circle represents your life.
Within the circle are different sections.
- One section is green. That represents the things that feel great in your life.
- Another section is gray. That’s the stuff that you’re pretty neutral about.
- And the last section is red. That’s the stuff that you don’t feel awesome about.
No matter where you are in life, there will always be some mix of these categories.
The Challenge of the Human Mind
Here’s where it can get tricky. Thanks to thousands of years of evolution, your brain is wired for survival. (Thanks, ancestors!)
Which means no matter how much GREEN is in your circle, the mind finds a way to fixate on the RED. As Dr. Rick Hanson says, the mind is like Velcro for the negative, and Teflon for the positive. The negative sticks, but the positive slides right off.
And no matter where you are in life, there will always be a mix of all three categories. So there will always be something in the red circle.
Even when things are going amazingly well–when the green is as robust as ever–the red remains. And as a result, the mind will find a way to focus there.
At first glance, this can feel depressing…“Am I doomed to live a dissatisfied life?”
Fortunately, that’s not the case! By understanding the mind’s natural tendencies, you can work with them more skillfully. It gives you greater capacities to live a great life.
Here are four ways this understanding can help you live better:
1. You Can Shift Your Perspective
Recognize that dissatisfaction, anxiety, and stress are a feature of the mind. When you’re feeling out of whack, it doesn’t mean you’re broken. It just means you’re human!
When the red stuff feels vital to your survival or wellbeing, it feels big and heavy. You can’t handle it as well.
But when you see that the presence of red is part of the nature of the mind, it feels lighter. The weight shrinks. And the challenge becomes more approachable. Instead of laboring through it, or shrinking beneath its weight, you’re free to PLAY with the process.
These aren’t problems, they’re adventures! They aren’t your enemies, they’re inspiring challengers! The obstacle isn’t an issue, the obstacle is the way.
2. You Can See the Whole Picture
When you’re in a negative feeling state, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.
Instead of seeing that the circle of life is filled with red, gray, and green…it can feel like it’s ALL red.
But that’s never the case. No matter where you’re at, there’s always something enriching present. It’s on you to zoom out and see that for yourself.
3. You Can Shrink the Red
Though there will always be some red, green, and gray, you have a role to play in managing the size of these circles.
To shrink the red, it’s best to start by focusing on the fundamentals. Sleep. Exercise. Nutrition. Meditation. Connection with others. When you’re mentally or physically out of balance, the red circle expands.
4. You Can Transform Gray Into Green
Much of the gray circle is just green things you haven’t noticed yet. It feels neutral because you unconsciously assume it’s the same.
But life is always fresh and changing.
Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard, advises that the quickest way to practice mindfulness is by noticing what’s new.
“Regardless of how we get there, either through meditation or more directly by paying attention to novelty and questioning assumptions, to be mindful is to be in the present, noticing all the wonders that we didn’t realize were right in front of us.”
~ Ellen Langer
To me, meditation is a foundational element of living mindfully. But you can also find mindfulness by simply noticing what’s around you with curiosity and wonder.
- When you get home, try noticing five new things about your partner
- Or when you get to work, try to notice five new things about your current project/assignment.
- Or when you make your usual commute, notice five new things along the way.
Observing with curiosity and wonder revitalizes the “neutral” and brings it to life!
5. You Can Expand the Green
Orient yourself towards what enriches you.
Not sure what that is?
Look within. Start listening for your intuition. This isn’t about filling your circle with someone else’s green things. It’s about recognizing what’s green for you and filling your life with it.
Find what works, and do more of it!
Create Your Incredible Life Circle
Got some red spots in your life circle these days? Welcome to Club Human!
Remember it’s a part of the process. See the whole picture of where you’re at. And have fun playing with reducing your reds, transforming your grays, and expanding your greens.