When I was a little girl I had quite the imagination. I would go outside and talk to the trees. I wrote plays, built fairy houses in the woods, and created treasure maps that led to gold buried in my neighborhood. I also thought there was a monster in my closet and I slept with a nightlight. My imagination was super active and for as much fun as that was during playtime, it was just as frightening at bedtime. I’m sure as you read this you can also think of some scary creations you made up as a child. Do you remember how real it felt? How you were convinced you could see the monster lurking in the dark? Looking back on it now, I’m sure you’re chuckling about how silly that was. Everyone knows there is no such thing as monsters.
As adults, we don’t play the same way we did as children, but we still visualize things and make plans based on what we see in our mind’s eye. When I go on a diet, I imagine myself ten pounds thinner and wearing my skinny jeans. So what is the difference between using imagination now and in childhood? The big difference is that the scenarios I think up to scare myself are more sophisticated. The monsters of today are things like, “I’ll lose my life savings”, or “I’ll get cancer”. At times you also may have visions of the future that aren’t all rainbows and unicorns. It stands to reason that your imagination has evolved and that today’s “mind monsters” are more advanced. At times, you believe in them, even when there is no evidence that they are actually real.
In my work as a life coach, I spend a lot of time helping people identify and challenge their scary stories. Many times, the monsters we create are standing in the way of our goals. It’s much scarier to build your dream business if you have a money monster hanging out with you when you rent your storefront. It’s also harder to see what is going well for you if your mind is preoccupied with worry about awful outcomes.
So how do you vanquish your monsters and use your imagination for your own benefit? Here’s one tip: Stop believing in them.
“Well that’s just great, you say. Thanks a LOT. I can’t believe it’s that simple. You really had me going, Laura, sheesh!” But hold on, dear reader! Let that little statement sink in. You can stop believing in your mind-created monsters. You’re the director of this particular Netflix original drama. You have total creative control over the stories you tell yourself. You can open the closet door and show yourself that there is no monster in there. You can choose to write a different story.
But how can I do this, you ask? Here’s the secret…you question your own thoughts.
When a scary story comes into your mind, ask yourself “Is it true?”, “Can I know absolutely that it’s 100% true?” and “What real action can I take right now to make me feel better?”
Here’s an example of how this works:
Scary thought: I’m going to lose my life savings. (Is it true?)
Rewritten: I still have my life savings today. (I can’t say it’s 100% true today.)
Empowered Action: I will call my financial planner and talk about options for protecting my assets. (I can take action to help me have some peace of mind.)
If the day arrives when your stockbroker calls and tells you that you’ve lost everything, then you can believe it. But right now, today, with the knowledge that you have about the situation, how can you know 100% that the monster is real? I bet you can’t. And if it isn’t real, what’s the use in believing that story? If you want to diversify your portfolio, do it. If you want to get a safety deposit box, get it. But don’t waste precious time believing in monsters that may or may not appear in your closet. Write some adventures instead and see what happens!