Monday, April 20, 2009

I REMEMBER- Train Your Brain to Have a Good Day

...that each of us has good days and bad days. Regardless of your age and circumstance, we each have unique criteria that determines whether we are "having a good day or a bad day". For some, it might be the weather or their hair, their job, their friends, clothes, money, health, etc. that determines the quality of their day.

A mentor of mine shared a mind trick with me some time ago that has kept me in "good days" for many years.

His advice was thus: "If a good friend, a colleague or trusted mentor called you in the morning, just as you woke up, and said how pleased he/she was with the honor of being your friend, how they admired your skills and work ethic, and how much they valued your character" would the rest of your day go [for me, I would be on Cloud 9 and I would be unbeatable that day]? Conversely, if that same respected and revered acquaintance called early in the morning and said how disappointed they were in your character, your abilities and lack of skills" would your day go [pretty bad I'd say]?

In both scenarios, nothing changed in who you were, what you can do, your skill set or level of experience. It was just your ears and your brain hearing words of encouragement and admiration or words of discouragement and negativity. Nothing real happened, just "PERCEIVED TRUTH". The truth is only just what we perceive it to be. Does the mere fact that someone I admire telling me that I am a great guy, make me a great guy? Does the mere fact that a stranger, co-worker, mentor telling me that I am a rotten guy, make me a rotten guy? No. So why do we let other people's opinion (and that is all it ever is) "make or break" our day?

The trick is to "train your brain" into believing what YOU tell it, not what other people tell it. If you mentally tell yourself every day (just like physical exercise - do it daily to get into shape and keep it up forever to stay in shape) that you are good, you are the best, you can do it, you will do it, etc. You don't get into physical shape overnight and this mental exercise is the same. Keep it up, and you will notice how increasingly immune you become to the discouraging elements that impact all of us daily. Soon you will be in a good mood all the time.

The encouragement of others doesn't necessarily "make our day"...because our day is already "made"...and the discouragement or negativity of others doesn't have to always bring us down...because we should believe something more positive. Thus, we each can always have "Another Day in Paradise".

When I was going through my radiation treatments [five days a week for seven weeks] I had to lie down on a hard, cold metal table and have this custom-fitted, hard plastic mask [covers entire head and tops of your shoulders] snapped down tight to the table, so you are immobile. VERY CLAUSTROPHOBIC! You can't move, scratch your nose, move your head or neck even the slightest inch...and you have to stay that way in a semi-darkened room, alone - all the tech's leave and stand behind a wall. Oh, yeah, and they stick a padded wooden stick deep in your mouth to keep your tongue from moving. All this is to insure pinpoint accuracy in the radiation treatment to the cancer tumors and not your healthy body parts...but, it is still very difficult to endure...I always joked that they probably had a host of S & M patients that paid extra for it. Rubber, leather and whips were optional, only bondage was covered by medical insurance.

You are alone with your over-active brain for about 15+ minutes daily for the radiation. I learned early on to bring my own CDs and have the tech play MY music during the treatment. You don't want to be tied down and trapped listening to [fill in blanks: Perry Como, John Denver, Rap, Country, bad Jazz, head-banger, etc.] music that some tech picked out. I knew each song was about three minutes long, so I counted the songs and when I got to number five, I knew I was about done - it was easier to hang in there if I was uncomfortable, mentally or physically.

My mental mantra during songs number one and three was "I can beat this Cancer", my mantra during songs number two and four was "I will beat this Cancer", and my mantra for song number five was "I did beat this Cancer". I just repeated it over and over, just like every morning, BEFORE you even open your eyes, before the alarm goes off, before you step on a tack, stub your toe, break a shoelace, discover your pants shrunk overnight, see your shoes need to be polished, but you are running late, burn the toast, drink that cold cup of coffee, get teenager back lip, spouse critcisim about what you are wearing today....BEFORE, all of that, conduct your own mental personal phone call from your most respected mentor - YOURSELF. Tell yourself you are great, you can do it, you are the best, etc. It is like a "force field" around you that the longer you practice it, the stronger it gets. Train your brain to believe that YOU are the respected mentor, that your message is the TRUTH, and it is stronger and more virile than any other message you will receive that day.

It certainly protected me in the Doctor's office the day I was told I had Tonsil Cancer. The next day I started my other Blog, "Another Day in Paradise". I reminded myself of all the good things I had in life: family, friends, experiences, stories, memories [say, maybe I should start a blog]. Even through the down side of treatment, weight loss, hair loss, throwing up, totaling my beloved PT Cruiser, falling down the stairs on my back in the night, multiple emergency room trips and hospital staya, etc. I was able to maintain a fairly positive outlook. I wish I had started this powerful practice earlier in my life.

So, here is the segue to stories I REMEMBER...

My daughter Sarah (10) was playing with a friend at our dining room table one cold and overcast weekend day. They had a boatload of colored play-dough and were making a "Buffet". Corn, hamburgers, tomatoes, apples, oranges, etc. ordained the table. The girls were quiet, no need to interfere.

Soon, Sarah was upstairs, crying in Lise's arms, sobbing "This is my worst day, ever".. Asking what happened, Lise soon discovered the problem. Each girl was making playdough fruit for the play-dough fruit basket. Sarah had made a large yellow pineapple with big green leaves sticking out the top. Apparently, the friend's perceived truth about the appearance of fruit was different than Sarah's and in her mind pineapples didn't have leaves (check out Dole sliced pineapple - it's true - no leaves in the can). The "clay pineapple abboration" that Sarah created was just too much for the friend to abide. We all know that feeling when something is bugging us and we just can't take it anymore.

So, the friend reaches over and plucked the leaves off Sarah's pineapple.

Sarah's was stunned, shocked and speechless. With big tears dripping down, she charged up the stairs to find solace in mom's arms [hmmm, I know an adult colleague that acts similarly when a bad thing happens in her day... she charges off to the mall/shoe store, credit card in hand to find solace - with a pint of ice cream thrown in at the end]. Sarah, sobbing in disbelief, cried "Mom, I wasn't doing anything wrong and she just reached over and yanked the leaves off my pineapple!"

What a great analogy for all of us. We all know just how she felt and how tenuous our daily happiness is when we allow others to be in a position to "yank the leaves off our pineapple". This now is a great Welton family story that permeates our lives. Our family conversation at the dinner table each night, now revolves around someone asking the others " How is your pineapple, today? Anybody try to pull the leaves off?"

A good day is when someone/something may have tried, but we were strong and true to ourselves and didn't let it get us down. A great day is when our pineapple was shining all day long...all leaves intact.

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